Tag Archives: Book

Pretty Evil New England

Sue Coletta is a long-time friend of mine. Her fiction is fantastic, but today she has something that isn’t fiction. It’s going to make your skin crawl, and is perfect for this time of year. Make Sue feel welcome, and make sure to use those sharing buttons at the end.

Thanks for inviting me back to Entertaining Stories, Craig!

Ever wonder what drives someone to kill?

While researching the cases of the five female serial killers in Pretty Evil New England, I examined their entire lives, not only their crimes. To show a complete picture — and perhaps, to help explain their motivations — I delved into their backgrounds, childhoods, and early adulthood.

The horrors I found could rattle the foundation beneath even the most stoic, and I couldn’t help but be affected.

Jane Toppan in particular had a brutal beginning. Her mother died when she was a mere toddler and her father — nicknamed “Kelley the crack” as in “crackpot” — was such a severe alcoholic, the townsfolk would catch him stumbling down the street while muttering to himself. You know the type. When Jane was only five, Peter Kelley (her father) dropped her off at an asylum. Yes, you read that right. An asylum!

Imagine what that does to a child? And that’s only one small piece of what led to her ultimate destruction, and sadly, to the destruction of many others as well.

Now, you may be thinking, no matter the circumstances, she still didn’t have the right to murder innocent people. You’re right. But it does shed an interesting light on why she turned out the way she did.

This sounds like a segway into an excerpt about her childhood, doesn’t it? Yeah, it’s not. LOL What fun would that be? The following excerpt continues from the story I shared on Staci’s blog, where Jane is in the middle of murdering her friend, Mattie Davis, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The passages in italics are Jane’s words, taken from her confession. Enjoy!

EXCERPT

The following afternoon, Wednesday, June 26, Genevieve arrived at the Beedles’ home to find her mother lying unconscious in a darkened room hung with ice sheets; Nurse Toppan sat by her mother’s sickbed. Even though Jane said she could care for Mattie without assistance, Genevieve insisted on calling a physician to take a look at her. But the blistering eastern heat wave of 1901—the most destructive disaster of its type in US history—caused many to flee the city. Finding a doctor wasn’t easy under these circumstances.

After telephoning four different general practitioners, the Beedles finally reached Dr. John T. G. Nichols—the same man who misdiagnosed arsenic poisoning fifteen years earlier in the Sarah Jane Robinson case. Now, he would be called to the bedside of another victim of a female serial killer. Would he redeem himself or cause this patient to perish by misdiagnosing her symptoms? And more importantly, allow “Jolly Jane” to keep on killing?

Only time would tell. Unfortunately for him and Mattie Davis, Dr. Nichols had no idea who he was up against.

Jane introduced herself as “Nurse Toppan, an old friend of the Davis family.” Then she informed Dr. Nichols that Mattie was a diabetic. Earlier, Mattie had refused to heed Jane’s warnings and treated herself to a nice slice of Mrs. Beedle’s white-frosted velvet cake at dinnertime, Jane claimed, collapsing shortly thereafter, probably due to her overindulgence. There was no need for the doctor to take more urine; Jane had collected a sample for him to test before he arrived.

By all accounts, Jane appeared to be a competent caretaker. With no reason to suspect Nurse Toppan of anything nefarious, how could he have known she’d tampered with the sample?

Under the watchful eyes of Dr. Nichols, Genevieve Gordon, and Mr. and Mrs. Beedle, Jane toyed with Mattie Davis, reveling in her control over life and death. By varying the doses of atropine, a derivative of belladonna, which counteracted the effects of the morphine she’d also administered, Jane produced a wide range of symptoms.

If Jane lessened the dose of narcotic, Mattie would shake out of the foggy haze of partial consciousness. She even allowed Mattie to rise to full lucidity, as though to offer the family a glimmer of hope before plunging her back into a medicinally induced coma.

I always had my own way. I would not allow either the doctors or members of the family where I was working to dictate to me. They usually liked me, though, because I was so jolly, and didn’t mind my bossing them.

After “playing” with her patient for a solid week, Jane administered the fatal dose on the Fourth of July, and Mattie died.

No one in Cataumet was particularly surprised by the news of Mattie’s passing. The eastern heat wave of 1901 claimed the lives of 9,500 men, women, and children that year. Mattie Davis, the townsfolk said, really hadn’t been well for quite some time.

Genevieve in no way suspected Nurse Toppan; in fact, she begged Jane to return to Cataumet with her. She couldn’t bear to take her mother’s body back alone.

Reluctantly, Jane agreed.

There were many friends of the family who had come down from Cambridge to attend the funeral. I thought to myself and I wanted to say to them: ‘You had better wait and in a little while I will have another funeral for you. If you wait it will save your going back and forth.’

“I went to the funeral and was as jolly as can be,” Jane gloated, “and nobody thought anything of it.”

