The Morgans have lived on this farm since before Tennessee was granted statehood, well over 200 years. Elias Morgan, the last surviving Morgan, still lives on this farm, just 9 miles out of town. The only original building remaining is the old barn behind the house. Now that he’s all alone on the farm, Elias wants to try to preserve the old barn. In town one day, he stumbles across a contractor, and he hires him to help with stabilizing the old structure. Late one night, the contractor mysteriously disappears, and it takes the cunningness of one man to discover the truth…
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Back in 2009, my brother came to me with an idea for a script. He knew that I had written another screenplay that the film production company of one of my best friend’s had already completed filming and was in post-production. The handwritten sheet of notes that he gave me would be the foundation of what would become this book, The Contractor. I read through the notes, excited that my brother was showing interest in one of my passions and sharing his ideas with me, with the hopes that I could take his idea and make it into a film. I saw great potential in the plot, and I saw how I could take what he had given me and turn it into something that had my signature on it as well. The more and more I wrote, the keys on the laptop just flowed. I am so glad that my brother trusted me with such a task.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Over the last 16 years, I have been obsessed with researching my family’s history, as well as my wife’s. Between the two branches, I have connected well over 17,000 people. My wife’s paternal grandfather’s ancestry stems from both Western and Southern Tennessee. I used my research on this branch to influence the characters and setting of The Contractor. Although Fellowship is strictly a fictional town, its location and some of the characteristics of the area are based on geographically-accurate details, ideals, and terminology. Almost all of the characters in this novel are named after genuine family members from my wife’s side of the family, although the names were mixed up, so not one character was identifiable with actual people, living or dead. The family names of the people are easily tied to the region in which Fellowship is situated. The town of Fellowship was named from a local cemetery in the area where a lot of my wife’s family are buried. I did this to authenticate and validate the story and to share with you, the reader, an emotional and visual attachment of the tangible feel that you would get if you ever traveled to this area. I have been to the area several times now, and the first time I wasn’t sure what to think. I was so nervous to enter this realm that my wife called home and meet the extended family that she had grown up with. I can honestly say from the very first time that the laid-back, welcoming, open-arm hugs that I received that first summer touched my soul, and I want to share that feeling with you. I still feel that way every time we go back. You should know AND feel that if you were to ever travel to this part of the country, you would get the same warmth and love that I received.
A blue sedan with government plates drove down the long stretch of two-lane highway. Finally coming across the only driveway for miles, it turned in and pulled alongside a farmhouse. Turning off the car and stepping out the door was a tall gentleman in a relaxed, black suit and a fedora. Tennessee in mid-July was a little hot for a suit, but it was required in his profession, so it was bearable. The man closed the car door and approached the front steps of the house. As he climbed the steps, he noticed a sign on the door. It read: FRIENDS – GO ‘ROUND BACK, PEDDLERS – GO ‘ROUND SOMEWHERE ELSE.
The man didn’t attempt to knock on the front door. He walked around to the back steps of the house and knocked on the back door. “Just a minute!” grumbled a loud, male voice from within.
The man in the suit took one step back and waited. Three minutes passed before an elderly man stepped through the open, main door and pushed open the screen door. The old man squinted through the steam on his glasses.
“Do I know you? You don’t look familiar.”
The man in the suit replied, “No, sir, you don’t. My name is Elbert London.”
“What can I do for you, Mr… uh…?”
“Right. Right. What can I do for you, Mr. London?”
Elbert London smiled and held a clipboard up to his own face. Flipping over two pages, he read for a moment and then looked up at the old man.
“Are you a Mr. Elias Morgan?”
The old man smiled, “Yes, sir. I am a Elias Morgan.”
“Elias Jedidiah Morgan?”
“Well, you appear to know who I am, so why don’t you tell me what this is about.”
“Sir, I am Elbert London, and I…”
“We’ve established that,” Elias interrupted.
Mr. London continued, “…and I am with the Tennessee State Highway Commission.”
“Well, I am Elias Jedidiah Morgan, and I am with the Ridgeway Farms of Ridgeway Crossing Commission,” he said smugly.
“So this is Ridgeway Farms?” He checked his clipboard. “I’m in the right place, then.”
“No, Mr. London. You’re in the wrong place.”
“I don’t understand.” Elbert London took a step back off the porch.
“I’m gonna explain this to you with the utmost respect. I know why you’re here. I know that this is nothing personal. It’s just your job. I know that you wanna plow through my ancestral ground and slap an ugly, new interstate right in the middle of Ridgeway Crossing. I know that it started twenty years ago, then fifteen, then ten, then five, and now you’re here. It’s never the same person, but it’s always the same thing. And every time, I tell you no. What makes today any different?”
“Mr. Morgan. May I call you Elias?”
“Mr. Morgan will do just fine,” Elias snapped back.
“Mr. Morgan. Do you realize what this interstate would do for the fine state of Tennessee? It would provide a quicker route for transporting people and goods. It would bring much-needed federal government funding to programs for our state. It would benefit many people in many ways.”
“Do you, Mr. London, realize what that damn road would do for me? It would provide me with unwanted traffic traveling through my protected homeland. It would bring noise from cars, pollution from exhaust, garbage from inconsiderate motorists, and continuous construction that would go on forever. This area doesn’t need growth, commerce, or technology. Your interstate would destroy this natural section of what my family has slaved over for the last two hundred years.”
“Two hundred years? Don’t you think it’s about time that you give a little piece of this land back to the people? The highway commission doesn’t want all of it. You got what?” Elbert London looked at his clipboard. “Over a hundred acres here? Just a fraction of that…”
“Just a fraction of that is too much!” Elias yelled. “Every time that I tell one of you guys that I’m never selling any land, you just jot down some notes and leave. Sooner or later though, someone comes back.
Elbert was getting angry. “You know, Mr. Morgan that the government can just come in, take whatever land it wants away from you, and give you whatever they want to pay for it?”
Elias smiled. “It’s been twenty years since my first visitor from your commission and no one’s taken it yet. I’d like to see them try. Idle threats just make me feel that much more secure.”
Elbert London looked once again at his clipboard, flipping through sheets of paper. He noticed something that he hadn’t before. “It says here on my paperwork that you have no living descendants or kin of any kind. You can’t live forever, Mr. Morgan. Everyone’s gotta die sometime. The commission can just bide its time and wait to probate the estate. Sooner or later… ” He shook his clipboard at Elias. “…sooner or later.”
“My estate is well taken care of. You’re going to be waitin’ a long time, sir. There won’t be a probate. This land will be government-free forever.” Elias displayed a big, toothy grin.
“I don’t see how… ” Elbert stated.
“What you need to be seein’ is your rear windshield as you’re backin’ that car out of my driveway. I’ve obliged your persistence long enough. You’ve been trespassing for twenty minutes now. I suggest you get in your car and go try to peddle that road on the other side of Fellowship, ‘cause it ain’t goin’ in here. Besides, can’t you read the sign on my front door?” Elias slammed the screen door, then the kitchen door.
Elbert London got back into his blue sedan, backed out of the driveway, and pulled away from Ridgeway Farms, shaking his head in disbelief.
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