Around the Next Bend

Around the Next Bend Miller Townson fervently hopes to escape his ancestors’ fate. The last six generations of men in his family all had to fight – from the Revolutionary War through his father’s participation in World War II and the Korean War. Miller loves to read about wars, but he has no desire to participate in one. But, after meeting President Nixon at a massive peace rally in Washington D.C., Miller has to fight in Vietnam. Thankful that he survived his year there with nothing more than a wound in his (rear) cheek, and grateful that he upheld the family honor, Miller is transferred to the West-German/Czechoslovakian border to participate in the Cold War where he meets and marries the lovely librarian, Denise. He starts reading ancestors’ letters his father has been collecting from relatives over the last forty years. “Around The Next Bend” is an adventure and historical fiction novel about a man who grew up all over the world, but as an adult, seeks to find his roots in his Georgia ancestry. He learns that one of his ancestors worked for “Rich Joe” Vann, the wealthiest Cherokee in Georgia, and met President Monroe when the fifth President visited Chatsworth, Vann’s North Georgia home. Another ancestor, a Confederate lieutenant, wrote vividly about meeting an attractive young woman on his way down to fight in Pensacola. Later, he recounts his experiences at the Battle of Laurel Hill, West Virginia. Miller’s desire to complete his army obligation without further incident is shattered when bullets fly toward him on the Czech border and his boss develops a dangerous attraction for his bride.

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Background for the creation of Around the Next Bend.  Here are some images, thoughts, and impressions that went into my attempt to build, layer by layer, a world that you, the reader, might enjoy exploring.

Let me start with the book cover. In 1978, I self-published a Fantasy novel titled Saxon and the Sorceress.  I engaged a woman named Mary Yemma Long to provide me a watercolor of the cover.  I thought she did a great job. Although the book sold well (600 of the 1,000 copies I had printed), I didn’t want to be a starving artist so I worked at AT&T for 22 years until I could retire.  After researching and writing Around, I settled on BookLogix in Alpharetta, GA to print my novel and began working with them on a cover.  First, let me say that I recommend BookLogix to anyone who wants to self-publish.  Second, I am having them print Book IV, Two Ends  of the Circle Meet. I hear from lots of people, particularly strangers and I really want to hear from people who don’t know me, that the cover for all of my novels, particularlyTwo Ends, is striking.

HOWEVER,

BookLogix and I were working from different paradigms regarding the first cover.  I wanted them to give me a painting for the cover (as in 1978). They expected to create a cover in PhotoShop using various images I provided them. The cover above is what we eventually agreed upon, but the first crossed communications cover looked like . . .

aroundfirst

If you read the Prologue to Around, you will understand where the coconut (should be metal) bra and helmet came from. Anyway, I came up with images BookLogix could use until we settled on the current cover.

Back in 2003, I drove up to West Virginia to take pictures of a dirt road somewhere along which my great grandfather was captured after the Battle of Laurel Hill in April of 1861.  I linked up with a West Virginia historian, Hunter Lesser, who took me along the path where my great grandfather tried to escape the Union forces coming along behind them. He was not able to escape – probably good for me since he was not married and had no children at this time.

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I used PaintShop Pro to bend the path so we could have a Civil War Cavalry horse and a Sunbeam Tiger around the next bend from one another.

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Then I crudely pasted together the images I wanted to see on the cover. Realized immediately that Yorby was such an integral figure in the novels that he would have appear on all of the covers . . . and he does.

path3

There was a recreation of the Battle of Laurel Hill the weekend I went up to Belington, West Virginia.  I took the photo below of a Civil War cavalry horse at that recreation.  Gives one an idea of how much smoke there was in a Civil War battle.

  smoke

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In the 1960s and early 70s, gasoline was cheap.  That made muscle cars that got horrible gas mileage affordable for almost any high testosterone fueled male who wanted one. The author bought a Plymouth GTX. The awful color in the image below is the color of the Plymouth Roadrunner Miller Townson drove.

GTX (not a Roadrunner)

When Miller is assigned to (then West) Germany, he needs a car. He buys a Sunbeam Tiger (see the cover) which is coming around a bend to face the cavalry horse from the Civil war period.  I had the photo of the Tiger on the cover from way back when, but I wanted you, the reader, to see a Sunbeam Tiger in all its glory.  Steve Brown, whose photographs appear in flickr under sjb4photos, graciously allowed me to use this photograph of a Tiger. Is this a beautiful car or what?

1965 Sunbeam Tigera

 

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I took this picture of Hohenschwangau Fortress at night. When Travis Swenson helped Miller take a similar photo, it was not over-exposed.

I also took this photo of Hohenschwangau. It’s a beautiful fortress.

