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  • NYS Writers Institute

Join us for a one-night only online book club

The NYS Writers Institute and the Historic Albany Foundation have teamed up for a a one-night only online book club event to discuss The Crazy Ladies of Pearl Street by Trevanian. Paul Grondahl will be the moderator.

The online event will take place 6 p.m. Monday, February 27, 2023.

About the book

Six-year-old Jean-Luc LaPointe, his little sister, and his spirited but vulnerable young mother have been abandoned—again—by his father, a charming con artist. With no money and nowhere else to go, the LaPointes create a fragile nest in a tenement building at 238 North Pearl Street in Albany, New York. For the next eight years, through the Great Depression and Second World War, they live in the heart of the Irish slum, surrounded by ward heelers, unemployment, and grinding poverty. Pearl Street is also home to a variety of “crazyladies”:

Miss Cox, the feared and ridiculed teacher who ignites Jean-Luc’s imagination; Mrs. Kane, who runs a beauty parlor/fortune-telling salon in the back of her husband’s grocery store; Mrs. Meehan, the desperate, harried matriarch of a thuggish family across the street; lonely Mrs. McGivney, who spends every day tending to her catatonic husband, a veteran of the Great War; and Jean-Luc’s own unconventional, vivacious mother. Colorful though it is, Jean-Luc never stops dreaming of a way out of the slum, and his mother’s impossible expectations are both his driving force and his burden. As legendary writer Trevanian lovingly re-creates the neighborhood of his youth in this funny, deeply moving coming-of-age novel, he also paints a vivid portrait of a neighborhood, a city, a nation in turmoil, and the people waiting for a better life to begin. It’s a heartfelt and unforgettable look back at one child’s life in the 1930s and ’40s, a story that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.

About the author

Trevanian was the pen name -- one of many -- of Rodney Whitaker, who was born in Granville and lived in Albany during his youth. The Crazy Ladies was his last novel. He died in 2005 at the age of 74. You can find more information about Trevanian/Whitaker at his old website:

A new website is being set up at

From his obituary published in the New York Times on December 19, 2005.

"Trevanian's international bestsellers, mainly thrillers, include The Eiger Sanction (1972), which was made into a film starring Clint Eastwood; Shibumi (1979); and The Loo Sanction (1973). His 10 known published books sold more than 5 million copies and were translated into at least 14 languages.

Whitaker once said he wrote books under at least five pseudonyms, including Trevanian. Whitaker was chairman of the radio, television and film department at the University of Texas when he wrote his first two books as smart little spoofs of James Bond. But even then it was an open question whether he was being playful with a genre or expanding its limits.

Under his own name,Whitaker wrote The Language of Film (1970). Under the name Nicholas Seare, he wrote 1339 . . . or So: Being an Apology for a Peddler (1975), a medieval tale, and Rude Tales and Glorious: The Account of Diverse Feats of Brawn and Bawd Performed by King Arthur and His Knights of the Table Round (1983).

'I write under five different names on several subjects - theology, law, aesthetics, film - and want to keep my readerships separate,' he said in an interview in The New York Times in 1979, which may have been his first.

In an e-mail interview with The Hartford Courant this June, he discussed his last book, "The Crazyladies of Pearl Street," published earlier this year. He said he spent two two-week sessions with a man who grew up in the slums near Albany, where the novel is set, to get information. But in publicity material from the book's publishers, he admitted the book was essentially his own autobiography. Read more

Praise for The Crazy Ladies of Pearl Street

“Nostalgic, richly textured. Sweetly evokes an innocent if hardscrabble lost age.” —Publishers Weekly

“Literary time travel, meticulously remembered and set down. . . . This book is in some ways a key to our country; America was made by people like this.” —Washington Post


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