The 7 Books You Should Read From The Real Wild West


Gunsmoke, The Lawman, The Lone Ranger…Thanks to syndication, classic shows about life in the Wild West continue to entertain viewers decades beyond their cancellations.

While these fictional sagas offer no shortage of captivating tales, the real history of the West is infinitely more fascinating! Check out these seven books below to discover the true tales of America’s most famous outlaws, lawmen, and Old West hot spots.

Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen: Gunslingers, Bandits, Heroes and Peacekeepers by Marshall Trimble

A refuge for outlaws at the close of the 1800s, the Arizona Territory was a wild, lawless land of greedy feuds, brutal killings and figures of enduring legend. Bandit Pearl Hart committed one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies in the country, and James Addison Reavis pulled off the most extraordinary real estate scheme in the West. With fearless lawmen like C.P. Owens and George Ruffner at hand, swift justice was always nearby. Arizona’s official state historian and celebrated storyteller Marshall Trimble brings to life the rough-and-tumble characters from Arizona’s most terrific tales of outlawry and justice. You can find this book here!

Wyoming’s Outlaw Trail by Mac Blewer

A historic path that meandered from Canada to Mexico, the Outlaw Trail was used by outlaws such as Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the James brothers. Following existing routes such as the Oregon Trail, the highway connected towns and natural hideouts essential for bandits escaping the law. Discover the history, folklore, and geography behind some of Wyoming’s outlaw towns and hideouts— as well as the deeds of the robbers, lawmen, and ordinary folk who rode those dusty trails. You can find this book here!

A Wild West History of Frontier Colorado: Pioneers, Gunslingers & Cattle Kings on the Eastern Plains by Jolie Anderson Gallagher

Jolie Anderson’s award-nominated book focuses on the early frontier history of Colorado’s plains and includes a look at some of the state’s early pioneers like the “59ers” who promoted the state through travel guides and newspapers, exaggerating tales of gold discovery and even providing inaccurate maps to promote settlement in the plains. This collection of wild west tales also focuses on feuds, Indian fights, outlaws, early rodeo history, and the perils of living and traveling the major gold routes. These stories and events  provide a glimpse into the early history of the state. You can find this book here!

Calamity Jane and Her Siblings: The Saga of Lena and Elijah Canary by Jan Cerney

The mere mention of Calamity Jane conjures up images of buckskins, bull whips and dance halls, but there’s more to the woman than the storied legend she became. Born Martha Canary, she was orphaned as a child and found homes for all of her siblings. After setting off on her own, she tried to reconnect with her family while transforming into Calamity Jane. Soon, her own foibles and her siblings’ choices rendered the attempt futile. From brother Elijah’s horse thieving to sister Lena’s denial of Martha’s tales, author Jan Cerney uncovers the tumultuous Canary family often overlooked in the Calamity canon. You can find this book here!

Related: Making Men Purr: Cathouses in Silver Valley, Idaho

Around Tombstone: Ghost Towns and Gunfights by Jane Eppinga

The communities that once surrounded the infamous Wild West town of Tombstone are now mostly ghosts of their former selves. These rich mining towns had promising futures when they were first established, but many experienced only fleeting boom times. There was corruption in the region too. Dos Cabezas’s Mascot Mine became part of one of the largest stock scandals of the time when it was exposed around 1900. Today this fascinating history of the crumbling remnants on the outskirts of Tombstone lives on primarily in faded memories, and the vintage photographs seen in this volume. You can find this book here!

Sacramento’s Gold Rush Saloons: El Dorado in a Shot Glass by Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library

As early as 1839, Sacramento, California was home to one of the most enduring symbols of the American West: the saloon. Sacramento saloons offered not simply a nip of whiskey and a round of monte but also operated as polling place, museum, political hothouse, vigilante court and site of some of the 19th century’s worst violence. From librarian James Scott and the Special Collections of the Sacramento Public Library comes a fascinating history featuring the advent of gaming, the rise of local alcohol production, and stories of the region’s most compelling personalities. You can find this book here!

Missouri Outlaws: Bandits, Rebels & Rogues by Paul Kirkman

Whether seen as a common criminal or Robin Hood with a six-shooter, the Missouri outlaw left an indelible mark on American culture. In the nineteenth century, Missouri was known as the “Outlaw State” and offered a list of lawbreakers like Jesse James, Bloody Bill Anderson, Belle Starr and Cole Younger. These notorious criminals became folk legends in countless books, movies and television shows. Author Paul Kirkman traces the succession of Missouri’s first few generations and how each contributed to the making of some of the most notorious outlaws and lawmen in American history. You can find this book here!

Can’t get enough of the wild, wild west? Check out these similar titles below at!

What You Should Read Next Based On These 5 Adventure Spots


Get ready for you next great adventure — safely! Whether you’d prefer to explore new destinations from the comfort of your own couch or feel like it’s time get out there, we have some books that will inspire your next great adventure. So, where are you headed?

3000 Miles in the Great Smokies by William A. Hart Jr.

Bill Hart has hiked, camped and fished in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than forty years. In over three thousand miles of walking, he has recorded experiences and impressions that will delight readers of all ages. Whether exploring some of the most remote sections of the Smokies, angling for trout, meeting mountain folk or marveling at the flora and fauna around him, Bill has a gift for heartfelt storytelling and a wealth of knowledge to share about the park. Join him for an unforgettable journey through a beloved national treasure. You can find this book here!

Early Ascents on Pikes Peak by Woody Smith

Magnificent Pikes Peak rises dramatically from the Colorado prairie to a height of 14,114 feet above sea level. Visible for one hundred miles around, the granite giant’s magnetic appeal compelled rugged mountaineers more than a century ago to risk loose saddles, electrical storms and even murder on treacherous expeditions to the summit. First known as Long Mountain by the Native Americans who sojourned at its hot springs, Pikes Peak was a full-fledged tourist destination by the 1870s. Eager men and women ventured up and down by foot, horse, burro, stagecoach, rail and bicycle. Colorado Mountain Club historian Woody Smith captures the news of the era to recount the thrill of pioneer days on America’s most famous mountain. You can find this book here!

