Anchor, my third novel, is set in two environments that are near and dear to me. First, my hometown of Philadelphia. Second, my lifelong career in radio broadcasting. Ryan Healy is the center character of the book. He is the morning news anchor on the city’s most popular radio station, Newsradio 970, WJBN. Ryan’s audience is huge and no one else on the radio dial comes close to the market share he holds.
But the story is not specifically about a news anchor in the city of Philadelphia. These two elements serve as environments in which the story takes place. The book is really about relationships. Ryan has three. In each there is a degree of a love/hate conflict going on. The question is, can both exist within a loving relationship and, if so, which one eventually prevails.
Anchor is not necessarily a suspenseful page-turner as much as it is, I hope, a good story with characters who will keep you involved. You can count on my traditional “holy crap” ending which should evoke a “Wow!” in thought if not verbally escaping your mouth.
Brief commercial: The book is available in paperback or e-version, both at amazon.com (search “anchor, kuhn”) or at barnesandnoble.com. The book’s website is: http://readanchor.com …And here following are the first few pages of Chapter 1:
[Cue open theme, fade/announce over…]
“Today is Wednesday, January 13, 1982. It’s a cold 17 degrees in Center City Philadelphia. We’ll reach a high of only 23 with fog and light snow throughout the day. The top story we’re following this hour: ice on the wings is suspected to be the cause of yesterday’s plane crash in Washington, D.C. Air Florida’s flight 90 took off from National Airport in a snow storm and was barely airborne before it crashed into the 14th Street Bridge and then fell into the frigid Potomac River. 78 passengers and crew are known dead. We have several reports on this tragedy. You’re listening to the news leader for Philadelphia and the greater Delaware Valley—this is WJBN, NewsRadio 970. I’m Ryan Healy. It’s 7 o’clock. Good morning!”
[Cue end theme, segue to network…]
In all his 32 years, Ryan Healy had never thought about killing anyone. This was a first, and he was attacking the problem as he did everything else in his life—methodically, focused and thoroughly determined. He had never dreamed in the slightest that it would come to this. His life up to this point, while not a particularly happy one, had provided a good career and a higher education beyond anyone else in the family’s history.
That history had its roots a little over a century before, when what was known as the Great Potato Famine swept across the farmlands of Ireland. Unexpected crop failures began in 1845 caused by what was later determined to be a wind-borne fungus. Over the next four years, Ireland would suffer unprecedented potato crop failure and, along with it, massive starvation. The British, the most obvious to come to their neighbor’s rescue, looked the other way and felt it best to let the problem resolve itself. This officially adopted policy of laissez-faire ensured that no food aid of any kind would reach their neighbor’s shores. As a result, nearly a million Irish immigrants fled to America. Among them were the ancestors of Ryan Patrick Healy, now a third generation Irish-American, born in Misericordia Hospital in West Philadelphia on a drizzly June morning in 1950.
Ryan’s upbringing was embedded in the discipline and traditions of the working-class Irish-American culture. His father and grandfather before him were devout Catholics who embellished their ranks with large families and contributed to the building of neighborhood churches with robust parishes. Sunday Mass was always well attended.
The children were schooled in strict allegiance to Church doctrine. They were taught that the family and church were the core social elements in their lives; the purpose of school was to learn the three R’s and establish discipline. Most, at a young age, had already experienced the whack of a nun’s ruler on the back of their hands. This was the environment in which Ryan was raised; the one that he adhered to and whose values guided his life. Planning a murder, especially his wife’s, was something that was…well, it was totally out of character.
After Ryan’s father returned home from the war in 1945, there was little break between pregnancies for his mother. Ryan was the third child born, preceded by two sisters, Megan and Colleen, and followed by a brother, Matthew. Once the children were old enough to be on their own, they would scatter in different directions after school. But every one of them could be counted on to be home by six and seated at the dining room table having dinner. It was a standing family rule as long as Ryan could remember: everyone was due home for dinner. His father insisted it was the one time each day that everyone should be together. It was not uncommon for his father to go around the table during dinner, asking each child to tell everyone what he or she had done that day.
Ryan’s father was big on tradition, especially Irish tradition. St. Patrick’s Day was almost as important as Christmas. His mother prepared a huge dinner on this day and there would always be guests, either relatives or friends. Corned beef and cabbage would headline the menu. If you wanted a different main course, you’d have to go elsewhere on St. Patrick’s Day and, of course, that was forbidden.
At this dinner, instead of the children giving their daily activity report, they had an entirely different assignment. A few days before, each would randomly select a piece of paper from a bowl. On each piece of paper was a sibling’s name. Each child would have to write a limerick—suitable for family presentation—about the person he or she had selected. The children would then stand up and recite their limericks while dessert was served following the St. Patrick’s Day dinner. The parents would judge who wrote and performed the best limerick each year and that child was excused from having to help with the dishes when the meal was over. Ryan was a frequent winner.
Birthdays were also a big event. Dinner on the night of a family member’s birthday would always feature that person’s favorite meal. A birthday cake and the opening of presents would follow. On the closest weekend to each member’s birthday the family, as a whole, would participate in an activity selected by that person. Sometimes it would be a movie, other times a baseball or football game, or a trip to the Jersey Shore.
These were the kinds of family traditions that molded the children as they grew up together, in addition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The siblings were close and all got along well with each other. Matthew would turn out to be the adventurer among them. He eventually got a scholarship to UCLA and took off for California, never again returning to Philadelphia except for his parents’ funerals.
Growing up, Ryan loved them all and being the eldest son, always felt it was his responsibility to make sure each of his sisters and brother were participating to the fullest in all the family activities. As far back as he could remember, Ryan was committed to continuing all these family traditions when he became an adult, got married and had his own family.
copyright 2015/Marc Kuhn *****