NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 7, 2014

Finding life in a fishing town

Woman saves last processing plant in Gloucester-based novel

Frederick Dillen, an odd-job itinerant novelist, will have a homecoming when he returns to launch his latest book, set in a town that local readers will recognize as Gloucester.

The heroine is a “corporate undertaker” who comes from New York to shut down the town’s last fish plant. Instead, she stays to run it — and finds love and a home, besides. Then it gets difficult.

Dillen is no stranger to Gloucester or its rich maritime heritage. He lived here on several occasions for years at a time. In the earlier years, fishing vessels clogged the harbor, and when he woke to write in the hours before dawn, he looked out over an ocean that was blanketed in dots of light to the horizon, even in deepest winter, from the boats carrying fishermen out to the banks, or back from the banks, or working the shore.

“Beauty,” just released by Simon & Schuster, has received good reviews from both locals and those in the industry, with Publishers Weekly calling it “a feel-good story with a dash of romance.”

“After a career closing factories, a woman reclaims her blue-collar roots, revives a plant and saves a community,” a Kirkus Review critic wrote. “There are strong echoes of Jimmy Stewart rallying the townspeople in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ Kudos to Dillen for his unusual premise.”

Dillen, who will read from “Beauty” today at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, is eager to return to the city where he still has family and close friends after living here for about a decade. Some will remember his wife, actress Leslie Dillen, who staged a one-woman play she wrote, “Me & George,” sparked by her encounters with George Clooney on the set of “The Perfect Storm” when it was filmed here in 1999.

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