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Spotlight: Roswell’s mystery

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Submitted Photo Author John Mark Tucker returns this year to Roswell for his 30th high school reunion (Roswell High), bringing his newest book for an author talk at the Roswell Public Library during the UFO Festival.

John Mark Tucker to present new mystery book

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The Roswell Public Library, 301 N Pennsylvania Ave, presents John Mark Tucker, author of “Mesa Park: Welcome Back to Roswell,” for a book signing on July 6 at 2 p.m. Refreshments will be provided by Friends of the Library.

In a phone interview, Tucker talked about his connection to Roswell and his book signing during the UFO Festival. “I was born and raised in Roswell,” he said. “I graduated from Roswell High in 1989. It’s kind of a coincidence, that’s the main reason I was originally coming to Roswell in July — it’s my 30th high school reunion. By a lot of dumb luck I happen to have finished my 11th book and it’s the first novel that I’ve written that takes place in Roswell. It’s all very Roswell-like — it’s got UFOs and mysterious creatures and adventures.

“The book itself is a lot of fun, I’ve been working on it for a year and a half. I made a private Facebook group for all of my classmates, and many of these folks I have known since elementary school. That’s seven of us that got together and shared our stories from childhood and had some laughs. I kind of turned quite a few of these stories around and put them in the book in one form or another. It was a real fun project to reconnect with a lot of my friends. They’ve read it (the book) already. They knew it up front. Everything was very up front. I was pleasantly surprised, they allowed me to use their real first names. The characters in the stories — you don’t see any last names — but the names in the stories are the real first names of my friends. That was a lot of fun.”

Asked about his writing style, Tucker said, “I would say, I write several novels at the same time. Almost all of them take from a year to a year and a half and that includes not only writing them, but after you are done with the manuscript there is generally four to six months of editing and running it through editors and getting the covers made.”

During Tucker’s childhood, he didn’t pay attention to the “UFO Incident.” “The truth is — and that is actually in the book — growing up in Roswell as a kid, I knew nothing about the Roswell incident. My grandmother had a single book on her shelf which we knew about, but we didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I went to college and my freshman year in college, that the “X-Files” came out and that’s when everything went completely haywire.

“When I grew up, Roswell was famous for Billy the Kid and New Mexico Military School and the fact that Roger Staubach, the quarterback for the Cowboys, graduated from NMMI, so the alien and UFO/crash site thing was just — we knew about it — but it wasn’t any kind of big of a deal. Certainly it’s nothing like it is now. But I always found it really interesting. It is definitely a fun topic to discuss with folks and to study up. My wife and I truly enjoy the new ‘Roswell’ shows that come on, they have three different kinds that pop up. It’s a lot of fun. I noticed they are getting a little bit better, eventually they will make it down there (to film in Roswell actually).”

Tucker still has family in Roswell. He said he tries to return at least every other year. Asked if he missed New Mexico green chile, Tucker said, “Oh my God, you are not kidding. I live in the Seattle area and I lived up here since 1997, so I lived here over 20 years … and it has been just in the past two years that we actually get Hatch chile here, for about two or three weeks. It’s been a God-send.”

Tucker’s new book, “Mesa Park: Welcome Back to Roswell,” is a science fiction. “If you are familiar with the movie ‘Stand By Me,’ which is based on a Stephen King novel, I kind of compare it with a mix of ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘ET — The Extraterrestrial,’ Tucker said. “You got a buddy adventure with some sci-fi and UFO and mysterious stuff going on. The story started really with my wife. She — in one way or another — inspired my novels, she was pushing me really hard to write a novel that included the stories that I told her about my childhood and my friends from childhood. They are all pretty funny. Us, as little kids, running around doing silly things. She kept pushing and kept pushing. Finally, the overall big picture story kind of hit me and that’s when I went and reached out to my friends and said ‘Hey, I’ve got this idea. I want to write a novel about the mysterious creature in Roswell and have you guys in it and share real stories that happened to us back when we were in middle school and high school and transform them into an actual readable plot and story.’ Those friends were really enthusiastic about it. That’s how it originated. My wife pushing me to write a story about my friends and mini adventures.”

Tucker’s book will be available for purchase in a limited amount during the book signing. It is also available on Amazon.

Book review  “Mesa Park: Welcome Back to Roswell”

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

After interviewing Tucker, I downloaded the e-book version of “Mesa Park: Welcome Back to Roswell” and started reading. The book pulls the reader in with its vivid language — with an appropriate swear word thrown in when a certain creature shows up — and the natural flowing dialogue. The banter between the old school friends is hilarious and shows a deep connection that even being miles apart won’t break. The story is set in 2009 with flashbacks to 1987, and locals will recognize the authenticity including that the Roswell airport did look like it was out of the ‘70s, just as Tucker writes.

The fictional mystery is kept in an ominous shadow, with visions driving the story. The locations and flashbacks set the atmosphere without losing the storyline, a tricky and well-done accomplishment. A lot of humor lightens the story, especially the description of the diners Denny’s, Schlotzky’s and Capitol Cafe that were the spot to be for the kids growing up in Roswell and where to get a snack, hanging out after a night “on the town” or to enjoy authentic New Mexico food.

I had to Google some fashion that was popular in Roswell in the ‘80s and that Tucker described. The reader might not want to look it all up, because the sight of parachute pants is something I am glad to have missed.

This book has everything locals and newbies to Roswell may appreciate, including those who just enjoy a good mystery with supernatural and out-of-this-world elements. For me, it was also refreshing to see the quality of language. This book would make a great movie and — unlike the TV show “Roswell” — it feels authentic with real drama between the characters.