Acting Out

The Schnitzspahn Collection

Jack Nicholson. Bruce Springsteen. Tom Cruise. Queen Latifah. Our state’s contributions to the entertainment industry have been endlessly chronicled and commemorated. Yet generations before New Jersey became a “supplier” to the performing arts, it actually served as the epicenter of the entertainment world. Indeed, between the Civil War and World War I, summertime was showtime in the Garden State. For when New York City’s wealthy theatre-and-concert-goers headed across the Hudson and turned south, the 19th century’s American Idols followed. The show must go on, so they say, and it did—in playhouses and small-town theatres up and down the Jersey Shore. Historian Karen L. Schnitzspahn chronicled this annual exodus in her book Stars of the New Jersey Shore, and kindly agreed to give EDGE readers a rare peek at her priceless collection.

Graduated Pearl


Best-selling novelist Kristin Hannah discusses her new book…and the challenges, choices and rewards of parenting a high school senior.

Timing is everything. Indeed, in her latest foray into the women’s fiction market, New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah explores the complex dynamic created when a family with high school- aged twins opens its home to a disadvantaged teenager. Night Road unfolds during a time in the twins’ lives that challenges even the most steadfast parent: senior year. This is the story of the Farradays—mother Jude, father Miles and teens Zach and Mia—and Lexi Ball, a former foster child. When Lexi moves into the Farradays’ small, close-knit community, she quickly becomes Mia’s best friend—and, eventually, the object of Zach’s affections. But the inseparable trio’s world is shattered when a reckless decision tears the Farraday family apart, changes the entire course of Lexi’s life, and grief forever transforms Jude’s ability to be a mother. The book raises profound questions about the resilience of the human heart and the courage it takes to forgive through the haunting story of a family shattered by tragedy, and their struggle to put the pieces back together. Hannah didn’t have to look far for the inspiration she needed to infuse her book with the emotional turmoil parents experience when teenagers first begin vying for independence. She was inspired to write Night Road after experiencing the ups and downs of her own son’s senior year. “We’ve always had a really close relationship, and he’s a really good kid, but we suddenly found ourselves battling constantly about the decisions he was making and the dangers waiting out there in the world for him,” she says. “I didn’t realize until quite some time later that I didn’t sleep much that year…and I started writing Night Road when I could look back and reflect upon that stressful time in the life of any family.” Night Road’s powerful maternal force, Jude, in many ways epitomizes the term “helicopter parent” for the micromanaging role she plays in her twins’ lives. Hannah says her most recent book is much like the 2008 novel Firefly Lane (which explores the friendship between two women as they pursue the often opposing goals of fame and family) in that the story was largely drawn from her own personal experiences. “The challenges, the choices, and the questions that arose during my son’s senior year of high school really informed the writing of Night Road,” she explains. “There’s a lot of myself in the character of Jude—but then there’s a little bit of me in all of my characters. What writers bring

