Publishers Weekly Review:
Petrie’s entertaining novel is based on the story of the Bay State Skye, a ship found floating empty, its crew lost to the sea, near Gloucester, Mass. In August 1990, brothers Jimmy and Murph Sweeney are headed to port aboard their lobster boat when they come across the Bay State Skye, awkwardly circling outside the Gloucester breakwater. When they pull alongside, they find that its owner and crew are nowhere to be found, presumed lost at sea. The Sweeneys also note that the boat had been dragging inside state limits, which is illegal, and has gathered hundreds of pounds more than the legal limit of 100 pounds of lobster. The illegal fishing has also damaged the equipment of lobsterman Johnny Higgins, who could be financially devastated by the loss, but it helps to unite his community in a fund-raiser for him. The fish and lobster catch from the Bay State Skye is brought to market, but when bouts of bad luck and unfortunate events follow various transactions, including sales losses due to shipping accidents, the fishermen begin to believe the catch is cursed. Petrie’s novel includes fascinating details about both the fishing industry and market; readers will find themselves caught up in the stormy excitement and the tantalizing touch of mystery.”
—Publishers Weekly (12/17/2018)
BookLife Prize Review:
“Inspired by true events, this well-researched intriguing novel exposes the occupational hazards embedded in the Gloucester, Mass., fish and seafood trade in 1990. Vivid, pungent, and layered in deceit, the story verges on an eye-opening look at a lucrative industry as opposed to a work of fiction.
Backed by countless interviews and the author’s firsthand knowledge and experience, the carefully-edited narrative reveals time and place through authentic descriptions and colloquialisms. The author’s tendency to focus on minute details creates an experience to be savored, rather than quickly devoured.
Illegal acts on the ocean, a popular theme in fiction, may encompass any profession, yet this memorable book stands apart—an intricately-planned historical immersion in Cape Ann that will make an indelible impression on a jaded connoisseur of adventure novels.
Candid protagonists in this character-saturated novel take the story in many directions, with shady personalities at the helm. Their development spins doubt and suspense and triggers double-takes.”
“Reading a good book written by an experienced ‘sea person’ and successful author . . . is what I would call easy living. Bay State Skye provided the extra special ingredient for escaping the heat of the day and returning to 1990. I enjoyed the entire book, especially the gurry plant chapters, for I was directly involved in the controversy. Petrie’s detailed reporting of the results of the shut down of the plant was extremely well done.
Mr. Steve Connolly’s (Jack Flannery) ability and willingness to take control of difficult problems showed those in the Gloucester fishing business that he was a natural leader. He had a positive impact on the fishing industry of Gloucester. This is why he was chosen to lead the effort to solve the disposal of the waste product caused by the state mandated shut down.”
—Roy Spittle, Gloucester business owner
“. . . evidence of the quietly engrossing nature of this work; the mystery lures readers in, and the suspense throughout effectively holds their interest.”
—Kirsten, Professional copy editor
“The book (Bay State Skye) inspired me to go down to Gloucester . . . It was fun imagining the characters going about their lives there as we drove around.”
—Liz Pease, copy editor
Author Q & A
Award-winning Topsfield author Janice Petrie gives us the scoop on her latest book, “Bay State Skye”, her personal connections to the stories she writes, and her life in Topsfield.
Topsfield author focuses on sea tales
Topsfield author Janice Petrie’s newest book is Bay State Skye, historical fiction that looks at the fishing industry in the 1990’s and includes everything from treachery at sea to deception at the docks. But, Petrie has also written several educational children’s books about sea creatures. Here, the award-winning author, whose family has been involved in the Gloucester and Boston seafood trade for two generations, gives us the scoop on how she cultivates her subjects, her past work in the industry, and her life in Topsfield.
How did you first hear about the Bay State Skye?
The Bay State Skye story itself is a combination of several anecdotes that I heard from a few lobstermen I know. When put together, it seemed the perfect vehicle to create an intriguing tale about the happenings in the seafood business in 1990. This isn’t a dry historical account of the industry. It’s a captivating, authentic glimpse into an occupation unique unto itself.
What intrigued you most about the story?
People working in this particular business are by and large expressive characters who are fiercely independent and gutsy. They have to be. They can’t be jittery and handle the perils the sea will throw at them at a moment’s notice. And the people dealing with such an independent lot have to have special skills to handle day to day operations as well. That’s what made it so much fun to go to work in the fish business. Between the stories of treachery at sea that were a common occurrence and the extraordinary people who were working together, returning to work each day was as good as reading an enthralling novel.
You’ve got everything going on in this book, including a plot to dump a load of fish guts at the State House in Boston and the planting of a stinking fisherman at a bar to entice the owner to pay his bill. All true?
Yes, all true. Of course the character’s names have been changed and some personalities have been combined, but those events themselves are true. If the governor hadn’t blinked, this would have been front page news because the fish guts were loaded up and already in place in Boston. And the stinking fisherman was a brilliant idea to help persuade an owner to pay his bill, and it worked like a charm!
You worked in the industry yourself at one point. What did you do?
I was the assistant plant manager of a seafood company in Gloucester, and the shipping liaison between the Gloucester and Boston plant. I also supervised the lobster room staff and managed the retail store.
