Write a novel like Comeback Love, a story of a fifty-something man who goes to New York City in the middle of a snowstorm to look up a woman he was in love with over thirty years before, and readers are bound to ask if the book is true.
I expected it, particularly because the narrator of the novel, Gordon Meyers, sounds an awful lot like a certain someone who happens to be writing this essay.
Nor do I mind people asking. Really. Except when my son is around, since half the novel takes place in the past, during the 1960s, and features its share of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and I’m trying—or at least I was trying—to set a good example.
Usually, people ask at a reading, and on occasion when I run into them at Starbucks. Evidently, coffee not only wakes you up, it also makes you inquisitive.
“So,” they say. “Did all that stuff happen?”
I have three standard responses. The first one is “More than I’d like,” which I see as poetically vague. Sad to say, this answer rarely produces a satisfied customer.
“C’mon,” he/she asks. “How much of this is your life?”
I’m fond of my second response, “Approximately 68 percent,” because it often makes my inquisitor laugh.
Nevertheless, the question invariably pops up again, and I reply: “Novels are dreams translated into words, and dreams always belong to the dreamer.”
I actually believe that, and some questioners appear to find this answer worth contemplating; others stare at me with a glazed look, as if they were watching reruns of Kung Fu and Master Po has just passed on another of his brain-twisters to the young Kwai Chang Caine.
The truth is that to unearth and explain the autobiographical aspects of Comeback Love would require a book of its own— a reason, perhaps, that at the moment I’m writing another novel about love lost and found. After all, writers find their themes long before they begin to write and spend the rest of their careers translating their obsessions into stories.
Yet here’s one thing I can say for sure: if you write fiction, it helps to have a verbal spouse, since you can copy down what your beloved says in your journal and use his-or-her greatest hits in your novel.
For instance, many years ago, when my wife and I were first dating, she invited me over to her apartment for dinner. All signs were good, but then she started asking me questions about a past I had no wish to discuss. After I gave her some wispy, not overly helpful answer, she said, “I’m getting the feeling you want to remain a mystery.”
Trotting out my Winston Churchill, I said, “An enigma wrapped in a mystery.”
She laughed, probably because I had been—shall we say—obvious in my affection for her and replied, “You’re an enigma wrapped in a blintze.”
Funny, right? Well, I thought so, and the exchange appeared verbatim in Comeback Love.
Now skip ahead a couple of decades. We’re married, and like many husbands I did something wrong: I can’t exactly tell you what it was, but I’m certain it was wrong because my wife told me it was.
I apologized and, in my defense, said, “I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.”
And my wife responded, “You don’t have to try. You have a gift for it.”
Again, I used this almost word for word, though with a slight change: Gordon said it to his love interest, Glenna.
So I ask you: is it autobiography? Yes. And no. The lines were the same, but the situation, and thus the meaning, was different.
I could parse Comeback Love for more of my wife’s better lines, but you get the idea. Besides, she just walked into my office, stood at the side of my desk, and reminded me that I was supposed to prepare for an upcoming interview about relationships, which amused her to no end.
“I’m thinking of starting a blog,” she said.
“Oh?” I asked, watching her grin go almost ear-to-ear.
“Yep,” my wife said. “I’m going to call it, ‘He Doesn’t Know Squat About Love.’”
Then she leaned across the desk and kissed me.
After she went downstairs, I took out my journal and made a note. You never know when some future character is going to become a blogger.
About Peter Golden
Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist and the author of six full-length works of non-fiction and fiction. Some of his work has appeared in the Detroit Free Press Magazine, Albany Times Union, New Jersey Monthly, Microsoft’s eDirections, Beyond Computing, Electronic Business, Midstream, The Forward and Capital Region Magazine.
Golden’s Quiet Diplomat, a biography of industrialist and political-insider Max M. Fisher made the Detroit Free Press bestseller list. Among those he interviewed were Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush; Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig and Shultz; and Israeli Prime Ministers Shamir, Peres and Rabin.
With J. Stanley Shaw, Golden wrote I Rest My Case: My Long Journey from the Castle on the Hill to Home, a memoir that chronicles Shaw’s life from his childhood years under the supervision of the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum in the 1930s to his career as one of the preeminent bankruptcy attorneys in the United States.
Golden re-interviewed Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and other world leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev, for his nonfiction look at the Cold War, O Powerful Western Star (Gefen Publishing, May 2012).
His debut novel Comeback Love (Atria Books, April 2012) tells the story of a man and his romantic quest to find the women he loved and lost years before in the 1960s.
Golden grew up in South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, and lives today outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.
Visit Peter’s website: PeterGolden.com
A debut novel about a man and his romantic quest to find the woman he loved and lost years before. Like Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller, first-time novelist Peter Golden knows how to write the kind of nostalgic fiction that men and women alike fall for. In Comeback Love, a universal story about lost love, he offers an evocative debut that begins in the tumultuous 1960s and ends in the feverish thrill of present-day New York City.
Over thirty-five years ago, Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer with a low number in the draft lottery, packed his belongings and reluctantly drove away, leaving Glenna Rising, the sexy, sharp-witted med student he couldn’t imagine living without.
Now, decades later, Gordon is a former globetrotting consultant with a grown son, an ex-wife, and an overwhelming desire to see Glenna again. Stunned when Gordon walks into her Manhattan office, Glenna agrees to accompany him for a drink. As the two head out into the snow-swept city, they become caught up in the passions that drew them together before tearing them apart. And as the evening unfolds, Gordon finally reveals the true reason for his return.
Comeback Love is a bracing journey into the hearts of two lovers who came of age in the 1960s. Plumbing the depths of youth, regret, and desire, Peter Golden deftly illuminates the bonds that mysteriously endure in the face of momentous change.