Discussion of True Crime at the Historical Society of Michigan’s Meeting

True Crime Covers

Small wonder that people have a strange perception of true crime authors…

Last week I was honored to attend/present at the Historical Society of Michigan’s: Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference in Sterling Heights Michigan.  I was on a panel with fellow New York Times Bestselling Author Mardi Link and award winning author and documentary producer David Schock.

I got the idea for the event a few years ago for the panel because of a rejection letter.  I had written an article about an unsolved murder in a community from the 1960’s and had submitted it to an unnamed state history magazine.  I was told that true crime, especially unsolved crimes, was not considered historical.  Ouch – that hurt.

That response resonated with me.  In my mind I had not written about a murder as much as I had also provided a lot of historical context for the community where the crime took place.  It hit me then that many mainstream historians probably don’t hold true crime writers in the same category of historians that they themselves are in.

In my presentation I hoped to raise awareness around the role that true crime authors play in documenting history. Historically true crime writers got associated with the seedy-side of authoring.  When you look at the covers of old issues of True Detective magazine you could get the wrong impression of us – that we are into female dominance and bondage.  There is also an element of true crime writing that doesn’t go after current high-profile crimes.  These books are often bestsellers but don’t provide a lot of history and their sensational nature tends to paint true crime authors as a modern form of ambulance chaser.

The work that David and Mardi and I do however is not contemporary crimes but those from the past.  We document the local history as context for the crimes we are writing about.  We have to.  Local history provides the social framework where these murders took place.

We have to document local history so that the reader understands the people, their motivations, and their place in the drama.  Without including a lot of local history, the victims can become faceless and voiceless to the reader.  Many true crime authors are stewards of local history.  We are often some of local history’s prime champions.

Major crimes play a role in a community.  They are often defining events etched into the memories of the people that are there, even if they had not role in the crime itself.  People remember significant crimes.  They become part of the local culture, part of a shared memory of a key event.  Consider this:  People remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy was killed or when the World Trade Centers were taken down.  These were crimes, albeit large scale criminal acts, that are burned into our memories.  Smaller murders have the same effect on a smaller, more community-wide scale.

In one of my books, The Murder of Maggie Hume, I (along with my co-author Victoria Hester) wrote about the urban development of Battle Creek Michigan in the 1970’s.  If I had written a traditional non-fiction history book on the subject – it would have sold roughly three-to-five copies.  By weaving that history into the book about the crime, it has been read by a significantly larger audience.  True crime, as a genre, is much more broadly read than traditional history books.

Most people don’t realize that the research we do on books and films is almost identical to the techniques used by non-fiction writing historians.  I feel safe in saying that because I write non-fiction history books (mostly military).  Some historians may cringe at the thought of us being the same, but trust me, we are historians through-and-through.

Finally, as David likes to point out, our works are often calls to action.  The three of us primarily work in a niche in true crime that deals with unsolved cases.  When we write a book, we are looking for new answers.  We generate tips and leads.  We ensure that the crime does not slip into the darkness unremembered or unsolved.

The turnout for our presentation was pretty large and we got a lot of positive questions and comments.  People always bring up crimes we should be looking at.  I have to admit, I knew only a little about the Oakland County Child Killings (OCCK) but now I am doing a little bit of digging into that subject.  It seems this is one of those unsolved cases that is screaming for the right attention – a historical true crime perspective.  More on this later, depending on what my digging unearths.

I encourage you to go and read Mardi’s and David’s books and view David’s stunning documentaries.  As I told Mardi, I read her book, When Evil Came to Goodhart, at least once a year.  You should too.  Overall, I had a blast – I met some neat people, and got to spend an hour or so with some top-notch talent in my field, which was a great treat.


Review of Likes Wolves on the Fold – The Defense of Rorke’s Drift


Colour Sergeant Bourne: “It’s a miracle.”

Lieutenant Chard: “If it’s a miracle, Colour Sergeant, it’s a short chamber Boxer Henry point 45 caliber miracle.”

Bourne: “And a bayonet, sir, with some guts behind.”

From the film Zulu

When I was young, a guy on my paper route turned me onto the movie, Zulu, which was my first exposure to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.  Like most Americans, I had little knowledge of the Anglo Zulu War and if it wasn’t for Zulu I might have glossed over this battle.  The movie entranced me because of the incredible odds that the troops faced.  For an American, it was as if we had fought the Alamo and had won.

If you are not familiar with the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, it was a battle that took place on 22 January 1879 and more Victoria Crosses (eleven) were awarded in that one battle than any other in a single British engagement.  The battle took place the day after a stunning defeat of the British at Isandlwana, where over 1300 British troops and their allies were slaughtered by the same troops that advanced on the mission at Rorke’s Drift.

At Rorke’s Drift, the British created a defensive position around the mission and hospital there and weathered a series of attacks that should have overwhelmed them…yet they prevailed.

The defenders were less than 200 men and militia against a force of 3000-4000 Zulus warriors.  The odds were staggering and the day before the British, with much better odds, had been slaughtered.  The commanders that day, Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard, had never commanded men in battle before. On paper, they should have lost, but history has a way of cheating mathematicians and statisticians.  The British were victorious and handed one of the most recognized victories to emerge from the Victorian era.

Over the years I’ve picked up a number of books on the subject of the battle.  There are times I wish I hadn’t – because reading the actual accounts makes you understand how inaccurate parts of the film is.  So when I saw Mike Snook’s Like Wolves on the Fold, I already went in with what I thought was a good understanding of the battle.  Snook was a historian in the 24th Regiment of Foot, the unit stationed at Rorke’s Drift and not only gives us new insights to the battle, but provides us with a glimpse of how the unit still commemorates the historic battle and reveres the artifacts that still exist from the confrontation.

Snook went back to primary sources and successfully attempts to reconcile historic accounts of the sequence of battle, almost to the man.  This is no small undertaking.  Previous historians have simply latched onto one account or another and used that as the basis for their analysis.  Snook parses these accounts in the way that only a skill historian can.  The results is probably the best account of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

The author wrote this book to stand alone but in all fairness, his prequel work, How Can Man Die Better, covers the tragic events at Isandlwana the day before.  I read them out of sequence because I was more interested in Rorke’s Drift, but the two books could almost have been published together in a single tome.

