The classic locked-door mystery in real life; more on Route 66; English as bully: newsletter, August 3, 2018

August 6, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,224) on August 3, 2018

The name William Tecumseh Sherman still evokes strong emotions for many Americans more than 150 years after he was instrumental in ending the Civil War and saving the Union and nearly 130 years after his death in 1891. I found that out personally from newsletter readers this week after an item outlining his relationship with Ulysses S. Grant in last week’s newsletter. (A little more about all that below.)

Sherman is too interesting a character to dismiss with a label of hero or villain, and if you hang on as a reader of this newsletter, you will be seeing more about him in the coming weeks.

Otherwise, we are over our fatigue from our journey out West earlier in July, but the memories and impressions remain. So this week, there is more — a good bit more — about Route 66. We also continue to gather tomatoes from the garden, and I am involved in some major woodworking project. More on that as it develops.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Who killed Julia Wallace? The classic locked-door mystery

When William Herbert Wallace returned to his Liverpool home from work one January night in 1931, he found his wife Julia dead on the floor of the parlor, her head caved in by a heavy object and her blood spread across the room.

Deanna Cioppa, a writer and editor and fan of true-crime stories, has all of the details of this fascinating case in a recent article on She also summarizes some of the theories of the case that have developed from subsequent examinations of the case.

A fortnight’s investigation by local police resulted in the arrest and trial of Wallace for the murder of his wife. Wallace, a stoic, showed little emotion during his trial, and some believe that was a big reason why the jury convicted him after only an hour of deliberation. He was sentenced to be hanged, but in an unprecedented move, the Court of Criminal Appeals set aside the verdict because of a lack of evidence.

The freed Wallace went back to his job at the Prudential Insurance Company, but the case had generated such publicity and emotion that he could not resume as a salesman. Nor could he live at his residence. Prudential officials, who believed in his innocence and paid for his defense, gave him an off-the-street clerk’s job.

Two years later, however, he was dead of natural causes.

The mystery of his wife’s murder did not die. One group it continued to fascinate was top-tier mystery writers such as Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Raymond Chandler.

James analyzed all of the evidence in the case and came to a conclusion that she offered in the Sunday Times in 2013. (Here’s an article in The Guardian about that analysis; the Sunday Times article is not available.)  Sayers wrote a chapter about the case for the 1936 book The Anatomy of Murder. which is available on

The Trial of William Herbert Wallace by W.F. Wyndham-Brown, a 1933 book about the case, is also available for a free download from

If you are interested in the case, start with Cioppa’s article and go from there.


Jury trials: a thing of the past?

You’re accused of a crime. You didn’t do it.

The prosecutor is aggressive; she says there’s ample evidence to convict you. You and your attorney go over the evidence. He says there are procedural errors in the way the evidence has been acquired, and all in all, he doesn’t believe the case is all that strong.

But none of that is very reassuring.

Then the prosecutor comes back with an offer. Accept a plea to a lesser crime, and she and your lawyer will negotiate a sentence — maybe one that has no jail time.

But you didn’t do the lesser crime either.

What do you do?

More and more, according to a National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) report titled the “The Trial Penalty.”, defendants are taking the deal. And that’s not a good thing.

They’re waiving their right to a jury trial; they’re passing up a chance to challenge their accusers; and they are accepting the permanent label of “convicted criminal” for themselves.

Jury trials today occur in only about three percent of the three percent of federal criminal cases; 30 years ago, it was 20 percent. The same thing has been happening at the state level.

The NACDL report goes on to say:

Neither government officials or the public have resisted the rise of plea bargaining, say the defense lawyers, who agree that “plea bargaining presents a seemingly reasonable alternative that promotes efficiency while providing defendants an opportunity for leniency and putting them on an early road to rehabilitation.” A major problem is that pressures to plead guilty are “so strong [that] even innocent people can be convinced to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit,” says the NACDL report.

This information comes from, an excellent source for keeping up with the criminal justice system:  Defense Lawyers Decry Disappearance of Jury Trials | The Crime ReportThe Crime Report


Giveaways and offers

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Independence Day Celebration — Books about Freedom. This Instafreebie group giveaway has some fantastic books by an excellent group of independent authors (including . . . ahem . . . me). You will find something to add to your summer reading stack.


The American Road: The Boots Court Motel, a Route 66 restoration

If you were a traveler along the famous Route 66 in the late 1940s and you wanted a first-class place to stay the night, you couldn’t do better than the Boots Court Motel in Carthage, Missouri.

Not only would you have a room with the most modern conveniences — a “radio in every room,” they said — but you could pop over across the road to the 66 Drive-in to catch a movie or maybe to get “breakfast at any hour” at the fountain that served food there.

The drive-in theater is now a bank, but the Boots Motel — thanks to a dedicated group of historic restorationists and civic-minded citizens — is open for business, much like it was in 1939 when it was first built.

The building is a prime example of streamline moderne and art deco architecture with rounded corners, smooth stucco, and a roofline and walls accented by black Carrara glass and green neon.

