I am an ideas- and issues-driven writer with an eye for analysis and an ear for truth. My main literary influences are Philip Roth and his striving characters in “Goodbye, Columbus” and “Portnoy’s Complaint,” the revealing local insights of Charleston in Pat Conroy’s “South of Broad,” the full magical realism of Michael Chabon’s “Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” and the perfect narrative of Geraldine Brooks (in her book “The Secret Chord”) in describing the relationship between King David and Samuel the prophet.
The social historian Arthur Koestler intrigued me with his theory of the Khazars and their possible conversion to Judaism. I’m a fellow social scientist and was fascinated with the messianic concept and how it might play out, especially after I developed a multicultural education treatment for middle school students.
The product of an interesting family and network of friends, I included many as character models to memorialize their goodness and uniqueness.
I started “Dues: The Coming of Allie Cohen” in 1980 as a mirror of the Reagan era. For nine years I wrote on weekends, holidays and summers off. Growing family and career needs forced me to put it down and let it marinate for 25 years.
Four years ago, I dusted it off and transformed the story into a period piece, and I think I finally got it right.
G-d sends a Messiah who does not fly through the air, walk on water, or hurl lightning and thunderbolts. The mission of the Lord’s “Einstein of human relations” is to teach the people how to live in peace and freedom by embracing human virtues of trust, cooperation and love.
The people are challenged by the Almighty to behold and exalt the prophet and follow in a common state of awe, but will they really see, hear or listen to him?
Dr. Allie Cohen, a successful educator, develops a statistically valid prejudice-reduction treatment for global application. Allie is married to Sarah, his beloved angel of the hearth. He also writes “The Lesson,” a best-selling novel that is made into a Holocaust-themed film.
Meteoric success drives a wedge into Allie’s idyllic life with his beautiful, red-haired wife, a gifted educational specialist.
G-d commissions Allie by teaming him with Carole Herman, the most popular Jewish actress and singer in the world — his angel of beholding. Carole falls in love with Allie; he joins her on a goodwill tour for President Reagan and becomes a global force for justice and compassion.
The peace missions, though, tug at Allie’s bond with his family.
As Allie’s importance and influence grow, strains between him and Carole form just as his family stabilizes. Things worsen with Carole when Allie switches from direct action for improving human welfare to the growth of a huge philanthropic fortune for direct investment in the lives of the poor and oppressed.
In the end, G-d and Special Angel Gabriel, the narrator, empower Allie to transform Atlanta into a model metropolis for all citizens. A rainbow cast full of colorful characters with their own dreams intersects with Allie and drives the explosive conclusion.
“Dues” is an almost biblical love story that will make you laugh, cry and take stock of your life. I take the reader on an emotional roller coaster and exciting trip around the world that will leave you thinking about where America is headed as a society and how the world is evolving.
I was born and raised in New Jersey and graduated from Pace University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and from Georgia State University with a doctorate. A career educator, businessman, writer and world traveler, I was married for 38 years to Sue Auerbach Heller, who passed in 2009, and have one son, Sasha, a journalist in Austin, Texas.
I have published on my website (www.arnoldheller.org) about 130 original pages covering a range of subjects — Atlanta-Ra’anana sister cities information, model social studies lessons, a turnkey international business program curriculum and entrepreneurship tools, a doctoral dissertation, model student exchange programs, travel, photo albums and notes about the novel.