A Review of Satellite Boy and 5 Other Books to Read in March | Books & Authors | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

Satellite Boy

Andrew Amelinckx
Counterpoint Press, 2023, $27

Readers interested in unsolved true-crime mysteries will find a great story in Andrew Amelinckx's new book Satellite Boy: The International Manhunt for a Master Thief That Launched the Modern Communication Age. Amelinckx, a Catskill-based investigative reporter, brings keen attention to the details of the life and crimes of Georges Lemay. One of Canada's most elusive criminals, a decades-long manhunt followed him from Montreal to Miami to Las Vegas and back again. Lemay is credited with the sophisticated robbery of the Bank of Nova Scotia in the summer of 1961, where close to $2 million was stolen from a downtown Montreal location.

Amelinckx unravels the planning and execution of the robbery, describing the purpose-built tools and machinations that helped Lemay and his band of Quebecois grifters pull off the heist. He then follows the protracted manhunt for Lemay tracing him to Havana, his capture in south Florida, his escape from jail to Los Angeles, his recapture in Las Vegas and jailing and release in Canada toward the end of his life. The Lemay chase narrative forms the bulk of Satellite Boy but intersects with another biographical sketch of a man whom Lemay never met but whose career led to important technological advances that ultimately led to Lemay's apprehension.

Harold Rosen was a brilliant engineer who tenaciously pursued the development of geostationary satellites for Hughes Aircraft in the 1960s. He was responsible for leading a team at Hughes to build the first geosynchronous communications satellite between 1962 and 1965, culminating in the successful launch of Early Bird, the first commercial satellite used to transmit live television between Europe and North America. Rosen's great achievement, over the weekend of May 2, 1965, was to convince three American networks and the CBC in Canada to broadcast a television special, "This is Early Bird" to showcase the satellite communications capability.

"For the first time in history live television images were relayed simultaneously in both directions across the ocean," Amelinckx writes. "There was a live split-screen of the New York World's Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and scenes in Rome; festivals in Italy, Germany, and Sweden; a test of the Concorde's jet engines; and shots of a tunnel being built under Mont Blanc between Italy and France."

During the televised special, a most-wanted criminals segment ran, which included Lemay. For the first time, satellite images of high-profile fugitives were broadcast around the world, greatly aiding law enforcement agencies in apprehending border-crossing suspected criminals. "Early Bird" showcased unprecedented cooperation among Scotland Yard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the FBI, all to the downfall of Georges Lemay, who on that fateful May weekend in 1965 was identified by a boat repairman in a Florida marina and apprehended by Dade County authorities for the Bank of Nova Scotia robbery four years earlier.

Amelinckx toggles back and forth between these two narratives, providing specifics on each of the subjects' pursuits. Rosen and Lemay never met in person and likely, were not aware of each other. Amelinckx sees a connection between the two, but the narratives felt discrete to me—each revealing but together not revelatory. The author's writing is most vivid when describing the Bank of Nova Scotia heist and manhunt for Lemay, a colorful subject who charmed and deceived all those around him, including glamourous lovers, petty criminals, and corrupt law enforcement authorities. Lemay's escape from Dade County Jail is a high point of the book as it reads like a set piece from Ocean's Eleven.

There's no doubt that the development of the Early Bird satellite helped lead to Georges Lemay's arrest and that continued advances in surveillance technology have made it harder for fugitives to hide. Though it's not clear that Rosen's intent in designing and building Early Bird was to aid international law enforcement agencies, it certainly was one outcome. Progress in the sharing of communications and data collection has bolstered efforts to capture bad actors across borders. While Satellite Boy overreaches at times to connect two disparate narratives, it tells an entertaining story of two mice: One who built a better mousetrap and one who stole the cheese.

—Betsy Maury

A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness

Jai Chakrabarti
Knopf, 2023, $27

The definition of family means different things to different people. The experiences to create those families also vary for every person. In this story collection, award-winning author Jai Chakrabarti shares 14 poignant tales about a variety of families and what their family needs mean in their cultures and personal circumstances. Chakrabarti, who splits his time between Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, takes the reader into the world of a closeted gay man in 1980s Kolkata who wants to have a child with his lover's wife. He cracks open the emotion of a young woman from an Indian village who comes to Brooklyn to care for a biracial toddler. In another, he pulls the reader into the life of an Indian widow who is engaged to a Jewish man and struggling with balancing her own cultural identity with that of her husband's family. These stories weave heartache, vulnerability, and transformation into eye-opening journeys of family.

Living Above the Store: Six Business Owners in Rosendale, New York

Christine Hunter
Strudel Media Live, 2022, $24.99

When the work day is done, many people leave the office and head home, but for six business owners in Rosendale, their home is located above their work and they wouldn't have it any other way. Christine Hunter, an architect and photographer, documents the stories of these distinctive entrepreneurs in her new book Living Above the Store. Using photos and text to tell she profiles residents who adapted older buildings to create their individual live/work spaces. Readers will enjoy the profiles, which include owners of a bakery, a puppet workshop and theater, a candle workshop, a junk store, and two restaurant owners. A portion of the book's proceeds supports the Rosendale Public Library.

The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z

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Tamar Adler

scribner, 2023, $35

Hudson resident Tamar Adler's new cookbook, a companion to her 2012 bestselling An Everlasting Meal, is as delightful to peruse as it is to find inspiration in its pages after peering into the depths of your fridge in search of lunch. Anyone who has ever been lured into the magic of making their own kombucha or sourdough bread will recognize the ingenious way she can transform any leftover into the "starter" for a scrumptious new meal. With more than 3,500 easy and creative ideas that utilize everything from cooked chicken to kimchi juice, Adler proves that a waste-not-want-not ethos has always been the mother of invention when it comes to the kitchen.

Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western

Mia Mask
University of Illinois Press, 2023, $24.95

When you think of western movies, John Wayne, Chuck Connors, Clayton Moore, and Gene Autry might come to mind. But Mia Mask, professor of film at Vassar College, has taken a deeper dive into African Americans and their impact on western movies with her book, Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western. The book examines the groundbreaking roles from the 1950s to the present that includes the legendary Sidney Poitier for his role as actor and director in Buck and the Preacher. Mask's continue into contemporary depictions like the videos for Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" as well as the films Django Unchained and The Harder they Fall.

Once We Were Home

Jennifer Rosner
Flatiron Books, 2023, $27.99

Author Jennifer Rosner is back with her newest book that is both heartwrenching and heartwarming. Inspired by true events of Jewish children who were stolen during World War II, Rosner's novel Once We Were Home tells the stories of three children and their tales of loss and grief. Two decades later they search for answers to their questions about belonging, their memories of what happened and the information about their true families. A resident of the Berkshires, Rosner is a National Jewish Book Award Finalist for her novel The Yellow Bird Sings in 2020.

—Lisa Iannucci and Ashleigh Lovelace

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