Available for Preorder Now at these Retailers:

Amazon (all countries, Kindle & paperback)

Barnes & Noble (NOOK & paperback)

Books-A-Million (ebook & paperback)

IndieBound (paperback)

Globe Pequot

Rowman & Littlefield

38 Comments

Filed under Writing

The Book was better than the Movie

Old What’s her Face* and I left the house early today and went to the movies. It’s nice to take advantage of the matinee pricing. We went and saw Noah.

I was sucked in by a decent cast and flashy advertising.

What a disappointment. I didn’t expect much, and even those expectations were unrealized. Somehow, they wound up with stone Transformers building and defending the arc.

I admit, it’s been awhile since I read The Bible, but it was better. You can even get a free copy most places.

Save your money. You’ll thank me later. Think of all the cool ebooks you could download for the price of two tickets. You could still buy some microwave popcorn and have a great time.

* Not my wife’s real name.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Meet Lorelei, the Muse

It was the early 1980s and I was pouting. I was working as a pen and ink draftsman. There were no fancy computers to make maps back then. I can say with some certainly, that I was the best Leroy man in Northern Nevada. (If you know what that means, you’re getting old.) We’d just bought a new computer, and this one was pretty high tech. It came with two floppy disk drives. (It didn’t have a hard drive.)

My boss told me I’d have to use the computer to add all the sworn statements and jurats to my maps. They were printed on a sticker, and were about as soulless as they sound.

That’s when she approached me for the first time. She had poofy brunette hair, spandex pants, and roller-skates. They were the old kind, before they put the wheels inline. Her body was curvy in all the right places, but solid, like an athlete.

“Why don’t you just slip in after hours and learn to use the word processor?” she asked.

“Who are you, and how do you know about our computer?” I asked back.

“I’m Lorelei, and I’m a muse. These things are going to change the world, and you’d better get used to them.”

“I don’t recall any muse named Lorelei.”

“The first muses were named thousands of years ago. Did you ever read stories where the Gods kept their pants zipped?”

“I see where you’re going. What do you think I should do?”

She talked me into trying, nothing more. I went back to the office in the evenings and wrote Star Trek fan fiction for months. I never finished a story. The word processor became just another tool, and I moved on. I printed my work, on tractor paper, and lost it when I moved.

We lost touch. Maps became soulless things drawn entirely by computer. I might as well have been the village blacksmith for all the value my training had.

Decades later I got my first iPad. It was winter, and I’d just conquered the internet. I swear, there wasn’t one thing I hadn’t seen or done online. It was too cold to go fishing, and times were so bad I couldn’t afford the fuel anyway.

“Why don’t you try it again?” I heard over my shoulder.

I snapped around, and there she was. It was five AM, and she was in my living room. She had on a pair of Sponge Bob pajamas and brought fresh coffee. Her hair was just as long, but the style was different.

“I’ve held down several careers since I saw you. Why come back now?” I asked.

“It hasn’t been that long to me. You have imagination, and you really need to try again. It looks like you have time available too.”

“What am I even supposed to do?”

“Like I told you before, just try. You have a pretty powerful device there. These things have really improved since the last time.”

I started writing. My first complete novel was written using the iPad and two thumbs, seriously.

She stopped in from time to time and helped me get unstuck. Sometimes she rode in the car during my commute. She encouraged me to start reading everything I could about writing. Bulletin boards, articles, and blogs flashed before my eyes. There were even a few books she told me to get.

My first story sucked, but I enjoyed it. I wrote another one, using the same characters. Lorelei wasn’t intrusive, she just let me write whatever I wanted. She encouraged me to drop whole chapters, and change thoughts days after writing them down. I had two steampunk stories finished, and she never said a disparaging word. I even went so far as to ask for a bluetooth keyboard for Christmas.

We were driving home from work one day and she said, “You need an office.”

“I can’t afford a space on my income,” I said. “You know that.”

“Not that kind of office, Slick. This kind exists in your mind. It’s the next step in your education. You go there, and I’ll send characters for you to interview. Check them out, when one feels right you write down a few lines and see where it goes.”

“So are you telling me it’s time to give up my steampunk world and those characters?”

“Yup. There are more places for you to visit and stories for you to tell.”

“Could it be a cabin in the woods somewhere, instead of a cubicle of some kind?”

“Sure, it’s anything you want it to be. Your steampunk characters can come visit. In fact, all your characters can stop by for coffee or something. It’s just time to think a little bigger.”

The writing cabin became a regular thing. I wrote four more novels, and they got better. Some of my characters visit on occasion, and Lisa, from Wild Concept, sticks around and works as my secretary. She’s a robot whose story will go up on Amazon someday soon.

Lorelei visits all the time now. It seems like the more I write, the more she visits. She’s never judgmental, and always encourages me to try a bit harder. Now she wants me to put some of my stories online. Whether they sell or not, isn’t the important thing. This is a growth phase for me. I trust Lorelei enough to try.

I really hope they sell, and I’m going to put some of them out for the world to see. I know I’ll learn something, and some of you might enjoy the ride.

Let’s get these comments going. Does anyone else have a muse? I know Lorelei has sisters, her sister Lucille has her name written across a guitar neck.

Leave a comment

Filed under Muse, Uncategorized