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Feminine 'Follies'


Among the Oklahoma Book Award finalists is Theasa Tuohy’s novel of love during wartime.

Sarah Lobban April 10th, 2013

Oklahoma Book Awards
6:30 p.m. Saturday
Jim Thorpe Museum and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame
www.odl.state.ok.us
$50-$60

After years working as a newspaper journalist, Theasa Tuohy knows the hallmarks of strong reporting: accuracy, clear voice, compelling quotes and, above all, a good story.

The Oklahoma City native grew up in a family brimming with stories: Her grandfather participated in the Land Run of 1889; her mother was a barnstorming pilot. After moving to California with her family, Tuohy attended the University of California at Berkeley and later relocated to New York.

Her debut novel, The Five O’Clock Follies: What’s a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?, is set during the Vietnam War and tells the story of beautiful freelance journalist Angela Martinelli as she strives to excel in what at the time was considered a man’s job: war correspondent.

A recent divorcée, Martinelli is drawn into a love triangle between two very different men, both reporters themselves. As the fighting in Vietnam escalates, so do tensions between the three.

Martinelli’s strongest devotion is to her work, and both men may be underestimating the sacrifices she is willing to take to maintain it.

To ensure the novel’s historical accuracy, Tuohy did extensive research, including traveling to Vietnam. She stayed in the same hotel room her character does — at the same hotel where legendary British author Graham Greene is said to have written The Quiet American.

“As a reporter, I was not going to have a wrong street name,” Tuohy said. “Any writer will talk about the telling detail that can bring everything to life, so I went to Vietnam.”

The effort she put into her work did not go unappreciated. Follies is a finalist in the fiction category of the 2013 Oklahoma Book Awards. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the awards recognize the work of an author in or from Oklahoma, or a work that is Oklahoma-themed.

The winners will be announced Saturday. Authors at the ceremony will sign books and meet readers.

Her career has taken her far — literally. Tuohy recently traveled to France to give a talk about Follies at The American Library in Paris. After the Oklahoma Book Awards, she will travel to London for the debut of a musical she co-wrote.

She recently finished another novel set in the Sooner State. Like Follies, it features strong female protagonists: an Oklahoman stunt pilot in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby and a New York tabloid reporter.

The author is currently writing a murder-mystery caper set in Paris.

“It seems like all these things are kind of coming together at once,” Tuohy said.

 
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