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Between the pages
A strained mother-son relationship, warring faeries and elves, the murder of a 1960s black entertainer, plotting revenge in the inner city — these storylines are the basis of new works by five authors with ties to Milwaukee. You’re invited to take a closer look at these recently published tomes — each intriguing in their own right.

By REBECCA KONYA

May 2013

'Twisted' by James E. Causey

James E. Causey believes everyone has a book inside them. The 43-year-old Milwaukee native should know. He recently published his second novel, "Twisted," a follow-up to his debut work "The Twist."

"I wanted to explore the issue of the lack of strong male role models in urban communities without being preachy," says Causey, who doesn’t shy away from inner city social issues as a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A fictional account of likeable protagonist Travon Brown, whose chance encounter with a stripper at a friend’s bachelor party results in a love child, seemed ideal. "I wanted to create something that was entertaining, but delivered a message," Causey says.

In "Twisted," Brown returns, intent on revenge for the murder of his surrogate father, while struggling with his own responsibilities of being a new father.

Causey’s lifelong affair with writing began in middle school when he won a student essay contest sponsored by the Milwaukee Community Journal. Thirty years later, Causey continues to receive writing accolades. In March, he was recognized as one of three finalists in the commentary category of the 2012 Scripps Howard Awards competition.

Next up for Causey is a biography about former professional boxer, Gerald McClellan.

'The Golden Ashfruit' by A.L. Harris

A.L. Harris’ parents instilled a love of reading and writing in their children from an early age. The couple read to Harris and her siblings nightly and encouraged them to keep journals. "In a way, books were my first form of traveling," says Harris, who has a keen interest in epic fantasy novels.

Ultimately, it was Harris’ love of fantasy that led the 22-year-old Milwaukee native to research elves and their beginnings. Her debut novel, "The Golden Ashfruit," unfolded from there.

A young adult fantasy novel, "The Golden Ashfruit" came out in December. Based on Norse mythology, the book centers around the origin of elves and faeries. "Epic fantasy is a distinct genre that just speaks to me," Harris says.

The enterprising young author, who has a degree in journalism from UW-Madison, started her own publishing imprint to bring her book to market. Going forward, she hopes to publish works by other authors, in addition to her own. "I see a lot of potential for that," she says.

In the meantime, Harris is working on a short story collection set in the same alternate world as "The Golden Ashfruit." She expects the new book to be available in June.

'Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old-Fashioned Experience' by Ron Faiola

While researching his documentary about the Milwaukee fish fry phenomenon in 2009, Ron Faiola discovered another regional culinary pastime — the supper club. Faiola filmed a separate documentary about the Wisconsin supper club tradition, highlighting 14 clubs throughout the state. After the film found national distribution, a publisher approached Faiola about a book on the same subject. "It was an opportunity to expand beyond the 14 supper clubs I originally covered," says Faiola, a longtime Greendale resident who traveled the state for a year taking photos and interviewing supper club owners and loyal customers.

The result is a charming coffee-table book that takes readers on a tour of more than 50 supper clubs in each corner of the state and everywhere in between, from Superior to Racine to Crivitz to Hazel Green. Like his documentary, Faiola’s book explores why supper clubs are such a big part of Wisconsin’s food culture; and he describes the full supper club experience: retro cocktails, relish trays and generous dinner portions.

Faiola says the topic of supper clubs tends to strike a chord with people.

"It gets them reminiscing about their own experiences," Faiola says.

Loaded with photos and stories, Faiola’s book brings fresh appreciation for these beloved old-fashioned fine-dining establishments.

'Entrusted' By Sherry Rummler

When her oldest son left home to attend college out East, Sherry Rummler reflected on the shifting dynamics of the parent-child relationship. Her introspective thoughts eventually gave way to her debut novel, "Entrusted," released in January.

The Pewaukee resident turned to writing after being laid off from her marketing job. "I got tired of writing resumés so I wrote a book instead."

Before "Entrusted," Rummler considered herself a closet writer, penning countless short stories and poems. "When I write, it feels like I’m watching a movie," she says. "The characters drive me."

In "Entrusted," that main character is Anna Bertram, a mother whose grown son unexpectedly drops out of her life, leaving her devastated and confused. After a chance encounter with a young soldier on a beach, Bertram embarks on a journey to reconnect with her estranged son.

Facing an empty nest when her younger son goes off to college next fall, Rummler says she can identify with Bertram. "But you need to let go at some point," she says. "Kids are on their own life journey."

Working on her second novel has helped Rummler deal with the impending transition. A suspense novel with a spiritual element to it, it’s a major departure from her first book.

'One More River to Cross: The Redemption of Sam Cooke'  by B.G. Rhule

Teacher turned author B.G. Rhule distinctly remembers learning about legendary crooner Sam Cooke’s death. "My friend’s dad had just picked us up from a concert in downtown Milwaukee when we heard the news on the radio," she says.

The suspicious circumstances surrounding Cooke’s death always struck a chord with Rhule, who grew up listening to his music. "He had a voice like melting butter."

After graduating from UW–Madison, Rhule spent 30 years teaching in southern California. Later, she wrote for a college sports blog based in L.A. But her desire to write about Cooke never abated. "Cooke was a great artist who broke racial barriers," Rhule says. Then Rhule read an article about embracing your passion in "O, The Oprah Magazine." "It was serendipitous," she says. "It led me to believe it was time for the truth to be told."

Rhule spent six years interviewing Cooke’s family and friends and investigating his untimely death — official accounts claim Cooke was fatally shot after an altercation with an L.A. motel clerk. However, Rhule’s bio asserts that Cooke’s business manager, the notorious Allen Klein, was ultimately responsible for his murder.

Rhule is currently in talks to bring her labor of love to the big screen.





 

This story ran in the May 2013 issue of: