Going Home for the First Time

Going Home for the First Time

Baby Boomers are still relevant and hot. Miller Townson has retired and moved to Atlanta, but he’s no longer interested in being relevant. He wants to forget the betrayals, gunfire exchanges, and twisted romantic entanglements of his last forty years so he can quietly research his ancestors and enjoy his sexy, unconventional wife, Elizabeth.

Miller meets African-American Gerald Martens, a business owner, who also served in Vietnam. Both of them come from racially prejudiced families, but they become friends, play tennis weekly, then sit on Miller’s front porch and learn about each other’s lives and values. Elizabeth often participates in their conversations. Although Gerald is trying to quit smoking, he bums cigarettes from Elizabeth and develops an independent relationship with Miller’s wife. The two men discover that their first encounter was not in Atlanta but while they served in Vietnam. Miller is reading old letters found in dusty footlockers about his ancestors’ participation in the Civil War. Gerald also has a Civil War ancestor, but he doesn’t have time for research.

Ultimately, Miller can’t escape the past. His psychotic ex-boss in Vietnam, Travis Swenson, wants Elizabeth. Swenson’s daughter, who works at Cherokee Joseph Vann’s mansion in Chatsworth, attacks Miller on his front porch. Elizabeth breaks up the fight and invites her to dinner. Sutter’s widow is unable to bounce back from what happened to her husband. Meanwhile Gerald and Miller wind up in a very strange place with Elizabeth.

GOING HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME is about Miller’s return “home” where his research makes him realize that his Atlanta forebears struggled with many of the same issues he has faced and they become real people instead of remote, dead historical figures.


The picture below is the Hay House in Macon, Georgia.  It was built by William Johnston and his wife around 1860 and was considered at the time to be possibly the most “modern” house in all of America.  William Johnston is a character in my novel series and some of the incidents take place in this house.  The Hay family eventually bought the house and gave it to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

This image is courtesy of Walter Elliott Photography in Macon.  www.walterelliott.com.



Did you know that Georgia had a Gold Rush before California did?  “Yellow metal” was discovered around a town called Dahlonega, which interestingly enough in Cherokee means “yellow metal.”  Some of the tracers” (gold dust and nuggets) were bartered for goods like cooking pots or new shirts.  Much of the gold was sent to Federal mints like the one in Philadelphia to be converted into US $1, $2.50, $5, $10, and $20 gold coins which were then returned to the sender.As you can imagine, this process took a long, long time.  In 1830, Templeton Reid decided to privately mint Georgia gold coins in Gainesville which was not far from Dahlonega.  A great idea, but the recipients of Templeton Reid Georgia gold coins came to the conclusion that he was cheating them and they ran him out of business.  See Book II, AIM AT THE HEART, for a fuller explanation. [Author’s opinion: Templeton Reid got a raw deal.]
Unhappy holders of Reid’s gold coins  shipped them off to New Orleans or Philadelphia to be melted down and turned into standard US gold coins.  Now there are only a few left, including six $5 Georgia gold coins.   Miller Townson realizes that one of his ancestors kept a Templeton Reid $5 gold coin as a good luck piece.  He wonders where it is now.

My thanks to Bob Harwell of Hancock and Harwell Rare Coins here in Atlanta for allowing me to use the image of a $5 Templeton Reid coin they sold on the cover.  Read GOING HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME to find out how much the coin sold for in 2004.  Hint:  a lot of money.



A Border Collie plays a large role in Books III and IV.  Fortunately, I have one so I didn’t have to get permission from anyone to use a photo of him.


By the time you get to Book III, you will have realized that “ET” is not short for “the Extra Terrestrial.”   As Cecil, my fictional South African sculptor, created ET as an image of the African goddess, Morongo, this image is what I had in mind.  It is Antoine Martin’s 1951  “Goddess of Flight,” displayed in the Yucca Valley Community Center in the Morongo Basin.  If only my neighborhood were named after such a goddess!


Although this is a public statue, I did not take this picture.  Would LOVE to give credit to the photographer.  Can anyone help me with that?

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Read an excerpt from Going Home for the First Time


 The doorbell rang right after Miller and Elizabeth Townson finished eating supper. She’d cooked; he was washing the dishes. Miller dried his hands and went to the front door.

Homicide Detective Lopez from the San Antonio Police Department and Homicide Detective Johnson from the Austin Police Department were standing on his doorstep. Johnson was wearing jeans and a red shirt with his gold detective’s badge hanging out of his shirt pocket. He was carrying a cloth bag. Lopez had on slacks, a white shirt, and tie.

