Making women legally visible, the Battle of Midway, the lethal nature of heat, and reader reactions: newsletter, June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,470) on Friday, June 17, 2022.


Now that America is in the midst of its first major heat wave of the season, it’s probably a good idea to consider heat itself and its effect on human beings. In terms of actual deaths of humans, heat is the most lethal force of nature, far more so than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or blizzards.

What makes heat so devastating is not just the obvious effects of making people extremely uncomfortable but also the internal effects that it can have on the human body. Those effects are destructive, but they are not always apparent immediately. Consequently, we should take heat waves very seriously, and we should do whatever we can to protect ourselves from them.

One of the things that many scientists and climatologists tell us that would help is the planting of trees in urban areas. As we construct more and more buildings and housing units, we tend to tear down, sometimes unnecessarily, the trees that might get in the way of this construction. This heat wave is a good reminder that we should rethink that practice. A tree is a terrible thing to waste.

Try to have a very cool weekend.


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Caroline Norton and the first challenge to the male dominance of English law

“I exist and I suffer; but the law denies my existence.”

Caroline Norton, who wrote this dynamite sentence, knew the power of the pen. Indeed, she lived in a time when it was her only weapon, and she used it well. Doing so brought her a measure of personal satisfaction, but it also changed the life of every woman who lived in England after her.

Norton was born in 1808, the daughter of an actor (her father) and a novelist (her mother), and into a family that had access to the upper reaches of English society. Her early life had the prospect of being comfortable and genteel.

So it seemed when George Norton proposed marriage. Norton was a younger brother of an important family and appeared to have wealth and status. In fact, he had neither. The marriage occurred in 1827 when Caroline was 19 years old. It did not take long for those involved to realize that it was a disaster.

George Norton was a slow, dull-witted, jealous, and obstinate husband. He seemed to be the exact opposite of his wife. He soon became violent with Caroline, and that violence continued throughout the time that they were together.

Caroline bore three children, but disagreements between the couple, particularly about politics, were always at the surface of the relationship. Even though George was jealous of his wife and her abilities to make friends, he prevailed upon her to ask her political friends to help him secure a position in the government.

One of those friends was Lord Melbourne. Lord Melbourne had a reputation as a womanizer and his frequent visits with Caroline provoked rumors about the relationship. Nevertheless, he helped to secure a position for George, but the jealous husband repaid his efforts with continued physical violence against his wife and eventually with a lawsuit charging Melbourne with “criminal conversation” with Caroline.

Both Melbourne and Caroline denied that there was ever any sexual relationship, and the jury that heard the lawsuit in 1836 ruled in Melbourne’s favor. Unfortunately for Caroline, the suit not only damaged her reputation but was the final blow that separated her from her children. When George and Caroline separated, George took the children with him and denied Caroline access to them. At that time in the eyes of the law, a married woman had no rights outside of her husband. She could not own property, and she could not see her children without the consent of her husband.

Without legal recourse, Caroline turned to public opinion. She was not the only woman of her day to find herself in this position, but eventually she became the spokesperson for all of those who did. She wrote a pamphlet in 1837 titled The Natural Claim of a Mother to the Custody of Her Children as Affected by the Common Law Rights of the Father. In that pamphlet she laid out the case of her situation. It was the first time in English legal history that a woman had openly challenged the law that so discriminated against them.

This was the beginning of a long, bruising, and frustrating political fight that took its toll on Caroline’s already tattered reputation. Still, she persisted, and in 1839 the Custody of Children Act was passed by Parliament. It gave custody of children under seven years old to the mother and established the right of the non-custodial parent to have access to the child. The legislation, though very limited in scope, was the first to undermine the patriarchal structure that gave husbands absolute rights over their wives.

The new law, however, did not benefit Caroline immediately. Her husband had taken the children to Scotland where the law did not apply. It took the death of one of her children and more legal negotiations with her husband before she was able to gain any degree of access to her children.

Meanwhile, in order to support herself, Caroline continued to write. She produced a number of political pamphlets arguing for the rights of women, particularly those of wives and mothers. She also wrote poetry that was well received. She authored several novels—often drawing on her own experiences—that were popular and critically acclaimed.

Her own life and character were also thought to provide the models for other authors, particularly Anne Brontë’s work The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Her political writings helped to assure the passage of other laws that gave women in England and Wales additional rights. Her supporters in these efforts included none other than Queen Victoria.

Caroline Norton died at the age of 69 in 1877. Her life had not been an easy one, but she was able through her writing to make her struggles count for something. A new biography of her has recently been published by Lady Antonia Fraser. Here is a link to the New York Times review of that book.

Battle of Midway, the ‘American Trafalgar’ (part 1)

The Battle of Midway was, in the words of more than one Naval historian, “America’s Trafalgar.” The battle occurred 80 years ago this month in June 1942. At that moment, the navy of imperial Japan was dominant in the Pacific Ocean. It had knocked out much of the American fleet and its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor seven months before.

What it missed at Pearl Harbor was the majority of America’s aircraft carriers, which happened to be at sea at the time of the attack. The Japanese hoped that their planned attack on Midway would illuminate any remaining threat from the American Navy and would be further discouragement to the Americans in rearming themselves and fighting a long and brutal war.

