Author's book recounts the after-effects of a rape in the heyday of peace-and-love | Pittsburgh City Paper

Author's book recounts the after-effects of a rape in the heyday of peace-and-love

"I really intended to capture an era."

In Cheesman Park author Steve Hallock
In Cheesman Park author Steve Hallock

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll: That was supposedly the spirit of the late 1960s and the 1970s. But Steve Hallock, author of the new memoir In Cheesman Park (Codefore Publications) wants to add a thing or two.

Hallock, 64, directs the School of Communication at Point Park University. Growing up in the Denver area, he spent late nights hanging out with friends, learning to drink and doing other things they weren't supposed to. Much of the action was in a place called Cheesman Park.

When Hallock was in college, a close friend of his raped a woman. Hallock's book details how he and his friends dealt with that horrific act, as well as exploring how women were seen during that time.

"Attitudes toward women at that time were not all good, and the [story] details just what happens when you treat human beings without dignity and respect," he said in a recent interview. "Which is truly ironic, because when people look back on American history they often see the '60s and '70s as a time of acceptance, peace and love."

The book depicts Hallock's social circle as a metaphor for that era. The characters — real people given different names to preserve their anonymity — each embodied and represented the divergent ideals of the time. Some would open their doors to anyone at any time and cook them meals. Others liked the openness of the time but — as taken to extremes in the case of the rapist — lacked universal respect for others.

While the book is full of dialogue, Hallock acknowledges that he did not carry a tape recorder around in those days. But the events and conversations he recounts are true to form, he says. "I really intended to capture an era, to present the thinking and the attitude of the rapist, the time period and everyone else around at the time."

Cheesman Park was Hallock and friends' getaway from the world, and he depicts that place so that it feels universal. But he tells the story of a group of kids from that era in a way many of us have never heard before.

"This is not just a book about rape and drugs," he says. "It's about how our language and behavior affects others and how even today we still fail at treating everyone with the same level of respect and humanity."