Monday, May 8, 2023

The New York Road Not Taken

I never did go to New York. A young writer just out of college I stayed in Chicago although I had been to New York many times. I even went for a full week and stayed in Brooklyn right before Christmas and slogged around from one agent to another dropping off horrible manuscripts until one annoyed agent burst out, "this is not how its done." Nothing came of my week in New York and I went back to Chicago to be the struggling writer. But I am haunted by the might of been of going to NY. I should have. I should have taken my shot in the big apple. If for nothing else to see what would have happened. It is where you go when you are young and want to make it as an artist. I knew that every time I went there. This is where I should be. All the big writers it seemed were launched there. The brat pack of McInerny Brett Eastion Ellis were born there. That was my group. My time. But I didnt make the leap. I stayed in Chicago and cranked out my prose and sent three queries a week to NY publishers but never followed them. The letters came back and rejected all that I had sent them. And then of course I got married and had kids and that door closed. The window to go was when I was broke, hungry and desperate. Which was of course the reason I didnt go even though I do remember considering it and talking about it with friends and family but I never did it. The closest I would come would be the week I stayed there and long weekends where I caroused with friends who had moved to NY. Thinking back I could have easily proposed I move in with them, but I never did. And when I finally broke through and had a two book deal with Bantam and a big advance and a big agent I went to NY and had dinner with my publlisher and agent in an upper east side restaurant and then went out and got smashed and the next day walked Manhattan on a Sunday and bought two first edition Fitzgerald collections of short stories and then flew back home. And now twenty five books later one could make the case I did the right thing by staying put and producing the work. Some say NY is so hard that the creativity dries up with the struggle to survive. Some are crushed by the Big Apple. Many return with their tale between their legs. But others, others are launched into the stratosphere from that hot melting pot of creativity that is New York and end up in the stars. You never know, but I wish I had found out.

Thursday, August 25, 2022


The Great Gatsby has sold 25 million copies worldwide and sells 500, 000 copies annually. The book has been made into three movies and produced for the theatre. It is considered the Greatest American Novel ever written. Yet, the story of how The Great Gatsby was written has not been told except as embedded chapters of much larger biographies. This story is one of heartbreak, infidelity, struggle, alcoholism, financial hardship, and one man’s perseverance to be faithful to the raw diamond of his talent in circumstances that would have crushed others. The story of the writing of The Great Gatsby is a story in itself. Fitzgerald had descended into an alcoholic run of parties on Great Neck, NY, where he and Zelda had taken a home. His main source of income was writing for the “slicks” or magazines of the day the main source being the Saturday Evening Post where Fitzgerald’s name on a story got him as high as four thousand dollars. Then on May 1, 1924, he, Zelda, and baby daughter Scottie quietly slipped away from New York on a “dry” steamer to France, the writer in search of sobriety, sanity, and his muse, resulting on the publication of The Great Gatsby a year later.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Biased Bibliophile Review of Greed in The Gilded Age The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick

Very rarely do I use the word “perfect” to describe a book, but Greed in the Gilded Age by William Elliott Hazelgrove certainly comes close! A very special thank you to William for sending me a signed copy of this wonderful book! I can’t wait to read your next book! Greed in the Gilded Age describes the story of Cassie Chadwick, aka Elizabeth Bigley, who pulled off multiple outrageous cons in the late 1800s and early 1900s, amounting in about $2 million of stolen money, which is equivalent to over $60 million today. I absolutely loved everything about this book! First off, the story is extremely compelling on its own, but we all know that even nonfiction is not objective, and Hazelgrove tells Chadwick’s story in a captivating and enchanting way. Perhaps the detail I appreciated most in the story is Hazelgrove’s depiction of Cassie. Yes, she is certainly a con artist and criminal, but in a time where there was a very narrow margin between legitimately wealthy people and criminals, the narrative truly makes readers question where Cassie actually falls on that continuum. Criminal? More than likely. But also clearly brilliant and innovative. The way in which Hazelgrove tells the story leaves the reader wondering, “Was Cassie really wrong for trying to make something of her life?” We can obviously see that she crossed some lines, but when her actions are juxtaposed by those of Andrew Carnegie, we start to wonder what it is that morphs someone from legitimate to criminal. By the end of the novel, I felt as though Cassie partially got what she deserved, but I was also left with a somewhat mystical admiration of her too. Additionally, Hazelgrove frequently referenced women’s positions in society at the time Cassie lived. This aspect is vital to the story, as many of us cannot comprehend some of the gender differences between then and now. I was also quite happy that Hazelgrove makes small suggestions that point towards sexism linked to Cassie’s case. For instance, the way in which many people assumed a man must have been helping Cassie, or the likelihood that many of the parties involved did not want to give an accurate depiction of what happened, purely out of embarrassment from being duped by a woman. These details were not only key to the overall narrative, they also gave women credit where credit was due, which is not the case with all nonfiction authors. Finally, Hazelgrove frequently provided context to other events going on during Cassie’s life. Some nonfiction books treat their topics as though they exist in a vacuum, which is detrimental to conveying a complete understanding to the readers. However, Hazelgrove does the opposite, and provides relevant and interesting information about events that occurred during Chadwick’s life. From background information on Andrew Carnegie, to information about the Wright brothers, to details about Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Hazelgrove gave such a comprehensive narration of Cassie Chadwick’s life, and it would not have been so complete without the additional information he provided. Overall, the story of Cassie Chadwick’s life is interesting on its own, but William Hazelgrove has given it new depth through his thoroughness and talent with situating a story in history. I am never hesitant to admit that I’m quite picky when it comes to reading nonfiction, simply because nonfiction can become boring in the wrong hands. History is an important treasure that we should all treat as valuable, and some nonfiction authors simply don’t seem to have the passion to convey that value to readers. On the opposite end of that spectrum we have authors like William Elliott Hazelgrove, who clearly make it a point to convey the value of history in any narrative they tell. I may be a picky reader, but Hazelgrove certainly has one lifelong reader in me!

Friday, February 25, 2022

Why Vladimir Putin Won't Blow up the World

Vladamir Putin says he has nuclear weapons and cutting edge weapons. Vladamir has three daughters one ex wife, one girlfriend, one grandchild, and by all accounts he is a doting father. So lets go down the I might just press the button scenario if you dont give me what I want. He wants Ukraine. He might want the Balkans. That would be NATO. The Russians have nukes and oil but not a great military. The US has the military all the world wants. We would immediately dominate the skies and all the world would rain down on Putin and Russia. But the logic behind I might use my nukes is moronic at best. It is the robber saying to you at gunpoint, if you dont give me your money I will shoot myself with my own gun. We have nukes too and we would use them. So while Putin can say Oh I might use my nukes. He might as well use them on himself and get it over with. He knows this. Putin and his daughters and his grandchild, girlfirend, exwife woudl die. Not a great move for the doting father. So while the Ukranians fight it out with the Russians, Putin holds his own gernade threatening to use it if anyone intervenes in the fight. So you have to wonder, if any of his generals have pointed out to him, that if he pulls the pin... he'll blow himself up too.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Library Journal Review of Greed in the Gilded Age

Hazelgrove (Sally Rand: American Sex Symbol) chronicles the life and crimes of Cassie Chadwick, who, during the Gilded Age, scammed bankers out of millions of dollars, causing one bank failure and leading to the death of the head of a bank. Chadwick convinced prominent bankers, attorneys, and a reverend that she was the illegitimate daughter of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie; she even dropped by Carnegie's home to pretend to retrieve promissory notes. When her scam came to light, she was prosecuted; the ensuing trial generated so much press that Carnegie himself sat in to observe. Hazelgrove vividly sets the scene, drawing intriguing parallels and contrasts between Carnegie and Chadwick—Carnegie ruthlessly punished striking workers who were protesting unsafe working conditions, while Chadwick broke the law in the pursuit of wealth, yet only Chadwick was held accountable. The delightfully sensationalist writing ("questions that rained down like nails into his soul") evokes the yellow journalism of the era. VERDICT Readers curious about the Gilded Age or who enjoy stories of con artists will appreciate Hazelgrove's lively tale of a most ambitious grifter.—Karen Sandlin Silverman Library Journal

Books by William Hazelgrove