“Way to go slow, John. Senator Kennedy was shot. You and some other people were also wounded by the assassin.”

“No, no, no!” I yelled. “Bobby was shot? No, not this time! This wasn’t supposed to happen! Assassin? Is Senator Kennedy going to be all right?” 

— From Dreams That Never Were by Greg Messel

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and lives on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, with his wife, Jean DeFond. Dreams That Never Were is his 11th novel and is a historical fiction account of a young reporter caught up in the events surrounding the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Greg has also written a series of mystery novels set in San Francisco in the 1950s. He has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. Greg won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a colunist and has contributed articles to various magazines.

Book Description:

“Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why? I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?” — Robert F. Kennedy

June 5, 1968:  Senator Robert F. Kennedy, then a candidate for President and victorious in the California primary, was mortally wounded by assassin Sirhan Sirhan as he exited the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  Innocent bystanders were also wounded, including young and idealistic Alex Hurley, a San Francisco reporter.

Swept up in the turbulent events of 1968, Alex is captivated both by the Presidential race and by Vietnam, where he had recently been a war correspondent.  His time in Vietnam had cost him his marriage and bitterly separated him from his own family.

Recovering from his wounds—physical and emotional—a new and surprising love restores his hope.

Part political thriller, part romance, Alex Hurley’s story in “Dreams That Never Were,” captures the turmoil of the day, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and America’s wrenching response to it. This novel is the latest historical fiction from award winning author Greg Messel.

Welcome, Greg!  Your new historical fiction sounds thrilling! Can you tell us why a new genre for you?

Greg: I personally read a lot of books about politics and history. It’s a natural leap to historical fiction. I think it’s a fascinating dynamic when ordinary people are caught up in extraordinary events. The events of 1968, many of which I witnessed up close, have always had a profound impact on me. Several ’50th Anniversary”’ moments in the last couple of years have caused me to reflect on 1968. Last year I got to go to Arlington National Cemetery, and I spent some time at Bobby Kennedy’s grave. I thought of the profound loss we all experienced when he was killed. I wanted to capture the loss of hope and idealism I felt so profoundly.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters?

Greg:My main protagonist is Alex Hurley. He’s a young newspaper reporter who covers the Kennedy campaign throughout Oregon and California in the spring of 1968. He is also wounded when Robert Kennedy is shot. The cloud of the Vietnam War hangs heavily over the entire arc of the story. The book speaks to the loss of innocence and idealism in our lives. Alex meets a woman as he convalesces from his wounds. She helps him retake the reins and return to his work and to a new future.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?

Greg:After Alex suffers the trauma of being just a few feet from Senator Kennedy when he’s shot and then to be wounded himself, he has physical and emotion wounds that need to be healed. It is then that Lisa O’Dowd comes into his life. As she drives him away from the hospital in the warm southern California sunshine, he looks at her and says he feels reborn.  That’s my intent. Thios is the moment in the story when Alex begins to re-emerge and becomes a different person. I hope readers will be hooked by then. I think the trauma of the assassination is pretty gripping in the opening chapters of the book.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Greg:I spend a lot of time after my first draft of a new novel, proofread and polishing. I probably did four or five complete reviews of this book. Then when I’m confident in my product I turn it over to the professional editor. When I first started writing books I was given this advice—spend your money on a good, thorough editor. I’m fully convinced that is great advice.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Greg:Absolutely. I’ve been blessed with beautiful covers from my publishing support group. I think my books have great covers and “Dreams That Never Were” is no exception. If you need to convincing just go to a book signing or observe readers picking up your book at a bookstore. You probably have less than 30 seconds to connect with the reader so they get interested in your book.  The first thing they do is read the back cover. But it’s the front cover which somehow motivated them to pick it up initially.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

Greg:If someone had stopped me when I was a little boy and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, ‘I want to be a newspaper reporter.’ I covered events and sports for my hometown papers as a stringer when I was in high school. I was also the sports editor of my high school paper. After college I got a job as a reporter at a daily newspaper covering news and politics in the rough and tumble world of Wyoming. I was the news editor of the paper for several years. Then I left the newspaper world and worked in budgeting and financial forecasting for an electric utility mostly in Portland, Oregon. But I always loved writing so, once I retired from the corporate world, I started writing books full time.

Does this novel carry a message?

Greg:Yes. I think it is about how we react when we lose hope and our idealism is trampled. This book also provides a glimpse into the monumental events of 1968 which were a turning point in our nation’s history.

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

Greg: I’ve spent two years working on this book and have thoroughly researched it and additionally made trips to the Kennedy Library in Boston and to Arlington National Cemetery. I’m confident you will get an accurate portrayal of life in 1968. I think it will stir up a lot of memories. The reaction from people who lived through that time has been very positive. “Dreams That Never Were” will likely be a walk down memory lane for many Baby Boomers. However, when I talk to the generation behind mine, I find that they seem to know very little about this critical period. I hope my book reveals for them the watershed moment we had in 1968 when we lost Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.



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