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Book Review

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

When three cows embark on an adventure to the beach, things can get a bit tricky, but that doesn’t stop Ms. Brown Cow. Children will discover that when one is determined to achieve a goal, even when obstacles are present, one can accomplish almost anything in the delightful children’s book “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?”

Peter Fowkes

Written and illustrated by Port Jefferson native and St. Anthony’s High School graduate Peter Fowkes, the self-published book features witty yet simple rhymes and vibrantly colored funny illustrations. The story is one that will surely provide little ones with plenty of giggles as Ms. Brown Cow finds a solution to any problem.

In addition to the “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” book, Fowkes, who is a producer and director living in Los Angeles with his wife Nancy and two children Benjamin and Charlotte, has also published “Rainbow Sheep” and “Elmer, The Pet Horse.” All three, recommended for ages 4 to 8, are part of the Beyond the Blue Barn book series.

Fowkes recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow” via email.

Do you have a favorite memory from your childhood years?

I grew up in the Port Jefferson area, in the village of Belle Terre. I played village Little League coached by my dad, spent my teenage summers lifeguarding on the Suffolk County shoreline, graduated high school from St. Anthony’s in South Huntington, and even though I have since moved, my mother still lives in the family home that I grew up in on Crooked Oak Road. My most vivid childhood memory is going on a third-grade field trip with Scraggy Hill Elementary School and deciding to ignore my teacher’s warnings about not getting too close to the edge of the stream. I fell in. I was fine, but it was embarrassing to spend the rest of the field trip in my tighty-whitey underpants covered up by Mrs. Christman’s oversized jacket. My life has been very much that way ever since.

Tell me a bit about your career?

I have worked in the television industry for 20 years now. I gave the NBC tour as a page in Rockefeller Center after I graduated from Fordham University and continued on the TV path to work as a producer and TV director on comedy shows. I am proud to note, most of them are even funny, but not all of them. A few highlights would include a few years with the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a few years with “Impractical Jokers.” I mostly work freelance, which is fancy speak for stressful employment hunting, but it has given me the opportunity to have a very diversified career taking on many projects and some very rewarding experiences.

How did you get involved with writing children’s books?

For starters, I was terrible at math. My math notebooks would be filled with doodles and cartoon characters as I would spend the entire lesson drawing Batman and Charlie Brown instead of learning fractions. I was a bad math student, but I became a pretty good artist. A few times in my TV career I had the opportunity to do some animation, and I thought I came up with a pretty cool style. I would mix cartoon drawings with real photographs, the result was “a poor man’s Roger Rabbit.” I decided to translate that style to children’s books because I thought kids would love it. In TV, the experience of producing a show is very collaborative. That is all well and good, but I wanted to tell a few stories all on my own. I wanted to pair simple funny stories with silly beautiful illustrations, and I wanted my kids to like them.

How would you describe “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” to someone who hasn’t read it?

“How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” is a simple story, with a simple message that isn’t too preachy, with lots of funny pictures. It is a book for kids that I promise parents will enjoy reading with them.

How did you come up with the idea of cows who are determined to make it to the beach?

I liked the idea of characters that did not know their “place” in society. Like, what could you achieve if you never were told, “You can’t do that”? What if you really believed that you could do anything you set your mind to? Well, these cows clearly do not think of themselves as “just farm animals.” They think they can do whatever they try to do and if that means ride a motorcycle, take a cab, fly an airplane or shoot themselves from a cannon to get to the beach, they’re going to get to that beach.

When did you start the Beyond the Blue Barn book series and why?

I purposely wanted to play around with the children’s book clichés of rhyming stories about farm animals at the old barn etc. I thought that would be a fun place to start the stories and then let the characters go nuts. All the Beyond the Blue Barn books start with a family photo of the old farmer and all of his animals.

I was looking at an old school class photo and was wondering whatever happen to this one, and where did that one wind up going and decided to take that approach with all of these farm animals as the books start with the farmer retiring to Fort Myers and the farm being sold.

Each book then follows a farm animal or group of animals on their adventures after they leave the Blue Barn to start their new lives. All of these animals are infected with a blissful sense of unawareness of what is expected of farm animals; therefore, they can do anything and try to do so. They feel no limitations. The cows may dream of being lifeguards, the sheep astronauts and rock stars, a turkey wants to be a professional tennis player. Why not? So, the goal is to keep it simple, silly and fun.