And, why did you leave the industry?
I left to continue my writing and teaching career.
You’ve published “Bay State Skye,” a true-crime murder-mystery called “Perfection to a Fault,” and several picture books for kids. That’s a very interesting mix. How did that come about?
I’ve had a personal connection to every story I write:
My grandparents owned the property where the murder occurred in Perfection To A Fault.
I met a group of 5th graders at Crane Beach who were terrified of a horseshoe crab they had found, and after teaching the kids a little about horseshoe crabs they were no longer afraid and actually tried to protect it by putting it back in the water. I’ve been teaching children and adults about coastal marine invertebrates for years and thought that if I write The Bumpy, Lumpy Horseshoe Crab, a fun, colorfully illustrated book to teach kids and their parents about one of my favorite sea animals, horseshoe crabs could someday become as beloved as whales are, another sea creature that was feared in the past.
I wrote and illustrated Did You Make the Hole in the Shell in the Sea? to clear up the mystery of what sea animal makes a perfectly drilled hole in the seashells we find at the beach. Beach goers find them all the time and make necklaces out of the clamshells, but not many people know what creature drills the hole.
Teachers in Maine asked me to write a book about lobsters that they could use as a fun way to begin their state mandated lobster unit. I told them it had already been done but changed my mind when a lobsterman brought me a gorgeous cyan blue lobster to take to schools. Some students named the lobster George and through working with George, I thought of an unusual story, Something’s Tugging on My Claw!, that highlighted a little-known defense mechanism that lobsters have, which led to the opportunity to introduce the concept of regeneration of lost claws. These books have been so well-received that the rangers at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park in Maine are using them as a fun way to teach kids about the marine invertebrates found in the Gulf of Maine.
Being from a second-generation seafood processing family and having worked in the business for several years myself, I couldn’t resist telling some of the bizarre things that happened in this age-old occupation in the Bay State Skye.
Do you have another book in the works?
I’m sure I have another book in the works.
Tell us about your life in Topsfield?
I’ve lived in Topsfield for 26 years, originally moving here because I needed enough land to keep my horse at home with me. Topsfield has proven to be the perfect writing spot for me, and all of my books have been written and illustrated here. I still perform sea animal programs as I have all my adult life, but they have morphed into popular author visits for elementary school students. I consider my writing an extension of my teaching vocation and with every book I write, I hope to leave readers thoroughly entertained and also learning something they didn’t previously know.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m an avid equestrian and animal lover, and enjoy biking at Bradley Palmer, canoeing the Ipswich River, exploring Crane Beach, and swimming.
To learn more about the works of Janice Petrie, visit seatalespublishing.com.
–Compiled by Wendall Waters, July 27, 2018; email@example.com
“An enjoyable read and unique novel of historical fiction and faction, served up with mystery, suspense, humor, mischief, economic hardship, the pull of the sea, greed, fear, politics and gritty work of fishing and getting fresh fish and lobsters to market, with political maneuvering over a hot potato of fish gurry. Not to forget a nor’easter of lobster meat. Petrie draws you into this period piece with layered, rounded, and flat characters with choices made, loves lost, misfortunes. The natural world of the ocean meets the mechanical mess of modern life. I love cross-genre books and this author pulls it off.”
—James Masciarelli (1/15/2019) Goodreads Author
“Fun, local read about the Gloucester fishing industry. This was a fun read that felt like a movie script. The characters read like real people and the main mystery of the book is revealed nicely in an abrupt but well laid out ending. I particularly enjoyed reading the behind the scenes facts about the cutting rooms and holding tanks, things I never think about when eating lobster at Woodman’s. Being a local, it wasn’t hard to see the closeness of fact and fiction, but I enjoyed the realness of the characters and felt it was authentic.”
—Amazon Customer (2/6/2019)
“I really enjoyed it! The characters were interesting, the industry details were captivating, it was humorous, suspenseful and I did not guess the ending.”
—Hannah Adelman (03/21/2019)
“Great story about the Gloucester fishing industry and the people involved in it. With a little mystery included. Awesome book!”
—Stephanie McDermott (7/19/2018)
“A great read of suspense and intrigue involving the New England fisheries!!”
—Amazon Customer (7/21/2018)
“I have read books by this author previously and was interested to read this one. I love historical fiction. Beautifully written, this book takes you behind the scenes of Massachusetts’ fishing industry. It gives you a view of the hard working men and women who choose to fish for a living. You get the feeling you can relate to these characters. It feels as if you know them. I did not realize how much political influence there is in the industry or ties to crime by some.”
—Amazon Customer (9/16/2018)
“As if there weren’t enough drama in one of the nations oldest fishing communities, now we have a series of mishaps centered around the town of Gloucester, MA, that may all be tied to one troubled catch!
This is a great tale of mystery that weaves through the daily goings on in and around one of the most famous fishing towns in the United States.
The author cleverly blends a fictional mystery narrative into the real world fishing business in Massachusetts.
From the backbreaking work of fishing and processing, to the profit driven push of sales and marketing; When there’s this much pressure and tension, there’s always someone to blame.
Maybe now, there’s some THING!
—Kevin Eaton (10/14/2018)