Book Reviews: Put a Nickel on the Drum by Robert N. Storycategories: Book, Romance, Great Depression, Fiction, Dust Bowl, 1930's, Mobsters, Oklahoma, World War, Hobos, Oil Barons, Hoboken Docks, Coming of Age
Robert N. Storyabout this book: Imagine, for a moment, that you are living on a farm in the Oklahoma panhandle in the mid-1930's. You're fourteen and attend a country school, and each day you and your younger brother run to the school bus with a wet hanky over your nose and mouth so that you don't choke on the grit that fills the air, making morning look more like the night. It's already stifling hot outside, and your mother watches from a closed window as you climb aboard the bus. She is wondering whether your bus will be stranded again on the trip home because of another overwhelming and seemingly eternal dust-filled sky.
It is the era of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, and the people of rural Oklahoma and other plains states are especially hard hit. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, once rich with buffalo grass and amber waves of grain are now barren, and the topsoil fills the air with the longest period of draught and wind ever recorded in history.
In the largest cities of the country, it is known as the Dirty Thirties, where alcohol is prohibited but alcoholism is rampant. Criminals and mobsters have greater celebrity than movie stars, and corruption is the rule rather the exception.
It is a time when grace is recited at the table to include thanks for the end of a long, horrific World War, and those that sit down to partake of what little they may have to eat are unaware that another World War is taking shape on the horizon, just out of sight from all but the perpetrators. A young man from Austria sits in prison and pens his roadmap for world conquest. He calls it Mein Kampf, and in just a few short years he would orchestrate unspeakable evil which would touch the hearts of all mankind.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma farm boy Jacob Brewster and his little brother Daniel challenge a taunting dust devil in the field outside his family home, and in the heat of battle, Jacob finds within himself a strength of spirit and courage far beyond his expectations. Little did he know that he was going to need every ounce of both to survive the calamity and tragedies that would be brushed across his life like bold strokes from a bitter brush.
"I don't think I've ever enjoyed researching an era as much as I did in learning about life in the mid-1930's," says author Robert N. Story. "Like most people, I had heard or read some things about the Dust Bowl, but knowing how and why it happened was a truly fascinating revelation. Once I began to genuinely experience the struggles of those who lived it, character development and plot lines just seemed to flood the pages faster than I could capture them on my keyboard. The story began to carry me along with it, rather than me having to reach for it. It was a delightful writing experience, and I'm forever grateful to have given birth to the characters and for them to have let me into their lives as they did."
"I wonder sometimes if authors are perfectly honest with their readers when asked, 'Where did you get the idea for your book?' I say that because I'm guessing that some of the answers to that question might be somewhat embarrassing." says Story. "I'll risk that, however, and tell you the truth. I actually wrote this book based on two occurrences which happened within days of each other. One of those was the viewing of a movie about James J. Braddock, the boxer. The other was running across, quite by accident, the phrase which ultimately became the book's title, 'Put a Nickel on the Drum.' Now, you might ask, what do those two dissimilar incidents have in common, and furthermore, what do they have to do with an Oklahoma farm boy? And that, dear reader, is something I will leave to your determination when you've finished reading my book."
Story says he didn't begin writing fiction until he had reached the ripe old age of…well, a ripe old age. He's no stranger to having his writing published however, and has been a popular magazine contributor for many years, especially in the area of boating and boating safety. During the period he was writing for a major navigation electronics firm, one of the editors mentioned to him that he had a very smooth and flowing writing "voice," and offered the suggestion that Story try his hand at something more extensive than periodicals. The compliment wasn't taken lightly, and it slowly took root in the author's rich imagination. His first full-length work was an autobiography, written exclusively for distribution among family members and his closest friends. "I wasn't about to hang myself out to dry for the public at large," he laughs. His second work was the fictional account of a nineteen year-old DJ by the name of Doug Stevens who was in love with radio and with Barbara Ann Walcott. In his second novel, "The Night Poet," Story swerved deeply into the darker side of things, with a premise largely based upon the belief in, or philosophy of, solipsism. It dealt with the fine line between sanity and madness of the main character, Victor Szabo, who had escaped his native Hungary as a boy when the Nazi's invaded Budapest.
"Put a Nickel on the Drum" is his latest novel, released in January, 2014. Story considers it his best work thus far, and by early estimates, readers agree with him. Already, one reader has compared his style and approach to that of Danielle Steel, "only better."
"I'm not sure that I want my writing to be compared to a prolific, skilled author like Danielle Steel," says Story. "For one thing, that bar is awfully high, and for another, it would make me wonder if I shouldn't be using a female nom de plume! What would I use for an author's picture if I did that? And what would I tell my wife and daughter?" he jokes. "I suppose it wouldn't matter what name I used, male or female, as long as I made frequent trips to the bank with large royalty checks!"
"With all seriousness aside," says Story, quoting Steve Allen, one of his favorite entertainers of all time, "my objective in writing is simple. I just want to have people read what I write and enjoy the experience, whether it be two hundred people or two million. I don't think there's a greater source of pleasure in life than to create something and have people like it, whether it be the finishing stroke of a brush on a canvas, the last carving of sculpture from a lump of clay, or the stringing together of all the right words in the right order pounded into pages of paper. It's one person's way of sharing something they've imagined with another person, and having that person imagine it, too. What could be better than that?
