City of Delaware building inspector Larry Eley is preparing for the release of his first novel, which is set to become available on May 15. Titled “Mifflin Drift,” the book illustrates the life of a teenage boy growing up in suburban Columbus during the 1960s.
The book is heavily influenced by some of Eley’s most vivid memories from his adolescence, with themes ranging from growing up in a dysfunctional home to adventures with friends and romantic interests.
“It’s a good look at growing up in the early ‘60s,” he told The Gazette. “One or two chapters cover what it was like to live during the (John F.) Kennedy assassination. Another is when my girlfriend and I are together when we watch The Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show. That was a big, huge deal to us kids back then.”
Eley elected to keep his name as the main character of the book, but he said every other person included in the book is a “composite character” representing the various people he knew and interacted with at the time.
He added, “Every situation that happens in the book is something that happened to me, and I just built the story around it.”
Eley said the romantic interests are his favorite stories in the book and what he hopes will sell the book, noting the aspects of the relationships shared in the book are very wholesome and respectable.
“When I moved from a Delaware County dairy farm into the suburbs of Columbus after my parents got divorced, I came to know two different girls … The book is constantly a battle between these two, and they contrast in the types of people they are,” he said.
Eley, now 74 years old, has spent his career in construction, going into business for himself as a self-employed contractor for 30 years before becoming an inspector for Delaware County. In 2015, he joined the City of Delaware to work with Chief Building Official Jerry Warner.
Writing has served simply as a hobby for Eley for years, his work mostly being shared and enjoyed by family members. In 2005, Eley began to write stories about his time during his high school days at Mifflin High School, which he attended after moving into the city from rural Delaware County. While his family found the stories hilarious, Eley wrote the feedback off as little more than family adulation. “Everyone’s family thinks they’re great,” he said.
He continued adding to the stories in 2010, selling a few copies on Amazon under the title of “I Never Learned to Dance.” The sales fizzled out, however, and Eley figured his fun foray into professional writing had met its natural end.
“It just kind of died a natural death on Amazon, and these stories sat unattended for about five years until 2020. We just thought that that was it, it’s over,” Eley said.
Eley had dabbled in other forms of writing in the meantime, publishing first-person accounts from his time in Vietnam to a veterans website that were often well-received by the readers of the site.
Unbeknownst to Eley, however, one of his sons saw something more in the stories of his high school days. A published writer himself, Matthew Eley reached out to one of his contacts in the publishing industry to gauge the potential for tying the individual stories into one larger tale.
After submitting them to St. Louis, Missouri-based Reedy Publishing, it didn’t take long for the company to concur that there was, indeed, a project worth pursuing.
“The owner of the company, Josh Stevens, came right back and said there’s is something here. They’re not a novel now, but if he’s willing to work with us, we can turn it into one,” Larry Eley said of the conversation his son had with the company.
After moving past the initial disbelief of the opportunity before him, Larry Eley jumped on board the project and was assigned an editor. The process of making him a published author was underway.
Larry Eley was given a little more than a year to complete the book, and after four rewrites, Reedy Publishing had a story fit to be printed. To make the experience even more special, another of Larry Eley’s sons, Brendan Lauth, contributed heavily to the book by designing the illustrations leading into each chapter.
Larry Eley said having the opportunity to have his sons contribute to the novel made for an even more special experience. While he doesn’t anticipate any future publishings at his age, Eley hopes the book will, in some way, help his sons in their future endeavors.
“It makes me very happy because, hopefully, the book will succeed and it will help them in their careers,” he said.
“Mifflin Drift” can be preordered online by visiting www.reedypress.com and clicking on the bookstore link. The book will also be carried in the local bookstore Beanbag Books, located at 9 N. Sandusky St. Beanbag Books is currently accepting in-store preorders and will carry the book after its release.
Asked what he hopes readers will take away from the story, Eley said he anticipates the book will create obvious intrigue for fellow Baby Boomers who experienced their coming of age in the 60s.
“What I hope people take away from it is several things,” he said. “For one, I hope that people my age, for a few nights, can revisit a simpler time and remember some good times in their lives … This is not a book, it’s a time machine. It will take you back to a simpler time.”
That’s not to say younger generations won’t enjoy it as well, Eley added.
“For younger people, I hope that they will enjoy seeing how things were back then during a very interesting, different time,” he said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.