Tripping

Author’s note: In July and August, 35 years ago, I tagged along with Jody Jividen, a great friend, on a three-week tour of the western United States. We packed in as much living as we could in those 21 days. But it wasn’t the beginning, or the end, of our history. This is the first of several installments of our story. Thanks for reading, A.S.

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It was 2:35 a.m., a spark of adrenaline – maybe from the Eagles’ Desperado album in the tape deck, an acoustic whirling dervish – I’m seeing the Tasmanian Devil – juxtaposed by its slower-paced, soulful lyrics – was giving me a much-needed rush. I was pushing Jody Jividen’s Toyota Corolla to the limit, teasing time with my miles per hour – a MINIMUM of 150 miles every two hours – from rural Montana into South Dakota. On that leg it was probably more like 190 miles – or 85 mph. Open road. I was “21 and strong as I could be.” We were invincible. Bulletproof.

I was just digging for my next tape, maybe CCR’s Greatest Hits, maybe Jimmy Buffett’s One Particular Harbor, when word came over the radio that the two-day Major League Baseball strike was over. “Yode,” short for Yoda, and I were nearing the completion of what would be a 21-day, 8,500-mile circle-the-country jaunt. I woke my long-legged, slumbering friend with the news.

“The strike is over.”

He squinted, then swallowed as the news sank in.

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Jody Jividen, westward bound, July 1985

“Kansas City here we come!” was his response. Followed by, in his drawn, Eeyore-of-Winnie-The-Pooh-voice, after getting his bearings from the road signs whizzing by, “Damn. You’ve covered some ground.”

I was broke, we were exhausted, and probably beginning to tire of each other’s company, but we plotted a course to the border of Kansas-Missouri through Nebraska for the onset of the 1985 MLB season. The Royals were hosting the Detroit Tigers. It was Thursday, August 8, 1985.

Significant to this was that on July 28, we watched the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Padres in San Diego, 4-2. Despite Steve Garvey going 3-for-4 at the plate, effortlessly flicking two doubles with his “Popeye” forearms and wrists, and Tony Gwynn quietly getting two hits, the Cardinals used their speed and their slap-bunting ability to leg out hits and keep the bases occupied for the winning margin. Centerfielder Willie McGee (three hits, two runs, a stolen base), catcher Darrell Porter (home run, three RBI), Lonnie Smith, Terry Pendleton, Ozzie Smith provided the highlights of the day. Vince Coleman was unusually quiet at leadoff (0-5). John Tudor earned the win to improve to 12-8 on the season. The game was played on grass and dirt, on a perfect southern California Sunday afternoon.

Before and between those two dates we’d made a lifetime of memories, some of which I will return to: Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park, a corner in Winslow, Arizona, the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, and Death Valley. We hiked seven miles into – and seven miles out of – the Grand Canyon; climbed to 12,000 feet of Mount Whitney, California, visited Sequoias National Park, Giant Redwood National Park, San Diego Zoo, crashed a Jimmy Buffett concert at San Diego State, visited Charleston, West Virginia native and Los Angeles Rams All-Pro lineman Denny Harrah’s bar in Long Beach, and gravitated to UCLA’s on-campus Basketball Museum. We swam in the Pacific Ocean, hiked to the Falls of Yosemite National Park, traveled the Pacific Coast Highway, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, posed with a John Steinbeck Cannery Row road sign in Monterey, knocked some brews back at Clint Eastwood’s original Hog’s Breath Inn at Carmel. Yode ran Pre’s (Steve Prefontaine) Trail in Eugene, Oregon, we drove into Washington State for our United States top-left-corner-turn, then on an eastern trek Yellowstone and Old Faithful, Little Bighorn Battlefield and Custard’s Last Stand.

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Painted Desert, Arizona

That’s a tough paragraph just to write. Imagine doing it all in three weeks.       

As we rolled into Kansas City, bought our tickets (I did have my parents’ credit card for emergencies) and watched batting practice – we didn’t know, how could we know? – that we were seeing our second World Series team of that year – the participants of the 1985 I-70 Series.  

