|At the end of September, Yang and I finally made it back to Fairhaven, Mass. for a fun bicycle ride. We didn’t see loads of critters; however, passing by a marsh we did come across a Great White Egret convention. Yes, take a closer look: those white blobs in the trees are EGRETS! And there was one Great Blue Heron. Master of ceremonies. We were especially happy to discover that the trail had been extended and is supposed to reach the next town in November. It’s a sweet spot for a long ride through trees, fields, marshes, and along the ocean.
All that said, what we found especially intriguing was our walk through the town of Fairhaven, where we came across some absolutely delightful gothic architecture! The person responsible for this gorgeous architecture was nineteenth-century millionaire, Henry Huttleston Rogers. He not only funded the design and construction of the Town Hall, seen to the left, but the library and the Unitarian Universalist Church. The Town Hall was dedicated by none other than Mark Twain, and the library, still a free public library, was designed “in 1893, [as} a memorial to his beloved daughter, Millicent, in the form of an Italian-Renaissance palazzo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairhaven,_Massachusetts). Here’s the library below:
The “Italian-Renaisance design” certainly explains the outside relief on the building. Notice the cherubs peeking on either side of the column.
And who’s that poking his head right out front? Why it’s Dante himself! I had conjectured to Yang, when I saw that kisser, that it must be Dante. And now I understand why the library is called The Millicent Library. A beautiful memorial to a daughter taken from her father too soon. We didn’t get a chance to explore the inside of the building; however, as I said to Yang, here’s a library to put on my list for trying to do a reading. Next spring or fall? I may have another novel out by then!
Yet the most spectacular of the edifices was The Unitarian Church. We’d spied the tower through the trees as we walked along checking out these other buildings. We were drawn like iron filings to a magnet to discover what kind of Gothic delights this building might hold. Gosh! We were more than delighted with what we found!
We were expecting a Catholic, or at least an Episcopal. cathedral. So imagine our surprise that this ornately appointed church turned out to be a Unitarian/Universalist place of worship. Even the Parish house of the Unitarian Memorial Church was replete with gargoyles and saints.
We not only found gargoyles on all the corners, but saints and patriarchs beneath the gargoyles.
And even a few patriarchs and saints on their own.
The Church, itself, was designed by architect Charles Brigham of Boston (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Memorial_Church), and is decorated with so many fascinating types of gargoyles on its corners and cornices. There were owlgoyles.
As well as your standard flying dragony-type things, maybe with one have a hint of the leonine.
Particularly interesting, were the head sculptures adorning the outer walls of the church. I wondered if some of them reflected the founding members of the Church – not all of them, though. You’ll see what I mean when you take a gander at some of their visages. Here is a solemn dame, who seems right at home in a Medieval world.
What can I say? St. Theresa of Avila stuck next to Pickle Puss!
Four women represent the celestial power of music.
For the official website for this church click here.
Finally, we found another intriguing building, though not nearly so ornate, right where the trail enters the town. I’m not sure what this abandoned brick building once was, now overgrown with trees, holes in its roof. A factory? A school? Who knows. I don’t, but I wonder what story it could tell us.
|Since some of the Covid issues have waned, I’ve started going back to doing in-person author readings. Friday, October 14th, I had the good fortune to do an event at the Lee Library in Lee, Massachusetts. What a wonderful day! Lee is in the western part of Massachusetts, so my husband and I had an exciting drive through all the gorgeous fall foliage to arrive at our destination. Lee is a neat little town with a main street of equally neat shops, and in an antique store I found a 1940s movie magazine with pictures of favorite stars. The main street has lots of tasty restaurants. We had our lunch at The Starving Artist Cafe, where they craft the yummiest sandwiches and
crêpes. They made a pumpkin latte that was absolutely perfect – not all sugary and fake whipped cream, but good coffee, the flavor of pumpkin spice, and steamed milk. We sat outside at the street seating on a warm October day and enjoyed the small-town scenery, great food, and trees dressed in their autumn flames and oranges.After a stroll amongst the shops and a peek at some of the gorgeous Victorian houses in town, we went to the library for my talk. You can see what a beautiful old building the library is. When visiting the town earlier, I was taken with the building and thought, “I’d like to do a talk here.” Well, I contacted Jodi Magner at the library, and she was tremendously welcoming and enthusiastic at the prospect of my doing an event. She told me that they loved mysteries in that town!
That day, Jodi and her daughter Megan made me so welcome and helped my husband and I set up. I was delighted that my friend, mystery writer, Leslie Wheeler could join us, as well as other women whom I’d never met before. We were a small group, but we had a great time. I got so many intelligent questions, and people seemed interested in my inspiration from film noir and haunting movies of the 1940s like Val Lewton’s films and The Uninvited. They seemed to get a kick out of the excerpts that I read from Bait and Switch, Letter from a Dead Man, and Always Play the Dark Horse to illustrate how the dark, dreamy elements of noir and the smart talking gals of the 1940s influenced my writing! One of the women even said that a friend, sometime earlier, had been suggesting she read the Jessica Minton series. I’m getting a fan base! And now you can read all three Jessica Minton novels through the Lee Library.
