About Kenneth Roberts – The Unofficial Site

Kenneth Roberts, probably known more for his works such as: Arundel, Rabble in Arms, Oliver Wiswell, Northwest Passage, and Lively Lady, was a prolific writer, having written numerous articles on various topics and books on tourism, antiques, cooking, and water dousing.  While probably not as well-known today as in the early- to mid-twentieth century, Mr. Roberts is still worthy to read.  Unfortunately, as I have surfed the web (which is chock-full of fan sites for anyone and anything), I have not found any one site devoted solely to Kenneth Lewis Roberts and his works.  I hope to change this (as much as I can on limited resources and time)  with this site.

I first became acquainted with Kenneth Roberts when I was in my junior year of high school, roughly 1992/1993.  I had a book report to do on any book of my choice, and I happened to come across Rabble in Arms in my school library.  I had never heard of the novel, nor had I heard of Kenneth Roberts; instead, I grabbed the book because it was set in the Revolutionary War era.  Little did I know then that I would begin a fascination with the works of Kenneth Roberts and a desire to collect anything I can of his writings (with a small budget, of course).

While many students decry American History (and history in general) as dull, useless and a near-death experience, Roberts writes about history in such a way as to make it come alive (which, I believe, is his intention as mentioned in his book I Wanted to Write).  Further, Roberts writes about aspects of American history ignored, misunderstood, or neglected by the general public.  For instance, the primary subject of Rabble in Arms is Benedict Arnold.  Many know Arnold as the most infamous traitor in American history; yet, many probably know very little of the great good he did for our country before his defection.  I, for one, was not aware of this; all I remember is his traitorous act as taught in middle school and high school history classes.  Roberts attention to historical detail, colorful and vivid language, and his ability to string together seemingly isolated, rather dry historical facts into an invigorating storyline helped me to see that there was more to Arnold, so much so that it makes his traitorous act even more devastating.  Roberts applies this technique (for lack of a better term at the moment of writing this post) in all of his historical fiction novels, exposing the reader to little-known historical events and/or people along with an interpretation of the events that more than likely bucks the trend of contemporary understanding.

I intend this site to eventually become a sort of depository for anything Kenneth Roberts.  As alluded to above, I have little to no resources to do any extensive research, nor do I have the ability to access many of his original documents or correspondences; rather, others have already done that (see this short bio on Jack Bales, who has written two books on Kenneth Roberts.  These are definitely on my want list now!).  Instead, I hope to serve as a Grand Central Station of information, links, etc. for those who are fans of Kenneth Roberts or for those who are just stopping by for curiosity’s sake.

So, with this said, I hope this develops into a useful site!  If you have any resources or ideas, please let me know.

***DISCLAIMER*** This is an independent website.  The opinions expressed on this website are those of the creator, Danny McDonald, and of no one else.  This website is not affiliated with the Kenneth Roberts estate or any other person, organization or entity that is involved with storing of or dissemination of records pertaining to Kenneth Roberts.  Please direct all questions to kennethrobertswebsite@gmail.com.

***Updated 7/31/2014 4:23 pm Eastern


19 Responses

  1. I am trying to find out who owns the rights to “Rabble in Arms”, the novel. MGM originally purchased same and subsequently made the film. However, through the years MGM has changed hands numerous times. I have found that Ted Turner does have an extensive library of early MGM films, but this does not necessarily mean that he owns the rights to the books.
    Thank you

    • Good afternoon, Deborah. Great question … you’ve stumped me! I am currently contacting someone who may know or how to find out. If you’ve done what I’ve done – a web search – I’m sure your results have been somewhat fruitless. I’ll get back with you on this as soon as I hear back from my friend. Thanks!

    • Good evening, Deborah. I received an answer to your question. Jack Bales, biographer of Kenneth Roberts, stated as such: “I dealt with the legal counsel for the Key Trust Company of Maine, ‘successor as personal representative for the Estate of Kenneth Roberts to the Canal National Bank, Portland, Maine.'”

      I hope this helps!

  2. Thank you so much!! This is very helpful.
    My sincere appreciation.
    Deborah Savage

  3. Hi – I was pleased to find your site! I’m just finishing work on a book on Maine shipwrecks, to be published in the spring. There’s a chapter on the wreck of the Nottingham Galley at Boon Island in 1710, including, of course, discussion of the novel “Boon Island.” I’m wondering if you know of a photo of Kenneth Roberts that might be in the public domain or that at least doesn’t require a high fee for publication. Thanks for any info you can provide.

    • Jeremy, thank you for the question. I apologize for my late response as I’ve been busy preparing for the beginning of a new quarter at school. In response to your question, I’m not sure if there is one. I’ll have to look into this. To be honest, I’m an amateur Kenneth Roberts fan, so I don’t have access to some resources that would allow me to readily have the answer. I would encourage you to contact the biographer of Kenneth Roberts, Jack Bales, whose website can be found via this website (look for the tab with his name on it). There should be a link to his website where his e-mail should be listed.

