OPINION: Spring Books 2: Local history choices are plentiful in ‘24

The second week of spring break books brings about the very best in local writing on local history.

There are some veteran authors that readers of this column will be, oh, so familiar with their work plus some newcomers who have written out some real breathtaking reads of local and regional history.

A groundbreaking historic novel, which easily doubles as a historical romance, flows sharply from the pen of a new writer to this space, Leslie K. Simmons.

Her breakout novel, released in late 2023, is "Red Clay Running Waters," the very well-told tale of the lives of John and Sarah Ridge.

In her very descriptive subtitle, Simmons placed this description of the book: "A Forbidden Love ... A Nation Divided... A Plea for Justice," aptly describing the era and the subject matter of this 660-page book from Koehlerbooks.

The book details how the couple met at a New England Indian school, their often-regarded risqué romance of a white maiden and a Native American student. The subsequent events include the removal of the Native Americans from Georgia and Tennessee to the newly formed Indian Nations of now Oklahoma. A good deal of the book deals with events in the Northwest Arkansas region.

Another regional book on fire on the independent bookstore shelves is the third installment of Dr. Robert Crossman's series on the Butterfield Overland Mail Company's Stagecoach Trail.

This latest book, out in early 2024, is the trail as it crosses Arkansas. Another book due out in late 2024 is of the various correspondence from those riding the stagecoach lines over the years during and after the trail was closed and consolidated at the start of the War Between the States.

All of Crossman's books are available in stores, online or by contacting him at Bob Crossman, 8 Sternwheel Drive, Conway, AR 72034-9391.

A real gem of a book on the medical profession in Fort Smith and the River Valley has come from Red Engine Press of Fort Smith.

Dr. Taylor Prewitt, a retired surgeon and physician in the River Valley area, and an expert historian, has put together a very easily readable and concise collection of the medical advances and the men and women who made them a reality in his book "Before It Got Complicated" Medicine In Fort Smith and the Arkansas River Valley, 1817-1975." The book in a large page format is not filled with medical jargon and technical terms but is a spotlight on the personalities of the medical practitioners of the time placed in his book.

Locally, J.B. Hogan, a prestigious writer of all things Northwest Arkansas and especially Fayetteville and Washington County, has compiled some 18 different stories in "Forgotten Fayetteville and Washington County" from the Otterford Press, an imprint of Roan & Waterford Publishing Associates in Bentonville.

Hogan's book was due out in late 2023, but due to delays made its appearance in 2024 and is a real delight to the reader of local history.

A book of more modern persuasions on the Fayetteville area is Jill Rohrback's "100 Things To Do In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Before You Die." This is a bucket list of things to see, do, eat and experience in Fayetteville from the keen eye of a veteran travel and promotions writer for the state of Arkansas. The book is from the Reedy Press and is available at many local bookstores, bars, restaurants and tourist shops in Northwest Arkansas.

As always, I'll never forget to mention that many of these books stem from local history written down and first published by such groups as the Washington County Historical Society.

The "Flashback," the quarterly journal of the WCHS, is available for a $35 membership donation ($25 for senior citizens or students). More details can be found at washcohistorocalsociety.org or by calling (479) 521-2970.

And not forgetting the Arkansas Historical Association, its quarterly, the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, is available for $20 per year's subscription. Not a member of the Arkansas Historical Association? At $20 per year, it's the best deal in history. Sign up at https://forms.donorsnap.com/form?id=8c003546-a98d-4984-b56e-182eb13d14ed.

Spring break 2024 is in the books and there is no shortage of activity locally, down in Little Rock or even in faraway Washington D.C.

Political stuff returns next week.

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several Northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected].