Lasting Influence

By Thomas MacDonald ’80

My years at Stonehill were a roller-coaster ride, mostly on the downward slope, but I somehow managed to get a degree. My year of graduation remains in dispute. Some correspondence says ’79, some says ’80—officially I use the latter. There were
detours along the way. If not for football, I never would have graduated. Head Coach Vern Laws, and Assistant Coaches Billy Rose ’72 and Lou Certuse ’74, encouraged me and inspired me. They still do today. I am grateful to these men. The same goes for my teammates—the best guys I ever met.

I was never much of a student. My transcripts will bear this out, but there was one class I loved: 20th Century Values, taught by History Professor Rosemary Twomey. The workload was challenging, and the classroom was stimulating. Prof. Twomey assigned a novel a week, and we’d discuss it in small groups. Many of the books were detective novels, by some of the giants of hardboiled crime fiction, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. I couldn’t put them down. I got an A in the class, my only A at Stonehill. My father thought it was a computer error.

In the ’80s and ’90s, I worked in the computer field. It paid the bills, but I found the work boring. Eventually I went back to school, finagling my way into Boston College’s M.B.A. program. I did well, but again, I found the material boring. Toward the end of the program, I took a class called Leadership for Change. I wrote short stories to illustrate the tenets of the class, and the director of the program said, “You should write.” Whether she was trying to steer me toward writing or away from business, I’m still not sure.

After the M.B.A., I enrolled in writing workshops at GrubStreet, Boston and then was accepted into the University of Southern Maine’s M.F.A. program, called the Stonecoast Writing Seminars. I wrote a crime fiction manuscript, and one of the professors encouraged me to send it to Oceanview Publishing. 

My first novel, The Charlestown Connection, came out in 2011. It won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for best first novel. My second novel, Beyond the Bridge, came out in 2013 and was a finalist for the 2013 Best Book of the Year CLUE  Award.

My Stonehill experience permeates my writing. I write crime novels, similar to the novels we read in Prof. Twomey’s class. The protagonist is a directionless former college football player, who shoulders the burden of an unquenchable thirst. Catholic overtones imbue the narrative, as does the influence of a Catholic education.

My next novel, working title The Revenge of Liam McGrew, has a cop named Fran Dillon ’70, an investigator named Kenny Bowen ’98 and an IRA soldier named Chuck Race ’81—all named for Stonehill friends. There is a scene in Caffé Bella, a trendy trattoria owned by Stonehill teammate and friend Patrick Barnes ’80. Despite my shoddy academic performance, where a C was something to celebrate, the College hung in there with me, and for that I am grateful.

[Junior and Senior: Thomas MacDonald ’80 pictured above with his late father, Thomas MacDonald ’53. The author’s yearbook photo, above right.]

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