My goal in this endeavor is to provide everything I can think of that might complement the seven novels that make up the Darby Chronicles.
With these books I hoped to pay my respects to working people everywhere, but especially to my parents, Elphege Hebert and Jeannette Vaccarest Hebert. While I was writing the early part of the Darby Chronicles my parents supported me in every way. My father was a weaver in a textile mill. I remember my father's hands, clean and soft and his nails long to help him repair broken threads on his looms. My mother was a nurse. In my mind's eye, I see her in nurse whites and starched cap; I see her in a house dress in our neighborhood tending the wounds of boys who can't stay out trouble.
I admired them both, especially in their attitude toward work. They believed in work. They believed that working people are the backbone of any society. I believe as they did.
I've written one book with a woman protagonist, The Passion of Estelle Jordan, but most of my books have been about men, in particular working men, because I spent most of my working life in their world. I started my work life at age 16 as a clerk in a men's clothing store during the Christmas rush. From there my father got me a job as a "web boy" in the textile mill where he was a weaver, International Narrow Fabric Co. Inc. I worked for the telephone company. I was an enlisted man in the army where I was a cannoneer on an eight-inch howitzer. I worked all through college. Drove taxi. Washed and dried acres of bedding and gowns in a hospital laundry. Mowed lawns, trimmed hedges and dug holes for a landscaper. Pumped gas in the days before pump-your-own. Mopped floors and cleaned toilets as a part-time custodian at Commuter Shell on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California. Night attendant in a psychiatric hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I had a servile mentality, that is I wanted to please people with my labor, and was proud of this state of mind. In my family there was no such thing as "menial" labor; there was just labor, and the pride you took in doing it or the shame you experienced if you didn't do your best. I didn't get my first middle class job until I become a news reporter at age 31. So there you have it. I spent my fifteen formative years as a working man. I often think of some of the working people who inspired me: Harold Archer, Joan Cotton, Paul "Moose" Frangis, Helen Kershaw, John Todman, Rusty Wilson, Dick Tewksbury and many others. They have been as much mentors to me as my teachers and editors.
I started my career as a fiction writer by creating a working man, Howard Elman, and after many years of thinking over the matter, my intention was to close out my career with Howard Elman as the protagonist. The result is the seventh and probably the last of the Darby Chronicles, Howard Elman's Farewell (University Press of New England, 2014.) I wrote "probably" because I never know where my muse is going to take me.
When I created the town of Darby I realized that I needed to expand beyond the working class in order to report accurately the story of the town. I have written about what today we might call the rural underclass and about the old rich. I have not written too much about middle class people, because so many other fiction writers have covered the terrain the middle class inhabits in detail and with great skill. I have sought to write about people who have been slighted or left out altogether from books; I have written about the people I grew up with, the people I loved and admired, and who at times drove me crazy.
You who hauled the stone to build the pyramids, you who fell off the scaffolds in constructing the great cathedrals, you who fabricated my smart phone, you the collectors of swill, you who served my Buffalo wings, you the countless slave laborers down through the ages who did the shit work, you who died for our sins–Working People–the unsung heroes of human civilization, I dedicate the Darby Chronicles.