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

Publication Date: August 3, 2020

In 1937 Alice McDonell Parsons was allegedly picked up at her home by two people interested in seeing a property she had for rent and was never seen again. A note found on the floorboard of a car led police to think it was a kidnapping, which wasn’t so far fetched as kidnaping was a very popular crime at the time. The FBI became involved and Hoover assigned his best agents to the case. The complications that followed and secrets that were exposed complicated the case of the missing woman whose fate was never really known. Drielak takes a deep dive into declassified documents to fit the puzzle pieces of what happened to Alice McDonell Parsons.

 

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping is a fascinating read. The author spent 30 years in law enforcement and examines the historical evidence relaying it in a very readable way. There’s no whitewashing of the historical investigation. It was held up by clashes between law enforcement agencies and, in some cases, pedantic investigators. Readers start with the events of June 9, 1937 as relayed by Alice’s housekeeper/business partner, Anna Kupryanova, and Alice’s husband, William Parsons. Anna’s son, Roy, left on his bike for school while William went by train to New York City for a meeting. The changing stories and disdain that Anna had for Alice as well as Anna’s affair with Alice’s husband left suspicion in the minds of law enforcement but what would investigation show?

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping is extremely well crafted. It’s linear and, as horrible as Anna is, relies on the facts of the case rather than the character of it’s suspects to prove it’s case. The mishandling of the case is outlined clearly. That Anna was so easily able to dominate and intimidate William was not helpful to the case. Drielak starts where the investigators do, with the idea that this is a kidnapping. The facts of the case influence the trajectory of suspicion. Why would William say that his wife couldn’t drive? Why did he lie about his relationship with Anna and why did both of their stories morph over the course of early days? 

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping is 100% a true crime read. The details derived from law enforcement paperwork prove that truth is stranger than fiction. Did Alice walk away or did someone get away with murder? Draw your own conclusion. She certainly had the family connections and wherewithal to disappear and perhaps exact a little revenge in the leaving? Alice is a walking Dateline victim description, described as pleasant looking, gentle and happy. Loved by her family and close to her siblings children. This is true crime so there are times the morphing stories get confusing and also the narrative drags as there’s just nothing going on in the case. As the title reveals, the case was never solved. If William and Anne knew anything, they went to their graves without giving anything up and, as it’s in the title, that’s not a spoiler. 

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping  is a great read and if you are a fan of history, true crime or just a really good story, this is a book that must not be missed.

Read an excerpt and buy Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping by Steven C. Drielak on

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Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder by Patrick Brode

Publication Date: November 20, 2018

On November 6, 1920, in the midst of Ontario’s prohibition, Provincial liquor inspector, Reverend  J.O.L “Leslie” Spracklin walked into the Chappell House Hotel in Windsor, Ontario and shot Beverly “Babe” Trumble at close range, killing him. What happened that day and how did Spracklin get away with murder?

 

 

Given the part that Ontario played in the US prohibition, which started in 1920, one would not assume that Ontario was dry at that time. The Ontario Temperance Act was passed in 1916 and while liquor could be produced and exported, it was not legal to consume. Brode begins Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder outlining Ontario’s history with alcohol and its citizens lack of reverence for the newly established rules after prohibition passed. Windsor, which is across a river just south of Detroit, Michigan,  was a special concern for the officials in Toronto as liquor seemed to flow freely back and forth across the water. There were speakeasys everywhere and hotels and social clubs would serve both locally produced and homemade products.  There are stately homes now in the lovely Walkervile area of Windsor, built by people that got rich off of the illegal flow of alcohol.

