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Richmond's summer reading suggestion is a musical mystery

By Howard B. Owens


The obstacles faced by a young black musician and untangling the mystery of who stole his priceless violin makes for a compelling story, said Samantha Basile at the reveal of the Richmond Memorial Library's summer reading selection.

"This year, we had a lot of strong contenders, but we kept coming back to one in particular," said Basile, the community and adult services librarian at the Richmond library. "So this year's title selection is a debut novel. It is part mystery part coming-of-age story. It was a Good Morning America GMA book club pick."

The selection is The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocum.

Basile said the selection committee, which has been reading review copies of multiple novels over the past year, was "drawn to the powerfully written passages about music, the element of mystery, and the no holds barred portrayal of the obstacles faced by a young black classical musician and contemporary America."

Basile played a short video from Slocum in which he described and discussed his debut novel.

"It's a story about perseverance and hard work and the power of one person believing in you and believing in yourself," Slocum said. "It's a story of Ray, who discovers that his old family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius violin. This discovery catapults him into superstardom in the world of classical music. And right before the Tchaikovsky Competition, which is the Olympics of classical music, his violin is stolen."

And thus the mystery begins, and a determined protagonist works diligently to uncover, from among many suspects, who stole his violin so he can recover it in time for the competition.

"This story came to me in the summer of 2020 When everything was shut down for everyone," Slocum said. "As a professional violinist, I wasn't playing any concerts. I wasn't teaching any lessons. I wasn't practicing for any recitals, or performances or anything. So it really gave me an opportunity to sit down and write."

Members of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra's string section performed during the reveal and Library Visits Coordinator Lucine Kauffman read a passage from the book (see video below).

Slocum will be at Richmond library, 19 Ross St., Batavia, at 7 p.m. Oct. 7  to discuss his book and sign copies.

The Richmond Reads Committee will host additional book discussions and readings during the summer.

Copies of the book are available now to borrow at the library in regular or large print, and on the Libby app as an eBook or audiobook. Copies may be purchased at the front desk for $20, cash or check made out to the Friends of the Richmond Memorial Library.

Photos by Howard Owens



Rochester-area, award-winning author to visit Richmond Memorial Library

By Press Release

Press release:

Richmond Memorial Library will welcome back author George “Rollie” Adams to discuss his new work of historical fiction, Found in Pieces. Mr. Adams, president and CEO emeritus of the Strong National Museum of Play, will be at the library for a talk and signing on Wednesday, May 18 at 7 pm.

Found in Pieces was recognized by the Independent Press Awards as the winner of its 2022 Award for Race Relations. Set in fictional Unionville, Arkansas, Found in Pieces unfolds during the second year of turmoil over Governor Orval Faubus’s determination to stop the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Found in Pieces, recipient of five previous national and international awards for historical and social issues fiction, explores the tension between business considerations and editorial policy in journalism during the Civil Rights Era in the South.

Copies of the book are available to check out at the library before the program & will be available for sale by the author at the event for $15 (paperback) or $20 (hardcover), cash or check.

This event is free and all are welcome. It is best suited to older teens and adults.

George Rollie Adams is a native of southern Arkansas and a former teacher with graduate degrees in history and education. His previous novel, South of Little Rock, received four independent publishers’ awards for regional and social issues. Adams has served as a writer, editor, and program director for the American Association for State and Local History and as director of the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. He is president and CEO emeritus of the Strong National Museum of Play. Learn more at

An additional press release about the Independent Press Awards honor for George Rollie Adams as well as additional background on Found In Pieces after the jump (click here read more):

Press release: 

Independent Press Awards has recognized the novel Found in Pieces by George Rollie Adams as a winner of its 2022 Award for Race Relations.

Independent Press Awards are given in several categories and are based on judging by experts in different aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, cover designers, and copywriters. Award winners are selected based on excellence.

Found in Pieces, recipient of five previous national and international awards for historical and social issues fiction, explores the tension between business considerations and editorial policy in journalism during the Civil Rights Era in the South. In doing so, the book helps us understand the role of media in today’s political and social climate. Adams, a PhD historian, and former president and CEO of The Strong National Museum of Play, examines what happens when public perceptions and expectations, economic pressures, and personal beliefs about morality, fairness, and justice clash in a small southern town in 1958. (Author, coauthor, and coeditor of nonfiction books on American history, Adams grew up in southern Arkansas during this period, and his first novel, South of Little Rock, received four independent publishing awards for regional and social issues fiction.)

“Found in Pieces is a captivating story and a must-read for anyone interested in American history and how it informs our lives today,” says Gretchen Sorin, historian and author of Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights, which was the basis for a PBS documentary. With “characters you care about and experiences that tug at your heart,” says Sorin, Found in Pieces “raises questions about the importance of a free press, the meaning of democracy, and the ultimate fate of American racism.”