Do you have another children’s book planned or more adventures for Ms. Brown Cow?

Well, the Blue Barn opening page has plenty of animals in the picture and every one of them has a story. So far, we have followed three groups. “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” follows the three cows on a quest of determination to get to the beach. “Elmer, the Pet Horse” follows a horse in his new home where he does not see why he isn’t accepted into the family home like the dog or the cat. “Rainbow Sheep” is a battle for the affections of children at a petting zoo where the sheep continually top each other with more audacious acts thinking it will make them more liked. So, I do plan more adventures for the other animals formally of the Blue Barn.

Tell us about the illustrations.

I think they tell much more of the story than the words do in these books. My books are narrated by the farm animals and the pictures often don’t really match what the animals are saying because they do not know the full story. They are unreliable narrators. I mean in my book “Elmer, The Pet Horse,” before the horse is bought by a new family, he thinks he is getting a corporate job as a foreman at the glue factory. He even imagines himself at some giant corporate office wearing a hard hat being all important.

How do you find the time to write? Any advice for aspiring book writers?

Like everybody else in the world, I really don’t have time to write, but I forced myself. The one piece of advice I would have for aspiring writers is:  just sit down and start your book. I meet people all the time that tell me about an idea they have for a book, but it’s just an idea until you start it. For me it was important to break it down into parts. Doing a whole book is overwhelming, but just trying to finish a page here and a page there is easy and before you know it, it’s done.

For more information on Peter Fowkes and his Beyond the Barn book series, visit his author’s page on www.amazon.com.

The cover of 'Lone Eagle'

By Rita J. Egan

The cover of ‘Lone Eagle’

Long Island has long been home to many important events in the field of aerospace, particularly during World War II, leading to its iconic nickname as the “cradle of aviation.”

In an effort to help keep the island’s aviation history alive for the next generation, Port Jefferson Station resident John Herman has written a historical fiction book, “Lone Eagle.”

Children will be delighted to join 12-year-old Clementine, the protagonist of “Lone Eagle,” on her adventures during the golden age of aviation. An added bonus for those who live on Long Island is the main character’s hometown of Garden City, a short distance from Curtiss and Roosevelt fields, in a time before the latter became a shopping mall.

While Herman grew up in a different era, just like Clementine, he lived in Garden City as a child and was in close proximity of Mitchel Air Force Base and fascinated with aviation.

The book, which is Herman’s first published work, takes place in 1927 and follows Clementine during her visits to local airfields at a point in time when flying an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop was just a dream.

The tomboy, whose nickname is Lone Eagle, is determined to be a part of the race to fly across the ocean in her own way by trying to give each pilot a good luck charm, and her quest takes her on an adventure where she meets many interesting characters. The book is historically accurate, which is demonstrated many times, not only with the author’s documentation of historical events such as Charles Lindbergh’s awe-inspiring solo nonstop transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field to Paris in 1927, but also as Clementine and others keep up with the latest news by reading newspapers, listening to the radio in the parlor and making calls from telephones located in hallways.

One of the drawings in the book depicting ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’

Throughout the book, Herman’s pencil drawings depicting airfields, airplanes, as well as other scenes, are a charming addition. At the end of the story, the author lists the Atlantic flight time line to enhance readers learning experience.

In the introduction, Bob Mott, museum director of the Bayport Aerodrome Society, writes “many young people on Long Island today grow up with little knowledge of the aviation history that took place here back during what has become known as the golden age of flight . . . [This is] a must read for any young person who is interested in aviation.”

Recently the author took time out to answer a few questions about his latest venture.

How did you become interested in aviation?

As a youngster, I built models of airplanes and read aviation history. In high school, I built radio-controlled models and then started flight training at Zahn’s Airport [in North Amityville].

What is your day job?

I work for Creative Models and Prototypes, in Hicksville. They are a spin off of the old Grumman model shop. We make prototypes of inventions and models of all types (test, display, volumetric, etc.).

Did you always want to be an author and illustrator of children’s books?

I can’t say I started out wanting to be an author, but when I began reading children’s books to my own children, it began to take on an appeal. I have always been an avid reader. When you combine that with an interest in drawing, eventually an illustrated manuscript was bound to happen.

Author John Herman

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a kid I read the Tom Swift series among others. The Redwall series was a favorite to read with my son, and of course, both of my children enjoyed being read Harry Potter.

Did you base the character Clementine on a child in your life?

