St. Louis: stories and scandals; beer and baseball

October 8, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

Every city, large or small, produces its stories and scandals. Some do better at that than others. St. Louis is one of those cities that is above average in this regard.

St. Louis, near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, started out in the 18th century as a place where professional trappers would converge to trade goods, stories, and liquor. You can imagine what that was like. It was a rugged, no holds barred place that would scare away the faint-hearted.

Over the next 100 years, St. Louis morphed into the major center for Irish and German immigration, and those European cultures have had a lasting impact on the city.

There are also the two Bs: beer and baseball.

One of  the world’s largest beer producers, Anheuser-Busch, is headquartered in the city and is an indelible part of the city’s identity. So are the St. Louis Cardinals, a baseball team that has been around more about 150 years and has more World Series championships than any team except the New York Yankees.

Now we have some of the great stories and scandals of St. Louis within the covers of a single book, Storied and Scandalous St. Louis: A History of Breweries, Baseball, Prejudice, and Protest. The author of the book is Jo Allison, which is the pen name of Linda Dobkins, a friend and former faculty colleague at Emory and Henry College.

The book is a treasure trove of stories and photos that will delight anyone who has drunk a beer, cheered at a baseball game, or viewed with wonder the mighty Mississippi River that has, for 200 years, been the great geographic dividing line of the nation. You can turn to any page of this book and get a good story; then, chances are, you’ll turn to the next page and the next. The research and attention to detail of the author is obvious, and the author never loses sight of the fact that she is writing about real people, not cartoon characters.

Linda is the author of the Julia Nye Mystery Series and related short stories, which are deeply research tales set in and around St. Louis during the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Linda shifted gears for this latest book, writing fact instead of fiction, but she had to do it all from her home in Bristol, Virginia — rather than traveling to St. Louis for on-site research — because of Covid-19.

Writing the book without in-person access to sources was a strain, she said, and it increased her dependence on archivists and librarians.

“Writing during a pandemic made me depend on their archivists, reminding me how important librarians are to an historical fiction—and nonfiction—writer.”

Linda was a journalist in Joplin, Missouri, early in her adult life, and she says, ” I consider my (10) years of reporting the best education I could have.” That’s a sentiment shared by many of us former reporters.

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