By Nick B. Reid
Hampton Union, February 18, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton author Mike Dunbar has
published four of his Castleton Series
books, a time-traveling saga for teens
and adults that takes place in Hampton,
as well as other New Hampshire locations
in the past, present and future.
[Rich Beauchesne photo]
HAMPTON — In his days as a politician, he was the one that put the bug in Donald Trump's ear to run for president. In his role as a woodworker, he created a school that's drawn students to Hampton from around the world.
Now Mike Dunbar is working on something very different, and the fifth of his eight-book saga about time-traveling teens from Hampton is about to be released.
Certainly it's not the typical path to becoming a famous author, but Dunbar, who owns The Windsor Institute, is used to carving his own niche.
After teaching himself to build Windsor chairs, because he loved the design but couldn't afford to buy up a bunch of antiques, he founded The Windsor Institute to show others how to do the same. He said he taught himself because there was no one around to show him how to make the iconic American chairs first produced in the colonies.
"They'd all been dead for 100 years," he said. Then he went on to publish a handful of books on woodworking.
He moved to Portsmouth from Worcester, Mass., in 1974 and spent four years as the Windsor chairmaker at Strawbery Banke. While in the city, he spent two terms on the Portsmouth City Council, as well as the Zoning Board of Adjustment and Historic District Commission. He said he was very active in state and national politics during the 1980s, but that all changed when his son was born.
"It's almost like it's programmed in your DNA. Once you have a child, you're no longer who you were. You're that child's father," he said in an interview at his Timber Swamp Road shop.
So he stopped traveling around the country teaching woodworking and settled down to create a school, which before long found its longtime home in Hampton. That way, the boy would always have a place to come after school.
"He grew up in here," Dunbar said. "As a family, we're very close."
The Windsor Institute is next door to the family's home, and Dunbar has been teaching classes there since January 1996.
It was his son and two friends running around those nearby Hampton woods that inspired him to write a book. He said the kids imagined they were astronauts exploring a foreign world and he would sometimes tell them, "You know, one day I'm going to write a book about you guys."
And after Michael Dunbar graduated from Sacred Heart School seven years ago, he did.
Of course, it's not really about those kids, since they're not time travelers, but Dunbar said it was based off his son, with other story arcs thrown in.
"The Hampton Summit," which is the first in the Castleton Series, follows Mike Castleton as he gets recruited by time travelers to prevent a murder in Hampton. A team of renegades from the Durham-based University of New Hampshire Time Institute intends to kill a scientist speaking at the Oakwood by the Sea Hotel before he can share a discovery he's made to create a more peaceful future.
"The assassins' goal is to rearrange the past so they can dominate the chaotic world they create," according to the book's back cover.
The boys from Hampton meet a group of girls from the future, and Mike "kindles a romance that can never be."
And that's just in the first book. Dunbar said as he was writing it, "I realized that I was setting up a bigger story." So he continued on with an eight-book saga that follows the boys as they grow up and as their rock band experiences a meteoric rise and as they factor in re-imaginings of historic moments in New Hampshire's history, such as Barney and Betty Hill's UFO encounter. At the end, the final book "brings you full circle from the events at the first" as the time travelers resolve a mystery.
Readers will recognize numerous scenes throughout the book of places an events in Hampton, from the Seafood Festival, to the Ballroom Casino, to the gazebo downtown — with slightly altered names, such as the Oakwood by the Sea Hotel.
Dunbar said he's received a very positive reaction to his books so far.
"Just about everybody who's read these books says it's a movie," he said, adding that he fantasizes about a movie crew shooting in Hampton.
He said he wanted to include Hampton landmarks because the town's been so good to him and he wanted to give back to it. He said he hopes the book would become popular enough that its readers would want to come and see the places they've read about.
"I imagine Hampton could become a destination," he said.
All of Dunbar's books can be found on his Amazon.com author page at www.amazon.com/author/mikedunbar. He blogs at mikedunbar.tumblr.com. The Castleton Series is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Castleton-Series/439369522852094.