It was just a few short months ago that we were talking about Paul Ferrante's debut novel, "Last Ghost at Gettysburg: A T.J. Jackson Mystery." Ferrante's second in the series, "Spirits of the Pirate House," hits bookstores next month.
Ferrante's first young adult novel tells the story of teenager T.J. Jackson who travels from Connecticut to Gettysburg to spend the summer with his uncle, a ranger working in Gettysburg National Battlefield, and his family. When an angry Confederate ghost goes on a killing spree, T.J., his best friend, and his adopted cousin get pulled into investigating. Besides likeably flawed characters, a gripping murder-mystery plot, a touch of the paranormal, and a pinch of romance, readers get a first rate Gettysburg history lesson.
We shouldn't be too surprised though! Besides being an author, Ferrante teaches English at Westport's Coleytown Middle School. History figures into his second T.J. Jackson mystery as well.
"Spirits of the Pirate House" follows T.J. and his friends to Bermuda, where the trio has been invited to film a television pilot for Junior Gonzo Ghost Chasers. The show requires they investigate legendary Bermudian buccaneer Sir William Tarver, who, the teens learn, has a backstory at odds with the history books.
You can catch Ferrante speaking about the book at The Big Book Club Getway at the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Center on Oct. 27 and the Fairfield Public Library on Nov. 2. In the meantime, he shares some of his memorable and favorite reads below.
What is the first book you remember loving?
Actually, it was Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," which got me into the whole pirate thing at an early age. It had adventure and a protagonist I could relate to. I wanted to be Jim Hawkins. And what young boy wouldn't want to find buried treasure?
What is a book that inspired you to be a writer?
When I was in the eighth grade I read a book entitled "Instant Replay," a football diary by the NFL Green Bay Packers' lineman Jerry Kramer during the Vince Lombardi era. Through it I learned that even a "Jock" could be thoughtful and articulate, and the book encouraged me to keep my own diary through my high school football days.
What was the first thing you remember writing?
The first major project I undertook was the fictionalized account of a high school football team's tumultuous season (no surprise there). It was pretty amateurish, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I finished it. I think I still have it packed away somewhere.
What book did you read in school that you did not fully appreciate until later?
It was probably "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. Now that I've taught it myself to my classes for so many years, I better understand her use of the book's first half to build the foundation, character and setting-wise, for the powerful story that follows.
What book would you make required reading in school?
I think Elie Wiesel's "Night," which I have taught to my middle school students, is a powerful story about survival and the human spirit. It is simply written but packs so much meaning.
What's the last great book you read?
It's a novel by my favorite author, James Lee Burke, entitled "The Glass Rainbow," another in the Dave Robicheaux detective series. The protagonist is the kind of flawed hero I gravitate towards, and Burke's descriptions of both rural Louisiana and New Orleans, where most of the series takes place, are nothing short of poetic.
What would you call a "great American novel"?
I think to be a "great American novel" you need the combination of memorable characters and setting, both of which reflect a uniquely American perspective. That's probably why I have a fondness for Mr. Burke's Dave Robicheaux series, though the subject matter—especially the mores of the American South—can be unsettling.