Columbus author Janet Beard’s new novel is “The Ballad of Laurel Springs”



A lot of things are passed on from mother to daughter. Jewelry, wedding dresses, handmade quilts. In Columbus author Janet Beard’s touching novel, “The Ballad of Laurel Springs,” it’s a song.

Not just a song, but a murderous ballad, a grim tale of crime that can have centuries-old roots. Each chapter of “Laurel Springs” is named after a traditional murderous ballad.

The prologue, “Pretty Polly,” takes place today, as Tennessee teenager Grace Reid is given a family history project. She asks her aunt if there are any family stories, and Dee tells her about a murder long ago that inspired a song, “Pretty Polly”.

“Pretty Polly” is actually hundreds of years old, originally from England and imported to the Appalachians, but Dee is sure it is a Reid ancestor who stabbed his girlfriend. Grace’s teacher sends her to the guidance counselor about her “disturbing” project, and Grace’s mother is angry with the assignment, telling Grace not to show it to her father.

The timeline then moves to 1907, when Pearl, Grace’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, is a young housewife from Tates Valley. She defends Violet, who teaches in the one-class school, when people call her a witch. One day, Violet tells Pearl that two women from a big city have arrived to build a real school, provide books and a lunch. Violet is horny, but Pearl and her husband feel like women are being condescending.

In 1925, Pearl’s daughter-in-law, Miriam, had waited seven years for news of her husband, who went missing after World War II. When he finally shows up, he remains silent about his whereabouts and gives him no voice in his plans.

In 1942, Polly was courted by Jérémie. Like generations before her, she has been told that Laurel Springs is haunted and she has been warned to stay away, but like others, she ignores the warnings, a decision that affects the rest of her life. In the 1970s, Polly’s daughter Sarah interacted with a hippie community as Tates Valley slowly turned into a tourist attraction.

Every generation of women faces betrayal and betrayal of men. The issues of poverty, racism, unwanted pregnancy, homophobia and drugs are accompanied by “Oh Willy darling, don’t kill me here, I’m not ready to die” and “Polly, pretty Polly, you have guess roughly: I “I dug on your grave the best part of last night.

“The Ballad of Laurel Springs” (288 pages, hardcover) costs $ 27 from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. Janet Beard’s previous novel, “The Atomic City Girls,” was about women who secretly worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during World War II.


‘True Tales From the Campaign Trail, Volume II’

Names like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter are famous. The names of contributors to “True Tales from the Campaign Trail: Stories Only Political Consultants Can Tell, Volume II” may not be. Jerry Austin, who worked on campaigns as big as Jesse Jackson’s presidential race in 1988, has put together more than 75 colorful behind-the-scenes stories from this compulsively-reading little book.

Almost a quarter of the book is owned by Raymond Strother, who Austin says “put the profession on the map.” The fifty or so contributors, who do not hesitate to name names, tell of brothels, heaps of money and vengeful mistresses. Most predate the era of cellphones and the Internet, but a 1974 problem with poll watchers disputing ballots resembles today’s.

“True Tales From the Campaign Trail, Volume II” (225 pages, softcover) costs $ 19.95 from the University of Akron Press. Volume I was published in 2017. Jerry Austin received a Masters of Education from Akron University and is retired from the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at Akron University.


Loganberry Bookstore (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): Cleveland writer Ali Black reads an excerpt from her book of poetry “If it heals at all”, Sunday at 1 pm. Wednesday at 6 pm, Adele Bertei, whose “Peter and the Wolves” is a brief memoir of her relationship with Cleveland musician Peter Laughner, talks about “Why Labelle Matters” and the female singing group of the 60s and 70s.

Visible voice books (2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland): Poets Tim Heerdink, Tony Brewer and Jason Baldinger read an excerpt from their work Sunday at 1 p.m. Friday at 7:30 p.m., Michael Routa signs “A History of Cleveland’s Public Square”.

: Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti zooms in from Russia to talk about her book “Diary of an apprentice astronaut” with museum administrator Marcy Frumker, Sunday at 1 pm. Minimum donation of $ 5 requested. Register on

Cuyahoga County Public Library: Cleveland Heights author Paula McLain (“The Paris Wife”, “When the Stars Go Dark”) talks to Patti Callahan about Callahan’s novel “Once Upon a Wardrobe”, about a CS Oxford student Lewis, at a Zoom event 3-4 Sunday afternoons. From 7 pm to 8 pm Wednesday, Gayle Forman talks about her intermediate level novel “Frankie & Bug”.

Hudson Library and Historical Society: The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger chats with Andy Leach, senior director of museum and archival collections at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, about Krieger’s memoir “Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar “, 7:00 p.m. Monday. At 7 p.m. Tuesday, James Patterson, with the record for most No. 1 bestsellers by one author, talks about his latest book “ER Nurses.” Register at

Mac’s back: Diane Kendig reads an excerpt from her collection of poetry in English and Spanish “Woman with a Fan” and Kevin A. Risner reads an excerpt from her collection “Do Us a Favor”, at a virtual event at 7pm Monday.

Rodman Public Library (215 E. Broadway St., Alliance): James A. Willis, author of “Ohio’s Historic Haunts” and “The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories” presents “Meet the Ghosts of Ohio” from 7 pm to 8 pm Monday. Register at

(330 Court Ave. NW, Township): Cleveland WJW presenter Jazmin Bailey on “The Woman with the Oil: Laying It All Out and Healing From Within,” her memoir on domestic violence, 6 p.m. Tuesday At 20 o ‘clock. Register at

Barberton Public Library (602 W. Park Ave.): Green author Kathryn Long talks about her work, including the mystery series Paint by Murder and Sierra Pines B&B, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Register at

Cleveland Heights-University Heights Libraries: Janice Mitchell reads and signs “My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in England (a True Story from 1964),” at a Zoom event at 7pm Wednesday. Register at

Wadsworth Public Library (132 Broad St.): Dave Schwensen talks about “The Beatles in Cleveland: The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts” and “The Beatles at Shea Stadium: The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert”, 7 pm to 9 pm Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road): Paula McLain chats with Elizabeth Strout (“Olive Kitteridge” won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction) about “Oh William! », Thursday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The $ 25 admission includes a signed copy of the book; proof of vaccination required. May become a virtual event, so check before attending. Register at

Learned owl bookstore (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Irv Korman signs his children’s books “Melton the Adoptable Snowman” and “The Eight Knights of Hanukkah”, Saturdays from 1 to 3 pm.

Akron-Summit County Public Library (Maple Valley branch, 1187 Copley Road): Benjamin Lipford signs “A Book of Spiritual Poems, Poetry, and Inspirational Quotes“, Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. Register at or 330-864-5721.

Email local book information and event notices at least two weeks in advance to and Barbara McIntyre tweets to @BarbaraMcI.


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