The latest from Rocket Boysauthor Hickam takes an inside look at coal mining, from shoveling gob to negotiating international trade deals, through the lens of modern romance. A half-Korean New York rich girl turned takeover specialist for Daddy's company, Song Hawkins falls for Cable Jordan, a macho West Virginia mining manager. After a whirlwind wedding, she lasts four days in Cable's town of Highcoal, W.Va. (pop. 624), unable to rough it without her brand of cosmetics or low-fat meals. She likes Cable's house and artisan furniture, though, and she still loves Cable. After learning that her father has acquired the company that owns the Highcoal mine, Song returns to see for herself why the company isn't meeting quotas and signs on for beginner miner's training. As she encounters the camaraderies, rivalries, satisfactions and dangers of mining, Song works on solving a murder along with saving her marriage. Hickam's secondary characters-including a folksy wisdom-spouting preacher, a busty Botoxed ex-girlfriend, and a meticulous MSHA safety inspector-narrowly escape caricature by showing their human side during the climactic scene. Love may conquer all, Hickam suggests, but in a coal mine you also need good engineering. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Red Helmetby Homer Hickam
Song Hawkins is a beautiful, tough, but lonely New York City businesswoman who thinks she's met the man of her dreams in Cable Jordan, the superintendent of a West Virginia coal mine. But soon after they impulsively marry, Song realizes they're in big trouble. She can't imagine life outside of New York, and Cable has no intention of leaving his beloved town of
Song Hawkins is a beautiful, tough, but lonely New York City businesswoman who thinks she's met the man of her dreams in Cable Jordan, the superintendent of a West Virginia coal mine. But soon after they impulsively marry, Song realizes they're in big trouble. She can't imagine life outside of New York, and Cable has no intention of leaving his beloved town of Highcoal.
Song's visit to the little mining community only makes things worse. It looks like the marriage is over. But in a shocking turn of events, Song realizes it's up to her to put on the red helmet of the new coal miner and descend into the deep darkness. There she faces her greatest challenge with choices and courage that will forever impact the life of Cable and the entire town.
"Kirsten Potter's skilled narration captures the spirit of adventure and romance that ensues when young take-over specialist Song Hawkins meets and impulsively marries Cable Jordan, a handsome West Virginia coal miner. While Song reluctantly agrees to a week's honeymoon in Cable's hometown, she's confident he’ll return to New York City. Potter uses regional accents to depict multiple characters of various ages in the mountain town of Highcoal. Her depiction of Song's introduction to "Red Hat" coal mining is spellbinding. With impeccable timing, she recounts problems with the environment, illegal drugs, theft, and a world economy that threatens to devastate West Virginia's coal-mining industry. By story’s end, Song and Cable's differences are brought to a surprising and satisfying conclusion."
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By HOMER HICKAM
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Homer Hickam
All right reserved.
Chapter OneListen to me, Norman. I'm not going to say this twice. You call Bill Roberts back and you tell him I said he'd better get his little business plan together or I'm going to do it for him and he won't like that, Norman, he won't like that at all!"
Song frowned deeply as she listened to her assistant's reply through the cell phone clipped on her ear. Norman could be such a wimp! When he was done whining on behalf of the owner of the latest company acquired by her father, a company headed toward failure without some serious reorganization, Song rolled her eyes and stamped her bare feet in the sand. "He'll do it, Norman, and he'll do it on time exactly the way I told him to do it unless he wants to be on the street looking for a new job. And Norman? You might be out there with him. Now, shut up and do what I tell you! Now!"
Song cut her eyes toward the man standing beside her. "What?"
"Well ...," the man drawled, "the preacher just asked you a question."
"Oh!" Song clutched the flowers in her hand and looked into the deer-caught-in-the-headlight eyes of the woman standing in front of her.
"Would you mind repeating that? Not you, Norman! I'm doing something here. Just hang on. Better yet, hang up!"
"Now?" the woman asked plaintively.
"Now," the man beside her said before Song could.
"Will you take this man, to have and hold ..."
Song nodded. "Yeah. Got it. Sure thing. I do."
"Attagirl," he whispered to her.
Song looked up at him. "Cable, I'm sorry. I just had to take care of this. I told Norman not to call for the next hour. Norman, hang up! Don't call me back until you get this solved. Good-bye!"
Cable laughed. "I love you."
Song squared her shoulders. "I love you too."
The minister prattled on, rings were exchanged, and then she said, "I now pronounce you husband and ..."
That was Song's astonished thought as she heard the final words from the barefoot minister. Her second thought was, This is crazy. She looked into the lake-blue eyes of her groom. "Boy, are you in trouble!" she said to Cable while inwardly, she said, So am I.
