Friday, August 29, 2014

Robert Frost Traveled to the Soviet Union (August 29, 1962)

On this date in American literary history – August 29, 1962, poet Robert Frost leaves for the Soviet Union. The goodwill tour is sponsored by the U.S. State Department in an effort to thaw Cold War relations. Frost's poetry has established his international reputation as American's unofficial poet laureate. While his best work appeared in earlier decades, he is nevertheless seen as an elder statesman of literature. Despite his close association with New England, Robert Frost was born in 1874 in California, where he lived until his father, a journalist, died when Robert was 11. His mother brought him to Massachusetts, where he graduated as co-valedictorian of his high school class. He attended Dartmouth and Harvard, but didn't complete a degree at either school. Three years after high school, he married his high school sweet heart, Elinor White with whom he would have four children. 

Frost tried to run a New England farm, but struggled with poverty for two decades. In 1912, he moved his family to England to make a fresh start. There he concentrated on his poetry and published a collection called A Boy's Will in 1913, which won praise from English critics and helped him win a U.S. publishing contract for his second book,  North of Boston (1914). The American public took a liking to the 40-year-old Frost, who returned to the U.S. when World War I broke out. He bought another farm in New Hampshire and continued to publish books. He taught and lectured at Amherst, University of Michigan, Harvard, and Dartmouth, and read from his work at the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. While Frost never graduated from a university, he collected 44 honorary degrees before he died in 1963. His last poetry collection, In the Clearing, was published in 1962.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous award winning books that include the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.comn for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Novelist Theodore Dreiser was Born (August 27, 1871)

On this date in American literary history – August 27, 1871, Theodore Dreiser, whose book Sister Carrie helped change the direction of American literature, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. Starting in his early teens, Dreiser supported himself through menial jobs. A sympathetic teacher helped him get into Indiana University, but he stayed only one year. In 1892, he began working as a journalist for the Chicago Globe. He continued working in journalism while writing his first novel, Sister Carrie, which was published in 1900. The novel was a major break from the Victorian propriety of the time, and the printer refused to promote the book. Fewer than 500 copies were sold. The book was rereleased in 1907 and gradually grew in popularity. Dreiser then began to write full time and published several more novels between 1911 and 1915, including Jennie Gerhardt (1911), The Financier (1912), and The Titan (1914). In 1925, his novel An American Tragedy became his most commercial success. Based on a famous murder trial, the book criticized the U.S. legal system, and Dreiser became a spokesman for its reform. In 1927, he visited the Soviet Union and published Dreiser Looks at Russia in 1928 and became associated with radical politics and the Communist Party during the 1930s. He focused on political writing until his death on December 28, 1945 in Hollywood, California.


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous award winning books that include the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be ordered from Amazon through the following link: 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson Met Thomas Carlyle (August 26, 1838)

On this day in American literary history – August 26, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson was first introduced to influential British writer Thomas Carlyle, with whom he would correspond for nearly four decades.  Carlyle and the writing of the English romantic poets would have a great influence on Emerson's work. He was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston and came from a long line of American ministers. He enjoyed a sheltered childhood and attended Harvard Divinity School. Although he accepted a position as pastor of a Boston Church in 1829, the death of his wife in 1831 deepened his existing religious doubts. He resigned two years later, explaining to his congregation that he had started to doubt the sacraments.  

Emerson moved to Concord, then set off for Europe where he met leading writers and thinkers of the day. During a visit to a Paris botanical garden, he decided to become a "naturalist." In 1836, he published an anonymous booklet called Nature, which questioned traditional concepts of God and environment. Influenced by Hindu texts and English Romanticism, he argued that man can rise above the material world and discover a sense of transcendent spirituality. Nature defined the philosophy that would inform his future essays, lectures and poetry. He championed individual spirit, instinct and intellect over traditional religion, education and thought.