I first met Jody in December of 1980. in the minutes following my third high school basketball game, the opening round of the Capitol City Classic, a Christmas Tournament. I’d come off the bench to drop in 10 points in a low-scoring affair, helping to seal a 54-51 victory over rival South Charleston. I did it with some deft, long-range shooting (4-for-5 from the floor). He was covering the game as a Charleston Daily Mail sportswriter (article at bottom).  

Everything about Jody was memorable. His long legs, the lumbering, giraffe-like gait, his thick-plastic, teardrop glasses, his black hair, his tenacity, his humor, his ability, on that evening, to get a 16-year-old to open up, and the next day, upon reading his story, his incredible writing talent. Not that I was a proper judge. I was a junior and had sat out the previous season with a serious knee injury. He capitalized on the obvious angle, and also somehow opened me up – had me speaking in similes.

Three years later I would be working with him as an hourly employee in the Daily Mail newsroom, obituaries, and then on to sports. Our cubicles weren’t ten feet from each other. But my world took many turns. I didn’t finish college until I was 31. But after sixteen years of trials, in 1996, he was the sports editor – the Boss – of the DM sports department. I was hired as one of his beat writers, covering his alma mater, The Marshall University Thundering Herd, at the most pivotal point of their history since the ’70 plane crash. So much water had gone under our bridge by then, our friendship continuing to grow. We had much history already, but there would be plenty more.

jody-story

 

© 2020

 

 

  

An Extraction of Epic Proportions

Looking back, it was a situation comedy writers would struggle to dream up, wrought with “No Luck” humor and tragic undertones. But, from it, I made a more-than-memorable acquaintance. 

Myssy and I were invited to spend four or five days in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, at the oceanfront home of my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. Let that sink in: my brother-in-law’s new wife’s father. We lost my sister, Kelly, in 2000. She and Chip have two kids, Chloe and Logan, who were nine and six when she passed. A couple of years later, Chip was remarried to Marcy. At the time of the invitation, we had three small children: Evan, Audrey, and Claire. Chip and Marcy had a new boy, Brooks, and another on the way.

We love Marcy. We attended their intimate wedding on Daufuskie Island, and tried to keep the kids familiar and seeing each other as much as possible, though we lived four hours apart before they moved to Texas. Still, crashing the beach house was bringing the relationship to a new, potentially-uncomfortable level.

Richard Cox
Richard “Cappy” Cox

We arrived around noon on Saturday, meeting out for a casual seafood lunch. “Cappy” Cox, Marcy’s father, was spending the weekend on one of his boats up-coast, we learned. That evening I manned the grill, and we team-fed our large group – one of Chip’s sisters, Cindy, and her two daughters were there as well – a fun, relaxing dinner. I consumed a couple of beers, nothing to speak of for me.

Except that after we all went to bed – they’d given us Cappy’s master bedroom and bath – I became violently ill. Repeatedly ill, throughout the entire night. What was going on? I wasn’t food-poisoned – no one else was sick. Dawn came and I was empty but in excruciating discomfort. I couldn’t move without pain. I was given Phenergan to relieve my nausea symptoms, which were long passed, though it did help me get some rest. But by noon or so, yes, Mys touched my abdomen, vaulting me off the bed in pain. “Get your flops on” was her response.

Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time.

Forty-five minutes after entering the doors of Carteret Medical Center, my appendix was being extracted. It was described as “gangrenous and ready to burst” by the doctor who removed it, a near-miss that could have led to weeks in a hospital bed. I felt so much better afterwards I would have kissed the man, given the opportunity. Chip and the kids came to visit me. Sitting by my bed, he was giddy with relief, the shared affection sort of forgotten territory for us both. He and Kelly were high school sweethearts, and he was like a big brother to me.

Jay photo 1But, I was forty-four years old. Why, in all the days of my life – and they multiply out quickly – why this one day for an incident of this magnitude to occur? It couldn’t have been a more disruptive, un-fortuitous time. I pondered the trip down. My back was twinging with a little pain, but nothing more. I wrote it off as driving fatigue. No signs of what was about to happen.

Jay photo 2I was released on Tuesday and had to gingerly keep myself dry for the rest of our stay. Sitting poolside with my legs in the water was my only plunge. Cappy, a quick-witted, lover of good times, had returned and ultimately found great humor in my condition. We toasted future health. I was able to join him and the group on a bumpy boat ride for lunch the following day, observing the majestic wild horses of the Outer Banks on the way.

