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Alex Cherin
The Mighty Six-Ninety (690)
A Holocaust survivor facing eviction, a schoolboy struggling with his identity, a single mother who is on the verge of being exposed for embezzlement, and a speedway daredevil whose bruised body and fragile ego are beyond repair, all find themselves scouring the Southern California landscape for $50,000 in buried cash--the grand prize of a struggling AM radio station's contest. Unknown to each other but bonded by a common desire for redemption, each is a willing participant in a treasure hunt caught between nostalgia and desperation. "The Summer of $50,000" unfolds against a California landscape very much in flux, both culturally and geographically. Only one contestant will call on a troubled past to help walk away with the money--and the salvation that they hope it will bring.
Journalist Cherin debuts with the tender story of a radio-sponsored treasure hunt in Southern California. In 1981, a floundering pop radio station hatches a weeklong campaign to drum up ratings by burying $50,000 and offering one clue per day about the treasure’s whereabouts. Among the competitors are Sally Lang, a single mother and bank teller, who hopes to replace the money she’s been stealing at work to make ends meet; aging motorcycle racer Danny Baker, who eyes the cash as his path toward retirement; and Holocaust survivor and synagogue janitor Augie Kloptman, who faces unemployment and eviction when his temple announces plans to move. Augie later teams up with Jason Schneidman, a 13-year-old congregant adrift in the wake of his parents’ divorce, who plans to use his share of the money to impress girls. As Sally worries her theft will be discovered in an upcoming audit, Danny dreams of opening a motorcycle shop, and Jason warms to the lonely Augie, Cherin strikes a balance between frothy entertainment and thoughtful examination of his character’s fears, desires, and need for connection. Readers will be rooting for everyone to win in this impressive tale. (Self-published)