Ramsey County History – Spring 2005: “A Novel Look at History”

Steve Trimble

A Novel Look at History 
Author: Steve Trimble

There are some historians who believe that in many cases novels can give readers the real feel of a city—its smells, sounds, and landscape. This article looks at four novels set in St. Paul. Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark is set in 1939. The main character was an avid amateur photographer with a strange inability to remember the past. He is suspected of a murder of a St. Paul dance hall worker. Mary Sharratt’s Summit Avenue is set between 1912 and 1918 and features Kathrin, a young woman who is hired to translate German fairy tales for a rich woman. Call Me Kick by John Osander speculates on what would happen to Nick Carraway, protagonist of the Great Gatsby in the 1930s. A young girl nicknamed “Kick” sees him being kidnapped and decides to rescue him. In this attempt, she visits the Castle Royale night spot, Calvary Cemetery, the Hamm Building, and the Hollyhocks Club. A reunion of the class of 1969 is the starting point for Tim O’Brien’s July, July. It is held in the year 2000 at Darton Hall a thinly-disguised Macalester College. It includes memories of the classmates’ college years, their disillusionment with society, and the future course of their lives. There are scenes on Grand Avenue, in White Bear Lake, and in various St. Paul neighborhoods.
PDF of Trimble article