Saturday, August 12, 2017

My post for Doug: the Evergreen Air and Space Museum

Flying home from the east coast a few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be seated in the same row as Doug, and we talked for several hours like old friends. When he learned I was next going to Portland, Oregon, on a road trip and that my husband was excited to see the Evergreen Air & Space Museum in McMinnville, he told me he had flown several of the aircraft on display there. I asked him to write down the names so we could look for them.


Once there, it was indeed a wonderful scavenger hunt for my kids to look for these planes. So, Doug, I have some feedback!

The T33: This is parked in front of the space museum. (Let me pause and say this is an incredible facility with two huge hangars, one for air and one for space. I'll blog later about the space side).

The T33





And next on the list was the F102:





And the F106, similar to the 102, but with its tail pointing up:



The RF-4, a fighter bomber: there was a different version on the floor of the space museum, a docent told us, but we couldn't seem to locate it.

T28: the Evergreen had one but got rid of it.

T37: the Evergreen was supposed to get one, but never did.

The T38: well, I thought I was told by museum staff that it was this black one hanging from the ceiling but I must've misunderstood.



We were told The Evergreen will be getting an F16 from the Oregon Airguard and a Tornado, which was a British/German/French plane with Luftwaffe colors. (Actually, I just googled that because it seemed too odd; substitute Italian for French and it's correct!)

And you know what the Evergreen already has?



Yeah, the Spruce Goose. Which should be called the Birch Goose because that's what it's made of. The largest airplane ever made. It's hard to tell what you're looking at in this photo, but basically the large thing overhanging these people's head is just one wing. I'll blog about the Spruce Goose more later.

Back to Doug. It was amazing to see these planes in which you made surveillance runs during your many years of service. Thank you for your service to our country, Doug!


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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Guest post: Christine Verstraete on her new book





Today on my blog I welcome Christine Verstraete, who has written several novels inspired by the Lizzie Borden saga. Her first book cast Lizzie as a zombie hunter, explaining that Abby and Andrew Borden had to be struck down—they were undead. Her second has just released, and it focuses on a key member of the story, Dr. Bowen, who lived across the street and was called upon to assist in the earliest moments of discovery of Mr. Borden's body (if I may use the word "discovery" loosely....)
Without any further ado, here is Christine answering a few questions I posed, and some excerpts from her book. Welcome, Christine!


Hi Erika, thanks for inviting me to your blog!

What compelled you to write about Dr. Bowen?
Dr. Bowen is a fascinating character since, as you know when you start reading the Lizzie Borden trial transcripts, you realize that the doctor was quite involved in the aftermath of the Borden murders. Maybe too involved? So much isn’t explained about certain actions he and others took that you can’t help but read between the lines! One of the police officers at the trial testified that he saw the doctor burning a suspicious note. Even the newspapers described him at the trial as appearing rather protective of Lizzie. An interesting relationship that raises some questions, it seems.
The fun part of writing this book was taking the Borden story in a new direction. This was such an unexpected, horrific and shocking event for many reasons that I had to wonder: despite Bowen being a medical professional, how did this event really affect him? Did it haunt him? And did the history of Fall River play into the evil in the city?

Does Lizzie appear in this book also?
Lizzie is such an integral part of the story that you can’t leave her out, but she doesn’t appear in this book in person. However, she is one of the haunting elements of the story. That’s all I can say without giving it away!

