PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Many people have the desire to write a book.
Sometimes it is their personal story; other people want to write about far-away places they have visited, or their family’s history.
Yet others dream of a story of romance, of deep tales around their life experiences.
What if you wrote a story using your own experiences and intertwining those real-life events with a tale of intrigue and romance, of interpersonal relationships that connected to home as well as the far-away lands where you were currently based?
Then, put the manuscript away in a box in the attic of your home as you toiled away as an educator, a businessman, and a community leader; telling no one but your family about “the book.”
Well, that is the story of the new book “For the Hell of It…and Souvenirs,” written by Steubenville resident John T. Maltese (1924-1995) and recently published by his son, John T. Maltese, Jr., M.D.
I was a bit startled that the e-mail message was signed “John T. Maltese,” as a man with the same name had served on the Library Board committee 30 years ago that had hired me as Director of the library.
It said that John T. Maltese, Jr. would be in town, and would like to deliver some copies of his father’s book to the library.
He explained that his dad had written the 650 page manuscript in the 1950s while he was teaching Journalism at Steubenville High School, and his mother, Sophia, had typed the whole thing on an old manual typewriter.
For the next 40 years, it reposed in the attic as only to be mildly discussed by the family, as the raising of the children was more important than the resources needed to publish the book, or market it to a publisher.
A decade after his death, the manuscript emerged by John T, Maltese, Jr‘s request of his mother and he read the text, deciding that at least the family would like to have access to it.
By 2010, scanning was practical to move the 1950s typewritten print (now photocopied to darken it) onto a computer, followed by two years of editing caused by scanning errors of the faded print.
Now it is in print, reduced to 441 pages by revised spacing and margin justification, with every word still the original work of the senior Maltese in the 1950s.
Former students will be excited to read the work of their high school teacher. People that worked with Mr. Maltese, people who knew him from the bank, or the printing business, or simply friends and acquaintances will be excited by reading his work.
But wait, this is not the story of John Maltese or Steubenville; it is a novel “about Marines in World War II, written by a Marine, and the final story about Marines.” It may be considered a wartime romance that begins in California, travels the Pacific Theater of WWII, and returns to where it began.
Yes, the Ohio Valley is mentioned, but you won’t read local history on the pages.
The character names are fictional, although perhaps connected to someone he met in the war. His son says that he was a Private who was a rifleman, who fought on many of the rocks of the Pacific.
My knowledge of John T. Maltese from 1983-1995 was the fact that he was a dedicated Library Board Member, who loved people and wanted the very best library for everyone. Yes, he was certainly a Marine, a fact that emerged in conversation.
He demanded leadership, and on an occasion when I failed to provide a solid recommendation on an issue, he politely, but firmly said, “We hired you for leadership, not to wimp out on a topic.”
And so, here are the words of U.S. Marine John T. Maltese, which have sat silent for many years awaiting the chance to emerge to a new generation.
I found his writing style to flow smoothly, and his descriptions clear and colorful to create a mental image of people and places that I was unfamiliar with in wartime. Whether you enjoy the book or not will depend on your preference in reading habits.
As his son writes, “John T. Maltese spoke and wrote of nothing but honor and respect for these Marines, and for the others, he would say, “Semper Fi, mac!”