Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Homeport Journals by A. C. Burch - A Personal Favorite Selection for 2016

November 13th, 2008 - Provincetown

You never really know a place unless you live there. Until last night, Provincetown was a state of mind--a place that spoke to my heart. Now I'm actually here, I'm not so sure...

Setting down his pen, the young man cradles a cup of hot chocolate, then scans the near-empty cafe. His life blue reveal exhaustion and disillusion. When the theme from Mission Impossible shatters the midmorning stillness, he snaps shut a leather-bound journal and rejects the call.
Right on schedule. Brandon's never up before eleven after a night of party's play. What could he think we have to say to each other?
...In the muted November light, the bleak streetscape retains few traces of those frenetic days. Cockeyed, scruffy buildings with peeling paint, faded fliers tacked to telephone poles--their events long forgotten--boarded windows with hastily scrawled thanks for "another great season," all contribute to a petulant air, as if the town begrudge those who decamped at summer's end.
The only person in sight, a stooped old woman with a large paper bag in each arm, shuffles along the sidewall. She's tiny, even elfin. Her face is furrowed; her back hunched under a thick wool coat laden with damp. When the downpour starts, she seeks refuge in the cafe. As she tugs the door open, a gust of wind rips it from her grasp. Before the young man can come to her aid, the bags give way. Cans, bottles, and packages roll down the steps and into the street.
"Goddamn son's a bitches," she mutters, hands on hips.
When he springs past her to save a large can of beef stew from an oncoming car, she yells into the quickening gale, her shrill voice rising high above the wind.
"Thanks, dahlin'. You're my knight in shinin' ahmah."..."You're new here, Marcus. I ain't seen you 'round."
"Just got her early this morning. Please call me Marc. I've never liked Marcus. It sounds too much like a character from ancient Rome."
"If that's what you want, that's what you'll get. Now tell me, Marc. Are you running from somethin', or did you come here to find love?"
"Excuse me?"
"You heard me. Don't go gettin' all bitchy-queenie with me. I'm askin' are you runnin' or searchin'? There's only two things that bring you boys to town this time of year. I know that much after more than eighty years of livin'."
"I'm not sure that's any of your business."
...Dorrie's brittle cackle fills the room, coaxing a grin from the man behind the counter as well as two men at an adjacent table who've been surreptitiously studying Marc's physique, his sodden clothing having left little to the imagination.
"If you're gonna live in this town, dahlin', everybody's gonna know your business whether you want them to or not. There are busybodies at every corner, just waitin' to get the goods on you, and not all of them are old bags like me."
Dorrie glares at the two interlopers to drive her point home. "Better get used to that sorta bullshit from the get-go!"

The Homeport Journals

By A. C. Burch

What a delightful, fun read! Welcome to Provincetown... You may never have heard of this town, like I hadn't, but you will certainly remember it once you've read The Homeport Journals! Sure there are issues but in general readers will feel like the residents are your neighbors--that they have all welcomed you to their town and will care about you, want to know you...

Or maybe I should hone in on HomePort right away because that's where you'll be spending most of your time. Check out the large building just to the left of the center of the map, HomePort, with a little house--Dorrie's House next to it, because that's where you'll be staying... That is, if you are either gay or a woman...

Through helping Dorrie when she had dropped all her groceries on the street, Marc found not only his first friend in town, but he also was told exactly what to do to find a job and a place to stay! The setup he did get is too hard to believe, but true. And he soon found that there were others who lived in the house who had similar positions.

But first, meet Lola... Who gets whatever she wants... Well, you would too if you were fabulously wealthy, an octogenarian and recluse, and willing to provide company for herself by offering jobs to young men which will require very little work, except that they must attend high tea with her when invited!
"Then, rising with Aurora's light,
The Muse invoked, sit down to write;
Blot out, correct, insert, refine,
Enlarge, diminish interline;
Be mindful, when invention fails,
To scratch your head, and bit your nails."

That's Jonathan Swift," Marc says, stunned.
Lola's blue eyes light up.
"Yes, it is. You may not think it to look at it now, but HomePort was once the bastion of culture in this town. My grandmother was a highly regarded artist. Her son, my father--the third Captain Staunton--was an author and lover of poetry. He used to declaim that quote each morning before going upstairs to write. I can still hear his voice...
..."I was an only child. My father died when I was two and my mother five years ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that. Is that why you come to the states?"
As Lola's tone softens, Marc takes heart.
"In part. Once my mother died, there was no point in staying. Swan River is the kind of place where everything is  pat and predictable. I always felt I'd never be happy there. As I grew older and understood why, I knew instinctively I had to be somewhere wheee there were people like me."
Lola's quavering voice contains the slightest trace of empathy. "Good. Good for you. People should never stay where they don't fit in. That's for darn sure."

