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From Lawyer To Novelist

Levittowner pens two novels while working as full-time trial lawyer

As if serving as a trial lawyer in Los Angeles is not ambitious enough, Charles J. Greaves, originally from Levittown, found time to make a huge shift in his career direction, after 25 years. Greaves moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2006 to pursue a writing career and has since published two novels, Hush Money and Hard Twisted.

Greaves’ debut novel, Hush Money, a mystery, was honored by SouthWest Writers as “Best Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller/ Adventure Novel of 2010” and was awarded the guild’s highest honor, grand-prize “Storyteller Award for 2010,” which he earned over 680 other authors’ submissions. In May 2012, St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books published Hush Money. 

The second novel, Hard Twisted, is historical fiction, based on a Depression-era true crime saga, also honored by SouthWest Writers as “Best Historical Novel of 2010.” Hard Twisted was recently published by Bloomsbury USA in November 2012. 

Levittown Tribune recently caught up with the author, who is making preparations to release his third novel later this year, and asked about his career, and his memories of being from Levittown. 

Levittown Tribune: How long had you lived in Levittown?

Chuck Greaves: Nobody is really ‘born’ in Levittown, since there’s no hospital there, but I lived in Levittown from day three or so until after my 18th birthday, from 1955 through 1974, when I graduated from Levittown Memorial High School. My parents—both returning GIs—were original Levittowners, having bought their home on Tallow Lane in 1947. I, and all of my five siblings, attended both Abbey Lane and Memorial.

LT: Do you still have family here on Long Island? When did you leave Levittown?

CG: My mom is still going strong at age 90; she lives with my sister in Lindenhurst. I left in 1974 to attend college at the University of Southern California (1974-78), and then law school at Boston College (1978-81).

LT: Do you ever visit Levittown, or Long Island? 

CG: Yes, to visit family. And every time I do, I’m struck by the beauty of it.  I think you need to get away from your hometown for a while before you can fully appreciate it.

LT: Fondest memories of Levittown?

CG: Too many to count. The Greaves family was all jocks, so many of my fondest memories are sports-related. Beating South Side High School—at the time, the defending Nassau County champs—was the highlight of the 1972-73 basketball season, I can tell you that. Also, I have many fond memories of biking to the library to check out books by people like Ray Bradbury and Rex Stout and Isaac Asimov.

LT: Any inspiration from Levittown that has helped your writing career?

CG: I didn’t realize it at the time, but the creative writing course that I took as a high school senior, taught by Richard Hawkey, must have made an impression. Once I retired from practicing law (in 2006) and turned my attention to writing fiction, I got some good advice from Greg Donaldson (LMHS ’64), an old family friend who has published two excellent books. Also, Phillip Margolin (LMHS ’61), a multi-NY Times bestselling author, was kind enough to read and blurb Hush Money, my first novel, before it was published.

LT: About your writing, why should people read these books? 

CG: The first novel, Hush Money, is a smart, witty page-turner that has gotten rave reviews, and should appeal to any readers who like to be entertained. The second novel, Hard Twisted, is a work of literary/historical fiction, set in the Depression-era Southwest.  It tells the true story of a young girl who is kidnapped by her father’s murderer and led on a one-year crime and killing spree. They’re very different novels, but both have won major literary awards. 

LT: Who, what kind of readers, will definitely find these books fascinating?

CG: If you like Nelson DeMille’s John Corey novels, I think you’ll like Hush Money. If you like Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy, I think you’ll like Hard Twisted, which has been called, “Lolita meets Blood Meridian.”

LT: What was the inspiration for writing these types of novels? 

CG: I suppose the common denominator is that both novels involve the law to some extent.  Hush Money is a legal mystery, and Hard Twisted begins and ends in a courtroom.

LT: What kind of research did you need to do to complete these stories?

CG: Hush Money, not so much. Hard Twisted, on the other hand, involved over 10 years of very meticulous research into the true events that underpin the novel. 

LT: How long did it take you, start to finish, to begin writing and finally publish each of the novels? 

