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Aftermath of Katrina inspires new novel

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

HOLYOKE "I was one of those people who couldn't look away during the Hurricane Katrina coverage," author Jason F. Wright said. "I literally sat in my chair in the living room and watched coverage around the clock. I was drawn to that whole event to the storm and the recovery and the building."

Wright headed to ravaged New Orleans to get a better sense of its state as citizens tried to piece back together their lives and the city known for its unique culture, musical contributions and flamboyant festivities. What he compiled was a rich and significant backstory for "Recovering Charles," his third novel on love and loss and the power of forgiveness.

On Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., the bestselling author will appear at Barnes & Noble in Holyoke for a booksigning. "The Wednesday Letters," his second novel which recently has been re-released in paperback, will also be on hand.

Wright told Reminder Publications when he headed to New Orleans he had no idea it was the beginning of Mardi Gras.

"I didn't even know it was Mardi Gras," the married father of four said. "So I get on the plane and all these people are wearing beads and I asked this lady on the plane and she said, 'Yeah, it starts tomorrow.'"

Wright said Mardi Gras season is something people have to see. "The most interesting thing is it's the most family-friendly atmosphere [by day] and [you see all of these] families going down Bourboun Street. The sun goes down and the kids get locked in the cellars."

On his daily explorations in Louisiana, Wright took several photographs and spoke with willing participants.

"I met a guy who was one of the few who stuck around in the French Quarter. He's become a good friend," Wright said. "I really couldn't have written the book without him. The weeks after the storm talk about a war zone. That's really what it looked like. Every detail you can imagine it was true."

All of those details were incorporated into "Recovering Charles." The novel follows Luke Millward, a seemingly care-free photographer living a successful life in Manhattan. He has traveled the world, made great friends, and has a wonderful reputation for his work life could not be better. Yet there is more to Luke Millward's story than he lets on a troubled past lurks in the shadows holding painful memories of a childhood cut short by addiction, neglect, and depression memories he doesn't discuss.

That is until one fateful day when Luke receives an unexpected phone call from a stranger that forces open old wounds. It is August 2005 and New Orleans is underwater. Hurricane Katrina has just unleashed its fury on the Gulf Coast and the disconnected voice on the other line is calling to ask Luke to come in search of his father, Charles, who went missing amidst the chaos and devastation of the storm.

Torn by conflicted feelings for his father a musician and loving family man turned alcoholic vagrant after the death of Luke's mother Luke half-heartedly sets out to find his missing father.

In researching the tragedy, Wright discovered something about himself, as well. "I think I definitely learned that I don't want to wait until it's too late to repair relationships in my life. The longer you wait you run the risk that you run out of time," he shared. "You never know when you're going to go. Knowing that you did damage to a valuable relationship you now can't fix ... You're remembered by the way you treated people more than anything.

"The whole concept of the book is every life has a second verse. I heard from a guy [yesterday]. He called because he wanted to chat about how his wife died four years ago and at first it seemed like the end of his life. [When] she died, he was still [rather] young and he felt his life had ended, too. He has gotten involved in the movie business and he remarried a lovely woman, a second companion in life ... That's the theme of 'Recovering Charles,' there's no one that doesn't get a second verse if they want it. They just have to find it."

Wright is a regular contributor on Fox News and also offers political commentary at the Web site he founded and acts as managing director,; all of which educates and preps him for his favorite job eavesdropping.

"My wife has always accused me of being a deadly eavesdropper and people watcher," Wright said with a laugh. He said when he's out shopping with her and she's trying to tell him something but he's ignoring her to overhear the next conversation, "She rolls her eyes and goes 'he's writing his next book.'"

Barnes & Noble is located at 7 N. Holyoke St.