We like Island Apart and so do the critics. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what readers have to say about Island Apart on Amazon.com:
***** Couldn’t help myself: Finished it in one day M. Maltbie
This was a great feel-good story. I sat myself in a rocking chair on the front veranda and snuggled into the story. … In several hours I was done. … I had tears in my eyes, but … I was smiling too! I loved the characters. I appreciated the little bits of humor tucked here and there. … Please, sir, write another one quick!
***** An entertaining summer read An Educated Consumer (Floral Park, NY)
This book was what great summer novels are made of: family, friendship, illness, love story, lots of incredible food, mystery, and an interesting setting on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. … I’m glad to see that Steven Raichlen is venturing into novels along with his wonderful cookbooks. I hope this is only the first of many more to come.
***** Great Summer Read….love, redemption, and great food! BBQ U Spouse
I read it from cover-to-cover in less than 24 hours—just couldn’t put it down. The characters are real, perfectly flawed and engaging. Highly recommended!
***** Love And Loss On An Island! Patty Magyar (Kennett Square, PA)
Oh my…I laughed…I cried…but I ultimately loved this novel! I truly think you will, too!
***** Wonderful Book…for foodies or not! Caffeinebrain
All you foodies out there will really enjoy reading this love story between two unlikely cooking fiends who find each other. … We have the intricate combination of wounded souls, Chappaquiddick, secrets, and ultimately life, love, family and friendship, tragedy and healing. A well-written book that just captures you immediately.
***** A romanticized look at Chappaquiddick Island Neal Reynolds
I’m a fan of Raichlen’s cookbooks, but I wasn’t sure how he’d be as a novel writer. … I am glad I took the chance … I was hooked from the first chapter.
Write with your eraser. A huge amount of material never made it into the final version of Island Apart, including a chapter built around Catherine the Great. I made Claire a biography book editor precisely so I could real life figures in the story. (They’re meant to parallel and counterpoint the lives of my main characters.) Catherine the Great was intended to be a symbol for the re-awaking of Claire’s sexuality. Here’s what you missed.
from CATHERINE’S STALLION
“Wonderful thing to be known for—the scandalous sex of a middle aged woman,” said Claire.
The full title of the book was The Empress’ Stallion: A Psycho-Sexual History of Catherine The Great. Claire bought the rights to the book from the estate of a Malibu sex therapist named Dr. Finch, who self-published it in the 1980s. It was one of those rare self-publishing ventures that actually earned more than the cost of printing. The book was a clumsy spiral-bound, but the sex therapist managed to sell 60,000 copies.
Dr. Finch was a better saleswoman—and presumably sex therapist—than she was writer. Her manuscript was riddled with historical and factual errors—starting with Catherine’s steed. So Claire had it completely rewritten by two Russian graduate students from Barnard. Harrison had found them for her and it never dawned on Claire that the price for such a plum research assignment might be private night school sessions with the professor.
The Catherine in question was Sophia Augusta Frederika von Anhalt-Zerbst, better known as Catherine the Great. She was born on April 21, 1729, in the town Stettin, now in Poland. She died on November 5, 1796, at her royal palace in St. Petersberg, having transformed Russia from a feudal backwater to a world power.
The stallion was one of those apocryphal tales that seems to follow the deaths of great or controversial leaders. It referred to Catherine’s allegedly prodigious sexual appetites, which ran to both beasts and young men.
The voracious Catherine was supposed to have arranged for the stallion to be lowered on top of her, in missionary position as it were, in a leather harness hung from a winch. The harness broke, the story went, or perhaps it was the winch. In either case, the unfortunate Empress was crushed to death by the weight of the steed. Colorful story, yes, but it is well-documented that the Empress actually died of a stroke, suffered in her “water closet,” as bathrooms were called at the time (emphasis on bath—flush toilets having not yet been invented).
As for Catherine’s appetite for young men, well, here there is better evidence. She had at least eleven lovers (including the military genius, Gregory Potempkin) and rumored to have had as many as three hundred. Her final lover was an aide-de-camp named Platon Zubov who was forty years her junior. Neither party, it seems, had any complaints about the arrangement.