The Beartooth Highway by Jon Axline

Traversing the spectacular Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming is an unforgettable experience. The unspoiled mountain scenery along the highway inspired famed news correspondent Charles Kuralt to label it “America’s most beautiful drive,” yet the story behind this engineering marvel is largely unknown. It is an epic account of man versus nature to construct a road through unforgiving wilderness. Built during the height of the Great Depression and rising 10,947 feet above sea level, the Beartooth Highway sparked an economic boom in Red Lodge, Cooke City and Yellowstone National Park. Understandably, it continues to leave a profound impression on people privileged to drive it. Historian Jon Axline tells the exciting and colorful narrative behind the origins and construction of the Beartooth Highway. You can find this book here!

Exploring Camano Island: A History & Guide by Val Schroeder

The beaches, forests and wildlife of Washington’s Camano Island offer a treasure-trove of natural beauty and endless recreational possibilities. English Boom Historical Park was once a bustling center for logging and is now a peaceful spot with its uplands, salt marsh, shoreline and tidelands. Davis Slough is named after Reuben Davis, who lived on Camano Island before 1880 and was the oldest settler in the area. The island has historically been used by Native Americans, loggers, farmers and fishermen alike but today is enjoyed by Camano Islanders, who have worked hard to protect and preserve the island’s cherished nature sites. Discover Camano Island with author Val Schroeder as she takes readers on a trek around the location’s best-preserved features while uncovering the unique history behind them. You can find this book here!

Sunshine, Stone Crabs and Cheesecake by Seth H. Bramson

Miami Beach is unrivaled in the annals of American resort history, and nobody in the country can tell its story better than renowned local historian and resident of Miami for more than six decades Seth H. Bramson. From the 1870 arrival of the Lums on an inhospitable mangrove sandbar to a modern-day hospitality mecca, enjoy this beachfront view of the people and places, booms and busts, reinventions and rebirths of one of the greatest resort cities on earth. Featuring nearly two hundred stunning images drawn mostly from previously unpublished private collections, this is truly a one-of-a-kind trip to Miami Beach. You can find this book here!

Gullah Geechee Heritage in the Golden Isles by Amy Lotson Roberts and Patrick J. Holladay, PHD

The Golden Isles are home to a long and proud African American and Gullah Geechee heritage. Ibo Landing was the site of a mass suicide in protest of slavery, the slave ship Wanderer landed on Jekyll Island and, thanks to preservation efforts, the Historic Harrington School still stands on St. Simons Island. From the Selden Normal and Industrial Institute to the tabby cabins of Hamilton Plantation, authors Amy Roberts and Patrick Holladay explore the rich history of the region’s islands and their people, including such local notables as Deaconess Alexander, Jim Brown, Neptune Small, Hazel Floyd and the Georgia Sea Island Singers. You can find this book here!

Going-To-The-Sun Road by Bill Yenne

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is rightfully recognized as one of the most spectacular alpine highways in the world and certainly among those in the United States. The landscape is one of peerless beauty, but the road itself is an engineering masterpiece. In 1910, Glacier National Park was created in that million-acre swath of mountains, lakes, and glaciers that the great naturalist George Bird Grinnell called “the Crown of the Continent.” Soon, plans were being made for a road that would take visitors into the heart of this amazing place. The result was the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which has been the centerpiece of the visitor experience in Glacier since it was formally dedicated in 1933. You can find this book here!

Route 66 In Arizona by Joe Sonderman

Route 66 in Arizona is a ribbon tying together spectacular natural attractions such as the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, and the Meteor Crater. There were plenty of man-made diversions along the way, too. Roadside businesses used Native American and Western imagery to lure travelers to fill up their gas tank, grab a meal, or spend the night. Roadside signs featured shapely cowgirls and big black jackrabbits, or warned of killer snakes and prehistoric monsters. Between wails of “Are we there yet?” children pleaded to stay at motels shaped like wigwams, explore the Apache Death Cave, or pick up a rubber tomahawk at a trading post. You can find this book here!

Pacific Coast Highway in California by Carina Monica Montoya

More commonly known as Pacific Coast Highway, State Route 1 ribbons along or near the Pacific Ocean from Northern California at Leggett in Mendocino down to Southern California at San Juan Capistrano in Orange County. Its construction began in 1913 and was done incrementally, largely because of funding issues, shortage of labor, legal challenges, deep canyons, steep mountains, solid rock, and unstable earth. A true modern marvel, its unique and extraordinary construction allows easy access to some of the country’s most famous and historical places and picturesque sights. Thousands of pounds of dynamite were used to blast through granite, marble, and sandstone to build a highway following near or along the coastline. Among the 33 bridges along the route is the remarkable Bixby (Rainbow) Bridge at Big Sur. The highway wends its way through some of the most magnificent and scenic landscapes and historical places found between Ventura and Humboldt Counties, making it more than just a road. It is a destination. You can find this book here!

Related: 6 Books on Legends and Lore To Start Right Now

Indiana Beach by W.C. Madden

From its humble beginnings as a place to swim and row a boat, Ideal Beach eventually became Indiana Beach, a small amusement park where families could have good old-fashioned fun. Founded by Earl Spackman in 1926, its popularity was bolstered by the addition of a dance hall that drew the top bands of the nation during the Depression and war years of the 1940s. When Earl passed away, his son Tom continued his legacy, setting Indiana Beach on a course that would make it one of the most popular vacation resorts and amusement parks in the entire Midwest, delighting nearly one million visitors every year. You can find this book here!

Willoughby Lake by Dolores E. Chamberlain

Located in Westmore, Vermont, Willoughby Lake was carved out by a glacier; the latest findings state it is 357 feet deep at its greatest depth, about 5.5 miles long, and 1 mile wide. Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah tower above its tranquil beauty. During Prohibition, Mount Hor was the site of a secret cave harboring a still, accessible only by boat or on foot. The mysterious Arcadia Retreat was built in a very remote area not easily accessible and was left vacant for many years before burning in 1923. Sentinel Rock is situated on a hill high above Westmore with a tremendous view of the lake and valley below. It has been owned by a few different families over the years—most recently the Wright family, who donated the area to the State of Vermont as a park, so that everyone could enjoy the area. Today, visitors enjoy peaceful canoe rides while others brave the icy cold waters as they run into the frigid lake to raise money for various causes. You can find this book here!

