It’s a safe bet that if you are reading this, you are a writer. Measuring success by number of books sold can be demoralizing, as many fine works never make the best seller list. Sometimes success becomes manifest in unforeseen ways. When Fred Rivera committed to write Raw Man, he had no idea what he set in motion. Here is a bit more of the story:
The true value of writing a book
by Thorn Sully
What is it that can motivate a man or woman to write a book? Sometimes it is a desire for fame or fortune, even though the odds are slim for either regardless of how well a story is told; sometimes it is to master the events of the writer’s life retro-actively, or to set the record straight, or to impress the doubters. Sometimes, though, a writer is compelled because the story is volcanic, burning and rising from within, and unstoppable.
Fred Rivera is a Vietnam combat veteran who spent many of his post-war years flat on his back, recovering from the consequences of war. Confined to bed for three years, he was within reach of a remote and a flat screen staring him down from the wall. But Fred was not one to be seduced by game shows or addicted to serials; rather, he began to read voraciously. He read every major Russian author, and when he ran out of reads, he read every work of every major American and Latino novelist.
And all this time, the volcano rumbled.
When it could be contained no longer, Fred maneuvered his keyboard as if it were the sticks of the track that he relentlessly drove into battle in Vietnam, and laid siege to the demons of PTSD to write his lightly-novelized narrative. (“Twenty-seven years after I got on the flight home, I saw that Nam War was just Raw Man spelled backwards…I’m pretty raw today.”)
Thus began his story, both tragic and triumphant. Raw Man went on the win the Best First Book Fiction award in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards, and placed second in the category of Best Latino-Focused Fiction.
But this victory was not the end of the story; it was the beginning.
Central to Fred’s narration is a horrific battle in which his best friend, Herman Johnson, dies in his arms. Their comrades knew of the bond between the two, and in an ad hoc memorial to Herman a few days after the battle presented Fred with a bracelet made from the leather laces of Herman’s boots. Fred has continued to wear the symbol of their bond every day without fail for 47 years.
The very first copy of Raw Man was signed to active Army Sergeant John Marek, who, as a sign of appreciation for Fred’s efforts in working with Veterans With PTSD, decided to surprise Fred with an etching of Herman Johnson’s name from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.
Sergeant Marek could not find Herman’s name, on the Wall or in records. He investigated.
Herman Johnson was found, alive, and living in Warren, MI. Herman remembers waking up the day following the battle with a yellow tag on his toe. Separated for 47 years, the two comrades will be reunited at the Wall on July 10th. Retired Lieutenant General Guy C. Swan III on behalf of a grateful nation will personally present Herman Johnson the Purple Heart paid for in blood, but never redeemed . A film crew has been hired to document the event, and your contribution to the costs will help perpetuate the details of this amazing story. Here is a link with more of the story, and to accept your support to be part of this: www.rawmanthebook.com
Had Fred not written Raw Man, this fairy-tale ending would never have happened, which brings to mind the real reason a writer writes: to connect us to our fellow creatures. For Fred Rivera and Herman Johnson, this is not a hypothetical metaphor; this is the reality that writing Raw Man made manifest.
Tell your story. You cannot even imagine what you could set in motion.