This is the online home of David Healey, author of thrilling historical fiction and regional histories. Over the years, quite a lot has been added to the website, so this page will help you get started with navigating HealeyInk. Please start by getting your free ebook!

 

David’s latest books … 

Red Sniper

red-sniper-3d-bookcover-transparent_backgroundRed Sniper is the story of a rescue mission for American POWs held captive by the Russians at the end of World War II.

For these American POWs, the war is not over. Abandoned by their country, used as political pawns by Stalin, their last hope for getting home again is backwoods sniper Caje Cole and a team of combat veterans who undertake a daring rescue mission.

After a lovely Russian-American spy helps plot an escape from a Gulag prison, they must face the ruthless Red Sniper, starving wolves, and the snowy Russian taiga in a race for freedom.

 

 

                                                                       Click here to learn more about Red Sniper

 

Ardennes Sniper

Ardennes-Sniper-3D-BookCover-transparent_backgroundDecember 1944. As German forces launch a massive surprise attack through the frozen Ardennes Forest, two snipers find themselves aiming for a rematch. Caje Cole is a backwoods hunter from the Appalachian Mountains of the American South, while Kurt Von Stenger is the deadly German “Ghost Sniper.”

Having been in each other’s crosshairs before, they fight a final duel during Germany’s desperate attempt to turn the tide of war in what will come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Can the hunter defeat the marksman?

Even in the midst of war, some battles are personal.

Click here to learn more about Ardennes Sniper

 

Upcoming Events

5ws for Writing Students presentation, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, June 2017.

Father’s Day Weekend Book Signing at the Old Gray Mare, Chesapeake City, MD, 11 am-1 pm, Saturday, June 17

Release of GHOST SNIPER audio book, June 20, 2017.

Writing and Teaching presentation, Stonecoast MFA at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, July 2017.

Book signing at Lotus Festival, Historic Mount Harmon Plantation, Earleville, MD, Saturday, August 5, 2017

Anna Ella Carroll presentation, MLA Conference NYC, January 2018.

 

Become a Super Reader!

May I ask you to take one more step toward becoming a super reader? Please consider taking just a moment to do one of the following:

Leave a review on amazon.com. Once you have finished Red Sniper or any other book, please think about sharing a few thoughts about the book, such as your favorite scene or character. These reviews are so important for getting noticed on Amazon.

Join the mailing list and get a free ebook!

Like the Facebook page

Become a beta reader. Email me at david@davidhealey.net if you would be interested in reading future stories and offering some feedback before the next book is released.

 

Historical Thrillers

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Mystery & Suspense

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Regional History

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History unlocked at the C&D Canal Museum

Displays at the C&D Canal Museum tell the story of the waterway linking the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.

C&D Canal spans waterways, and maritime history

Of all the sights that visitors to Chesapeake City, Maryland, can see, only a handful of tourists and locals alike manage to make their way to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Museum. Those who do are pleasantly surprised by its scenic location and informative exhibits. Tucked away at the far end of the town harbor, the waterfront museum occupies the old stone pump house from the days when locks, like water-filled stair steps, were used by vessels negotiating the canal.

Those locks are long-gone, but inside the museum, visitors can find a host of information and artifacts related to the canal, including the 36-foot wooden waterwheel that once filled the Chesapeake City lock. There are maps and aerial photographs showing the 14-mile canal’s watery route across the Delmarva Peninsula. A working model of a lock demonstrates their function. A display case houses fossils found during the digging of the canal. There is even a video chronicling the construction of the Rt. 1 bridge, the most recent span across the canal.

“It’s really a wonderful little museum,” says Ron Francis, a former town councilman who has helped work to promote the museum. “This is a good place to go if you want a better sense of the history of the canal and its role today in commercial shipping.   The changes that the canal have been through are fascinating.  It’s well worth the time.”