Life Along the Apalachicola River by Jim McClellan

In the Apalachicola River Valley, outdoor adventure is a way of life. It’s a culture of fishing, hunting and everything in between, but this culture is fading as overdevelopment upstream dries up the region’s natural resources. These narratives are part of an effort to capture the memories and keep those traditions alive. The quirky stories include calling a gator to a creek bank, exploring the origin of “Polehenge” and understanding just what makes Catawba worms so special. Learn the basics of frog gigging and ponder how many fish make a “mess.” Author and Florida native Jim McClellan revives local stories from the banks of the Big River and preserves the allure of this fading swamp paradise. You can find this book here!

Curiosities of the California Desert by Claudia and Alan Heller

One might not expect to find much in the middle of California’s hot, dry deserts. But to the curious explorer, they’re scattered with strange and extraordinary sights. On old Route 66, the desert traveler can find quirky roadside art and mementos left by motorists. In the El Paso Mountains of the Mojave, the daring adventurer can crawl through a tunnel that was hand dug by an old prospector named Burro Schmidt. In Landers, the weary wanderer can enjoy a rejuvenating “sound bath” in an acoustically perfect dome supposedly designed by aliens. From astounding natural wonders to remnants of ancient civilizations and the Wild West, discover treasures of history, puzzling mystery and uncommon eccentricity alongside seasoned road trippers Alan and Claudia Heller. You can find this book here!

The Mojave Desert by John M. Swisher

A vast land of mineral wealth, eerie beauty, and countless contrasts, the Mojave Desert joined the Union of the United States on September 5, 1850, and became part of the new San Bernadino County three years later. A massive, parched region, its varied terrain rolls eastward from the Antelope Valley to the Colorado River. The nation’s highest temperature on record occurred in this region; on the other extreme, the freezing winters here shroud the land in ice and snow. This thirsty expanse climbs to over 4,000 feet, with a great number of different wildlife forms making their homes among the hills. Featuring over 200 evocative and illustrative images, The Mojave Desert is an entertaining and educational source of information about the area and its unique history. You can find this book here!

Chiricahua Mountains by William Ascarza

With elevations above nine thousand feet, dense vegetation and unique rock formations, the Chiricahua Mountains are a unique wildlife refuge and natural botanic reserve. Inhabited by Apaches and then homesteaders, the U.S. Cavalry, miners, outlaws and tourists, this range has retained its allure through time. Apache legend Geronimo surrendered in 1886 to General Nelson Miles in Skeleton Canyon, on the east side of the Chiricahuas in the neighboring Peloncillo Mountains. Johnny Ringo and Curly Bill Brocius led the outlaws in the short-lived town of Galeyville. Chiricahua National Monument was created in 1924, and the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived in the 1930s to build trails, rock structures and fire lookouts. Join author William Ascarza as he tours the natural and human histories of this magnificent Arizona mountain range. You can find this book here!

Can’t get enough of the great outdoors? Check out similar titles like the ones below at!

Recipe For A Riot: Detroit, Michigan, 1942

Looking to start some trouble? Some good trouble? Boy, do we have a story for you.

1942, Detroit. A city in the grips of a housing crisis. Fast-growing due to the war effort overseas—all those automotive industries retooled for armaments, the famous ‘Arsenal of Democracy’—but still deeply segregated by race, ethnicity, and class, the Motor City is bursting at the seams.

While the Detroit race riots of 1943 are widely remembered, less well-known is a major riot that took place a year before in February 1942, laying the groundwork for the conflicts to come. Today on Crime Capsule, we offer a recipe for a riot, courtesy of longtime Detroit-area historian Gerald van Dusen and his book Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942.

Ingredient 1: Ensure housing for minority communities is poorly constructed, unhealthy, and demeaning.

a photo of a bed with a mattress and two ratted blankets
Bedroom in substandard house, with deteriorating and missing wall board to protect residents from the elements. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
Child plays on mound of debris in backyard of dilapidating housing structure. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 2: Enforce official and unofficial segregation laws, creating specific racially-based districts such as Black Bottom, Paradise Valley, and North End across the city.

Pen-and-ink drawing depicting the six segregated black enclaves in the city of Detroit. Author’s collection. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
Overhead view of backyard and house in Black Bottom, Detroit. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 3: Build a wall between white and black neighborhoods (‘nuff said).

Wall built by developer in 1941 to ‘protect’ his real estate interests. The Birwood Wall, still standing today, stretches from Eight Mile Road three blocks south to Pembroke Avenue. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
Children, oblivious to the deeper significance of the concrete wall behind them, pose for a picture on a sunny day in August 1941. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 4: Begin construction on new federal homes for African Americans war workers, then reverse course under political pressure and declare that the homes will be for whites instead.

African Americans peaceably assemble in Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit to protest the decision by the federal government to reverse its original stance and declare the Sojourner Truth housing project a white settlement. Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 5: Spread race-based propaganda far and wide.

flyer reading "Help white people to keep this district white, men needed to keep our lines solid, come to nevada and fenlon sunday and monday, we need help, don't be yellow, come out, we need every white man, we want our girls to walk on the street, not raped"
Flier distributed by the Seven Mile-Fenelon Association pressure group organized against black occupancy of Sojourner Truth Homes. Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
White picketers at the corner of Nevada and Fenelon protesting the assignment of black war workers to this new federal war housing facility, February 1942. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 6: When protestors arrive seeking justice, fire tear gas, and let chaos reign.

Police attempt to disperse rioting crowds with tear gas on the streets near the Sojourner Truth Homes. Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
An African American man runs in front of a police vehicle, with a uniformed police officer holding his nightstick up behind him in the aftermath of the violent protest over the Sojourner Truth projects. Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 7: Once the dust settles,with racial discrimination having shown its ugly face in full display, watch as the federal government mandates that the homes be used for their original intended purpose, regardless of any corrupt, racist, or crooked local officials seeking otherwise.

