Reedy Press is pleased to announce the release of its newest local interest book, Hannibal: A Walk Through History, by Dea Hoover.

Immortalized by the writing of its most famous resident, Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, Hannibal is known around the world as much for its history as for the characters it birthed.

Take a guided walk through that history in America’s Hometown. Enjoy the opportunity to trace the paths of the childhood adventures that Mark Twain shared through the stories of Tom and Huck, or follow the path of the Women of Hannibal or seek a bit more adventure with the Cave, Chaos and Cemeteries Path. Readers can use this new book to carve out their own adventure.

Local author and tour director Dea Hoover deftly guides readers around her birthplace like an old friend. Her carefully planned walks will inspire visitors to explore life along the Mississippi and create memories that last a lifetime.

Hannibal: A Walk Through History is available wherever books are sold.


Hannibal: A Walk Through History, by Dea Hoover,

ISBN: 9781681063249

softcover, 8.5 x 11

48 pages



As a veteran tour director, Hannibal-born Dea Hoover is accustomed to hearing the familiar mantra, “Are We There Yet?” – thus the name of her full-service tour operation in the city of St. Louis. In 2008, Are We There Yet?, LLC expanded its operations with the acquisition of St. Louis’ first local receptive tour operation Discover St. Louis, LLC, founded in 1975.

She is the best-selling author of STL Scavenger: The Ultimate Guide to St. Louis’s Hidden Treasures (Reedy Press). Dea grew up in the Firestone tire and GE appliance store in Vandalia, Missouri that her mother still owns and operates. After moving to St. Louis to attend Washington University, Dea cut her teeth in retail at Famous-Barr, sold cars at Saturn of South County and then found her true calling as a natural-born storyteller in the guise of a tour guide. Her father foretold her future of public speaking when he enrolled her in a Dale Carnegie course at the age of 16. With her experiences as a 4-Her and as a first generation college graduate, she had the cards in her hand that she could play at different times in her adult life to find fulfillment and happiness.

Currently residing in The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis with her husband Declan, they own and operate their tour companies from their home. For leisure, Dea plays weekly in a league at the Italia-America Bocce Club. She is a voracious reader attending two Book Clubs and participating in all events to do with history and even leading some. Her favorite pastime is visiting with family and friends and basking in the glow of conversation. In this age of email and texting, Hoover remains a phone talker. 

The Hannibal Lighthouse

Scheduled Events for Hannibal: A Walk Through History

Presentation and Book Signing
Tuesday, July 26 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Washington Public Library
410 Lafayette St
Washington, MO 63090
(636) 390-1070
Free and open to the public

Presentation and Book Launch
Wed, July 27 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Oliva on The Hill
4915 Daggett Ave
St. Louis, MO 63110
(314) 899-6271
Free and open to the public

Presentation and Book Signing
Saturday, September 17 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Hannibal Public Library
200 S 5th St
Hannibal, MO 63401
(573) 221-0222
Free and open to the public

Presentation and Book Signing
Sunday, September 18 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Van-Far R1 High School
2200 US-54
Vandalia, MO 63382
(573) 594-6442
Open to the public (ticketed, admission fee)

Presentation and Book Signing
Thursday, September 22 from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Audrain County-Mexico Public Library
305 W Jackson St
Mexico, MO 65265
(573) 581-4939
Free and open to the public

Presentation and Book Signing
Friday, September 23 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Vandalia Public Library
312 S Main St
Vandalia, MO 63382
(937) 463-2665
Free and open to the public

Mark Twain meets with childhood friend Laura Hawkins, the inspiration for Twain’s character, Becky Thatcher

By Alex McPherson

Directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott’s new documentary, “Val,” provides a zoomed-in look at actor Val Kilmer’s life that, while somewhat hagiographic, forms an affecting story of perseverance, reinvention, and reaching for the stars. Cutting between personal video recordings narrated by his son, Jack, along with current footage of him contemplating the meaning of life, “Val” spotlights a complicated figure through a career of soaring highs and crippling lows. 

Growing up in Los Angeles to wealthy parents, Kilmer developed an intense passion for filmmaking and acting — creating home movies on Roy Rogers’ Ranch with his brothers, Wesley and Mark, that parodied such classics as “Jaws.” At age 17, Kilmer was the youngest student accepted at Juilliard at the time, but Wesley died in a tragic accident soon before, leaving Kilmer reeling with grief.

Determined to make a name for himself, the talented, handsome Kilmer excelled in his studies and, after graduating, eventually acted in a Broadway production of “Slab Boys.” His acclaim landed him film gigs in the 1980s and ‘90s, including in “Top Gun,” “The Doors,” “Tombstone,” “Heat” and as the Caped Crusader in “Batman Returns.” 

Despite his fame, Kilmer remained largely unsatisfied with his career, feeling as though his personal brand of acting was held back by the roles he was assigned. His arrogance, disguised as devotion to the craft, sparked conflicts with collaborators, including on the set of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” which garnered Kilmer a troubled reputation.

Flash forward to today and the charismatic soul, having survived throat cancer and undergone a tracheostomy distorting his speech, is a much humbler individual than before — seeking to help viewers understand the human being behind the persona, and willing to share the wisdom he’s learned through his experiences.  

Although not immune from indulgent flourishes, “Val” winds up being a cathartic look at a celebrity looking back on a turbulent career and embracing the beauty of love, family, and creativity in the present. The film allows the world to see a frank, though nevertheless curated, look behind the tabloids.

Eschewing the talking-heads format common to documentaries, “Val” features copious footage recorded by Kilmer himself over the last 40 years. Viewers see behind-the-scenes shenanigans with fellow actors, footage from his childhood projects, audition tapes for “Full Metal Jacket,” and much more, in addition to darker moments of Kilmer’s self-destructive tendencies.

In modern times, we see Kilmer spend time with his son and daughter, Mercedes, attend draining autograph signings at Comic Con, mourn what he’s lost, and ponder what the future holds. 

As “Val’” juxtaposes the rowdy, perfectionistic younger man with his significantly wiser self years later, it’s often moving, as viewers grow attached to the aging figure at the center of it all. Indeed, the film is organized in a bittersweet fashion — chock full of impactful moments both happy and sad, with thought-provoking reflections sprinkled throughout that tie most everything together. Through the lens of viewers unfamiliar with Kilmer’s previous work, however, “Val” might not hit as hard as intended when nostalgia is lessened. 

Although Kilmer’s story is inspiring, “Val” feels more like a melancholic tribute than a comprehensive exploration, for better and worse. For instance, the film treats his Christian Science background and on-set controversies with a light touch. “Val” also follows a traditional narrative trajectory that’s, in a sense, at odds with Kilmer’s own goals of shaking things up with his projects.

Suffice to say, when Kilmer begins comparing himself to Mark Twain, “Val” feels a bit too full of itself, and loses some of its emotional power as a result.

(Twain, one of his influences, inspired his one-man show turned film presentation, “Cinema Twain,”  and his charity, TwainMania, is about teaching the authors to students.)

Easy to admire but ham-strung by its limited perspective, “Val” still delivers a revealing look at a frequently underrated actor who has finally achieved a sense of inner peace. What we’re left with is a film that’s not as profound as it thinks it is, but leaves us with a greater understanding of a flawed, resilient artist who hasn’t abandoned his dreams.

Val Kilmer

“Val” is a 2021 documentary co-directed by Ting Poo and Leo Scott. It is rated R for some language and runs 1 hour, 49 minutes. It is available in theaters on July 23 and on Amazon Prime on Aug. 6. Alex’s grade: B.