An author spent two years living in Dubuque doing research for a trilogy of books and worked in a host of jobs, learning from everyone from the mayor to meatpackers. Tom Jones’ novels, called “The Loss of Certainty,” look at how issues like the economy, racism and flooding impact the residents of a Midwestern city.
Jones says he focused much of his intensive study on city workers, including police officers, firefighters, garbage men and other the behind-the-scenes people who keep our communities running. “I was able to work out an agreement with the city council that allowed me to spend time in city departments,” Jones says.
“Sometimes I actually got involved in the work. I picked up trash for a period of time. My first department was the wastewater treatment plant and the first thing I did there was clean out the intakes for the plant. They knew I was coming and so they had an interesting job set aside for me.”
Dubuque is known as Jackson in the work of fiction, but Jones says people in the northeast Iowa community would certainly recognize many elements as he put painstaking efforts into making details true-to-life. “The characters are fictional,” Jones says. “The narrative is fictional except that the second volume, ‘The Gamble,’ is based partly on actual events from Dubuque in 1990-91, but the work as I describe it is an accurate description of exactly the sort of things that people do.” That second book in the trilogy was just released.
The 68-year-old Jones attended the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the mid-1960s, studying under legendary novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was writing “Slaughterhouse Five” at the time. Jones says when he lived in Dubuque in the mid-1980s, he spent time on the kill floor of that city’s major slaughterhouse, which was struggling under the shifting economic times.
“The first volume was the attempt to save a meatpacking plant,” Jones says. “I spent a lot of time at FDL which is the plant that existed then in Dubuque. I also went over to Waterloo and talked to ex-Rath officials. So I wrote a novel, the first volume is just called ‘Jackson,’ about this attempt to, as the industry is changing, save this old-line meatpacker.”
Jones, a former math teacher, now lives in California. To learn more about the books, visit: “www.thelossofcertainty.com“.