Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


by -

New book details fictionalized life of author's ancestor on the frontier of the New World.

The Immigrant: One from my Four Legged Stool, a first novel by Alfred Woollacott III, from Myfourleggedstool Publishers, Oak Bluffs. 408 pages, paperback; $15.99. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Edgartown and online at

Read this book.

Alfred Woollacott III, an Oak Bluffs resident, has written an extraordinary first novel. Set in the mid-17th century, the book chronicles his ancestor,  John Law, a 14-year-old boy caught up in a Scottish civil war, and the man he becomes as an English prisoner of war sold into indenture in the Massachusetts Bay Colony town of Concord.

The Immigrant is a terrific read because it succeeds on its literary merit: well-plotted, with substantive characters. Redolent with details of life on the frontier of the New World,  John Law’s travails put the reader in his hardscrabble life, contending with bigotry, penury, and the unforgiving New England climate in the days before diversity, electric blankets, and supermarkets.

The Immigrant is rooted in a 2002 post-retirement project Mr. Woollacott undertook after a career at global accounting firm KPMG. He spent years researching his family tree, and wrote a genealogy of his forebears. Then he decided, as he told The Times this week, “to put some leaves on the tree,” based on the rich store of information he had amassed.

“Furnished with facts, I began to fictionalize their lives,” Mr. Woollacott writes in the acknowledgments to The Immigrant. For that work, he signed up with John Hough Jr., Island author and writing coach. Mr. Hough has a dedication to fine detail in replicating past events and environments which gives his books a real-time feel for readers. The you-are-there quality is evident in Mr. Woollacott’s work here.

The actual John Law was a 14-year-old boy in Dunbar, a coastal town in southeast Scotland. Young Law cared for his widowed mother in that rural community, which also happened to be in the path of Oliver Cromwell’s British forces, intent on subduing rebel Covenanters, supporters of the Scots’ King Charles II.

Law is enlisted as a pikeman to face Cromwell’s army, is captured in the Scots’ defeat and was likely sent to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as an indentured servant. Law is greeted with disdain and bigotry by the self-righteous English colonists and is assigned grueling tasks as a wood chopper and collier, until he gets his big break as a shepherd tending sheep on the outskirts of Concord, where he meets the local Native Americans, who are leery but more accepting than the British colonists. The Puritans’ behavior toward the indentured Scots and the indigenous people would enrage a stone statue, and may provide us with insight into the reason they were shown the door by England a generation earlier.

Mr. Woollacott brings a taut spiritual dimension to The Immigrant. Law’s search for a father figure, his shame at not being able to care for his mother as he had promised his father, and his efforts to resolve his uncertain view of a just and merciful God, make a continuing and heartfelt dialogue as The Immigrant fights for his place and for his family in a strange land.

Mr. Woollacott has done painstaking research into the culture and laws of Puritan Massachusetts, particularly as they related to land ownership. We learn that some were ethical, but many were Bernie Madoff act-alikes.

The author expresses his story in his own view that our lives are similar to a four-legged stool, representing our maternal and paternal ancestors who shaped us. In the foreword, Mr. Woollacott asks, “Did our forebears experience what we are now experiencing? And if so, will we react as they once did?”

We get a sense of that in an opening chapter flash-forward when Reuben Law, John’s great-grandson, musters at the Concord bridge in 1775 to fight the British, thinking the same thoughts John Law thought 100 years ago at Dunbar.

Mr. Woollacott plans a trilogy based on his family’s doings. Those Laws and Woollacotts are a zesty bunch. Turns out that Naamah Carter, an early-19th century family aunt from Peterboro, N.H. and Reuben Law’s granddaughter, was one of Brigham Young’s 27 wives, and went to Utah to find a paradise that was not forthcoming.

Mr. Woollacott is currently looking for a publisher for his story. He reports that 60 publishers sent “no interest” letters in response to The Immigrant. Oops. Their bad. My guess is that none of them read it. My hunch is that Aunt Naamah will have suitors.

Mr. Woollacott will be reading from The Immigrant on Saturday, February 7 at 2 pm at the Oak Bluffs Library and on Saturday, March 7 at 4pm at the West Tisbury Library. Both events are free and open to the public.

by -

Despite a roster depleted by illness the boys basketball team prevailed, 53-38.

Tim Roberts battles in the paint with Somerset Berkley's Austin Rodrigues (left) and Logan Smith. – Photos by Ralph Stewart

The  Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity basketball team overcame both the flu and a chippy Somerset Berkley Regional High School squad to win going away by a score of 53-38 Friday night at the Sancy Pachico Gym in Oak Bluffs.

