One thing that pleases us even more than hearing from a baby boomer who has written a first novel is hearing from one who has written a second. Today, that would be Alan Kirby of Ojai, California. Writing, he says, is his passion in retirement. So he is pursuing it. And succeeding.

My first novel, In the Shadow of the Water Tower, was featured in BoomerCafé in November 2014. After a long career in higher education, I decided it was time to pursue my passion for writing. The two protagonists in the story were a couple of brothers in their mid-60s who were called back to their Indiana hometown to oversee a friend’s estate which was intended to benefit the town. Those who know me, can see my brother and me in the story.

Recent college grads “Detective Cooper” (center) and “Professor Kelly” in the mid-70’s. Cooper was Alan’s college roommate. The name of the fellow on the left is lost to time.

That first effort was well received by baby boomers who wrote and expressed satisfaction at seeing older characters spinning tales of their youth while matching wits with a variety of younger, ambitious citizens. I quickly realized that the axiom of “write what you know” applied to my new career. I knew what it was like growing up and returning to a small town in the Midwest, since the story of two brothers was modeled after my own life, and I was painfully well acquainted with morphing into “an older guy.”

So I thought I’d now pass along my latest effort to write about what I know, in the hope that it will appeal to folks in my age group. I understand quite a bit about life in a university environment and, for better or worse, I certainly view the world around me through the eyes of a boomer.

Alan Kirby today.

In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower — the title of this second novel deliberately plays off the first one — is a story about a prestigious west coast university under violent armed attack from an unknown assailant, and it’s also under assault from a group of student protestors. Threats and attacks on the community occur every few days to challenge the campus leadership. Principles of diversity, inclusion, and free speech are threatened as the university struggles to maintain control. Readers will gain an insider’s knowledge of current university issues while they become immersed in the mystery impacting the campus.

Darren Kelly, a professor of Counseling Psychology, and Detective Jake Cooper, are part of a campus Threat Assessment Team that attempts to identify the attacker and release his chaotic grip on their community. The recently reunited former college roommates Kelly and Cooper find that matching wits with a potential sociopath isn’t exactly how they thought they would be spending their time at this peaceful, idyllic campus. This was supposed to be a quiet final chapter in their careers where they could once again enjoy their friendship in a collegiate setting— and this time, with paychecks provided by the university.

With humor and persistence, the duo are up to the challenge as they apply their skills and experience to once again prove that “seasoned” professionals can still add value to a task. It’s a story about the protagonists’ need to remain relevant, particularly inside the youth-driven bubble of a university environment. Maybe that’s what most of us baby boomers are looking for to some extent: finding a way to maintain relevance as we shift lifestyle gears. I enjoyed writing it.


Alan’s book, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower, is available at Amazon.


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