Clementine is not based on anyone in particular, although I probably would have been right beside her if I had been 12 years old in 1927. I know we would have shared an interest in all things aviation.

Are there any experiences that Clementine went through in the book that you identify with from your own childhood?

Like Clementine I was always fascinated with aviation. I spent hours exploring the abandoned Mitchel Field Air Force Base. If Roosevelt Field had still been an airfield rather than a shopping mall, I’m sure I would have spent a lot more time there.

How would you sum up the book for someone who hasn’t read it?

“Lone Eagle” is a close-up look from a child’s perspective of what was — at that time — the world’s most challenging technological achievement. Clementine wants to be involved, and in her own unique way, she is.

For what age group is this book best suited?

“Lone Eagle” is a beginning chapter book for readers from 8 to 11.

What is your process when creating a book?

This is a tough one. I usually get the inspiration to write from a specific event or occurrence that triggers an idea for a story. Once the story starts to take shape, it gives me a feeling for the style of illustration that I think will work best.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in writing a children’s book?

I think that, at least for me, the easiest and best subjects for creating a children’s book come from personal experiences, things that I am familiar and comfortable with.

Any upcoming book signings?

I don’t have any signings scheduled right now, but “Lone Eagle” is available through Amazon.

For more information about the book and the author, visit the Lone Eagle Facebook page.

Reviewed by Beverly C. Tyler

“Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides: The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay” by R. Lawrence Swanson and Malcolm J. Bowman is a recently published book (Nov. 2016) that should be in every school library on Long Island. In addition, for those interested in the history, current conditions and future of our wetlands and waterways, this book is an essential read.

Specifically a book about the Stony Brook Harbor area, it takes a much wider view when considering the factors that have had and continue to have an influence on the harbor. Admirably this is a book that takes a very even-handed approach to the environmental and societal pressures that have contributed to the present state of the harbor and its future.

From left, Malcom J. Bowman and R. Lawrence Swanson. Photo by Heidi Sutton

 

In Chapter 1, “Shaping the Harbor,” the description of the formation of the hills and valleys of our Three Village area with “unsorted debris” left by the glacier is complemented by poetic and descriptive quotes from Setauket resident Benjamin Franklin Thompson who published the first history of Long Island and William Sidney Mount who wrote in his diary about the search for pigments in the banks and steep hills along the shore with his brother, Alonzo Shepard.

Chapter 2, “Physical Oceanography,” is the most technical chapter in the book, filled with tables and charts that detail the events and changes that have occurred in Stony Brook Harbor, as well as projections on the future of the harbor. Looking at the table on page 19, it is evident that the mean low water at the Stony Brook Yacht Club occurs approximately one hour after low water at the entrance buoy in Smithtown Bay. This is also the case for mean high water, an important consideration for boaters entering the channel to go to either the Stony Brook Yacht Club or the Smithtown Boat Basin.

These details are wonderfully enriched by interesting comments, “Boaters are perhaps frustrated by the seemingly excessive period of low stages of tide, while recreational clammers can relish the extensive period over which they can gather their harvest.” The rest of the chapter details currents, storm surges and more, all of it highlighted with salient comments including that sea levels, having risen one foot since 1886, will rise even faster this century and, “the wetlands will very likely shrink considerably.”

Chapter 3, “The Living Harbor,” begins “The splendor of the harbor is largely identified with its living marine plants and animals.” It goes on to describe the huge variety of plants and animals that inhabit the area. In many cases the same is true for all the pocket bays in our area including Mount Sinai and Setauket.

Chapter 4, “Human Impacts on the Harbor,” factually describes the effect that humans and large numbers of water fowl have had on the harbor, especially in relation to pollution and contamination.

The even-handed approach is evident in Chapter 5, titled “Scars upon the Landscape,” which details that “the physical process of dredging destroys shellfish beds…,” but goes on to say that, “dredged material, if toxicant-free and managed properly, can be a valuable resource when used for such purposes as beach nourishment.”

Chapters 6 and 7, “Governance” and “The Harbor’s Future,” tells the story of how the harbor was used and controlled and then paints a picture of what its future can and should be.

With their life’s works, Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman have made significant and substantial contributions to our knowledge and understanding of the natural environment. Their research and instruction at Stony Brook University provides students and residents alike with a more concrete knowledge of the effect that we have on our environment as individuals and as a society. Their contributions to our environmental knowledge are also crucial to Long Island’s future.