I am a junkie for the appendix of non-fiction books and Like Wolves on the Fold doesn’t disappoint.  It provides a summary of all of the key figures and, where possible, the original accounts of the fighting. As a historian myself I have read many battle reports, but reading these was a real treat.

Zulu remains one of my favorite films of all time.  Like Wolves on the Fold may be the last book I ever buy on this subject, because it is so well done and so complete.  Five out of five stars.

Review of Judicial Deceit – Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court


Disclaimer:  One of the authors of this book, David Schock, is a friend of mine.  He wrote the introduction to one of my books, Murder in Battle Creek.  I consider David a friend who shares my passion for attempting to resolve some of Michigan’s more infamous cold cases (www.Delayedjustice.com) My relationship with David did not taint my review of this book, but in fairness, I wanted to state it up-front.  

First off, when I purchased this book I had no idea how big it was – 765 pages.  Please get the digital copy.  It’s a hefty tome, one you have to be willing to commit some time to.  Having said that, is a book that is worth that time if you are involved with the legal profession in Michigan.  I’m not a lawyer but I found the book compelling to read.   Every college law school in Michigan should be referring to this book, if only as a subject for healthy debate.

The book is written in two author’s voices – that of the narrator and that of Chief Justice Elizabeth Weaver.  Weaver’s direct commentary is in italics in the book.  Surprisingly, the text flows fairly well from a reading perspective, though italics can get hard to read for more than a few paragraphs.

In looking at this book you have to decide if you are in one of two camps when you have finished reading it.  Either Justice Weaver is a bitter person with an ax to grind, using this book to seek some sort of twisted revenge on her fellow justices; or Elizabeth Weaver is a daring patriot who is revealing the inner workings of Michigan’s Supreme Court in a valiant effort to drive change in that high court.

I feel solidly in the second camp.  I’ve met Justice Weaver at a Michigan Historical Society meeting and she is far from bitter or vindictive.

Judicial Deceit takes you on a reflective journey through numerous instances which demonstrate the flaws with the Michigan Supreme Court.  Justices in Michigan are elected, backed by political parties, and subject to influence by those parties.  The narrative of this book chronicles how four of these justices, “The Engler Four,” treated the high court as a playground for bad behavior that in some cases bordered on childish, in other ways on criminal.

For example:  One justice failed to disclose that his former law firm represented a client’s corporation whose divorce went before the court.  This lack of transparency tainted the process. This was one instance out of several detailed in the book where justices did not behave at the professional standard that we would all expect.

Other chapters dealt with the almost fraternal behavior of the justices.  One lobbied to get the State Historical Society to provide them with rings, like a bunch of immature frat boys.  Another justice was so abusive to his computer technical support person that he drove him out of the office in tears.  The termination of staff by some justices appeared vindictive and politically motivated – with possible grounds for law suits.  Some justices had spouses working for the Michigan Attorney General, clearly a conflict of interest – one that went unchecked.  While some of these infractions may appear minor, almost petty, they establish a pattern of behavior that is embarrassing.

In terms of cases that the justices undertook, it was clear that they had pre-decided outcomes even before hearing the oral arguments.  Some justices had issues with lawyers, in particular Geoffrey Fieger, which slanted their opinions.  As a former Michigan resident I remember Fieger as the fiery attorney that defended Jack Kevorkian and ran for Governor against Engler – who had loaded the court with highly politically motivated justices.  I could see where Fieger might get on your nerves, but the Justices of the Supreme Court of the state are supposed to be above that kind of behavior.

Justice Weaver began to make public the internal deliberations of the court, warts and all.  In her case it was akin to peeling an onion, bringing tears to the eyes of her so-called peers.  The Justices moved to block her from revealing their, for lack of better words, shenanigans.  Weaver chose the moral high road and ignored this move to cloak the court rather than provide transparency.

Silencing Justice Weaver was an attempt to create a court that concealed its actions and motivations.  It would (as Weaver wrote in her dissent):

  • “Keeps secret from the people important information of what the justices are discussing and deciding on the court;
  • “Keeps secret from the people important information of how the justices conduct the people’s judicial business; and
  • “Keeps secret from the people when the justices are conducting the people’s judicial business.” Pg 302

And when you look at those three bullets, doesn’t it make sense that this information should be available to the public?  What kind of government would seek to suppress the workings of her courts like this in a free society?

Judicial Deceit did not come across to me like a book written by bitter person seeking revenge, though God knows Justice Weaver certainly has earned the right to extract a little blood given what she witnessed and endured as her former colleagues attempted to tarnish her reputation.  Instead Justice Weaver should be commended for having the courage and intestinal fortitude to come forward and lay bare the dirty secrets of the court.

The final chapter of the book outlines how Michigan could (and should) go about fixing the problems associated with the election of justices and managing the court.  It is a call to action for Michiganders, a blueprint for changes that would only make the Supreme Court a true level playing field.

My only warning about this book is that it is not your traditional true crime fare.  It is an expose’ of flaws at the top of the Michigan legal system.  It is a hefty read too, given its size.  This is the kind of book that requires a commitment to read.  Some of the legal cases presented are complicated and while the book does a good job of explaining the legal nuances, it sometimes requires a little page-flipping to make sure you understand what is happening.

My recommendation – this is a must read for every politician, lawyer and law student in the State of Michigan.  For Michigan citizens, this is a call for change. Pick it up and read it – then go and demand reform.  It is, after all, your court.

The Impact of the Great War

Patton Renault

Patton and a Renault Tank 

I write books on the Great War and have for years, even before it became popular.  My newest one, Never Wars, has a chapter on an almost alternate history – where Germany won the war in Europe in a few months.  I view WWI as one of those unsung conflicts (in American history) because our involvement was so short-lived that it did not leave as much as an indelible imprint on our culture as other conflicts.

I speak at a number of venues on this subject and have been asked from time-to-time about what the impact of the Great War was on the world.  It’s a challenging question because of the scope.  I tend to think of the Great War as merely the “opening act” for decades of conflict and upheaval in the middle of the 20th Century – culminating with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Against that context, the war did alter not only the face of Europe, but the world as a whole.

So, here’s my list of impacts (not listed in any particular order) about the ramifications and impacts of the Great War. I tended to focus on this from an American perspective – but tried to be fair and balanced.