In the 1840s, he joined the Transcendentalist movement, and founded The Dial, with Margaret Fuller. His two volumes of essays, published in 1841 and 1844, including "Self Reliance," made him world famous. His 1847 poetry collection, May-Day and Other Pieces included "Concord Hymn," about the battle of Concord which included the famous line "the shot heard round the world." In Representative Men (1850), he wrote sketches of his role models including Napoleon and Shakespeare. Emerson's later work became less idealistic and more pragmatic. In The Conduct of Life, considered by some critics to be his most mature work, he takes a compassionate, philosophic approach to human frailty. He died in Concord on April 27, 1882, at the age of 78 and was buried on Poets Ridge within Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, near other famous writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of numerous books that include the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the link below and other fine books sellers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Jack the Ripper Claimed First Victim (August 31, 1888)

This week (August 25-31) in crime history: Outlaw Bill Dollin was killed (August 25, 1896); Jenifer Levin was found dead in New York’s Central Park (August 26, 1986); NFL superstar Michael Vick plead guilty to dogfighting (August 27, 2007); Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb (August 27, 1979); Polygamist Mormon leader Warren Jeffs was arrested (August 28, 2006); 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi (August 28, 1955); Richard Jewel, Olympic bombing suspect died (August 29, 2007); Vladimir Lenin was shot and seriously wounded by a member of the Social Revolutionary Party (August 30, 1918); Jack the Ripper claimed first victim (August 31, 1888); Richard Ramirez “The Night Stalker” was captured (August 31, 1985) 

Highlighted Crime of the Week – 

On August 31, 1888, infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim; prostitute Mary Ann Nichols who was found murdered and mutilated in Whitechapel's Buck's Row. The East End of London saw four more murders during the next few months, but no suspect was ever found. In Victorian England, London's East End was a teeming slum occupied by nearly a million of the city's poorest citizens. Many women were forced to resort to prostitution, and in 1888 there were estimated to be more than 1,000 prostitutes in Whitechapel. That summer, a serial killer began targeting these downtrodden women. On September 8, the killer claimed his second victim, Annie Chapman, and on September 30 two more prostitutes, Liz Stride and Kate Eddowes were murdered on the same night. By then, London's police had determined the pattern of the killings. The murderer, offering to pay for sex, would lure his victims onto a secluded street or square and then slice their throats. As the women rapidly bled to death, he would then brutally mutilate them with the same six-inch knife. 

The police, who lacked modern forensic techniques such as fingerprinting and DNA evidence were at a complete loss for suspects. Dozens of letters allegedly written by the murderer were sent to the police, and the vast majority of these were immediately deemed fake. However, two letters, written by the same individual, alluded to crime facts known only to the police and the killer. These letters, signed "Jack the Ripper," gave rise to the serial killer's popular nickname. On November 7, 1888, after a month of silence, The Ripper claimed his fifth and final victim, Irish-born Mary Kelly. Of all his victims' corpses, Kelly's was the most hideously mutilated. Then as quickly as the murder spree began they mysteriously stopped. Over the years numerous suspects were questioned but no one was ever arrested or charged with the crimes.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of numerous books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. The book can be ordered from Amazon through the following link. Visit his website for more information. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Novelist A.A. Milne's Son Christopher Robin was Born (August 21, 1920)

On this date in English literary history - August 21, 1920, Daphne Milne, wife of writer A.A. Milne, gave birth to a son, who the couple named Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher Robin will be immortalized in Milne's books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. A.A. Milne was born in London in 1882, the youngest of three sons. His parents were both schoolteachers and his father was headmaster at a school where H.G. Wells taught. His family claimed Milne taught himself to read at age two. He began writing humorous pieces as a schoolboy and continued at Cambridge, where he edited the undergraduate paper. In 1903, he left Cambridge and went to London to write. Although he was broke by the end of his first year, he persevered and supported himself until 1906 with his writing. That year, he joined humor magazine Punch as an editor and wrote humorous verse and essays for the magazine for eight years, until World War I broke out. While at Punch, he wrote his first book-for adults, not children. 

