Larry O. Nichols was born in SC and grew in Gaston County, NC. He has a BS from NC State and an MBA from Winthrop, and is now retired after spending a career in Information Technology Management. He and his wife currently make their home in Taylors, SC.
His latest work, “A Hobo Odyssey”, is an historical novel of the Great Depression and is his first attempt at fiction. He previously researched and wrote six books on various family histories most of whom have roots in York County, SC. In 2007 Larry wrote and published an autobiographical account of growing up in a Southern textile town titled, “Memories of Cramerton: A Cotton Mill Town”.
Please give a brief synopsis, an Elevator Pitch, of your book; what you might say to someone if you only had 30 seconds to say it:
“A Hobo Odyssey” is a story of the South still trying to recover from the poverty created by the War Between The States. But primarily it is about two young men who become hoboes and to see the world outside of South Carolina and launch an adventurous trek across the country. Unfortunately, the route of the freight trains they have taken is also being traveled by a schizophrenic serial killer tracking down and murdering tramps and hoboes. Steve, the hero of the story finds that his early life’s trials have prepared him to meet adversity head on, and most importantly when he is confronted by his evil tracker.
What is the most overrated virtue?
Honesty. Even though I consider myself as extremely honest, it is difficult to tell a story of any level of interest that doesn’t stretch the imagination just a little bit.
What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you?
I am very quiet for the most part, and some people think that I have nothing to say. But what they don’t realize is that by being quiet, I am absorbing knowledge from them.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
Idealistically, that mankind could learn to live in harmony and true peace.
What pet peeve do you have about other people?
That some people like to control conversations and not allow others to speak their minds.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie?
This goes back to question #1. It is never OK to lie. That is a Biblical truth. However, small fibs make stories more interesting for many people. But out-and-out lying is not allowed in my makeup.
Give us your philosophy of writing.
To tell a story that people can relate to. I like mixing in events in history as background to the story line.
Is your writing an art or craft or some combination of both?
To me art is the act of creating, and craft is the act of using existing elements to form something else. I tend to use actual events (crafting) to tell a story, but I embellish the story (artwork) by making up events to make the story more interesting and enjoyable.
If you could go back ten years and give yourself one piece of advice what would that advice be?
I would have taken more classes on different styles of writing.
What’s the name and genre of your book?
The name of the book is “A Hobo Odyssey”. I believe that it falls into several genres: Southern Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Adventure-based Fiction. There is romance, but it is secondary to the primary objective.
Who is the audience for this book?
Anyone seeking adventure in their reading materials not cluttered up with complexities that detract from the real story line. Anyone who wants to read about the struggles of poor class of people (real people) and break away from the thousands of novels about the wealthy and the privileged.
Describe your protagonist and the challenges the protagonist needs to overcome and the motivation for overcoming them.
Steven Jason Wright is the hero of the story. He is a successful high school athlete, baseball player, and Golden Gloves Boxer. However, he is also a street fighter, and because of a street fight in which he nearly kills his much larger opponent, his life is turned upside down. He loses his best girlfriend, drops out of high school, and with a friend embarks on a wayward trek across country on a freight train. He is forced to decide between fighting (which he is used to doing) and being man enough to just walk away when it is the more mature thing to do.
Describe your antagonist and talk about motivation.
Appearance: Dr. William T. Narrows leads dual lives, never letting one life overlap the other. He had once been a very attractive man, single, and very active in the Atlanta social scene. If he had been clean-shaven, bathed, and dressed up, he would have fit right into any of the very plushest of the Peachtree Street area parties. At six-two, 183 pounds, Narrows had cut quite a turn in his native environment which typically required evening gowns and tuxedoes worn to any respectable gala. However, as Slim in his hobo persona he was generally unshaven, dirty in appearance, with greasy black hair falling over his eyes. At times he wore a tattered business suit, work shoes, and a dirty white shirt with a short-billed cap on his head.
Motivation: Narrows had been attacked, beaten nearly to death, and scarred for life by Jonathan Wilson, a vagrant, a homeless man, a man Narrows had been trying to help in some way. Once he had recovered from the beating, he become deeply obsessed with finding and killing his attacker, tracking down a murdering innocent hoboes and tramps who may or may not have looked like Wilson, the man who plagued his nightmare-filled sleepless nights.
Quote a passage from your book that you love.
Background: Steve attended a dance the night before departing on his hobo trek across country. There he spied a beautiful girl dressed in green velvet. But before he can introduce himself to her he exclaims to his friends that she is the girl he will someday marry. But like Cinderella the girl quickly dashes out the door and leaves the dance hall in a car driven by a friend.
