Connections, Connections All Day Long
I only sold a few books at my signing at The Second Reading Shop in Alton a while back, but the trip was well worth the effort and time. For one thing, the building at 16 East Broadway is so charming and historic. It was built in 1831 and became a stop on the Underground Railroad in 1840. What could be a better location for a signing for my novel, Time and Again, which is set in Alton during the Civil War?
That morning, just minutes before I left for Alton, I decided to take a look at the bookshop’s website so I’d know a little more about my host for the day. That’s when I discovered that the owner, John Dunphy, was the author of Lewis & Clark’s Illinois Volunteers, an informative little book I used as a resource for, Unclaimed Legacy. At that happy coincidence, I brought it along and had him do a book signing for me.
John, also the author of several other books (all available at his shop), is knowledgeable about a variety of historical topics. So chatting with him was fun, and I got several leads for information I can use in the third story in the series that is brewing in my brain. In it, I plan to explore slavery in southern Illinois. (You do realize, don’t you, that the free state of Illinois, that bastion of liberty, had slavery?)
I met other interesting people too, among them, a couple who came in because they had heard about Time and Again’s portrayal of Miles Station. They live just down the road from where that village used to be. Another woman bought a copy for her elderly father, who waited in the car, also eager to read about local history. And Nancy Alexander, a local historian, came by to buy my book (for which I am honored) because Cathy Bagby from the Alton Museum of History had recommended it. Nancy had lots to add to the conversation John and I were having about early Alton. She was pleased to learn that I had included her personal hero Elijah P. Lovejoy in Time and Again. She suggested I read It’s Good to Be Black by Ruby Berkley Goodwin to get a sense of the black experience in southern Illinois. The owner of a bookshop in Quincy stopped in to browse and he turned out to be history buff as well. He recommended Galvanized Yankees by Dee Brown, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, and The Year Of Decision, 1846 by Bernard Augustine De Voto, all of which I plan to scope out.
After I said goodbye to John I took the opportunity to admire several of the other old buildings in downtown Alton, and like my character Abby, I wished I could set up her computer and do a little time- surfing in them. Oh, the stories some of these buildings could tell! I stopped at the remains of Alton Prison just off Broadway, ignoring the eyesore that squats nearby on the river. (And don’t look for the Alton Belle to appear in Unclaimed Legacy either!) I visited State Street Market, once known as Franklin House, one of the largest and finest hotels in Alton. Lincoln was headquartered there in October of 1858 when he was in town for the last of the seven debates with Stephen Douglas.
I topped off the day by indulging in a piece of ‘Peanut Butter Lustre’ pie at My Just Desserts across the street from John’s bookshop in the Ryder Building on Broadway. Holy cow! I’ve never had a better piece of pie in my life! It was even sweeter knowing Lincoln had often visited the same building when it was used as a courthouse. In 1840, Lincoln delivered a political speech there, and I wondered if it was the same one he gave on July 4th of the same year in Woodburn, my home “town.”
This, like everything else that had happened on Saturday, illustrates how connected everyone and everything is. Definitely a good day.