Monday, March 18, 2019

The History of Private Investigators

I've always been fascinated by the world of private eyes, but I didn't know anything about the history of the profession. Take a look at this article from North American Investigations at pvteyes.com: 

It should come as no surprise that the history of private investigation is an intriguing and colorful tale that dates all the way back to ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations.

The first mention of espionage is even recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible in the Book of Numbers, when God told Moses to send some men to spy on Canaan. These twelve spies were the leaders of their respective ancestral tribes and were sent ahead by Moses to explore Canaan during the Jews’ long trek from Egypt to the Promised Land.

The Birth of the Private Investigation Agency

As a craft, private investigation has existed for thousands of years, for as long as people have required it. The first known private detective agency, however, was founded in 1833 by a man named Eugène François Vidocq, a French soldier, privateer, and criminal. Le bureau des renseignments, or the Office of Intelligence as it was called, was staffed by men of similarly patchy backgrounds with law enforcement. Most of these men were ex-convicts and, as a result, official law enforcement attempted to shut the operation down several times,

In 1842, Vidocq was arrested on charges of unlawful imprisonment and for accepting money under false pretenses after solving an embezzlement case. He suspected a set-up but was still sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a 3,000 franc fine. The Court of Appeals later released him.

Vidocq was the one who introduced record-keeping, criminology, and ballistics to the field of criminal investigation. He pioneered the practice of creating plaster casts of shoe prints and is also the inventor of indelible ink and unalterable bond paper.

To this day, some aspects of his method of anthropometrics – the study of the human body and its movement – is still in use by seasoned private investigators and the French police. He was also a known philanthropist who claimed to never have informed on anyone who had stolen due to a great need.
Evolution of Private Investigators

The private investigation industry came into existence as a response to a specific need: in the olden days, clients went to private investigators with the expectation that they would do work and act as the police in matters where traditional and official law enforcement were ill-equipped or simply unwilling to do.

They were mostly employed by wealthy owners who effectively utilized and deployed them to resolve labor disputes. Their primary function was to control workers and keep the peace, especially those who had been inspired by the French Revolution. They also did mercenary work, as well as acted as private security.
Private Eyes in the United States

Meanwhile, in the United States, a man named Allan Pinkerton was making a name for himself as a criminal detective. After informing on a band of counterfeiters to the local sheriff of his town, he was appointed in 1849 as the first police detective in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

A year after that, he partnered with a Chicago lawyer named Edward Rucker and formed the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, a company that continues to exist today under the name Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations. It is believed that the term “private eye” originated from Pinkerton’s choice of business insignia: a wide open eye with the caption “We never sleep”.

During the Civil War, Pinkerton became the head of the Union Intelligence Service – the predecessor of the United States Secret Service – and managed to successfully foil an assassination plot targeting Abraham Lincoln. He and his men often took on undercover jobs posing as members of the Confederate army and sympathizers in order to acquire military intelligence.

Today, private investigators fulfill an important role in society. Their services have become invaluable in everything from assisting crime investigations to finding missing persons. With the continuing advancement of technology, private investigation services are continually evolving to serve the public much better ways than ever.

That's your trivia for the day! Did you learn something new? Thanks for visiting an d have a great week!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Busy Day Brisket


I absolutely love beef brisket, and the first time I posted this recipe, I had never made it until that day. As a matter of fact, it was in my crock pot cooking as I wrote this post back in October of 2017, so I didn't even get a chance to taste it until later that evening. I must say, this recipe is absolutely fabulous and so, so tasty, not to mention easy! Many thanks to Allrecipes.com for this wonderful dish. Enjoy!

Busy Day Brisket

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bad Girl as Protagonist

Lavinia Hargraves
Masquerade
Lying,  scheming, adultery, murder, multiple marriages, and extreme dislike of children are just a few things that make a bad girl really bad.  Readers may not fall in love with protagonists that exhibit these negative characteristics, but at least there's never a dull moment with them!

In MASQUERADE: Book Two of my Unchained Trilogy series, Bad Girl Protagonist Lavinia Hargraves is the star of the show.  She's actually introduced in the first part of the trilogy, EscapeIn that story, Lori is a slave girl, and Daniel Taylor the white man who falls in love with her and helps her to escape.  Eventually, they have three children, Lavinia  being their youngest.  



Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent
Leave Her to Heaven
Lavinia, who passes as white, despises her sister, who is kind and good, and hates her mother for being black and a former slave.  At seventeen, Lavinia runs off with fifty-four year old Vernon Hargraves, only because of what he can do for her.  Although Vernon truly loves Lavinia, the feeling isn't mutual on her part.  From that storyline, it's clear to see that Lavinia isn't the nicest person around. 

What drives some bad girl protagonists to be so bad?  Sometimes, mental illness can play a role.  If Lavinia had lived today, she probably would've been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which, according to MayoClinic.com, "is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism."
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
Gone with the Wind
Lavinia's personality, combined with her actions, make for some rather interesting situations, to say the least.  Lavinia joins the ranks of other bad girls in fiction, including Ellen Berent from the 1944 novel, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN by Ben Ames Williams.  Ellen Berent, like Lavinia, is mentally imbalanced.  As well as having some unresolved father issues, Ellen is overly jealous for the attention of her husband, Richard Harland.  She indirectly causes Richard's crippled younger brother to drown, and then, when pregnant, throws herself down the stairs to cause a miscarriage. Without a baby, she won't have to share hubby's affection.  Finally, when it becomes clear that Ellen's adoptive sister Ruth is attracted to Richard, Ellen commits suicide, making her death appear to be murder and framing Ruth for the "crime."  Unbelievable!  Oh, yeah, it's fiction... 
Undeen Spragg
The Custom of the Country
Another motivation that drives bad women is control.  Let's take a look at fiery southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, from Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel GONE WITH THE WIND.  Scarlett's sanity is in tact, but she's a total control freak!  Scarlett is determined to marry Ashley Wilkes (the wrong man who's already betrothed to his cousin, Melanie), and after the war, driven to save her plantation, Tara.  Scarlett marries once for spite (Charles Hamilton to make Ashley jealous) and twice for money (Frank Kennedy, her sister's fiancé, and then the handsome rogue, Rhett Butler).  Scarlett eventually does fall in love with Rhett, after she's been married to him for a while.  But when she realizes this, and that a life with Ashley never would've been realistic (after numerous attempts to get him to dump Melanie, before, during and after her marriages), Rhett has had enough and leaves her.
The need for power, status and money drive some bad girls, like Undeen Spragg, the ruthless heroine from Edith Wharton's 1913 novel THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY.  Undine is a social climber, who through multiple marriages and divorces, experiences the pleasure of money and aristocratic titles. Eventually, she settles on marrying someone from her hometown.  He's a millionaire, his money is new, and he's actually on her original social level.  At this point, Undeen has all that money can buy—yet she wants more.  At the end of the novel, she imagines what it would be like to be an ambassador's wife—a position she can never hold due to her divorces.
Bad girls may not endear themselves to readers, but their escapades are certain to keep the pages turning!  Who are some of your favorite bad girls in fiction? 
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Pinky

Racial passing is a subject matter that interests me and Pinky, a film from 1949, deals with this issue. I have never seen it, but plan to watch it this week for research purposes. Pinky is a race drama about a light-skinned black woman passing as white. For more about the film and the plot, click here

One of the controversies regarding the film was the casting of white actress Jeanne Crane to play the title role. Black actress Lena Horne had wanted the part, but having a white actress as Pinky with audience appeal and monetary pull led to the casting of Miss Crane. (In my opinion, since the actress had to be white, I would have chosen Jennifer Jones. She could have more realistically passed for black, again, just my opinion.)

Anyway, here's another interesting fact about the movie from Turner Classic Movies:

