2011 / 2012 / 2013 /
Column for 12.14.2011
Back in 1936, Drums Along the Mohawk, written by Boonville’s own Walter D. Edmonds, was number one on the best-seller list. Number one!
The New York Times said this: “The best work of its kind. Throbs with life upon a hostile frontier...doubly thrilling as Mr. Edmonds sets it down, touched with local color, lively with dialogue, bright with suspense.”
What briings this up today is that Syracuse University Press has reproduced the book to celebrate its 75th anniversary. SU Press said this: “...Drums Along the Mohawk reminds us not only that Edmonds’ masterpiece is the best historical novel about upstate New York since James Fenimore Cooper but also that it was number one on the best-seller list...” until it was overtaken by another well-known book.
Here’s a question: What was the name of the book that knocked Drums Along the Mohawk out of the number one position on the best-seller list?
Here’s a hint: As with Drums, the book in question, was made into a popular movie and starred one of Hollywood’s best known leading men. The female lead was played by someone not so well known, but the blockbuster movie, as they say, catapulted her to stardom.
As all Drums Along the Mohawk fans know, Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert and Ward Bond starred in the movie based on the book, which, of course, took place on the wild frontier of what later became Oneida County.
Drums, and the book that knocked it out of the number one position, were both historical novels. Drums was based on Revolutionary War events and the other book/movie were based on the Civil War.
Have you figured out the name of the other book/movie yet?
By the way, I once interviewed Walter D. Edmonds. If memory serves, it was on the occasion of the publication of his autobiographical Tales My Father Never Told. I can’t remember the year we talked on the telephone but it was after Edmonds had moved out of Boonville. He was living in Massachusetts, either Lexington or Concord. I always get those two confused.
The interview took place toward the end of his life. He gave me a lot of time. He was polite and gracious. He invited me to come visit him in either Lexington or Concord, which ever it was. Alas, I never did go.
There is, of course, an historical marker in Boonville to honor Edmonds. The marker is in front of the library, which is quite appropriate.
I wasn’t sure where to go with this column. I’m not sure of what point to make. Maybe it’s enough to say that this year marks the 75th anniversary of one of this country’s masterpieces, written by someone who loved living here and who wrote many other famous books while here, including Bert Breenm’s Barn, The Boyds of Black River, Rome Haul, In the Hands of the Senecas and Mostly Canallers.
As for the answer to the question: The movie that knocked Drums Along the Mohawk out of the number one spot on the best-seller list in 1936 was “Gone With the Wind,” starring Clark Cable and Vivien Leigh.