Dan Geery's first novel, A Summer with Freeman, is terrific book -- so well written. Its sparkling and hilarious prose seemed like the work of a veteran novelist, not that of a first timer. The dialog is funny and realistic. And the whole story about fourteen-year-old Joey Simpson and his first summer with a new friend, fifteen-year-old Freddie Freeman, made me recall my own coming of age as I'm sure it does for most of Dan's readers. This is movie-quality work.
Set in the 1950s, the book has all the elements most of us recall:
- Unhappiness at school
- Summers with time to do the unthinkable
- Building forts and get-aways from parents and younger siblings
- Experiencing bullying
- Trying to be tough, despite it all
- Overriding interests in comic books, girls and sex and early dabbling in cigarettes and liquor
- Fascination with cars and driving
- Key friendships with bigger, tougher, older, and wiser guys who were "wilder" and devil-may-care
- Early crushes and idealizations of their objects, who often turn out to be the opposite of what the crushes fancied
- General confusion before the mysteries of life
For me, the most unforgettable moments included:
- Narrow escapes from the local bully and his gang especially in a furious bike-get-away and a concluding showdown at the local swimming hole
- Freeman's wild ride in the convertible he vengefully "borrowed" from the bully himself
- An encounter with a pretty, flirtatious waitress in the local diner
- Joey's painful meetings with the women of his dreams, Maggie and Anabelle
- Joey and Freeman's downing two bottles of gin in the woods
- Catholic Joey's confession to an overly-inquisitive priest
I must admit that I once tried my hand at writing book-length fiction. And, according to my guide, Writing a Novel and Getting it Published, it transformed me into a successful novelist at least according to the book's definition. It said a successful novelist is "any writer who has completed a project generally recognizable as a novel." By those standards, yes: I made it. However, that's where my success concluded. My novel turned out to be stodgy, moralistic, and filled with "telling" rather than "showing."
Daniel Geery's first novel, A Summer with Freeman, has none of that. It's a rollicking read and an evocative entertaining tale that will have you smiling, if not laughing, from beginning to end.