PA Books features authors of books about Pennsylvania-related topics. These hour-long conversations allow authors to discuss both their subject matter and inspiration behind the books.
“Smalltime” with Russell Shorto
"Smalltime" is a mob story straight out of central casting—but with a difference, for the small-town mob, which stretched from Schenectady to Fresno, is a mostly unknown world. The location is the brawny postwar factory town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The setting is City Cigar, a storefront next to City Hall, behind which Russ and his brother-in-law, “Little Joe,” operate a gambling empire and effectively run the town. "Smalltime" is an American immigrant story that travels back to Risorgimento Sicily, to the ancient, dusty, hill-town home of Antonino Sciotto, the author’s great-grandfather, who leaves his wife and children in grinding poverty for a new life—and wife—in a Pennsylvania mining town. It’s a tale of Italian Americans living in squalor and prejudice, and of the rise of Russ, who, like thousands of other young men, created a copy of the American establishment that excluded him. "Smalltime" draws an intimate portrait of a mobster and his wife, sudden riches, and the toll a lawless life takes on one family. But it is something more. The author enlists his ailing father—Tony, the mobster’s son—as his partner in the search for their troubled patriarch. As secrets are revealed and Tony’s health deteriorates, the book become an urgent and intimate exploration of three generations of the American immigrant experience.
Russell Shorto is the best-selling author of The Island at the Center of the World, Amsterdam, and Revolution Song, and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland.
Description courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company.
“Spy Sites of Philadelphia” with Robert Wallace
Philadelphia became a battleground for spies as George Washington's Patriot army in nearby Valley Forge struggled to survive the winter of 1776-77. In the centuries that followed ― through the Civil War, the rise of fascism and communism in the twentieth century, and today's fight against terrorism ― the city has been home to international intrigue and some of America's most celebrated spies. "Spy Sites of Philadelphia" takes readers inside this shadowy world to reveal the places and people of Philadelphia's hidden history. These fascinating entries portray details of stolen secrets, clandestine meetings, and covert communications through every era of American history. Along the way, readers will meet both heroes and villains whose daring deceptions helped shape the nation.
Robert Wallace is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Technical Service, founder of the Artemus Consulting Group, and contributor to the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence. He has coauthored numerous books with H. Keith Melton, including "Spy Sites of New York City" and "Spy Sites of Washington, DC."
Description courtesy of Georgetown University Press.
“Blood Runs Coal” with Mark Bradley
In the early hours of New Year’s Eve 1969, in the small soft coal mining borough of Clarksville, Pennsylvania, longtime trade union insider Joseph “Jock” Yablonski and his wife and daughter were brutally murdered in their old stone farmhouse. Seven months earlier, Yablonski had announced his campaign to oust the corrupt president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Tony Boyle, who had long embezzled UMWA funds, silenced intra-union dissent, and served the interests of Big Coal companies. Yablonski wanted to return the union to the coal miners it was supposed to represent and restore the organization to what it had once been, a powerful force for social good. Boyle was enraged about his opponent’s bid to take over―and would go to any lengths to maintain power. The most infamous crimes in the history of American labor unions, the Yablonski murders triggered one of the most intensive and successful manhunts in FBI history―and also led to the first successful rank-and-file takeover of a major labor union in modern U.S. history, one that inspired workers in other labor unions to rise up and challenge their own entrenched, out-of-touch leaders.
Mark A. Bradley has been a US Department of Justice lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, and a CIA intelligence officer. Currently the director of the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration, he lives in Arlington, Virginia.
“Bullets and Bandages” with James Gindlesperger
At Gettysburg, PA, during three days of July 1863, 160,000 men fought one of the most fierce and storied battles of the US Civil War. Nearly one in three of those men ended up a casualty of that battle, and when the two armies departed a few days later, 21,000 wounded remained. This book is the story of how those soldiers were cared for in a town of 2,500 people. Historian and author of several other guides to Gettysburg, James Gindlesperger provides a context for the medical and organizational constraints of the era and then provides details about the aid stations and field hospitals created in the aftermath of the battle. Filled with historical and contemporary photos, as well as stories about the soldiers and their healers, this book is a detailed guide for visitors to the site as well as others interested in American Civil War history.
