Author Interview


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The Butcher, Embezzler, Fall Guy by Gretchen Cherington

What can I say? The first time Gretchen Cherington was on Joy on Paper we talked about POETIC LICENSE, the story about her famous father, Richard Eberhart, US Poet Laureate & Pulitzer Prize winning poet. At the time I told her that anyone who writes like she does must have another book inside her. And I was right!

Her new books is called THE BUTCHER, THE EMBEZZLER AND THE FALL GUY. This one is about her grandfather, who was involved in one of the greatest scandals of the early 20th Century. He is the ‘fall guy’ in this fascinating trio of businessmen. Of course, Gretchen was raised to believe her grandfather was completely innocent in the financial shenanigans that rocked Hormel Foods back in 1922. But was he? With her own 35-year experience as a corporate executive, the author kept an open mind as she started her research.  

What did she discover? And how did Hormel come back from the brink of bankruptcy. Was it really too big to fail? You will enjoy discovering the full story that is as much about American business as it is a story of a scandal. Exquisite writing brings the period to life. 

Gretchen Cherington is as delightful as her book. She has the writing talent of her father and, now that she has found joy on paper, I know there will be more books in the future. This is definitely one of my favorite interviews.. Enjoy! 

About the book

Three powerful men converge on the banks of the Red Cedar River in the early 1900s in southern Minnesota—George Albert Hormel, founder of what will become the $10 billion food conglomerate Hormel Foods; Alpha LaRue Eberhart, the author’s paternal grandfather and Hormel’s Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary; and Ransome Josiah Thomson, Hormel’s comptroller. Over ten years, Thomson will embezzle $1.2 million from the company’s coffers, nearly bringing the company to its knees.

The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy opens in 1922 as George Hormel calls Eberhart into his office and demands his resignation. Hailed as the true leader of the company he’d helped Hormel build—is Eberhart complicit in the embezzlement? Far worse than losing his job and the great wealth he’d rightfully accumulated is that his beloved young wife, Lena, is dying while their three children grieve alongside. Of course, his story doesn’t end there. tha

Lots of well-deserved praise for this great book...

“A dazzling account that deftly combines crime, drama, history, and introspective remembrance.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating story that will keep you captivated from start to finish! Beautifully written with an attention to the details of history, Gretchen creates a tale that brings the intriguing facts of management, corporate greed, and the fate of Geo. A. Hormel & Company to life.”
—Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Thinkers50 #1 Executive Coach and New York Times best-selling author of The Earned LifeTriggers, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy comes to life with its deeply personal exploration of the darkest chapter in the 130-year history of Geo. A. Hormel & Company. This marvelous and meticulously researched book by Gretchen Cherington is packed with arresting detail and personal insights. In her search for answers, Cherington weaves a robust account.”
—Ben Welter, author of Minnesota Mayhem: A History of Calamitous Events, Horrific Accidents, Dastardly Crime & Dreadful Behavior in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes

“Gretchen Cherington is a bold, brave, and honest writer. Her heartfelt search for family truths is always grounded in thorough research and deep reflection. With both the clear-eyed perspective of a consultant to CEOs and the compassion of a granddaughter able to forgive human faults and frailties, Cherington skillfully honors her grandfather’s legacy, while uncovering complicated truths. A powerful and beautifully structured read.”
—Debra Thomas, Sarton Award-winning author of Luz: A Novel

The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy is a compelling book of family history, an urgent look inside the machinations of wealth and power, and a wonderfully well-written journey into a fully realized past. Cherington, the daughter of a poet and the granddaughter of an astute businessman, wields the many elements of her inheritance with grace.”
—Beth Kephart, National Book Award finalist and author of three-dozen books, including Wife | Daughter | Self: A Memoir in Essays and We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class

“What happens when we unravel family myths? In her newest memoir, 
The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy, Gretchen Cherington finds no easy answers as she unfolds a true crime tale concerning a grandfather she never knew. As we’re drawn into this intricate story of high life and deceit in the early 20th century, both author and reader wonder if Cherington’s grandfather was complicit in an embezzlement scheme that rocked a name-brand company. With characteristic honesty, and relevant to readers everywhere, Cherington’s powerful prose prompts us to look at our own family stories in new ways.”
—Ashley E. Sweeney, author of Hardland

The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy combines what I love best about John Carreyou’s Bad Blood and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City—the fascinating interplay of history, business, personality, and crime. Not just what happened. But, why it happened, and why we ought to care.”
—Shelley Blanton-Stroud, author of the Jane Benjamin Series

“In this fascinating historical memoir, Gretchen Cherington sets out on a determined quest to discover why her grandfather, who played a pivotal role in the early success of the Hormel meat company, was ultimately forced out of the company. To understand this pivotal event that forever changed her family’s fortunes, Gretchen returns to her midwestern roots to uncover the truth about the meatpacking industry and the powerful men who shaped it. Engrossing me from first page to last, this is a compelling mystery of corporate greed, family legacy, and a granddaughter’s search for answers.”
—Laura Davis, best-selling author of The Courage to Heal and The Burning Light of Two Stars

“Cherington dismantles myth after myth in this visceral and emotional story, one complicated by family legacies large and small that are twined by love and loss. At the book’s center, a small town that orbits around buttoned-up businessmen and an industry that feeds the nation’s bellies with slaughtered hogs.”
—Kerri Arsenault, author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and Chicago Tribune Top Book for 2020

“Engagingly written, combining elements of history, memoir, and mystery. This book is a delight.”
—Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million BoyWhen We Were the Kennedys, and Ernie’s Ark

“I’m not often a reader of history, but 
The Butcher, the Embezzler, and the Fall Guy, with its blend of fact and memoir and family lore, kept me entranced. Through her vivid prose and clear-eyed honesty, Cherington guides readers skillfully back to a time and place that bustles with life—a trip I would take again and again with this talented author.”
—Cheryl Suchors, author of 48 Peaks: Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains

“A wonderfully written book with great backstory about the early days at Hormel. The author treats her subjects fairly while shining a light on misguided trust between friends, the importance of innovation to leapfrog competitors, and the deep determination needed to succeed.”
—David Barber, executive at Barber Foods

“With crisp writing and an eye for detail, Cherington masterfully weaves a story of ambition, intrigue, and family legacy. Equal parts mystery and memoir, Cherington’s curiosity takes her to the farmlands and feedlots of southern Minnesota as she unearths shocking and long-hidden details of this true-crime tale. I was totally hooked.”
—Bob Keyes, author of The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana

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