Friday, August 29, 2014

Jeremiah Healy, Who Created Boston Private Eye, Dies at 66

from the New York Times

Jeremiah Healy, Who Created Boston Private Eye, Dies at 66

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Jeremiah Healy, an acclaimed mystery writer whose best-known creation, the conflicted private investigator John Francis Cuddy, was a Vietnam veteran who solved crimes and confronted sensitive political issues with compassion, wit and the occasional burst of violence, died on Aug. 14 in Pompano Beach, Fla. He was 66.
His fiancée, Sandra Balzo, said Mr. Healy committed suicide and had suffered from depression for many years.
Mr. Healy, a Harvard Law School graduate who began writing his books while teaching law, introduced Cuddy with the publication of his first novel, “Blunt Darts,” in 1984. He went on to write a dozen more and two short-story collections about the jaded but earnest sleuth who typically plied the waterfront and back streets of Boston. Many of the books were finalists for the Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America, and one, “The Staked Goat” (1986), won it.
John Cuddy was a former military police officer and widower who read deep into newspapers and took long, thoughtful jogs across his historic city. He killed when he needed to kill, but readers were as likely to remember his vivid observations of the people and places he knew as they were the violence.

“The morgue was built back in the ’30s,” Mr. Healy, in Cuddy’s voice, wrote in “Rescue” (1995). “It was almost new in November 1942, when the bodies from the Coconut Grove fire were taken there by the hundreds, at least as many people standing in line outside the mortuary that next Sunday morning, waiting to identify friends and loved ones. Now, though, the morgue was literally falling down on the pathologists and technicians who work inside it, gaps in the hung ceiling where the rectangles of Styrofoam have crumbled onto the examining tables and slabs.
“They’ve been talking for years about moving the place out to Framingham on state-owned land that would be a cheaper site than building or renovating in Boston. Until then, the medical examiner struggles with an inadequate budget and a pared-down staff and conditions more appropriate to the end of the 19th century than the predawn hours of the 21st.”
Mr. Healy explored topical issues, including assisted suicide in “Right to Die” and urban-rural divisions in “Foursome.” He wrote about date rape, racism, AIDS and homelessness.
Reviewing “Shallow Graves” in The New York Times in 1992, Marilyn Stasio called the Cuddy books a “superior series” and cited Mr. Healy’s “mousetrap timing and tight plotting.”
“Using fine brush strokes when he likes his subject and sharp pointillist jabs when he doesn’t,” Ms. Stasio wrote, “the author executes one of his better studies on Primo T. Zuppone, a mob enforcer whose aesthetic sensibility belies his skill at smashing kneecaps. ‘Cuddy,’ he advises the detective, ‘you got to look for the art in life.’ If Cuddy doesn’t quite get the message, we do.”
Jeremiah Francis Healy III was born on May 15, 1948, in Teaneck, N.J. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1970 and from Harvard Law School in 1973. He worked in private practice for several years before joining the faculty of the New England School of Law in Boston, where he taught from 1978 to 1996.
Mr. Healy wrote a few novels that were not part of the Cuddy series, and he wrote a separate three-book series, under the pseudonym Terry Devane, that featured a young lawyer, Mairead O’Clare, whose toughness was evident in high school, where she made the boys’ hockey team.
In addition to Ms. Balzo, Mr. Healy’s survivors include a sister, Pat Pinches. His marriage to Bonnie M. Tisler ended in divorce.
Mr. Healy, who lived in Pompano Beach, was a past president of the Private Eye Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers.
Like some mystery writers and so-called midlist authors, he began struggling to find publishers when the industry began contracting in the late 1990s. The last Cuddy book, “Spiral,” was published in 1999 and took place mostly in Florida.
Ms. Balzo, who also writes mysteries, said Mr. Healy had drafted two screenplays in recent years and was planning to revive Cuddy in a new book. Research material for it occupies seven feet of shelf space in his office, she said.

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