The downfall of many Imperial families in Europe:

Prior to the Great War the ruling imperial families tended to have dramatic influence on what happened in Europe – if not the world.  The Great War changed that political dynamic.  The Kaiser was disposed and exiled.  The Hapsburgs in Austro-Hungary had their powers shattered as new states were formed.  In Russia, the Czar and his family were executed, effectively purging their bloodline.  The old status-quo of political power shifted from ruling families to some form of representative government.

The Great War built the Detroit auto industry:

The story of Henry Ford and the Model T is well known in historical circles.  What made Ford Motor Company – and upped the ante in auto competitiveness was The Rouge Complex.  At the Rouge, raw materials came in via the Detroit River to the Rouge River Basin, emptied, and were turned into cars and trucks at the other end of the facility.  Iron was turned to Steel, sand to Glass…everything.   I worked there in my early career.  What people don’t generally know is that it was all built by the Great War.

The Rouge was just a twinkle in Henry Ford’s eye when the war broke out.  He secured a contract with the US Navy to build torpedo boats.  The logical place was his facility to do this was on his Rogue property.  Ford’s problem, the Rogue River basin was too shallow for boat construction.  He convinced the Navy to dredge it out for him.  They did, but by the time they finished, the war was over as was the need for a large number of torpedo boats.

Wiley old Henry had gotten the US Government to dredge the Rouge which allowed the massive cargo ships he wanted to drop off their raw materials in the complex.  The miracle of the Rouge was now a reality – all because of the Great War.

Communism moved from theory to reality:

Karl Marx came up with his theories of communism before the Great War, but no citizens had ever adopted the theories into practice on any scale until the Russian Revolution of 1917.  Ironically, it was the Germans that sent Lenin into Russia to ferment revolution and hopefully take Russia out of the war.  While it worked, it also created the future doom of Germany in the Second World War.

Aircraft as weapons of war:


Aircraft provided the most vital role of the war – observation of the enemy.  With wireless sets, aircraft observers could direct artillery fire real-time against enemies that in the past could only be found with mounted cavalry reconnaissance.   Observation balloons could monitor troop movements and defenses from miles away.  Mounting weapons on aircraft allowed pilots to target observation aircraft/balloons and destroy them.  This led to the birth of the fighter aircraft.  A new dimension of combat came into being with the skies now part of the battlefield.  Aircraft could, by the end of the war, work in concert with ground forces in a crude combined arms manner that would drive military tactics to this very day.

Bombing- however crude, also came to realization in the Great War.  No longer did seas provide barriers for protection – Zeppelins crossed waters and could bomb cities in England.  Later bomber aircraft were created for carrying the war against distant enemies.   Strategic bombing evolved as a concept for waging war.

Perhaps most remarkable was the rapid evolution of aeronautics in the war.  Every 4-6 months a new generation of aircraft came into existence, with new capabilities and improvements.  In an age before computer simulation and testing, new planes were rapidly prototyped and put into production, more so than any other time in history.  The Great War altered the world’s perception and capabilities in regards to aviation.

The tank was invented:

The stalemate of trench warfare was broken by 1917-18 with the aid of a new technology – the tank.  Armored vehicles had been around since the start of the war but only in 1916 was the concept of a caterpillar tracks employed which would allow armored vehicles to transverse the mud of no-man’s-land and carry the fight directly to the enemy.

The first tanks were semi-mobile death traps; prone to mechanical failure and ponderously slow.  Alone they had impact.  Used with infantry support, the tank altered the tactics of warfare – allowing for the blitzkrieg of WWII.

I maintain that the tank alone did not end trench warfare.  If you look at the Kaiserschlacht offensive by the Germans in 1918, they used few tanks and were able to dramatically shift the front with sheer numbers and improved tactics.  What the tank did is provide a mobile combat platform that allowed smaller numbers of troops to defeat a comparable enemy.

Radio – the wireless — became a part of the battlefield:

Radio existed before the Great War but it underwent a technological leap in terms of application during the war.  Observers in aircraft and balloons used radio to transmit troop movements, adjust artillery barrages real-time, etc..  Radios became somewhat smaller and more durable as a result of the war (though still bulky by modern standards) which allowed their post war boom in the consumer market.

Submarines emerged as viable weapons of war:

While arguments can be made that submarines were used in earlier conflicts, they were never a serious threat until the Great War.  While the Germans are often credited with their employment of the U-Boats in the war, all major nations made great strides with their development of these weapons systems.  Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare was a contributing factor to the United States being drawn into the war – one of the rare times that a weapon system/strategy actually had political implications in a war.

Submarines in WWI were crude and dangerous.  Their torpedoes were not incredibly accurate, but they had stunning effects that we still are coping with today.  In 1914 the U-9 sunk three armored cruisers in a single combat action – sending ripples of fear into the Royal Navy that forced changes in fleet protection, an upturn in British submarine production, and the start of creating anti-submarine tactics.  The results were other pieces of new technology – hydrophones and depth charges.

Grenades became an integral infantry weapon:

Arguments can be made that grenades had been used in some form by the Greeks and Romans, but WWI created the fragmentation grenade (The British Mills Bomb) which spurred a wide range of spinoff designs by other nations.  Up until this time, grenades tended to be unstable and as much a threat to the thrower as the target.  The Great War changed that and by the end of the war, the hand grenade became a standard issued item in most armies.

Flamethrowers were invented and utilized:

While pundits will point to weapons like Greek Fire as the forefather of the flamethrower – the weapon itself did not become effective until it appeared on the Western Front outside of Verdun in 1915.  While an insidious weapon, it was effective against entrenched foes.

While the US and most nations do not use these weapons currently given the type of damage they inflict – they proved critical in WWII against entrenched and deeply tunneled Japanese forces in the Pacific.

Helmets became standard defense gear:

Metal helmets have existed from the era of knights, but were always deemed too impractical for large scale warfare.  By the time of the outbreak of the Great War, most armies offered cloth head protection or in the case of the Germans, leather.  By 1915 head protection made a huge leap forward with both sides issuing metallic helmets.  While not entirely proof against rifle fire, they offered some protection from shrapnel from artillery barrages.

Naval aviation is born:

I know that the Confederacy used a balloon from a floating platform, but that can hardly be considered as true naval aviation.  There were floatplanes prior to the Great War, but the vast majority of these were privately owned.  WWI changed that.  The Germans utilized Zeppelins to provide observation for their naval forces.  Naval aviation extended the view of the fleets beyond the horizon – altering the shape of naval warfare.

