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Etta: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 338 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Book Description
Beautiful, elusive, and refined, Etta Place captivated the nation at the turn of the last century as she dodged the law with the Wild Bunch, led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her true identity and fate have remained a mystery that has tantalized historians for decades. Now, for the first time, Gerald Kolpan envisions this remarkable woman’s life in a stunning debut novel.

Kolpan imagines that Etta Place was born Lorinda Jameson, the daughter of a prominent financier, who becomes known as the loveliest of the city’s debutantes when she makes her entrance into Philadelphia society. Though her position in life is already assured, her true calling is on horseback. She can ride as well as any man and handle a rifle even better. But when a tragedy leads to a dramatic reversal of fortune, Lorinda is left orphaned, penniless, homeless, and pursued by the ruthless Black Hand mafia.

Rechristened “Etta Place” to ensure her safety, the young woman travels to the farthest reaches of civilization, working as a “Harvey Girl” waitress in Grand Junction, Colorado. There, fate intervenes once more and she again finds herself on the run from the ruthless Pinkerton Detective Agency. But this time she has company. She soon finds herself at the legendary hideout at Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming, where she meets the charismatic Butch Cassidy and the handsome, troubled Harry Longbaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid. Through a series of holdups and heists, Etta and Harry begin an epic and ultimately tragic romance, which will be the greatest of Etta’s life. Then, when Etta meets the young and idealistic Eleanor Roosevelt, her life is changed forever.

Blending a compelling love story, high adventure, and thrilling historical drama, Etta is an electrifying novel. With a sweeping 1900s setting, colorful storytelling, and larger-than-life characters, Etta is a debut that is both captivating and unforgettable.

Amazon Exclusive: Gerald Kolpan on Etta

Until I actually wrote a novel of my own, I thought all those authors were lying.

I would read interviews with them in newspapers and magazines. I would hear them on NPR and see them on television; and they always seemed to say the same thing:

"I really had to follow the characters where they wanted to go. At some point, they developed minds of their own."

Yeah, right.

These seasoned scribes sat down at their PCs and Macs, and after having composed outlines, drawn diagrams, attended workshops and generally obsessed about a plot, sometimes for years, they were now prepared to stand by and watch the creatures they'd created stand up, stretch, and light off for literary parts unknown.

Sounded like a lot of pretentious nonsense to me.

Well, I'm here to tell you that those writers were as truthful as Lincoln.

All anyone has to do is take a look at the initial outline of my novel, Etta, and then read the finished work to realize that once those heroes and villains start moving around on a page, they're apt to end up anywhere.

A few examples:

  • Kid Curry, one of the two primary evildoers of Etta, is only mentioned twice in the outline. By page 100 of the first draft, he's the book's biggest bogeyman. Surprise, surprise.
  • In the outline, Etta challenges the notorious (and historical) outlaw Harry Tracey to a gunfight and kills him. By the time I got to page 61 of draft one, Tracey had morphed into the entirely fictional Earl Charmichael Dixon. Etta offs him, instead. Who knew?
  • Etta's husband, Ralph Worthington Carr, never appears in the outline at all. In the first draft, he is mentioned only once. But by page 294 of draft five, he's a full-fledged cast member, even saving my leading lady from a bottle of vitriol aimed at her face.
  • The original plan called for Etta to develop a mystical relationship with the Indian chief Sitting Bull while they are both cast members of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Somehow, the Chief failed to show up for the book.
  • Draft six contained a mini-epic detailing the first meeting of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid during a murderous range war. It was never in the initial plan, but I had to write it. I slaved over this deathless prose for weeks only to see my editor, Robin Rolewicz, cut all thirteen pages from the manuscript. Maybe authors can't control characters, but sometimes editors can control authors: especially when they're right.
  • Trotsky appeared out of nowhere! Sundance became a socialist! Eleanor Roosevelt hijacked Hyde Park!

    Did I foresee any of this? Hell, no.

