Title: A Well-Respected Man
Author: David W. Berner
Book Blurb: Professor Martin Gregory is the author of a critically acclaimed novel of love and longing, a cult favorite among women. The book brings him unexpected status and prestige, but also unwelcome fame. A love affair with one of his students derails his career and breaks his heart. Coming to terms with a life knocked off balance, Martin retreats to a quiet English village, only to be confronted at his flat by a mystery woman with an unexpected message and an implausible request, one that could alter his life forever.
Martin Gregory slept in an ordinary twin bed in his rented
flat. His place was sparsely furnished but comfortable. There was
a small kitchen table and two wooden chairs, a writing desk,
a worn leather couch, and a single chair in the living space. It
was how he liked it. Simple. There were no mirrors, photos, or
paintings. The only item he’d tacked to the wall since moving
to Banbury three years ago was a pencil sketch from his journal,
a drawing of the town’s train station at night. He had captured
it while waiting alone just after dusk for a cab following a visit
to London to see Westminster Abbey for the first time. Martin
could hear a light rain on the window and see the milky, gray
light of a March sunrise through the bedroom blinds. On his
nightstand, next to an old wind-up Big Ben alarm clock, was a
hardback copy of Ulysses, a weathered edition he found in a used
bookstore just after the holidays. He’d promised himself he’d
finally get around to reading Joyce’s masterpiece, but it had been
weeks since he last dog-eared any of the pages.
Martin untangled himself from the light gray sheets and
wrapped a tattered robe over his shoulders, tucked his disheveled,
graying, still thick-but-in-need-of-a-trim hair behind his ears,
and shuffled to the kitchen to put water on the stove. Martin
was trim, in an angular way. Not athletic, just lean. His build
suggested he once had more energy for the world. He wasn’t old,
certainly. Forty was the new twenty, or at least the new thirty.
And he kept busy. But a certain spark had dimmed. Desired
routine had emerged. He once wanted to make history with his
prose. It was never about fame; it was about legacy. But he knew
how a dream like that was for fools. He was not bitter; he had
only become realistic. Celebrity had never been what he wanted.
Still, it had found him for a time.
Dismayed to find the coffee container empty, Martin dug
out the previous morning’s grinds from the bottom of the small
French press on the counter, enough to make one weak cup.
He washed his face, put on one of the four blue button-down
shirts he owned, tied one of his three obligatory rep ties, pulled
on a pair of threadbare khakis and his grey herringbone coat—a
wardrobe he had adopted since coming to England. He grabbed
the still damp, black umbrella he’d left leaning against the wall
by the front door the previous evening and headed through the
entranceway and into the weather. It was then that he noticed
her, standing erect on the gravel in the space between the walkway
and the road, dressed in a midnight blue raincoat dampened
by rain on the sleeves and shoulders, an open yellow umbrella
above her head. Tight against her chest, she held a frayed paperback
“Mr. Gregory?” Her voice was tentative.
“Can I help you?” he asked, struggling to adjust the strap of
his leather bag over his shoulder and maneuver his now opened
umbrella against the freshening breeze.
The woman was plain but appealing, waif-like, maybe in her
early-30s. Her hair was deep brown, nearly black. It hung to the
base of her neck. The rain had moistened it, and it clung to her
“Mr. Martin Gregory?” she asked more precisely. Her accent
“Yes,” he answered, becoming impatient. Martin locked his
front door and stood directly in front of the woman.
“I believe you have written about my life,” she said. Her voice
was now less cautious but remained delicate.
Martin was uncertain of exactly what he had heard but yet
familiar with visits like this one, although it had been a long time
since the last encounter.
“I hope that I may speak with you,” the woman said.
Martin Gregory had returned to Banbury after living in the
hamlet for one month, many years ago. He had arrived to complete
his Masters of Fine Arts degree and the manuscript that
he was required to present to his university advisor. The college
had allowed five writing students to live at Wroxton Abbey in
Oxfordshire while they labored with the final edits of their works.
Martin quickly became fond of the small town. He treasured its
quiet tidiness, its gardens, and the village’s low-ceiling pubs, and
even its weather—mainly gray and damp but at least consistent.
For years after his days as a student, he’d considered returning
for a peaceful holiday. What he couldn’t have predicted was that
he’d return to live and teach at The Academy in Banbury—the
secondary school—and that Banbury would be his sanctuary.
“I have not written about your life,” Martin insisted.
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The protagonist in A Well-Respected Man is faced with a life-changing challenge that presents not only a major shift in his life plans, but has him contemplating modern-day parenthood, and considering a what a man must evaluate to become a father.
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 17 books featured in the Celebrate Fathers Bookish Event:
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David W. Berner has written nine books, including the award-winning novel A Well-Respected Man and the memoir The Consequence of Stars. He has been honored with the position of Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, Florida and at the Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum in Oak Park, IL. He is the founder and editor of Writer Shed Stories and a frequent contributor on writing and creative work at the online platform MEDIUM. He teaches at Columbia College Chicago.
More at www.davidwberner.com.
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