Buzzd, by Michael G. West, Sepiessa Press.

Martha’s Vineyard is a dangerous place in this new eco-thriller by Vineyard Haven author Michael West. There is murder, intrigue, CIA infiltrators, and summer people who beep too much.

In just the first 10 pages or so, a man lying pool side is stung to death by thousands of bees dropped off by a mysterious beekeeper, and another man, later identified as a psycho former black-ops Marine, is found burned to death in bed. There is also a reference to a previous murder of the lead protestor against the Monster Shark tournament, found strung up on the shark gallows pole. That was about the same time a couple of wiseguys from Providence also showed up, swimming with the fishes.

The central hub from which all this havoc is wreaked is a guy named Sam, who like in all the best detective stories, keeps things moving by moving around himself. He’s an ex-Marine, now driving a cab on the Vineyard and trying to experience life on the quiet side. Maybe he should have tried Nantucket or Block Island, because the Vineyard isn’t going down so easy in Buzzd, even in the off-season.

Although relatively new to the Island, Sam already knows everybody, both the living and the recently dead. He has a girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend, both of whom are involved somehow in all the shenanigans. He also has a sinister professor from Williams College trying to recruit him for some shadowy business — for the good guys or bad, it’s not quite clear at first.

The book takes a nice wander about the Vineyard, visiting Mocha Mott’s, the Agricultural Fair, Offshore Ale House and a host of other establishments and scenic retreats. Sam is also a volunteer fireman so he has the skinny on the local politics of the burger stand at the Agricultural Fair.

But small town meets big problems due to a controversial pesticide that agribusiness heavy Santomon International wants approved and the eco-terrorist group Earth Collective wants turned down. Both sides seem bent on doing whatever it takes to get their way. The Vineyard, because it attracts wealth and high-powered academics like bees to honey, plays the perfect setting to watch the action swarm. There are plenty of stingers to go around, but the action is also as laid back as a rumpled beach towel drying on the line.

Michael West will be reading from and discussing Buzzd at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore 35 Main street, Vineyard Haven on Friday, Oct. 3, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. There will also be a honey tasting with Monica Miller at the event.


The Devil’s Tub: Collected Stories, by Edward Hoagland, Arcade Publishing.

Edward Hoagland has published more than 20 books during his career as a writer. The majority are nonfiction, sometimes long form, but usually collections of his essays. His nature writing is considered by most the standard bearer of the form. Visit with his piece The Courage of Turtles, which first appeared in the December 1968 edition of the Village Voice, to experience what he is capable of on the page. The essay journeys from his childhood in Connecticut to the plight of turtles in New York to the encroaching threats against nature from all sides. His pieces mix autobiography with history and social commentary, all done with sentences that demand to be read aloud to the nearest passerby. For example, here is an excerpt from The Courage of Turtles.

“I used to catch possums and black snakes as well as turtles, and I kept dogs and goats. Some summers I worked in a menagerie with the big personalities of the animal kingdom, like elephants and rhinoceroses. I was twenty before these enthusiasms began to wane, and it was then that I picked turtles as the particular animal I wanted to keep in touch with. I was allergic to fur, for one thing, and turtles need minimal care and not much in the way of quarters. They’re personable beasts.”

Mr. Hoagland was born in 1932 and after years of living in New York city and Vermont, he now spends most of his time on the Vineyard. And although his main beat during his career was nonfiction, he has also written fictional gems, too. His latest book is called the Devil’s Tub, a collection of fictional short stories dating from 1956 to today, many of which were originally published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Esquire.

The tales cover subjects diverse as alligators, two brothers selling a prize chicken, carnival trick riders and an Irish boxer in New York city, to name a few. To quote from a review by Newsweek, “To read two pages of Hoagland at random is to know immediately that you are in the hands of a supremely tough-minded man and a man of perfect honesty.”


Raising Passionate Readers, 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life, by Nancy Newman, Tribeca View Press

Nancy Newman, now a seasonal resident of West Tisbury, began her career teaching English in 1965 in the New York city public schools. By her own admission, it didn’t go well. She was overwhelmed in the typical ways a new teacher can be undone in the classroom, and she was completely taken aback at the apathy in the classroom where her students viewed her as more of an enemy than a teacher. She switched to teaching college but experienced the same difficulties, particularly where teaching reading and writing were concerned. Her students didn’t like to do either, viewing both as a chore for school and nothing more. For a teacher who loved reading and writing with a passion, it was a rude awakening.

Ms. Newman decided to dedicate her career, and her life as a mother, to deconstructing why children turn away from reading, and how to get them started on the right track from the beginning. Everything hinges, she feels, on keeping reading and writing fun, even though learning to read, especially for some, can be a long process.

Her five steps include talking to infants as much as possible, encouraging free play and free time, reading to children at home, supporting new readers and not abusing technology. Notice how only two of the rules actually involve reading. That’s because creating lifelong readers, Ms. Newman feels, is not just about looking at words on the page, but creating an environment where kids brains are stimulated through down time and their own imaginations. Daydreaming may not appear on any curriculum but that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the most important pieces of the reading and learning puzzle.

In this way, Ms. Newman also discourages the current trend toward trying to get kids to read as early as possible. There are no points for being first, she points out. And the push to decode the process too early can easily inhibit new readers by putting undue pressure on something that began as fun with Dr. Seuss and then quickly morphed into a five year old’s high-stress nightmare.

Raising Passionate Readers is not a one-size-fits-all method, but rather a set of guidelines and ideas for parents to explore with their children in a relaxed way.