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


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Leave a review on 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.

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


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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.

He will also talk about how and why he has incorporated the Eastern Shore of Maryland into several of his books, including substantial portions of his 2014 thriller about Predator drones, Unmanned.

Fesperman’s debut novel, Lie in the Dark, was published first in the UK by No Exit Press (1999) and then in the US by Vintage and Soho Press. Set in war-torn Sarajevo, where Fesperman had filed dispatches during the Yugoslav civil war, it was praised as “a great novel” by Scottish novelist Ian Rankin and as “one of the best books I’ve read in a long time” by the reviewer for the Sunday Telegraph of London. It won the John Creasey Dagger for best first novel from the UK Crime Writers’ Association.

Since then, he has published nine more novels, which have been translated into ten languages. The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller (2003) from the Crime Writers’ Association. The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the 2006 Hammett Award from the North American branch of the International Association of Crime Writers, while USA Today selected it as the best mystery/thriller novel of 2006. His latest book, The Letter Writer, was selected as one of 2016’s Ten Best Mysteries by the New York Times Book Review.

In 2016, Fesperman was named recipient of the Author Award from the Maryland Library Association. He and his wife, Liz Bowie, a Sun reporter, live in Baltimore. They have two grown children.

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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 | 1 Comment

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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Delmarva chroniclers share stories behind the stories

Ed Okonowicz and Ann Foley.

Ed Okonowicz and Ann Foley.

Written by David Healey

Three of Delmarva’s finest chroniclers and storytellers gathered in Easton to share their knowledge from decades spent documenting the people who make the region so unique.

The authors’ panel, sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writer’s Association, was held on Saturday, January 29, 2017, at the Easton Library.

Sharing their experiences were Ed Okonowicz, perhaps best known for his ghost tales and his book Disappearing Delmarva; Gary Crawford, columnist for the Tidewater Times; and Ann Foley, author of Having My Say: Conversations with a Chesapeake Bay Waterman.

Moderated by outgoing ESWA president Mindie Burgoyne, the authors’ discussion was at times poignant, but mostly humorous, as they shared everything from an encounter with world famous decoy carvers to muskrat trappers to old-time watermen.

While they might be “Come Heres” in the Delmarva sense, all three have spent decades writing about the uniquely Delmarva way of life.

“I used to like to sit and listen to the stories people had to tell, even before I was a writer,” Foley said.

Ann Foley and Gary Crawford.

Ann Foley and Gary Crawford.

Some of their advice to writers when interviewing others included get a couple people together so that that start having a conversation and build off each other. All three also make a point of meeting their interview subjects in their homes, or workshops, or boats, where people will be comfortable talking. That interview approach sometimes takes early mornings, long drives, making friends with dogs, and hours of listening.

While these writers check their information carefully with exhaustive research, Crawford said that ultimately writers have to be willing to take that final leap and get their work into print.

“I would recommend that you not be too shy about putting yourself out there to ridicule,” Crawford said.

He said that the hardest writing assignment he gave himself was to write an account of the sinking of the Hay Russ IV in 1979, in which five Tilghman Island men, all of the same family, were lost.

Okonowicz had this bit of tongue in cheek advice for writers: “I avoid young people at all costs. You have to go to people who have lived and experienced good stories to get good stories.”

Listening to the inside scoop from three of Delmarva's best storytellers.

Listening to the inside scoop from three of Delmarva’s best storytellers.

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Red Sniper release date set!

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.

Micajah “Caje” Cole returns to do battle with a Russian sniper behind enemy lines.

The release date is Tuesday, February 7, 2017.

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From The Big Thrill: An interview with Shipwreck author William Nikkel

Shipwreck by William Nikkel

shipwreckBy David Healey

Thriller author William “Willie” Nikkel was out fishing one day when he caught a good idea. He just happened to wonder, what if that didn’t turn out to be a big fish on his line, but a body?

Thriller writers love a good “what if” to get a story going. Nikkel was hooked, so to speak, and that idea evolved into the first chapter of his newest novel, SHIPWRECK.

This is his sixth novel to feature Jack Ferrell. Nikkel is now at work on his seventh novel about the Hawaii-based hero. The former SWAT officer and veteran thriller author took some time out recently to talk about the writing life.

