Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Ward Melville (now 2-0) hosted Smithtown East (1-1) for a Division I varsity field hockey game Sept. 7.  The Patriots won the game with a score of 3-0.

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Patchogue-Medford hosted the Ward Melville Patriots Sept. 1 in a nonleague game. The Patriots beat out the Raiders, 3–0.

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Students in the Middle Country Central School District returned to school Sept. 5, and readers responded to our request for first day of school photos.

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

Author Thomas M. Cassidy

Setauket resident Thomas M. Cassidy has taken his real-life experiences as an investigator and turned them into a detective thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The book “Damage Control,” set in the early 1980s, travels back to a time when detectives solved crimes without the help of modern technology and had to rely solely on their instincts and wit. Using New York City as a backdrop and an array of characters, Cassidy takes readers on an interesting trip behind the scenes to see how crimes were once solved.

Recently, Cassidy took time out to answer a few questions about writing his first mystery novel.

You were a former senior investigator with the New York State Attorney General’s Office. How did you become interested in writing?

As a reader of crime fiction and a frontline investigator, I challenged myself 25 years ago to take the leap and write a book. I was amazed at how fast I was able to complete my goal. It took me two weeks to write my book. But, it was only 12 pages long! OK, it was a short book, but it changed my life forever. 

I started buying books on how to write novels and get published. Then I read in The Village Times Herald that a professor at Stony Brook University, the late Deborah Hecht, offered a free workshop called Coffee and Conversations for aspiring writers on the third Friday of each month. This program, which is no longer available, included a presentation by an author, publisher or journalist as well as time to interact with other would-be writers. I listened, learned and read. I kept adding pages to my book.

How long did it take you to write this book?

It took me more than 25 years to reach the finish line for “Damage Control.” I thought I had finished it in 1999, 2001 and 2004, but each update resulted in numerous rejection letters from literary agents and publishers. As I continued adding pages to my novel, I felt a big piece of my mystery puzzle was missing: I needed a mentor with hands-on experience in the New York City Police Department. 

I gave my father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy, a retired NYPD detective commander, my draft manuscript. He rolled up his sleeves at once, and he spent many months working and sharing his expertise with me on every phase of my book until his death in 2011 at age 85. Plus, by this time I was an experienced author of several nonfiction books.

How many books have you written? 

My writing life took a surprising turn when friends and family members started asking me for elder care help because of my experience as a health fraud and patient abuse investigator. I then began writing books about growing old in America, including “Elder Care/What to Look For/What to Look Out For!” from New Horizon Press, “How to Choose Retirement Housing,” from the American Institute for Economic Research, and co-editor of a college textbook, “Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Aging” from Springer Publishing Company.

Is ‘Damage Control’ your first fiction novel?

Yes. I never gave up on my detective mystery. I believed that I chanced upon many fascinating detectives, investigators, FBI agents and investigations in my career, and I wanted to share my experiences in a novel.

 

The cover of Tom Cassidy’s latest book.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?

On September 10, 1981, Lieutenant John Patrick Donnellan, Manhattan South Homicide, is in a routine meeting with the medical examiner when he gets an urgent call about a high-profile murder in midtown Manhattan that will change his life forever. In one of the deadliest years in New York City history, this murder stands out among the rest, and with only weeks before the mayoral election, all eyes are on the city’s response.

Donnellan, well known in police, political and media circles as a straight talker with a cynical wit, is warned by the most powerful politician in the city to keep a lid on media leaks — and himself — or he will be off the case. Vintage Donnellan sarcasm, scorn and mockery have to be bottled up. But with all the buffoons, phonies and opportunists mixed up in this case, keeping his big mouth shut may be his most difficult task as he navigates through uncharted emotional media, organized crime and romantic networks in pursuit of the killer.

Tell me more about the main character, Lieutenant John Patrick Donnellan.

John Patrick Donnellan joined the New York Police Department, excelled as an investigator and swiftly rose through the detective ranks. He becomes the youngest lieutenant ever appointed commander of Manhattan South Homicide, the most prestigious command in the NYPD.

Are any of the events or characters based on real-life experiences or people in your life?

Yes, many of the events, characters and investigations mentioned in “Damage Control” are loosely based on real-life experiences, while others are a product of my imagination. In addition, all of the New York City police procedures were provided by myfather, a thirty-year veteran of the NYPD.

How close to reality are the investigations in this novel?

“Damage Control” is set in 1981, which was one of the most violent years in New York City history. The investigations in this book are close to reality because back then there was no internet or smartphones, so investigators relied on street smarts.

