Rock stars, ghosts and abandoned hotels: Summer reads with local connections

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Looking for a worthwhile beach read for summer vacation? The following novels and nonfiction works were written by local authors or have a connection to the Hudson Valley.

"Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble —The Inside Story of the Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble," by John W. Barry

What's it about: The book that began as a collaboration between Helm and author Barry outlines the launch, evolution and triumph of the Midnight Ramble house concerts held by Helm, the vocalist and drummer for The Band and three-time Grammy winner as a solo artist. Helm, who lived in Woodstock for more than four decades, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a member of The Band. He passed away in 2012.

Over the years, he performed with Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr among many notable musicians, and made it to the big screen, as well, with roles in "Coal Miner's Daughter," and "The Right Stuff."

Barry based his book on myriad conversations and interviews he had with the legendary musician over the years in countless locations, on the road, at his home and in the recording studio. Helm overcame personal tragedies that included battling cancer and bankruptcy to make what Barry calls one of the greatest comebacks in rock and roll.

About the author: Barry is a longtime journalist who spent two decades as music writer for the Poughkeepsie Journal. His writing has also appeared in USA Today,, the Times Union, Village Voice and Berkshire Eagle.

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"Run Rose, Run," by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

What's it about: Released in March, and already optioned for a movie, the best selling 400-page novel, set in Nashville, centers on a bond between an aspiring country singer and a retired country superstar. AnnieLee Keyes is the an aspiring singer-songwriter with a checkered past who catches the eye of Ruthanna Ryder, country music's retired matriarch.

About the authors: Parton is a world-famous singer, songwriter and actress from Tennessee. Patterson, who has a home in Westchester, is a best-selling author.

"The Desecrated," John Gray

What's it about: The story centers around a young woman working at a New York morgue and the unexplained murders, disappearances and hauntings which emerge when a British action film star enters her work place after he is sentenced to complete community service. Together they join forces to solve the mystery and uncover the truth.

About the author: Gray is a Rockland County area based writer and director who created the popular long-running hit TV series, "Ghost Whisperer," as well as the film "White Irish Drinkers," starring Stephen Lang and Karen Allen, "A Place for Annie," with Sissy Spacek and many TV series including "Grimm" and "Reckless."

Meet the author: Gray will be doing a book signing Aug. 6, from 1-3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in the Palisades Center.

"Hooker Avenue," Jode Millman

What's it about: The second novel in Millman's Queen City crime series features the return of attorney Jessie Martin Jessie is on her way home during a pop-up thunderstorm when she spots a woman drowning in a storm drain. She pulls over to save the woman — only to discover that no good deed goes unpunished.

Jessie finds herself stalked by a killer she put away, dealing with relationship issues, contemplating a job offer in a rival law firm, and trying to stop another killer plaguing the Hudson Valley.

About the author: Millman says she gets her inspiration from her hometown of Poughkeepsie. She's the author of "The Midnight Call," which was about Albert Fentress, a popular Poughkeepsie Middle School teacher who murdered a teen trespassing in his yard. Her current narrative evolved after Millman bought a building for her law office in downtown Poughkeepsie and discovered prostitutes had plied their wares on her front porch. Gradually, the women vanished from her porch steps, abducted by a quiet, unassuming serial killer; Millman's story took off from there.

Meet the author: For more on Millman, go to

"We Fell Apart," Soon Wiley

What's it about: The novel centers on Min, a Korean-American man who never feels at home. In America, Min is too Korean; in Seoul, his square jaw and non-Korean nose mark him as an outsider. But Min puts his bi-culturalism to work for him, teaching Samsung executives about American culture.

He meets Yu-jin, a Korean coed and dutiful daughter, yearning to reinvent herself in Seoul. Soon, they are inseparable, walking the city with a splicer tethering their earphones together, letting them experience Seoul set to the same soundtrack.

Then, she is dead. The police say it's suicide, but Min is convinced the Yu-jin he knew would never do such a thing.

Nyack native Soon Wiley signs a copy of his debut novel "When We Fell Apart" at Booksy Galore in Pound Ridge April 30, 2022. The book is getting over-the-top buzz in the publishing world.
Nyack native Soon Wiley signs a copy of his debut novel "When We Fell Apart" at Booksy Galore in Pound Ridge April 30, 2022. The book is getting over-the-top buzz in the publishing world.

About the author: Wiley grew up in Nyack and graduated from Nyack High School; After college he taught English at a private school in Seoul and still teaches today in Connecticut. "When We Fell Apart," his first novel, took seven years to complete.

"Our Country Friends," Gary Shteyngart

“Our Country Friends,” by Gary Shteyngart.
“Our Country Friends,” by Gary Shteyngart.

What's it about: "Our Country Friends" is a character-driven novel about eight friends who gather in an upstate New York country house to ride out the pandemic for six months and not surprisingly new romances, old slights, new friendships and old enemies soon emerge. According to a review in USA Today, this is "— a novel about love, friendship, family, and betrayal hailed as a 'virtuoso performance'."

About the author: Shteyngart is an award-winning novelist who has a home in Dutchess County. His other works include "Little Failure," "Super Sad True Love Story," "Lake Success," and "The Russian Debutante’s Handbook."

“The Music Never Stops: What Putting on 10,000 Shows Has Taught Me About Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Magic," Peter Shapiro

What's it about: Shapiro is the musical impressario behind the reinvention of Port Chester's Capitol Theatre, Brooklyn Bowl and New York City's Wetlands. Out Aug. 2, the book, written with Relix edior-in-chief Dean Budnick, details Shapiro's life and experiences in the concert arena with each chapter focusing on a different concert. So it's not too hard to imagine anecdotes about some of the people he's worked with, from U2 to the Roots, The Grateful Dead to Robert Plant. There are also never before seen backstage photos from Shapiro’s personal archive.

Meet the author: Shapiro will appear in conversation with Rolling Stone writer and editor David Fricke at 7 p.m. Aug. 9, at the Rare Book Room of Strand Book Store, 828 Broadway, New York. Tickets, $5 to $29, are available via

"Abandoned America: Hudson Valley Edition," Matthew Christopher

What's it about: Ruins are catnip for many people. In his latest book, Christopher looks at some of the most spectacular abandoned places in the region, including the hotels of the Borscht Belt, amusement parks, and game farms.

About the author: Christopher is an author, photographer and podcast creator behind the "Abandoned America" series.

Meet the author: He will do an event about the book at the Morton Memorial Library, 2 Kelly Street, Rhinecliff on July 25 at 6: 30 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Starr Library and Oblong Books. The event is free, but registration is required at

Peter Kramer contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Levon Helm, hauntings at the morgue, Dolly Parton: Top summer reads