Curl up with the Ocean State.

Despite the best attempts of our respective secondary school teachers, we here at Quahog.org still enjoy reading. There's nothing quite like reading—or, given how hellacious traffic pileups have gotten along 95 in Providence, listening to an audiobook—especially if it features the smallest state with the longest name.

Following are some stories featuring the Rhode Island of literature, where Fosta-Glosta always has school, all the mayors are honorable, and posh ladies have Cranston accents.

For further information on Rhode Island-related literature, see Wikipedia's Rhode Island in Fiction or Goodreads' Books Set in Rhode Island.

Warning: Here there be spoilers!




The Aberration (2000)

Set in Providence; based on the collapse of the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation (RISDIC) in late 1990.

The Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini (2012)

It's a young adult novel, and according to the author, "It takes place not far from Hope High School" in Providence.

The Age of Innocence (1920)

A classic love triangle set against the backdrop of 1870s upper-class New York society. A portion of the novel takes place in Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth, with specific references to the Newport Archery Club, Mill Street, Bellevue Avenue, Eastman's (Easton's) Beach, and Paradise Rocks (part of today's Norman Bird Sanctuary). A 1993 film version of the novel reportedly used Portsmouth as a shooting location.

Airs of Providence (1985)

A collection of short stories set in Providence.

An American Killing (1998)

Thriller set in Washington D.C. and the fictional town of New Caxton, Rhode Island.

Ariabella, the First (1981)

Novel set in Newport.

Ask No Quarter (1945)

Historical maritime novel set partly in 1600s Newport.

The Autumn's Brightness (1955)

This is the second in Newman's Kendall series, which takes place in the fictional Rhode Island Quaker town of that name. Like the first novel, Diligence in Love, the story explores relationships and Quaker values.

Avery's Knot (1981)

Novel based on the sensational 1832 murder in Tiverton of Sarah Cornell, allegedly by the Reverend Ephraim Avery.

Benefit Street (1942)

Fiction set in Providence.

"Birdland" in Goodnight Nobody (2003)

The lead story in Michael Knight's [no known connection to David Hasselhof] collection sets up a premise that pet parrots let loose in Rhode Island spend their winters in Elbow, Alabama:

Between the months of April and September, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is inhabited by several generations of African parrots…But in September, when winter creeps in from the ocean and cold air kindles hazy instincts, the parrots flee south for warmer climes…

Fortunately, this is not true. Parrots (well, okay, parakeets) have been let loose in Rhode Island, and they live here all year long.

Blood Red (2005)

Teaser text from earthlingpub.com:

The land along the shore of Black Stone Bay is filled with sharp, dark granite teeth for which the area gets its name. From its cliff walk along the black sand to the mansions and manors that date back hundreds of years, the town has all the charm anyone could hope for and all the wealth anyone could ever need. For the most part, the people of Black Stone Bay are happy with their lots in life.

Halloween in Black Stone Bay is usually a celebration. This Halloween, however, there's a chill in the air that has nothing to do with the coming of autumn and the death of the year. This year, the children dressed as monsters, clowns, and cowboys will be fighting for their lives and hiding wherever they can. This year, the beaches of Black Stone Bay will be washed in the blood of its people and the streets will be strewn with their mortal remains.

Night after night, the people of Black Stone Bay will learn the meaning of fear, and grow to dread the setting sun...

Blue Moon (1993)

Romance novel set in a fictionalized East Bay town called Mount Hope. When the book was made into a CBS television movie in 1999, the setting was changed to Maine.

The Boy on the Porch (2003)

Romance novel set in fictional Bedford, Rhode Island.

The Burn Palace (2013)

Horror fiction set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Brewster. Other, real life locations, like Providence, The Great Swamp, and Perryville, figure in the narrative.

The Butterfly Secret (1979)

The Butterfly Secret is to Providence's East Side as Peyton Place is to Laconia, New Hampshire. That is, it's a tell-all book disguised as a novel. The author's December 2010 obituary described her as "a former star of Providence's Blackstone Boulevard society... unconcerned about the effects [of her book] upon her former neighbors. 'You should see what I could really write about them,' she said in an interview while promoting the book sales in Providence. 'I think I'm doing them a favor, don't you?'"

