Almanack Contributor Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence P. Gooley

Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Local Publishing And Some Surprising E-book News

Books Image JW01The most recent news on e-book sales might be startling to some, particularly those who have commented or sent emails regarding pieces I’ve previously written on the subject. The gist of many of those missives: like it or not, print is dead, and within a few years (2015 was a popular choice), digital books will rule. For my taste, it was far too simplistic a view, based solely on one mathematical bit of information: since e-books had suddenly risen to comprise about 20% of all book sales, the pace of growth would continue, and even accelerate.

That viewpoint ignored the most important requirement for just about any ongoing, successful endeavor in this country: a sustainable economic engine must be in place. That hasn’t happened yet.

Yes, money is being made, but it’s important to know how it’s being made and who is making it. Dozens of companies have been trying to solve the future of e-books and harness them economically. That future is still bright with promise, but some unforeseen realities are now coming into play. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lake Placid Legacy of Willis Wells

Willis WellsAmong the folks who played an important role in regional history and personified the traditional Christmas spirit was Willis Wells of Lake Placid. Long before Willis gained attention, his father, Duran, a Peru, New York, native, had become a North Country fixture, operating a peddler’s cart in the post-Civil War years. From the shores of Lake Champlain to the Paul Smith’s area, he supplied homes and farms with the daily needs of life, an important function in those early days when stores visited many of their customers.

Duran was somewhat of a showman, adding to his popularity. His arrival at large hotels like Smith’s, or the Stevens House at Lake Placid, was greeted by requests for his famous team of gray horses to perform. Wells had taught them several tricks (playing ball, standing on their hind legs, etc.). Guests loved it, and it was a great advertising gimmick to boot.

Success as a peddler led to Duran settling down and operating a store in Lake Placid in the late 1870s. The business flourished, but the onset of rheumatism eventually left him crippled and unable to work, forcing him to retire by the age of 50. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Crime History: The Final Saga of Albany Jim

5A 19030529 Brady DeadFor decades one of the nation’s most wanted bank robbers, Albany Jim Brady, was now old, ill, and housed in the Westchester County Almshouse. Newspapermen came to interview him, asking about what were literally his old partners in crime. Animated by the subject, he told with obvious delight the story of a co-conspirator who once attempted a double-cross. The man was Julius Doherty, one of a gang of thieves Brady worked with in the Southwest.

With a large bag of stolen money, they were returning to New York when Julius proposed the robbery of a jewelry store in Washington. Easy pickings, he promised, and just too good an opportunity to pass up. Brady was hesitant, not wanting to push their luck after a successful run, but he finally agreed to look the place over. They left the bag of money in a secure location at the train station.

Said Brady, “I strolled into the jewelry store, bought a diamond ring and a watch, and took a good look at the whole thing. I saw that the jeweler’s son kept a clothing store around the corner and that the two buildings met at the rear.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 23, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Albany Jim Brady

4A 19000915 Brady near deathIn late 1888, having served a full term of 11 years, Albany Jim Brady was finally released from prison. He quickly hooked up with Sophie Lyons, who had recently left Ned after more than 20 years of marriage. Together Brady and Lyons traveled to Europe, where they were virtually anonymous. Putting their remarkable acting skills to work, they earned a small fortune from various scams, including a Paris heist of $200,000 in diamonds (equal to about $5 million in 2013).

Returning to America in 1889, they visited the Detroit International Exposition & Fair and went right to work. Almost immediately, Jim was arrested, this time using the alias George Woods. After obtaining his release on a claim of habeas corpus (insufficient cause for detention), Jim was again arrested on a charge of “suspicion.” The judge ordered his release and threatened to jail the policeman if he persisted in arresting Brady—which gave a prolific criminal carte blanche to work the city for a nice profit. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Saga of Albany Jim (Part 3)

3A 18770409 6th Nat'lAfter his third prison escape in 14 months, Albany Jim Brady worked extra hard at avoiding lawmen. But he also stayed busy and was a suspect in several additional crimes: the robbery of New York City’s Metropolis Bank in early 1877; a heist of the bank in Keeseville, New York, a short time later; and hitting the Sixth National Bank in April of that year, a job that again smacked of Brady’s boldness: drilling upward into an office, accessing the vaults, and completing the theft during daylight hours.

