Editor’s note: The book is dedicated to KB’s grandson, Harry Chapin, Larry Baker’s good friend.
Baker, Larry. A Good Man. Ice Cube Books.
Harry Ducharme is at the end of his rope. Booze and bad decisions have taken him from the A-list talk-radio fame down to a tiny cinder-block station, WWHD in St. Augustine, Florida. He talks mostly to himself from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., not sure anybody is listening, reading books and poetry that he likes, not caring if anyone agrees with him, playing golden-oldies from the Sixties, and wondering how he got there.
Then as a hurricane pounds north Florida, with WWHD broadcasting to a town without electricity, Harry gets a visitor just as theeye of the hurricane passes over. An old black man who calls himself a Prophet wants to borrow a Walt Whitman poem that Harry red the night before. The Prophet wants “A Noiseless Patient Spider” to be the core of his next sermon, in which he announces the imminent arrival of a New Child of God. Or perhaps not. Still, Harry is there, in the parking lot of a football stadium, surrounded by thousands of pilgrims, as witness to and participant in one final act of death and redemption that might be a sign of the beginning or the end.
The story weaves back and forth in time, revealing the history of an orphan named Harry Ducharme. From Iowa farm to Florida beach, Harry is finally surrounded by men and women with their own burdens to carry. Captain Jack Tunnel is the morning host, more rightwing than Rush, with a cranky co-host parrot named Jimmy Buffett, but also with a gentle secret life. Nora James is the mysterious “cooking woman” who broadcasts from her home kitchen, but whom nobody has ever seen. Nora cooks on-air and discusses women’s issues. Harry spends his first year in town trying to find her, only to discover that Nora’s whereabouts are a communal secret, revealed to only a select few. Carlos Friedmann has the 2-6 a.m. slot, a fourth-generation Jewish Cuban who cannot speak Spanish, but whose forte is to broadcast fake interviews with Fidel Castro. Friedmann’s great desire is to kill and cook the parrot Jimmy Buffett.
Harry had arrived in St. Augustine in November of 2000. Living in America’s oldest city, Harry reveals profound insights into American politics and history throughout A Good Man. Eventually, his role in the New Child’s arrival becomes intertwined with contemporary politics, Iraq, 9/11, old-time religion and classic literature from writers like Flannery O’Connor and Emily Dickinson, as well as the music of Harry Chapin.
Harry Ducharme has always believed that somebody has written about him in the past. All that he needs to do is find the right book or poem, and then he will understand himself.
Editor's Note: What a Burkeian belief. Burke once joked that he read deeply, voraciously, and endlessly because he believed that some day he would find the answer written in a book.