Wealthy Madison Avenue advertising executive Andy Pettigrew's recurring dreams of inner peace and contentment center on his desperate need to love and be loved. Middle-aged and divorced, Andy laments the fact that his heart is as empty as his bank accounts are full. Dying to change things, he sets out to balance the books, eagerly boarding his vintage red and white Corvette convertible for the ride of a lifetime. What follows is an account of Andy's adventurous transformation from reality to make-believe and back again. Co-stars include a beautiful woman named Dr. Susan Jacoby, some well-known Key West spirits, a smattering of Great Lakes ghosts and an angel or two.
Read an excerpt:
A phone's shrill ring cuts through the early morning silence, shaking Andy Pettigrew awake. He lay still for several minutes, staring out the huge bedroom window off his posh penthouse apartment.
It's 7 a.m. and the sun is partially visible on the horizon as it settles in among a smattering of cirrus clouds and early morning fog. There's enough sunlight to see activity stirring on Park Avenue seven stories below. People scurry from one place to the next as traffic moves up and down the boulevard, horns beeping, lights flashing. Soon, a sea of humanity will fill the streets, swarming like ants on a large sand hill.
It's that bone-jarring vibrance that once filled Andy with excitement and wonder. Not long ago, he'd eagerly dive into the fray with the wide-eyed glee of a kid running after an ice cream truck on a hot summer day. But this morning's different. Though the landscape before him is as bright, uplifting and inspiring as it's always been, Andy's burning ambition seems to have gone up in smoke.
He rises unsteadily from his bed, more like a weary man crawling out of the surf after a lengthy swim than a top executive eager to seize the day. He steps tentatively into the morning light, wobbling like a new-born fawn. He stares out his window at the Manhattan skyline, squinting as if he's trying to find some sort of life-changing message painted on the eastern horizon. Seeing nothing of the sort, he tries to snap himself to attention, slapping his thigh like an old-time joke-telling, waving Don Quixote-like at the outside world below.
"Let the race begin and may the best person win," he says softly, with nary a hint of conviction. He chuckles at the incongruity, but his laugh is more like a shallow, nervous cackle than the robust, anxiety-busting outbursts he's known for.
"Damn," Andy says, shaking his head in frustration. Something's put the brakes on this hard-charging guy who once fearlessly drove himself like a high-powered race car, pedal-to-the-metal, eyes straight ahead, flying down the track, smoke swirling in his wake, giving his all to capture the prize.
But today, Andy looks more like an over-fed house cat than a blood-thirsty tiger. He seems stuck in neutral, reluctant to start his car let alone race it. Ambition and greed seem to have given way to a more powerful force that won't be denied, like the overwhelming pull of gravity, or the unyielding strength of an ocean tide.
Andy's learned a lot in his career, but he reckons it's what he hasn't learned that's now more important.
How could the career he's loved so deeply for so long leave him feeling so lonely and unloved? How could the riches he's amassed leave him feeling so poor? And why does the thought of facing a routine work day now fill him with fear and anxiety?
For some time, Andy has yearned to leave his velvet rut to explore the parts of life he's ignored for so many years. He dreams of taking a more meaningful journey, a journey inward in search of the true happiness he's yet to know.
For Andy, this morning's bright eastern sky just might signal a new beginning, a change he hopes will be as liberating as it is exciting. Optimism lifts his spirits, giving him the strength to go on.
As he prepares to begin this day at the office, all he can think of is leaving life on Madison Avenue, that special place where fact and fiction often crawl into bed together, creating unseemly mergers with uncertain consequences, like when spinsters make love to virgins, blurring the line between lechery and innocence, dreams and reality.
J.P. Herman won more than 40 regional, state and national awards as a reporter before being appointed top editor of the Traverse City (MI) Record-Eagle at the age of 29. He later served as a corporate news executive in New York and in various editing roles at newspapers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and New York. He was elected to the board of directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and served several times as a Pulitzer Prize juror at Columbia University in New York City. An honors graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, J.P., his wife and family live in upstate New York. They spend summers in a small Michigan town on the shores of Lake Huron. J.P. is a prolific songwriter, having penned melodies and lyrics to more than 200 songs.
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