Senior Tim Roberts, with 16 points, and freshman Cole Houston, 15 points, led a second-half comeback that featured clingwrap defense to seal the win.

The Vineyarders (7-4, 4-1 in Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) play) outscored the Raiders (5-6, 1-5 EAC) by a 32-15 margin.

Senior starters Matt Stone and Ben Poole did not play because of illness.

The Vineyarders next journey to Weston High School for a 5:30 game on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

by -
The girls varsity hockey team won the Nan Rheault Invitational for the first time in 14 years. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 3 pm, Tuesday

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls varsity hockey team won its first Nan Rheault Invitational tournament Sunday afternoon at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Quincy/North Quincy high schools.

From left, Kiara Vought, Meghan Hurley, Meg Burke, Natalija Lakis, Saige Araujo and Katrina Lakis watch the clock tick down in the final moments of the Nan Rheault Invitational.
From left, Kiara Vought, Meghan Hurley, Meg Burke, Natalija Lakis, Saige Araujo and Katrina Lakis watch the clock tick down in the final moments of the Nan Rheault Invitational.

The championship was the first for the MVRHS girls in the 14 years the Island has hosted the tournament. The game was a disciplined, grinding contest between two evenly matched teams.

Senior Sydney Davies scored with 12:20 to play in the first period on an assist from Kylie Hatt. The Vineyarders (6-3-2) made the lone goal stand up for the remainder of the game and the victory.

Early in the championship game, it was clear that goaltending and executing the little things would decide the outcome. In the stands during the second period, longtime Island hockey buff Hank Smith murmured as assessment. “This is as good as it gets,” he said. “You just don’t know who’s going to win. The most tenacious team, I think.”

Tenacity was indeed the hallmark of a close-checking contest in which both teams denied their opponent space in which to operate. The goaltending was acrobatic and sensational at both ends.

Goalie Jackie Hegarty makes a save with her shoulder.
Goalie Jackie Hegarty makes a save with her shoulder.

Unflappable Vineyarder Jackie Hegarty stood her ground during several furious, close-in shot and rebound bids. Sophomore Quincy netminder Karissa Beal advertised a bright future by stoning Ms. Ashmun close in and by literally standing on her head after thwarting another Vineyarder bid.

One day after the victory, Coach John Fiorito expressed his pride in the team. “I am so happy for these kids and this win,” Mr. Fiorito told The Times in a conversation Monday. “Quincy is a talented team, a gritty city team. We always put our focus on defense, and that requires understanding the fundamentals and doing the little things the right way.

Aubrey Ashmun shoots for the net.
Aubrey Ashmun shoots for the net.

“We have Aubrey [Ashmun] , who’s closing in on a 100-point career [52 goals and 46 assists at present], and Sydney [Davies], who’s tied for points on the season with Aubrey, but as a team, we have to work hard to score. We have good athletes, and at our level of talent, everyone has to do the little things on defense. Doing the basics well doesn’t require all the talent in the world, but it requires understanding the fundamentals and positional play, like protecting the front of our net.”


Saturday victory paved the way

Compared with the intensity of the championship game, the team’s 9-3 win over Scituate High School on Saturday that propelled the girls to the championship round was a day at the beach. The Vineyarders jumped out early with five goals in the first period, catching Scituate defenders up-ice, and scoring on several breakaways.

Senior Aubrey Ashmun showcased the skills that will take her to the next level, playing for Holy Cross College in Worcester next year. Her rink-long dashes netted her two goals and an assist. Sydney Davies also scored a pair. Julia Levesque, Belle Dinning, Olivia Ogden, Kylie Hatt, and Katrina Lakis scored a goal each, Ms. Lakis tallying her first varsity goal. Her sister, sophomore Natalija Lakis, nearly matched Katrina when a pass intended for Natalija at the wide-open left side of the net was deflected by a defender at the last moment.

“I was happy to win against Scituate, because we are similar programs, started at the same time, became competitive at the same time, and they have beaten us a lot,” coach John Fiorito said. “Their goaltenders are both new to the sport. I told the kids to keep shooting, and it worked out.”

The game settled down after the first period, and the Vineyarders outscored Scituate 4-3 the rest of the way.

Scituate won the Sunday consolation round with a 7-2 victory over Peabody High School.

The Quincy team advanced to the championship round with a 4-1 win over Peabody on Saturday.

“I think our game has come a long way,” Mr. Fiorito said. “This group understands fundamentals and the need to do things the right way. The veteran presence goes a long way in hockey. Seniors like Kiara Vought, Megan Hurley, and Katrina Lakis have been asked to play big minutes, and they have stepped up to that role.”