About The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River:
The short supernatural-flavored mystery (141 pages) is on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and print. http://getBook.at/HauntingofDrBowen
Author website: http://cverstraete.com

Gruesome deaths haunt the industrial city of Fall River, Massachusetts.
Dr. Seabury Bowen—physician to the infamous Lizzie Borden—swears he’s being stalked by spirits, though his beloved wife thinks it’s merely his imagination. But the retired doctor insists that neither greed nor anger provoked the recent sensational axe murders in Fall River. Rather, he believes the city is poisoned by bad blood and a thirst for revenge dating back to the Indian and Colonial wars.
Now, two years after the Borden murders, Dr. Bowen is determined to uncover the mysteries stirring up the city’s ancient, bloodthirsty specters. Can he discover who, or what, is shattering the peace before Fall River runs red? Or will he be the next victim?
Part mystery, part love story, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen reveals the eerie side of Fall River as witnessed by the first doctor on the scene of the legendary Borden murders.
An excerpt of The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River

Prologue
   
    “Never did I say to anyone that she had died of fright. My first thought, when I was standing in the door, was that she had fainted.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893


“Why won’t anyone believe me? Why, Phoebe, why?”
Dr.  Seabury Bowen shoved back the shock of white hair hanging over his forehead and wiped a wrinkled hand across his stubbled chin.
His appearance, like his surroundings, could stand a bit of major housekeeping, not that he cared a whit.
“Here, it’s here somewhere,” he mumbled.
The old man rummaged among the giant pile of documents, books, and whatnot littering the large walnut desk in his study. Several minutes later, and after the search through dozens of loose papers, he saw the faded red book lying beneath a tottering pile. He pulled at it, sending the rest of the stack falling like so much unwanted garbage.
    The good doctor, but a shadow of his once- robust self, flipped the pages. He stared at the offending journal entry before setting the book aside with a heartrending sob.


Chapter One
   
    “I saw the form of Mr. Borden lying on the lounge at the left of the sitting-room door. His face was very badly cut, apparently with a sharp instrument; his face was covered with blood.”
—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

   The man reached toward him with long, lean fingers. Dr. Seabury Bowen blinked and tried to make out the features of the unknown figure standing in the corner. The unexpected visitor had a broad, dark face and what looked like a band across his forehead. Bowen stretched out his arm in turn and jumped when their fingers touched, the jolt surging through him like the electricity he knew would soon replace all the gas lights.
    “Seabury, dear, are you all right?” His wife, Phoebe, sounded concerned. “What’s wrong?”
    Bowen breathed hard. He bolted upright and held a hand on his chest, trying to catch his breath. Still stunned, he gazed about the room, disturbed at the odd shapes until he recognized familiar things… the bureau, the armoire, the paintings on his bedroom walls. He swallowed and nodded.
     “Ye-yes. I-I’m fine. A bad dream, that’s all it was. Just a dream.”
    “A bad dream? Dear, you’re breathing so hard, your heart must be pounding like a drum in Mr. Sousa’s band! Are you sure you’re fine?”
    The doctor took his wife’s hand and kissed it, relieved to feel his heartbeat return to normal. He had to admit his reaction worried him for a minute, too. “I’m fine now, Phoebe. Really, it’s all right. Go back to sleep. I’m too wrought up to rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and read awhile.”
    He gave her a loving smile before he rose and slipped on his robe, his thoughts in a whirl. To tell the truth, these dreams or hallucinations or whatever they were appeared to be getting stronger and more frequent. Not that he’d tell her, of course. It made Bowen wonder if he was losing touch with his faculties, something he’d never dare mention. Nor did he want to even entertain the thought, but he did. Am I going mad? Am I?

Here's Christine's first book:

 
 Enjoy the macabre reading!! And thanks for visiting today, Christine! :)

Friday, August 04, 2017

Mulling over 125 years of mystery: the Lizzie Borden murders

I hesitate to invoke the rhyme because it's been so overused (and is so tasteless) but it really is the best and most succinct summary of the events of August 4, 1892:

Lizzie Borden took an ax,
Gave her mother forty whacks,
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Lizzie Borden, acquitted of murdering her (step)mother and father with a hatchet, was found guilty in the court of public opinion. Schoolchildren taunted her with the rhyme as she continued living in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts (albeit in a much nice home, purchased with the funds she and her sister inherited upon their wealthy father’s death). They rang her doorbell at all hours and ran, screaming, before she could open it. They threw rocks at her windows.

