Author Writes Historical Novel on 19th Century Crime in Huntington

Author Alison Louise Hubbard has written a true crime novel about a crime that occurred in Huntington in the 19th Century.

Here’s what she had to say about her book, “The Kelsey Outrage: The Crime of the Century” which treats a real crime, the lynching, including tarring and feathering, of a Huntington man over his love interest in a young woman.

Q. What led you to write this book?

Huntington is a proud town with many plaques touting some of our town’s achievements. I was amazed to jog past a plaque that marked a barn where a man was tarred and feathered in 1872. The barn was still there at that time, listing to one side with a gigantic hole in the roof. I got chills. I needed to know more, and when I looked into it, I discovered a tale of love, lies and lawlessness that nearly destroyed our town. I was amazed I had not heard of it before and knew I needed to tell it, because I love stories.

Q. What did you learn, and hope others will learn from reading it?

Writing this book reinforced a timeless truth, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite the evolution of technology and medical advancements since 1872, the essence of human nature remains unchanged. During that era, Ulysses S. Grant was running for reelection, penicillin had yet to be discovered and airplanes didn’t exist. Yet, the flaws and intricacies of civilization mirror those of today. Uncovering parallels between the past and present did surprise me.

My hope is that readers will recognize the enduring aspects of our humanity and find the book both timely and timeless, resonating with the universal threads that connect us across different eras.

Q. How would you classify your book—history, historical fiction, etc?

My book falls into the intriguing intersection of historical fiction and true crime fiction. While rooted in historical events, I took creative liberties by inventing characters and altering the narrative to craft a compelling story. Unlike my husband, a historian, who writes history based on factual evidence, I found that adhering strictly to the truth limited my ability to tell the story I envisioned. Embracing a blend of reality and imagination allowed me to explore the unknown aspects of the tale, adding depth and intrigue to the narrative.

Q. What is the general premise of your book?

When privileged men take the law into their own hands, the result is chaos.

On November 4, 1872, Cathleen Kelsey’s brother, George, goes missing after being tarred and feathered by a vicious mob in their small Long Island town. Determined to find him and get justice, Cathleen reinvents herself as a detective, taking on the ruthless, powerful gang of men behind the violent act the national newspapers labeled, “The Crime Of The Century.”

Q. Is this your first book?

Yes, it is. Prior to this, I spent thirty years writing for musical theatre before deciding to try my hand at prose.

Q. What do you do for a living? 

I have a degree in music. I spent many years teaching private flute lessons in my home studio and working on musical theatre projects, primarily in New York. However, I am now retired from both flute teaching and musical theatre. Currently, I dedicate my time to writing short stories and books.

Q.Tell me a little bit about where you grew up.

I grew up in Williston Park in Nassau County and attended Herricks High School. My dad was a high school band teacher and my mom was a designer and had her own business. We had a very artistic family. We’re all musicians, artists and writers to one degree or another. My two sisters and I sang together as a trio and played music.

Q. Why should people read this book? 

People should read a book for one simple reason: enjoyment. While books undoubtedly offer insights into the world and themselves, I consider that to be the icing on the cake. As an author, my primary goal is to engage readers and compel them to turn the page. Recognizing the commitment it takes to read a 375-page book, I want readers to stay engaged because they genuinely care about the characters and are invested in what happens to them.

Q. What was your writing process? Did it take a long time and did you do a lot of research?

Absolutely. It took me a decade, with breaks in between, to complete this book. Through numerous drafts, the narrative transformed from nearly non-fictional to entirely fictional. Along the way, I introduced the main character, Cathleen Kelsey, who was inspired by the real-life sister of the victim, but ended up as a character who was entirely my creation. She became the story’s driving force, on a quest to find her missing brother and seek justice.

The journey to discover Cathleen involved years of experimentation before she emerged, ultimately giving the narrative both form and direction. Extensive research played a crucial role, involving visits to Town Hall, the Town Historical Society, the Public Library, the New York Historical Society and the Riverhead Court Archives. I experienced what is called “Research Rapture,” which was a thrill beyond words, as I saw actual signatures of the individuals involved (though names were changed) and their graves.

I relied on the internet to fact-check details like clothing styles, household appliances, diets and customs. I acquired Farmers Almanacs from the 1870s which helped me understand farming practices and seasonal plantings. My research extended to learning about the laws and courts, and I was fortunate to find reliable sources on the trials. Every effort was made to ensure accuracy, grounding the fictional elements of my book in solid historical facts.

Q. Are you going to do public readings? 

I hope so! We are in the process of scheduling things. I’m excited to share this story with as many people as possible. It still surprises me that more people don’t know about it.

Q. What’s next for you?

I continue to write daily, mostly short stories. I would like to continue to get more publications of them. But I also have a first draft of another historical fiction book, that takes place in the 1950s. It’s time to finish that.

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