Honoring The 100-Year-Anniversary Of The
Extinction Of The Passenger Pigeon --- 2014
Quick Fall Of Light
A Novel By Sherrida Woodley
In this suspenseful
tale a global virus
sets the tone, but
it's a one-pound
lives and who
In this novel of a near-future pandemic, the time has come when humanity is
enduring one of the worst devastations imaginable. Yet, Quick Fall of Light looks
less at the worldwide outbreak of bird flu than it does at the lives of three people
caught in its wake.
The story begins with Josephine Russo searching for the crash site of her newly
deceased husband in the mist-shrouded Olympic Rain Forest of Washington State.
As she finds herself lost and getting sick, she meets a logger, Gary Sterns, who not
only has a history of logging, but who has also discovered a medical lab hidden deep
within the forest’s interior. From this mysterious realm the story reveals an
experiment unknown, except for traces left behind on a computer and Josephine’s
remembrances of the fading love between herself and her late husband. And it is
from this experiment that a bird, at one time one of America’s most breathtaking,
emerges as a source of radically advanced medical technology.
Quick Fall of Light has its roots in the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Based, in
part, on the reported mysterious “grippe” that spread around the globe early in the
last century, the novel tells of a world largely stunned by a similar modern tragedy,
withdrawn, sequestered, and desperate for the availability of an anti-virus, Pass-Flu.
The business of manufacturing the drug is a thriving one despite the staggering loss
of human life, and no one questions its efficiency until Josephine reads the
confession her husband left behind on his computer. . .
That as leading ornithologist for the pharmaceutical, Colzer-Bremen, he had
personally witnessed the deadly exploitation of his birds for the sake of production
and that he considered the drug as dangerous as the disease. In one final act of
retribution he planned to release the bird most likely to survive, a passenger pigeon
named Gem-X. It is, without a doubt, his dying hope that the bird will not only
survive, but triumph over mankind and the dreaded outbreak that’s wiped out
millions of birds as well. This is what takes the story well beyond the rain forest, and
into the sites of a hitman who pursues Josephine and Sterns and the elusive Gem-X
through the wilderness of Montana, a dying town in Wyoming, and a plains fire as
big as any our nation has ever seen.
Oddly enough, the novel is neither dark nor apocalyptic. Rather, it centers on a time
of turmoil, looking at nature not as a way out but as a remnant of our past that will
always see us through. Quick Fall of Light tells of a time yet to come and yet brings
us face to face with our past. We can only hope what it describes never comes to be.
Audubon Observing The Passenger Pigeon
By Norman Rockwell
"This book has everything! Great characters, vivid language,
a shocking resurrection, and birds. I loved it!"
Sy Montgomery, Author of Birdology
"A profound, and profoundly affecting novel. I don't think anybody could read it without being deeply
touched. I was. I found it hard to resist--the ideas, the writing, the passion, the message. All resonated
for me. A wonderful reading experience. . . I think anyone who picks up this book will be changed by it."
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Ph.D., Author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love
On November 5, 2013, a short contribution of mine on the passenger pigeon was posted on 10,000 Birds, the
most visited birding blog in the world. After contacting Mike Bergin, Editor, he said he’d be very interested
in seeing a piece I’d recently written about rare sightings of the passenger, or wild pigeon, as it was
sometimes called, long after its declared extinction in the wild in March 1900. I’m in gratitude always to this
site for their ongoing interest in the passenger pigeon and my long-term interest in its extinction. . . but most
especially now. As we near the 100th anniversary of this bird’s demise, I’ve been able to revisit how the
passenger affected other lives, including then-President Teddy Roosevelt’s, and most poignantly the life of
American novelist and naturalist, Gene Stratton-Porter. 10,000 Birds has contributed to that recognition in
posting, “The Last Few Rays Before Extinction.” To them, my heartfelt thanks always.
And in upcoming news, an article specifically about Gene Stratton-Porter’s sighting of a lone male
passenger pigeon in the fields of Indiana in 1912 is tentatively scheduled for publication in the fall of 2014
with Bird Watcher’s Digest. Written after reading her beautiful essay, “The Last Passenger Pigeon,” I
responded with some thoughts of my own. Please keep checking in for periodic updates on this article as we
move into 2014.
And, always, my thanks for visiting this site and my ongoing efforts to connect the worlds of birds and
fiction. . . and the not-so-fiction.