Friday, May 29, 2015

Poet Walt Whitman was Born (May 31, 1819)

This week (May 29 – June 4) in literary history – Author T.H. White was born (May 29, 1906); Playwright Christopher Marlowe was killed in a pub fight (May 30, 1593); Walt Whitman was born (May 31, 1819); Samuel Taylor Coleridge published “The Friend” (June 1, 1809); Allen Ginsberg wrote the poem “Lysergic Acid” (June 2, 1959); Western author Larry McMurtry was born (June 3, 1936); Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was published (June 4, 1940)

Highlighted story of the week -

On May 31, 1819, poet Walt Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, New York. Although Whitman loved music and books, he left school at the age of 14 to become a journeyman printer. Later, he worked as a teacher, journalist, editor, carpenter, and held various other jobs to support his writing. In 1855, he self-published a slim volume of poems called Leaves of Grass, which carried his picture but not his name. With this book, Whitman hoped to become a truly “American” poet, as envisioned in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “The Poet” (1843).
Whitman spent much time in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island, attending cultural events, taking long walks, and sometimes riding on coaches and ferries as an excuse to talk with people. In 1856, the second edition of Leaves of Grass included his “Sundown Poem,” later called “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”
In 1862, Whitman’s brother was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and Whitman went to care for him. He spent the rest of the war comforting both Union and Confederate soldiers. His poem “Oh Captain, My Captain,” mourned Lincoln’s assassination. Whitman worked for several government departments after the war until he suffered a stroke in 1873. He spent the remainder of his life in Camden, New Jersey, and continued to issue revised editions of Leaves of Grass until shortly before his death on March 26, 1892. He was buried at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.
Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Novelist Dashiell Hammett was Born (May 27, 1894)


This week (May 22-28) in literary history – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born (May 22, 1859); New York Public Library was dedicated (May 23, 1911); Margret Fuller was born (May 23, 1810); Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was born (May 24, 1940); Thomas Mann was inspired to write Death in Venice after a visit to the city (May 25, 1911); Oscar Wilde was sent to jail (May 25, 1895); Novelist Robert Ludlum was born (May 25, 1927); Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published (May 26, 1897); Novelist Dashiell Hammett was born (May 27. 1894); John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat was published (May 28, 1935); Maya Angelou died (May 28, 2014); Owen Wister’s The Virginian was published (May 28, 1902)

Highlighted Story of the Week -
 
 
On May 27, 1894, Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon, was born in Maryland. Hammett left school at age 13 and took a series of low-paying jobs, eventually landing at Pinkerton’s detective agency. He worked as a detective for eight years and turned his experiences into fiction that set the mold for later writers like Raymond Chandler. Hammett’s deadpan description of violent or emotional events came to be known as the “hard-boiled” style of detective fiction.

Hammett published short stories in his characteristic deadpan style, starting in 1929 with Fly Paper. He published two novels in the same style that year, Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. The following year, he published The Maltese Falcon, which introduced detective Sam Spade. The novel was filmed three times: once in 1931; once in 1936 under the title Satan Met a Lady, starring Bette Davis; and again in1941, starring Humphrey Bogart.

Hammett became involved with playwright Lillian Hellman (author of The Children’s Hour in 1934 and The Little Foxes in 1939), who served as the model for Nora Charles in his 1934 comic mystery The Thin Man. The book was made into a movie the same year, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, and the characters of Nick and Nora Charles inspired several sequel films. Hammett and Hellman remained romantically involved until Hammett’s death on January 10, 1961 in New York City from lung cancer. A U.S. Army veteran of both World War I and II he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

John Wayne was Born (May 26, 1907)


This week (May 20-26) in Hollywood history – Winning starring Paul Newman was released (May 22, 1969); Joan Collins was born (May 23, 1933); Thelma and Louise was released (May 24, 1991); Sex, Lies and Videotape was well received at the Cannes Film Festival (May 24, 1989); Star Wars was released (May 25, 1977); John Wayne was born (May 26, 1907); Sidney Pollack died (May 26, 2008)