"The Call of Cthulhu" (1928)

Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Fleur-de-Lys building at 7 Thomas Street receive brief mention in this classic short horror story.

Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn (1989)

This novel takes place in Narragansett, on Block Island, and off the coast of Rhode Island. The story concerns a young man who, against his parents' wishes, seeks his fortune at sea aboard a scallop boat. He works hard and learns stuff, and comes to better understand his fisherman father.

Reset in Nova Scotia, the book was made into a made-for-TV movie in 1996, with the truncated title Calm at Sunset.

Carom Shot (2005)

Murder-mystery set in Providence. Carter University is a fictionalized Brown University, but many other real places feature in the story under their own, non-fictional, names. First in the Algy Temple series; followed by Straight Pool.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)

This classic horror tale takes place primarily in Providence, with a side trip to Pawtuxet village. The title character's home, noted to be at 100 Prospect Street, is probably based on the 1801 Colonel Thomas Lloyd Halsey House at 140 Prospect. Only a few years before the story was written, Lovecraft wrote a letter to his Aunt Lillian commenting on the possibility that the house was haunted. It's thought also that a man named William Lippitt Mauran, who at one time lived in Halsey House, may have been a partial source for the character of Charles Dexter Ward. The Maurans and the (fictional) Wards both owned farmhouses in Pawtuxet.

The house address of the character of Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett, given as 10 Barnes Street, was also Lovecraft's address from 1926 to 1933.

The Catherine (1982)

Nautical fiction set in North Kingstown.

Celia Amberley (1949)

Coming-of-age fiction set on Aquidneck Island.

Ceremony (1982)

A "specialty whorehouse" in Providence is a key location in this detective novel featuring Spencer, Parker's iconic P.I.

The Challenge and the Glory (1987)

A sprawling novel "...tracing the lives and fortunes of three separate families in Newport..." from the 1890s to the 1980s. So sprawling, in fact, that Stockenberg re-released the story as four separate novels (the By the Sea series) in 2013. Expect lots of class conflict against the backdrop of the America's Cup Races. Stockenberg categorizes the first three quarters of the book as "historical fiction/romance," and the balance as "mystery."

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2006)

In this love letter to the pulp fiction of the 1930s, Malmont sends William Gibson and Lester Dent, creators of The Shadow and Doc Savage, respectively, on a globe-trotting tour of (according to the Amazon blurb) "...blood, cruelty, fear, mystery, vengeance, courageous heroes, evil villains, dames in distress, secret identities and disguises, global schemes, hideous deaths, beautiful psychics, deadly superweapons, cliff-hanging escapes, and other outrageous pulp lies that are all completely true." Early in the story, Gibson and Dent attend H.P. Lovecraft's funeral in Providence, only to discover that the unearthly horror writer may have been murdered.

Factual inaccuracies (well, it is fiction), include Lovecraft's "I AM PROVIDENCE" gravestone being in place at the funeral, even though it wasn't installed until 1977.

Cliff Walk (2012)

Teaser text from Amazon.com:

Prostitution has been legal in Rhode Island for more than a decade; Liam Mulligan, an old-school investigative reporter at a dying Providence newspaper, suspects the governor has been taking payoffs to keep it that way. But this isn't the only story making headlines... a child's severed arm is discovered in a pile of garbage at a pig farm. Then the body of an internet pornographer is found sprawled on the rocks at the base of Newport's famous Cliff Walk. At first, the killings seem random, but as Mulligan keeps digging into the state's thriving sex business, strange connections emerge. Promised free sex with hookers if he minds his own business—and a beating if he doesn't—Mulligan enlists Thanks-Dad, the newspaper publisher's son, and Attila the Nun, the state's colorful Attorney General, in his quest for the truth. What Mulligan learns will lead him to question his beliefs about sexual morality, shake his tenuous religious faith, and leave him wondering who his real friends are.

This is the second novel featuring DeSilva's Spencer-esque sleuth, following 2010's Rogue Island.

Coming Home (2003)

Romance novel set in fictional Bishop, Rhode Island.

Compass Rose (2010)

This follow-up to Casey's well-received 1989 novel Spartina, focuses on the women who wait on shore while Spartina's fisherman protagonist fights the elements at sea. Takes place on the estuarine edges of a fictionalized South County.