In 1913, he married Daphne and two years later went to France to serve in World War I. While in the military, he wrote three plays, one of which, Mr. Pim Passes By, became a hit in 1919 and provided financial security for the family. In 1920, the couple's only son, Christopher Robin, was born. In 1925, the family bought Cotchford Farm in Sussex; a nearby forest inspired the 100-Acre Wood where Winnie-the-Pooh's adventures would be set. Milne published two volumes of the verse he wrote for his son. When We Were Very Young was published in 1924, followed by Now We Are Six in 1927. When Christopher Robin was an infant, he received a stuffed bear as a present. The child soon accumulated a collection of similar animals, which inspired Milne to begin writing a series of whimsical stories about the toys. Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926 and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. Ernest Shepard illustrated the books, using Christopher Robin and his animals as models. A.A. Milne wrote numerous other books and plays, but is remembered almost solely for his beloved children's work. He died in 1956.

Michael Thomas Barry is the award winning author of numerous books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. The book was named a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and Readers Favorite International Book Awards. Visit the author’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Powell’s Books through the following link:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Menendez Brothers Murder their Parents (August 20, 1989)

This Week (August 18-24) in Crime History: U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was sentenced to prison for spying on the Soviet Union (August 19, 1960); West Memphis Three were released from prison after serving 18 years for murder (August 19, 2011); Menendez brothers murder their parents (August 20, 1989); Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico (August 20, 1940); Vincenzo Perugia steals the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (August 21, 1911); Irish revolutionary Michael Collins was assassinated (August 22, 1922); Barker gang robs Federal Reserve mail truck in Chicago (August 22, 1933); Sacco and Vanzetti were executed (August 23, 1927); Mark David Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life for killing John Lennon (August 24, 1981); Anders Behring Breiuik was sentenced to 21 years in prison for mass murder in Norway (August 24, 2012)

Highlighted crime of the week -  

On August 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik Menendez shot their parents, Jose and Kitty, to death in the den of the family's Beverly Hills, California, home. They then drove up to Mulholland Drive, where they dumped their shotguns before continuing to a local movie theater to buy tickets as an alibi. When the pair returned home, Lyle called 911 and cried, "Somebody killed my parents!" The Menendez murders became a national sensation when the new television network, Court TV, broadcast the trial in 1993. Although the Menendez brothers were not immediately suspected in the double homicide, Erik eventually confessed his involvement to his psychotherapist, Dr. L. Jerome Oziel. Ignoring his own ethical responsibilities, Dr. Oziel taped the sessions with his new patient in an apparent attempt to impress his mistress, but the woman ended up going to the police with her information and, in March 1990, Lyle and Erik were arrested. For the next three years, a legal battle was fought over the admissibility of Dr. Oziel's tapes. Finally, the California Supreme Court ruled that the tapes could be played. When the trial began in the summer of 1993, the Menendez brothers put on a spirited defense. In compelling testimony lasting over a month, they emotionally described years of sexual abuse by Jose and Kitty Menendez. They insisted that they had shot their parents in self-defense because they believed that Jose would kill them rather than have the abuse be exposed. The first two juries (one for each brother) deadlocked, and a mistrial was called. At the retrial, which began in October 1995, the judge was much more restrictive in allowing the defense attorneys to focus on the alleged sexual abuse. In March 1996, both Lyle and Erik were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The book was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime.  Visit the author's website for more information:  The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:      

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Novelist Richard Henry Dana Began his Two Year Sea Adventure (August 14, 1834)

On this date in American literary history – August 14, 1834, 19-year-old Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast, began his two year adventure as a seaman. Dana was born on August 1, 1815 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and as a young man enrolled at Harvard, but a case of the measles in college left his eyes weakened. This inspired him to take a sea voyage while recuperating. During his two years at sea, he sailed to California, then around Cape Horn, then back to Boston. He then resumed his studies and became an attorney. In 1840, he published Two Years Before the Mast, an semi-autobiographical account of the abuse endured by seamen. The book was very successful and the following year, he published The Seaman's Friend, a complete guide to the legal rights of seamen. Dana as also an ardent abolitionist and helped form the Free Soil Party in 1848. During his life time he would publish several other books that included To Cuba and Back (1859). He died on January 6, 1882 in Rome, Italy from influenza and was buried at the Protestant Cemetery within the city.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous works that includes America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. The book will be released in January 2015 and can be preordered from Amazon and other fine book sellers. For more information about the author visit his website To order the book click on the Amazon link below: