03/20/16 9:00am
03/20/2016 9:00 AM


Many people use the term March Madness and I’m never sure whether they’re referring to the NCAA basketball tournament or the excitement brought forth by St. Patrick’s Day, with its parades and general good will. We were in Savannah and were amazed at the size of its parade. We soon learned that it’s the second biggest one in America. In Georgia. Who knew? READ

02/21/16 6:00am
02/21/2016 6:00 AM


February is the month of presidents’ birthdays — two of our greatest, Washington and Lincoln. I remember a cartoon in Esquire many years ago, Lincoln and Washington in a room, Lincoln saying, “George, is February 12 your birthday or mine?” It was funny because the question was real for many people — which was whose and whose was when. This amusing uncertainty was eliminated by creating Presidents’ Day, a cop-out if ever there was one.

Washington/Lincoln: Lincoln/Washington — the endless comparisons are inevitable. There always seemed to be many more books about Lincoln, but important facts aside, Abe clearly wins the face-on-the-money contest, $5.01 to George’s $1.25. George, though, had a state named after him, plus the site of the government’s capitol and a great big bridge, while Abe had to settle for a tunnel, a city in Nebraska and a very pricey car.

The level of advice they received varied widely. Thomas Jefferson to Washington: “Delay is preferable to error”; 12-year-old Grace Bedell to Lincoln, on growing a beard: “You would look a great deal better, for your face is so thin.”

Regarding books, ‘Team of Rivals,’ Doris Kearns Goodman’s examination of the oppositional cabinet that Lincoln dared to put together, is an excellent study of Lincoln, and I just finished ‘Washington’s Crossing’ (David Hackett Fisher). I learned more about Washington and the Revolution than I ever learned in grammar school (which focused mostly on wooden false teeth, the chopped-down cherry tree that he admitted to, and the freezing cold at Valley Forge). This is a heart-thumping book, and if it looks too long, it’s not. If you exclude the copious appendices and the pages of maps and illustrations, you wind up with around 320 pages of inspirational, eye-opening material.

I don’t want to ignore the ever-romantic St. Valentine’s Day. Every couple has an “our song,” and my wife and I, back in the ’50s, decided on Pat Boone’s “Love Letters in the Sand” — it was summer and we spent endless hours talking on the beach. Years passed and if the song happened to play on the radio we’d poke each other and grin. Then one time we really “listened” to the words and realized that the bridge went, “You made a vow that you would ever be true, but somehow that vow meant nothing to you.” Now Boone’s heart is aching as the waves are breaking over the sandy love letters, etc., etc. In the 1950s, love, apparently, was not only blind, but somewhat deaf, too. But we’re working away on year 58.

As an old year ends I like to decide which was the best book I’d read. There were three I considered: ‘Someone,’ Alice McDermott’s touching story of an ordinary young Irish woman in Brooklyn; ‘A God in Ruins,’ Kate Atkinson’s follow-up to “Life After Death”; and, my final choice, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ (Anthony Doerr), about a young blind girl in World War II France and a boyish German soldier disenchanted with his army’s cruelty. This is a beautifully written story of the faith, hope and charity that exists within us all.

Jerry CaseMr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected].

11/28/13 1:40pm
11/28/2013 1:40 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Joseph Finora with his first novel, which takes place in Wine Country.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Joseph Finora with his first novel, which takes place in Wine Country.

Taking his first stab at fiction writing, Laurel resident Joseph Finora has recently released his first mystery novel, “Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders.”

The novel tells the story of down-and-out New York City crime reporter Vin Gusto and his former girlfriend, photographer Shanin Blanc, who discover that more than wine is being made at the vineyard in a farming-and-fishing community that’s slowly becoming a wine destination.

When a renowned but reclusive winemaker turns up dead in a vat of his own juice, the couple tries to solve the crime while repairing their relationship and careers amid the murder and mayhem.

