March 12, 2008
Local News, The (Batavia, N.Y.) Daily News,
By Ben Beagle
Thomas Mullen has done book tours, and the related readings and signings. He’s been on author panels.
But Thursday will be the first time the author of the historical fiction novel The Last Town on Earth will stand before a large audience of people who have likely read his work before his program.
So, Mullen says, he expects to be making some changes to his usual presentation.
“I really want to get more of a dialogue going with people and hear what they have to say,” he says. “I don’t want to bore people by reading a chapter that they’ve already read.”
Mullen will present four talks and book signings Thursday through Saturday as part of the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading project.
Since January, readers in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties have been reading Mullen’s debut novel and discussing the story at library-organized events, local book shops and other book discussion groups.
Now, they get to meet the author.
The first two public programs are scheduled for Thursday: 1 p.m. in Room T102 of the Conable Technology Building at Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd., Batavia; and 7 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia.
Similar programs follow at 7 p.m. Friday at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, 620 West Ave., Medina, and 2 p.m. Saturday in the auditorium at Perry Elementary/Middle School, 50 Olin Ave., Perry, the latter hosted by Perry Public Library with assistance from other Wyoming County libraries. Admission to all of the programs is free.
Also, on Friday, Mullen will meet six winners of the Tale book review contest for a lunch-time discussion at D&R Depot in Le Roy.
The Last Town on Earth tells the story of the small town of Commonwealth and the consequences of the town’s decision to quarantine itself to protect itself from the devastating 1918 flu epidemic.
The main characters are faced with unexpected moral and ethical decisions surrounding the quarantine. The novel is influenced by many history-shaping events, such as the unionization of workers by the Industrial Workers of the World and Liberty Bond-pitching “Four-minute Men.”
Last April, Mullen visited the state College of Technology at Canton where up to 75 students in the Character Development Reading program read the book. Mullen’s novel was selected for the program because of its timely subject matter and the moral dilemmas the characters face, said Daniel J. Sweeney, the college’s dean of students and vice president for student affairs.
“As a speaker he’s very down to earth,” Sweeney says. “The students related very easily to him. The students felt very comfortable with him.”
At Canton, Mullen talked about the book, his interest in current and historical events and how they came together in his novel, and why he writes. With the last part, Sweeney says, “students got very interested in a discussion with him.”
“They left feeling that becoming an author could be a worthwhile profession,” Sweeney says. “He’s a very lively author, and very open in telling about his successes and failures.”
AUDIO PREVIEW: To hear Thomas Mullen talk about The Last Town on Earth, his writing career and what he would have done if faced with a situation like Graham when the stranger approached, check the Tale Web site, www.taleforthreecounties.org.
Audio excerpts from the author’s interview with The Daily News are expected to be posted later today.
Twenty libraries in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties along with representatives from Genesee Community College, Genesee Valley BOCES School Library System, and the Daily News organized ”A Tale for Three Counties.” Sponsors include The Daily News, the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, the Arts Council for Wyoming County, the Bank of Castile/Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc., Wal-Mart, Genesee Community College, Burlingham Books, Genesee Valley BOCES and Friends of Richmond Memorial Library. Additional funding is provided from nearly a dozen library Friends groups and businesses. The complete list can be found online at www.taleforthreecounties.org.