10 Hot Local Authors to Check Out

Pick up books by local authors to borrow or to add to your personal libraries. Check ’em out or make a purchase at first-ever Local Author Fair Dec. 8 at 3pm in Marvin Auditorium. These amazing authors, and about 60 more, will be in attendance at the fair. Tap into these titles to discover the best of the best from the local literary scene. Who is your favorite local author? Leave a comment below.

rode, by Thomas Fox Averill

rodeTopeka author Thomas Fox Averill based rode on Jimmy Driftwood’s ballad “Tennessee Stud,” a song that he found hauntingly compelling. As Averill began to imagine the story behind the lyrics, he set out to research the song’s history by traveling the same route the song chronicles, from Tennessee into Arkansas, through Texas and into Mexico. rode captures the spirit of the ballad while telling the story of Robert Johnson. Pursued by a bounty hunter, Indians, and his conscience, Johnson and his horse are tested, strengthened, and made resolute. rode was a Spur Award finalist, a 2012 Kansas Notable Book, and was named Outstanding Western Novel of 2011 as part of the Western Heritage Awards, an award previously given to novelists such as James Michener, Barbara Kingsolver, and Cormac McCarthy.


Me and Aunt Izzy: Doing Time at the Jesse James Hideout and Coal Mining Company, by Max Yoho

auntizzyMax Yoho’s most recent novel is set in fictitious “Buffalo County,” Southeast Kansas, in 1938. This is the delightful story of 11-year old Jefferson Davis Johnson, sentenced to a summer of “moral rehabilitation” under the watchful eye of his great aunt, Queen Isabella of Spain Johnson. A relic of the “roaring twenties,” this stern matriarch “may” have her own ideas about what a boy should learn. Will three-years perfect attendance in his Presbyterian Sunday School be enough to protect Jeffie from the evils of drink, a war-pathing aborigine, and the bright-eyed tomboy, Pauline Potts? And, for Pete’s sake, does any other boy have a relative who cohabits with the ghost of Jesse James?


Natural Theologies: Essays About Literature of the New Middle West, by Denise Low

deniselow_naturaltheologiesNatural Theologies is the first critical study of contemporary Mid-Plains literature. Denise Low shows how the region’s writers inherit a Frontier legacy from Indigenous and American settler communities. Myths continue to provide framework for fiction writers and poets, as well as nature and the rich community life. Not all of the region is rural. Cities like Minneapolis, Omaha, and Kansas City, have presence in the literature–but in context of the great acreage around them. This innovative book defines the region’s character while, at the same time, illuminating a panoramic past. Indigenous peoples and their philosophies add to this unique look at the Mid-continent’s literary culture.


Portraits of Troy, by Gary Krohe

portraitsoftroyPortraits of Troy is an engaging visual study of a stunning piece of architecture, with photos from the 1870s up to the 21st century. Planned in the late 1920s and built in the first years of the Great Depression, Topeka High School was one of the first multimillion dollar high schools ever built. A Topeka landmark, THS is on the National Register of Historic Places, and Portraits of Troy shows why with intricate detail images and sweeping panoramas. Fifty-eight pairs of matching shots show the school when it was new in 1931 through the present day. Featuring photos of the 155 foot bell tower, the 2400-seat auditorium, the 3500-seat gymnasium, and Constitution Plaza, home to a spar from the USS Constitution “Old Ironsides,” the 342 photos in 272 pages offer an intimate look at this Kansas landmark.

clarkeHey Mister-Your Alligator’s Loose! by Gary K. Clarke

Gary K. Clarke was the first director of the Topeka Zoo, and has led photography safaris all over Africa. Hey Mister-Your Alligator’s Loose! details his lifelong passion for animals and chronicles his extraordinary career in the world of zoos. An engaging read for everyone enchanted with the animal kingdom!


israelwasersteinThis Ecstasy They Call Damnation, by Israel Wasserstein

“In this wide-ranging collection, Wasserstein tells and retells the stories of myths, legends, the Bible, and his own personal journey down Highway 54” (Jim Daniels). His work reveals a strong connection to our state’s history, language, and landscape. Wasserstein, a Topeka native and lecturer in English at Washburn University, hopes that readers “can hear the language of everyday speech” in his poetry, which covers topics as diverse as poverty, weather, and zombies. His stunning debut collection was named a 2013 Kansas Notable Book.


Mommy Daddy Evan Sage by Eric McHenry

mommydaddyevansageChildhood can be a confusing time, but not to Evan and Sage. They’ve got the world pretty well figured out, and are happy to explain it to their perplexed parents: “A monkey and an ape are not the same,” / said Sage. “The monkey has a longer name.” Author Eric McHenry, a fifth generation Topeka High graduate and Professor of English at Washburn University, describes the collection as “poems for precocious children and immature adults.”  With funny, fanciful poems and whimsical woodcuts by Nicholas Garland, Mommy Daddy Evan Sage is sure to be a big hit with the whole family.

Birth in Storm
by Leah Sewell

birthinstorm“Sewell uses the language of the plains, and of the body, to open a gulf in us–a gulf of memory, of disaster, whatever is precarious, all around us. These are storm poems in the best possible way, full of threat, but also centers of unsettling calm; that which we love, but can no longer reach. Someone leaves town forever; a child stubbornly grows up, and away; the weather turns, maybe for the worst, and we must ride it out” (Benjamin Cartwright).  Sewell’s debut collection evokes vivid, haunting images that draw readers back for frequent rereading, with striking sound quality that invites us to read aloud and savor the syllables. Birth in Storm includes the poem “Crimson Lady,” which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012.


sissySissy!  by Tom Mach

In 1857, Nellie, a slave girl, is rescued by the Underground Railroad. Five years later, Jessica Radford’s parents, who had adopted the girl, are brutally murdered by a border ruffian and Nellie is kidnapped. How does Sissy, Nellie’s angel, finally bring Jessica peace on the most brutal battlefield of the Civil War-Lawrence, Kansas?


Speakeasy, by Aimee L. Gross, C.R. Kennedy, Miranda Ericsson Kendall, Elaine Greywalker, Nan Plum, A.M. Coffee, BlackRose, Janet Jenkins Stotts, Stacy Spiker, Marian Rakestraw, Diana Marsh, Dennis E. Smirl, Crystal K. Green, D.L. Rose, Rae Kary Staab, Elizabeth Staab Van Deusen, B.R. Knight, Romualdo R. Chavez, Sarah Langley, Holly Mace, Paul Swearingen, Lissa Staley

speakEasy_forwebAfter 108 years of living life, what remains in your memory and your heart? Julia Stanford has achieved this rare longevity milestone, having survived the Depression and both World Wars before she turned forty. At first, Ronni can’t see many similarities between herself and the older woman, despite the fact that both worked in bars to pay the rent while balancing complicated romances and pursuing their dreams. Are Julia’s stories truly extraordinary, or will Ronni discover a past that mirrors the struggles of her own modern life? As Ronni digs deeper to reach her goal, Julia seems to be hiding something about the past…
Speakeasy was written by 20 Topeka authors, as the second Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.

4 thoughts on “10 Hot Local Authors to Check Out

  1. How about Diana Staresinic-Deane who wrote a book about a murder in Burlington, KS called “Shadow on the Hill.” It’s great! 🙂

    • Sounds like a great suggestion, thanks Heather! Our library does own that book, so any of you who like true crime should come check it out. 🙂

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