Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Bookhunting and Biographical Showdown

I'd planned to go to the Chatham County Library book sale last week, but I worked at my archives job on the opening day and Friday's headache decided me against making the trip for second-day pickings. I knew I'd get another chance at our local library on Saturday.

(As I hunted for books, my cousin was out in the woods bringing in the first deer of the season.)

After hauling three boxes home, I thought my best find would be an unused Picasso coloring book. But as I started looking up online prices, exciting numbers appeared for a faded little biography: I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp.

Alas, my copy turned out to be a second printing, and ex-library at that. Still, it looks like a fascinating book. The adventurous and beautiful Josephine (Josie) met Wyatt Earp during his famous Tombstone days. She became his third wife and the two remained together for 46 years until his death.

Josephine was very protective of Wyatt's and her own reputation. In her older, more reputable years, she tried to dictate a biography to two female relatives. She kept trying to omit the stories of her younger days — the interesting parts — so the manuscripts languished on the shelf.

After her death, Glenn Boyer, who grew up around Earp relatives and had briefly met Josie, added research to the manuscripts, publishing this popular book in 1976.

That's not the end of the story.

Two decades later, a Phoenix reporter claimed that Boyer had made up the whole thing. The book was pulled from publication and Boyer's reputation fell through the floor. Looking at the extensive notes throughout the book, I take the hoax claim with a couple grains of salt, although Boyer may be one of those writers who use "creative license" when it comes to historical conversations and voice (a practice I can't stand in nonfiction).  Here's a 2009 interview with Boyer wherein he discusses sources, Josie's own embellishments, and the "curse" of the Earp historians.

The photo on the dustjacket is a toned-down, edited version of a famous photograph, reputed to be Josephine Earp. According to the Collector's Guide to Early Photographs this partially nude photo, sexy even by today's standards, was printed in the early 20th century from an 1880s negative. As of this writing, an Australian seller is purportedly offering the original on eBay here. If it is indeed the original, the asking price is slightly lower than when it sold at auction in 1998. The controversy continues, as online sources debate whether the photo could have any connection to Josephine.

Speaking of photography, I added a lengthy biography on George Eastman to the collection. I found his story fascinating when I visited the Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Other biographies and memoirs came home in this bookhunting excursion, including Dr. Livingstone, Flora MacDonald, Lewis and Clark, and Iron Eyes Cody.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Remembering POWs — Civil War prisons, part 3

Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day. The last post mentioned Kathy Reichs and her work with the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command. JPAC continues to look for and identify missing Americans, "Until They Are Home."

DOPL members
During a visit to Point Lookout, Maryland last summer, I realized for the first time that I'm the descendant of a POW. My great-great grandfather Thomas Maness was captured and incarcerated at Camp Hoffman, better known as Point Lookout Prison Camp.

The Descendants of Point Lookout POW Organization (DOPL) held a service at their Confederate Memorial Park. Curious, I drove down again on Saturday to attend.

A lively round of "Dixie"

I enjoyed the people in period costume, the cannon salute, and the small camp set up outside the memorial.

I did not enjoy the guest speaker, who hailed from my own state. His railing and inaccuracies were upsetting; his is that rare voice that has made southern history so unpopular.

With polite applause, the other attendees (many of whom probably work at the nearby military base and realize the Civil War is over) seemed to be sincere history buffs who want to pay respects to their ancestors. I gave Thomas's name to one man, Steve, who promised to look him up.

Pt. Lookout prison camp descendants

I was pleased to get an e-mail from him the next morning, with images of Thomas S. Maness' records.

Thomas deserted to the Union side, which didn't surprise me. He was kept a prisoner for nearly a year, despite his apparent willingness to take the oath of allegiance.

I was surprised to learn that he was only at Point Lookout a short time, about a month.

Camp kitchen

Under severely overcrowded conditions at Point Lookout, Thomas was among a large group of prisoners transferred to another prison camp in July 1864 — Elmira, N.Y.

Next: Journey to Elmira

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 3

After my Saturday morning shift and a dose of firearms training, I attended the "From Crime Scene to Court" workshop on crime scene evidence. There's so much going on at Writers' Police Academy one can't catch it all. I didn't even make it to all the sessions Dave Pauly and Katherine Ramsland taught, but showed up enough to qualify as a forensics groupie.

