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  • Writer's pictureDavid Grassé


My publisher, McFarland, has given me a date for the release of From The Footlights to The Tenderloin: The Tragic Life of Edna Loftus. It will drop July 4th, 2024. Very excited. While have been waiting for this release, I have been working on two projects. The first is a study of the criminal justice system in territorial Arizona, especially looking at women and minorities who became enmeshed in this system, either as victims or perpetrators. It is a series of case studies, including Mrs. Elizabeth Jones, Maria Moreno, Fannie King, and a number of others. I am vacillating between focusing solely on the women's stories (many of whom were persons of color) or also including the stories of men from different ethnic backgrounds. One of the problems I am having in cobbling this together is the lack of legal case files. Finding the stories in the period newspapers is easy enough, but many of the court records have been lost. Belle Blakely, for example. who Gene Aguirre to death at Maxey (Gila County) after he slapped her around in a saloon. There are almost no court records available, even though she was tried twice for the crime. It is quite frustrating.

The other project is a history of Tucson's red light districts - Maiden Lane and Gay Alley, and the oppression of vice by moral reformers and religious zealots. I am also interested in telling the stories of the lives of some of the women of these districts. The newspapers sometimes told stories about the women, usually with little reverence, and the police court documents will likely have anecdotes as well. I understand there are also two diaries at the Arizona Historical Society, one from one of the women and one from a regular customer (George Hand), and photographs of some the women who worked in Gay Alley (like the one her of Carmen Calles). As much as possible at this remove, I want to put a human face on these women, who most older authors of western histories dismiss as whores. I think my purpose as an author and a historian is to write the stories of those whose stories rarely, if ever, get told. People often ask me why I do not write about the Earp-Cowboy feud, and the like. Aside from being done ad nauseum, I have no interest in the Earp story. He has become a celebrity, and I do not write about celebrities. I prefer the stories about common people - people like you and me. That is where my interest lies.

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Jun 26

I can't wait for Edna. And your other projects sound interesting as well.

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