Me? Gossipy? Surely not!

Jun 17, 2016 | 4 comments

Jailhouse Book0001I was told that the redoubtable ‘petunia’ (lower case ‘p’) had posted a review of Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County on and so I took a look.  She (I’m assuming petunia is female) gave the book four full stars (out of the five possible) which pleased me and she had this to say about it:

History isn’t boring when it’s in the hands of writer Sydney Stevens. Who would have thought the public records on jails in the Pacific Northwest would not only be a page turner but would provide a few laughs. Imagine, for example, building a prison then forgetting to provide running water, heat, toilets or a kitchen to prepare food. Imagine having a prisoner as a house guest because there was no place else to put him. Meet bootleggers, murders and a few wayward girls in this gossipy account of how the west survived the rascals.

Matt Winters at Work - photo by Damian Mulinix

Matt Winters at Work – photo by Damian Mulinix

I am quite happy with this assessment, though I paused a little over the word “gossipy.”  I even took a look in the dictionary and found this:  Gossip is idle talk or rumor especially about the personal or private affairs of others.  Considering my years (yes! years!) of research on this particular book, I was a bit flummoxed but I decided that maybe petunia meant “folksy” more than “gossipy.”  If she is used to history being presented in dry, textbook fashion, then she was no doubt pleasantly surprised. For all my research and fact-checking, Jailhouse Stories is definitely not dull.

I also noted that in one place still lists Matt Winters as co-author of the book and in another place notes (correctly) that I’m the author and Matt wrote the foreword.  I did notify the powers-that-be at History Press about that some time ago, but I think once it’s posted, it’s posted, and trying to make corrections is probably an exercise in futility.  I just hope Matt is right and that his name will help sales top the millions mark!

Meanwhile… the book should be available locally at Time Enough Books, the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and, of course, at the Oysterville Store where I’ll be tomorrow from 1:00 to 3:00 to tell you all about it…  And don’t forget to catch me on Carol Newman’s “Arts Live and Local” on KMUN this afternoon.   Me?  Gossipy?  You be the judge!


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I am sure that the reviewer mean something akin to “folksy” instead of gossipy. After all, it’s a matter of public record. But ‘petunia’ is right about one thing, you do make history fun! I will try to stream KMUN so I can hear you. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book!

  2. Miki Frace

    Sydney, my thought is that “gossipy” is a good word from a marketing stance. People want to be “in the know” and like the old Hee-Haw song said, “I don’t repeat gossip, so you better listen close the first time!” The titillation factor might play to your advantage.

  3. Charlie Howell

    I think in this context gossipy means that it’s full of all the little anecdotes and side-stories that a traditional history wouldn’t normally have.

    • sydney

      I think you are right! And I’m pleased that petunia pointed it out! That’s the feel I’m always going for — “approachable history” someone said.


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