Vineyard captains skate towards Athletic Director Mike McCarthy to receive their championship plaque. (from left to right): Olivia Ogden, Aubrey Ashmun, Erin Hegarty, Sydney Davies.
Vineyard captains skate towards Athletic Director Mike McCarthy to receive their championship plaque. (from left to right): Olivia Ogden, Aubrey Ashmun, Erin Hegarty, Sydney Davies.

The Vineyarders have 14 points (two points for wins, one point for a tie), and need six more points in their last nine games to qualify again for the state tournament. Next up is Bishop Stang at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 5 pm.

by -
Sydney Davies shoots one into the Scituate net.

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls varsity hockey team defeated Scituate High School 9-3 Saturday night at the MV Ice Arena and will play Quincy/North Quincy High School today, Sunday at 1 pm in the championship game of the 14th annual Nan Rheault Invitational tournament.

The girls celebrate a score.
The girls celebrate a score.

The Vineyarders erupted for five unanswered first period goals en route to victory in a scrappy contest.

Sydney Davies and Aubrey Ashmun led seven Vineyarders scorers with two goals apiece. Julia Levesque, Belle Dinning, Olivia Ogden and Katrina Lakis also scored for the Vineyarders in a game which featured strong MVRHS goaltending from junior Jackie Hegarty.

Earlier in the day, Quincy/No. Quincy beat Peabody High School by a 4-1 margin to qualify for the championship game. Scituate and Peabody will face off at 11 am in the consolation round at the MV Ice Arena.

Aubrey Ashmun races a Scituate skater towards the puck.
Aubrey Ashmun races a Scituate skater towards the puck.

by -

The Head of the Snake: The ISIS Assault on Martha’s Vineyard, a novel by Chris Knowles. 178 pages in ebook format. Currently available as a Kindle book at or as a Nook book at

Chris Knowles’ latest political terrorist thriller hits close to several home fronts.

Close to our home front, certainly, with a plot that centers on the abduction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the president of the United States in the summer of 2015, while the president vacations on Martha’s Vineyard.

Too close, apparently, for Mr. Knowles’s print publisher, PublishAmerica, which advised him that this book, unlike its predecessors, did not meet its needs.

Its publication comes as ISIS once again takes center stage following a series of terrorist attacks in Paris.

So not only the book itself but the circumstances around it make this deftly-turned thriller a more compelling read, particularly for Island readers. More on that later in this review.

Mr. Knowles’s background has prepared him for the genre in which he works. While he has pursued a more pedestrian career in health care finance and administration on the Island for three decades, he was raised in Washington, D.C., close to the seat of power.

One of his parents worked in the intelligence community, and Mr. Knowles served a stint in military intelligence during the cold war, an era we might be forgiven for regarding as “the good old days,” considering the postmillennial behavior of al-Qaeda, ISIS, et al.

The Head of the Snake begins here on an endless summer August day in 2014, as we learn that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliph of ISIS, is rolling out a plan to abduct the president a year later.

Terrence Hayes is our president. He enjoys his annual Vineyard vacations. He will be completing the final year — and Vineyard vacation — of his presidency in 2015. It will be memorable.

The caliph is identifying and preparing members of North American ISIS cells who have U.S. and Canadian passports to come to the Island as seasonal workers, with a focus on getting the most menial jobs available in food services, transport, and manual labor.

Al-Baghdadi knows, as we all do, that the best intelligence on what’s happening here is available to the unnoticed tote-and-carry workers. Al-Baghdadi works out entry routes for 126 fighters turned fry cooks and drivers, and for himself and a small retinue. His plan comes to fruition in late August 2015.

President Hayes is an Iowa farm boy, and never misses the annual Ag Fair. When his 31-vehicle entourage is blocked by a two-car “accident” on Barnes Road, he is redirected to Five Corners. There, an outgoing Stop and Shop trailer truck misses the turn and blocks traffic, forcing the presidential convoy onto Lagoon Pond Road toward Skiff Avenue, where they can get to State Road and head up-Island to the fair in West Tisbury.

But there’s a blockage on Skiff, and the convoy retreats to the parking lot at the former naval hospital to turn around and head back to Five Corners. They are blocked in, a gun battle ensues, and the presidential party shelters in the abandoned hospital.

There’ll be no Ag Fair visit this year. Instead, the President and al-Baghdadi come together in the hospital for two days while the president is forced to sign agreements taking ISIS off the foreign terrorist organization list and recognizing it as a sovereign state, albeit without a country. As an added inducement to sign, al-Baghdadi confides to the president that Iraq, in fact, does have a nuclear weapon, now in place and ready to go in the Gaza Strip.

