Previously we have explored Bookstores of the Hamptons, Non-Fiction Books, Photographers, Architects, Biographies, Magazines & Newspapers, and a smattering of history, authors and books which I find compelling . . . Now let’s take a look at some of the copious contemporary fiction written in, around, and about the Hamptons. Some of these books are riveting, some sublime, and some downright trashy. But who doesn’t like the guilty pleasure of reading trash sometimes? Especially on vacation at the Beach!
A writer, adventurer and conservationist, Peter Benchley has used the acclaim of ‘Jaws’ to alert the world to the growing danger to sharks, sea turtles, other sea creatures, and to the ocean itself. Earlier in his career, he worked for the Washington Post, Newsweek Magazine and as a speechwriter for Lyndon B. Johnson. All these experiences helped him hone his skills. But who knew that a story about a fish would become one of the biggest phenomenons in the world?
Jaws by Peter Benchley (Ballantine Books 1974)
OK – It’s about a very big shark terrorizing Montauk. Everybody has seen the movie. But have you read the book?
- “A tightly written, tautly paced study of terror [that] makes us tingle.” —The Washington Post
- “Powerful . . . [Benchley’s] story grabs you at once.” —The New York Times Book Review
- “Relentless terror . . . You’d better steel yourself for this one. It isn’t a tale for the faint of heart.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
- “Pure engrossment from the very opening . . . a fine story told with style, class, and a splendid feeling for suspense.” —Chicago Sun-Times
- From the introduction by Peter Benchley to the 30th Anniversary Edition: “. . . In 1964, I read an item in a newspaper about a fisherman who harpooned a 4,500-pound great white shark off Long Island. I remember thinking at the time, Lord! What would happen if one of those monsters came into a resort community and wouldn’t go away . . . “
- It’s worth buying the 2005 reprint in hardcover to read all the bonus material and see the photos from the Jaws Movie Set!
Nelson DeMille was born in New York City and grew up in Long Island. After serving as a highly decorated Lieutenant in the US Army, serving in Vietnam from 1966-69, he returned to Long Island and got a degree in Political Science and History from Hofstra University.
Now, with 20 novels written, 16 of them Bestsellers, and a #1 New York Times Bestseller (The General’s Daughter – which was made into a fabulous movie starring John Travolta – a Paramount Top 50 All-time Box Office Hit!), DeMille is a member of American Mensa, The Authors Guild, and is past president of the Mystery Writers of America. He is also a member of International Thriller Writers and was chosen as ThrillerMaster of the Year 2015. He holds three honorary doctorates: Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University, Doctor of Literature from Long Island University, and Doctor of Humane Letters from Dowling College. He still lives on Long Island.
Plum Island: A John Corey Novel by Nelson DeMille (Warner Books 1997)
- Not exactly set in the Hamptons but well worth a mention! John Corey, an injured NYPD homicide cop, is spending his recovery time (from an on-the-job injury) in Southold (on the North Fork) relaxing until two biologists from Plum Island are killed. The Plum Island Research Institute is rumored to be researching germ warfare. His investigations lead him into the lore, legends, and ancient secrets of northern Long Island — more deadly and more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.
- We love all of Nelson Demille’s books, but especially those starring the wise-cracking John Corey who spends a lot of time on the East End of Long Island!
James Brady (1928 – 2009)James Brady grew up in New York, served as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in Korea, was the Publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, helped start the New York Post’s gossipy Page 6, was a long-time Celebrity Columnist for Parade Magazine, a talk show host, and had a column in Advertising Age in which he wrote about anything he wanted. He was praised both for the gritty reality of his war novels, and for the comic novels he wrote about life in the Hamptons.
Further Lane, A Novel by James Brady (St. Martin’s Press – 1997)
Whether she’s climbing Mt. Everest or making the perfect gingerbread house, lifestyle guru Hannah Cutting, dubbed “America’s Homemaker,” does everything with style. She even, it seems, has died with style-washed ashore naked near her East Hampton mansion with a stake of a privet driven through her heart.
Though adored and emulated by millions, Hannah was the most despised woman in town. Journalist Beecher Stowe and book editor Alix Dunraven head there to cover the story. They team up to find the truth and uncover Cutting’s manuscript while dealing with the Hamptons’ most rich and famous.
- “Everybody in the Hamptons is reading FURTHER LANE . . . The hunt for the killer is fast and unpredictable. Readers will also delight in the author’s take on the ceaseless class wars in the Hamptons – a subject Brady, a resident, has long been watching with evident amusement.” Town and Country
Gin Lane: A Novel of Southampton by James Brady (St. Martin’s Press – 1998)
No one chronicles the hilariously haughty world of the Hamptons better than Parade columnist and bestselling author James Brady. Now, in his second novel of the Hamptons, Brady invites you to take a stroll along Gin Lane, where name-dropping, celebrity spotting, and attempted murder heat up the glistening sands of New York’s hottest summer haunt.
The House That Ate the Hamptons: A Novel of Lily Pond Lane By James Brady (St. Martin’s Press – 1999)
Bestselling author James Brady returns to the scene of his Hamptons triumphs in this sly, rollicking romp– the year’s ultimate beach read. You’ll be delighted by this band of celebrities, scalawags, and eccentrics as they attempt to thwart the construction of a monster mansion on Sagaponack’s pristine beach. But when a politician ends up with an arrow through his throat, the plot bubbles faster than Dom Perignon. From the stuffy Maidstone Club to the casual Blue Parrot hangout, Brady etches a brilliant mystery and a wildly witty portrait of one of America’s most famous summer playgrounds!