[A] major change in the production of Pinky was the director. [Director] John Ford left the film after only a week of shooting that was so traumatic [black co-star] Ethel Waters described it as a "shock treatment", with Ford's abrasive personality making her "almost have a stroke". [Producer] Zanuck was unhappy with the rushes he saw. 
Jeanne Crane
"Ford's Negroes were like Aunt Jemima caricatures. I thought we're going to get into trouble. Jack said, 'I think you'd better put someone else on it." Ford was replaced with Elia Kazan, who had made Gentleman's Agreement (1947), another racially-themed film for the studio, and earning it an Academy Award in the process. The official reason for John Ford's departure was listed as a bad case of the shingles, which Kazan later admitted was a lie. 
Lena Horne
"He pretended to have shingles. Some years later I said to Zanuck, 'Jack Ford never had shingles, did he?' And he said, 'Oh, hell, no. He just wanted to get out of it; he hated Ethel Waters and she sure as hell hated him.' Jack scared her to death and he knew she didn't want to work with him. I also think maybe he didn't like the whole project. Anyway, Zanuck wired me and asked if I'd come out. I wired back, 'I'll do it as a favor.' Firstly, I threw away whatever Ford had shot. It was poor. It showed a lack of interest and involvement. So, all the footage was mine. The only things that were not mine, which are a hell of a lot, were the script and the cast. It was the last time I ever allowed that. Jeanne Crain was a sweet girl, but she was like a Sunday school teacher. I did my best with her but she didn't have any fire. The only good thing about her face was that it went so far in the direction of no temperament that you felt Pinky was floating through all of her experiences without reacting to them, which is part of what 'passing' is." 
Jennifer Jones
Have you ever seen Pinky? If so, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 2/27/17

Monday, February 18, 2019

Claudette Colvin: Rebel With a Cause

Claudette Colvin in 1953
It's Black History Month, and one of my kids told me about a young woman in Alabama in the 1950s who refused to give up her seat on the bus before Rosa Parks. That was news to me, so here's a little about her from Wikipedia:
Claudette Colvin (b. 1939) was a pioneer of the African American Civil Rights Movement. On March 2, 1955, she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, nine months prior to Rosa Parks.
Colvin was among the five plaintiffs originally included in the federal court case filed by civil rights attorney Fred Gray on February 1, 1956, as Browder v. Gayle, and she testified before the three-judge panel that heard the case in the United States District Court. On June 13, 1956, the judges determined that the state and local laws requiring bus segregation in Alabama were unconstitutional. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, which upheld their ruling on December 17, 1956. Colvin was the last witness to testify. Three days later, the Supreme Court issued an order to Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott was called off.
For many years, Montgomery's black leaders did not publicize Colvin's pioneering effort because she was a teenager who was pregnant by a married man; words like "feisty", "mouthy", and "emotional" were used to describe her, while her older counterpart Rosa Parks was viewed as being calm, well-mannered, and studious. Because of the social norms of the time and her youth, the NAACP leaders worried about using her to symbolize their boycott.
Claudette Colvin said, "Young people think Rosa Parks just sat down on a bus and ended segregation, but that wasn't the case at all."
On the day Colvin was ordered from her seat by the bus driver but refused to move, here's what happened:
When Colvin refused to get up, she was thinking about a school paper she had written that day about the local custom which prevented blacks from using the dressing rooms and trying on clothes in department stores. In a later interview, she said: "We couldn't try on clothes. You had to take a brown paper bag and draw a diagram of your foot [...] and take it to the store”;and "She couldn't sit in the same row as us because that would mean we were as good as her".
"The bus was getting crowded, and I remember the bus driver looking through the rear view mirror asking her to get up for the white woman, which she didn't," said Annie Larkins Price, a classmate of Colvin's. "She had been yelling "It's my constitutional right!". She decided on that day that she wasn't going to move." Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from the bus. She shouted that her constitutional rights were being violated. Price testified for Colvin in the juvenile court case. Colvin was convicted of disturbing the peace, violating the segregation law, and assault.
To read the complete article click here.
Feisty, mouthy and emotional; sounds like a teenager, and what a teen she was! I had never heard of Claudette Colvin. Had you?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Originally posted: 2/6/17

Monday, February 11, 2019

Frederick Douglass and Interracial Marriage


February marks Black History Month, and one of the most influential individuals in Black history, as well as American history in general, is Frederick Douglass. Douglass, who had no accurate knowledge of his age or birth date, chose to celebrate it on February 14. Also, he estimated the year of his birth to be 1818.

For those unfamiliar with Frederick Douglass, here's a brief summary from Wikipedia:

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.  

Frederick Douglass is indeed a fascinating and heroic figure in American history. To read more click here

Douglass was married to Anna Murray, a black woman, for forty-four years (1838-1882).  After she died from complications due to second a stroke, Douglass married again--this time however, his wife was white! 

