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Book Signing

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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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Molly England is a featured author in a new self-improvement book, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman’ Photo by Annemarie A. Varona

Molly England of Huntington knows that it takes strength, self-confidence and a lot of support to raise a family. A wife and mother to three young children, 35-year-old England has shared the ups and downs of life with other moms through writing articles online. Now, she’s celebrating the release of her first print story, “Welcome to New York,” one of 101 stories featured in the new anthology, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman,” edited by Amy Newmark.

In the book, England tells the story of her family’s turbulent move from Texas to Long Island last summer. As Hurricane Harvey rattled the South, England took matters into her own hands, choosing to drive to New York with her children. That solo road trip ended up being a journey of self-discovery that she’ll never forget. I recently had the opportunity to interview England as she prepares for a book signing at the Book Revue in Huntington.

Tell me a bit about your background. Were you raised in Texas?

I actually grew up in Santa Monica, California — my whole family is over there. My husband is from London, and we met while I was visiting Scotland with friends. I ended up going to graduate school for social work at the University of Edinburgh so we could be together.

Is this your first published story?

No. I’ve also written articles for The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, Babble and several other outlets. But this is my first print story!

Did you always want to be a writer? Did you study writing in school?

I never realized when I was a kid that I was a good writer, but I was always journaling. I ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

My biological father is Dutch and lives in the Netherlands, so while I was living in Scotland I started blogging about my attempt to find him as a way of processing my feelings. It was very compelling to people and there was a lot of support. I loved sharing the ups and downs of that experience through writing in a way that connects me to others. At the same time, I started writing about natural childbirth and parenting as a childbirth educator. That blossomed into freelancing for different publications.

How did you hear about ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman?’

I remember reading the college edition of “Chicken Soup,” and I loved the stories. I identified a lot with the “Chicken Soup” brand. One day, I got an email advertising that they were doing an edition focused on empowered women, and I was so excited. I thought, “This is for me.” I felt so honored when they accepted the piece.

Were you nervous about moving to New York?

We had already moved from California to Texas for my husband’s job, so we were excited and it was a great move for our family. We were looking forward to it. Plus, my family is in LA, and my husband’s family is from London, so we’re halfway between them now.

What was it like going through Hurricane Harvey in Texas when your husband was already in New York?

It was horrible! Luckily, we were safe. I’m a California earthquake girl, but this was my first hurricane. All of the anticipation and warnings made me very anxious, but we were surrounded by a wonderful group of friends and they helped us get through it.

What made you decide to drive from Texas to New York with your kids?

We were working with a relocation company, so the timing wasn’t fully in our control. We were doing a lot of waiting, but I wanted my kids to be able to start the new school year in New York. I decided that I didn’t want to wait anymore, and that we needed to do it on our own.

How did you feel on the trip?

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but we really enjoyed getting to see places we never would have seen and staying in a new hotel every night. The kids were having fun and it was a really positive experience. They were really great.

What did it feel like for you when you arrived on Long Island?

It was the greatest sense of achievement and relief that I was able to deliver our three kids and dog safely to our new home, and to reunite with my husband. It really brought us closer together as a family.

What did that experience teach you about yourself?

Honestly, I underestimated myself. I thought that birthing my children was my biggest achievement. But realizing that in this trip I made the right choices, I could rise to the occasion when things got tough. I learned to trust my choices and have confidence in my abilities.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story for the book?

I write from my heart, and this story had been published elsewhere before with a lot of positive responses. I wanted to share whatever I could with other women about being strong and independent.

Do you feel that there’s a need for more initiatives that empower women?

Absolutely. I think it’s very hard right now for women because we’re trying to do it all and make it look effortless. There’s a saturated market of perfection — we don’t need more of that! We need to be able to share our vulnerability and our struggles, and see that even in difficulty we can manage to find our feet. I love this project because it shows women in real and relatable situations. Women have to be there for each other.

Where can we follow your life and future work?

I love Instagram! You can follow me at @bluebonnetbabies, and at my Facebook page, Bluebonnet Babies by Molly England. My website is www.mollyengland.com.

Join Molly England for a meet-and-greet and book signing at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington on Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman” is available in stores and online wherever books are sold.

Author R.J. Torbert, left, talks about his new book with John Valeri of The Hartford Book Examiner. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

The story of a Port Jefferson murderer — albeit a fictional one — was discussed at length by a novelist and his fans in the village on Saturday.

Author R.J. Torbert brought his new book “No Mercy,” which was released in June, to a question-and-answer session with more than a dozen readers at Port Jefferson Free Library on July 16. “No Mercy” continues the story of fictitious Detectives Paul Powers and Bud Johnson of Port Jefferson, who dealt with the mysterious murderer Ghost Face, in Torbert’s first novel, “The Face of Fear,” which was released in 2013.

