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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Two Sides to Every Story: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

Most people know who Charles Lindbergh was – he was the first person to have a successful non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, in 1927. From this brave act an American hero was born. Aficionados of Lindbergh may also be familiar with the kidnapping of Lindbergh’s young son on the evening of March 1, 1932. The child was found dead two months later. The main suspect was Bruno Richard Hauptmann. He was eventually tried, convicted and executed for the murder of the Lindbergh baby. There has always been something that has bothered me about this case (and many others as well) and I wanted to present the two sides – Murderer vs. Scapegoat for this issue of Two Sides.

Photo Credit: Flemington Police Department photographic records

There are many pieces of evidence that point to Hauptmann being the kidnapper/murderer that the investigators were looking for. He matched the description of the man who was seen passing gold certificates which were included in the ransom money that was paid; he was also found to have a gold certificate on him when arrested. A large sum of ransom money was found in the garage of his house as well. A study of his handwriting seemed to be very similar to the handwriting on the ransom notes. He was also an immigrant with a prison record for robbery. They were also able to match tool marks from Hauptmann’s tools to that on the ladder left at the Lindbergh home – Hauptmann was also a carpenter. Lindbergh took the stand himself during the trial and identified Hauptmann’s voice as a voice he had heard during the delivery of the ransom money. All of these things led the jury to find Hauptmann guilty of First Degree Murder and he was sentenced to death by electrocution.

Hauptmann Center
Photo credit: Boston Public Library via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

While there seems to be much evidence to support the conviction of Hauptmann there are also a few things that suggest there may have been ulterior motives in convicting this man. There were blunders during the investigative phase. Charles Lindbergh was principally in charge of the investigation – which was a little strange as he didn’t have any investigative experience. This led to some destroyed evidence, such as footprints, and a chain of custody which was unreliable. During the trial there were issues too. Hauptman insisted all along that he was innocent and that he had been holding the “ransom” money for a friend, Isidore Fisch, who had left it in his possession when he went back to Germany, and subsequently died. Hauptmann took the stand in his own defense and testified that he had been beaten by the police and forced to modify his handwriting to match the samples. Throughout his trial and for the next 60 years following his death, Hauptmann’s wife, Anna, constantly protested his innocence in the crime. Hauptmann’s defense attorney, Edward J Reilly, was also a very ineffectual attorney – he was frequently drunk and listless in the courtroom, and failed to follow up on crucial arguments that favored the defendant. There was also the possibility to planted evidence in terms of the wood used to construct the ladder used in the kidnapping coming from the Hauptmann residence – this piece of evidence was disputed over its admissibility in court. There was even an issue over the identification of the baby’s body as that of the Lindbergh child – the autopsy has been described as “haphazard” and there was a discrepancy over identifying marks on the body. Lindbergh had identified his son by looking at his teeth – when he was certainly no expert.

Many high profile cases are re-investigated decades/centuries after they happened and we are sometimes able to change our view on an event based on evidence that can now be examined that there was no technology for in the past. Today, would all of these errors, prejudices, and questionable evidence alter the verdict of a jury? I personally question whether he was guilty or not – but even more so, in my opinion his trial was unfair. Have you developed an opinion either way on this case? What is the most damning evidence against him or the piece of evidence that makes you question the verdict against him?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Audiobook Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Book 1 of Thomas Cromwell trilogy
Unabridged, 24 hr. 19 min.
Macmillan Audio
Simon Slater (Narrator)
October 20, 2009
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction (literary fiction)

Source: Borrowed audio from Arleigh at Historical-Fiction.com
“England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the Pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events.

Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.”
Alright, right off I’m going to tell you that I didn't really like this book like most others that I talk to, and there are quite a few reasons why, which I will elaborate on in a few lines. I have actually attempted to read this book twice. I had received this book for review back in 2009 and could not get myself past about page 30. Every time that I picked it up to read it I would find myself falling asleep. At first I thought it was because I was just tired at that time, but I would still have similar problems when I read it the second time. So I stopped reading it and gave it away to a fellow blogger.

