A Good Man
Harry Ducharme is at the end of his rope. Booze and bad decisions have taken him from the A-list of talk-radio fame down to a tiny cinder-block station, WWHD in St. Augustine, Florida. He talks mostly to himself from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., not sure anybody is listening, reading books and poetry that he likes, not caring if anyone agrees with him, playing golden-oldies from the Sixties, and wondering how he got there.
Then, as a hurricane pounds north Florida, with WWHD broadcasting to a town without electricity, Harry gets a visitor just as the eye of the hurricane passes over. An old black man who calls himself a Prophet wants to borrow a Walt Whitman poem that Harry read the night before. The Prophet wants “A Noiseless Patient Spider” to be the core of his next sermon, in which he announces the imminent arrival of a New Child of God. Harry is a bit skeptical.
A Good Man thus opens between the heaves of a hurricane and ends on Election night-2008 with the revelation of that Child. Or perhaps not. Still, Harry is there, in the parking lot of a football stadium, surrounded by thousands of pilgrims, as witness to and participant in one final act of violence that might be a sign of the beginning, or the end.
The story weaves back and forth in time, revealing the history of an orphan named Harry Ducharme. From Iowa farm to Florida beach, Harry is finally surrounded by men and women with their own burdens to carry. Captain Jack Tunnel is the morning host, more right-wing than Rush, with a cranky co-host parrot named Jimmy Buffett, but also with a gentle secret life. Nora James is the mysterious “cooking woman” who broadcasts from her home kitchen, but whom nobody has ever seen. Nora cooks on-air and discusses women’s issues. Harry spends his first year in town trying to find her, only to discover that Nora’s whereabouts are a communal secret, revealed only to a select few. Carlos Friedmann has the 2–6 a.m. slot, a fourth-generation Jewish Cuban who cannot speak Spanish, but whose forte is to broadcast fake interviews with Fidel Castro. Friedmann’s great desire is to kill and cook the parrot Jimmy Buffett.
Harry had arrived in St. Augustine in November of 2000, just as the Florida governor was stealing an election for his brother. Living in a America’s oldest city, Harry reveals profound insights into American politics and history throughout A Good Man, Eventually, his role in the New Child’s arrival becomes intertwined with contemporary politics, Iraq, 9/11, old-time religion, and classic literature from writers like Flannery O’Connor and Emily Dickinson, as well as the music of Harry Chapin.
Harry Ducharme has always believed that somebody has written about him in the past. All he needs to do is find the right book or poem, and then he will understand himself. Only the reader will see how true that is.