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Monadnock author recounts a year of dark events in Brattleboro, Vt.
KEENE - Former Monadnock area journalist Dave Eisenstadter plans to return to the region this week to promote his new book "Embattled Brattleboro: How a Vermont Town Endured a Year of Fire, Murder and Hurricane Irene."
The book was released Nov. 15 by Keene's Surry Cottage Books.
Working as a reporter in the Keene and Brattleboro, Vt., areas in 2011, Eisenstadter covered a five-alarm fire on April 17 in downtown Brattleboro that consumed an historic apartment building, changing the face of Main Street.
The Brooks House had about 60 apartments, as well as retail space.
"The building was an architectural jewel. It used to be used as a hotel. It was the Hotel Brooks. People like Eleanor Roosevelt stayed there. Then, in the 1970s, it was going to be torn down but this man, Norman Chase, decided he was going to put some money into it and make it into apartment and store fronts," Eisenstadter said.
Eisenstadter moved to the Boston area soon after the fire to work for the Dedham Transcript, but he was still very much connected to the Keene and Brattleboro areas.
He grew up just outside of Keene and lived in Keene as an adult, so Brattleboro was a town he had visited often and knew well. "It always had a cool and unique vibe to it," he said.
Then, in July and August, the town was rocked by two murders.
The first was of a Bellows Falls, Vt., woman who had recently moved to Brattleboro. That murder was soon followed by a work-place shooting at the Brattleboro Food Coop, Eisenstadter said.
Together, the murders made many in the town uneasy and deeply saddened.
The shooter had worked at the food coop for decades.
"Everybody loves the Brattleboro Food Coop," Eisenstadter said.
While interviewing people for the book, he was often told by residents, "This is the last place that you would expect any kind of violent crime to take place."
"I think what confused people more was the person that was arrested for the coop shooting was well-known in the community.
"Everybody knew him. He was the manager of the wine section. Everybody called him the wine guy," Eisenstadter said. "In general, people were in shock that someone they felt that they knew well had done something that they could just not understand."
Then, later in August, Hurricane Irene made its way up the Connecticut River and devastated the town's infrastructure and destroyed homes.
Eisenstadter said he started interviewing residents and writing the book because he was fascinated with the string of events that shook the town on so many different levels.
"Each one of these events had affected a different part of the town," he said.
His first book - "The Weight of the Ice: The Northeast Ice Storm of 2008" - also records a true disaster, but Eisenstadter said his interest is not in disasters, but in the people and the human spirit.
"People have been asking me, 'So are you a disaster writer now?'
"What really fascinates me and what leads me to these bigger projects, these books, is not the disaster aspect of it but how these big events affect people's lives."
In the end, he said, he was surprised by what he learned from the people of Brattleboro.
"Basically, I wanted to write a book about these events and what came up again and again was how people were helping one another. It was shocking how people had lost so much were pulling together to help one another," he said.
Born in New York City, Eisenstadter moved to Marlow when he was three-years-old.
After graduating from Keene High School, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English and math at Bard College.
He returned to the region after college and lived in Keene, getting his start as a reporter at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in Peterborough from 2007 to 2010.
After that, he worked at the Keene Sentinel for a year.
Eisenstadter plans to hold book signings at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough Saturday at 11 a.m. and then at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene on Sunday at 2 p.m.
"Embattled Brattleboro" is available online at Amazon and also through the publisher's website at surrycottagebooks.com.