Unintended Consequences

They say people are often inspired by small things–an encouraging word, a pat on the back, or even a wink.  My writing inspiration came from a different set of circumstances.

A few years ago, I along with other former African-American Ohio University Bobcats, was asked to write of a memorable experience while at the school. All wrote positive stories about meeting new friends, the newfound freedom of living in a dorm, fraternities, sororities, etc. I, too, enjoyed the school— maybe too much—which is why I graduated from Lincoln University instead of Ohio University. And although most of my time spent on campus was good, what I remember most vividly took place my sophomore year.

I was assigned a dorm room with a white football player—a nice guy, but not too bright.  We took an English Composition class together. He was getting D’s and F’s.  I was getting C’s. So, after a few submittals, he asked me to write his assignments.  Since I was majoring in business, I recognized the monetary benefits of this budding relationship and charged him five dollars a paper.

I never thought I was much of a writer, so I accepted a C as an appropriate grade.  To my surprise, the first paper I wrote for my roommate received a B.  His next submission received a B+. One paper even received an A-.  Meanwhile, I was still receiving C’s, although I spent much more time on my papers then his. During the course, it became evident that the prof hated football, so it had nothing to do with my roommate’s athletic abilities.

My dilemma was that I couldn’t tell the professor I had written my roomie’s compositions. Instead, I asked him what I needed to improve to get a better grade.  He responded, “Everett, you are on the verge of a B.  Keep up the good work. if you write a high-quality final paper, you may very well receive a B in this class.”

My final grade was a C.  My roommate’s, a B.  I was pissed but also motivated. Roomie was elated and gave me an extra ten dollars. But he had given me something even better. Through him, I found I had potential. Plus, the venture was a business success.  My parents were sending me fifteen dollars a month, so the thirty-five dollars I made writing allowed me to leverage my bets at the pool table and simultaneously assuage my disappointment with the grade I was given.

I never thought much about the professor over the years. He was only a bump in the road. There will always be people like that. I guess I should thank him in a way. Although I’m sure it was contrary to his intent, he had planted a seed.

Events like the composition course happened several times in my life. But instead of derailing me, they only made me more determined. That resolve afforded me the opportunity to achieve some successes in life, including the publication of two award-winning novels. I wonder how the good professor would have graded my works of fiction, Snake Walkers and A Long Way Back?

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Two New Literary Awards for A Long Way Back

Congratulations on your literary success! It is with great pleasure that we announce the 2016 Literary Classics Book award honorees.  You can be very proud to be in such esteemed company.  Our judges were thoroughly impressed by the level of excellence demonstrated by this year’s entries.

Literary Classics
P.O. Box 3362
Rapid City, SD 57709

CLC Silver Medalist

A LONG WAY BACK was also the recipient of an award from Foreword’s Book of the Year Awards.

INDIEFAB BRONZE AWARD

http://eprewitt.com

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The Ambush (You never read about)

 

Nineteen-sixty-six is the 50th year of my graduation from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the oldest historically black college and university in the United States.  As my friend and fellow alumnus, Ed Hill, and I reminisced, I reminded him it was also the 50th year that a group of students set an ambush for the Ku Klux Klan, who, according to a white classmate, planned to invade our campus.

Out of curiosity, our classmate had attended a Klan rally in Rising Sun, Maryland.  After the gathering, he returned to warn us that like at least once or twice in the past, they were going to “knock some n&*^%r heads at Lincoln,” before returning home.

The university was in an uproar.  One of the few women on campus (Lincoln was 99% male) cried uncontrollably. Another group of classmates gathered in the chapel to pray. Some students left the grounds. Some just hid.  Families who lived in “The Village”, a small neighborhood of black residents whose homes were next to the campus, gathered their belongings to leave. But a fellow schoolmate, who is a very successful businessman today, had other plans.

“Prewitt.  I got guns from some of the older workers on campus.  We’re going to surprise the Klan.  You in?”

“Hell, yeah,” I responded without hesitation.

“Good. I’d hoped so. It’ll be easier to recruit the others.”

In the end, there were thirteen of us armed with pistols, shotguns, and rifles.  I felt confident about the group of guys my friend had gathered because each vowed that if they took a weapon, they would use it. One of the members even wanted to beat up the classmates praying, but I explained that people handled crises differently. Not everybody was a fighter. Let them pray.  We were going to need it.

We commandeered rooms on the second floor of McRary Hall.  I suggested we place a boulder at the entrance and exit so when the invaders had all entered, we could block them from escaping. At least one of our members, a South African, made Molotov cocktails and placed them on the outside balcony of the Student Union building facing the entrance. We were ready; nervous as hell but ready.

When our lookout signaled that a caravan of cars were approaching the campus, a few of us hugged each other, then we took our places.  As the first car drove parallel to the entrance, the lookout threw a rock and hit it. The car never stopped.

As they drove past with their confederate flags waving in the wind, we looked at each other, puzzled.  A few were even disappointed. Five very tense minutes after the last car had passed, we stored the shotguns and rifles in a closet, kept the pistols, and gathered outside the dorm.

About ten minutes later, a black car pulled up, and two white guys got out.  I’m glad they showed their badges as quickly as they did, because they were two seconds from getting iced.

“What’s going on here?” one of them asked.

“What the hell do you think is going on here?” one of our more militant members asked. I thought I was going to have to restrain him as I whispered, “You can’t jump the FBI.”

The two agents just shrugged at the question.  After walking around the front of the campus for a few minutes, they got into their car and left.

What I didn’t learn until maybe ten years later was that one of our professors had called the law, because he’d heard we had weapons.  It was evident that the FBI must have passed the information to the Klan based on their decision not to engage even after a rock dented one of their cars.

