'Celtic Crossing' an inspirational first novel for Mystic man
Mystic — Family cancer syndrome may not be a well-recognized medical phenomenon among the public, but it was almost like second nature to Len Mattano, who has crafted a newly published novel, "Celtic Crossing," that explores the mysterious interplay between medicine and miracles.
Mattano, an oncologist now involved in drug development consulting primarily for Pfizer Inc., said he actually had a hand in helping unravel the mysteries of the cancer syndrome noted for afflicting generations of families.
He said it was his practice's collection of specimens from three generations of one family, including an 8-year-old oncology patient, that helped provide genetic clues later used in a key scientific paper by researchers from the Dana Farber Institute to show the predisposition of some families to hand down cancers across generations.
So when it came time to write his first novel, Mattano decided to merge his longtime passion for oncology research with his interest in religion, penning what he calls an inspirational suspense story about a quest to find a long-lost icon believed to have healing qualities that could cure a young boy's cancer.
"It's about spiritual journeys," Mattano said in an interview at his Masons Island home. "How do you deal with death from whatever cause?"
Mattano said he's always been interested in writing, but it really captured his imagination while attending high school in Grand Rapids, Mich., and encoutering a "very inspiring teacher" in 10th grade English class. It was she who got Mattano into journaling, and he's been doing it his whole life.
Growing up Catholic, he also began reading scripture at an early age, finding the Bible a wonderful source of literary inspiration. And in "Celtic Crossing," the plot switches back and forth from the relatively contemporary year of 2010 to ancient times, invoking real historical figures including Jesus' mother Mary, Simon the Apostle, several popes and Roman Emperor Constantine Augustus.
According to Publishers Weekly, "Mattano makes a moving debut with this story set in contemporary Ireland that weaves together ecclesiastical lessons and stories from the New Testament. ... Featuring a passionate sleuth and God-graced relic, Mattano's scripture-heavy tale will be of interest to faith readers who enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code' but prefer lower stakes."
The story follows several strands but revolves around a Jesuit cleric who tries to dig into the mystery of a cross that had been known to heal several generations of an Irish family until it was lost. And now a young member of the family is dying of leukemia, setting the cleric on a quest to locate the cross that requires him to research the lives of ancient legends.
"As the story unfolds, those involved are forced to confront their individual struggles, their belief in the reality of God and their relationship with God," said the Rev. Thomas F.X. Hoar, president of St. Edmund's Retreat on Enders Island, in a review published just inside the front cover.
The book was published late last year by Paraclete Press in Brewster, Mass., a company that focuses on fiction with religious themes. Mattano held the publication launch event at Enders Island, sponsored by Bank Square Books, and said he sold several dozen books there.
On Sunday, March 22, at 3 p.m. Mattano will be signing books at St. Patrick Church in Mystic as part of a Sober St. Patrick's celebration after the annual Mystic Irish Parade in downtown.
Mattano, a member of the local Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association that meets in Groton, also has been on a bit of a book tour: in midcoast Maine, where he has a summer cabin, and in Michigan, where he grew up and ran an oncology practice for 18 years. He also has done a book tour in Ireland, where he was told the vernacular language he used in "Celtic Crossing" was spot on.
Readers, he said, have found the book uplifting, despite the plot involving childhood cancer.
"The feedback I've had has been heartwarming," Mattano said.
Title: "Celtic Crossing"
Author: Len Mattano
Publisher: Paraclete Press
Price: $17.99, paperback
Available: Bank Square Books in Mystic, Savoy Bookshop & Cafe in Westerly and online from BAM, Barnes & Noble and Amazon
Booksigning: 3-5 p.m. Sunday, March 22, at St. Patrick Church in Mystic
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