Set in fictional Unionville, Arkansas, Found in Pieces unfolds during the second year of turmoil over Governor Orval Faubus’s determination to stop the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. At a time when almost no women own and edit newspapers, Pearl Goodbar risks her family’s financial future to buy a defunct weekly. Before she can get the paper up and running, her husband loses his job, Faubus initiates a new crisis in the state capital, and the adult son of black businesswoman Sadie Rose Washington disappears. The mystery of his whereabouts brings the two women—one white and one black but both of them mothers—together and leaves Pearl facing business decisions that could lead to more money woes and even physical harm to herself and those close to her. Meanwhile, a prominent white man hides a dark secret that Sadie Rose knows but will not tell.

“I am grateful for this book,” says James Whorton, Jr. of the College at Brockport and author of Frankland, Approximately Heaven, and other works of fiction. “Once upon a time, respectable people thought that races should be kept apart. Insane but true, and Found In Pieces does the work of remembering how natural and easy it is not to see the wrong in front of you. There are always a dozen reasons to overlook injustice. George Rollie Adams dramatizes the problem in a vivid, suspenseful, and violent story that I did not want to put down.”

Says Adams, “Growing up in Arkansas and later teaching there, I saw and heard firsthand the arguments for and against social change, and I saw how the coming of it heightened tensions between the races and among white citizens who held diverging views. But I also saw ways in which social change brought people together, and how it caused some to see in new ways. Also, as a youngster, I had opportunity to see inside a small local newspaper, and later I was privileged to do historical research in many newspapers from various eras and sections of the country. I used all of that and numerous works of history to inform the novel.”

According to Independent Press Awards sponsor Garbielle Olczak, this year the awards judges considered books from the United States, Canada, Australia, and several European countries. “It’s crystal clear,” she says, that independent publishing is pushing to every corner of the earth with great content. We are thrilled to be highlighting key titles representing global independent publishing.” For more on Independent Press Awards, see:  

Found in Pieces, published by Barn Loft Press, is available in hardcover, paperback, and digital formats through Amazon and other major book outlets. For more information, visit:

About George Rollie Adams

Adams is an educator, historian, author, and museum professional. As president and CEO of The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, from 1987 through 2016, Adams led the development of the world’s first collections-based history museum devoted solely to the study of play and its critical role in learning and human development and the ways in which play illuminates cultural history. Adams grew up in southern Arkansas, received a bachelor’s degree in social science education and English from Louisiana Tech University, and taught history for four years at El Dorado, Arkansas, High School while also earning a master’s degree in education from Louisiana Tech. He holds a doctorate in American history from the University of Arizona and is the founding editor in chief of the American Journal of Play; author of General William S. Harney: Prince of Dragoons, a finalist for the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award; and author of South of Little Rock, recipient of four independent publishing awards for regional and social issues fiction.

Poetry Month: Richard Beatty recites 'Highlands' by Bob Dylan

By Howard B. Owens
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Richard Beatty recites "Highlands" by Bob Dylan.

Photos: John Gardner Society reads John Gardner at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens


The John Gardner Society gathered at the Pok-A-Dot on Saturday night for the group's annual reading of works by John Gardner.

A Batavia-native, Gardner is an internationally acclaimed novelist and literary critic who died in a motorcycle accident in 1982.

Readers this year were Steve Lewandowski, Byron Hoot, Beth Bucchler (top photo), Richard Beatty, Bill Kauffman, David Lampe, Chris De Pasquale, Helen Maier, Terry Abrams, John Maier and Eric Zwieg.


Byron Hoot


Bill Kauffman


Terry Abrams



Annual reading of John Gardner set for Oct. 27 at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens


The John Gardner Society will host its annual reading of Batavia's most renowned novelist at the Pok-A-Dot the evening of Oct. 27.

The reading will start at 8 p.m.

Anybody with an interest in Gardner, literature, Batavia's history, or just looking for an evening of camaraderie and entertainment, is invited to attend or read their own favorite passages from Gardner's work.

For more information or to be added to the list of readers, contact Bill Kauffman at

The event is sponsored by the John Gardner Society and Genesee Community College.

Photo: File photo from last year's reading.

Photos: Literary reading at Moon Java

By Howard B. Owens


Bryon Hoot, a poet from Pennsylvania who visits Batavia often for literary events, reads some of his poetry at Moon Java this evening for the debut event for The Visual Truth Theater Ensemble, a literary group organized by Eric Zwieg.

Zwieg, Julian Tuast, and Cole Rogers also read from their work. Richard Beatty was the emcee for the reading.