Perhaps it was such nervy and audacious robberies, year after year, that inevitably led to foolhardiness. Or maybe it was just an average situation that escalated out of control, step by step. Whatever the case, Jim Brady’s life took a sudden turn on an early August afternoon in 1877. The site was Ward’s Furnishing Store on Broadway, where he purchased socks, handkerchiefs, and other items for about $25 and shoplifted a number of the same items. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Local Crime History: The Saga of Albany Jim (Part 2)

2A 18730108 Escape AuburnAs noted in Part 1, Albany Jim Brady’s good looks and suave demeanor aided him on crime trips to outside areas, like Canada. To operate in more familiar haunts, like New York City, he became a master of disguise and used many an alias. Still, as skilled and shrewd as Brady was, his daring exploits are what often got him into trouble.

During a long career, he displayed an affinity for diamonds, and shortly after the Kensington Bank job, it was a foiled jewelry heist that landed him in the clutches of the law. For a month, Brady was held in The Tombs, Manhattan’s infamous jail. Then, in spring 1871, he was sentenced to five years in state prison. And off he went to the penitentiary at Sing Sing, later being transferred to Auburn in central New York. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Saga of Albany Jim (Part One)

1A Big Jim BradyThis is not a story about Diamond Jim Brady (1856‒1917), who, during America’s Gilded Age, was a flamboyant, legendary businessman and philanthropist with an appetite for diamonds and other jewels. It is instead about Big Jim Brady, who, during America’s Gilded Age, was known for his own type of philanthropy, had an affinity for jewels, and was a legendary figure—as the handsomest and coolest of crooks.

Big Jim is a tough subject to tackle. From a young age, he was cool, slick, and secretive about his activities, leaving an intermittent and very difficult path to trace. Adding to the challenge—4 different ages applied to him spanning 24 years, 4 birth sites, and 4 aliases, besides the many identities he briefly “borrowed” from others. And just for good measure, top it off with three other well-known Jim Bradys from the same era.

Thomas Byrnes, one of the greatest police detectives in American history, wrote that Brady was a native of Troy, New York. He did have close friends and criminal consorts in that area, and family as well. One of his nicknames was “Albany Jim,” leading many to believe he was from Albany. Others placed his birth at Fairfield in northern Vermont. At any rate, he frequently spent time in the North Country. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Lawrence Gooley: My Dad Lives On

Ronald GooleySix days ago, I stood staring at an open casket, eyes locked on the face of my father. The funeral home had suddenly become familiar territory: Mom, at age 92, died just 15 days before Dad, who was 89. For more than a decade prior, my wife Jill and I saw them morph from my parents into what can only be described as our best friends.

During that time, about 500 of our weekly Game Days cemented an unexpected bond and left us weak with laughter. Each session was like four teenagers gathering for hours of teasing and repartee. As with any game, Mom focused on winning, but I was there to socialize. We always had a ball.

We each experience things differently, and for me, Dad’s wake was unique. Jill and I arrived early, and for a half hour, we were there in solitude. Jill sat off to the side, crying quietly and feeling guilty for not standing there and comforting me. But it wasn’t just my loss. For a long time, they had been her best and closest friends. And besides, I didn’t need comforting. I was lost in the past. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Benjamin Haynes, North Country Architect

BWH 1st Presb ChurckNo matter how long a life lasts, the residue left behind is often fleeting, and within a generation or so, most of us are largely forgotten. But it’s also true that every life has a story, and many of them are worth retelling. I often glean such subject matter from obituaries, or from gravestones as I walk through cemeteries. A tiny snippet of information stirs the need to dig for more, perhaps revealing unusual or remarkable achievements and contributions.

A recent example involves Benjamin Wood Haynes, a native of Westford, Vermont, who lived and worked in northern New York in the latter half of the 1800s. Intriguing to me was a reference to him as a “builder,” and so the digging began, yielding some impressive nuggets. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Saying Goodbye, But Savoring the Memories

Anna GooleyAutumn Leaves, the 18th Annual Glens Falls Chronicle Book Fair, was held at the Queensbury Hotel on Sunday, November 3. Attendance appeared to be excellent, providing evidence that the regional book scene is thriving despite all the changes in publishing in recent years. At the fair, I was afforded the opportunity to visit with a variety of writers, some of whom plan to cover stories of local history. Included in the exchange of ideas were the hows and whys of research, particularly the use of personal interviews, a subject that was fresh on my mind because of recent events.

