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It was the 1980s, and Jeffrey Veatch’s girlfriend’s mother offered an invitation to her workplace that would ultimately change the trajectory of Veatch’s creative life.
Veatch accompanied his girlfriend Marina to Camp Berwick, at Dyer Island in Maine, where Marina’s mom was a nurse.
What he saw blew his mind.
“Teen boys ran the camp and spent their time learning trades, piloting boats, and building the island infrastructure,” Veatch explained. “I had jokingly referred to it as a real-life Lord of the Flies experiment.”
Girlfriend Marina soon became wife Marina, and in the years that followed the Veatches started a family. First came Justin, then Elena three years later.
All along, Camp Berwick tugged at Veatch. Something deep and profound was unfolding at that camp. He wanted to capture that special essence for the world to see.
Veatch began banging away at a documentary, then a screenplay, all the while navigating a busy life as a radio network news writer, not to mention as a family man in Yorktown. The plan was to keep poking away now and again at that screenplay for as long as it took.
And then, in 2008, Veatch’s world was torn to shreds.
Music-loving Justin, only 17, died of an accidental drug overdose.
The screenplay was set aside as Veatch turned his attention to creating and building a foundation in his son’s memory. For the past 13 years, the Justin Veatch Fund has been delivering music scholarshipsand musical events for local students. (Veatch has also created a multi-media talk, A Message from Justin, delivering the message to thousands of students throughout the northeast).
But after about a dozen of those years, Veatch decided to finish what he started.
Success with the screenplay at a film festival convinced him the story needed to be a novel.
“The story of The Dyer Island Boys is even more compelling to me since our family’s loss because so many teens that I’d met during my talks—even the most talented among them—were struggling to find direction,” Veatch explained.
That story, The Dyer Island Boys, is scheduled for release by Volossal Publishing in early December.
The book begins in 1946, as a pair of New York City area surgical residents, Wick and Doc, seek summer adventure, and purchase a small, undeveloped island off the Maine coastland.
They eventually take a struggling inner-city teen, Harry, under their wing.
Half a century passes, and Harry returns to Dyer Island to help an elderly Wick deal with a 15-year-old misfit who is wreaking havoc in the camp community.
At the heart of the passion project is Veatch’s awe at the unique circumstances he discovered all those years ago when visiting a girlfriend’s mother at her camp. He found a scene that day that would animate the next more than three decades of his creative life.
“What struck me was the fact there were no adults in sight and these boys were running things,” Veatch still marvels.
Veatch’s fictional account of that striking scene will be available in softcover and e-book through bookselling platforms as early as next week.
News about the book can be found on its Facebook page; Veatch also plans to organize local bookstore appearances.
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