What: Rick Steber presents “Fall Down Angel”

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Paulina Springs Books, 252 W. Hood Ave, Sisters

Cost: free

Contact: paulinasprings.com or 541-549-0866

Popular Western author Rick Steber started his latest novel, “Fall Down Angel,” more than 40 years ago in the early 1970s. That’s when he met one of the two central characters, Red Durkee, when he was in Nevada looking for colorful local characters to profile for Ruralite Magazine, a publication distributed to electric cooperatives across the West.

Red was a legal brothel madam, and Steber — not yet a novelist but a keen observer of the human condition — found her stories fascinating. When Red recounted her life story, it included Jack Small. Steber also managed to track down Small and interviewed Red and Jack (not their real names) several times. He agreed to change their identities and some aspects of their tales so their families would not recognize them in the story. Steber found other things to write about for his assignment, however, and their interviews were filed away, unpublished.

“Over the years, I’ve interviewed something like 20,000 people and have over a million photographs,” Steber said.

Through the years, however, something about Red’s and Jack’s tales called to him. He revisited his notes about three years ago from those long-ago conversations and decided to tell their stories. He wrote a rough draft, but set it aside to work on several other books. He completed his manuscript for “Fall Down Angel” while snowed in at his cabin near Prineville during the winter of 2016 to ’17.

Steber will discuss and sign copies of “Fall Down Angel” on Friday in Sisters at Paulina Springs Books.

The novel is a Great Depression-era coming-of-age story based on events in the lives of Red and Jack. Their paths initially intersected as teens when they were runaways hopping freight trains heading West. When the two meet decades later, they realize they had this previous encounter. As Steber traces the turbulent events of their lives, he ponders the adverse circumstances, quirks of fate and series of decisions that lead a 14-year-old orphan searching for her older brother to become a brothel owner, and an aspiring young prizefighter and stuntman to become a drifter and petty criminal.

“What I tried to do with the book was put Red and Jack into the position where they’re making a decision and then show the information from their past that contributed to their process,” Steber said. “The thing that interested me about that particular story was that every time they had to make an important decision in their life, they made the wrong one. Then, the effects of that are just amplified over time.”

Despite being based primarily on real people and actual events, Steber categorizes “Fall Down Angel” as a work of fiction, rather than nonfiction. Neither Red nor Jack is still alive, but the author wanted to honor their requests for anonymity.

“I’m kind of a stickler if I use real people, dates and places — then you really have to stick to the facts,” Steber said. “But that’s why this is a novel because the essence of the story is true but some details have been altered.”

Steber said he tries to tell the best story he can and doesn’t consciously try to impart any particular message to his readers.

“This book is about the decisions we make in life and why we make them,” he said. “It’s about our upbringing and our circumstances and how that affects us, but even people raised in the same family can veer away in really different directions.”

Steber marches to the beat of his own drum when it comes to his writing. Largely self-published and with numerous awards and more than 1.5 million books sold, by his count, he has the freedom to write about whatever subjects and people interest him. His more than 40 books have included inspirational stories of survival, family dramas, historical nonfiction and contemporary tales of life in the West. He has also written a historical Wild West trivia series, short stories and publishes a poem each day on his personal Facebook page (@rick.steber.)

Steber’s next release will be another novel based on true events. It’s about a woman who falls in love with a married cowboy. He plans to release two books of poetry in spring 2019.

“I think each of my books is completely different,” Steber said. “I don’t try to rehash the same thing. I guess that’s the beauty of being able to do my own thing.”

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