Authors Posts by Jack Shea

Jack Shea


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Murder on C-Dock by Cynthia Riggs-Attebery, copyright 2015 Cynthia Riggs-Attebery, from Cleaveland House Books. Softcover, 201 pages. $19.95 at Island book stores.

You remember Victoria Trumbull, the 92-year old Island native and sleuth, the chief protagonist of a dozen books in Cynthia Riggs-Attebery’s long-running mystery novel series.

Murder on C-Dock is a complete change of pace from the dowager detective, though it contains the same twists and turns of Ms. Riggs’s murder mystery style. This offering is a chillingly fun read that introduces us to Persie Lee Butler, a 40-something Smithsonian researcher who lives aboard a houseboat in a tidal basin yacht club hard by the Capitol area in Washington, D.C.

Like Ms. Campbell, Persie Lee finds deadly trouble easily and has a nose for finding the answers. In this case, venal and roundly loathed yacht club commodore Carnegie Dunn turns up dead. He’ll have plenty of company sleeping with the fishes before we’re done in the fast-paced tale with quirky characters who live aboard boats in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Persie Lee character also provides an insight into Ms. Riggs-Attebery’s life. In fact, Ms. Riggs-Attebery did work for the Smithsonian several decades ago and did, in fact, live on a houseboat in D.C. for 12 years.

In introductory notes accompanying the review copy, Ms. Riggs-Attebery notes that Murder on C-Dock was an early writing project from that time in her life, undertaken as a result of urging from fellow live-aboards at her dock.

“So that’s how it started,” she writes. “I got dragooned into it. I didn’t think I could turn out a book. Writing a book seemed like a colossal task, like knitting a sweater or worse. But the pages piled up and the story evolved and I put in all the dock people I loved and the ones I didn’t love and killed off the ones I hated, including the commodore.

“Like most first books, it was unpublishable. I did get an agent who couldn’t sell it. I revised it and revised it and revised it again.”

Recently, at her Island Wednesday Writers group, she was urged to give it another go. The result is a terrific read, seamlessly updated from an era in which cellphones and Blue Moon beer didn’t exist. Good job.

Okay, okay, back to Murder on C-Dock. This book contains a great set of lively characters who would serve well as the basis for a mystery series.

There’s Dojan Minnowfish, an Aquinnah Wampanoag who’s been banished by tribal elders for some spectacularly unsavory behavior to Washington, D.C., the worst place they could think of, Persie Lee notes wryly. Dojan serves as tribal liaison to the Bureau of Indian Affairs but spends most of his time saving Persie Lee’s bacon.

There’s Smitty, an African-American harbor policeman, whose laconic, practical style is reminiscent of Up-Island fisherfolk today, and mysterious college professor Ed Hunt, possessor of a checkered past similar to Dojan’s.

As the murders and boat-burnings pile up, we see layers of personalities emerge and the secrets of live-aboards laid bare. Ms. Riggs-Attebery’s characters wrestle with grown-up stuff involving not only murder, but also incest, gay and lesbian partners dealing with homophobia, the corrosive effect of buried secrets, and revenge-seeking.

Murder on C-Dock immerses us in a subset of D.C. life that is far different than most of us imagine actually exists. Ms. Riggs-Attebery’s characters are crisp and distinct and funky. They serve as an unexpected social counterpoint to our image of a gray D.C. corporate and government bureaucracy.

As you know, we don’t reveal plot endings in these book reports, but I’ll tell you I had no clue whodunit until the tale was fully told.

I liked Persie Lee, her lifestyle, and her gaggle of memorable friends. I hope she embarks on another watery adventure.

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Alexa Pil scrambles to score against Falmouth. —Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Pee Wee hockey team roared back from a one-goal deficit early in the first period to score seven unanswered goals, including four by Will Bruguiere, en route to an 8-2 win over visiting Falmouth at the MV Ice Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The win allows the Vineyard 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls to advance in the Cape and Islands region of the state Pee Wee Playdown Tournament. The victory on Sunday was the second for the Island skaters in the single-elimination tournament round.

The annual Playdown Tournament, sponsored by Massachusetts Hockey, an affiliate of the amateur USAHockey organization, involves several hundred Pee Wee teams in ten regions across the state. The Vineyarders next play a Lower Cape team in Orleans at a date to be determined. A win allows the Vineyarders to advance to round robin play from which the eventual winner in the Cape and Island region will play in the state championship round with winners from the nine other regions in Massachusetts. The Playdown Tournament will extend into March or early April for the final teams.

Will Bruguiere pursues a Falmouth player — and the puck. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Will Bruguiere pursues a Falmouth player — and the puck. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Peter Gillis, Alexa Gil, Hunter Meader, and Cam Geary also scored for the Vineyarders, who peppered the Falmouth net with 29 shots. Vineyard netminder Oliver Lively turned away 14 of 16 Falmouth shots on goal. Lauren Boyd, Hunter Meader, Cam Geary, and Pete Gillis had multiple assists in the game. Hoffman Hearn and Elias Gunderson also contributed helpers.
Before the game, coach George Hearn said, ”Yup. This is a big one, and against Falmouth, our arch-rivals.”

