Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shaun D. Mullen's There’s A House In The Land - Guest Post, Excerpt and {Giveaway}

This giveaway was originally posted at Historical Fiction Connection, but since I only received one entry, I've decided to repost here and reopen the giveaway. I hope you enjoy the guest post and will enter the giveaway.

As a career journalist of the old school, I had long resisted writing about my own life on a farm beyond the far western suburbs of Philadelphia in the 1970s, but people kept telling me that those years on the farm would make for a very special book. They were right.

There’s A House In The Land (Where A Band Can Take A Stand)” fell into place when I decided to write about the farm from an historical fiction perspective.

Writing about my decade on the farm through the lens of historic fiction let me do a couple of things: A few of my housemates had not survived the decade, but most were alive and I wanted to protect their identities, so names of people and places were changed. And I rearranged some events from their sometime chronological inconvenience to my writerly convenience to give the book a better and more dramatic flow.

Another problem remained. Our adventures aside, there was a profundity to our time together, the lessons we took away and how they have shaped our lives since. I did not want to write a fictionalized memoir that would come off sounding like a rural version of the movie “Animal House.” In this I succeeded, at least according to reviewers.

Here with the opening of the first chapter of “There’s A House In The Land”:

“The first time I went out to Kiln Farm, bumping along in an aluminum beach chair anchored to the floor in the back of Eldon's Chevy Step Van, it seemed like it took forever although the farm was only 10 miles from New Park.

“Back then New Park was a quaint college town without a single decent restaurant. But it did have the New Park Tavern, which Edgar Allan Poe is said to have cursed when he got falling-down drunk following a lecture at the college and was thrown out, as well as two other establishments where students could hoist a pint before returning to the comfy confines of a picture book campus with ivy-covered buildings. The Poe story is apocryphal because the tavern didn't exist when the poet-storyteller gave the lecture, but that hadn't prevented the management from plastering raven images on beer mugs and T-shirts.

“Today that quaintness is long gone. There are several decent restaurants, the tavern is still raven-centric, but has been cleansed of its rusticated piss and beer charm. About the curse, I don't know. After a night of drinking, students now return to a campus that has grown up to become a world-class university known for far more than its football team.

“As for the farm, all but the farmhouse was razed years ago. The garden, apiary, barn, milk house, chicken coop, black walnut tree that little Caitlin swung under, and the fields that seemed to go on forever, were bulldozed and replaced by cookie cutter townhouses in a development insultingly called Kiln Farms.

* * * * *

“Eldon turned off the state road onto a driveway flanked by row after row of field corn and began the bumpy ascent to a place that would be my home for the next 10 years.
“My initial impression was a cosmic wow! For the first time since I had returned from Nam, I finally felt like I was home. It just wasn't the kind of home I had expected when a past and future resident of the farm, whom I had met in Saigon shortly before we caught Freedom Birds home, invited me to hang out until I got my bearings.

“The upper story of the farmhouse came into view as we began to crest the last hill and broke free of the cornfields. Windows blazing brilliant orange with the reflection of the late afternoon sun framed by white stucco walls and topped by a faded red tin roof created the appearance of a gigantic grinning jack o' lantern. Appropriate, because it was Halloween. There was music playing. Very loud music. I recognized it as King Crimson's ‘In the Court of the Crimson King.’

“The music was blaring from large Pioneer speakers on a porch flanked by two guys guarding a half keg of beer in a wash tub filled with chunks of ice. Both could have been mistaken for guitar god Duane Allman with their tall and lean builds, bushy moustaches and long hair, while an Irish setter, whom I imagined had to be deaf from the volume of the music, slept on the steps between the porch and front lawn, where a hotly contested game of horseshoes was being played.

“The guy sitting on one side of the keg was resplendent in a sparkling red lamé jumpsuit, MARS emblazoned in big letters on the back. His head and arms were painted a matching red, as well. The guy on the other side was wearing a similar only blue lamé jumpsuit with VENUS across the back, his head and arms painted blue. Trick or treating had obviously started early for these two planets . . .'

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About the author
Shaun D. Mullen is an award-winning journalist and more recently an author.

Over a long career with newspapers, this editor and reporter covered the Vietnam War, O.J. Simpson trials, Clinton impeachment circus and coming of Osama bin Laden, among many other big stories. His work was nominated for five Pulitzer Prizes. Mullen also mentored reporters who went on to be the best in the newspaper and television business, including several who won Pulitzer Prizes.

He is the author of "The Bottom of the Fox: A True Story of Love, Devotion & Cold-Blooded Murder," a 2010 true-crime book about an unsolved murder in the Pennsylvania Poconos that recently has seen a surge in sales because of the manhunt for Eric Frein, who was captured after a 48-day manhunt and is charged with murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper. In August, he published "There's A House In The Land,” an historical fiction tale of the 1970s.

“Kiko’s House” is Mullen’s blog about political and cultural affairs. He also is a guest columnist at “The Moderate Voice.”

Much of Mullen's work is archived in the Shaun D. Mullen Journalism Papers in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win one of three print copies of There's A House In The Land (Open internationally)!

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  1. Fictional 100 /LucyApril 22, 2015 at 8:58 PM

    It's great to see "A Reading Life" again and especially to see you great haul from the library sale. I want to put The Source on my TBR list too. Enjoy!

  2. Ohhh, can I join the Lit Collective? I've been meaning to read the first three Tana French books (I've read the last two in the series) and they are so well written!

  3. Sorry, I missed this comment, Rita. No worries on the groups. I really need to start interacting more in the groups themselves. I need to realize that not everyone Tweets. Hope to see you over there again soon.

  4. Thanks, Lucy! I really need to read more Michener. I host a perpetual challenge, but haven't done anything with it for years! I have an idea in the works that incorporates all the perpetual challenges I host. It just came to me!

  5. Of course you can! We would love to have you. I was SO excited when Tana French got picked as our featured author. I have been wanting to read her books for years!

    Head over to the group and join us. Here's the link:

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