Sayville resident releases ‘80s thriller crime noir. Jacqueline Shortell-McSweeney of Sayville recently released a crime noir novel, “Dr. Altman and the Concubines.”
By Mariana Dominguez of Suffolk County News
Jacqueline Shortell McSweeney worked for years to better the lives of women in the workplace. McSweeney, 78, of Sayville, is a lawyer who also spent time working for the Women’s Venture Fund and the award-winning Women Make Movies. Her latest project, “Dr. Altman and the Concubines,” is an ‘80s-set crime novel that follows a female running her own detective agency.
McSweeney said what inspired the setting and mood for her novel was the fact that she lived in SoHo when it was an “interesting time,” and that as she wrote, the story seemed to just flow.
“When you write, you’re combining some of your experiences with people you know,” McSweeney said. “You make composites of characters out of people you know, situations you’ve learned of, and it just sort of flows and it’s a lot of fun.”
McSweeney noted that she began writing the novel a few years ago when she had some time between work, and that she let the novel just come to her.
“The ending didn’t come to me until I got to the end,” McSweeney said. “I never knew where I was going. It just flowed.”
McSweeney has had a varied and interesting professional career with a common theme of supporting other women flowing through all of her jobs. From 1976 to 1981, she worked as an executive director and producer at Women Make Movies Inc., a filmmaker institute that promotes women in the filmmaking industry. McSweeney said it was a “challenging and wonderful job” that got some good films produced and put a lot of women filmmakers in the running to get funding. The organization went from a small group that had an approximately $10,000 budget to a very successful and recognized film distributor.
McSweeney also joined a union and became the first women grip on the East Coast. In the film industry, a grip’s responsibility is to build and maintain all the equipment that supports cameras. McSweeney said she had more than her fair share of #metoo moments in the union. She recalled a time when a man started shaking the ladder she was on and told her she should be home painting her nails.
After the union, McSweeney went to law school because as she said, “I was intent on suing people who made women’s lives so miserable when they went into jobs that men usually had.”
From 1998 to 2010, McSweeney was a program counsel for Women’s Venture Fund, a nonprofit funding agency to women entrepreneurs. She advised women entrepreneurs and helped them with legal issues. McSweeney said that one aspect she made sure the women she worked with understood was taking out a salary for themselves. She noted that many women entrepreneurs underpay themselves even to this day.
Once she retired to South Sayville and began devoting time to her novel, it took McSweeney about two years to write. Her dark and thrilling book will excite fans of Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly. “Dr. Altman and the Concubines” can be found at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.