Time elapsed – a year and a half passed – and I read so many awesome raving reviews of the book I thought maybe I had missed something. I decided I would think about trying it again on audiobook this time (a great narrator can really make a difference). Arleigh at Historical-Fiction.com offered to let me borrow her audio copy and I took her up on the opportunity. The second time around was better and I will give all of the credit to the narrator and audio production because I still didn’t love the story.

I had a difficult time staying interested in this novel because it never felt like anything was happening. I have been told that this is a hallmark of literary fiction – which focuses more on style and characters – and if that is the case, I guess literary fiction is not for me. I certainly like to have depth of characters and well written prose, but I want to know that over the 600-ish pages there are plot points and excitement and in general, things that happen. I learned a lot about the character of Thomas Cromwell, who was relatively new to me and often serves more as a periphery character in other’s stories. He was also portrayed as more of a sympathetic character as opposed to the mostly negative depictions of him in other works of literature. I didn’t like the point of view – everything was “he”, “he”, “he” – and at several points I totally lost track as to who was being described. I also felt that the ending was very abrupt – I was waiting for the story to wrap up, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be.

Also, my biggest question, what the heck is up with the title? They never went to Wolf Hall, nothing happened at Wolf Hall, nothing critical related to Wolf Hall happened, and the only connection to it (Jane Seymour) was a minor character. If someone could explain this to me I would be very grateful.


Now, the audio production on the other hand, was quite good. The narrator did a fabulous job of portraying different characters, accents, female characters, etc. He even had to do a little singing at one point. There were some very minor sound effects used in the production – the one that stands out most in my mind was the use of a lute-type instrument during the singing portion. It certainly added to the experience. I can safely say that this book would have remained a DNF if I had not chosen to listen to it on audio. The narrator was the saving grace for me.

You can listen to an excerpt from the audio below

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Hilary Mantel

bring up the bodies
Bring up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell #2)
[My Review]

image coming soon
The Mirror and the Light (Thomas Cromwell #3)

Find Hilary Mantel: Website | Facebook

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's In A Name - Queen

Sometimes you just need a good list of books to choose from.  Sometimes you are just looking for a certain subject of theme.  I have put together a list of fiction books with Queen in their titles from the books on my bookshelf.  I have not put together and exhaustive list of the genre - but please feel free to add titles in the comments and I will update this post.  Enjoy!

The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent
Captive Queen by Alison Weir
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George
The Queen's Bastard by Robin Maxwell
Queen Jezebel by Jean Plaidy
The Queen and Lord M by Jean Plaidy
The Queen's Husband by Jean Plaidy
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
The Queen's Pawn by Christy English
To Be Queen by Christy English
Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
Queen of the Summer Stars by Persia Woolley

Additional books (thanks to Marie)
The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
Indiscretions of the Queen by Jean Plaidy
The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
Queen Defiant by Anne O'Brien
Twilight of a Queen by Susan Carroll
All the Queen's Players by Jane Feather
The Captive Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy
The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger
The Queen's Rival by Diane Haeger

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - HNS Wrap Up

So it has been a week since the Historical Novel Society 4th North American Conference ended.  It doesn't feel like it was that long ago.  I will kick this off by saying that I had the most wonderful time!  FYI this is one of those marathon posts and there is a giveaway at the end for HNS swag!
My flight out to San Diego was a long one.  I had to get up at 3:30 AM (Eastern time) to catch my flight out of Hartford, CT.  That went very smoothly.  After about an hour and a half flight, I changed planes in Detroit - of course I had to go from gate 68 to 11 and had 20 minutes to do so before boarding.  I got my workout in for the day!  Then the long part of the flight - just over 4 hours to San Diego.  I have to say, despite the bad press that Delta is getting these days - I was extremely happy with my 2 Delta flights.  We were served ample snacks (and had several things to choose from), I purchased a very tasty breakfast meal, and I was happy with the service - so I'm not complaining.  

So it was around 11 AM (Pacific time) when I finally got to the hotel room.  It was on the 7th floor and had a great view of the parking lot and a few buildings - we were not on the side with the waterfront, which was right across the street.  I shared a hotel room with Allie from Hist Fic Chick - we hadn't seen each other since BEA 2010 - so you can imagine we had a lot to catch up on (but she didn't get there until 7 PM so I had some time on my hands).