Kathy Reichs, forensic anthropologist and bestselling author, led the afternoon special session. Her books inspired the TV show Bones. Since I don't have TV, I didn't know much about her work, but found her presentation fascinating. She bases all the forensic puzzles in her books on cases she's handled in real life.

Kathy Reichs with new fan Elizabeth Saunders
Kathy explained that a forensic anthropologist is called in when an autopsy is no longer possible because of decay, and an archaeologist when the body is too old to impact a court case, about 30 to 40 years. Her puzzles include more than murder — she's worked on disaster sites, mass graves, POW/MIA cases, and identified the bones of an 18th-century nun.

I came home and found one of her books in my bookshop, Spider Bones (no, I haven't read every book in the shop!).

I devoured it — all day Sunday and part of Monday. 

(No spoilers) One plot line involves identifying the remains of a soldier killed in Vietnam. Kathy used her work with JPAC, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, for details in the story.

At my part-time archives job, I've been processing a collection of papers on the Vietnam War all month. I knew little about those times, and the work has been both enlightening and disturbing. I would have enjoyed Spider Bones' forensics, intertwining subplots and family drama anyway, but the collection at work gave me a fresh perspective.

Tomorrow (Sept. 20 this year) is POW/MIA Recognition Day. "Until They Are Home" — that's JPAC's motto.

In tomorrow's post, travel back in time to remember other POWs — from 150 years ago.

This post contains affiliate links. And here's a temporary link to two signed copies of Kathy Reichs books. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 2

5 Things I learned from firearms training

For four years of Writers' Police Academy, I've heard writer-recruits gush about the firearms training simulation, FATS. From their adrenaline-fueled talk about shooting bad guys and trying not to shoot bystanders, I pictured video targets popping up a la Men in Black ("Little Tiffany" scene).

Not quite.

This year, I experienced the simulator first hand. Being a nice little Quaker girl without small arms experience, I wasn't so sure I wanted to shoot a gun. (All you peeps from my first career — stop laughing! Notice I said "small arms.") I'd never shot a pistol before, and hadn't fired a rifle in years.

The instructors briefed us on how to hold our guns, aim, and reload. My Glock 19 was easy to handle; not so easy to aim. (I did have new monovision contacts in and consistently missed to the right. That's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it.)

The scenarios were eye-opening.

I'd always imagined good guys vs. bad guys, a view reinforced by the thrillers we read and watch (and write). Most of the scenes start with a traffic stop or emergency call, and the officer has no idea what he's walking into; ie. whether these folks, these human beings (not black-and-white targets) are good, bad, or somewhere in between. The violence escalates so fast, there's no time to react.

Here are five things I learned:

1. People with empty hands can quickly pick up or pull out a weapon.

2. Weapons can be hard to identify. Did you know there's a cell-phone gun?

3. Upset bystanders can quickly turn into threats.

4. Things happen too fast for really accurate aiming. Even practiced law enforcement shooters lose accuracy because of the adrenaline-filled, split-second timing of an armed encounter.

Anybody who owns a gun needs to practice, practice, practice. Since there's no time to think, only those who've turned their skill into instinct have a chance.

5. I like the Glock 19. I don't want one. I'm so afraid of hurting the wrong person out of fear or bad aim, or that my own gun could be used against me in a surprise attack.

That's the implication in this News 2 story on concealed weapons, cautioning civilians about using their own guns. The video includes a clip from the simulator and features one of WPA's instructors.

I have even more respect for our law enforcement and emergency services folks. If they get a little tense in certain situations, like traffic stops, they have good reason! Thus the intense felony traffic stop in Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 1.

Training opportunities like FATS not only make us better writers, but also better able to cope with life situations (like in WPA's past self defense classes). Guilford County Sheriff's Office just started a Citizens' Academy, which will include FATS as part of a weeks-long training program.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writers' Police Academy 2013 — part 1

Writers' Police Academy turns murder and mayhem into a three-day thrill ride for writers. 