A Confidential Source (2005)

A mystery novel about Rhode Island's gambling industry that takes place in Providence and Worcester. The protagonist, Hallie Ahern, pursues the same occupation as the author, a former Providence Journal reporter. Reader reviewers on Goodreads note that the story includes "visits to Foxwoods Casino and thinly disguised local politicians," and that "if not for the local color of the Rhode Island setting this book was rather boring."

A Crack in the Sky (2010)

A dystopian eco-future novel set in a Providence that's protected by a giant dome. Hughes grew up in Barrington, so he's familiar with our capital city and its streets and landmarks.

Crows Over the Wheatfield (2006)

Psychological drama/literary thriller set partly in Providence.

Dance with Me (2004)

Romance set in the fictional town of Twin Rivers, Rhode Island.

The Dark Saint (2013)

Ad copy: "A legendary serial killer terrorizes Block Island, targeting Catholics from the North Light to the Great Salt Pond to the Mohegan Bluffs. His opponent: the recovering alcoholic police chief. A deadly villain, a desperate hero, a gorgeous woman, and grotesque murders make this the perfect summer read."

Daughter of Providence (2011)

Teaser text from juliedrew.com:

What if you found out you had a younger sister living across the state that you never knew? What if discovering her meant you didn't really know your father at all?

Summer, 1934: Anne Dodge, raised by her old-money, New England father in the small coastal town of Milford, Rhode Island, has always been told that her Portuguese mother abandoned them when Anne was a small child. After her mother's death, Anne learns that she has a half-sister, Maria Cristina, who was raised by her Portuguese grandparents—and when Maria Cristina comes to Milford to stay, ugly truths begin to surface about the past, catalyzing events that end in loss and rediscovery.

Within a context of jazz and the end of prohibition, New Deal politics, stifling gender expectations, labor strikes, and often-violent union busting, a sense of both hope and desperation pervades Milford after nearly five years of economic depression, and one young woman will pay a heavy price to find her place in a rapidly changing world.

Dead Ball (2001)

Mystery set in Rhode Island. Plot involves a fictional minor-league baseball team, the Providence Jewels.

Death on the Cliff Walk (1994)

The first novel in Kruger's Gilded Age series, set around 1900, has "debutante Brooke Cassidy [teaming] up with local cop Matt Devlin to solve a murder that reaches to the heart of Newport's glittering high society."

Defenseless (2008)

Legal thriller set in Providence. First in a series (followed by Perfectly Criminal) that revolves around best friends Marianna, Laurie, Shannon, and Beth, who all work in the office of the Rhode Island attorney general.

Diligence in Love (1951)

Ambitious and unethical businesswoman Vaughn Hill discovers a less frantic way of life in the fictional Quaker town of Kendall, Rhode Island. First of a series, followed by The Autumn's Brightness.

Double Lives (1981)

Fiction set in North Kingstown.

Dragon Cove (1964)

Historical Fiction set in Newport.

Dusk at the Grove (1934)

Rogers' first (and apparently only) novel follows the Waring family on visits to their summer home, The Grove, in Newport from 1909 to 1931. The reviewer at Commonweal labeled it "somewhat dull," and The New Masses' reviewer dismissed the book as "another... bourgeois novel... of middle-class decay" and Rogers as "a professional vender of pseudo-profundities." But Atlantic magazine apparently liked it, as they bestowed a $10,000 prize upon the author for his efforts.

Dutch Island (2012)

Weeden's second humorous mystery novel with socially responsible protagonist Rick Bullock (the first was 2010's Book of Nathan, which took place in New Jersey and Florida). In this one Bullock's New England vacation is cut short by murder, and he gets pulled into a comical tale of local organized crime, political machinations, land development, Dutch Island history, and other Ocean State color.

Weeden made his own brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Betty Weeden of Portsmouth, important characters in the story. Rick Weeden has lived with Parkinson's Disease for more than half his life, and so has his character. As well, a genuine 1743 deed for land on Dutch Island, owned by the Weedens, figures prominently in the plot.

Every Sunday (2005)

Set in Providence. Familiar plot set-up: Italian-American family, dead patriarch. You do the math.

