Native Toledoan chronicles the American West in new bookWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jay Hathaway
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
For many writers, the journey toward a finished novel is often long, laborious and unpredictable. Toledo native Len Francis Monahan’s path was no different, and it eventually led him into the American West.
Monahan will release his novel, “Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers,” on Feb. 14, through Greta Fox Publishing. It is the first installment in a series of Western comedies.
Monahan, 64, now resides in the Western U.S., but he has fond memories of his Toledo roots. He attended St. James Grade School and Libbey High School, where he was often chastised for his wandering mind.
“Daydreaming is a perfect state for a writer, it would seem,” Monahan said.
Monahan recalled renting canoes and braving the waters of the Maumee River as one of his favorite memories of youth. He also remembered being at odds with his father’s occupation.
“As I was growing up, my father worked for the City of Toledo as a ‘garbage man.’ His occupation caused me some embarrassment — such is the idiocy of youth,” Monahan said.
He eventually came to realize that his father’s intellect reached far beyond the confines of his trash removal job, and now credits him with being a vital inspiration.
“I am proud to proclaim my father as one of the most intelligent persons I have ever known. He was, in fact, himself a writer, and inspired me toward that profession,” Monahan said.
Long before realizing his own potential as a scribe, Monahan pursued his education at the University of Toledo, where he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and philosophy. From there, he set out on a trail to discover his calling.
“While in Toledo, I worked as a Merchant Marine, a spray painter for Kaiser Jeep, a psychiatric tech, a full-time musician and some other jobs I have tried to forget,” Monahan said.
In 1978, he married Elaine Welling. Monahan called his marriage “the most fortuitous event” of his life.
Throughout the 1980s, Monahan began discovering his worth as a musician, as well.
“During that period, I wrote songs with an obsession and made my first professional recordings, ‘Being Alone for Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Lullaby.’ These songs played all over the United States, England, Australia and some other countries,” Monahan said.
Though he was encouraged by the success, he was still hesitant to attempt a career in music.
“I continued to do a bit more recording, but stopped completely until 1988 when I released ‘Another Road.’ That song jumped to No. 48 on the national independent charts, and I decided to release ‘Tapping at Your Window,’ which popped onto the Top 100 Country Charts in Cashbox magazine and achieved No. 27 on the independent charts,” Monahan said.
In 1989, he and Elaine decided to move westward, and settled into California’s Bay Area. Monahan struggled to find other musicians there who were serious about recording.
“In terms of my music career, I guess I was much better off in Toledo,” Monahan said.
Despite the disappointment, Monahan found a great deal of work in writing. He worked for a major publisher and wrote and edited articles for an estimated 5,000 national and international publications. He covered business, industry, medicine, education, law, economics, international news, U.S. military reviews and even CIA reports.
“It was a constant education,” Monahan said.
Twelve years ago, Monahan and his wife moved to the Sierra Nevada, not far from Yosemite National Park. This is where Monahan found the inspiration for his current literary endeavor.
“One evening, as I sat on a friend’s 2,000-acre ranch and watched lights belonging to the Mexican drug cartel vehicles moving up and down the mountain roads, the phrase ‘Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers’ sprang to mind,” Monahan said. “At that moment, I realized what a marvelous title it was. This is how [the series] came into being.”
The first book of the series, subtitled “McKenna and Barnett,” begins with an excerpt from a ranch hand’s diary, which tells of the events that lead to the crux of the story. The plot focuses around young protagonist Colt Barnett and his adventures as the leader of a ranch he inherited.
Kathy Lynn, who represents Greta Fox Publishing, said that the book is not designed for any specific audience, but would most likely be enjoyed by readers in the young adult group and older. She said that the novel should appeal to women, as well, since it has a strong female figure as a central character.
“It would also help if the reader has a well-developed sense of humor,” Lynn added.
As for the future, Monahan said that the second book of the series should be released in a year or so. The third and fourth books will be completed thereafter. He also plans on traveling to Alaska to research future material.
Regarding more immediate plans, Greta Fox Publishing will distribute the novel through Amazon and Barnes & Noble; it will be available for e-readers and in paperback. Greta Fox also plans to knock on Hollywood’s door.
“Presently, we are trying to develop a movie deal for the ‘Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers’ series and have some film companies looking at it,” Lynn said.
Beyond the series, Monahan said he will continue to write, not necessarily for literary glory, but because it keeps him distracted from life’s deliberations.
“I don’t claim to have talked to the spirits or breathed words into incandescent clouds. I know I will live, move on and eventually be forgotten like everyone else. No amount of writing, working, spending or owning can ever change that. So, in the meantime, I just keep myself preoccupied.”