My second novel to be published is When Latin Lost its Relevance, and can now be pre-ordereed on Amazon.com. The official release date is August 13. Please check it out.
It is a fictional memoir about 99,000 words long and deals with young boys growing up at the Josephinum, a Catholic seminary in central Ohio that I attended in the late 50s. The story is completely fictional, but it does reflect the kinds of relationships and foibles many of the students dealt with.
It’s the story of fourteen year-old Paul Riddle who arrives at the Josephinum in August, 1961 and sees immediately that he will have a hard time adjusting to the rigors of the pre-Vatican II Catholic seminary. All he wants is to fit in and win his classmates’ respect, but being a new arrival, he finds acceptance illusive. Impossible schedules and curricula, draconian rules, absolute silence at night and during meals, kneeling for long stretches of time on concrete floors as punishment for minor infractions, class preference, cliques, and rivalries add to his misery, but worst of all is the unspoken and un-addressed, but ever-present specter of his evolving sexuality. The seminary has no systematic way to address the taboo subject, so Paul is left to deal in fear and ignorance with the strange developments his body undergoes. He believes he is in a perpetual state of mortal sin, and this belief drives him to near despair.
For the first several weeks he flunks all his Latin assignments, but manages to pass the first quarter exams because a brainy classmate, Chuck Means, forms a small study group that meets in secret, at night, against the rules, to study. Chuck’s motive is not to help Paul, but to increase his control over the members of the group. He is already the most influential student in high school because he always seems to have cigarettes to sell to anyone who wants them. Of course smoking is strictly forbidden. No one knows that Chuck’s secret source for cigarettes is a gay classmate named Johnny Bronson, who buys them by the carton from the son of a neighbor who lives close to the campus.
Paul grows to resent Chuck Means, and when tension develops between Chuck Means and Johnny Bronson, Paul, on a lark, decides to exploit the rift. He gets more deeply caught up in the quarrel than he intended. His attempts to cope with the consequences and at the same time deal with his over-active moral scruples has a destabilizing effect on his already unstable personality. His insecurity increases dramatically when a professor makes a homosexual pass at him.
The quarrel between Chuck Means and Johnny Bronson finally results in Chuck shoving Johnny into the rain-swollen river bordering the property. Everyone believes it was an accident, but Paul, who secretly observed the incident, believes he has witnessed murder. He can’t report the crime for fear he is too deeply involved, so he concocts a plan to punish Chuck himself. The plan is deeply entangled with the guilt and self-loathing he feels as a result of his disordered scruples and made worse by his failing to save Johnny from drowning.
When the time comes to execute his plan to punish Chuck, Paul realizes he is nowhere near capable of the murder he had planned, but that doesn’t prevent him inflicting a severe beating on Chuck. Bruised and bloodied, Chuck reveals for the first time the true history he has shared with Johnny, a history that reveals Paul’s attempt to avenge Johnny was tragically misdirected.
Paul’s violent confrontation with Chuck constitutes an epiphany. He has misjudged what he witnessed during the flood, he has misjudged Johnny, misjudged Chuck, and most of all, he has misjudged himself. He comes to realize that judging the heart is an enterprise fraught with peril, even when the heart being judged is one’s own.
Please see amazon.com for a sample of the novel.