Friday, September 14, 2012

Cadillac Chronicles - by Bret Hartman


A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.


by Bret Hartman

Sixteen-year-old Alex Riley’s top priorities in life are to find his long-absent father and a girl with a decent set of breasts. But his mother has a knack for sabotaging his plans. To advance her political career, she takes in an elderly black man named Lester Bray. Lester arrives with a cherry Cadillac and an old man's personality. It takes a week for Alex's mother to ask Lester to leave. That makes Alex angry. On the morning of his eviction, Lester and Alex set out on a road trip to find the boy's father in Ft. Lauderdale. But the two don't just head south. They cross through un-navigated political, racial, and personal territory. A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.

Brett Hartman distinguished himself early in life as the tallest kid in his class, though unfortunately this did not translate into basketball talent. He distinguished himself yet again in 1984 as the first of his graduating class to have a psychotic breakdown (see his memoir, Hammerhead 84). He spent a lot of time in school—Auburn University, Villanova and Indiana State from which he received a doctorate in clinical psychology. He and his wife Sarah live in Albany, NY with their two sons, Ben and Nick. Cadillac Chronicles is Brett’s first novel.

What was the spark for your story?
Back in the late 90’s I tried to start a non-profit organization that would match single elderly people with qualifying families—kind of an adopt-a-senior program. It never worked out, but the idea resurfaced years later when I started plotting this book.

Tell us about your most memorable road trip.
In the summer of ’88, I packed all my belongings, including my cat, into a UHaul (towing my car) and travelled with my grandmother from Ft. Lauderdale to Philly. The trip occurred during one of the most punishing heat waves on record and our truck had no functioning a/c. We lost the cat. (She was hiding inside the dashboard.) Then we got lost and had to abandon the car trailing behind us. My grandmother remembered that trip as one of the high points of her life. I’m not so sure the cat would agree.

"Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions…Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex…If there's little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they've gone along for the ride."

Cadillac Chronicles  
ISBN 978-1-935955-41-2 paperback/ 978-1-935955-42-9 e-book  
US $16.95 
304 pages / Publishes September 2012

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