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Please imagine from my photo below a fog moving over the cliff to hide the ugly rocks behind the castle.  Travis saw the fog coming, raced down to Hohenschwangau, and took some great photos. He included a nude Denise (Miller’s wife) in later paintings of this image. I had a soldier working for me in Cham who took a photo of Neuschwanstein Castle with a fog behind it.  When he sent the photo off to get a print, someone stole it.

SCAN0635

 

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Read an excerpt from Around the Next Bend

“Wear a Mask.”

March, 1972

The heater in Miller Townson’s Sunbeam Tiger convertible didn’t work and the soft top let in frigid air through several holes in the fabric. Denise Townson’s breath plumed against the Tiger’s windshield as they pulled up in front of a Gasthaus in Furth im Wald, West Germany, a region referred to by Germans as “der Bayrische Kongo” because it was so remote. Miller limped around the car to open the door for his wife. His war wound hurt more when it was cold. When people asked him why he was limping, he told them his right leg was a quarter of an inch shorter than his left leg. That usually shut them up. True, but not the reason he walked funny. It’s cold as a witch’s tit, Miller thought, and laughed because his wife was wearing round, silver breast protectors on top of her dress. Denise shivered as she put a horned helmet on her head, and grabbed her aluminum-foil tipped broom handle. As they walked toward the Gasthaus, a late snow swirled around them. His costume was itchy from all the straw he’d stuffed down his shirt, but he’d decided to enjoy the evening even though he was meeting with a group of stuffy German officials twice his age. He hoped they’d appreciate his wife’s and his costumes. Ouch,” he yelped because of the shrapnel in his left buttock. “We’re an hour late. Germans don’t understand late.” The Townsons would be the only Americans at the party. Miller was a US Army Captain, Commander of Border Resident Office Cham, 5th Military Intelligence Battalion. Aside from a nearby Armored Cavalry company, BRO Cham was the only US unit along that section of the West German/Czechoslovakian border. Denise ignored the outcry. Her husband had grenade fragments in his left buttock from a Vietnam wound. He tended to exaggerate the pain when he felt put upon. She said, “These silver cups I bought to wear over my dress are huge. My breasts aren’t big enough to hold them up. Every time I take a step, the cups fall down.” “I love your small breasts. They’re firm, they’re high, they’re – -” “Great, but it took me hours to figure out how to get this over sized bra to stay up on my chest.” Denise had spent a lot of time tying the two cups together and another string that went around her back. When Miller opened the door to the Gasthaus, his German counterparts were already seated. The men were wearing dark suits; their wives long gowns. When they caught sight of the Americans, all conversation in the room stopped. Miller froze in the doorway. He had on a scarecrow outfit with freckles painted on his cheeks and straw hanging from his sleeves, out the front of his ripped shirt, out of gaping holes in an old pair of blue jeans, and on all sides of his floppy hat. A couple stalks fluttered down to the floor. His heart rate went way up as he rubbed the bridge of his nose with his forefinger. His father had been the boxer, but Miller had a nose that looked as if it had been broken. What a screw up, he thought. Miller had tried for humor with his costume, but the Germans weren’t laughing. Denise was an opera singer. She’d worked hard to get her curly, red hair braided into pigtails and she’d sprayed it until it stuck out at an angle from under the helmet. In her right hand she was carrying a broom stick with an aluminum spear point. His German counterparts in the Grenzpolizei/Border Police, Zoll/Customs, and the Bundesgrenzschutz/German Border Guard, were sitting at their tables in suits staring at the doorway. A few of them were wearing masks. The invitation had said, “Masken Eingeladen,” literally “Masks Invited.” Miller was fluent in German; he knew how to translate the invitation. He’d taken the leap from “Wear a mask” to “Wear a costume.” It was Fasching in South Germany, like Mardi Gras in