Mr. Finora, whom you might know from his involvement with the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League or his recent campaign for Town Trustee, is the first to admit the tale is inspired by his experience working as a New York City reporter, his relationship with his wife and the changing dynamic of the North Fork from a quiet town to an increasingly popular tourist destination.

“I have always wanted to write a murder mystery,” he said. “And I have always been in love with the local wine community. It’s a ripe setting for it.”

The novel, three years in the making, was the result of a lot of research about crime investigations and a lot of early morning writing, Mr. Finora said. His wife, Mary Grace, to whom the book is dedicated, also played a big part in the editing process.

“She is one of those straight-shooting critics,” he said. “She was not shy about telling me what she thought and pointing out how to make the storyline better.”

The 360-page novel is Mr. Finora’s first full-length work of fiction. However, he is no novice. A full-time writer, he’s penned thousands of articles as a freelance journalist, in addition to two business books — “Media Relations and Creative Marketing Tips for Financial Professionals” in 2007 and “Recession Marketing” in 2009.

The reviews of “Red Like Wine” have already been positive. Smoke Magazine has called it “a vintage read” and author Georgeann Packard said the writing is “crisp and natural,” adding that “you won’t be able to put Finora’s book down.”

Mr. Finora said he’s already working on his next novel.

“I am letting a few ideas settle, but I am definitely working on another fiction book,” he said. “I love writing in the early mornings. I can’t wait to get back to it.”

“Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders” is available locally at BookHampton in Matituck and Preston’s in Greenport and online at amazon.com.

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07/04/13 5:00pm
07/04/2013 5:00 PM
Polish insurgents

COURTESY PHOTO | Dr. Peter Badmajew and his first wife, Antonina Soszka-Badmajew, beside the Baltic Sea in 1951. The two had met through common friends who were insurgents during the uprising.

It was during World War II, early August 1944. Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and Dr. Peter Badmajew of Jamesport, now 85, was a member of Poland’s Home Army, fighting to liberate his home city of Warsaw.

WWII Warsaw uprising insurgency

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Dr. Peter Badmajew, 85 of Jamesport, recently self-published a memoir of his experience as an insurgent in the Warsaw uprising.

As light filled the sky, marking the third day of the uprising in Warsaw, Dr. Badmajew stood on guard, keeping watch while members of his platoon slept. Through breaking light he saw German soldiers completely surrounding the home where he’d taken refuge.

This is one of many turning points described in Dr. Badmajew’s self-published memoir, “The History of a Warsaw Insurgent,” which depicts his experience as a 15-year-old soldier during the war.

“I ran upstairs and I woke everybody,” he said. “We organized a chain and we started to move all our belongings into the attic, not to leave any sign that insurgents were there.”

As German soldiers filled the home, he and six others gathered in a hidden crawl space just underneath the attic. As the last insurgent, a woman, entered the space, a German guard was making his way up the attic steps, just above their heads.

“When I looked up I saw the sole of his boot between the gaps of those beams. Sand was like a stream falling on our heads from the floor above,” Dr. Badmajew said.

“This was the greatest stress that I can remember,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is the end, I am going to die here.’ ”

Dr. Badmajew went undiscovered. He continued to fight for almost two months before he was captured and forced into a cattle wagon that transported him to a prison camp, where he worked until he was able to escape.

The memoir describes Dr. Badmajew’s first time shooting a gun during the war — and the German soldier on the receiving end. He began writing about the experience upon his escape from prison camp, calling on other insurgents who had survived the war to help him remember the details.

The book was originally released in Poland in 2008 and has become part of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, dedicated to preserving history on the war in Poland.

He recently added to the book and published it in the U.S. just a few months ago. The revised book also covers his personal challenges of prostate cancer and losing his second wife to an untreatable brain disorder known as supranuclear palsy.

After the war, Dr. Badmajew studied medicine, went to Canada on an internship and eventually came to the U.S.  He went on to become a surgeon and has been in practice in Jamesport, with an office on Main Road, for over 25 years.

