Completing “Magnum Opus 2” is driving me, uh, *bonkers.* I needed to clear my head. So I decided to spend yesterday afternoon with… the 8th President of the United States. Taking advantage of the lovely day, I drove across the Hudson and up to Kinderhook.
It has been a while since I’d last been here. I had a stroll around the center of the town…
From where authors get ideas, eh? A 2014 visit to Kinderhook and US president (1837-1841) Martin Van Buren’s retirement estate got my mind racing. It filled my thinking by late 2015 as I wondered how I could pull together ideas in a new writing direction…
The former historian came out of me: I would write a massive historical novel full of real historical figures in real situations. It would revolve around Americans in Britain and France during the French Revolution. One of the Americans – the main character – would be fictional and a New Yorker from the Hudson/Catskills region I know very well…
…And, hey, why not use Van Buren in it too? Van Buren’s Kinderhook therefore became the fictional (in 1787 twenty-one year old) “Robert Rutherford’s” hometown. The wider tale developed at last into 2017’s
“Magnum Opus 1” Conventions: The Garden At Paris, which is mostly a flashback seen from “1840”:
Basically Kinderhook (about 30 minutes’ drive south of Albany) is a pleasant crossroads and some side-roads. Its enduring “fame” is of course due to its connection to Van Buren, the first US president from New York. Interestingly Van Buren is also still the only president not to speak English as a first language: he was born into what was then a Dutch-descended community here. By all accounts he always spoke English with a Dutch accent, which most voters likely never knew given – pre-radio, pre-sound-film, and pre-TV of course – they had never heard him actually speak.
His birth home is on the edge of Kinderhook. It is apparently private:
His and Hannah Van Buren’s (his wife) graves where I stood alone – yes, ahem, I was alone with a president – the entire time (at least ten minutes), are on the other side of the town, in the Reformed Church Cemetery:
They are buried no more than about a mile – probably less – from where he was born.
In 2018 just opposite his grave, a tree marking the friendship between the town of Buren, the Netherlands, and Kinderhook, was planted.
The captured British commander at Saratoga was after his massive defeat also “entertained” days later in Kinderhook. Warfare since then has changed in some ways a great deal, of course. In the 18th century captured high officers (meaning “gentlemen” unfortunately on the opposing side) were often “entertained.”
History. Fiction. And a bit of romance, too.
Much more in the coming new book too! Stay tuned! 😉
Have a great weekend, wherever you are. 🙂