Thursday, December 15, 2011

Uncommon Glory

When I was in third grade, my brother, John, and I watched a movie from a graveyard. The graveyard was behind St. Charles Church in Drexel Hill, PA. We had both just served 40 hours devotion inside the church, a job that required us to kneel ramrod straight for an hour before the right side altar of St. Joseph. On the side altar was the Monstrance and in the Monstrance was a consecrated host. It was Holy Saturday, 1955. I was eight years old. My brother was ten. After our duty, he convinced me to sneak behind the church with our surplus and cassock tucked high so as not to rub against the dark tombstones. He wanted to try and glimpse the large screen at the Family Drive In tucked away in a hollow down below us. It was a Saturday night, and the drive in was packed.

We couldn't hear anything because each car had its own speaker mounted on its window frame. But it was a clear spring night, and I could see the entire screen from our vantage point. I have never forgotten what I saw. A man with a beard and a scar down his face was lashed onto a great white whale. Men in long boats were attacking the whale, stabbing it with harpoons. The man lashed to the whale appeared to be waving, his one arm raising and falling. That night, tucked within the silent landscape of a spooky graveyard, I watched Captain Ahab and Moby Dick in their dance of death.

I have never forgotten that image. Some years back, it became the opening scene of my coming of age novel, Uncommon Glory. Altar boys and drive in movies and the joy and angst of that time period flowed out of my fingers into this story. Conscience and caring, families and friendships found their way onto the pages. Rock and roll, slow dances and coon skin caps bubbled up from my memory. Quirky teenagers and adults, murder, revenge and redemption all came together into this sad and funny story.

Two literary agents tried to sell the manuscript. There were no takers. Editors didn't know what to make of it.  Faith and hope were backbeats to the pulsating rhythms that moved through the chapters. There was a talking statue, a psycho altar boy, and a singer appearing on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour (the 50s version of American Idol). The book didn't fit into a publishing niche.

Oprah featured a book a couple of years back on her TV show. I read the book, liked it, and then contacted the writer's agent. The agent agreed to read Uncommon Glory but didn't respond for the longest time. I finally called her.

"I was putting off talking to you because I'm at a loss," she said.

"A loss?" I asked.

"A loss," she said. "I love your writing and I love the story, but, for the life of me, I can't think of a single editor that I can sell it to."

When James Cameron was interviewed after releasing his highly successful film, Avatar, he said," I came up with the script for this film in 1994, but it was not possible to make the film then. I had to wait for the technology to catch up before I could put it on the screen."

With the new technology of ebooks and digital publishing, I am now able to finally release Uncommon Glory. Patience and persistence have driven me not to despair in trying to bring this story to readers. Tonight, the book has been released through Kindle Books (  I hope to release the book soon through Barnes and Noble's Nook. My son, Jim, a professional illustrator, designed and illustrated the cover.

He has perfectly captured the mood of this American Graffiti meets A Prayer for Owen Meany story. His promo banner adds even more.

It has taken a long time for this novel to be born, but I couldn't be a prouder parent, both of my son's art work and of this uncommon story about loneliness and hope.


  1. Jim, I've purchased your book and look forward to reading it soon. Patrick Comey

  2. Thanks, Patrick! Be safe where you are, and, if you enjoy the book, please spread the word.

  3. Hello James, I am visiting from LinkedIn from the group Writers World. Your books sounds very interesting and I am also in the process of publishing my first e-book. I am a new follower of your blog now and I invite you to have a look at my blogs.
    Have a wonderful day.

  4. Hi Isabella,
    I have just looked at your blog and your many beautiful handmade products. Your lyrical words: "the only competitor
    the sky over Africa ...
    which is a sigh of God on a warm summer evening
    eternalised" are lovely. You mention in your blog bio that you would like to meet Hemingway and Christ. In my enovel, Uncommon Glory, a young boy has many conversations with a statue of the Crucified Christ. You might find them interesting. :)

    Many thanks for reading my blog. I look forward to following yours.

    Take care,