As we packed to leave, Cappy assured me I was welcome to return, as long as I had a thorough TT-1physical examination before I came. Chip, Marcy and the kids ran out and had the above T-shirt made for me, “I left my appendix in Atlantic Beach.”

Cappy was his grandfather’s tag, for being the larger-than-life captain of his boats. It fit his personality well. I saw him a few more times through the years. He was always quick to smile, and to make others laugh. He lit up the room. He loved his daughters and all his grandkids immensely. On this day, he is being memorialized in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, gone at 71. Richard “Cappy” Cox, you were one of a kind, and you will be greatly missed.

https://www.wilkersonfuneralhome.com/obituaries/obituary-listings?obId=15464960&fbclid=IwAR29rO-B_SDOhBBeIs_g6HLHWmIsLkuztP9JlyosJ-KrhhLFBJ6kjP5S_xQ#/obituaryInfo

Outer Banks photos contributed by Jay Drumheller, all rights reserved.

© 2020

 

 

The Fundamentals of Racial Harmony

 With the current racial issues dominating the headlines following George Floyd’s murder and funeral, and now the weekend shooting of Rayshard Brooks, I’m reminded of a scene from my second novel, The Lost Lantern, a book ultimately about racial harmony.

The novel takes place partially in the 1960s, but mostly in mid-1980s Myrtle Beach and Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina. In the scene, William McMillian, a black man, takes his white friend John Gates to a coastal point on government-owned wetlands for an important discussion. William has often come to the spot throughout his life to contemplate issues and consider important decisions. There is a single tree along the shoreline, its branches all growing to the west, the result of a perpetual ocean wind. William has just received the most devastating news of his life, the aftermath of racial injustice.

Here’s the excerpt:

“I’ve done a lot of thinking here, John. I know I’m not a great philosopher, but I’ve had some good moments at this spot. Times when I just had to get away from our neighborhood, or get away from Danny’s (restaurant), from cleanin’ it and keeping the kitchen running right. I’ve been here late at night, with a full moon out there over the water… so beautiful, stars so clear and bright. And all I could think about was how great God is, and how wonderful this world could be.

I’ve thought about those branches. The branches of that tree… as black people. And the wind is white people. Whenever a branch starts to grow into the wind, or fight back, the wind picks up stronger, or shifts, until over time, the branch can’t do nothin’ but turn and join the other branches… defeated. If it doesn’t turn, eventually it’ll break. And it will fall and die.”  – William McMillian, The Lost Lantern.

Lantern ThumbWhen I wrote this I believed that the prevailing racial winds had changed since 1987. And I still do. Opportunity – and oppression – are becoming colorblind. In my opinion there is a small percentage of whites living in the past, unfortunately with the ability and position to exercise incredible ignorance and stupidity. I still believe we live in the greatest country in the world, that we will continue to grow and get through all of this – together. We need faith, hope, kindness, and love. Maybe that’s naïve and not hard-hitting. But it’s fundamental. With fundamentals, you need repetition.

The Lost Lantern and The Long Shadow of Hope are available on Amazon.com or on my author page at: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01EYPU3RQ

Thanks for reading, A.S. © 2020

 

 

 

Pedaler’s Prayer

Great Cycle ChallengeLast June I was humbled by the generosity of a great number of friends and family members who supported me financially and with continued encouragement in The Great Cycle Challenge. Nationally over $8 million was raised by some 15,000 riders for children’s cancer research, and personally, after riding a bicycle 603 miles for the month, we raised just over $3,000 – No. 1 in the state of West Virginia and in the top 230 in the nation!