A photo of a Black family standing on the front porch of their new home
Moving vans escorted by Detroit police motorcycle units on April 29, 1942, as African American war workers prepare to finally move into the Sojourner Truth Homes. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.
Proud family among the first to move into a new home at Sojourner Truth. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Ingredient 8: Watch even more as after this event and others like it, cases of housing injustice move higher and higher up the legal system, eventually culminating in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, part of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, breaking the power of homeowners’ associations, brokers, and landlords from maintaining racial boundaries in housing. And thank Representative John Lewis (1940-2020) for giving us a name for what we knew was the right thing all along: good trouble.

On a warm spring day, a grandmother is able to take her little granddaughter for a walk around the Sojourner Truth Homes without fear or concern following the rioting that occurred in late February. Library of Congress. Image sourced from Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Housing Riot of 1942: Prelude to the Race Riot of 1943.

Looking for more to read during quarantine? Check out our quaran-reads here. Finding us for the first time, and want to learn more about what we do? Visit our welcome page and sign up for the Crime Capsule email newsletter. See you behind bars!

8 Cocktail Books For The Aspiring Bartender


A good cocktail is a work of art and no matter where you go in the world, there is a good chance that the locals have a preferred style of drinking. Although the popularity of cocktails took a dive in the 1960s, they’ve come back stronger than ever.

Since the Cocktail Renaissance took off in the 1990s, there have been innumerable classics created, showcasing local and global spirits alike. We’ve rounded up some guides to the best cocktail scenes in the country. So sit back, relax and get ready to try out a new recipe. Your new favorite is sure to be hidden in one of the books below. Cheers!

Fill your glass with…

Whether you’re looking for something new and refreshing, or a new twist on an old favorite, check out these decadent histories, each with a companion recipe card pack to help boost your bartending skills!

Bay Area Cocktails by Shanna Farrell

Cover image for Bay Area Cocktails: A History of Culture, Community and Craft

An American invention, the cocktail fluctuated in popularity following Prohibition and had firmly taken root in the culinary landscape by the 1990s. The Bay Area played a significant role in reviving it—as much as New York and London. This is the story of how the Bay Area shaped the art of elevated drinking in America. Through oral history interviews and recipes, author Shanna Farrell chronicles the narrative history of the modern cocktail renaissance. You can find this book here! Check out the recipe cards here!

New Mexico Cocktails by Greg Mays

Cover image for New Mexico Cocktails

New Mexico may appear to be the land of Margaritas, but its distilleries and historic cocktails are complex enough to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Cowboys and banditos alike drank their way to infamy. Prohibition drinkers masked spirits with cocktails at local joints like the legendary speakeasy of Santa Fe that was so secret, it had no name. Mays explores a boozy history spiked with over 100 simple recipes for the home bartender. You can find this book here! Check out the recipe cards here!

Forgotten Maryland Cocktails by Gregory Priebe & Nicole Priebe

Cover image for Forgotten Maryland Cocktails: A History of Drinking in the Free State

The Southside, Diamondback and the Preakness—Marylanders imbibe history in their native cocktails, from local favorites to little-known classics. During the golden age of the cocktail, grand hotels like Baltimore’s Belvedere created smooth concoctions such as the Frozen Rye. Greg and Nicole Priebe stir up historic recipes with modern twists from renowned mixologists, mixing one part practical guide and three parts history. You can find this book here! Check out the recipe cards here!

Related: Speakeasies and Secret Lairs: Milwaukee Prohibition

Stir in some…

California Tiki: A History of Polynesian Idols, Pineapple Cocktails and Coconut Palm Trees by Jason Henderson & Adam Foshko

Cover image for California Tiki: A History of Polynesian Idols, Pineapple Cocktails and Coconut Palm Trees

After WWII, suburbs proliferated around California cities as returning soldiers traded in their uniforms for business suits. After-hours leisure activities took on an island-themed sensuality that bloomed from a new fascination with Polynesia and Hawaii. The culture—a  hodgepodge of idols, torches, lush greenery and colorful drinks—beckoned men and women to lose themselves in exotic music and surf tunes. You can find this book here!

Ohio Tiki: Polynesian Idols, Coconut Trees and Tropical Cocktails by Jeff Chenault

Cover image for Ohio Tiki: Polynesian Idols, Coconut Trees, and Tropical Cocktails

Hula girls, palm trees and Tiki gods beckoned Ohioans of the 1950s and ’60s as tropical hot spots sprang up in suburban neighborhoods and concrete jungles alike. The Kon Tiki restaurants of Cleveland and Cincinnati slung rum cocktails to patrons eager for escape to a South Seas paradise. Join author and Tiki veteran Jeff Chenault on an excursion into a bygone era when the South Pacific came to Ohio. You can find this book here!

Garnish with…

Cape Cod Nights by Christopher Setterlund

Cover image for Cape Cod Nights: Historic Bars, Clubs and Drinks

The Cape has been home to hundreds of popular nightclubs and watering holes over the years, featuring such timeless drinks as the Cape Codder and the Sea Breeze. While many famous locales, such as Johnny Yee’s and the Compass Lounge, have closed, other classics like the Beachcomber and the Melody Tent remain. Setterlund  takes a look back at some of the places, music and drinks that have made Cape Cod nightlife sparkle. You can find this book here!

Pittsburgh Drinks by Cody McDevitt and Sean Enright

Cover image for Pittsburgh Drinks: A History of Cocktails, Nightlife and Bartending Traditions

Pittsburgh’s drinking culture is a story of its people: vibrant, hardworking and innovative. During Prohibition, the Hill District became a center of jazz, speakeasies and creative cocktails.  Today, pioneering mixologists are forging a new and exciting bar revival in the South Side and throughout the city. Pull up a stool and join Cody McDevitt and Sean Enright as they trace the history of Steel City drinking, along with a host of delicious cocktail recipes. You can find this book here!

Still interested in all things alcohol? Check out more Food and Drink titles at Bottoms up!

