Monday, May 24, 2021

Amanda M. Fairbanks's "The Lost Boys of Montauk"

Amanda M. Fairbanks is a journalist and author who has worked in the editorial department of the New York Times, as a higher education reporter at HuffPost, and as a staff writer at the East Hampton Star. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, the Atlantic, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. A graduate of Smith College and a former Teach for America corps member, she has two master’s degrees from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. The California native lives in Sag Harbor, New York with her husband and two children.

Fairbanks applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Lost Boys of Montauk: The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind, and reported the following:
Ooh! I love this test. And since this is my first book, I will pay particular attention to page 99 of my future books!

So, if you open The Lost Boys of Montauk: A True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind and turn to page 99, you will find yourself immersed in the world of David Connick, one of the four young fishermen at the heart of my book. I’m thrilled to report that, in my highly subjective opinion at least, I have indeed passed this test.

On page 99, the reader comes to learn more about Dave, who had grown up in a Fifth Avenue penthouse and whose parents had a summer home in East Hampton. On the eastern end of Long Island, most Montauk commercial fishermen come from working-class backgrounds. Few attend boarding schools. Blue-blooded pedigrees are rarer still. Given his privileged upbringing, Dave was not only an outlier, but a rebel (in the best sense of the word). Working aboard the Wind Blown alongside the young captain and his two mates, Dave wasn’t just catching tilefish: He was going in search of himself.
Dave was fearless. He’d travel the world—whether Hawaii, Mexico, or El Salvador—with little more than a few dollars in his pocket. After Dave returned from a trip to El Salvador, Morgan recalled that his friend claimed to have survived on a bananas-only diet. Seamus also remembered Dave’s trademark daredevil sensibility. When they met up in the city, Dave headed out on his skateboard. Courting danger (or worse), he’d grab on to the rear of a city bus and ride his skateboard southbound, city blocks whizzing past. “Something was definitely wrong there,” Seamus said of Dave’s natural-born impulsiveness.

There’s a photograph of Dave that hangs in Seamus’s house in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the picture, Dave stands bare-chested, wearing a rubber fishing bib. Tilefish surround his feet. “He was radiant,” Seamus told me. “He was in his prime.”
Page 99 also falls at the tail end of a chapter about Mahoneyville, an epicenter for East Coast surfing. As a teenager, Dave became a regular fixture at Mahoneyville, which came to life from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Inside the shingled barn, located within walking distance of Georgica Beach in East Hampton, Dave was among a generation of young surfers who came of age.

During the 1970s, young men and their female companions experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, smoked pot, listened to Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, and foraged for dinner in the surrounding potato fields. Mahoneyville was a bit like living inside a commune while the rest of preppy, buttoned-up East Hampton went about its business.

But for the generation of young men who came of age there, Mahoneyville also had a darker and more sinister side. Dave Connick, who, at the age of twenty-two, disappeared aboard the Wind Blown when the crew confronted a fierce nor’easter in March of 1984, wasn’t the only casualty. Once adulthood beckoned and the golden-hued light of their youth had evaporated, many of his peers later struggled with addiction and alcoholism. Afterwards, nothing again was quite the same.
Visit Amanda M. Fairbanks's website.

--Marshal Zeringue