Highlighted Story of the Week -
 
 
On May 26, 2008, Hollywood legend John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa. Born Marion Michael Morrison, Wayne’s family moved to Glendale, California, when he was six years old. When he graduated from high school, he hoped to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. However, after the school rejected him, he accepted a full scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In the summer of 1926, Wayne’s football coach found him a job as an assistant prop man on the set of a movie directed by John Ford. Ford started to use Wayne as an extra, and he eventually began to trust him with some larger roles. In 1930, Ford recommended Wayne for Fox’s epic Western The Big Trail. Wayne won the part, but the movie did poorly, and Fox let his contract lapse. During the next decade, Wayne worked tirelessly in countless low-budget western films, sharpening his talents and developing a distinct persona for his cowboy characters. Finally, his old mentor John Ford gave Wayne his big break, casting him in the epic 1939 western, Stagecoach. Wayne played the role of Ringo Kid, and he imbued the character with the essential traits that would inform nearly all of his subsequent screen roles: a tough and clear-eyed honesty, unquestioning valor, and a laconic, almost plodding manner.

With the success of Stagecoach, Wayne’s movie career took off. Among the dozens of Westerns he appeared in (many of them directed by Ford) were classics such as Tall in the Saddle (1944), Red River (1948), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Bravo (1959), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In all these films, Wayne embodied the simple, and perhaps simplistic, cowboy values of decency, honesty, and integrity.

Besides Westerns, Wayne also acted in war films. It was a small leap from the valorous cowboy or cavalry soldier to the brave WWII fighters of films like Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and Flying Leathernecks (1951). Deeply conservative in his politics, Wayne also used his 1968 film, The Green Berets, to express his support of the American government’s war in Vietnam. By the late 1960s, some Americans had tired of Wayne and his simplistically masculine and patriotic characters. Increasingly, western movies were rejecting the simple black-and-white moral codes championed by Wayne and replacing them with a more complex and tragic view of the American West. However, Wayne proved more adaptable than many expected. In his Oscar-winning role in True Grit (1969), he began to escape the narrow confines of his own good-guy image. His final film, The Shootist (1976), won over even his most severe critics. Wayne, who was battling lung cancer, played a dying gunfighter whose moral codes and principles no longer fit in a changing world. He died from stomach cancer at the UCLA Medical Center on June 11, 1979 and he was buried at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California.
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Fade to Black Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bonnie and Clyde were Killed in Police Shootout (May 23, 1934)


This week (May 18-24) in crime history – Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished (May 18, 1926); Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was released from prison (May 19, 1897); Mary Kay Letourneau married her victim (May 20, 2005); Bobbie Franks was abducted by Leopold and Loeb (May 21, 1924); Amy Fisher was arrested for shooting her lover’s wife (May 21, 1992); Serial killer Wayne Williams was questioned by police in regards to a rash of child killings in Atlanta (May 22, 1981); Chandra Levey’s remains were found (May 22, 2002); Bonnie and Clyde were killed in police shootout (May 23, 1934); Captain Kidd was executed (May 23, 1701); Former Nazi Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina (May 23, 1960)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -
 
 
On May 23, 1934, infamous outlaw fugitives Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were killed in a police ambush near Sailes, Louisiana. A contingent of officers from Texas and Louisiana set up along the highway, waiting for the duo to appear, and then unloaded a two-minute fusillade of 167 bullets at their car, killing the criminal couple. Bonnie Parker was 19 years old when she met Clyde Barrow while visiting her husband in a Texas jail. Barrow, serving time for burglary, obviously made quite an impression on Parker, because she smuggled a gun, taped to her thigh, into prison to help him escape. He was eventually caught in Ohio and brought back to prison. When a personal appeal from his mother to the Texas governor earned his release in 1932, he vowed never to return.

Bonnie and Clyde teamed up shortly thereafter. After Bonnie was caught stealing a car, she had to spend three months in prison, while Clyde went on a robbery spree. He then killed a sheriff and deputy at a barn dance in Oklahoma. In the fall of 1932, the pair spent their time carrying out small-time robberies throughout Texas and Oklahoma. At one such robbery, they picked up W. D. Jones, a gas station attendant, who joined their team for the next 18 months. Buck Barrow, Clyde’s brother who was recently pardoned by the new Texas governor, Ma Ferguson, also joined the gang.

