Signed, first-edition copies of Mother Fracker (296 pages, Morningside Press) by Larry Bud Meyer are available locally at R.H. Ballard, 307 Main St., Washington (and online at motherfrackerbook.com).
Save the date: The author will do a book signing at the R.H. Ballard shop on Saturday, Dec. 7.
Larry “Bud” Meyer spent most of his adult life in journalism, and now that he’s retired, and spending most of his time amid the hills, hollows and hay fields of Rappahannock County, he can finally kick back and relax.
And make stuff up.
“I have never had more fun in my life,” says Meyer, 58, who is visiting the Rappahannock News world headquarters on Main Street in Washington to promote his first novel, just published — and available now at an R.H. Ballard Art, Rug & Home near you, not to mention online (which we won’t, actually, mention until much later).
The book is called “Mother Fracker,” a novel distinctive not just for its in-your-face title (“I hope the name of the book doesn’t offend anyone,” says the mild-mannered former reporter) but for the fact that Rappahannock County plays itself in the tale, the county and most of its place names and points of interest using their real names. (The characters have fictional names, as does the next jurisdiction south, Mosby County, where the bad guys live.)
The bad guys in Meyer’s novel are, in fact, frackers (a key female among them, by the way, giving the title more than one meaning). And they’re drilling, illegally, for natural gas down there in Mosby County using hydraulic fracturing. Fracking, as it’s commonly known, is not permitted anywhere in Virginia at this moment, although (as Meyer wrote on our op-ed page last month) the U.S. Forest Service is now reconsidering whether its rewritten management plan for the George Washington National Forest should ban it or allow it.
“It’s a very divisive issue,” he says, “and a very important one.”
The fictional operation’s effects on its neighbors’ water supply, and the neighbors themselves, provide Meyer with all the hydraulic pressure — sorry, narrative thrust — he needs to also have lots of fun with his undying fondness for all things (and people, and places, and more people) Rappahannock.
There’s Tip Tyler, the protagonist, an environmental writer who has a column in the local paper, and whose family is sickened (and not figuratively) by the stuff his fracking neighbors are letting leak into the local water supply. There’s a couple of ex-hippie and ex-military community pillars, some durable, quietly heroic farmers. There’s a winery owner who bears a striking resemblance to a winery-owning friend of the Meyers. There’s a female sheriff, but the resemblance to reality definitely ends there; the sheriff in “Mother Fracker” is clearly a fictional character, or at least an unorthodox one.
You will meet someone you know in this novel. But not exactly.
“I wanted Rappahannock to be a character,” says Meyer. “So the settings are real, but the people and characters are simply an amalgam of people I’ve encountered in my life.”
Meyer, the fifth of eight kids who grew up on a dairy farm near Hannibal, Mo., serves these days on the board of the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection (RLEP) and is an active member of the Rappahannock Lions. He has nothing but affection for the friends he and his wife, Anne Robertson, have made in Rappahannock, where the couple spends more than half the year — moving for the winter months to their home in Morningside, the historic district in Miami.
“The people of Rappahannock are terrific,” says Meyer. “We have more good friends and excellent adventures here than we ever expected. Our friends are vintners and ranchers and retired firefighters — this place is a magnet for that smart, urbane group of achievers that sees the beauty of a place like this and anchors themselves to it.”
Some of these people, Meyer says, “are going to be upset when they read this book and see that I have visited fracking upon it. But it’s a cautionary tale. I wanted it to be a fun read with a serious message.”
Thus Meyer began sitting down at the laptop every morning, starting Jan. 1, 2012, and making stuff up about his beloved adopted home. “Writing fiction — it’s so liberating after the career in journalism and propaganda — in fact its kinda a combination of the two,” says Meyer, who spend 15 years with the Miami Herald, and as many years with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a $2 billion organization founded by the former owners of the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Detroit Free Press, the Charlotte Observer and 22 other newspapers.
He and Anne had come here for their 10th wedding anniversary in October 2006, he says, for dinner at The Inn at Little Washington. “We stayed over at the Inn, and the next day saw some attractive real estate on our stroll around town, and cold-called Jan Makela during her first week of working at Real Estate III. And the second house Jan showed us, on Long Mountain Road, is where we live today.”
The home even overcame the innate resistance Meyer says his wife, a retired corporate controller, had to the whole concept of a second home.
Since retiring, Meyer says, he’s had two knees replaced — due to “an arthritis-based condition I’ve had my whole life. So I get to do fun things now because eventually . . . who knows? I want to get all the good stuff in now.”
Meyer has already started on a second novel, and says he has 10 different ideas for Tip Tyler’s fictional adventures in real-life Rappahannock. One involves apples and orchards, another vineyards. He says he and Anne (“I do words, she does numbers”) make a good team — along with their Goldendoodle, Luna.
They’ve gotten together a website (motherfrackerbook.com), their own publishing company (Morningside Press, a nod to their Miami neighborhood as much as to the nickname for our side of the Blue Ridge), and created a crowdfunding/promotional campaign on Kickstarter.com that has already exceeded its goal of $4,500 for the book.
“There were a lot of good levels of support,” Meyer said. “We had a premium dinner for two at The Inn. Or you could get just the book, or get your name in the next book for $100 — or, for $101, you could buy insurance that your name won’t be in the next book.”