Utopia seeker murdered
Author to discuss whodunit involving Upstate commune
By Willie Kiernan
In 1847, a small group of people experienced communal living built on a Bible-based beliefs of hard work, free love and controlled, eugenic breeding, living in a mansion in Sherill.
"It was a Biblical foundation, but they were a paradox," said Syracuse author Matthew Dunn.
Dunn will be discussing and signing his new book, "The Good Silver," at 7 p.m. Thursday March 27 in the Cazenovia Public Library. All events at the Cazenovia Public Library are free and open to the public. For more information, call 655-9322 or visit midyork.org/cazenovia.
The book, described as a "delicious whodunit, served over a steamy bed of history," takes place at the Mansion House in Sherrill, the former home to the Oneida Community and now a national historical landmark. Credited with starting what became the world's most recognized brand of silverware, the Oneida Community at first prospered but was eventually forced to disband.
"In writing this novel I wanted to create an entertaining and fun way to learn about these people without getting bogged down in a history lesson," Dunn said. "I wanted modern day characters reacting with shock and fascination just as I had as I discovered the community and their many controversial beliefs."
The Oneida Community, although known for their silver, was notoriously famous for their notion of free love. Couples shared partners regularly in accordance with the elders. There was controlled reproduction, not unbridled, irresponsible passion, and a day-care system. Older women frequently called on younger men for an evening together.
"The most interesting thing about them was this practice of free love," Dunn said.
The story takes place in the present when a newspaper reporter, acting on a tip, visits the Sherill mansion to investigate an alleged rebirth of the utopian commune. She is mysteriously killed but her death is ruled accidental. Her brother and best friend refuse to believe the police reports and embark on an investigation of their own, discovering small-town secrets and possible suspects at every turn.