In post-game comments, coach Pete Gillis copped to some pre-game anxiety about the matchup. “We weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “They gave us a pretty good beating last time we played them.”
And after an early Will Bruguiere first period goal, Falmouth stormed back with two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead. A “here we go again” moment?  Nope. The Vineyarders regained their giddyup, scoring twice to close out the first period up, 3-2, the last on a nifty wrap-around move by Will Bruguiere with 1:30 left.
Will completed a hat trick (three goals in a game) early in the second period and a composed Island squad handled the deflated Falmouth squad easily thereafter, scoring twice more in the second period and adding a pair in the third.

If you haven’t seen youth hockey lately, you’re in for a surprise. Youth play today is far removed from an older version that tended to be dominated by one or two star players (aka “puck hogs”) who lugged the biscuit from end to end without a thought to passing. The Island team featured heady, disciplined positional play, a crisp short passing game and patient use of the boards in the offensive end to wait for scoring chances to materialize.

Jackie Pizzano skates past a Falmouth defender. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Jackie Pizzano skates past a Falmouth defender. —Photo by Michael Cummo

“We coach according to USAHockey standards which emphasize strong fundamentals and skill development,” Mr. Gillis said this week. “We do teach the fundamentals of positioning on the chalkboard in the locker room but we use small area drills – three on threes – to allow kids to develop stick handling and passing skills and to figure things out that they can take into a game situation.”

The days of lining up for shots and skating through cones have been replaced by practices with a focus on creating real-game situations.

The well-used MV Ice Arena is rockin’ with hockey this time of year with upwards of 200 kids from instructional to Bantam players playing and practicing, not to mention the boys and girls high school teams. Mr. Gillis credited the explosion of interest in Island hockey to creation of an instructional league four or five years ago. “When kids experience hockey, they love it,” he said, adding “the arena is a very expensive venue to maintain. We’re concerned about the big increase coming for electricity rates, for example, But it’s a great outlet for kids in the winter when there isn’t much to do on the Island.”

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Bunch of Grapes Bookstore stocks a selection of books by local authors, self-published and otherwise. —Photo by Michael Cummo

To novice authors, it still seems easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to get their work published.

The good news is that there are a lot more needles than there used to be. After two decades of maneuvering through a consolidation of the traditional white-shoe publishers and their book lists, the growth of desktop and digital publishing, and the record growth in self-publishing, authors may be seeing a fresher publishing environment, though the rancorous battle continues between the traditional publisher/bookseller model and online bookseller Amazon.

Self-publishing is the option many are choosing.

In 2012, more than 458,000 books, including e-books, were self-published. That’s 30 percent more than rolled off traditional publisher presses.

Beat Barblan, a director of identifier services at Bowker, a publishing industry stat-keeper, said last month that, “Our general conclusion is that self-publishing is beginning to mature. While it continues to be a force to reckon with, it is evolving from a frantic, wild-west style space to a more serious business. The market is stabilizing as the trend of self-publisher as business-owner, rather than writer only, continues.”

Bowker found in 2013 research that more than 75 percent of self-published titles came to market with support from just three companies — Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Lulu — that provide author publishing help.

The journey to getting the presses rolling is daunting. For Island resident and novice author Jay Henry Kaufman, taking the traditional road to publishing with The Mystery of the Cliff House, was “an introduction to the Darwinian side of publishing.”

Mr. Kaufman is a bright guy, a doctor who’s headed the ophthalmology department at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston. He loves to write and describes his maiden publishing voyage with a particular humor and whimsy.

“Those who run fastest and have a head start generally win,” he said referring to self-publishing. “I have friends who are published authors who gave me access to agents and publishers. Many of the people I contacted were very nice, but it was like being turned down for the prom by the prettiest girl in the class. I got no response from others.

“Look, I wasn’t naïve. I’m not God’s gift to publishing and I wasn’t thinking that someone should want to publish this book.”

Mr. Kaufman’s prior publishing experience included medical writing, the staging of two of his plays, and a short story published in an anthology. He decided to self-publish his adventure mystery book about three children who closely resemble his three grandchildren. He’s glad he did it and is planning a sequel as his grandchildren/protagonists grow.

“But there are two sides of publishing,” he said. “One is getting published. The other is what happens after you are published.” Mr. Kaufman chose to list his book on, which is often pilloried by the writing, publishing, and bookselling communities for a long business reach and short royalties.

Mr. Kaufman has enjoyed keeping track of his sales success online at Amazon. “One day I was 62nd on the bestseller list, then after all my friends and family had bought their copies, I dropped by thousands of places,” he said.  If Walmart buys 10,000 copies of a book one day, you fall fast. Keeping track of your sales can become addictive, probably not a good practice for manic-depressives.

“I can see both sides of that bookstore vs. online controversy. I grew up loving books and bookstores, just being in a bookstore and talking to people whose lives are embedded in their profession. I understand their dismay. Amazon is seen as a bully, but it can also be an avenue. Bookstores have told me they won’t carry titles that are on Amazon. You have got to market yourself. I’ve noticed that if I speak about my book to people, sales go up.”

Longtime Edgartown resident Tina Reich was an impatient author. This summer, after completing her first novel, Shores of the Heart, she quickly abandoned the traditional publisher route. “It’s almost impossible to get an agent or a publisher for someone who’s unknown” she said. “Maybe my second book will get a look, but I recommend self-publishing. It met my needs: I wanted to see it in print.”