CG: Hush Money took two years to write, [while] working full-time. Not counting the research, Hard Twisted took around 18 months to write, again working full-time from my home in Santa Fe, NM. Once both manuscripts were finished, I entered them in the 2010 SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest, where, out of 680 entries, Hard Twisted came in second and Hush Money came in first. Within four months of that, I had a New York agent and two publishing contracts.

LT: What draws you to this genre of writing?

CG: I enjoy reading the mystery/thriller genre, and I’m a huge fan of contemporary western writers like Cormac McCarthy, Charles Portis, and Larry McMurtry. 

LT: Are there any parts of the books that could be about Levittown?

CG: Hah! Since I wrote both of them, there’s probably a lot of Levittown somewhere between the lines, particularly in the first-person voice of Hush Money.

LT: Any plans to keep writing, publishing? What’s next? 

CG: I’m in it for the long haul.  Look for Green-Eyed Lady (Minotaur), the first sequel to Hush Money, in bookstores in June of 2013. After that, who knows? 

News

A clown named Renaldo performed magic tricks for an enthusiastic audience as part of the National Circus Project, which visited Levittown Public Library on Wednesday, July 16.

 

All 150 tickets available for the performance were sold out in this interactive magic show for children. Throughout the entire circus act, children laughed and raised their hands as high as they could to be chosen as one of Renaldo’s helpers.

 

Raising her hand to participate was three-year-old Kirsten Cantwell from Seaford. “She was upset that she didn’t get picked,” said her mother Melissa Cantwell.

 

Kirsten Cantwell goes to any activity offered at the library, and is starting to enjoy watching magic shows. According to her mother, she really enjoyed the performance.

 

In the circus show, National Circus Project performer, Al Calienes, acted as Renaldo the clown.

 

“The show has different components of acts in the circus,” explained Calienes. “We teach children circus moves.”

 

With the National Circus Project, children get to see magic tricks performed live. “We infuse enthusiasm by showing them, and they in turn will be able to repeat the process,” said Calienes.

Renaldo performed plate spinning, where he spun a plate on a stick and passed it along to the stick of one of his helpers from the audience, who then passed the plate down a line of three more helpers. This interactive way of teaching the children magic tricks really allows them to absorb what they are learning.

 

The National Circus Project travels and performs for elementary schools, as well as middle and high schools. When the National Circus Project is not going to schools, they perform at library shows, summer camps, and other types of events.

 

The performance entertains the adults as well as the children. “We involve everybody,” said Calienes. “Everybody’s engaged on some level or another. “

 

At every library performance, Calienes donates the children’s book he wrote and illustrated Renaldo Joins the Circus to the library. He feels that he owes a lot to the library system. “Anything that ever meant anything to me I learned in the library,” said Calienes.

 

Calienes learned how to draw from the library, which is how he became a commercial artist. One of the main characters he would always draw would be Renaldo the clown. “I wanted to make him real so I joined the circus,” he said.

 

Calienes has been performing with the National Circus Project for seven years and has been in the circus business going on 26 years.

 

The National Circus Project brings magic to children at any school, camp or library all over Long Island as well as across the country.

 

Last June, Nassau County passed legislation that allows for the deployment of a speed enforcement camera system in school zones for each of the 56 public school districts in the county. 

 

The new systems will be implemented throughout the county on July 25, and will be operational on scheduled school days throughout the year. 


Sports

Levittown’s Division Avenue High School varsity baseball team, under the direction of coach Tom Tuttle, won the Class A County Championship, garnering a third-place ranking in New York State. This is the team’s 13th county championship win and the second county championship for the school in the past four years.

 

In addition, senior Chris Reilly was named Championship MVP for throwing a complete game shutout in game two and going three for four with two RBIs. 

Taylor Traenkle, a junior at Division Avenue High School recently received the MVP award for the Nassau County Varsity Hockey League Association.

 

Traenkle, who plays no. 9 for the Levittown Ice Falcons, led the way averaging 2.8 points a game with a total of 25 goals and 23 assists in just 17 games. 


Calendar

Lazy Days Of Summer - July 26

Flea Market - July 27

Darlene Prince and the Bragg Hollow Band - July 28


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com