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Blue collar book writer a success story

William Ferchland
Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune South Tahoe Middle School eighth-grade student Christine Dasalla, right, and the rest of her class ask questions of author Randy Guthrie on Thursday while he was at the school gathering information about his book "Rain."
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Randy Guthrie wore a dark suit for his first publicity event that launched his first novel.

Roughly 60 critics waited for his 10:45 a.m. appearance. They were armed with prepared questions and each had a copy of his book.

Guthrie was asked about his cast of characters made up of slaves, plantation owners and bounty hunters. He was questioned on his research of the Civil War era. Someone inquired about how much money he has made.

Guthrie, a South Lake Tahoe cleaning business manager turned author, answered all questions fired by curious eighth-graders Thursday at South Tahoe Middle School. They are among the first to read “Rain: The Civil War Years.”

The book won’t be officially released until May 15. Early first editions were donated to language arts and social studies classes at the middle school where it has been critically acclaimed.

The story centers on Rain, a mentally and physically gifted black man born into slavery. He becomes a leader of 100 slaves in a journey toward freedom.

Some students found their own connection to the story.

“I relate to the Scotsman,” said Max Corso. “I am not wise but I also think of others.”

“I can relate to this story because I have a lot of respect for Rain leading 100 slaves north to freedom when he is only 14 years old,” said Prudence Amsden.

Despite the difference of ethnicity between the author and main character, Guthrie did manage to write what he knows in his attempt at the great American novel.

“What I do understand is I was raised in the South and times were tough,” he said.

The author has taken his lumps. Guthrie said his father, who dropped out of school in the third grade and remains illiterate, made less than $5,000 a year.

A community college teacher asked Guthrie to drop a journalism class, believing he couldn’t write.

“You don’t let somebody say you can’t do it if it’s something you really want to do,” he said.

Surgeons have invaded Guthrie’s right shoulder five times. He writes by hand so he can “feel the story.”

Guthrie would write during dawn or late at night. His wife edited first drafts. Breaks of up to three years were taken in the process.

Rain – which in weather form can be hard or soft, Guthrie explained – is a composite character of a couple hundred people Guthrie has encountered in his 47 years.

“Anything good I’ve seen from a person in my lifetime I tried to incorporate in my book,” he said.

Guthrie has worked in an Oregon sawmill, served on a submarine and, until recently, managed Greta’s Professional Cleaning, which was started and is still owned by his wife.

“It does not matter who your father is … the moral of the story is you have to be a stand-up person and do things for others,” he said.

Teacher May Palin is aiming for the end of May for her class to finish the book. Guthrie has already finished a second installment of the Rain series. The second book took six months, much shorter than the 10 years for the completion of the first. He is now working on the third.

Copies of “Rain: The Civil War Years” are now available at the 7-Eleven at 800 Emerald Bay Road, Sierra Bookshop at the “Y” and the Book Den in Gardnerville.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.


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