I napped a bit to get caught up on the time change and then met with Christy English for a coffee/soda before the registration for the conference.  We chatted for about an hour about everything from Eleanor of Aquitaine to my tornado experience to where we are from.  She is the nicest person.  We would meet up several more times throughout the conference.  
Afterward there was registration and a cocktail reception - I met so many different authors and people from various aspects of the publishing world.  While I was in line for a glass of wine I ran into Laurel Corona, Anne Easter Smith, and Susanne Dunlap.  It was so cool to hear "hey, this is one of our bloggers!".  After mingling for a while it was time for dinner - I sat at a table with Susan Higginbotham, among many others, and Allie finally arrived!  The keynote speaker was Henry Turtledove - who I had no idea who he was - who spoke about alternative history.  A new addition to the conference schedule was Friday Night Fight Scenes - several authors got up and read from their fight scenes.  We only stayed for the first one, since fight scenes are not really my thing when I am reading.  After that, it was off to our hotel room to chit chat, read, explore our swag bags, and listen ALL NIGHT to the trains coming into the train station 2 blocks behind our hotel!  That sucked just a bit.

Saturday morning started bright and early at 7 AM - and I was still feeling the effects of the time change.  We had breakfast with Christy English et al and honestly we skipped the first panel to walk around and just get our bearings together (it was early!) then we were off to our first panels.  The first panel we viewed was Historical Fiction and the Fantastic.  This was featuring Mary Sharratt as moderator and Cecelia Holland, C.C. Humphreys, Shauna Roberts, and Christopher Cevasco as panelists.  The basic discussion of the panel was about the drawing on belief and superstition of a people when writing about them.  C. C. Humphreys made some of the most poignant statements on this panel - "magic happens to people who believe in magic" when discussing the beliefs of the people who are writing about.  Also, that the fantastical elements can bring young men into the historical genre and bridge that gap between fantasy novels and historical fiction.
Our second panel was Are Marquee Names Really Necessary?  This was a panel that I was very interested in hearing the opinions of because I have often wondered the same thing.  I have enjoyed novels that feature marquee names and those that don't, but wondered how well they did.  Allie and I sat with Kate Quinn, who we had met at dinner the night before.  This panel was again moderated by Mary Sharratt and featured Susanne Dunlap, C.W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, and Margaret George.  As you can imagine the panel was split on this one - Sankaran and Dunlap haven't really used marquee names while Gortner and George have.  I learned that a marquee name isn't just limited to a famous character but can also be a famous place, setting, or event - at least that leaves a little more wiggle room.  Gortner stated that the use of a marquee name is driven mostly by the publishers while readers are happy to read about a wide subject range.  George added on to that by relating that she had been told by an editor that the marquee name has to be in the title.  I could understand both of these statements because they are looking for the thing that will reach out and grab the readers from their spaces on the shelf.  An interesting difference is within the YA genre - Dunlap stated that it seems that YA readers are looking more for the exciting story as opposed to the marquee name, possibly because the names are not as entrenched in their minds yet.
After this panel we went off to lunch - we sat with M.L. Malcolm and several other authors and chatted away.  The keynote speaker was Jennifer Weltz from the Jean V Naggar Literary Agency.  Her speech was awesome.  If you want to read it in its entirety you can here (and you really should because it gives a great insight into an agent's job, just beware it is LONG!).  Off to our next panels!

The next panel was a one woman show - Susan Vreeland discussing her various novels and reading excerpts from them all.  This was interesting as I have several of her books but haven't read them yet.  The last panel of the day that we went to was Whose Side Are You On? Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists.  This panel had several heavy hitters in my opinion.  The panel was moderated by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and featured Emma Campion, Anne Easter Smith, Susan Higginbotham, and C.W. Gortner.  Allie and I had the chance to meet Sandra Worth who was featured recently on this HFRT site.  She was so sweet and thanked us for hosting her.  I thought it was funny that Smith and Higginbotham were seated side by side since they write from different perspectives on the Wars of the Roses.  I loved these quotes that the authors made about their various sympathetic protagonists - "I was drawn to her [Catherine de Medici] because she had this reptilian, woman in black portrayal" (Gortner); "her story just didn't hold weight, this doesn't make sense" (Campion on Alice Perrers history); "Margaret of Anjou was this totally evil woman with no redeeming qualities what so ever" (Higginbotham); "Richard III was definitely one of our bad kings" (Smith on what she was taught in school about Richard III).

