Local author Alison Hubbard will release her first novel in January 2024. The historical fiction novel will tell the story of the “crime of the century” historically taking place in Huntington, referred to in the novel as “Huntoria.”
The Kelsey Outrage by Alison Hubbard is an adaptation of the eponymous tarring, feathering, and murder of Charles Kelsey, a schoolteacher and poet in the late 1800s. This astonishing and historical murder was a well-known crime back in its time but has since been forgotten and sparsely spoken of.
Hubbard, who grew up in Woodbridge Park, moved to Huntington with her husband. While raising her daughter in the small village, she repeatedly passed a curious sign located on the corner of Spring Road and Platt Place. This is the sign that started it all.
“I felt a tingle. I just knew there was a story that wasn’t being told,” describes Hubbard. “You could almost feel the vibe of blood on the sidewalk, and the eeriness of the barn that’s there.”
For thirty-five years, Alison Hubbard worked as a distinguished musical theater lyricist known for her exceptional work in the entertainment industry. Her transition to historical fiction marks an exciting new chapter in her creative journey.
The book has taken about ten years to complete, as Hubbard exhausted research relating to this crime to prepare for writing this story. In her research she found many dead ends, halting the process of her writing or causing rewrites, as well as some deliberate removal of documents relating to this crime.
“There was this document produced in 1873 by Barclay and Company in Philadelphia. Barclay was a small office; they wrote stories about lurid things that happened, and The Kelsey Outrage fell into that category.” Hubbard explains how this document follows the trials of the men who were charged with Kelsey’s murder, accounting witness statements, thorough questioning, and evidence that was very helpful to her.
“But these town bigwigs [in 1873], bought up as many copies as they could and burned them. So, when I first started to research this, there was only one copy in the Huntington Public Library.”
The document was one of very few from the time that survived the burying of evidence by townspeople in the 1800s. These “townspeople,” who are rumored to have burnt evidence and court documents, refer to the town doctor, store owners, teachers, etc.
The novel takes on the story with a fictional twist. Certain fictitious details are dedications to different aspects of Charles Kelsey’s real life. For example, Hubbard refers to the town of Huntington in the novel as “Huntoria,” which is actually how Kelsey refers to his hometown in his poem The Vale of Huntoria.
“When you are writing fiction, you’re creating something, you are hammering something, you’re chiseling,” explained Hubbard.
“There’s one particular scene in the documentation [of the Kelsey Outrage], where Kelsey was missing, and his sister discovered his articles of clothing with blood and things that turned out to be tar and feathers. She went to the door of the family [she suspected], pounded on the door and said, ‘I am going to pound all night until you open this door.’” Hubbard thought about what kind of person the sister had to be to have the strength, determination, and willpower to do that. “That’s how her character came to life.”
The main protagonist of Hubbard’s novel is the sister (character name, Cathleen), of Charles Kelsey, (character name, George). In the story, she is a detective who discovers her brother is missing and is steadfast to find out what happened. The novel follows her investigation, and journey in finding what happened to her brother, leading the character to reinvent herself as a detective and confront the ruthless gang responsible. The novel also features point of views from supporting characters, telling the story in a multitude of perspectives, creating dynamic narratives. The Kelsey Outrage: The Crime of the Century by Alison Hubbard is a story that has everything: romance, violence, mystery, and internal reflection. The piece of fiction with a local and historical twist will be available for purchase on January 24, 2024, and available for pre-order on Hubbard’s website.