Schenectady County

Author William Kennedy regales crowd

Acclaimed author and journalist William Kennedy came to Schenectady for what he “presumed” was his f

Acclaimed author and journalist William Kennedy came to Schenectady for what he “presumed” was his final speaking event in the Capital Region before he takes his book tour national, with trips to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami. He said he was even considering a trip to Cuba, where part of his new novel is set.

The 83-year-old Averill Park resident spoke to more than 100 people at the Schenectady County Public Library on Saturday, where he was promoting his novel “Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes.”

“Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes” starts in Cuba in 1957 and concludes on the streets of Albany in 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death in California.

“I was going to write a nonfiction book on Cuba,” said Kennedy in a private interview before his speech.

Having been to Cuba five times, which included covering the communist revolution during the late 1950s, he is very familiar with the topic. He said that experience put him in the middle of Cuban life and politics, which was something that he always wanted to bring together in a story. But after writing a long introduction for someone else’s book about Cuba, Kennedy became exhausted with nonfiction.

“So I began thinking about a short Cuban novel and the more I thought about a short Cuban novel the longer it got and then I decided that I also wanted to write about the civil rights movement [in America],” he said. “I had two revolutions and it was a matter of putting them together and finding common ground.”

Kennedy, who covered Albany during the 1960s for the Times Union, noted that the unrest of those years had risen again in the country. “I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is somewhat akin to the civil rights movement,” he said. “I applaud it. I support it.”

“The inequity is far broader in the society this time around,” Kennedy said, and attacked national Republicans for only being concerned with preventing tax increases for the wealthy. “The protections that they’re putting out there for these zillionaires is unreal.”

Kennedy also talked about the new Johnny Depp movie “The Rum Diary,” which also interested those at his lecture. The movie is based on a novel by the late Hunter S. Thompson; it is a fictional detailing of his adventures in the late 1950s in Puerto Rico, where he met and befriended William Kennedy, who was working at the San Juan Star.

Kennedy has yet to see the movie, although he predicted it may be considered for major awards. He may even get to nominate it, because he serves on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

In some of the reviews of the movie, Kennedy said he has mistakenly been credited as a colleague of Thompson’s, when in fact he wouldn’t hire him for the San Juan Star.

“That was the basis for friendship,” Kennedy said. “I would have hired him, but my editor had no use for him.”

The two began writing letters to each other, which Thompson would eventually publish.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply