Who: Joe Cutshall-King.
Where: Saratoga Springs Public Library.
What are you doing today?
I’m giving a talk on the story behind the story of “The Burning of The Piping Rock,” which is a novel I wrote about the Piping Rock Casino here in Saratoga in 1954. The book is fiction, but it’s based upon real characters.
When did the book come out?
What prompted you to write the story?
My family. I learned things about my own family in light of what happened when I was writing the book. It turned out to be a horrifying story, actually.
What was your family’s connection to the story?
My dad was a pharmacist. He worked as a manager for MacFinn’s Drugstore, which was at 396 Broadway in those days, and his boss was James Leary – who was, shall we say, extremely close friends with the Mafia – who ran all the casinos. When I was older, my dad told me that he sold the arsonist the materials to burn the Piping Rock, so that started my interest in it.
How much did you know about the story when you were a kid?
I was born in 1947 and at first, it was very secret. Gradually, as my family got further and further away, decades after the incident, they told the younger kids. But I never heard all of it, it was in bits and pieces.
You were born in Saratoga, but abruptly moved to Washington County?
We fled. One day I was playing on Lincoln Avenue and the next day I was being shoved in a car with everything we owned and we left. We went to Fort Edward just to get away from it.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Saratoga Springs during your lifetime?
The improvements on Broadway. The vibrancy. I hear people lament that it’s gotten so expensive, but I’ll tell you: this is heaven. Beautiful and live-able.
You’ve written a screenplay of the novel. If a film were made, who would you like to see in it?
Jon Hamm to play my father. My dad was extremely good looking.