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


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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August 6, 2014

The last time I felt this much shame I was thirteen and busily abusing myself after finding a discarded copy of Playboy in a trashcan on my walk to school. That was a long time ago and I’d assumed I was beyond debasing myself, but I was wrong. I blame Mrs. Chatterbox for what happened; she’s the one who brought it to my attention. Of course I knew about it, but I’d resisted temptation. I’m generally a strong-willed person who seldom succumbs to peer pressure, but on this occasion I proved too weak to resist.


“You know you want to,” Mrs. Chatterbox said, like a siren luring me to the rocks.


“No I don’t! I’ve resisted this long and I’m not giving in now.”


“How ‘bout we just take in a little bit. It could be fun. Are you afraid?”


“Hell no!”




“Okay, but just a little bit.”


I slumped onto the couch in our living room as she punched up the movie. I had no intention of touching the remote; this wasn’t my idea and I was participating out of duress. That’s how Mrs. Chatterbox got me to watch the worst movie I’ve ever seen—Sharknado.


My fear of sharks is well-known. As the picture started my sphincter was tight enough to turn carbon into a diamond. I held my breath as the movie began. Sharks were everywhere, thousands of them, all being scooped up by a huge tornado off the coast of Los Angeles.


“Why are thousands of man-eating sharks gathered off the coast of L.A.?” I asked.


“This isn’t one of those movies where you ask questions,” she answered. “Try and suspend your disbelief.”


But my brain wouldn’t stop thinking up questions: Why are only sharks scooped up in the tornado and not other types of sea life? If sharks are sucked into the air and deposited over Los Angeles, how is it that they can swim in whatever direction they want, without water, and aim themselves at hapless victims? And why—”


“Stop asking questions. Just enjoy the special effects.”


Actually, my unease began dissipating with the first shark attack. I was surprised to hear myself laugh when a great white, looking like a plastic pool toy, bit the head off a guy who was too stupid to step out of the way when sharks started raining from the sky. Real footage of actual sharks were spliced into the film and I tried to ignore the inconsistent sky and water. Most of the computer generated sharks looked like the work of high school students and when struck exploded like piñatas. This movie was so bad it was actually…good. It was remarkable how the actors performed with straight faces.


At one point the hero decided to blast the sharknado with a bomb tossed into the twister from a helicopter. Why the tornado, which was destroying much of Los Angeles, didn’t destroy the helicopter was anyone’s guess.


Although I scoffed when our hero cut his way out of a massive shark with a chainsaw, I actually enjoyed this movie. Sure, it wasn’t Citizen Kane or The King’s Speech, but it did make me laugh and forget the problems of the world for a few hours. I say a few hours because—here’s where the shame becomes all mine and can’t be foisted off on Mrs. Chatterbox—I was so caught up in the absurd plot and hysterical special effects that I went to On Demand and watched an equally ridiculous Sharknado #2 destroy Manhattan. Warning: if you watch Sharknado #2 be sure there isn’t anything in your mouth when the tornado blows the head off The Statue of Liberty. It chases our hero through the streets of Manhattan while conveniently missing every shark in its path.  


Please don’t tell anyone that I’ve enjoyed these movies. I have a reputation as an intellectual to maintain. Like I said, I haven’t felt this much shame since I was thirteen and hid that Playboy under my mattress.



Mrs. Chatterbox has informed me that Sharknado #3 is in the works.       


