One Book One Community focuses on Warren native

The story may be set in Hawaii, but this year’s One Book One Community title couldn’t be more local.

Author Earl Derr Biggers was born and raised in Warren, and graduated from Warren High School before attending and graduating from Harvard University in 1907.

He wrote 11 novels and a short story collection before his death in 1933 at age 48, but he is best remembered for his six mysteries featuring Chinese detective Charlie Chan investigating cases for the Honolulu Police Department. More than 40 films were released starring the character Biggers created.

The first Chan novel, “The House Without a Key,” is this year’s choice for One Book One Community, a collaboration among the different libraries in Trumbull County to encourage the public to read the same book and participate in discussions and programs built around it.

Cheryl Bush, public relations director for the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, said Biggers was chosen after the library applied for and was awarded a Literary Landmark plaque in 2017 by the American Library Association to recognize Biggers’ accomplishments. It its one of only five Literary Landmark plaques in Ohio, and it is on display near the shelf featuring books by local authors.

“We thought it was a great way to continue celebrating his life and writing by choosing his first Charlie Chan mystery for One Book this year,” she said.

In addition to the branches associated with the Warren library, most of the independent libraries in Trumbull County are participating in One Book, hosting book discussions and / or offering special programming inspired by the story and its Hawaii setting. Those programs range from an escape room at the McKinley Birthplace Home in Niles, where participants will search for a missing key, to a Cookbook Club event at the Liberty branch, where participants will be encouraged to bring Hawaiian dishes.

“Being a mystery, the book brings up a lot of different topics,” Bush said. “And we’re really focusing more on him (Biggers), perhaps more than some years, because he is local. We’re fortunate to know about several speakers who have done extensive research on Earl Derr Biggers for their own work and we were able to reach out to them.”

Funding was secured from the Martini Martin Arts Trust and the Ohio Humanities Speakers Bureau to cover the cost for some of the programs.

Initial interest from library patrons has been high, Bush said, and the library was able to secure additional electronic copies of the novel from its e-book provider, making the book widely available for free to to those with tablets.

“We’re also pleased to be partnering with most of the other libraries in Trumbull County,” Bush said. “It’s a great way for people who love to read books from other communities to join in to read this one book. It really is One Book One Community.”