The Island Country
June 23, 2023
Clay Road Press
Long Island, New York, just after World War II, when the country was great for some and not so great for others, home to the Smith family: Philip, a racist Nassau County detective with a secret; his mentally ill wife, Eunice, speeding around the house looking for her coffee can of prescription pills; their oldest son, Philip Jr., aspiring pastor and budding monster; daughter Joyce, with a serious artistic talent that, in the great mall culture, she doesn’t know what to do with; and Oscar, an obese child who wants nothing more than to be a fireman when he grows up.
After surviving her own dysfunctional childhood, Joyce marries Roger, a beeraholic Customs Inspector with whom she would have two Griff, an enterprising lad fully comfortable on the other side of a line, and Stacy, a girl attuned to a dark frequency few can perceive. Decades go by, marriages fall apart, children long to escape, and Joyce struggles to find happiness in her art and life in the only place she would ever know.
Richard Daub grew up on Long Island, New York, where he pilfered milk crates, loitered in bowling alleys, rumbled in shopping mall parking lots, stocked supermarket frozen foods aisles, played guitar, cruised nightclub parking lots for girls, wrote crappy song lyrics, and longed for the day he’d forever leave “Strong Island”.
He fled the Atlantic Northeast for the Pacific Northwest and, in the late 1990s, worked for a company named after a piranha-filled river that sold books on the World Wide Web, where he met his wife.
In the 2000s he became an inexperienced journalist and quickly rose to international prominence covering the animal pharmaceutical industry.
After toiling in journalism for a number of years and reminding himself that he was but an artist, the author began a career in real estate, selling condos in Harlem until the financial disaster of 2008.
The real estate market having collapsed, he took a factory job and moved with wife and child to Westchester County, New York. After several years of labor, husbanding, and childrearing, he began writing again, waking at 3:00 am until it was time to take the kids to school and go to work, eventually completing The Adventures of Hyperkid, a young adult novel written with his son. He then completed two adult novels, History of von Schatt (1913-1960) and The Island Country, as well as a collection of short stories, The Greater Massapequas—the kind of thing agents and publishers love most, short story collections from unknown writers. Take that to your fiction workshop and smoke it.
History of von Schatt is a novel inspired by a creepy painting hung on in his author’s grandmother’s Long Island home, a portrait of the ship captain grandfather he’d never met, a man so frightening that the author, as a boy, could see fear in the eyes of the grownups whenever they spoke of “The Captain”, who, by then, had been dead two decades, harrowing tales of land and sea they probably never imagined the boy would recall later in life as a toasted journalist.
The Island Country and The Greater Massapequas are drawn from the author’s experience growing up on the desolate, amber-lit streets and mall culture of the Long Island suburbs he longed to get as far from as possible without leaving the country.
He submitted these works to “literary agents”, leeches of a swine publishing industry just as bad, if not worse, than the music industry, the filmmaking industry, and the car rental industry. After recalling that definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, he decided to heed the advice of other successful artists, to make it happen yourself.
The author would eventually realize that he could have written the greatest novel ever and he still would have gotten the same nonresponse. In his exhaustive research, he learned that there are precious few slots for titles from unknown literary writers, especially for those who didn’t hail from one of America’s leading “academic institutions”, or some “workshop” in the middle of a cornfield, or some academia that places undue relevance to the “The” before its name and has fraternities with secret handshakes and professors on the take.
The author, with several completed works in the can and crossing the threshold of fifty, old enough to have written on electric typewriters and word processors and computers with sensitive floppy disks, realized he did not need some promise of commercial success from the leeches and swine, and, that, as an artist, he needed to put his work out there and let the world decide, not some Manhattan socialite.
“It took me fifty years, but now it’s time to do it my way,” said the author recently at a sub-gala affair in south central Westchester County. “I’m not going to live long enough for the publishing industry and its gatekeepers to get their heads out of their ass. It is time to let the world decide.”