Claire sighed. Here she was, child of the 1960s, daughter of the sexual revolution and of women’s lib, and she had only made love with four men in her life The first was a gangly sociology student at Columbia. The second was a long-haired activist in SDS. For all their self-proclaimed social consciousness, neither made the least effort to assure Claire’s sexual satisfaction. It wasn’t until her third lover, a Senegalese musician that Claire met during her publishing intern days, that Claire learned the pleasure of having an orgasm with a man. The fourth was Harrison, her husband of twenty-one years.
Most likely, the tales of Catherine’s alleged perversions—including a sexual escapade with a horse—were spread by political enemies in Russia or abroad in an effort to tarnish her reputation. After all, power corrupts, goes the saying and absolutely power corrupts absolutely.
“History like you’ve never experienced it before,” read the review in the Times Sunday Book Review. The year it was published in hardcover, The Empress’ Stallion added three million dollars to Apogee’s bottom line.
SMOKED CLAM, MUSSEL, AND MASCARPONE DIP
Claire unpacked the grocery bags and the menu began to take shape. She’d whirl the smoked clams and mussels with mascarpone cheese in the food processor to make a dip to eat by the fire.
Chapter 14: “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”
4 ounces smoked clams
4 ounces smoked mussels (or more smoke clams)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
a few drops of your favorite hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grilled bread for serving
Puree the clams and mussels in a food processor. Work in the cheese, lemon zest, hot sauce if using, and salt and pepper to taste: the dip should be highly seasoned.
Claire looked at the photo clipped to the letter. It had been taken at Adam’s restaurant. A little girl sat on the Hermit’s shoulders and a tall woman stood next to him: Julia Child.
I had the good fortune to meet Julia Child during my years living in Paris after college. I had the even better fortune to live near her when I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over the years, we shopped at the same supermarket, ate at the same restaurants, and dined in one another’s homes. Julia was a great inspiration when it came to writing, and I learned as much from her ferociously hard work ethic as I did from pragmatic approach to the business of writing. Here are six more lessons I learned about writing from Julia Child.
Writing isn’t always easy or comfortable. It’s not supposed to be: In this day of laptop computers and Siri, it’s easy to forget that Julia Child pound out her early books on a typewriter, keeping flimsy carbon copies of her work as she shipped book proposals and manuscripts to publishers overseas. She single-handedly invented food television. The cumbersome microphone box she taped to her leg gave her repeated electric shocks. She never missed a beat of her whisk.
Persistence pays: In the decade Julia spent developing her masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she racked up rejection letters from just about every major American publisher. Another deal went south just prior to signing. Thanks to perseverance, luck, and continuous revising, Julia finally sold the book to Judith Jones at Knopf for $1500. Who knew then she’d become an international bestselling author with her photo on the cover of Time Magazine??
Some of your biggest breaks may happen by accident. Be ready to capitalize on them. When Julia went on TV to promote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she had the idea to bring a prop: a copper bowl and balloon whisk. The high drama of beating egg whites for a soufflé captured audiences everywhere and food television was born.
Use a lawyer, not an agent: I once asked Julia if she would share the name of her agent. “I don’t have one,” she said. “Why give away 15% of your hard earned writing profits for someone who’s going to spend a few hours or days negotiating a deal?” she said in that inimitable voice. I’ve worked both ways, but I no longer use an agent for my cookbooks. After all, the royalty terms remain the same regardless of the size of the advance. However, I had huge help from my agents Jane Dystel and Miriam Goderich in developing and selling my novel, Island Apart.
Keep your receipts: One time when I was in the checkout line behind Julia at Savenor’s Market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I noticed her separating and paying for her groceries from separate envelopes and making meticulous notes on the back of her receipts. She had been audited by the IRS, she explained, and careful documentation was essential to make the deductions to which she was entitled. Writers with home offices take note: keep your business and personal expenses separate and keep careful records.
When you autograph a book, make sure the recipient can read your name. You’re the author: take pride in your book. A legible signature honors your work—and your reader.
Claire looked at the photo clipped to the letter. It had been taken at Adam’s restaurant. A little girl sat on the Hermit’s shoulders and a tall woman stood next to him: Julia Child.