The book is available online at www.sunypress.edu and www.amazon.com.

Author Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and pens a biweekly History Close at Hand column in the Village Times Herald.

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Tom Sarc

By Rita J. Egan

When Thomas Sarc had enough of telemarketers interrupting his life, he decided to have a little fun with them by playing pranks on the callers. The result of his antics as well as others’ pranks is his latest book, “Tom Sarc Gets Revenge on TELEMARKETERS.”

The Central Islip resident has written a dozen books covering various genres, and “Tom Sarc Gets Revenge on TELEMARKETERS” is a funny one. And, while he can’t guarantee that readers will get less calls, some of his past telephone conversations will garner a chuckle, while others will have the reader laughing aloud.

At the end of the book, Sarc offers a few practical tips to try to eliminate calls from telemarketers, as well as advice on how not to fall for the telephone scams that are happening more frequently nowadays.

Recently, the husband, father and grandfather, took time to answer a few questions about the book via email.

The cover jacket of the author’s latest book.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Half a dozen times a day, seven days a week, during dinner, while watching TV, even before I get up in the morning, these pests call. It does no good to tell them to put you on the “do not call” list because, personally, I don’t believe there is such a list. So, if I can’t stop their calling, I can at least have fun with them—and annoy them too. My book is a compilation of my personal interactions with telemarketers as well as those of others who sent their stories to me. I wrote the book to show others, who are also fed up with telemarketers, some things you can do when they call.

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

I am sure that most people are fed up with receiving telemarketer calls. I bet even telemarketers hate getting calls from their own kind. My book is a weapon against these pests. It is a humorous collection of conversations that actually took place between the telemarketer and the victim that was called. If you are looking for a way to have fun dealing with telemarketers, this book is the one you want.

What has been your funniest exchange with a telemarketer?

Not to give away the entire “exchange,” let me just say that I pretended to be a detective at the home of the person the telemarketer called — in this case the telemarketer asked for me, Tom Sarc. I pretended that I was investigating the murder of Tom Sarc and asked questions indirectly accusing the telemarketer of being involved in the murder. The telemarketer became very upset and nervous. I believe that this is the most hilarious interaction I have had with a telemarketer and will use it again for future calls.

Have the number of calls you receive from telemarketers decreased since you started pulling pranks on them?

No. I didn’t expect them to. I have even gotten calls from the same telemarketers but probably a different person calling.

This isn’t your first book. In addition to the humor genre, what do you like to write about?

I write about what the “moment” or a “situation” puts me in. My first book was a humor book — ”E-Mail Letters From a WACKO!” — that actually started out as a serious book dealing with unethical practices of a former employer. From there I moved on to children’s books, teen horror, general horror and more humor. I even published a family recipe book titled “Dishing Out Delicious.”

How did you start writing?

I first started writing while in college.  I found that I was very good in literature and writing and received a lot of praise from my professors regarding my writing — both short fiction and poetry.  My very first published writing was poetry for various magazines and anthologies.

What books do you have in the works right now?

Currently I am working on a nonfiction “covert operation” type book. I also finished a children’s book about dogs and started a book about how to “beat the system.” I am also working on a book about a murder that took place on Long Island in the 1800s.

Are your books self-published?  

Yes, although I am in contact with some major publishing houses and literary agents who are interested in my work.

Any advice to those who want to publish their own books?

The first thing I would do is buy a copy of “Writer’s Market” and study what various publishers are looking for. The hardest part of writing is sitting down and doing the work. You have to invest everything you have into creating your book and that requires discipline. After you come up with an idea for the book, you write a sentence, then a paragraph and, if you are lucky, an entire chapter. Writing happens in little bits and pieces.  It’s a step-by-step process but it is not complicated.

Here are some steps to follow:

1. Decide what your book will be about.

2. Set a daily word count goal.

3. Have a set time to work on your book every day.

4. Write in the same place every time.

5. Embrace failure (not everyone can be Stephen King or James Patterson).

6. Don’t give up!

“Tom Sarc Gets Revenge on TELEMARKETERS” is available in bookstores, at www.thomassarc.com and through the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

St. James author puts heart and soul in her first novel

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

After 10 years of journaling, St. James resident, Cece Gardenia, recently published her first book, “Bringing the Inside Out: Peeling Away the Emotional Layers to Self Acceptance.” The fictional story based on her life centers around polio survivor Colette Aliamo, who throughout her life carries both physical scars as well as emotional ones from her disease and complicated relationships.

