Acclaimed Local Author Julia Keller To Discuss Latest Novel at Gramercy Books

Last month, Gramercy Books hosted its first Local Author Festival! Sixty Columbus area authors over two weekends in August were featured for a meet and greet and sidewalk signing. A huge red banner, tables with cloths, and a tent to shade the bright sunlight allowed us to showcase the many in our community who have authored books.

In September, Gramercy Books is thrilled to host a local author who has garnered broad acclaim for her work. Former Columbus Dispatch TV critic, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and lauded novelist Julia Keller will kick off our month of events on September 6, at 7pm with her latest mystery, Fast Falls The Night (August 22, Minotaur Books). The novel, based on a true event, covers a series of drug overdoses that take place over a single 24-hour period in a West Virginia town. Kirkus Reviews says Keller’s prose “is so pure that her exploration of the desperate scourge of drugs and poverty and her forecast of a grim future for her heroine are a joy to read.”

I asked Julia to share a bit about that real event that inspired this novel. "I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, which is a three-hour drive—and a world away—from Columbus,” she told me. “My father was a mathematics professor at Marshall University. I don't get back there often these days, and have only a smattering of family left there. But I did happen to be back on August 15, 2016, which ended up being a momentous day in Huntington history: In a single four-hour period, there were twenty-eight heroin overdoses, two of them fatalities. That tragedy made national news.” 

At that point, Julia had started the sixth book in her series about Belfa Elkins, a woman who returns to Appalachia to run for prosecutor and help her hard-luck hometown. “I was so struck by the momentousness of so many overdoses, crowded into one short interval of time, that I immediately began re-writing my novel using that as a template: a single day, into which an entire lifetime's worth of pain and anguish are embedded. And I used one of my favorite hymns, ‘Abide With Me,’ as a touchstone. The second line, "Fast falls the eventide," gives the novel its title.”

What message might readers take away from this novel, and why did Julia decide to fictionalize the story? "The opioid epidemic is now an acknowledged public health crisis in our country,” she said. “But it is also a profound moral crisis, as we must decide how best to use scarce public resources to help—or not—self-destructive addicts. When I realized that my hometown, like so many other West Virginia cities, had become engulfed by the drug crisis, my first thought was to embark on a non-fiction book about it. But I am perpetually drawn to fiction. There are things fiction can do that even the best of journalism and non-fiction cannot do.”

A recipient of a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, Julia Keller spent twelve years as a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune, where she won a Pulitzer Prize. She recently returned to the Columbus area. “This is such a great place for writers, and artists of any kind; there is a tremendous energy here, and a vibrancy that you don't find in other places."

And there’s a lot of vibrancy right here at Gramercy Books. Also in September (September 7th at 7pm), we will showcase three popular young adult authors—Kerry Winfrey (Love and Other Alien Experiences), Erin McCahan (The Lake Effect) and Jennifer Maschari (Things That Surprise You). With rapid-fire “top three” lists, they promise good conversation and loads of laughs. The following week, Gramercy will hold two author nights, the first on September 13 at 7pm, with novelist and Capital University visiting instructor Greg Belliveau for the release of his new collection of creative nonfiction, Seeds: Meditations on Grace in a World with Teeth. And the next evening, September 14 at 7 pm, author and Columbus School for Girls alumna returns to Columbus to share her most recent book, Inspiring Courage.

On September 26 at 7 pm, Gramercy’s monthly Book Club will discuss LaRose by Louise Erdrich, facilitated by Capital University English scholar Reginald Dyck who has conducted extensive research on Native American Literature and the work of Louise Erdrich. And on September 28 at 7 pm, a trio of Columbus College of Art and Design poets—Joshua Butts, Lesley Jenike, and Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis—will appropriately share “the art and design of poetry.”

At Gramercy Books, we share our love of books and the arts through a broad range of events that bring the community together. Join us for evenings of conversation and inspiration!


Written by Linda Kass

About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore!

Learn more about me on my personal website.