The largest hand-made construction project since the pyramids:

The trench lines of the western front literally were a ditch dug across the continent – by manual labor.  This engineering project had no overall plan or design, it was done out of desperation, yet the magnitude of this piece of manual labor has not been matched by human beings since.  Yes, we’ve built marvelous things, but nothing on the scale or scope of the trench system.  Just the amount of barbed wire (also pioneered in the Great War in large scale) laid was staggering in scale.  Yet after the war, it was merely abandoned and turned into farmland.  Today evidence of this project can only be seen in a handful of locations or from the air.

It proved to Britain that they could go to war as an Empire:

In previous conflicts, Britain had made use of some of its vast imperial troops in battles – but not the sheer numbers involved in the Great War.  Canada, Australia, India and other countries sent massive numbers of infantry to wage war for Mother Britain.  It proved that such efforts were possible and laid the foundation for WWII.

Naval mining becomes a strategy:

While naval mines were used in conflicts prior to WWI, it was in this war where they were used in massive numbers and used successfully.  Naval mines were much more effective in this war and consistent in their functioning.

Evolution of modern amphibious operations:

Amphibious landings have been part of warfare for centuries.  In the Great War the powers learned valuable lessons in how this type of warfare was to be conducted, and the types of equipment needed for successful landings against artillery and machineguns.  Gallipoli, while a botched invasion, became a classroom for leaders who went on to plan landings in WWII and Korea.

Camouflage plays a large-scale role on the battlefield:

The first six months of WWI were frightening when you consider the lack of camouflage.  Images of French troops in their blue uniforms, red pantalooms, bright blue piping – marching off against the enemy is tragic.  This image was not far off from reality though.  Camouflage was a concept that was born out of the necessity of battle.  By 1916 the armies had all begun to adopt new uniforms that allowed soldiers to blend in better with their surroundings.

And it wasn’t just on land – navies also adopted and experimented with camouflage patterns to make ship identification more difficult.

Machineguns and rapid-fire artillery emerge as dominant forces:

I put these on the list together deliberately.  Machineguns had been used in battle prior to the Great War, even in the Spanish American War.  On their own, they were deadly – but when you combined these with rapid-fire artillery, you are creating a battlefield environment where infantry advances are measured in yard not miles.  This combination forced the advances in tanks and aircraft as a means to circumvent the carnage that could be rained down on the common foot soldier.

The roles of Japan and Italy on the world stage were established:

Prior to the Great War Japan and Italy were seen as obscure observers in world affairs, cast to the edges of the world stage.  The war changed that.  By the end of the conflict, both nations had assumed more power and recognition globally than ever before.  While pundits might argue that they did not get much out of the Versailles Treaty, the fact that they were there was significant — especially in light of their roles in WWII decades later.

Gas warfare is deployed:

The use of toxic gases as weapons of war became the norm in World War One.  They proved so horrific that no one was even willing to use them in WWII (on a large scale).  The Germans, when faced with losing to the Soviets did not employ their gas stockpiles.  Gas warfare was indiscriminant in its victims and inflicted horrific injuries – to the point now that we consider it a “weapon of mass destruction.”


The end of the Ottoman Empire – the roots of the modern Middle East problems:

While the Ottoman Empire was waning before the war, the Great War served as the death-blow to this government.  The Ottoman holdings became a number of nation states, some merely puppets of the European powers.  The crumbling of the Ottoman Empire left the Arab nations barely in control of themselves and their resources.  The lines of division driven by the peace at the end of the war carved up the empire into many of the nation states that exist today. In the post-war era, Palestine became a British protectorate and the British established the rights of the Jewish people there.  The implementation of the Balfour Declaration led for the first modern drive for a true Jewish state.  It created the foundation for many of the issues and conflicts that were to follow up to modern day.

Great Authors were inspired:

War tends to generate moving literature and that was certainly the case with World War One.  Veterans were often inspired by the carnage and chaos of war, or wrote about the conflict.  Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall (an aviator of the famed Lafayette Escadrille) wrote a trilogy of novels about the mutiny on the HMS Bounty which fictionalized the events of this famous mutiny.  Earnest Hemingway was an ambulance driver in the war and his experiences led to the book , A Farewell to Arms.  More recently, historians believe that young JRR Tolkien’s exposure to the horrors of war helped inspire some of the darker aspects of The Lord of the Rings.

Last naval war of battleships:

Many people attribute the end of the Battleship era to World War II.  That may be true, though Billy Mitchell’s and other’s work demonstrating air power in the post-war era make a case that the doom of the battlewagons came earlier.

What no one can deny is that the Great War was the last of the era where large fleets of battleships engaged each other Trafalgar-style.  There were smaller battles, like Dogger Bank, but both sides of the conflict believed that a massive fleet-to-fleet engagement would happen to determine the course of the war.  In the Great War, Battleships, battle cruisers, etc., were the nuclear weapons of their era — strategic weapons that allowed nations to press their influence around the globe.

The Great War at sea was anticipated to be a massive fleet-on-fleet slugfest which would determine the winner of the war.  It was disappointing in that.  Yes, Jutland was a massive engagement which historians still struggle to frame in terms of victory (don’t get me started here), but for the most part it was inconclusive.  While battleships would sail again in WWII, they would never engage in massive engagements on the scale of Jutland.

Combat photography plays a key role:

While photographs were taken in wars prior to the Great War, it was in this conflict that they were an integral part of military planning.  Observation aircraft equipped with cameras and observation balloons took photographs of the enemy positions which were used for planning operations, targeting artillery, etc..  World War One ushering in the age of aerial reconnaissance photography which continues today with satellites and drones.

The war established military command structures for managing alliances:

Managing allies in a campaign or on a battlefield is always complicated and tricky.  The Great War experimented with command structures which would be critical in later wars.  There were issues on both sides in coordinating with allies.  In some cases, such as Germany and Austro-Hungary, the coordination barely existed at all.  In the case of the Americans, there was a defiant stand to have the American Army not roll-up under a French command.  While command structures were far from perfected in WWI, it gave the participants the experience needed for the next phase of war – WWII.

The peace created a civil war in Germany:

The post-war era in Germany was one were factions used the left-over weapons of war to wage battles against competing political ideologies.   Germany and parts of Poland became embroiled in civil war(s) which drew in veterans to fight to protect their local communities rather than their nations.  While often ignored by historians, several years worth of fighting took place which served to further destabilize a fragmented Germany.