Lee Lofland, who organizes WPA with Guilford Technical Community College and High Point Library, watched the new recruits come in after planning all year. He wrote his mother hen account of Thursday night as Day One, "All My Children." 

My fourth year working behind the scenes shifted into gear Friday morning. Between directing recruits to firearms training and peddling souvenirs, I caught part of Detective Sluder's session on Human Trafficking. He taught us the difference between trafficking (crime against a person, involuntary) and smuggling (crime against the state, voluntary), and told us about the NHTRC resources and hotline

Katherine Ramsland
Dave Pauly
Friday afternoon brought more free time to hear Katherine Ramsland and Dave Pauly teach about cold cases. There are over 150,000 cold cases (since 1980). 

Katherine got to help verify the body of Jesse James. "It's great fun to dig up old people," she said. 

Dave warned that a lot of murders show no signs of forced entry — the victims let intruders schmooze their way inside. (As I was writing this, I talked to a power company rep through my locked, glass door and told him to leave the paperwork outside.)

In a crowded afternoon session, Katherine (Dr. Ramsland) explained the difference between serial killers, mass murderers and killing sprees. The definitions have changed over the years, but basically, serial killers have a down time between killings, and they plan to go on killing without getting caught. Spree killers are on the move, in sort of a suicidal car-jacking supply-stealing escape, and don't stop until someone stops them (I'm thinking Bonnie and Clyde). Mass murderers have been building up some sort of grudge or anger for years, and retaliate in an explosion of killing — not necessarily the person or people who started the grudge.

Dr. Dan Krane gave an entertaining and technical presentation on DNA forensics. As a novice DNA genealogist (who solved a 137-year-old missing person case last year), I was fascinated. 

He told us what tiny amounts are needed for a DNA sample, and the importance of how the results are presented in court. In one case, a man was convicted on a partial DNA profile, when that same profile could have applied to at least three other people at the scene. 

And you only need about $50-60,000 to start your own crime lab. 

WPA throws in a few surprises every year. Instead of a speaker for the Night Owl session, we left the hotel to watch felony traffic stop procedures. 

Traffic stop with an unknown number of suspects in the car.

"Keep your hands in the air and walk backwards."

Don't mind Lee. He's just taking pictures for The Graveyard Shift.  ;-)

Here are Lee's Friday photos

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Underground Railroad and WDYTYA

As I continue revising my novel set in 17th-century Ireland, the (American) Civil War keeps popping up everywhere. I started blogging a series about Civil War prisons (told from a southern perspective) after the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and because of some opportune genealogical research on my ancestor, Thomas Maness. Then singer Kelly Clarkson visited the grisly (and more famous) southern prison Andersonville in a July 24 episode of Who Do You Think You Are (told from a northern perspective).

Singers from Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre's drama about the Underground Railroad, Pathway to Freedom, highlighted the annual Mendenhall Plantation Village Fair. Then the August 13 episode of WDYTYA featured an exciting story about runaway slaves, the Quakers who helped them (including actress Zooey Deschanel's ancestors), and a pre-Civil-War battle in Pennsylvania. Guilford College's own chaplain and professor Max Carter had a hand in the narrative. Behind the scenes, yours truly had a hand in the research.

Yes, I was a freelance genealogist last spring for the popular show! Apparently they contract research for the various family lines of each episode's star, then choose the lineage with the most interesting story to highlight in the show. Although my research stopped at the editing table, I really like the story they chose. Let me put it this way — I learned something new about Quaker history. If you get a chance, watch it. The episode is no longer streaming on TLC's website, but previews are still running here.

Just days after I watched that show, Max gave a talk to the Springfield Friends Memorial Association about a Reconstruction project — the Model Farm — in which Quakers from the North came to Guilford County to help Quakers in North Carolina (a future post). That night, I watched the movie Lincoln. Different perspectives and pieces of Civil War history are quilting together in my brain.

Speaking of local Quaker history, the Bush Hill Heritage Festival takes over our little town next week. Tannery Books will help celebrate our heritage by offering Quaker history books at our booth during the street festival. One of the books is Jennifer Hudson Taylor's latest Quaker novel, Path of Freedom. Jennifer, who visited the bookshop last year, begins this Underground Railroad adventure with loads of local surnames and Guilford County settings.