The Gods of Newport (2006)

Gods is a historical novel set mostly in Newport in the 1890s. The plot deals with class conflict and the love trials of a poor Irish fellow and a rich young lady. Many of the big names of the era—Alva Vanderbilt, Ward McAllister, O.H.P. Belmont, etc.—appear as characters.

The Hessian Drummer Boy of Newport (2010)

This young adult novel tells the story of a nine-year-old German boy, Peter Bauer, who accompanies his soldier father to Rhode Island to take part in the American Revolution.

The House on Benefit Street (2003)

Tale of an old house with secrets, set on Benefit Street in Providence, circa 2002. Some of the mentioned restaurants have disappeared, but most of the other landmarks and events (like WaterFire) are still part of the local scenery over a decade after publication. The house address (#140), radio station (WRI), and local newspaper (The Courier) are all fictional.

I am the Wallpaper (2005)

Barrington native Mark Hughes sets his young adult novel in the fictional town of Opequonsett. That's where thirteen-year-old Floey Packer lives when she isn't attending an open-mike poetry reading on Thayer Street, telling her mother she's going to WaterFire.

Throughout the book, Floey and her best friend, Azra, demonstrate their friendship with the exchange of Smiley Quahog:

Everybody in our second grade art class had made a Smiley Quahog. Mrs. Lachapelle had brought quahog shells from the beach and every kid glued on a set of plastic eyes, a foam nose and cork feet. Azra had also added yellow yarn for hair and a pipe-cleaner arm with a little plastic sword. He was a swashbuckling clam. Mine disappeared years before, but Azra had kept hers and had restored it whenever parts had fallen off. For years we gave the Smiley Quahog back and forth to each other as a joke gift.

Legend of the Dead (2012)

Historical drama "set against the backdrop of the first Jewish settlement in North America in 1654 and King Philip's War from 1675-1676." Newport is one of the main settings for this tale of "the transformation of the New World and one young man's attempt to carve his place within it."

The Memory of Running (2004)

This is the story of Smithson "Smithy" Ide, an East Providence "loser" who drifts through life for twenty years working at a job he hates and living in an apartment he hates. After his parents are both killed in an auto accident, and he learns in that same week that his mentally ill and long-lost sister has died in California, Smithy accidentally starts peddling his old bike on a journey that takes him across America, opens his eyes, and, just maybe, turns his life around. This is a sad, sweet, and funny book that is a joy to read. And, if you are from Rhode Island, you will amazed at all the local references:

Real: coffee milk; Shad Factory Waterfall, the Palmer River, and the Old Grist Mill Tavern in Seekonk, Massachusetts; Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston; Old Stone Bank and Swan Point Cemetery in Providence; the Washington and Red Bridges that connect East Providence with Providence; Bradley Hospital, Bovi's Tavern, Rumford Chemical Works, and Riverside Nursing Home in East Providence; Blount Shipyard in Warren; Benny's Home and Auto Stores; codfish cakes (but clam cakes are more popular); Stop n' Shop; and Peoples Drug Store.

Almost real: Goddard Toys in Pawtucket and St. Regina Teaching College in Bristol. The first seems to be a confabulation of Pawtucket-based Hasbro (Hassenfeld Brothers) and John Goddard, who made furniture in Newport circa 1760. The second would seem to reference Newport's Salve Regina University.

Names of people in the novel are very typical; Amaral, Bobian, and Almatian are Armenian names, and McLarty uses a lot of Portuguese, Italian, Irish, and Jewish names, too. Rhode Island is a very ethnic state.

Obligatory irony: "At least those F-ing Red Sox won't be breaking your father's heart anymore." The book was published in 2004, the year they finally won the World Series!

—Review by Lesley in Arizona.

My Sister's Keeper: A Novel (2004)

This is an "issues" book.

A couple has a child with terrible health problems. To help her, they have another child, who can provide desperately needed blood, bone marrow, and organ transplants. The story begins when the younger daughter, age 13, files suit against her parents, saying that while she loves her sister, she doesn't want to donate any more.

The story is set in the fictitious RI town of Upper Darby (oddly, the name of a real town in PA), but it could be almost anywhere in the northeast. The relationships between the characters, and the dilemmas they face, are the real focus of the book. The parents want to do best by their children, but perhaps understandably they've paid more attention to the needs of the sick one than the healthy one. Meanwhile, the sick one is sick of being the sick one, and the healthy one is sick of being a pincushion.