The idea canal for a canal stretches back to the early 1600s, when explorer and Cecil County founder Augustine Herman first mapped the region. Herman, and others after him, were frustrated that there was no waterway connecting the Chesapeake and Delaware bays.

It’s a little hard to envision today, but in colonial times when roads were unpaved and muddy, rivers and canals were the original superhighways for transportation of goods and people.

Ships coming up the Chesapeake had to be unloaded at Cecil County ports such as Fredericktown, Frenchtown or Elk Landing, and then their goods or passengers traveled overland to Philadelphia or else to ports on the Delaware Bay.

Several routes for a canal were proposed over the years, and there was even at least one false start during the administration of President Thomas Jefferson.   It wasn’t until 1822 that the first steps were taken toward construction of today’s Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

It may surprise Marylanders that Pennsylvania business leaders were so influential in raising the $2.25 million to fund digging the canal. This is because Pennsylvania merchants were frustrated at seeing so much of the lumber and grain coming down the Susquehanna River from their home state going on to Baltimore by water. A water route to the Delaware Bay, they surmised, would help Philadelphia benefit from the goods produced in their own state.

The old stone museum was once a pumping house for the Chesapeake City lock.

Construction began in 1825.  In the days before heavy machinery, digging the canal was backbreaking work, as evidenced by some of the artifacts at the canal museum. There are picks and shovels, of course, but one of the most interesting construction tools on display is a wooden bucket. The bucket would be lowered by a rope into the canal bed being dug, filled with dirt, and then lifted out by hand. Thousands, if not millions, of buckets were removed in this way during the digging of the canal.

Interestingly, from the black and white photographs and other information displayed at the canal museum, it becomes apparent that African Americans and Irish immigrants provided much of the labor. Their pay was around 75 cents per day.

The canal was first filled with water in 1829 and operated as a private enterprise for the next 90 years. Mules pulled the barges along, plodding down towpaths that bordered the waterway. (In front of the Inn at the Canal in south Chesapeake City, you can still see the tiny office used by Henry Brady, who had a business hiring out mules and then steam tugs to pull barges.)

In 1919, the United States government bought the canal and began construction to remove the locks and transform the C&D into a sea-level waterway.  The government had a strategic motive, which was to create an inland waterway protected from a new threat that arose during World War I — enemy submarines that prowled the open seas.

Visitors to the museum will learn that today, the C&D is the second-busiest commercial canal in the world. (The Panama Canal is first.)   Ocean-going ships and barges use it as a shortcut between New York or  Philadelphia and the Chesapeake Bay ports of Baltimore and Norfolk. Of course, the canal also remains a busy recreational waterway.

CURIOSITY OF THE DAY: Old coins that tell a story.

The museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.   The museum is also open some Saturdays during the summer.

One summertime Saturday when I worked there as a volunteer, roughly 40 guests from all over the country stopped by to visit the museum. They really put my knowledge of the canal to the test.  One visitor from Texas was a canal buff fascinated by the history of these unique waterways. Another group that had traveled from North Carolina included a woman who wanted to reconnect with her roots after having moved away more than 20 years before.

“Look at all this,” she said.  “I grew up right in Chesapeake City and I had no idea about the history of the canal.”

The canal museum is just a short drive away for most in Maryland and Delaware, and a pleasant place to spend an hour or so during a visit to town.  And on the benches outside that overlook the water, you can bring a picnic lunch or just sit and contemplate what it must have been like to move all that earth, one bucket at a time, all those years ago.

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Wrecked stone once intended as monument to general

The granite pillar that was cast aside, but once intended as the General Wool obelisk.

by David Healey

A couple hundred feet down the road from the house where we stay on a Maine island is a rectangular granite block about 75 feet long, half covered in weeds, and on which are stacked a few lobster traps and boat parts. As it turns out, this is a rather ignominious end for a piece of stone intended to be used as a monument for General John E. Wool.

For many years we used to walk past this granite monolith and wonder. When our kids were young, they scrambled up and walked up and down the stone, a sort of granite jungle gym. A sign nearby marks a gravel road known as General Wool Street, and therein lies a story.