Island Apart, Chapter 22, “You Could Say We’re Both Victims”
I first met Julia Child at the La Varenne in Paris. It was 1977 and I was working at the legendary cooking school as a translator and editorial assistant. For weeks, La Varenne buzzed about the upcoming visit of the most important person in the food world. To get ready, we scrubbed the school from top to bottom and planned the most ambitious inspired menus we could conceive. The day Julia arrived, I wore an worn brown sports coat and ghastly wide tie—the only “dressy” clothes I owned during my student days. Of course, one belly laugh and whiplash handshake from Julia and I realized that what anyone wore or looked like mattered to the great lady not a whit.
Over the years, I was lucky enough to spend time with Julia—at her homes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the south of France, and with my boss and mentor, Anne Willan, in Paris. We shopped at the same supermarket, Savenor’s in Cambridge, and often dined at the same restaurants. (This was back in my Boston Magazine restaurant critic days and Julia’s presence in a restaurant always facilitated my task of trying to dine anonymously.) Julia once came to my home for a caviar-tasting, gamely ascending the three flights of stairs to my apartment.
Over the years, Julia gave me lots of advice about writing—not just cookbooks, but about living the writing life in general. In honor of what would have been her 100th birthday last week, I’d like to tell you some of what I learned about writing from Julia Child.
1. Have a thick skin and stick to what you believe in: Julia chose to write about one of the most closed, male-dominated arenas of Gallic culture: la grande cuisine francaise She worked shoulder to shoulder with work-hardened male students (many of the ex-GIs) under tough chauvinistic French chefs at Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris. She practiced knifesmanship and techniques at home so she could keep up with her fellow classmates. Once she graduated, she never hesitated to don a toque and call herself a chef. When I decided to write my first novel (a love story no less!), a lot of people thought I was crazy. Perhaps they still do.
2. Whatever you write, make it original: My first cookbook, A Taste of the Mountains Cooking School Cookbook, dealt with the classic French cuisine I learned in Paris. Julia graciously acknowledged the book, but in her forthright way urged me to make my next book about a subject that hadn’t been written about ad nauseum already (including by Julia)—a subject I could make my own. That’s why writing Island Apart was so satisfying—fiction was something I had never attempted before and something unique.
3. When you find your subject, own it: I wrote a lot of cookbooks—some of them award-winners—but it wasn’t until I moved to Miami that I wrote what I consider to be my first really original book, Miami Spice. It took leaving my comfort zone, meeting a fresh crowd of food professionals, immersing myself in a whole new set of ingredients and cuisines in the Caribbean-Latino-Deep Southern melting pot that defines Miami. When I won an IACP-Julia Child Award for the book, Julia crossed the stage to give me a hug and a kiss. She looked me in the eye as if to say that’s what I was talking about. It was one of the proudest moments in my life.
4. Write it, revise it, and revise it again: Julia took great pains to get it right, testing recipes over and over (she did her French bread more than 50 times) until she was satisfied her results could be replicated with ingredients readily available in the U.S. in a typical American kitchen. Good writing takes lots of rewriting, and if I didn’t know that when I started Island Apart, I sure did after the eighth draft.
5. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes: When you dined at Julia’s, you were served dishes she was in the process of testing. Maybe they worked and maybe they didn’t. I remember one squash soup served in a hubbard squash that collapsed at the table. Writing a novel took me away from a lot of high paying assignments, but I wouldn’t have wanted to leave this planet without having tried it at least once.
6. Reinvent yourself: Julia made her mark by bringing classical French cuisine to North America. But she didn’t stop there. She later wrote about regional American cuisine. And when she felt like she had done all she could do herself on the airwaves, she brought the top chefs of her day on her TV show. She kept on reinventing herself, applying what defined Julia Child—her clear instructions, her meticulous recipes—to topics far afield from her original French cuisine. To the skeptics who wonder why I turned to fiction, I say remember Julia Child.
Next week: The practical lessons I learned about writing from Julia Child.
Patrick was the quietest of the ferry captains who piloted the On Time II and On Time III—a pair of green and white barges scarcely big enough to carry three cars and assorted bicycles and foot passengers across the 527-foot channel of water that separates Chappaquiddick Island from Edgartown and the rest of Martha’s Vineyard.
