Age Group: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Romance
Release Date: December 16, 2013
Harry Jacobsen, disgraced failure of a foreign correspondent and fired from a respected New York City paper, takes refuge as editor for a small weekly in a quiet town on the Chesapeake. The most excitement he sees is when a trio of children comes across the sunken hulk of a racing boat, lost thirty years ago. The black captain, Walker John Douglas, had crashed his vessel after killing two women and burning down half the town in a period of racial unrest.
Hurry’s investigative reporter instincts kick in, and he begins to delve into the history of Walker and the infamous inferno. River Sunday, evenly split between black and white, roils in chaos at his front page headlines. Half the town welcomes the fresh exploration of the civil rights actions, while the other half would rather leave the past alone. The streets are also flooding with tourists as the largest event of the season – a nationally acclaimed powerboat race festival – swells the discussion with high profile personalities and racers who remember Walker’s racially charged legacy.
As Harry unravels the threads of time and reveals the truth of what happened during the racial clashes of the sixties, the heat levels rise in the once peaceful town. Passionate emotions threaten to spark a fresh wave of riots the likes of which River Sunday had not seen in decades. Harry races to discover the full story in time to save lives – and to save the town from burning anew.
Rounding a bend the boat almost slammed into a looming state police motorboat, the side of the bigger boat emblazoned with the black and orange Maryland seal, stark and high above the gunwales of Hurry’s boat. Up on its deck two heavy set officers in well fitting dark uniforms looked down at them. One took a megaphone in hand and began barking to them to turn back.
She stopped the boat, idled the engine and called out, “What’s the problem, officer. I’m the Ranger’s wife.”
“We’ve got orders, Ma’am,” he said. “No boats allowed up here.”
Harry said, looking up as he held the sides of the boat, “I’m from the newspaper.”
“Sorry, sir,” the policeman was adamant. He was slender, his face showing an arrogance that Harry had seen all too often in policemen. When he opened his mouth he showed a space for a missing front tooth, and Harry smiled, finding himself hoping that the broken tooth meant someone had once put a fist into the policeman’s too assured face.
“Sheriff says no information,” the toothless policeman said. “You’ll have to turn back.”
Harry saw three young boys, eleven or twelve years old, standing a few feet behind the officers and holding fishing rods. “Can I talk to the boys?” Harry asked, leaning forward.
A small black boy, dressed in a white tee shirt, jean shorts and dirty sneakers that poked over the edge of the police boat deck, said, “We got rights, officer. You made us get up on this boat, but we still got rights.” Harry smiled at the boy’s voice which was rough and strong as if he were already a man and not used to being pushed around.
The officer looked at his associate, who said in a weak reply, “Sheriff Good didn’t say nothing about them talking.”
“Make it quick,” the first man said curtly.
“Hi,” said Harry. “Why are you on the police boat?”
“Cheeks said we might get hurt,” said the boy.
Harry knew that Cheeks was the popular nickname for Sheriff Good. “Why would you get hurt?” asked Harry.
“Cause of the big crane they got to get the boat out of the water,” the boy explained. “Wouldn’t hurt me though.”
“Who found the boat?” asked Harry.
“I saw it first. I was up on the hill,” said the boy.
“His name is WeeJay,” said the larger boy, freckle faced with fat arms and stomach, dressed in brown shorts, a Yankees baseball cap on his head. His chest was bare and Harry could see the toes of his bare feet on the edge of the police boat deck.
The other boy, skinny, his white skin red from the sun, dressed in cut off jean shorts and a blue striped tee shirt, spoke softly. “My name’s Steve. Do you know when we can start fishing again?” The boy’s attention was on the refastening the lure to the tip of his fishing line.
“When they get the boat out, asshole,” said the freckled boy, his voice high pitched. “’Course that old barge stirring up all the mud has ruined the fishing. Won’t be nothing left to catch.”
“Can you tell me what you saw when you were up on the hill, WeeJay?” asked Harry, looking up at the boys from the smaller boat.
“We going to be in the newspaper?” asked the freckled boy.
“His name’s Chuckie,” said WeeJay.
Harry touched his camera. “Pictures and all,” he smiled.
“You should hold out to get on TV, Mouseface,” said Steve, still engrossed in his fishing pole mechanics.
Thomas Hollyday brings to life modern Chesapeake characters in his fictional shipbuilding town of River Sunday, a place located at a crossroads of today’s world. Reviewers praise his rich sense of place, animals and nature coupled with a vibrant imagination. His words resonate with a deep awareness of history and legend, reminiscent of Michener and Follett. From pre-history to the present, marauders have disturbed this land and its people when tribes, pirates, soldiers, criminals and, some say, even ghosts have come to do evil.
These are the stories he relates. His novels have been compared to “pocket battleships,” with interwoven story lines, intriguing mysteries, beautiful love affairs and unique characters in carefully scripted pages. There is humor too as Tom draws on a comedic sense honed from an accomplished cartoonist background. Critics praise his ability to take the reader into thrilling suspense and to make him or her “see the blood” and “breathe the swamp air.” His books are enjoyable sojourns into a fascinating world and are definitely must reads on today’s bookshelf.