Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now For Nola (1970)

Now For Nola

Lee Priestley, il. Catherine H. Scholz (cover)

1970, Julian Mesner

Nola sighed. "Why won't you believe I can stay in love?"

"Because you're such a kid. You've still got peanut butter and jelly on your face. How do you know you're ready to be a wife?"

19-year-old Nola Foret has spent her post-high school months exasperating her airline executive father by taking up and abandoning a series of interests including her latest passion, drama school. When Pa puts his foot down, Nola is startled but agrees to begin working at the air freight office at his airport. Which is where she meets Tom Cartwright.

He was tall and tanned and too thin. Sun-streaked hair, brown eyes flecked with green, a strong chin and an amused mouth... His uniform and his captain's bars looked shiny new, but he had a jaunty assurance that matched his winged insignia.

Tom's 25, a career soldier with an engineering degree who's working on helicopter modifications for the Vietnam war zone he's recently left. He comes from a line of career servicemen, a fact that Nola doesn't initially consider. It's love at first sight for both of them, but Tom's more cautious, realizing his young girlfriend doesn't realize exactly what she'd be getting into as a military wife. Or, considering her track record as a flibbertygibbit, as a wife, period. As her father throws at her, early on,

"I've lost track of how often you've lauched out on a great wave of enthusiasm and then paddled back to shore when the going got tough."

But Nola charges ahead. She persuades Tom to agree to marriage now rather than later, and joins him on the ragged little airbase of Bitter Lake. Now, with Tom busy and her wealthy family far away, Nola discovers how much she'll need to change if she's to make this new life a success. First order of the day - quit annoying the Colonel's wife.

Fran sighed. "I keep forgetting this is your first post. Listen, honey. When the Colonel's Lady says, "Hop!" all the officer's wives make like frogs."

Nola's struggles to fit in, to find a meaning and a purpose and settle to a task for more than 12 seconds, make a satisfying read. The crossover aspects between the classic old-school romances and the Vietnam era makes it an interesting one. Conversations refer more explicitly to sex - one serviceman's wife says, with practical frankness, "We don't do such a good business in hatching stuff since The Pill. That playpen came in last month and it's still here." Nola deliberately attempts to make the military chaplain at the R&R base in Honolulu think she's pregnant, to get his support in her surprise arrival to marry Tom. And there are other examples of a widening world. Nola's nearest neighbor on the base is a black girl, Fran, who quickly tells her a lot of facts of military wife life. Nola's father the executive believes all girls need to be able to support themselves, just in case.

But at the core, it's still an old-style plot with pre-Vietnam values. Early on, Nola dismisses a previous boyfriend, who went into grad school to avoid the draft:

"Then it occured to him he might get drafted out of that real fine job, and bang! he's against the war... I don't think I'd like getting shot at any more than he does, but it seems to me he's playing both ends against the middle...if you're going to take all the goodies the system provides - an education, a good job, all that - shouldn't you be willing to do your share to keep the system going?"

Other Books

Young Adult

Tour To Romance (1978)

Believe In Spring (1964)

Because Of Rainbows

The Sound of Always


Mee-Yow (1968)

Rocket Mouse (1966)

A Teacher For Tibby (1960)

The Two Too Twins (1966)

Two Stories About Kate and Kitty

Short Stories

She wrote many short stories for publications such as Thrilling Ranch Stories, Texas Rangers, and Giant Western. A list is available at The Fiction Mags Index here


Journeys Of Faith (bio)

Billy the Kid: The Good Side of a Bad Man

Within Sound of the Bugle

About the Author


Raised in Kansas, Priestley went to New Mexico in 1947 with husband Orville to run the Las Cruces Sun-News. They owned the newspaper until 1970.

No comments:

Post a Comment