By Ron Stock, AuthorHOUSE, 2014
Book Review By C. MacDonald
This is the intriguing tale of Gay and Essa Billings, their family and traveling medicine show. It's an emotional story about determination, stubbornness, jealousy, romance, murder, psychology, suspense, shock and surprises. It's a story about love--not only between the characters but it captures the readers--reels 'em in to a ringside seat before circus performers, personal gossip, villains and an effort to turn secret ingredients (like aloe, licorice root and prickly ash bark...) into a best-selling formula to both help folks feel better and make a buck.
Marblehead is not only a place in Illinois but a novel on the exciting life of the author's great-grandparents, who he met only once, 62 years ago in 1952. It's a well-written, fixating saga chock-full of colorful characters, like Sweeney the security guard; Hans, the tavern owner; Cowboy the crook; unscrupulous Seymour Braum, spinster librarian Miss Dewey and lovable Aunt Lois--all who play important roles in shaping the destiny of the caring Essa and Gay, whose lives and travels revolve around their families, their business and Marblehead.
The pleasurable read takes you atop trapezes, inside saloons; it even teaches you sales techniques, which work and don't work (since the author is a longtime successful salesman). But more than anything, Marblehead is a tale full of hope and aspirations--for Gay and Essa, Eva and Billy, Ethel and Freddie, Sweeney and Miss Dewey--which will sometimes bring tears to your eyes.
You'll take a roller-coaster ride of happiness and despair. Like a melodrama, it will force you to hiss and cheer. It's a hard book to put down (632 action-packed pages) as you wonder what's going to happen next. The author painstakingly wrote this with love for his family's past. It's a fictional account of how they came together but there's truth in the story. Gay and Essa, Freddie and Ethel, Eva, Billy and Ben were real people. They carved a niche in Americana history with their medicine show, circus and cure-all tonics. At one time, they were well-known in the entertainment industry, even though some have been forgotten in the files of historical societies and newspaper archives. Ron Stock has rightfully brought them back to life. He even uncovered their old playbills in the Smithsonian and used some other great photos from his sister Sharon's scrapbook.
Gay's One Horse Medicine Show was for real. Gay and Essa were great entertainers as were their talented daughters, Eva and Ethel. Eva once owned Dailey Bros. Circus, which rivaled Ringling Bros. Ethel later performed in shows featuring George Burns. Most of their daughters and sons also either performed or helped with the family shows. Freddie and Ethel's daughter, Rosemary, a trapeze artist of renown. was the wife of Mario, a famous unicycle rider, who appeared on "The Ed Sullivan" TV Show. Eva and her husband, Billy, were legendary as "The Flying Merriams" trapeze act.
Marblehead has so much pizzazz, it's a book you should read. Hopefully, it will become a major motion picture or TV mini-series. It even could be a Broadway play or musical. It's a unique slice of forgotten Americana that's entertaining, educational and an epic--something you will always remember!
Marblehead is available through www.authorhouse.com, amazon.com and other places.