Louisiana, he figured. People should wear costumes to Faschings parties. Miller grabbed Denise by the elbow, turned around, and let the door shut behind them. He was thinking, Damn, another screw-up. “It’s too cold to get back in your Tiger,” Denise complained, looking over at him with her green eyes as they headed across the parking lot. Herr Sowald, his Grenzpolizei or Border Police counterpart, caught up with them before they reached the rusted red convertible. “Bitte, Herr Townson, bleiben Sie,” he said. “Please, Mr. Townson, stay.” He put an arm around each of the American pair and guided them back inside. The German was a portly man about fifty years old wearing an immaculate, gray Bavarian suit. Catching sight of Miller’s maroon Tiger, he added, “What a beautiful sports car.” Must be too dark for him to see the holes in the convertible top, Miller thought. Herr Sowald spoke to the owner of the Gasthaus who was close to Miller’s size (5’11” with big shoulders and a flat belly). Miller rented a suit for the evening from him. The jacket was too tight through his muscular shoulders and chest, but after scrubbing the freckles off his face, Miller was dressed appropriately. He itched from remnants of the straw the entire evening. Denise took off her silver bra and unbraided her hair, but it still stuck out stiffly from her head. She stacked her spear by the door and draped the cups over it. They forgot to pick up her costume props when they went home. After drinking a liter of potent German beer, Miller walked out onto the dance floor and fumbled his way through a polka with one of the German wives. Then the band started playing a waltz. Miller had learned how to waltz during cotillion classes he’d taken as a pre-teenager when his father was stationed in Germany. Herr Sowald was out on the dance floor with Frau Sowald plowing his way through the music. Miller walked over to them. “Herr Sowald, may I have the pleasure of dancing with your wife?” he asked formally. “Certainly, Herr Townson.” Frau Sowald was a stout woman, a few years younger than her husband, wearing sensible, low heels. He took her hand, put his other hand around her back just below her shoulder blade, closed his eyes for a moment, and listened to the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 of the music. Then he stepped toward her and felt her respond to his lead. As they moved around the dance floor, he began to remember more steps. When he dipped her at the end of the dance, Frau Sowald lifted one leg off the floor. Her other foot was planted on a beer spill. It flew up above her other leg. Miller realized that she was about to fall on her considerable behind. He let go of her right hand and spread his left hand under her broad back. With his right hand, he seized one of her rear cheeks and held her upright until she got her feet back under her. Once she stood up, they each took a step back. He bowed, she curtsied. When Herr Sowald came over, Miller stammered, “Excuse me for . . .” he stopped, trying to figure out how to say diplomatically in German, “for grabbing your wife’s ass.” Sowald understood and replied, “Nichevo” or “Nothing” in Russian. “Hilda would have been hurt if she’d fallen. You must be very strong, Herr Townson.” Denise smiled at her husband as he sat down beside her and discreetly rubbed the strained muscles in his back. Red-haired, sleek, and two decades younger than the German wives, Denise spent most of the evening on the dance floor. She hardly had time to grab a sip of her wine before being escorted back out onto the dance floor. The German officials didn’t mind that Denise wasn’t a very good dancer. When they got back to Cham, Miller didn’t know whether his wife would be angry with him or not. “Sorry about the costume screw-up.” Denise had bruises on the tops of her feet from being stepped on by the German officials, but they had all adored her. She shook her head. “We looked silly when we arrived, but I would have looked much sillier if my silver bra cups had dropped down all evening.” Miller thought, We recovered nicely. The Commander of the German Border Guard, Oberst-Leutnant or Lieutenant Colonel Schmidt, frowned at me the whole evening. Maybe he doesn’t like Americans, but the Border Police and Customs officials warmed up. He took off the remnants of his scarecrow costume and went to sleep.

