Writer, reporter, editor, teacher
About Stephanie Schorow
I am a freelance journalist, author, teacher, clay artist, avid gardener and cat lover.
Author of Nonfiction and Fiction
I am the author, co-author or editor of eight nonfiction books, including: The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City; Inside the Combat Zone: The Stripped Down Story of Boston's Most Notorious Neighborhood, and Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits, published by Union Park Press , and, with co-author Beverly Ford, The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums & Hideouts, published by the History Press.
In November 2022, History Press published an update of my previous book on the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. The new book, The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Fire: A Boston Tragedy, contains new information, photos and other details of this 1942 inferno that affected fire codes, burn and lung treatments, manslaughter law and other issues.
I have also written books on the Boston Harbor Islands, Boston's fire history, and the infamous Brink's robbery. For more on my books, see Works. My short story published in Potato Soup, a fiction web site, was selected for the 2020 anthology. See here.
My novel, Cat Dreaming, has been acquired by Small Town Girl Press and will likely be published in 2023. A narrative set in the 1980s, the book follows the fortunes of four women and their relationship with each other, their lovers and their cats. Not exactly Chick Lit. Call it Kit Lit.
I freelance on a variety of topics, from technology to lifestyle and travel to health to general features. I coordinate a Citizens Journalism program for United Media Arts in Malden, Mass.
I have taught writing and editing courses at Lasell University, Regis College, Lesley University, Newbury College, Emerson College, and the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
See for more details, see: Biography.
A NEW LOOK AT THE COCOANUT GROVE FIRE
HISTORY PRESS NOVEMBER 2022
On November 28, 1942, fire roared through Boston's famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub during what was supposed to be a high-spirited Saturday night. By midnight, more than five hundred people were dead, dying or maimed for life.
Stephanie Schorow probes the club's history, the circumstances leading to the fire and the tragedy's lingering impact. The inferno reached deep into the city's social structure––its politics, medical care and legal system––and touched nearly everyone in the Boston area, even those who had never set foot in the club. In this updated and revised edition, she adds new photographs, interviews, and insights into the worst nightclub fire in U.S. history.
Reading from The Great Boston Fire
I was extremely honored to read from my Great Boston Fire Book during the Boston Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Boston Public Library in a panel from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. See schedule here.
The Great Boston Fire
The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City
By Stephanie Schorow
9781493054985 • Hardback
$24.95 • 224 pages
For two days in November 1872, a massive fire swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and the population traumatized. Coming barely a year after the infamous Chicago fire, Boston's inferno turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in U.S. history. Yet today few are aware of how close Boston came to destruction. Boston author Stephanie Schorow masterfully recounts the fire's history from the foolish decisions that precipitated it to the heroics of firefighters who fought it. Lavishly illustrated with period artwork and photographs and published just before the fire's 150th anniversary, The Great Boston Fire captures the drama of a life-and-death battle in the heart of the city.
Recent media appearances in New England
Interviewed by Madeline Miele Holt for Books and the World, Boston author Stephanie Schorow masterfully recounts the fire's history from the foolish decisions that precipitated it to the heroics of firefighters who fought it. Her new book, The Great Boston Fire, is lavishly illustrated and an exciting read. Presented as part of the Cape Cod Writing Center.
I have appeared a number of times with Laura Duggan and her Medford TV show Looking Back at Medford History. Here's our conversation on the Combat Zone. I also spoke on the Great Boston Fire at another time.
A Book on the T
Two years ago, I was privileged to have Inside the Combat Zone chosen to be a Book on the T. This is a great program that encourages reading on the go -- what we used to do before mobile phones! I had a great time dressing up a bit for this and dropping off a copy of the book.
Here are the details from the web site: http://booksonthet.com/about
About Books on the T
Books on the T launched in the spring of 2017 to engage the community in promoting literacy and encourage excitement about reading across the Boston metro area. By sharing new titles for adults and youth on the MBTA, Books on the T will create a traveling library that introduces books to the Greater Boston community.
Many of the titles will have connections to the Boston area: Books on the T features authors who have a connection to the Boston area, titles with topics of interest to local readers, and local settings and/or subjects. Books on the T will introduce books to a diverse audience, covering every MBTA location, and involving the community along the way. Greater Boston area “guest” fairies representing community leaders, business, non-profit organizations, educational and other institutions will be asked to collaborate by designating volunteer book fairies.
Books on the T is part of the Books on the Move global movement. We look forward to making Books on the T a success in Greater Boston as it has been in other cities around in the United States and around the world.
Crime on the Radio
Recently I was interviewed by the very gracious Mike di Stasio for his Reel Talk with the Hollywood Kid podcast on the Brink's robbery. Here's a link. Takes a while to get to my part.
More news, interviews and good stuff
What should marijuana opponents do when their cause fails? A lesson from Prohibition
SOME DAY SOON, even as sweet, skunky smoke drifts in from the streets outside, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other staunch opponents of marijuana may draw inspiration from a true believer named Morris Sheppard. After the repeal of national Prohibition in 1933 and until his death in 1941, the Texas senator embraced a yearly custom. A progressive Democrat often considered “the father of Prohibition,” Sheppard would rise on the Senate floor to rail against alcohol and call for a repeal of Repeal.
