I’m that guy. My wife cringes whenever we sit down to a film, and I do the same thing with books. I don’t mean to, but stories, like any journey, are like puzzles for me. I can’t resist the urge to figure it out. sadly far too many stories, I find, are just predictable. Sorry, but like I said, I’m that guy.
I don’t read a lot of novels, at least not since I published my first novel roughly a decade ago. Frankly, there isn’t much of a challenge once you’ve essentially anticipated the story. Recently, however, teacher, broadcaster, author David W. Berner joined Kerri and me for a chat about his latest novel, A Well Respected Man(Amazon). The book is a sumptuous travelers feast, moving richly from England to Chicago and across the country to a powerful and wholly unexpected (Lord knows I tried) conclusion. A Well Respected Man is hardly a travelogue, but reflects upon fate, fatherhood, love and commitment. The journey is as real as life, and as gloriously unpredictable straight to the end.
A Well Respected Man at 171 pages complimented a recent cross country travel. The emotional integrity and sincerity lent itself perfectly to those profoundly rare moments of lazy reflection, of mulling over a beautifully written narrative that seems to only come with travel. Highly recommended, A well Respected Man is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle at Amazon.com, and at the link provided.
An excerpt from David W. Berner’s, A Well Respected Man:
He grabbed the still damp, black umbrella he’d left leaning against the wall by the front door the previous evening and headed through the entranceway and into the weather. It was then that he noticed her, standing erect on the gravel in the space between the walkway and the road, dressed in a midnight blue raincoat dampened by rain on the sleeves and shoulders, an open yellow umbrella above her head. Tight against her chest, she held a frayed paperback book.
“Mr. Gregory?” Her voice was tentative.
“Can I help you?” he asked, struggling to adjust the strap of his leather bag over his shoulder and maneuver his now opened umbrella against the freshening breeze.
The woman was plain but appealing, waif-like, maybe in her early-30s. Her hair was deep brown, nearly black. It hung to the base of her neck. The rain had moistened it, and it clung to her pale cheeks.
“Mr. Martin Gregory?” she asked more precisely. Her accent was American.
“Yes,” he answered, becoming impatient. Martin locked his front door and stood directly in front of the woman.
“I believe you have written about my life,” she said. Her voice was now less cautious but remained delicate.
Martin was uncertain of exactly what he had heard but yet familiar with visits like this one, although it had been a long time since the last encounter.
“I hope that I may speak with you,” the woman said.
Martin Gregory had returned to Banbury after living in the hamlet for one month, many years ago. He had arrived to complete his Masters of Fine Arts degree and the manuscript that he was required to present to his university advisor. The college had allowed five writing students to live at Wroxton Abbey in Oxfordshire while they labored with the final edits of their works. Martin quickly became fond of the small town. He treasured its quiet tidiness, its gardens, and the village’s low-ceiling pubs, and even its weather—mainly gray and damp but at least consistent. For years after his days as a student, he’d considered returning for a peaceful holiday. What he couldn’t have predicted was that he’d return to live and teach at The Academy in Banbury—the secondary school—and that Banbury would be his sanctuary.
“I have not written about your life,” Martin insisted.
Over the years since the release of his novel, young women, usually in the evening and sometimes late at night, had appeared at his door, at his parked car, or on the sidewalk near the building that housed his office at the college in Chicago, and once after first arriving in Banbury, outside the doors of the school where he now taught. Are you Martin Gregory? They would ask. I must talk to you, they would demand. I must speak with you about your story.
This latest encounter appeared at first to be much like the others.
“But you’ve written what’s in my heart, what I’ve been harboring for a long time and never knew how to express.” The woman moved a step closer to Martin, her opened umbrella briefly striking his. “I would be eternally grateful.”
Martin turned away and began to walk along the road toward his school. “I am not your savior. It’s just a book,” Martin snapped as he turned his back to her…