Considering that he divides his time between Maui and northern California, with plenty of fishing, gold panning, and the occasional casino visit thrown in, at first glance it might seem like there wasn’t much time left to write. However, Nikkel keeps a fairly strict schedule, thanks in part to the hot weather in Hawaii.

“If you don’t fish or lay on the beach, there’s not a lot to do in Maui,” he said, a comment that may disqualify him from being a spokesman for the tourism board.

It is, however, a great place to get down to business as a writer.

“I get up early in the morning,” he said, noting that he’s at his desk by 5 am. “It’s nice and cool.”

He breaks for breakfast with his wife, Karen, around nine. Then it’s back to work. “I write all day. When I’m writing that first draft, I put in six to eight hours, seven days a week.”

There are a few perks, of course, to being based in Hawaii.

“At sunset, I’m up on the lanai, watching the sun go down. I rarely miss a sunset.”

For part of the year, he lives at his brother’s home in northern California. There, brother Ray helps him bounce ideas around for plots when the two of them aren’t out shooting, panning for gold, or enjoying a boys’ night out at the casino in Lake Tahoe. With those ideas piled up, Nikkel returns home to Hawaii to get some serious drafting done.

Considering all that these two locales have to offer, it’s no surprise that a sense of place is apparent in his novels. His first three Jack Ferrell thrillers, starting with Glimmer of Gold, were infused, interestingly enough, with Hawaiian mythology. Another thriller, Murrieta Gold, featured legends from that California Gold Rush country he calls home for part of the year.

Recently, he also launched a series of steampunk zombie westerns, including Devil Wind.

When it comes to developing a novel, it’s that first scene, or even the first line, that hooks him. “I’ll begin a story based on a first line. It’s kind of a ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ thing,” he said.

He likes to start with a good idea of where the story is going, but outlining only takes him about halfway through the book.

“I love crafting the story. I sort of outline until I scrap the outline and write the story. Your mind starts rolling with the story and takes it where you didn’t know you were going to go. Then I just run with it.”

Nikkel said he “got serious” as a writer back in 2002, when he started attending the Maui Writers’ Conference. Writers such as James Rollins, Tess Gerritsen, and Bob Mayer were strong influences there. He has also been to every Thrillerfest, learning all he can. And he credits best-selling authors such as Steve Berry and fellow Californian Allison Brennan as being inspirational and supportive.

A recent Berry blurb states, “The tension ratchets up degree by degree in this smart and cleverly told adventure. William Nikkel definitely knows how to kick butt and take names. He’s a gifted storyteller.”

Brennan says of Nikkel’s new novel, “SHIPWRECK is the perfect blend of mystery and adventure. An engaging, fast-paced thriller with a fascinating and fun hero.”
It’s clear that Nikkel’s character follows the tradition of a long line of smart tough guys such as Dirk Pitt and Travis McGee. Nikkel’s character has a boat called Fast Times and his supporting cast of characters, just as McGee has the Busted Flush and his loyal sidekick Meyer from the John D. MacDonald thrillers.

“What thriller writer hasn’t been influenced by those?” he asked rhetorically.

Like those well-known protagonists, Ferrell is one of the good guys, but he’s also willing to step over the line—just a hair—in search of justice.

In SHIPWRECK, it’s quickly evident that Jack Ferrell navigates his fishing boat—and his conscience—according to a strong moral code. He stands up for what’s right and doesn’t back down. Instead of fancy weapons or tricky martial arts, he tends to wield a Mossberg 12-gauge and throws a mean punch. He gives would-be assassins fair warning, then lets them have it.

He’s a tough guy, but not invincible.  At the same time, you can be pretty sure that anyone who goes up against him is going to come out the loser.

“I like to believe that Jack Ferrell is the embodiment of what most men would like to be,” Nikkel said.