Photo courtesy of Deborah Feingold

to the table is a collection of our experiences and world views, our moral codes and philosophical beliefs…and all of that is often tangled up within our characters.” Like Jude, Hannah’s own personal journey was fueled by the influence of motherhood. She originally had her sights set on becoming an attorney, but when her mother was diagnosed with cancer during her final year of law school, the pair began working on a novel together. Though her mom always insisted that Hannah was destined to be a writer, she didn’t return to the uncompleted manuscript again until she was placed on bed rest during her own pregnancy, desperate for an outlet to pass the time. Jude Farraday’s tendency to always put her children’s needs before her own probably mirrors Hannah’s desire to keep motherhood the utmost priority, even if it meant putting her own writing aspirations on the backburner from time to time as she established her career as a fiction author. “I was in this interesting position of being a working mom who stays at home,” she recalls. “It did require a lot of balancing, but quite honestly I’ve always put motherhood first. As my son got older he needed me around less and less, so I’ve been focusing on my career a lot more in the past ten years.” Indeed, Hannah had already penned 18 novels, most of which delve deep into the complex relationships between women (friends, sisters, mothers, daughters) and how they guide our lives. “These are the relationships that determine how we’re going to live and who we’re going to be, and that has always fascinated me,” she says. Night Road explores the friendship between two teenaged girls and, eventually, the all-consuming passion of first love. Still, Hannah remains true to the maternal character of Jude by repeatedly averting the reader’s attention to her classic inner struggle: what it means to be a good mother. She provokes readers to reflect upon the decisions they make as parents, and how to strike that delicate balance between protecting your children and helping them spread their wings. “It’s a coming-of-age story about kids trying to break free at 18, but it’s also about how we, as mothers, try to keep our children safe,” Hannah says, adding that Night Road really is about motherhood. “Writing it did give me a lot of time to think about the decisions and challenges that 18-year-olds and their parents face. I hope the book could spark a discussion between parents and their kids.” The best piece of advice Hannah has for moms? “Remain open and honest,” she says, and “create an environment where conversation can occur.”

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Tanya Farrell, Susan Belfer and Nicole Rotunda. Night Road was released this spring by St. Martin’s Press.

Lawyered Up

A New Jersey attorney inspires a hit TV series

Thanks to Nelson Johnson, you’ll never look at Atlantic City the same way again. The attorney for the Atlantic City Planning Board during the casino boom of the early 1980s, Johnson was inspired to write about the history of the town that began as a tranquil seaside health resort and became a playground for the mob. His research resulted in a book entitled Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City (Plexus Publishing, $16.95)—and provided the inspiration for HBO’s critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire. Prior to Boardwalk Empire, Nelson’s name was unknown in the literary world. However, no author in the Garden State is more qualified to write with authority on matters of crime and punishment in AC. The Hammonton resident just happens to be a Superior Court Judge in Atlantic County. Judge Johnson’s book is the result of two decades of research, dozens of eyewitness interviews and extensive fact-checking. Boardwalk Empire chronicles the highlights and lowlights of the corrupt politicians who came to rule Atlantic City when the town’s sole purpose was providing a good time to its visitors (legally or not). Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is based on Nucky Johnson, the second of three bosses to lead the political machine that dominated city politics, funded by payoffs from bars, brothels, and bootlegging. The real-life Nucky ruled the town for three decades starting in the years prior to World War I. When the author’s manuscript (originally dubbed “Nucky’s Town”) found its way into the hands of John Bryans at Plexus nearly a decade ago, the publisher knew it would sell based on the company’s success with similar regional projects. Johnson always believed it could be more, despite fruitless trips to Hollywood to pitch the story as a feature film or documentary. Fortunately, Johnson did catch the attention of an agent, and in 2006 Bryans received an e-mail from an HBO television executive who was salivating for the rights to a book revolving around shocking backdoor politics, explosive violence, and fatal power struggles. The HBO series debuted on September 19th, 2010, starring Buscemi, Michael Pitt and Kelly Macdonald. The show features the creative talents of Terence Winter, writer on The Sopranos, and Mark Wahlberg as producer; Martin Scorsese directed the first episode. Winter also penned the foreword for the new edition of the book. As a sitting judge, the author has backed away from interviews publicizing the book or the HBO series. However, according to Bryans, upon initial publication, Boardwalk Empire sold roughly 10,000 copies. Thanks to the buzz created by HBO, another 10,000 flew off the shelves. An order for another 85,000 copies, updated to be a tie-in edition, followed. The book concerns itself with a much broader sweep of material than the more narrowly focused series, which, as Bryans points out, focuses on “sex, violence, and swearing.” That being said, the seedy underbelly of Atlantic City is fully exposed in Johnson’s book—often with the aid of stunningly blunt first-person accounts. As one mob connected interview subject observed, “If the people who came to town had wanted Bible readings, we’d have given ’em that…they wanted booze, broads and gambling, so that’s what we gave ’em.” Regarding the HBO series, Bryans has liked what he sees on the small screen. “The show helps you realize that Nucky is a complex, fascinating character, and one you love to hate,” he says. “It’s nice to see that people are open to shades of gray.” “If you delve into the history of any major city in New Jersey,” Bryans maintains, “you’ll probably find the basis for a book. I think Boardwalk Empire makes everyone start thinking about the birth of their own hometown.” EDGE  

