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  • David Grassé

Something New

Of late, I have been busy with two projects. The first is my manuscript entitled (tentatively) "Let's Go Rob a Train" A History of Train Robbery in the Arizona Territory. Originally, this manuscript, which I finished prior to the release of the Chacón book, was over 800 pages in length, and because it was so voluminous, no one wanted to touch it. So, I went back and chopped out an entire chapter, and then sent it over to a professional editor, Jacqui Scherrer, to have her cut it down some more. This process being completed, I began peddling it again. The manuscript was still too long for the publisher of the Chacón book, but I have a university publisher who is showing interest in it. Now, I am scrambling to find the photos I need, and make the manuscript presentable, before submitting it for their consideration. I have great hopes for this, as it really is my magus opus - a thorough examination of the crime of train robbery in the Territory, and the men who committed these crimes. Unlike many of the authors out there writing western history, I am not ex-law enforcement or ex-military, so I am looking at this phenomenon from a different point of view - that of the outlaws. The second project is a biography of a English actress of the Edwardian era named Edna Loftus (pictured here). Like Evelyn Nesbit, the famed American actress who got caught up in the feud between Sandford White and Harry Kendal Thaw, which resulted in the murder of the former, Edna was a victim of some very powerful men, and her own bad choices. Obviously, this is a bit of a departure from my usual Arizona stories, but I was deeply fascinated by her tale. The western world was patriarchal, and women were forced to play by the rules made by men - rules which served the interests of men almost exclusively. Edna, being an actress, had a certain autonomy, as long as her looks held out. It should be remembered, because they did not conform to the Victorian/Protestant model of pure womanhood (accepting unquestioningly the role of a wife and mother), the general perception of actresses was they were about one tier above prostitutes in the social order. However, Edna like many other stage beauties, was courted by wealthy and powerful men. These actresses were the "trophy wives" of their epoch. Unfortunately, her dealings with men brought her to grief, and Edna's life became a tragedy, ending with her death in a tuberculosis ward of the state hospital in San Francisco in 1916. I also have a two other projects which deal with a woman's place in society in this era - a biography of the madam Jennie Bauters of Jerome, and a study of domestic violence/homicide in the Arizona Territory. Although these may become a single manuscript in time. As anyone who reads western history knows, the stories are usually about male-on-male violence, and though they were commonplace, rarely, if ever, are instances of male-on-female violence (or in today's parlance, domestic violence) examined. As in the case of the Augustine Chacón, John Heath, and the train robbers, I see this is an opportunity to redress the historical record, tell stories that are rarely told, and finally provide justice to those who received little justice in life.


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