What would you sacrifice, what price would you be willing to pay, to gain access to the proverbial fountain of youth? It’s a question that’s been pondered, debated, and featured in books and movies ad infinitum. But PJ Media founder and Academy Award nominee Roger L. Simon puts a unique spin on the question with The GOAT, a fast-paced and thought-provoking novel that officially goes on sale Sept. 1, just in time for the U.S. Open.
I’ve had the pleasure of editing Roger’s articles at PJ Media for the last four years — he’s always a delight to read — but until recently hadn’t been introduced to his talent as a fiction writer. In addition to two non-fiction books (Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine and I Know Best), Roger is the author of ten novels and seven screenplays, including The Big Fix and Enemies, a Love Story, the latter garnering him an Academy Award nomination.
The GOAT — Greatest of All Time for those who are not immersed in sports culture — revolves around Dan Gelber, a retired screenwriter whose mind is sharper than his aging body (and who, incidentally, has more than a little in common with the author). He suffers a debilitating back injury during a seniors tennis tournament and soon finds himself on the operating table in a last-ditch effort to repair his deteriorating spine. The surgery is a failure, and Dan becomes a shell of his former self — disabled, discouraged, and contemplating whether he ought to just put himself out of his misery. Estranged from his family, he struggles to find a reason to live. “The gods were using him as a plaything, tossing him around like a rag doll,” he thinks.
But then he remembers the Indian (or was it Pakistani?) cleaning lady who lingered in his hospital room before the surgery. “Don’t do operation,” she had warned. “Operation terrible. Only get worse. Man here came in with broken toe, had operation, never walked again. Later he die of gangrene. In hospital. Age fifty-two.”
“Go see Uncle Nawang,” she advised. “Nawang Gombo. My cousin. In Reseda. He fix everything — knee, shoulder, hair loss, bad skin, prostate problem, even back. Very good with back. You start dancing soon.”
Emotionally distraught and unable to conjure the courage to end his life, Dan finds himself at a strip mall looking for the uncle’s clinic. He finds Gombo — a preternaturally youthful 97-year-old Nepali — who gives him a packet of herbs, instructing him to make a tea. Four weeks later, Dan’s back on the tennis court feeling better than he had in years and getting younger by the day. Before long he has the body of a 22-year-old — which thrills him but complicates his relationships
But, of course, these things never last. He needs more herbs — stronger ones — and so he finds himself in Nepal, hoping to extend this fountain of youth he’d stumbled upon a little longer. While in Nepal, he makes a fateful decision — one that indelibly alters his life. Or is it his life? In the blink of an eye, he finds himself on the professional tennis circuit, on the verge of becoming the GOAT.
As with any Faustian tale, Dan’s newfound youth comes with a steep price. There’s more to Gombo than meets the eye, and eternal youth ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I won’t spoil the rest, but I can tell you that The GOAT is an exciting (and at times harrowing) tale with a very poignant and satisfying ending.
When Roger asked me if I’d be interested in reading an early draft of his book, I hesitated at first. Not only because I’m not into tennis, but because I’m an editor — which means I read tens of thousands of words of copy every day. When my workday is finished, the last thing I want to do is read. I hadn’t read anything for pleasure in months — a couple of years if I’m honest — and I wasn’t sure I would enjoy reading a fiction book after a 12-hour day spent reading political essays. But Roger’s book surprised me. The first pages engaged me and I found I couldn’t put it down. The fact that I know hardly anything about tennis was inconsequential. I breezed through the book in a few days and at the end, discovered that I had rediscovered my love for reading. Now, I look forward to losing myself in a good book (currently Wuthering Heights) at the end of a long day of work. For that, I’m immensely grateful to Roger.
This is the first book that Roger has self-published. (He explained his reasons here.) As conservatives, we should all applaud — and support — such efforts. Self-publishing puts authors in the driver’s seat, freeing them from the whims of corporate book publishers and Big Tech control freaks. And while I’d encourage you to buy Roger’s book for that reason alone, I assure you it won’t be a fully altruistic effort on your part — I’m confident you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did. Believe me, you won’t be able to put it down.