By Ken Mammarella
The News Journal
To the list of potentially fatal risks at the beach – such as riptides, lighting and sunstroke – add being kidnapped for your kidneys.
That’s the premise of “Beach Bodies ($14.99 on Amazon), the first comic thriller and 13th book by David Healey, a college professor from Chesapeake City, Maryland.
The novel focuses on Nick Logan, a 6-foot-2, “square-shouldered” former police officer who left the crimes of Baltimore for the peace of western Maryland, and Sarah Monahan, a blond officer with “a sinewy, athletic body” who favors the music of “women who stood alone against the world.”
The mystery is not who’s stealing the kidneys: The book opens with henchman Fat Boy and the anarchist Grubb taking an accident victim to the money-mad doctor who’ll harvest them. The question is if and how they’ll be caught. And if and how Logan and Monahan will fall in love.
Healey said he first finished the novel in 1996. It was called “Chop Shop” back then and set in Wilmington. He got an agent from the manuscript, but it was deemed “too local” to be published.
With a nudge from someone at Browseabout Books noting how few mysteries occur at the beach and amid wrenching change in the publishing industry, he decided to rework it. He liked the main characters, and they’re there, but the book was “rewritten for the 21st century” and moved to Rehoboth Beach.
Key scenes are set on the Boardwalk and the Junction & Breakwater trail. The quiet of the marshes, the behavior of beach cops (“what do you do, arrest people for wearing sneakers with dress socks?”) and the delicate nesting habits of plovers also matter.
But definitely fictional are Southern Delaware General (where Dr. Karl Kreeger slices out the kidneys from a basement operating room), the Mermaid Zone (a shopping plaza where decidedly unvacationlike stuff occurs) and the goth band Dog Smell.
Healey gives himself a one-sentence cameo and draws from decades of beach visits to give it that local feel. He also uses his experience as a reporter and editor in Elkton, Maryland; Middletown; and Oxford, Pennsylvania to make fun of modern media, with sloppy attire and outlandish questions.
On http://www.davidhealey.net, fictional News Journal reporter Jorge Alvarez interviews Logan, and the smart-aleck and distinctly Delaware qualities of “Beach Bodies” comes through in his favorite beach food: “It’s hard to beat a slice of boardwalk pizza at 1 a.m. There’s just something primal about a slab of dough and cheese and sauce on a summer night.”
Despite the ick factor of so many deaths, the book is “not gory or grisly,” he said. “It’s a little bit fun.” And despite how he uses the concept in his plot, Healey wants to be an organ donor. “It’s a cool concept that your organs will have an afterlife.”
After someone at Browseabout Books remarked that few mysteries occur at the beach, David Healy reworked the original novel and self-published.
Healey said that he has four or five complete manuscripts from his early days as a novelist, but they will not follow “Beach Bodies” in being reworked. “They’re training exercises. They didn’t turn out that well, but that’s OK because I learned from them.”
He has also learned a great deal about publishing.
“For me as a writer, Amazon has been a great opportunity,” he said, noting that he self-published this novel, which he calls “my contribution to summer reading and enjoyment at the beach.”
This article was first published in the Crossroads sections of The News Journal (A Gannett Publication) on June 25, 2014. You can view the original article at the following link: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/2014/06/25/crossroads-making-cut-beach-reading/11378437/