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 site, so this page will help you get started with navigating HealeyInk. Please start by getting your free ebook!

 

New release … DEADLY ANTHEM

“David Healey’s latest thriller, DEADLY ANTHEM, weaves captivating history with savage present-day intrigue. The relentless twists and explosive surprises kept me fascinated to the very last word.”

— Robert Blake Whitehill, author of The Ben Blackshaw Series

By dawn’s early light … murder, mystery, and intrigue.

When the Star-Spangled Banner flag is stolen from the Smithsonian Institution, it’s up to War of 1812 scholar Franklin Scott Keane to get it back.

Joining forces with Keane will be an up-and-coming young researcher. Together, they navigate a web of murder and intrigue surrounding the famous flag’s disappearance. Looking for clues, Keane follows the flag’s path from the Battle of Baltimore to the halls of the Smithsonian to a rich and powerful madman’s compound deep in the marshes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

For Keane, more than the flag is at stake. Since his wife’s death in a sailing accident, Keane has struggled to rebuild his personal and professional life. Finding the flag becomes his path to redemption.

To do so, he will test his knowledge of history and his skills as a researcher to the limit. He will need to come to terms with his personal loss. He will encounter a disturbing historical twist as old as the flag itself. And ultimately, he will have to survive a final showdown in the nightmarish tidal marshes of Chesapeake Bay to determine both his own fate and that of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Get the book now or Click here to read an excerpt.

 

Pirate Moon collects regional stories and essays


The essays here touch on everything from the origins of the unique dialect known as Delmarvese to running a trapline. In the fiction pages, ride along with Confederate cavalry gone astray on the way to Gettysburg and root for a widowed lightkeeper who makes a desperate stand against a German U-boat attack. Encounter Captain Kidd during a confrontation with pirates on the Delaware shore. In “The Wheatfield War,” discover the tragic fate of Lord Byron’s cousin-in-law during the War of 1812. Learn more or read it now.

 

 

Gods & Snipers

US soldier holding rifle with bridge in background.

Outnumbered and outgunned, a squad of U.S. soldiers must hold a bridge against superior German forces in a fight that pits general against general, and sniper against sniper.

Read it now!

Featured in The Big Thrill magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iron Sniper

When German sniper Dieter Rohde’s older brother is unjustly shot for desertion by the SS, he will stop at nothing to win the Iron Cross medal and redeem his family’s name by targeting as many Allied troops as possible

Rohde’s deadly efforts bring him into direct confrontation with American sniper Caje Cole. Rohde may be driven by ambition, but he hasn’t encountered an adversary like Cole, the so-called hillbilly sniper who is as hard as the mountains he calls home and as wily as a backwoods fox.

As the final pitched battle for France takes place around them at the Falaise Pocket, these two snipers declare war on each other.

Get the Iron Sniper audiobook

                                                                       Click here to learn more about Iron Sniper

 

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 for the audiobook

                                                                       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 for the audiobook

Click here to learn more about Ardennes Sniper

 

Historical Thrillers

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Mystery & Suspense

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Regional History

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Posted in Writers & Writing

From the Bay Journal, a history of canvasbacks on Susquehanna Flats

By Ad Crable • Bay Journal (read the complete article here)

(Note: This was a great article about canvasbacks and hunting on the Susquehanna River that I wanted to share here. Reading about those market gunners, it’s amazing that the species survived!)

On a cold morning last February, Bob Schutsky looked out the dining room window of his home along the Susquehanna River in southern Lancaster County, PA, and spied a raft of tightly packed ducks that made his heart race.One male stands out in a raft of canvasbacks on the Choptank River in 2016. (Dave Harp)One male stands out in a raft of canvasbacks on the Choptank River in 2016. (Dave Harp)

Four days before, 36 miles south at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, Rick Bouchelle glanced outside the Upper Bay Museum in North East, MD, and stared in disbelief at a floating flock of ducks.

“They were so thick in there you could walk on them. There were thousands,” the president of the museum recalled, still with a tinge of excitement.

Both men were thrilled to the bone because they recognized the waterfowl immediately as canvasbacks.

For Schutsky, a well-known ornithologist, it was a notable birdwatching sighting. For the next month, he posted daily updates of the canvasback numbers on a statewide website. As the ranks hanging out in the middle of the river swelled to 515, birders came from far and wide to see a species of waterfowl that once dominated the Susquehanna but had been mostly gone for generations.

For Bouchelle, seeing so many of the handsome diving ducks with their distinctive sloping, rusty red heads was like seeing a ghost, and strong memories of the past welled inside him.

Canvasbacks are birds of lore on the Chesapeake Bay. For almost a century, the Bay was the wintering grounds for at least half of all canvasbacks in North America — about 250,000. Hunting for the large and tasty ducks helped define the Bay’s identity, creating a distinctive culture and representing a big chunk of the economy for towns at the water’s edge.