And it sure doesn’t hurt that Jack Ferrell tends to have his adventures in paradise, whether it’s the Hawaiian Islands or California’s Gold Rush country. Just like the idea that caught Nikkel during that fishing trip, readers will be hooked on SHIPWRECK.


williamWilliam Nikkel is the author of six Jack Ferrell novels, a Jack Ferrell novella, and a steampunk/zombie western series featuring his latest hero, Max Traver. A former homicide detective and S.W.A.T. team member for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in Bakersfield, California, William is an amateur scuba enthusiast, gold prospector and artist, who can be found just about anywhere. He and his wife Karen divide their time between California and Maui, Hawaii.

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Fathers, sons, and survival from The Big Thrill …

Patriarch Run by Benjamin Dancer

patriarchrun_front_final_rgbBy David Healey

In our connected age, it’s usually easy to reach an author for an interview, unless that author happens to be leading a group of teens on a backpacking trip in the wilderness. When Benjamin Dancer returned to the things we take for granted—such as electricity, running water, and the internet—he answered a few questions about his new thriller, PATRIARCH RUN. Dancer’s book just happens to envision what could occur in a world where we might all be on a kind of extended backpacking trip if civilization’s infrastructure falters.

Thrillers such as yours require a fair amount of research to make them plausible. What fact did you discover in your research that stood out for you?

That’s a great question. PATRIARCH RUN won high praise from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the author of On Killing, for getting the psychology of combat right. The story also won praise from national security experts for its realistic depiction of an underreported, existential threat to America. That threat is what stands out most to me.

One of the things I learned in writing this story is that our civilization has unwittingly evolved to become absolutely dependent on a vulnerable critical infrastructure. What I mean by that is that if the power grid were to go down today and not come back up again most of us would die.

To contextualize a statement as bold as that it might be helpful to go back a hundred years to when there were only 76 million Americans. At that time, you didn’t need electricity to meet the basic needs of the population. Food was grown outside the urban centers, and just about everybody ate locally.

Fast forward to today. There are 325 million Americans and that number is growing. Many of our urban centers have outstripped the carrying capacities of their surrounding landscapes. As a consequence, food and basic goods are shipped over long supply lines, all of which are powered by refined fuels which, of course, are manufactured with electricity.

So how is it we’ve managed to expand, in the last 100 years, the carrying capacity of the planet from about 2 billion to about 7.5 billion people? Ironically, the answer is electricity. The advent of reliable, widely-available electrical power has made possible several key technologies that have allowed us to expand Earth’s carrying capacity. Those technologies include fertilizers, pesticides, mechanical irrigation, refined fuels for farm machinery and transportation, infrastructures for clean drinking water, infrastructures for sanitation, advanced medical care, etc. Everything in that list is made available through electrical power.

So imagine a large urban center devoid of electricity. No food. No safe drinking water. No sanitation. No transportation. What we’re talking about is an apocalypse.

What’s really scary is that there are several mechanisms of destruction that have a realistic potential of bringing about that apocalypse, including a sophisticated cyber-attack, which is what the bad guy is up to in PATRIARCH RUN.

Apocalyptic themes seem to have a continuing popularity. Why do you think we are so fascinated with the idea of how humanity might carry on? 

I think most people understand at a very deep level that we could easily bring about our own demise. The collective power of 7.5 billion people trying to make a living and creating security for themselves is profound. The amount of resources required to sustain so many people is almost unfathomable. So we have made ourselves vulnerable. You could look at the vulnerability through the lens of sustainability, with issues like climate change. Or you could look at that vulnerability through the lens of national security, with issues like the threat to the grid or a nuclear holocaust. National security and sustainability are two sides of the same coin. We have unwittingly made our civilization quite vulnerable. People sense that. So perhaps they are attracted to themes that play out the apocalypse.

By the way, I do think it would be easy to avoid such an ill fate. If we pay close attention and are intentional about our collective behavior as a people, we could enjoy a long prosperity.

You said that you set out to write a story about fathers. Why is that important to you? 

I wanted to tell a story about two types of fathers, one who sacrifices his family for his mission and another who sacrifices himself for his son. I think that’s the spectrum on which all of us, as parents, have to decide who it is we want to be.

In addition to writing, you work as a school advisor. Are there any sly ways that you encourage teens to expand their horizons through books?

I’m always looking for ways to get kids to read. They all love learning, even if they don’t all know it yet. I’ve taught The Hunger Games in a bow making class, where we crafted our own bows and arrows. I’ve also taught classes based on food and cooking with Michael Pollan’s books. I also use a good thriller to get kids engaged.