So basically Sharknado is the cure for Jaws. I did watch the first one (or most of it because I dozed off at one point) and at least it delivers what it promises. My only fear is that we'll get a bunch of stupid knockoffs of everyone trying to do their own terrible movie that's so bad it's good until all of cinema is pulled into a black hole of awfulness.
By: PT Dilloway on August 6, 2014
Sharknado was a must see for all the reasons above. #2 was fun for the real actor cameo appearances. I think I will skip Sharknado 3. Who am I kidding, I'll be there on opening day. How could anyone "Doze off" during this movie? Do you even have a remote?
By: Cranky on August 6, 2014
I think the 'Sharknado' series is like a train wreck. With, of course, sharks.
By: Al Penwasser on August 6, 2014
Oh, and, uh, MY periodical of choice for scientific research on the human anatomy was 'Penthouse.'
By: Al Penwasser on August 6, 2014
So much for Mrs C´s diamond making plans..........
By: John on August 6, 2014
Being one of these types that can easily let myself get absorbed into just about any movie... this isn't one of the them.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 6, 2014
Dear Mr. Chatterbox.....I'm shocked that you and my 14 year old Granddaughter like the same movies. Not really, I watched these two films with her and found them to be one of those so bad that it was almost good films. You're so funny. Oma Linda
By: omalinda on August 6, 2014
too funny. haven't seen either.
By: TexWisGirl on August 6, 2014
Oh hahahah I can just visualize the scene......you are hilarious! I went and looked it up on Netflix and according to netflix I would only give it 1/2 a star out of 5 stars. So I think I'll give it a pass! Did it ever get shown in the movie theatres?
By: Kathe W. on August 6, 2014
I had never seen it--just watched on your recommendation. Hysterical--loved the cheesy special effects!! Don't think I'll watch the sequels, though.
By: fishducky on August 6, 2014
Gosh, you are the first and only person I know that watched this movie and actually signed up for #2, I thought it might be like "Killer Tomatoes."
By: Akansas Patti on August 6, 2014
Do you think it's an intentionally bad movie? Is it meant to be funny, or a camp classic? I don't think I'll watch it, and I won't tell a soul that you did. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 6, 2014
As an avowed highbrow, I do not plan to watch Sharknado. It might cut into my reality show viewing time.
By: Val on August 6, 2014
Heeheehee! Well, at least you didn't say you enjoyed Plan 9 From Outer Space!
By: mimi on August 6, 2014
It's OK - we all have our guilty pleasures. Some of my taste in music falls under the category of "please don't judge me."
By: Pixel Peeper on August 6, 2014
Seriously! I can't believe you gave in to this. Disappointed in you, Stephen.
By: mindy halleck on August 6, 2014
Yes! I thought Sharknado #1 was entertaining, and I enjoyed #2 even more. I think that one was more ridiculous and tongue-in-cheek. I made my hubby watch #2 but he didn't get the satirical aspects, like when New Yorkers at the end open their car trunks and take out things like machetes and machine guns. Just, ya know, stuff any typical New Yorker has in their trunk. I was a New Yorker for years and loved the depiction of my old home town and its inhabitants. :)
By: Lexa Cain on August 7, 2014
Sharknado? I've heard of it, but have never seen any of them. Think I can survive a while longer without watching. Now that I've said that, a shark might actually fall from the sky and eat me!
By: Eva Prokop on August 7, 2014
I need to see Sharknado 2. It just came out and looked awesome.
By: Michael Offutt on August 7, 2014
Believe it or not, I still haven't seen "The Blob". That was a motion picture financed by a minister. It became a blockbuster with Steve McQueen in the lead role.
By: Michael Manning on August 7, 2014
Be sure to let us know when you'd like some of us to perform an intervention.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 7, 2014
Ha.. I saw that they were both on TV the other night.. less than a week ago. I resisted. It wasn't even a difficult decision. But I'm glad you enjoyed. ;)
By: Hilary on August 8, 2014
Watching a movie like Sharknado is something one can never unwatch. Hey, at least I was in a fairly consistent drunken stupor when I considered the original Death Race 2000 to be one of the best movies ever made! Yes, you have much to be deeply ashamed of, my friend.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 9, 2014
i tried. but i couldn't do it. my husband thought the first one was hilarious and was so sad when he missed the second one. lord have mercy....i just can't.
By: lime on August 13, 2014
By: The Bug on August 22, 2014

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