Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lewis Carroll Sends Manuscript to Young Girl - November 26, 1862

This week (November 21-27) in English literary history – George Eliot was born (November 22, 1819); Thomas Hardy published Far from the Madding Crowd (November 23, 1874); Roald Dahl died (November 23, 1990); Author Robert Erskine Childers was executed for his involvement in the Irish Civil War (November 24, 1922); Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap opened in London (November 25, 1952); Charles Ludwidge Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll sends manuscript to young girl (November 26, 1862); Poet Robert Burns postponed emigration to Jamaica (November 27, 1786). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On November 26, 1862, Oxford professor Charles Lutwidge Dodgson sends a handwritten manuscript called Alice's Adventures Under Ground to 10-year-old Alice Liddell. The 30-year-old Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, made up the story one day on a picnic with young Alice and her two sisters, the children of one of Dodgson's colleagues. Dodgson, the son of a country parson, had been brilliant at both mathematics and wordplay since childhood, when he enjoyed making up games. However, he suffered from a severe stammer, except when he spoke with children. He had many young friends who enjoyed his fantastic stories: The Liddell children thought his tale of a girl who falls down a rabbit hole was one of his best efforts, and Alice insisted he write it down. 

During a visit to the Liddells, English novelist Henry Kingsley happened to notice the manuscript. After reading it, he suggested to Mrs. Liddell that it be published. Dodgson published the book at his own expense, under the name Lewis Carroll, in 1865. The story is one of the earliest children's books written simply to amuse children, not to teach them. The book's sequel, Through the Looking Glass, was published in 1871. Dodgson's other works, including a poetry collection called Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, and another children's book, Sylvia and Bruno, did not gain the same enduring popularity as the Alice books. Dodgson died on January 14, 1898 in Guildford, England and was buried at Mount Cemetery in Guildford. 

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Schiffer Books, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Amazon, as well as other fine book sellers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nuremberg War Crimes Trials Began - November 20, 1945

This week (November 17-23) in crime history – Wealthy socialite Barbara Baekland was stabbed to death in London (November 17, 1972); D.C. Sniper John Muhammad was convicted (November 17, 2003); Mass suicide at Jonestown (November 18, 1978); Arrest warrant issued for Michael Jackson (November 18, 2003); Patty Hearst was released on bail (November 18, 1976); Nuremberg War Crimes trials began (November 20, 1945); Phil Spector was inducted for murder (November 20, 2003); Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying (November 21, 1985); President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963); Billy the Kid was born (November 23, 1859); Thomas McMahon was sentenced for his role in the assassination of Lord Mountbatten (November 23, 1979) 

Highlighted crime of the week – 

On November 20, 1945, the International Military Tribunal for the Prosecution of Major War Criminals of the European Axis began at Nuremberg, Germany. Following Germany's defeat in World War II, Winston Churchill planned to shoot top German and Nazi military leaders without a trial, but Henry Stimson, the U.S. Secretary of War, pushed President Roosevelt to consider holding an international court trial. Since the trial did not begin until after the death of President Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman appointed Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to head the prosecution team. The four countries pressing charges were Great Britain, the United States, Russia, and France. 

In his thoughtful opening remarks, Robert Jackson eloquently summarized the significance of the trial. "That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of law," said Jackson, "is one of the significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason." 

The trials attempted to hold Nazi and German military officials accountable for atrocities including the massacre of 30,000 Russians during the German invasion and the massacre of thousands of others in the Warsaw Ghetto. Twenty-four defendants were tried, including Hermann Goering, the designated successor to Hitler, and Rudolf Hess, Hitler's personal secretary. All defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. When one of the defendants demanded that an anti-Semitic lawyer represent him, an ex-Nazi was assigned to his defense. 

Because of the mountains of evidence and the many languages spoken by the defendants and prosecutors, the trial was beset with logistical problems. During the proceedings, Rudolf Hess feigned amnesia to escape responsibility. Though many expected the most excitement to arise from the cross-examination of Hermann Goering, his testimony was a letdown: he was even attacked by his fellow defendants for refusing to take responsibility for anything. Nineteen defendants were convicted: 12 were sentenced to hang, and the rest were sent to prison. One man escaped the hanging by remaining at large while Goering escaped by committing suicide. On October 16, 1946, 10 Nazi officials were hanged. 

