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Guy Johnson Books In Order

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Publication Order of Tremain Family Saga Books

Standing at the Scratch Line (1998)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Echoes of a Distant Summer (2002)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Guy Johnson is a poet and author who is best known as the son of Maya Angelou. He was introduced to creative work very early in life as his mother had prints from the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec, Catlett, Charles White, Monet, Guauguin, Degas, Picasso, Samella Lewis and Van Gogh hanging on their walls. Angelou believed that exposure to creativity an art in a person’s life broadened their perspectives on life and the world they lived in. While he had a very creative mother who wanted to see him become a creative person, he spent much of his childhood unsuccessfully tying to ignore whatever he was taught. For most of his childhood, the art on the walls was irrelevant to the young Guy Johnson.

When Guy Johnson was thirteen to fourteen years old, his mother moved the family to New York City. In 1958 they started living in a small three bed roomed apartment in Crown Heights Brooklyn. His mother still earned a living giving private dance lessons and singing in nightclubs during the evenings. As such, the third bedroom was her dance studio and music room. Whenever Johnson’s mother had a singing gig most of which would last from between one and a half to two and a half months they would live well but almost starved when the contracts came to an end. As a teen, he went to college in Egypt and then went to Europe to manage Costa del Sol, a bar on the Spanish coast. He also worked on oil rigs in Kuwait, managed a photo safari service that catered to tourists in the Spanish Sahara, Algeria and Morocco. He then went back home to the US and for more than two decades he was a mid-level manager for the Oakland local government in California. During this time, he was writing poetry and his work has appeared in the anthology of black male poets “My Brother’s Keeper” and “Essence Magazine.” “Standing at the Scratch Line” the first of the “Tremain Family Saga” series is his first novel.

Guy Johnson believes that much of the inspiration for his works came from the interaction with the creative and political leading men he met while living with his mother in New York. A year after his mother started living in New York, she got a job heading the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Martin Luther King. Maya Angelou was involved in organizing and fundraising and worked long hours without leave. Given that money was tight, their days out were spent at the museums or if the weather permitted they would go to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. The evenings were spent at dance venues, plays or jazz clubs where her mother seemed to know everybody. By the end of the second year in New York, Guy Johnson was familiar with almost all the museums in the city and thought of becoming a sculptor or painter. Angelou encouraged him to read works such as “The Ecstasy,” “The Agony” and “Lust for Life.” One thing he still remembers was that there were hardly any works by black artists in the many museums they frequented and that he was determined to correct that.

Even though Guy Johnson had been writing ever since he was eighteen, he was not sure he wanted to pursue it as a career. At some point, he was interested in becoming a sculptor then a sketcher, photographer then painter. He worked as a darkroom technician and also played in a band for a while before realizing that he could write. He had the great luck to have been brought up around some of the best actors, dancers, musicians and singers of his time given that he was the son of Maya Angelou. Angelou was in “The Blacks” during the sixties and Johnson met many of the band members. He also met other creative such as Eric Dolphy, Billie Holiday, and Clifford Brown among many others. Given that Johnson’s mother worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he also met Dr. Martin Luther King who was one of the greatest political minds of the time. He also had the honor of meeting Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, who came to his mother’s house in Brooklyn. He also lived with Maya Angelou who was one of the most creative and inspirational people in his life.

Guy Johnson’s novel “Standing at the Scratch Line” is the story of Leroi King Tremain. The story is set in 1900s New Orleans where the lead has to learn how to fight as his family is in a bitter blood fight with the Dumont family. But he is forced to flee the state when during a raid on the DuMonts, things go wrong and he shoots and kills two white deputies. He embarks on a journey to France and becomes a soldier in the First World War where he becomes a part of the 369th Battalion. He fights wars alongside and against the Germans and American soldiers and finally comes back home after the war. Back home, he has to deal with the crooked politicians determined to destroy a black town in Oklahoma, the KKK running riot in Louisiana and Jazz Age Harlem controlled by the Mob. He has always been driven by the need to create a family dynasty and the desire for respect. It is a stunning story that provides true insights into the lives of twentieth century African Americans.

“Echoes of a Distant Summer” by Guy Johnson is a story set in 1982 that continues the events of the debut novel of the series. The gun and knife wielding King Tremaine who believes himself the era’s Robinhood is still fighting for survival. In his wake he had left a trail of dead corpses in San Francisco, New York and Louisiana as he fights for survival which is a metaphor for the black struggle for rights and dignity during the 20th century. The novel opens to Jackson Tremaine a San Francisco civil servant being asked to visit his estranged grandfather that is the former mob enforcer King Tremaine. He has been living in Mexico for nearly three decades after he was named for the murder of two deputies. Jackson then flies to Mexico to see him and learns that he is now the heir to a fortune worth at least $50 million. When he goes back to San Francisco, he finds that there are contract killers looking for him as there are people who intend to claim the fortune left to him by his grandfather. Also in the mix is Pug DuMont, the King’s old nemesis who is working with the Mafiosi from the Bay Area seeking to claim the fortune.

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