Tony Perona '79: A man of mystery

May 6, 2004

Alumnus Tony Perona '79, went from working in engineering to writing mystery novels that have met with success.

One might think that after several years of working toward a degree in Mechanical Engineering at a prestigious engineering school and landing a job at General Motors Corp., an individual would be fully satisfied with their career path. This was true for Tony Perona, who graduated from Kettering/GMI and went on to pursue a career with GM's Allison Gas Turbine Division. But sometimes one's career expectations take a mysterious turn for the better.

Such was the case for Perona, who lives with his wife and two girls in Plainfield, Ind. During his years with Allison, he served as manager of Advertising and Public Relations, which suited his penchant for writing. "I always enjoyed writing, even during my years at GMI," he explained. "That's one reason why I shifted my career toward those areas. I don't think I was cut out to be an engineer, but having the degree and engineering experience helped me with the advertising and public relations duties for the company."

Perona managed the company's advertising and pr functions until 1991, when he decided to take advantage of the organization's extended leave policy. His wife, Debbie, had previously worked as a research pharmacist for Eli Lilly and Company before their children were born. After several years of staying home with the children, one day she jokingly said, "why don't you stay home with the kids and I'll go back to work." Imagine her surprise when Perona said ok. This was somewhat of a risk, since GM could not guarantee that his job would be there when he returned. So his wife returned to her position and he stayed home to care for his two children.

During his time at home, Perona wanted to keep his writing skills polished, which lead to writing several articles for newspapers and authoring a column about stay-at-home fathers for the "Indianapolis Star." When it came time to inquire about returning to his position at GM, the company could no longer offer him his previous role. This led him to work with a friend on a freelance basis who had started his own business. Eventually, Perona created his own writing firm, Tony Perona Writing, and began writing creatively as well.

"About this time I wrote a mystery novel, which received numerous rejections from publishers," Perona said. But this did not stop him. Instead, he shifted his focus on a new novel titled Second Advent. Five Star Publishing based in Utica, Maine, accepted the book and brought it out in December 2002. With an initial print run of 600, the book sold every copy and readers scooped up the second print run until it sold out as well.

With the success of the hardcover edition of Second Advent, Worldwide Mysteries, a division of Harlequin Inc., purchased the soft cover rights to the novel and the edition will appear in December 2004. The story centers around a main character named Nick Bertetto, a stay-at-home father and former investigative reporter, who returns to his hometown of Clinton, Ind., to investigate the death of the town patriarch. Bertetto views this assignment as an opportunity to visit with his own father and his old Italian-American stomping grounds. But in his investigative work, he learns that the alleged suicide is a possible murder and members of the victim's family are drawing battle lines over the will. What is most disconcerting to Nick, however, is that the priest who summoned him and the patriarch's granddaughter, who wants him to prove it was murder, have the most to gain from the death.

The critics have applauded his first book. "Publishers Weekly" called Second Advent a "distinctive first novel." Reviewer Rich Gotshall wrote in "The Indianapolis Star" that the book "is a bit Tony Hillerman-esque, in that there is a metaphysical backdrop to the surface story. The religious backdrop gives it a depth lacking in most murder mysteries. It's a whodunit with a nice twist."

Perona said that his next novel, titled Angels Whisper, picks up where Second Advent leaves off. Angels Whisper has also been purchased by Five Star and is tentatively set for publication in February 2005. Perona is working on the third novel in this series tentatively titled Saintly Remains.

As a stay-at-home father and author, Perona is pleased with the outcome of his life thus far. "It's been a great experience to stay with my daughters," he said. "I've learned so much and I feel it's made me a better person." He also explained that his studies at Kettering/GMI were of significant importance to his career as a writer and consultant. "Perhaps some of the best things I learned while in college include thinking logically and to test assumptions, because these are two things I need to do when writing mysteries," he said. "More importantly, I think it was critical to the safety of the free world that I did not pursue my engineering career."

Perona was on campus in March for a presentation he gave titled "From Engineering to Writing Mysteries: How it Happened and Six Things I Learned Along the Way." Readers may purchase Second Advent at amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble booksellers. For more information on his work, visit www.tonyperona.com.

Written by Gary Erwin
(810) 762-9538
gerwin@kettering.edu