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“It opened my eyes”
Temple Grandin praises “Free Marcus Katz!!!,” a breezy new novel that probes issues of conservatorship for those on the autism spectrum
Booker prize-nominated author Howard Marc Chesley has friends in the autism community so he was especially careful to share early drafts of his latest novel with experts both on and off the spectrum. “Free Marcus Katz!!!- A Curated Collection of Yelp Reviews” (available February 1 from John Hunt Publishing) features a young man who has Asperger’s Syndrome. The wry epistolary novel written in the format of Yelp reviews got high marks from early readers, but neurotypical novelist Chesley was nonetheless apprehensive when he submitted it to revered author and autism advocate, Temple Grandin. She wrote:
“The clever format of creating a book in the form of Yelp reviews for businesses will make the reader think about serious abuses of people with disabilities. Autistic people, elders, and individuals with intellectual disabilities may lose their legal rights when relatives and other people form conservatorships for their own financial gain. The reviews alternate between fun to read descriptions to restaurants and hotels to reviews of law offices and a dingy group home that contains the book’s serious message. It opened my eyes to use of the legal system to abuse individuals who are fully capable of making their own decisions.”
The inspiration for “Free Marcus Katz!!!” was born when Mr. Chesley read Rachel Aviv’s angry 2017 New Yorker article detailing how an elderly Las Vegas couple were locked away and swindled by a court-appointed public guardian. Mr. Chesley came back to it a few years later and placed a forced conservatorship into the life of his sweet twenty-two year old hero with Asperger’s, Marcus Katz. Marcus lives pleasantly in an apartment over his mom’s garage in Santa Monica, California and delights in writing Yelp reviews in which he also uninhibitedly talks about his life while reviewing local restaurants and businesses. When his doting mother dies, a rapacious court-appointed conservator warehouses him in a dismal group home. Distraught, he runs away, pursued by his conservator, on an ill-advised road trip, spurred on by hazy plans to meet up with a woman, also on the spectrum, that he met online who lives in a commune in Oregon. The outcome turns out to be life-changing for Marcus.
Howard Marc Chesley is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins writing seminars. He has worked as a writer of film and television and his first novel, “Some Books Aren’t for Reading,” was nominated for a 2019 Booker prize. He is available for interviews and can be queried for writing on the subject of court-ordered conservatorship. “Free Marcus Katz!!!” is listed for preorder now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Review copies sent to the press on request.