For the rest, you have to read the book. The premise, while fanciful, is believable. We know when the President is coming from all the planning chatter we hear in the spring, and the dramatic improvement in Island cell phone service in May. When he’s here, we usually know where he’ll be eating and playing, and what the catered menus will feature. It’s the nature of the place, and Mr. Knowles has captured the Island essence in this book.

We met with Mr. Knowles last Sunday to discuss terrorism today, and his experience with this book.

Is the scenario you present possible?

Could it really happen? Well, I didn’t write it until I was convinced it was plausible, that it could happen. If I needed to pull a rabbit from the hat, I wouldn’t have written it.

What’s your view on the security measure and protocols in place in this country today?

I grew up less than 3 miles from the White House, pedaled up to an open gate and walked in for the White House tours. Today Pennsylvania Avenue is blocked off for blocks. As military intelligence officers, we learned to know what the threats are and what we are prepared to do to meet them.

What’s your point of view as an author?

I was trained by the Jesuits (Georgetown and Fordham), who are half teachers, half theologians. I see myself that way — teaching by presenting factual information; the other half is to inject myself when it is appropriate.

You include voluminous detail on security assessment and protocol in Head of the Snake. Where do you get the information?

I read voraciously. A site called Defense One, for example, puts up several postings a day. But all of this information is available. If I knew any classified information, I wouldn’t publish it. May not be illegal, but it is certainly immoral, in my view.

What’s up with your publisher?

Well, I got a simple letter that said the book did not meet their current needs. Was it less well-written than my prior books they’ve published? I think it’s the best I’ve written. This book is more about character development. I tried to draw two men, the president and the caliph. I demanded of myself to put myself in the shoes of both characters, who, if not respecting each other, acknowledge a formidable foe. Their relationship becomes a chess match.

Is their decision to decline related to something else?

That’s up to anyone to read into it what they want. Based on the recent events in Paris, I can understand publishers being reluctant to publish. The company chooses to publish what they want and not to publish what they don’t want. I don’t begrudge their right to publish, though I do begrudge their judgment in this case [chuckles]. I’m making the [publishing] rounds now.

by -

Demaris Wehr shares lessons learned from stories of Bosnian survival at the Vineyard Haven Library on Tuesday night.

Author Demaris Wehr will talk at the Vineyard Haven Library about her new book "Making It Through: Bosnian Survivors Telling Stories of Truth." – Photo courtesy Demaris Wehr and file photo by Susan Safford.

In 1992 the world applauded a new and brighter day for the former Yugoslav people, finally free from Communist rule.

As the fledgling nations of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia took flight, their prospects were rendered more idyllic in world memories of a picture-postcard Olympic venue in Sarajevo eight years earlier.

The carnage that came was sudden and savage. Perhaps we didn’t understand the history of the multiethnic and religious divide in the region. More likely, nothing could have prepared the world for the ferocity of the killing and inhuman savagery that took more than 100,000 lives in two and a half years (1992-1995).

The Olympic bobsled track in Sarajevo became an artillery emplacement. Sarajevo’s streets and the pastoral meadows formerly strolled by Olympians and tourists became killing zones. (For purposes of understanding: Based on population, the numbers of dead in the Bosnian conflict would translate into well over one million American lives lost.)

When it was over, there remained an imbedded nest of live landmines across the landscape and a complete list of human atrocities, including genocide, murder, and rape. Many of the perpetrators are in jail, serving shockingly light sentences for their brutal actions. Many of the survivors will serve life sentences for the crimes committed against them. But as we have seen over time, the human condition seems to prescribe that after the warmongers have done their worst, the peacemakers arrive to nurture and heal.

One such peacemaker is Demaris Wehr, whose work in the postwar region has impelled her to tell the stories of how eight people survived the ordeal. Her book, awaiting publication, is titled Making It Through: Bosnian Survivors Telling Stories of Truth.

Ms. Wehr, a psychotherapist and author with a Ph.D. in religion, will present a slide show of eight survivors’ stories and an overview of the events at the Vineyard Haven public library on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 7 pm, and again on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at the same time. Last week The Times spoke with Ms. Wehr at her off-Island home in Calais, Vt.

“Of all the work I’ve done in my life, this [experience] is the most connected to my soul. The truth really does free us. I saw that happen in Bosnia,” she said. The “truth” she references is a spiritual trait or quality of character she found in each of the war survivors — it’s something they believed which enabled them to survive, and now, ultimately, to thrive.

Ms. Wehr made her first trip to the region in 2000 with the the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, a project called the Dialogue Project.

“I worked the summers of 2001-2002 in Bosnia with a team of facilitators. We did peace-building groups with Muslim and Serbian educators. It was transforming for me. As a result of ongoing interest in Bosnia, I attended a seminar in Sarajevo in the spring of 2003. Island resident Paddy Moore, a specialist in arbitration and conflict resolution and a board member of the Karuna Center, was also on that trip.

