In a very futuristic turn of events, today the library's book group talked to Toronto-based author Cathy Marie Buchanan via webcam about her book The Day the Falls Stood Still, which is set in Queenston, Ontario on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls between 1915 and 1923. Making the world seem even smaller, it turns out that when Cathy was growing up, she went to summer camp with kids from Berkeley Heights.
The book group asked Cathy whether she had always planned what happened with one of the main characters (I'm trying to avoid spoilers here). At first Cathy planned to base the book more strictly on the life of William "Red" Hill, and his wife Beatrice, but Tom and Bess took on lives of their own during the writing process. We also wanted to know what she's working on now (a historical novel about a real-life ballet dancer in Paris in the 1880s like the ones Degas painted and sculpted). And if you're out there reading this, Cathy, we thought of this question after we hung up - who gets to choose the title of the book, the author or the publisher?
A clearer photo of the author
Of course, we also amused ourselves by asking Cathy questions about Niagara Falls that we could have just Googled, but she did not mind at all. We wanted to know if people still go over the Falls, even though it's illegal. It turns out they do, including the brother of a friend of hers, who went over in a barrel and survived, and a man who tried to commit suicide and also survived. And we asked, is there still a riverman like Fergus or Tom around today? She told us that after the last of William Hill's sons (who helped with the logistics of filming Superman at Niagara Falls) passed away a few years ago, it's now the fire department that rescues people.
Your book group can arrange to Skype Cathy on her web site.
One question a book club member thought of later was, "Is there still an ice bridge linking the Canadian and American banks of the river in the winter?" I found the answer (no) here. In 1964 an ice boom was installed to prevent the ice bridge, which threatened to plug up the intakes of hydroelectric stations and damage the docks of the tourist boats. Makes you want to go back in time and see what Niagara was like before electricity was invented (but time-travel would probably require electricity, ironically).
*Lame pun on Star Trek reference: "Beam me up, Scotty"