Review: Killing Time in the Catskills

51dn6rqsgqlKILLING TIME IN THE CATSKILLS
The Twisted Tale of the Catskill Ripper:
Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ McNally Halliday
Kevin Owen
Moonlight Press, 2019

You know how it is being a crime writer: you idly google to find any local crime or interesting murders in the region, so being confined to the Hudson Valley at present I decided to do a little looking around and discovered the tale of Maggie/Lizzie McNally [several other married names] Halliday (or actually Halladay because her last husband’s name was misspelled). Intrigued by the short version of her life and misdeeds, and like so many of us at present far too inclined to use any excuse to get more books, I ordered Owen’s in hopes of getting a lot more useful detail on the intriguing suggestions an internet search brought. She was interviewed by Nellie Bly! What all did they talk about? She was actually Irish: was she really credibly accused of not only being ‘the worst woman on earth’ but also possibly Jack the Ripper?

Owen’s book offers a lot of detail presented in a straight-forward manner, reasonably free of the constant rhetoric deploring the obviously terrible actions which can mar these local histories. Believe me, her actions speak quite plainly for themselves! She may not be the worst woman on earth even in the late 19th century, but she sure caused a lot of mayhem.

Lizzie (or Maggie as she was called by her family then) came over from Co Antrim after her father John and oldest brother Sam got a foothold in the US. The youngest of eight children, at about 8 years of age, Maggie/Lizzie arrived in Newburgh, NY with lots of other Irish immigrants. Like so many of the immigrant women who arrived then, she soon left school and went into service. It didn’t take long to find out that her temper did not suit being a servant. A pattern soon emerged of Lizzie demanding money that she felt she was owed and revenge against anyone who said otherwise.

Lizzie found being a washerwoman offered some measure of independence in comparison to being a servant in a fine house, where her last job ended when she threatened a child with a knife. As Owen points out, there wouldn’t be much record of her early life ‘if not for her outbursts of violent temper and threats to others’ (19). At fifteen she marries for the first time one of her washing clients, Charles Hopkins — who of course is not really who he says he is but Keetspool Brown, a deserter from the British Army. Oh and he’s still involved with a married housekeeper — who’s soon found dead. Was it suicide? Was it Charles/Keetspool? Was it Lizzie? Did her murderous career begin here?

She has a child with her first husband — a son who will eventually be taken away from her for his safety. His fate is unknown. Also the cause of death of her first husband was unclear: typhoid? Too long inhaling bristles from the brush factory he worked in? Or maybe poison? She claimed it wasn’t her: husband number two — much older and with a good pension and an opium habit, that was much more likely to be Lizzie’s plan. The third husband lost all his money but managed not to lose his life. The fourth survived some poisoned tea. The fifth was the first to be almost as young as she, but soon disappeared. For a time Lizzie took to ‘tramping’ (hobo life) and sometimes living with the Travellers who had come to that region.

Things go on all the way to her last fatal husband and a curious double homicide that may have had something to do with revenge. The murders were a sensation — her capture and trial even more so. Women who murdered tended to be more genteel: the brutal and contemptuous manner of her final spree shocked the nation.

And it didn’t all end there!

Well worth a read. A few quibbles: not once was Antrim spelled correctly; the page layout is a bit wonky but you get used to it. Because part of my interest was wanting to dive into the primary materials I found the bibliography a confusing mess. With no footnotes or endnotes, it is doubly vexing to have no discernible order to the works cited nor connection to the information in the text.

By the way, no: no credible chance of her being linked to the Whitechapel murders.

Catching Up on Crime

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Looking for things to read in these in-between times?

You’ll find plenty of fiction and non-fiction over at Pulp Noir Magazine.

Talking with Strangers (inadvisable!)

Playing Ripley (Highsmith’s favourite character on stage)

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (unusual noir)

Summer Wine (quaff at your own risk)

Of course Fahrenheit Press has you covered with books that will keep your mind off the news and the coolest merch in town: don’t go it alone.

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Get Drunk for Free!

Drunk Antho 2020

Drunk on the Moon, that is! Get the all-star supernatural crime anthology that includes wolf-in-chief Paul D. Brazill and a host of luminous guests including me!

When a full moon fills the night sky, Private Investigator Roman Dalton becomes a werewolf and prowls The City’s neon and blood-soaked streets. Stories by Allan Leverone, K. A. Laity, Jason Michel, B R Stateham, Graham Wynd, Katherine Tomlinson, Julia Madeleine, John Donald Carlucci, Richard Godwin. Based on characters created by Paul D. Brazill.

41h9ghtvpulCan’t get enough of your favourite werewolf detective? You can get the original collection for FREE too, but act fast. ROMAN DALTON – WEREWOLF PI is howling at the ready.

When a full moon fills the night sky, Private Investigator Roman Dalton becomes a werewolf and prowls The City‘s neon and blood soaked streets. There are six Roman Dalton Yarns written by Paul D. Brazill in this short collection.