Perhaps worse—since children’s thoughtless cruelty is a given—carriage drivers would meet the train coming in to Fall River and charge a fee to drive past Lizzie’s home, park outside, and loudly narrate the details of the crimes, which she surely heard through her walls.

Those details were horrific, such that her 1893 trial was considered the first “trial of the century.” Every major newspaper sent a reporter to sit in the crowded New Bedford courthouse and jot down each nuance of emotion that crossed her face.

The back of Abby Borden’s skull bore 19 blows, evidence of uncontrollable rage. It came out through forensics that she must have faced her attacker and known her fate: one poignant blow was on her forehead. Mrs. Borden had been killed first in an upstairs room and lay cooling for several hours until her husband Andrew came home from his morning tasks and lay down for a nap on the sitting room couch. The murderer attacked him while he slept.

His skull showed 10 or 11 cuts, roughly half of his wife’s, but proof that the killer was still furious hours later. Both skulls were displayed in court to show jurors the reality of that anger. They had been rendered down to bone by a doctor who boiled them, according to the later report of his young son who was upset at the morbid activity in his own kitchen. The Borden corpses had been secretly beheaded, without the daughters’ permission, during a second autopsy at a cemetery holding structure. The first had been performed in the Borden home’s dining room. Lizzie fainted in court when tissue covering the skulls drifted to the floor, prematurely revealing their placement in the doctor’s satchel. A juror was overcome by the crime scene photographs that testimony paused while peers tried to revive him. The facts of the case—and the murders of the elderly couple—proved uneasy to talk about.

What was Lizzie so upset about, if she was indeed the killer? Reputedly, her father’s miserliness, his spending money on his wife’s family, and probably general indignation that she would spend life as a spinster trapped in that house. Her oldest sister hadn’t married, and suitors were few and far between for Lizzie. It didn’t help that that August was insanely hot in an era before air-conditioning, that she had her period in an era before ibuprofen, and that a hated uncle showed up for a visit while her sister was away visiting friends.

Whatever the motive, the intervening 125 years have spawned dozens of books, several movies (including one to be released this year, with indie-movie goddess Chloe Sevigny playing Lizzie, and Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame playing the Irish maid Bridget Sullivan), and an incredible volume of speculation. Similar to O.J. Simpson, who is to be released on probation, Lizzie Borden faced a nation that suspected the jurors had been hoodwinked.

Visit the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River today and you’ll see crime scene reenactments, tours of the home and hear authors talk about the case. Its mystery endures.

Erika Mailman is the author of The Murderer’s Maid: a Lizzie Borden Novel, which looks at the case from the point of view of Bridget Sullivan, the only other person in the house that day besides Lizzie and her parents.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Happy Birthday, Lizzie Borden



On July 19, 2017, Lizzie would be 157 years old if she'd managed to outwit death somehow--her and Elvis, right?

Birthdays are important things. Some people take them more seriously than others; I personally always took the day off work and enjoyed the fact of my being on earth. Others prefer to pretend the anniversary doesn't exist, denying the onslaught of years.

It's interesting to note that the murders of the Borden parents took place a mere two weeks and two days after Lizzie's 32nd birthday.

I remember turning 30. It felt like a crisis: I hadn't accomplished any of the things I wanted to accomplish: publishing a novel (or 20), having children. I had my mid-life crisis early.

Imagine what it was like for Lizzie Borden, turning 32. In an era that only prized wifehood and motherhood for women, she had no suitors (that we knew about anyway). In a time period that freely threw around the pejorative word "spinster," she was one. As much as we feel sympathy for kids still living at home in their thirties today, imagine how it felt to live at home when you were jobless, powerless, feeling like you had no true "value" in the world other than your volunteering through the church. And with no wifi.