Her entire life, Song had wanted to love and be loved. Her smart tongue, her New York attitude-that's what she had shown the world. But now, here he was. This man, finally, at the right time and the right place, who saw through her, saw her as she really was, or at least as she thought she could be. Nothing else mattered at that moment but him. At long last. Her phone played its little song. She quickly turned it off.
Cable kissed her and she eagerly kissed him back while their fellow just-marrieds laughed and applauded. When they came up for air, Song threw herself on him in joyful abandon and, heedless of her white sarong, wrapped her legs around his hips and gave him another long, enthusiastic kiss. Whoops and cheers covered them like a wave. Song threw her head back and laughed. It was perfect. The sun was just dipping below the crystal blue sea. Love had finally reached her. It had taken long enough but, never mind, it was hers.
She whispered in his ear, "Do you really love me, Cable?"
"I surely do, Mrs. Jordan," he answered with an easy grin.
She still couldn't accept it. "Why?"
His killer dimple made an appearance. "Why do you think? Because you're you."
Which was exactly the reason Song had asked the question. Loving her, she believed, had to be a hard thing. She was a complicated woman and exuded toughness in a small, durable package. Men didn't like women who were complicated, and they didn't like a woman who was a fighter by trade and inclination. Yet there he was and here she was, standing together wiggling their toes in the sand on a lovely beach on the island of St. John, also known famously as Love City. It was that, and more. Perhaps due to the dangerous combination of romance and rum, St. John was also known as the isle of marriage, which, as had occurred between Song and Cable, sometimes happened between couples who had planned nothing more than a little fun time in the sun.
They were quite the pair.
She was Song Hawkins, the daughter of one of the richest men in the United States. He was Caleb "Cable" Jordan, the son of a coal miner who'd been killed in a mine. She was the "point man" for the acquisition of new properties in her father's company. He was the superintendent of a coal mine. She had been on the cover of Fortune magazine. The title of the piece was "You Think Joe Hawkins is Tough? Meet His Daughter." He had been on the cover of Mining Equipment News. The title of the article was "Ventilation and Brattice Curtains in the Modern Mine." Her mother, the heiress to a Hong Kong family fortune, had been an adventurer who had fallen to her death in the Himalayas in an attempt to be the first Chinese woman to climb K2. His mother lived in Panama City, Florida, in a double-wide trailer with her second husband, a retired plumber. Song lived in New York City. Cable lived in Highcoal, West Virginia.
Against any reasonable calculation of odds, they had met and fallen in love.
And now they were married.
He'd asked her in the most endearing and oh-so-Cable-like manner. It was right after her morning yoga. She was lolling in the hammock on the veranda of their cottage when Cable came and took her by her hand. "I want you to meet someone," he said.
"I can't meet anybody dressed like this," she'd protested, motioning to her string bikini.
"Aw, you look great, honey bunch," he drawled, and pulled her to her feet. She took the time to toss on a spaghetti-strap jersey and followed him to the open-air terrace. To Song's astonishment, at the piano sat someone she had never met but instantly recognized: Jim Brickman, her favorite romantic musician. Brickman was scheduled to sing at the resort the next day, an event Song had been keenly looking forward to, but here he was, the actual, real person, greeting Cable like he was an old friend. It turned out they had known each other for all of a half hour, but that was Cable. He liked people, so different from Song who always held back from strangers unless they were part of a company she was interested in buying.
Brickman nodded to her and said, "Cable asked me to sing a song especially for you," and, without further preamble, his fingers danced across the keys and he began singing a ballad "Destiny."
What if I never knew, What if I never found you, I'd never have this feeling in my heart. How did this come to be? I don't know how you found me.
But from the moment I saw you, Deep inside my heart I knew, Baby, you're my destiny. You and I were meant to be. With all my heart and soul, I give my love to have and hold. And as far as I can see, You were always meant to be my destiny.
Song's knees felt strangely weak, and she leaned against Cable. Brickman finished his song, then said, "My friend Cable has something he wants to ask you."
Cable went down on one knee and took her hands. "Song, will you marry me?" he asked.
"That's ridiculous!" Song blurted, but when she looked into Cable's eyes, she saw he was serious. She was utterly astonished.
"You want to marry me?"
"I do. Right here on this beach. I've already talked to the resort manager. She said she can make it happen in a day. It'll be fun, and the right thing to do too. We're gonna get married sooner or later, aren't we? You know it's true."
"You're crazy, Cable. I don't know any such thing."
"Never make an easy thing hard," he said. She rolled her eyes, having heard it all before.
