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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-0-307-42974-2
Published by : Vintage Knopf

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On Sale: July 08, 2003
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

If you’re one of those crying-to-your-shrink-cause-your-childhood-was-SO-hard type of people, you should probably read #1 New York Times Bestselling author Mick Foley’s fiction debut, Tietam Brown, for a reality check. Even if you’re not one of them, stop your whining and pick up the damn thing anyway.

Atietam “Andy” Brown is a seventeen year-old with a busted hand, and a missing ear. He’s arrived at his father’s house to start life anew after being raised alternately in foster homes and juvenile detention centers where his life hung by a thread on more than one occasion. With this fresh start in hand he hopes he’s got a shot at completing his childhood like a normal kid. But when he realizes that his father’s favorite activities are naked beer-guzzling weight lifting, and sleeping with his classmate’s mothers, well, let’s just say his prospects for the future are once again dimmed. That is, until he finds out that Terri, the hottest cheerleader in school, likes him. (Nice work, Andy!)

Funnier than professional wrestling and smarter than nuclear physics, Tietam Brown is sure to pin you for a three-count to your reading chair.

Excerpt

October 23, 1985

She had wanted me to kiss her. No doubt about it. The realization hit me as I navigated my dad's '79 Fairmont through the back roads of Conestoga, New York, a small town about thirty miles south of Binghamton.

To tell the truth, a high school senior with one functioning hand really had no business operating a motor vehicle in the first place, let alone a one-functioning-hand high school senior without a license or even a half a thimbleful of experience behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, my father had refused to drive me. Not out of meanness, however--no, my dad felt like he was doing me a favor. "Hey Andy, a kid only goes on one first date," he'd said. "You've gotta make it count. Besides, kid, it's kind of tough to cop a feel in the backseat when you've got your old man behind the wheel." Maybe it was that last bit of paternal sentiment that sold me on the driving idea, and at approximately 7:40 p.m. on a cool autumn evening, I held the door open for Miss Terri Lynn Johnson as she slipped ever so gracefully into the cracked burgundy interior of the piece-of-crap Fairmont that my dad had insisted on lending me. No, a feel was not copped on that night, nor was one even attempted, but that didn't make the night any less glorious, because after all . . . she had wanted me to kiss her. And that was a fact, or at least a pretty strong gut feeling that was worth celebrating . . . with music.

A red light at the intersection of Elm and Broadhurst, only a half a mile from Conestoga High, where I'd met Terri only six weeks earlier, gave me the respite from my driving duties that was necessary in selecting the perfect postrevelatory music. Unfortunately, even a red-light respite isn't much good when trying to fumble with some clunky old eight-tracks with a hand that hasn't closed, clasped, grabbed, or done anything meaningful since Gerald Ford was in office.

I had barely managed to clear my dad's blue fuzzy dice from the glove box when the light turned green. Yeah, my dad had fuzzy dice all right, only they didn't usually reside in the glove box. No, those bad boys swung proudly from the rearview, and served to separate my dad's machine from all other pieces-of-crap '79 Fairmonts on the road. So with the light instructing me to go, and a late-model Ford pickup truck's blaring horn adding to the urgency of such a moment, I reached into the glove box with my left hand, the good hand, and pulled out the first eight-track I felt. Then, with a hint of defiance, I popped that mother in, pushed my curly dark hair back in the general vicinity of where my right ear used to be, and stepped on the gas, as the opening strains of Barry Manilow Live drowned out both the horn of the Ford and the shouts of the driver within.

What's wrong? Oh you don't think Barry is appropriate for such an occasion? Sure, it might not have been my first choice, or even in my top couple hundred. And true, the sky blue jumpsuit Barry sported on the cover of the live album, or eight-track in this case, may have been a tad inappropriate. But don't try denying that "Mandy" and "Could It Be Magic" are classic compositions that still hold up well today. Jumpsuit or no jumpsuit, they held up just fine on that night in 1985, and as my voice joined Barry's in belting out, "Baby, I love you now, now, now, and hold on fast, could this be the magic at last," I reflected back on what was at that point the greatest night of my young life.

