PUTNEY — John Adam Wasowicz, lawyer and now author, will sign copies of his recently published first novel, "Daingerfield Island," on Friday, Dec. 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Antidote Books, 120 Main St. Light refreshments will be provided.
A murder mystery/thriller of cinematic scope, the novel introduces the character Elmo Katz, who used to be a prosecutor but is now a defense lawyer. In court, his favorite line in his opening statement is, "Fatta la legge, trovato l'inganno," which he translates loosely as, "Every law has its loophole."
Of the main character, Wasowicz said, "Katz is flawed, but he strives to do the right thing. And he succeeds."
The setting of the book is based on an actual place. Wasowicz lives in northern Virginia. For much of his professional life, he said, he has driven the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Mount Vernon to Alexandria, Arlington, and the District of Columbia.
"Daingerfield Island is located directly below Reagan National Airport," he said. "I have spent countless hours constructing and deconstructing real cases — as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney — while I was driving up and down the Parkway in the early morning and late at night. Somewhere along the line, I began to construct a fictional story in my mind. Since I passed Daingerfield Island daily, the story naturally began at that location."
Although Wasowicz lives in Virginia, he has New England roots. He was born and grew up in nearby Chicopee, Mass. After attending St. Michael's College in Colchester for two years, he transferred to Windham College in Putney, where he discovered a love of journalism while working on the college "Free Press."
"I wanted more flexibility in constructing my own curriculum, particularly as it related to literature," he said in an email interview, "and Windham gave me that. I began my writing career as news editor of the `Windham College Free Press.' I used to visit Norm Runnion (legendary former editor of "The Brattleboro Reformer" from 1969 to 1990, when the Reformer offices and presses were still at 71 Main St., Brattleboro) because there was something special about sitting in the newsroom and discussing how to investigate and write a story.
"Norm always had time whenever I dropped by, always unannounced," Wasowicz continued. "He was very instructive in assisting me with my writing for `The Free Press.'"
The dean of Marquette's journalism school at that time was George E. Reedy, former press secretary to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Wasowicz said, adding, "He was a mentor during my two years at Marquette, where I worked as an editor of small weekly newspapers. After graduating, I got a job with Gannett Newspapers in Elmira, New York, on `The Star Gazette.'"
However, since his girlfriend lived in Washington, D. C., Wasowicz moved there and worked for Sen. Edward W. Brooke III, (R. Mass.).
"(I knew) if I was going to succeed in Washington, I needed either a law degree or a Ph.D.," Wasowicz said. "I settled for the law degree, which I earned at night at Catholic University while working full-time and starting a family. Despite moving away from journalism as a profession, I have always applied my writing skills to my work."
Writing this novel was a labor of love, Wasowicz said.
"My wife, Robin Herron, gave me the time to work through it," he said. "Clarinda Harriss at BrickHouse Books guided the editing process, improving the storyline. Toward the end, the book wrote itself, as though I was sitting at the keyboard and the story was composing itself. That's when I knew I had the right combination."
Elmo Katz will return in the second novel, "Jones Point," Wasowicz said, "with Katz acting as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and facing a diabolical Russion operative."
Nancy A. Olson, a frequent contributor to the Reformer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.