Local Author Visits Campus, Discusses Latest Book


Best-selling author and Johnstown native Russell Shorto visited Saint Francis on Nov. 3.

Shorto, who grew up in Johnstown, is an internationally recognized historian and author. During his visit to SFU, he discussed his latest book “Smalltime: A Story of my Family and the Mob.” The book is a memoir about his grandfather’s involvement with the mob presence in the Johnstown region.

The Nov. 3 presentation was part of the English Department’s Father Bede Hines Speaker Series. This lecture series, now in its ninth year, is sponsored by Dick and Barbara Gengenbach.

“It’s always personal when you write,” said Shorto, “but it was personal in a different way this time.”

In addition to Shorto’s discussion of his work on the book, 2021 SFU alumnus Drew Crusciel – who moderated the session – talked to the author about the mob presence in smaller cities like Johnstown. The two also discussed how Shorto’s book was received by his family members and other Johnstown residents following its release.

English Professor Tim Bintrim invited Shorto to speak at the University after hearing positive feedback from others about “Smalltime.”

“Everyone was a big fan of Shorto’s book,” said Bintrim. “We liked his local focus.”

Students had the opportunity to talk to Shorto following the event and several asked him for advice on how to become a professional writer.

“Read,” said Shorto. “You have to read a lot to be a successful writer. You must love reading to be a writer.”