Less than a month until Carrying Albert Home is released. October 13, 2015. I am so pleased at the reception of my novel already.
|The Cover for the USA edition|
As of today, there are 11 International and three English versions, American, International (for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries) and United Kingdom for England.
|The cover for the UK edition|
It is to be a Reader's Digest condensed book.
"Albert" has also been picked for a number of awards and honors I can't yet announce.
But what is Carrying Albert Home? Is it a memoir? Is it a prequel to Rocket Boys/October Sky? Is it a love story? An adventure story? A story of high drama? A story of great joy? A story of heartbreak? Yes to all, or, as Albert would say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"
When I began to gather the bits and pieces of the stories about Albert told me over decades by my parents, I realized they had sent me a message from beyond the grave. In a very real way, I had unraveled, not the Da Vinci Code, but the Albert Code.
And what was this message? Put all together, it was the witness and testimony by Homer and Elsie Hickam to what is heaven’s greatest and perhaps only true gift, that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.
The accolades continue to pour in from the booksellers who've read the advance of "Albert," such as this one:
“I loved Homer Hickam's new book "Carrying Albert Home." A road trip not soon forgotten ! I loved the madcap adventures that Elsie and Homer fell into along the way. There was also the bittersweet and tender reawakening of their relationship as the trip progressed. I think this one is a winner ~ I couldn't put it down.”*-Lake Forest Bookstore, Lake Forest IL*
Please enjoy these few preview pages. To establish the setting, it's 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, and Homer and Elsie (my future parents) are trying to carry Albert, an alligator who's a gift to her from a former boyfriend (the actor Buddy Ebsen), back home to Florida. But all is not well with them. Their marriage is coming apart and now they find themselves amongst radicals in North Carolina who are trying to organize workers to fight the owner of a small sock mill for better wages and conditions. After Homer is mistaken for a "party" leader who is an expert on explosives, the radicals won't let them leave. When Homer and John Steinbeck (the writer they've picked up from a camp of starving migrants) go to the sock mill to see if they can reason with its owner, Elsie is left with Malcolm, the leader of the radicals. Although she has little respect for Malcolm, she feels the stirring within her of a true revolutionary. Before long, she has organized the listless strikers and is leading a march on the mill.
And so the story continues...
Elsie and Malcolm were in the first line of strikers marching up to the gate of the Stroop Sock Mill. Most of the others were holding back. Although they’d been excited when they’d left the camp, their spirits had ebbed as they neared the mill. Their chants were listless, their signs drooping. To revive their spirits, Elsie jabbed her sign—which said Stroop is a ratt!—at the sky and yelled, “Stay with me, men. Stay with me and we can win!”
Beside her, Albert was in his washtub atop a toy wagon pulled by one of the strikers. A sign attached to the wagon read Take a bite out of unfairness. Another man carried a bucket of water to keep Albert cool. “How did you get them to do that?” Malcolm asked Elsie out of the side of his mouth.
“I just asked.”
“Elsie, do you have any idea the power you have over men?”
“And do you have any idea the power you men have over all of us women? Let me tell you, the day will come when that will change.”
Before Malcolm could reply, if he had a reply, the strikers stumbled to a halt, their cries winding down to mumbled imprecations. Stroop had appeared behind the fence with his big, rough-looking bodyguards. Homer and Steinbeck were also there.
The gate opened to let Homer and the writer out. “You shouldn’t be here, Elsie,” Homer said, then noticed her sign. “There’s only one t in rat.”
“I know that. I was going to write ‘rattlesnake’ and ran out of room.”
Homer took her arm. “You’re going with me.”
She pulled away. “No, I’m not. The only reason these men came here was because of me.”
“That’s kind of true,” Malcolm admitted.
“You keep out of it, Malcolm,” Homer snapped. “This is between me and my wife.” He leaned over and spoke into Elsie’s ear. “Why are you doing this? Are you trying to put me in my place?”
“No, to put me in mine.” She pushed past Homer to confront the owner. “You are a mean man, Mr. Stroop, and so are your scabs!”
“Woman, be careful!” Stroop snarled. “I respect women but when you pick up a sign and start waving it at me, you get on my wrong side!”
“All your sides are wrong!” Elsie yelled, then turned and addressed the strikers. “Listen to me! Here he is! Stroop! He’s taken away your jobs and given them to scabs. You said you weren’t going to take it.”
A voice rang out. “No, we’re not going to take it!”
“Don’t tell me. Tell him!”
A quiet, almost apologetic chant began. “Not going to take it. Not going to take it.”
“For crying out loud!” Elsie shouted. “Pick it up! No more scabs!”
The cries became a little louder. “No more scabs! No more scabs!”
“Elsie, you’re playing into Stroop’s hands,” Homer said. “Look at him grinning. He’s going to unleash his men.”
Elsie ignored her husband, threw down her sign, and cupped her mouth with both hands. “Take the mill! Take the mill!”
“Stop it, Elsie,” Homer said.
“Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t ever tell me what to do!”
“I’m your husband. That’s my job.”
Elsie glared at Homer and Homer glared at Elsie as the strikers and Stroop and Malcolm and even the mill turned into a gray, inconsequential mist that all but ceased existing around them.
“Buddy wouldn’t tell me what to do,” she said.
Homer’s eyes turned to blue ice. “Buddy isn’t here. He’s in New York dancing with other women. Lots of other women.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Maybe not, but I think you do.”
Suddenly, the mist dissolved and everything around them snapped back into focus. Stroop gave his order and his guards burst through the gate. They threw punches at the strikers and knocked them down and stomped on them. Rocks, hurled by both sides, started flying and one of them sailed in and struck Elsie on her head. “Oh,” she said in a small, surprised voice and started to fall but Homer caught her, hooked his arm into hers, and grabbed the handle of Albert’s wagon. Homer half-carried Elsie and pulled Albert through the battle until they were clear.
In a little woods nearby, Homer sat Elsie down against a tree. “Does it hurt?” he asked.
Confused, she stared at him. “Does what hurt?”
He took out a handkerchief and dabbed at the wound on her head. The handkerchief came away bloody. When he showed it to her, Elsie, undaunted, struggled to rise.
“Stay down,” Homer said, pushing her back. “You got hit by a rock.”
“I don’t care,” she protested. “My men are getting the worse of it.”
Homer looked over his shoulder. The strikers had broken, their signs thrown down and trampled. The only ones left behind were either lying in the street or limping away. “They’ve been beaten,” he said. “It’s over.”
“It’s not right,” Elsie said in disbelief. “Stroop should lose but instead he’s won.” She looked up at Homer. “And you won’t help, will you? You’re on his side. You’re a . . . a capitalist.”
Homer held her close but didn’t say anything. Elsie looked over his shoulder and saw the men straggling away, some of them helping others but mostly by themselves. Stroop’s strikebreakers were walking around, laughing and tossing the signs into a heap. “What’s wrong with this world, Homer?” she whispered.
“Nothing you can fix, Elsie.”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re supposed to know. You’re my husband.”
Homer didn’t say anything. He just held her tighter.
To pre-order Carrying Albert Home, please visit my website at www.homerhickam.com.