A baby boomer’s fictional novel becomes reality

We just got a story out of the blue here at BoomerCafé that both touched and inspired us. It came from baby boomer Alan Kirby of Ojai, California, who has written a novel called “In the Shadow of the Water Tower.” What caught our eye is what he explains about its origins … and how real life took over. We’ll let Alan tell the rest.

The Kelly brothers are in their sixties and live on opposite sides of the country — Joe in Maryland and Darren in California — when they receive a call from a demanding attorney in their Indiana hometown asking them to return to settle the estate of a deceased former neighbor. Returning home will thrust the brothers into a world of boyhood memories, legendary characters, old grievances, early loves, and a precarious state that elicits power, greed, false adulation, and even crime.

Alan Kirby

Alan Kirby

That is the premise for my novel.

The fiction is not far from reality as my brother, Mike, and I traveled back to our hometown not long ago to research a book I had started. Our intent was simply to spend some time together reminiscing about a place we both left nearly forty years ago and to see how one small town in America had changed over time. We drove around the town, stopping frequently to take in views, remembering stories, and laughing. Man, did we laugh over that long weekend! If our childhoods were half as fun and satisfying as our memories, then we were very lucky men.

The question was — could our flashbacks filled with nostalgia and laughter translate to a broader Boomer audience that probably shared many of our same experiences? So far the Amazon reviews suggest that there are many readers who enjoy seeing a couple of older guys go head to head with younger bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians, and other people in town all hungering for a slice of the estate pie.

But an interesting and frightening event occurred during the writing of the story.

My brother, Mike, was stricken with a form of cancer. As I continued to write and check in with him, our talks became much more serious and the laughter we shared that weekend seemed a distant memory. The story was very much about the brothersand now one of them was facing a life-threatening illness. “Write it the way it plays out,” Mike insisted. And so I did.


Brothers Mike (left) and Alan Kirby.

What started as a pleasant stroll down memory lane became an in-depth look at the bond between two brothers. The imagined crises within childhood memories ran smack into the reality of adult challenges with real consequences. That’s not to say our conversations were no longer filled withhumor. They just took on a different twist. As a songwriter, brother “Joe” just could not stop himself from composing some music for his young neurosurgeon to play during his operation:

I got a surgeon; he’s a rock star, that’s for sure
He’s been doing this since he was only four
Says he’ll be done in an hour and a half
Sure hope he’s right, ‘cause the drugs may not last
Why am I not worried?
Friends are asking me
This ain’t rocket science
It’s just brain surgery!

The postscript is sad. Mike could not beat his cancer, and last year, after the cancer spread and surgery was unsuccessful, he died. But what he said before he went was, “Write the story the way it plays out.” I did.

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  1. So enjoyed reading this story. It’s funny, touching and will stay with you long after reading. Felt like I was right there growing up in Indiana too.

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