“The History of a Warsaw Insurgent” is available for purchase online and will be featured at a book fair in Frankfurt, Germany, in October.

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05/19/13 5:00pm
05/19/2013 5:00 PM

RICHARD EHLERS COURTESY PHOTO | Alix Ehlers’ first novel, ‘A Power in the Blood,’ is now available on amazon.com, 13 years after the Laurel resident’s death. The book was e-published after her sister, a published author, discovered a draft of it.

Suspense, intrigue, a dreadful decision that turns a small town upside down; a first novel by local author Alix Ehlers, “A Power in the Blood,” has all the makings of a best seller, but it almost never saw the light of day.

Now, thanks to her family, the book is finally available on Amazon — 13 years after the Laurel resident’s death.

Ms. Ehlers’ sister, mystery author Betsy Thornton, began shopping the novel around after coming across a draft in 2002, two years after her sister passed away from ovarian cancer.

“My agent loved it but, as sad as it is, she told me when an author is dead it’s hard to sell a book,” Ms. Thornton said. “But I thought it was amazing and I wanted people to be able to enjoy it.”

Ms. Thornton is an accomplished author in her own right. She has published seven novels, including “A Song for You,” which was nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark Award in 2008.

Having recently added her own books to the Amazon Kindle library, Ms. Thornton turned to the Internet to make her sister’s work available to the public.

“We always like to think she is looking down on us knowing we got her book done,” Ms. Thornton said. “This is my memorial to my sister.”

Ms. Thornton e-published the manuscript in April. E-publishing allows authors to bypass traditional publishers and instead deal directly with Amazon. Digital self-publishing has become increasingly popular, as the number of readers who prefer tapping their tablets to flipping pages grows. According to Amazon, 27 of the current top 100 Kindle books are self-published.

Publishing “A Power in the Blood” was a family effort. Ms. Ehlers’ daughter, Betsy Ehlers Comiskey, wrote the foreword and her nephew, Alex Chapin, designed the novel’s cover.

“It’s exciting, the change in the world’s technology,” said Ms. Ehlers’ husband, Richard, a Riverhead judge. “In 2000 you couldn’t e-publish a book. I think my wife would be very happy with all the love and care her sister and her daughter put into it to see it finally done.”

North Fork readers will feel a special connection with the book, Mr. Ehlers said. “I think the characters will remind people of people here,” he said.

Set on Peconic Bay, the book chronicles the lives of the well-to-do Ford family and Charlene Lutz, whose fight for her daughter’s love leads her to make a terrible decision, a choice that threatens to destroy the Ford family.

“I can see reality in [my mom’s] novel,“ Ms. Comiskey said. “I recognize places, scenes and bits of people from my childhood and her past. I read it a few years after my mom died. [Her] writing brought me back to Long Island; I saw the old A&P. I climbed the sandy steps of the yacht club. I met friends’ parents. I saw the farm fields, the library.”

While this is Ms. Ehlers’ only novel, she had been an accomplished magazine and newspaper journalist. She studied English at Ohio Wesleyan and literature at Eastern Michigan before earning a degree at Florida State University College of Law. Even after launching a successful career at a law firm in Riverhead, Ms. Ehlers never stopped writing. She wrote for True Confessions magazine and was a contributing editor and book reviewer for Turf and Sport Digest. She also wrote a gardening column for Times/Review Newsgroup.

“A Power in the Blood” is available for download on amazon.com.

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11/22/12 12:00pm
11/22/2012 12:00 PM

Greenport resident Sam Sifton, national editor for The new York Times where he previously served as a food critic, recently published his first cookbook, ‘Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.’

Greenport Village resident Sam Sifton, national editor of The New York Times, has been talking lots of turkey this holiday season.

A former restaurant critic for the Times, Mr. Sifton chose preparing a great Thanksgiving dinner as the theme for his first cookbook, “Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well.”