Do you plot extensively or are you more of an organic writer?

I plot the entire outline before I begin. I want to be able to visualize the whole world and all the characters before I write the first chapter.

Tell us something about your writing schedule and workspace. Do you write in the mornings or evenings? Do you have to work at a desk, on the sofa, or at the local coffee shop?

I write alone in my office and in silence. I wake up at 4 am, when the house is quiet, and write until 7. Those three hours feel like three minutes every morning. Then I get the kids ready for school, and we all head off together. All three of them attend the school at which I work. We serve preschool through 12th grade at my school.


benjamindancerBenjamin is the author of the literary thriller Patriarch Run, the first book in a series that will include Fidelity and The Story of the Boy. He also writes about parenting, education, sustainability and national security.

Benjamin works as an Advisor at a Colorado high school where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. His work with adolescents has informed his stories, which are typically themed around fatherhood and coming-of-age.

To learn more about Benjamin, please visit his website.


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Exploring Civil War Lore from Maryland and Delaware

The moat at Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island, source of more than a few Civil War legends.

The moat at Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island, source of more than a few Civil War legends.

Most of us know the “greater story” of the Civil War—the battles, the politics, the leaders. We’ve heard of Grant and Lee, Gettysburg and Antietam, Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis.

But it’s the “little stories”—the quirky ones about people and events–that make this time period so fascinating even today. Some of these tales of Civil War legend and lore are funny, some sad, but they all bring a very human side to the war 150 years later.

These stories will be the focus of “Civil War Legends and Lore” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the North East Branch Library. We’ll classify these stories as “legends and lore” because local tradition and folklore have filled in the blanks between the known facts.

Our region has no shortage of Civil War legends and lore, much of it spiced up by the fact that Cecil County residents had divided loyalties. Maryland itself was a border state, even though it is located south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In Cecil County and the rest of Maryland some were fiercely pro-Union; others were pro-Confederate to the point that they fled South to take up arms against the United States. Once war was declared, Cecil Countians for the most part supported the Union and its new president, even if they hadn’t necessarily voted for him.

Some of the other legends and lore we’ll touch upon that evening:

  • How “mule skinners” took over the mansion and grounds at Perry Point, where the owners were pro-southern. The owners complained that Yankee officers banged up the elegant staircase with their swords.
  • The C&D Canal played a huge role in the early days of the war, enabling Lincoln to bring loyal troops from “up north” to occupy Maryland after Federal troops traveling by train were attacked in Baltimore. The nervous canal superintendent in Chesapeake City constantly feared attacks by Confederate raiders.
  • George Alfred Townsend spent his summers as a boy in Cecil County. The war made him famous as an Anderson Cooper-type newsman of his day who went on to be friends with Mark Twain. We’ll take a look at a story he wrote with a touch of dark humor about the topic of undertakers making their fortune after the battle of Antietam.
  • A newspaper editor whose pro-Southern editorial got him marched out of town at bayonet point by Union troops and locked up in Fort McHenry.
  • A Civil War romance that started when a Chesapeake City girl met a captured Confederate officer on his way to the prisoner of war camp at Fort Delaware.

As divided and cantankerous as the two sides could be here in Cecil County, one of the impressions that stands out is how people seemed to have put aside their differences after the war. It’s a lesson that shouldn’t be lost on us today as we struggle through difficult, sometimes divisive times of our own.


Posted in Delmarva History | 1 Comment

Greats Storms talk set for Cecilton Library

Great StormsThis Tuesday, Aug. 30, I will be talking about Great Storms of the Chesapeake at the Cecilton Library in Cecilton, MD. The talk starts at 6:30 and we will look back at some of the most intriguing stories about people caught up in the worst weather that the Chesapeake Bay region could dish out.

It’s interesting that since the book came out, there really haven’t been any major storms in the region. Tropical Storm Sandy missed us, and we are currently experiencing a hurricane drought that has gone on for several years now. We will talk about all that, and invite folks to share their own stories of hurricanes, blizzards, fogs, and freezes. Hope to see you there!

Great Storms website pic

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