Cece Gardenia

In the book, Gardenia invites readers into the heart and soul of Colette who was diagnosed with spinal polio at 22 months in the 1950s. For a few years, the young child was required to use a brace and crutches and was in and out of the hospital until she was 11 years old.

The author delves honestly into the feelings of insecurities and anxiety that she was left with after beating the disease and the dynamics of relationships with family, romantic partners as well as others. Gardenia, who uses a pen name, hopes that readers will find their own path to wholeness, peace and joyfulness after reading her first literary venture. For anyone who has faced adversity in their life, they will easily relate to Colette’s battles with insecurity and anxiety that plagued her in life.

Recently, Gardenia took time to answer a few questions about her book via email.

What made you write this book based on your life experiences?

To offer the reader the idea that no matter what their struggles are, perseverance and the belief that their life can be altered for the best. I have gotten a tremendous amount of feedback from readers that say the story resonated for them and has put their challenges in perspective. Many can’t even imagine a child having polio nowadays. How do you explain what it was like for you as a child suffering from the disease? I felt frightened, isolated, deserted, lonely and often not physically well.

Describe the main character, Colette Aliamo?

Despite the hardships and feeling broken most of her life, she is a force of strength and defiance and is relentless in her beliefs to be true to herself, regardless of the consequences.

In your book, you discuss loss and fear but you also talk about healing and acceptance. What advice would you give those going through tough times?

Be strong in your beliefs and follow your true north. When you are authentic, you will never harbor regrets or guilt.

Was there anything you discovered about yourself while writing this book?

I realized how resilient I was, and how much more I healed than I initially thought.

You also write in the book how Colette learned from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that she had the “disease to please” syndrome. How did you overcome worrying about what everyone thought?  

It was learning to believe in myself through my experiences of wellness. Once I conducted myself in a positive vein, I noticed a transformation, not only of confidence but I earned the respect of others. I don’t know if I could have done it alone however. Being medicated has allowed me to be the person I always wanted to be. I am still myself but a more whole person.

How did you come to the decision to take medication for depression?

After many efforts and paths taken to find a way to alleviate my depression, I exhausted my options and took the advice of my friend.

However, you don’t rely entirely on medication. What other things do you do to treat your anxiety and depression?

I did find in the end that I did not have coping mechanisms to rise above my condition and knew that medicating myself was the only alternative left. There are times if I am overly stressed I feel a shift in my well-being. Along with the medication, I resort to yoga (deep breathing) and being present and mindful in the moment enough to overcome my anxiety.

I understand that the painting of the little girl on the cover is of you. Tell me the story behind it.

I had a photo of myself that had been taken when I was a little girl which I wanted to use for the cover, but the publisher would not let me use that because they thought the professional photographer might still be alive 66 years later and would have an issue with it. I hunted for other photos but none reflected what this photo did for me. It depicted my strength and defiance, as if I was telling the photographer, “Go ahead, take my picture!”

I was despondent and my husband tried to comfort me, but there was no answer to the dilemma. We went to bed that night, but I was awoken at dawn’s break by my husband. I asked him, ”What are you doing?” He said, “I am looking for your photo.” With a limp hand I pointed to the armoire and went back to sleep. That morning I found the photo of me on the kitchen table and right next to it was a painting of that image that my husband had copied. A gift of love.

Do you have any future plans to write more books?

I’m considering the idea but don’t want to work on something unless it’s something I think is worthy.

Is there a website where people can visit to find out more about you and “Bringing the Inside Out”?  

There is a web page under the name Cece Gardenia but no blog is set up as of yet (www.cecegardenia.com). The better access is through my Facebook page, Bringing the Inside Out, Peeling Away the Emotional Layers to Self Respect by Cece Gardenia.

Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book

By Colm Ashe

Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book
Above, the cover of Darlene Sells Treadwell’s new book

In terms of social prevalence, bigotry and sexism have decreased dramatically over the last century. However, many still remember a world where minorities and women were considered second-class citizens. Darlene Sells Treadwell is one of those people.

In her new book, “The Bittersweet Taste of the American Dream,” the 74-year Setauket native tells the true story of her grandmother — a Native American with African roots and a special knack for cooking who fell prey to a cutthroat corporate money game.

Treadwell, who currently resides in Georgia, will be traveling to Long Island this weekend to present copies of her book to the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the Three Village Historical Society. She will hold a book signing event where she will share her family story with the attendees. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Treadwell by phone.

