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Norman Simpson ‘Wise Old Man of Reviewing Inns’

December 2, 1985

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A man who disdains the plastic sameness of chain motels is credited by innkeepers with making country inns the in places to stay by his chatty, down- to-earth writing in ″Country Inns and Back Roads, North America,″ now in its 20th year.

Norman T. Simpson, 67, a former advertising agency owner, reviews America’s country hideaways with vignettes that chronicle his visits.

He spices his entries with mention of local history and describes such things as the aroma of fresh-baked bread from an inn’s kitchen and the doings of the innkeepers’ children.

″I think Norman singlehandedly has founded an industry in America,″ said William G. Winterer, owner of the 209-year-old Griswold Inn in Essex, Conn. ″I think without Norman we would be building more Howard Johnsons and renovating fewer historic buildings.″

On a recent visit to the Red Lion Inn, Simpson was welcomed by name. Desk clerks called out greetings and an inn employee apologized in advance in case she disturbed him by polishing a curio cabinet behind his chair.

It was the kind of scene that Simpson might have used to begin an account of an overnight stay.

Until this year, Simpson has annually revised and printed the guidebook as part of his business, the Berkshire Traveller Press. The publishing company also prints his newer books, ″Bed and Breakfast, American Style,″ ″Country Inns and Back Roads, Britain and Ireland″ and ″Country Inns and Back Roads, Continental Europe.″

Innkeepers pay $350 annually for a mention in the book. That makes them members of the Independent Innkeepers Association founded and run by Simpson.

This year, in order to spend more time writing, Simpson turned over publishing rights for the North American guidebook to Harper & Row, but he retains editorial control.

Harper & Row has printed 65,000 copies of the book, which includes 210 inns in the United States and Canada. It sells for $10.95.

″They’re probably far from journalistically correct, but they’re very folksy, and I think that’s appealing to people,″ said Charles L. Murray, owner of The Three Mountain Inn in Jamaica, Vt.

Simpson’s writing style matches his personality, said Murray, 45, who has been in the innkeeping business for seven years.

″When Norman says something, it’s like another member of my family suggesting something. He’s not shooting from the hip,″ Murray said. ″He’s considered the wise old man of reviewing inns.″

″He is more interested in an innkeeper being gracious than in being efficient,″ Winterer said. ″Soft pillows and good reading lights are more important than having a computer for keeping track of reservations.″

And then there are the things he insists on.

″He wants to know that there’s a comfortable common room so guests from all over can meet each other,″ Winterer said. ″He wants to know that there are a couple of extra pillows so people can read in bed because most inns don’t have TV. He likes a decent bar of soap that you can hold on to and not one of those slivers.″

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