“That was the point at which I decided that I had to write the book. I wanted to write about how these people made it through. I picked out eight people I had met, four men and four women: a Serb, three Bosniaks (as Bosnian Muslims prefer to be called), a Jew, a person of mixed faith, and two nonpracticing Muslims,” she said.

The all-Slavic group represented three religions, and multiple ethnicities and intermarriages. One of her subjects today is a Nobel Prize candidate, another is an ambassador. All are people Ms. Wehr describes as “ordinary people who rose to extraordinary heights:

“How they made it through — that was the central question. The experience of interviewing them ended up to be inspiring rather than depressing. They all clung to some sort of quality or strength in which they believed, that helped them avoid going crazy with the madness around them,” she said.

Ms. Wehr adopted the term “centerpost” to describe the individual character traits on which they relied, including: forgiveness, humility, devotion to family, integrity, faith, optimism, duty, and transcendence.

In all, counting the peace-building work, Ms.Wehr would make six trips to Bosnia, interviewing, transcribing translations, checking the stories with the subjects. During the process Ms. Wehr encountered her own tragic circumstances. Her husband of 30 years became ill, and after a year, lost his battle with the illness. One day, as she went about her caregiving, Ms. Wehr said, “I realized that I was using the centerposts I learned from the Bosnians in my own life. I found myself using my Bosnian teachers to learn how to make it through life.

“I found myself using my centerpost qualities as a checklist. Practicing integrity, faith, forgiveness, and duty all became my centerposts while David was dying,” she said.

by -

The most recent in Michael G. West's Island-based detective series, has all the trouble he wants, set on Martha's Vineyard circa 1989.

Photo by Angela Prout

“Misfit Blues,” a novel by Michael G. West, paperback, 178 pages, from Sepiessa Press, Vineyard Haven. $12.95. Available at select Island retailers including Bunch of Grapes and Edgartown Books, and online at

Blues musicians favor an anthem that holds, “If you ain’t had trouble, you can’t sing the blues.”

Tommy Shakespear, the waggish gumshoe protagonist in Michael West’s Island-based detective series, has all the trouble he wants in his latest adventure, set on Martha’s Vineyard circa 1989.

The Shakespear series includes a standing cast of well-defined characters, including the J.F.K.-assassination-obsessed backgammon wizard Creech, a ganja-obsessed fellow, and the Red Sox-obsessed Boston attorney Hank Greenberg — Tommy’s sometimes employer.

Tommy’s persona is an eclectic blend of street, old money and academe. Possessor of a not-quite-large-enough trust fund, Tommy is a 20something Island odd-job guy from Boston, a former Golden Gloves boxer and a dropout from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

He’s also a sucker for long-shot romances. In this one, he falls for Elaine, who spends her weekdays with Tommy and her weekends with her millionaire fund-manager fiancé.

Tommy stands to collect a $5 million trust-fund bonus at age 30, provided he doesn’t drink or do drugs, as his grandfather’s trust dictates. He is sometimes on shaky ground with drinking and marijuana, and on even shakier ground on the third requirement: He has to live until his 30th birthday to collect.

This condition is not a slam dunk in “Misfit Blues.” It turns out Mr. Greenberg has hired Tommy to find a witness to a murder, Shari Nemchek, for which Mr. Greenberg’s client, Zymanski, is charged, but which he did not commit. Shari was on the scene when it happened, took a flyer to escape the murderers, and ended up, you guessed it, hiding out on the Island with her sister.

Now Zymanski, Shari’s erstwhile boyfriend, is not a boy scout. He’s a local hothead who went to confront bookie Willie Hicks about his relationship with Shari, maybe administer a beating while he was at it, when two leg breakers for Arnie Bres, a feared Boston slumlord and connected scumbag, showed up and tuned them both up, landing Hicks in the ER with a fractured skull.

Zymanski was unconscious when the cops arrived, so he got the charges and Greenberg got the problem. He needs Shari. She doesn’t want to be found, and definitely doesn’t want to testify. Fortunately Mr. West has set the scene in midsummer, largely in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, when you’d be hard-pressed to pick out Dumbo the Elephant on Circuit Avenue.

Tommy finds Shari and Bres’s thugs, who are also in search of her, on the Island. Bres’s legmen are former cops gone bad. They do the legwork, and are tracking Shari and Tommy down. Our hero is faced with the problem we’ve all encountered: how to get unwanted guests off the Island.

