Collected Columns by Thomas McGann

“Even the wind determines what your future is,” said Thomas McGann as he addressed his audience at the Ocean Beach Historical Society on Sunday morning, Aug. 28. A water-skiing expedition in the 1960s landed him and some friends on a slim strip of bay beach, where they saw the majestic structure known as Maguire’s. He and his friends would start offering water skiing lessons from one of the nearby boat slips, and in due course, Leila Gal (Frank Maguire’s widow, since remarried) had offered the grand waterfront establishment for sale to the young partners. Tom’s destiny was changed from that chance landing on the beach.

Ever the storyteller, it was not hard to understand why he was in town today signing copies of his latest book, “Historical Anecdotes from the Fire Island News.” Tom had contributed articles to this publication since 2015 and became our history columnist between the years 2017 to 2021. This generously sized volume is a collection of some of his best work, which he compiled and self-published between these years.

Due to a recent COVID diagnosis among Historical Society personnel, everyone had to be masked this Sunday morning, so it felt like 2021 again – the year this book was released.

It was the first title FIN Book Review Columnist Rita Plush covered in the 2022 season. When Tom told me he had a book signing date, giving this event to another reporter was out of the question. And while the audience could not see it, I had a big smile underneath my mask because I was so happy for him.

It was great to watch him address the audience, whose attention he kept by not giving an infomercial of his book, but a description of the journey that brought his favorite articles about.

An article he wrote on rumrunning on Fire Island in 2018 was as much a suspense-thriller as any Raymond Chandler novel.  The next summer, Tom somehow made the history of the Smith Point Bridge laugh-out-loud funny. Then there was a sobering discussion about Camp Siegfried, a darker chapter of Long Island history.

Author Thomas McGann with his niece, Kelly.

Like other book signings held in that venue, it was even crashed by someone who interrupted Tom’s presentation for reasons known only to themselves. I remember when that happened at my book signing there. Tom and I commiserated about it when I joined his family that afternoon for lunch at Maguire’s, his old stomping ground.

 Tom flew the nest to explore new adventures in his writing career. We remain good friends.

While Tom may be too modest to give an infomercial about his book, I am not. This collection is not just a copy of what was printed in the Fire Island News. There are Easter eggs here – including unpublished material and passages that were sometimes sacrificed to the cutting room floor to meet the size of the printed page. This book stands on its own and belongs on every Fire Island history buff’s bookshelf.