Terri was several leagues out of my ballpark. Not that I was a horrible-looking guy or anything, but a missing ear and a useless hand tend to cramp a guy's style at that age, and the style-cramping perpetuated itself in an awkward shyness that had invited a lifetime of bullies to boost their self-esteem, or at least try to, at my expense. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes, as I'll explain later, they didn't. Come to think of it, a lifetime of foster homes, orphanages, and juvenile detention centers hadn't done a whole lot for my sense of self, either.

Terri, on the other hand, was drop-dead gorgeous. Just a beautiful creature. Her beauty was beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair, ivory skin, and eyes of emerald green. Actually, that description is straight out of the Dolly Parton song "Jolene," but that was Terri. Statuesque, but not slutty like some of the other girls who graced Conestoga's halls, she carried herself with a maturity that belied her years. It was really only on game days, when the cheerleading squad sported their official blue-and-orange Conestoga cheerleading sweaters, that her physical attributes really screamed for attention. And in doing so, made me think of the word "maturity" in a whole new light.

She literally could have had her pick of any boy she wanted. Any man for that matter. Her father headed up the local Assembly of God, where his fiery demeanor and hell-and-brimstone sermons contrasted sharply with her gentle nature and overall acceptance of everyone not as fortunate as herself--which pretty much meant everyone.

Her father's vocation, combined with her natural gifts, had given birth to a rather unusual challenge that was spoken of in almost reverent tones among the boys at Conestoga High. No one, it seemed, had gotten into Terri Johnson's pants, or for that matter anywhere even remotely close. Personally, I found the whole subject of Terri's pants to be disrespectful. A creature as beautiful as she deserved better than to have her pants, and what was underneath them, a subject of horny teenage speculation, let alone a prize to be claimed.

How we got together is beyond me. It was actually all her doing. It was she who laughed at my first dumb joke in Mr. Hanrahan's social studies class. It was she who had gone out of her way to say "Hi Andy" in the halls. It was she who insisted on studying together in the library, where she showed off such unique talents as wiggling her nose and ears while I fell hopelessly in love. I know, you're not supposed to fall that quickly, and that the L word should be used sparingly, if at all, during the high school years. But in the fall of 1985 with Terri Lynn Johnson in the library, between the wiggling nose and ears and the sweater, and the wonders that lie beneath the blue-and-orange wool, my heart offered very little resistance. I was a goner. A one-eared, one-handed goner.

And in the one day it took from when Terri asked me to the movies until the entire student body of Conestoga High found out, I went from being a nobody to being the most hated kid in school.

Sure, it was Terri who had laid the foundation for that first date, but in my own defense, it was I who acted on it, and went into overdrive in order to give this vision of loveliness a date she would never forget. The other young lovers were heading to the new mall over by the river, to "the Seven Valley Twelve," as the theaters were officially known, but I had different plans. The Twelve may have been new, enriched with stereophonic sound and equipped with a state-of-the-art snack bar that served different foods from around the globe, but it didn't have the character of the century-old Lincoln Theater, named after, you got it, President Lincoln, who would soon go on to play an unlikely but important role in my life. Yes, when it came to a first date, nothing came close to character as a prerequisite. Except for price, which of course was miles ahead of that whole character thing, especially for a guy who'd come into town with exactly nineteen bucks to his name. My financial woes looked to be easing soon, courtesy of a glamorous minimum-wage dishwashing job at Frank 'n' Mary's diner, a venerable establishment that was home to a myriad of small-town life-forms, from blue-collar locals, to drunk college kids, to on-the-road truckers who needed a little shot of caffeine or cholesterol.

So with my finances in mind, the Lincoln's 85-cent admission made even the specter of seeing Rambo: First Blood Part II on a first date sound pretty good. The Lincoln's price policy, you see, was derived directly from whatever year happened to be taking place. In 1984, the price was 84 cents; in '85, it was 85. Guess what it was in '83? If you guessed 83 cents you'd be wrong. Back in '83 when the Lincoln was still the only game in town, a flick cost four bucks, but with the advent of the multiplex, the ancient cinematic institution was forced to make changes to survive. They stopped showing first-run movies. They lowered their prices. They cut down on the variety of candy and on the freshness of the popcorn. And they stopped doing the little things, like cleaning the floor.