It's an interesting ethics study, but it's somewhat undone by what many reviewers charitably described as a "contrived" ending. [Claudia notes: "I've met the author, and she's terribly nice, but I still wanted to throw rocks at her after the last chapter."]

A Notable Occupation (2013)

Historical novel "set against the British occupation of Newport in Narragansett Bay and of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean Sea during the American War for Independence." The protagonist, Rachel Meares, is "a young Jewish woman trying to find love in a time of war." A Notable Occupation is, thematically, a sequel to O'Sullivan's 2012 novel Legend of the Dead.

Outside Providence (1988)

Farrelly draws heavily on his own childhood in Cumberland to tell his story of Tim "Dildo" Dunphy, a lower-working-class teenager growing up in early 1970s Pawtucket. Tim's future prospects are pretty dim, until a harmless act of eco-terrorism earns him a train ticket to a Connecticut prep school, where he majors in drugs and alcohol, and falls in love with a girl from the nicer side of the tracks.

Many of the novel's hard edges were sanded off for the 1999 movie version, directed by Michael Corrente. The basic plot is there, as are the characters, but a lot of the details have been changed. For instance, in the movie Dunphy's dad doesn't kill the dog; the incident that triggers Dunphy's trip to the prep school is the rear ending of a police car, rather than an act of civil disobedience; and a different character is killed in a car accident.

From the very first page Farrelly uses Pawtucket as a tangible symbol of the social and economic morass that Dunphy must struggle to escape:

My Christian name is Timothy Brian Dunphy and I was born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, a rotting city bleeding off an anemic river just north of Providence. The old man loved Pawtucket. Claimed it had flavor. I couldn't argue with that; the city smelled like a sour-cream-and-onion-flavored potato chip, on account of the Choo-Sum junk food factory a mile upstream. Factory City, U.S.A., that's what Pawtucket was called in her prime. My old man and brother and I lived on the first floor of a seventy-year-old triple-decker perched above the tire-and-barrel-strewn banks of the Blackstone River. The apartments above us had been condemned and were occupied by bats. Life as we know it had left the Blackstone years earlier, although occasionally there were rumors that someone had spotted a three-headed frog or a giant Siamese carp swimming near one of the factories. I never swam in the Blackstone.

The local references aren't forced, though, and they don't overpower or confuse the story. Among those mentioned are the Rhode Island State Lottery, Federal Hill, Providence, South Providence ("...you could get yourself killed going into South Providence," says Tim's old man. "They've let the place go to hell"), Route 95, Narragansett Beer, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, Del's Lemonade, Cumberland Farms, Broad Street, and the Pawtucket Times. Although the Choo-Sum junk food factory is fictional, Farrelly's characterization of the Blackstone River as a toxic flowing dump is right on. Until cleanup efforts beginning in the 1970s turned things around, the Blackstone was considered one of the most polluted rivers in the United States.

Near the end of the book Dunphy cites a real-life incident as an example of how his life always goes in the crapper:

Providence College, my favorite hoop team, was in the N.C.A.A. semis a couple of years ago and they were bombing Memphis State by something like fifteen points in the first half and suddenly God looks down and sees me and my brother and poof! Sure as sh*t, our big man breaks his leg, P.C. gets trounced, and everyone forgets about us. Story of my life.

The "big man" was P.C. forward Marvin Barnes, whose injury during that 1973 game helped the Memphis State Tigers overcome the Friars by 98 to 85.

Some places mentioned in the book are not real, including Silva and Central Streets, where old man Dunphy runs Pop's, his radiator shop; Junction Street Bridge; the Hilltop Cafe; a Providence pick-up joint called the Flytail; San Andreas Drive, where the Dunphy homestead is located; and Pollet Avenue, where Bunny Cote lives.

Perfectly Criminal (2009)

Legal thriller set in Providence. Second in a series (after Defenseless) that revolves around best friends Marianna, Laurie, Shannon, and Beth, who all work in the office of the Rhode Island attorney general.

