blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: 18 Tiny Deaths – Bruce Goldfarb*

‘For most of human history, sudden and unexpected deaths of a suspicious nature, when they were investigated at all, were examined by lay persons without any formal training. People often got away with murder. Modern forensic investigation originates with Frances Glessner Lee – a pivotal figure in police science.’

18 Tiny Deaths is the remarkable story of how one woman changed the face of murder investigation forever.

Born in 1878, Frances Glessner Lee’s world was set to be confined to the domestic sphere. She was never expected to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she was to become known as ‘the mother of forensic science’.

This is her story.

Frances Glessner Lee’s mission was simple: she wanted to train detectives to ‘convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell’. This was a time of widespread corruption, amateur sleuthing and bungled cases.

With the help of her friend, the pioneering medical examiner George Magrath, Frances set out to revolutionise police investigation. Her relentless pursuit of justice led her to create ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’, a series of dollhouse-sized crime scene dioramas depicting actual cases in exquisitely minute detail that Lee used to teach homicide investigators. They were first used in homicide seminars at Harvard Medical School in the 1930s, and then became part of the longest running and still the highest regarded police training seminar in America.

Celebrated the world over by scientists, artists and miniaturists, these macabre scenes helped to establish her legendary reputation as ‘the mother of modern forensics’, influencing people the world over, including Scotland Yard.Frances wanted justice for all. She became instrumental in elevating murder investigation to a scientific discipline.

Bruce Goldfarb is the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, US, where the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are housed. He gives conducted tours of the facility and is also a trained forensic investigator. He began his career as a paramedic before working as a journalist, reporting on medicine, science and health. He collaborated with Susan Marks – the documentary filmmaker who produced the 2012 film about Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells titled Of Dolls and Murder.

My thoughts:

This was a really fascinating read, I’d come across the Nutshell models on a TV crime show, but had no idea they were real, and created by such an extraordinary woman. Frances Glessner Lee was so far ahead of her time, pushing forensic science into the modern age, creating some of the very techniques still used today in solving crime.

Obviously she had the benefit of being born into wealth and a social class that tolerated her “eccentric” interests.

But she was also incredibly determined and intelligent, if she had been male she would have been a doctor and probably have been the head of the department she funded at Harvard herself.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Hidden Wyndham – Amy Binns*

New biography explores the secret love life of celebrated author John Wyndham

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters includes previously unpublished love letters from The Day of the Triffids author

The first biography of the life of science fiction author John Wyndham is now available. It includes the first publication of a collection of love letters to his long-term partner and later wife, Grace Wilson.

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, by Dr Amy Binns, author and senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), explores Wyndham’s wealthy but traumatic childhood. This was transformed by a spell at the first mixed-sex public school Bedales from 1915 to 1918, the source of the strange but fervent feminism of Consider Her Ways and Trouble with Lichen.

The biography covers his formative years as a pulp fiction writer, his experiences as a censor during the Blitz and his part in the Normandy landings. He described his struggles with his conscience in a moving series of letters to Grace, the teacher with whom he had a 36 year love affair.

After the war, he transformed the searing experiences of wartime London, France and Germany into a series of bestselling novels: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes. But he remained intensely private, shunning fame and finally retiring to live anonymously with Grace in the countryside he loved.

With a decade of experience in news reporting, Dr Amy Binns is now a writer, researcher and journalism lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.

Her PhD was on solutions to difficult behaviour on social media and other online communities, and she has contributed to a report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the intimidation of parliamentary candidates. She regularly speaks on Radio Five Live on social media issues.

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, is Dr Binns’ second book. She has also written about local history in the book “Valley of a Hundred Chapels”, also available on Amazon. She has also published papers and chapters on interwar feminism and social history. Dr Binns lives in Yorkshire with her husband and two children.

My thoughts:

This was certainly an interesting book, like most people I knew little of John Wyndham beyond his famous books; The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids foremost, but the reclusive author led a long and interesting life.

His wartime experiences are recalled in verbatim reproduction of the letters he and his great love, Grace, exchanged, while other details come from Grace’s diaries and Wyndham’s brother Viv’s writing.

I found the section on his publishing career and his works most interesting, he founded a science fiction magazine with several contemporaries as well as producing the novels for which he is most well known.

His early feminism was also very interesting, perhaps stemming from witnessing his parents unhappy marriage and his father’s treatment of women in particular.

Throughout it all it is his relationship with Grace that sustains him, and although very few people were even aware of their love, and they only married later in life, Binns posits that all of his female heroines were versions of Grace, a love letter in every story he wrote.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Reluctant Spy – Miller Caldwell*

Hilda Campbell was born in the north of Scotland in 1889. She married German national Dr Willy Bűttner Richter in 1912. They honeymooned in Scotland and returned to settle in Hamburg. Dr Richter died in 1938. After visiting her ailing parents, Hilda returned to Germany just before the Second World War began. She became a double agent, controlled by Gerhardt Eicke in Germany and Lawrence Thornton in Britain. How could she cope under such strain, and with her son Otto in the German Army? Nor did she expect her evidence to be so cruelly challenged at the Nuremberg Trials. Learn of her post-war life, which took her abroad as a British Ambassador’s wife.

This is an extraordinary story based on the life of the author’s great aunt, Hilda. The book includes several authentic accounts.

Goodreads

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I retired at the age of 53 as I found I had mild cognitive impairment MCI. This is a condition which gives me a poor memory but a sharp mind. It was difficult to find work that would take me and so I decided to write books. Sixteen years later, I have written twenty three books with another two yet to be published. I have learned the book writing skills though writing clubs and writers magazines. Over the years I find my writing is much better received. I am seen as a novelist but I have three illustrated children’s books, several biographies and three self help books as well. My website sags with the volume. But I cannot be pigeon holed. It depends what theme obsesses my thinking, as that will be my next book.

I have been on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland and have been their Events Manager. I am due to speak at next year’s Wigtown Book Festival as A Reluctant Spy will be a documentary by then. That reminds me I have an agent. A Literary as well as a Film agent in Mathilde Vuillermoz. With her on board I will release some of my self published books through her. Without an agent it is becoming more difficult to attract traditional publishers. So I remain optimistic and find like a graph, my trajectory is currently on an upswing.

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My thoughts:

This was really interesting, based on the real life of the author’s great aunt; which makes it even more compelling. An ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances, relying on her wits and determination to not get caught.

It was really fascinating – a story that hadn’t been told from this angle before. A resourceful, intelligent and capable woman, resilient and brave; Hilda Campbell was an incredible person and I’m glad I got to read about her.

The book is well written and flows nicely, travelling across Europe with Hilda, not afraid to show the peril she faced at times, and the genuine fears and tragedies of wartime life.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.