Editor’s Note: Boardwalk Empire (the series) was renewed for a second season just 48 hours after it debuted on HBO. For more information on Judge Johnson and Boardwalk Empire (the book) log onto Johnson has already begun work on his next book, The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City.


Punch Lines

Home is where the heart is. And your main artery is Route 22.

Reunions can be tricky business. In this era of e-blasts, e-vites and e-stalking, we tend to overlook the raw courage it often takes to actually show up and confront your past face-to-face. P.F. Kluge’s new novel, A Call from Jersey, is all about reunions. Not just the familiar “Class of…” gatherings that roll around every half-decade or so. The author casts his net wide to examine reunions of all shapes and sizes, ultimately tugging at the very nature of estrangement and reconciliation. The Union County hamlet of Berkeley Heights serves as the epicenter for much of A Call from Jersey. Kluge is an unapologetic Jersey Boy with an intimate understanding of the suburban landscape. The story, much of it set in the 1980s, stretches across generations and cultures—and occasionally through the Holland Tunnel—to connect a father and son so preoccupied with how their lives have turned out that they can barely manage an adult conversation when they’re together. Gentle ironies define this relationship. Hans, a seventy-something German- American, is feeling lost in America. His son, George, is a travel writer capable of describing the exotic and mundane with equal aplomb, yet can’t quite put his finger on exactly where, or even what, “home” is. Kluge, it’s worth noting, is the man who supplied the literary inspiration for a pair of iconic films, Dog Day Afternoon and Eddie and the Cruisers. The former, about a Brooklyn bank robbery gone agonizingly awry, starred Al Pacino, fresh off Serpico and his two Godfather triumphs. The latter, about a fictional 1960s Jersey rock band, probably qualifies as a cult classic; certainly that’s true here in the Garden State. From a storytelling standpoint, the most appealing aspect of Eddie—the book and the film—is how effortlessly the narrative moves between past and present. Kluge utilizes time-shifting to great effect again in A Call from Jersey, transporting readers back to the 1930s in order to cobble together a kind of baseline for his characters. There we meet a young Hans, fresh off the boat from Germany, determined to shed his “greenhorn” label and start an American family. As the gap narrows between Hans and George, both timewise and relationship-wise, the author fills in the pertinent details to set up the surprise finish. The most distinctive aspect of A Call from Jersey is how comfortable Kluge is in his two different skins. The book is narrated in the first person, but alternates between Hans and George. The pressure of getting it right for two characters, says Kluge, is outweighed by the advantages of writing in multiple voices. “When you are writing, you are faced with that choice between first and third person,” he explains. “The first person is attractive to young writers because you can put a lot of yourself into the persona of the narrator. That’s fine, except there are certain places you can’t go. You can’t ‘play the field’—you’re a little bit stuck with that one person. The third person offers a larger palette, but you are at a distance from the characters.” “I like the idea of alternating first person narrators, though it’s not without problems. The voices have to be persuasive and can’t be too much alike. That challenged me, but I like it when it works. It combines the advantages of first and third person.” As Kluge’s two main characters stumble toward a long-neglected father-son reunion, they also pursue reunions of their own. George, feeling lost in his late 30s, is staring down the barrel of his 20th with that familiar mix of expectation and anxiety. Kluge, it is worth noting, is headed toward his 50th reunion this fall. In his case, it’s a not-insignificant trip from Gambier, Ohio, where he is Writer in Residence at Kenyon College. “The reason I faithfully attend my high school reunions is to see how lives are turning out,” he explains. “It’s what writers do. At a certain point, elements of competition, appearance and accomplishment dominate reunions. But over time it mellows out. You just want to stare at people and remember and connect. Reunions are about wanting to belong to that same bunch you had in the beginning. Or what’s left of it.”

