One of James Masciarelli’s earliest memories from the age of 4 stems from spending time on Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester.
He well remembers the silky sand and expansive views and the homes overlooking the beach.
“I will live here one day,” he recalls thinking. And he succeeded, now dividing his time between Gloucester and Naples, Florida.
But he took that love of place to a new level when he penned an adventure novel about a Gloucester woman, Shannon Clarke, in a book titled “Beyond Beauport,” which was released on July 24. Clarke learns that she is an 11th generation descendant of a 1720s Caribbean female pirate — “a fearless redhead,” said the author.
Masciarelli, who grew up in Westborough, immersed himself in local history, with years of research — including genealogical research — in archives, museums and the library, to develop his characters and the story.
The main character has her dreams of becoming a sea captain revived when a mysterious uncle visits with tales of family connections to Caribbean pirates and famous Gloucester sea captains. They set out to sea to find answers about their family’s past.
“The voyage tests their talents and strength, and challenges beliefs of family, identity and purpose,” according to a synopsis.
When asked why a female protagonist, Masciarelli — who has lived here for nearly 40 years and has a background in social work — said the idea developed when he began to explore a hypothesis that Gloucester women were unique.
“I always loved the women here. I felt they were different. They had a certain sensibility,” he said.
Masciarelli studied psychology and classical literature in college. He also has advanced degrees in clinical psychology and a master’s in business administration.
As part of his research, he interviewed 24 women, from ages 24 to 84, to learn from this cross section of waterfront personalities to develop authentic Gloucester characters.
“I interviewed all kinds of women, all born and bred in Gloucester, to get their perspective of growing up here. Some would have loved to have had the chance to be a sea captain. I also met husbands and brothers and boyfriends in that process,” he said. “Why are the women so different here? I believe it’s the maritime culture that they grew up in and it is handed down, through ancestral memories, temperament, family ways and culture.”
He described Gloucester women as irrepressible, indomitable, resourceful, community-oriented and maintaining strong family bonds.
“I think if I went to Boston and rounded up 20 women, I don’t think it would be remotely close to what I found here. Plus this area has such a high interest in the arts. My main character is an actress, a poet and a writer. She loves the ocean,” he said. “This is Cinderella meets the raging seas.”
The idea about the main character lived in his head for a while as he pondered how to make a story out of this. After visiting a museum exhibit in Florida about seafaring women and pirates, the threads of the story began to pull together.
“Following that exhibit, I did a deep dive in the subject matter, and now am a proud owner of 50 books on this subject,” he said.
Masciarelli said this book is a reflection of his love for Cape Ann’s landscape, maritime history and “intriguing characters.” The novel spans a year between Gloucester’s Schooner Festival and references historic figures who made their mark on Cape Ann.
Award-winning Gloucester author JoeAnn Hart gave the book a shout out when she wrote: “From the working waterfront to the high seas, ‘Beyond Beauport’ captures the nautical adventures of a Gloucester woman looking to catch a second wind. Shannon has salt in her veins and ancestors in her head, as she sails the eastern seaboard searching for the treasure of the fearless 18th century pirate Anne Bonny, and hoping to find herself in the process. Full of history, geography, maritime life, storms, and recipes, Masciarelli has created an exciting tale of today’s woman at one with the sea.”
Gloucester’s Peter Anastas, who also endorsed the book, said Masciarelli’s mastery of plot, suspense, pacing, dialogue and story “belies any sense that ‘Beyond Beauport’ is his first novel.”
“The history that frames this gripping narrative is impeccable. Embarking on this adventure with such appealing characters offers a pleasure that only the most well-crafted novels can provide,” wrote Anastas.
Prior to writing this novel, Masciarelli gained experience in social work, entrepreneurship and business consulting. In his spare time, he said he can be found walking his twin beagles along Gloucester Harbor with his wife Judi, dory rowing and sailing with friends and finding ways to support the creative economy.
IF YOU GO
What: Book launch party for “Beyond Beauport,” by James Masciarelli
When: Sunday, July 29, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson St., Gloucester
There will be a presentation by the author, a book signing, and wine and cheese. For more information and to RSVP, visit www.jamesmasciarelli.com. The book is available locally at the Bookstore of Gloucester, Maritime Gloucester, and online.
There are two book events in August: On Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Gloucester’s Sawyer Free Library, (time TBA); and on Wednesday, Aug. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Gloucester House.