in Three Parts
A. Harkin will
ever put his
In fact, it has
been front and
center the past
splits time between his “retirement”
homes in Toms River and Chiang Mai,
Thailand, researching a proposed
trilogy of novels based on his wartime
service in an Air Force film unit. The
first of the set, The Big Buddha Bicycle
Race: A Novel, (Ohio University Press),
revolves around a morale-building
exercise that goes awry.
“What I feel is unique about my
writing is that on a factual level, it
creates a coherent picture of the last
couple years of the war,” says Harkin,
71. “The storytelling comes out of the
mix of draftees and guys, like me, who
joined the Air Force to get out of the
draft, and how opposites bonded.”
Harkin grew up in Red Bank and
Sparta, later moving to Pennsylva-
nia. He attended Brown University,
earning a B.A. in literature, before
enlisting in hopes of being stationed
Stateside with a film unit. He eventu-
ally shipped out to Thailand, close to
the old Ho Chi Minh Trail. He found
his overseas stint harrowing, and it
turns out, cleansing.
After the service, Harkin worked
as a camera operator on major films
and TV series, including Seinfeld. He
later became a high school writing
teacher in California, then in New
Jersey, at Lakewood and Middletown
East. These days, he spends the warm-weather months at the Shore, then returns to Chiang Mai, a cultural mecca
an hour’s flight from Bangkok.
“I meet all sorts of people from
around the world there, then bask in
the warm memories of New Jersey,”
says Harkin, whose wife also hails
from the Garden State. “It’s unusual,
but for me, quite the way it should
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