Chapter 1, “The Hermit of Chappaquiddick”
The tiny Chappy ferry is our lifeline to Chappaquiddick. Starting at 6:45 in the morning and running through midnight (somewhat more restricted hours off season), it connects us to the “Big Island,” as we call Martha’s Vineyard. Newcomers are surprised by the boat’s modest dimensions: the longer of the two ferries measures 64 feet long and 18 feet wide—just large enough to hold three cars. In high season, two ferries run in tandem, crisscrossing midway through the harbor.
We’ve ridden the Chappy ferry in fog, rain, sleet, and snow. Last summer we watched with awe as Captain Bob Gilkes (who took the handsome photo on the cover of Island Apart) ferried an ambulance with a medical emergency across the harbor in the 60 mile-an-hour winds that followed in the wake of hurricane Irene.
But the Chappy ferry is more than just a means of transportation in Island Apart. I consider it a character—a witness personified by ferry captain Patrick Riordan to the vicissitudes and moods of Claire, the Hermit, and the other characters. It takes Claire literally and symbolically from illness to health, from society to solitude to companionship, and it sets the stage—it is the stage—for the two most dramatic events in Claire’s life on Chappaquiddick.
If you happen to ride the Chappy ferry, or just hang around Edgartown, you’ll see a T-shirt with the questions most commonly asked of the Chappy ferry captains and deckhands. To help you know the ferry and our island better, here’s how the Hermit might answer the questions.
1. Where is the town of Chappaquiddick? You know, with the stores and restaurants?
There is no town. There are no hotels or restaurants. That’s why most of us choose to live here. There is the tiny Chappy store, which sells groceries and t-shirts–open most of July and August.
2. Where is the Kennedy bridge?
There is no “Kennedy bridge.” There is a Dyke Bridge that leads from Chappaquiddick to East Beach, and it was here, on July 18, 1969, that Senator Kennedy accidentally drove a black Oldsmobile off the bridge and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.
3. Did he really swim the harbor?
At that time of night and before the advent of cell phones, there was no other way to get across.
4. Where does the Chappy ferry go?
To Chappaquiddick and back to Edgartown. That’s it. Depending on the weather, the crossing takes about 2 minutes.
5. Why are there so many cars in the line today?
Each ferry can carry only three cars, so when a lot of people want to visit Chappaquiddick, they have to wait in line. Of course, why people would want to visit Chappaquiddick, with its bumpy dirt roads and ferocious mosquitos, is beyond me.
6. Do you need reservations?
You neither need nor can make reservations for the Chappy ferry. It’s first come, first serve. However, if you want to leave the island earlier than the first 6:45 ferry, you can pay for a private crossing.
7. Why did they tear down the bridge that used to be here?
There was never a bridge across Edgartown Harbor. In 1923, some local businessmen floated plans for a bridge—described in Chapter 20, “The Elephants in the Room” in Island Apart.
8. When will the next boat be in?
Each crossing takes about 2 minutes, with another 2 to 5 minutes to load cars and passengers. So normally, you rarely have to wait for more than 5 minutes for another boat.
9. I remember when it cost 35 cents. What happened?
Lucky you. Today, the round trip costs $4 for a foot passenger and $10 for a car with a driver.
10. How do you say W-A-S-Q-U-E?
Theories vary on the correct pronunciation of Wasque, the Wampanoag Indian name for the southeast corner of Chappaquiddick. (The term meant “Place of Ending.”) My wife and I, following the example of local friends, say “Waysh-quee.”)
Want to read more about the Chappy ferry? Check out The Chappy Ferry Book by Tom Dunlop (Vineyard Stories): http://vineyardstories.com/book.php/19/The-Chappy-Ferry-Book
Wilhelm Reich was an iconoclastic psychotherapist (and an early disciple of Freud), whose work paved the way for bioenergetics, psychodrama, primal scream, and other modern expressive therapies.
He’s also one of the secondary characters in Island Apart. And to judge from reader comments and critical reviews, his inclusion is one of the most controversial parts of the story.
So who exactly was Reich and why is he in the book?
Born in Galicia in 1897 and died in federal penitentiary in 1957, Wilhelm Reich an iconoclast of 20th century psychiatry. Many of his theories—the physical manifestation of psychic woes, the importance of a healthy sex life in psychological well-being, an emotionally involved therapist who actively interacts with his patients—have become widely accepted practices in modern psychotherapy. Others—like the existence of a mysterious cosmic force called orgone energy—are regarded as the delusions of a madman.
