The title of the book immediately struck a chord. Anyone who grew up before the era of helicopter parenting hears “Be home by dinner” spoken in the voices of their parents. To kids from that era, the admonition actually means, I don’t care if you go to Timbuktu, but you’d better walk through that door when I set the table!
For Carl Franke these four words serve as both the title of his new, self-published book, and the evocation of the period in which it takes place. His young protagonist, Garvey Nolan, lives in the classic post-war suburb of nearby Oreland in the pre-device era, where fun meant wandering around and getting in varying degrees of mischief. Jimmy Carter lived in the White House, and plans for something called “music television” awaited hatching.
The theme immediately brings to mind “The Goldbergs” or “The Wonder Years”, but those treacly tales skirted the unrelenting boredom of suburban childhood that often lead to petty vandalism, trespassing, or an older brother’s porn stash.
Be Home by Dinner opens in 1978 and then arcs over 15-year-period in nearby Oreland, where Carl himself grew up. Carl confirms some biographical aspects to the story, but assures that the small-town mystery and intrigue is fictional. The tale embellishes his own childhood experiences, which may sound familiar any man who grew up in a similar setting.
The story opens with Garvey in the first grade, advancing into his teen years. Early in the story, Garvey crosses paths with the enigmatic Kratz Kova, a wealthy factory owner who lords over the community and causes trouble for the Nolans, starting with Kova’s reckless driving that forces the Nolan’s brand-new AMC Spirit into a ditch.
Aside from the title and the story, I wanted to ask Carl about how he published it. The reader can purchase a printed copy of Be Home By Dinner from Amazon.com, but it’s part of a growing trend of self-publishing that Amazon itself makes available to anyone with a book in them.
He confirms that publishing one’s own work takes a considerable discipline, especially with two young children running around. Unlike the traditional process, there is no book advance to both cover some of the expenses of authorship, but also chain them to the contract. A traditional publisher also offers editing assistance, and in theory, promotion and marketing. However, for an unknown author that typically amounts to very little if any effort by the publisher.
On the other hand, the self-published author retains complete control of his work without the burdens of inventory or fulfillment. Properly promoted, Carl might make enough to celebrate with a nice night out every few months or so! Or, who knows? Maybe you’ll see him on Colbert.
Be Home By Dinner is available for $13.49 for the paperback or $3.99 on Kindle (where he collects every penny!) at Amazon.com. It’s also available on Apple Books, Google Play, Barnes & Noble (NOOK), and Kobo (eReader).
If you check on some of the local Little Libraries, you might be lucky enough to score a copy for free.