SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 29, 2008

Essex County Chronicles: Remembering Manchester's 'literary superstar," Herb Kenny

(Continued)

Closer to home, Kenny's "Newspaper Row : Journalism in the Pre-television Era" (Globe Pequot Press, 1987) reflected his historical interest in his chosen profession. The colorful book was described by one critic as a look back at the "rogues' gallery of murderers and swindlers, bootleggers and bookies, politicians of every stripe, and other flotsam that provided materials for Boston newspapers during the years between 1890 and 1956."

While a prolific writer, Kenny was hardly one-dimensional. He was deeply involved in his adopted community of Manchester-by-the-Sea where he moved with his wife, Theresa, after their wedding. He was a fixture on the town's zoning board of appeals for a quarter of a century and also served a stint on its board of selectmen. Kenny at various times organized a Greek club and a chess club (he co-authored a book on chess trivia) and was an avid sailor and tennis player.

Given his long association with the North Shore, it was inevitable that Kenny would turn his literary eye towards the area's history, and in 1971 his "Cape Ann: Cape America" appeared in local bookstores. Published by Curious Traveler Press and billed as a "regional guidebook," Kenny's work focused on the communities of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex and Ipswich. In its pages the author wanders from topic to topic, covering everything from the flora and fauna of the region to its role as a setting for Hollywood movies.

Naturally there are chapters on the North Shore's literary heritage. Kenny tosses off the names of important men and women of letters with ties to Cape Ann, including Richard Henry Dana, Rudyard Kipling, and his own contemporary, Gloucester writer-activist Joe Garland. The author also quotes liberally from poems by Charles Olsen, the objectivist poet who settled in Gloucester and worked tirelessly to save the town's character in the face of encroaching development.

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