James Gindlesperger is the author of several books about the Civil War: Escape from Libby Prison, Seed Corn of the Confederacy, and Fire on the Water. He and his wife also coauthored So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and So You Think You Know Antietam?, which were both honored as Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year finalists in the travel category. They live in Johnstown, PA.
“Physician Soldier” with Michael Gabriel
Frederick R. Gabriel graduated from medical school in 1940, entered the US Army, and was assigned to the newly-created 39th Station Hospital. His letters from the Pacific theater—especially from Guadalcanal, Angaur, and Saipan—capture the everyday life of a soldier physician. His son, Michael P. Gabriel, a professional historian, has faithfully preserved, edited, and annotated that correspondence to add a new dimension to our understanding of the social history of World War II, which he presents here in "Physician Soldier: The South Pacific Letters of Captain Fred Gabriel" from the 39th Station Hospital. Like most wartime hospitals, the 39th Station Hospital was positioned in a rear area and saw limited direct action. And like most wartime hospitals, the 39th Station Hospital spent each day confronting the injuries and casualties of frontline combat. Gabriel supervised a ward and oversaw the unit’s laboratory, serving a hospital that provided care to four hundred patients at a time. Gabriel’s letters home capture this experience and more, providing a revealing look into day-to-day life in the Pacific theater. He discusses the training of medical officers and female nurses, recreational activities such as Bob Hope’s USO show, and even his thoughts on the death of FDR, the end of the war in Europe, and ultimately the horrors of the atomic bomb.
Michael P. Gabriel is professor of history at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
Description courtesy of Texas A & M University Press.
“Beyond the Art Spirit” with Karl Kuerner
Much has been published about the artistically talented Wyeth family—-N. C., Andrew, Carolyn, Ann, Jamie, Nicky and Victoria—-but there has been scant insight into the deeply personal interface between these individuals and a group of persons that interacted with them, talked with them almost daily, shared intimate thoughts and moments with them and were taught and mentored by them: collectively the Kuerner family and specifically Karl Kuerner. This volume brings forth many instances over several decades that were paramount in the artistic learning and growth of a Brandywine Valley inheritor of the Wyeth legacy. From the first meeting between Karl Kuerner and Carolyn Wyeth in 1970 until her death in 1994 and Andy’s passing in 2009 we are made privy to intimate conversations, discussions and anecdotes that have heretofore never been published. Carolyn recognized the talent that was hidden in the mind of Karl Kuerner almost from their first meeting and worked steadily to cultivate what has become a major artistic force. Carolyn was the primary player in the grooming of Karl J. Kuerner but Andrew was also a moving presence along with Frolic Weymouth and several other Chadds Ford personae. Included in this reflective work are over 65 paintings, drawings and illustrations, many never before seen in print. There are images by Karl, Carolyn and Andy and of Karl’s great uncle, Christoph, from Germany. This marvelously detailed account of an artist’s life is a must have for any student of the Wyeth family or for that matter any student of the Brandywine Valley and its rich history as an incubator of outstanding art and its creation.
Description courtesy of Cedar Tree Books.
Thank You Brian Lockman
This podcast was hosted by Brian Lockman for many years and he was fantastic. Looking forward to more of the best interviews in podcasting.
Was good now it just leans left
Like the title said there used to be all kinds of stuff on here. Now it seems like it all slants hard left. Whether it be historically or present day. And I like that every once and awhile but it just seems like your bludgeoning me with it. A little bit of balance or no slants at all could easy make this a five again
This podcast is almost inaudible
I gave up listening to this days podcast because I cannot discern the content. One star given.