Editor’s Note: A Call from Jersey was published by The Overlook Press in September 2010. The author’s previous novel, Gone Tomorrow, was named one of the best books of 2008 by NPR.

A Life Well Lived

In Live Like Sean, a New Jersey father reflects on lessons learned from his special-needs son.


Father’s Day 2019 was a difficult day for the Nelligan family. Sean Nelligan passed away at the age of 29, leaving his parents, TJ and Maggie, and sisters Meghan and Moira with a profound void they would struggle to fill. Sean was a special-needs child whose intellectual and developmental issues, the Nelligans were told, would keep him from living a meaningful life. As it turned out, Sean packed far more meaning into his 29 years than most of us do in a lifetime.

While composing his son’s eulogy—a collection of heart-warming vignettes he planned to recount at Sean’s memorial service—TJ Nelligan realized that the young man who was unable to read or write had created a legacy of life lessons that he wanted to share. On the day of Sean’s funeral, Nelligan told a room packed with hundreds of friends and loved ones, “Live like Sean every day and you will make the lives of others so much better…and it will make you feel better, also.”

After the service, Steve Adubato, a family friend, suggested to TJ that he consider extending this message to a wider audience by writing a book. Adubato introduced him to Theresa DiGeronimo and together they produced Live Like Sean, published in 2021 by Greenleaf Book Group Press ($19.95).

“When Sean was born we took home what we thought was a perfectly healthy boy,” Nelligan recalls. “Over the first two months he started having leg spasms, which later were determined to be seizures. Over the next two years his development was delayed—it took him a long time to walk, a long time to talk—but I was in denial. I was like, Everything will be fine. A friend connected me to the foremost child neurologist in the world and we went to his office. He took Sean for about an hour and came back and basically told us that our son had intellectual disabilities, that he would never live a normal life…and probably never fit in with normal mainstream society…and that, as he got older, these disabilities would become more pronounced. It was like getting punched in the face, and like Mike Tyson used to say, everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Years of physical therapy and speech therapy followed. The Nelligans learned how to deal with the seemingly endless private and public issues involved in raising a special-needs child. Then, when Sean hit his teen years, something marvelous happened.

“Suddenly he became this amazing personality,” says Nelligan. “He was funny. He was kind. He would laugh at everything. He loved life. He loved sports and, because I worked in college sports marketing, we went to tons of sporting events over the years. I bought Sean an iPad and he memorized all of the college sports logos, which I was amazed by.”

One day, while father and son were watching ESPN and the scores were scrolling across the screen, Sean began telling his dad who was winning each game. What’s going on here, TJ wondered—how could he possibly know all these things? At a Giants game, Sean said, “Giants are winning 7–0…if they score another touchdown it’ll be 14–0.”

“I was like, How does he know that?” Nelligan remembers. “I asked him what seven plus seven was, and he just looked away. That’s what he’d do if he didn’t know the answer to something. He was doing what we called ‘sports math.’”

Special Olympics programs provided Sean with a physical outlet for his interest in sports, and also enabled him to build friendships and camaraderie with his teammates—and he became quite good at basketball. Nelligan was all-in on Special Olympics and ended up spearheading the effort to bring the Special Olympics USA Games to New Jersey in 2014, serving as its Chairman and CEO.

Live Like Sean is, first and foremost, a heartwarming and inspirational story about a life well lived in the face of daunting challenges. It also doubles as an invaluable handbook for families of special-needs children. Its reach, however, extends beyond what one might assume is “baked-in” readership to engage and inform a much wider audience. Hence the book’s title. The authors build their story on a framework that devotes each chapter to a simple, clear life lesson that Nelligan absorbed from his son: Be Present, Be Friendly, Be an Inspiration, etc. Words to live by, for certain.

