My first novel, War Remains, A Korean War Novel took me back to the opening months of the Korean War, the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, Kunu-ri, and the battle at Hoengseong. My interest in the Korean War was in part due to my coverage of Korean War commemorative events in Korea between 2000-2003 for the Korea Times, which also included meeting many veterans.
Although Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm is about my twenty-plus years living and working in Korea, the book is also a personal history of Korea and the changes which have occurred on the peninsula since I came to Korea in 1990. Besides the essays and articles about the Korean War, there is a special section about Panmunjom, including the article I wrote in 2001 about the 25th anniversary of the Panmunjom Ax Murder Incident.
There’s also a lot of history evident in Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst. Though most of the essays are about growing up in Oglesby, Illinois, a town of 4,200 back in the 1960s and 1970s, there are a number of historical references, including, but not limited to, the Vietnam War, the Apollo space program, and 1960s television. Many of the essays in this collection started out as blog posts which I later revised and expanded. I tell people that if you like Bill Bryson or Dave Barry, you’ll like this collection.
And that brings me to Ice Cream Headache when I travel back in time again, this time back to 1968. I’ve always been fascinated with this year. A lot has to do with my own sort of prepubescent coming of age when I first really became aware of the world around me. Although Johnny Fitzpatrick is the only one directly affected by the historical backdrop, everyone has their own stake in the historical backdrop of the novella.
In many ways the history that ended up in Ice Cream Headache is also me waxing nostalgic about the Illinois Valley. (For those of you not familiar with the Illinois Valley, it is a geographical area approximately 90 miles southwest of Chicago with three main towns located along the Illinois River: LaSalle, Peru, and Oglesby; to the east there’s Utica and Ottawa and to the west Spring Valley.) It’s been over six years since I last was home; the history I remember and write about is also my way of maintaining an umbilical cord to “home.”
Reading Ice Cream Headache, Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst, and War Remains, is reading me: who I am and where I’ve come from.
Come along for the ride.