Last Novel of Celebrated Utah Author Published Posthumously
Linda Sillitoe writes about stolen clothes, stolen youth, and the elephant in Liberty Park.”
Salt Lake City—Signature Books announces the release of the final work of local author and historian, Linda Sillitoe, who passed away in 2010. The Thieves of Summer, a novel, depicts a Mormon family living near Liberty Park in a summer of pre-World War II Salt Lake City. Flynn, the father, is a police detective whose older children swiftly come of age when his son becomes involved with a girl, and his daughter shoplifts her new wardrobe. His younger triplet daughters spend the heat of the summer painfully confined to the yard as their father investigates missing children at nearby Liberty Park. The key suspect? The trainer and caretaker of the park’s prize attraction, a female Asian elephant named Princess Alice.
Some of Salt Lake’s old-timers remember the book’s real-life elephant. The city’s children donated pennies to acquire her in 1916. Princess Alice would occasionally escape her enclosure at the park, running through the neighborhood as she smashed fences and collected clotheslines, all while gathering a growing pack of dogs behind her. Although she never hurt anyone, she became a notorious subject in frequent newspaper headlines.
The Thieves of Summer entertains its readers by walking them through a bygone time with a unique flavor that is Utah. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Ann Edwards Cannon says, “Linda shows us the best and the worst the human heart has to offer.” Dennis Clark, a former colleague of Sillitoe’s, notes that the heartwarming story “ends in a way you didn’t want to see coming.”
The editors at Signature Books faced some challenges in preparing a posthumous work, turning to Sillitoe’s daughter Cynthia, herself a skilled writer and editor. Together, they negotiated the final text and Cynthia penned a foreword. “At the end of the book,” adds managing director Ron Priddis, “we reproduced some of the contemporary news stories about Princess Alice and her rogue adventures.”
Sillitoe’s non-fiction works include Salamander: The Mormon Forgery Murders, a best-selling true crime study of deceit and betrayal by rare-book dealer Mark Hofmann, and Friendly Fire: The ACLU in Utah, as well as A History of Salt Lake County, commissioned by the Utah Historical Society as part of the 1996 Utah Centennial County History Series. She had also published several works of fiction and poetry.