John L. Herman Jr.,
The Innkeeper Tales: Modern-Day Canterbury Tales to Entertain, Enlighten & Empower
(HSB, 2006)

"Herman the Host" owns Abacrombie Fine Foods & Accommodations, a five-story bed & breakfast located across the street from the Meyerhoff Symphony Center in Baltimore, Md. An able and amiable B&B owner, Herman gladly greets his guests at the breakfast table and sits down to eat, chat and exchange stories with them. When a blizzard strands more than a dozen guests at the establishment, the talk flows almost as continuously as the sweet rolls do. This book is the result.

Each chapter is a tale told by one of the guests. Their narratives cover a variety of topics but center mostly on the men's past and present hobbies and jobs. Ben liked to build things, even cars and boats. Tony loved cars, too. Jim fixed up houses. Rick became an antique aficionado. Burt collected books and baseball and presidential memorabilia. Jeff fell into fantasy baseball. Eric was in a low-budget film. Enzo remembered the odd jobs he had as a kid. Pete aimed for a political office. Danny ran a muffler franchise that led to a stock market climax and plummet. Tuck was once a pilot in the Air National Guard.

Everyone has a story to tell, and as we are often reminded along the way, "You can't make this stuff up."

The most long-winded voice belongs to Randy, who goes into endless detail about his long career of finding buyers for the equipment and buildings of failing companies. Even the author realizes that too much time is spent with Randy, and he thoughtfully provides a page-break in the middle of that chapter so that we readers, like the men sitting around the table, can get up and take a bathroom break. Those men get rather quiet when Mike reveals a childhood secret of abuse. The tales end with Herman, as he tells the story of how he and his family came to run the Abacrombie.

During the course of the book, readers are given hints that perhaps these personalities have more in common than just the air they breathe around the dining-room table. We might even learn something about what it takes to run a successful business. The Innkeeper Tales is an engaging memoir tucked within a well-crafted fictional framework. It should appeal most often to male readers, especially those Renaissance men who have had and admire folks with varied personal histories. The accompanying website invites B&B visitors to share their own stories with Herman.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Corinne H. Smith

30 June 2007

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