Miller shook hands with Detective Lopez. Detective Johnson and he just glared at one another.

Lopez said, “Mr. Townson, you were right. Ballistics proved that the pistol used in the murder of your friend, Alton Wyatt, belonged to Shoot Johnson, the man you killed in Austin.”

“How did you know that?” Austin Homicide Detective Drew Johnson, twin brother of Shoot Johnson, asked as Miller’s wife stepped up beside her husband.

“I didn’t know, but your brother punched me in the face for talking to his girlfriend – a stripper at the Wobbly Top Gentlemen’s Club. Alton took her to lunch just before he was shot and killed driving back to San Antonio. The murderer drove a Crown Victoria. Your brother drove a Crown Vic. He drew a gun on me, Detective Johnson, I fired first.”

Miller turned back to the San Antonio detective, “That’s when I called you and asked that you have Shoot’s pistol tested.”

Lopez said, “There was a reward for Mr. Wyatt’s killer of $8,500.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a check. “Normally, reward money is paid to the person who gives us information leading to the arrest and conviction of a perpetrator. Shoot Johnson wasn’t arrested, but you earned —”

“You executed my brother, your son of a bitch,” Detective Johnson said. “You were armed and waiting for him. Shot him in the heart and in the head. If you were half a man, you’d have fought him with fists.”

Miller leaned into Detective Johnson’s face. “You sorry bastard, if your brother’d been half a man, he’d have fought Al with fists. Alton would have kicked his ass. Your brother shot and killed an unarmed man.”

He turned back to the other officer. “Detective Lopez, do you have the address for Alton’s mother in Kansas City?”


“Send the reward money to her. Alton was the family’s primary bread winner. His death caused the family a serious financial hardship.”

To Detective Johnson, he said, “You kept my pistol after the incident. I’m guessing you have it in that bag.”

The Austin policeman pulled a long-barreled revolver out of the canvas bag he was carrying, and rammed it into Miller’s stomach. Miller swept the barrel aside and yanked the weapon out of Johnson’s hand. “That’s the second time you’ve assaulted me, Detective Johnson, and there were police officers present both times.”

Lopez stepped between them. “Detective, give me a moment with Mr. Townson.”

Johnson took a long look at Miller, then walked back to their car. Lopez held out his hand and Miller gave him the pistol. Lopez opened the cylinder. “It’s not loaded.” He presented the weapon, butt first, to Miller. “Mr. Townson, I’ve studied the records of what you did in Vietnam, and talked to the range owner where you obtained your Conceal Carry permit. He told me he’d never seen anyone shoot more accurately than you. There’s no doubt in my mind that you intended to kill Shoot Johnson when you went up to Austin.”

He paused to give Miller a chance to respond. Miller just looked at him. “I understand you have about a year until you’re eligible for retirement?”

“A year and two months. My wife is leaving for a new assignment in Atlanta shortly. I’ll follow her to Georgia as soon as I can.”

Lopez nodded. “If you even get a traffic ticket before you leave the great state of Texas, I’ll throw your ass in jail and lose the key. Comprende?”

“Not a problem as long as Detective Johnson stays out of my face. Otherwise, all bets are off.”

 Mid 1864

Major General Henry Wayne, C.S.A [to] Colonel John Martin, C.S.A.,

“You are ordered to send 100 men at 9 A.M. by special train to assist in the defense of Atlanta.”

Instead of “sending,” Colonel Martin decided to “take” a hundred of his men back to Atlanta. He turned the rest of his regiment over to his executive officer and got on the train. Jerry, his life-long companion and slave, accompanied him back to Atlanta. So did Ben Martin, son of William Martin, who had attached himself to Cousin John Martin, the Confederate colonel. Ben served as his orderly, delivering messages or orders to John Martin’s dispersed regiment.

No date, just “9 A.M.” It had to be late June, 1864, because they got back to Atlanta before the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. By the time the special train arrived in Atlanta, it was evening. Colonel Martin had brought a company commanded by Captain Andrew Farnham, who also had a plantation south of Atlanta. John Martin found Farnham’s men a place to camp overnight before the two men rode to their respective plantations.

Colonel Martin was looking forward to seeing his wife, Sarah, almost as much as Jerry was looking forward to seeing Mary, also a slave on the Martin plantation. John Martin, in a rare attempt at humor, noted that he’d offered Jerry the choice between camping with the men in Atlanta or riding over to the plantation. “Jerry just looked at me as if I had caught a fever and climbed up into his saddle.” Ben saddled up also.

