Guest host of #litchat for Friday, March 15 is James Markert, author of A White Wind Blew.
Novels about illness and dying are often fraught with excessive emotion or didactic preaching about getting the most out of your waning life. Although James Markert’s A White Wind Blew features a doctor still grieving his wife’s death while doing penance as a physician at a lavish tuberculosis hospital during the dry 1920s, it skirts the maudlin with a poignant story about death and dying, grieving and healing, and facing sickness again.
Set in the historic Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium near Louisville, A White Wind Blew features a stellar cast of characters, beginning with Wolfgang Pike. Dr. Pike was named after his musical father’s favorite composer. But most of the patients at Waverly Hills call him Father. Before meeting his late wife, Rose, he was studying for the priesthood. After Rose’s death he reasserted his desire to be a priest and here’s where the story begins.
Fathers weighs heavily on Wolfgang. There’s God the Father whom Wolfgang believes he failed in marrying Rose, and there’s his own now dead father whom Wolfgang feels he’s failed in becoming a doctor instead of a professional musician an composer. These two failures provide the conflicts that drive Wolfgang to continue working at Waverly rather than returning to the monastery.
And then there’s Nurse Susannah. As hard as he tries, Wolfgang can’t see her as only a sister figure. When a former concert pianist, shell-shocked by the last decade’s war and his missing fingers, checks into Waverly, Wolfgang draws on his substantial musical abilities to draw the music out of the man. While doing so, he unites some of the Negro patients from the decrepit Negro hospital down the hill, with the white patients in the luxury hospital. The KKK is on the rise during the prohibition years and Waverly is not immune to the wicked infection of these masked marauders.
Wolfgang faces the dying and the dead every single day, but his real nemesis is Dr. Barker, whose jealousy over Wolfgang’s ease with the patients and gentle nurturing through music lead him to unkind acts against Wolfgang, knee-jerk decisions that disappoint and confuse everyone at Waverly.
As the last musical note is played, mysteries are revealed. Patients die and patients take the long walk out the gates cured of the scourge that was tuberculosis in those days. Wolfgang must make a decision once again whether he’s truly called to the priesthood, or destined to be a simple man serving God through medicine, music and marriage.
Markert is a novelist, screenwriter, and producer from Louisville, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville, where, in his senior year, he was honored as the school’s most outstanding history major. He won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, published by Butler Books. With Requiem’s local success, James signed with Writers House Literary Agency in New York, and the book was sold to Sourcebooks, Landmark in January 2012. Rewritten and retitled, it was released in North America in early March 2013 as A White Wind Blew. James is currently working on his next novel, The Strange Case of Isaac Crawley, a story that takes place in the late nineteenth century and involves the theater scene, a lunatic asylum, and the theatrical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… and possibly a few gaslights, cobblestones, and an eerie fog.
Markert is also the screenwriter and co-producer of the romantic tennis comedy, 2nd Serve, which had its world premiere in New York at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2012, with a national release in the summer of 2013. 2nd Serve was produced by Sundance award winner, Gill Holland, directed by Emmy-nominated Tim Kirkman, and stars Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town). Markert has recently finished another screenplay, From Weed-2-Seed, a drama/comedy about fresh and fast food, and is currently working on a historical horse racing film. His comedy short film, Swimming for Rio: The Jimmy Chaser Story is due to be shot sometime in 2013.
Follow James Markert on Twitter: @JamesMarkert.