Book Reviews: New Titles from Hudson Valley Authors in September 2014
Seven new and noteworthy titles from local authors
One of the Valley’s treasures, Rhinebeck’s Beekman Arms is considered by many to be the oldest hotel in America: It’s been welcoming travelers for at least 212 years. The father-and-son team of Brian and Matthew Plumb explore the site’s history in Rhinebeck’s Historic Beekman Arms (The History Press, $19.99). From its humble beginnings as an 18th-century stagecoach stop to its headline-grabbing use during Chelsea Clinton’s 2012 wedding festivities, the inn has played a defining role in the shaping of Rhinebeck itself — a role that the authors have carefully researched and detailed in the text. Illustrated with maps and deeds, as well as black-and-white photos dating from the early 1900s to the present, the book offers history buffs a complete archive of this local landmark.
Sometimes happily-ever-after isn’t what it seems. Author Randy Susan Meyers’s latest novel, The Accidents of Marriage (Atria Books, $25), chronicles Maddy’s crumbling marriage to Ben — who is charming in public, but can’t control his temper behind closed doors. The tension between them comes to a breaking point one slippery night when Ben loses control of their car, Maddy lands in intensive care — and everyone blames Ben. The story unfolds in alternating chapters told by each of the family’s three members — Maddy, Ben, and their 14-year-old daughter, Emma; by using different points of view, Meyers deftly explores the effects of emotional abuse on both the marriage and the family as a whole.
Meyers discusses The Accidents of Marriage on Sept. 9 at Rhinebeck’s Oblong Books (www.oblongbooks.com).
Monica DiNatale has visited many New York City restaurants and bars, and features a great number of them — 365, to be precise — in 365 Guide: New York City (Hugo House Publishers, $19.99). Structured like a calendar, the book highlights one restaurant, bar, or pub for each day of the year, and includes information on the type of food served, the hours of operation, even which subway lines will get you there. For each location, DiNatale doles out insider tips (called “365 Extra”) with info on the best place to sit or which signature dish to try. But we think the “Deal” section — which spells out happy hour offerings and other drink specials — is the most useful by far.
When the American Revolution first broke out, no one really expected the Colonists to triumph over the mighty British Empire. After all, the Continental Army was made up of — and led by — a ragtag group of farmers, merchants, fishermen, and even drunkards. In Band of Giants (Palgrave Macmillan, $27), Kingston resident Jack Kelly (whose own ancestor served in the Continental Army) pens an engaging account of some of the men who fought for our independence — such as pacifist and Quaker Nathaniel Greene, who became one of the most resourceful Colonial generals; and bookseller Henry Knox, an artillery specialist whose war knowledge came exclusively from books. More than just names in a textbook, Kelly paints these unlikely soldiers as the dynamic heroes they were.
Spanish journalist Guillermo Fesser built his career as host of Gomaespuma, a radio show similar to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Needless to say, his fans were disappointed when Fesser; his Rhinebeck-born wife, Sarah; and children Mac, Nico, and Julia moved to Rhinebeck 10 years ago to experience new adventures. In his memoir One Hundred Miles from Manhattan (Little Bridge, $27.95), Fesser recounts the ups and downs of adapting to the Valley’s small-town culture, and the many one-of-a-kind characters he meets — few of whom fit into his stereotypical idea of what Americans are all about. A must-read for northern Dutchess residents, who will no doubt recognize the familiar places — and some of the people — that Fesser describes.
Do you believe in ghosts? Haunted Catskills (The History Press, $19.99) offers a number of reasons why you should. Author Lisa LaMonica points out the locations of haunted houses in the Greene County area — the “spellbound region,” as Washington Irving called it. Prepare for Halloween by reading the otherworldly tales of Maggie Houghtaling (who haunts the building in Hudson where she was hanged for murdering her own child) and Peter Hallenbeck (who met a grisly end in his Greenport home when his nephew murdered him on Christmas Eve).
Saugerties resident Vernon Benjamin’s The History of the Hudson River Valley from Wilderness to the Civil War (The Overlook Press, $45) is the first comprehensive account of the region to be published since the 1930s. Beginning more than 500 million years ago when the landscape was just forming, and ending with President Lincoln’s funeral train to Albany, Benjamin’s expansive chronicle covers Dutch and English settlement, the Revolution and other armed conflicts, economic prosperity, and the birth of the Hudson River School, among many other topics — all of which have been meticulously researched and are described in an engaging style.