The Monday Book comes from guest author Dave Tabler this week, author of a new book about the state of Delaware.
What are my three biggest influences as a writer of history? Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story” radio show, and my 8th grade geography teacher, Mr. Jarboe. Ripley’s, because Robert Ripley was able to boil down the essence of a historical item into one cartoon panel visual; Paul Harvey because of his ability to lead the listener right up to the cliffhanger, leave them gasping for air during the commercial break, and then resolve the rest of the story very neatly in a minute or two. And Mr. Jarboe, because he used the clever hat trick of telling the story of famous people through their teenage eyes. Which of course appeals endlessly to 8th graders! I wanted to create a history book that has the stunning glossiness of National Geographic photography, coupled with event driven narrative that gallops along in ‘you are there’ first person. I wanted to work in an overall style that seduces the reader with a sense of just how familiar the lives of those from long ago feel once you get past the funny speech and the strange clothing. I’m not a Delaware native, and I’ve only lived here for 12 years. But the advantage of seeing this place as an outsider is that I notice things locals take for granted. How fascinating that “the penman of the American Revolution,” a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, hailed from Dover! That Delaware’s early history is in fact the nation’s early history in miniature! In “Delaware Before the Railroads,” I’ve avoided footnotes and a professorial tone. I want my reader to feel that history is not reserved for ivory towers and dusty bookshelves, that history is a living thing that informs who we are and how we got here, and told right, can help guide us toward how we might develop next as a culture