Ms. Reich lists her love story on Amazon. “Their system isn’t so good,” she said. “When someone buys a copy, Amazon contacts me and I have to send a book. I also have a digital version and that seems to work well. I’ve sold 30 bound copies and maybe 25-30 digital copies. I fought the electronic book initially, but now I see the benefit. It’s portable and handy to use.”

Ms. Reich found Mira Digital, a publisher in Missouri, that was willing to collate her chapters, help her with cover design and arrange for a Library of Congress number. “I chose them because I could talk to a real person,” she said. “For $2,000, I got all that help and 250 softcovers and 25 hardcovers which arrived on time. My e-book was a separate charge of about $1,000.

“The real expense is getting edited. That costs about $5,000, so I self-edited. And maybe that shows. I will use self-publishing unless someone has interest. I think more marketing can help me. A few self-published books have been discovered.”

Jan Pogue of Vineyard Stories. —Photo by Eli Dagostino
Jan Pogue of Vineyard Stories. —Photo by Eli Dagostino

The route chosen by Mr. Kaufman and Ms. Reich may be the best for new authors, said Jan Pogue, owner of Vineyard Stories, a publishing house here. “My sense is that David McCullough will always have a publisher but Tom Dresser had to find his place,” she said. “Jib Ellis decided not to wait for a publisher, to do it himself. Michael West has marketed his books well.” Mr. Dresser found a small, niche publisher for his local history specialty as did Frank Partel who writes 20th century historical naval novels. Mr. Ellis and Mr. West launched themselves.

“Self published is the biggest trend in books, and Amazon — regarded as the monster — makes it available,” Ms. Pogue said. “There is pent-up demand. People who have been waiting for years are deciding they are going to discover themselves. I think it’s great. Look at number of literary events we have. Our libraries don’t have to reach (for events). Authors are editing themselves or asking for peer reviews. We have lots of writer groups on the Island with people comfortable showing their work. There is so much talent here.

“Michael Blanchard (author of Fighting for My Life) is a Facebook phenom. He’s got 40,000 followers. He’s not self-published because he used my company, but he operates like a self-publisher.

“It’s hard work, but there are always going to be books. France has just declared books — and bookstores — to be a national resource. We have bookstores on this Island who are doing fine.

“Books are back, baby, and so is the economy.”

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Mike Mazza, left in blue hat, reaches for the ball before Ian Shea gets to it. —Photo by Michael Cummo

There is no more enduring symbol of Irish culture than hurling, a 3,000-year-old Gaelic sport billed as the fastest game on grass. The game is intertwined with the oldest legends and folklore of Ireland.

Small wonder, then, that close to two dozen students in Elaine (Cawley) Weintraub’s high school Irish History class were psyched to experience it yesterday at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Dan McCarthy Field.

Ms. Weintraub, head of the MVRHS history department and a native of County Mayo in Ireland, has been offering students in her Irish History class the opportunity to play hurling for the last three years. Soon enough on Wednesday morning, two teams of seven or eight players were roaring up and down the field, wielding flat-headed sticks (“hurleys”) that look like truncated field hockey sticks.

Hurling is widely thought of as a game for the slightly deranged (though a recent 5-­year clinical study rated it as less harmful than ice or field hockey). It’s played only by amateur men and women across the world, wherever Irish expatriates have settled.

The object of the game is to score a 3-point goal by hitting the ball (sliotar) into a net guarded by a goalkeeper, or to score a 1-point goal by hitting the ball between upright goalposts above the net. Players may use their hands to catch the leather­ wrapped cork ball in the air and their feet to pass it, but must pass the ball or carry the ball with their hurleys to advance it. They must also bounce the ball off the hurley while carrying it at top speed with defenders attempting to dislodge it with sticks or by contact.

Devon Araujo’s spiked doo and green face paint was reminiscent of Braveheart and provided a droll touch to the proceedings yesterday.  “The concept is the same as lacrosse but the hurley is flat, compared with the pouch on a lacrosse stick, so that makes it difficult to carry,” said Devon, a lacrosse player.

Hockey player Dorian Johnson said, “Obviously, one difference is that it’s played on a field rather than on ice. Hitting the ball out of the air requires a lot of hand­-eye (coordination).”

Patryck Arascimente is a hurling veteran, with three years on the Dan McCarthy pitch. “Takes a little time to get the hang of it. But it’s fairly simple when you do. You need good arm strength to hit the ball, though.”

Referees Giulia Leite and Celena Guimaraes were marked by stylish Burger King­-type crowns. Clearly they had read the rule book. “No, you can’t pick up the ball with your hand,” they told a confused player. “You can catch it in the air but you have to use your stick to pick it up.”

Hurling requires an athleticism that combines the skills needed for baseball (hitting and fielding), hockey and lacrosse (stick and passing skills) and soccer (fitness, body control and strategy). “That’s true: we watched a video on the game in preparation (for today) that emphasized those points and how they are important to the game,” Ms. Weintraub said.

No stranger to the game, she wore her Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) jacket to the field. The GAA is the hurling governing body in Ireland. “Hurling is played by both men and women in Ireland and they say the women are fiercer than the men,” she chuckled in a soft brogue. MVRHS junior Jennifer Rosado represented the distaff side in the match.

Ms. Weintraub is a fan of hands­-on learning. “So much of what we learn focuses on the “why” aspect. It’s also important to see “how” things work as well,” she said.

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A trophy grizzly bear and one man’s quest.