So the result after spending $1.70 on two admissions, and the total of $3.50 on two Cokes and a medium popcorn that we decided we'd share, I escorted the most beautiful girl I had ever seen into a dingy cave of a theater, where she would see a plethora of people perish on-screen in the ensuing ninety-five minutes. But her smile never waned, and she somehow managed to be the picture of class, even as a previously chewed piece of gum formed a bond with her designer jeans, and her slim and gorgeous feet got acquainted with a floor that had known no mop in quite some time.

My mind began to wander at about the time the eleventh person died in the first coming-attraction preview. My father had been so happy for me on the eve of my first date. He had wanted to make sure that everything was perfect. The car had been a very nice gesture, fuzzy dice or no fuzzy dice. "Andy, my boy," he'd said with a big grin and an "I've got a secret" wink in his eye, and a secretive hand held behind his back. "Hold out your hand and close your eyes and I'll give you a big surprise." So I held out my hand and closed my eyes, and I'll be damned if my father didn't give me a big surprise. "Just a little something to make sure that you and your girl have a good time tonight," he said with a laugh that sounded as if it had been lifted from a used car salesman.

When I first closed my hand around my dad's surprise and felt the rustle and crinkle, I had a premonition that a ten-dollar bill had found its way into my hand. My premonition was wrong. A ten-dollar bill would have placed me and Terri inside the Seven Valley Twelve, where people on the screen might actually do things besides kill each other. A ten-dollar bill would have spared Terri the union of her ass and a wad of chewing gum. But it was not to be.

I moved my foot slightly and found it nearly glued to the floor. At that point I experienced what can only be called a flashback, as the sticking of my shoe at the Lincoln gave way to the memory of the sticking of my shoe at the Pussycat Cinema in eastern Pennsylvania two months earlier, although I'd be willing to bet that the substances causing the stickiness were altogether different.

The Pussycat had been my dad's idea, when he showed up at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center near Richmond on my seventeenth birthday, after an absence from my life of only sixteen years and nine months. I'd received a postcard a few months earlier that in its entirety read, "See you in a few . . . Dad." A few. I had no idea what "a few" meant, so I waited a few hours, then a few days, then a few months, and then finally, on the day of my release, without a clue as to what to do with the rest of my life, I set eyes on my father, Antietam Brown IV. "Come on, kid," was all he said. "I'm taking you home."

I had no idea the "home" of which he spoke meant Conestoga, New York. Home to me had always been Virginia, with the exception of my life's first three months, which had been spent in a suburb of Tampa, until my dad got tired of the Mr. Mom routine and shipped me off.

We drove on through Maryland that first night, with my dad insisting that I drink my first beer, and then my second, and so on and so forth until I was so drunk that his words became increasingly incoherent, which was probably a good thing. He said nothing about his work, and even less about my mom, opting instead to spend our inaugural night together regaling me with details about his past sexual conquests. As the miles flew by and the beers, at his urging, flew south, those details became fuzzier and fuzzier, until the fuzzy dice started spinning in unison with my stomach and I mustered the fortitude to blurt out, "Pull over," which my dad did a split second before those birthday beers came barreling up my throat, and into the green grass and wildflowers that bordered that particular section of Highway 95.

"Thatta boy," my dad laughed as the vomiting process reached its conclusion, and a thick stew of spit and puke adorned my chin, like some strange new goatee. "Never let it be said that ol' Tietam Brown doesn't know how to show his son a good time!" Then, after a pause, "I'm proud of you, boy," with a rugged slap on the back for added emphasis.

The Pussycat Cinema was the first thing I saw when I awoke that next day. "Look over there, kid," my dad said as the Fairmont screeched to a stop, kicking up a cloud of dust and jolting me awake to find that I was in the middle of nowhere, with a massive headache and the vile taste of stale vomit to remind me of my Happy Birthday.

"Where?" I asked, which seemed an appropriate response, as from my vantage point, all I could see was a ramshackle trailer enhanced by the timeless beauty of a rusted-out Pinto on cement blocks on display in what passed for a front yard. "Not there, kid . . . there," he said, and with that he was out the door and headed for the Pussycat at a trot. I followed suit, afraid to be seen but a little intrigued.