“One of the most important things Sean taught me—and this was difficult for a guy with a Type-A personality—was to have gratitude,” says Nelligan. “He couldn’t spell gratitude…but he lived it every single day.” Not surprisingly, Chapter One in Live Like Sean is entitled Be Grateful.

Like so many families of special-needs kids, the Nelligans started their journey believing they had to protect Sean and teach him about life. By the time he reached his twenties, they realized he had taught them far more about life than they could ever teach him.

“In the beginning of that journey,” says TJ Nelligan, “you wonder How are we going to live like this? Now that he’s not here…I wonder How can we live without him?”

Editor’s Note: Longtime Montville resident TJ Nelligan is a marketing and sales executive who has worked as a tireless advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He founded (and later sold) Nelligan Sports Marketing and served on the board of New Jersey Special Olympics for more than a decade. He also raised millions of dollars for the Special Olympics New Jersey Sports Complex in Lawrenceville. For more information on Live Like Sean visit

A Matter of Character

When Jane Kelly is angry with people, she kills them.

That is just one of the many perks of being a mystery writer. “There was a person in my life who I disliked very much,” Jane Kelly says of her first book, authored in the mid-1990s. “So I killed him in a story. I found it to be a much safer, more legal way to vent my frustrations, and most importantly, I discovered that I really enjoyed writing.”

The author of the popular New Jersey Shore-based fiction series featuring sleuth and heroine Meg Daniels, Kelly will release the fourth installment of a series that includes Killing Time in Ocean City, Cape Mayhem, and Wrong Beach Island later this fall. That first book, for the record, never found a publisher. Nevertheless, Kelly (then in her 40s) didn’t give up. After a conversation with Tom Hogan, Sr., president of Medford-based Plexus Publishing, she was encouraged to try writing about something she knew a lot about. That’s when the focus of her next mystery became the Jersey Shore; Kelly had been vacationing at the beach from the age of five months, and has returned every year since.

“I was most familiar with Ocean City, so that’s where I started…and Killing Time in Ocean City was actually published,” she recalls. “But since bodies don’t wash up at the Jersey Shore every day, I thought it would be best to come up with mysteries for Meg to solve in other towns I knew and loved, like Cape May and Long Beach Island…and now Atlantic City.”

Kelly’s most recent novel isn’t entirely focused on casinos or gambling. She’s more inclined to sink $20 in video poker and go home than she is to drop hundreds of dollars at the tables. Instead, she infuses her work with other sources of personal inspiration. “I’m not a big gambler, but there is a part of me that always wanted to be a singer—even though I have no talent whatsoever,” she smiles. “So that’s why I made one of the main characters a frustrated lounge singer.”

In Missing You in Atlantic City, Meg is vacationing in Atlantic City while her boyfriend (recurring character Andy Beck) is busy working at his job in hotel casino security. She finds herself spending a lot less time with her toes in the sand than she had hoped when she decides to dig into a disappearance that occurred in the 1960s. The 50-year-old mystery revolves around a chance encounter with Johnny Boyle, a lounge singer and Frank Sinatra impersonator known as Johnny Angelini, and his long-lost mother, Betty Boyle, who went missing when he was an infant.

Like Kelly, Meg has always written from the perspective of a tourist at the Jersey Shore. As she listens to Johnny’s tragic tale, she vows to help him find out what happened to his mother once and for all. “My first thought was that, as someone who comes to visit the beach, you never expect anything bad to happen.” Kelly says. “Yet, somehow, Meg always knows how to find trouble. After three books, you’d think she would have figured that out by now.”