He figures it out with the help of a woman’s wig and a hitchhiker. But it’s a temporary fix, and the bad boys are back, forcing Tommy to step on their toes (literally) at the Tisbury Inn (now the Mansion House) in Vineyard Haven.

The action goes to warp speed from this point, when Tommy must evade an Eastern European professional assassin, who strews the Island with strangled corpses, while protecting Shari.

While it is our policy not to reveal plot endings, we can safely say that Tommy will be back. Creech, unfortunately, will not. The police found him in Tommy’s storage locker with a noose around his neck, along with a large bag of pot. Oops.

Mr. West has a fertile imagination, and there are subplots and definitely a couple of twists you won’t see coming. Mr. West has been busy over the past few years, publishing four mystery novels, including the initial Tommy Shakespear opus.

The Shakespear works are my personal favorites, because the principal characters are always engaging. Tommy is a broader character than your average hard-boiled private eye. He is flawed, not always one step ahead of the bad guys, and his romantic inclinations sometimes threaten to take his eye off the ball, so to speak.

The Tommy Shakespear character and Mr. West seem to have comfortably figured each other out, and the character works in a variety of settings, on- and off-Island.

Come to think of it, the cadre of Island mystery writers is growing. With Phil Craig, Cynthia Riggs, the Rev. Judith Campbell, and Mr. West, there are probably enough cadavers to fill the freight boat.

by -

The JV team had better luck and defeated their counterparts 54 to 46.

Senior captain Tim Roberts drives down the baseline past a Sandwich defender.

Updated, 7 pm, January 7

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys varsity basketball team dug themselves a deep first-quarter hole from which they could not recover, and lost to a quality Sandwich High School team on Friday night at Pacheco Gym in Oak Bluffs by a score of 72-57.

Cole Houston rounds a defender and dribbles towards the hoop. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Cole Houston rounds a defender and dribbles towards the hoop. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Aided by Vineyard turnovers on the team’s first four possessions, the Blue Knights rained generally wide-open three-pointers early — 6 of 13 treys in the first half — building leads of 7-0, 10-2, and 15-4 before the Vineyarders settled down. The teams were even the rest of the way, with the Knights picking up extra buckets in garbage time over the final minute.

The Vineyarders fell to 2-3, and the Blue Knights improved to 4-1 on the season, led by guards Joey Downes (30 points, 19 in the first half) and Scotty Reels, whose hands-y defense frustrated the Purple offensively. Vineyarder captain Tim Roberts drew special attention, limiting his opportunities to drive to the bucket. Tim was the leading Vineyarder scorer with 14 points, converting several drives into three-point plays by drawing fouls on his drive.

Boys-BBall_Alex-GordonBeck-1.jpgSenior center Mac Sashin was next, with 10 points from the low post. The slimmed-down seven-footer also hauled down 14 rebounds, including several critical offensive boards.

The 2014-’15 Vineyard team appears to be finding its identity. There is a new look for fans acclimated to the 2013-’14 multiple-scoring threat of Deshawn James, Tim Roberts, and Kane Araujo, with Alex Gordon-Beck and Navardo Anderson making big contributions.

Coach Mike Joyce is faced with replacing the offense of 2014 graduates James, Araujo, and Anderson, and limiting opponents’ inside opportunities on defense.

Seniors Roberts and Gordon-Beck are back doing their thing, and Coach Joyce has integrated Mac Sashin’s low-post talent more on offense. Perhaps notably, freshman guard Cole Houston was on the court in crunch time on Friday night, and contributed via outside shots and a willingness to drive to the basket.

And a benefit of a senior-heavy squad is that this is a talented, tournament-tested group, including captains Matt Stone and Mikey Musell and seniors Ben Poole, Jack Yuen, and David Macias.

“No question that the team we’ll be at the end of the year will be very different from the one we’re starting with. We have to play defense,” Coach Joyce said following the game. “We gave up 45 points in the first half. Can’t have that. We played them strong in the second half. And Sandwich is a good team.

“We’re going to depend on Tim, Alex, and Mac for scoring, and we have a couple of freshmen [Cole Houston and Ricardo Andrade] who are earning minutes and can help the more experienced core of players. So it’s going to be an interesting season,” he said.

Earlier in the afternoon on Friday, the Vineyarder junior varsity squad (2-1) defeated the Sandwich JVs (3-2) by a 54-46 score. The Vineyarders erupted with 21-point fourth quarter that snapped a 33-33 tie after three periods.

The Vineyarders play next at Weston High School (Jan. 6) before traveling to Coyle & Cassidy (Jan. 13) for a key Eastern Athletic Conference matchup.


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified senior Ricardo Andrade as Jack Yuen in a photo caption.

by -

And Some Thoughts About Our Literary Future.