Lizzie volunteered sporadically, undertaking positions and then abandoning them. It has always seemed curious to me that she did not join friends at the seashore at Marion at the time of the murders merely because she needed to do a "roll call" as a volunteer leader. I can only assume a roll call means registering those who will serve on a particular committee and solidifying the responsibilities. Why did she feel that was so important, when she had preemptorily left other posts? If she had gone to the seashore, felt that healing connection to the sea, let the wind lift her hair off her neck, would some of her feelings of rage have abated?

In my novel The Murderer's Maid, I posit that she didn't go to Marion because she had her period. In those tamponless times, it would be no fun to soak cloths in a bucket--and maybe she'd be sharing a room with a friend-- and trying to hide the signs and smells (ordinarily, at home, the maid would deal with such unpleasant tasks). It is said that 1892 was one of the hottest summers on record.

Her roll call ended up having a much more deadly tally.

Well, anyway, happy birthday, Lizzie!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

History cruise on the Freda B. schooner

Last weekend I headed out with some friends on the schooner Freda B. out of Sausalito (north of San Francisco) for a history cruise. Captain Marina Lambchop comped me some tickets because she likes Woman of Ill Fame....lemme tell you, authors rarely get perks so I was delighted with this generous offer. Thank you a million times over! Unfortunately, Marina wasn't able to sail that day, but her co-captain Paul Dines gave an amazing tour with wonderful, funny narration.

Golden Gate Bridge towers lost in fog.
Sausalito was bright and hot and I scoffed initially at my having brought my down vest...but as we got out onto the bay and closer to San Francisco, it got cold quickly. I was soon very happy to have my vest and the blankets the crew very kindly handed out.

I helped haul up the sails and swallow the moon.

I call this coiffure "Bay Wind Flurry"


We learned so much from this tour and saw porpoises off the side leaping through the water (is that the right verb? Porpoises leap? I understand they often see whales too). We had incredible views of Alcatraz. I think my camera defaulted to this cool filter. Is my phone smart enough to recognize this historic structure and change its own settings??

The Rock. I still think you could swim to the mainland.

After repainting, someone was hired to redo the historic graffiti




And here is a neat triptych:

Alcatraz, sailboat, container ship: they can all share the bay!

Paul Dines told a touching story about the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien, docked in San Francisco at Pier 45. For the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, the ship and its original crew sailed all the way back to France to be feted internationally, reviewed by the Queen and "piped" by other appreciative crews. This sturdy ship participated in D-Day and is one of only two Liberty Ships still functioning. Can you imagine this incredible vessel steaming 18,000 miles for six months? Without a single significant repair and arriving at each port ahead of schedule? I'm even tearing up a little typing this, thinking of those 70-year-old sailors back at their stations after so many decades.

Although we're now paying attention to something else, behind us is the admirable SS Jeremiah O'Brien



Paul Dines was great!


Paul Dines, narrating the history cruise

We passed by the home of Ghirardelli Chocolate, making San Francisco sweet since Gold Rush times...

I kind of need to make a port of call, stat!
...and here's some history. The brown house in the center was once Jack London's.

Jack had waterfront real estate at one time! And that is fog, not smoke (insert
"To Build a Fire" joke here)


And here's something I found truly fascinating. This stretch represents the last piece of untouched San Francisco coastline. Pretty amazing. This is what early sailors saw and had to figure out how to moor into (is that correct sailor talk?) Much of San Francisco's Embarcadero was plumped out with landfill (and yeah, there are sunken ships under the Financial District; here's a map of what's under there). I should've asked if this is near Clark's Point, where my character Nora disembarks in 1848 in my novel Woman of Ill Fame.


Last vestige of original coastline
My fun, history-loving friends, wrapped in blankets to ward off sea chills!

Me, back near sunny Sausalito. I could shed my blanket and down vest and unzip sweatshirt
to display the shirt a friend made. I wore a ship shirt on a ship!