Those totals came after more modest goals – 500 miles and $1,000 – were originally proposed. Because, after returning to work in March, I rode a total of only 62 miles in March, April and May in (lack of) preparation – no base from which to build upon. Ol’ friend Matt Mandeville shamed me into upping my mileage goal (putting his money where his mouth is), even though I was essentially starting from scratch and having to ride little chippy 14 to 20 milers initially while I got my legs, lungs and big arse in better shape. In truth, I had no idea what to expect concerning donations. My brother Barry Thaxton got it started – maybe the donations rolled in more heavily when it appeared I could actually exceed half my goal. LOL.

bike-in-b-n-wWhy did I do it? One, WE ARE BLESSED! How can I not do something? Two, eradicating all cancer is the true goal – my sister and three of my closest friends have been taken from us – but a child suffering and losing that battle is especially heart-wrenching and incomprehensible. We’ve seen that the fear and uncertainty involved in a child being diagnosed is beyond devastating. I pray this can help end that. We need hope! Three, I was gifted a worthy bike by a special person – Rich Harper, proprietor of John’s Cyclery. I feel I must continue to do what I can to pay his generosity forward. If you care to read that story, please click on:     https://andrewspradling.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/immeasurable-kindness/

This spring, I was able to ride 476 miles in March, April, and May – the last six on Hilton Head Island yesterday – and am prepared to attempt 188 miles a week to reach 750 for the month (800 would feel REALLY good). Optimistically, I set my fundraising goal where we left off last year – $3,000. To put the mileage in perspective, I flirted with these numbers 28 years ago (at 28-years-old), when Derek Watson got me hooked and we rode nearly every day – and were occasionally joined by fitness legends Rick Robinson and Dave Walker.

DrewUnfortunately, like everything else, due to Covid-19, The Great Cycle Challenge has been postponed until September. This creates a degree of uncertainty for my participation at that level. Myssy suggested better lights and 4:30 a.m. starts – not the worst idea safety-wise. I will keep you posted and with the help of health-purist Larry Ellis, keep pedaling over hill and dale with lofty goals, songs, and suspenseful tales in mind. Have a great summer!

Learn more at https://greatcyclechallenge.com/   Thanks for reading, A.S.

 

 

 

High Marks from “Integrity Personified”

When I reminisce about my junior high school days, so joyous at the time, a handful of educators stand out above the others. Some because of what they taught and how passionately they did it. Others, for who they were – for what they were.

 Sam Owens was my Spanish teacher for three years. More importantly, he was a pillar of integrity, professionalism, and kindness in a place that, it turned out years later, had a despicably-dark underbelly of the worst kind.

 Though he was a tremendous teacher, I was not a student of Spanish. I saw it as credits I needed to get through high school. I did what I could – sang songs with vigor, participated as much as possible, to offset my inept conjugating of verbs. He took pity on me. Once, when the coaches I most wanted to please – and for whom I became a two-time all-conference player – were subtly bullying me for playing another sport, Mr. Owens was the person this 13-year-old went to crushed, confused, and emotional. He didn’t console me, he resolved the issue. It was something he probably wouldn’t even remember. For me, it was an illogical, few-day hiccup in an otherwise blissful stay – including with those coaches – over forty years ago. But, that I went to him, speaks volumes to me now.

 That Sam Owens, an author himself, read my second novel, The Lost Lantern, and took time to write a favorable review, also means the world to me.

 The Secret of the Lost Lantern May 1, 2020 5-stars

Lantern ThumbThe story of a shocking murder lingers beneath the myriad of events detailed throughout novel. Waiting to be exposed to the reader, the facts relating to this horrendous crime remain concealed among the intense compassions of human nature, the evil racism lurking within the local culture, and the diverse concerns of sophomoric teens. The surprising solution to the disappearance of a beloved resident of Myrtle Beach is at last revealed in the secrets of The Lost Lantern, the extraordinary title of this novel. A worthy read for anyone, but especially for those beach-loving natives of Appalachia, whose people and home play an intriguing role in this sun–drenched community.

The Lost Lantern, and The Long Shadow of Hope, are available on Amazon.com

 Thanks for reading, A.S.

Exploring Racial Harmony: Teaching “The Cay” in 2020

While it’s currently corona-stalled and banished to on-line only, I have been in a new arena the past eight months – the classroom. I once, beginning 38 years ago, intended to teach English and coach basketball. The whirling dervish called life took me in some different directions, and now I’ve landed back where I began. I’m teaching Creative Writing to sixth graders, and I assisted a lifelong coach with the same middle school’s boys’ team and coached the junior varsity, two reasons blog posts have been flowing like mud in the same time frame.