    So not only do people in books have minds of their own, it's a good idea for their creators to hotfoot it after them when they stray into uncharted territory; you never know what wonders they'll find.

    Besides, it gives you a great comeback when readers and critics question why your main character did one thing instead of another.

    "Hey... it was her idea, not mine." --Gerald Kolpan

    (Photo © Jonathan Rubin)

  • From Publishers Weekly

    The sketchy details of the life of Etta Place, outlaw and paramour of William Sundance Kid Longabaugh, are imaginatively filled in by first-time novelist Kolpan in this winning tale of the Wild West. After her wealthy father's disgrace and demise, Etta departs Philadelphia society and heads west to become a Harvey Girl on the railroad in Colorado, where a series of misadventures leads her to the Hole-in-the-Wall gang. Romanced by Longabaugh and the fugitive lifestyle, Place earns an integral part in the gang through her shooting and riding skills as well as her beauty and sophistication. Pursued by the police, Pinkertons, the Black Hand and rival desperado Kid Curry, Etta and the Sundance Kid make their way across the country, diving from one daring adventure to another. The novel is not without its flaws: Etta's friendship with a young Eleanor Roosevelt and her encounters with other luminaries can seem precious, and her proto-feminism feels too canned. But the wide-screen drama of Etta's life makes these choices forgivable, and Kolpan's snappy storytelling makes it impossible not to want to ride along as the characters careen toward their tragic ends. (Apr.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Product Details

    • File Size: 1322 KB
    • Print Length: 338 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1410418294
    • Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 20, 2009)
    • Publication Date: March 24, 2009
    • Sold by: Random House LLC
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B001Y35GF6
    • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,950 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    More About the Author

    Gerald Kolpan was born in New York City and grew up in suburban Westchester county. He came to Philadelphia in the 1970's to attend the University of the Arts.

    Gerald was a successful illustrator and graphic designer for over a decade and then chucked it all in 1977 to front a rock band. Following that experience, Gerald turned to writing and was soon turning out features for both local and national newspapers and magazines. He was the humor columnist for the Philadelphia City Paper and gained a national reputation as a commentator and reporter for NPR's nightly news program All Things Considered.

    On the strength of his radio work, Gerald was hired by WTXF-TV in Philadelphia as their first features reporter, a position he held for twenty years. His work has been seen all over the world on both CNN and FNC and he has received awards from the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Associated Press, as well as eight Emmy awards.

    In 2009, Balantine Books published his critically acclaimed first novel, ETTA, a fictionalized account of the life of Etta Place, lover of the Sundance Kid. His new novel, MAGIC WORDS, is the story of Julius Meyer, a 13 year-old Jewish immmigrant from Prussia who comes to the United States after the Civil War and becomes the interpreter for America's great Indian chiefs, and his cousin, Alexander Herrmann, destined to become the most famous magician of his time. MAGIC WORDS will be published in May, 2012 by Pegasus Books

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Thomas on January 3, 2009
    Format: Hardcover
    I received this book from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. It is due to be released in March. I was dubious - to say the least - not being a fan of historical fiction or the Wild West. But I feel an obligation to read these early releases quickly and get a review out. And so I began.

    Boy, was I surprised! Apparently Gerald Kolpan became fascinated with Etta Place some years ago when he realized that the notorious companion of The Sundance Kid was a vast mystery. Almost nothing is known about her. So Kolpan has proceeded, in this book, to craft a fictional account of what her life might have been like - where she came from, how she happened to mix up with Butch Cassidy's gang, and her romance and life with the Sundance Kid. The result is a book you can't put down. This story is imagined so well that it could actually be her life - in fact, I wish it was a true story. This book is about as close to perfection as it gets for me. A little bit of suspense and intrigue, a good solid love story (without too much sappy-ness), and a deep character study.