Say, how do you like the pin-stripe black suit and the black fedora? I thought the gold blouse was just right to add fall color. Should I have brought along a gat?
I’m hoping to go back in the summer, after the fourth novel comes out: Shadows of a Dark Past. Maybe I’ll see you there!
In June, I was finally able to get back in the saddle concerning appearances. After one fun reading in May at TidePool books in Worcester, I first did a joint author event with my friend and colleague, Leslie Wheeler, on Saturday, June 4th at the Booklovers’ Gourmet. We had a responsive audience and a lot of fun. Leslie suggested that we, ourselves, be more interactive. So, instead of just reading and talking separately, after each short reading, we asked each other questions about our methods of writing, our particular joys and pains in writing, future writing plans, etc. Our questions and responses, in turn, drew questions and observations from the audience. Totally interactive! I think we even made some new friends and readers, as well. I’m especially excited because we talked about Leslie’s new book, Wolf Bog, which will be released July 6th, this year!
Next, I joined an even bigger group of writers from Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America at a corner of the Natick Farmers’ Market called Beach Reads, organized by Tilia Jacobs. I shared my table with Janet Raye Stevens, who also writes mysteries set in the 1940s. It was a gorgeous day, where we enjoyed chatting with people -and each other- of course, also selling some books. Here’s a tip for writers: have a QR code on your bookmarks, postcards, or advertising poster so that if people don’t have cash, they can use their smartphones to connect to a site where they can buy the book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, your web site) there or later. Anyway, it’s great to see people and enjoy a beautiful afternoon.
I already have some plans for August. On August 24th, from 7:00-7:30 p.m., I’ll be interviewed by Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. I’ll provide more details when I have them. Next is Lala Books in Lowell, MA on August 26th from 7:00-8:00 p.m., so come and hear all about the latest 1940s mystery adventures for Jessica Minton, James Crawford, and Dusty – as well as talk about writing and publishing! I may be able to give you a sneak peek at book #4, Shadows of a Dark Past.
Well, here I go trying to create a new blog with WordPress’s Godawful new editor. Forgive me if this comes out crappy. It’s taken me forever to figure out how to switch back and forth between html editor and visual-nothing is clearly labeled or explained. I know this format is much uglier than the one I had previously. We’re all at the mercy of tasteless, unimaginative, homogenizing forces.
Anyway, let’s move on to a more enjoyable descent into darkness. Here’s a last gasp at wintry images with Part 2 of my report on the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams. Across the street from the original portion of the graveyard, lonely mountains rise up to close you you in and the rest of the world out on this grey day.
This is the newer portion of Hillside, and much more on an actual hillside. With the rolling slopes here, the graves, mostly 19th century, tilt and are almost upended as the ground has settled and shifted over the years-or is someone or something trying to push out?
And those slopes are pretty darned high, too, with gravestones and monuments, bleakly, implacably towering upward from an earth both browned by autumn and frosted by snow.
This cemetery has it’s share of intriguing, impressive statuary, but the brutal western Massachusetts winds, rain, and snow have not been kind to them, gradually wearing them down to softened blurs in many cases. The dove embracing this shrouded cross has lost its distinctive features and now softly merges into the cross’s drapery. The child and the lamb, representing her innocence, have melted into the seat of broken rocks symbolizing her life cut too short, too soon. A relief that should have preserved a woman’s identity in endurable stone for eternity has blurred her features into gentle vagueness. Even her identity in the form of name, family, and birth and death dates have been smoothed away to soft whiteness. A book of life’s secrets has subsumed its truths into a creamy blank of pages melted together, marked only by the stain of mold and decay. Or might this be an edition of the Necronomicon?
Of course there are also still striking images of angels and symbolic broken columns, some standing relentless against nature’s assault by winds, weather, and devouring by lichen and mold.
Some are less successful than others in resisting the assaulting elements, but are no less beautiful.
There was only one large mausoleum in this portion of the cemetery-but it is impressive, especially for the art deco angel guarding the resting bodies of the family beneath. There’s a wonderful starkness in its rising near the crest of the rolling hill, the dark tree grasping hungry branches at the sky beyond it.
And here is a closeup of the angel. Regard the myriad layers of feathers creating a shield of wings behind its head, seeming both like a peacock’s tail in full extension and a wall of tongues of flames.
The day had been cold, but not bitterly so. The ground betrayed the tracks of deer, racoon, and perhaps more predatory mammals. It was an isolated spot where no human seemed to have ventured to grieve or pay veneration for a very long time. In fact, this day this cemetery seemed like a place lost to time, to human connections. Thank goodness I saw this cute guy and not some colour out of space.