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A Beguiling and Whimsical Journey to the New World - an Editorial Review of "Cate's Crossing"

Author Bio:

Before my traveling without leaving chair from the small attic stage behind my eyes was required, I ventured into the light quite a few times. Since 1958, I have been an actor/singer on television and on Broadway (Tony nomination for Applause with Lauren Bacall)… Winner of the Theatre World Award for the musical revue, Put it in Writing. The original cast of Sesame Street (Buddy and Jim)… Four-time Cable Ace Award nominee for the TV series, Brothers on Showtime... Starred in TV series Jennifer Slept Here NBC… and Chicken Soup ABC… Over 50 yrs., guest starring on shows like… Naked City, The Defenders, Route 66, Newhart, Murder, She Wrote, Murphy Brown, Married With Children, ER, Ellen, Madeline, Love, Sidney, The Sentinel, Boy Meets World, L.A. Law, Who’s The Boss, Simon, Bakersville P.D., Babes, and Brisco County Jr.… TV movies: Daughter of the Streets, The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg. The Betrayal, Running Mates. Spiritual Warriors, Living in Fear, Mars and Beyond, Intrepid, Running Out, Dream Date, and My Old Man.

Operas include La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, Carmen, and Pagliacci. Other Broadway and Off-Broadway shows include, New Faces of 1968, Lorelei, Purlie, Musical Chairs, Put it in Writing, Potholes, Straws in the Wind, Sing Muse, The Long Valley, The Mad Show, Gems of Burlesque, Lil Abner, South Pacific, Romance: But Not for Me, and Eugene Ionesco’s The Killer. Big flops were Kelly, One Night Stand, We Interrupt This Program, America be Seated, and Hellzapoppin (twice). Films include The World According to Garp… Dressed to Kill… and the cult film, Christmas Evil.

I am the father of musical artists, Fiona Apple Maggart and Maude Amber Maggart, actor Garett Maggart, writer Spencer Brandon Maggart, R.N., C.C.A.P.P. Recovery Counselor, Jennifer Louise Maggart, Contract Administrator, Julienne Joy Maggart, and six grandchildren: Ian, Mack, Kylie, Loren, Lindsey, and newly on the scene, Hudson Earl Maggart. And, hopefully, saving me a seat in the afterlife, Justine Marie Maggart.

I am a graduate (Notable Alumnus) of the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism, class of ’56. I, also, attended Sewanee, The University of the South, and Columbia University. My artwork was featured in the Venice Centennial Art Walk in 2005. Also, I had the honor of reading my poem, “Diversity in Venice” at The Venice Carnivale, the Venice Centennial Celebration, and the Venice post office Abbot Kinney Mural Dedication in 2007.

CATE'S CROSSING is my first novel. I have published six other books, mostly of a humorous memoirish bent. My latest book, WHERE the POSSUMS DANCE and the WILLOW SINGS is also published on audio, with me as the narrator, reciting my own poems, and singing my own songs. I am 88 years old and presently writing my eighth book - a sequel to CATE'S CROSSING.

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Editorial Review:

'Cate's Crossing' is a beguiling and curious novel, to be sure. It is whimsical and at times rambling, but the extended flights of fancy that it contains and the truly playful use of language, at times reminiscent of the great Dylan Thomas himself, make this worthy of pardon and of forgiveness. The occasional infelicities of historical accuracy can equally be overlooked. Most of this playful nature of the book is contained in the words and doings of Liam Malone, father of Cate, former habitual and entertaining drunk turned all observing seagull following his murder in a brawl at his habitual pub. Liam, man or seagull, is always entertaining. There may be occasions in reading this bizarre and quirky novel when the reader might be prone to moments of irritation and frustration, but it also has moments of sublime humour and beauty. It is worth travelling through to the end of this ultimately satisfying book and its paean of praise to the pleasures and glories of transmigration.

Liam Malone is a drinker and a teller of wonderful stories. He is a terrible husband to his long suffering wife Amy and a wonderful father to his daughter Cate. Liam readily admits his weakness. ''I have a lovely mistress,''[he tells us] She lives inside a glass......there's nothing can surpass the bitch inside the glass.....' 'Cates Crossing' is a novel that principally relates the long life and achievements of Cate Malone, along with other frequent interjections from other characters who, most usually rather confusingly, appear out of kilter with the chronology. Cate, the author tells us, ''is a determined flower emerging through a crack between cobblestones along the waterfront area near the river Thames. She and her two friends, Carie and Daisy, blossom forth much as a rose, a daffodil and a violet, seeking more fertile ground in which to shine. The rose [Cate] is determined, strong and with a few thorns for protection. The daffodil [Daisy] is open, beautiful, and without fear. The violet {Carie] is vulnerable, often demurring, but equally as beautiful in spirit as are the rose and the daffodil..... Cate is a survivor without ever sacrificing her integrity.''

