Local author Frank Babb used his experiences serving his country to create a fiction novel titled, “Hot Times in Panamá.”
The book follows the main character, Frank Blake, who is drafted and posted in the counterintelligence program in Panamá, because he had taken a year of high school Spanish.
As Babb states, the book is also “about personal relations of people.”
The novel also follows Blake’s love for a woman named Julia that he met at a party. After that, she disappeared and he never hears from her again until he receives a letter from her 45 years later.
Although the book does draw ties of Babb’s personal experiences in the war, he stresses that it is fiction.
“I emphasize the book in fiction, but like all fiction, things that happen sometimes get retold, refashioned, restated, and so on, for use of fiction,” said Babb.
Babb said that telling this story, fiction or not, was challenging for him because he had pushed the whole incident out of his mind after serving his time in the military.
“The truth of the matter is, I then went on to law school and became a lawyer and all that stuff afterwards, and I basically put the whole thing out of my mind,” he said.
Babb had always had an interest in the theatre and thought of himself as an amateur actor. Originally, he thought he wanted to become a literature professor, focusing on the history of drama. It was this passion that helped him to write the book, by thinking less about his personal tie.
“Early in life, it became possible for me to take a step back from where I was and see the scene, as you do in a play. I don't know maybe it's a form of schizophrenia (laughs), but to walk into a conference or meeting and look at it, and look at yourself as an actor in this play that is about to follow,” he said. “That really helped me forget all of the things that happened.”
Babb graduated from college from Northwest Missouri State University with majors in English and French. He then planned to attend Columbia University to get his master’s degree, but this was put on hold.
“Before I really got started at Columbia in their masters program […] I was drafted, my number finally came up,” said Babb.
After his time in the military, he went on to Harvard Law School and obtained his law degree. He then joined a large firm where he became partner.
Babb got into writing after his retirement, when he had the time to devote to it.
“I had been busy, pretty much from the time I left the service until I retired,” said Babb. “I started thinking on projects of things I’d always wanted to do, and so on, and that is when I started writing, short stories […] and some of those eventually came together in my historical book.”
Babb currently lives in Tucson. For more information about the author and his novel, visit his website here.