... as much a thoughtful coming-of-age novel as a probing mystery. What keeps its elements in balance is Parker’s assured dive into SoCal history, this time the cultural war zone that was Laguna Beach in the late ’60s ... Drawing on that deep background and further inspired by nonfiction works and eyewitness accounts, Parker smoothly melds fact with fiction. Real-life cameos by Leary at the Brotherhood’s drug-induced 'experiences' mingle with the quasi-fictional ... A Thousand Steps, its title taken from one of the city’s famous beaches, is as powerful as a riptide in summer. And like those deceptively strong currents, Parker crafts this mystery slowly at first, until the cultural forces he’s laid bare threaten to inundate a family trying to stay afloat. In the process, A Thousand Steps reopens for our reconsideration the consequences of clashes between authority and freedom, order and chaos, that persist to this day—and the innocents that will always get caught in the tumult.
A Thousand Steps is a unique thriller and also a coming-of-age story: the not-so-sentimental education of an impressionable teen. Mr. Parker has given us a well-designed flashback to a tie-dyed time that in some ways seems like the day before yesterday and in others feels like a century ago.
Yes, this is as much sensitive coming-of-age novel as it is edgy thriller, but there are definitely some noirish-looking clouds on the horizon. Parker juggles his disparate elements superbly, making us wonder if hardworking Matt may one day transform himself into the Dude from The Big Lebowski.
Parker offers a telling perspective on the people who used youth culture to traffic drugs (and much worse), but this works best as a thoughtful coming-of-age novel and a portrait of a Southern California town in the throes of substantial societal change. Crime fiction fans may just find enough to like.