General Wool

Unless you are familiar with the Mexican-American War and the War of 1812, you may not be really familiar with General Wool. A native of New York state, Wool served in the War of 1812 and helped lead a successful U.S. Army expedition into Mexico, where he fought under the command of Zachary Taylor.

Both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee served as junior officers in in the Mexican War. In his fascinating memoirs, Grant describes his service in Mexico in some detail. He doesn’t mention Wool, but does heap praise on General Taylor.

Wool was a career soldier through and through, highly regarded as a professional and as an individual. Taylor’s victories in Mexico carried him to the White House, and Wool returned home to accolades and overall command of the U.S. Army on the East Coast.

Wool continued to serve his nation and by the time the Civil War arrived, was still on active duty. At age 77 in 1861, however, Wool passed the reins to officers who were 30 or even 40 years younger. He officially retired in 1863. Like his War of 1812 contemporary, General Winfield Scott, his talent and abilities belonged to an earlier era.

When Wool passed away in 1869, he was interred at Oakwood Cemetery. As a war hero and famous native son, the people of New York raised funds to give him a proper monument.

Crave of the Day: Civil War swords.

And so, many miles away on the island of Vinalhaven in Penobscot Bay, work began to quarry and shape the monument to Wool. In the age before concrete, granite was the building material of choice, and Vinalhaven was a key quarrying center that employed hundreds, if not thousands, in that trade. Granite was also a decorative material, and the island employed carvers as well. After the monolith was roughed out, the carvers were to go to work to shape the granite into something that somewhat resembled the shape of the Washington monument.

Some flaw, however, rendered the first granite “blank” unusable and it was discarded, literally by the side of the road. There it has sat for more than 140 years to eventually serve as a shelf for lobster traps and spare parts.

A twin chunk of granite was quarried, and painstakingly shaped, then shipped—literally by ship—down the Atlantic coast and up the Hudson River. According to the cemetery history, a special set of train tracks was build to move the monument (properly termed an obelisk) from the wharf to the cemetery. Scaffolding then surrounded the marker while finishing touches were made.

The Wool monument under construction at Oakwood Cemetery. IMAGE COURTESY OF OAKWOOD CEMETERY.

The result was a sky-piercing monument to General Wool. Over those early years, thousands came to marvel and pay their respects to Wool. To this day, cemetery officials say that Wool’s monument draws visitors.

While the resulting monument is an impressive and fitting marker to a great man, the ruined stone on a Maine island remains intriguing, a bit like the ruins one might picture from the “colossal wreck” in Shelley’s great poem, “Ozymandius” when he writes, “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

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Ghost Sniper comes alive in new audiobook

Ping! That’s the first word of Ghost Sniper, describing the sound of a German bullet hitting the landing craft as the first Allied troops come ashore on D Day.

It’s also the first word I heard spoken by the narrator for the audiobook version. Like the troops in the boat, it got my attention.

In so many ways, hearing the first few pages of the audiobook version of Ghost Sniper was very exciting. Hearing narrator J. Scott Bennett give voice to Cole, Vaccaro, Von Stenger, and even Jolie Molyneaux makes them come alive in whole new ways.

I guess that it’s been exciting for me because this is the first of my books to be offered as an audio version. I can only imagine what it must be like to have your book turned into a movie. Although there’s been some interest in the past in Sharpshooter, the deal never went through. (Here’s looking at you, Lionsgate!)

Following the process of the audiobook come to life has been just as exciting and far more rewarding, because it is now available. I’ve listened to the performance, and it is quite entertaining.

In case you haven’t kept up, the audiobook experience has come a long way. I used to listen to cassette tapes of Ed McBain mysteries back when I first bought our old house and was busy painting and steaming old wallpaper off the walls. Yep, listened to them on a boom box with a tape deck. Inevitably, the tape ended when I was up on a ladder somewhere, wallpaper steamer burbling angrily in my hand.