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” 

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of the award winning Murder and Mayhem: 52 Crimes that shocked Early California, 1849-1949. For more information visit Michael’s website His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" was Published - November 14, 1851

This week (November 14 – 20) in English literary history – Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was published (November 14, 1851); Charles Dickens published the final chapters of A Tale of Two Cities in All the Year Round (November 15, 1859); Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News wins National Book Award (November 17, 1993); Poet Allen Tate was born (November 19, 1899); Henry James published his first novel Roderick Hudson (November 20, 1875). 

Highlighted story of the week - 

On November 14, 1851, Herman Melville published Moby Dick. The book was a failure, but years later was recognized as an American classic. Melville was born on August 1, 1819 in New York City. A childhood bout of scarlet fever left him with weakened eyes. At age 19, he became a cabin boy on a ship bound for Liverpool and he later sailed to the South Seas on a whaler, the Acushnet, which anchored in Polynesia. He took part in a mutiny, was thrown in jail in Tahiti, escaped, and wandered around the South Sea Islands from 1841 to 1844. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, based on his Polynesian adventures. His second book, Omoo (1847), also dealt with the South Seas. The two novels was a success, although his third, Mardi (1849), more experimental in nature, failed to catch on with the public. During this period, Melville bought a farm near Nathaniel Hawthorne's house in Massachusetts, and the two became close friends, although they later drifted apart. Melville wrote for journals and continued to publish novels. Moby Dick was coolly received, but his short stories were highly acclaimed. Putnam's Monthly published "Bartleby the Scrivener" in 1853 and "Benito Cereno" in 1855. In 1866, Melville won appointment as a customs inspector in New York, which brought him a stable income and he continued to write until his death on September 28, 1891. His last novel, Billy Budd, was not published until 1924. Melville was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.  

Check back every Friday for a new edition of “This week in English literary history.” 

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Serial Killer Ed Gein Claimed Final Victim - November 16, 1957

This week (November 10 – 16) in crime history – British au pair Louise Woodward’s murder sentence was reduced to involuntary manslaughter in death of Mathew Eappen (November 10, 1997); Police find first of six bodies buried in the yard of elder care home owner Dorthea Puente in Sacramento, California (November 11, 1988); Scott Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn child (November 12, 2004); Police search home of airline bombing suspect John Graham (November 13, 1955); Ivan Boesky pleaded guilty to insider trading (November 14, 1986); Serial killer Ed Gein claimed final victim (November 16, 1957).

Highlighted Crime of the Week -

On November 16, 1957, infamous serial killer Edward Gein claimed his final victim, Bernice Worden of Plainfield, Wisconsin. His grave robbing, necrophilia, and cannibalism gained national attention, and may have provided inspiration for the characters of Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Gein was a quiet farmer who lived in rural Wisconsin with an extremely domineering mother. After she died in 1945, he began studying anatomy, and started stealing women's corpses from local cemeteries. In 1954, Gein shot and killed tavern owner Mary Hogan, piled the body onto a sled, and dragged it home.

On November 16, Gein robbed Bernice Worden at the local hardware store she owned and killed her. Her son, a deputy sheriff, discovered his mother's body and became suspicious of Gein, who was believed to be somewhat odd. When authorities searched Gein's farmhouse, they found a horrifying scene: organs were in the refrigerator, a heart sat on the stove, and heads had been made into soup bowls. Apparently, Gein had kept various organs from his grave digging and murders as keepsakes and for decoration. He had also used human skin to upholster chairs. Though it is believed that he killed others during this time, Gein only admitted to the murders of Worden and Hogan. In 1958, Gein was declared insane and sent to the Wisconsin State Hospital in Mendota, where he remained until his death in 1984.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California (2012). Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Louisa May Alcott Published First Short Story - November 11, 1852

This week (November 7 – November 13) in English literary history – Margaret Mitchell was born (November 8, 1900); Bram Stoker was born (November 8, 1847); Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was burned (November 10, 1973); Louisa May Alcott published her first short story (November 11, 1852); Robert Louis Stevenson was born (November 13, 1850). 

