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A “First Novel”

August 28, 2021

Lord knows, I’m not a novelist, but at age 75 I visited the “CODA” art gallery in Palm Desert, California. I do not like modern art, so I focused on a life-like statue of a woman in a blue ball gown.

Immediately, the story of that woman came to me.

In January 1981, conservatives preparing to join the Reagan Administration realized that we needed to organize our own Inaugural Ball. International House in DC was chosen and we prepared for an evening with our fellow conservatives by taking lessons in how to dance a Waltz.

Miraculously, more than fifty couples participated in a Ball celebrating the new President of the United States. Seeing that statue caused memories of 40 years previous to flood my mind and I began to see the outline of a story.

Even though several of my scholarly books have found publishers, the chances that a “first novel” will find a publisher are slim. About that time the founder of En Route Books and I were discussing the difficulties of book publishing. I mentioned my “first novel” and that became “Coda.”


Major Personae:

Sen. Bob Hill (R-PA)

Mary Hill, Senator’s wife

Chris Murphy, Chief of Staff to Sen. Bob Hill

Steve Weissman, Bob Hill’s pollster

Sen. George O Walker, (R-OH)

Charles Eisen, President Walker’s pollster

Fr. Peter Ford, Palm Desert

Dr. Apollonia McCarthy


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Washington, DC

Brooklyn, NY

Palm Springs CA, Betty Ford Clinic

Summary: Senator Hill is sentenced for involuntary manslaughter for an accident in which his wife is killed while he was driving under the influence. Prior to serving a sentence of time in a DC jail, the Senator is directed by the Court to enter a substance abuse treatment program. Senator Hill chooses to enter the Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs, CA.  With an hour or two to kill before being admitted to Betty Ford, the Senator walks by the CODA art gallery in Palm Desert where he spots a ceramic statue of a dancing woman dressed in a blue ball gown.  On impulse, he buys the statue and takes it to his new room at the Clinic. During recovery he is unable to sleep and stares at the statue. One of the eyes of the statue winks at him. As the days and weeks pass, he develops a relationship with the statue and one evening he begins to dance with her. Fr. Peter Ford is integral to Senator Hill’s recovery. After completing treatment, as he leaves the clinic he drops the box that holds the statue and it shatters.  Heartbroken he picks up the pieces and returns to his Senate duties.  His staff advises him of his schedule and notes that before his wife’s death, she bought tickets to a Viennese Waltz organized by Congressional staff. Believing that he should honor his wife’s last wish to attend a Waltz, he goes to the event and meets the living statue of his Clinic evenings.

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