Books: Charley Rosen’s Red, White and Red

“I was a red diaper baby,” says Charley Rosen. “My parents passed out pamphlets at subway stations and had their friends over to yell and scream about Trotsky and that. So the book has been in my mind for a long time.”

Six novels and twelve books of non-fiction down the road, Charley Rosen has left his well-trodden comfort zone, writing about sports, with his latest work of fiction, Red, White and Red, a fascinating tale of Communists in the United States and the people who chased them through the first half of the 20th century.

Rosen will read from and sign copies of the book at 3 p.m. Sunday, January 29 at the Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, in Woodstock.

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Rosen’s protagonist, Solomon Glaser, a math genius, becomes practiced in the arts of using other names and noticing who’s watching him, as he takes a cross country train to Washington D.C. after being summoned by the House Un-American Activities Committee, in the early 1950s. He had been a money collector for the American Communist Party since being lured, less by idealism but more by lust, into the fold in the early 1920s, as he was in college.

The train trip, where Glaser is jostled and hustled by government agents, provides him with the time to reflect on the years and what he might be asked, as well as the wife and daughter he left behind in California, who he might not see  again if the feds ultimately jail him. Along the way, in Glaser’s remembrance, we meet an astonishing collection of celebrities and sympathizers, whose lives are touched and sometimes ruined by their connections with the Party.

The novel has had it’s ups and downs before getting published. “I started it ten years ago,” Rosen says. “I had just read a Solzhenitsyn novel, and throughout the narrative, it had, in tiny print, a detailed history of the revolution, post revolution…so I thought, what a great idea. So I researched and researched, and I got paid a healthy amount and I ended up writing a 900 page book, with all this history. The publisher said I had to edit it down. And he assigned an editor who knew nothing about history of the 30s and 40s, and finally the publisher said he couldn’t publish it.

“But I kept at it, worked at it, cut it down, cut it down to maybe 600 pages. Then I connected with David Appelbaum at Codhill Press. He was a teacher, taught philosophy at New Paltz. David said he would publish it but it had to be cut down. So I cut it to 290 pages. I essentially cut out two novels from it.”

The book flows easily and its mystery mixes with the history of the movement, and the persecution that we’re fearful could happen again. It is important not to forget how lost we can get into perceiving threats created by those who wish to hold on to power.

“I can’t stop writing,” says Rosen, now in his mid 70s. “Dan Simon (a Rosen publisher at Seven Stories Press) said why do you write? What else can I do? I’m currently 100 pages into another novel. David at Codhill and I are talking about an anthology of my best writing from websites, newspapers, magazines.”

In between work on the new novel, Rosen writes a column for Fanrag Sports Networks, where his recent columns on the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony have thrust him into the middle of New York controversy. And Rosen’s legendary elbows on the local basketball courts in younger days left many an impression — or depression — on local sternums.

But his deep education and widely varied interests have combined into a tale that moves the soul while exposing injustice.

“One sticky on my bathroom mirror says help me stop writing. What else am I going to do…?”

Charley Rosen will read from and sign copies of Red, White, and Red at 3 p.m. Sunday, January 29 at the Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock. For more information, see goldennotebook.com or call 845-679-8000.

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