Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Local Lit

Selections by area authors

By Rob Stout
Enquirer contributor

American Grit

"A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier," edited by Emily Foster (University Press of Kentucky; $45). Writing from her "lowly cabin" in present day Columbiana County, Anna Briggs Bentley penned a sizable collection of correspondence on daily existence as the matriarch of a pioneer family. Her impressions of the forbidding Ohio frontier circa 1820 are collected here by Ms. Foster, a former editor at Columbus Monthly and Cincinnati Magazine. Religion, politics and family are dominant themes of the well-bred and educated Bentley in a depth and detail uncommon to such writings of the time.

Beyond the River

"The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad," by Ann Hagedorn (Simon and Schuster; $25). Hagedorn, a resident of Ripley, Ohio, assembles both a biography of abolitionist John Rankin and a micro-history of the underground railroad in and around southern Brown County of which he was de facto leader.

Hagedorn's command of an unwieldy amount of source material and fresh prose will undoubtedly make this an authoritative text on what was a key battleground in the movement's larger war on slavery.

Buckeye Blood

"Ohio at Gettysburg," by Richard A. Baumgartner (Blue Acorn Press; $33.50). Ohio sent some 4,000 of its sons to the three-day inferno at Gettysburg, many of whom were German and Irish immigrants from the state's larger cities.

Hoping to shed light on what has been an overlooked contribution to the Union victory, journalist and historian Baumgartner turns to eyewitness accounts of men like Cincinnatian Mathias Schwab whose simple words summed up the experience: "I got sick and tired of Pennsylvania and was heartily glad to get out of it."

Heidegger's Temple, Poems

By Virginia Slachman (CustomWords; $16). Taking its name from the German philosopher who questioned the very nature of being, the Miami University instructor's first full-length collection of poetry enters into similar quandaries on reality.

These 43 free-verse poems employ a musical lyricism and are placed in a variety of landscapes, ranging from the Trevi Fountain in Rome to our own Spring Grove cemetery, and contribute to the volume's academic tone.

Road Dog

By Stephen Combs and John Eckberg (Federal Point Publishing; $14). This under-edited expose on convicted serial killer Glen Rogers, by freelance reporter Combs and Eckberg of The Cincinnati Enquirer, would have made a much better magazine article than a 253-page book.

The facts of Rogers' two-year multi-state spree are thinly stretched around long and irrelevant passages that describe the small towns, county jails and other locales frequented by the "Cross Country Killer."

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