What’s it like to write a book? The idea conjures up images of men and women hunched over writing desks, working into the wee hours of the morning, caught up in what they hope will be a masterpiece.
Well, in Vermont, genius on the printed page has to come in fits and starts, between milking cows, heading out for deer season and tapping trees. Still, this part of Vermont has produced its own authors section in the library.
Here’s a look at recent volumes produced by a few local writers.
“Vendetta: Cleveland, Ohio, and America’s Archipelago of Legal Failure”
By Robert Grundstein
“‘Don’t be stupid. Judges and police are an interest group. You can’t rely on right and wrong … it’s group maintenance and income. Moralists get killed, alone, in the dark.’ My Dad; to me.”
So opens Stowe resident Robert Grundstein’s “Vendetta,” a book exploring corruption in the courts of Cleveland, and all over the nation. Grundstein, a lawyer, holds that he was betrayed by the legal system, and attacked after an Ohio newspaper published his opinions about the judge he thinks treated his case unfairly.
“He was incompetent, emotionally uncertain and shamelessly partisan to local counsel,” Grundstein writes of the judge.
The book begins with a phone call from Ohio police, asking if Grundstein had been on that judge’s lawn. He tells the police he wasn’t there, and then the Vermont State Police showed up.
“‘We have a warrant for your extradition to Ohio. You’ll have to stop cooking your dinner and come with us,’” Grundstein writes he was told.
The book explains Grundstein’s point of view, and the events that led to the opinion column, and what followed. It was published in 2014, and is available on amazon.com.
By Richard “Skip” Lamere
“Camp Stories: From the Backwoods of Vermont” is a series of tales about Lamere’s time in various backwoods family camps.
His anecdotes start at the time he was old enough to hunt with his dad and continue until today, when he goes to his own camp to escape the everyday grind of running a business.
The Waterbury Center man’s book contains more than 70 stories, many of them uproariously funny.
“There’s more to life in a backwoods camp than chasing animals around the woods with a gun,” Lamere writes on the back cover of his book, and that’s what he wanted to showcase.
“Camps are becoming a thing of the past as conservation efforts, housing developments and outside interests compete for the limited landscape,” he said.
He wanted to bring the sheer fun of being at camp to people who may never get the chance.
Stories include helping to build the family camp in the Northeast Kingdom as a college student, the time Lamere poured kerosene on a fire to kickstart it and burned off the hair on the right side of his head, and dealing with porcupines.
“Using kerosene is not the way to start a fire,” Lamere writes sagely.
The book was published in 2016 by Vermont Strings Publishing in Waterbury Center. It’s available on amazon.com.
By Tyrone Shaw
Tyrone Shaw of Bakersfield is known for his work encouraging student journalists as a professor at Johnson State College, but when he’s not in front of a keen-eyed class of college kids, he’s prowling the world as a Fulbright fellow.
He picked up his first passport before he traveled to Transylvania in 1988 for his 40th birthday, and since then, he has visited Romania, Moldova, Serbia and Latvia as a guest professor and journalist.
He wrote “Bastard Republic: Encounters Along the Tattered Edge of Fallen
Empire” after several trips to Europe, and a lifelong fascination with the history of the Soviet Union.
“Bastard Republic” is history told in its first draft — literary journalism that incorporates Shaw’s knowledge of history, the perspectives of the friends and colleagues he’s met in his travels, and his own memories of trips and extended teaching placements there.
The story begins with a drizzling rain, a campfire and a smoky, spicy meal — “the only sane way to cope with Russian aggression,” Shaw writes, words spoken by a friend who’s topping off his glass of homemade brandy.
Moldovan society can feel its neighbors unraveling as Russia approaches again, and Shaw sets the scene — readers can feel the chill of the rain and the uncertainty of the times settling into their bones.
“Everybody’s nervous right now,” a Romanian bus driver tells Shaw on a trip to Bucharest.
Shaw says he wrote “Bastard Republic” to answer a question that bloomed in his mind as he traveled — “What is it like to live here in times of such rough transformation?”
“There is, I think, value in learning the answer and in telling a story that unfolds still,” Shaw writes in his book’s preface.
“Bastard Republic” was published by Lost Nation Books in East Fairfield, Vt.
“Restoring Climate Stability by Managing Ecological Disorder”
By Daniel Arthur Young
Dan Young, a Connecticut native who lives in Hyde Park, published “Restoring Climate Stability by Managing Ecological Disorder: A Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamic Approach to Climate Change” in 2017 after a lifetime’s interest in restoring the earth’s climate — at least in part — to where it was before human intervention.
As Young grew up in the 1940s, his small town, which was close enough to New York City to be popular, was becoming more gentrified.
“Natural biomass was so thick, it was in the way,” he said, remembering the trees that used to surround the town.
He watched as that biomass was replaced by houses, schools, parking lots and roads to accommodate the newcomers.
He thinks loss of natural biomass contributes to global climate change.
“My father was a landscape nurseryman,” Young said. “I always thought he was returning, in some small sense, the value taken from the land” by development. However, Young acknowledged that his father chose plants for their beauty, not their functionality.
“I always thought the original decimation of the biomass had taken some
major value from the land that we owed back,” Young said. “The major message of the book is that loss of global biomass is a major factor responsible for climate change.”
“Can ecological systems be restored to cool the planet?” asks the book’s cover.
Young published his book through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in South Carolina. It’s available at amazon.com.
“Backroads and Bygones, Volume Two”
By Gordon Tallman
The title raises an obvious question: Where’s Volume One? “Backroads and Bygones,” by Hyde Park’s Gordon Tallman, was published in 2006. Its companion was published in 2017.
It opens with a family tree, showcasing the “Cast of Characters” readers will find in Tallman’s poetic account of life in northern Vermont.
Tallman died last month, on Feb. 9, before he could be interviewed about his second volume of “Backroads and Bygones,” but the stories he tells are an introduction to who he was.
“It’s backroads that beckon / and I have a yen / to see what awaits me / around the next bend,” goes one stanza of the book’s opening poem, “So Many Backroads.”
Next, he takes readers on a nostalgic trip to his boyhood with “My First Nickel.”
“One time I was rich — folks / beyond imagination / I ’spect you’ll disbelieve me / so I’ll explain the situation,” he writes.
Tallman was 5 years old when the neighbor’s cows got out, and his father asked him to go help round them up.
“Just helping out a neighbor / the way folks did back then,” Tallman writes.
The neighbor gave the boy a nickel as thanks, and Tallman writes about how rich he felt, holding it in his young hand.
“First candy store I stopped at / that nickel was gone,” but its memory lived on, shiny and silver in his mind.
Other poems talk about “The Spirit of Hyde Park,” “The Gunsmiths,” and “True Love” (“Do you love her Sunday morning / as she sips on her fourth gin / and most casually she mentions / my Mama’s moving in?”)
Most poignant, though, in light of Tallman’s death, is a poem titled “Back Off.”
“I’ll go when I’m damn good and ready / and not one minute before,” wrote Tallman, who was 79 when he died.
“Backroads and Bygones, Volume Two” is available at amazon.com.