Of course, I had great empathy for both Dorrie and Lola, but it is not their age alone. Rather, the emptiness of their lives for so many years because of a tragedy that had taken place in the past. Specifically, Dorrie and Lola had not spoken for over 60 years.

The intriguing part begins when Lola decides to place Marc in her father's suite instead of where the other residents stayed and known as Bates Hotel. I am sure she didn't know at that time, but this allowed her father's spirit to begin to communicate with Marc! I loved the touch of paranormal helping...because there was a mystery to be solved! Lola's father had been accused of rape and murder and had died in disgrace. This had caused the break in Dorrie and Lola's relationship even though they had once been like sisters...

In the library, firelight reflects in the glass-
fronted bookcases, casting multicolored hues
on the oak-paneled walls. A bottle of brandy
and three snifters warm by the hearth. Mars
sits next to Helena on an antique sofa while
Lola makes herself comfortable in a vintage
Morris chair. She presses a button, and the
sound of Maria Callas singing
"Vissi d'Arte" fills the room...
Marc hopes to be a writer but has little success
Man and dog lope toward Marc's car.
 When they are within twenty feet,
the man stops, sheds his clothing,
 tosses the stick into the frigid surf, a
nd dives in after it.
The dog plunges in, valiantly paddling
 to get there first...
At one with the waves, the man
bodysurfs to shore.
His faithful companion paddles
 in his wake with the stick in her
 mouth, then rolls victoriously in the
 sand. Making eye contact with Marc
for the first time, the man
pauses, then smiles mischievously.

in getting started on more than a journal. He was involved before he came to Homeport and his former lover is constantly calling him. It is as if he's forgotten what was done to Marc that last night... but Marc can't forget, even though he saw a fleeting glimpse of an individual, a beautiful man, coming out of the water and was spellbound...

Lola takes a large gulp of brandy. "Alright, my dears. Now that I've topped off my liquid courage, I shall tell you what I know. It all happened a long time ago. I may not remember the words exactly, but the events are seared in my brain.
"I was ten. The day began like any other, not too long after the New Year, as I recall. I heard raised voices in the kitchen and snuck downstairs to listen. I hid on the back stairs, at the turn before the last three steps. I often laid low around the house, spying on my mother and father. Neither of them had much time for me. Later in life, I came to understand my father's gruff, distant love, but at that age I seldom saw much of him without a certain degree of espionage...

...I fled to my room. All I could think of that night was the look on Father's face. Why was he so angry? And what did that have to do with Annie? I struggled to understand. I didn't want to believe what I had heard, but the more I relived the moments, the harder it was to ignore."
..."Father was never the same from that day on...

Being part of the discussions in which Marc was involved, it wasn't hard to guess how the mystery was going to end. So, for me, the characters were the greatest drawing point. There is such depth of emotion from each individual that readers cannot help but be caught up in each life story. I've already mentioned the new love story fpr Marc, but he also has a, shall we say, a stalker, who he met the first day... Helena...Wow!

It takes Marc little time to move into what he hopes will be his winter quarters. Chilled to the marrow, he strips off his damp clothing, locks the landing door, and heads to the shower. The pipes sputter at first, then slowly the water pressure and temperature stabilize. He steps in, lathers up, and begins to sing.
After several moments of bad Verdi, an ominous silhouette darkens the shower curtain. The shadow of a long, curved implement rises slowly and deliberately upward, above the waist, the shoulder, and--after what seems an eternity--the head of the sinister figure.
Certain he's hallucinating, Marc remains rotted in place until the curtain flies open and the weapon arcs downward. Then he yells, cowers in the far corner, and covers himself with both hands.
Through steam and spray, he sees a pale face, bright red lips, eyes weighted with mascara, and a mane of black hair pinned up in an enormous bun. The intruder wearing a drab, black, high-collared blouse with matching floor length skirt, has a large beauty mark on her right cheek. She holds a towel in her left hand, secreting whatever weapon is in her right hand behind the ample folds of her skirt.
She surveys him from head to foot without a trace of embarrassment. "Not bad. Not bad at all," she says at last...
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"I'm Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. Welcome to Manderley...

Hilarious in some parts, bittersweet in others, spiritually heartbreaking in others, The HomePort Journals takes readers into the deepest emotional highs and lows and brings us through into a life of hope, even in death... A glorious potpourri of men and women who come together and create a family like no other... I'd like to visit HomePort where even the villain is cared for and helped. Loved everything about this story! An exceptional Debut novel! Don't miss it!


A.C. Burch spent his early summers on Cape Cod and since then, the sand has never left his shoes. His first visit to Provincetown sparked a romance with the town that permeates The HomePort Journals. A.C. trained as a classical musician, but his passion for the arts extends to photography, the art scene in Provincetown and Miami, and, of course, the written word. His literary icons run the gamut from Jane Austen to Agatha Christie by way of Walter Mosely and Patrick Dennis. A.C. splits his time between Provincetown and South Beach. The HomePort Journals is his debut novel.

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