The classroom work has been interesting and I have varying levels of writing talent among the 180 students – some quite accomplished. To teach the value of reading to writers, to be able to point out some excellent author technique, and for a break from the growing mountain of papers to be graded, I thought it would be fun to read a book with them. I chose The Cay, by Theodore Taylor.

The CayIf you’re not familiar, The Cay is set in Dutch-held Curacao during World War II. A Caribbean Island just north of Venezuela, at the top of South America, the area is a target for German submarines because neighboring Isle Aruba’s oil refinery has begun producing and shipping aviation fuel for use by the Allied Forces. Taylor’s lead sets the tone for the book aptly: LIKE SILENT, HUNGRY SHARKS that swim in the darkness of sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

Young Phillip Enright, 11-year-old son of an American petroleum engineer, has to leave the island with his foolishly-squeamish mother, who longs for the safety of eastern Virginia. Of course, their ship is torpedoed and Phillip ends up on a raft with Timothy, an old, black man (portrayed by James Earl Jones in the TV movie), and the ship’s cook’s pet, Stew Cat. Making matters worse, Phillip is hit in the head by a timber during the ship’s demise, and after a couple of days on the raft he goes blind.

“It makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people.” – Timothy, of The Cay

Adding to the tension between the two characters is Phillip’s ignorance and attitude about blacks, purely a mirror of his mother’s beliefs, which he doesn’t actually understand. The book is narrated by Phillip. He thinks of Timothy initially as a “big, ugly Negro.” Timothy is a West Indie native, and calls Phillip “Young Boss” in his native accent. When they land on their cay, a small island that is part of the unnavigable-by-ship Devil’s Mouth, Timothy sets about making plans for their rescue and keeping them alive in his pleasant way. Phillip refuses to help with chores he is able to do, thus tension eventually comes to a head until Timothy smacks Phillip for a particularly disrespectful outburst. After that the two become fast friends. Timothy teaches Phillip how to be self-sufficient: to catch rainwater, to fish, to bare-hand lobster, and to climb trees for coconuts, in case his stay on the isle outdistances 70-plus-year-old Timothy’s life. They even talk about race. Timothy tells Phillip it makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people, and that people of all colors are the same on the inside. Ultimately, Phillip respects and loves Timothy, and as he matures he realizes everything Timothy did to save his life… both before he dies protecting Phillip during a hurricane and after.

Lantern ThumbMudboundThe theme of my second novel, The Lost Lantern, is also about racial harmony. More so than The Cay, to achieve my goal, harsh examples of racism, and racists, had to be depicted. It grates on the soul and sensibility… but it was realistic. It is certainly authentic to South Carolina in the ’60s and ’80s, where and when The Lost Lantern takes place. The Lost Lantern is more closely related to Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound than Taylor’s young adult effort (released in 1969) as Lantern’s black and white friends team together to overcome tall racial odds.

When asked by students about reading my books, I have told them that they must be 17, that the books would be “R or NC-17 rated,” if there were such distinctions for novels. Less than ten percent of my students are black, but many, white and black, initially found The Cay to be racist. One young man (privately) found the term Negro offensive to the point of tears. In his mind it was the N-word, not the commonly-used, proper term of the World War II era. Still, I was sensitive to his point. He said he didn’t like the way the kids “were looking at him.”  Like the protagonist Phillip Enright, most of the students are just beginning to reach maturity. If they were looking, they were watching for his reactions.

I believe that had my junior high English class read The Cay in the late ’70s instead of Romeo and Juliet, it would have been uncomfortable. Race then could still be volatile. In today’s world, I never felt the students looked at each other as black, yellow, mixed, white, brown. The friendships I’ve observed seem colorblind. Ultimately, nearly all of the students enjoyed the book because it was about friendship, love, respect and loss. Time marches on, worldwide problems obviously change, but for some, hopefully a small minority, maybe race relations stay the same.

© 2020

Threads

It was when I observed my son’s recent high school graduation pictures that I saw it, realized it, and the emotions began to rip through my soul like raging flood waters. The jacket I wore. I hadn’t considered it or given it any thought at the time. Throw it on and go.

We have an emotional ritual that we endure every summer. His birthday celebration on July 26. Her anniversary on August 6. This Tuesday marked the nineteenth year since her passing. The year 2000 was the ultimate “Best of times, Worst of times” in our immediate family history, exceeding the premature passing of our grandfather thirty-three years earlier as his three daughters – one, our mother – were birthing the eight grandchildren he would briefly enjoy, spoil, love, and depart from. He would have been 110 Saturday.

