Friday, 22 November 2013

Murder and Morality In Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith by Eleanor Gordon and Gwyneth Nair


"Murder and Morality in Victorian Britain (2009) is not considered a true-crime book.  The authors make no attempt to solve the mystery of whether Madeleine was guilty of the murder.  Instead, through her own hand, we are provided with a uniquely intriguing opportunity to see into her world, explore the evidence of her life, understand how it was used against her at the trial, and perhaps wonder whether her letters indeed provided a possible motive for murder." - Joanne Pearman, Research Student, University of Kent, 2010.

Paperback:  This book explores the life of Madeleine Smith, who in 1857 was tried for poisoning her secret lover.

As well as charting the course of this illicit relationship and Madeleine's subsequent trial, the authors draw on a wide range of sources to pursue themes such as the nature of gender relations and the extent of women's social and commercial activities and to bring vividly to life the world of the mid-Victorian middle class.

In particular, Madeleine's letters, full of gossip and passion as well as the details of her daily life, offer unique insights not only into her relationship with her lover, L'Angelier, but also into the life of her social circle, filled with partying, flirting and shopping.

Her trial and the press response to it reveal much about contemporary views on sexual morality, parenting and the essence of 'Britishness'.

The authors analyse the ways in which the case has been written about by subsequent authors and demonstrate how the concerns of the present shape the telling of the past.

New discoveries are revealed about Madeleine's long and colourful life after the trial which confirm the view that it is only in fiction that the bad end unhappily.

The book will be of interest to academic social historians, but the fascination of its subject matter and the way in which much rich material is used to evoke a vivid sense of time and place, will also promote a wider interest among a more general readership.

About the authors:  Eleanor Gordon is Research Professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow.

Gwyneth Nair is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Strange Affair of Madeleine Smith by Douglas MacGowan


Introduction by the author (excerpt):  Since the publication of the first edition of my book on Madeleine Smith in 1999, new bits of information about Madeleine, the trial and possible theories about what happened in March of 1857 have continued to surface.

This new edition attempts to address and present this new information and to give a complete picture of the theories and beliefs about the alleged murder and subsequent trial in the events that captured Great Britain's attention and made Madeleine one of the earliest and strongest examples of an accused murderer whose celebrity extended long past the trial.

Paperback:  It was a case that rocked Victorian society.

Madeleine Smith, a young woman from a prominent Glasgow family, stood accused of the murder of her lover.

The evidence against her seemed overwhelming.

But after what was described as Scotland's trial of the century, Madeleine received the verdict of 'not proven' and walked free from the courtroom.

Emile L'Angelier was a working-class immigrant from the Channel Islands.

He and Madeleine began an illicit affair, which, two years later, she tried to end to marry a wealthier man.

When Emile threatened to show her father their passionate love letters, she desperately agreed to continue their covert correspondence and meetings.

Six weeks later, on 23 March 1857, Emile was dead from arsenic poisoning.

The absence of a clear verdict in the trial caused widespread consternation.

The story of the young girl who apparently poisoned her secret lover so that she could go ahead with a family-arranged marriage would live on in print, on stage, and on the screen throughout the following century and a half.

The Strange Affair of Madeleine Smith (2007) gives the most complete picture to date of the events surrounding this infamous case.

Douglas MacGowan's vivid account reads at turns like a thriller, a love story and a courtroom drama.

He quotes extensively from contemporary sources, notably the correspondence between Madeleine and Emile, whose explicit content so shocked Victorian sensibilities.

Ultimately, he leaves it to the reader to judge Madeleine's guilt or innocence.

Madeleine Smith became one of the most famous women of her day.

Yet her life following the trial is as shrouded in myth and mystery as the murder itself.

The book concludes with fascinating new information about the woman who, in the opinion of many, 'escaped the noose, but not dishonour.'

About the author:  Douglas MacGowan is a freelance writer who has published two books about nineteenth-century Scotland.  He has contributed articles to Celtic Heritage, the Scottish Journal and the Scotsman, as well as to Court TV's online Crime Library.  He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where he works as a Legal Assistant.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

E-Book: One To The Wolves: On The Trail Of A Killer by Lois Duncan


Kindle:  In 1992, Lois Duncan, acclaimed author of fictional suspense novels, wrote a horror story she could never have imagined writing - a true account of the murder of her own daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette.

Kait, 18, was shot to death as she drove home from a friend's house on a Sunday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1989.