Now, it’s so easy to pop an audiobook onto your computer or phone to listen in the car, on a walk, or during your next old house project. My brother the tree farmer listens to books on his tractor, or while pruning in the fields.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

The talented narrator of Ghost Sniper is J. Scott Bennett, a teacher by day and a professional voice actor by evenings, weekends, and summers. Scott graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his audiobook work:

How many audiobooks have you narrated?

I have narrated 124 audiobooks (counting the one I just finished and submitted to the author for approval today).  

What’s the best part of the job?

I enjoy it because I love to read and tell stories.  It’s a great escape.  I get to meet some cool people (authors, other narrators).  Plus, I get to read out loud without being interrupted.  (It’s a teacher thing. Ha, ha.) 

Have you had any formal training in voice acting?

Other than some theater classes in high school and a few online seminars, I’ve not had any formal training to narrate audiobooks.  But I’ve taught for many years, and I have read LOTS of books to my students.  

Are there any special challenges to giving voice to female characters or characters with foreign accents, such as the ones in Ghost Sniper?

When it comes to voicing women and people with various accents, the biggest challenge I would say is not overdoing it.  Audiobook listeners are smart, they understand that you’re just one person portraying others, so just giving the “hint” of the other gender is better.  

You don’t just have to take my word for it that the audiobook is good. Listen to Scott’s performance for yourself. I’ve been given several codes for free author copies, just like authors get with print books. If you would like an audiobook of Ghost Sniper, please post a comment and I will send you a code for a free book while they last. You can also listen to a free preview at amazon.com, iTunes, or Audible.

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Swordplay and more this week!

The Duelist.png

The Duelist is a novella about a bitter Rev War hero-turned-mercenary who comes home to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to find redemption with his sword. It is free right now for Kindle readers!

Continue reading

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The Big Thrill Q&A: Red Sniper by David Healey

One war ends, and another begins …

RED SNIPER is the story of a rescue mission for American POWs held captive by the Russians at the end of World War II.

For these American POWs, the war is not over. Abandoned by their country, used as political pawns by Stalin, their last hope for getting home again is backwoods sniper Caje Cole and a team of combat veterans who undertake a daring rescue mission prompted by a U.S. Senator whose grandson is among the captives. After a lovely Russian-American spy helps plot an escape from a Gulag prison, they must face the ruthless Red Sniper, starving wolves, and the snowy Russian taiga in a race for freedom.

In a final encounter that tests Cole’s skills to the limit, he will discover that forces within the U.S. government want the very existence of these prisoners kept secret at any price.

David Healey sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, RED SNIPER:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

In terms of the big picture takeaway, we always learned in school that the U.S. won WWII, but in some ways we lost out in the final days by pulling back and allowing the Russians to seize land and power in Europe. The smaller scale takeaway is whether an American hillbilly with a rifle can outsmart a Russian sniper.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

Red Sniper isn’t just another WWII novel, but encompasses the early days of the Cold War. While the U.S. government seemed willing to look the other way when it came to what the Soviet Union was up to in 1945, the characters in the novel find themselves in the thick of it.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

When I was casting about for ideas, I was surprised to discover that truth was stranger than fiction in that there are some who believe American POWs were actually held by the Soviets as bargaining chips at the end of WWII. There is a theory that the whole business was covered up by the U.S. government because no one was interested in going to war with the Soviets after just defeating Nazi Germany.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Let’s just say that when a certain Russian-American woman carries a .22 pistol in her boot, she’s gonna use it at some point.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I’ve always been hugely influenced by the adventure novels I read when growing up. At the top of the list would be William O. Steele because he wrote about characters who managed to survive on the frontier using their wits and courage. Those stories still resonate with me. Steele won the Newberry Award, and deservedly so.

