By Amy Falsofke
You might say Victor Rook does it all. Not only is he a beloved local author, but he’s also a book designer, editor/publisher, web designer and an award-winning filmmaker. In Search of Good Times, one of several of his published books, was just re-released as an audiobook, voiced by Andrew Pond.
In Search of Good Times follows the cross-country adventures of Joseph Manley, “Joe for short,” who’s recently become unemployed during the 2009 economic recession. Joe is suddenly convinced the characters from the two TV sitcoms, All in the Family and Good Times, are real and he needs to find them. So he sets off from Idaho to visit Chicago (where the Evans family lives) and New York (where the Bunker family lives). Along the way, he discovers lots of interesting people and places and even picks up a beagle!
Inspiration for In Search of Good Times
Rook said he was inspired to write In Search of Good Times after watching an episode of Good Times.
“One night, after watching an episode of Good Times, I got on Google Street View to locate the exact building in the Chicago Cabrini-Green projects where the opening shot zooms into JJ’s painting. Then, somehow, the story idea came to me of a man who believed the two fictional sitcom families from Good Times and All in the Family were real,” he said.
From there, the story developed.
“I knew one show was set in Chicago, and the other in New York City. So I closed my eyes and pointed to a map somewhere out west, far away. My finger landed on Rigby, Idaho, which is where Joe lives and begins his road trip,” said Rook.
Rook discovered an interesting fact related to his story.
“Surprisingly, Rigby is actually known as the ‘birthplace of television,’ because a graduate from a school there created the first blueprints of a television and later developed the vacuum tube television display,” he said.
The People and Places
Reading In Search of Good Times, you might be impressed with the level of details about the different places Joe visits between Idaho and New York and the different kinds of people that Joe meets. Rook talked about the research that went into the book.
“I mapped out Joe’s entire route on Google Street View, and most every place he visits is accurate. So there was a lot of research on terrain, city landscapes, street names, etc. There was a lot of character and history research too, like WWII battles and Amish customs. A blue jay taps on Joe’s window in Idaho in the beginning, so I had to make sure Idaho even had blue jays,” he said.
Asked who inspired the main character, Rook said Joe is the “what if” version of himself.
“What if I were to go on this trip to see what I’d find? I wrote the book so the reader could feel like he or she was on the trip with Joe and discovering interesting people and places along the way,” he said.
The Influence of Good Times and All in the Family
While reading In Search of Good Times, you see the influence of the two beloved TV sitcoms Good Times and All in the Family, in Joe’s life starting from his childhood. These shows also had an impact on Rook.
“I was Michael’s age when Good Times aired. I have an older brother and sister who always fought. And after my parents divorced, my mother raised us as a waitress. So I could relate to the ‘keeping your head above water’ lyric in the opening credits. All in the Family was also a childhood favorite. It’s a story that anyone can relate to, even if they haven’t watched those two shows,” he said.
A Surprise Ending
Does Joe find the Evans and Bunker families? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but it’s a guarantee the ending will surprise you.
“As Joe travels across the country, you learn that there may be something in his past that propels him to make this journey. There are subtle hints along the way. It is definitely one of those ‘I didn’t see that coming’ type stories. But all the pieces come together at the end in ways you would have never imagined,” said Rook.
Rook shared what making an audiobook is like and why he wanted an audio version of In Search of Good Times.
“I feel that In Search of Good Times is one of my best books. Knowing that a lot of people don’t read these days, I wanted them to have the option to listen to it as well. I auditioned close to 40 narrators before choosing Andrew Pond. He did an excellent job with the dozens of character voices. It was a lot of work and preparation. I described each character’s attributes as I saw them in my head so he’d know how to pproach their voices,” he said.
Rook’s Success as an Author
Rook has received favorable responses from readers about In Search of Good Times.
“One woman told me it was her favorite book of all time. Another reader, who told me he usually watches movies instead, said he couldn’t put the book down while flying on a trip,” he said.
Rook has published six other books in addition to In Search of Good Times. His most successful book is People Who Need To Die, a collection of satirical horror short stories where “a fed-up society chooses to eradicate its most despised” like bad drivers, internet trolls, horrible bosses, Black Friday shoppers and more.
To get your copy of In Search of Good Times in print, Kindle or audiobook, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about Victor Rook and the publishing and design services he offers, go to victorrook.com.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.