Story sums it up this way. "Those of us who write fiction are dreamers. We can look out into an open field and see things that aren't there. Where most see emptiness, we see a child standing in the rows of unpicked beans, and we wonder…what is that child's name? Where is he going? Where did he come from? Is he happy? Sad? Why? Who and where are his parents? What's going to happen to him when he crosses that hill and goes out of sight? If we can, through the words we put on paper, bring him into your imagination as well, then we will have succeeded in what we do."
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Other books by Robert N. Story
A wonderful period pieceThis is a wonderful period piece, set in the deep depression years of the 1930s. The narrative has compelling characters and a swiftly moving story line. Though some events stretch credulity, this is a seductive story that keeps you interested. Many details from the period seem authentic with the contrast between the dustbowl of Oklahoma and the mean streets of New York giving us a broad look at America during this era. Definitely worth a look. [by Tom Corbett]
Beautifully WrittenThis book is written with that great visual detail that not all authors can accomplish. As you read, you can see the scene unfolding in front of you, as if you are there. You hear the sounds, smell the scents, and feel the emotions of the characters. There are two distinctive symbolic and mysterious moments that give the reader a sense of hope. What an amazing story. [by Lily]
Wonderful bookI loved & cared about the characters in this book right away. It was apparent that the author did loads of research on this era. I have an appreciation of the struggles & hardships that people endured during this time. I couldn't put it down, wanting to find out what happens next, then was sad when I had finished. A great read!
Easy, interesting, moving readWell written, free flowing. Fills the gamut of emotions. Introduction of the characters to the reader is excellent. I certainly recommend it. [by D Kay]
Good read with interesting charactersCharacters you can relate to and a story that makes you want to know, what's going to happen next. Held my interest immediately so I finished the book in about 8 hours.
A winner hands downThough world's apart I can relate to this story having suffered with my parents and siblings through WWII. I have first hand knowledge of what it is like to go without, suffer and see people struggle. This story though fictional covers all of those human emotions. It is so exciting it is difficult to put down. [by Brenda D Cork]
Great Characters and a great readPicked up this book on the advice of a friend and was not disappointed. Immediately felt like I knew all the characters. This story is told from the experiences of two characters. My only disappointment was when the story jumped farther in time- while it helped bring the story to the end- I didn't want to miss any of it! Will be looking forward to more from this author. [by Sue P]
making a reader out of meCouldn't put the book down. I am not much of a reader so it takes a good book to hold my interst. I think the only time I put the book down was when I was eating or sleeping.
Great read - a keeperWhat a great read. Truly enjoyed getting to know the characters and I look forward to the sequel - there will be a sequel, won't there? Written with such ease and so smooth, yet with anticipation of what the next page was going to reveal. Great work Mr. Story, great work. [by David]
Already miss the charactersI absolutely loved this book. I didn't know much about the thirties, even though I only missed it by a decade or so. The research on this period and the locations was excellent, and put me right smack dab in the middle of the era as I was reading. I finished it just a couple of nights ago, and I think I'll miss the characters for some time to come. Makes me hope that they surface in another of Story's novels so I can see them again.
Great StoryCouldn't wait to get home from work to continue reading Put A Nickel On The Drum. I felt like I knew the characters and could hear their voices and see their faces as I read. Great mix of history and fiction. Best one so far by this author.
Can't put it downI started this book and finished it the same day. Mr. Story reaches out and holds your interest through the entire book. The ending is abrupt and leaves you wanting more. But, it is fitting. [by Don Denzin]
Wonderful StoryThis book had me captured from the beginning. It has characters you feel you know and care about, while feeling their joy, strength and anguish that was experienced during that time in history.
A truly good read that has something for everyone---it has grit, history, romance, enduring love and commitment, intrigue and mystery. A very good book!
Put A Nickel On The DrumPut A Nickel On The Drum is the latest book by Robert Story. His previous books are very good but this one is even better. The story takes place during the period of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. This was a time of great hardship for many yet a time with opportunity. The characters are realistic and genuine which allows the reader to closely identify with them. As the story progresses the reader seems to share the experience of the difficult times, the good times and the emotions that go with them.
I was impressed with the flow of the story and how well it is written. His earlier books are good, this one is better and I suspect the best is yet to come.
WOW. A book you can't put downWOW, congratulations Bob! I just finished reading "Put a Nickel on the Drum". I've read a lot of books (my 5th grade teacher would be happy to know that because I never really liked to read) and this book was one of those that you just don't want to put down. I don't like books with a lot of minutia because I get lost in the details but yours was perfect. I could actually put myself in the scene as the words spread across my mind. Another factor I always consider is the number of characters. Again, many authors have to many to follow but yours is perfect. I'm already picking out actors to play the parts in the movie. [by Glenn Richardson]
Great readVery good book. Kept me engaged throughout. Author has an easy, flowing style that pulls you along. Well researched...learned a lot about the struggles of those who lived through that challenging era.
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