Pieces of My Sisterís Life (2007)

Block Island is the background of this first novel in which twin sisters—bold, sexy, yet insecure Eve and the demure, whiny narrator Kerry—bicker endlessly for the affections of a fickle dishrag of a man. Pickings must be slim on the island for year-’rounders.

This bit of chick lit features vaguely nautical, catty references to other women (“As I lay in the dark, I imagined Leslie in her veil, dumb as a dead clam but still victorious.”), an orgy of meaningful hand grasping between the major characters (do you dare play the meaningful-hand-grasp drinking game?), and lots of references to Block Island locations and events, including the annual census:

Daddy had come to the tavern every year for the Groundhog Day census, a virtually meaningless activity done more for the sense of tradition than to get any kind of serviceable count of population. When you’re stone drunk you more or less forget any numbers after fifty.

"Power of Midnight" in Tempting Providence and Other Stories (2010)

A short story in the "cursed object" vein; this time the object is a mysterious LP record with a dead black sleeve. The story takes place around 1979 or '80. Local references include Nyanza Mills flea market in Woonsocket, the "dog track" (Lincoln Greyhound Park, now Twin River Casino) in Lincoln, Providence's Mount Hope neighborhood, Hope Street, Bedrock Savings Bank (Old Stone Savings Bank), Rimes (insert your favorite East Side analog haven here), The Riverview (Waterman Grille?), and the "art cinema" (probably the Cable Car). The anecdote about the junk shop owner who was forced to sell his eighteenth-century building is true.

The Red Thread (2010)

Hood's tenth novel tells the stories of six Rhode Island couples trying to adopt children from China. The fictional Providence adoption agency is located on Wickenden Street, "because I'm lazy," Hood told GoLocalProv interviewer Tracey Minkin, "and I live near Wickenden Street, so it's really easy for me to just put something there."

Spartina (1989)

Casey's novel about a cranky seafaring man suffering a mid-life crisis takes place mostly along South County's coast. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 1989. Part one of a planned trilogy, followed by Compass Rose.

"Tempting Providence" in Tempting Providence and Other Stories (2010)

In this short horror story the narrator pursues the ghost of H.P. Lovecraft all over Providence. Or is it the narrator who is being pursued? Look for mentions of the List Arts Building, Geoff's Sandwich Shop, Thayer Street, Pembroke Field, Atwells Avenue, St. John's Park, Tortilla Flats, Minerva's Pizza, Myopic Books, and Newport Creamery.

Theophilus North (1973)

Theophilus North is a light, charming, surprisingly humorous novel from a man remembered more as a playwright. More to the point here at Quahog.org, it is very much a book about Newport, circa 1926.

A young man who doesn't quite know what he wants to do with himself after a stint in the Army and as a teacher, Theophilus ("call me Ted") arrives in Rhode Island and winds up spending a memorable summer in Newport, offering himself as a reader, tutor, and tennis instructor to the socialites. He soon develops an idea about the "nine cities of Newport," encompassing the different social and cultural worlds there, such as the very rich, the military, the servants, and the year-round residents. Theophilus moves easily between the groups, and becomes known as a man who can fix problems, discreetly and cleverly.

His observations are wide-ranging and often entertaining. One minute he's talking about scientists and sailors planting all sorts of exotic species on Aquidneck Island (and none of the locals knowing what they are), and the next he's offering sarcastic advice to parents looking to duck responsibility for their kids ("I suggest that they be encouraged to play with matches").

He also mentions specific places, such as the Agassiz mansion, which had been turned into a hotel:

At a later visit I was able to engage the pentagonal room in a turret above the house; from that magical room I could see at night the beacons of six lighthouses and hear the booming or chiming of as many sea buoys.

NB: It's still there, now called the Castle Inn and Resort. The room mentioned is presumably now part of what is rather grandly called "the Turret Suite," and the Wilder connection is mentioned in the history section of the resort's website.

The Tragedy at Tiverton (1985)

Novel based on the sensational 1832 murder in Tiverton of Sarah Cornell, allegedly by the hands of Reverend Ephraim Avery. According to writer Rory Raven in his book Wicked Conduct, Paul "deviates considerably, though entertainingly, from fact."

Traveler (2007)

For anyone who grew up in East Providence in the 1960s, McLarty's second novel is a nostalgic feast of local landmarks past and present. And luckily for folks who don't know East Providence from West Bumsquat, it's also a compelling and enjoyable read.