The Insatiable Gallows of Stark County, Ohio

It’s said that of all the methods of execution, the gallows is one of the more humane ways to die. Similar in some ways to the guillotine, if the procedure is properly performed (and we know that can be a big if), the body drops from the scaffold so fast and hard that the neck snaps almost instantly, severing the spinal cord and killing the person with a minimal experience of pain.

No wonder, then, that in fin-de-siècle Ohio—the heart of the good, kind, and decent Midwest—it was one of the most popular methods of execution of all.

Known for a raft of American presidents, heartland bluegrass music, and a strong culture of immigration from Northern and Eastern Europe—the mascot of Cincinnati is the flying pig, thanks to German hog farmers and their delicious pork products—the Buckeye State enjoys a reputation for gracious citizens and homegrown American values. According to historian Kimberly A. Kenney, however, one of those values happened to be murder.

In her book Murder in Stark County, Ohio, Kenney charts the fortunes of eight early Ohioans who came to take the lives of another. Her criminals range from young, rascally drifters to ladies of highest society (the infamous Annie George, accused of killing President McKinley’s brother-in-law)—but a common thread linking many of them together is their final destination.

Take, for instance, Christian Bachtle, who killed his wife Mary in the middle of the night, striking her with an axe in a grisly slaying. Bachtle, a longtime alcoholic prone to violent rages, spent his last days mourning his addiction to the demon drink, indeed, using his last words before ascending the gallows to warn the crowd of the dangers of intoxicating liquors.

John Sammet/Sammett, a native of Massillon, was regularly in trouble with the law. He killed his acquaintance Christopher Spuhler to prevent him from testifying against him in a robbery case. Image reprinted from The Criminal Classes, Causes and Cures by Daniel Right Miller (1903). Image sourced from Murder in Stark County, Ohio.

Or John Sammet, a young man who had regularly fallen afoul of the law, and who in 1879 shot a man to prevent him from testifying against him. Convicted of murder, Sammet was sentenced to join on the gallows two young immigrants named George Mann (from England) and Gustave Ohr (from Bavaria) who had killed their indigent traveling companion a year earlier. With such youthful criminals the case was a public sensation, with over thirty thousand people visiting the boys in their cells in the two months before their execution.

On June 25, 1880, however the triple hanging was witnessed by a few dozen people, given the security concerns. Kenney recounts their last days and hours in remarkable detail. Of their end:

“Sherriff Altekruse sprung the trap, and with a quick report and hushed whisperings, the three boys, at 11:43, dropped to death. Ohr moved the muscles of one leg after he was down, and that was all. Sammet did not move a muscle. Mann continued to squirm with his legs, and draw up his shoulders.  … At 31 minutes after the drop, Ohr was cut down. His neck was pronounced broken. Sammet was cut down ten minutes later, and his neck was broken also. Three minutes later Mann was cut down and his neck was also pronounced broken. The execution was a success, actually and professionally.”

Although the triple hanging would take place inside the prison walls, it was a spectacle unlike anything that Canton had ever seen. Here it is listed in a column called ‘Coming Events,’ sandwiched between the Democratic National Convention and Akron’s Saengerfest. Courtesy of the Repository. Image sourced from Murder in Stark County, Ohio.

That same trap, boasting a brand-new scaffolding, would be used two years later to send George McMillan to his death, convicted of murdering his wife Augustine. During one of his last-minute stays of execution, the Repository (the local newspaper) observed that “…the grim and hungry gallows within three hours of enjoying its meal of humanity, is cheated again.” But not forever. McMillan’s hanging would be one of the last in Stark County, as a new state law declared all executions would thenceforth take place at the state penitentiary in Columbus. Even there, however, certain kinks needed to be worked out, as Henry Popp—convicted of murdering a saloon owner in yet another drunken rage of the day—saw to his terror. Facing the gallows on December 19, 1890, Popp witnessed the man before him suffer a botched execution. Kenney:

“The rope was not tied properly around his neck, so just after the warden pulled the lever of trap, the knot in the noose settled around his chin instead of his neck. ‘The crowd was horrified to see the body struggling … the hands working, the breast heaving and hear the most unearthly noises escape from the dying man’s throat.’ The breath went through the windpipe with a sawing sound that was kept up for five minutes. Every face was blanched and strong men trembled as with palsy.”

Thankfully for Popp, a new rope was provided, and his own death was swift. But the gallows would reign only for a few years longer, as the electric chair would be introduced in 1897, and much later, lethal injection in 1993—sending, after decades of use, that ‘grim and hungry’ Stark County scaffold into its own next life thereafter.

Looking for more to read during quarantine? Check out our quaran-reads here. Finding us for the first time, and want to learn more about what we do? Visit our welcome page and sign up for the Crime Capsule email newsletter. You can also check out Murder in Stark County, Ohio and other similar titles below at See you behind bars!

6 Books on Legends and Lore To Start Right Now


To truly know a place and its people, you must understand their legends, myths and superstitions. Folktales are more than stories; they reflect a culture’s values, fears and beliefs. They are passed down through generations to teach as well as entertain, and are inspired by everything from the natural landscape to well-known figures. The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, one of America’s best-known folktales, can be traced to the influential events and figures of our nation’s early history.

Check out the epic reads below for a collection of American legends & lore that would ensnare even the Grimm Brothers’ imaginations. 

Legends and Lore

Legends and Lore of East Tennessee by Shane S. Simmons

Cover image of Legends and Lore of East Tennessee

The mountains of East Tennessee are chock full of unique folklore passed down through generations. Locals spin age-old yarns of legends like Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and Dragging Canoe. Stories of snake-handling churches and the myths behind the death crown superstitions dot the landscape. Author Shane Simmons explores tales of bravery, lore and bizarre customs within the East Tennessee region. You can find this book here!

Legends and Lore of the Mississippi Golden Gulf Coast by Edmond Boudreaux Jr.

Cover image of Legends and Lore of the Mississippi Golden Gulf Coast

The story of the Mississippi Golden Gulf Coast can’t be told without a few tall tales–pirates, buried treasure, ghosts and colorful characters pepper its diverse past. From incredible stories of the pirate Jean Lafitte to iconic legends like Barq’s Root Beer, travel from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi to discover the legends and lore of Mississippi’s Golden Gulf Coast. You can find this book here!

