by A.B. Hollingsworth
Bildungsroman – a coming-of-age story
After rejections from over 40 literary agents, the mainstream fiction novel, Flatbellies, eventually found its first home with a small golf publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, in Chelsea, Michigan. Recognizing the potential in this book beyond a golf story, the publisher took out a full page ad on the back cover of Publishers Weekly, and a coming-of-age classic was born.
National golf writer for the Associated Press, Doug Ferguson, anointed the book with the following blurb: “Flatbellies reads like a combination of American Graffiti and Hoosiers put on pages with humor and wit. It’s a wonderful story about relationships and about how a kid can make a compassionate impact on people from a variety of social classes. I loved it.”
Shortly after release in 2001, the book was reviewed in USA Today, and was then named a “Hot Book of the Summer” by Barnes and Noble. Readership soared when the book was purchased for softcover release by W. W. Norton (New York/London).
One year after the release of Flatbellies, a panel of East Coast sportswriters named it as one of the Top Ten Golf Books of All Time, the list published in the Washington Times where it was noted that Hollingsworth was the only author of the 10 who was not a golfer and, for that matter, not a professional writer.
Never intended as a “golf book,” however, Flatbellies extended well beyond the rural setting and the golf theme. Feedback from non-golfers was as common as the praise from the golfing world. In 2003, teachers at Derby High School in Wichita, Kansas began teaching the novel in their Honors English Class over the course of a semester, even developing a study guide. The author would then visit at the end of each school year to meet with students who had studied his novel.
The book has never been free from the watchful eye of Hollywood, optioned for film by three different groups (yes, the author traveled to Beverly Hills all 3 times), beginning with the day of publication and for the next 15 years. In each case, a stumbling block has been the failure to capture the book’s charm in screenplay format. Even today, queries are fielded about the movie status, and one of the three groups that previously optioned the book for film (3 Arts Entertainment) remains in contact with the author.
After a whirlwind experience on radio, TV, appearances at golf tournaments and dealing with filmmakers, Dr. Hollingsworth returned to a focus on his medical practice, while starting work on the sequel, University Boulevard.