A fragmented Germany which would be an impetus for its reformation in the 1930’s:

The Treaty of Versailles split up Germany as a means of punishment and formed new states such as Poland.  It was a series of actions that were destined to be undone and provided Hitler with a rallying point to unify Germany under his Reich.

Balloons were a force in warfare:


While countries dabbled in the use of balloons for observation prior to the Great War, WWI became the only war where balloons played a strategic role in warfare.  Balloons provided real-time information on troop positions and movements.  Balloon pilots could telegraph artillery bombardment adjustments immediately.  By the post-war period observation balloons had become antiquated as the role of aircraft increased.  But the first and only “balloon war” was WWI.

The Armenian genocide laid the foundation for the genocide in WWII:

Turkey began the slaughter of the Armenian people in 1915 in a fit of ethnic cleansing.  Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians in seven years of genocide.  The world stood by and did nothing.

As part of his formulation for the Final Solution in WWII, Hitler reportedly has said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The war created the personalities that were to lead the world:

The Great War was a breeding ground for the leaders, political and military, that would guide the outcome of the next war. The list that could go into this spot runs the gambit from Churchill to Hitler and Rommel to Patton.   The experiences of WWI became the fertilizer for an upcoming generation of leaders that would guide events into the later part of the 20th century – and beyond.

What ones have I missed?


Anniversary of the Murder of Daisy Zick

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Daisy and Floyd Zick — 1940’s

January, with its biting cold and bleak white snows, always somehow takes me mentally back to Michigan.  Every below-zero windy  day makes me think of January 14, 1963 and the death of Daisy Zick.  As this week approaches the anniversary of her murder, I thought it well worth revisiting.  Needless to say if you want more on this – please check out my book, Murder in Battle Creek – the Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.

Daisy worked the afternoon at the Kelloggs  Company  in Battle Creek Michigan (specifically Wattles Park), my hometown.  Her house is a mile from where I was raised.  The day of her death in 1963 was  a bitterly cold one, temperatures below zero, a gusting wind making the cold even more stinging – and snowing.  In the morning, she prepared her lunch to take to work, spoke to her husband, her boyfriend, and others on the phone, and prepared to go meet her friend for coffee before work.

At around 10:00am her neighbor saw someone at the Zick’s porch/mudroom  door. That individual was likely allowed in by Daisy, and also  was her murderer.   The physical evidence allowed investigators to recreate much of what happened in the tiny ranch house that morning.  Daisy confronted her attacker in the kitchen area.  At some point she tried to use the phone, likely to call for help (no small task in the pre-9-1-1 days).  Her attacker severed the phone line with a knife, most likely the murder weapon, believed to be a Spoilage knife from Kelloggs.

At some point Daisy fled to the bedroom and was struck about the head and stunned.  Her assailant went to her closet and got a sash from her robe to tie her hands up.  The killer stabbed her several times on her bed, but Daisy reawakened and struggled.  She got up and ran to the spare bedroom.  Her murderer began to stab her viciously in the torso.  Daisy sank along the wall, pulling the Hi-Fi unit.  Based on the stab wounds, her killer sat astride her body and brutally stabbed at her body.

The murderer dumped out her purse and took the little cash she had and her car keys, then drove off with her 1959 White Pontiac Bonneville, abandoning the car on one of Calhoun County’s busiest roads – Michigan Avenue.  The murderer was seen by several people, driving the car and walking along the road.  Her killer walked off and disappeared in the wind swept snow.


Image 025

Looking east down Michigan Avenue from the spot where Daisy’s car had been abandoned. Imge 019

Daisy’s car.  Notice the marks on the side of the car where someone brushed up against it?  There is also a blood stain visible.  

For over a half-century his murder has remained unsolved.  The officers that worked this case were determined to find the killer, but it was more complicated than it seemed.  Daisy had several affairs – so the thinking was that it had may have been a jilted lover or an angry wife/girlfriend.  This was the initial focus of the investigation, and indeed many people at Kelloggs were interviewed and polygraphed.  The killer left evidence – fibers from his/her gloves and a single fingerprint which may or may not have been left by them in the car.  This was not a random killing – whoever did it overkilled Daisy, which pointed to them having a connection to her.  Her husband was cleared by alibi and by polygraph.

Daisy’s demise became part of Battle Creek lore.  People tended to focus on the brutality of the crime and the rumors of her affairs.  Having crawled through the police files, witnesses did come forward that saw her killer – by most accounts male, in her car.  By the time the investigators, principally Michigan State Police investigator Leroy Steinbacher, arrived at a possible suspect – years had passed. 

The man Steinbacher  believed murdered Daisy was William Newman Daily – her postman.   His description of the Zick garage door the morning of the murder was inconsistent with the evidence.  He was known to have commented as to seeing Daisy nude.  He had a violent temper as well.  He claimed to have seen a man walking on Michigan Avenue near the Chuck Wagon restaurant/bar around the time that Daisy’s car was abandoned, but then changed his story to say that it was a woman.   His rather unique hair style matched one eyewitness who saw the man driving Daisy’s car leaving her street after the murder.  When Daily attacked his daughter-in-law, he threatened her that he knew who had killed Daisy Zick.  Daily owned a coat that matched the eyewitness who saw someone at Daisy’s door that day — and stopped wearing it after the murder. 

What was missing was the motive for Daily.  While not necessary in a murder case in Michigan, motive certainly helps jury’s understand why a crime happened.  Perhaps Daily had an affair with Daisy.  He may have been a stalker that had been spurned by her. We simply don’t know – and Daily himself passed away several years ago.  Until his death, he refused to take a polygraph.  

One of the things that makes this case compelling is that it happened during the daytime hours, with eyewitnesses to the crime.  The killer would have had to be dropped off or walked to the crime scene – either way he/she would have been seen (and in 1963, offered a him/her a ride if they were walking on such a cold day.)  The killer abandoned the car on a busy highway – so someone had to have given this person a ride or his/her vehicle was nearby.  This person would have had blood on their clothing and gloves as well which should have attracted attention of someone.  

Then again, who could be more invisible in any neighborhood than a postman?

