Home Bensalem Times Local author pens fifth historical fiction book ‘Lost Time’

Local author pens fifth historical fiction book ‘Lost Time’

Each novel by Bill Pezza helps readers feel an emotional attachment to Vietnam and other wars

More than facts: Bill Pezza’s goal is to “put a face on history,” and help readers understand the loss and heartache of wars, through his books. Submitted Photo

Bill Pezza, a longtime history and government professor at Bucks County Community College, understands that sometimes, it’s hard for those who didn’t live through a war era to grasp the human element of it. Yes, there are plenty of books that outline the basics. But what about all of the soldiers who came home with PTSD? The countless mothers who had to bury their children?

The Bristol Borough resident is helping to “put a face on history” with his series of historical fiction novels, which now total five thanks to the recent release of Lost Time.

It chronicles Nick Hardings, a Vietnam veteran who readers meet in Pezza’s first novel Anna’s Boys (2006). Now in his 70s, Nick is fearful that he wasted his life away hanging out at the local deli, unable to emotionally heal from his time as a POW. He’s on a mission to find the nurse who cared for him during his suicidal days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center 50 years prior.

“I teach young people, freshmen and sophomores in college, and you can talk about statistics and facts all you want. But you can really grab them if you put a human face on the loss and suffering,” said Pezza. “And I decided to write a book [Anna’s Boys] on Vietnam from the standpoint of how it affected individual guys. I try to get the readers to become emotionally invested in the characters so that when things happen to the characters, they feel like it’s happening to them.”

In addition to Anna’s Boys, Pezza’s historical fiction series includes Stealing Tomatoes (2009), Homegrown (2013) and Till the Boys Come Home (2020), all of which feature the character of Nick. Though Pezza didn’t initially set out to pen five novels (a feat he would’ve felt overwhelmed about if he set it as a goal from the start), inspiration struck every few years.

Plus, his dedicated readers — who span from high schoolers to Vietnam-era vets — wanted more.

“People really liked the characters from Anna’s Boys, so I just kept them and people liked that. And now, being true to chronology, the guys are older. So this is kind of like a baby boomer manifesto,” he said. “This guy’s thinking, ‘Sometimes people in our age group get shrugged off and pushed aside,’ and Nick is not happy with that either, so that’s part of what drives him as well.”

New book alert: ‘Lost Time,’ released at the end of October, is the fifth historical fiction novel by Bristol Borough’s Bill Pezza. Submitted Photo

The idea of Lost Time came about six months ago thanks to an eye-opening encounter experienced by a friend. When Pezza’s friend expressed to his wife that he needed to buy a pair of shoes, she suggested he get a good pair since it might be his last. She didn’t mean it in a threatening way, but rather matter-of-factly. Shoes tend to last a good amount of years, and at a certain point in life, they might outlive their wearer. Her comment got the friend thinking, ‘How much quality time do I have left?’” This resonated with Pezza, who felt that Nick is probably feeling a similar way by now.

“I was actually going to call the book Nick’s Last Pair of Shoes. But that was considered to be a mouthful, not catchy enough, and I ended up with the current title Lost Time,” said Pezza. “And that’s what Nick’s doing — he’s making up for lost time.”

While Pezza’s books are resonating with veterans, they’re also making an impact on teens. According to him, five high schools — Holy Ghost Prep, Conwell-Egan, Bristol, Nazareth Academy and Jenkintown — had students read Anna’s Boys. Each welcomed Pezza into the classroom to speak with students, who he said formed emotional attachments to certain characters, just as he hoped. When one student asked why he killed off one individual, Pezza responded, “I didn’t kill him, the Vietnam War did.”

Anna’s Boys is Vietnam-focused, while Stealing Tomatoes is about Iraq/Afghanistan, Homegrown the war on terrorism and Till the Boys Come Home a prequel to the first, taking place during WWII. Regarding Iraq, Pezza, a former employee of a state representative, often attended events on behalf of the elected official when he was out of town. This included the funeral of a Warminster man who was killed in Iraq.

“That’s what hits home about the Iraq war. Not the statistics or the things you see on the news, but the actual human face, of knowing that a young man in his early 20s, 19 maybe, is gone, and watching the parents suffer the way they did. And that’s kind of a motivating thing in how I try to write the books.”

Though Pezza has deemed Lost Time the last in the series, he’s not ready to put his pen and paper down for good just yet. He hinted at possibly following the trajectory of Star Wars and writing another prequel novel.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to see the readers’ response. People have been chiming in about how much they love the new one already.”

When asked to describe his writing process, Pezza joked that he’d probably be kicked out of any literature class because he doesn’t have one.

“I just start writing and the story unfolds as it goes along, and that’s the way I’ve done it, and so far, it’s worked,” he said.

Most of Pezza’s work was completed in spurts…and at all hours of the night. After spending a day struggling to find the words for the next sentence, he’d wake up at 3 a.m., creative juices flowing, and immediately get to work.

Two launch parties were held locally at the end of October for Lost Time, which is available at Bristol Books & Bindery and Amazon. Readers are also invited to contact Pezza directly at bpezza@comcast.net to purchase a personalized, signed copy.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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