No part of the Bay was more synonymous with canvasbacks as the Upper Bay and most specifically the Susquehanna Flats. Plant-boosting nutrients and topsoil flushed into the shallow, 25,000-acre flats from the Susquehanna River and created ideal growing conditions for underwater grasses, including wild celery and widgeon grasses — the caviar for migratory ducks. Today, an overload of nutrients and sediment has become a problem rather than a boon, creating algae blooms and smothering grasses. Curbing them is at the core of the Bay restoration effort.

From approximately the Civil War until about 1950, the Upper Bay offered the finest canvasback hunting in the world. Business magnates and celebrities such as Annie Oakley and President Grover Cleveland flocked to area towns and hunting lodges for autumn hunts guaranteed to bring action and gunning without limits.Hunters in a sinkbox wait low in the water for ducks in this photo taken on the Susquehanna Flats in 1950. (Upper Bay Museum)Hunters in a sinkbox wait low in the water for ducks in this photo taken on the Susquehanna Flats in 1950. (Upper Bay Museum)

Some of the largest lodges, including one owned by banker John Pierpont Morgan, were located on what is now the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground.

It’s no coincidence that both the Upper Bay Museum and nearby Havre de Grace Decoy Museum sport canvasbacks on their logos.

And, Maryland Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Havre de Grace resident, is trying to get the canvasback designated as Maryland’s state waterfowl.

Her first attempt failed but she vowed to continue her quest. “Some things in life take time, and this is no exception,” she said. “I will continue to advocate for preserving our rich cultural history while looking to the future to find innovative ways to link our waterfront communities together.”

Decoy carvers, who fashioned and painted lifelike representations of canvasbacks, were in great demand. Men from Upper Bay towns such as Havre de Grace, North East, Elkton and Charlestown began hand-chopping, carving and painting wooden decoys to meet hunters’ demands.

They didn’t know it at the time, but the period would make legends of blue-collar decoy carvers on the flats: James Pierce, Harry Jobes, Bob McGaw, Paul Gibson, Charles Joiner and many others, especially R. Madison Mitchell, a funeral home director from Havre de Grace whose decoys now fetch more than $10,000.

Havre de Grace still bills itself as the “decoy capital of the world.”

The wild celery that used to abound in the flats gave canvasbacks a distinctive savory taste. With the invention of refrigerated railroad cars in 1870, the ducks became the preferred wild game delicacy on the East Coast.

In novelist Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Innocence, about the bluebloods of New York City in the Gilded Age (1870s–1900s), the protagonists are served canvasbacks and Maryland terrapins, along with fine wines.

Market hunters killed canvasbacks by the hundreds in the morning, and by evening, diners in the finest restaurants in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston could feast on the delicacy.A lifelike mannequin of decoy carver Robert Litzenberg is found at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. (Ad Crable)A lifelike mannequin of decoy carver Robert Litzenberg is found at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. (Ad Crable)

“They were loaded in wooden nail kegs and shipped to restaurants. They weren’t even dressing them out. You were just shooting them and piling ’em up,” Bouchelle said.

The demand for canvasbacks soon spawned a market for weapons that could take the migrating waterfowl in ever-increasing numbers.

Perhaps the ultimate example was the punt gun, a crudely fashioned shotgun approaching the effectiveness of a small cannon. The guns, filling most of the length of low-profile skiffs, were simple guns made from steel pipes and folded into a wood block. They had to be anchored to the skiff to protect shooters from the recoil.

A single blast from their wide shot pattern was capable of taking out 30 ducks or more. One account claimed 54 ducks were killed from a single discharge.

Market hunters would take ducks by any means necessary. Thus, much hunting occurred at night when the ducks were at rest on the water, floating in tight flocks and were, literally, sitting ducks. The boats that sneaked up on them were painted grey to blend in with the reflected moonlight.

Sinkboxes were another effective hunting device. They resembled floating coffins with wings that unfolded when the rigs were moved into place.

Flat-bottomed iron decoys were placed on the attached wooden platforms to sink the vessel to water level, and hunters would lie hidden in the coffin-like space. Lighter, flat-bottom wooden decoys were scattered on canvas wings and 300 to 700 wooden decoys were strategically scattered around the sinkbox in the water.

When a flock of canvasbacks approached, hunters would jump up and shoot.

Sinkboxes and live decoys were outlawed by the federal government in 1935.

Less elaborate were “sneak” or “bushwhack” boats. A single 10-foot oar protruding from the stern of the boat allowed a sculler to silently propel the boat toward a flock of ducks that had landed in the decoy spread, while two other hunters hunkered down, ready for action.Canvasback decoys in a pile with other duck carvings recall a time when this waterfowl was the object of market hunters. (Ad Crable)Canvasback decoys in a pile with other duck carvings recall a time when this waterfowl was the object of market hunters. (Ad Crable)

Market hunting ended abruptly with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918. Alarmed at the declines of many bird species because of commercial hunting for consumption and feathers for women’s hats, Congress passed legislation that for the first time placed kill limits on migratory birds.

