BOOK REVIEW ~ The Kidnap Years

The Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America

 


This book takes you back to the 1930s and headline making kidnapping cases as it follows them from start to finish. The kidnappings became so common and got so out of hand that something had to be done. It took the death of the Lindbergh baby for a real change in the law to happen. I enjoyed this book, reading about the crime in that decade, though I was familiar with several of the cases already there was information that was new to me. The kidnappers were as different as their selected victims were. I read a book on the kidnapping of one of the Busch beer clan awhile back that was very good.

Many of the gangsters were into bootlegging, and with the end of Prohibition coming, they were worried about that loss of very good income. So they began branching out into kidnapping to create a new revenue stream. One of the aspects of kidnappings that I loathe is the ones who kidnap the victim and kill them right away and dump the body because they are too lazy to even bother with taking care of a hostage. What a nuisance, they figure. So, without even waiting to see if the family is going to pay or not, one side’s treated like they have done something wrong and assassinated an innocent party for no reason. Which, of course is not discovered until after the ransom money is paid and the kidnappers believe that they are safely away, and at times are. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author David Stout, and the publisher.

 


 

 

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Publisher: Sourcebooks – 464 pages
Publication: April 7th, 2020
My rating: 4/5 Stars


 

The Author- DAVID STOUT, an Edgar Award winner, is a reporter for the New York Times and has written frequently on criminal justice issues. He is the author of several books, including two of which were adapted for network-television movies.

 


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ Williams’ Gang

Williams’ Gang: A Notorious Slave Trader and His Human Cargo of Black Convicts


This is a very thorough history of slave trader William H. Williams of Washington, DC who ran the infamous Yellow House. It was a boarding stable of sorts for slaves who were being held between points of transport, and some were viewed for possible sale. This is also the place where Solomon Northup found himself after being drugged and kidnapped, and where he was later sold into slavery, despite being a free man from New York. He later wrote about his experiences in his autobiography titled Twelve Years A Slave.

Williams’ Gang is filled with information on the state of the slave’s situation in the US and also for various dealers in human chattel, aka bondsmen and women in the 1800s. When in 1840, Williams gets involved in buying 27 convict slaves, who were only to be sold and taken outside the US territory. He had even been made to put up a bond to that effect. But that’s not quite how it worked out, and legal matters ensued that went on for decades. A good read for anyone interested in slavery in this time period of history. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Jeff Forret, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press  –  450 pages
Published: Jan 16th, 2020
My Rating: 4/5 Stars


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ A Date With the Hangman

This is a history of capital punishment in Britain and it’s got some interesting facts and details from the past. It covers all the different methods used to execute condemned people through the centuries. It also discusses the executioners, and has a section listing people that were hung between 1900, their executioner, through abolition in 1964. I found it interesting and informative, I like reading about this type of thing and if it’s something that you enjoy also, you might want to check it out too. The death penalty is often a hot topic in our country too, as so many people here feel it’s not a deterrent as well. But there are still many who are wanting to keep it as well, and the debate goes on. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Gary Dobbs, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher: Pen and Sword History – 152 pages
Publication: Nov 30th, 2019
RATED:  3.5/5 Stars


The Author- Welsh author Gary M. Dobbs first saw print as a fiction writer. Using the pen name Jack Martin he is responsible for a string of best-selling western novels as well as the hugely popular crime series, Granny Smith. The latter published under his own name.


 

BOOK REVIEW ~ The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims

Finally, a book that looks more into the lives of the Ripper’s victims rather than giving all of the attention to the killer himself. From what it shows, the victims have often been misrepresented up to this point. It discusses the false belief at the time that the women chose to be prostitutes rather than be respectable housewives, like they had a choice. Also, how they were often portrayed as dirty, drunken women, stumbling around looking for their next hookup. I found this honest look into the victim’s lives much more interesting than yet another ho-hum attempt at guessing who the Ripper is again. A fresh look at the story with a bit more realistic look at how things really were for poor women back then in many cases, instead of the hogwash that’s been carried down through the years.

It shares information on each of the victims, making them more real people rather than characters in a story. The advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Dr. Robert Hume, and the publisher.