Highlighted Story of the Week -  

On November 11, 1852, the Saturday Evening Gazette published the short story "The Rival Painters: A Story of Rome," by Louisa May Alcott, who will later write the beloved children's book Little Women (1868). Alcott, the second of four daughters, was born on November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania but spent most of her life in Concord, Massachusetts. Her father, Bronson, was close friends with Transcendentalist thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, whose progressive attitudes toward education and social issues left a strong mark on Louisa. Her father started a school based on Transcendentalist teachings, but after six years it failed, and he was unable to support the family and, afterward, Louisa dedicated most of her life to supporting them. After the publication of her first story, she made a living off sentimental and melodramatic stories for more than two decades.

In 1862 she went to work as a nurse for Union troops in the Civil War until typhoid fever broke her health. She turned her experiences into Hospital Sketches (1863), which established her reputation as a serious literary writer. Looking for a bestseller, a publisher asked Alcott to write a book for girls. Although reluctant at first, Alcott finally agreed and poured her best talent into the work. The first volume of the serialized novel Little Women was an immediate success, and she began writing a chapter a day to finish the second. Her subsequent children's fiction, including Little Men (1871), An Old-fashioned Girl (1870), Eight Cousins (1875), and Jo's Boys (1886), while not as popular as Little Women, are still enjoyed today. She also wrote many short stories for adults. She became a strong supporter of women's issues and spent most of her life caring for her family financially, emotionally, and physically. Her father died on March 4, 1888, and she followed him just two days later. 

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

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles (2012) and America’s Literary Legends (2015). Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

Monday, November 3, 2014

John List Murdered his Family then Disappeared for 18 Years - November 9, 1971

This week (November 3 - November 9) in crime history – Serial killer Bobby Joe Long abducts victim who will lead to his arrest (November 3, 1984); Famed gambler Arnold Rothstein was shot & killed in New York (November 4, 1928); Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated (November 4, 1995); U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan kills 13 and wounds 30 at Foot Hood (November 5, 2009); Jewish extremist Meir Kahane was shot & killed in New York (November 5, 1990); The Gunpowder Plot to blow-up the English Parliament was foiled (November 5, 1605); David Hendricks murders his family in Bloomington, Illinois (November 7, 1983); Western gunslinger Doc Holliday died (November 8, 1887); John List murdered his family then disappeared for 18 years (November 9, 1971).

Highlighted Crime of the Week -

On November 9, 1971, John List slaughters his entire family in their Westfield, New Jersey, home and then disappears. Though police quickly identified him as the most likely suspect in the murders, it took 18 years for them to locate him and close the case. John List was an outwardly normal and successful father. A Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, List was a strict disciplinarian who insisted his children follow extremely rigid rules.

On November 9, seemingly out of the blue, List shot his mother Alma, his wife Helen, and three children. He then left the murder weapon alongside their carefully laid-out corpses. List had methodically devised a plan so that the bodies would not be discovered for quite a while, cancelling newspaper, milk, and mail delivery to his home in the days leading up to the murder. He then called the children's schools to say that the family was going to visit a sick relative out of town. By the time authorities discovered the bodies, List had vanished without a trace.

Local law enforcement officials had essentially given up looking for List when the television show America's Most Wanted began airing in the late 1980s. After a segment about the List murders aired on May 21, 1989, calls began flooding in. Although most of them proved to be unhelpful, one viewer claimed that John List was living in Virginia under the alias Robert Clark. Indeed, List had assumed a false identity, relocated to the South, and remarried. In 1989, he was returned to New Jersey to face charges for the death of his family. The following year, he was convicted of five counts of murder and received five consecutive life sentences.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and 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 Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:    

Friday, October 31, 2014

2014 Watty Award Nominees

October 31, 2014 - Wattpad announces 2014 Watty Award Nominees

My feature story - Irish Novelist James Joyce Died

please share to vote #wattys2014