By Jay Mullen
As he walked around town at the time of Granville’s 40th High School Reunion two summers ago, Philip Brown decided to look at all the things he recalled as a child. He even brought his four kids to the places that filled him with great love.
One such place was Hicks Orchard.
As Brown showed his kids where he had grown up and reminisced about his love for Granville, he realized that in this new chapter of his life he could show appreciation for his hometown.
“In my own small way, I could do something for Granville,” he said.
On Monday, Aug. 17, Brown’s debut novel, “It Gives You Strength,” will be available to the public.
After retiring from practicing law in New York City and Honolulu, Hawaii, he and his wife moved to Colorado in 2017. He wrote the book while his wife practiced medicine at a local hospital in Colorado and raising their children.
The book is a science-fiction, historical fiction and fantasy mash-up set in upstate New York during prohibition in 1926.
The primary setting is Granville and Whitehall.
Brown graduated from Granville in 1978. He was born and raised in Granville, and even played football, basketball and baseball for the school.
He still remembers the rivalry between the two neighboring towns when it comes to sports.
“You’re probably aware Granville and Whitehall are archrivals in sports,” he said.
From there he went on to secure his B.A. in History and Political Science from Le Moyne College in 1982 and his J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law in 1985.
The story’s two main protagonists are Tashan Zho, an alien anthropologist, and Mike Kelly, a World War I veteran and leader of a group of bootleggers. These two fictional characters find themselves interacting with real historical figures, such as mobster Jack “Legs” Diamond, World War heroine Edith Cavell and heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.
The novel is a work of fiction, albeit historical fiction. Brown used the internet to check his historical facts and make sure he was in the ballpark, but doesn’t want people getting the wrong idea.
“This is a work of fiction,” he said with a chuckle. “I did not need to verify facts, there are no facts in this book.”
There may not be any facts, but Brown does use some real locations from the Granville and Whitehall areas.
Brown said that the Whitehall Armory is a huge part of the book. The armory is used to practice boxing, among other things.
While doing his research Brown found that ironically the armory is used for something similar today.
“Now I guess they privatized it and they’ve sold it and someone uses it to have professional wrestling matches,” he said with a laugh.
Another event that he experienced growing up that made its way into the novel was the Volunteer Firemen’s Carnival. “Those of us who grew up in Granville the highlight of our summer was the Volunteer Fireman’s Carnival,” he said.
Brown said that to his recollection East Potter Avenue was the location of the carnival. Although his book takes place in 1926 he said that there used to be something similar to this event before he was born.
“I just called it ‘The Carnival’ and I put my memories of what the carnival looked like,” he said.
Chapter five titled “The Carnival” is where this all takes place. This is where Zho meets Kelly for the first time in the novel.
Brown is proud of where he grew up and said that he owes everything in his life and the person he has become to Granville.
“It built my ego into someone who is very strong and proud, and it allowed me to achieve a lot in my life,” he said. “I believe it was all because of Granville.”
Brown hasn’t been able to get back to his hometown as often as he would like. But he still has family connections to the area. His brother lives in Queensbury and his sister lives in Poultney, Vermont.
Anyone who lives in Granville and reads this novel will be very happy, according to Brown.
“This is my love letter to Granville,” he said. “There isn’t one bad word in this novel about Granville because I don’t have a bad word to say about Granville.”
For anyone interested in picking up this novel, the cheapest way to do it is by pre-ordering the e-book through Amazon prior to its release on Aug. 17. The cost is just $2.99.