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New eBook novel borrows themes researched in Stanislaus County

POSTED July 2, 2013 11:43 p.m.

When Oakland Tribune writer Dave Newhouse struck upon an idea to write a novel about the life of a fictional upcoming track star and his upbringing in a small agrarian Valley town, he chose Ceres and Turlock for his research. Ceres was his chief pick simply because it was named for the goddess of agriculture.

Three times during the mid-1990s Newhouse journeyed from the Bay Area to Stanislaus County to sniff out real life experiences in a small Central California town. He interviewed various key people in Ceres, and visited the Ceres newspaper office, high school and a dairy.

The manuscript was not completed until after his November 2011 retirement from the Oakland Tribune, where he was a sports writer and columnist for 45 years.

What Newhouse observed in real-life Ceres and Turlock serves as the backdrop for his new eBook, “White Lightning,” now available on for $5.99. There is, of course, major embellishment from his fertile imagination.

“I’m not implicating Ceres – Dairytown is not Ceres,” said Newhouse. “But the same goodness of a lot of the people in the area is depicted in the book.”

It is clear that Dairytown was influenced by the area. There are replete references to real places. Newhouse even borrowed a “funny” letter to the editor printed in the Courier in his mythical town paper with the name changed to protect the innocent.

Newhouse created a fictional track star Billy Arrow, a white boy who becomes the fastest man in the world. The World's Fastest Human is a title bestowed on the men's 100-meter
dash record-holder. If that record occurs at the Olympics, it gains special significance. However, if the title belongs to a white American, then it's off the charts because there hasn't been a dominant white American male sprinter at the Olympics since Bobby Morrow at Melbourne, Australia, in 1956.

In the novel, Arrow ("White Lightning") "meets" Morrow in the novel. They share a conversation that Newhouse had with Morrow, who believes that a white American can again become The World's Fastest Human. So do two geneticists who appear in the

“It all comes together at the Olympic games in Atlanta,” said Newhouse.

The story isn't merely a sports novel, he said, but entails a murder mystery; a role reversal of social stereotypes; racism and racial harmony; sexual predatory and virginity, and a bit of mythology added to the mix.

Arrow comes out of a dysfunctional home in a town where a newspaperman becomes a hero by exposing the Klu Klux Klan influence in town. Arrow goes to U.C. Berkeley where he runs track before becoming an Olympic track star.

Newhouse had a chance to visit Ceres High School where he spoke to students about their feelings of other classmates and society.

“It was very interesting, the intelligence and curiosity that these kids had,” said Newhouse.

To research the life of a dairy family, Newhouse gleaned from the experiences of the Agresti family. He also visited with track coach Al Brenda in Turlock before his death to get a feel for high school track.

“White Lightning” is Newhouse’s ninth book, and second e-book.  His "Before Boxing
Lost Its Punch" was released by in March 2012. He is finishing another manuscript, “Forgotten 49ers.”

Newhouse’s work may be inexpensive to read online but as he says, “Better read than dead is my motto.”


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