Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reggie Out & About: Glenda Ruby Book Signing Party at Olana

Not long before the Holiday Season Madness descended upon us, Boy and I were invited to and attended a book signing party held at Olana, the celebrated, exotic fantasy of a stately home built by Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).  As readers of this blog are well aware, Mr. Church was one of our Nation's most revered and talented artists and one of the founders of the Hudson River School of landscape painters.  In his day he was as famous as a rock star, became rich as Croesus, and built Olana as a trophy of his well-deserved success.

Frederic Church's Olana at twilight

Olana sits on the top of a hill commanding a magnificent view out over the mighty Hudson River.  The house, which was designed in collaboration with Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), another creative Titan of the nineteenth century (he co-designed New York's Central Park), has been beautifully preserved and restored (with much of its original contents intact), and is open to the public.  Olana is one of New York's—no, this country's—historic treasure houses.  If you haven't made a pilgrimage to see it yet, Dear Reader, I highly recommend that you do so.  But be sure to book your tickets well in advance, as Olana is a popular destination and its tours frequently sell out.

The view from Olana's piazza, overlooking the Hudson River Valley

The book signing party was held in Olana's visitors' center, an attractively converted former carriage house on the estate's property.

The featured book was written by a dear friend of ours, Ms. Glenda Ruby, and is a delicious read.  It is a murder mystery, titled Death at Olana—which explains why the party was held there (although there is no formal connection between the author and Olana).  The book is very clever and amusing, and it marvelously captures the spirit and the doings of those of us who variously inhabit the surrounding Columbia County, an area known for its gorgeous rural scenery, a jumble of city folk and locals, and all the crafty shenanigans that one would expect in an area where such cultures (sometimes) collide.

One enjoyed a 20% discount in the Olana gift shop!

Here's what the book's dust jacket says:
"Most of the charming people and the ne'er-do-wells, the heroes and the villains in this tale, abide in Columbia County.  While this is still very much the country, agricultural and rural, about thirty years ago there began a diaspora of New York cognoscenti who chose to spend time in quaint hamlets and villages, rather than amid the haute bourgeois excess of say, Long Island, to choose a random example."

The book party's attendees, enjoying themselves

"And so among the apple, pear, peach, and cherry orchards, the dairy farms, and the good local people who run them, you will increasingly find upper middle, indeed wealthy families, singles, straights and gays, painters, writers, publishers, lawyers, media types, and investment bankers [editor's note: such as Reggie] who have migrated to this historic area.  We all believe we live in the most beautiful place in the world.
"Some of us are murderers."

Ms. Glenda Ruby

"Christmas at Olana, Frederic Church's Moorish fantasy castle . . . a new Church painting unveiled . . . beside a naked body hanging by a noose.
"So begins the first of the Hudson Valley Murders, a new series for lovers of mystery and malicious wit."

Our copy of Death at Olana

We arrived at the party on the later side after what I understand was a veritable crush of well-wishers and friends of the author.  Food and drink was plentiful, and I enjoyed myself immensely.  So much so, in fact, that I gleefully bought half a dozen copies of Death at Olana as Christmas presents, and had them inscribed by Ms. Ruby.  She gamely complied, I am happy to report.

Boy speaking with a strange bird at the party

One runs into and meets all sorts of people at parties I find.  I had a brief and pleasant conversation there with Mr. Stephen Shadley, the noted interior designer, who is someone I first met thirty or so years ago.  Goodness!  I find that I am saying things like "more than thirty years ago" more frequently of late than I care to admit!  Where does the time go, I ask you?

Mr. Boy Fenwick having fun with Ms. Ros Daly

One of the other guests at the party was the divine Ms. Ros Daly.  You can see her in the preceding photograph holding my copies of Death at Olana, which she graciously agreed to hoist while I snapped her picture with the admiring Boy Fenwick at her side.

The Lady Authoress, hard at work

I am beyond fond of Ms. Ruby, who is a wit, a bon vivant, a raconteur, and makes the best Boeuf Bourguignon that I've ever had the pleasure of eating.  Plus, she's a Southerner and has the most marvelous whiskey and cigarettes voice imaginable.  She is Heaven!

Ms. Ruby does a superb (and quite humorous) job of depicting (some would say skewering) the insulated little world we live in during weekends up in Columbia County, among the fields and orchards, and—occasionally as it turns out—naked dead bodies swinging from ropes!

"Oh, hello Reggie, so glad you could come!"

After reading Death at Olana, I sincerely hope that Ms. Ruby follows through on her threat that it will be the first in a series of Hudson Valley Murder Mysteries.  I want more!