"There are no easy things," she replied with the certainty of experience, "only things that appear easy but aren't."
Still holding her hands, he stood up. "I know that's what you think, but what a terrible opinion that is of this old world! I love you, you love me, and I don't see that changing. All we have to do is stand up on the beach like all the other couples we've seen at this resort, say I do a couple of times, and we're good to go for the rest of our lives. What could be easier than that?"
Brickman was signing autographs. Their new friends, mostly couples who had come to St. John to be married or to honeymoon, gathered around, urging Song to accept.
Song gave them a cold smile, then pulled Cable aside. "Marrying may be easy," she said, "but marriage isn't."
"Is that a no?"
Song did a quick check of her heart. It was giving her a steady signal.
"No, it's a yes," she said, almost sadly. "This is going to get complicated, Cable, very complicated."
Cable gave out a shout. "She said yes!"
Cheers followed, Brickman played triumphant chords on the piano, the other couples came up and hugged them, and Song was washed away in an emotional tsunami. When she came up for air, she looked into Cable's eyes, searching for even the slightest hint of doubt. She saw only a rock steady certainty.
"You're amazing," she marveled.
"Is that good?"
"Not always, Cable. Not always." She took his hand. "Let's go back to our cottage."
"I'll go back with you," he said. "But I'll be sleeping in the hammock tonight. Once you decide to get married, you got to start acting right."
She had never known a man like this. "All right," she said. "Does this mean I can wear white at the wedding?"
He laughed. "Just make sure you can get out of it in a hurry."
"You goofball. I guess Jim Brickman is right. You're my destiny whether I like it or not."
"Then I guess it's a good thing we're going to get married."
It was their wedding night. Cable was the most marvelous lover. His touches, his kisses, everything he did lifted her higher until at the top of an arc of passion, there was an amazing spontaneous combustion of raw, wild emotion. Song had never imagined such pleasure existed. After they'd made love, they lay quietly in the warm breeze coming through the open sliders. Gradually, the volcano within her subsided, and her rational self returned.
"What have we done, Cable?"
"We got married, that's what," he answered lazily. He nuzzled his nose into her neck and took a deep breath. "You smell fantastic. I wish I could bottle you up and carry you around everywhere I go. And you are one fantastic loving machine, lady."
Wheels were turning in Song's head, wheels she'd stopped to get married and then make love but were now fully engaged. Without realizing she was doing it, she twisted on her finger the thin gold band they'd bought at the resort gift shop.
"What are we going to do?"
"In the morning, we'll drive up to Francis Bay and do some snorkeling," Cable said. "I heard there's tarpon there."
Cable could be so obtuse at times. It was one of his more endearing traits, one of several that she looked forward to changing. "I mean after our honeymoon. How are we going to work this out? I mean, you in West Virginia, and me in New York?"
Cable's reply was instantaneous. "You'll move to West Virginia. Wait until you see our house. It's up on the mountain that overlooks Highcoal. You can see the mine from there and everything."
"I can't move to Highcoal," she replied in a firm tone. "My father depends on me too much. And I love my job. I couldn't possibly give it up. Why don't you transfer to New York?"
He removed his arm from around her, came up on one elbow, and looked at her with more than a little surprise. "I can't go up there. All they do is crunch numbers in that old office. I mine coal for a living. And I love Highcoal. It's my place. Always has been, always will be."
"You love it more than me?" The question just popped out of her. If she'd thought about it, she wouldn't have asked it, or at least phrased it quite that starkly, but there it was, asked and hanging in the air of the sweet Caribbean night, fragrant with frangipani and plumeria.
She watched him start to say one thing, then she could almost see him change his mind. "Never make an easy thing hard," he said, as if that settled everything.
"I told you there are no easy things ..."
"... only those that seem easy but aren't. I know." He gazed at her. "I think you're beautiful."
Song had been told she was beautiful by other men, all of whom had let her down. She chose to argue the point. "Beautiful? Hardly. My lips are too big, my nose is too small, and my eyes are too narrow. I'm a funny-faced girl. You know it's true."
He traced a finger across her forehead and down her nose and touched her lips. "Your face is perfect. I loved everything about it from the moment we met."
"I'm too skinny. I'm too short. And I'm flat-chested."
"You have a figure most women would die for," he said.
"My hair! It's so straight. There's not a bit of curl in it."
"I love your hair," Cable said, although now there was a touch of weariness in his tone. "Don't touch it, don't cut it, don't curl it, leave it alone. I love everything about you, I swan-!"
"I swan? You always say that but I never knew what it meant."