 

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Publisher: Pen & Sword – 168 pages
Published: Jan 2nd, 2020
RATED: 4/5 Stars


The Author- Now an author and freelance feature writer, Dr Robert Hume was former head of history at Hillview School, Tonbridge, and Clarendon House Grammar School, Ramsgate, Kent. He writes regularly for magazines such as BBC History, History Today and the Irish Examiner. This is his first book for Pen and Sword.

Blonde Rattlesnake

Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrorized Los Angeles

This turned out to be an interesting read about a media-heavy story back in the nineteen thirties about a five-days married couple, Burmah Adam White and Tom White, who were tracked down by law enforcement after a crime spree in Los Angeles that really had people on edge. They’d met at a dance, and had a rather whirlwind courtship of only a couple of weeks that coincided with the crime spree. It’s no surprise her family wasn’t a fan of the match, especially her dad, who really tried to talk her out of it. But she was having none of it, being a headstrong nineteen-year-old.

To the bride’s surprise, the groom turned out not to be a stockbroker with family wealth. He’s a stick-up man who used her as his driver and lookout person, and now she’s in all kinds of trouble sitting in jail awaiting her trial. Tom got the easy way out in a pine box after a shootout with the cops, so she’s also quickly a widow too.

I kind of felt they had to pad this story a bit to get enough for a book out of it by going off on tangents at times, like there wasn’t enough information on the subjects themselves and the trial, etc. But since I wanted to read the story I stuck with it. It still makes for a decent read if you like historical true crime from this period, the Depression era. I really enjoyed the pictures that are included too.  Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Julia Bricklin, and Lyons Press.

 

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Publisher: Lyons Press – 200 pages
Publication: June 1st, 2019
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

The Author– Julia Bricklin is the author of Polly Pry: The Woman Who Wrote the West (2018, TwoDot) and numerous articles for commercial and academic journals and magazines. In addition to serving as associate editor of California History, the publication of the California Historical Society, she is a professor of history at Glendale Community College. Bricklin’s interest in historical figures of the American West stems from her extensive collection of books, and from decades of watching spaghetti Westerns with her father. She lives in Studio City, California.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden

The Trial of Lizzie Borden

This is a book that delves into the story of Lizzie Borden and the murders of her father Andrew and step-mother Abby. But it mostly focuses on the trial after the murders, once she’s been held and it’s been found that there is supposedly enough evidence against her to bind her over, and a grand jury has filed a true bill. This is a good retelling of the facts of the murders and Lizzie’s arrest and time in jail, especially the trial afterward. It’s very detailed and gives a good recounting of how life was back in those days. But overall, I found it a bit parched. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Cara Robertson, and the publisher for my fair review.

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster – 400 pages
Published: March 12th, 2019

RATED: 3.5/5 Stars

The Author–  Cara Robertson is a lawyer whose writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, the Raleigh News and Observer, and the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities. She was educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford Law School. A former Supreme Court law clerk, she served as a legal adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and a Visiting Scholar at Stanford Law School. Her scholarship has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center of which she is a Trustee.

Wild Bill

Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter

I enjoyed this book on Wild Bill Hickok very much as an updated biography. Tom Clavin does a great job of sorting between hype and facts to get to what is more likely in the real story of James Butler Hickok and his exploits. Apparently, there had been a sibling named Bill that hadn’t survived, and James and his brother Lorenzo both were fond of calling themselves ‘Bill’ at times. When James went out on his own away from the family, the name stuck, along with various descriptors like Wild Bill or Shanghai Bill.

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The book does a good job of telling about his short but exciting and event-filled life as a farmer, gunslinger, and lawman. After serving in the Civil War, Hickok made his way to Springfield, Missouri and was enjoying a spell of gambling. He’d met and become friends for a time with Davis Tutt another gambler, but the friendship soured. .Hickok was in a duel where he shot and killed Tutt in July 1865, displaying his lightning-fast quick-draw set his reputation. Unfortunately, it also made him a target for every wannabe gunslinger in the West who thought he was faster and wanted to prove it My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Tom Clavin, and the publisher for my fair review.