Police closed the unsolved case as a "random shooting," refusing to accept information that indicated otherwise, although it had all the earmarks of a professional hit.

That first book, Who Killed My Daughter? (1992), was Duncan's desperate attempt to motivate informants and prevent the facts of Kait's story from becoming buried.

It turned out to accomplish much more than that.

Duncan's new book, One to the Wolves:  On the Trail of a Killer (2013), is even more horrifying than its predecessor as new information poured in, the family ran for their lives, and their original suspicions turned out to be the tip of an iceberg so immense that Kait herself could not have known how dangerous the information was that she had been sitting on in order to protect a now-estranged boyfriend.

Since Kait didn't live to reveal it, her mother, determined to search for justice, now does so in a book so intense and yet so painfully human that the reader will never forget it.

All of the elements of a suspenseful mystery are here - intrigue, turns and twists, cover-ups and page-turning action.

The sobering fact is that, this time, the story isn't fiction.

Perhaps most chilling is the fact that the cover art is an etching of a wolf that Kait made when she was ten years old.

Is it possible that, even then, she was having nightmares about the predator who would come for her eight years later?

This is probably the only occasion when a murder victim was the cover artist for a book about her own tragic death.

About the author:  Lois Duncan is the author of more than fifty books for young adults.  Her stories of mystery and suspense have won dozens of awards and many have been named "Best Books for Young Adults" by the American Library Association.  She is most proud of her Margaret A Edwards Award presented to honour an author for a distinguished body of work for young adults.  Some of her novels have been adapted for film, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Hotel for Dogs (2009).

Lois Duncan was born Lois Duncan Steinmetz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 28 April 1934.  Her parents, Lois and Joseph Janney Steinmetz, were both professional photographers.  Since her parents' work required travel, Duncan and her brother often tagged along and these trips supplied Duncan with ample writing material.  Duncan began writing poetry and stories as soon as she could spell.  By age ten she was submitting her work to magazines and she had her first story published nationally when she was only thirteen years old.  Through her teen years her work was frequently published by magazines such as Seventeen and the Saturday Evening Post.

Her first book, Debutante Hill (1957) was published after winning a contest conducted by Dodd, Mead & Company, a major publishing house that has since ceased operations.  She taught journalism at the University of New Mexico and finished her own college degree in English.  Even while producing hundreds of articles for magazines such as Reader's Digest and Ladies Home Journal, Duncan penned dozens of books.  Her novels are often filled with suspense and a sense of the eerie and supernatural, with elements including mystic visions and ghostly presences.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

E-Book: Who Killed My Daughter? by Lois Duncan


This is a startling true story of a mother's search for her daughter's murderer.  It remains unsolved twenty-four years later and just as clouded in an official cover-up as it was in the beginning.

Kindle:  In 1989, Lois Duncan suffered a great tragedy when her youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, was shot to death at age eighteen.  The crime was never solved and Duncan's own investigation into the Albuquerque shooting became the basis of her 1992 nonfiction title Who Killed My Daughter?

The book digs into the original murder investigation and describes how Duncan's daughter and member of the Albuquerque police force seem to have been caught in a complicated web of organized crime.

Kaitlyn graduated from high school with honours in 1989.  She dreamed of becoming a doctor.  She rented her own apartment in Albuquerque and her boyfriend, Dung Nguyen, moved in with her.  Once she was living with Dung, Duncan believes, she discovered that he and his friends were part of a Vietnamese gang and were involved in interstate criminal activities.

On 15 July 1989, Kaitlyn announced to her parents that she was breaking up with Dung and had ordered him to move out.  That night, while driving to her parents' house after dinner with a girlfriend, Kaitlyn was chased down in her car and shot twice.

When police closed the unsolved case as a "random drive-by shooting," Duncan wrote her book to motivate tipsters and to prevent the case from disappearing.  She believes that Kaitlyn was murdered because she was preparing to become a whistle-blower.  Once the book was published, Duncan's family began to receive death threats.  They all fled Albuquerque in fear for their own lives.

Although Kaitlyn's murder became a cold case, her parents continued their personal investigation with the help of outside detectives.  They post their findings at Who Killed Kait Arquette?

After the publication of this book, many other families of murder victims contacted Duncan, sharing their own experiences with incompetent and fruitless investigations.  Duncan and her husband, Arquette, created Real Crimes to bring these cases to the media's attention.  Duncan helps the families tell their stories and Arquette compiles their documentation such as police and autopsy reports and crime scene photos.