Cable explained, "Coal miners think it's bad luck to say 'I swear' in the mine. It's sort of like taking God's name in vain. So we say 'I swan.'"
She pondered him. "Am I going to have to learn a new language with you?"
"I swan you might," he said, allowing a smile, and his dimple appeared. But both vanished when he saw Song was not smiling. "You're really serious about all this, aren't you?"
She scrutinized him. "We've done the most romantic thing, Cable. We got married at sunset on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and we did it on the spur of the moment. But now we're having a business meeting to decide our proper course."
"A business meeting? In bed on the night of our honeymoon?"
"Yes, Cable. Now pay attention. In any business meeting, it's good to start with a little truth. Do you know what makes me happy? I mean besides you, of course."
"Not really," he confessed.
"My work. I crawl up inside a company for my father, see what makes it tick, then mentally take it apart. After I understand everything about it, I either recommend moving on or buying it. If we buy the company, we maximize its profits by making it better. Sometimes that means we fire everybody and start over."
Her job description didn't surprise him, but her attitude did. "You make yourself sound ruthless."
"I don't mean to be, but I have a job to do and that's to make my father money. It's a family business after all."
"A job is an important thing," he said. "My job is also my town. That's why I can't leave it. It's a responsibility I took on. I can't walk away."
They fell silent for a few moments.
"Well, I can't leave New York."
He rested his head on his pillow and looked at the ceiling where there were only shadows, not counting a stray gecko.
"Don't worry," he said, after what she considered too long a time. "We'll figure it out."
"How will we figure it out?" she pressed.
"Soon. Not now. I'm sleepy. You know. We just made love and all."
Cable clearly didn't understand they were having a meeting, and Song knew it was important never to leave a meeting with a critical question unanswered. She was quiet for a long while, knowing he probably hoped she'd gone to sleep.
"Do you know who else got married on the same beach we did?" she asked, spoiling his hope.
"Well, I'd say about a million other folks," he answered. He made a show of yawning.
"Renée Zellwegger and Kenny Chesney."
"Who are they? Did we meet them?"
It didn't surprise Song that Cable wouldn't know who the actress was. He didn't seem to know anything about movies or the people who acted in them. But Kenny Chesney? Surely he knew country music. She identified the pair and said, "They had their marriage annulled, Cable. Some say it was because she wanted to live one place, he another."
That got his attention. He sat up. "Honey, don't talk like that! It's bad luck."
"I don't believe in luck-except what you make for yourself."
"Don't say that, either! Saying you don't believe in luck is bad luck all by itself."
"No more," he shushed her. "Miners are the most superstitious of fellows. Don't you know that? Talking about annulments and such on the night of our marriage is like whistling in a coal mine. It just isn't done."
"All right, Cable," she said, shaking her head at his little rant.
"Things will be better in the morning. My mother always said that."
Song turned wistful. "I wish I'd known my mother. They say she was beautiful and brave. But why she chose to risk her life with a baby at home, I don't know. I've missed her my entire life. I know my father never really got over losing her."
"My daddy had something to say on that," Cable replied. "He told me-it wasn't too long before he got killed-you ever find yourself a good woman, son, don't you ever let her go, no matter what. Good women don't come around that often."
She crawled into his arms. "I am not a good woman," she said, resting her head against his chest. "I'm complicated."
"Daddy didn't say a good woman had to be simple," he answered, stroking her hair. He adored her long hair and tried to remember to tell her fairly often. Women were always cutting off their wonderful long hair, and men could never figure out why.
"Will it be okay, Cable?" she asked quietly. "Tell me it will be okay."
"It will be okay," he said. "I swan." His big hands began to explore her again, and she arched her back in pleasure.
"You're beautiful," he said.
"I almost believe it when I'm with you."
The business meeting was adjourned.
Excerpted from Red Helmet by HOMER HICKAM Copyright © 2007 by Homer Hickam. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Homer Hickam (also known as Homer H. Hickam, Jr.) is the bestselling and award-winning author of many books, including the #1 New York Times memoir Rocket Boys, which was adapted into the popular film October Sky. A writer since grade school, he is also a Vietnam veteran, a former coal miner, a scuba instructor, an avid amateur paleontologist, and a retired engineer. He lives in Alabama and the Virgin Islands.
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I believe this may be another book to put on my favors list. I could not put this book down. The author done a great job with this book, it grabs your attention at the beginning and never lets go until you finish it. A great love story with spiritual meaning!