Tom Taylor of Edgartown, and his huge mountain Grizzly bear, not of Edgartown. – Courtesy Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor of Edgartown sat in a tree stand in the British Columbia cold on October 7 holding a simple recurve bow. He was hunting a grizzly bear with claws that made his arrows seem like toothpicks.

You and I — most of the people in the world, probably — would rather burst into flames than be where Tom Taylor was sitting when a nearly 800-pound male grizzly appeared about 30 yards from his stand and walked to less than 10 yards from Mr. Taylor’s perch.

Many modern archery hunters rely on compound bows that can propel an arrow more than 300 feet per second (FPS) using a system of pulleys that help mitigate the amount of strength needed to hold the bow at full draw and which are outfitted with fiber optic sights that provide a degree of precision that William Tell might have envied. Not so Mr. Taylor. Aside from the laminate materials of the recurve bow, its design has changed little since skilled Mongolian horsemen wielded it to great effect. No sights, no pulleys, just draw the string using pure arm strength and aim on instinct. Shot placement is the key to survival.

Mr. Taylor was armed with a Fedora’s Custom Bows bamboo-limbed, 66-inch recurve with a 60-pound draw capable of sending an arrow about 200 FPS. He said that people who have seen photos of the bear, which stood more than eight feet tall, ask him what the moment was like when he drew his bow back.

“I don’t remember taking the shot,” Mr. Taylor recalled recently while sitting in his Edgartown living room. “I think that’s why I like this method so much. Pure instinct takes over. Instantaneous, timed, natural. There’s no aiming. You point, but I don’t remember that moment. You pull the bow back and let the arrow go.”

Was he afraid? “Absolutely, I had a sense of fear,” he said.

A guide armed with a rifle as required by Canadian hunting regulations was nearby in the event of serious trouble. That safety net wouldn’t make most of us feel much better, but it was clearly sufficient for Mr. Taylor, who has encountered grizzlies face to face when he was not in a tree stand and did not have a weapon in readiness.

“Thank God, I was never between a sow and her cubs,” he said. “When that happens, you have a major, major problem.”

Sows protecting cubs are responsible for many bear attacks on humans. A sow’s biggest threat comes from other male bears, which if given the opportunity will kill a female’s cubs in order to breed the sow and produce his own offspring.

“Hunting males keeps the population growing,” Mr. Taylor explained. “If you didn’t, they would prey on the cubs.

“I’ve been hunting that spot for three years, and we were at the end of the season. By October 15, the lakes are frozen and bears have hibernated for the winter. We had seen plenty of signs in the past that a big bear, a big one traveled the area.”

Bears are measured by their skull size for record-keeping purposes. The Boone and Crockett Club, a national hunting organization dedicated to conservation and ethical hunting based in Missoula, Mont. is the most respected record-keeping organization.

Mr. Taylor plans to submit his bear’s measurements to Boone and Crockett. Right now, in excess of 800 pounds, it is thought to be the second largest grizzly taken this year by any method, including bow and arrow.

Mr. Taylor is a dedicated North American big game hunter and passionate about wildlife management and protection. He lauds the efforts of conservation groups like the Boone and Crockett Club. “They spend a lot of money in that work, all hunter-supported, including strict quotas, based on species population,” he said. “There’d be no North American sheep if it weren’t for the hunters and their support of conservation groups. Sheep were never a mountain animal, they were a plains animal. They were pushed up there by development and hunting without controls. Conservation foundations for sheep and elk have done untold good. Protecting habitat is the single most important part of conservation.”

There are 29 species of North American big game. Mr. Taylor has taken 27 of them, most with a simple recurve bow and arrow, a technology as old as man.

Which brings us to why Mr. Taylor chose to be in that tree in October. “There is a primal quality,” he said. “Untamed wilderness. Wild animals. I feel more whole, more natural.” His use of a bow affirms the feeling. “Shooting an arrow is great training for hand, eye and mind coordination,” he said. “Self-control is a prime attribute of it — ties the whole thing together. It’s just a relaxing, very focused activity. You have to remove everything else from your mind. Archery is a martial art.”

Mr. Taylor, 63, has a thriving fine carpentry and cabinet making business, Taylor Woodworking, with state of the art equipment in Edgartown. He is the scion of one of Boston’s most celebrated families and father of two school teachers Rebecca, at the West Tisbury School and Elizabeth, who teaches at the Portland (Maine) School of Art. He restores boats to a state of heartbreaking beauty.

In sum, a big life. Yet, Mr. Taylor’s idea of a hunting trip is elemental and does not include going back to the lodge at night for a few pops and a well-turned steak.

“The only explanation I can give you is that the area I was in — the glacial rivers and streams, the mountains — absolutely supercedes anything else that is in it, including us. If you haven’t been to that area, lived in it for a week or two, there’s nothing I can describe that’s even close to it. Nothing.

“We are comfortable with civilization. I know when I come back here from one of these adventures, I feel extremely claustrophobic. It takes me a good month to get comfortable: not that I’m nervous around people, I just feel boxed in.”

Mr. Taylor remembered the first time he was dropped off in the wilderness. The bush pilot told him, “This is where I want you to be in two weeks. Don’t hurt yourself.”

Mr. Taylor said his love of cabinet-making, boat restoration, surfcasting and big game hunting share a common thread. “I grew up learning how to do things for myself with my hands and that’s always been my reward, and the gratification that comes from doing it myself,” he said. “Especially hunting in the primitive way, the way native Americans would have done it. Getting that close. They were hunting for food. They didn’t trophy-hunt.”