From the Hardcover edition.
Mick Foley|Author Q&A

About Mick Foley

Mick Foley - Tietam Brown

Photo © Joyce Ravid

Mick Foley grew up in East Setauket, New York. He is the author of Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker Than Wrestling and Have a Nice Day!: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks, as well as three children’s books. He wrestled professionally for fifteen years and was a three-time WWE champion. He lives with his wife and four children on Long Island.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Mick Foley
Author of TIETAM BROWN

Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to try your hand at writing?

A:
I had always enjoyed writing when I was younger, but I didn’t really give any serious thought to it until my proposed autobiography was not coming out as well as I had hoped. I told the ghostwriter that I would like to give the opening chapter a shot by myself. I thought I did a pretty good job, and more importantly, had a great time doing it. So I convinced my publisher that I could do the whole thing myself. It turned out to be quite a blessing, because my wrestling career was coming to an end and I really had no idea what to do with the rest of my professional life.

Q:You have written two works of autobiography and two children’s books. When did you know you wanted to write a novel and where did you get the idea for TIETAM BROWN?

A:
After two autobiographies, I thought I had pretty much exhausted people’s interest in my life. I really thought writing children’s books was going to be my place in the literary world. I‘d considered writing a novel, but it seemed like rocket science to me. However after reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, I found myself thinking:“I can do this.” I had just seen the movie Affliction, and was blown away by the father played by James Coburn. So for the next year, I found myself thinking constantly about a father-son story of my own.

Q:There is a lot of rage and violence in this novel but also a lot of humor and ultimately the novel seems to be about forgiveness. Would you say that is an accurate assessment?

A:
I had planned to start this book on September 1, 2001. Had I done so, it probably would have been a story about revenge, because that’s what had been running through my mind for that past year. After September 11, however, I found myself drawn to writing a story about a kid who has hope, even though his life hasn’t been very kind. The first draft of Tietam Brown probably used the word forgiveness a hundred times. My editor,Vicky Wilson, thought I was kind of hitting the reader over the head with it, and encouraged me to let the reader come to their own conclusions instead of force-feeding them my own. So, yes I feel it is definitely a story about forgiveness.

Q:TIETAM BROWN is in many ways a coming of age novel about a teenage boy trying to put his violent past behind him. You have a lot of fans about Tietam’s age and also have done a lot of work with children. Is this character informed by your own work with kids?

A:
The narrator of Tietam Brown is really just me pretending I’d been through some pretty bad things. A lot of non-wrestling fans actually enjoyed my autobiographies because they liked the voice it was written in. So, on my first stab at fiction, I figured I’d just keep that same voice.

Q:You share something with your main character—or lack of something I should say. I would be referring to the ear. How much of Mick Foley is in TIETAM BROWN?

A:
I lost my ear nine years ago, and people still want to take a look at it. So, I figured I’d give the missing ear trait to Andy, who, as an awkward teenager probably wouldn’t find it quite as cool as wrestling fans do.

Also, I talk to a lot of schools about literacy and bullying and have a lot of sympathy for kids who are picked on just because they look a little different. I was actually pretty sensitive about my knocked out teeth until my wife came along and told me it looked sexy. So that’s the feeling I was looking for when Terri gives Andy’s stub a kiss.

Q:Tietam’s father, also Tietam, is quite a character; a man with a dark past and some strange pastimes most notably his card game/ body-building/beer-drinking routine (not to mention the basement panty collection.) Where did the inspiration for this character come from?

A:
I think Tietam Brown, the father, is an amalgamation of many different wrestlers I knew during my 16 years on the road. I used to envy the guys who got all the girls, and loved to hear the stories of their conquests. Over time, however, I began to see that none of them seemed truly happy, and that many of their lives were sad and quite pathetic. By treating every woman like garbage, they kind of created their own self-fulfilling prophecy.

I see the father as a guy who desperately wants to believe in love, but doesn’t react well to the challenges real emotion brings. The idea of exercising nude came directly from stories about a wrestler who did that very thing.