$8.99 at Amazon for Kindle. Barnes and Noble you lost a sale. I would love to read it but not for that ridiculous price. It's an ebook for goodness sake. Absurd pricing.
eBook for competitor's Kindle is $9.99
I wasn't sure what to expect from a coal mining book, and almost put the novel down in the first fifty pages because the heroine was so unlikeable. However I persevered and was rewarded with a combination of coal mining education, studies in human behavior and a sweet romance. Best known for his book 'Rocket Boys' Hickam has moved beyond the space and science genre to create a story that should be equally appealing to men and women. My one disappointment? The gratuitous appearance of Jim Brickman in the opening scene. It was contrived and leapt out as an obvious PR ploy for both the author and musician. The story could have stood alone quite well without this.
RED HELMET is a riveting,romance/adventure story that captures the true spirit of the West Virginia coal miner and the courage and skill of mine rescue teams everywhere. It's a real page turner that will have the reader laughing out loud in some parts and in tears in others. I could not put it down.
Readers clamoring for fast-moving, absorbing books of either fiction or non-fiction can certainly find both in the works of Homer Hickam. Besides his internationally acclaimed 'Rocket Boys' memoirs, Hickam has written a gripping narrative about German U-boats along America's Atlantic coast during World War II ('Torpedo Junction'), a riveting techno-thriller sure to please any science fiction buff ('Back to the Moon'), eloquent and heartfelt words of 'strength and courage' inspired by the events of September 11, 2001 ('We Are Not Afraid'), and three action-packed World War II novels featuring the swashbuckling Josh Thurlow ('The Keeper's Son,' 'The Ambassador's Son,' and 'The Far Reaches'). With his latest novel, Homer Hickam returns to his roots and the coal mines of West Virginia that he knows so well. And in the pages of 'Red Helmet,' with its focus on contemporary Highcoal, West Virginia, you'll become familiar with them too, as well as the problems and issues that residents daily--and unflinchingly--face head-on. And throughout the story, which showcases beautiful, hard-nosed New York businesswoman Song Hawkins and the equally tough manager of the Highcoal mine, Cable Jordan, are interwoven thrilling subplots of intrigue, romance, murder, and sheer nail-biting suspense. It all makes for a page-turning tale, one that will captivate the millions of devoted fans of this best-selling author.
Homer Hickam's latest novel takes him back to a familiar place the coalfields of West Virginia. And, the homecoming is sweet. In Red Helmet Hickam is right in the pocket with the tale of a small mining town, a big city out of towner stirring things up, action, adventure, romance and humor. If you liked his 'Coalwood' series, which included the now classic 'Rocket Boys' which became the good-but-not-as-good-as-the-book movie 'October Sky', you'll really love this modern day peek into the lives of these folks. Plus, if you're a fan of popular musician Jim Brickman, he makes a cameo in the book. How cool is THAT? I loved this book...couldn't put it down.
I like all of Homer Hickam's books but I'm tickled he has decided to return to what made him famous in the first place with this story of life in the Appalachian coalfields. The difference is this time his story has a contemporary setting with all the problems and challenges of life in today's world. I loved his main character, the plucky Song, a rich New Yorker who marries a West Virginia coal mine manager. Cable's his name and coal mining's his game and nothing, not even love for his rich, new wife, is going to get him to leave the mountains and mines. Naturally, it doesn't take too long before the marriage is in trouble. Cable's a great character, too, but he is so typically MALE. I liked it when Song decides to put on the red helmet of the novice coal miner and show Cable what she's truly made of. Pretty soon, I was cheering her and her fellow 'red caps' on. There's also a mystery to be solved and a murder or two, not to mention a big finish with a mine explosion and a rescue attempt that makes all the big television news programs. I know women readers are going to love this story and I bet men will, too.
Another great book by Homer Hickam. A romantic look at modern coal mining USA. After his wildly successful 'Coalwood' series - Rocket Boys/October Sky, etc. - Hickam has written a stirring, very satisfying novel set in modern Appalachia. He pulls no punches. Song, a beautiful New Yorker, and Cable, the manager of a coal mine, love each other but Song hates West Virginia and the people in it. Meth and oxycontin are part of the culture now and Hickam includes it along with the otherwise lovable people of Highcoal. Ultimately, Song has to put on the red helmet of a new coal miner and face the coal mine which she naturally detests. But there, she finds of all things love. The book is dedicated to mine rescue teams everywhere so I don't think it gives too much away to say that Hickam has also written a 'mine rescue procedural' here. Ever wonder what's going on behind the scenes during a mine rescue? Hickam provides it. All this plus his trademark subtle humor 'yet, I laughed out loud several times', Hickam may be back with a book that could approach even October Sky in sales. We booksellers are always looking for a book to stimulate sales post-Christmas. I think we have one here.