As Mr. Taylor described his life in the wild, it occurred to him that, other than the lousy freeze-dried food, he was living much as man lived hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago. How does that gene come to a man descended from the Taylors of Boston, who have owned both the Boston Red Sox and The Boston Globe?

“Well, maybe from my grandmother’s side,” he said. “Her father was a ’49er, in the gold rush of 1849, and a clipper ship captain. Maybe it comes from there.” He grinned.

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Enrico with Aliyah and Matt. —Photo courtesy of the Holley family

Updated, Monday, Dec. 8, 12 pm.

A fall of 20 feet ends in a little less than one second. Anyone who has experienced such a fall will tell you it’s an instant in which a person can process a lot of thoughts — fear, survival, certainly. For most, thoughts of family and loved ones also flash through our consciousness.

We don’t yet know what Enrico Holley’s thoughts were as he fell 20 feet off a roof in October. We know he was painting a house when he fell, and that he landed on a concrete patio, considered the least desirable surface on which to end a long fall.

Enrico Holley, before the fall. —Photo courtesy the Holley family
Enrico Holley, before the fall. —Photo courtesy the Holley family

Mr. Holley, 48, is a 10-year volunteer member of the Oak Bluffs fire department and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Oak Bluffs Emergency Medical Squad (EMS). The extensive injuries he suffered from his fall led to transport to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for treatment.

Last week, more than a month after his fall, Mr. Holley was transferred to nearby Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for what is expected to be a long and intensive period of rehab. That’s his job now.

His colleagues and friends are doing their jobs — attempting to ease the devastating emotional and financial effects on his family. Mr. Holley and his partner, Kyra, have three kids between them, EmmaJean, Matthew, and Aleeya ranging in age from four to 20 years. The Island community is invited to attend a dinner and silent auction fundraiser on December 12 (details below).

On the day before Thanksgiving, Chief John Rose of the Oak Bluffs fire department spoke with The Times about relief efforts on behalf of the Mr. Holley and his family.

“Rico sustained multi-system trauma, including head bone fractures, lung contusion and extensive back injuries,” Mr. Rose said. “Finally, for the most part, he’s out of the woods and has been transferred from MGH to Spaulding Rehab. Rico’s a dedicated family man, a hard-working Islander.

Enrico Holley has spent weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital after a fall from a roof. He was recently transferred to Spaulding Rehab. —Photo courtesy of the Holley family
Enrico Holley has spent weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital after a fall from a roof. He was recently transferred to Spaulding Rehab. —Photo courtesy of the Holley family

“Rico has significant back injuries and his work future is uncertain. He’s self-employed so there is no income. Insurance has covered most of the medical bills but family travel (to Boston) and normal household expenses – food, heat, housing – are not.”

Mr. Holley’s colleagues and friends have been working hard. “We did a dine to donate event at Sharky’s Cantina,” Mr. Rose said. Friends cooked and dropped off a Thanksgiving-day dinner for the family.

“We’re asking the community to come out and support this dinner and auction and help someone who really needs it,” he said. Auction items are coming in, including Bruins tickets, Cape Air flights, Boston hotel accommodations, fuel packages and Island retail store gift certificates.

“Things like this don’t happen often and it’s harder around the holidays,” said Mr. Rose. “It’s difficult for everyone, but this is where you see the firefighting and EMS brotherhood help. The Oak Bluffs Fireman’s Civic Association and individual firefighters have donated money, gas cards, and the like. The other fire departments on Island have donated, and off-Island departments have contacted us to help.

“It’s humbling to see everyone, who have so much going on in their lives stop and make sure Rico has what he needs, to pull together and stand behind him. Rico is not going to be home soon, but Christmas is taken care of. Santa will be riding in a fire truck to his house on Christmas Eve,” Mr. Rose said.

 Enrico Holly Fundraiser, December 12, 5–8 pm, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. Tickets, $10, are available at the Oak Bluffs fire department. Contributions to aid Mr. Holley and his family may be mailed directly to YGAF, Inc. c/o Enrico Holley P.O. Box 1317, West Tisbury, MA 02575. Checks should be made out to “YGAF.” Donations are managed by You’ve Got A Friend (YGAF), Inc. YGAF is a local §501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization, established 15 years ago, to aid Islanders including those suffering from a catastrophic illness or event. The law office of George B. Brush, West Tisbury, administers YGAF at no cost while providing pro bono legal counsel. As a result, YGAF is able to apply donations to YGAF beneficiaries or chosen causes without deducting for administrative or professional costs.

An earlier version of this story stated that Mr. Holley makes his home with his partner Kyra and three kids, including Emma Jean. EmmaJean was misspelled in our original story, and she is 20, not 21. Although she is Mr. Holley’s daughter, she does not live at home with him.

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—Photos courtesy Frank Partell

Down In Laos: heroism and inspiration during the Vietnam war, by Francis J. Partel Jr. Published by Navy Log Books, Vero Beach, Fla. Copyright 2012-2014 by Francis J. Partel Jr. Hardcover, 298 pages. $29.95.

With his third novel of historical fiction, seasonal Island resident and U.S. Navy Vietnam vet Frank Partel has stepped up his literary game to deliver a suspenseful and noteworthy book that offers an insight into the events and into the minds of U.S. servicemen in America’s most controversial war.

