When Joel Momberg wasn’t pounding out a mean New Orleans-flavored boogie-woogie on the nearest piano, he was setting the tone as Chief Executive Officer for the University of South Florida Foundation. But Momberg’s hands have done far more than shape the historic direction of the recently completed billion-dollar USF Unstoppable Campaign, or build All Children’s Hospital into a community treasure during his 30 years in executive leadership positions – helping create iconic events such as the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, the Taste of Pinellas and Regional Emmy-winning children’s music.
Recently, those hands have been busy working the keyboard of his trusty laptop to produce his latest novel For Those Who Can, a story about a young high school teacher through the mid 1970s who travels the world in an adventure filled with laughs, loves and a lingering sense that something is amiss. This follows his second novel, Sammy, a lively and unique mystery set in his native New Orleans. and his 2013 debut novel Home Movies, a whodunit that unfolds on the familiar territory of St. Pete Beach.
Momberg resides in St. Petersburg with wife Debbie, and has three children – Nicole, Alissa, and Josh – and five grandchildren.The books draw from Momberg’s rich life experience with engaging plot lines and characters from his fertile imagination.
The journey begins with a somber graveside service as the skies above New Orleans burst forth with a hard rain, punctuated by the mystery of an incomplete manuscript delivered to a grieving son by an unexpected guest. From that starting point, author Joel Momberg takes readers on an unforgettable and engaging ride in his third novel, For Those Who Can – following the path through the mid-1970s of a young college prep teacher, Alan Handler, in an adventure filled with laughs, love, and a lingering sense that something is amiss.
Traveling the country for an education services company, Alan learns he has a knack for connecting with the widely diverse groups of students he encounters along the way. Yet he cannot quite understand the beautiful blond-haired woman from Mississippi – fellow teacher Karol Rae Ballard – who captivates him from the moment he lays eyes on her.
Their romance propels them through various stops at high schools in the South and Midwest, as Alan finds himself irresistibly drawn to the strong and stunning Karol Rae. At the same time, he grows increasingly aware of something she seems to be running from – setting in motion a narrative that eventually weaves its way to Europe and back to the States, and in a handful of emotion-packed revelations that ensue.
On another level, For Those Who Can is a lively period piece that unfolds to the soundtrack of the ’70s – Randy Newman, James Taylor, John Denver, and even satiric Texas troubadour Kinky Friedman. It takes humorous detours to a surprise, wrongful drug arrest and surreal trip to Indiana’s state prison. And it winds its way to the cold-hearted killing of a private school headmaster that causes Alan to question whether he should go forward as a teacher.
But then comes a phone call that will change everything, pulling Alan and the novel’s storyline in a new direction – all the while with Karol Rae keeping her hold on his heart. The book’s title is drawn from the phrase, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” As you will come to discover, Alan Handler can both teach and do in his life. The proof lives in the pages of that unfinished manuscript passed along at the gravesite – and in the trademark Momberg twist of the gripping finale.
Sammy Levine, 86-year-old resident of Star of David nursing home, was not happy with his daily existence and dreamed of taking one last trip with his wife Esther (who resided in an urn on the third shelf in his room). Sammy was careful about not exposing his plan to anyone, especially his son, Barry, who dutifully visited regularly and tried to make sure that he lived out his remaining days comfortably.
Through a carefully choreographed plan, Sammy managed to access personal information on three recently deceased residents from the nursing home’s computers. Then he applied for and obtained three new credit cards. Armed now with available cash and credit, he loaded up Esther, a knapsack and a walker and headed back to his hometown of New Orleans, where he would visit all the places and people he wanted to see before he died. It was a bucket list of all bucket lists concocted to take care of unfinished business – and serves as the engaging foundation of Sammy: The Novel.
This is a unique, coming-of-age road trip featuring a feisty, often salty and insensitive senior citizen, who still has some coming of age to experience in his twilight years.
It is the final ride of a lifetime that involves a most unusual cast of characters – a smart, streetwise stripper named Destiny with a soft heart beneath her hardened demeanor; Sammy’s musician son Barry, who longs to rekindle the magic of his old recording and touring act, the Chosen, while keeping tabs on his wayward dad and helping his career-minded daughter, Wendy; an array of despicable street thugs; and one very special urn on which this book turns ... containing the ashes of Sammy's late-wife Esther, whose posthumous presence is central to the novel’s unfolding mystery.
"Sammy is a delight to read ... funny, mysterious and sad but in the end you realize that Sammy was happy at last. Joel is a great story teller
and his characters come to life!" - Carol Morsani
"I absolutely loved Sammy!! I didn't want to leave 'til I had finished the book and then I didn't want it to end. Thank you for this treasure! " - Debbie Sembler
"Loved Sammy so very much and all the cast and crew that were his family and friends. It was an ADVENTUROUS, tearful, joyful, heart wobbling BOOK." -Patricia Rossi
"This was a well written story about real life, pleasures, and regrets. It made me laugh as well as cry.I reccommend this book to everyone! "- Leslie Young-Friley
HOME MOVIES is a fast-paced whodunit, featuring Buddy Rosen, a kindergarten teacher in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. Buddy’s world seems settled and predictable — until the moment that it’s turned upside-down by an unexpectedly familiar face that flickers across his home movie screen.
Until now, Buddy’s hobby of collecting castoff amateur movies has been nothing but fun, fuel for his imagination, and an entertaining teaching tool for the kids in his classroom. The startling appearance of this figure on his screen changes all that in the blink of an eye, propelling Buddy into a frantic search for answers to questions he’s never realized he had.
The cascade of events that follows challenge Buddy’s lifelong assumptions about his background and his future, place his family in jeopardy, and set in motion a terrifying fight for his own life. The twists and turns of Buddy’s desperate struggle for understanding and resolution will keep readers guessing until the final page is turned.
Joel did an outstanding job with this exciting page turner. I highly recommend it, especially if you love murder mysteries. He develops a lot of interesting personalities, grabs your attention and does not let go until you finally reach the climatic and unexpected ending. I can't wait for the next book! - Eric
This book was a fast paced "Who Dun It." At some point you will not be able to put this book down and for me it was when a key character was shot. From then on it was a race to the finish to really find out the motives, the killer and what was at stake for numerous characters. There was so much action and suspense that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, going about St.Pete, the flea markets,and the kids in school. I would highly recommend this book as a great read and hopefully this author continues to write more books. - Naszimento
Home Movies is a real page turner!
Home Movies, the first novel by Joel Momberg, is a fast-paced mystery that I could not put down. With numerous references to places that will be familiar to those who live in or have visited Florida's beaches, this novel has a distinct local flavor that grounds it, yet the mystery of what happened to Buddy Rosen's parents will keep you guessing until the very end. No character is beyond suspicion as the story develops. At just 148 pages this is a great choice for a weekend reading escape.- Noreen
This book is a well written mystery novel with a hint of a love story. It encompasses the main characters ups and downs, as the plot builds with suspense until the very end !....I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, - JPew
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