The beautiful Freda B. back at dock
How, you may ask, can you take such a wonderful tour? It's so easy. Book through this website. What a wonderful thing to do on a date, if friends or family come into town, or to brush up on your local history. I hope you have as wonderful a time as I did!

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Lizzie Borden's Perfect Storm

Today's clam shack at Rocky Point. Courtesy, Mary Thibault

I've blogged before about how intrigued I am with the idea that a very tiny action can have huge consequences, especially if there are many, combined such small things: the so-called perfect storm.

One of those in the Lizzie Borden case was the barbecue planned for the Fall River Police Department at Rocky Point Amusement Park in Rhode Island. Lizzie knew about the barbecue; did it occur to her that there would be fewer officers left locally to deal with murders or other issues that might arise while most officers were 30 miles away?

The park closed in 1995, but Google Maps says the distance from Fall River, Massachusetts, to where the park operated in Warwick, Rhode Island, takes 45 minutes by car. We can only imagine that by horse and buggy the travel time was much longer. The police department had essentially advertised its own diminished capacity.

Moreover, I learned from the wonderful blog Warps and Wefts that Abby Borden was intended to watch her little niece whose parents were to attend the Rocky Point picnic, but because she was feeling ill (food poisoning or just take the word "food" off the phrase? Anyone?) she didn't. I'm curious to know if the parents still attended and simply found another babysitter. I learn from the same blog post that George Whitehead, the niece's dad, was a teamster, not a policeman, so I'm not sure why he would be attending. Maybe he was friends with officers.

That blog post points out, "Due to the illness of Abby Borden on Wednesday, these plans were changed, and forever after, those interested in the case have wondered if the outcome of the morning of August 4th would have been very different had Abby Borden been able to assume the care of her little niece."

Indeed. Would Lizzie have had to kill the niece too? Or cancel her murderous plans? Errrr, I should probably point out that Lizzie was acquitted of the crimes.

Other "perfect storm" elements:

  • Lizzie had  her period in the era before ibuprofen and tampons. Anger. Grrr. 
  • Big heat that summer in the era before air conditioning. Anger. Grrr.
  • Lizzie was supposed to go to the seashore with friends but canceled. What if she'd gone and had a great time? Found a bunch of sand dollars?
  • Emma was away. What if she'd stayed home?
  • Uncle John Morse showed up unexpectedly to spend the night at the Borden home. Lots of people loathed him, including Abby herself. What if he hadn't come?
Et cetera.

It's a fascinating story with so many little rabbit holes to go down.


I included a brief mention of the policeman's outing in my book The Murderer's Maid: a Lizzie Borden Novel. I couldn't find much historical mention of what was on offer there in 1892, so I took a chance that the electric trolley would be running. The Ferris wheel seen here was not yet built. How do I know that? Because of Erik Larsen's wonderful book Devil and the White City, which talks about the unveiling of the first Ferris wheel in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair. There is a connection between the World's Fair and Lizzie Borden, and I'll blog about that soon.

In the meantime, I hope you had a happy Fourth of July!
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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Another cover design post



I'm so thrilled with this cover for The Murderer's Maid. Why, you ask? Three reasons. Not listed in order of preference!

1. The tweaked image of Lizzie Borden. There aren't that many photos of Lizzie, alas; perhaps a handful. The designer wanted to use this one, and I made one small suggestion that I think will resonate with people who know Lizzie. In the original portrait, her eyes are looking off to the side. I asked if the gaze could be designed to look straight at the viewer. I think it's chilling and a subtle, wonderful change.

2. The blurbs! I have been so fortunate to have two bestselling authors whom I deeply respect, admire and downright like give blurbs to this novel. The ever-gracious, sweet Diana Gabaldon and my loveable partner-in-witchery Kathleen Kent donated kind words. I'm forever grateful to them both.

3. I love the bold red which will hopefully draw readers' eyes to the cover while browsing at the bookstore. They say you can't judge a book by its cover but you can certainly notice  a book by its cover.

What do you think?


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