Author Ed Hoagland, published two books this year. Photo by Michael Cummo.

The Island’s 2014 literary life was chock-a-block with fledgling authors, fresh growth in our writing hothouses, and several new opportunities for our band of Island word carpenters to display their work.

In fact, bookish goings-on for the past few years prompted me to think that the Island has an opportunity to create a new literary season during the period currently known as winter — for five reasons.

We have street cred, which is the basis of all brands. Several generations of best-quality, nationally-known writers: the Styrons, Mike Wallace, Art Buchwald, David G. McCullough, Ward Just, John Hough, Geraldine Brooks, Tony Horwitz, Rick Patterson, Ed Hoagland, Linda Fairstein, and on and on.

We have creative hothouses, including the laudable Pathways Projects Institutes, brainchild of Marianne Goldberg, which provides support, a performance venue, and an audience for Island writers.

We have teachers and places for manufacturing good writing, including mentors John Hough and Nancy Aronie, Justen Ahren’s Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency, Cynthia Riggs-Attebery’s long-running Cleaveland House group, and a host of other writing and poetry groups.

We have a market with strong demand. No one, with the possible exception of Peter Oberfest, was more amazed than I by the turnout at the Islanders Read conference on a muggy August day at the old Grange Hall. Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up with serious writing intentions.

We have a successful on-Island publishing house. More on that below.

The pieces are in place.

The 2014 reads I enjoyed most include some first efforts that pleasantly surprised me, a couple of books by established writers, and several from folks who are making a second career in writing. As always, the books discussed here include offerings written by Island-connected writers that I read this year.

I made up the award titles, but we couldn’t actually have an awards ceremony. It would be a good fundraiser and a helluva good evening, though.

"Down in Laos" by Frank Partel Jr.
“Down in Laos” by Frank Partel Jr.

First novels by Jib Ellis (Bandstand, The Search for the Oak Island Gold) and Thea Marsh (Shores of the Heart) led that category. They were good reads with some literary sizzle and future promise. The Mystery Of The Cliff House, a young adult book by Jay Henry Kaufman belongs in the group as well.

Frank Partel Jr. gets the Most Improved Writer award for Down in Laos, a history-based novel of the war in Vietnam. Mr. Partel’s third Vietnam naval novel freed itself from past bondage of incomprehensible U.S. Navy acronyms and set free a wonderful story.

The Out of Her Comfort Zone award goes to Cynthia Riggs-Attebery for Murder on C-Dock, a radical departure from her successful string of nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull sleuthers.

"BOOM!" by Tony Horwitz.
“BOOM!” by Tony Horwitz.

BOOM! by Tony Horwitz gets the Most Infuriatingly Underappreciated Book award. Mr. Horwitz spent six months traveling the 1,200 miles of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas recording the development of a shale oil project whose pipeline, if approved, will pass through, not under, the aquifer of some of this country’s most fertile farmland.

Media Watch reports that the project is one of the most under-reported business and environmental stories of the year, yet the facts are there in BOOM!, currently an e-book, since Mr. Horwitz’s online publisher went belly-up before launching the book. Read it.

The late painter Ray Ellis was the subject of two important Island books this year with assists from C.K. Wolfson and Derbyman Ed Jerome. Painting A Life: Ray Ellis: An Artist Seen Through His Work by C.K. Wolfson is a biography of an important and well-loved artist who served his community literally until his dying day.

An Amazing Story of the Vineyard’s Derby: 25 years of Paintings, History and Fishing by Ed Jerome and Ray Ellis, Introduction by C.K. Wolfson, is the second Ray Ellis book. The book includes all of his Derby prints and the back story of their genesis. Sales of Mr. Ellis’s Derby prints are the backbone of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarships and help to Islanders over the decades. A book to own.

I like John Hough Jr. for the Wish I Wrote That Book award for Little Big Horn, which made Custer, the event, and the period come to life for me. Mr. Hough combines a journalist’s nose with a literary skill to put you in that period and place.

"Some Kind of Lucky: a 50-year love affair with Martha's Vineyard" by Joan Cowen Bowman.
“Some Kind of Lucky: a 50-year love affair with Martha’s Vineyard” by Joan Cowen Bowman.

The Personal Courage Award goes to Some Kind of Lucky: a 50-year love affair with Martha’s Vineyard by Joan Cowen Bowman, photos by Alison Shaw. Ms. Bowman offers an unflinching look at her life that will resonate with all readers, particularly those of us approaching the summing-up phase of our lives.

There were other 2014 books of note, thanks to writers like Rick Herrick and Chris Knowles who let us know the trove of ideas, knowledge, and talent available to us here.

