You may not be from around here, but you know these folks just the same: The thrice-cursed mayor angling for reelection ... the Piggly Wiggly meat cutter with the Vegan wife ... the small-town Lolita around whom a universe revolves. “Century is a real place in northern Escambia County. It’s where I grew up,” says novelist Tony Simmons. “It’s a small town with a magical name and a unique spirit of its own, one of sawdust and Florida panthers."


Home Sweet Home ...

Like all small towns, Century is the place every kid promises he’ll leave at the first opportunity and never go back. It’s also the kind of place that doesn’t let go of you that easily.

"I guess I’m saying Century haunts me. Now I’m haunting it back," says author Tony Simmons.

Simmons is the assistant managing editor for news at The News Herald in Panama City, FL, where he writes a weekly column and oversees the newsroom. Welcome to the Dawning of a New Century, his first literary novel, departs wildly from his day job as it revisits some of the themes and characters introduced in his short fiction, some of which has appeared in regional anthologies from Pottersville Press.

"Secrets will get out, and in the process they can take on a life of their own — especially in small towns," Simmons says. "Secrets are the seeds of revelations, and revelations lead to transformative experiences. And that’s about as close to a whack upside the head by God’s holy two-by-four as you might find even in Century First Baptist Church."

Thus we find ourselves in Century at the end of the 20th century and the dawn of the 21st — the eve of celebrating its centennial in the first week of April 2001. There’s a parade to plan, and a murder to plot. There’s a marriage to save and one to let go, loves blossoming and lives rotting on the vine.

Caught in the midst are the regular folks of Century with their everyday world-shattering problems. Folks like Mary Anne, who crochets beside her grandmother’s deathbed and weaves new cosmologies; Gil, the high school science teacher whose visions of possible futures have fled, leaving him nothing but empty facts; Simone, whose columns for the local newspaper explore her love/hate relationship with where she’s from and whom she has become.

"This is fiction, but I’d like to think these characters are no less real for all that," Simmons says. "You know people just like them. In fact, there are going to be folks in Century who will think I’ve written their stories here. That’s not the case — even though, certainly, the townsfolk make the town. I just hope they make readers feel welcome."

Welcome to the Dawning of a New Century will be released in hardcover from Pottersville Press, a regional publisher based in Panama City, in September 2005.


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