Kelly headshot copyHere’s the tale of two cities. My wife and I were preparing for the arrival of our first child. She, nearly three hundred miles away, was fighting for her life. We’d always come together as frequently as possible. We love and adore their children, and hoped to model our child rearing after hers. While we were choosing colors, painting, attending Lamaze classes and baby showers, she was battling the cancer that had begun in one breast, and had, after removal “success,” come back with the fury of a conquering army.

She told me a couple of months before our due date, at an annual family vacation, her goal was to see our child born. I replied, “Well, you need a new goal. You’re doing great.” I was naïve about death. She, a 39-year-old nurse who had last worked in drug research, was not. She was thin and frail from chemo and the disease eating at her bones and organs, always in hat to cover her scalp. She realized her own mortality as she and her husband held their household together and raised their nine and seven-year-old. It was a confusing time.

Not long after, due to protein levels, it was quickly determined we needed to induce the following morning. She was there – from over four hours away. She had to be wheeled into the waiting room. I was crushed when I saw her physical state. But I was so wound up for the coming of our child – I had to let it go. Again following her lead, we chose not to learn our baby’s gender. “There are so few surprises in life,” she used to say.

Evan's birthShe was to go into delivery with us to witness our miracle, but the epidural my wife was given halted the expansion of her cervix, and at 10 p.m. after a 5:30 a.m. start it was determined a cesarean would be performed. My big sister, due to medical bureaucracy and insurance concerns, would have to miss the birth. But she would not miss the welcoming of our son, named Evan Kelly, Kelly after her. I can still see her long, thin fingers holding him, speaking baby talk to him, and immediately loving him. She had a way with babies and children. She embraced the “precious present” and had an unquantifiable love of life.

Earlier, in the fall of 1999, upon learning that her cancer had returned, she and her husband hosted a party to make the announcement. Her friends formed such a strong support group she never had to cook another dinner. A couple of months later, in December, they held another party for the upcoming holidays. We traveled to attend.  They had been high school sweethearts. He was like a brother to me. That was the night we told them we were pregnant. And though we said let’s keep it between us, she couldn’t hold it in. Their friends were our friends, and good news was welcomed. A quicker eight months you could not imagine. Phone calls to her – with talks of her children’s advances, of hopes, fears, expectations, pains, worries – were frequent, and yet now I wish that I’d spoken with her twice daily.  

Because eleven days after Evan’s arrival, with her children, her husband, our mother and father, her closest friends, and me by her side, she peacefully let go and moved on.

Baby Evan reducedWith the services for both there and here planned, I returned home and realized that, having become a more mature man, I needed a new black suit. The picture with Evan was before her memorial service here, where, due to love, his health, a crutch, a barrier, a conversational buffer, pure selfishness, a bit of contempt – I could not let him go or put him down. I must have held him for three hours straight.

131.JPGThe next picture (above) is nearly nineteen years later – graduation night. Our family. Our growth, our progression, our happiness. Same jacket. She would laugh at that. I think daily about how she would love our children, and how they would be enriched by knowing her – the same as her own kids, who have become successful adults, each with their own niche in other regions of the country.

Baby D with KAfter a tumultuous start due mostly to my immaturity, we became the closest of friends. I wrote a poem in college about a cherished neighbor who had passed away. In it I mention a Cincinnati Reds game we attended in our youth. “I like that image, heavy binoculars,” she told me. Words. I was a sportswriter when she left us, not always fluff, constantly striving to improve. I became a novelist, which I had but an inkling of early on. If she had disapproved of a thought, any notion, in one of my books, she would have called me out on it. But if she believed in it, she’d have been my trumpet section. She always protected me. She literally fought for that which she believed, and she’d pump me with courage to make me stand tall, move forward. That was our history. That was our thread.

