Sheehan, Hartigan hold court at Saugus Authors Night
By Michael Gaffney
November 7, 2015
Authors Tom Sheehan and Mike Hartigan read excerpts from their works and provided insight into the literary craft as part of a special event for the town’s 200th anniversary celebration.
The talented writers, both Saugus residents, were the guests of honor for Authors Night at the Saugus Public Library.
Sheehan, who has authored 22 books and hundreds of stories on poems, joked he can’t even remember the titles of all his pieces of work.
“I’ve done 100 cowboy stories and I’ve never been on a horse,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan devoted most of his time to reading examples of his writing, including his “Letter to the Lost” about the soldiers who he served with over the years. He noted that some of those comrades are buried in Riverside Cemetery.
In one powerful section Sheehan reflected on his memories of friend Hughie Menzies.
“And I can say to Hughie: You think I don't remember you,” Sheehan read. Your nose was red, ears outsized, you moved lanky in your lanky way, you had blue eyes, your cheeks red. In front of the State Theater on Saturday matinees you towered over us. But I do remember you, Hughie. I do! Your hair was tall in front, dark; your arms were long, your nose English like mine's Irish but mostly for word music. You wore dark blue denim dungarees; once a blue jacket with red sleeves. You didn't skate with us, but I remember your picking leaves, watching the sun fall all the way through the filaments. I saw you Saturdays, later on, watching us play football at the stadium. Then, how Time plays tricks on all of us, we were in Asia, carrying carbines in the Land of the Morning Calm. That far Asia's sun set down on you, Hughie, but I walked free of that hole. Most mornings after, on my way to school or work, old shells echo, shy infiltrator eyes me, cursed land mine sits a maimed turtle in my path, dark clouds grow darker, dread rain becomes yellow madness, deep earth opens its welcome arms, and your name flies its black letters on a gray cast iron sign in East Saugus. Once, when I was late for work, snow on the hillside, flowers rimmed the pole. I keep wondering for you, Hughie, Who put the flowers out in January? Is there a friend with long memory? A girl who dreams? Did you visit?”
Sheehan also related how reading a poem called “Shot Down at Night” by John F. Nims profoundly affected him.
The venerable author concluded his remarks by sharing how he visited a fellow solider named Chuck Rumfola in New York nine years ago.
“I said hello for all of you, to this other brother of ours, and he said it back to all of you not forgotten here, never forgotten,” Sheehan read aloud.
On most days Sheehan said he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and launches into whatever story, poem or book he is working on.
Sheehan’s goal is to crank out 1,000 words daily. Now that age has caught up to him, he quipped that he only does 900 words a day.
Hartigan spoke to the crowd about his novel “Stone Angels,” which was released Aug. 17 and earned him the Merrimack Media 2015 Outstanding Writer Award.
Hartigan started the book when he attended Providence College. It began as a series of short stories and vignettes before it came together in one narrative.
The protagonist in “Stone Angels” is Augustine Shaw, a Providence College senior who struggles with a guilty conscience over the death of two friends. He goes on a road trip to try to clear his head and upon returning home must figure out whether to keep hiding his secrets or to redeem himself.
Hartigan touched on the frustrations authors sometimes face in trying to get their works published. He recalled the “resounding silence” that greeted him on his first few attempts of publishing “Stone Angels.”
His perseverance paid off last year when Hartigan submitted “Stone Angels” in a writing contest and he took home an award.
Hartigan also read a descriptive excerpt from the novel centered around a fight between Augustine and his rival Duncan.
As a child Hartigan said he always loved to write. He won a writing award as a fourth-grader and received a bike, which he added served to further his love for writing.
Hartigan thanked Sheehan for reading “Stone Angels” cover to cover and providing a positive review. He expressed admiration for Sheehan’s talent and output as an author.
“I have a long way to go to get to 22 (novels),” Hartigan remarked.