I spent my early years in one of Boston’s wealthier suburbs. I would guess that my family was lower middle class in a town bursting with upper middle class and beyond. The town featured no wrong-side-of-the-tracks, because the railroad, which was still a feature of daily life in those days, sliced the town in half. I recall stories of “one hundred millionaires” residing in that town. I had no idea what a millionaire was...other than someone with an unimaginable bunch of money. There was a television program about some rich guy, who gave away one million dollars anonymously. The show was entertaining, but provided no clue as to the value of that amount.
At that time, one’s relative prosperity in the United States was not as big an issue as it is today. “Things” and brands were less dominant. Other kids’ parents might have a nicer car, but we still had a car. And, I had a bicycle...and toys...and clothes...and we ate well. I felt no different from my peers. What more could a kid want?
I can recall my first glimpse of poverty. I might have been seven or eight. A friend invited me to accompany him on a long weekend in autumn to their summer home on Deer Island in Maine. I’m certain his parents wanted someone to play with their only child. The island, which I recall as being sparsely populated and rural, was reached by ferry. I remember driving with his father to a farm that sold pumpkins and then visiting someone’s home, which was little more than a shack. What I remember most vividly was the dirt floor, because no house in Wellesley, Massachusetts, had such a floor. That was the first, and last, time that I set foot in a poor person’s home in the United States, but the look and feel of dirt left a lasting impression.
About the same time, I became aware of a different kind of poverty. Some summers, we drove to Virginia to visit relatives. I recall seeing shacks of dirt poor Black “farmers” beside the road (no Interstates at that time) in Maryland and Virginia. The structures were so different from the houses on the streets of the well-to-do in my town...and even the less well-to-do. When older, I noticed details, such as the shacks being on blocks (no cellar as in our house), a dirt track leading to the door (not a drive for cars), no power lines, missing windows, etc.
I run across such poverty until I traveled to Asia, where non-Western standards are prevalent. I noticed that people were more cheerful and less down-trodden than the poor of America, perhaps because they do not have foolish dreams of a better life and follow a religion that promises more than the choice between heaven and hell.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.