The Ontario Attorney General of the day, William Rainey, opted to bypass the local police and engage private enforcement for the liquor laws. He appointed Spracklin, the Pastor of Sandwich Methodist Church, a liquor inspector and Spracklin brought on board his own force including a very dubious Hallam brothers. From the start, there was a massive overreaching on the part of the team and allegations that when “inspections” would happen, things would go missing. The team didn’t shy away from violence and didn’t seem to care about the optics of their raids or the positions of the subjects. Rather than seeming the law of the Wild West of Ontario, they were coming off as bullies. What caused Spracklin and his men to raid the Chappell House on that November night is unknown but stories of what happened varied wildly and seem to have been the last straw for those that employed Spracklin. It may seem a spoiler in the title to say that Spracklin got away with murder but, as in any true crime, the journey is key.

At 216 pages, a quarter of which is bibliography, Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder is a quick read. Brode, a local historian, covers Prohibition and how it was passed before going into the lives of the participants and the difference in the ways they were raised and how they looked at life. Their mothers came from the same area of Ontario to Windsor and were friends. The retelling of the event itself it brief with more detail going into the subsequent trial. It was interesting, as someone who has lived in Essex County, for 21 years, to read the names that remain familiar in the city of Windsor. Trumble’s body was handled by Janisse Funeral Home which is still in operation 100 years later. Spracklin’s men stopped people leaving Our Lady of Assumption Church, a church that was a risk for a few years but is now being restored, to search vehicles for alcohol. The trial took place at Mackenzie Hall; now an event space and where Mr. Rabid Readers and I had our wedding reception. There is a historic courtroom preserved with original furnishings in the building that is now used for Landlord-Tenant Court and as an interpretive display piece.

If you are interested in the subject, Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder is a great read. The start is a bit dry so one must bear with the work but once the author gets into the local events and his subjects; Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder is utterly fascinating and a very quick read.

 

Read an excerpt and buy Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder by Patrick Brode on

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And Now for Something Completely Different — Podcast Recommendation

I’m going to do something a little different for this Towel Day and make a recommendation of a podcast that has been around for years, but I’ve only recently started downloading.

Most Notorious is a true-crime podcast hosted by author and historian, Erik Rivenes. In each episode, Erik examines a certain moment, both well known and obscure, of history by interviewing the authors who have written books about the event. Erik and his guests strip the mythology of the bygone eras away and get to the hear of. His linear style of guiding the conversation through the event discussed is engrossing. Since discovering this podcast my “to be read” pile has grown exponentially.

In an early episode, Erik interviews author Harold Schechter whose work of non-fiction Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness I reviewed last year (to read that review click here). The interview with Erik Rivenes focuses on Schechter’s book Fiend, the subject of which is America’s youngest serial killer, Jesse Pomeroy (to check out the book’s Amazon page, click here). They discuss the recorded and likely reasons that the 14-year-old sexual sadist chose his victims and what became of him after his conviction and the many years he spent in isolation. In another early episode, Erik interviews E. Don Harpe with a focus on his book The Harpe’s Last Rampage, the True Story of America’s First Serial Killers (to check out the book’s Amazon page, click here). E. Don Harpe, a descendant of the Harpe brothers, digs deep into his subject matter and opens up about the connection he felt to his ancestors when he visited the site of their hideout. In another episode, Erik and J.D. Chandler, author of Murder and Scandal in Prohibition Portland, discuss the Torso Murder and the police’s lack of action to find a missing woman who may have been more of a danger to local law enforcement officials than they might have liked. Why was the disappearance never investigated? Is the Torso found in the local river that of the missing woman? Will the recent reopening of her disappearance yield any results?

The host’s ease with his guests and his knowledge of each subject keeps the subject moving and really makes washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom in this time of isolation a delight. As with any true-crime podcast, the subject gets heavy at times but the style of the host imbues a lighter tone while not robbing the bad that happened of its gravity. That is not to say, that all of the episodes involving bloody and horrible crimes (Nazis in America with author Arnie Bernstein was entertaining and will give listeners a new perspective on journalist, Walter Winchell).

Most Notorious is my new favorite podcast and if, like me, you love history and maybe tend to run a little bit behind the times, check it out. I think you’ll love it too. I am rapidly plowing through the 162 episodes currently uploaded and unlike some of my other podcasts, no break needed. I’m spending a ton of books and there are no regrets. Check it out today!