What can you tell me about your grandmother?

Her name was Ms. Emma Francis Calvin Sells of Old Field, Long Island, New York, and she was apart of the Setauket Indian Tribe. She was also of African American descent. She was the daughter of Clifford and Abby, and married Charles Augustus Sells of Setauket on Jan. 11, 1917, at the age of 18. She was my heroine in the kitchen. I always imagined her as a Black Native American Julia Child. If she was around today she would be on all these new cooking shows! Instead, she died heartbroken and disillusioned from her trust in the big buys and the industry… that they would do the right thing.

How did the cooking industry take advantage of Grandma Em?

They stole her recipe. They began the process slowly, never blatantly, but persistently eased knowledge of the recipe away. I have a letter from The National Biscuit Company asking her to bring in four bags and to identify the ingredients. She even tried to reach out to her hero, Jackie Robinson, to intervene when she realized she’d been had. This transgression prevented her from accumulating her rightful place in history. I have all of the proof in the book: letters between attorneys and employees at the National Biscuit Company, names and signatures, her recipes.

When did she realize her recipe had been stolen?

1949. She was at the supermarket when she saw the first ever Ready-to-Use Corn Bread Mix on the shelf — with her recipe on the back of the box. She dropped to her knees crying in the middle of the aisle, realizing the last 12 years of working with the National Biscuit Company to make her dream a reality were nothing but a scam.

How was the story passed on to you?

When Grandma Em died at the age of 74, we slowly went through her list of belongings. We came across a blue hat box. And this was handed to me, that’s how I wrote the book. Upon opening, I unfolded years of sentimental holdings to her heritage, her recipes and her lost dreams. It was given to me to decipher what went wrong and slowly, piece by piece, I carefully, and tearfully, read her notes and recipes. And I could feel her frustration and pain and suffering as she waited patiently for news from patent attorneys and inventors. I read and wept as they lead her on and on, sent her to their New York offices in vain, to sit and wait and wait. From 1937 to 1949.

Why did you want to write this book?

I want to make peace with this injustice and I want to see if they want to right a wrong. No civil attorney can help me because the companies can change one ingredient and it’s no longer litigable. Plus, it’s too late. That corporation (now called Nabisco) benefited from the free labor and ideas of my little old grandma. I wanted to give Grandma Em the power and the humanity that was denied to her that time in history. I just wanted to … publicly honor her ingenuity and entrepreneurial achievements. I’m the last surviving member of the family. I’m 74. When I’m gone, that blue hat box is gone. I wanted to write the book so she could receive her accolades. I did not want to die with her story untold. I don’t want to publicize myself. I really just want to give honor to my Grandma.

Will you be holding any book
signings in our area?

I’m doing a book signing at the Three Village Historical Society. They have an exhibit on the Setauket Indians now — the tribe my grandmother was apart of. I’ll be there on Sunday, July 3, from 2 to 4 p.m., but the reading starts at 3.

You can join the Times Beacon Record at Darlene’s book signing as she recounts this tragic, yet hopeful story of a local Setauket legend who deserves her place in history. The Three Village Historical Society is located at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. For more information, please call 631-751-3730.

The author with famous New Orleans R&B record producers Harold Battiste, left, and Wardell Quezergue, right, in 2010. Photo from John Broven

By Rita Egan

For those who meet John Broven, if they ask the proofreader at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers questions about his past, the mild-mannered Englishman may treat them to stories about the old-time record industry. For those who don’t have the opportunity to meet the music historian, there are his three books: “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans,” “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous” and “Record Makers and Breakers.”

Recently Broven had the opportunity to greatly revise and republish his first book “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans,” which was originally published in the United States in 1978 and under the title “Walking to New Orleans: The Story of R&B New Orleans” in Great Britain in 1974. 

Selling more than 20,000 copies initially and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the book is a comprehensive history of the local rhythm and blues industry filled with information about the careers of icons such as Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and many more. A great deal of the material is derived from interviews that the author conducted himself.

Broven said it was about three years ago when the publisher, Pelican Books, approached him about updating the book. While he kept the paperback to the basic rhythm and blues period of the 1940s to the 1960s, it gave him a chance to update the basic information as well as incorporate several post-1974 interviews. This edition is significantly different from the original publication.

“The book is still very well respected, and I’m very pleased it’s given me the chance to say: Well, this is as up to date and as good as I can get it,” he said.

