Richard Dresser, an award-winning scriptwriter for theater, television, and film, will discuss his first novel, the politically charged but family-centered “It Happened Here,” via Zoom, the next installment of the local author series presented by the Friends of the Hastings Library.
For the event on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Dresser will be joined in conversation by fellow novelist and personal friend Peter Quinn. Both are longtime Hastings residents.
“It Happened Here” was published by Brown Books Publishing on Oct. 6 and can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.
Through monologues, the novel looks at the divisions within the Weeks family during the years 2019-2035. The two central characters are brothers, one a university professor the other a former military man who runs a security company. They hold vastly different outlooks about the state of the country — a country run by the Great Leader who has been in office since the postponement of the 2016 election. The Great Leader is not mentioned by any other name. His party is simply the Ruling Party.
“I started writing the book just about one year ago. I had become enraged by the state of things,” Dresser said, “and this took the form of rants to my friends. One of them said, ‘You should do a book,’ and so I did. As a playwright who writes in dialogue, the monologue form came naturally.”
“It Happened Here” is described by the author as an oral history. The eight characters include a 14-year-old who tries to uncover, by asking questions, why there are such divisions within the family, whose divisiveness mirrors that of the present day — and future — of the real world.
During Dresser’s story, the underlying and treacherous atmosphere of the political landscape brings about a totalitarian state where, as the author said, “We still have Netflix, 400 channels, and two-day shipping, and other creature comforts. Life is good. The one thing we have lost is freedom.”
“But, I want to emphasize, that despite my rants, the book is not a liberal screed,” Dresser continued. “The most sympathetic character is a conservative who goes through a profound change. In the end, it is a very hopeful book because the family holds together — they find their way through.”
Quinn, who read “It Happened Here” prior to its publication, called it “an imaginative, brilliant, and frightening look into a future we hope never comes to be. It is a wonderful blend of the serious and the comic.”
Dresser, his wife, Rebecca, and son, Sam, have lived in Hastings for 20 years. He is a graduate of Brown University and the University of North Carolina. It was at UNC that he discovered a flair for writing dialogue. His plays have been produced on and off Broadway, in regional theaters across the country, and in Europe. Among his works for the theater is “The Downside,” which was the co-winner of the American Theater Critics Association’s 1987 Best Play Award for a play produced outside New York. A number of his plays have been made into movies, including “Below the Belt” (“Human Error”), and “Rounding Third.” He wrote the Beach Boys musical, “Good Vibrations,” which enjoyed a run on Broadway.
Dresser’s TV credits include HBO’s “Vietnam War Stories,” for which he won a cable ACE award; “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd,” starring Blair Brown; “The Job,” starring Denis Leary; “The Education of Max Bickford,” starring Richard Dreyfuss; and “Madigan Men,” starring Gabriel Byrne.
Dresser teaches playwriting at Columbia University and is president and a founding member of the Writing Guild Initiative.
“The initiative works to give voice to populations seldom heard,” he explained. “Veterans from 30 years ago, DACA recipients, former death-row inmates — people who have been reduced to stereotypes. We hold writing workshops all across the country. Writing can often be better therapy than talking.”
Joanna Riesman, a Hastings Library board member, said, "We are delighted to be hosting another Zoom talk with a local author. This is the seventh one in this series. The series highlights how many accomplished writers there are in this small town and the unending interest of the community in learning and listening.”
“I wish we could have these events in person,” she continued, alluding to the talks held at the library pre-Covid. “At the same time, there is a special intimacy to these Zoom chats — we are in our homes, the authors are in theirs. It can feel like a one-on-one.”
To receive a Zoom invitation to the free program with Dresser and Quinn, RSVP to HastingsLibraryEvent@gmail.com.