The island of Midway presented for the Japanese what seemed to be a golden opportunity. It was a U.S. Naval Station on a small island that had few natural defenses. The Japanese conceived a plan to lure the American aircraft carriers to Midway and then to ambush those carriers with its combined fleet of ships and fighter aircraft.

What the Japanese did not realize was that in the seven months since Pearl Harbor the Americans had broken Japanese codes and had become reasonably well aware of the trip that the Japanese were attempting to spring. That intelligence gave the Americans the opportunity to spring their own trap. Part of the American trap occurred when the naval command on Midway, at the orders of the police command, sent out an encoded message saying that the freshwater facilities on Midway had stopped working and were in need of repair.

The Japanese intercepted this message and were delighted. They believed that this would provoke the Americans to sail right into their air into their ambush. The irony is they were providing the very same opportunities for the Americans themselves.

On June 4, 1942, the engagement between Japanese and American forces began. The American attacks on the Japanese aircraft carriers initially were unsuccessful, while the Japanese attacks on American targets seemed to be hitting their marks. The battle had begun early in the morning, and by 10 o’clock local time things seemed to be going very well.

The luck that had been on the side of the Japanese was about to shift quickly and dramatically.

Next week: A good battle plan and a lot of luck


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


The libel trial of Theodore Roosevelt

Imagine a libel trial featuring an ex-president as the defendant and a future president testifying on his behalf.

That happened in 1915, more than six years after Theodore Roosevelt had left the office that he loved more than any other. He spent most of his energy, which was considerable, and his waking hours trying to regain that position, running as the Bull Moose Party candidate in 1912 and losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt had a battering-ram personality, and while many people loved him for his dedication to reform and his fierce hold on his beliefs, others saw him as an arch-enemy, including some within his own Republican Party.

One of those was William Barnes, chairman of the New York State Republican Party. Barnes and Roosevelt had known each other for years and had worked together on some issues when Roosevelt was a state legislator. But Barnes had built a political machine in the New York capital city of Albany. Roosevelt saw machine politics as corrupt by nature, and he saw no reason to withhold judgment about William Barnes.

Roosevelt and Barnes found themselves on opposite sides in 1912 when Roosevelt tried to wrest the Republican presidential nomination from his former protege, William Howard Taft. They also opposed each other by backing different candidates in the 1914 gubernatorial election in New York. Roosevelt accused Barnes of being corrupt and working with the Democratic Tammany Hall organization to block progressive reforms that people wanted.

Barnes’ candidate won the election, but Barnes wasn’t satisfied. He decided to go after Roosevelt himself. He should have left well enough alone.

At that time, the burden of proof in a libel trial rested on the person who was being sued. In his testimony, Roosevelt never denied that he called Barnes corrupt. Instead, he set out to prove that what he had said about Barnes was true. He and his legal team provided unsavory details about some of the deals that Barnes had made with the boss of the Tammany organization. Roosevelt also asked his cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, then Under Secretary of the Navy, to testify on his behalf. Franklin Roosevelt had served in the New York State Senate and had firsthand knowledge of Barnes’ wheeling and dealing.

The jury took two days to return a verdict, but that was only because one juror believed that trial costs should be evenly divided. All of the jurors voted to acquit Roosevelt.

The trial essentially ended Barnes’ political influence and career. For Roosevelt, it did the opposite. The trial, which was covered by newspapers around the country, put him back in the national spotlight. He declined the Progressive Party’s presidential nomination and campaigned for Republican nominee, Charles Evans Hughes, who barely lost to Wilson.

Roosevelt died in 1919. Many believed that had he lived, he would have been nominated for president by the Republicans in 1920.


Group giveaways

Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, June’s Mystery Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of June. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.

The giveaway includes more than 40 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors. The link for this giveaway is

A second giveaway also includes Kill the Quarterback. This one is the Summer Reads Giveaway. There are more than 50 books in this one, so it is well worth the look. The link for this giveaway is

Finally, a third giveaway that you might be interested in is the Thrillers for FREE, also from This giveaway has more than 40 books in this genre, so have a look and download anything that looks interesting. Remember: they’re all free; the price is your email address. The link for this one is

All of these giveaways are open through the month of June. It helps me if you use one of the links above to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Eric S.: As fine a journalist as David Simon knows there’s more purpose to the business than simply outraging readers. Journalism informs people. Without it, we would be ignorant of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, unable to empathize with families who lost children in Uvalde, and clueless when it comes to selecting your government representatives and the policies which affect you.  

Tiffany N.: On the “work as religion,” there was a great conversation about this with Carolyn Chen on KERA’s Think:

Vince V.: It matters more that the works of Shakespeare were written rather than who may have written them. “Hamlet” said it best: “The play’s the thing.”

More reactions next week

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: USS Yorktown

Best quote of the week:

Fearing no insult, asking for no crown, receive with indifference both flattery and slander, and do not argue with a fool. Aleksandr Pushkin, poet, novelist, and playwright (1799-1837)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

Helping those in need

Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them 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 ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or 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: The mean streets of Baltimore, the theology of work, June giveaways, and truckin’ bees: newsletter, June 10, 2022


Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing

The father of modern true crime writing is back.

William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.

His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.

Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.

The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include

Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contain

We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.

We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.

During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.

Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.

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