Forgotten Tales

Forgotten Tales of Wisconsin by Martin Hintz

Cover image of Forgotten Tales of Wisconsin

Martin Hintz makes even the slow times of the Badger State fly by in this collection of Wisconsin’s forgotten memories.  Track down ancient Algonkin legends like the great serpent that swam up the Mississippi looking for copper, and drop in on modern legends like Les Paul, whose guitar spun records into gold. You can find this book here!

Forgotten Tales of Texas by Clay Coppedge

Cover image of Forgotten Tales of Texas

From El Chupacabra to the Marx Brothers, Clay Coppedge has a talent for digging into Texas’s most unusual history. Strange as they may seem, many of these Texas-sized legends are surprisingly true, like Pancho Villa’s film contract and the notorious Crash at Crush, a staged train collision and failed publicity stunt that turned tragic outside of Katy. Whether fact or lore, each tale is part of a fascinating heritage. You can find this book here!

Larger Than Life Figures

Tall Tales and Half Truths of Billy the Kid by John LeMay

Cover image of Tall Tales and Half Truths of Billy the Kid

While many books on Billy the Kid aim to demystify his illusory life, this one-of-a-kind collection proudly has no such intention. Discover all of the  potentially true—but very unlikely and highly embellished—stories of the Kid’s life, death and enthralling life thereafter. Author John LeMay unveils the many forgotten and discarded tales of the legendary William H. Bonney, an everlasting emblem of the American West. You can find this book here!

Calamity Jane and Her Siblings: The Saga of Lena and Elijah Canary By Jan Cerney

Cover image of Calamity Jane and her Siblings: The Saga of Lena and Elijah Canary

The mere mention of Calamity Jane conjures up images of buckskins, bull whips and dance halls, but there’s more to the woman than the storied legend she became. From brother Elijah’s horse thieving to sister Lena’s denial of Calamity Jane tales, author Jan Cerney uncovers the tumultuous Canary family often overlooked in the Calamity canon. You can find this book here!

Can’t get enough? Here are some similar titles in Legends and Lore below! You can also explore more books in this category at

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress And The Kidnapper That Didn’t Exist

Cat and mouse. Hunter and hunted. Chess and—checkers?

Long Island, 1937. For months, the wealthy heiress Alice Parsons has been missing from her rural estate of Long Meadow Farm ever since she got into a car one morning to go check on a neighbor and was never seen again. With Alice now feared dead, her husband, William Parsons, is distraught; her housekeeper, Anna Kupryanova, is a chief suspect, though law enforcement hasn’t been able to do much more than catch her in a handful of lies, lies out of which she always seems to wriggle.

With indications pointing increasingly to Kupryanova’s involvement—conflicting alibis, vanishing evidence, and wiretapped conversations—FBI Inspector E.J. Connelly realizes that the kind of pressure that police have been exerting simply hasn’t been working. He needs another angle, another way to crack the case open. And as author Steven C. Drielak—who worked directly on the case as a forensic specialist—tells in his book Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping, Connelly comes up with a most unusual plan.

A photo of the outside of the Long Meadow Farmhouse with three police cars parked outside.
Long Meadow farmhouse photo taken shortly after the kidnapping. Three Brookhaven Town policemen can be seen standing on the property. Courtesy of Three Village Historical Society. Image sourced from Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping

As we’ve see on Crime Capsule before, with every celebrity case (such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, or the murder of the Grimes Sisters) cranks and nutjobs come crawling out of the woodwork. Usually, bogus tips and attention-seeking claims impede the work of law enforcement, but in this case Inspector Connelly saw an opportunity. With a ransom note from one Paul Jones appearing at Long Meadow Farm in July 1937—a note of dubious origin at best—Connelly realized he could use this letter as bait for the suspect housekeeper.

In a bold move, Connelly devised a fictional sister for Paul Jones, and began writing additional letters to Kupryanova in their guise. Alongside her brother Paul, this ‘Mary Jones’ was, in effect, a kidnapper that didn’t exist—but who, in Connelly’s hand, hinted that she had new knowledge of the case. Adding extra sheets of blank paper marked with special invisible ink to the letters, Connelly had these sent to Kupryanova, hoping that this ruse would induce her into revealing the location of Parsons’ body. After all, as Kupryanova herself had maintained, “If there is no body, there is no murder.”

Portrait of Anna Kupryanova
Anna Kupryanova had this professional photograph taken and distributed to the press after she became a suspect in Alice’s disappearance. Courtesy of Three Village Historical Society. Image sourced from Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping
Portrait of Inspector E.J. Connelly
Inspector E.J. Connelly was one of Director J. Edgar Hoover’s top investigators. Author’s collection. Image sourced from Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping

Curiously, the bait worked, but not quite in the way that the FBI had hoped. In a bizarre twist, Kupryanova took the blank sheets and began writing her own letters as Mary, addressing them back to herself and having them mailed through a third-party. Lab analysis of the paper showed that she had, indeed, used Connelly’s own paper supply; over eight letters sent that July and August, Kupryanova and Connelly both took on Mary’s persona, both dancing around the central question of the case: just where was Alice’s body? Each letter teased new details, but none could be confirmed in any meaningful way—akin to two chess players pushing their pieces around the board but never quite reaching checkmate.

With Parsons—who was, by now, understood to be her lover, adding a new layer of motive to the case—set to move away from Long Island that September, she made plans to join him, and in the absence of any new evidence the entire FBI investigation had to be uprooted and moved to California. The trail of fake Jones letters ceased as a result, given both its lack of results and the disruption of the relocation. Worse still, as Drielak details, the case took a drastic downward turn in California when federal agents bungled an operation to tail the two suspects that winter, not just being discovered but losing sight of the pair at a key juncture, effectively ending any chance at further surveillance.