According to Wikipedia:

In 1884, Douglass married again, to Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York. Pitts was the daughter of Gideon Pitts, Jr., an abolitionist colleague and friend of Douglass. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College (then called Mount Holyoke Female Seminary), she worked on a radical feminist publication named Alpha while living in Washington, D.C. The couple faced a storm of controversy with their marriage, since Pitts was both white and nearly 20 years younger than Douglass. 

... Douglass (a "child of the master") responded to the criticisms by saying that his first marriage had been to someone the color of his mother, and his second to someone the color of his father.
Frederick and Helen Douglass, seated, and
Helen's sister Eva, standing

A commentary from Syracuse.com written by Leigh Fought of Le Moyne College says this regarding the marriage:

...On Jan. 24, 1884, 60-year old Frederick Douglass and 46-year-old Helen Pitts defied the expectations of their families and Washington society by joining in interracial matrimony.

Neither black nor white communities offered many congratulations.

The Washington Grit called the marriage “a national calamity” and “the mistake of his life.” Others considered his choice to be that of a dotty, old man who had rejected his race. The groom’s children never hid their disdain for his new wife, believing the marriage betrayed their late mother, Anna, who was black. His daughter-in-law even sued him. The bride’s sisters and mothers embraced her new husband, but her father and uncle never accepted that a black man they once admired had joined the family. One of her old classmates at Mt. Holyoke simply exclaimed, “How could she?”

True friends, on the other hand, noted that the marriage was not only one of affection but also one that emerged from their principles. Another old classmate insisted that Helen “was true to her convictions to the last,” while a reporter for the IndianapolisLeader pointed out, “Mr. Douglass has simply put into practice the theories of his life.” Douglass himself demanded, “What business has the world with the color of my wife?”

Seems that Frederick Douglass and his new wife received both praise and prejudice, as well!  Although I must add, more of the latter than the former that time around. 

Were you aware of Frederick Douglass' interracial marriage? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Originally posted 2/3/14

Monday, February 4, 2019

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl


While writing my novel Escape, I used Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to help me in my research. For those unfamiliar with Harriet Jacobs' narrative, it provides a fascinating, heartbreaking and almost unbelievable account of a slave girl's life and her eventual pursuit of freedom for herself and her children.
Harriet Jacobs
According to Wikipedia, Jacobs began writing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl while living and working at Idlewild, the Hudson River home of writer and publisher Nathaniel Parker Willis, who was fictionalized in the book as Mr. Bruce. Portions of the book were published in serial form in the New-York Tribune, owned and edited by Horace Greeley. Jacobs's reports of sexual abuse were considered too shocking to the average newspaper reader of the day, and publication ceased before the completion of the narrative.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was published as a complete work in 1861. The book was originally written as a way for Jacobs to tell her story and assist in the efforts of the abolitionist movement. It was also hoped that it would appeal to white affluent middle class women.  At that time, they were the ones most likely to read this type of literature. When the book was published, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was still in existence.  This made it a felony for anyone who found a runaway slave not to return the slave to his/her owner. The events in the book displayed the extraordinary impact of the Fugitive Slave Act and its influence on the actions of those in the north as well as the south.

If you enjoy American history, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is well worth reading!  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Film Noir

I love old movies and the older, the better. I'm particularly fond of the film noir classics of the 1940s.

According to Ephraim Katz's Film Encyclopedia, the term "film noir" was coined by French critics to describe motion pictures characterized by a "dark somber tone and cynical, pessimistic mood." It literally means "dark film."

The film noir Hollywood pictures of the 40s and 50s portrayed the dark, sinister underworld of crime and corruption. And both heroes and villains were cynical loners, insecure and disillusioned by life's circumstances, bound to the past, and unsure of the future.

Several scenes are shot at night, and dingy realism is portrayed through the interior and exterior set designs. There's nothing glamorous about these movies (aside from the leading lady's wardrobe), but the stories are extremely compelling, with intrigue, suspense and lots and lots of plot twists!

