If you’re hoping to survive Laramie’s oncoming winter with the help of a good book, three titles by authors with Laramie connections are brand-new this fall.
A ‘love letter to English history’
Novelist Tasha Alexander continues her Lady Emily series with its 13th installment, “Uneasy Lies the Crown,” released by St. Martin Press in October.
As Queen Victoria dies in 1901, ushering in the Edwardian era with the reign of Edward VII, Lady Emily and her husband, Colin Hargreaves, must stop a serial killer. A body is discovered in the Tower of London in a pose resembling the body of the murdered Henry VI in 1471. Then a second body turns up in a position evoking the murder of Edward II. They wonder if the new king is also in danger.
Alexander takes readers on storylines set in two different eras as she transitions the long-running series into the period of British history that directly preceded World War I. At the same time, she looks back through the history of England’s kings.
“I wanted to write this book to be almost a love letter to English history,” she said.
The story is set in London, and Lady Emily spends time at home with her three sons.
“We see her a little more as a mother, but a mother that’s appropriate to her time, not so much in our time,” Alexander said.
Meanwhile, her husband has never respected the new king, who has a reputation as a playboy. But Colin is an agent of the Crown.
“He can’t respect Bertie as a man, but he still has to do his duty to the king as his sovereign,” she said.
Alexander, who moved to Albany County about a year ago, has been passionate about history since her childhood. She set the Lady Emily series in Victorian England because it was an era on the brink of great change, which has allowed her to expose her protagonist to new ways of thinking that slowly change her worldview.
Alexander has taken great care to create historically accurate characters and settings, and she drew on an extensive collection of primary source writings from the era to get a sense of the way people thought and acted.
She supplemented her research with travel to the places she sets her book. In the case of “Uneasy Lies the Crown,” her itinerary included the Tower of London.
“You have to go to these places to be able to bring them to life in a book,” she said.
A post-apocalyptic folktale
The spark for “Scribe” came to Alyson Hagy, a creative writing professor at the University of Wyoming, as she was driving along back roads in southern Virginia on the way to her childhood farm.
“I was looking at that landscape and those farms that are falling to ruin, and I just had this vision of this woman living by herself in one of these old houses,” Hagy said.
She had the first few pages of the novel written soon after, about a woman who lives alone and owns an old-fashioned ink pen. Known for her skill in writing letters, she’s approached by a stranger with a request.
“She writes letters for people who come to her, in exchange for food and goods,” she said.
Hagy drew on folktales from her Appalachian childhood as she sketched out the unfamiliar culture in which her characters live — a civil war, a government collapse, a deadly fever, groups of migrants, a barter economy.
In that world, as in ours, stories have power. We use them to define who we are, who our friends are and who will lead us.
“That’s as important to us as human animals as it’s ever been,” Hagy said.
In reflecting on her own upbringing, she said people fall back on tribalism under pressure, which can be a dangerous impulse.
“I grew up in a very clannish culture,” she said. “People very much defined themselves by their families and their heritage, and that can take you down the paths of prejudice and violence pretty quickly.”
“Scribe” was released by Graywolf Press in October. Since then, it’s received positive reviews from a range of publications. It was named a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, and it’s scheduled to appear in the New York Times Book Review on Sunday.
“That’s going to frost the cake a little bit,” Hagy said.
The cover of “Scribe,” which features a woman holding an axe upright to hide her face, was done by June Glasson, formerly of Laramie.
“It definitely gets peoples’ attention,” she said.
Hagy, who joined the UW faculty on 1996, is on a book tour this fall that included stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Minnesota.
From 1-3 p.m. Nov. 24, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, she’ll be at Second Story Books, 105 Ivinson, to meet with readers and talk about books.
“I’m excited about that,” Hagy said.
A look at historical Laramie
“Duty Bound,” by Judy Redman, is a biography of Lon Lindsey — a Laramie native, World War II marine and later a civil servant.
Written by his daughter, the book follow’s Lindsey’s life from a Wyoming ranch to the Pacific Theater to Eastern Europe and finally Los Alamos, New Mexico. Redman, who was born in Laramie and now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, originally put the book together as a family history for her sons and nephews.
They encouraged her to find a publisher, and “Duty Bound” was released by Hellgate Press in August.
“(The book) shows a lot about the kind of values that people in Laramie had and how they used those values to make the world a better place,” she said.
Lindsey was born on a ranch about 15 miles northeast of Laramie, which had been homesteaded by his grandfather after he left the Tie Siding sawmill. Lindsey’s extended family on his mother’s side ran a dairy near town.
After Lindsey’s grandfather died in a train wreck in 1922, the family moved to town, residing in the Ivinson Mansion’s carriage house. Lindsey used to walk across the street to the mansion, which then served as a boarding house for students who lived outside town on ranches, to take ballroom dance lessons.
Redman consulted newspaper archives to supplement her father’s letters and diary entries as she recreated Laramie life during the Great Depression.
“There are stories in there about places that everybody knows,” she said.
After a year at the University of Wyoming, Lindsey joined the Marines in 1943 and fought in the Pacific. He sustained severe injuries from a Japanese attack on Guam and spent 13 months in the hospital. He would spend the rest of his life recovering mentally and emotionally.
“There are not that many books about how people cope with PTSD, and what they do to get better, and how it affects their families going forward,” Redman said.
After the war, Lindsey joined his mother and diplomat step-father in the Balkans and witnessed the Communist takeover of Yugoslavia and Romania. He later lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico, during the Cold War as scientists developed the atomic bomb.
Redman described her father as a “small-town boy” who was shaped by his Wyoming roots.
“He did right by his town,” she said.