Down in Laos is a boots-on-the-ground look at the Vietnam War, centering on events in 1968,  a pivotal year in a conflict that both sides came to know they could not win. The central protagonists are U.S. Navy Lt. JG Bob Cannon, a rising star in the deep water Navy and combat pilot Lt. Augustine (Ti) Campbell. Both men are presented within a context of their strong Judeo-Christian religious tradition that is shaken by their experiences in war.

Mr. Partel set himself a high bar for this work. Drawing on his own experiences on the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and as a U.S. serviceman in a confusing and unpopular war, the author adds the threads of moral conflict among the men and women charged with executing a strategy about which some of them have doubts. Finally, Mr. Partel offers an acute appraisal of the realpolitik of Vietnam: that it was a proxy war involving the U.S., Russia and China that took place in a southeast Asian country named Vietnam.

Ever-present in the book are the attempts by the protagonists to personally justify their work and their suffering with their religious and moral belief systems. To his credit, Mr. Partel has managed to marry the moral and ethical discussion with an action-suspense format.

For Bob Cannon, the tests are more textural than they are for Ti Campbell, who is shot down over Laos and imprisoned and tortured by Pathet Lao insurgents who are working with North Vietnam interests. During a long captivity, Mr. Campbell lives a modern-day version of the biblical Book of Job. (Job was beset by indignities by his God, leading him to question the justice of his Higher Power).

Mr. Campbell, lying in a filthy hut, beaten, tortured and sick from tropical disease and malnutrition, must endure the heat of Job’s crucible, make his decision about his Godhead, and decide whether to survive and to rally his five-co-prisoners for an escape attempt.

For Bob Cannon, a busy, ambitious young watch commander, the decisions are different. He is not lying in a hut in the jungle nor is he in debate stateside about the justness of the war, as is his fiancé. He is supporting air strikes against 15,000 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars who have encircled 7,000 Marines holding high ground in and around Khe Sanh, a key resupply route for the North Vietnamese. He decides his focus has to be on saving comrades who are in harm’s way while holding on to his reservations.

Mr. Partel deftly draws two grizzled ship senior officer warriors, veterans of World War II and Korea and long past spiritual debate. They want to save U.S. lives and to smite their enemy. Mr. Partel offers us a counterpoint in Capt. Ogilvy Osborne, every bit as grizzled a combat warrior but who came out of the Chosin Reservoir nightmare in Korea with a different idea and became a chaplain ministering to troops in harm’s way.

Of particular value to this reader was a heightened sense of understanding that Mr. Partel’s characters provide about what the hell really happened during Vietnam, which for many Americans was and remains a welter of overload — images and stories of events in the war without texture or understanding.

Now, Mr. Partel is a Navy man. He went on to become a successful New York banker, but he is a shipshape, squared-away guy. That’s where he lives, so to speak. But in three historical naval novels about the Vietnam era, he has shown an ability to write books that humanize the experience and provide greater understanding of the 1960s cauldron.

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Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime.

Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime. Photo by Michael Cummo


The Minnesingers performed the national anthem. Michael Cummo


Photo by Michael Cummo


Ennis Foster, bottom, and Jacob Cardoza combined to tackle Nantucket running back Keith Lewis. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Quarterback Mike Mussell scrambles away from trouble.

Photo by Michael Cummo


From left, William deBettencourt, Julie Pringle and Josh Baker sit on top of an Edgartown fire truck and watch the Island Cup football game. Trucks from West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown showed up to cheer on the Vineyarders. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The packed student section during the game.

Photo by Michael Cummo

Justin Halford reaches for a pass.

Photo by Michael Cummo

The cheerleaders at the Island Cup game Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Michael Cummo

Austin Chandler runs for a big gain.

Photo by Michael Cummo

Austin Chandler holds on to a Mike Mussell pass during the Island Cup.

Photo by Michael Cummo


From left, Paul Mayhew, Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler and Andy DiMattia celebrate the third MV touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Nantucket. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Jacob Cardoza runs across the goal line to put Martha’s Vineyard ahead 13-7.

Photo by Michael Cummo


Captain David Macias could not resist kissing the new Island Cup before the handshake line. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Senior Luke McCracken celebrates winning the Island Cup.

Photo by Michael Cummo


Photo by Michael Cummo

___ and Jimmy DiMattia, right, kiss the Island Cup.

Photo by Michael Cummo

Senior Andrew Fournier kisses the Island Cup.

Photo by Michael Cummo


Photo by Michael Cummo

Ben Clark smiles and hoists the Island Cup.

Photo by Michael Cummo

There are games and then there is The Game: Martha’s Vineyard versus Nantucket. In a penalty-filled match at sold-out Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs Saturday, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) beat Nantucket, 21-7, to hold on to the Island Cup.

Vineyard senior quarterback Mike Mussell threw two touchdown passes to Jacob Cardoza en route to a school single-season passing record, and Ben Clark ran for a third score in a game that saw every play contested until the whistle blew, and often after it was blown.

Saturday’s win was the Island’s 11th victory in a row. Martha’s Vineyard now leads the series, 19-17.

Martha’s Vineyard went into the game with a 6-5 win-loss record on the season. Nantucket was 8-3. Stats and previous wins and losses counted for little in a game fueled by emotion.

