Hal Fleming , Author

The Brides' Fair & Once Upon a Storm and other works

 Author Hal Fleming

EVOLUTION OF A NOVEL

Background

     My second novel, Once Upon a Storm, is set mostly in New England  against the backdrop of the 1960s with its Civil Rights and Anti-War Protests as well as its Sexual Revolution. It was also the era of the American folk singer with Theodore Bikel, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Belafonte and many others enthralling my generation. The novel, while exploring themes of race relations, is also a fast-paced mystery, and a love story of two unlikely people: a folk singer of West Indian heritage and a white debutante who is fleeing the law. (See the Synopsis and the Press Release for more details, or, better, buy the book.)

     I wrote the first version of this novel some years ago when recently out of graduate school, working full time for a New York business magazine and teaching in the evening sessions of City College (now CUNY).  My agent at that time placed this version in a first writer's contest of a major publisher where it became a finalist. They suggested I rewrite the first two chapters, but it was off to Washington and then a long career as a US Foreign Service nomad in various demanding assignments. It wasn't until recently that I was able to return to the book, spending several years editing and updating it.

Life Experiences

     My paternal grandfather who served as my guardian during my teenage years and who was a stabilizing force in our family, was from the then British West Indies. Both he and my father knew a number of black writers, artists and entertainers of the 1940s,50s and 60s. My grandfather's two nephews from Trinidad were pilot officers in the fully integrated Royal Air Force during World War II. My paternal grandmother, active in the Civil Rights movement for which she received various awards, was herself a published author of social protest novels and plays performed at the Yale School of Drama. One of these novels, Hope's Highway, is still available through Amazon.com. My mother's family which included an Irish grandmother, had vacation cottages on Cape Cod's Martha's Vineyard where I spent many a summer in the black enclave of Oak Bluffs.

    My first 21 years found me in mostly white neighborhoods,schools and college throughout New England. In the late '60s, however, recruiting for the Peace Corps at universities throughout the United States including predominantly black colleges in the Deep South, I did see a turbulent and racially divided America first hand. A professor from Mississippi's Alcorn State took me to the tree where the Civil Rights workers,Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, were lynched in 1964. I was the first from Washington to appear on the campus of South Carolina State the morning after State Troopers shot several protesting black students. And in early April of 1968, I was invited to a midnight supper in Atlanta for Martin Luther King and his acolytes. This was indeed a last supper, for the Reverend King was assasinated days later in Tennessee. Additionally, I was asked to intervene when the Klu Klux Clan burned a cross on a Peace Corps language training campus outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All this during a period of 16 months for a person who's family warned him never to travel south of Washington's Potomac River.

      Seconded from the  Foreign Service in the mid 1970s, after my return from West Africa, I served two years as Executive director of the EEOC overseeing 2,200 employees in 44 offices as well as witnessing the successful conclusion of several major class action suits of discrimination against US corporations.

    As you will understand in reading Once Upon a Storm, these life experiences are woven into the very fabric of the novel.

Hal Fleming

September 2010