Reich also had the unfortunate distinction of being the most censored author in America and a victim of the worst instance of book burning in our history. In 1952, 6 tons of his work were burned in an incinerator in New York’s Meatpacking District.
As for why I made him a part of Island Apart, the reasons are both personal and aesthetic.
I first came to know Chappaquiddick through a group of Reichian psychotherapists. (I answered an ad for a job at a psychodrama retreat group here in a local alternative weekly newspaper.) The session introduced me to some very singular characters, some of whom inspired characters in Island Apart, like Reich biographer Ely Samuelson.
I had at least three aesthetic reasons for including Reich. First, I made Claire biography book editor because I wanted to include real life people in my story—figures like Marie Curie, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and of course Wilhelm Reich. I wanted to use these real life figures as counterpoints to my fictional characters—in particular in the sense that all had shadowy or tragic back stories that belied their admired public personas. Appearance and reality is one of the major themes in the book—some of the characters that look the worst (like the Hermit and Wrench) actually turn out to have big hearts.
Or as Claire observes with an ironic smile: “My years as an editor have taught me one thing: you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Reich’s story also fascinated me in the way it parallels the Hermit’s. Here was a man who set out to do great good in the world, but who wound up being misunderstood and punished. Something similar happens to the Hermit. My goal was to play the fictional Hermit off the real life Reich.
Finally, I knew I was writing a love story that in essence is a summer beach read. I wanted to give the story a little more intellectual depth and seriousness of purpose than your typical summer romance novel. By including Reich and some of the other historical figures, I hope to add more weight and substance to the story. It’s for you all to tell me if I succeeded.
Island Apart is my first novel and I certainly learned a lot—and learned the hard way—writing it. Some might call it a learning curve. I’m inclined to say “baptism by fire.” Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be writing about some of the techniques and lessons I learned writing Island Apart.
Lesson 4: Your cherished title may not wind up on the cover of the final book.
Initially, I called my book The Hermit of Chappaquiddick (the name of my male protagonist). I thought it was a brilliant title: the mysterious qualities of “hermit”; the political controversy surrounding the Kennedy tragedy at Chappaquiddick’s Dyke Bridge; the sense of loneliness and melancholy when you put the two together. To which my veteran editor, Bob Gleason, replied that this was the worst title he had heard in forty years of publishing. After much back and forth, we settled on “Island Apart,” which is what “Chappaquiddick” means in the language of the island’s first settlers, the Wampanoags. Seventy-five million baby boomers may have strong associations with Chappaquiddick, but an equal number of Gen-Xers, Millennials, and other young people give you a blank look when you mention it. Much as I hate to admit it, Island Apart works better.
Lesson 5: Write in the active voice. In my first draft I used a lot of passive constructions—“it must be said,” for example, or “if the truth be told” or “the Hermit was seen walking down Litchfield Road.” Rewriting the story in the active voice gave the novel a lot more energy and power. Similarly, in real life, people may declare, opine, state, explain, cry, laugh, or chortle. Characters say or ask. Anything more than “he said” or “she asked” is distracting.
Lesson 6: Be extra nice to your spouse or significant other. The deeper you get into the story, the more you’ll withdraw from everyday life. Your spouse will miss you and complain that you seem absent—even when you’re sitting together the dinner table. Your significant other may get jealous. When you write a novel, you need all the help and support you can get from your loved ones. Make sure you love them back.
Are you writing a novel? What lessons have you learned in the process? What do still need to learn to push you over the finish line?
These food gifts were edible declarations of friendship—a statement, by the way, that their authors would have denied vehemently. They were made by two people who loved to cook, but whose circumstances had deprived them of people to cook for … Perhaps there was even some showboating. Both Claire and the Hermit were great cooks, instinctive cooks—the sort who add to each dish they make, not only the best possible ingredients, but a little piece of their souls. Each sensed in the other an audience worthy of his talents.
Island Apart, “A Singular Courtship,” Chapter 11
More than one critic has called Island Apart a “foodie love story.” Claire and Hermit meet through food. Their relationship develops through their shared love of foraging, cooking, and eating. Most of the other characters have strong connections with food. Elliott Feinblat, for example, is great connoisseur of wine. Mary Doheney works at a bakery in Boston’s South End. Even Wrench gets into the act by whipping up a batch of his Tabasco-laced cheap date hash.