As Meg attempts to interview a tangled web of surviving witnesses in the mysterious disappearance of Betty Boyle—and ultimately reveals a twisted cover-up in the process—the story delves into the sordid world of politics in 1964, when the Democratic National Convention rolled into town and was held at Boardwalk Hall. “The reason Meg is so successful at what she does,” says Kelly, “ is that she really cares. She genuinely wants to help people, and she finds herself completely caught up in this story of the son who was left behind. My books are supposed to be light, fun beach reads. But they also have that additional emotion and depth regarding the crime itself.”

Prior to becoming an author, Kelly’s life didn’t have quite as much drama as her heroine’s. She graduated from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, earned a Master’s of Science degree in information studies from Drexel University, and added a Master’s of Philosophy in Popular Literature from Trinity College at the University of Dublin. She went on to work in online information (“Before people even knew what the Internet was,” she says), consulting, and facilities management—in which she still has a day job, traveling to New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston and other cities as part of her work.

Actually, it was when writing her graduate thesis on political fiction when Kelly first began researching the historical events that ultimately would set the stage for the plot of Missing You in Atlantic City. “I became completely fascinated with history, and started reading exclusively non-fiction about the early Cold War period,” she recalls. “That’s when I had the idea of having a crime that was committed in the past, and combining it with my memories of all my visits to Atlantic City growing up.”

Kelly did some sleuthing herself. Not only did she spend time wandering the boardwalk and casinos of Atlantic City, she took her research a step further and tracked down an assortment of people who had lived during that time. “I had a friend who actually went to hear Bobby Kennedy speak at the convention. Times were different back then, and I know Betty Boyle would have been able to do the same thing.”

Looking ahead, Kelly hopes to continue to be able to explore the past when it comes time to dream up her next mystery. “I like to learn about the history of the years that I’ve been alive,” she says. “You don’t have to live in Atlantic City or have grown up in the 1960s to know what was going on back then, and I think people will enjoy reading about something that was so important to our history and that happened right here in our backyard.”

Meg Daniels will continue solving crimes, Kelly expects. However, there are plans in the works for new characters. Devising the complex plots in her novels almost comes naturally to Kelly now, but it’s her characters that make each book special. “If I were only concerned with plot, I’d be publishing books a lot more quickly,” she says. “The characters always end up taking on a life of their own…and if I can’t ‘hear’ them in m

Northern Exposure

A new book shines a light on women in the post-Civil War era.

By Mark Stewart

History is written by the victors, philosopher Walter Benjamin once observed. Why then, Joanne Rajoppi wondered, had no one told the story of northern women in the wake of the Civil War. Rajoppi, whose day job as Union County Clerk gives her a unique appreciation for the power of documents, knew where to find this story: in personal correspondence scattered throughout the country. The result of her three-year research journey is Northern Women in the Aftermath of the Civil War:  The Wives and Daughters of the Brunswick Boys, published by American History Press.      

Rajoppi’s foray into 19th century cultural history began with her previous book, New Brunswick and the Civil War: The Brunswick Boys in the Great Rebellion.

“It was based on the 110 letters my great-grandfather wrote home to his mother and sisters,” Rajoppi says. “It told the story of what was happening to him and to his family. After that, I wondered what happened to the women in the North. Many husbands didn’t come home, or came home broken injured. Unless you were wealthy or had an extended family, you could be in a lot of trouble.”

Rajoppi points out that there is plenty of literature on Southern women in the post-Civil War years, but remarkably little on their Northern counterparts. Women’s history from this period in general, she adds, isn’t very well documented. 

“How did women survive? There were no social services,” Rajoppi points out. “My own great-grandmother lost her youngest son in the Civil War and her husband soon after, and was left to care for two daughters, one of whom was epileptic.”

To write Northern Women in the Aftermath of the Civil War, Rajoppi often had to get to the women’s stories by navigating through the men. She never imagined how difficult the research would be, or how far it would take her—both intellectually and geographically. She ended up pouring through archives far afield from New Jersey, with stops in Detroit, Seattle and Los Angeles

“After the war many people moved west, including part of my family,” she explains.  

