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Fifth Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books Lineup Announced

Posted 10/04/18


The Ohio County Public Library, in partnership with Wheeling Heritage and the Elbin Library at West Liberty University, announces the fifth annual Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books, a showcase of the True Crime and Horror genres.

The festival opens on Saturday, October 27 at 1 pm in the library's auditorium with a panel discussion of the gripping true crime podcast, "Mared & Karen: The WVU Coed Murders."

The panel, comprised of New York Times bestselling author Geoff Fuller, acclaimed researcher Sarah James McLaughlin, and award-winning journalist J. Kendall Perkinson, will discuss the 1970 decapitation-murders of WVU freshmen Mared Malarik and Karen Ferrell, and the creation of the eight-episode podcast and soon to be published true crime book about the case. The three will also discuss audience reception of the podcast and its effect on the ongoing investigation of the murders. 

Listen to the Podcast 


The widely praised podcast was produced by Kromatic Media, Perkinson's Morgantown-based multimedia project. When the first story about the show appeared in WV Explorer, the web traffic crashed their server. The production was so well regarded that, within 6 months of release, it was incorporated into university curricula in forensics, true crime, and podcast production at WVU, Marshall, and the University of Tennessee, respectively. The show, featuring dozens of baffling twists and turns, and interviews of lawyers, reporters, photojournalists, and forensics specialists, all set against a powerful soundtrack created by Morgantown musicians, is now at over 160,000 listens with an ever-growing audience.

Perkinson is also a freelance writer and photographer, with stories in Morgantown Magazine, WV Living, Wonderful West Virginia, and the Dominion Post. He has also worked as a social video content creator at 100 Days in Appalachia, and currently works as a videographer and editor for WVU News.

McLaughlin, who co-produced, is a professional technologist at the West Virginia University Research Office, where she handles front-end web development and graphic design of web and print materials. She previously worked at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

Geoff Fuller has been a writer and editor in the mountain state for 30 years. Along the way, he has won writing competitions statewide a dozen times and twice nationally, as well as producing one New York Times bestseller. His short fiction and non-fiction are widely published, and among his book-length works are a novel, the thriller Full Bone Moon, and a true crime, Pretty Little Killers, about which he spoke at the first Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books in 2014. In his work as an editor, he is most proud of his efforts to help other West Virginia writers get published. He currently lives in Morgantown.

All eight episodes of "Mared & Karen: The WVU Coed Murders" along with all of the incredible original music, can be found on the Kromatic Media web site at

Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 pm: "The Sister Roberta Elam Mystery" with Fred Connors and Harry Croft

Continuing the True Crime theme at 2 pm on Saturday, October 27 at the Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books, Fred Connors, a retired investigative reporter for the Wheeling newspapers and Harry Croft, a retired detective with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department will provide an update on Wheeling's most notorious and persistent mystery. On June 13, 1977, a 26 year old Postulant Nun, Sister Roberta Elam, was raped and murdered in broad daylight on the grounds of Mount Saint Joseph’s Convent. Despite a massive police investigation spanning four decades, the case remains unsolved.

Connors is founder and coordinator of the Ohio Valley Cold Case Task Force, a group formed to investigate unsolved murders, questionable deaths, and missing person cases on both sides of the Ohio River. Croft is a charter member of the Task Force and had an active role in the 1977 investigation.






Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 pm: "Local and True: A Podcast Workshop" with Geoff Fuller, Sarah James McLaughlin, and J. Kendall Perkinson

Then at 3 pm at the Festival of Books, McLaughlin, Fuller, and Perkinson (L to R above) will return to conduct "Local and True," a workshop about choosing, investigating, and telling local stories (podcasts) important to you and your audience. One emphasis will be on finding and evaluating sources of information. Attendees are encouraged to pitch their own ideas for local stories.

Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 12 pm: "Meet Mary Shelley" with Susan Marie Frontczak

At noon on October 30, as a part of the library's Lunch With Books series, and in celebration of the bicentennial of the publication of her influential masterpiece of horror and science fiction, the Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books will conclude with a portrayal of the author of Frankenstein. Best known for crafting this landmark novel, English writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was a teenage mother, behind-the-scenes supporter of social reform, romantic, and scholar. But there is much more to be learned about her, both personally and psychologically. This program will enable attendees to re-live the author’s process of creation, showing how Shelley (who, amazingly, started work on Frankenstein at the tender age of 18) painted her own personal experience with a vivid imagination to build this original and enduring work. The program will consist of a monologue in-character, followed first by a Q&A conversation with “Mary Shelley” and then by a Q&A with the scholar/presenter, Susan Marie Frontczak. Additionally, after a brief intermission following the program, Frontczak will lead a bio-ethics discussion. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley raises ethical questions that are, if anything, more pertinent today than they were in her lifetime: the Ethics of applying our scientific knowledge, and our Social Responsibility to the abandoned members of society. This discussion on bioethics will explore how we can (and whether we should) do today what Mary Shelley wrote as fiction.

In more than twenty years as a writer and living history presenter, Frontczak has portrayed, in addition to Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Irene Castle, and Clara Barton. Her deeply researched programs have been presented in theatres, corporations, schools, libraries, and festivals nationwide with no imaginary "fourth wall" between the historical figure and the audience. Through her Colorado based company Storysmith, Frontczak also uses her skills to provide inspirational talks for corporations, as well as classes, seminars, and workshops that teach the art of storytelling, speaking, crafting a speech, or scripting a presentation. 

The full schedule for the 2018 Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books:  

Saturday, Oct. 27 at 1 pm: "A Panel Discussion of Mared & Karen: The WVU Coed Murders," with Geoff Fuller, Sarah James McLaughlin, and J. Kendall Perkinson

Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 pm: "The Sister Roberta Elam Mystery," with Fred Connors and Harry Croft.

Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 pm: "Local and True: A Podcast Workshop" with Geoff Fuller, Sarah James McLaughlin, and J. Kendall Perkinson

Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 12 pm: "Meet Mary Shelley" with Susan Marie Frontczak (living history portrayal followed by bio-ethics discussion)

All programs take place in the auditorium on the lower level of the library.

All Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books programs and workshops are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the festival's web site at or the Facebook page or call 304-232-0244.

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