Read reviews on Around the Next Bend

If you have come to this section, you are probably looking for other readers’ opinions about my book.  Please scan the reviews below.  If a review is by a friend, I will tell you.  If it is by a stranger, that may be even more useful to you and I will tell you that because a stranger is probably more objective. I sent a copy of AROUND THE NEXT BEND to a good friend in St. Louis.  He didn’t have time to read it, but another person where he works agreed to read it.  Brenda White has been encouraging me to keep writing for six years.  I can’t call her a stranger, but we have never met. I would have to say the main reason I enjoy your book so much is the history.  It doesn’t matter to me what kind of history, be it war or family history.  There is a lot of interesting history of the characters, the surroundings the story is in and of the time period, not to mention going back to the Civil War which is my favorite time period to research.  Despite what people think, women do read about war history.  It may not be for the same reasons a man would read about it (guns, etc.), but we do read about it.  Last year I was on a kick on reading about the Nazi invasion.  It is also nice to get a guy’s prospective on things of a relationship nature or bonding with other guys. 

Brenda S. White

Hunter Lesser is an historian living in West Virginia.  I contacted him in 2005 before traveling up there and Hunter took me to the exact location where one of my great grandfathers was captured at the beginning of the Civil War.  The path on the cover of AROUND is the path on which he was captured in 1861.  Here is his review. Dr. John Turman’s adventure and historical novel, Around the Next Bend, leads readers on a delightful journey through time.  Turman diligently traced the ground trod by his Civil War ancestor, giving a real sense of urgency and authenticity to his work.  In these pages, history compellingly snaps to life.  Crisp dialogue enhances the journey as we follow Miller Townson’s witty, irreverent and offbeat quest to find his roots.  Along the way, he uncovers deeper meaning in his own life–a quest with universal appeal.           –Hunter Lesser, author of Rebels at the Gate Jeff Stancil is the Site Manager for the Joseph Vann House in Chatsworth, Georgia. I enjoyed AROUND THE NEXT BEND and hope you will have great success with it.  The historical scenes appear to be very accurate.   The following two reviews come from Amazon.com. By Walter Lawrence (Atlanta) on Amazon.com.  Walter is a friend.  He has been helping me make AROUND a better work of fiction for years. 5.0 out of 5 stars Turman Ties Generational Family History to Cold War Era, August 12, 2011 The author does the reader an unexpected favor: he tell three stories simultaneously–all of them good. On the surface is the story of Miller Townson, whose Viet Nam and Cold-War adventures serve as the backbone of the book. The second, and perhaps the most interesting, is the epistolary introduction of the family history to Miller as he reads through his father’s collection of original old correspondence. The third, and the most whimsical, is Miller relating his own early upbringing to the surrogate listener, a toy owl of some sentimental value. The good news is that AROUND THE NEXT BEND is the first of a four-part series on the life of Miller Townson.   I don’t know who wrote the next review, but I appreciate it. 5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, August 8, 2011 By MO/IL Cuz This book has a little bit of everything. History, genealogy, relationships and travel. It pulls you in on the first page and doesn’t let you go until you are finished and wanting more. Definitely a book worth getting.   Brett A and I met once when I made a stock trade at the financial firm where he works. We got to talking about what I did (write adventure and historical fiction novels) and he asked to see AROUND when it came out. Here’s what he wrote: This is a perfect combination of what seems to be fictional and non-fictional. But it’s tough to draw the line and to me that keeps me involved. I like the real stuff with a good dose of story.   Professor Karri Roper Scollon came by Rhodes Hall one day for a tour.  While we were walking around the mansion where I give tours, she spotted a baby grand piano, asked if she could play it, and then entertained everyone with her playing.  She ended up buying a copy of AROUND.  Her comments on the novel follow. I just finished your book, and it was very enjoyable. I like your Miller character. He has a depth to him, particularly when he is reflecting with Yorby. The novel is well-structured, and it moves at a steady pace. It is easy to follow, and takes the reader to places many of us can never know firsthand. The time period is unique in that the story doesn’t center around hippies, and Nixon has yet to be pilloried for his crimes. Miller is not some larger-than-life, out of reach god type – he is a simple soldier doing his duty even when that duty makes little sense. That makes him more human in the eyes of the reader.  I look forward to the next book in the series.   Dr. Jim Kearney and I met on the first day of graduate school for both of us in 1973.  We’ve been good friends ever since, but he has always been a critical reader and here’s what he wrote about AROUND. Even as the Cold War recedes into the rearview mirror of history, it continues to resonate for those who experienced it as a curiously nostalgic and formative period. It also continues to engage the interest of younger audiences. One sure sign of this attraction is the continued output in terms of films and novels that draw upon the period as a backdrop. Divided Germany was indisputably the focal point of the “cold” side to the contest between the Communist World and the Free World, whereas the “hot” side, the proxy war on the other side of the globe in Vietnam, holds this honor. In Around the Next Bend, Dr. Turman joins both these venues to construct a gripping and fast paced story, which, one gathers, is more than a little autobiographical.  Captain Miller Townson, the “hero” of the story, has been reassigned to border duty in Germany after a hair-raising tour of duty as an army officer in Vietnam. The story begins with Captain Townson’s first awkward moments in Germany, where he and his wife make a hilariously inappropriate appearance at a costume party thrown by a German Army counterpart. Many flashbacks, however, fill us in with the Vietnam side of the story. Decorated for his battlefield exploits, Captain Townson emerges as an extremely savvy soldier, but one whose Lone Ranger personality is incompatible with the conformity expected of a career military man. This involves him in all sorts of predicaments with his superiors that begin in Vietnam but resume in Germany after the full cast of characters reassemble there.  Most of these complications seem to begin, in one way or another, with unconventional sexual encounters but in the end escalate into serious intrigues with international, Cold War overtones. The Vietnam side of the story is particularly well done. The third-person narrative is lively while the descriptive background is extremely accurate. For those readers then who have first-hand knowledge of Vietnam, the story thus becomes hauntingly evocative. Captain Townson emerges as a man who cultivates appreciation for four things: beautiful women, sexy cars, loyal dogs, and quality shotguns. All of these categories (in the order listed) play important roles in the book. He also is a man who feels the need to come to terms with his own family history, particularly the military side of it. His father was a career military officer and he had several ancestors who played prominent roles in the Civil War. A trunk of old letters from one of these old veterans comes into Townson’s possession, and his initial curiosity grows into fascination. Dr. Turman allows the narrative to jump from these letters to the parallel story of his great great grandfather, Lieutenant Townsend of the 1st Georgia and the Battle of Atlanta. By this device, Dr. Turman explores the ‘fog of war’ as experienced by different generations widely separated by time and place. One finds oneself longing for the next episode of Lieutenant Townson in the Civil War even as one is engrossed in the adventures of Captain Townson, first in the ‘hot’ war of Vietnam and then in the ‘cold’ war of Germany.  

Copyright © 2017 Dr John Turman