June 24th-June 26th, 2022
It was a great honor to be invited by the Converse family to be a guest and speaker at their family reunion this past weekend in Malden, Massachusetts.
The family initially planned to gather in 2020 to mark the two-hundredth birthday of Elisha Converse, but had to reschedule until this year.
Elisha was the first mayor of Malden, the founder of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company and the president of The First National Bank. His son, Frank, a teller in the Malden Bank, was the first murder victim during a bank robbery in American history. On December 15, 1863, Edward Green, the town’s postmaster, shot him twice and stole $5ooo.
Last year, I released my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank, which is based on the crime.
The Malden Public Library was built by Elisha Converse and given as a gift to the city by he and his wife, Mary, to stand as a memorial to their slain son. The library opened to the public on October 1, 1885 which would have been Frank’s thirty-ninth birthday.
As a boy, I spent hours in this room surrounded by books and dreamed of one day writing and publishing a novel of my own. The young boy in these pictures below, with his clip-on tie, had to wait decades to finally fulfill his dream.
I worked on a novel through all of my twenties and just couldn’t finish it. I gave up. In my thirties, I put my ambition of being a writer on hold.
Abel Bodied took eight years to write and I didn’t start it until I was forty, yet the subject matter and the story was always right in front of me, waiting to be written. I just was unaware of it at the time.
For each time I entered The Converse Memorial Building since childhood, I would pass a portrait of young Frank, with the portraits of his loving, grief-stricken parents on either side of him.
Elisha and Mary’s images in these portraits reflect their long lives, but the image of Frank shows that he would remain forever seventeen.
Fast-forward to the present day, and I found myself standing in this very same library, on a very warm Saturday afternoon in late June, delivering an address about my novel to relatives of Frank, Mary and Elisha, including Rosie Converse Morgan, who is the great-granddaughter of Elisha and Mary.
- Frank Converse: two portraits, one poem, an image carved into a gravestone weathered by time and a crime mostly forgotten by history… until now
My talk detailed the journey of a child with many books borrowed from the library’s shelves to an almost fifty-year-old man whose own novel based on a seminal moment in my city and their family’s history now exists among those same shelves.
My literary odyssey was truly coming full circle – not just being within the library where I daydreamed about being a novelist – but also speaking to the descendants and relatives of the people whom this horrific, historic crime affected so greatly. I am humbled and very grateful to the Converses for including me in their reunion! Thanks to them all and especially to Cici Spaulding for inviting me as a guest and a speaker.
‘Surreal’ is often overused but I can conjure no other word to describe the sensation of participating in these moments after decades of thinking about the 1863 crime and the long process of writing and finally releasing my novel detailing it in 2021.
Click the image of library below to continue and read my speech
The gallery below has images of the Malden Public Library, the reception for the Converse Family Reunion on Friday, June 24th, a dinner at Pine Banks Park Saturday and a memorial service on Sunday for Elisha and Mary Converse at the First Baptist Church where Elisha once acted as deacon.