The panels were followed up by book signings (where I got Mistress of Rome signed by Kate Quinn and my ARC of Before Versailles signed by Karleen Koen).  If only I could have brought my books with me from home because I had books by so many of these authors I could have had signed!  We also had the chance to stop and talk with Mitchell James Kaplan.

There was another reception and then dinner.  During the reception we chatted with C.W. Gortner and Michelle Moran - both of whom I was very excited to meet as we have exchanged emails in the past.  At dinner we sat with Gillian Bagwell, M.L. Malcolm, DeAnna Cameron, Lynn Sheene, Marci Jefferson, Kevan Lyon, and Deann Smith.  This was a great group of ladies to sit and chat books with.  The keynote speaker this time was Cecelia Holland - a short speech but it cut straight to the point and earned a standing ovation.  This was followed by a Historical Fashion show - the host was hilarious as she introduced each person - an author wearing garb from one of their novels.
 Following the fashion show, Allie and I went and joined Kate Quinn and C.W. Gortner to listen to the most scandalous part of the conference - Saturday Night Sex Scene readings!  Yes, it is exactly what you are thinking - authors read sex scenes from their novels.  There were awkward moments, moments that made you bust out laughing, and those where you were a little horrified - but we couldn't have been sitting with better people to enjoy this show.  Then it was off to our hotel rooms - where a group of us got stuck in the elevator for awhile before it finally decided to let us out on a floor we hadn't chosen!

Sunday morning started out with packing up my bags, figuring out how to get all of these books home, and breakfast.  During breakfast with Mitchell James Kaplan and Christy English, Laurel Corona asked us if we had any lunch plans for after the conference ended, we didn't, and we were invited out to lunch with a group - I will return to this story later.

The last panel that we attended was Fact in Fiction or Fiction in Fact - this was another heavy hitting panel and probably the one I was most looking forward to.  Jennifer Weltz was the moderator and Donna Woolfolk Cross, C.W. Gortner, Karleen Koen, and Sandra Worth were on the panel.  By this point, I had stopped taking notes but it was a wonderful panel.  Afterward we went and finished packing, checked out, and met the group to head to lunch.
We walked about 5 blocks to a cute restaurant in Little Italy - in the process I managed to trip on the curb and fall on the sidewalk - I'm still dealing with the scrapes and bruises.  Lunch ended up being over 20 of us including Laurel Corona, Susanne Dunlap, Sherry Jones, Margaret George, C.W. Gortner, Vanitha Sankaran, Christy English and Mitchell James Kaplan among others.  It was a wonderful causal atmosphere.  Everyone departed from here for their various planes, trains, hotel, or other fun explorations.
 I went back to the hotel with Susanne Dunlap and Deb Grabien and we sat in the hotel restaurant and talked for a few hours - Susanne and I had several hours to kill before our flights left that night.  After hanging out at the airport for awhile I caught my red eye to Charlotte, NC.  Luckily I slept some on the plane there, because by the time I get to NC it was 7 AM.  I had breakfast, caught my flight to Hartford, and then drove the hour home from there.  You can probably imagine what I did next - slept for a few hours.  It took me two days to get back on the correct schedule (I even called out of work on Tuesday because I was still not a functioning human being.)  It was an absolutely wonderful trip and I wish I had more time to explore more of San Diego and meet some more of the people there.  Allie and I have since talked with Sarah from Reading the Past (and an organizer for the conference) about a blogger/social networking panel for the 2013 conference.  I had several authors ask me why there wasn't one (I don't know!) - so we will see where that goes - but I hope to be able to attend again in 2013!

Whew!  Told you it was going to be a marathon post!  Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Now for the giveaway!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by The Muse in the Fog Book Reviews.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court