For some reason, the media latched onto Bonnie and Clyde. The pair loved the attention, posing for snapshots with their arsenal of weapons. In early 1934, they barely escaped a trap in Missouri, killing two lawmen in the ensuing shootout. Buck and his wife, Blanche, were shot and captured, but Buck died from his wounds. Texas Ranger Frank Hamer finally caught up with Bonnie and Clyde in May, after tracking them for more than three months. Today, Bonnie and Clyde are remembered as charming Robin Hood type characters which are far from the truth, mostly due to the sympathetic personalities portrayed in the 1967 classic movie Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, as well as other farfetched portrayals.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Stream of Consciouness Writing Pioneer, Dorothy Richardson was Born (May 17, 1873)

This week (May 15-21) in literary history – Novelist Katherine Anne Porter was born (May 15, 1890); Voltaire was imprisoned in the Bastille for attacking politics and religion (May 16, 1717); Dorothy Richardson, a pioneer of “stream of consciousness” writing was born (May 17, 1873); Playwright Christopher Marlowe was accused of heresy (May 18, 1593); Oscar Wilde was released from jail (May 19, 1897); English poet W.H. Auden became a U.S. Citizen (May 20, 1946); French novelist Colette began serially publishing The Vagabond (May 21, 1910)

Highlighted Story of the Week -
 
 
On May 17, 1873, English writer Dorothy Richardson, whose stream-of-consciousness style will influence numerous many authors of the 20th century including James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, was born in Abingdon, England. Although, seldom read today, she was widely read and discussed in her own time. The daughter of a grocer who went bankrupt when she was 17, Richardson was well-educated and highly independent. After her father’s economic misfortune, she took a job as a teacher in Germany for six months, then taught in London and worked as a governess for two years. In the late 1890s, Richardson devoted herself to caring for her severely depressed mother, who killed herself in November 1895 while Richardson was out taking a walk.

Richardson then moved to the Bloomsbury district in London, determined to support herself. She took a job as a dental assistant and earned extra money by writing essays and reviews. Unusually liberated for the time period, Richardson made friends with other young women who worked in offices. She attended public events and lived sparsely so she could afford concert tickets.

She met H.G. Wells, the husband of an old school friend, in the early 1900s. She had an affair with Wells and in 1906 found herself pregnant with Wells’ child. She broke off with him, hoping to raise the child herself, but miscarried. She then moved to Sussex, where she wrote a monthly column for The Dental Record and sketches for The Saturday Review while working on the first volume of her stream-of-consciousness novel, Pilgrimage. The novel, which eventually stretched to 12 volumes, traced the development of a young woman whose life paralleled Richardson’s.

The first volume of the novel, called Pointed Roofs, was published in 1915, followed by two more volumes in 1916 and 1917. Richardson married an artist, 15 years her junior, in 1917 and supported him with her writing. A review of her first three volumes published in 1918 first used the literary term “stream of consciousness” to describe her groundbreaking style. Richardson died on June 17, 1957 in Beckham, England, at the age of 84. Her remains were cremated and disposition is unknown.  

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

LAPD Raided the Hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army - May 17, 1974



This week (May 11-17) in crime history – Marie Besnards’ husbands body was exhumed in connection to her serial poisoning case (May 11, 1949); Trial of former Nazi Klaus Barbie began (May 11, 1987); Body of the Lindbergh baby was found (May 12, 1932); Pope John Paul II was shot (May 13, 1981); Three-year-old June Devaney was kidnapped from a Blackburn, England hospital (May 14, 1948); Patricia Columbo and Frank Deluca were arrested for the brutal killing of her family in Elk Grove, Illinois (May 15, 1976: Celebrity private detective Anthony Pellicano was found guilty of various crimes (May 15, 2008); Norma Jean Armistead kidnapped another baby (May 16, 1975); LAPD raids hideout of the Symbionese Liberation Army (May 17, 1974)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On May 17, 1974, Los Angeles police surround a home in Compton, California, where the leaders of the terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army were hiding out. The SLA had kidnapped Patricia Hearst, the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, months earlier, earning headlines across the country. Police found the house in Compton when a local mother reported that her kids had seen a bunch of people playing with an arsenal of automatic weapons in the living room of the home.