Ed also reminded me that the KKK beat up two African students who were at the Road House restaurant.  I guess some of our foreign brothers didn’t believe the threat pertained to them.

As I read the paper the other day and applauded President Obama for pardoning so many inmates, I wondered if the Klan had come on campus, would I be one of the prisoners petitioning the president to set me free or would I have escaped the consequences of my actions like I was able to at least one other time in my life?

I’m glad I’ll never have to know.

***

(Colonel Bertram to Anthony Andrews in the novel A Long Way Back): “It’s funny how just a few minutes in your life can dictate your whole future.”

Anthony (Andrews) nodded. “How well I know, Colonel.”

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Another Award?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Novel about black Vietnam soldiers IS A FINALIST FOR TWO AWARDS

A Long Way Back by J. Everett Prewitt is a finalist in the 2015 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. ForeWord Reviews says, “Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd.”

A Long Way Back is also a finalist for receipt of the Montaigne Medal. The Eric Hoffer Awards Committee states, “These are books that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought. The Montaigne Medal is given in honor of the great French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who influenced people such as William Shakespeare, René Descartes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Eric Hoffer.”

A Long Way Back was the recent recipient of the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. The CLC Seal of Approval is a designation reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Literary Classics review committee, a team comprised of individuals with backgrounds in publishing, editing, writing, illustration and graphic design.

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Goodreads Review

Nice to know people are still reading my first book:

It was the title that grabbed my attention: “Snake Walkers”. I pulled it off the library shelf, read the cover flap, and quickly realized that this is not a book I would usually choose to read. I, however, found the title and the idea of “the mysterious abandonment of a small town” intriguing so I checked it out.

I am truly at a loss for words to describe the array of emotions I felt while furiously reading page after page to get to the end of the story. If a book should ever be a best seller or made into a movie, it’s this one.

I won’t even include a synopsis of the book in this review, because as I said it’s not a book I would normally pick up. This is a must read regardless of your preference of genres/topics.

Elyse’s Reviews, Goodreads Author
August 2015

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So

I was talking to a young African-American man a couple of months ago who was moving up in corporate America.  He shared how everybody thought he had gotten his engineering job through affirmative action, when, in fact, he had scored the highest of all the applicants.

It reminded me of my short stint in corporate America, but also of a subsequent conversation I had when I was appointed to a prestigious financial advisory group  some years ago. I had come in early.  The chairperson of the board, a banker, was already there.  He says, “Most people on this committee have a financial or real estate development background.  I’m curious as to how you got chosen.”

So, I ask, “You’ve had this conversation with everybody on the committee?”

“No.”

“Anybody else on the committee?”

“No.”

“Have you read my resume?”

He says, “No.”

“Then, you don’t know that I have a master’s degree in Urban Studies.”

“Um. No.”

“And, so, you probably don’t know that I own a commercial and industrial real estate appraisal firm that does work for some of the largest banks in the state.”

“No.”

That I’ve taught commercial real estate appraising throughout the United States, Jamaica, and the Bahamas?”

“No.”

That I’ve completed market studies and feasibility studies for real estate ventures?”

“’Really? No. I did not.”

So, I ask, “Are you a Republican?”

He says, “Yes.  How did you know?”

SMFH before SMFH became an acronym.

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Review of A Long Way Back by Reader Views

A Long Way Back  by J. Everett Prewitt is an excellent read that follows a post reporter who is sent to Vietnam to report on the war effort. What he uncovers is the disgusting truth about race in the military and a cover-up designed to protect those in power, while ensuring those who were betrayed are never allowed to have a voice. The story is gripping and it is hard to imagine a time when soldiers would be willing to betray their own. A Long Way Back  simultaneously covers the issue of race, while also subtly taking a look at combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. The book’s ability to fairly, and accurately tackle both issues is impressive. J. Everett Prewitt is an excellent writer and his writing style is realistic, intense, and seems to accurately capture the time period and military life. Prewitt writes from both the perspective of the post reporter investigating the case of missing black soldiers in Vietnam, and the perspectives of the missing soldiers. Having both perspectives keeps the story fresh and allows the author to cover multiple points of view. Prewitt does an excellent job creating memorable and believable characters the reader cares about.

This book does everything well including pacing, character development, and the storyline itself. It is clear that Prewitt is a good author who is well within his wheelhouse on this one. The only issue I have with the story is that in the second half of the book some of the chapters are told from the perspective of one of the Viet Cong leaders as she stalks the missing soldiers across the jungle. These chapters are short and feel forced, like commercial breaks from the story. I personally feel that they were unnecessary and detracted from the actual story. Given how late in the story these chapters appear and my attachment to the other characters, I just could not find myself caring about the enemy’s perspective and so I hurried through these chapters to get back to the actual story.

Aside from those few chapters on the Viet Cong’s perspective, the book never misses a beat, and the attention to detail within the story is impressive. I have no idea if the story is actually based on true events but it is written well enough that I would not be surprised if that were the case. Prewitt has created a powerfully moving novel with A Long Way Back. It is not a story for the faint of heart, or those looking for an uplifting read, but for those who are interested in a realistic take on race, Vietnam, and post-traumatic stress; A Long Way Back by J. Everett Prewitt delivers a read that will not soon be forgotten.

(Author’s Note)  Hopefully, readers will care about the Viet Cong perspective once they read Something About Ann.  The novella continues the story of a black Vietnam veteran and a Vietnamese woman who fall in love not knowing they had already crossed paths in Vietnam.  To be published in September 2016.

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