According to author Christopher Klein, although “Shutter Island” was a fictitious island off the coast of Boston, the 34 real Boston Harbor Islands are even more bizarre.
At his book talk tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hingham Public Library, Klein will delve into the history, tales, and terrors of the land not far off the shores of Quincy, Hingham, and Hull, all things he explored while writing and recently revising his book “Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands: A Guide to the City's Hidden Shores.”
It’s a best-kept local secret, Klein purports, and his book is meant to point would-be visitors in the right direction to explore all the islands have to offer.
“I was drawn to them because of the incredibly history that happened there,” Klein said. “The stories about the islands connect to seminal moments in American history, the arrival of the first Puritans up through the Second World War…a lot of the activities on the island are connected to great moments of American history. That history and the mystery behind them drew me to them.”
Part history book, part travel guide, the stories and tales are meant to invite the reader into the land that has been cut off, both in practice and in mind, from the Boston shores for some time.
“Part of [the reason why these places are hidden] is just remnants on how the city has treated the islands for centuries. They were very neglected, even 20 yrs ago the islands weren’t a place you didn’t want to visit. The harbor was very dirty, and it might not be a relaxing place to go to,” Klein said.
In addition, numerous institutions were relegated to the island dating back to the puritan days. Castle Island was used for fortifications for 300 years, Klein said. In the 1700s, quarantined stations were put on the island, and in the 1800s, asylums and prisons were relegated to their shores.
It is perhaps another reason why so few Bostonians know about the history of the place.
“The islands have been reborn in the last 15-20 years, and in a sense they’ve been a National Park area for only 15 years … compared to Paul Revere’s house, it’s a short time in the history time span of Boston,” Klein said.
According to a library press release, there is no shortage of history to explore.
“Encompassing military installations that protected the city during wartime (including Fort Warren, home of Confederate prisoners during the Civil War), secluded retreats of the rich and famous, and the oldest light station in the country (Boston Light on Little Brewster Island), the harbor islands offer historical riches for every taste. Think pirates, pilgrims, shipwrecked sailors, and prisoners of war,” said a library press release.
According to the library website, this free event is presented in partnership with Buttonwood Books of Cohasset and designed to connect writers with readers.
Klein is also the author of “The Die-Hard Sports Fan’s Guide to
Boston”, and has had articles featured in The Boston Globe, New England
Travel, National Geographic Traveler, American Heritage, and onESPN.com.
The author talk will take place in the Whiton Room at Hingham Public Library tonight from 7 p.m. till 8:45 p.m.