National News

Literary Couple: Fentons share passion for writing

Posted June 29

— When Roger Fenton practiced law in Clayton and Henry counties decades ago, he met a host of curious characters while serving as an appointed defender for indigent clients. Years later, with the encouragement of a writer's group in Indian Springs, he turned those stories into a series of crime and suspense novels.

His wife, Geleta, who is also his editor, also found inspiration from The Writers Group at the Generations Gallery, which they joined in 2010. She started a series called "The Adventures of Joel," books aimed at middle-school readers. The Fentons have lived at Jackson Lake, right on the Butts-Newton county line on the bank of the South River, since 2003.

"He loves to write, I love to edit," Geleta Fenton said. "I wrote 'Joel's Adventures at Sea' when I went with him to the writer's group. They asked if I had a story and I told them what it was. They thought it was cute so I went home and wrote it in about three hours."

While Geleta meant the book to be a child's picture book of 20 or so pages, Patsy Clark and members of her children's writing group at Generations Gallery had some suggestions about the story that has young Joel getting lost at sea. Rescue comes from an unexpected place.

"It turned out to be 60 pages long," Geleta said. "I have another book in mind. Maybe one day it'll get written. Editing is my fourth career and it keeps me busy."

Roger Fenton came to the practice of law late in life, going to Woodrow Wilson College of Law in Atlanta in the evenings while working for an airline during the day.

He passed the bar in 1975 but waited until 1981 to begin practicing law in earnest.

"I had 14 years seniority with the airline and didn't know if I wanted to give that up to argue cases in front of a jury," he said. "As an attorney, I'd work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then rush from my (law) office to Republic Airlines and weld from 3 to 11 p.m. I was in practice for 22 years."

He turned some of his legal experiences into stories for his books.

As an indigent defense attorney, he represented a woman who tried to buy tires - with a bad check and forged ID card - from her victim's daughter. Then there was a mentally challenged but very religious man who robbed a bank because his co-conspirators told him it was operated by demons.

"I wrote the (first) book before Geleta and I were married," Roger said. "When she was marking everything up, she kept asking me, 'Did this really happen?' These are cases I actually had, I just exaggerated them. You just can't invent stuff as good as what really happened."

With their names and other identifying characteristics changed, these clients and more weave in and out of his "Adventures of Pat Patton" series, which begins with "Death to the Novice Attorney," and continues through "Evil in the Shadows" and "Mr. Clean: Serial Killer."

Pat Patton is identifiable as Fenton himself. Both the writer and the character grew up on a Pennsylvania farm, worked their way through law school, had an interest in motorcycles and fast cars and landed in Atlanta after a stint in the Army.

"This young attorney hangs up his shingle and has no idea what he is doing," Roger Fenton said. "He's only been to court two times when he takes an adoption case without understanding the birth father is a psychopath. It's cat and mouse throughout the book."

The antagonist is based on several clients Fenton met while working on the cases of men incarcerated in what is now known as the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Butts County. Taken together, several run-of-the-mill criminals become the psychopath Skinny, who just plain likes to kill people. One of the people he wants to kill is Patton, so he breaks out of prison to do it.

The Fentons' books are published by Octopus Publishing Company in Covington. They sell their books and crafts, such as Ming trees and squirrel feeders, at local festivals and club meetings. The books can also be found at the Mandarin Garden Chinese restaurant in Jackson and at Amazon.com.

The Fentons are available to talk to groups about writing and publishing and are working on a presentation about writing memoirs. They hope to present it at Jackson-Butts County Public Library.

"We're particularly interested in getting people to write their stories," Geleta said. "Everyone has a story."

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