The Long Stair
An Albany Mystery
by Kirby White
Fox Creek Press; an underground nonprofit publisher
255 Orange St.
Publishes books and other materials related to affordable housing,
community development & environmental conservation
Net proceeds from this book are dedicated to Albany Community Land Trust
As a former ( make that very former) resident of New York State’s Capital District, I opened White’s The Long Stair with interest a bit of trepidation, that kind of trepidation a person feels when they return to a place after a long absence.
Will things look the same? Can I find my way around? Will people sound the same, act the same, be the same?
Albany changed over the 30 years since I left, and change is partly what The Long Stair addresses. Interwoven through the trail of a story about greed and murder, White enlightens us about the people who live in Albany’s Sheridan Hollow, their lives, and the friction between their neighborhood and Capitol Hill.
Every city has those interfaces where rich meet poor, where the arrogance of those who think they rule leads them into conflict with the stubborn independence of those they lord it over. The lines around Albany’s Capitol Hill are carefully delineated. When state workers and political employees descend the long stair into the Hollow to pick up cars they’ve parked there all day, their faces reflect in tautness the apprehension that they’ve crossed into this territory one too many times. The feeling of displacement is every bit as deep for those who go up the stair to conduct necessary business; and they drop back into the Hollow like resentful rabbits forced back into their burrow.
When lead character Warren Crow agrees to help the local housing group deal with the loss of its founder, Jonah Lee, he finds in no time that Jonah has critics at both ends of the Long Stair. The questions become who did it, why, and what did Jonah’s peculiar handling of the organization’s money have to do with any of it?
White’s story is true to the region, and his characters as well. He aptly portrays the city’s historical ambience that envelopes all its residents. Who owns the city, anyway? The ancestral tribes and Dutch settlers whose names plaster the local maps and signage? The Revolutionary War soldiers – of both sides? The old-time mobsters and politicos William Kennedy writes so masterfully about? The college crowds, mom-and-pop stores, the activists? Even the newest comer is easily bogged down in the city’s ancient heritage. Yet the perpetual battle of ownership rages on.
Albany changed. Albany changes. Albany will change. Who gets hurt in the process?