By Marie Fricker
Dr. Frank X. Roberts, 87, picked up a copy of the South Shore Senior News that had been delivered to the lobby of his Quincy apartment complex in May. The cover story—“Got a tale to tell?”— caught his eye. It was about Stephen White, a Hanover ghostwriter, who was helping baby boomers and older seniors to self publish their books.
Roberts, a former college professor, had not one, but two tales to tell—his own and his late wife Dorothy’s. The stories were already written, but he had no idea how to get them from printed pages to publication, so he sent a quick email to White. The result? Less than a month later, paperback copies of There and Back Again: The Life and Travels of an English Lady by Dorothy (Webb) Roberts, and St. Augustine’s Finger: Medieval Bookmarks and Related Topics by Frank X. Roberts are available for ordering on Amazon.com.
“I’ve already sent Frank his first royalty check,” said White, who designed the covers and formatted the Roberts’ manuscripts for publishing through Amazon. “Many of my clients come to me with just an idea, and I write their story from start to finish. But Frank and Dorothy had already written their books. I just got them into the world.”
Roberts is grateful to White for helping him realize a dream. “Steve enabled me to scratch two items off my bucket list, and I’m so thankful,” s
aid Roberts. “And very soon, we’ll be publishing a new edition of my poems called 50 Years of Poetic Experiments. That’s going to be fun.”
A widower since 2018, Roberts’ biggest desire was to get his wife’s story to a wider audience. She had written a memoir recounting her 60 years of international work and travels from her native England to Africa, Australia, Italy, Spain and her adopted homeland of America. She met her husband in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1961, when she was working for the British Colonial Service, and he was involved in a program called “Teachers for East Africa” through Columbia University. A year later, the couple saw the country get its independence from England and watched the British Union Jack lowered from a tall pole as the new Tanzanian flag was raised.
“I courted Dorothy for two years and bought her engagement ring in Zanzibar,” said Roberts. “We had wonderful times traveling the world for work and pleasure, but in the seventies, we h
ad to flee Uganda, where I was helping to open a library school. General Idi Amin had begun his reign of terror, and we were afraid for our lives when a group of rifle-toting soldiers stopped our car and questioned us.
We flew back to England as soon as we could arrange for a flight, and I bribed a guy to get our cat ‘Hodge’ aboard the plane. Other people were forced to leave their pets on the tarmac, but Hodgie made it on and lived to travel 30,000 miles with us during her lifetime.”
A native of West Quincy, and graduate of Quincy High School, Roberts holds a Master of Library Science degree from Simmons College and a Ph.D. from the University of Buffal
o. He retired in 1997 as a Professor Emeritus at Northern Colorado University and is a proud member of the “International Friends of Bookmarks,” an organization dedicated to collecting and studying bookmarks as artifacts of society. He sent an email about his new book to the 200 members of his club and has already received inquiries from friends in Lithuania, Australia and several other countries.
“Most people take this simple reading tool for granted, but there is so much rich history around it,” said Roberts. “Bookmarks have commemorated great events in every walk of life, and as early as 380 A.D., St. Augustine alluded to the term in his famous work, Confessions. You’ll learn more about that when you read by book.”
Roberts believes his wife would be as thrilled as he is that their stories have been preserved for posterity. “When Dorothy passed, I spread half of her ashes in Lancashire, England where she was born (the setting of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit), and half are in a niche at Blue Hills Cemetery,” he said.
“One day, I will join her there, along with a copy of my book. And there we shall stay for a thousand years. And when the whole thing falls apart, someone will find my book, dust off the first few pages, and say, ‘Hey, this guy was a pretty good writer.’”
If you have a tale (or two) to tell, contact Stephen White at email@example.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marie Fricker, editor of the South Shore Senior News, is also a published author. In her book, All in My Head, How a Hypochondriac Beat Brain Cancer, she tells her personal story of fear, perseverance, and hope with a wry humor that sheds light into the dark abyss of battling a catastrophic disease.