Listening to Ghosts

Second Edition

Non-Fiction - Memoir
336 Pages
Reviewed on 08/09/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Trenton, New Jersey native Bob Stockton left high school in 1957 to join the Navy, where he served for 20 years, sailing the seven seas. His duty assignments sent him to serve aboard destroyers, diesel electric submarines, aircraft carriers, auxiliary vessels, reconnaissance attack squadrons and patrol gunboats in Vietnam. Bob, who retired as a chief petty officer, went on to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees. Since retiring from the Navy, Bob has worked as a shipyard welder’s helper, epidemiologist, adjunct graduate instructor, small business owner, pharmaceutical trainer and international radio host.
Exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam led to the Veterans Administration declaring Bob fully disabled. He now lives near his three children and four grandchildren in Jacksonville, Florida.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

As Listening to Ghosts by Bob Stockton quickly reminds the reader, a good memoir is as much about the quality of voice as it is about the story. Listening to Mr. Stockton talk about his early family years is so akin to sitting down with some familiar and colorful uncle or grandfather that one is tempted to begin asking questions. That is to say, his voice is so authentic as to make you forget that you are reading rather than listening, and that you are not a member of his family, which is something you may be quite inclined to overlook. He also reminds us that most, if not all, families are by nature dysfunctional, and the result is often a rather dysfunctional child who grows up to be a rather dysfunctional adult. But this is not to criticize the author. Quite the contrary.

In his remarkably hypnotic book, Listening to Ghosts, Bob Stockton describes for the often bemused reader – who feels he might be watching a film compilation about a series of massive train wrecks – the narrative equivalent of a mundane life becoming a fascinating study in what it actually means to engage in one’s own existence fully and to live acutely aware of one’s less-than-stellar qualities and skills. The lessons learned are much the same for all, and this particular life – from a largely misspent youth in the 1950s, to a largely misspent naval career in the 1960s and '70s, and finally to a little discussed but successful private life following his service - is so well told by the author that one feels inclined to thank him for having taken on such a challenge, though with a bit of relief at 'there, but for the grace of God, go I.' For Mr. Stockton learns his lessons hard, insistent that the world show him repeatedly just what the results of poor decision-making might entail, but he is a damned good sport and honest when talking about it all.

Ray Simmons

I loved Listening to Ghosts by Bob Stockton. But here’s the thing. I’m not quite sure why. I hope I can pinpoint some of the reasons why I like it by saying a little about what I usually read. In truth that would be just about everything. My mom was a librarian and I practically grew up in her library. I read everything, but there is a decided bias towards action adventure and science fiction. Listening to Ghosts is definitely not science fiction or action adventure. It is a memoir about a family that is extraordinarily ordinary. I think the major attraction of Listening to Ghosts must be the writing. The people described are ordinary and commonly found. I know many people like them, even though I’m from a different part of America. But the only thing ordinary people need in order to be extraordinary and let their true character shine is good writing. There is plenty of that in Listening to Ghosts.

Listening to Ghosts captures a particular moment in space and time. That is just about all a writer can do when he sits down to write about his life. I am a world traveler, but occasionally when I visit home, I'm painfully aware that it is not really the home of my heart and mind. Things change. Things change dramatically, and sometimes home can deliver more culture shock than a foreign country. The best you can do is make a record of your time, and your place, and what it means to you. If and when I decide to do that, I hope I can do it half as well as Bob Stockton. That would make it pretty damn good. Listening to Ghosts flows an athlete in the zone.

Tracy A. Fischer

In a poignant and interesting memoir by author Bob Stockton, Listening to Ghosts is a book that will keep readers engrossed from the very first pages all the way through until the very end. Recounting the author's life from his upbringing in a Northeastern working class neighborhood to the time he served with the US Navy, the story of Bob's life is described in precise, authentic, and fascinating detail. Not always most politically correct, but certainly honestly written and full of truth, Listening to Ghosts will make readers smile and chuckle as well as experience heartfelt feelings of concern throughout. Pulled from what is likely the actual diaries kept by the author as a Navy man, the work smacks of authenticity, and readers will feel as if they are with Bob on his many adventures through life.

I very much enjoyed Listening to Ghosts. Author Bob Stockton has done a wonderful job in telling the tale of his life, and in ways that readers of all types will find something that they can relate to and connect with. With a focus on a very influential point in the author's life, his time serving with the Navy, this memoir will have special meaning for anyone who has an interest in the military or military history and likes to read real "tell it like it is" types of narratives. I am pleased to be able to recommend Listening to Ghosts and will certainly look for more work in the future from the highly entertaining author, Bob Stockton!