Friday, Nov. 13, 1942: Spotlights speared across the velvet darkness in the waters North of Guadalcanal as an outgunned group of American warships crossed paths with two Japanese battleships and their escorts. As quickly as the lights flicked on, the amber glow of gunfire shredded the intense black veil that had provided temporary sanctuary.
Autumn, 2022: This is the climatic setting of the story Kyle von Bergen and his friend Dylan hear from a great-grandfather Kyle had never met until he moved in with the 15-year-old and his mother. It’s also the dramatic conclusion of a story that will affect Kyle in ways he wouldn’t have imagined when he heard the old man was coming to stay. Kyle had enough on his hands: adjusting to high school and dealing with a bully who harbored a long-time grudge against the young man. Would this story tip the scales or give Kyle the strength to carry on?
That’s the set-up of The Burning Sea of Iron Bottom Bay – Local 73 (Chicago and Cook County, Ill.) retiree Rich Rostron’s recently published young adult novel. The book tells the story of Kyle, a teenager struggling to acclimate to high school, life in a small apartment with his recently divorced mother, and a new relationship with his great-grandfather – a WWII veteran whose thrilling wartime tales unexpectedly draw Kyle in.
“This is a tale of courage and heroism from a bygone time,” said Rostron. “But it’s also a timeless story of learning to deal with hard times and overwhelming challenges. It’s a story of the kind of strength we need now as much as ever.”
Rostron worries that young Americans today have lost track of the sacrifices made by veterans throughout our country’s history. “That’s one of the reasons I wrote this book, and wrote it for young adults and teens,” he said. “But I also recall that I was about that age when I was introduced to the wonders between the covers of books in the library. It was the start of a life-long passion that I’d like to share with others.”
In addition to serving his community as a sheet metal worker since starting his apprenticeship around 1980, Rostron has spent time as a freelancer with The Chicago Tribune and numerous other publications, was sports editor with The Woodstock Independent and served as the advisor to The Tartan, the student newspaper at McHenry County College. And he isn’t slowing down now.
“This is the first in a series of books I plan to write about American history,” Rostron explained. “I recently completed a research trip to New England for several books I want to write about the American Revolution.”
Find The Burning Sea of Iron Bottom Bay at Barnes and Noble, Kindle and other outlets.