December 31, 2011
Cortland featured in novel
Jerome Antil has only spent a handful of years living in the Cortland area, but those years were important.
The retired marketer, a resident of Dallas, Texas, and Manhattan, mined his childhood for his latest book, “The Pompey Hollow Book Club,” which will be published in hardcover format in the spring.
“It’s a fun story, a fun read. The book was inspired by real things,” he said. “Some of the names and places are real but it is fiction. It’s dramatized events and situations,” he said in email and telephone interviews.
The book, published this month by Little York Books, an independent press Antil is a principal in, is being distributed through Ingram and Baker & Taylor through Pathway Books, he said. The book, 12 years in the making, is available now in paperback at www.amazon.com and on Kindle and Nook as EBooks. It is being donated to middle schools across New York State.
Geared for the whole family, it follows a Cortland boy about 10, whose family moves to the country, or “the woods,” and the adventures he and his friends have as members of the Pompey Hollow Book Club. The kids take on the causes of the weak or innocent, enlisting the help of older 12- and 14-year-old boys who drive, and even solve a crime, all against the backdrop of a society dealing with World War II.
During World War II, there was no television, Antil said. People think that the Vietnam war, where the U.S. lost 50,000 troops, was big. World War II saw the loss of 70 million people and spanned the entire globe, he said.
“When you are 2 to 6 years old and you’re listening to this, it’s scary, scary stuff on the radio,” he said.
He would hear Morse code signals over the radio, ships talking to each other. It seemed as if everyone on the streets wore a uniform. Crosses would be placed on houses where a soldier was killed. He remembers sugar and gas rations, and the reality of people contracting polio.
“I use throughout the entire book, how our character was developed and inspired by World War II,” he said.
And yet the kids are innocent: “We do funny things, like the folks that want to butcher geese and chickens for the holiday, we save them. It’s all fun,” Antil said.
Antil lived on Helen Avenue in Cortland and spent his kindergarten and first grade at St. Mary’s School on North Main Street.
His father, Michael C. Antil Sr., was a full partner with his friend Albert J. Durkee in Durkee’s bakery, up until Durkee’s death in 1949, he said. That wasn’t an emphasis in the book. But his father bought a county park in 1938, Delphi Falls, and after the war his parents converted the Delphi Falls dance hall into a home, Antil said. This was the era he was writing about.
“Since my youth, I’ve only wanted to be a writer. I had my dad’s gift for storytelling. When my daughter was turning 13, she suggested I write books, and stories. When I asked her if she remembered any of my stories, the next morning she produced four sheets of paper with the subject outline for 42 stories I had told her. That convinced me. My daughter is now 28 and my novel is dedicated to her.”
Antil plans to be in Central New York in the summer to promote the book.
His first published work was “Handbook for Weekend Dads ... and Anytime Grandparents,” which is doing well on Kindle and Amazon sales, he said. “I consider it a very important work,” he said. It is based on his own experiences as a dedicated father, despite being divorced.
Area residents who read “Pompey Hollow Book Club” will note local references to Leonard’s Coffee Shop, the shoe shine parlor next to the Community Restaurant, St. Mary’s Church and School, the old Midway Diner “which I call Bucky’s Diner in the book, as it was owned by Bucky Carr, a friend of my dad’s.”
He also uses “shout outs” of “Holy Cobako!”
“Cobako was a competitor baking company in Cortland. We always had fun when we would drive past a competitor baking company in Cortland. ... My dad would have us hold our noses and blow a strawberry with out tongues at it. It was a fond memory — and every single Cobako bread driver knew dad and would laugh and wave back.”
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