The LAPD’s 500-man siege on the Compton home was only the latest event in a short, but exceedingly bizarre, episode. The SLA was a small group of violent radicals who quickly made their way to national prominence, far out of proportion to their actual influence. They began by killing Oakland’s superintendent of schools in late 1973 but really burst into society’s consciousness when they kidnapped Hearst the following February.

Months later, the SLA released a tape on which Hearst said that she was changing her name to Tania and joining the SLA. Shortly thereafter, a surveillance camera in a bank caught Hearst carrying a machine gun during an SLA robbery. In another incident, SLA member General Teko was caught trying to shoplift from a sporting goods store, but escaped when Hearst sprayed the front of the building with machine gun fire. Although law enforcement officials began talking about the SLA as if they were a well-established paramilitary terrorist organization, the SLA had only a handful of members, most of who were disaffected middle class youths.

On May 17, Los Angeles police shot an estimated 1,200 rounds of ammunition into the tiny Compton home as six SLA members shot back. Teargas containers thrown into the hideout started a fire, but the SLA refused to surrender. Autopsy results showed that they continued to fire back even as smoke and flames were searing their lungs; they clearly chose suicide and martyrdom over jail. The raid left six SLA members dead, including leader Donald DeFreeze, also known as Cinque. Patty Hearst was not inside the home at the time. She was not found until September 1975.

Patty Hearst was put on trial for armed robbery and convicted, despite her claim that she had been coerced, through repeated rape, isolation, and brainwashing, into joining the SLA. Prosecutors believed that she actually orchestrated her own kidnapping because of her prior involvement with one of the SLA members. Despite any real proof of this theory, she was convicted and sent to prison. President Carter commuted Hearst’s sentence after she had served almost two years and she was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”
 
 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that include the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, May 8, 2015

William Faulkner's "Go Down, Moses" was Published - May 11, 1942



This week (May 8-14) in literary history – American poet Phillis Wheatley was born (May 8, 1753); J.M. Barrie was born (May 9, 1860); Ernest Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer were married (May 10, 1927); Final volumes of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones were published (May 10, 1749); William Faulkner’s short story collection, Go Down, Moses was published (May 11, 1942); Poet Nelly Sachs died (May 12, 1970); Daphne Du Maurier was born (May 13, 1907); Alfred Lord Tennyson published Poems (May 14, 1842); Virginia Woolf published Mrs. Dalloway (May 14, 1925)

Highlighted story of the week -

On May 11, 1942, William Faulkner’s greatest collections of short stories, Go Down, Moses, was published. The collection included “The Bear,” one of his most famous stories, which had previously appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. The seven stories all take place in a fictional county of Mississippi, and are based on Faulkner’s observations of his own native state.

Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, where his father was the business manager of the University of Mississippi. His mother, a sensitive, literary woman, encouraged Faulkner and his three brothers to read. Faulkner was a good student but lost interest in studies during high school. He dropped out sophomore year and took a series of odd jobs while writing poetry. In 1918, his high school girlfriend, Estelle Oldham, married another man, and Faulkner left Mississippi. He allegedly joined the British Royal Flying Corps, but World War I ended before he finished his training in Canada. He returned to Mississippi and continued writing poetry. A neighbor funded the publication of his first book of poems, The Marble Faun (1924). His first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, was published two years later.

In 1929, he finally married Estelle, who had divorced her first husband and now had two children. They bought a ruined mansion near Oxford, Mississippi and began restoring it while Faulkner finished The Sound and the Fury, which was published in October 1929. His next book, As I Lay Dying (1930), featured 59 different interior monologues. Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom (1936) also challenged traditional forms of fiction. Faulkner’s difficult novels did not earn him enough money to support his family, so he supplemented his income by selling short stories to magazines and working as a Hollywood screenwriter. He wrote two critically acclaimed films, both starring Humphrey Bogart: To Have and Have Not was based on an Ernest Hemingway novel, and The Big Sleep was based on a mystery by Raymond Chandler.

Faulkner’s reputation received a significant boost with the publication of The Portable Faulkner (1946), which included his many stories set in Yoknapatawpha County. Three years later, in 1949, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His Collected Stories (1950) won the National Book Award. Throughout the rest of his life, he lectured frequently on university campuses. He died on July 6, 1962 of a heart attack at age 55 and was buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford, Mississippi.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: