Paradiso Park

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Lakeshore Press/East, 1205 Hague Av., St. Paul MN 55104 USA

[Yes, it says “Donate,” but you are simply buying the book. Thanks!]

When I moved to Excelsior as a 10 year-old, the Amusement Park was a vast, everchanging playground.

As the ’60s unfold, Gabe Sykes and his cohorts Hawk, Milnor and Luke the Spook are in free fall and sliding into the whirlpool of teen life. The only place that doesn’t feel like alien territory to them is Paradiso Park, a sprawling amusement park just a few blocks from Gabe’s house that offers cheap thrills all its own. It’s here that they hunt girls, devise mischief and watch the city hoods cut loose.

Above all, Paradiso Park offers them action—and a self-contained sphere in which their well-honed skills can conquer the drag of the outside world’s demands. But it takes two girls to really change the scene. One is Freud, a stick-insect loudmouth who is Gabe’s only competition in schoolyard arguing and a constant prod on new musical sounds. The other is white-blonde vision Gloria—wild to travel the world and with no use for the standard boy/girl teen roles.

Who holds the key to what he needs to learn? How can he know when it’s time to leave Paradiso Park for good—and when he does, who will he become?

Folks always said that several people had died by standing up and falling out and that the roller coaster had been condemned. I loved it.

Daniel Gabriel grew up within earshot of the legendary Excelsior Amusement Park on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. Between the lakeshore Commons, the amusement park, and iconic Big Reggie’s Danceland across the road, it was a landscape replete with diversionsand characters, many of whom appear in this book.

Great beer! Great event!

10 thoughts on “Paradiso Park

    1. Daniel Gabriel

      Simplest would be to click on the title at the top of the website page. Then order via PayPal. Otherwise, I am happy to receive a $17 check made out to Daniel Gabriel & sent to
      Lakeshore Press/East
      1205 Hague Av.
      St. Paul MN 55331


  1. Lydia Christianson

    Hi Daniel!
    My name is Lydia and I’m a community editor at the Sun Sailor. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in doing a Q and A with me for the paper on your latest book. Thanks!

    1. danielgabriel Post author

      Dear Lydia,
      Certainly; I would be happy to talk with you. If you’re thinking email, I can be reached at For phone, try my cell at 651-747-7959.

      I will be in Excelsior on Tuesday, the 14th, though I don’t suppose that’s any advantage these days.

      Thanks for your interest in my work!

  2. Capt. Brian David

    Having grown up in Excelsior, Paradiso Park was so fun to read! Although this novel is not an autobiography or memoir, the events and people are loosely based on reality and it was great fun picking out characters and locations and puzzling over others I couldn’t recognize.

    I was swept up in the story from the jump. It took me several days to read and I realized it was because I was re-reading lines and pages multiple times, savoring the rhythm of the prose, studying the vibrant words chosen and especially reveling in the snappy, contemporaneous dialogue. Not once did I see a slip there, where a discordant word or phrase threw me out of the scene. Each character had their own patter, gestures and tics and it held consistently.

    I loved how Gabriel captured so many elements, such as the widening emotional gulf between childhood and adult that teens navigate and the fragile masks we try on as we attempt to figure out who we are.

    The book beautifully illustrates the ties that remain between friends who knew you when you were young and still being formed, even when you don’t see them for decades.

    Especially captivating was the rich, pungent writing – the language bopped and skittered like music, with the ever-present lyrics and beat of the exploding 60’s underpinning the action. This was like a touchstone for the character of Gabe; a constant soundtrack for both his confusion and realization.

    The colliding cross-currents of social change at the confluence of Excelsior’s Amusement Park and Danceland, reflected in the transitional teenage years in the small village, along with the universal struggle for identity and a personal truth make this a fascinating read on many levels.

    I was struck by the poignancy and regret in this paragraph, and it felt like a good summation:

    “We wanted it all back again: summer…Paradiso Park, bright and sparkling…the party room juke pumping out those big fat horns…Luke the Spook undisappeared. But we knew it could never be. Knew that time’s arrow flies only forward and once loosed, can never be recalled.”


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