 

© 2019

A New Literary Star Is Born

Sam Hindman

 A literary review by Sam Hindman carries with it a great deal of weight. Hindman rose to the highest levels of professional journalism as the Publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail, with Thomson Newspapers, and with Reuters. Sam gave me my first job at the Daily Mail in 1983, and he and his wife, Iris, remain two of my favorite people. Die-hard West Virginia Mountaineer fans, their devotion to family is unmatched as they help nurture and support their teen-aged grandchildren. Thank you Sam, thank you brother Tom Hindman for use of the photo, and thank you for reading. A.S.

 A New Literary Star Is Born February 8, 2019

Lantern ThumbAs I dove deeper into this captivating tale, The Lost Lantern, I found its words, character development and stories within the story so compelling that this novel sent a clear message. A new literary star is born. This tale, positioned in and around Myrtle Beach, is a setting known so well to many and brings similar visions to other beach lovers. With the turning of each page, this author’s words sprang to life. The intrigue woven into a time when the south was less than hospitable to all races causes memories and visions from each reader’s past to play like a movie of the harsher times when racial discrimination plagued Murrells Inlet, yet was rejected by many as this tale so vividly portrayed.

Author Andy Spradling has earned a look by the big publishing houses and those that would need a script for their next movie. It is here in The Lost Lantern. This story rivals those found in many works by John Grisham. Andy’s character development, from the indomitable William McMillian. His ambition, interplay with a racist Danny Rivers, his equally vile brothers and the help of friend John Gates, a family minister and his mother’s church is as satisfying to your literary hunger as would be a good meal served by Mr. Spradling and many of characters who once toiled in those 1980s restaurants, and then danced the night away.

This novel depicts Horry County for what it was and what it wasn’t in those days, while numerous other plots run parallel to the struggles by William McMillian and his friends. Indeed all the twists, evil or otherwise, are well developed while you continue to envision the resourcefulness behind McMillian, Gates , and others. . Without lessening the true joy that comes from embracing this strong read of good over evil, it is time to ask for more…more recognition for Andy Spradling’s literary talents and more from his fertile imagination.

5-stars

Purchase The Lost Lantern on Amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Lantern-Andrew-Spradling/dp/1548476250

© 2019

A Question of Style

SCHS Talk 2.jpgRecently, I was invited to speak at an International Baccalaureate Lyceum Speaker Series at my son’s high school. The proposed topic of his English teacher, Mr. Ed Booten: “How To Craft a Novel.” Both the English and History senior and junior classes were combined for the event.

For those of you haven’t heard of it, the IB Diploma (and I borrow) is an English-medium university preparation course based on an approach to learning involving critical inquiry and is aimed at the education of the whole person. Every year more than 130,000 young people at schools all over the world take the IB Diploma examinations.

In other words, these are sharp kids – on the ball.

Mr. Booten had read my second novel, The Lost Lantern, and enjoyed it enough to request my insights, which I very much appreciated. I will say, as an independent writer with my last book in its second year of release (available on Amazon.com along with my first, The Long Shadow of Hope), speaking opportunities are few and far between.

I prepared my remarks to include my background (and knowing how a high schooler will cringe at a 500-word assignment): as a former sportswriter required a minimum of 500 bylines a year (my totals were more like 700) I was cranking out at least 400,000 words a year. An average novel is 70,000 to 120,000 words. Thus, a work of such length was attainable in my mind. The Lost Lantern has 143,000, or 505 pages.

I hit the usual topics: Write What you know; Point of View/pros and cons of First Person versus Third Person omniscient; Genre; Plot; Character Development; Tone; Choosing a Title.

I did have to contradict myself – and this is the beauty of the imagination and the fun of writing – because my next novel is about a sexual-serial killer within a gated community on a southern coastal island, and the female police detective who goes undercover to try and catch him. I promise, what I know most of these three topics is the island.

And it is from this contradiction that many of their insightful questions emerged. We laughed as I paced back and forth coming up with answers about creating literary monsters, men willing to go a little further in their crimes and deception then they had previously, the aftermath causing mayhem.

I will say now, one young lady got me. These students in addition to spirited novels are assigned interpretive books such as How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Her question was on my style of writing. I had (at least in that moment) completely forgotten about the four types of writing so often brought up in college courses: Expository, Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative, and went on to her about how my style was dialogue-driven, conversational, and that I used my dialogue to create tension. That’s all true, but I completely whiffed on her question. While some authors’ novels might be considered Descriptive in style, most novels – my novels – are written in the Narrative style.