***** Thank you to The Big Thrill for featuring RED SNIPER in the May issue!

 

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Delmarva accents: Delmarvese is a language unto its own

by David Healey

As if anyone needed further proof that Delmarva is a place unto itself, the people speak a different tongue. This language of the land between the bays is known as Delmarvese. You’ve heard it, even if you haven’t put a name to it. It’s that unique pronunciation that signals you’re from here and everybody else isn’t.

Caught me some feesh. Gaoin downy oh-shun. Eat some cray-abs.

Delmarva accents (Eastern Shore accents) have twangy vowels, punctuated by a long “0” sound. It’s an accent that’s distinctly Southern in its own way. My first real introduction to this matter of local pronunciation occurred when I moved to Cecil County. I pronounced it See-cil. But old-timers insist on Sissal or even Sessal — much as the first English settlers would have said it.

Linguists will tell you that Delmarva’s unique way of speaking goes beyond mere accent. Delmarvese is a recognized dialect — a unique pattern of speech — that has its roots in the Elizabethan adventurers who arrived in Shakespeare’s era.

One of the ways dialect survives is through isolation, which is why it lasted so long on Delmarva.

“That is one of the factors. But it’s not that people don’t have access to other dialects through television and other media,” explained Tonia Bleam, lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland. “There’s also a sense of identity. Speaking in a dialect might not be that conscious of a thing. But if you start to talk differently, your friends might think you are putting on airs. You might have different ways of speaking in different situations, such as when dealing with outsiders.”

Isolation certainly plays a role in places such as Smith Island and Tangier Island. These remote islands in Chesapeake Bay are recognized as having some of the truest Elizabethan dialects. But what does that mean?

Experts say centuries ago, the English language reached a fork in the road. Modern British — the kind we hear on BBC shows today — stayed at home but followed a path of change and evolution. The English spoken by the Elizabethan explorers, soldiers and settlers who came to early America stayed right here and did not evolve as much.

Some linguists and Shakespearean scholars make a case that Elizabethan sounded a lot like a Scottish brogue. The verbal tics are easy to pick up on if you know what to listen for.

Vowels like “a” are short and drawn out a little (think haaave and haaat). The “u” comes out shortened and combined with an oo sound (bush becomes boosh, for example). The biggest difference can be heard in the dipthongs, or vowels placed side by side. Modern English blends the sounds together, but Elizabethans would have pronounced each vowel — why else would they be in the word, right? An Elizabethan would have pronounced house as huh-oose. If you listen closely, it all starts to sound rather Delmarvesque.

Beyond accent, sentence structure bears similarities to an older English. A New York Times writer described it this way: “Mainlanders say, logically enough, ‘Look how blue the sky is.’ Not the Shoreman. He says, ‘Look at the sky, how blue it is.’ ” Now that sounds like Shakespeare.

“When we talk about different dialects we are really looking at all levels of structure,” Bleam said. While the older forms of English (such as those heard on Delmarva) stay the same, “It’s often the standard English that’s quickly changing.”

You don’t have to visit the remote areas of Delmarva to hear this dialect. If you troll YouTube, you will come across videos of locals conversing in their very own lingo.

I experienced this very phenomenon myself back in the early 1990s, during a visit to the town of Church Creek in Dorchester County. Vast salt marshes surround the town and as you drive into Church Creek you’ll pass a huge sculpture of a mosquito, which says volumes about this community’s sense of humor.

I drove down to Church Creek with a friend who was originally from Harford County, but had taken up residence in a half-abandoned vacation home long enough to join the volunteer fire company and get to know some people in the community. He had since moved away, but took me along for a visit. We stopped by the firehouse and talked with a couple of guys he knew. Normal enough. Then a third guy stopped by, and the three of them seemed to forget we were there and started jabbering among themselves in a seemingly foreign dialect.

It was spooky, like getting caught up in a time warp. I’d heard about this legendary Elizabethan dialect, but I’d been skeptical. Now I was a believer.

