Former Oxford resident writes novel to inspire hope in trying times


By Devin Ankeney

Former Oxford resident and journalist, Dan Conti, recently published his first novel and third book, ” Nittany Lion, in March. The novel tells the story of Francis Rosselli and his homecoming to Pennsylvania from the war in Vietnam.

After Conti, now of Morehead, Kentucky, retired from a career in broadcast and radio journalism and teaching in 2017, he said he spent a lot of his time with his late father, checking things off his father’s bucket list. One of those items on the list: visit Penn State, home of the Nittany Lions. 

On this trip, Conti learned that the nittany lion was extinct and was inspired to write a novel about the end of the species’ history. However, once COVID-19 hit, the world took a turn and so did Conti’s novel.

He decided that Americans needed a different type of story, so he thought back to a time in American history when it felt, to many, like things would never get better.

“I need[ed] to redevelop this story and write about some of the political fragmentation, economic turmoil and social issues the country was battling with,” he said. “I thought back over my time on this Earth and I tried to remember a time when there was similar polarization economically, socially and politically. The time that came to mind was the late sixties and early seventies.”

The novel, published by RoseDog Books, explores themes of loss and resilience, and the human nature of our search for a better life and future, by using the experiences Conti has had in his life.

“What the family goes through, time and time again, is a struggle against adversity,” he said. “I thought: our country right now needs a boost.”

Conti, a Pennsylvania native and 1978 Miami University graduate who studied communications, worked in journalism for decades. He taught broadcast journalism at Miami and said he always loved the craft of journalism. Over his many years in the field, he said he met countless people whose stories he wanted to tell in some fashion.

“All these people are based on characters I knew,” he said. “I guess I took advantage of that. I’ve met a lot of interesting people as a journalist.”

Conti said he doesn’t want people to lose faith in the American political system, or to think that life is stacked against them. “Nittany Lion” is a story of resilience despite the difficulties of everyday life during a time when things can’t get worse. 

“Not everything that happens in the novel turns out great, but that’s life,” he said. “But, people push on.”