Two of my favorite film noir pictures star beautiful Rita Hayworth. Although Lady from Shanghai is hard to follow (you'll have to watch it more than once), it keeps you wondering what's going to happen next. Even if it seems too wierd (or perhaps, thought provoking, since it's Orson Welles), it's worth watching just for the ending. That's when Rita's character is shot in the house of mirrors and then lay dying in broken glass (she deserves it).

My other favorite is Gilda, which, for film noir, has a relatively happy ending. In this film, Rita is glamour personified! As the hot and steamy Gilda, a woman with a questionable past, her dialog to leading man Glen Ford is topnotch. Her words actually had me saying "ouch" a few times for the poor guy!

Do you enjoy old movies too?  If so, what are some of your favorites?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 21, 2019

What Inspires You?

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'" George Bernard Shaw

What inspires you in your writing? A spark of imagination, a snatch of conversation, a true story or a real life experience?

I always find it fun to discover what exactly inspires a writer to conceive a story.

Stephenie Meyer had a dream that inspired her to write Twilight. Margaret Mitchell modeled Pansie O'Hara (who later became Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind after herself, and her experience of falling in love with the wrong man.

Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum, is fiction based on real stories of Germans living in the United Sates during World War II. The Reader. by German judge and law professor Bernard Schlink, focuses on the generation of children born to parents who lived through World War II in Germany. During the 1960's, as adults, this generation (including Schlink) questioned what their parents knew and didn't know, and asks how they could have let the atrocities occur. Schlink's moving story focuses on a young teenage boy who has an affair with an older woman. Only years later, as a law student, does he learn of her direct involvement with the concentration camps.

One of my favorite movies is Finding Neverland. In it, the audience sees how Scottish dramatist J.M. Barrie, through imagination and his real experience of befriending three boys (and their evil Captain Hook like grandmother) came up with the idea for the stage play Peter Pan. "With a wee bit of imagination," Barrie (portrayed by Johnny Depp on film) says, "anything is possible."

Right now a short story is running through my head. I heard Oprah Winfrey say at the conclusion of her show one day, "Our cameras will be at Celine Dion's performance with today's guest at Madison Square Garden next month, but I won't be able to attend." "Hmm," I thought, "what if she had a clone?"

As writers, we allow our imaginations to grow wild with just a seed of inspiration. What fun!

What inspires you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 7/19/10

Monday, January 14, 2019

Character Care

"A writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature." Ernest Hemingway

No matter how good the plot is in a story, if the audience doesn't really care about the characters involved, chances are the book will be tossed aside and never finished.

As writers, we need to let the reader into our characters' heads and reveal their longings, desires, hopes and fears. Knowing these things allows the audience to empathize and understand any hesitation or reservations seen in our characters.

Better yet, readers will feel those dreams and defeats, and begin rooting for the people we've created from our imaginations.  They'll want that job promotion, breaking story, dinner invitation, bake off prize or home run to be a success just as much as our humble characters do.

Don't hold back, be dramatic! Reveal what's going on inside; and this includes bad guys!  They need a little empathy, too.  So even if your plot doesn't include a quest for world domination, it can be absorbing, as long as the reader cares for the characters!

In your current WIP, have you revealed enough about your characters to make the reader care?  Thanks for visiting and have  great week!

Originally posted 1/17/11.

Monday, January 7, 2019

North Carolina Barbecue


I made this yesterday and it was enjoyed by all. I've posted this recipe before, but thought I'd post it again since it's so easy and tasty. 

If you're not from North Carolina, you may not appreciate NC barbecue.  I lived in the Tar Heel State for about 15 years and never liked its version of BBQ as much as Ohio's, but it is tasty.

My husband, who grew up in NC, really loves it!  And my kids, who are picky eaters, actually like this version I cooked in my crock pot the other day. If you find it strange, douse in your favorite BBQ sauce and you'll love it!

This recipe is from my Slow Cooker Recipe Book that came with my GE crock pot. Hope you like it!

North Carolina Barbecue
3 lbs boneless pork butt, shoulder or blade roast
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomato
1/2 cup vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar
1 heaping T red pepper flakes
1 T salt
2 t black pepper

Combine all ingredients in crock. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Pull meat apart with fork when done.  Makes about 3 pounds of BBQ. Great Served with baked beans and cole slaw.

What's your favorite BBQ? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!