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Huntington Beach author challenges stereotypes in first YA novel

Bob Madison, a Huntington Beach resident, had his first young adult novel, "Spiked!," published this week.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Bob Madison remembers the time he got in the most trouble at his Catholic high school in New York.

It wasn’t because of something he said or did to his teachers or classmate. No, it was because of a little book called “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core” by Edgar Rice Burroughs that Madison started reading when he was 14.

“I was so enthralled by it that the next day, instead of going to school, I went to the park and sat in a tree all day to finish reading ‘Tarzan at the Earth’s Core,’” he said. “Little did I realize, the school was calling my mother, wondering where I was. I came back at 3 o'clock, and my mother said, ‘How was school today?’ I said, ‘Oh, it was really tough.’

“And she said, ‘You’ll never guess who I heard from today.’ I got in a lot of trouble for Tarzan.”

Madison, who moved from New York to Huntington Beach five years ago with his husband Russell Frost, kept up that lifelong love of reading during his career as a communications executive. Now 60 years old, he hopes to give that joy another generation of teenagers.

Madison had his first young adult novel, “Spiked!,” published by Vulpine Press this week. It is available on Amazon.

The 238-page book tells the story of Thom and A.J., two childhood friends growing up in Long Island who Madison calls nerds. It contains a lot of Madison’s personality baked in.

“I learned a lot about how to be a good person through the nerd culture that I consumed when I was growing up,” he said. “They obsess over ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

But their “nerd paradise,” as Madison put it, becomes corrupted when they fall in love with baseball. Madison never did that, although he remembers a poster of former New York Mets star Lenny Dykstra, shirt off and baseball bat in hand, with his nickname “Nails” at the top.

“If you’re going to figure out that you’re gay, you’re probably going to figure out you’re gay looking at posters of things like Lenny Dykstra,” Madison said.

Bob Madison, a Huntington Beach resident, will have his first young adult novel, "Spiked!," published this week.
Bob Madison, a Huntington Beach resident, is a former communications executive turned author.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In the story, Thom and A.J. become obsessed with an egotistical baseball star nicknamed Spike. Thom realizes that he needs to tell A.J., who plays baseball, that Spike is probably not the best role model to have.

Madison made sure to include plenty of comedy in the story, which includes a riotous night out on the town with Spike. He said his younger brother David Lee Madison, a former first baseman, helped fill in some of the particulars about the sport of baseball.

But there are plenty of lessons to go around, too. Frost, who has read his husband’s book, appreciates the family dynamics at play.

“You see the relationship that the two boys have with each other, their friends and their parents and family,” Frost said. “The way one friend interacts with the family of the other friend, you can learn a lot just looking at that. Families are very different and raise their children in a very different way, and the boys are experiencing that, because they’re visiting each other so much.”

That part also rings true to Madison, who said it was easy when Frost came out to his family but called his own experience “a disaster.”

Either way, he’s excited that the book is now published. “Spiked!” will be promoted on BookBub starting on Tuesday, Madison said, which should help get more eyes on it. He has already sold another book, “Cash and Carrey,” which he called a politically incorrect adult comedy novel.

He said the lesson of “Spiked!” is to follow your heart and be true to yourself, and don’t worry about labels. Madison added that he hopes to catch some of the magic and amazement of those teenage years.

“I think young adult books should be replete with joy,” Madison said. “When I say joy, I don’t necessarily mean happy, but they have to do something for you to make your life better. Not only should they be replete with joy, but they should be crammed with wonder. When you’re at that golden high school age, everything is magical.”

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