Just as they were leaving the Atlanta train station, John Martin spotted a friend from Macon, William Butler Johnston. “William, what brings you to Atlanta?” John Martin asked.

“I have Treasury business to conduct here tomorrow.”

“Then you must spend tonight in my home.” William Johnston agreed and the four of them rode south out of Atlanta. John Martin commented that most people were leaving Atlanta. Those who stayed seemed either resigned or panicky. Jerry got an unpleasant surprise when they reached the Martin plantation. Mary was happy to see him, but she had some bad news. “Your father’s here,” Mary said. “He’s been hurt.”

US Army scavengers had caught Henry and other men from Gainesville, white and black, bringing food supplies down to Atlanta. The northern troops killed the white men and took all of the wagons and horses. They beat up the black men, leaving them on the road to either live or die. Henry limped on down to Atlanta and the Martin plantation. Mary had bandaged him up before putting him to bed. He had two broken ribs where the soldiers had kicked him with heavy boots as he lay on the ground.

Jerry hurried back to the slave quarters. He was relieved to find his father awake and feeling much better. The Union scavengers had dealt Henry a serious blow by stealing his wagon and his horses, but, his father noted, wasn’t Mary a pretty woman, and wouldn’t she make a fine wife?

Ben sat with his cousin and William Johnston at supper that night, but it made him uncomfortable. Johnston worked for the Confederate Treasury Department; he was also a soldier in a Macon militia unit called “The Silver Gray,” so named because of the age of the men in the unit. As they smoked pipes after the meal, Ben asked, “Are you a general, sir?”

Johnston laughed, “No, Ben, I know something about money, but very little about fighting. I’m just a rifleman, the last defense in case the Yankees reach Macon.” Then William Johnston asked, “But why are you not an officer, Ben?”

“I offered to make him a lieutenant in my regiment,” John Martin interjected.

“I appreciated that, Cousin.” Ben turned to William Johnston.“I figure I can fight as well as the next man, but leading isn’t one of my skills.”

John Martin recorded in his journal that he had smiled at this point and observed, “Ben is a far better shot than his father, William Martin, whom folks call “Bulls-Eye Billy.”

“The nickname would indicate he has some shooting skills.”

“Actually, his father is a danger to bystanders whenever he picks up a weapon.”

“And where is William Martin now?” Mr. Johnston asked.

John Martin and Ben exchanged glances. John Martin finally answered, “Oklahoma.”

William Johnston, the consummate diplomat, said, “I’ve no doubt you’re invaluable to John Martin.” Catching sight of what looked like a gold medallion on his chest, he asked, “Ben, what’s that around your neck?” Ben took the leather necklace off and handed it to William Johnston. “Why, it’s a Templeton Reid five dollar gold piece. I haven’t seen one of these in years.”

“My father kept it as a good luck piece and sent it to me when the war started. So far, it’s kept me from being harmed, but I wish I had someplace safer to keep it in case I get into a serious scrape.”

William Johnston was turning it over in the candle light. “How about the butt stock of your Enfield?”


“I used to be a jeweler and I always carry my tools with me. If you’ll get my kit out of my saddlebag, I’ll take your butt stock off, and you can store your good luck piece inside.”

John Martin found a square of oil cloth. Ben folded his necklace in the oil cloth and William Johnston placed it carefully in the butt of his musket.


Read reviews on Going Home for the First Time

By MO/IL Cuz

Miller has finally retired and is still getting into new adventures daily. Sometimes they just fall into his lap, he does not even have to go looking for a new adventure. This is the third book of a four book series and I have enjoyed everything written by this author. The third book keeps you in your seat wondering what Miller is going to do for the day as he adjusts to retirement and what his ancestors did in the past. I find the conversations between him and his new found friend about racial issues to be very interesting. Looking at things from someone else’s perspective who grew up in the same era is new and enlightening. You really never know how someone else sees things until you have tried to see it from their point of view. It seems Miller has sort of come full circle in a family history sort of way as his family started in Georgia and now he and his family are back in Georgia even though he never actually lived there. I’m curious to see what type of adventures Miller has in store for the last book of this series.


The author has a pair of wonderful neighbors. Fred Kramer was in the Air Force in World War II while his wife, Reed, was an army nurse. Both of them have been reading my novels and enjoying them.  After finishing Going Home for the First Time, Reed sent me this note.

“Dear John, I simply had to say I enjoyed your book.  Keep writing. Sincerely, Reed Kramer.”

That note meant a lot to me.

Please send me your opinion of GOING HOME FOR THE FIRST TIME using “Contact the Author.”









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