A former Chautauqua County resident has set the proverbial bar rather high for himself after winning a national award for his first published book.
Dennis Marker, a 1973 graduate of Maple Grove High School, has received recognition at the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards for his book entitled, "Fifteen Steps to Corporate Feudalism: How the Rich Convinced America's Middle Class to Eliminate Themselves."
Although he was unable to attend Wednesday's awards ceremony in New York City, Marker's IPPY award is being mailed to him. As an author, he said he considers winning an IPPY to be the equivalent of a filmmaker winning an Oscar.
"It's a huge achievement for me," he said in a phone interview. "I think I'd written about a dozen books for myself, which I kept in a drawer, and when I started my books, the first sentence was always, 'I'm not a writer, but ... .' So for me to be the winner of a national award that had 5,200 entries, is very exciting."
For the past 17 years, the annual Independent Publisher Book Awards have honored the year's best independently published titles-seeking to reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing. Since the inaugural contest, more than 4,500 authors have received awards in approximately 75 categories.
Marker said his book, which earned a bronze medal in the current events category, was selected as a favorite early on in the judging process.
"I did get an email from the director of the Independent Publisher when I first sent it in. He wrote a (review) about the book, and said it was interesting perspective and it really made sense. They determined that my book was one that really met their criteria for being an important book with a great message," he said.
Interestingly, Marker originally wrote the book 11 years ago for his son, who was in kindergarten at the time.
"I have written books to entertain myself, or to give to somebody as presents," he said. "This particular book was written when my son started kindergarten. I wrote it so, when he gets to college, he would know what the middle class was like when I was a kid, why it's not like that anymore and what he can do to fix it. I was born at a time where anybody knew, if they applied themselves a little bit, they could put themselves through college, come out with little or no debt, buy a house and live what was the American Dream. Today, my son is not growing up in that world."
He added: "The premise I made 11 years ago, about the middle class being eliminated, is as true now as it was then. But now, people are beginning to understand it."
Despite initially having no intention of publishing the book, Marker received an overwhelming response from friends and colleagues, who urged him to get his message out to a wider audience. The book examines 15 specific policies, "promoted by conservatives and the super rich, and implemented through the vice grip of fear, anger and greed," which led to the declining of the middle class. The book also looks at the more recent occupy movement, what set it off and what keeps it going.
No stranger to the world of government, economics and politics, Marker has witnessed firsthand some of the observations he made in his book. After leaving Chautauqua County for Washington, D.C. to work with former Jamestown Mayor Stan Lundine, Marker received education in his self-designed major of environmental politics, and eventually, landed a job with the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to his book's website, Marker concluded his career in Washington, D.C. trying to convince the U.S. government of all the benefits of waging unnecessary wars. His last assignment included traveling to Iraq in an attempt to get Saddam Hussein to release the Western hostages and detainees he was holding at that time, and leave Kuwait before the arbitrary deadline set by then President George H.W. Bush was reached.
Marker is also an avid outdoorsman, having interspersed many sections of his biography with instances of surfing, "beach-combing" and other activities. Some of the highlights of his unconventional lifestyle include: getting married in Nepal, the birth of his son while he was living in Micronesia, surfing in several different hurricanes, living on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean, filming wild bear in Canada with his father, rowing a raft through the Grand Canyon and writing the most used TV ad and tagline for Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign.
Over the summer, Marker will be traveling with his son to Honduras and China, where his son will be working on the native languages of those areas. While in China, he said he will also be looking into rumors that his book will be, or has already been, published there.
Marker will be returning to Chautauqua County and the Jamestown area in August to visit with family and attend his 40-year high school reunion.