Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Sentences: Wyman Richardson, The House on Nauset Marsh

Wynan Richardson's The House on Nauset Marsh (Woodstock, VT: The Countryman Press, 1997) is one of my favorite books on Cape Cod. It's creative non-fiction, but it could be a novel. The writing is extremely fine and the narrator is a really interesting character, and others are as well.

But, so what. Whether it's fiction, creative non-fiction, or a textbook on how to remove a bullet from you skull, you need a good first sentence.

I can't resist quoting the whole 1st paragraph:

You can go to Eastham, on outer Cape Cod, and live in the little old Farm House at the drop of a hat. The pump, the kerosene lamps, and the open fire are always ready without fear of frost or storm. You can drive up the lane, stop the car by the kitchen door, and unload your gear. You can look out the south windows over the nearby grassy hills, over the bright blue water of Nauset Marsh to the darker blue glimpses of the sea beyond the dunes, and draw a deep breath
There you have it, a magical place where you an go back to over and over and it never changes.

Eastham, founded in the early 17th century, was one of the first towns on Cape Cod. It's population grew so fast there was some interest in moving the capitol of the state from Plymouth to Eastham.

But what subtext: "You can go" empowers you; "little old Farm House" means a place where you loved as a kid. "Drive up," "Unload your gear," "Look out," "over the bright blue water," "without fear", "draw a deep breath"; it's so enabling and just makes you yearn to escape the confinements and go into you mind into such a place. And the details, "the pump, the kerosene lamps, and the open fire" just want you go come along. You can go into the book and get lost in it, which I recommend you do.

This Cape Cod no longer exists, of course. Eisenhower's interstates delivered the first bow. It was going away just as Richardson wrote the first edition of this fine book.

I think I'll drop my hat and go read it.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite book or first sentence? Tell me. Post a comment. I'd like to know. And follow me on

Writing is for me an entrepreneurial activity. For my ideas on entrepreneurship, go to and for entrepreneurial real estate go to and for my ideas on writing and publishing, go to


Ian Kearney, the director of the Kearney Music School, an elite musical training school in Philadelphia, dies after a fall from a balcony during a recital. World-famous cellist, Henry Harrier, recently forced from the faculty, returns to investigate Ian's death when his prized former student is arrested. Henry shows through his brilliant and single-minded pursuit of the truth that, as usual, they have it all wrong. This Sherlock Holmes-type mystery leads the reader through the world of classical music and lays bare the conflicts which dominate the lives of talented adolescents when placed under the pressure of studying for a demanding, stressful, and often elusive career as a classical music performer. Henry Harrier is part John Le Carre's George Smiley, part Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes, and part Orlando Cole the beloved teacher, renowned chamber musician, and until his own retirement, the premier cellist of the Curtis Institute.

Author Profile:

Tim was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on January 30, 1946. In 1951 he moved with his family to Schenectady, New York, where he lived through high school. He attended Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, from 1964 to 1968. He graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in history and philosophy. He received his Ph. D. in history in U.S. history in 1980 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison after spending 2.5 years in the U. S. Army. Most of his army service was completed in Wuerzburg, Germany, from 1969-1971. In 1972 he returned to Madison to complete his doctoral study. His dissertation, Those Who Moved; Internal Migrants in American 1607-1840, combined the statistical analysis of genealogical and biographical data with the study of traditional literary diaries, letters, and journals.

Tim was a market and survey research consultant from 1983 to 2000 and a smoking cessation researcher from 2000 to 2003. His consulting practice focused primarily on conducting community health needs assessment. He authored hundreds of market research reports and published a number of his assessments in Community Health Needs Assessment published by McGraw Hill in 1996 and in a revised volume published in 1999. In 2000 he joined the staff of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he conducted smoking cessation research. He published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and spoke at national smoking cessation conferences.

In 2003 he moved to Philadelphia and earned his real estate license. He now practices real estate, works on publishing his novels, and studies and teaches entrepreneurship.Tim has written a dozen novel-length stories, a volume of short stories, and about a 3-foot stack of pages poetry. He is currently working on earning his 4th million in real estate sales, publishing his novels, and working on an entrepreneurish handbook as a support for his students.

Tim is a trained violist and an experienced string quartet player. He is an avid listener to classical music and regularly attends classical music concerts. He has two grown children by his first wife and a stepdaughter with his second wife. He likes to cook, read, write, entertain, develop relationships, and help other people. Formerly Tim used to travel frequently. He doesn't so much anymore. Now he regards the combination of real estate practice, writing and publishing, and the teaching and studying of entrepreneurship as enough of a trip.