Area novelist spins tale about boyhood
Mark Lichterman book signings
Saturday: 2 p.m., Borders Books, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks
Sept. 7: 3 p.m., Sunrise Assisted Living of Westlake Village, 3101 Townsgate Road
Sept. 10: 4 p.m., Goebel Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks
Sept. 15: 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble in the Westlake Promenade, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks
A story that starts in 1939 with a 5-year-old child and ends in 1955 is the premise of the second book by 74-year-old Mark Lichterman of Westlake Village, a professional chimney sweeper who writes novels.
"Becoming" is a piece of literature that may remind many of us of ourselves, way back when God's most mysterious creation was the opposite sex, said Lichterman, owner of the Flue Bug Chimney Sweep and Laundry Duct Cleaning Service, founded in 1980.
It's a novel "about life and the often funny, sometimes sad day-to-day things that stir the memories of our lives," he said. "Remember when, as a people, we loved America and showed it? Then you might be ready for a nostalgic, funny, romantic, sexually frustrating novel."
The tale begins with young Mitchie in an ethnically diverse neighborhood on the west side of Chicago.
Lichterman leads the reader through Mitchie's formative years, when at age 16 he lies about his age and joins the National Guard, "'cause girls love guys in uniform."
Accidentally getting caught up in the Korean War, "Mitchell's life unfolds in a series of nostalgic, comical, romantic, sad and extremely funny sexual situations," Lichterman said.
The story ends when Mitchell turns 21. And, as in real life, "the growth of the children we see every day is so subtle that we do not see or notice their growth, so then is it with Mitchell," Lichterman said.
Local fans of Lichterman's book empathize with Mitchell and his growing pains.
"You just know that the author either lived next door or maybe on the next block, 'cause that's the way things were growing up in the late '30s, '40s and into the '50s," said David Wilkins of Newbury Park.
"There was no TV showing things or a computer to Google what a boy needs to know — it was just day-to-day wonderment and exasperation to face," Wilkins said. "The story was so close to my younger years that I started to bet myself that he would add other happenings of my life, and he sometimes did."
Bonnie Northcott of Westlake Village said Lichterman has a way of "making you feel everything his characters are going through. ... I wish this would have been published when I was growing up, when times were much less threatening."
It's also about growing up and learning how the opposite sex — boys — deals with girls, said D.V. Cunningham of Westlake Village.
"But it's also learning that your parents are human," Cunningham said. "These subjects will go on till the end of time. Mark is very adept at revealing to women how their husbands and sons think. And it's nice to know that they are just as scared and inquisitive about us as we are about them."
Lichterman said he was inspired to write the novel after he finished writing his first book, "The Climbing Boy."
"I discovered that I really enjoyed writing ... one word led to another and better than 22 years later and 293,718 words later, not counting four complete rewrites, we have what I call semi-fiction or faction."
He hopes that his work will inspire "the recall of youth, the possible remembrance of what so many of us have forgotten in time."
For information or to buy Lichterman's book, go to http://www.fluebugldcs.com/home.nxg.