The Spirit Photographer – Jon Michael Varese with Spencer McCall

7:30 p.m.

The Last Bookstore is pleased to present Jon Michael Varese and his debut novel The Spirit Photographer. Loosely based on the spirit photography craze that swept the country during and after the Civil War, Jon’s novel explores post-Civil War America’s various challenges around loss, hauntings, slavery, hypocrisy, racial injustice, and lots more. For this event, Jon will be joined in conversation by filmmaker and screenwriter Spencer McCall.

Pre-buy the book – even reserve a seat – right here!


For fans of Cold Mountain and The Alienist, the stunning debut novel of historical suspense about a charismatic conman haunted―perhaps literally―by a ghost from his past

Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients.

One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the young son of an abolitionist senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a beautiful young woman. Is it possible that the spirit photographer caught a real ghost? When Moody recognizes the woman in the photograph as the daughter of an escaped slave he knew long ago, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayous to resolve their unfinished business―and perhaps save his soul. But more than one person is out to stop him . . .

With dramatic twists and redolent of the mood of the Southern Gothic, The Spirit Photographer conjures the Reconstruction era South, replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and other dangers lurking in the swamp. Jon Michael Varese’s deftly plotted first novel is an intense tale of death and betrayal that shows us how undeniably the ghosts of the past remain with us, and how resolutely they refuse to be quieted.



Jon Michael Varese is a historical novelist and scholar of 19th-century literature. His debut novel The Spirit Photographer arose out of his work in American History and the Reconstruction period. He has spoken with crowds across the country about the importance of confronting the ghosts of our past, and how essential it is to remember — and to continuously learn from — our history. He lives in the Hudson Valley.




Spencer McCall is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and satirist, known for The Institute (2013) and for the successful subversion of Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” as the character of Dom Tullipso. He’s an avid historical enthusiast and is developing a script about the Luddite uprisings of the early 19th century.






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