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.
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!
In September, I will be leading two history cruises with Captain DJ … the talk will touch on some of the facts and history of the canal and include a few stories from the amazing past of the waterway and Chesapeake City. Looking forward to it! Please click on the image above or click here to sign up.
This is my first collection of previously published stories and essays (along with a few new pieces) mostly focused around the Chesapeake Bay region.
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.
In the Chesapeake Bay region, there is no shortage of stories wherever the past meets the present.
David Healey is a storyteller extraordinaire. His writing entices readers into David’s world. Pirate Moon: Collected Stories and Essays is a perfect way to escape to the wonderful Chesapeake.”
— Bruce E. Mowday, author of Stealing Wyeth and Jailing the Johnston Gang: Bringing Serial Murderers to Justice.
This is not a book, it’s a tiara. A crowning achievement. Each story with its unique setting highlights the facets, glitter and beauty of prose dusted with poesy.”
— Walter F. Curran, author of the Young Mariner trilogy.
Pirate Moon & Other Stories is a true gift. Open it, and you’ll enjoy hours of delightful and thoughtful reading. The stories vary from historical to contemporary, and you’ll feel as if the characters are people you know or want to know. The essays bring a tear or a smile and always give more to ponder.
— Gail Priest, author of Eastern Shore Shorts and the Annie Crow Knoll trilogy
David Healey is lucky to make his home in a one-of-a-kind place steeped in character and thick with culture. That place is blessed, too—to have a storyteller with the gifts and gumption to capture its magic.
— Jim Duffy, author of Secrets of the Eastern Shore
Read the Preface for Pirate Moon & Other Stories
We are all storytellers in some way, aren’t we? Some of us just happen to write them down as we go along. Compiling this book has made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in a family that liked to tell stories and to have been around a lot of natural storytellers.
My father still spins a good story and my mother was a keen observer who also came from a long line of storytellers. Sometimes, I don’t know whether to blame them or thank them for passing that along. Some more practical skills in, say, mechanical engineering, might have led to a more lucrative career. Mostly, though, I think I’d thank them for sharing that love for a good story.
The great writing coach James N. Frey has said that kids who grow up to be writers are usually the ones who had their imagination prodded in some way. He gives the example of a kid who comes across a banana peel on the ground and asks where it came from. An adult from a no-nonsense kind of family would respond that someone dropped it there, obviously. End of story. But in a storytelling family, one of the adults will point up at the trees and say, “The monkey who lives in that tree must have dropped it.”
Naturally, the next question is, “What monkey?”
And thus begins a spontaneous story of one kind or another. Frey says those kids who are invited to imagine are the ones who grow up to write novels because they’re always trying to tell the story of the monkey in the tree.
You won’t find a monkey in any of these stories, although there are pirates, German commandos, killer lawyers, and even a wily fox. Along with that monkey business, I’ve also been fortunate to live my life in an area rich with stories—if you know where to look for them and if you are willing to listen.
I can still remember some of the old-timers telling me about how their grandparents hid the horses in the woods when the Union troops marched by. For them, the Civil War was still within living memory. It was something that had touched the lives of their families in very real ways. Again and again, if you’re willing to listen, you will hear stories like that across the region. I also have a theory that old places and old houses soak up history and radiate it back in the same way that a stone wall gives off warmth at night after absorbing sunshine all day. You just have to be willing to open your senses and feel it.
These stories and essays go back nearly forty years, to a short story called “The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night,” published in a local magazine. Back then I was in my full-blown teenage Hemingway mode, working my way through everything—and I mean everything—that the author had ever written. That is definitely the oldest story here and I have tried not to change a word of what my sixteen-year-old self wrote. The most recent story is “The House That Brewed Up Trouble,” completed just a few weeks before publication. Some stories, like “Bullet Baby,” are based on actual events or legends.
Most of the published stories and essays have appeared in regional publications across Maryland and Delaware, which I now realize places me firmly in the category of being a regional writer. Sadly, some of these print publications have fallen by the wayside over the years, notably the wonderful Delmarva Quarterly in which I was lucky to have several essays published.
It’s a strange journey, going back and revisiting these old stories and essays. It’s a bit like looking at old pictures of yourself and wondering why you ever thought that wearing terrycloth wristbands and those tube socks that went up to your knees was a good idea. Revising these stories has also been a lot like time traveling. Almost all of the stories and a few of the essays have been revised in some way, sometimes substantially. The notes at the ends of the pieces recognize that fact. Just to be clear on the difference, a “story” by my definition is pure fiction while an “essay” is more of a commentary or observation on some slice of life, from meeting author William Styron to growing tomatoes to running a trapline. For the purposes of this book, I have tried to include only those essays with some regional focus. There is no narrative order here … feel free to dip in at random and skip around.
These stories and essays have been enjoyable to write over the years and then to revisit here. Most of them have been a labor of love in that unlike most of my newspaper articles or even some of my books, they weren’t written on deadline or for a paycheck. I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading them—just keep an eye out for that monkey in the tree!
Finally, I want to thank the many individuals who have been so supportive in my own journey as a writer. This includes many colleagues and co-workers over the years, as well as understanding family and friends. I also want to thank the editors of the publications named here. I would be remiss not to express appreciation to the region’s many wonderful bookstores for their amazing support of local authors.
It’s hard to single out any one person, but you will notice that the book is dedicated to Don Herring, longtime editor of The Cecil Whig newspaper. Don was a gifted writer and a natural teacher who helped dozens of young reporters over the years realize the importance of accuracy as well as the beauty in a clear and concise sentence.