Publisher: St Martin’s Press – 336 pages
Publication: Feb 5th, 2019

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The AuthorTOM CLAVIN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has worked as a newspaper and web site editor, magazine writer, TV and radio commentator, and a reporter for The New York Times. He has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and National Newspaper Association. His books include The Heart of Everything That Is, Halsey’s Typhoon, and Reckless. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY.

Famous Assassinations

Famous Assassinations

Ms. Herman’s book is about various assassinations through time and their supposed motives, and assassins. It discusses how some have political motives and other are more financial or religious. Some are hard to determine at all, some are done for attention or status. This book briefly covers many well-known assassinations, such as Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, Franz Ferdinand, Michael Collins, and many others. Below I show how it’s broken down into sections. It looks into motives, etc. but you are left to decide for yourself. It’s a good read for those who like true crime, and history. My thanks for the electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Sarah Herman, and the publisher for my fair review.

Chapter One: When in Rome…

Chapter Two: For God and King

Chapter Three: Rights, Riots and Revolutionaries

Chapter Four: Tsars, Agents and Mystic Monks

Chapter Five: The Death of a President

Chapter Six: A Bad Attempt

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Sapere Books   211 pages
Pub:  Nov 9th, 2018

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

The Author Sarah Herman is a British writer and editor. She’s worked for film, fashion and food magazines, including Star Wars Insider, Total Film and The Ingénue, and has written over twenty non-fiction books on topics as varied as unsolved crimes, The Archers and Facebook.

Bringing Down the Colonel

Bringing Down the Colonel: A Sex Scandal of the Gilded Age, and the ‘Powerless’ Woman Who Took On Washington

A look at things in Victorian America for women. A Kentucky lawyer and politician makes promises he won’t keep and plays fast and loose with young women while his wife is at home. When he’s finally brought up short and one files a lawsuit against him for breach of promise, he tries to brush her off, using his power and prominence to quiet her. Madeline Pollard files a lawsuit after Colonel Breckenridge marries another woman, leaving her in the lurch after nearly 10 years of promises to marry her. She’s left with a bad reputation and no future and takes up residence in a residence for wayward women.

Another young woman, Jennie Tucker goes undercover for the defense using another name to try and befriend Pollard and gain intel. The case goes to court, and Pollard gives her side of things, showing all that the Colonel has truly put her through, and all that she has given up for him, including the children she bore him. The case is ascribed to changing the feeling of people against women being the only party responsible when there is a public outing of a couple doing wrong, never the male, prior to this case. Sentiments became harder toward men after this in terms of morality. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Patricia Miller, and the publisher for my fair review.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux 384 pages
Pub: Nov 13th, 2018

RATED: 4/5 Stars

The AuthorPatricia Miller is a journalist and an editor who has written extensively about the intersection of politics, sex, and religion. Her work has appeared in The AtlanticSalonThe NationThe Huffington PostRH Reality Check, and Ms. magazine. She is a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches, where she writes about the politics of sexuality and the Catholic Church. She was formerly the editor of Conscience magazine and the editor in chief of National Journals daily health-care briefings, including the Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report and American Healthline. She has a master’s in journalism from New York University and is based in Washington, D.C.

Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present

This is a comprehensive history of serial killers by author Peter Vronsky which discusses killers going way back, and talks about the coining of the term ‘serial killer’ and its use. Lots of research went into the book and it’s very well written. Unfortunately, I had trouble with parts of it due to my sleep disorder, which caused me difficulty getting through it so I’ll likely go back and read it again at a later date when it’s not acting up as much. For those interested in the subject, you may want to give this a look if you want to check out the history of them and how they came into being. A different type of book than the ones about their crimes and the trials, but fascinating in another way, for sure, as an overview. It is impressive with all of the information that went into it. It gives a good understanding of how they likely came into being from the very earliest of times, from the days of Cain and Abel…Adam and Eve. My thanks for the advance electronic copy provided by Netgalley, author Peter Vronsky, and the publisher, for my fair review.

Berkley Publishing Group
Pub: Aug 14th, 2018

RATING: 4/5 stars