“It was a ritual,” Daniel Okrent, author of the 2010 book “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” explained in an interview. “Clearly he didn’t expect anything was going to happen. It was paying homage to his cause.”
From my story on the front of the Idea section of the Globe on Sunday, June 24, 2018.
I was one of the "experts" on this project, writing about Louisa May Alcott, who has has always been a personal heroine to me.
The Curiosity Desk: The Brink's Heist
How many parking garages are there in the Boston area? Hundreds? Thousands? Only one was the scene of the (very nearly) "perfect crime."
The North Terminal Garage in the North End, explains Stephanie Schorow, author of "The Crime of the Century: How the Brink's Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston," looks largely today as it did in 1950, with one important exception.
"This was once the headquarters of the Brink's armored car company in Boston—their Boston office," she explained. "And this is where the money was processed. Money came in, money went out."
It was the money that caught small-time crook and master lock pick Tony Pino’s eye. For more that a year, he meticulously studied the layout of the building, the timing of the truck deliveries and the behavior of the employees.
"The idea of the Brink's was that the guys would go in at the precise moment when all of the money had been brought into the office, but before it was locked in the safe," said Schorow.
But there was a small problem: a series of locked doors leading from the street to the Brinks office. ...
The Curiosity Desk: The Great Fire of 1872
Over the years, November has been a particularly deadly and destructive month in Boston, due to a handful of the worst fires in the city's history. Most remembered is the deadly fire at the Coconut Grove nightclub in late-November of 1942 that claimed the lives of nearly 500 people. But the others have been largely forgotten, including one in 1872 that still stands today as one of the most devastating fires in American history.
Almost 150 years later, we still don’t really know how this story begins. We do know how it ends.
"If you had been in downtown Boston November 10th or 11th of 1872 you would have looked out on a sea of absolute destruction," said Stephanie Schorow, author of Boston on Fire. " Today we would’ve looked at it and thought an atomic bomb went off. Boston was entirely in ruins."
But it wasn’t a bomb, atomic or otherwise, that reduced 65 acres – from Downtown Crossing to the wharf, Post Office Square to the Leather District – to smoldering rubble. As best as we can tell, it was simply a spark, deep in the basement of a building at the corner of Kingston and Summer Streets.
"There weren’t a lot of people living in that area but there were a lot of stores, but mostly retail and a lot of warehouses and that’s part of what caused the fire to spread is you had warehouses that were chock full of merchandise for the Christmas holiday," said Schorow.
If you're looking for a dynamic speaker for your organization, group, library or club, please consider booking Stephanie Schorow
I have a become sought-after speaker who spices her presentations with images, videos and artifacts. Here's what I can talk about:
Drinking Boston: A historical pub crawl through the taverns, speakeasies and nightclubs of Boston.
From the drama of the "Blue Blazer" to the mystery of the "Ward 8," Stephanie serves up a cocktail of pop culture, history and anecdotes. Couple this with dinner and drinks and you'll have event that will have people talking. The talk covers Boston's drinking history, beginning in the Colonial period and continuing through Prohibition and into Boston's craft cocktail scene.
The Tragedy of the Cocoanut Grove Fire
This 1942 nightclub fire killed nearly 500 people and burned through the heart of Boston. Stephanie recounts the events that led to the fire, its investigation and its enduring mysteries. New information continues to come forward and Stephanie brings the latest to life. She also leaves time for people to share their stories of the Grove, making for a moving, interactive event.
The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums and Hideouts
With partner-in-crime Beverly Ford, Stephanie takes a walk on Boston's wild side with the bady boys of the Hub. The gals trace the history of organized crime in Boston from its roots in the 1910s and 1920s to the latest on Whitey Bulger and his convictions. With compassion for victims as well as intriguing details on the mobsters, Bev and Stephanie paint an indelible portait of the murder and mayhem.
Fire! Boston Burning
Stephanie looks at the fires that have shaped Boston's history from the Colonial period to the arson rings of the 1970s and 1980s.
The Crime of the Century: The Brink's Job
In January of 1950, a band of misfit thieves broke into the Brink's armored car headquarters in Boston's North End and pulled off the largest robbery in U.S. history. The Crime of the Century went unsolved for six years and police only cracked the case when one of the robbers turned stool pigeon. Much of the money was never recovered. Stephanie uses historical images, FBI evidence, movie clips and humor to bring the story of the Brink's heist to life.
Girls Night Out -- 1891 Style
In July of 1891, four intrepid woman spent 10 days sojourning on Great Brewster Island in Boston Harbor. One kept a diary which provides a fascinating look into the lives of women in the 1890s as well as the history -- flora, fauna and bovine -- of the Harbor Islands. Stephanie plays detective, tracking elusive details from the illustrated diary and invites the audiences to be sleuths along with her.
To see videos of various presentations, go to the Works section of this Web site and click on one of the books listed. To schedule a lecture, please email me at sschorow (at) comcast (dot) net