Written by Betsy Abraham Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00
Richard Panchyk sold his first book at seven years old. Sure, it was just a four-page handwritten trivia booklet he sold to a third grade classmate for a nickel, but that book was just the start of great things to come.
Today, the Westbury resident’s writing roster includes 23 nonfiction books, including one on the history of Westbury and several for young readers. His works can be found in libraries in all 50 states, and have been translated into five languages.
Many of Panchyk’s books are historical nonfiction and cover a variety of topics including Long Island history, New York City history, World War II and Galileo. In 2007, he published A History of Westbury which explores the transformation of the village from its agricultural start.
Panchyk says he got the idea to write a book about Westbury’s history around the time of the 75th anniversary of the incorporated village.
“I realized that nobody had written a book about Westbury. I thought it would be interesting, considering all the people that live here or have lived here,” he said. “I like to pick topics that I think can add something to what’s out there, to do something different that would add value. I don’t want to write a book about something that’s been covered many times.”
Through his research, Panchyk found out about Westbury’s Quaker roots, which can still be evidenced by one of the buildings at the Quaker Friends Meeting House on Jericho Turnpike which dates back to the mid-19th century. He found several buildings in the village that date back to the 1800s, including a few homes and buildings on Post Ave. He also found out that Post Ave. was once a pit stop for a famous figure.
“Charles Lindbergh came to Post Ave. for refreshments when he was training for his flight across the Atlantic,” says Panchyk. “It was at the pharmacy across from the Space.”
When researching for a book, Panchyk immerses himself in the topic, looking everywhere from library databases, to garage sales (where he once found old letters), for interesting information.
He also gets a lot of information from people relevant to the subject. For a book on the Supreme Court, he talked to lawyers as well as participants in major court cases, and for an upcoming book on the history of baseball, he talked to former baseball players. He’s also interviewed Kurt Vonnegut, Rudy Giuliani, Mario Cuomo to Ralph Nader and more than 500 others for his books.
“It’s always a thrill to interview someone who’s played a major role or done something you admire,” Panchyk said.
Filled with firsthand accounts, interesting facts and pictures, Panchyk’s books make history engaging for readers of all ages.
“Today is tomorrow’s history. The present is going to be the past, and every day is going to be history. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned and comparisons to be made to how we live today,” Panchyk says. “And history contains a lot of surprises.”
Panchyk’s love of reading nonfiction as a child also encouraged him to write several books for young audiences, including Galileo for Kids, Archaeology for Kids, American Folk Art for Kids and the bestselling, World War II for Kids.
Panchyk is currently working on a book about the history of baseball, which is expected to come out Spring 2015. He will be the guest speaker at the Westbury/Carle Place Chamber of Commerce meeting on Feb. 25. Find out more about Panchyk and his books at www.panchyk.com.