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Andy native publishes ‘Grayton Beach Affair’

Andalusia native Jim Harvey’s debut novel, “Grayton Beach Affair,” combines the intrigue of war and affairs of the heart.

Set in 1942 and spanning a two-year period, the fictional piece tells the story of Christian Wolfe, a German solider sent via German U-boat to Eglin Air Force Base prisoner of war camp where he is tasked with extracting a German officer. His mission in both war and life changes when he meets Maggie Neal, a young woman living in Grayton Beach, when Wolfe witnesses Neal take action against a man who had taken advantage of her and her servant.

The novel follows the couple through the war, to France and back to America – Atlanta, to be specific – before giving readers an answer to the question, “Can a relationship founded on death and deception survive?”

Harvey said he drew on family tales of how in the 1940s his family reported seeing German U-Boats off the shores of the Gulf Coast.

“My grandmother owned a house in Ft. Walton Beach on the Intercoastal,” Harvey said. “We would spend the summer and holidays there. My brother, who is six years older than me, said he could remember stories of how houses would have to be blacked out to prevent any light showing to the Germans, who were offshore in U-boats.

“A lot people didn’t know that during the WWII era, there was a fair amount of activity off the shores,” he said. “For years, that story intrigued me.”

Harvey, a 1963 graduate of Andalusia High School, said it was a story that “stayed in the back” of his mind as he earned a degree from Troy and later a law degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law, undertook a successful career with IBM and a second career in commercial real estate brokerage and development in Atlanta, and finally, retirement.

In 2007, Harvey began work on the novel. In 2009, he made the decision to write full time.

“For years, I thought the premise of the book would be an interesting story to tell,” he said. “And the seed started to grow, and I decided to write a book.”

And since the origins of story are woven from family history, it’s no wonder that so are the locations found throughout the book.

Character Maggie Neal is from Birmingham. Her maid, Teresa, and her husband, Robert, are from Andalusia. The group finds their way to Grayton Beach after Neal’s fiancé is killed at Pearl Harbor; the couple, after Robert loses his job from a local landowner.

A major sub-character is a police chief from DeFuniak Springs, and at the conclusion of the story, readers finds its main characters in Atlanta, the place Harvey and wife Marie call home.

“For me, the story became organic,” he said. “I never knew from one day to the next how things would turn out. That was the fun part for me. I just let the story grow.”

Harvey’s book is available at any major bookstore, from any online bookstore such as Amazon.com, or from him directly. He may be reached at j.harvey@graytonbeachaffair.com.

He is currently working on a second novel. He and his wife live part time in Atlanta and part time at Seaside.