WHITMAN — Residents got a sneak peek on Thursday, Oct. 6 of Whitman Public Library’s November celebration of National Writing Month, which will feature a half-dozen author visits.
The Friends of the Whitman Public Library funds the series.
Braintree resident and novelist Jim Lynch discussed his work Oct. 6, and read excerpts of his 2014 book “The Longshoremen: Life on the Waterfront.” Come November, the series shifts to 6 p.m., on Mondays.
“We are giving a platform to local authors to display and promote their work,” said Library Director Andrea Rounds. “Local author series are really popular around here. … Everyone is excited about a different talk.”
Among the authors slated to appear [see box, page 9] are: Terri Arthur who wrote, “Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell, World War I Nurse,” on Nov. 14; Faye George, author of, “Voices of King Philip’s War,” on Nov. 21 and — wrapping things up on Dec. 12 is Whitman photographer, writer and artist Russ DuPont.
DuPont suggested the program.
“I’m a writer and I thought it would be interesting for Whitman [Library] to do something like this,” DuPont said before Lynch’s talk. “She did the gathering. … I just finished some stuff and had been giving some readings in Boston and it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen anything here like that in a while.”
“He’s in the library all the time,” Rounds said of DuPont’s support for library programs.
Rounds saw Terri Arthur at a book talk while she was on vacation on the Cape this summer and jumped at the chance to book her for the series.
“That book talk is right around Veterans’ Day, so it’s pretty timely,” Rounds said. “The writer is a nurse herself.” The King Philip’s War talk takes place three days before Thanksgiving.
“This was in our community, we are right in the area where this happened,” she said. “So we are thrilled that we can have Faye George come and speak about that book.”
Lynch, too, wrote about a subject to which he has a personal experience — he and his father, who emigrated from Ireland in 1918, were both longshoremen. His first book, “The Hook and the Badge,”  is a mystery that also takes place on the Boston waterfront.
“The Longshoremen” intertwines the stories of three families and how they survived working the waterfront and its archaic hiring system called the shape-up.
Lynch spoke about the storyline of the book, how he got into longshoring and the history and function of the old hiring system. He then answered audience questions before signing copies of his book that were purchased.
“I knew [his father] worked on ships, but I didn’t know exactly what he did,” Lynch said of his teen years. “The furthest thing from my mind, growing up, was to be a longshoreman.”
But, after graduating from Mission Church High School in 1950, that’s where he went to work after a brief stint as a messenger boy earning 75 cents an hour.
Longshoremen could earn as much as $2 an hour straight time and, as the son of a longshoreman, he could inherit his father’s union card. His father had died in 1944.
There was a downside to that pay scale, however.
“You never knew when you were going to work, you never knew how much money you were going to be making,” he said, and has reflected in his characters’ struggles in the book.
In the shape-up, the longshoremen would stand in front of the stevedores who would call those they knew first — by name — for work. Those left, if needed, would be pointed to and union cards had to indicate dues were up-to-date for them to begin working.
Much of the work once done by longshoremen on cargo vessels is now done by automation on giant container ships. The shape-up is also now a thing of the past on the waterfront, Lynch said.
Born and raised in Charlestown, Lynch had worked as a longshoreman for 20 years before he became a teacher, including at Silver Lake Regional, Halifax and Pembroke schools, for special needs students and a basketball coach. The latter is something, at 83, he still enjoys doing at the Woodward School in Quincy and plays volleyball “a couple of times a week” and swims a lot.
“In the old days, people stayed in shape by working hard — they didn’t have to go to a gym,” he said.
They say the best advice for writers is to write what you know, and Lynch said that is exactly why he writes about the waterfront.
“The three things I know about are basketball, longshoring and teaching,” he said before his program. “I had some free time on my hands [after his 1996 retirement from teaching] and that’s when I started writing.”
His love of reading mysteries and thrillers informed the style of his first book. His characters are mainly composites of real people he knew and/or worked with, including main character Jimmy McGowan, who he based on himself — and he outlines each character’s physical appearance and personality before beginning a book.
“If you sit down and try to make it up as you go along, I didn’t find it worked,” Lynch said.
Lynch’s best advice to would-be writers?
“The best advice is to write and study writers,” he said. “I got into a writing group a couple of times and it didn’t work out, but if you can get into a good writing group, that helps a lot.”