Explore a murderer’s intricate web of lies in Long Island’s Vanished Heiress

Every indication now pointed to Parsons’ and Kupryanova’s conspiracy to kill Alice, and to claim her inheritance for themselves. But one way to win a game, of course, is to run out the clock, which is precisely what they did. With Alice’s body never found, the state of New York and Suffolk County were forced to declare her legally dead, but despite the extensive web of lies and the months of contradictions in testimony, no case could ever be brought against her husband or her housekeeper. Even today, her remains have never been found. We’ll let Drielak have the last word:

“The yearlong FBI investigation into the disappearance and murder of Alice Parsons brings to mind an old adage used to describe mismatched adversaries. That adage describes one adversary as playing chess, while the other adversary is playing checkers. In the case involving the disappearance and murder of Alice Parsons, both Inspector E.J. Connelly and Anna Kupryanova were playing chess—and Anna Kupryanova won.”

Looking for more to read during quarantine? Check out our quaran-reads here. Finding us for the first time, and want to learn more about what we do? Visit our welcome page and sign up for the Crime Capsule email newsletter. See you behind bars!

Your Twilight Zone-Inspired Reading List


“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

Americans first heard these words on October 2, 1959, when the first episode of The Twilight Zone hit the airwaves. Slow to popularity, Rod Sterling’s eerie and thought-provoking show was unlike anything else on television.

The episode “Four O’Clock” (S3E29) explores Oliver Crangle, a conspiracy theorist who aims to rid the world of all “evil” people (communists, subversives, etc). He makes phone call after phone call to expose these troublemakers. His pet parrot squawks “nut” throughout the episode to beg for his favorite treat (or is that what he means?). Crangle gets his comeuppance in the end…Watch The Twilight Zone on Hulu or other streaming services and take a peek at these fun reads below.

The Secret Genesis of Area 51 by TD Barnes

Special projects at Area 51 were shrouded in mystery, and the first was one of the world’s most famous spy planes, the U-2. It fueled half-truths, rumors, and legends for more than half a century. Now with many details of that endeavor declassified, the real story can finally be told. You can find this book here

Margaret Chase Smith’s Skowhegan by Frank H. Sleeper

Called “the most influential woman in the history of American politics,” Senator Margaret Chase Smith always carried with her a strong connection to her roots in Skowhegan. Her strong convictions and tolerance for dissent, especially apparent in her famous “Declaration of Conscience” speech against Senator Joe McCarthy, may well have come from her background in Skowhegan. You can find this book here!

Fremont Older and the 1916 Bombing by John C. Ralston

What became known as the “American Dreyfus Case” led to an international outcry, finally resulting in one defendant’s pardon and the other’s parole—but only after both men had been imprisoned for twenty-three years. You can find this book here!

New Mexico Space Trail by Joseph T. Page II

Rocket development in Roswell, missile launches in the Tularosa Basin, astronomy efforts around the state, and commercial space flights are just a few of the stops along the trail. Join the journey and discover night skies that are so dark that the Milky Way and its millions of luminous stars create shadows over the desert landscape. You can find this book here!

Outbreak in D.C. by Kerry Walters

The National was once the grandest hotel in the capital. In 1857, it twice hosted President-elect James Buchanan and his advisors, and on both occasions, most of the party was quickly stricken by an acute illness.  Some claimed that the illness was born of a sewage “effluvia,” while others darkly speculated about an assassination attempt by either abolitionists or southern slave-owners intent on war. Author Kerry Walters investigates the mysteries of the National Hotel disease. You can find this book here!

Related: President Buchanan Poisoned By A Bioweapon?

Massacre at Duffy’s Cut by William E. Watson and J. Francis Watson

Fifty-seven Irish immigrant laborers arrived in the port of Philadelphia in June 1832 to work on Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. Contractor Philip Duffy soon hired them to work a stretch of track in rural Chester County known as Duffy’s Cut. They all perished within six weeks. For more than 180 years, the railroad maintained that cholera was to blame and kept the historical record under lock and key. You can find this book here!

Unsolved Mysteries: From Netflix To Your Backyard

The long-beloved series Unsolved Mysteries was recently rebooted by streaming giant Netflix and WE ARE HOOKED!  The show debuted on NBC January 20, 1987, as a series of stand-alone specials before its popularity landed it a promotion to full-fledged series. The original cold-case docuseries ran for 12 seasons before ending in June 1999. Previous revivals on Lifetime and Spike TV attempted to fill the void left in audiences whenever the show went off the air, and our inner detectives were thrilled when Netflix took on the challenge this time around.

Unsolved Mysteries does something far more important than just thrilling us amateur sleuths: it shares the details of cases with wider audiences in hopes of bringing about justice. Thanks to the show, hundreds of cases have been solved with fugitives found, wrongly convicted individuals exonerated, and families reunited after years of separation.

With only six episodes covering cases ranging from missing persons to murders to alien abductions, you are bound to want more. Take a look at the books below to learn more about America’s unsolved mysteries.

The Moonlight Mill Murders of Steubenville, Ohio by Susan M. Guy

On January 30, 1934, in the mill yards of Steubenville’s Wheeling Steel Plant, the Phantom Killer ambushed a rail worker, shooting him five times. As the investigation wore on, Steubenville was thrust into the national spotlight as the Phantom’s reign of terror continued. Local historian Susan M. Guy delves into one of the city’s most infamous crimes. Read more here!

The Atlanta Ripper: The Unsolved Case of the Gate City’s Most Infamous Murders by Jeffery Wells

Beginning in 1911, a killer whose methods mimicked the famed Jack the Ripper murdered at least twenty black women, from prostitutes to working-class women and mothers. Each murder attributed to the killer occurred on a Saturday night, and for one terrifying spring in 1911, a fresh body turned up every Sunday morning. Amid a stifling investigation, the slayings continued until 1915. Investigators never discovered the identity of the killer, or killers, despite arresting as many as six men for the crimes. Read more here!

Unsolved Murders and Disappearances in Northeast Ohio by Jane Ann Turzillo

Cold case files litter the desks of authorities all across Northeast Ohio. Two Parma teachers were on their way to school one winter morning when a maniac sprang from the bushes and bludgeoned them to death. Young Melvin Horst went missing on his way home from playing with friends in 1928. Charles Collins’s death looked like suicide but was proved otherwise and has remained a mystery for more than one hundred years. Author Jane Ann Turzillo recounts eight unsolved murders and two chilling disappearances. Read more here!

