Take a look at an interview I did recently with Dorothy Thompson at Literarily Speaking: A Conversation with Preston Howard, Author of The Sheltering Palms.
She asked some great questions. I’ve included some of the Q/A below, but check out the link above for the full interview.
Welcome, Preston! So excited about your new book, The Sheltering Palms. Critics are calling your book “The best book I’ve ever read about lawyers, cops, and unions.” Can you tell us a little about the main characters in your book?
Preston: The protagonist, Preston Howard, is a labor attorney who has just faced prostate cancer and a forced retirement. He begins reflecting over his tumultuous, fascinating life, wondering whether it has any value outside of his narrow world representing police officers and unions. His bourbon-swilling, piano-playing, brilliant grandfather Buster weaves in and out of this autobiographical fiction novel, first mentoring the younger Preston in matters of politics, religion, and the quest for knowledge, and later saving Preston’s life…maybe.
They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?
Preston: There are two pivotal moments in the book. The first one takes place early in Preston’s legal career, when he is uncertain about whether union work is the right choice for his career. He represents a female activist police officer in Oak Lawn, Illinois, who is terminated for union activity. Preston dramatically saves her job and goes on to become a renowned attorney across the country. The second pivotal moment takes place when Preston becomes so despondent over this career that he takes off for the hinterlands. He winds up in a church in Bend, Oregon, where Buster suddenly appears playing the organ—-more than ten years after his death, and admonishes Preston for his behavior and attitude.
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
Preston: What else then play first base for the New York Giants, before that bastard Horace Stoneham shipped the team off to San Francisco? There were of course obstacles to that goal. First, Whitey Lockman played first base, and I’m certain that Whitey would have fought me tooth and nail to hold on to his spot. Second, while my ability to play baseball allowed me to make it to the college level, I had an anemic arm, a lack of power and as I said in the book, ran like Buster’s grand piano sat on my back.
Do your novels carry a message?
Preston: This novel is my first stab at fiction, and yes, there is definitely a message. People often stumble in their lives; in Preston’s case, alcohol and womanizing cause his temporary downfall. The important point in the book: when someone gets down and almost out, they can get back up off the floor, lead a productive life, and redeem themselves. This ultimate point capsulizes the story about Preston Howard.