Albert Ray is 62 and has been the owner of Albert Ray Construction for 38 years, working as a stonemason as hard as ever to this day even, plowing through each decade’s respective recession. Then he decided one day to write, like the flip of a switch, and is currently working on his second novel.
Ray’s fire burns with an everlasting supply of fuel, his kerosene a mix of pent-up frustrations, consternations and dissent.
His work in masonry is seasonal and climatic. That is to say when it’s too cold or economic times prohibit, he is unable to carry on with his manual labor, work he is himself seasoned to and otherwise unscathed by.
His company used to be a lot bigger than himself (the only current employee), complete with a crew, machinery, and trucks that he used to wait in quarter mile-long gas lines to fill up back during Vietnam.
Why now just him?
“Times have a lot to do with it,” said Ray, referring to both the ’76 and ’87 recessions. And here we are today.
Ray himself admits, “I’m so used to working. I really can’t stop. I have to continue ‘til my body won’t let me anymore.”
Ray also said, “Once the fire goes out, that’s the end of you. You go and go. It becomes part of you, your life.”
This also explains his recent undertakings as a writer. He said, “It’s a way to get inside of me out. [I get] part of myself out. It’s a way to vent my frustrations with the world and the things that go on, injustices, the way people treat each other.”
This is a point Ray often returns to, the idea of “fairness,” both in conversation and in the contents of his books.
Ray’s last book, his first, was called Rebellion! And fittingly was about an actual rebellion that took place in England in 1381. So concerned with justice, he meticulously attended to the highly factual nature of his story, with only his narrative and vehicular characters fictionalized.
“[Rebellion!] is about people who take all they can take [from their government]. It’s based on true events, [I just] made a story around it. Some of the characters are true, some of the people I consider ‘myself’.”
The obvious implication is that some of these characters voice Ray’s own present-day dissatisfactions.
“A lot of characters represent myself, my thoughts, feelings. I try to get things off my chest, things that bother me,” he said.
More specifically: greedy politicians.
“I’m fed up with them all. Every single one of them. They’re all thieves and crooks. [It’s] their class against our class. You can’t separate people by race, religion, [you can by] class [in terms of] the real, real rich. That’s their nationality, that’s their religion.
“The middle class are the backbone of everything. [The greedy politicians] say, ‘if we can just keep them fighting, they won’t pay attention to us.’ [Meanwhile they’re] stealing money from us, taking tax [money], fighting wars, saying it’s about Osama bin Laden. It’s not about that. They steal oil, things that make computers.”
A historical enthusiast and fervent encyclopedia reader, Ray often makes the allusion to the “high middle ages”, the period in which his interest and bookmark seems to most often reside, saying “They fought for nothing [as well]. The kings get the spoils. And when the king spends all the money, he’d just tax the people. The people had enough. Something needs to be done to hold people liable.”
While Ray’s first book, consisting of 288 pages, took 10 years, or 10 winters, to complete, his next is proving much easier. Though he’s not assigned a working title, he plans to have book No. 2 finished by next year.
“I have the whole thing in my head,” he says. “The first one came little by little; this one came right to me.”