In Print : "Vineyard Days"
"Vineyard Days," By Gene Pisasale. Outskirts Press, June 2009, 400 ppg. $20.95
"Vineyard Days" a recently published novel by Gene Pisasale, is replete with all the trips to the beach, sunsets, cocktails, and qualities of seafood that typify a holiday on the Vineyard. There is, however, one marked difference: a double murder in Edgartown Harbor entangles the novel's protagonist, Jim, and his wife, Natalie, in a CSI-style crime drama right in the middle of their vacation.
Murder on the Vineyard is not uncharted literary territory. Since the late 1990s there has been a spate of murder mysteries written by authors such as Philip R. Craig and Cynthia Riggs that take place on the Island.
Yet "Vineyard Days" is unique because Mr. Pisasale has profound knowledge of contemporary economics stemming from his 23-year career in the financial services. He uses his protagonist to provide the reader with insightful quips into the current economic meltdown and recession.
Filled with descriptions of Island geography, history, and attractions, the novel shows off the author's talents as an amateur historian, food critic, and travel writer. At times "Vineyard Days" reads like a travel brochure, providing subtle insight into the best local beaches, tourist activities, and restaurants.
The main characters, Jim and Natalie, are essentially self-absorbed and tiresome tourists. The novel unfolds from Jim's perspective, a dislikeable character akin to the sort of dull and overbearing acquaintance that we all painstakingly avoid at parties. Somewhat of a sexist and racist with a Freudian fascination with breasts, Jim drags us on his self-righteously delusional ride, all the while looking for his next cocktail. We get the sense of being trapped in Jim's moral ethos, one that has decidedly religious overtones made apparent when Jim narrowly avoids an adulterous situation and the reader must suffer through all of his catholic guilt with him.
Mr. Pisasale takes us deep within Jim's internal monologue as the character ponders such uninspiring topics as Internet dating, why he can no longer consume as much beer as he did in college, health and aging, or personal diatribes on the death of chivalry. Even worse, Jim occasionally delves into consequential American foreign policy issues and the cyclical nature of poverty, providing such redundant and linguistically devoid insights as to demonstrate a total disconnect from reality.
"Vineyard Days" reads linearly: all essential clues to the mystery are laid bare by page 116 and the remainder of the novel has little actual bearing on the plot. It might make a good read beach read for anyone vacationing on Martha's Vineyard who wants to read a travel novel.
Ryan McKinstry is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.