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic.” —Joseph Borozny

“When [readers] look at the cover, they think it’s a horror story,” Torbert said in an interview after the event, referring to the Ghost Face mask on the cover. “[But] this is a relationship story, a love story,” he said.

Torbert is the licensing director of Fun Wold, a Halloween costume company. His company created the Ghost Face as part of the Fantastic Faces series back in 1991.

Torbert noted that there are many differences between his books and “Scream,” the movie that made the mask famous back in the 1990s. He said that he did not design the iconic mask, but he did come up with the name Ghost Face and has been protecting its name and trademarks for years, and even fought to keep the character wearing the mask in the movies from doing anything bad enough to give too dark of a stigma.

Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“[In the first novel], the person who wore the mask was not necessarily a bad person,” Torbert said.

He said that he had always wanted to write a book, but what turned his idea into action was a novel he read on a plane. He was so disappointed with the story that he started writing on that book. What he wrote eventually became “The Face of Fear.”

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic,” Joseph Borozny, a Port Jefferson resident and a fan of Torbert’s books, said, adding that Torbert used the Ghost Face character to create something that’s real, not just fictional.

Borozny brought his family to the event, including his 14-­year­-old son, Joey, who received a Ghost Face mask from Torbert as a gift. “If you like horror movies,” Joey said, “this is the guy you’ll love to meet. And he’s a real nice guy.”

After the question-and answer-portion, Torbet signed copies of the book and posed for photos with fans.

Darlene Sells Treadwell, back row, far right, poses with family members, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library Director Ted Gutman, front row, far left, and Three Village Historical Society Trustee Frank Turano after the event. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The Three Village Historical Society in Setauket hosted a meet and greet with author Darlene Sells Treadwell last Sunday afternoon.

Originally from Setauket, Treadwell, who lives in Georgia, was in town to promote her new family memoir, “The Bittersweet Taste of the American Dream,” which tells the true story of how her grandmother’s corn bread recipe was stolen by a major baking company.

The event was standing room only as family members read excerpts from the book and Treadwell held a book signing. A copy of her book was officially donated to Emma S. Clark Memorial Library and the Three Village Historical Society for their collections.

As a special treat, Karen Martin, archivist for the TVHS, baked corn muffins using Treadwell’s grandmother’s original recipe for all to try and they were delicious!

Copies of “The Bittersweet Taste of the American Dream” are available for purchase at the Three Village Historical Society’s Gift Shop. For more information, please call 631-751-3730.

Actor Jason Segel applauds a fan during a book-signing at Book Revue on Oct. 6. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Actor Jason Segel signs a fan’s cast at Book Revue on Oct. 6. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Actor Jason Segel signs a fan’s cast at Book Revue on Oct. 6. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Jason Segel, an actor known for roles in comedies such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “I Love You, Man,” attended a book signing at Book Revue in Huntington on Tuesday to promote his new book, “Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic,” the second installment of a trilogy which he co-authored with Kirsten Miller.

Segel also participated in an audience question-and-answer session, where he discussed if the book series might ever be made into a movie and if the characters are based on any real people in Segel’s life.

Actor Jason Segel shows off his new book, ‘Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic,’ at Book Revue on Oct. 6. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Actor Jason Segel shows off his new book, ‘Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic,’ at Book Revue on Oct. 6. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Segel said he started out writing the book series as a script, when he was on the television show “Freaks and Geeks,” so some of the nightmare characters were meant to be played by his friends on the show.

One boy asked if Segel remembered any of the nightmares he had as child.

“Yeah,” Segel said. “My big recurring nightmare, that was in the first book, was witches eating my toes. People asked me, ‘Where does that came from?’ and I figured out it’s because when you’re a baby, parents stand over you and tell you they’re going to eat your toes.”

Beyond-Words-Jacket-wThe Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket, will host a reading and book signing by Carl Safina on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. Named one of 100 Notable Conservationists of the 20th Century, Safina has authored seven books including “Song for the Blue Ocean,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, “Eye of the Albatross,” “Voyage of the Turtle” and “The View from Lazy Point.”

Safina is founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University, where he also co-chairs the university’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Winner of the 2012 Orion Award and a MacArthur Prize, his work has been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, CNN.com, The Huffington Post and Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

On Aug. 6, Safina will speak about and sign copies of his latest nonfiction landmark book, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel,” sharing some astonishing new discoveries about the similarities between humans and animals. There will also be a Q-and-A.

Carl Safina. File photo from SBU
Carl Safina. File photo from SBU

Discover Magazine said the book is “a beautifully written, provocative case for seeing animals through their eyes,” and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of “The Hidden Life of Dogs” said “‘Beyond Words’ is a must-read. Animals think, mourn, dream, make plans, and communicate complex messages in much the same way that we do. Readers who knew this already will rejoice, others will learn the truth and the more of us who capture the message, the sooner we will change the world.”

Don’t miss this special event. For more information, please call 631-632-3763 or visit www.carlsafina.org.

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