Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review #18: Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town by Elyssa East

Title: Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

Author: Elyssa East
Format: ARC from Publisher (Simon and Schuster/Free Press) to review
Genre: True Crime/History

Challenge: R.I.P Challenge from Stainless Steel Droppings. Challenge completed.

Rating: 4/5

Here is a short description from the publisher's website:
The area known as Dogtown -- an isolated colonial ruin and surrounding 3,000-acre woodland in storied seaside Gloucester, Massachusetts -- has long exerted a powerful influence over artists, writers, eccentrics, and nature lovers. But its history is also woven through with tales of witches, supernatural sightings, pirates, former slaves, drifters, and the many dogs Revolutionary War widows kept for protection and for which the area was named. In 1984, a brutal murder took place there: a mentally disturbed local outcast crushed the skull of a beloved schoolteacher as she walked in the woods. Dogtown's peculiar atmosphere -- it is strewn with giant boulders and has been compared to Stonehenge -- and eerie past deepened the pall of this horrific event that continues to haunt Gloucester even today.

My review:

It has been awhile since I've read an honest to god piece of non-fiction. Like I've mentioned before I chose this one in particular because of my ties to Boston and the surrounding areas. I spent a little over a year living there and traveled around quite a bit and was fascinated by the history of the state. I never made it to Gloucester though I did spend some time in Cape Ann.

I also chose this book because I am open to reading new things. I like to discover; new stories, new authors, new genres. This one could be labeled as true crime or history, it has a little of both. But it did appeal to the ghost story lover in me. This is the best time of year to read a book like this.

This is the author's first book, though her writing has appeared in many New England regional magazines. The writing was certainly detailed and thorough, though at times she repeated certain points,either for impact or due to forgetting she just mentioned it a few sentences earlier, I couldn't tell. The story of Dogtown is definitely a heavy one, full of rich history and lots of characters and you can tell she really did her research. This is something I have to admire and appreciate but at times it felt like a long college research paper.

I am intrigued by Dogtown now. She did spark my interest. And the way she went back and forth from the history of the area and the murder that took place in 1984 was helpful. It broke up the details a bit. It's just my own issue with non-fiction, sometimes it tends to be all facts and not a lot of exciting storytelling. The 1984 murder and the trial that followed was exciting to read and if you are a fan of cop shows and police dramas, this will interest you.

The author sprinkled in her own fascination and intrigue with Dogtown through her love for the artist Marsden Hartley. Hartley spent quite a bit of time in Dogtown seeking inspiration and help to lure him from his depression at the time. I am curious now to search for his paintings he did inspired by this area.

Overall, I did rate this book at a 4. I do recommend it. It tells a story that hasn't been told much before and brings a new author to the scene, which I'm always a fan of. It is published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Here is a brief little description from the website as to what kinds of books they publish:


With a distinguished history that spans more than fifty years of publishing ground-breaking and influential books, Free Press publishes fiction and nonfiction for the general reader, in hardcover and paperback. Free Press books consistently generate news and win critical acclaim. The imprint has a solid reputation for publishing in a broad range of areas such as current affairs, history, business, self-help, and narrative nonfiction, as well as novels by original and interesting new writers.

This one is due out November 1. Happy Reading!

* red headed book child


Megan said...

Nice. I love a good true crime book.

Jessica said...

This sounds like an interesting read. I like discovering new reads, too. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention. :)

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

This does sound good. It is a non-fiction!?! I was surprised. I would have thought fiction. But it sounds really good.

I may have to look into this one too.