Hot off the press: Morristown’s first book festival, and the author of ‘Price of Silence’

morristown festival of books logo

Morristown has not had a book store for years. But for two days this fall, it will be the center of the publishing universe.

On Sept. 26-27, 2014, the first Morristown Festival of Books will feature talks by 18 authors in a variety of genres. William D. Cohan, author of The Price of Silence, an investigation of the Duke University lacrosse scandal, will deliver the keynote speech at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. 

morristown festival of books logoTickets for that are $20 and go on sale at MPAC on May 5. Everything else is free, and within easy walking distance.

Venues include the sanctuary at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the parish house at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, the Morristown & Township Library, the Mayo Center Starlight Room, and a book signing tent on the Vail Mansion lawn.

“Everybody who has been involved in this feels that books are still important in our lives,” said festival Chairperson Linda Hellstrom, a Mayo Center trustee from Morris Township who was inspired by last year’s Savannah Book Festival.


The emphasis here won’t be pulp fiction. Just pulp. E-books will be scarce. This is not an event for Nook-worms, in other words.

“You can’t sign a tablet,” said Linda, who is unabashedly old-school when it comes to her reading M.O. “Tablets have their place. But I love going into a bookstore. That’s part of it, just browsing.  It’s really joyful.”

Old-fashioned chatter will be part of the mix, too, in the form of question-and-answer sessions with the authors and an exercise dubbed One Community, One Book.  Reading may be a solitary endeavor, but what’s the point if you can’t share the excitement and knowledge with others?

Along those lines, area book clubs, school groups, library patrons and the general public will be challenged to read and discuss the same book, by a festival author to be announced soon. Where Readers & Authors Meet is the festival motto.

Best-selling author William Cohan will deliver the keynote at the first Morristown Festival of Books, in September 2014.
Best-selling author William Cohan will deliver the keynote at the first Morristown Festival of Books, in September 2014.

Planning began quietly last spring. Organizers include staff members of Morris Arts, the Morris County Tourism Bureau and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, along with volunteers from First Night Morris and book-loving friends of Linda’s.

Maria Norton, director of the Morristown & Township Library, reached out to 30 librarians, by Linda’s count. Tom Williams, owner of the late, great Mendham Books, shared his insights. Mary Ann Donaghy of The Book Worm in Bernardsville will sell books at the festival.


To celebrate the power of the written word to challenge, transport and transform us, while bringing together our community in conversation.

The Community Foundation of New Jersey is serving as sponsoring agency for the festival, which has not yet secured nonprofit status.

Linda said her committee is pursuing corporate and individual donations, toward a fund-raising goal of $50,000. So far, at least four book clubs have ponied up money to sponsor authors, and Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management has agreed to underwrite William Cohan’s appearance.


Landing a marquee name was deemed crucial for the festival’s success, and Linda feels her team has struck gold with this one.

Cohan, a contributor to Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, the New York Times and Bloomberg Business Week, among other publications, is the best-selling author of Money and Power, House of Cards and The Last Tycoons. 

The Duke graduate’s new tome–the full title is The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, The Power of the Elite and the Corruption of Our Great Universities–is a 600-page examination of the sensational 2006 case in which three white lacrosse players ultimately were cleared of raping a black “exotic dancer.”

The Morristown & Township Library is closed on Feb. 5, 2014, because of the winter storm. Photo by Berit Ollestad
The Morristown & Township Library is among the venues for the first Morristown Festival of Books, scheduled for September 2014.  Let’s hope there is no snow in the forecast. Photo by Berit Ollestad

That case cost a district attorney his job and a day in jail–while reportedly costing Duke nearly $100 million in legal- and consulting fees.

Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate, has praised The Price of Silence as a “deep character study” that illuminates “the fierce pressures on America’s elite universities as they battle for power and prestige and money.”  He will introduce Cohan and moderate the Friday evening keynote discussion.

Publisher’s Weekly describes Cohan’s book as “top-notch investigative journalism” that offers “edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale…about the power of status, talent, authority and belief.”

Other speakers will be named in coming weeks. The festival will showcase fiction and non-fiction, but no poetry. The Dodge Poetry Festival already covers that base, Linda said. Children’s literature, young adult novels and sports books are anticipated categories, she said.

Morristown should prove a popular destination come late September; the book festival weekend will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 28, with the 20th annual Morristown Festival on the Green, organized by the Morristown Partnership.

In fact, the Morris County seat has become a year-round destination.

The bookfest joins a roster of major Morristown events that includes First Night Morris County, the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade, Restaurant Week (April 28-May 4), July 4 festivities, our own MG Film Festival and the Mayor’s Jazz & Blues Festival every August, the Gran Fondo NJ cycling extravaganza and the month-long Christmas Festival at the Morristown Green.











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  1. So your organization is holding a TRIAL of the falsely accused Duke Lacrosee players for fun and profit? Because that is what Cohan, in all his appearances , has been purporting his book to do.

    How much will you allow him to smear Reade Seligmann, Dave Evans, Colin Finnerty at your event? Have you watched or read his other interviews? Cohan is now calling the Muderer/Arsonist Mangum credible and the disbarred Prosecutor Nifong, a man of integrity. Here is some info concerning Mangum and her many variations of her story. I hope the families of these men can come out to support your efforts to have them re victimized by Cohan.

  2. Are you going to allow your Keynote Speaker to trash the reputations of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and especially Dave Evans! who he has been insinuating in media Interviews could be a rapist despite being declared “innocent?” Is this what your organization wants to define it…being a launching ground for smears on families that have suffered enough?

    Will you ask your Keynote Speaker to address the career of the disbarred Prosecutor he is lauding as “honorable” in these same interviews in light of his prosecution of Cab Driver Elmostafa and Darryl Howard.?

    Do you know that Cohan’s book has no footnotes, bibliography, and many unsourced quotes…a moral outrage considering Cohan has been stating that he wanted his book to be “a trial” of these young men! And your organization wants to give him another public opportunity to hold his “trial.” Really?

    Have you watched the Utube of Nifongs Bar trial where he was disbarred where he admits there was no evidence? Maybe one of you can ask Cohan when you allow him to hold his “trial” at your event!

    Have any of you read this article from the Washington Post? Do you really want a trial of Reade, Collin, and Dsve to launch your new event? Is that how you wish to present YOUR ethics to the general public?

  3. You know you have now opened a huge can of slimy worms! Cohan has been all over the press pushing his book, and at every appearance he has been shown to be a LIAR and DISSEMBLER! He refuses to acknowledge that most of his claims to be the “first” to publish a fact, or a document, or an interview are completely bogus! He has been contradicted by objective commentators and reports such as KC Johnson and Joe Neff. I am so sorry that Morristown has been fooled into bringing Cohan in, and I anticipate you will have quite a few contrarians in the crowd that shows up. I hope Cohan is not as disrespectful to his questioners as he was in Durham last week!

  4. Hmmm. . . Since Cohan’s book is currently under fire from many readers for what they consider are distortions or incorrect statements, he may end up not wishing to make a speech at all…