Do you feel your experiences as an investigator helped you when writing this book? 

Yes, being an investigator definitely helped me write this book. I knew firsthand that many cases have unexpected twists and turns that could never be anticipated when the first wave of detectives arrive at a crime scene. I was able to call upon my own experiences, as well as those of other detectives I worked with or met along the way, as I wrote “Damage Control.”

Do you have a favorite character in the book?

That’s a tough question. I have many favorites including Donnellan, the chief, who is the first female chief of detectives, the mystery woman and many others. But at my current age, I have more in common with Dugan, the oldest detective in the police department.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I’m nostalgic for the Windows on the World restaurant at the Twin Towers. I had to include that location in the book as a reminder of life before Sept. 11.

What was it like to work with your dad on a detective mystery?

It was truly a blessing for me to share the last years of his life working together on this project. The first time I held my book in my hands, I felt his spirit with me and saw his fingerprints on every page of “Damage Control.”

Tom Cassidy with his father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy

What do you think your dad would have thought of the finished product?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but he would have laughed so hard at one critical breakthrough uncovered by Donnellan that I would have had to help him get up off the floor. I’m also very confident that he would have written a five-star review of the book on Amazon, like he did for my book on elder care, that he would be the first person to take “Damage Control” out of the library, and he would be helping me write the sequel, “Grave Danger.”

What advice would you give to first-time fiction writers?

Believe that you have an attention-grabbing story to tell, trust yourself, take the first step and start writing. Recognize that fiction readers select from a wide range of genres, so be selective about sharing your manuscript with people who are not in your niche market. Most importantly, avoid negative people, they can be energy vampires!

When is your next book signing event?

On Sept. 7, I’ll be doing a book signing to support Old Field Farm’s free Summer Film event. The week’s movie is one of my favorites, “Casablanca.” My late brother Hugh was the former owner of Old Field Farm, and I am grateful for the opportunity to honor his legacy.

“Damage Control” is available online at www.seattlebookcompany.com and www.amazon.com. For more information about the Old Field Farm Summer Film event, call 631-246-8983. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the farm is located at 92 West Meadow Road in Setauket.

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Grandparent's Day is Sept. 9, 2018. Photo from Metro

For 40 years grandparents have had a day of recognition all their own, and rightfully so. Many grandparents play an essential role in the lives of their grandchildren, even at times helping to raise them.

The writer’s grandparents circa 1980. Photo from Rita J. Egan

President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation in 1978 making the Sunday after Labor Day National Grandparent’s Day. Recently, a few friends and I were commenting on a Facebook thread about the importance of grandmothers and grandfathers in our lives. There were commenters who spent many weekends, holidays or summer vacations with them, or like me, actually lived with their grandparents.

I moved in with my grandparents, Hannah and Charlie Zimmerman, in Smithtown after my parents’ separation when I was in fourth grade. It was a bit of a bumpy ride at times. Having people raise me who grew up two generations before was a little tricky. There were a lot of things they wouldn’t let me do that other kids were allowed to because my grandparents didn’t get it. For one, I missed out on a lot of pajama parties because they didn’t understand the whole sleeping over someone else’s house when I had a bed and a home of my own.

Despite living with that and other old-fashioned rules, I learned a lot from my grandparents. They were young adults during the Great Depression, and I heard firsthand accounts about the era, which gave me a different perspective on finances when I experienced a couple of
recessions or tight financial times of my own.

I also would go with my grandparents to visit great-aunts and great-uncles and second cousins — people I may not have met if I lived with my parents. In doing so and hearing my grandparents’ stories of their families, it left me with a deeper appreciation for my ancestors.

Grandparent’s Day is Sept. 9

Then, of course, there were the differences in our preferred styles of music, which in later years has only enhanced my knowledge of songs from a wide array of eras. There were plenty of Sundays watching “The Lawrence Welk Show,” many New Year’s Eves with Guy Lombardo and his orchestra playing in the background, and even a few nights singing along with Mitch Miller and the Gang.

My grandparents’ house was also where my creative side was nurtured. After my grandfather retired as a sheet metal worker from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he took up oil painting. I remember watching him at his easel, and I still have a few of his creations, including one he started when I first moved in. He would sit with me and help me with my school projects and taught me how to draw houses, trees and faces. While my creative talents may have developed in another way through writing, I don’t doubt for a second that being able to think creatively through drawing helped with my craft.

I lost my grandfather when I was 18 and my grandmother when I was 22. Despite that being decades ago, I still find myself many times in life saying, “Grandma was right about this,” or “Grandpa was right about that,” though I would shake my head at some of the advice when I was younger.