About the author:  Lois Duncan is the author of more than fifty books for young adults.  Her stories of mystery and suspense have won dozens of awards and many have been named "Best Books for Young Adults" by the American Library Association.  She is most proud of her Margaret A Edwards Award presented to honour an author for a distinguished body of work for young adults.  Some of her novels have been adapted for film, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Hotel for Dogs (2009).

Lois Duncan was born Lois Duncan Steinmetz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 28 April 1934.  Her parents, Lois and Joseph Janney Steinmetz, were both professional photographers.  Since her parents' work required travel, Duncan and her brother often tagged along and these trips supplied Duncan with ample writing material.  Duncan began writing poetry and stories as soon as she could spell.  By age ten she was submitting her work to magazines and she had her first story published nationally when she was only thirteen years old.  Through her teen years her work was frequently published by magazines such as Seventeen and the Saturday Evening Post.

Her first book, Debutante Hill (1957) was published after winning a contest conducted by Dodd, Mead & Company, a major publishing house that has since ceased operations.  She taught journalism at the University of New Mexico and finished her own college degree in English.  Even while producing hundreds of articles for magazines such as Reader's Digest and Ladies Home Journal, Duncan penned dozens of books.  Her novels are often filled with suspense and a sense of the eerie and supernatural, with elements including mystic visions and ghostly presences.

Who Killed My Daughter?, named "Best Book of the Year" by School Library Journal and "Best Book for Young Adults" by American Library Association, is also available in paperback and audio formats.

Lois Duncan at the 35th The Compassionate Friends (TCM) nationnal conference in 2012:

Saturday, 16 November 2013

E-Book: The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts


Kindle:  The Medea Complex (2013) is based on a true story.  Anne wakes up in a strange bed, having been kidnapped from her home.  Slowly, she realizes she is in a lunatic asylum.

1885.  Anne Stanbury - committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted.  But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury - the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage - the well respected psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital.  Ultimately, he holds Anne's future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated.  

A deep and riveting psychological thriller set at the end of the nineteenth century, packed full of twists and turns, it explores the nature of the human psyche:  what possesses us, drives us and how love, passion and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.

The novel itself transcends genre and will appeal to fans of crime, thrillers and historical fiction alike.

About the author:  British born and raised, Rachel Florence Roberts  is a registered nurse, fiancĂ©e and mother of one based in Malta, EU.  The Medea Complex was written shortly after the birth of her son and took almost two years to complete.  She suffered with postnatal depression in a country that did not understand her and was henceforth the inspiration behind the novel.  Roberts' book will make anyone who has ever thought, lived, laughed and loved, question the importance of those and everything around them.  The author's second novel is currently in its planning stage and will be released early 2014.

The Medea Complex is priced at £3.99 on Amazon.co.uk and $6.39 on Amazon.com.  It is also available in paperback form.

Rating:  3/5

Stephen Hawking: Knowledge


Friday, 15 November 2013

Body Parts by Caitlin Rother


Paperback:  On a chilly November afternoon in 1998, a tearful 36-year-old man walked into the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department in Eureka, CA, and confessed to something horrible.

"I hurt some people," he said.

Inside his pocket was the ghastly proof of his statement.

But there was more to Wayne Adam Ford, a long-haul trucker, than the trail of mangled victims he left behind.

More, even, than the twisted predator inside, which drove him to increasingly perverse sexual appetites.

Pulitzer-nominated author Caitlin Rother draws on previously sealed testimony, interviews with the key players in the case, and the killer's shocking confession to explore the demons that drove a damaged man to his unspeakable crimes.

On 27 June 2006, Ford was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death on 10 August 2006 after an eight-year wait to get to trial.  He is now sitting on Death Row in San Quentin state prison.  

Rother's book, Body Parts (2009) is a haunting, unforgettable true-life thriller.

About the author:  New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored nine books.  Rother, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for nineteen years before deciding to write books full-time.  Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.  She has appeared as a crime expert on Nancy Grace, the Jay Thomas Show, E!, Investigation Discovery, the Oxygen Network, Greta Van Susteren's "On the Record," XM radio, America at Night, C-Span and various PBS affiliates.  Rother also works as a book doctor and publishing/research consultant, and teaches narrative non-fiction, interviewing, and creative writing at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink.

Her new book, I'll Take Care of You, a true-life crime novel, will be out in 2014.

For more information, do visit her website.