Historical fiction can often be unimaginative and boring. Let’s face it, how many of us actually enjoy reading about real history? Granted, there have been the James Micheners and Graham Greenes who’ve had the ability to make history read like fiction, but they were the exceptions. That is until my next guest took to the typewriter. Tom Hooker and I were part of a writers group back when I lived in Hendersonville, NC, and I never tired of hearing his brief stories about Vietnam that he would recite to us fellow authors. He had a way of making history really come alive.
Then, a few years ago, I had the honor of publishing his first full novel, co-authored with Gary Ader, called The War Never Ends, which dealt with “that” war in Southeast Asia. Next, Tom Wrote Twenty-Five Angels, in which the crew of the Reba Jean, a B-17 bomber in the U.S. Eighth Army Air Corps, takes to the skies above WWII Europe. It was his first solo effort, and it was terrific. I published it, too.
Now, Tom has authored a third historical fiction work called Year of the White Dog, and Escarpment Press published it just this week
Tom—I was “born and raised” in a small rural community in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, not coincidentally the location where Year of the White Dog is set. I started working for the Social Security Administration in 1976 and worked in Vicksburg and Hattiesburg in my home state before coming to Hendersonville in 1988 to manage the Social Security office there. We’ve been here ever since.
Joe—Hmmm . . . I didn’t realize you worked for the SSA. I wonder if our paths ever crossed at the Social Security office? But enough of that. So, how did you come up with the idea for Year of the White Dog? This isn’t an ordinary novel. This is historical fiction about real people in a real life setting.
Tom—Yes it is. Well, I’d been reading some of James Michener’s epic novels, you know, stories that covered generations of families, all related to one place: Centennial, Chesapeake, Texas, Mexico, and so on. I thought, “Boy, I’d like to be able to write something that had that breadth of history. I didn’t think I had the chops to do something that grand. Then I remembered my Mississippi History course in high school, and the fact that the Chickasaw and Hernando de Soto’s Spanish Entrada had fought a pitched battle in my county of birth way back in 1541. I thought I could handle that. After much research, I came up with Year of the White Dog.
Joe—I think that’s an understatement. From the bibliography you list in the back of your book, it looks like there was a tremendous amount of research was involved.
Tom—I guess you’re right. I found a book on Mississippi history, and one on the history of Pontotoc County, and I found accounts written from the Spanish point of view, since they had a written language and a member of their expedition that kept a record of the journey. The Chickasaw had no written language, so the information about their village and their history came from legend and from other historian’s accounts. Then I had to construct a village filled with fictional characters who could give us (I hope) a realistic look at what life was like for them. The village, Chicaca, by the way was real, based on the research I found.
Joe—I was wondering about that. So, in a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Tom—Well, a young Chickasaw woman named Swift Doe has a vision about a battle that will be fought between the Chickasaw and the conquistadors of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. The story is about what happens as a result of her vision.
Joe—And not to cut you short, but the rest, as they say, is history. I just don’t want you to give away too much. Okay, so this is your third novel, isn’t it, including the one you co-wrote with Gary Ader?
Tom—Yep. Gary and I wrote The War Never Ends in 2019, and I went solo with Twenty-Five Angels in 2020. It’s been a blast!
Joe—What do you mean “been?” I hope that doesn’t mean you’re done writing?
Tom—Oh no, not at all. I’m constantly thinking of things to write about.
Joe—Well, good. I certainly hope that we can look forward to reading more of your work. By the way, if folks are interested in reading your excellent book, Year of the White Dog, where can they find it?
Tom—All together now: AMAZON.COM—in paperback and Kindle!
Joe—Thanks, Tom. And, of course, your publisher is Escarpment Press.
Tom—Of course . . .