Shelton native's novel highlights his former hometown

Jonathan Gunger didn’t think an assignment he was given during his junior year at Shelton High School was more than just that.

However, 30 years later, it turned out to be the inspiration for his novel “34/4.”

Bits of life in the Valley — crossing soggy cow pastures to go trout fishing in a local stream that feeds the Far Mill Reservoir, hanging out at Indian Well, attending concerts at the New Haven Coliseum, and other threads of daily life in Shelton and the surrounding areas — are interwoven into the fabric of 34/4.

In his new novel, Gunger follows the lives of the fictional Taylor family who lived and worked in Connecticut in the 1970s and early 1980s, and tells the story of their journey to rediscover peace and happiness following a tragic accident on the icy Housatonic River.

Short story brought reaction

“I began writing ‘34/4’ when I was a junior at Shelton High, because it started with a short story that I wrote way back then,” Gunger said. “What astounded me at the time was the reaction I got — girls in the class were upset, and even crying.

“My writing had gotten a reaction, and that caught my attention,” he said. “I took up the story again in 2008, and completed it this year.”

While the story is a work of fiction, much of the tale itself is inspired by actual events that took place in Shelton and in the Florida panhandle, the setting for the latter half of the book. Many of the Connecticut settings, where the story unfolds, are actual or based on reality.

Now lives in Florida

The youngest of nine children, Gunger grew up in Shelton, where he attended public schools and graduated from Shelton High. He worked for a short time in a factory in Bloomfield, before relocating to Niceville, Fla., to establish a marine construction company with three of his brothers.

Gunger is a licensed building contractor and Florida real estate agent, and serves on the vestry of a local church. His experiences working with his brothers on the waterways and waterfronts of the Florida panhandle, like his New England childhood, are reflected in “34/4.”

Learn more about the novel and its author at