Veteran broadcaster Jack Heath takes on Salem witch trials in thriller with modern twistBy KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
New Hampshire Union Leader July 20. 2012 11:56PM
The book entitled "Salem VI: Rebecca's Rising" was released Thursday - 320 years after Heath's ancestor Rebecca Nurse was hanged at Gallows Hill in Salem, Mass., on July 19, 1692.
"To me, Rebecca Nurse was not a witch. In fact, she was so popular in the community back then," Heath said of Nurse, who was in her early 70s when executed. Another of his ancestors was Ann R. Putnam, who was one of Nurse's accusers, Heath said.
Growing up in nearby Swampscott, Mass., Heath said the history of Salem and the infamous witch trials were a pervasive and fascinating part of his life. He always knew he would write a book about it someday. Then, on a family vacation in South Carolina a few years ago, the idea came to him.
"I was just thinking, what if the judges weren't really judges? What if they were the witches who had formed a pact with Satan... and the accused were God's children? And what if it was still going on today behind the scenes?" Heath said.
The fictional book is built on the premise that the accusers formed a pact with Satan and fabricated the witchcraft charges to frame the innocent and offered them as sacrifices to the devil, he explained. It carries this theme to the present day when the book's main character - a former primetime network television newsman named John Andrews -discovers a secret underground satanic coven continuing to operate three centuries later.
"A couple of the coven members are everyday professionals and they are part of this satanic coven in a kind of alter life. There is a whole formula about how members are selected generation to generation going back to the original six," Heath explained.
The book draws heavily on the reality of evil in every day life.
"Good and evil are at the center of this," explained Heath, who lives in Bedford.
Heath worked nearly 18 years in television news at stations in Maine, Boston and New Hampshire, including working as a news reporter and news director at WMUR. He now hosts NH Today, New Hampshire's only live afternoon radio talk show. He also is cohost of Sport Legends of New England with Bob Lobel, which can be seen throughout New England on Comcast Spotlight.
Heath said it took him about 2 1/2 years to write the book.
"I kind of had it in my head from start to finish," he said. He sent the manuscript out and was approached by two publishing houses. He signed a three-book contract with Pressque Publishing. The second book of the trilogy will pick up where "Salem VI: Rebecca's Rising" ends.
"Salem VI: Rebecca's Rising" by Jack Heath and John Thompson was released in electronic version Thursday and will be followed by a hard-cover release next month.