Why is there so much emphasis on food in Island Apart and what does it signify?
Well first, there’s the old adage “write what you know.” I’ve been a food writer for 30 years, and long before I started writing about barbecue, I wrote about many of the cuisines executed by Claire and the Hermit.
Food is also one of the most primal ways we communicate. The Bible and the ancient Greek and Roman myths exhort you to welcome the hungry traveler and feed him before you ask his story. Lovers court their paramours through caviar and chocolate. Food is one of the most important nonverbal ways we communicate with one another—and this is true whether you’re a hermit or a New York sophisticate, like Claire.
Of course, who you are determines what and how you cook. The Hermit lives off the grid and off the land, so most of his cooking involves local seafood, game, nuts, and berries he forages. He pickles cattails gathered around Caleb’s Pond. He cures bacon from venison he hunts. He even makes his own salt.
Claire’s cooking is the most complex, a combination of her frugal upbringing in Southie (South Boston), her restaurant apprenticeship in France, and her various culinary vacations around the world. Claire uses her food to express a range of emotions: curiosity (in the chapter “A Singular Courtship”), gratitude (in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”), even anger (in a Mexican dinner made entirely from canned and frozen food in the chapter “Homesick from Manhattan.”)
So how did I come up with the food in Island Apart. Many dishes in the book reflect my own past: French dishes I learned to make when I was a culinary student in Paris; New England dishes when I reviewed restaurant for Boston Magazine; Mexican dishes from research trips for various books south of the border. I wrote the dishes as I imagined I would make them in the kitchen, but I didn’t actually develop or test recipes. (That came later.) Then again, most creative cooks, like Claire and the Hermit, don’t actually follow recipes.
The one style of cooking you won’t find much of in Island Apart is barbecuing or grilling. The reason is simple: I wanted to start with a clean slate—to do something utterly different than I normally do.
However, if you can’t bear the idea of reading a Steven Raichlen book without barbecue, there’s a pretty awesome bourbon brined, maple smoked turkey in Chapter 12, “Giving Thanks.”
Want to know more about the food in Island Apart? Click “the food” in the menu bar for a list of all the dishes referenced in the novel and recipes for some of my favorites.
For thirty years, I’ve made my living as a food writer (which you probably know if you love barbecue). But I always wanted to write fiction. Last month, Forge Books (Macmillan) published my first novel, Island Apart. I wish I could say it came ease, but while I completed my first draft in six months, it took me fifteen years to get around to writing that first draft and five years to turn it into the story you read today. Starting today and in the future, I’ll tell you some of the lessons I learned about writing. Food writers take note: fiction has definitely helped me write better cookbooks.
1. Writing requires both inspiration and endurance. (Perhaps even more of the latter than the former.) Novels are hard work and part of that hard work is keeping yourself in a chair long enough to crank out the 300, 500, or 1000 pages that will eventually become your story. It’s supposed to be hard work. If it were easy, everyone would write a novel instead of talking about it.
2. Savor the “whew” moment when you finish your first draft. It very likely won’t last. You just might not realize it at the moment. When I finished the first version of Island Apart (entitled The Hermit of Chappaquiddick at the time), I believed I had written the proverbial great American novel. Seven figure advance offers would soon flood my in-box. I wrote and scrapped an additional 700 pages in the nine revisions that followed to end up with the 288 pages that comprise the final book book.
3. The first chapter—or even the first 200 pages you write (to paraphrase Tolstoy)—may not be the beginning of your ultimate story. My first draft of Island Apart opened with a trip from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard. I wanted to take the reader on the same journey I’ve made so often—waiting in traffic to cross the Bourne Bridge; lining up with all the other cars at Steamship Authority Ferry Terminal in Woods Hole; driving up the rickety ramp onto the boat; feeling the sea breeze in your hair crossing Vineyard Sound; and finally, the surreal calm you experience on arriving on Chappaquiddick. There was just one problem: The guy whose journey I chronicled was one of my secondary characters and I wasted sixty pages to get to my protagonist and the real story. Once I cut the first two chapters, the book took off.