The Hermit of Chappaquiddick: Steven Raichlen’s Novel with a New Title & Chapter
Here’s a fact about me some of you may not know: In addition to being a food writer and TV host, I also wrote a novel.
Well, here’s another fact you may not know—one of the most frustrating things about being an author is that you don’t always get to choose your book’s title. I originally called my novel The Hermit of Chappaquiddick—the name of its main character. The publisher insisted on the more neutral—dare I say bland—title, Island Apart.
So for the new Amazon edition of my novel—available both as an e-book on Kindle and as a printed book, I went back to my original title. It’s the same story of love, loss, and redemption. But now with the title I always dreamed of. Plus a bonus chapter that didn’t make it into the original book—the backstory of one of my favorite supporting characters: Sheila.
As the title suggests, the story takes place on a tiny island steeped in history and controversy: Chappaquiddick. Attached to, but very separate from Martha’s Vineyard, it’s also the island where, for the last 20 years, I have spent my summers and falls.
The idea for the story came to me when we started building our house. It percolated for 10 years before I actually started writing it. I knew there would be a hermit—a quiet man with a secret, who lived off the land and apart from others. I knew there would be a New York book editor—a kind and gracious woman with a serious illness—who would spend a year on Chappaquiddick trying to recover. I knew she would have a rebellious daughter with a biker boyfriend, a big-hearted best friend, a tyrannical boss, and a coterie of colorful neighbors on her newfound New England island home. Oddly, I also knew the story would also involve the real-life iconoclastic psychotherapist, Wilhelm Reich.
Writing is a mysterious process. The day the words The Hermit of Chappaquiddick popped into my head, I knew how the story would begin and how it would end. I just didn’t know what would happen along the way. But I knew there would be a lot of great food and that cooking would bring everyone together.
You may be surprised to find that, while this is definitely a foodie love story, you won’t find any barbecue. This was deliberate: most of you know me through my books and TV shows about smoke and fire. I wanted you to see another side of me as a writer. However, I assure you, the next novel will definitely involve barbecue. So will the next cookbook, which I’m working on already.
Likewise, while there’s a lot of great food in The Hermit of Chappaquiddick, there are no recipes. Again, I wanted this book judged as a novel, not a cookbook. But you will find recipes for many of the dishes the Hermit and Claire cook:
- The Hermit’s Truly Locavore Salad
- Clams Casino
- Katama Kirs
- Claire’s Cranberry Walnut Bread
- Claire’s Bay Scallops with Saffron and Leeks
I hope you enjoy reading The Hermit of Chappaquiddick as much as I enjoyed writing it. And now, to whet your appetite as it were, see below for an excerpt from the first few chapters.