By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD -- The Civil Rights movement in Springfield as well as the Vietnam War protests and the other social changes brought by the 1960s and '70s are the backdrop for a novel by veteran television and radio newsman Durham Caldwell.
Caldwell will be speaking about his book, "Tumultuous Affairs," on July 16 at the weekly meeting of the Springfield Rotary Club at 12:15 p.m. in the Mass Mutual Room at The Basketball Hall of Fame on Hall of Fame Avenue. The Rotary luncheon costs $15 per person and is open to the public.
Caldwell reported for WSPR and WHYN radio before making the switch to television. He was news director at WGGB from 1962 through 1986 and became the editor of The Ludlow Register for four years beginning in 1989. He still writes a weekly column for that newspaper.
Although Caldwell uses real events from 1964 through 1975, he has set the book in the fictional town of "Riverbridge." His hero is Buzz Buckley, a television reporter who has to "cope not only with the competition but also with the moral myopia of a station owner aligned with the city's big shots," as explained by a synopsis.
The self-published book has won acclaim from readers, one being Jim Douglas the governor of Vermont, who wrote, "Durham Caldwell captures the history of a community and the excitement of the newsroom in 'Tumultuous Affairs.' He weaves them meticulously into a fast-paced novel that is full of surprises and keeps the reader on the edge of his seat. As someone who has known and worked with Durham, I can attest to his love of the city that has long been his home and his dedication to getting the news right. Now I know that he's also a great storyteller!"
By using actual events in a setting inspired by Springfield and having some characters based on real people from the time, Caldwell told Reminder Publications that some readers have become frustrated "because they can't pin down who I was writing about."
He said while there are a few characters who resemble "real actors on the scene," most of them were made up "from scratch."
He noted he precisely used state and national elected officials in historical situations, such as then Sen. Hubert Humphrey campaigning at Mount Holyoke College in 1964 and President Richard Nixon visiting his daughter Julie as she attended Smith College.
Caldwell started work on the novel in the 1990s, but he wasn't happy with the initial draft. He set it aside and when he returned to it he "whittled it down."
Overall, the novel took about a dozen years to complete.
The book made its debut in October and Caldwell admitted he entered self-publishing with "a certain amount of trepidation."
"It proved not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be," he added.
Although one of his former college roommates complained the book "wasn't great literature," Caldwell responded, "It's not meant to be great literature." Overall, the responses to his work have been "interesting and positive."
"It's not on the best seller list, but it's been fun," he said of the experience.
Caldwell will have copies of the book for sale at his Rotary Club talk and at other appearances later this year. He is scheduled to speak at Keystone Commons, 460 West St., Ludlow at 2 p.m. on July 29; at The Arbors at Chicopee, 929 Memorial Dr., at 2 p.m. on Aug. 31; at the Westfield Women's Club, 28 Court St., at 1 p.m. on Oct. 6; at the Catholic Women's Club, Bishop Marshall Center, Springfield, at 3 p.m. on Oct. 12; and at the Chicopee Women's Club, 37 Exchange St., Chicopee, at 1:45 p.m. on Nov. 18.
"Tumultuous Affairs" is available at Pam's Paperbacks, Wilbraham; The Odyssey, South Hadley; Borders, Holyoke Mall; Holyoke Medical Center Gift Shop; Broadside Books, Northampton; Eight Cousins, Falmouth; and the American International College bookstore, the Springfield College bookstore, and the Baystate Medical Center Gift Shop, all in Springfield.
Interested readers may also order "Tumultuous Affairs" through www.amazon.com.
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