A Hamptons Christmas by James Brady (St. Martin’s Press – 2000)
Journalist Beecher Stowe and book editor Alix Dunraven are back in the Hamptons to enjoy that delicious season between Thanksgiving and Christmas complete with corny small-town parades, traditional holiday trimming, Steven Spielberg’s children dressed as elves, and a little girl’s plot to spend the Christmas Eve with her heroine, Martha Stewart. But Martha, it seems, is spending her holiday at her other home in Westport, Connecticut. Can Alix and Beecher possibly salvage Christmas for this little girl lost?
James PattersonJames Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 375 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times best sellers.
In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, Patterson writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein archives. He is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists. He has also donated millions of dollars and books to students, teaching programs and U.S. soldiers at home and overseas. His most recent book, written with Bill Clinton – The President is Missing – is a hoot!
The Beach House by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge (Little Brown & Company – 2002):
Jack Mullen is in law school in New York City when the shocking news comes that his brother Peter has drowned in the ocean off East Hampton. Jack knows his brother and knows this couldn’t be an accident; someone must have wanted his brother dead. Soon he discovers that Peter wasn’t just parking cars at the summer parties of the rich. He was making serious money satisfying the sexual needs of the richest women and men in town. The Beach House reveals the secret lives of celebrities in a breathtaking drama of revenge-with a finale so shocking that only James Patterson could have written it.
- OK, OK – James Patterson doesn’t write all his books by himself and, in my opinion, delivers altogether too many books for them all to be great – but you can’t deny that he produces a hell of a yarn!
Beach Road by James Patterson & Peter de Jonge (Little Brown & Company – 2006):
In East Hampton, Tom Dunleavy is the lawyer all the local employees turn to. When Tom’s friend is accused of a murder near a movie star’s mansion, he has no choice but to ask Kate Costello — a Manhattan super-lawyer and his ex-girlfriend — to help. Their search reveals a lot of surprises about their Long Island home.
After graduating from Harvard College, Colson Whitehead started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music. He has written numerous novels and essays, received a Pulitzer Prize for The Underground Railroad, which was picked by President Obama on his 2017 summer reading list. Here’s an Interview with Oprah, and more from the Literary Hub, and Publishers Weekly . . .
Sag Harbor: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday 2010)
From the Pulitzer-Prize winning author, Sag Harbor is a tender, hilarious, and supremely original novel about coming-of-age in the 80s. Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. But every summer, he escapes with his family to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own. Benji’s funny and touching story progresses leisurely toward Labor Day, but his reflections on what’s gone before provide a roadmap to what comes later, resolving social conflicts that, at least this year, have yet to explode.
In 2012, Susan Israelson, of East Hampton, submitted the prologue to her now published novel, Water Baby, to the Dan’s Papers Literary Prize for Nonfiction. It was a memoir at the time, which later morphed into a novel—one that landed her the distinction of being the only self-published author at the 2017 Authors Night for the East Hampton Library.
Water Baby: A Novel by Sarah Israelson (Self-Published 2017)
It’s the ‘60s and twenty-year-old Ali Abrams is ahead of her time. Way ahead. Not willing to be a secretary or housewife, she’s a hopeless romantic and her own worst enemy. Ali’s transformation from college girl to career woman is a racy ride through that explosive era of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. From the sun-soaked beaches of Fire Island to cutthroat Madison Avenue, Water Baby is a sparkling New York coming of age story steeped in glamour and sixties counterculture. It’s a hilarious, brutally honest tale of breaking hearts and breaking rules, about looking for love in all the wrong places and finding oneself along the way.
Helen A. Harrison – Helen A. Harrison, an art historian and critic, is the author of “Hamptons Bohemia,” a history of East End writers and artists and other books and treatises on Contemporary art and artists. A full-time Sag Harbor resident since 1977, she is the former curator of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY, director of the Public Art Preservation Committee in Manhattan, and curator of Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton. Since 1990, she has served as director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton. Recently, Harrison applied her expertise to the murder mystery genre – Read more from Newsday.
An Exquisite Corpse: Death in Surrealist New York by Helen A Harrison (2016)
When the Cuban painter Wifredo Lam turns up dead in his Greenwich Village studio, the investigation takes Detective Sergeant John J. O’Connell and his team from Chinatown’s underworld to Spanish Harlem’s gangland in search of a killer who left a grotesque calling card. Suspicion soon falls on the tight-knit circle of Surrealist refugees who fled Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. Did one of their bizarre parlor games turn deadly? Set in the sexually liberated New York art world of the 1940s, populated by European artists in exile and the young Americans itching to take over the avant-garde, Harrison’s tale is an amalgam of truth and invention. That turbulent era’s creative ferment is the backdrop for a desperate crime and its lethal consequences.
An Accidental Corpse by Helen A Harrison (Dunemere Books 2018)
Accidents happen. But was this murder? On the night of August 11, 1956, in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs, Jackson Pollock crashed his car into a tree, killing himself. Pollock, the world-renowned abstract painter and notorious alcoholic, also killed his 24-year old passenger Edith Metzger in the crash . . . or did he? Metzger’s autopsy reveals that she was already dead before the crash. Murdered? Perhaps. This shocking disclosure draws vacationing Detective Juanita Diaz and her husband, Captain Brian Fitzgerald of the NYPD, into a homicide investigation that implicates famous members of East Hampton’s art community, including Pollock himself.
I think this is already getting too long for a blog entry and I haven’t even touched on some of the greats like Kurt Vonnegut, E.L. Doctorow, Joseph Heller, Spalding Gray and Truman Capote; or the classics like Herman Melville and James Fenneman Cooper . . . Not to mention the Au Pair novels by Melissa de la Cruz, The Rose Trilogy by Elizabeth Cooke and the Hamptons Murder Mysteries by Carrie Doyle.
Fodder for another blog or three!
Please let me know your favorites so I can include them as we go. Or share book reports on some of the current entries! Stop by and share a story with us soon.