This is an admirable introduction to the three young girls as they are about to embark as indentured servants on a voyage to Philadelphia and the New World; on a voyage that proves to be a hellish experience, unnaturally long and beset with violent storms and calms. The untypically long voyage is one of extreme discomfort, stench and hunger - there are suggestions of cannibalism - and a rate of mortality that leaves the majority of the two hundred passengers dead. In the voyage to Philadelphia they are even attacked by pirates and diverted to an unknown island; with great significance and impact upon the story that is yet to come. Young Cate Malone, her mother apparently drowned in a suicide six years previously, sets sail with her friends Carie Bishop and Daisy Cartwright on the good ship ''The Fancy'' on May 24th 1756, on the very day her father is murdered in a drunken brawl and then witnesses his own wake in his new form as a seagull. On his own stabbing and death, Liam Malone quotes Shakespeare: ''Tis not so deep as a well, nor as wide as a Church door, but tis enough. 'Twill serve.'' In his new persona of a seagull he observes, gratified, his own wake from a perch in the rafters: ''From the way they are talking about me I wish I would have known me better. I would have enjoyed my company. I believe that I am more popular dead than alive. That doesn't seem right, but there's little I can do about it at this point.''

The violent intervention of pirates and their subsequent prolonged stay on a beautiful uncharted island means that Cate, Daisy and Carie, much affected and changed by their experiences [as well as secretly in possession of great wealth] that 162 days have elapsed since they set sail from England. Only nineteen of the original two hundred passengers have survived. The shipping Company is just about ruined by this, but they are bailed out by two men who did very well out of the many events of the voyage; Caesar and Captain Hans Smithson use the Company to launder the proceeds of their pirate booty and develop their own fleet of ships and mercantile business, running foul of the Monarchy on the eve of Revolution. The three girls pursue their own separate destinies; Cate taking up her duties as servant to Colonel and Mrs Beecham on their plantation at 'Beecham's Folly.'. The daughter of the black slave Cook, Martha, is Elsie. She is to become Cate's most lasting, constant and faithful friend. The kindly Colonel and his wife have their own huge secret which will further affect young Cate's life immeasurably! It is by an extremely convoluted route that Mrs Beecham meets her husband and begins her own new life in the New World as it reverts from a colony to the infant United States of America.

For this reviewer the whole section of the book from Cate's arrival in Philadelphia to the very end is the best related and most compelling aspect of the entire work, as we follow the highs and lows of Cate's life and career living on the very frontier of the young Republic, living on her own wits and with courage, skill and nobility with her close friend Elsie in the hills and mountains of Tennessee. There are times when life is very good and surrounded by loving friends and times when life is heartbreakingly tragic. Throughout, she has a financial cushion, well hidden, the legacy of her time among the pirates. In her old age, looking out from her isolated home, she reflects:

''The trees of the Appalachian mountains and the Tennessee hills are glorious with their most beautiful autumn colors of bright yellows, flaming reds, and varieties of shades of gold. The daffodils and roses and violets are sleeping. They celebrate the coming and the going of all things beautiful as they become barren and then to become green and vibrant once again in the Spring, as evidenced by young Martha's [the baby grand daughter of Elsie] radiant smile. Martha will be obliged to share that sweet smile with the world that she will live in. I wish that it might be contagious.''

The winter of 1812 to 1813 is the harshest in living memory on the frontier. Cate is by now thin and crippled with pain, her hair is white. This proves to be simply another aspect of her involved and varied and complicated existence. Her ever present guide and knowing observer is the seagull that has always appeared at certain points in her life. The seagull is with her now, a companion on a new phase in her long and worthwhile life:

''I have been watching you, Catie, and I have been extremely proud of every single moment that you dd live on this earth. One word, above others, comes to mind: 'unselfishness'. There was not one greedy bone in your body..........I have followed you and your friends all across the mighty Atlantic southern route - and into your new lives in America..... you will spend the rest of your days being very wise; With your extraordinary eyes and your infinite wisdom, you will continue to watch over your family as I have observed you.....You're a lucky girl, Mary Catherine Malone from Port London, England - now living in what some call the 'Smoky Mountains'.''

It has been a long and arduous and at times difficult to read journey.. We should all be thankful to the writer, Brandon R Maggart, for guiding us through it all and to a righteous and joyous ending.


“Cate's Crossing” by Brandon R. Maggart receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award for excellence.



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