In writing the book I got to know Daisy’s son.  This crime left a void in his life, and the lives of his family.  Cold cases do that by their very nature.  These are good people and they deserve to know the truth of what happened – they deserve closure.  Daisy didn’t deserve this fate, nor does her family deserve the burden of the unknown.  

Having written the book on the subject, I never forget Daisy when January comes though.  I think about it and wonder if someone out there might hold an important bit of information or a clue that can bring this family justice once and for all.

So, as we hit the anniversary of this crime – I encourage anyone with knowledge to come forward with their tips.  This is still an open murder investigation – so if you have any tips or leads – please contact the Michigan State Police and let them know.  Someone out there knows something that may help complete the puzzle of this crime. 


Never Wars is Finally Available

Never Wars - FontHill Media 2014
Never Wars – FontHill Media 2014

A few years ago I decided to tackle the research that became the new book, Never Wars.  I had read articles about the United State’s colored War Plans over the years and they intrigued me.  These were the plans that the US drew up between 1904 and 1942 which planned for waging war around the globe against various governments.  Having written about the unpublished plans for invading Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis (The Fires of October, Fonthill Media), I was excited about exploring battle plans for going to war with a range of other countries.  This was one of those areas of military history that only rarely is explored.  I also knew that this book was going to be a great cross-over book – between military history and alternate history.  It would have something for both groups of readers.

I frankly thought it was going be easy.  Go to National Archives (Archives II in College Park MD) pull the plans, put them in a relatively consistent format.  It should have been easy.  Silly me.

Like most projects, things rarely go as planned.  First off, there was on one record group where the plans were stored.  They were in four different groups.  Often times the plans were mislabeled, misfiled, and those I did find were often incomplete.  I found orders in 1942 to destroy entire sets of the War Plans.  I presume because we had plans on file which called for wars with countries that were suddenly our allies – thus dodging potential embarrassment.  The plans were filed sometimes under the Army, sometimes under the Navy, sometimes neither or both.  No problem, that just meant more digging, more research, more detective work.

Other complications came up.  There was no single “War Plan.”  Different years brought about different versions of the plans.  There was no standard plan format for the War Plans, which led to some interesting formatting and writing challenges.  In some cases, that meant deciding which year to go with for the book.  Some of the plans were in fragments, each stored in different files.  A few of the plans  – like the poorly named War Plan Yellow (against China) I found around 65% of the plan.  Others, like War Plan Red (war against Britain) I found two full sets of the plans, both for different years.

War Plan Red was a problem because I found some copies online – but I distrust the Internet so I was determined to find the originals.  It took a while – but I ended up with them (whew!).

So What is In The Book?

  • Information on US Military Planning. How did the plans come into being?
  • The 1905 Plan for War with Britain and Canada: War Plan Red/Crimson
The 1904 US Invasion of Canada
The 1904 US Invasion of Canada
  • The 1928/1929 Plans For War with Mexico: War Plan Green Variants #1, #2, and #3
  • The 1932 Plan for Intervention in Cuba: War Plan Tan
  • The 1940–1943 Plan for the Invasion of the Azores: War Plan Gray
  • The 1929 Plan For the American Incursion/Invasion of China: War Plan Yellow Variations A and B
  • The 1914 Plan For War With Germany: War Plan Black
  • An Alternate WWII—The 1935 Plan For the American War with The United Kingdom War Plan Red

What Was the Coolest Stuff I Discovered?

I’ll be honest – the plans were pretty awesome.  It is fascinating with War Plan Green how the issues we face today with Mexico are the same as they dealt with in the 20’s.

The War Plan Gray – the US planned invasion of the Azores at the start of WWII, was neat.  Stumbling across President Roosevelt’s signature on the plans was very cool.  Basically this plan called for the US to seize the Azores if Gibraltar fell to the Nazi’s.  These plans were on the table before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It makes you wonder how the Battle of the Atlantic would have gone.

War Plan Red – the 1935 plan to go to war with Britain was creepy.  First, it showed how off-base we were in 1935 that we were planning for a future war with Britain at a time when Hitler was emerging as a threat.  The most disturbing thing I found in War Plan Red was that we were going to use chemical weapons against Canada at the onset of the war, in violation of treaty.  It is hard to imagine the US planning on using such weapons against our neighbor that way in the opening shots of a war.

My absolute favorite was War Plan Black 1914.  The Navy and Army simulated/postulated a full war with a victorious Germany in late 1914 – early 1915.    I write a lot of Great War books but this was as treat.  The US simply assumed that Germany would be triumphant in Europe.  When they came to seize the French colonies – it would be interpreted as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine and would trigger a war with the US.  In this war the Germans would crush our Navy in the Atlantic and would seize Guantanamo Bay, then move against the East Coast.  It was eerie to read our planners estimates of US target cities.  Even stranger was finding the planned trench lines around the US Capital for the siege of Washington DC; which was the anticipated result of the German invasion.  The thought of Germany seizing parts of the US East Coast was entrancing and makes you wonder, “What if?”

The Siege of Washington DC by Germany -1915
The Siege of Washington DC by Germany -1915

Was There Anything You Didn’t Include?

I did discover a stash of plans regarding Ireland in WWII.  While out of bounds for this book, they were neat.  The plans were the British plans for invading Ireland if she declared support for Germany in WWII or was invaded by the Germans.  US intelligence got their hands on the plans and they were fascinating to read.  It makes you wonder what it would have been like, a skewed perspective on Operation Sea Lion.  I intend to go back and copy these materials someday for a magazine article.

I briefly covered the Rainbow War Plans and mentioned War Plan Orange (Japan).  The Rainbow plans were the final evolution of planning for war with Germany.  I was tempted to dive into these in greater detail but realized they could be a book all on their own.  War Plan Orange has already been covered by a great book – so I stayed away from that.  I couldn’t do it justice as a chapter in a book, given the extensive research that author Edward Miller already did on the subject.

I hope readers enjoy reading the book as much as I did researching it. If you want a glimpse into military planning and political thinking from the early 20th century, this book offers you both.  I think we are all thankful that we didn’t have to use any of these plans. #NeverWars

The Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg


The Sunken Road

December 11-15 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.  This is one of my favorite battlefields to study in Virginia (topped only by Chancellorsville and Manassas).  Fredericksburg is one of those battles that sticks in your mind that makes you contemplate some of the battles of the Great War fifty-two years later.  Both this battle and the Great War share in what was seen as the senseless slaughter of honorable men for little gains.  While I write a lot of Great War history books, one of my less-than-secret loves is study of the American Civil War.