Passage: Steve began walking back toward the dance hall but stopped as he came to a trio of young men he recognized. “Hey, fellas! Did you get a glimpse of that girl wearing the green dress that just walked by?”
Jesse spoke up. “Sure. What about her?” and laughed aloud, “Did she steal something from you?”
With a big grin Steve replied, “You bet! She stole my heart.”
He briefly turned toward the car pulling onto the highway and then back to Jesse. “Was that her boyfriend she was with?”
Jesse came back, “What’s it to you, Stevie boy? Wouldn’t you like to know?” and broke out in a donkey laugh, “Hee, haw. Hee, haw!”
Steve got into the boy’s face, “Jesse, speak up! This is a matter of life and death! I have got to know who she is and if she’s attached. Tell me who she is, Jesse, or you might not be going home without some help tonight!”
Backing off on the attitude, Jesse spoke more calmly this time. “Okay, Steve! Don’t get so hot and bothered. All I know is: Her name is Marie. That big guy she was with is her cousin, Jim something or other. He and his girlfriend always bring her, and they always take her home. I don’t know his last name, neither.”
With his arms akimbo he went on, “All I know is she likes to dance, and she’s good at it. Everybody wants to dance with her, but nobody gets fresh. Her cousin sees to that. And they always leave early. That’s all I know….. I swear!”
Without a word Steve raised his fist and stuck out his thumb in dismissal. With that, Jesse, feeling thankful, turned and hurriedly walked over to join in with another group of guys standing nearby.
As Steve walked back into the building to join his friends, he didn’t realize how much his thoughts over the next several weeks would be inundated by the mysterious, raven-haired beauty, The Lady In Green.
Elaborate on the meaning of the passage for us.
First of all, it demonstrates that Steve knew how to take care of himself, but it also showed a vulnerability of the heart. He fell in love with an unknown lady, and was remorseful that he wasn’t able to approach her with his charms. This passage sets the stage as Steve and his friend, Eddie, are about to leave for several weeks on an unknown, adventurous trek, where they not only brush with death, but Steve is obsessed with the Lady in Green so much so that his every night is filled with dreams of her.
What surprising things did you learn while writing this book?
I learned that, given the fact that my working career was in the technical field, that I had a talent for prose, making stories come to life.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My childhood was wonderful and filled with knowledge of my parents’ experiences during the Great Depression and World War II. They were forever telling me about their happenings. My dad especially liked to tell about his baseball and boxing years and his experiences as a hobo.
Where do you live and how does that influence your writing?
I currently live in Taylors, SC, near the city of Greenville, but my formative years were spent in the small cotton mill towns of York, SC, and Cramerton, NC, south and west of Charlotte, NC, respectively. It is there that most of my stories are based.
Do you prefer fermented or distilled?
I suppose this question is really, “Do you drink?” The truth is that I rarely drink. As a youth I loved to drink and party, but today I may enjoy an occasional beer on a hot day or a good glass of red wine with a good meal. I may sip on a glass of good bourbon or brandy on a very rare occasion.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing?
I don’t write every day. Many days are spent gathering my thoughts and making notes, creating visual images of what I want to say.
ISBN: 978-1-886057-53-1 (Hardcover edition) – $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-886057-33-3 (Softcover edition) – $19.95
Here’s what a few reviewers had to say:
A Hobo Odyssey captures the spirit of the life and trials of the American hobo during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It is a riveting story of two young men and the adventure of a lifetime. The novel does a great job of interweaving their travels with that of a serial killer of hobos and their ultimate confrontation. You can’t wait to see what happens to these young journeymen next. Truly a joy to read from beginning to end.
Publisher, Charlotte Living Magazine
Excerpts from Amazon.com:
“…This book is hard to put down once one begins reading it. It’s a very well told tale that is action packed right up until the end. I especially loved the sections of the book where Steve and Eddie rode the rails …one could almost visualize being there with them. If you like books about life during the Great Depression and the hoboes that rode the rails, this book is definitely for you!”
“…A wonderful read. It is dappled with historical references to the Great Depression and a sweet nostalgia for a time in history when things were simpler. The characters … come to life and lead you on an adventure of a lifetime. It has it all…young love, daring adventures, comical confrontations and of course a murderous villain! A real page turner which I couldn’t put down till the last page was turned!”
“…What impresses me about this book is the cadence of its storytelling. Each chapter is like a story told by an oldster from a porch swing… this is a must-read jewel of a book.”