Sadly, it’s likely that the unique Delmarva dialect is in danger of dying out. But for now, it always seems like there is still an old-timer somewhere who talks the talk. Last summer, we ran into one selling produce at a roadside stand: “You can go right home now and put that ear in’ the booling wooter!”

Taking the sack filled with ripe sweet corn, it became clear that some Delmarvese requires no translation.

This article originally appeared in the Delmarva Quarterly.

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Meet thriller author Dan Fesperman

Writer Dan Fesperman pictured in his home. Lloyd Fox Photo.

Award-winning author Dan Fesperman from Baltimore will discuss how he made the leap from newspaper reporter to suspense novelist when he addresses the Eastern Shore Writers Association on April 8.

The group’s Second Saturday luncheon will be held at Suicide Bridge Restaurant in Hurlock from 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public as well as to members of ESWA. Attendees will be responsible for purchasing their own meals.

Several of Fesperman’s books will be available for purchase on site from Mystery Loves Company, the Oxford, Maryland independent bookstore.

Fesperman was a long-time reporter and foreign correspondent for The Sun, reporting from a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East including Germany, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. He will discuss how he made the transition from journalism to fiction, first finding an agent and then having his first book acquired by major publishing houses on both sides of the Atlantic. Continue reading

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Now this was a March snowstorm to remember

Photo courtesy Historical Society of Cecil County.

A mid-March snowstorm is unusual, but it is not unprecedented. Back when I was researching Great Storms of the Chesapeake, I came across accounts of the March 19, 1958 storm that buried much of the upper Chesapeake Bay region. Damage, and even deaths, resulted from the heavy, wet snow.

It was an incredible snowfall, with measurements of 42 inches coming in from residents near the Susquehanna River in Maryland. The town of Elkton at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay was buried under 37.1 inches of wet, crushing snow. That measurement was taken by H. Wirt Bouchelle, who had been a postal carrier since 1908 and an official National Weather Service observer since 1927. Bouchelle had recorded 76 inches of snow that winter—though half the total had come from that single March storm.

The massive storm left communities in the upper Chesapeake Bay region without power for twelve hours. Power companies from neighboring states sent men to help, so that a crew of 186 linemen was working around the clock to restore electricity. It was noted that not even Hurricane Hazel four years before had caused so much damage. At Losten’s Dairy in Chesapeake City, the power was out for a week, and the dairy relied on a generator.

The deep snow proved dangerous and, in some cases, deadly. There was a close call at the Chesapeake Boat Co., where the marina owners had just been inspecting a boat shed that measured 95 feet by 136 feet, under which thirty boats were sheltered on the Elk River. Other than some creaking and groaning, there was no sign of any cause for concern. Ten minutes later, the two men were inside their office having coffee when a tremendous crash caused them both to leap to their feet. The entire shed under which they had just been walking had collapsed. Loss of the yachts and shed was estimated at nearly $300,000.

Others weren’t so fortunate. A farmer near the town of Rising Sun who ventured out to check on his barn, flattened by the great snow, died when he stepped back onto his front porch and the roof collapsed.

At Conowingo Dam, a young U.S. Navy WAVE was killed and three other military women were injured when their car careened out of control on the icy road and went through a guardrail. Their car fell ninety feet before landing at the base of the dam. The women had been returning to the Bainbridge Naval Training Center the night of the storm.

Finally, I wanted to share this photo of a sheriff’s patrol car, dwarfed by the plowed snow.

Posted in Delmarva History, Great Storms of the Chesapeake | 2 Comments

Enter the Red Sniper giveaway!

Contest time! For the launch of Red Sniper, several copies of the novel are being given away. You can enter to win a copy by clicking on the book cover, which will take you to the Facebook page entry form. There is a quick question to answer (only because the giveaway site, Rafflecopter, requires that … probably to prove you are not some sort of spam robot). The question asks you to share who your WWII relative was or what your interest is in WWII, so who knows, maybe we can share some of those great answers here!

Again, please click on the book cover to enter. Good luck and thank you!

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