Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Meet The Chatterbox

 When I was ten, I imagined Zorro riding up and down the street in front of our house, protecting the rights of chubby chatterboxes like me. The Fifties were over, and Zorro had been a perfect hero for an era that saw things in black and white. Television, the magical mesmerizer of our childhood, had showed us a world rich with the fullest spectrum of gray...but color was coming.  
     Stephen Hayes

My family lived on Briarwood Drive, fifty miles south of San Francisco, just off the old El Camino Real in the quiet community of Santa Clara, smack in the center of what would later be called the Silicon Valley.


In 1962 a carnival set up in the parking lot of the new shopping center built over a bulldozed orchard a few blocks from where we lived. My best friend wanted to test his mettle on The Hammer, one of the more intimidating rides, but his courage needed time to percolate. While we waited, we threw dimes at stacks of colored bric-a-brac. To my surprise, one of my dimes landed me a prize. The carnie handed me a plastic kaleidoscope. I squinted into the kaleidoscope’s tiny peep-hole and saw colors more beautiful than I could imagine, fractured planes of color that constantly shifted and reassembled when I twisted the plastic lens. I recall my expectation that the shapes and colors would come together like a puzzle, revealing something fantastic. For me, at least, color had come to Briarwood Drive. My life would never be the same.

 

I’ve peered through many kaleidoscopes since then, and I’ve come to think of those fractures of shimmering color as the people and experiences of my life. When I twist the kaleidoscope in my mind, I look for the ever-changing fragments that converge into a portrait of my childhood.           

I’m still looking….    

***

Before dedicating myself to writing fiction, I was a freelance illustrator with work appearing in such magazines as Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, Communication Arts, Dow Jones Financial, Bloomberg Magazine, and American Legion. My work has been featured in publications on four continents, and I am the recipient of the International Association of Business Communicators Award of Excellence. For ten years I taught art and history at the Portland Art Institute and Northwest College of Art.