In the book, Mr. Sifton, 46, who served as the Times’ restaurant critic from 2009 to 2011, mostly uses the written word to describe the perfect holiday dinner, though he does include a few line drawings. He said he avoided lavish photographs in the book, released by Random House this October, because he wanted to stick with a theme as timeless and traditional as the holiday itself.

“The thing about those food porn books, as good as they are sometimes at getting you excited to cook, it goes out of fashion after a little while,” Mr. Sifton said this week. “What I’m arguing for is not the new trend of turkey… The only people who really need new ideas for the turkey and new ideas for the side dishes are the people that put out food pages in newspapers and magazines. Those of us at home just need to know how to make a really good plate of mashed potatoes or a sweet potato dish or a good roasted turkey. That’s what this book is about.”


In addition to providing traditional recipes, Mr. Sifton writes about certain things he believes should be eliminated from the holiday feast. He doesn’t support the idea of serving appetizers at Thanksgiving because he believes they get in the way of the meal by taking up valuable stomach space, wasting dishes and forcing you to spend extra time cleaning.

Mr. Sifton suggests serving oysters to kick off your Turkey Day meal.

“Laying in a few dozen bivalves to eat while the turkey rests on a sidebar is in my view a brilliant solution to the fidgety issue of serving food in advance of the Thanksgiving meal,” Mr. Sifton writes. “Consumed with a sparkling wine, outdoors if possible, oysters provide a direct and visceral connection to aquatic harvest, and to the true history of Thanksgiving in America.”

If you get your oysters from Pipe’s Cove, vegetables from Latham’s in Orient and a fresh turkey from Miloski’s Poultry Farm in Calverton, Mr. Sifton said, he believes your holiday dinner will be “pretty marvelous.”

Taking a walk after the meal, spending some time outside and sparking the fireplace also contribute to making a holiday dinner extra special, he said.

“[That’s] Thanksgiving on the North Fork,” Mr. Sifton said. “There’s no better time of the year out here.”

Mr. Sifton and his wife, Tina Fallon, a real estate agent and theater producer in Brooklyn, currently reside in the Red Hook neighborhood there and have also lived in Greenport Village part-time since 1999. They’ve bought and sold a few houses there over the years, and they’ve spent many Thanksgivings in the village with their two young daughters.

Mr. Sifton’s love affair with the maritime village began sometime in the mid-1990s when he was desperate to find a custom part for a boat he kept in Sag Harbor.

While he waited for the part, Mr. Sifton said, he bumped into an old friend, David Berson, captain of the Greenport-based electric tour boat Glory.

“I had known him when I was in high school because I worked on the schooner Pioneer at the South Street Seaport Museum from the time I was in middle school until the time I was in college,” Mr. Sifton said. “I knew him from the harbor. There were a lot of other New York Harbor rats that washed up in Greenport.”

Mr. Sifton said Greenport has had a special place in his heart since that day.

Over the years, the village has also become a part-time home to his in-laws, who stay with him and his wife when not in Florida.

“I’m out here to cook in my house with my family and take advantage of the great farms and fish and the bounty of the North Fork,” he said.

Although he enjoys dining out, Mr. Sifton said, he’s no longer in the business of naming his favorite restaurants. And since becoming the Times’ national editor a year ago, he now has to pay for his own meals.

“I can’t imagine a bigger change than from being the restaurant critic, where you’re out six nights a week eating in restaurants all over the city and all over the globe, to being national editor, when you’re in the newsroom many, many hours a day, every day, and not writing so much,” he said.

Mr. Sifton has been promoting his book the past few weeks, making talk show appearances in between covering Hurricane Sandy and the election.

When asked how his own Thanksgiving preparations have been going, he said “terrible.” As of last Friday afternoon, he hadn’t called Miloski’s to order his turkey.

“In every interview I give, in every appearance I’ve made, I talk about the importance of planning, the importance of gaming everything out, and this year I have done none of that,” he said. “I’ve got to play a little catch up if I’m going to have a good Thanksgiving.”

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