Richard Beatty


Cole Rogers 



The Visual Truth Theater Ensemble to present reading at Moon Java on May 11

By Howard B. Owens

A new literary group in Batavia, organized by Eric Zwieg, The Visual Truth Theater Ensemble, will present readings by writers Byron Hoot, Cole Rogers, Julian Tuast, and Zwieg on May 11 at Moon Java Cafe.

The title of the program is "Speak Again, Speak Like Rain" and begins at 7 p.m.

Richard Beatty, of the Geezer Radio Show on WGCC on Thursday nights from 8 to 10 p.m., will host the reading.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Contact for additional details. 

Photos: Annual John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens


Batavia's literary legend John Gardner was honored Saturday night by the John Gardner Society with the annual reading from passages of his work at his favorite restaurant, the Pok-A-Dot.









Another little free library pops up -- on Montclair Avenue, Batavia

By Traci Turner


Connie Boyd and Dave Bateman, her son-in-law, show off a new little free library they setup at 16 Montclair Ave. in Batavia last week.

Bateman built Boyd the box for a holiday gift. One of her favorite TV shows is "Doctor Who" so he customized the box to resemble a tardis, a police box the doctor travels around in. The tardis even comes with a working light on top.

Boyd wanted to have a little free library of her own after seeing a box on Washington Avenue. She loves the concept of sharing her favorite novels with neighbors. The purpose of a little free library is to have people take a book from the box and leave one in return.

"Not everyone is able to get to the library so I wanted to make books accessible to everyone and encourage reading in my community," Boyd said.


There are about 20 adult books in the box. Boyd said her neighbors have already been adding and borrowing from the collection. She plans on adding books for children soon.

Photos: Batavia reads Gardner at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens

Members of the John Gardner Society gathered, as they do every October, for a reading of selections from the work of Batavia's own John Gardner.

Top photo: Bill Kauffman reading a portion of an essay about Gardner by Susan Thornton, who was Gardner's fiancée at time of his death.

Byron Hoot, who began attending the readings a few years ago, driving to Batavia annually from his home in Pennsylvania. 

Jim Gardner, John's brother

Leona Pastore and Terry Abrams

Bill Kauffman

Brian Paris reading

Little free library blooms on Washington and Lewis, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Jen Reardon loves books and wants to encourage people to read more, so she set up a little free library in front of her house on the corner of Washington Avenue and Lewis Avenue.

She got the idea after learning about a web site called In fact, she bought her brightly colored box from the web site. The site also tracks locations of little free libraries, and hers is the first one registered in Genesee County.

"I knew of nothing in area, at least on the map, so why not do this?" Reardon said. "I love books. I seem to always have lots of readers around me with lots of books and they're like, 'what can I do these,' so I thought we'll put them out and let people take a book, leave a book."

That's the whole concept of the little free library right there -- there's no fee, no library card to sign up for, you take a book and leave a book. Return what you take whenever you like, nor never return it if you like it that much. Just put something else in its place.

Yesterday was the first day for Reardon's little free library and quite a few people stopped and took books. Not too many have been added to the collection yet.

"Yesterday was a busy day at the little free library," Reardon said. "There was definitely more borrowing than trading, but since it's the first day, I don't think people really knew what to make of it."

Reardon already has one of the most colorful front yards in Batavia, with a cornucopia of flowers growing all spring, summer and fall. Her green, orange and purple box fits right in.

Her neighborhood is perfect for something like this, Reardon believes.

"We have all income levels within like a three block area," she said.

"I think people don't read enough and some people might not have access to books. You can always go to the library, but if you have books in your home, you're more likely to pick it up and read it, kids especially.

"Mine" for Poetry Contest, entries due by Friday July 19

By Leslie DeLooze

Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia is presenting a “Mine” for Poetry Contest for adults in the "Dig into Reading" Summer Reading Club (free and easy to join). Dig into a page of text — from a book, a magazine, or a newspaper (Please make a copy, if it is not yours!). Find words to make a poem...and eliminate the rest as artistically as possible. Samples are available at the library. Entries are due at the library by Friday, July 19 at 5 p.m. and prizes will be awarded.  More information is available at the library, by calling 343-9550, ext.

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John Gardner Conference attracts scholars and fans from far and wide

By Howard B. Owens

This item was submitted by Byron Hoot, from Wexford, Pa., who has made a couple of trips to Batavia in the past year in connection with his appreciation of John Gardner, including this past Saturday's John Gardner Conference at GCC.

“The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” So began the first presenter for the 15th Annual John Gardner Conference hosted by Genesee Community College organized by Tracey Ford and Charley Boyd of GCC, coordinated by Sandy Hortdahl of Northeast State, Tennessee. 

