Today’s guest is author Jeffrey D. Simon, author of several books about terrorism and a former RAND analyst who also taught at UCLA. As a guest on Fact or Fiction, Jeff has agreed to share some of the highlights from his most recent book, The Bulldog Detective: William J. Flynn and America’s First War Against the Mafia, Spies, and Terrorists. Flynn’s career provides a fascinating glimpse into early 20th century crimes and detective methods, and his character is one of the most interesting of the era.
As always, Jeff will infuse one fictional detail into this unbelievable but factual story. Will I guess the fiction? Will you? Listen carefully, because it’stricky to know if something is fact or fiction. Ready to play?
St. Louis was a rapidly growing frontier town in 1849. That year, the city experienced a great fire that destroyed the city’s business district, an epidemic of cholera that decimated the population, and a steady influx of would-be miners on their way to the California hills. Also, there was a sensational murder and an equally sensational trial.
Christopher Allen Gorden, author of Fire, Pestilence, and Death: St. Louis 1849, is this episode’s special guest. Listen and learn more about St. Louis in the pivotal year of 1849. Of course, since the show is called Fact or Fiction, Christopher will include one fictional detail in the story. Will I guess the fiction? Will you?
Listen carefully because it’s tricky to know if something is fact or fiction. Ready to play?
Nicknamed “Liquor Island,” Long Island was a center for bootlegging and rumrunning for the New York metropolitan area during Prohibition. Amy Kasuga Folk’s book Rumrunners of Suffolk County: Tales from Liquor Island shares highlights from her book and inserts a fictional detail in her four choices at the end of the episode. Will you identify the fiction? Will I?
Listeners will be astonished by what they learn, and it’s mostly true!
In the late nineteenth century, West was wild all the way back to the Mississippi River. Only a day’s walk from the progressive big city of St. Louis, rural Jefferson County citizens were struggling with an outbreak of thefts, arson, and more. Mack Marsden, successful livestock trader and family man, was accused of being involved. After Mack was shot and killed, there remained lingering doubts. Was he a criminal, or was he wrongly accused?
Author Joe Johnston tells the fascinating story he uncovered while researching The Mack Marsden Murder Mystery. Of course, he inserts one fiction into this unbelievable but true story.
The following images are courtesy of Joe Johnston.
From 1848 to 1881, a small utopian colony in upstate New York—the Oneida Community—was known for its shocking sexual practices, from open marriage and free love to the sexual training of young boys by older women. And in 1881, a one-time member of the Oneida Community—Charles Julius Guiteau—assassinated President James Garfield in a brutal crime that shook America to its core.
Susan Wels, author of An Assassin in Utopia, shares this interwoven tale. Of course, she inserts one fiction into this unbelievable but true story. Will I recognize the fiction within the facts? Will you?
James Brockman rose from shady character to preeminent defense attorney in Houston, Texas representing clients including gang leaders, jilted spouses, wealthy storekeepers and drunken on-duty policemen. His career gained national recognition, including his involvement in the most famous American murder case of the young twentieth century, when he himself was murdered leaving a dubious legacy.
Houston historian Mike Vance’s book Getting Away with Bloody Murder examines Brockman, the criminals he defended, and the crimes they allegedly committed. In this episode, Vance shares several riveting stories from his book. As always on the show, he inserts one fictional detail. Try to identify what he made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
In this episode, authors Victoria Cosner and Lorelie Shannon share a mostly-true story from their book Missouri’s Murderous Matrons. Emma Heppermann, a black widow killer, and Bertha Gifford, an angel of mercy killer, used arsenic to murder unsuspecting family and friends for decades. The story of how they managed to evade discovery is unbelievable. As always, these authors insert one fiction into our discussion. Try to identify what they made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
On Christmas Eve of 1900, someone got away with murder. Frank Richardson, wealthy business owner and family man, was shot as he entered his home. Although many people may have wanted him dead, the crime has remained unsolved to this day. Kimberly Tilley, author of Has it Come to This? The Mysterious, Unsolved Murder of Frank Richardson tells us the mostly-true story about Frank Richardson and his murder. She inserts one fiction into this unbelievable story. Try to identify what she made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
Note: All of the above images are taken from Has It Come to This? by Kimberly Tilley.
Litigator and author Cecil Kuhne shares a mostly-true story about Rudolph Ivanovich Abel, the subject of his book KGB Man: The Cold War’s Most Notorious Soviet Agent and the First to be Exchanged at the Bridge of Spies. Abel was captured by the FBI in 1957 after an inept colleague betrayed him to the US. Abel’s trial, his conviction, and his eventual exchange across the Glienicker Brücke (the “Bridge of Spies”) for US pilot Frances Gary Powers is a riveting story that will leave listeners questioning what is fact and what is fiction.
Click on the book cover for a link to purchase KGB Man.
A map of the location of the Bridge of Spies. The London Evening Standard, 1962, Feb 10, p. 1.
Today’s guest, Connie Yen, is the author of Sinner and Savior: Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder, the true story of an 1886 murder in Greene County known as “The Graham Tragedy.” In 1886, the nude body of Sarah Graham was found in a well on the Molloy property. Subsequent investigations uncovered a bigamous marriage and other allegedly scandalous happenings in the home of temperance advocate Emma Molloy. Connie shares the (mostly-true)
details of this fascinating story. Listen carefully because it’s not easy to know what’s fact and what’s fiction!
Emma’s Escapes. (1886, March 25). The Leavenworth Weekly Times, p. 5.