Nearly all the references are real, from the Riverside New York System to Tasca's to Awful Awfuls to St. Martha's Church on Pawtucket Avenue. McLarty made up a few of the street names, like Cardinal Avenue and Chester, Canton, and King Philip Streets, but others, like Taunton, Newport, Argyle, Dover, and Crescent Avenues are real. Inexplicably, in talking about the murder of a pair of beloved polar bears at a zoo on Newport Avenue in Pawtucket, McLarty names the park containing the zoo "Goddard." While there was a zoo at that location (it closed in the 1990s), the name of the park is Slater Memorial. Goddard is the name of a large state park in Warwick.

Underlying Notes (2009)

Native Rhode Islander Pasco's 238-page "chick lit novel for discerning women" winds through Rhode Island's affluent coastal communities, prominent landmarks, cherished institutions, and olive oil spills of the underworld, all as integral to our Ocean State as the celebrated quahog.

The plot makes use of several real-life places and businesses: Johnston's Central Landfill; Rockland Street in Narragansett; Papa Razzi Trattoria Bar and Victoria's Secret at Cranston's Garden City, and nearby Sockanosset Crossing and Twin Oaks; LaSalle Bakery and The Old Canteen in Providence; Wakefield's Fantastic Sam's Hair Salon; Kingston Station in South Kingstown. Even the Big Blue Bug, a.k.a. Nibbles Woodaway, gets an honorable mention. However, Matteo Rubbish Removal and Torch's, "your unpretentious, flat-roofed, seedy bar on Plainfield Pike" are just a couple of figments from this author's imagination.

A couple of Little Rhody excerpts:

Chapter 2: Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills may be jeweled with exclusive shops and boutiques frequented by the stars, but our very own Shun and Plainfield Pikes in Johnston are studded with private companies that collect and haul both residential and commercial trash generated from Rhode Islanders to the Central Landfill on 65 Shun Pike. Johnston is the waste management capital of Rhode Island. The sanitary landfill we locals dub Mt. Trashmore covers 230 acres and peaks over 560 feet, a testament to the roughly four thousand tons of waste compacted, dumped, and buried each day. Headquarters for Matteo Rubbish Removal consists of a pre-fab steel office building and grounds for parking its fleet of trucks and containers. Vince Matteo, Joe's father, purchased the acreage in the sixties from a downtrodden pig farmer before the glut of companies sprouted like weeds.

Chapter 8: I suggested a Saturday evening dinner at The Old Canteen on Atwells Avenue up Federal Hill to break the news. Established in 1956, its light pink walls provide a romantic ambiance. Closely packed tables foster a quiet intimacy, discouraging volatile outbursts. Typical fare of seven-course meals affords ample opportunity for one to spring an announcement. It was a perfect restaurant to eat, talk for a while, relax, and make the hit.

Read the first three chapters of Underlying Notes for free, or order your own full copy from BookLocker.com.

—Courtesy of the author.

Winner of the National Book Award: A novel of fame, honor, and really bad weather (2003)

A black comedy centered around the relationship between a pair of twin sisters in the mythical town of Frome. Framed by the hurricane of 1938 and the great blizzard of 1978, Willett describes many of the social mores that make up Rhode Islanders, and understands the true definition of a real Yankee.

After the Great Swamp Fight I avoided seeing Abigail at all. We kept in touch by phone. Not seeing her was easy, since they had taken lodgings at Watch Hill, a solid half hour away (a half-hour drive in Rhode Island being the psychological equivalent to a full-day outing anywhere else).

Zippy the Pinhead (1971—)

This long-running comic strip stars a childlike, non-sequitur-spewing, microcephalic clown, and often features real-life roadside attractions as the settings for its surreal and absurdist observations. Rhode Island locations have included The Middle of Nowhere Diner, Exeter; The State Line Diner, Foster; Tommy's Deluxe Diner, Middletown; The Modern Diner, Pawtucket; New England Pest Control and Olneyville New York System, Providence; Green Animals, Portsmouth; Cindy's Diner, Scituate; and Snoopy's Diner, South Kingstown.

But wait, there's more

Have we left out your favorite book? Drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org.

This article last edited December 7, 2015

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