Many years later, I’m glad their advice and the memories live on. So, thank you to them and all the grandparents who make a difference in the lives of children.

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A test run of the rebuilt waterfall at the Setauket Fire Department’s memorial park. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire District will hold its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7:45 p.m. The event will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, adjacent to the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

According to the fire department’s public information officer Bob O’Rourk, one of the features this year is the rebuilt waterfall portion of the memorial park’s pond. The original waterfall has been repaired often, and the owners of Sound Shore Pond offered their services to rebuild it for free. A double waterfall from the pond surrounds a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.

The 9/11 Memorial Park also includes two trees planted in 2016 that were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center and a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11.

Among those who will be remembered are Thomas Dennis of Setauket, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald; New York City firefighters Frank Bonomo and John Tipping, both from Port Jefferson; Patrick Lyons of Setauket; and New York City firefighter Captain Thomas Moody of Stony Brook.

All are welcome to join the members of the Setauket and Stony Brook fire departments, local legislators and Boy Scout troops at the event. The ceremony lasts approximately 30 minutes and will be followed by refreshments in the firehouse.

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It felt like the middle of summer outside, but Three Village Central School District students were back to hitting the books Sept. 4.

The children had a lot on their minds on the first day of school.

Hannah La Polla, a kindergartner at William Sydney Mount Elementary School, was looking forward to seeing her teacher Dawn McNally and riding the bus, according to her mother, Tara La Polla.

Then there was 10-year-old Jordyn Zezelic a fifth-grader at Nassakeag Elementary School whose eyes were on the future. She said she was looking forward to graduating in June and attending R. C. Murphy Junior High School next year.

Danielle Werner, a fourth-grader at Arrowhead Elementary School, was thinking about science.

“I am excited about making a project for the fourth-grade science fair,” Danielle said.

Courtney DeVerna, a third-grader at Nassakeag Elementary School, was in a musical mood.

“I’m looking forward to playing the viola,” Courtney said.

Her brother, Ethan DeVerna, who was starting kindergarten, was eager for the ride to school.

“I can’t wait to ride the school bus,” Ethan said. “It’s magic.”

Thank you to the Three Village residents who contributed their photos.

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Children on their way to Setauket Elementary School in 1956. Photo from Larry Heinz

Larry Heinz sent a throwback photo from 1956 in honor of the first day of school.

Heinz, pictured with cap sitting next to the door, and other students were headed to Setauket Elementary School with bus driver Jess Eikov.

Eikov was the owner and operator of the bus company that serviced the Setauket Union Free School for many years, according to Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler.

 

 

 

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Pizza lovers hoping for a slice at one East Setauket restaurant had to go elsewhere this Labor Day weekend.

John Fornino, owner of Via Pizza & Pasta, said he was standing at the restaurant’s kitchen door at approximately 3:25 p.m. Sept. 1 when he heard an explosion of glass. He said his first reaction was to cover his head, when he looked up he saw an SUV stopped just short of the counter.

Fornino said the vehicle came through the window, and in addition to the window being shattered, the front wall was damaged. The SUV knocked over tables and chairs inside the pizzeria, but he said no one was inside or in front of the business.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the 71-year-old female driver was treated at the scene and did not need further medical attention. Fornino said he didn’t talk to the driver but he could see she was distraught.

Two Town of Brookhaven building inspectors and a fire marshal were on the scene shortly after the incident, according to Kevin Molloy, a town spokesman. While it was condemned during the Labor Day weekend, he said after a visit by a town fire marshal and inspector Sept. 4, the building was deemed safe for public use.

Updated Sept. 4 to include accounts from John Fornino.

On Aug. 23, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook hosted a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament with local fire departments, including Setauket, Centereach and Selden, competing to win and raise money for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. The money raised will help to buy “bailout systems,” which are personal escape kits, for fire departments in need all over the country.

The winners of the $1,000 prize money were members of New York City Fire Department’s Watkins Station Engine 231/Ladder 120 — Darren Fenton, Patrick Tulley, Connor Norman and Anthony Edrehi. The tournament winners and John-Paul Sabbagh, from the Terryville Fire Department who won the event’s 50/50 raffle, donated their winnings back to the foundation.

The event cost $20 to enter, and the tournament was judged by John Tsunis, owner of the hotel; Joe DiBernardo Sr.; and Leah Dunaief, publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media. Dan Keller from Stony Brook University’s athletics department served as referee.

Tsunis said the hotel hopes to make the tournament an annual event, adding, “It was a lot of fun to have all the firefighters there and all the community members we recruited to play.”

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