Sadly, we learned this year that Jan Pogue, co-creator of the Vineyard Stories, our successful on-Island publishing house, will begin a two-year process of winding down the company she and John Walter, her late husband, brought to life — to our everlasting gratitude and delight.

Ms. Pogue’s life here is a terrific story of spiritual journey. We’ll tell it another time. Suffice to say now that dozens of Island stories would not have been told, certainly with far less beauty and elegance, had Vineyard Stories not been here to tell them.

by -
Dave Merrit, Steamship Authority. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Oh, Christmas. That traditional day of home, hearth, family, and presents under the tree. But for those who provide essential community services, there is work to do even on Christmas Day.

Last week, The Times spoke with a variety of individuals, all with different jobs and levels of responsibility, who will be working this Thursday, December 25. All of those interviewed said they enjoy working on Christmas Day.

Many do it in the spirit of gift-giving, to allow co-workers or employees to enjoy the day with family. They also said they enjoy the day’s special energy and the joy of interacting with the public.

Kara Best, Cumberland Farms. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Kara Best, Cumberland Farms. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Kara Best

Ms. Best is a veteran of Christmas Day at Cumberland Farms at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven where she has worked as a sales associate for six years. She’ll work the late afternoon shift on Christmas Day.

“We switch off from year to year so we all get a Christmas off,” she said. “I don’t mind working. I had last year off and working the later shift still allows us to have a family Christmas and open presents. Our son Christian just turned four so he’s just getting the concept.

“This is the busiest place on the Island on Christmas. There aren’t a lot of stores open. We get people coming in for everything, things they forgot. But then it really slows down around five or six o’clock when people are at home, settled in.”

Nikisha Ferguson, Xtra Mart. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Nikisha Ferguson, Xtra Mart. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Nikisha Ferguson

Ms. Ferguson is a sales associate at Xtra Mart on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. She has worked at the convenience store and gas station for the past three years. She’ll be working Christmas Day, and she said she enjoys it.

“People call up or come in and they are so grateful that we’re open,” she said. “I volunteered to work this year because my boss and his wife have a one-year-old baby so this will be their first family Christmas. I’ll be off by 2 pm, so we’ll have Christmas then with my mother and my brothers and sisters. I don’t mind working: it’s kind of special to see your regular customers and to watch people’s faces light up when they see we’re open. Everyone is jolly on Christmas.”

David Merritt

Mr. Merritt is a veteran of 29 Christmas holidays with the Steamship Authority (SSA). He now works in Vineyard Haven.

“It’s been part of my schedule in the past,” he said. “I chose to work this year so more guys and women can have time with their families. I’ll still get time with my folks. We just start a little later.

“You know, working on Christmas isn’t a bad idea. It can be a really nice time. I grew up here, more or less, and I have a lot of friends I get to see, coming home for the holidays — people I don’t see all year. I saw a guy this week that I haven’t seen in 15 years. Mostly it’s just a hello on the dock, but it’s good. People are happy.”

Mary Holmes, Windmere. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Mary Holmes, Windmere. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Mary Holmes

Ms. Holmes is the memory care program coordinator at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oak Bluffs. She and colleague Betsy Burmeister, recreational therapy director at Windemere, take turns making Christmas a joyful day for the residents.

Along the way, they have made Christmas at Windemere part of their own families’ holiday tradition. As they have in past years, Ms. Holmes’s daughter, Elinor, 15, and son, Robert, 13, will help Santa (Robert Brabyn, Windemere’s maintenance engineer) make sure that every resident gets a Christmas present.

“We do it every yea,” she said. “We ask staff to get a gift for clients and everyone gets one. It’s really very touching. The clients love it. We wrap the presents, Santa greets them and the kids help with delivery and unwrapping if anyone needs help. Later in the day, we go home and have our family Christmas with grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The kids are older now, so it’s easier to have stockings later in the day.”

Will Bishop, Edgartown Police Department. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Will Bishop, Edgartown Police Department. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Will Bishop

Edgartown police officer Will Bishop, a 2004 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will be on patrol from 8 am to 6 pm on Christmas Day.

“I’m on the schedule this year, but I’ve tried to step up and work it in the past so the older officers who have families can have the day with them,” he said. “Actually, It’s kind of nice to drive through town in the morning and see everything so still. The morning hours are pretty quiet on Christmas, then towards the middle of the day, it becomes a normal day with the calls you normally get. I’ll spend Christmas Eve with my fiancée and her family and have a late dinner with my parents in Edgartown on Christmas night after I finish at 6 pm.

“I would say it gives me a little more perspective on the community and the job I have. I get to work in the community I grew up in. It’s good to help out and some day it’ll be my turn to have Christmas off.”