The writing, Rajoppi says, was the easy part. The research required far more tenacity. The bonus for all the hard work was a deeper understanding of day-to-day challenges and occasional opportunities for women in the second half of the 19th century.  The invention of the typewriter, for example, had a huge impact

“It triggered a substantial change in education,” Rajoppi says. “High school teaching suddenly had a ‘commercial’ track. Middle- and working-class women now had the option to develop office skills, which paid more than factory and domestic work. Office workers made more than most teachers, too.”

Rajoppi says she was also struck by how quickly people died before the development of antibiotics and modern medicine. The poor treatment of the mentally ill hit particularly close to home. For more than a decade after the Civil War, epilepsy was categorized and treated as a form of insanity; some patients were “treated” by being chained. A criminal misunderstanding of mental illness persisted into the 20th century she says, citing the experience of her own grandmother.

“In 1921, she had a breakdown after her husband died and was sent to the New Jersey Lunatic Asylum in Trenton,” Rajoppi says. “The director of the hospital believed that insanity was caused by diseased organs, so he removed them. My grandmother was subjected to an intestinal operation and died within two weeks of sepsis.”

Anyone poking around in family history is likely to meander down some fascinating paths. Rajoppi is quick to add that there were numerous high points in her research—much of it making it into the book, but some of it not. Her favorite research gem?

“I found out my family came over a year after the Mayflower!” 

Editor’s Note: Joanne Rajoppi is a trustee of the Union County Historical Society. Her latest book is available for$21.95 online and in stores.


Casting About

One of the most closely held secrets in the world of fishing is that that good fiction on the sport is harder to hook than an Apache Trout. Let’s see…there’s Melville and Hemingway and…yeah, it’s kind of a short list. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or the angler in your life, these books should be at the top of your list.

Looking Through Water

Bob Rich • 2015

A retired Wall Street mogul uses a fishing trip to help his troubled grandson. The author is a fly fishing and open-water fishing expert who also happens to be the head of the Rich Products food company. Proceeds from books sales go to support wounded veterans as part of Project Healing Waters.


Gone Fishing

Tamera Will Wissinger • 2013

This one is for younger anglers. A daylong father-son-and-daughter fishing trip unfolds in a novel structured as a series of poems. Fun line drawings and a “poet’s tackle box” at the end of the book are charming bonuses.


The Golden Catch

Roger Weston • 2011

As the cover screams, this book is part of the popular Frank Murdoch series. Weston’s action hero, a former CIA assassin, tangles with a Korean mob boss and must employ his skills as a Bering Sea crabber to survive. The author spent many years as a commercial fisherman.


Double Whammy

Carl Hiaasen • 1987

Who knew that big-money bass fishing contests had a dark and deadly underbelly? Hiaasen’s hero R.J. Decker learns the hard way, with help from a half-blind hermit with a taste for fresh road kill. Yikes!


The River Why

David James Duncan • 1983

A fishing tale wrapped in a coming of age story, The River Why follows the travels of Gus Orviston, who develops a new appreciation for the environment and passion for life. Duncan’s novel is regarded as one of the generation’s best books about the American West.


The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway • 1952

Was the movie, which earned Spencer Tracy an Oscar nomination, better than the book? What heresy! The story of an aging Cuban fisherman in an epic battle with a marlin was the last big novel published during Hemingway’s lifetime and won him a Pulitzer Prize.



Herman Melville • 1851

Inspired by Melville’s whaling voyage in his early 20s, Moby-Dick endures as the greatest fishing story ever told. Not bad for a book that bombed during the author’s lifetime. It’s also an imaginatively constructed study of good and evil, cultural diversity and the existence of God, along with copious amounts of detail on whaling and sailing. The percentage of middle school students who claim to have read this book in its entirety—but who actually skipped over the “boring” chapters—will never be known. English teachers usually guess one or two kids per classroom make it cover to cover.