It was the first day of December, 2019, and like Alice, I was down a rabbit hole.
I was working on a short-story follow-up to What Girls Are Good For, my 2018 novel following the early career of groundbreaking undercover reporter Nellie Bly. My new story took place immediately after the exposé that made Bly a household name, her ten days spent as an inmate in the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.
That experience had been turned into a book, Ten Days In A Mad-House, a terrific and horrifying read that remains hugely influential to this day (the nurses she…
Over the years, a fair number of people have approached my wife and me for relationship advice. I guess we look like we have our shit together.
When people ask us for the secret to our marriage, Jan often quotes an old NPR story about a couple that had been married for something like 70 years. “What’s our secret? Frequent separations and gradual loss of hearing.”
It gets a laugh, which is what we’re going for. But it’s not true. We live in each other’s pockets. For the first five years Jan and I were together, we didn’t spend a…
From 1890 to 1895, pioneering journalist Nellie Bly wrote eleven serial novels for a weekly publication. From that time to this, they have all been thought lost forever — until the announcement of their discovery on January 25, 2021.
The first of these lost novels is Eva the Adventuress, a gripping “ripped-from-the-headlines” tale of a red-headed vixen wronged by everyone and eager for revenge. With her signature move of stabbing men in the chest but failing to kill them, Eva Scarlett is clearly based on the real-life Eva Hamilton, whose scandalous trial filled breathless headlines in the fall of 1889.
Bly’s First Story
The Pittsburg Dispatch — January 25, 1885
What shall we do with our girls?
Not our Madame Neilsons; nor our Mary Andersons; not our Bessie Brambles nor Maggie Mitchells; not our beauty or our heiress; not any of these, but those without talent, without beauty, without money.
What shall we do with them?
The anxious father still wants to know what to do with his five daughters. Well indeed may he inquire and wonder. Girls, since the existence of Eve, have been a source of worriment, to themselves as well as to their parents, as to what…
When I was a little kid, my family would make an annual pilgrimage from Ann Arbor to Chicago to visit my aunt Cheryl and her husband David (DB to us) to do some Christmas shopping. We’d stay at their house in Riverside, right next to a house Capone apparently had built for his sister. Then we’d go downtown and visit Marshall Fields’ main store in the Loop and have Christmas tea in the famous Walnut Room.
Tea by the big tree was fine, but as a child of the ‘80s I was a greedy little consumer. Early on I discovered…
Given the state of our nation, it is worth examining the nexus of white grievance politics, and the three distinct groups that combine to make it so frighteningly strong.
It begins, and probably ends, with conservative Christianity.
True to our Puritanical roots, to many who attend conservative churches, Christianity is defined, not by the teachings of Christ, but by suffering. “Christ died for your sins!” That’s why The Passion Of The Christ, which was religious torture porn, was so beloved in the Evangalical community. For them, faith is not about Christ’s life, it’s about how he died. How he suffered.
Robert Ray Wants A Divorce!
The New York Times — 3 October 1889
That Robert Ray Hamilton is cured of his infatuation for Mrs. Swinton’s protégé is evidenced by the fact that he has begun a suit in the Supreme Court to have his marriage to her annulled on the ground of fraud and the existence of a previous marriage. Judge Patterson, in Supreme Court, Chambers, yesterday granted a motion made my Mr. Hamilton’s lawyers, Root & Clarke, to have the service of the summons in the case made on Mrs. Evangeline L. Hamilton by publication. It will be published…
Hamilton Again a Victim!
The New York World — Sunday 29 September 1889
He visits her cell and she makes good her word to “win him back in twenty minutes”– not even her confession of the fraud of the baby chills his infatuation — he will attempt to free her.
[Special to The World.]
May’s Landing, N.J., Sept. 28. — The hovel-born adventuress in prison has made good her boast: “Let me see Ray Hamilton for twenty minutes and I’ll win him back again.” She has captured what she has never lost, the heart of the man she has deceived…
THE NURSE JOINS A FREAK SHOW!
The Evening World/27 September 1889
Showing the Wound Made by Eva Hamilton’s Knife
And the Whiskey Bottle Which Ray Hamilton’s Wife Drank From.
Nurse Mary Donnelly, who was so nearly carved to death by Mrs. Eva Hamilton at Atlantic City last month, has joined the noble army of freaks.
A museum on the Bowery has allured her, she alleges, for two weeks’ engagement at a salary of $150 a week, with the privilege of a renewal, and she will begin to hold “daily receptions in Curio Hall,” from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. …