Chapters of a Life is a great piece of realist escapism: a good old success story of historical fiction. It is the captivating and sentimental tale of the remarkable life of Charles Parker Conner. His is a “rags to riches” story but one born of thoughtfulness and hard work rather than random luck and overnight success. Charles is a George Bailey type who actually does escape his humble beginnings – from a big fish in a small pond to an ever-bigger fish in a bigger pond. Charles’ fictional life story is rooted in 20th century American history and his ties to historical events give this endearing tale a Forrest Gump flavor. However, whereas Forrest always goes with the flow of history, Charles is more astute and he’s driven to use his writing skills to be “the” voice crystalizing major historical events.
Charles “Chaz” Parker Conner was born in 1926, during the Roaring 20’s. His father is a jazz singer playing with the likes of Louis Armstrong and his mother is a dance instructor at a local speakeasy. The subsequent burdens of the Great Depression prove too much for the renowned singer, leading Charles and his mother to form an inseparable bond. Charles grows up, marries, and the bond never breaks. His life becomes increasingly tied to movements in history, making his career path in journalism right and fitting.
Charles has an archetypal, American “can do” attitude and although he is ambitious, he is thoughtful and preternaturally in tune to where the country is and where it should be going. As he rises in the ranks from Midwest newspaper editor to a more national/global sphere of influence in the media, he crosses paths with famous actors, musicians, and politicians and bears witness to great historical events: everything from interviewing JFK to witnessing the attacks on 9/11. This is a big part of the charm of this novel: Charles continuously finds himself rubbing elbows with great historical figures, witnessing monumental events, and having the linguistic skill to provide poignant commentary at those singular moments.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a life and was particularly drawn to Charles’ unique position that of all journalists and reporters in bearing witness to such pivotal moments in history. I found myself eagerly anticipating Charles’ interactions with great figures and historical events. These interactions compelled me to read on as I’m sure they will for other readers out there, so pick up your copy of Chapters of a Life today. It’s a fun, charming trip of historical fiction and a real page-turner.
Title: Chapters of a Life
Author: John Nieman
Publisher: GoldTouch Press, LLC
Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Story Cycle
Reviewed by: Jason Lulos