    In the past, books where the author tries to intersperse news articles or journal entries has seemed jarring to me. In this book, Mr. Kolpan does a great job of weaving them into the story. In fact, I have no criticisms of this book at all. Read it. You'll love it, even if you think the Wild West holds no interest for you. This is a story about a woman's life, and an fascinating one at that. But plan wisely, you'll be reading late into the night!
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    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Valerie J. Wood VINE VOICE on February 19, 2009
    Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
    This is a beautifully written and designed story and if, perhaps, it's not really the 'true' story of Etta Place -- it should have been! Well imagined and lush, it fleshes out the mysterious personality of the woman who was reputedly the girl-friend of the Sundance Kid. Gerald Kolpan's novel is marvelous; the reader is quickly drawn into the story of young Lorinda Jamison, who must flee Philadelphia after her father's suicide and loss of the family wealth. The story is peppered with well known American heroes (and anti-heroes), ranging from Annie Oakley to Eleanor Roosevelt as the story of Lorinda's transformation into 'Etta Place' is achieved through help by her loyal family lawyer. Rechristened Etta, she is put upon a train and sent to Chicago to become a 'Harvey Girl' (all explained in the book) and the stage is set for Etta's remarkable life.

    A great read--this is one helluva super novel. Brilliantly executed by the author, Etta is a refreshingly wonderful tale of a remarkable woman. If you never heard of her before--you won't forget her after this book!
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    Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
    I loved the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Remember, Paul Newman played the bandit known for his banter and slapstick humor? Robert Redford was Sundance, a sophisticated kind of outlaw whose wit was more biting than Butch's, but whose intelligence and gun were just as fast. Beautiful Katherine Ross, who had a bit part, played Etta Place, the light of Sundance's life. I always wondered who Etta really was and what happened to her. Now, Gerald Kolpan has written a glorious fiction, using his bountiful imagination, coupled with what little known facts exist about the enigmatic Etta - the sum of which is a rollicking tale about this multifaceted woman - the heroine, the main event, in this novel.

    Our story opens with Miss Lorinda Reese Jamison of Philadelphia, graduate of the Irwin School, and cotillians at the Union League. However, Miss Lorinda was ever so much more than the usual deb. This high-spirited 19 year-old, rode like a hoyden, side saddle or astride, was even able to shoot like a pro...while on horseback. Her horse, the demon black stallion Bellerophon, was as wild as she was, and Lorinda was the only one who could handle him. Unfortunately, her days of good fortune were short. Mr. Graham David Jamison, her father and assistant chief officer of the Seaman's and Merchants National Bank and Mercantile Society, was somewhat of a profligate. He drank, gambled and owed over two million dollars in debts. So he committed suicide. Etta found him dead in his study. This deceased paragon, able to trace his ancestry back to the earliest days of the Republic, was now being investigated, posthumously, by the police and the bank for embezzlement. Lorinda, his only heir, watched as her house and all its belongings were sold.
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    5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on January 8, 2009
    Format: Hardcover
    I have to admit that I knew almost nothing about Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid or Etta Place before watching the classic Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie about the three of them. It has been a few years since I've last experienced that movie but I remember coming away from it with a decent understanding of Butch and Sundance but a relatively poor feel for Etta Place and how she came to be the woman she was.

    As it turns out, very little is known about the real Etta Place, neither her name, where she came from, nor what happened to her after Butch and Sundance were shot dead in South America. That she was said to be a beautiful woman with refined habits, an expert horsewoman, and an outlaw with a good heart add to the picture, but the details seem destined to remain forever out-of-reach. First-time novelist Gerald Kolpan now offers "Etta," the perfect companion piece to the movie that reintroduced Etta to the world some forty years ago.

    Free spirited Lorinda Jameson, daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker, becomes well acquainted with horses and rifles as a girl but it is only when her disgraced father leaves her penniless and on the run from his creditors that she abandons the city and her old name for a new life in the West where she will be known as Etta Place. Penniless, though she is known to be, her father's creditors will not be satisfied until she is dead or, at the least, scarred for life. But Grand Junction, Colorado, does not turn out to be the safe haven she hopes for and, in the course of defending her honor, she makes a decision that earns her a date with the Grand Junction hangman.
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