If you are interested in a light and entertaining read (and who isn't?) full of colorful characters, amusing situations, and a healthy dose of keenly observed insights into the human condition (at least as it is found two hours north of Manhattan in the county where Reggie spends most of his weekends), then I highly recommend Death at Olana.  I assure you, Dear Reader, you will not be disappointed!

A parting view of Olana

Oh, and while you're at it, do buy at least several copies of the book to give to your friends and loved ones, too, as I'm sure they'll enjoy it as well!

You can order copies of Death at Olana here.

Please note: Reggie admits that he received a copy of Death at Olana as a gift from Ms. Ruby many months ago.  However, he insists that isn't why he wrote this review (or why he bought six copies of it at the party—at full retail price he might add).  No, he has written this post solely for the amusement of his readers and to encourage them to buy Ms. Glenda Ruby's book based upon its own many merits.

All photographs by Reggie Darling


  1. I love Olana ! I drive by there often and imagine how it must have been to live there. I live in the area now and when it warms up a bit, I will go to Olana again .. the views from there are so wonderful also.
    besos, C
    I will go to the bookstore in Chatham and buy Glendas book :)

  2. Hello Reggie:

    And, of course, we are totally amused and intrigued by this most entertaining account of the launch of Ms Ruby's book, 'Death at Olana'.

    Such events are, in our experience, the greatest of fun and always provide an opportunity to meet with some of the most interesting of people. And whilst we are seldom at book launches here in Budapest [our Hungarian is not quite there yet!!], we are invited to many openings of exhibitions [two next week] which we find enormously worthwhile.

    We love the picture of Boy with Ms Ros Daly. Now there are two people we should much like to meet! Such spirits!

  3. What's not to love about Olana. Just the view is worth the visit and the interior is a riot of color and design. They don't, I don't even think they could, make them like this anymore. Just the paper window design keeps me wide-eyed in wonder. Sounds like a great book.. thanks for the rec!

  4. Hello Reggie, Another book added to my growing list for "next trip". What a great setting for a mystery story.

    When I lived in Cleveland, my dream vacation was to drive up the Hudson River Valley in the fall, visiting places like Olana and Lyndhurst, and somehow ending up in Portland, Maine (Morse-Libby house). Alas, this never took place, but I am not giving up hope.

  5. OK Reggie, you've convinced me. I need to read this book!

    Olana looks to be the perfect setting for a murder, don't you agree?

    The photograph of the view on the river Hudson beckons me. What a magnificent view!

  6. I've always wanted to visit this singular house. I've seen only a few images of is exterior and its interiors, but it has nonetheless always stayed in my mind as a future destination.

  7. My goodess. Will this book do for C.C. what Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah Ga????? The movie rights ..... I wonder which actor she would like to see cast as the Lead????

  8. Just ordered the book. Anything about Olana has to be over the top. Always imagined dinner at that fantastic exotic dining room. Or any room at Olana for no reason at all.

  9. The book sounds like grand fun and I must get a copy. Olana has long been one of my favorite places.

  10. very stylish gathering... amazing photo!

  11. Fab, am bursting out of a reading drought, and as your taste in books is impeccable (Mapp and Lucia, who can go wrong?), I have just downloaded this to enjoy in a fuggy car, listening to Radio 4 and slurping Lapsang when I should really be on a muddy, scary touchline...!
    Hope that al is well in your world,

  12. The views are magnificent from Olana-and thanks for the book mention. It is a fun read.

  13. All these book signings you attend. I wonder if any of these authors remember their SAT/ACT scores or if they attended college or enjoyed high school. As writers, did they struggle before success , when was the turning point occur in their career? How difficult was it to land a literary agent. Oh and RD, is there a book in your future? at least a charming children's book about a pug ....

    1. This is a very strange entry question. Having gone to high school with the author of this book, been in a Creative Writing class with her, seen her perform in several high school plays, and remember her student body leadership, Glenda has the talent to excel in everything she does. I suggest that her success wasn't due to her outstanding ACT and SAT scores, nor due to the fact that she was very respected leader in high school, or a little known previous book, but is due to a lifelong creativity that has had nothing to do with any "turning point" or luck in finding a literary agent or publisher. Talent is what talent is and she has talent!

  14. I had the pleasure of visiting Olana quite a few years ago, when we lived in Millbrook. My fondest and best memory is of the wonderful picnic equipment that was on display.
    Portable tables and chairs, wonderful rugs and blankets, and superbly outfitted baskets! How I would have loved to be a part of one of those picnics!
    I have purchased the book and am looking forward to it.


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