General Ambrose Burnside, often maligned for his handling of the battle, was north of Warrenton when he got the word that Major General George B. McClellan was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac.  President Lincoln wanted action and General wanted to oblige.  His plan, rather than continue the plodding march that eventually Ulysses S. Grant would take, Burnside opted for something that seemed audacious at the time.  He would shift the massive Army of the Potomac to Fredericksburg.  From there, in Lee’s proverbial rear, he could force a crossing of the Rappahannock River, and take a shorter route south to Richmond.

The Fredericksburg Campaign on paper was a battle that could have been successful if not for logistical issues. The Army of the Potomac made the move quickly but was stalled waiting for the bridging equipment. The bridges at Fredericksburg and Falmouth had been destroyed, so bridging equipment, pontoons, were needed to cross the river.  Burnside was promised the pontoons quickly, but bureaucratic hang-ups, bad weather, and a lack of urgency delayed them.  This delay sealed the battle before any shot was fired by either side.

Lee, even in his own after-action reports, admits that he was caught off-guard by the Federal Army’s deployment.  He tossed Longstreet’s Corps to Fredericksburg and ordered Stonewall Jackson’s Corps back from the Shenandoah Valley.

On December 11 the Army of the Potomac made its move.   They tried to build their bridges but fell under fire by a brigade of Mississippi sharpshooters in the city of Fredericksburg.  Moving like modern day snipers, they riddled the bridging efforts, buying the Confederate forces more time.  The Federal Army’s response was to shell the town, damaging almost every structure in their bombardment.  The Union forces finally made their way across, but their fighting was just beginning.

On December 12-13 General Burnside pushed his force forward to cross the river piecemeal, rather than a cohesive and coordinated assault.  Stonewall Jackson’s force arrived on the Confederate right flank, securing high ground.  General Longstreet’s Corps was arrayed on the Confederate left, with the best position being at Marye’s Heights.  Near the top of the hill, running its length was a roadway with a retaining wall cut into the hillside providing a perfect line with full cover for the Confederates.  Longstreet had ringed the hilltops in his sector with artillery.  Having visited the battlefield several times I can assure you, it’s hard to see clearly given the current city buildings – but the hillside was clear fields of fire to where the city was along the waterfront.  Adding to this was a canal that bisected the advancing Federal lines, further breaking up their formations and slowing them while under this horrific fire.

The battle was brutal.  On Jackson’s front, General Meade rushed the open ground and tried to climb the hills to get to him.  Twenty-four year old artillerist John Pelham, “The Gallant Pelham,” took his pieces onto a position that allowed him to fire down the length of Meade’s lines.

I did some civil war relic hunting (with permission on private property) on the ground where Meade’s men rushed towards Jackson’s position.   When you stand there you realize how much the land offers no cover other than the shallow railroad embankment, and how Confederate fire enfiladed Meade’s Pennsylvanians.  Eventually the Federals recoiled on his front, but made it so far as to engage some of Jackson’s troops in vicious hand-to-hand fighting.  Little did General Burnside realize at the moment that this thrust was the closest that he would come to a possible victory in the fighting.

Matters were worse for the Army of the Potomac’s main thrust at Marye’s Heights.  Longstreet’s artillery had overlapping fields of fire from elevated positions.  One Confederate summed it up… A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.”  Those that survived the carnage of shrapnel and hot iron/lead, faced a highly protected force in the sunken road.  Wave after wave of troops were fed piecemeal into this meat-grinder, only to be mowed down and forced to fall back into what was left of Fredericksburg.  As General Robert E. Less summed it up to General Longstreet, “It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it.”

Despite his horrific losses, General Burnside went so far as to draw up orders for another final assault on December 14.  He planned on leading the attack himself.  His staff convinced him that any such assault on the hill littered with Federal dead would result in his suicide and the loss of more lives.  Burnside consented and withdrew to Stafford Heights.  The Confederates inflicted more than two-to-one losses against as numerically superior enemy.  More than 2/3 of those that died did so attempting to seize the stone wall at the sunken road.

Fredericksburg did not mark the end of Burnside’s leadership of the army, contrary to popular belief.  Most people don’t factor in that during the winter months, the armies went to winter camp and campaigning ended.  Burnside tried again in the spring to outflank Lee heading back towards Culpeper from Falmouth, but the muddy Virginia roads literally consumed his army.  The campaign which ended ingloriously was known as the Mud March.  Burnside, while he carried a mark of shame, had been thrust into command of the Army of the Potomac.  Unlike Hooker, who waged politics and backstabbing to get control of the same force.  Hooker’s campaign was nearly identical to the Mud March, sans the mud, and he nearly would have succeeded if not for his many errors at Chancellorsville.  While as a historian I would not argue that Ambrose Burnside was a good general, but he was not entirely in command of his circumstances.  That, and he opposed the Confederate Army near its zenith under the command of Robert E. Lee.

Aside from its commander, Fredericksburg became a scar on the Army of the Potomac.  Not until Gettysburg would this wound heal.  When Pickett’s Charge was shattered in a similar assault, the Federal forces would chant, “Fredericksburg!” at their mauled foes.

Article in Smithsonian Air and Space on The Lafayette Escadrille

Bert Hall of the Lafayette Escadrille
Bert Hall of the Lafayette Escadrille

I recently was interviewed about Bert Hall for the November issue of Air and Space.  It’s always a strange thing for me when I forget about these interviews and they then show up in print.


Bert was a member of the Lafayette Escadrille – one of the founding members.  He didn’t fit the mold of the aristocratic young men from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Virginia that made up the squadron…not by a long shot.  Hall was a scoundrel.  His father had been a die-hard Confederate, one of the few that had taken part in the Exodus of Confederates into Mexico hoping to forge a state there.  While he had a relative that fought in the American Revolution, Bert himself was a bit of an opportunist.

When the war broke out in 1914 Hall was driving a cab in Paris.  He drank with the younger American students that gathered there, befriending them.  Seduced by the concept that the war was going to be a six month affair, Hall was part of the original “Band of Brothers” that enlisted in the French Foreign Legion to fight for France, a full three years before the United States entered the fray.

Hall was part of that first phase of the war, before the long lines of semi-static trenches.  He saw good men, Americans and French, die horribly.  When the opportunity came to transfer to the French Air Service, he jumped at it.  It had to be better than the random death on the front lines.

