“[A] fascinating, richly detailed and remarkably evocative exploration . . . . East gracefully integrates her various themes into a coherent and mesmerizing whole.”

Joyce Carol Oates, Publishers Weekly signature review   Read full review »

“This extraordinary book about a brutal murder in a setting of haunting beauty is told with a detailed nuance that turns this narrative into a real page turner. By presenting this New England town with amazing care, dignity, and justice, Elyssa East has captured the essence of a piece of America. We are reminded how we are all the consequence of place; and stories arise constantly as place and character meet.”

—Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Strout, author of Olive Kitteridge

“ A true crime story, art appreciation course, and an American history lesson stitched together, and it succeeds at all three …East deserves credit for bringing the [murder] case to light and for reporting it with deft, moving details… Plaudits to East for exploring the relationship of the land to artists, as well as to the people who live upon it, in this case for generations … An ambitious and worthy book.…”

Lisa Scottoline, best-selling author of Look Again, The New York Times Sunday Book Review—an Editors' Choice Selection— Read full review »

“Ms. East is a fine stylist whose sympathetically imaginative conception of the past endows Dogtown with an eerie evocativeness… strange, stony, sylvan Dogtown is an American place to cherish.”

Bill Kauffman, The Wall Street Journal  Read full review »

“A detailed and involving narrative history…The historical chapters are extremely appealing to lovers of little-known Americana, and East brings a thoroughness and compassion to her recounting of Natti’s murder and the subsequent trial that make those chapters of interest even to those who don’t typically read true crime… [Dogtown] gives a reader a novel's worth of colorful characters.…”

Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor  Read full review »

“An engrossing hybrid of equal parts true crime tale, local history lesson, and personal inquiry into fear, solitude, and our relationships with our  surroundings.”

James Sullivan, The Boston Globe  Read full review »

“A fascinating foray into a storied corner of New England and two occult worlds—contemporary and colonial—with special reference to ancient witchcraft, modern sociopathology and that timeless element of the human condition, evil… A tart sachet of history and journalism… A fabric of many strands: the murder; the trial and conviction of… a local ne'er-do-well who appears crazy by every standard except legal ones; the failure of our institutions to cope with his madness; the human history of the place; its geology, botany and ecology.”

Philip Kopper, Washington Times Read full review »

“East does a wonderful thing with Dogtown, starting with a boatload of well-researched facts, and a chronology of the region that makes sense and adds to the reader's understanding of her subject. But she also explains why she was drawn to the stories, and why her interest persisted. This is a very personal narrative— even in the pages where East isn't talking about herself—one that speaks to the question of not only how people affect a place, but how a place can affect people.”

Deirdre Fulton, Boston Phoenix Read full review »

“Much like Hartley’s paintings, East’s book bursts with color and impact. Dogtown will appeal to any lover of New England history and lore.”

Mark Dunkelman, Providence Journal Read full review »

“In vigorous prose that is, by turns, lyrical, descriptive, and journalistic,East interweaves tales of Dogtown’s enigmatic past and images of its beguiling landscape with vivid descriptions of a senseless murder and its disturbing impact on the surrounding community. Dogtownis a compelling narrative, skillfully rendered by a gifted young writer.”

Michael Steinberg, Founding Editor, Fourth Genre, 2010 L.L. Winship/ PEN New England Award Judge in Nonfiction

“These rich, lyrically told stories,which span 400 years of local history, paint a portrait of Dogtown as an enigmatic, mysterious town. East is a skilled writer, adept at setting a mood, and her research about Dogtown and its environs is thorough.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An artfully wrought, absorbing debut.”


“...well-researched [and] suspenseful... an engrossing compendium of Dogtown’s artistic, romantic, swashbuckling background.”


“A captivating blend of memoir, American history and true crime expose.”

The Midwest Book Review

“The tension achieved by alternating the chapters on Dogtown history and lore, and [Marsden] Hartley and [Charles] Olson, with those on the Natti murder is extraordinary …East treats the Natti murder and its principals with tact and sensitivity. ”

The Gloucester Daily Times  Read full review »

“Though there’s a certain demystification that happens when facts and ideas are finally organized, documented and presented in a cogent whole, East emerges at the end of this journey with Dogtown’s soul and shadows intact.”


“This book is a wonder. I fell completely under its spell—Elyssa East does not merely reupholster the old bones of Dogtown, she plunges you headlong into the green mystery of this place; I loved the looking-glass chill of opening her book and finding myself in another world entirely. Dogtown is true literary sorcery, a portal to one of the strangest places in America.”

— Pulitzer Prize Finalist Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

“Beautifully written, deftly told, and suspenseful to the very end—a stunning work of reportage. A keenly observant writer with a painter's eye for detail, East explores the strange, hypnotic spell that Dogtown seems to cast upon all—including herself—who enter its woods. The result is a riveting and very personal book that both dazzles and unnerves.”

—PEN/Faulkner Award Winner Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

“A haunting and powerful and hypnotic book, a tour-de-force of history. Part novelist, part l940’s gumshoe working the streets, Elyssa East is a writer whose wonderful attention to detail and unflinching gaze at human behavior is the rarest of gifts. This book is both an old-fashioned page-turner—what happened in Dogtown?—and a modern social x-ray of small town America. Gloucester, Massachusetts is where very real, very strange, and very memorable life took place, and we need to thank Ms. East for presenting it all to us with the immediacy of a photograph album found in a antique store, dusted off and presented with care and passion.”

—National Book Award Finalist Howard Norman, author of What Is Left the Daughter

“A Mesmerizing Fugue of knife-edge true crime, deviant Yankee Americana, and historical evildoings. With an insider's authenticity, East commands a haunted haven where renowned American thinkers and artists seek hideout, and finds the brilliant pin dot on a mysterious American murder map, charting a community’s bouts of wickedness for generations toward a spellbinding modern homicide. No other book captures our colonial ghost history with such chilly quirks, intimate lore, and fireworks. A pure original, East guides us through stunning supernatural gates into a bountiful wilderness.”

Maria Flook, best-selling author of Invisible Eden

“A fascinating book, sometimes strange, sometimes mystical, but always gripping. Her exploration of its dark, eccentric past begs the question: do certain mythic landscapes influence its inhabitants to do great good and, at times, to do great evil?”

Kathleen Kent, best-selling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, by Elyssa East (book jacket)

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