      Your book sounds very interesting. I love ships and I love Maine, even though I grew up in Louisiana and live in Louisville. Do you have a title for your book? I’ll have to look out for it when it’s published. Good luck!


  4. I, too, am a great fan of Roberts. Have signed copies of most of his books. In Deborah Savage’s post, she mentioned that Rabble in Arms had been made into a movie by MGM. This is news to me. When was that? Is it available on video?

    • I wonder whether Deborah Savage confused Rabble in Arms with Northwest Passage, which *was* made into a film by MGM. (At least, they filmed the first half of the Northwest Passage…)

      Paul Brownsey

  5. My husband has lost his vision and can no longer enjoy his Kenneth
    Roberts’ books – is there anyone there interested in receiving a lit of the books he has available to sell?

  6. Dear Danny McDonald, I enjoyed your interest in Kenneth Roberts. Although I am not a New Englander I have always been facinated with the man. I did have a short conversation with his niece Marjorie Moser by accident at the Kennebunkport Library. She thought that KR deserved more credit for his novels and gave to much credit to Booth Tarkington. I met Jack Bales when he gave a lecture on KR at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk. He was a very interested man to talk to and he was an excelent researcher and went on to do other historical works. I met my wife Barbara Noyes when we were both stationed at the Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine in 1962. She is originally from Kennebunk and knew all about KR. Her cousen Lendell Libby Smith ran into KR at the local barber shop and KR asked Lendell what he thought of his book OLiver Wiswell. Lendell said he did not thiink to much of it. They never spoke to each other again. Barbara has ancestors who served in the Revolution from New England. Mine served from the Southern states. I am glad that you are keeping the interest in him alive. George Crede

    • George, thank you very much for your comment. I enjoy posts like this! I am fascinated with Kenneth Roberts and Maine, and find posts like helping to make Kenneth Roberts more alive than just a historical figure to study. I must confess that I envy your meeting Jack Bales; I have had the opportunity to correspond with him over email, but would appreciate the opportunity to meet him. It must have been fun for him to do his biography on Roberts! And, more so, I am envious of your meeting Marjorie Moser! I know she worked closely with Roberts, so I can only imagine the stories she had.

      Thank you very much for your comment, and if you have anything else you’d like to share regarding Roberts, feel free to do so!

  7. Danny, I have not been in contact with Jack Bales for many years but I did enjoy corresponding with him. I went through all my material on Jack and KR which was stored in a closet in the basement and found a picture I had taken of him when he gave his lecture in the Brick Store Museum in 1992. Also I have many newspaper atricles on Jack and KR when I collected anything about KR. If you are interested I will send you the picture and info if you desire. You are right in that KR was a forgotten author but I enjoyed reading his books as he did excellent research work. George.

    • Good morning, George. Thank you for your post! Do you mind if I email you? We can continue this discussion as I’m interested in what you said! Danny

  8. Danny, My e-mail address is mycollb@aol.com

  9. Enjoy your site I stumbled upon!! I have enjoyed reading all of KR’s historical novels since I first discovered him in the 1970’s at Colorado State Univ (Arundel and Rabble in Arms, were required reads for a history class), and I have re-read almost all of them 4-5 times, although I now have a real problem since I only read Kindle books, and wondered why only Arundel and Rabble in Arms has been converted? Who owns the copyright, does anyone know?

    • Good afternoon, Dan. I apologize for the late reply. I do know who has the copyright, but I need to dig in my notes to find who it is. I’ll let you know as soon as I find it!

  10. I too found Kenneth Roberts in Jr. High School – in the early 1960’s. Partly because of reading his work I became a life-long history enthusiast; and, have contributed to the field. A couple of weeks ago I came across a man – way out in a lonely place – dowsing! I just had to talk with him. He explained what he was doing very coherently (I had assumed he was a crank) and demonstrated for me. I asked if I could give it a try. To my great astonishment I found that the rods crossed just like they had for him. I kept thinking of this over and over for the next few days (I was on a trip long way from home). I recalled that Roberts had written about dowsing in the Kenneth Roberts Reader….I don’t have his other works on dowsing. Now, I have to look deeper into this! I wasn’t aware of your website until a few moments ago. Excellent work.

  11. I love Mr. Roberts works and quote him often on my Tufts Family Genealogy Blog. Great to see someone spreading the word. I think his works really give the best insight into life of the Colonial era, more than history books, newspapers or other resources. They put you into the time and action.You can find him quoted in my Zachariah Tufts, and William Tuffs stories. Please feel free to follow by e-mail, share around and list on your bog roll. There is a story on all our Tufts Revolutionary soldiers as well. https://tuftsgenealogy.blogspot.com/

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