Despite his Hall ended up being at the right place at the right time when two of the young Americans pressed for an all-American squadron.  Hall was one of the founders, and one of the early members of the brotherhood of American aviators in France – the Lafayette Flying Corps.  He scored victories in the Escadrille Américaine (the early name of the Lafayette Escadrille).

Hall didn’t fit in with the rich boys.  He cheated at cards, allegedly stole from them, and crossed some of the members as the unit began to suffer deaths.  He was transferred to another unit, where he scored more victories.

Hall was transferred to Romania, being the only American to fly on both the Western and Eastern fronts in the war.  He ended up in St. Petersburg Russia when the revolution broke out, traveling across the embroiled country to return to America and became a film writer and actor – portraying his “life story” in A Romance of the Air.  Bert Hall was a sort of real-life Forrest Gump – ending up in China between the wars, where he was made a Chinese General commanding local air forces; though he was much more of a mercenary and arms dealer.  Hall gambled his way across China and was eventually arrested for a shady arms deal.  Hall collected ex-wives and children all around the world.  One of his sons even raced in the Indy 500 while another flew for the British in WWII.

Say what you will about this “lovable rogue,” he certainly tromped the Earth. While his impacts are negligible, his story is unique and incredible, even as you wade through his self-promoting hype.   Want to read more?  Check out my book, The Bad Boy – Bert Hall, Aviator and Mercenary of the Skies (Fonthill Media).

Battle of Cambrai


Mark IV Male tank – heading towards the green fields beyond…

One of the battles of the Great War that has always held my attention is the Battle of Cambrai – November 20 – December 7, 1917.  As autumn creeps to winter and we enter the anniversary period of this struggle, my mind once more turns to this battle.

My first exposure to the battle was the SPI wargame, To The Green Fields Beyond.  SPI taught a lot of armchair historians about war through their simulations.  I played the game twice and realized just how important this battle was – not in the Great War, but in the wars that were to follow.

Cambrai is often mislabeled as the first large-scale use of tanks.  It wasn’t, tanks had been used in battle since the autumn of 1916.  It was the first use of tanks in a combined arms strategy – where infantry, airpower, artillery, and armor worked on concert. The battle was not the grand strategic victory that the British had envisioned, but it was a foreshadowing of the blitzkrieg attacks that would dominate the early stages of WWII.

I’ve visited the Imperial War Museum and always have enjoyed seeing the Mark IV tank they had on display.  These things were beasts.  Twenty-nine tons they moved at painfully slow speeds topping at four mph.  There were eight crew who all basically worked on top of a huge hot engine.  The tanks were steaming pressure cookers for the crew.  At slow speeds they were almost always under fire.  The “Male” tanks mounted two six-pounders and three Lewis machineguns.  The “Female” versions mounted five Lewis guns.  Reeking of fuel and packed with ammunition, they were creeping targets that demanded enemy fire rain in on them.  Yet when I saw the tank at the museum, I realized just how small and cramped they really were.  It was hard to imagine five men, let alone eight, crammed into one of them.  It had to be exciting and frightening to crew one of these lumbering beasts.

The battle itself started out stunningly well for the BEF.  Six infantry divisions were supported by an unprecedented 437 tanks.  The tanks were equipped to lay fascines, bundles of sticks, across the trenches.  The vision was clear, the tanks could creep across the trenches with the infantry in close support.  Earlier use of tanks alone had proved that they were vulnerable without infantry support. The tanks were able to bring their guns to bear at deadly point blank ranges on the German defenders.

The battle initially was a stunning success, if anything it was too successful.  The heavily defended Hindenburg Line was broken.  Church bells rang in Britain in celebration.  The attack drove five miles into the German lines.  There were hopes, for the first time in years, of reaching the rear areas – the “Green fields beyond.”  While by modern standards five miles was nothing, in the later years of the Great War it was stunning.

Then the problems set in.  The tanks began to break down in large numbers. The British, for all of their planning, had not allocated the proper number of troops to exploit the breach in the German lines.  The Germans, employing new troops “Stormtroopers” and tactics, were able to counterattack and eventually would erase the British gains.

The ultimate impact of the battle was to reshape the thinking of the use of a tank as part of a combined arms operation.  The two weeks of fighting had changed how military planners viewed warfare.  Armor’s role was cemented.  The foundation for the tactics and tools of WWII were forged at Cambrai.

Newly Uncovered Photos – Secret Witness

Anyone that writes true crime will tell you that you are never completely done with the book.  New things surface from time-to-time.  I will tell you that as an author, you get attached to the case and people bring you new information or images all of the time.  The internet is a great way for me to share the more interesting tid-bits.

My book Secret Witness was my first true crime book.  It details the postal bombing murder of Nola Puyear in 1967 in Marshall Michigan. The perpetrator of these crimes was Enoch Chism who killed Mrs. Puyear in a bizarre quest to get her husband to sell the Tasty Café on Marshall’s main street.

One of the crimes that Chism had committed prior to his arrest for murder was the arson of his brother’s property at 114 Fountain Street in 1963.  Chism had doused the house with fuel oil and had set the blaze, then raced to work at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek in hopes that would provide him an alibi.  It didn’t work, but the justice system failed miserably, giving Chism a slap on the wrist for his crime.  He received probation for two years, a $50 fine for the arson, and was forced to pay $100 court costs and five dollars for the State Police training fund.

Chism clearly abused his wife – it was the subject of many calls to police.  In the 1960’s there were no domestic abuse laws in place.  Unchecked for his arson, Chism’s horrific temper spilled over beyond his family.  More than one officer on the case told me that if Chism had been properly sentenced for this crime, he would have never been able to mail the package bomb to the Tasty Café and take Mrs. Puyear’s life.

When I was in Battle Creek with my daughter during our book tour for our latest New York Times Bestseller, The Murder of Maggie Hume, a person handed me a folder filled with images from the arson.  From the markings, they look like old newspaper photos but these images were never in the papers (except the one of Chism himself) – which makes them intriguing.  While far too late to include in the book, they were interesting and I thought I would offer them up for people who have read the book.  Here they are:

??????????????Enoch Chism

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The site of the arson on Fountain St. 

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The damage from the fire and the investigators 

If you know who the men are in the photo – please feel free to comment on the blog.