Fifty Years Later by James J. Collins
Sam Kopco returned from Viet Nam physically and emotionally wounded, expecting to be restored in the peaceful Minisink Valley. But the Minisink was in the throes of controversy about a dam planned for the Delaware River there. Thousands of long-time residents had been forced to sell their land—land many had lived on for generations. Homes and churches were bulldozed. The country Sam returned to was a different place too. Turmoil caused by Viet Nam War protests, disorder on college campuses, political assassinations and riots in the big cities made it seem the entire country had lost its way. Sam’s personal recovery was complicated in ways he had not imagined.
Other lives in the Valley were upended too. Holly, Sam’s lover, struggled to free herself from an abusive husband and a corrupt but influential father-in-law. Loretta Schuster, a traditional housewife and mother, became an influential environmental advocate in opposition to the dam.
The disorder in the Minisink Valley was magnified when a group from New York City arrived to occupy homes taken from the original owners. The group planned to establish a utopian community there. But seeing outsiders occupy the homes of their friends and neighbors infuriated many in the valley.
Jack Neumann, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manager charged with managing dam construction, oversaw the project from his office in downtown Philadelphia, seventy-five miles distant from the Minisink Valley. Jack was naively unaware of the trouble brewing in the Minisink and ignorant of the fraud involved in some land acquisition transactions. He found out when criminal charges are filed against a local land developer.
Additional characters include the local police chief, a bartender, a high school wrestling coach, and a retired detective. The police chief attempts to protect the interests of influential local businessmen; the bartender, attentive to all things local, is a vital source of information for community happenings.
Fifty Years Later recreates the turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s and follows the book’s characters for a half century to the lives they live today.
Jim Collins came late to fiction. After a career directing a criminal justice research program for a nonprofit and writing for scientific journals and academic publications, he turned to fiction. Fifty Years Later is his third novel. He has also published a short-story collection. Jim lives and writes from his home on the Intracoastal Waterway in Carolina Beach.