It was “the spirit (that) giveth life” throughout the conference. The spirit of Gardner was alive and well among the conference attendees, who came from across New York state, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. 

Presenters spoke on a wide range of topics, from Paul Johnston’s “Taggart Hodge, Antinomian” to John and Helen Maier’s reading of “The Miller’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Middle English, to Denise Divins’ probing look at the archetypical world of Grendel. In addition, there was Bette Smith’s excellent performance of Gardner’s one-act play, Days of Vengeance, and Jennifer Duncan’s talk of Gardner’s influence on her own writing. 

Attendees had a chance to examine some of the original Gardner materials housed at GCC and overseen by librarian Phyllis Andrews. Finally, as a visual coda, there was a screening of "The Sunlight Man," a documentary made by Gardner’s son, Joel. As important as the ideas and insights, the presence of Gardner’s brother Jim and his wife, Wanda, added the personal touch of stories from family members who loved and love Gardner still.

A pilgrimage to the Pok-a-Dot for lunch gave conference attendees added time to socialize. A hidden gem, Genesee Community College deserves much credit for keeping alive the spirit of an important American writer. This is a pilgrimage well worth making.

Photo: Tom Rivers at book signing for 'Farm Hands'

By Howard B. Owens

Ace ag reporter Tom Rivers was at Coffee Culture this morning with his son Ruben signing copies of his book "Farm Hands." The book is based on a series of articles Rivers wrote for the Batavia Daily News about his efforts to get out and work the fields, experiencing firsthand what it's like to be a farm hand. Rivers said so far the book has sold 5,500 copies. If you don't have your copy yet, it's available at Present Tense books and the Holland Land Office Museum.

Photos: John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens

The John Gardner Society gathered Saturday at the Pok-A-Dot for the annual reading of the author's works.

Readers were Lucine, Bill and Gretel Kauffman, Erica Caldwell, Terry McCormack, Tracy Ford, Maureen Maas-Feary, Brian Paris, Helen Maier, Terry Abrams and John Maier.

WNED's Jay Moran recorded the readings and will air a segment later in the week, possibly on Wednesday.

If you can't view the slide show, click here.

Photos: Miranda Fix book signing at Coffee Culture

By Howard B. Owens

Miranda Fix was at Coffee Culture on Saturday signing copies of her new novel -- her sixth -- "Calling all Angels."

Fix, a registered nurse with 30 years experience, describes her new book this way:  “It’s about my story and my experiences as a nurse surviving in a profession that is full of illusions, disenchantments and despair. But deep inside that sadness is a rainbow of color and these shades of blues, yellows greens and reds are the true colors of our angels. They are there for us, they guide us, empower us, pray for us and keep us safe. They are there when you call upon them…you just need to ask them for help. 

"Calling All Angels is a novel about true life and the amazing strength in the patients I have met along the way. Stories that will make you laugh and cry, but they are full of hope and wonder. I wish you love and happiness as in the ways of the angels…and remember to believe.”

The mother of two children, and grandmother to three, Fix lives in Corfu.

Photos: Present Tense/GoArt! poetry contest winners

By Howard B. Owens

Winners of the 5th Annual National Poetry Contest -- sponsored by Present Tense Books and Gifts and GoArt! -- were announced Friday. Some of the winners were at Present Tense on Washington Avenue, Batavia, Saturday afternoon to receive their prizes.

Pictured above are Joe Gagne, Abby Sapecky, Faith Finnin (back row), Lindsay Augello, and Chloe Shuskey.

A complete list of winners and their poems are posted on the Present Tense Web site.

Each winner received a gift certificate from Present Tense.

Photos: 14th Annual John Gardner reading at the Pok-A-Dot

By Howard B. Owens

It's been said that the Pok-A-Dot was John Gardner's favorite eatery. In "The Sunlight Dialogues," Gardner mentions the 56-year-old diner in one passage.

For 14 years, the John Gardner Society has gathered at The Dot to remember the man and read from his work.

Saturday, nine people took turns reading from a variety of his works, including novels, poems, short stories and nonfiction.

Pictured above, Erica Caldwell, owner of Present Tense Books on Washington Avenue.

After the jump are more pictures from the event.

Bill Kauffman, master of ceremonies.

Maureen Maas-Feary

Tracy Ford

Brian Paris

Helen Maier

Terry Abrams

Lucine Kauffman

John Gardner's younger brother, Jim Gardner.

John Maier

14th Annual Batavia Reads John Gardner

By Howard B. Owens

Members of the John Gardner Society and other fans of the late author who was born and raised in Batavia and often made Batavia the subject of his literary work will gather at the Pok-A-Dot, Liberty and Ellicott streets, Batavia. Admission is free. All are welcome.  For more information or to be added to the reading list, call Bill at (585) 757-2455.

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