But style goes much deeper than the above literary categories. Writing to your audience is always the key. J.K. Rowling doesn’t write like Ernest Hemingway, nor should she. Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory (or theory of omission) strips stories to their bare bones, leaving the reader to interpret his meaning. The voice of Hunter S. Thompson will never be found in a John Grisham tale. Pat Conroy and Cormac McCarthy are in another stratosphere, but hardly similar, nor did they ever mass-produce in a Pattersonesque fury. My goal is for my murder-suspense novels to become page-turners with a surprising twist or two. I don’t use my thesaurus to find big words to enhance my meaning or bog down the reader, nor do I enjoy reading with a dictionary by my side. That’s my style, and for now I’m sticking to it. Thanks for reading, A.S. (Photo courtesy of Ed Booten) 

© – 2019  

 

 

A Nostalgic Return to Murrells Inlet

MI Kelly n Chloe by Kim

In my childhood, Kim Bannister was the friend of my big sister Kelly that was frequently over on the weekend to spend the night. The friend that, with deceptively great strength, would wrestle me to the floor and pin me, laughing as she did it. The friend that made me, as a skinny 11-year-old, realize that girls existed, and that they were good.

MI Kim jhighMI Kelly jhigh

Flash forward eight years. After freshman year of college, one of my best friends, Pat Austin and I, followed the lead of Kelly and Kim and my future brother-in-law, Chip Simmons, and migrated to the Murrells Inlet (work), Garden City (live), Myrtle Beach (play) area for the first of three summers. It was 1983. In ‘84, we had six young men making the southern trek to a house in Surfside: Pat, Paul Larkin, Joe Matheny, Joe Henderson, and Andy Carroll. A good time was had by all.

MI Kim

Kim, like a number of my friends, never left the beach. She became Kim Lipton. She remained pals with my sister and took the (above) picture of Kelly and her daughter, Chloe, in Charlotte, NC, in 1992. Flash forward another eight years. Kelly was tragically taken from us due to breast cancer. Kim is a breast cancer survivor. I feel a sibling-like bond with her.

My second novel, The Lost Lantern (suspense – available on Amazon.com), a book ultimately about racial harmony, also encapsulates life as we knew it in Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach in the late 1980s. I thanked Kim in the Acknowledgements as I did a number of friends who touched my life, including all of the boys, Paul and Carter Elliott (pictured below). Kim wrote this review about the book:

In the 80’s Everyone knew each other in the Murrells Inlet area. Not like that now. I loved the book! Andy’s description of Murrells Inlet Garden City area in the 80s with straight on. I live in this area and it was a blast working in the restaurants going out at night being young. This book brought up a lot of wonderful memories. Thank you Andy for this book it was a joy to read. Kim. July 16, 2018.

MI Bernie

Thanks to new friend Bernie Delgado, I returned to Murrells Inlet, a couple of weekends ago and visited the Historic Downtown Murrells Inlet Block Party and out of Bernie’s shop, MISC: Everything Murrells Inlet, sold some books, met and talked with many wonderful people including Bernie’s significant-other Brian, a WVU grad and a super-nice person. The memories of being in and around Murrells Inlet were so thick I felt I could reach out and touch them: Bounding across quiet Highway 17, feeling that breeze off the Atlantic, playing the guitar and listening to others at the Tree Top Lounge after work, and before heading to the next friendly place. 

MI block Party 18

MI SissyIMG_1379

 I even ran into a fellow-wait staffer from The Ghost Ship – Sissy (above left). It had only been 34 years! I finished off a busy day visiting Out Back at Frank’s, in Pawleys Island, with Carter Elliott (middle), of Georgetown, SC, and Paul Larkin (right), of Surfside, SC. Great friends.

MI Inlet View

I also wanted to include this shot I took of Murrells Inlet at sunset, from the lot at The Tuna Shack.

I will definitely be back next year for the Block Party, hopefully with my third novel, A Most Beautiful Trigger, in tow.

Bernie shop, 4493 Highway 17, Murrells Inlet, is filled with the creations of art and home furnishings of over seventy local artists. Don’t forget, Christmas is just around the corner! Thanks for reading, A.S.

© 2018