Fiction Thieves

Over the last year or so, I’ve worked my way through a number of fiction stories about authors/writers who steal someone’s book idea or use someone’s life as the basis for their own fiction. It never ends well for the writer-thief. How often does this happen in real life?


Patrol Torpedo

I just finished reading William Doyle’s 2015 book about Kennedy’s PT 109. A great read. Whatever people think about JFK the politician, there’s no doubt he was a real hero following the destruction of his boat in the Solomons. (I can’t help wondering if Kennedy’s later outbursts of anger about the incident were due to a degree of PTSD.) Anyway, the book mentioned there are two surviving PT boats on display at Battleship Cove in Mass. I drove up this morning to see one.

Standing beside the first boat, I was surprised at its overall size. PT 617 was large (80 ft) with a wide beam and an open deck that allowed for easy movement. The interior—seen through cut-out windows—seemed spacious for a dozen or so men. It had radar and heavy guns. At 40 knots and a 500-mile range, it seems like a great machine to run around the South Pacific in…provided no one was shooting at you.


A Walk in the Woods

On my daily (i.e., theoretically daily) walk through the neighborhood and surrounding woods I came across the URI tick people posting signs, dragging for ticks, and filming a little promo spot. The on-campus Tick Encounter group ( is a long-running research and public service entity that “promotes tick-bite protection and tickborne disease prevention by engaging, educating, and empowering people to take action.”

There are plenty of ticks in R.I. And all over New England. Though in some 60-plus years in N.E. and Maryland, I’ve never had an Ixodes tick bite or any common tick-borne infection. A few years ago, when my GP was filling out a list of annual diagnostic tests, I had her run a Lyme serology just for kicks. It came back negative—no evidence of a past or present Lyme infection. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of these little blood-suckers and the pathogens they sometimes carry.


The Last Hike?

I remember the first time I saw the White Mountains. It was on a Boy Scout hiking trip—probably in 1970. We hiked up Tuckerman’s from Pinkham Notch, and from there my memory of the rest of the route is a bit hazy. But that trip was the start of a long love affair with backpacking through NH, Maine, the Appalachian Trail in CT and MA, the Adirondacks in upstate NY, and the Sierra National Forest in Calif. In every season. Through rain, snow, and summer heat. But now, 50 years later, I don’t think I have the cardio and the leg muscles for the Whites. Yesterday’s 4.4 mile on the Dickey-Welch Trail near Thornton just about wore me out. I had trouble walking down the stairs this morning. I may be stiff for days. I guess hiking is one more thing I’m going to have to surrender to time.


Rose Island

The Newport boat show is underway so there’s no sense in trying to hang out in Newport for the next few days. Instead, we took the water taxi from Jamestown to Rose Island to check out the lighthouse and the island. It’s a flat island between Jamestown and Newport and directly below the Newport Bridge.

The lighthouse, besides serving as a navigation aid, also is a B&B. Comfy rooms right out of the 1890s. Bring your own food. There are few amenities…unless you want to scavenge seagull eggs in the brush. Still, it might make for an interesting writer’s retreat. Just remember: BYOB.

During WWII the island was a military base for making torpedoes. Back then, Rose Island was stripped of vegetation to make way for buildings, barracks, and 500 people. The people, and presumably the torpedoes, are long gone and the foliage has returned with a vengeance. To find and reach some of the old, abandoned buildings, you need a tank or a flame thrower. One of the caretakers showing us around said he had a tractor and a chainsaw. He’s making progress rediscovering bunkers and buildings, old walkways, and long overgrown railway tracks. Cool place. I need to go back for a longer walk around the island.


Armada de Molucca

I was just onboard a replica of Magellan’s 500-year-old flagship, Nao Trinidad. It was one of five ships in the 1519 Armada de Molucca sailing around the world. Magellan made it as far as the Philippines. I may have to re-read Bergreen’s Over the Edge of the World.

Magellan and his crew were not 21st-century men. They were cruel, violent, superstitious, incredibly ignorant about everything, greedy, zealously ideological and theological, and they smelled really bad. But they had nerve. Nerve enough to say across unknown oceans with little more than a compass, bad food, and a rat-infested wooden boat that leaked and depended on the vagaries of the wind to get from point A to the next unknown point. Or maybe they were just idiots.