Q:Your characters are named after the battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Fitting for what ultimately happens between them. Where did that bit of inspired naming come from?

A:
As much as the story is about forgiveness, I think it’s also about the ramifications of not being able to forgive. I lived in different parts of the South for 14 years, and came to know many people who still hadn’t quite come to terms with what happened in the Civil War 140 years earlier. I wanted Tietam, the father, to hold that kind of grudge, and I wanted that trait to haunt him. I gave him a name that would remind him of that grudge every single day. Plus, I thought the name sounded cool.

Q:Tietam Brown, Senior has a murky past—part of which involves a career as a wrestler in the South during the 1960s. Why did you decide to incorporate wrestling in this novel and how much of your own experience as a professional wrestler informs this part of the novel?

A:
I had always enjoyed reading about U.S. history, especially the Civil War. After a few years of serious Civil War reading, it seemed like a natural progression to learn about the civil rights era. When I did so, it occurred to me that several of my older wrestling friends had lived through that era in the deep south. I’d known these people for years, but never heard the subject mentioned. All it took was a couple of questions for me to feel like I was experiencing that time through their stories. I found the whole thing fascinating, and decided to make Tietam Brown, the father, a pioneer of sorts in the field of civil rights, which makes his descent into shallowness and perversion all the more intriguing to his son, once he decides to uncover his father’s past.

Q:What made you want to explore all the joys and pitfalls of the father son relationship?

A:
I don’t really know.

Q:Reading about Tietam and Terri brings to mind all the trials and tribulations of that big teenage first love. Was that a nostalgic part of the writing process for you as well?

A:
I think I was lucky in the sense that I had very few romantic moments growing up, so I tended to grab onto the few I had inside my mind. There was no big jumble of experiences to confuse me. So in writing about Andy and Terri, I was calling upon a few of those memories, and making up others that I really wished had been real. I actually developed quite a crush on my own fictional character.

Q:I heard that one of your wrestling names, “Mankind,” was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Who are some of the other writers that have most influenced your work—both in and out of the ring?

A:
I loved Shelly’s depiction of the monster created by a man—a “bad guy” who deep down isn’t bad. I like those gray areas, including “good guys” who aren’t all that good. I always enjoy Jonathon Kellerman’s books, especially his psychological accounts of why the “bad guy” becomes bad.

I’m a big fan of Stephen King—especially the non-horror stuff. I think The Body (later turned into Stand By Me) is one of the greatest coming of age stories I’ve read, because of its likeable narrator. I love Catcher in the Rye’s narrator too. He is so likeable that he makes the reader overlook the fact that nothing really happens in the book. I enjoy John Irving for his offbeat style but Gregory McGuire’s Wicked is a favorite of mine, maybe because he makes the Wicked Witch of the West not only a heroine, but a sexy one as well.

Actually, I think the biggest influence on my writing style is the 16 years I created inside the wrestling world. Those 16 years also gave me access to a cast of characters that no writer could dream up.

Praise

Praise

“A dark and violent, funny and sweet coming-of-age story.” –The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“It makes you laugh so hard sometimes it makes you cry. . . . Tietam Brown announces the coming of a promising novelist of the American obscene.” –Chicago Tribune

“Rollicking, violent, and sometimes uproariously funny. . . . Frighteningly readable.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

Tietam Brown is a disturbing coming-of-age story filled with gut-wrenching violence that makes the soulful musings of Holden Caulfield seem unbearably saccharin and ridiculously over-privileged by comparison.” –Baltimore Sun

“[Foley] has found a ring of truth in the world of books. . . . he has created a work of fiction that is part grotesque, part noir and part cautionary tale on the evils of bad parenting.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Surprisingly moody. . . . Marked with brilliant imagery and a dark, yet melodic, story.” –Pittsburgh Live

“Compulsively readable. . . . [Foley] knows how to weave an intriguing if somewhat offbeat tale.” –Library Journal

Tietam Brown is both entertaining and disturbing, both a coming-of-age novel and a mystery of character, both funny and tragically sad.” –Charlotte Observer

Tietam Brown, a strange mix of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, is definitely not for the faint of heart. . . . [A] sad and disturbing tale.” –Bookpage

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