“No Fortunate Son” Review – A Compelling Story Set in the Sixties

When a friend mentioned that a friend of hers had self-published a book and it is currently available in bookstores and on Amazon, in hard cover, paper back and as an e-book, I wanted to know more about it.  When she said it took place in the sixties at Berkeley and Harvard, I was intrigued.  I remember those days and in No Fortunate Son, Philip Michaels makes you a part of those days. It isn’t often that I find a book I can’t put down and feel a loss when I finish because the characters have become my friends.  No Fortunate Son is that kind of book.


I found the book interesting in several ways: as a first novel, as an example both of a self published book and re-careering.  I shared some of the story with my walking partner and she pointed out that living through history, even the most monumental moments are hard to grasp when they become mixed with just getting from day to day; getting through school, falling in love, working, relating to family and friends, etc.  I remember the sixties through the prism of managing young children and helping my husband establish a career, which involved a series of moves to different parts of the country.  The history around us was background noise.


Patrick Golden has a very different story.  “Glancing by chance at the obituary section which until then had been concealed from view, he gasped when a photograph of his friend, Charles Comstock, leaped at him from the page.”  Patrick lives near San Francisco and Charles died in Boston.  And so begins a tale that is filled with intrigue as it weaves it’s way through the period of the Viet Nam War, one shocking event following the next and the young people trying to find their lives in the midst of it all.  The stories of that time come vividly to life.


At eighteen, Patrick Golden is dealing with the loss of his Irish-Catholic mother while living with his Jewish father in a working class area of San Francisco.  He is an excellent student attending Berkeley and rooming with Charles Comstock, wealthy, brilliant and worldly.  In the summer of 1968 Charles persuaded Patrick to find a way to go to Boston with him and attend Harvard for summer school.  Patrick somehow persuades his father who is very reluctant to let him go.  While there he meets a class of people he has never met before. They are wealthy and politically powerful, some conservative, some liberal.  Most importantly, he meets Morgan Thackeray, a beautiful, free- spirited woman, whom Charles has grown up with.  Patrick and Morgan’s story kept me on the edge of my seat.  It is a great read for anyone who experienced the sixties.  Those who didn’t will relate to the experience of being young and in love.


I asked Philip Michaels:


The reason he wrote the book.


“I wrote No Fortunate Son for two reasons: First, I have a passion for writing, and I always wished I had gotten into writing rather than finance, which, although it was rewarding financially, never quite floated my boat in a psychic or intellectual sense. Going to the office was never a great joy for me, but, when I'm writing, I can't pull myself away from the keyboard. Second, No Fortunate Son was a book, which for many years, I felt I had gestating within me waiting to be born; writing it was like reliving the sixties—a particularly exciting time in my life—and my youth. It's hard to describe some of the emotions I felt writing it, but it was, I think, the same feeling you get when an especially pleasant memory crosses your mind. “


How long it took him to write the book.

“I began No Fortunate Son in 2006. It took me a long time to think through a suitable ending.  All in all, I worked on it, on and off, for about six years. “


Why he chose to self-publish his book.


“I self-published because it's virtually impossible to get a literary agent, much less a publisher, to take an interest in the first novel of a writer.  Agent after agent sent me form letters saying pretty much the same thing: "We like the concept and quality of your work, but we're not taking on new writers of fiction at this time..."


I am so glad he decided to make this book available for so many to enjoy.


No Fortunate Son is available from iUniverse at : www.iuniverse.com, through your local bookseller or preferred on-line retailer.


Photos:  Courtesy of Philip Michaels

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