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Dear Friends,

For those of you who have recently signed up for this newsletter, welcome. For those who have been loyal readers since it launched just a couple of years ago, thank you for sticking with it (and me).

As promised, I wanted to share with you--here first before anyone else--a special announcement regarding my new novel, arriving November 10, 2015. 

Please make room on your bookshelves for The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
 
This is the epic story of the greatest guitar player who ever lived, and the six lives he changed with his six magical blue strings.
 
Born under ringing chimes of a burning church, Frankie's amazing journey from a war-torn Spanish town to America weaves him through the musical landscape of the 1940s, 50's and 60's, his stunning talent affecting numerous stars along the way (Duke Ellington, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley) until, as if predestined, he becomes a pop star himself. But Frankie Presto's gift is also his burden, as he realizes the power of the magical strings his childhood teacher gave him, and how, through his music, he can actually change people's fates.

With the voice of music as our guide, we glimpse into the lives that were changed by one man whose strings could touch the music—and the magic—in each of us. 

I have never had more fun writing a book, and have never been more pleased with how a story grew. This will be my longest book by far, and the most epic. It's a sort of Forest Gump-like romp through the world of music. And Frankie is the most interesting character I've ever created.

As a lifelong musician, it has been my privilege to share the message that "everyone joins a band in this life" and that music, like love, has the power to affect us all. And I cannot wait for you to read it.

Thank you, as always, for reading this newsletter, for embracing my words, for your love that so affects me.

Stay tuned for more soon...

Your friend,
Mitch

P.S. Pre-Order  is Available for the U.S. edition (more retailers to come):

HarperCollins | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | BAM! | Chapters Indigo
 
P.P.S. Be sure to monitor your inbox and spam folders for an email next week from brenda@mitchalbom.com. I'll be giving away two signed copies of my book, Have a Little Faith. The winners will be randomly chosen from the subscription list. All you need to do to qualify is to remain a subscriber. We'll notify if you've won, and ask for your mailing address so we can ship you the book. 











The Story of My Recent Life
 
If you follow me on social media or read some of my columns in the Detroit Free Press, you may have heard the sad news of the passing of our dear friend, Anthony "Cass" Castelow. Those of you who read Have a Little Faith will recognize him as a church elder at the I Am My Brothers Keeper Church in downtown Detroit. For those who haven't yet read about him, or seen his acting debut in the film adaptation from Hallmark, Cass was one-of-a-kind, a man who proved you never give up on anyone.

A former high school sports star who did a year in college and served in the military, then came home to Detroit, joined the reserves, and immediately started selling drugs, his story become one common around the Jeffries Projects in Detroit in the 1980s: arrests, prison, addiction. 

Then he met Pastor Henry Covington, who offered Cass a bed in his home, even when he knew Cass was stealing from him. Ashamed and humbled by such kindness, Cass turned his life around, got clean, and has been an inspiration ever since--and that was nearly 20 years ago. Cass never stopped caring for the homeless-- referring to them as "us"--never forgetting what he himself had to endure when he was on the streets. He ran the homeless program at I Am My Brothers Keeper for years, made sure everyone was taken care of, and basked in the glory of helping the least of us.

He was kind and kindhearted and gentle and wise beyond his years or education.

Recent months saw him battle health issues with the same strength, humor and focus on others that marked his life. His death came very suddenly. He leaves behind a family, a wife and children, and they will need our help. If you would like to help, please contribute to the memorial fund at https://www.crowdrise.com/Cass.  

I'll leave you with one of my favorite excerpts from Have a Little Faith, in which Cass taught us--me--so much about second chances.


Life of Cass
 
 
The story of my recent life. I like that phrase. It makes more sense than the story of my life, because we get so many lives between birth and death. A life to be a child. A life to come of age. A life to wander, to settle, to fall in love, to parent, to test our promise, to realize our mortality—and, in some lucky cases, to do something after that realization.
     The Reb had achieved that.
     And so had someone else.
     Not Henry—although he certainly lived many lives.
     But I refer here to his trusty elder, the man with one leg, who nudged and cajoled me until finally, on a cold night, in a plastic-covered section of the church, he said, in a scratchy voice, “Mister Mitch, I got to share this with you . . .”
     Anthony “Cass” Castelow, it turned out, did have an eye-popping tale: he’d been a star athlete in a big family, gone to the army, come home, become a local drug dealer.
     “But okay, now. Here’s what I really need to tell you . . .”
--
“One night in the projects, I had just gotten high and I hear Pastor call my name. I’m embarrassed to come out. My eyes are big as saucers. He asks if I can do some landscaping around his grass the next day. And I said, sure, yeah. And he gives me ten dollars and says meet me tomorrow. When he left, all I wanted to do was run upstairs and buy more dope and get high again. But I didn't want to spend this man’s money that way. So I ran across the street and bought lunch meat, crackers—anything so I don’t spend it on drugs.
     “That night, this guy who’s staying where I’m staying, while I’m sleeping, he steals the pipes from under the sink—steals ’em for the copper, so he can sell ’em. And he takes off, and all the water starts running in. I wake up on the floor and the place is flooded. I’m washing away.
     “My only clothes is all ruined now, and I go to Pastor’s house and I say, ‘Sorry, I ain’t gonna be able to work for you. I’m all soaked.’ And I’m telling him how mad I am at this guy, and he says, ‘Cass, don’t worry. Sometimes people got it worse than you do.’
     “And he sends me over to the church, and he says, ‘Go upstairs, we got some bags of clothes, just pick out what you want.’ And I get some clothes—Mitch, it’s the first time I got clean underwear in I don’t know how long. Clean socks. A shirt. I go back to his place and he says, ‘Where are you gonna stay now, Cass?’
     “And I say, ‘Don’t know. My place is all flooded.’ And he goes in, talks with his wife, and he comes out and says, ‘Why don’t you stay here with us?’
     “Now I’m shocked. I mean, I did a little work for this man. I stole food from him. And now he’s opening his home?”
     “He said, ‘You wanna think about it?’ And I’m like, ‘What’s there to think about? I’m homeless.’ ”
--
Henry never told me any of this, I said.
     “That’s why I’m telling you,” Cass said. “I moved in with his family that night. I stayed there almost a year. A year. He let me sleep on the couch in his main room. His family is upstairs, they got little kids, and I’m sayin' to myself, this man don’t know me, he don’t know what I’m capable of. But he trusts me.”
     He shook his head and looked away.
     “That kindness saved my life.”
     We sat there for a second, quiet and cold. I now knew more than I’d ever figured to know about an elder of the I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry.
     What I still didn't know was why.
 --
And then Cass told me: “I see the way you watch the Pastor. You here a lot. And maybe he ain't the way you think a pastor should be.
    “But I truly believe the Lord has given me a second chance on account of this man. When I die, Jesus will stand in the gap for me and I will be heard and the Lord will say, ‘I know you.’ And I believe it’s the same for Pastor Covington.”
     But Henry’s done some bad things in his life, I said.
     “I know it,” Cass said. “I done ’em, too. But it’s not me against the other guy. It’s God measuring you against you.
     “Maybe all you get are chances to do good, and what little bad you do ain't much bad at all. But because God has put you in the position where you can always do good, when you do something bad—it’s like you let God down.
     “And maybe people who only get chances to do bad, always around bad things, like us, when they finally make something good out of it, God’s happy.”
     He smiled and those stray teeth poked into his lips. And I finally realized why he had so wanted to tell me his story.
     It wasn't about him at all.
 















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