Don’t just take my word for it, read what the critics have said:

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Classic Caper: The Black Lizard (1934) – Edogawa Rampo by K. A. Laity

Caper like a classic

Punk Noir Magazine

71R8RysfPwLA while back Carol Borden of the Cultural Gutter hepped me to the 1962 film version of this novel which I absolutely raved over. I finally got around to reading the novel and I’m happy to say it’s great fun, too.

 

The 2006 Kurodahan Press edition, translated by Ian Hughes, includes The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows (1928). There’s an introduction by Mark Schreiber that offers a good overview of the author born Hirai Tar?, his works and his influence, including real life criminals writing sarcastic letters to the police and signing themselves as characters from his novels.

 

Is there a better tribute to a crime writer?

 

The Black Lizard is a jewel thief with an almost orgasmic desire for shiny stones. In the opening chapter on Christmas Eve, the criminal mastermind dances in her private club with ecstatic pleasure clad only in her…

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A Review of ‘Love Is A Grift’ by Graham Wynd

‘This is a collection of dark tales, with lust, manipulation and sexual obsessions –‘ Great review from Sonia Kilvington!

Sonia Kilvington

If you are looking for love; you have come to the wrong place! You certainly won’t find love, empathy and understanding in Graham Wynd’s short story collection, Love is a Grift and Other Stories of Desperation.
This is a collection of dark tales, with lust, manipulation and sexual obsessionsrecurring with frightening and exciting, regularity. The featured story has all the hallmarks of classic noir; seedy bars in Galway, a gullible man lead by his desire, a disposable wealthy husband, and a femme fatale who can literally charm the pants off any man she encounters. This beautiful grifter is a survivor, who is always at least one step ahead of her criminal companions, playing them for everything they are worth, before making her ultimate and timely discards. Is the lady a sociopath? Quite possibly, does she exploit her sexuality with vicious cunning; absolutely!

It was challenging to pick out individual…

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The Click of the Shutting by Graham Wynd

For the gulls of Dundee…my latest at Punk Noir Magazine.

Punk Noir Magazine

The Click of the Shutting

Graham Wynd

 

She waited for the sound of it, the sound that meant safety, the sound that meant it was over for now. The time it was when his shouts might soften, sometimes even turn to tears and beg forgiveness, beg for comfort, remind her again how it was all her fault.

If only she wasn’t like that. 

If only she didn’t get in the way of things. If only she should read his mind so she would know what he was thinking because he didn’t have time to tell her. He was in a hurry, always. Unless he was taking his time.

‘You know I don’t mean it, Georgie,’ he would say after the click, after he shut the blade safely away. After the cutting, after the tears – hers anyway. Then it was sorry, then it was I didn’t mean…

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The Roots of Ripley @NoirBristol

Highsmith, Ripley and Me… sort of.

K. A. Laity

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Hop on over to Bristol Noir to read my latest musings on the mind behind Tom Ripley. I am working on a thing about Patricia Highsmith, with a little Burnt Orange Heresy in there as well. I was going to give a presentation at Captivating Criminality, but I think it will go to print instead. Possibly part of a bigger project, but I can’t think about that until a few more things get done.

Hey, did you read the Graham Wynd story at Bristol Noir, too? And Mr B has a tale there as well. Busy guy: got a new book out, too.

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Monday Cornucopia of #Crime

New stuff! Bristol Noir, Tiny Tales, Punk Noir Magazine!

K. A. Laity

Despite my dedicated devotion to idleness, I nevertheless manage to get some things done now and then (seldom what I am supposed to be getting done, of course). Today several spring into the ether at once and a few over the weekend.

At Punk Noir Magazine — which you should be reading it every day! — I’ve got a few things (click the image to read):

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And over at Tiny Tales I’ve got a short ‘Tell-Tale’ in the first episode:

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And also I’ve got a brand new story up at Bristol Noir! ‘Pick Up’ is a Graham Wynd tale of twisted noir ambience.

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You’d think that was enough to take the rest of the week off, but I also did a brief (very rough!) video for #BookTalk on Twitter, having been tagged a few times by Beau Johnson and finally getting around to it. I posted in on Instagram

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Tell-Tale is a Tiny Tale + #FNATB

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My short ‘Tell-Tale’ which first appeared at Punk Noir Magazine is now a Tiny Tale, a new podcast that sees the return of Darren Sant reading stories for you — not soft bed time stories though, but dark crime fun! Check it out: it also includes a tale of Daz’s own as well as two by Frank Sonderborg and Andrew Briggs.

Check it out and spread the word.

Don’t forget: tonight is another round of #FahrenFriday #FNATB which features new video readings by Derek Farrell, A Den Bleyker and Cal Smyth. Subscribe to #FahrenNoirAtTheBar make sure you don’t miss a thing!

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Saturday Slice o’ Noir: Mini-Cab

From Peter Cook & Dudley Moore’s Behind the Fridge a sketch review from the 1970s . The title came from someone misunderstanding Beyond the Fringe, the revue that originally propelled these two, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett to stardom in the 1960s. I’ve always thought this little sketch encompassed all the menace of noir while remaining darkly hilarious.