Derek Johnson has been a sportswriter for nearly two decades. Over that span of time he has written six books, chronicled some of the top talent in football like Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, and Marques Tuiasosopo, and has reported for The Woodinville Weekly since 2013.
While his latest book — The Beautiful Life and Tragic Death of Parker Moore, which came out just last month — certainly has football as a central driver, it is a story that is emotionally raw, deeply personal, and tragic.
In it Johnson expertly crafts a biography that focuses on the namesake of the book: Parker Moore. Moore was 20 years old when he passed; far too young to be taken from this world in an act of senseless violence. The horrific murder transpired in Moore’s college town of McMinnville, Oregon where the Woodinville High School star was receiving his college education.
Johnson does a superb job highlighting who Moore was as a person. His leadership, his compassion, and his altruism shine through the biography like the illuminated light at the end of the darkest tunnels. He pulls from over 60 interviews conducted to shape and display a portrait of a young man who benefitted his communities through his genuine character.
With a blending style of empathy, sympathy, and expert reporting, Johnson captures what it means to lose a loved one, but makes it explicitly clear that no benefit or the positive gleaning of a loss after one’s passing, can ever trump an individual’s existence. Johnson quotes Doug Moore, Parker’s father, in the Epilogue of his book when he writes, “I can appreciate that there are people who have changed and grown because of it. But I’m concerned that the book would give any indication that life is better because Parker died. We want to be completely clear that none of that can ever justify what happened to our boy.”
Johnson takes you through Moore’s life, snapshot by snapshot, painting a beautiful picture of his early days as a toddler, a high school football player, and then a student at Linfield College. Drawing from his years of experience, Johnson uses dialog from coaches, girlfriends, and parents among others to mold the monument of Moore’s life. The instances of humor, affection, and honesty play like a cinematic experience carefully flickering through the reader.
Johnson's central themes focus on faith and grief. Maintaining an unbiased position, he brings others’ feelings to forefront. Some individuals grow closer to God, while others completely abandon the concept.
Recalling an interview with Moore’s parents Johnson writes, “Only months later would I realize that when Julee curled up in the elbow of the couch, that had been Parker’s favorite spot. And Doug’s sloppy, oversized shirt? It had belonged to Parker. A father wearing his murdered son’s clothes, his grief so deep he does anything to stay close to him.”
On September 18 there will be a book signing at The Pizza Coop and Ale House (13317 NE 175th St, Woodinville, Wash.) from 7-10 p.m. Festivities will certainly be had in the party room that has been reserved for the evening. In addition, books will be for sale. Johnson will also be holding a book signing at the Woodinville Barnes and Noble at a to-be-determined date this October.
“The biggest thing for me was the amount of trust that the Moore family gave me to write about difficult issues with objectivity and fairness," Johnson said. "I feel like I did a good job. I gave it everything I had. I'm proud of the book."