The cover of Broven’s book. Photo from John Broven
The cover of Broven’s book. Photo from John Broven

Rhythm and blues has filled the author’s life since his early years growing up in England. Broven said he started collecting records as a teenager and was fortunate to go to school with Mike Leadbitter, who launched the publication Blues Unlimited in 1963 along with another schoolmate Simon Napier.

He described Leadbitter as a great visionary, and when he and Napier formed the magazine, he asked Broven if he would like to write for them. The writer said he had no experience at the time and Leadbitter said to him: “You have all these records, write about them.”

It was the first international blues magazine, and Broven said he was in the right place at the right time. When the writer traveled to the United States with Leadbitter in 1970, they discovered numerous American artists who they felt were being forgotten.

Leadbitter said to him: “Why don’t you write a book?” The author said the original edition centered more around Fats Domino, who Broven described as “a great American success story.”

Broven said he is happy he had the opportunity to write about the genre. “In general I find that Americans just don’t realize what an impact their music has had overseas and internationally. Rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues spread from here [to] literally all over the world,” the author said.

The writer explained that, “When I wrote the book in the early 1970s, New Orleans rhythm and blues was considered to be part of popular rock ’n’ roll and very few people saw the link between its jazz heritage, and people saw them as almost two distinct forms. I think one of the things was to show that there was a natural progression from the jazz era into rhythm and blues and soul music. In other words, rhythm and blues is as much a part of the New Orleans heritage as jazz is,” he said.

The author said he was working in banking when he wrote the original edition of the book, and after 31 years in the banking industry, he became a consultant with Ace Records of London, England.

With the record label, he traveled to locations such as New Orleans, Nashville and Los Angeles. It was during this time that he gained a deeper knowledge of the music business and met and interviewed more renowned recording artists, including B.B. King, together with many pioneering record men and women for the critically acclaimed “Record Makers and Breakers” (2009).

For the New Orleans book, Broven said he feels the interviews have stood the test of time, and the subjects, the majority born and raised in the city, are marvelous storytellers. “I couldn’t have done it without all those great personalities and their stories,” he said. Many are no longer alive, which makes the interviews even more precious, he added.

Broven has many favorite interviewees including Cosimo Matassa, the owner of three recording studios during his lifetime. Broven credits Matassa for giving New Orleans rhythm and blues its sound, particularly the “street” drum sound.

The author said Matassa’s studios provided a relaxed atmosphere for artists, and, in the 1940s and 1950s, “there was not the overdubbing and multitrack recording that you’ve got now. It was almost a live performance. If someone hit a wrong note, that was the end of that take and you had to do it all over again,” he said.

Broven’s musical journey eventually brought him to the United States permanently. While working with Ace Records he met his late wife, Shelley, who he said was very supportive of his record research work. She had inherited the independent label Golden Crest Records, of Huntington Station, from her father, Clark Galehouse.

’In general I find that Americans just don’t realize what an impact their music has had overseas and internationally.’ — John Broven

Broven said he arranged a meeting with Shelley in 1993 to discuss a licensing deal for the Wailers’ “Tall Cool One,” a Top 40 instrumental hit on her father’s label for Ace’s best-selling series, “The Golden Age of American Rock ’n’ Roll.” They were both single and soon began dating. He joked, “I always say we signed two contracts. One was for the record and the other one was for marriage.”

When he married Shelley in 1995, he moved to the United States. The couple originally lived in Cold Spring Harbor but moved to East Setauket after two years.

For the new edition of his book, Broven will be traveling from Long Island to New Orleans for signings and book talks. He hopes that readers, especially the younger generation, will take an interest and learn about this era of American music. He believes the music is just as good today and said, “That’s the definition of classical music.”

“As I said in the book, in the introduction, my one wish is to make people aware not only of this great music, but also to make them rush to their record collections to play all those records — and if they haven’t got the records, to try and seek them out,” Broven said.

For more information about the author, visit www.johnbroven.com or to purchase his books, go to www.amazon.com.

Children's book review: "Simon and Sedef: A Seal’s First Adventure" by Sheree Jeanes

Image of the cover of ’Simon and Sedef’ from author Sheree Jeanes

By Melissa Arnold

Sheree Jeanes has always loved animals, and last fall she channeled that passion into a captivating new children’s book. Jeanes, who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Huntington, published “Simon and Sedef: A Seal’s First Adventure” in November. A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Jeanes about her book and what’s in store for the future.