The Vineyarders opened the scoring on the first play of the second quarter when Ben Clark plunged the final two yards of a drive aided by consecutive Nantucket personal foul penalties. Kicker James Sashin added the first of his three extra points of the day to give the Vineyard a 7-0 lead.

Nantucket missed two opportunities to get on the scoreboard in the first half. In the second quarter, a Whaler drive was stalled at the 20 by a strong Vineyard defense. Nantucket’s 37-yard field goal attempt into the wind fell short. A subsequent second quarter Whaler drive, aided by two Vineyarder personal foul penalties, ended when a 24-yard field goal attempt was blown left by a strong southwest wind.

Each team had five first half possessions, though the Vineyarders led in time of possession as a result of eight Nantucket penalties, including six personal foul flags, that led to a Vineyarder score and kept the Whaler offense off the field.

Honoring vets

The halftime program honored Island veterans, including a military honor guard, a service citation for Island veterans agent JoAnn Murphy, and applause for about two dozen Island veterans who gathered at midfield.

In the stands, longtime fans were relishing the Vineyard lead in a well-matched game, allaying pre-game fears that a bigger Nantucket team with more numbers would overwhelm the Martha’s Vineyard team.

Prior to the start of the game and a performance by a nine-member group of MVRHS Minnesingers of the national anthem, one longtime fan had intoned, “I think this could be the year Nantucket wins.”

Indeed, the Whalers seemed to regroup at halftime and opened the third quarter with a sustained five minute, 11 play, 71-yard drive behind brothers Fervon and Keenen Phillips, punishing 200-pound Whaler running backs. Keenen Phillips punched it in from the four-yard line. Point after was good for a 7-7 tie with 6:07 left in the third.

A Vineyarder drive on the ensuing kickoff stalled at their 44-yard line with a Whaler fumble recovery and an uneasy crowd wondered whether momentum was shifting to Nantucket.

With 2:57 remaining in the third period, there was a Nantucket injury timeout for Whaler Justin Halford. Later reports indicated he was fine after he received medical attention.

When play resumed, the Vineyarders took control, stopping the Whalers on downs and starting a 63-yard, four-minute drive, mixing pass and runs that had veteran football coach Gil Carroll of Chilmark sitting in the stands, grinning and shaking his head.

Mr. Carroll of the Carroll and Hancock Island tribes, spent 30 years coaching high school ball in the Carolinas and Florida.

“The old fox. Can’t beat the old fox,” he chuckled, referencing Vineyard coach Don Herman, following an 11-yard pass play to wide open Jacob Cardoza that put the Vineyard up, 14-7, with 5:56 left in the game.

“That’s right. That’s the first time he’s run that play all day,” longtime Vineyarder fan Richard (Stoney) Stone concurred. The Vineyarders struck again, just three minutes later, with a 36-yard pass from Mussell to Cardoza for a 21-7 lead with 5:56 remaining.

The air seeped out of the Nantucket balloon as the PA system blared Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” The Whalers mounted an uncertain drive on the following possession, aided by Vineyarder penalties, that stalled after Jacob Cardoza broke up a 17-yard fourth down pass in the Vineyarders’ end zone with 3:22 left.

The Vineyarders ran out the clock, piling up two more first downs behind the running of Austin Chandler, Jacob Cardoza, and Ben Clark, and the 36th Island Cup was history. The Vineyarders received a brand-new cup from former Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo and former Vineyarder coach John Bacheller. The men bought the inaugural cup for $127 in Falmouth 36 years ago.

Speed beats brawn

In retrospect, the game played out according to the keys Mr. Herman outlined in his pre-game comments: self-discipline, smash-mouth football, and a balanced offense.

Offensively, Mike Mussell was 5-10 (2-1) for 104 yards to set a new single season record of 1,390, eclipsing Alec Tattersall’s 2012 record of 1,333 passing yards. The running game contributed 141 yards, led by Austin Chandler (61 yards), Ben Clark (40 yards) and Jacob Cardoza (39 yards). Jacob added 63 receiving yards for 102 all-purpose yards.

Defensively, Austin Chandler (15), David Macias (13) and Luke DeBettencourt (13) led a shutdown defense which allowed only 20 points in the last five games. David Macias set a new single-season record with 131 tackles, breaking James Hagerty’s 2000 record of 123 stops.

There was still a little post-game simmer in Coach Herman’s voice Monday. “There’s a thin line between confident and cocky and Nantucket crossed that line on Saturday,” he told The Times. “I saw a very cocky Nantucket team that thought they would just show up and dominate us with size. They’ve had a lot of success this year doing what they were doing, but we thought we could smack them back. You know, size is overrated sometimes. Speed kills. You want to be quick.”

“We told the kids that we had to make them match our intensity in the first quarter. Now, we lost our composure too at different points in the game, which was disappointing, but fortunately had no negative impact on the outcome.

“This is a great group,” he said. “Twenty points in the last five games? We turned it around in the second half of the Bishop Stang game, and the coaches did a great job over the last six games. Next year? We graduate 13 of our 45 players, so we have to do some recruiting in the school. Get some moms to let their kids play. We have some real athletes who aren’t doing anything. We have a talented junior corps but we need more players or it could be a lean year.

“So we’ll take a couple of weeks to enjoy this and get right back at it.”

