Sunday, September 13, 2009

A. Roger Ekirch

A. Roger Ekirch is an award-winning author and a professor of history at Virginia Tech. In addition to scholarly articles in such journals as the William and Mary Quarterly and Perspectives in American History, his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Newsday. His books have included Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 and the multiple prize-winning At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, a sweeping study of nocturnal culture before the Industrial Revolution.

His new book, Birthright: The True Story of the Kidnapping of Jemmy Annesley, is due out in January 2010.

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Believe it or not, I am at this minute reading the final page proofs of a book that I have coming out in January, compliments of Norton. I know that this answer is not in the spirit of the question that you’ve posed, but please indulge me, for I’ve been reading little else of late. Entitled Birthright: The True Story of the Kidnapping of Jemmy Annesley, the book recounts, for the first time, the real-life story that inspired five nineteenth-century novels, most famously Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Arguably, no saga of personal hardship so captivated the British public in the eighteenth century as the turbulent life of James Annelsey, the presumptive heir of five aristocratic titles and scion of the mighty house of Annesley. Kidnapped at twelve years of age by his uncle (a serial bigamist), “Jemmy” was shipped from Dublin to America in 1728 as an indentured servant. Only after twelve more years did he at last escape, returning to Ireland to bring his blood rival, the Earl of Anglesea, to justice in one of the epic trials of the century. So it’s a story about betrayal and loss but also resilience, survival, and redemption.

The last book that I read for pleasure was No Country for Old Men, which I enjoyed as much for the taut prose as for the story itself – a fine example of how writing can still be evocative without adjectives piled one atop another.
--Marshal Zeringue