I should mention that I neglected to reply to comments on my last story, which covered updates on e-books and printed books. I wanted to, but let’s just say it was not a good week. Although I was appearing last weekend on a nationally televised show in relation to one of my books, it was soon relegated to unimportance.

My mom had been hospitalized for two weeks, and she died in the early minutes of November 2—at the very same hour the show was running on Discovery ID. A few days later, her funeral was held—on my birthday. Those were just unfortunate coincidences, and they matter little. Death has a way of putting TV shows and birthdays in perspective. » Continue Reading.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Lawrence Gooley on Adirondack E-Books

Books Image JWSeveral times here in the past, I’ve expressed skepticism about the future of e-books. Not that they won’t be around: of course they will. But the wild-eyed suggestions that they would dominate the publishing industry and soon lead to the demise of printed books were premature. When claims like those are made, it’s important to note the source. Often it was the manufacturers of e-readers and sellers of e-books, hoping to garner a chunk of both markets. Their claims were echoed by consumers, salivating at the prospect of toting hundreds of books around on a small digital device.

E-books got off to a tremendous start and made huge inroads, now comprising about 22 percent of the overall book market. In such a short time, that alone is amazing, but it’s important to step back and assess the overlooked truths related to e-books. Some of those issues are important to authors whose work focuses on a specific region. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Bill Bray: Standing Strong to the End

03A BrayAfter years of loyal service to his party and resisting against the most powerful men in American politics, M. William Bray was unceremoniously dumped from the New York State Democratic ticket in 1938. The strategy was questionable at best, considering the support he enjoyed in 40 upstate counties.

It was Bray’s growing influence that they feared. For years, Roosevelt, Farley, and others had tried to erode his power base but were unable to do so. In fact, by all measures, Bray was more popular than ever. In 1936, during his third run for lieutenant governor, he had outpolled Governor Lehman by nearly 60,000 votes (3,028,191 to 2,970,595).

It was embarrassing to party leaders that he was favored over the state’s chief executive, and galling to Farley in particular. But dropping a candidate who attracted three million voters seemed akin to political suicide. What could the Democratic Party leaders have been thinking? » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Political History: Northern NY’s Native Son Bill Bray

02A MWBrayBill Bray’s rise to power in New York State politics was an impressive feat. From a poor farm life within a few miles of the Canadian border, he worked hard at becoming a successful attorney. By the age of 39, he was chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and a close confidant of Governor Franklin Roosevelt. Bray was running the show and FDR was a happy man, reaping the benefits of Bray’s solid connections in upstate New York.

Ironically, his following across central and northern New York is what eventually drove a wedge between Bray and the governor, souring their relationship. The falling out was over patronage, a common political practice. Roosevelt balked at Bray’s request to replace the Conservation Commissioner (a Republican) with a deserving upstate Democrat. It was, after all, the payoff for supporting FDR and helping win the election. A month or so later, Roosevelt finally acceded to Bray’s wishes, but the conflict hurt Bill’s standing within the inner circle. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Bill Bray: Churubusco’s Democratic State Chairman

01A FDR, Lehman,Smith, BrayAs we near Election Day, I’m reminded of a man from a remote corner of the North Country, an individual who was once the right-hand man of a future president—and not just any president. Not everyone loved him, of course, but Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the few to consistently appear near the top of any list of our greatest leaders. The man I’m referring to was known professionally as M. William Bray (Bill to his friends). He’s a native of the town of Clinton, which borders Canada in northwestern Clinton County.

If you don’t like population explosions, avoid Clinton. Their 67 square miles added 10 new residents between 2000 and 2010, bringing the count to a whopping 737: 11 people per square mile. Many of them live in the hamlet of Churubusco. Such a sparse population provides little chance of producing influential citizens, but Clinton beat the odds. » Continue Reading.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Lawrence Gooley: Books, Libraries, and Mass Digitization

Adirondack BooksIt’s that time of year again, when advertisers tout the latest e-readers while reviving the mantra that printed books are so close to obsolete, it’s only a matter of time before everything is digital.

Which means, of course, all brick-and-mortar bookstores will fold, as will a huge number of libraries. But after thousands of e-readers and millions of e-books have been sold, Christmas will finally arrive. Within a few weeks, the ads will stop and all will return to normal until next holiday season. » Continue Reading.



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