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Nova Smith, far left, and brother Nolan Smith, left in green, try to overtake the turkey. —Photo by Michael Cummo

A Grace Episcopal Church Pre-school student looked down at his medal and medallion-bedecked chest on Saturday morning at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and analyzed his effort.

“Well, I finished fifth, but I did a good job,” he said. Indeed, he was one of about two dozen Grace Church pre-schoolers and alumni, aged three to eight, to complete the traditional school Turkey Run, a grueling but blessedly brief jaunt from Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Main Street up the hill to Owen Park.

—Photo by Michael Cummo
—Photo by Michael Cummo

“I think this is our 10th year,” said Penny Wong, race coordinator and director of the Grace Church Pre-school at the finish line. “The kids love it. Our alumni even come back to run it.
Every kid gets the same prize: a medal, a bottle of water and a clementine.”

Families enjoy the event as well, judging from the number of parents and grandparents congratulating the mite participants at the finish line before many headed back down hill to Waterside Restaurant and to Mocha Mott’s for a celebratory hot chocolate.

The feel-good event is also a significant fundraiser for the pre-school. “We may raise $1,500 this year, money we can use to pay for music and art enrichment programs and for off-Island field trips,” Ms. Wong said. “The enrichment programs are an important part of our (syllabus). Kids enjoy and learn from our music program presented by Jenni Powers and from the drama program developed by Phyllis Vecchia. Our field trips range from a visit to the Ag Hall in West Tisbury to the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence and the Woods Hole Aquarium. If parents are interested, there are still openings in our pre-school program.”

Island businesses have also become donors with Cronig’s, MV Savings Bank, MV Tech, Landswork Landscape, and Action Home Services all donating $100 to the event.

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Geraldine Brooks was one of the judges for last week's National Book Awards. —Photo by Randi Baird

Geraldine Brooks does not judge a book by its cover.

The West Tisbury resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning author actually read, cover to cover, about 200 books this year as a judge for the National Book Awards (NBA).

In fact, Ms. Brooks and a cohort of four other judges each read that many new novels this year from the more than 400 fiction titles submitted for judging in the fiction category for the prestigious literary awards, which were announced on November 19.

The fiction winner was Phil Klay, author of “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories reflecting a variety of human experiences with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a public affairs officer.

“‘Redeployment’ was my favorite,” Ms. Brooks said last week in an interview with The Times. “A lot of the books were my favorites, that I had to let go of along the way. ‘Redeployment’ is a remarkable piece of writing and an important book. I think it will last in the same manner that ‘The Things They Carried’ reflected the Vietnam War experience.”

“Phil imagines himself in the heads of people whose [war] experience was different from his, goes way beyond anything he has experienced. I am very interested to see what Phil does next,” she said. “Redeployment” was picked from a short list of fiction works by authors Rabih Alameddine, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Doerr, and Emily St. John Mandel.

Louise Gluck won the NBA poetry prize for her collection “Faithful and Virtuous Night.”

Evan Osnos, with “Age of Ambition,” won the nonfiction award, and Jacqueline Woodson won in the young people’s literature category for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” her memoir in verse.

The National Book Awards were founded in 1950 to promote the appreciation of American literature of the highest quality. The awards are underwritten by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to literary excellence.

Books are submitted for a $135 fee by publishers, including some self-publishing companies, and the qualifying books are sent by the publishers to the judges. The bulk of them arrive midyear, and the judges begin reading them to select a long list of 10 books, then a short list of five books from which the winner is chosen — a gargantuan task of reading, thought, and discussion.

“We divided the entries first through an alphabetic sort by authors’ names, and each judge took a group. You were free to read any other book as well. We wanted to make sure that every entry got a good look,” Ms. Brooks said. All the judges read all of the long- and short-list books.

“There was a wonderful sense of where we are as a literary nation, based on diversity and unifying themes. Many books contained a consoling and redeeming aspect of the power of art. Stories save us in tough times. Survival is insufficient. In one postapocalyptic novel, the survivors take up Shakespeare. In another, a woman translates books no one will ever read. That’s where she finds her solace. In another book, Lila is an itinerant young woman who finds relief in the Book of Job,” Ms. Brooks said.

Ms. Brooks said the selection process was most difficult in the early stages of culling the works. “It was really tough until we got to the long list,” Ms. Brooks said. “Differing literary tastes required more negotiation. When we got to the short list of these worthy books, we agreed to a remarkable degree.”

The NBA board provides guidelines to judges (authors must be U.S. citizens and be living at the time of submission), and the judging group develops its own criteria. “Our criteria said: We are looking for a striking original with masterful craft and beauty of language, free of excess, imaginatively rich and compellingly resolved … a book to reread.… It should be a novel that will stand the test of time, so that when we look back a decade from now … we’ll be proud we chose it,” Ms. Brooks reported.

Ms. Brooks had an idea of the size of her task. “Tony [husband and author Tony Horwitz] judged the nonfiction award several years ago, so I had seen the books piling up when he was a judge,” she said.

Another judge this year was Sheryl Coulter, a Northern California bookseller: “Sheryl said she spent so much time reading this summer that her elbows were being rubbed raw. She went to a skateboard store and got a pair of elbow pads,” Ms. Brooks said.

Basic math indicates that each judge read well over a million words as a NBA fiction judge, not including note-making and discussion about the books. Certainly a labor of love: “I love books,” Ms. Brooks said.