And it has a history. Here are a few highlights:

  • Arthur Boots, a farm equipment salesman from Kansas City, wanted to run a motel and studied a map carefully trying to find the best location. He settled on Carthage, Missouri, because it was the intersection of Highways 71 and 66. He called it the “Crossroads of America.”
  • Boots constructed much of the original building himself and named it Boots Court when it was first opened in 1939.
  • Originally there was a gas station in front of the motel. Boots had this in case the motel did not do well. It turned out that the motel was so successful that he didn’t have time to pump gas.
  • Despite his work, his dreams, and his initial success, Arthur Boots didn’t last long in the motel business. He and his wife divorced in 1941, and she ran the motel. She sold it in 1944.

There is much more in the history section of the Boots Motel website in case you’re interested.


Thanks to newsletter reader Marilyn F., who grew up in Carthage, for putting me on to all of this stuff with this link:


The world’s biggest bully: the English language

Everybody speaks English. Or they should.

That’s the attitude that many English speakers have, and sometimes they’re not shy about expressing that attitude (in English, of course).

 writes about this attitude in a long and interesting essay this week in The Guardian. He says:

No language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of the globe. It is aspirational: the golden ticket to the worlds of education and international commerce, a parent’s dream and a student’s misery, winnower of the haves from the have-nots. It is inescapable: the language of global business, the internet, science, diplomacy, stellar navigation, avian pathology. And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled. Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet | News | The Guardian

Mikanowski points out that the attitude that people should speak English has been around for a long time and cites Theodore Roosevelt, for one, who said in 1919 that there was room in America for only one language.

So, speak softly — but make sure it’s English you’re speaking.

Additional note: While I recommend this article as interesting and informative, I caution readers about assigning human qualities (like attitudes) to non-human items (such as a language). Languages don’t have attitudes; people do.


The Guardian’s August reading group: ‘the very finest detective story ever written’ 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — tagged by no less than Dorothy L. Sayers as the “very finest detective story ever written” — is the August selection for The Guardian’s reading group.

The Moonstone is the first of the great English detective novels. The Guardian’s Sam Jordison, moderator of the reading group, says:

It’s 150 years this August since Collins wrapped up the story which he had been publishing in instalments in the periodical All the Year Round – having kept readers hanging on since January to learn the great secret at the heart of the book. William Tinsey, who published The Moonstone in book form, reported crowds of “anxious readers” waiting around his office, as well as “several” bets being taken on the book’s eventual outcome.

Reading it today, it’s easy to understand that fever of expectation . . .Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is our reading group choice for August | Books | The Guardian

Grab a copy and join in the discussion here: You can download a free copy of the book from Project Gutenberg.


Some of you have Route 66 memories:

Janet E.: Your articles about Route 66 were very interesting. My husband and I have traveled on Route 66 but not all the way. A personal story about the tv show, Route 66. I went to a small private school. We would go on field trips from time to time. One of the field trips was to the banana boat docks in Tampa, FL. As we got off the bus to tour the boat docks, we heard a familiar theme song. You guessed it. We were excited to find out that we were going to be able to watch them film the show. All I remember was watching Martin Milner and George Maharis jump in and out of their car. I would love to find a copy of that exact program. I very much enjoy your newsletter but had to tell you about my experience with Route 66.

Note: All of the episodes of Route 66 are listed here:

Bonnie K.: Wow, you sent a lot of info, very valuable to me. I am going to check out the books you talked about Route 66 and Copyboy. I have not read Paperboy, but  I am going to try to find it first. It sounds interesting. I am glad to have heard about it. Thank you for your newsletter. I appreciate it.

And in reaction to a newsletter item of a couple of weeks ago that referenced the #metoo movement:

Kitty G.: Having worked in offices the last 20 years of my nursing career and in hospitals the first 20 years; I have to wonder just how many of those #metoo women used the opportunities offered for sexual favors to climb up the workforce ladder. I saw many things in my 40 years. I was a medical/ psychiatric RN. I could write books, literally!!

Grant and Sherman are heros? Maybe, maybe not

Helen P.: Interesting reading about Grant and Sherman. Never thought of them as heroic, saviors of the Union. Sherman was always infamous to me, due to the March to the sea and that his burning included private residences. Also his attitude to the Indian problem. Had a roommate in college from Virginia. She insisted Lee never surrendered. That is what she learned in school. History may be written by the winner, but the teachers have a say.

In addition . . .

I have had some interesting and enlightening exchanges with readers who disagree with me or with some of the things I recommend. The people who have written have been unfailingly kind, respectful and civil, and I hope my responses have shown that I genuinely care about what you think. We may disagree on particular issues, but I always maintain that there is much that we have in common and can agree on. Whether you agree or disagree — or just have a different point of view — please write if you have something to say. It is a highlight of my week when I hear from readers.


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: The Boots Court Motel, Route 66, Carthage, Missouri

Best quote of the week:

I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself. Emily Bronte, novelist (1818-1848) 


Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Route 66, Buried Truths, Copyboy; the saga of two failures continues, newsletter, July 27, 2018







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