Tell me a little bit about your background.
I’ve worked in marketing for close to 20 years now. I’ve also done grant writing, and I have my own copywriting business called Redwing Copywriting.

Have you always been interested in writing?
I always wanted to write children’s books. I have a collection of children’s books at home that inspire me, and I finally found the courage to do it.

Huntington author Sheree Jeanes/photo by Pat Dillon
Huntington author Sheree Jeanes/photo by Pat Dillon

Briefly summarize the plot for us.
“Simon and Sedef: A Seal’s First Adventure” is about a young seal who gets swept up in a sudden storm and is separated from his mother, Sedef. He needs to tap into his own resiliency, to see what he’s capable of, and learn to lean on others with trust.

What inspired you to write “Simon and Sedef”?
My mother-in-law lives in Rockaway Beach, which is a part of the story. Several years ago there was a story in her local paper, The Wave, about a little seal that got washed up on the beach, and it sparked my imagination. Simon’s story grew around him. When I got the idea for this book, I could see where it was going. I knew how it would end and that there could be sequels. I was able to enlist a friend who very generously edited and story boarded the book for me, and we went from there.

There are so many ways to write about marine life conservation efforts. Why did you choose to write a children’s book?
Honestly, I love to learn through stories. Historical novels are a great way to learn about different periods in history, for example. I did a lot of scientific research for the book, and when I do readings, I always bring someone from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. They always have an incredible wealth of knowledge to share and are able to answer additional questions about marine life while sharing how important it really is to all of us.

Who is your favorite character in the book?
My favorite character is Rita, a little girl that Simon meets on the beach. She’s actually named after my mother-in-law. Part of the book is about connection and being sensitive and kind to animals. She embodies what kids are able to do (if they encounter an animal), to engage them with respect on (the animal’s) own terms. She reflects the connection that humans and animals share and the animal part that exists in all of us. It’s a really beautiful part of the story, and she’s a lot of fun.

“Simon and Sedef” is full of vibrant, lifelike illustrations. Were you involved in the art development?
I’m not an illustrator, but I was a part of the process. I went onto (arts and crafts sale website) Etsy and put out a job request. I got a bunch of responses and spent a lot of time looking through portfolios. The artist I chose worked with these brilliant watercolors, and she was able to paint animals with so much expression and sensitivity. I ended up choosing her to do the illustrations — her name is Luminita Cosarenu and she’s from Romania. She was just lovely to work with. I told her what I had in mind and we went back and forth for a while until it was just right. She started with pencil drawings and finished with watercolor. They are just magnificent.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation plays a big part in your story. Can you tell me a bit about what they do and your decision to work with them?
The foundation would have rescued Simon in the real world and they do such incredible work — it only seemed fair to include them in this way. We’ve been working together from the early stages of the publication process to figure out how to best promote the book and all of the great things they do. They do a lot of animal rescue, particularly of seals and sea turtles. They’re also affiliated with the Long Island Aquarium, where some of the rescued animals will remain for a while or even their lifetime if they can’t be released.

Is there a recommended audience for “Simon and Sedef”?
I think the littlest of kids should probably have the book read to them, but there’s nothing inappropriate for them in there. I did make it a little scary, but even younger children really tend to enjoy that.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Every human character in the book is kind and also respectful to animals. That’s really the central message of the book — living and treating others with compassion.

What are some things we can do right now to help preserve marine life?
We can pick up after ourselves! So much garbage ends up going out to sea, where animals end up being choked or swallowing things that can impair their digestion or kill them. As for the bigger picture, go and experience the wildlife that’s all around us. Bring your kids. Lastly, really support the people who are out there doing the work of preserving marine life, whether that’s the foundation or another organization you care about.

What’s next for you?
I’m really enjoying the adventure of self-publishing and self-promotion right now. There is a sequel for Simon in the works right now that will be coming out soon — as you might expect, he has plenty more adventures to go on!

Where can people learn more about you or purchase the book?
My website is www.shereejeanes.com. I also have a Facebook page and an Instagram account to keep people up-to-date about the latest developments in my writing.

In celebration of World Oceans Day, Sheree Jeanes will hold a book launch on Wednesday, June 8, at the Long Island Aquarium, 431 E. Main St., Riverhead from 3 to 5 p.m. “Simon and Sedef: A Seal’s First Adventure” may be purchased online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as at Book Revue in Huntington.

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