Peter Golden: Comback Love 1/2

I’m so honored to be hosting award winning author and journalist Peter Golden as he blogs about the research aspects of his new novel Comback Love. I find the subject matter of this book fascinating– the tumultuous 60s and a young woman in medical school. As Peter discusses, it’s far different than what female medical students face these days.

Welcome, Peter.

Part I

Mark Twain observed that there are “liars, damn liars, and statistics,” and while Twain is one of my favorite writers, sometimes it helps to believe in numbers. Perhaps that’s just the historian in me, since I also write history, but statistics—one in particular, that is—certainly came in handy when I was writing my first novel, Comeback Love.

To understand the number—which happens to be 5.8 percent—you have to know a little about the novel, which shifts between the past and present.  It begins with Gordon Meyers, who decides to track down Glenna Rising, a woman he loved and lost 35 years ago. When Gordon and Glenna first meet in the 1960s, he is an aspiring writer and she is a medical student. Their relationships unfolds against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Women’s Movement—only to crash and burn when the outside world gets in the way. Now, years later, Gordon has an overwhelming desire to see Glenna again. Though she’s stunned when Gordon walks into her Manhattan office, Glenna agrees to accompany him for a drink. As they walk through the snow-swept city, we learn about the passions that drew them together before tearing them apart. Finally, as the evening unfolds, Gordon revels the true reason for his return, and both he and Glenna are wondering—where do we go from here?

By the time I sat down to write Comeback Love, I was up to my neck in numbers, because for several years I had been researching and writing a history of the Cold War. And one question kept nagging me. What was the greatest change that occurred in the United States during these years?
Which leads me to the 5.8 percent. That  was the percentage of women in medical schools in the early 1960s. (Today, the percentage has climbed to approximately 50 percent.) I wanted to look at a woman from that bygone era, and explore how the changes impacting her also impacted the man she loved. That was the beginning of Gordon and Glenna.
For research, I had notes that I had made during the 1970s when I worked in a hospital. I had met a number of med students, men and women, and I’d heard plenty of stories, many of which I had the good sense to write down. One of the most revealing was of a male attending physician talking to a group of med students, only one of whom was a woman, and at one point the attending turned to the young woman and asked if she would bring him some coffee.
Of course, to examine the changes in women’s roles during the 1960s and 1970s, I could’ve looked at a variety of professions, but none offered easy access to an issue that remains as controversial today as it was then: abortion.
Peter returns Friday for Part II. 

Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist and author. Golden’s Quiet Diplomat, a biography of industrialist and political-insider Max M. Fisher made the Detroit Free Press bestseller list. Among those he interviewed were Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush; Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, and Shultz; and Israeli Prime Ministers Shamir, Peres, and Rabin. Golden’s O Powerful Western Star, a history of the Cold War, will be published in the spring of 2012. For that book, Golden interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev.

His debut novel, Comeback Love, will be published by Atria Books on April 3, 2012.

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