Unsolved Arizona: A Puzzling History of Murder, Mayhem & Mystery by Jane Eppinga

Are inscriptions on lead crosses found on the banks of the Santa Cruz River remnants of Freemasons or a hoax? Did the Lost Dutchman’s treasure spell the end for Adolph Ruth, whose skull was found nearly a mile away from his body in the Superstition Mountains? Author Jane Eppinga details thirteen stories of disappearances, murders, and unsolved cases from Arizona. Read more here!

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping by Steven C. Drielak

Alice McDonell Parsons was the heir to a vast fortune among Long Island’s wealthy elite when she was kidnapped from Long Meadow Farm in Stony Brook in 1937. J. Edgar Hoover personally assigned his best FBI agents to the case. Botched ransom attempts, clashes between authorities, and romantic intrigue kept the investigation mired in drama. The crime remained unsolved and has captivated Long Island audiences ever since. Former Suffolk County detective Steven C. Drielak reveals previously classified FBI documents and pieces together the mystery of the Alice Parsons kidnapping. Read more here!

Want more unsolved mysteries? Be sure to check out these similar titles below!

President James Buchanan Poisoned By A Bioweapon?

The newspapers of 1857 would have you think so! Following his election in 1856—a bitterly contested election just five years before the outbreak of the Civil War—President-Elect James Buchanan was holed up in the nation’s capital, forming a cabinet and preparing to take the reins of government.

His inauguration was set for March 4th, at the beginning of the spring thaw. (Inauguration Day would not be brought earlier until 1937, following the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.) Things seemed to be going according to plan, with Buchanan and his close advisors enjoying the comfort of the luxe National Hotel, one of Washington’s premier destinations for the upper political and diplomatic crust. Sumptuous dinners, lavish décor, and stately surroundings all served to boost the prestige of his delegation.

An early drawing of Pennsylvania Avenue with the national hotel on the right, with people and carriages scattering the street.
Although one of the poshest hotels on Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Hotel’s reputation was damaged nearly beyond repair by the illness that erupted in it. It eventually had to close down until the panic subsided. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Until, that is, one night in January when a mysterious disease suddenly struck the hotel—and struck hard.

Medicine loves a good whodunit. Coronavirus aside, the country’s most recent medical mystery of this nature came when the American embassy in Havana, Cuba, was afflicted by bizarre, unexplained trauma, a puzzler that has taken years to unravel. A century and a half ago, however, medicine was starting on the back foot—without even the germ theory of disease in its toolkit, investigators and physicians scrambled to explain what had befallen the National Hotel.

Regular readers of Crime Capsule know we don’t shy from the grisly. But brace yourselves, because this is what historian Kerry Walters has discovered afflicted the 15th President of the United States, and dozens of others. In his book Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease, Walters gives it to us straight:

“Buchanan and his unlucky companions were too sick to leave their beds. … The symptoms endured by all the men were similar: diarrhea, loss of appetite, cramping in the stomach, and bowels and bellies swollen by flatulence. The diarrhea was explosive and of a frothy of yeasty appearance. There was some nausea that worsened to the point of convulsive vomiting if the diarrhea was checked by astringents. Diarrhea and the vomiting quickly dehydrated the sick men, and they all suffered greatly from thirst. But the liquids they were given went straight through them, doing little to hydrate them.”

Related: Donald Trump’s Butler Murdered! (in 1986)

The president’s private physician, Dr. Jonathan Foltz, was on hand, and immediately began treating the afflicted, the unlucky with emetics, aka vomit-inducers, and the luckier with brandy. (You can guess which one Buchanan received.) But though some of the symptoms eased over the next few days, others lingered for weeks and in some cases months. Weakened by the disease, Buchanan struggled through his own inauguration proceedings, but survived; ultimately four people would die from complications due to this disease, including Buchanan’s own nephew.

A sketch of thousands of attendees in a ballroom for Buchanan's inaugural ball.
Between five thousand and six thousand people crammed into the building that housed Buchanan’s inaugural ball to dine on a many-coursed banquet and dance until dawn. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Image sourced from Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease.

Naturally the sleuthing began in earnest, even as the presidential transition team fought valiantly to keep the word of the illness under wraps. In this, they failed mightily, with news of a “National Hotel Disease” soon sweeping the papers of the day, and causing no small panic among Washingtonians.

Everyone feared the outbreak might spread past the confines of the afflicted hotel guests, and seep into the wider streets of the city—streets that literally ran thick with effluvia, thanks to Victorian sanitation practices that believed exposing raw sewage to outdoor elements served to neutralize its most harmful effects.

But like a criminal that’s always one step ahead of the cop, efforts to determine conclusively what caused the outbreak kept just falling short. As Walters writes, medical science of the day was almost—but not quite—ready to crack the case, and years would pass before researchers could determine what had brought the incoming president to his knees.

In the meantime, conspiracy theories popped up like weeds—was it an assassination attempt by abolitionists, to kill a candidate sympathetic to slave states? Was it a conspiracy by a secret cabal of powerful slave-owners, to install an even more radical vice-president in Buchanan’s place? Or of course—what else could it be—but the grand old lady of secrecy herself, the Roman Catholic Church?

As usual, no spoilers here, but we’ll leave you with one of Walters’ observations that leaves us as sober as if we’d taken one of those emetics: the argument about the origins of the disease, he writes, “…is a revealing barometer of just how fragile the country’s equilibrium was after a decade of intense and increasingly fraught debate about slavery. The sectional distrust and dislike generated by the debate created a toxic breeding ground for the politics of paranoia.”

Plus ça change, amis. Plus ça change.

Looking for more to read during quarantine? Check out our quaran-reads here. Finding us for the first time, and want to learn more about what we do? Visit our welcome page and sign up for the Crime Capsule email newsletter. You might also enjoy these titles below. See you behind bars!