Even without a commercial market, hunters were still keenly interested in the Upper Bay’s canvasbacks.

One method that became popular after the ban on sinkboxes was “body boot hunting.” Hunters would don one-piece surplus World War I diving suits and wade into the Flats amid their spreads of decoys. The hunters would stand behind a cutout silhouette of a Canada goose stuck in the mud with a pole. The back of the cutout included a shelf for ammo.

The end of an era came abruptly with an August 1950 storm that ripped up submerged grasses that had grown on the Flats for centuries. Without their preferred food, most of the canvasbacks went elsewhere. Hurricane Agnes in 1972 was the final nail in the coffin, smothering the remaining grasses in an underwater wave of sediment.

Were the large flocks of canvasbacks seen by Bouchelle and Schutsky last winter an anomaly or signs of something more?A display of old, mostly canvasback, decoys at the Upper Bay Museum attests to the popularity of the duck among hunters the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Ad Crable)A display of old, mostly canvasback, decoys at the Upper Bay Museum attests to the popularity of the duck among hunters the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Ad Crable)

Each winter since 1955, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has conducted a survey of the various duck species spending the season on the Chesapeake Bay.

This winter, 46,000 canvasbacks were sighted, actually down from 60,000 the previous year. But Josh Homyack, the agency’s waterfowl project manager, cautions against reading too much into the numbers, especially for last winter, when high water flows impeded counts and dispersed flocks.

“A lot of people saw them scattered around the Bay this year and thought populations would be high and were disappointed [that the survey’s results] were not,” Homyack said. Still, he added, “Most hunters had really good duck hunting on the Bay this year, particularly scaup and canvasbacks.”

That’s enough to spark a dream in Kerri Kneisley, executive director of the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, who also saw one of those large flocks.

“Gosh, I wish we would see that like we used to.”

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Susquehanna Lock House Museum sets Shank Lecture Series

In 2020, one of the really dynamic historical lecture series in the region will feature talks on horse racing, slavery and freedom, and old Maryland recipes—with samples.

Join Harford County Historical Society Director Maryanna Skowronski for a talk on early horse racing in Maryland on January 15. Her presentation will include vintage film of races, with a focus on the history of The Graw, which was the popular racing venue in Havre de Grace. The Graw also brought some of the more nefarious elements of the 1920s to town, including gamblers, gangsters … and politicians. 

On February 12, engage in an eye-opening retrospective of slavery and freedom on Maryland’s Eastern Shore leading up to the Civil War. Jacqueline Simmons Hedberg, author of Plantations, Slavery and Freedom on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, tells the story of the black experience through the narratives of six African Americans, both free and enslaved. These men and women played a key economic role in the economy of old Maryland, but this talk will also share true stories of courage, cruelty, hope, and heartbreak. Last year, I saw the author speak at Mount Harmon Plantation and her talk was engaging and informative.

Historic food blogger Kara Mae Harris, whose work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun and Atlas Obscura, presents her journal into collecting and preserving old Maryland recipes, from white potato pie to muskrat to terrapin soup. As an added bonus, at the March 14 talk you can sample some of the vintage Maryland desserts that Harris has researched and written about. 

This free lecture series is brought to you by the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House, sponsored by Stephens & Stephens Clocks of Havre de Grace. All talks take place at the 7 pm at the Havre de Grace Opera House. To reserve your seat, please visit www.hdgoperahouse.org

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First Friday book signing!


Join us at Washington Street Books in historic Havre de Grace, MD, for a First Friday book signing with several authors on Dec. 6 from 5-8 pm! John and Kathy’s events are always enjoyable with music, snacks, and great conversation about books!

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Interview with thriller author Eric J. Gates

By David Healey

When you’re interviewing a thriller writer who is an expert on cybersecurity and computers in general, it’s a bit embarrassing if the microphone doesn’t work on your Skype account.

There’s author Eric J. Gates on the other end of the video, on the other side of the Atlantic, patiently holding up a notebook page on which he has scrawled, “No sound.”

Like any good thriller writer used to wrestling with the intricacies of plot, Gates is every bit the patient problem solver, and soon the interview goes on in real time.

“There you are,” he says in his mellifluous British accent, sounding delighted. “We have sound!”

As the British might say: Keep calm and interview on.

Read the complete interview in The Big Thrill magazine.

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Canaltown Writers Schedule

Canaltown Writers Conference

Chesapeake City Branch Library 

2527 Augustine Herman Highway (Route 213)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

10 am Welcome and Coffee!

10:15-11:30 “Make it Sound True: How to Hijack Your Reader’s Hearts” with Nancy Mitchell

11:45-1 pm “How to Write a Novel” with John DeDakis

1 pm Networking luncheon at Maria’s Restaurant (a few doors down in same shopping center—casual dining)

Questions or concerns? Please contact David Healey 410.920.3230 or dfhealey@yahoo.com

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