To check out the Most Notorious podcast go to their website.

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw

Publication Date: December 6, 2016

 

On November 8, 1965, 52-year-old investigative reporter and television personality, Dorothy Kilgallen, is found dead of an apparent overdose in her New York City home. Her files are missing and the air conditioning is running. She has been investigating the Kennedy assassination and has told people she is poised to crack it wide open. Was she the reporter who knew too much?

 

Before he started investigating the Jack Ruby trial, Mark Shaw remembered Dorothy Kilgallen as a panelist on the syndicated CBS game show, “What’s my Line.” Digging into the records, Kilgallen’s name kept coming up and her interest and dedication to cracking the case sparked Shaw’s interest in the enigmatic and talented reporter and her mysterious death. Research for The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen took Shaw 12 years and justice for Kilgallen has become his calling. Continue reading The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

Publication Date: March 6, 2012

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild is a look at the often ignored World War I moral objectors along with those people who wholeheartedly believed in the cause.

Is it the job of the historian to moralize and pontificate? History is propaganda written by the winners, so to read a book highlighting the moral objectors is supremely interesting. To sermonize that an event already placed in history shouldn’t have happened is not appealing. People died in World War I. It happened. It’s done. It’s 100 years in the past. History is about facts and while “woulda” “shoulda” and “coulda” are nice to suggest that a war in which an estimated 37 million people (civilian and military) died was a waste of human life. Maybe. But it happened and isn’t it a disservice to chide key figures in history-making portraying them as Keystone Cop archetypes. Despite my distaste at the author’s position, the story of the objectors is one that should be told and was presented with delicacy, mindful of the challenges they faced. Continue reading To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

Rabid Reader’s Book List for Human Rights Day 2017

This year again, Rabid Reader’s Reviews presents a list of books dealing with human rights. In light of the events, human rights violations have increased and become a pressing issue worldwide.

 

To Live Out Loud: A Novel by Paulette Mahurin

Review quotes:

“There’s an electricity of fear and suspicion in the people. It was believed that Dreyfus would be a traitor because he was a Jew.”

“To Live Out Loud is an outstanding work of historical fiction and a must-read for everyone, especially those interested in the history of human rights violations.” 

Read the complete To Live Out Loud: A Novel by Paulette Mahurin review here.    Continue reading Rabid Reader’s Book List for Human Rights Day 2017

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Publication Date: March 10, 2015

 

EL_Death_WakeOn Friday, May 7, 1915 a German U-Boat sunk the RMS Lusitania. [easyazon_link identifier=”0307408868″ locale=”US” tag=”rabidreaders-20″]“Dead Wake”[/easyazon_link] tells the true story and political machinations and personalities behind the tragic event nearly 100 years ago.

 

Continue reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Windfall by Colin Dodds

Publication Date: January 29, 2014

 

Windfall by Colin DoddsIn Windfall by Colin Dodds, Seth Tatton is an average guy who practices law by day. By night, Seth is a hit man for a super secret organization made up of the 1%. With each hit, the organization’s plans become clearer to Seth and he’s finding himself more entrenched in their plot. What Seth doesn’t realize that there are forces at work within himself eager to use his unique skills but when he’s called upon for a special task, will everything change?

 

 

Continue reading Windfall by Colin Dodds

New Stars for Old by Marc Read

Publication Date: July 9, 2013

 

New Stars for Old by Marc ReadNew Stars for Old by Marc Read is a collection of 20 short stories highlighting the human aspect of science through entertaining tales starring key historical figures.

 

 

 

Continue reading New Stars for Old by Marc Read

1963: Year of Hope and Hostility by Reverend Byron Williams

Publication Date: July 28, 2013

 

1963 was a key year in the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. Williams highlights events and personalities of the day that may not have seemed connected in his book but contributed to the advance toward equality.

 

 

 

Continue reading 1963: Year of Hope and Hostility by Reverend Byron Williams