Ripped From the Headlines

Authors often find interesting news stories and incorporate them into their works of fiction. The following two books are based on true crimes that took place during the 1910s and 1920s:

Miscarriage of Justice: A Novel  written by Kip Gayden, a First Circuit Court Judge in Nashville, Tennessee, was published in 2008. This mix of history, suspense and romance is an unforgettable tale that ended up having lasting effects on American society in unsuspecting ways. The story is set in small town Tennessee in 1913 and recreates the events leading up to the murder of barber, Charlie Cobb, and the subsequent murder trial that rocked the entire country. Set in the early days of the Womens’ Suffragist movement, Gayden captures the emotions of the major players in this tragedy and the political climate of the times.

Charlie Cobb came to Gallatin and ingratiated himself in the lives of Walter Dotson, a medical doctor, and his beautiful wife, Anna. Both were highly respected members of the town and the local society. Cobb relentlessly garnered unwanted attention on Anna, a lonely and unfulfilled woman, and eventually the two began an ill thought out steamy affair. When the affair was made public and Cobb was forced to leave town, events culminated in his murder.

Gayden brings the reader along to the ensuing murder trial through the eyes of a hotshot reporter and realistically sets the scene as the tension builds toward the unexpected and shocking conclusion. The presiding judge at the time who went on to be Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court called the verdict in this case “A Miscarriage of Justice” which Judge Gayden used to title his book.

Not only is this a historical look back at life in the early part of the 20th century but it is also a reminder that many of the rights we take for granted today were not always enjoyed by every citizen. This is a good book to reacquaint or inform the reader about past injustices in our legal system.

The Jazz Bird by Craig Holden is a tainted love story, a tale of betrayal, a courtroom battle and a period piece all rolled up into one fine book. Based on a true murder trial that took place in Cincinnati in the 1920s, Holden brings the characters involved in the murder to life. Charles Taft, son of William Howard Taft, Supreme Court Justice and former US President, was the prosecutor charged with bringing George Remus to justice. Remus, a successful and quite wealthy bootlegger, was accused of murdering his beloved and beautiful wife, Imogene, in the serene and popular Eden Park one weekday morning.

Although Remus confessed to the murder, Holden mixes mystery with history to solve some other puzzles related to the crime. What happened to Remus’ fortune while he was previously imprisoned on racketeering charges and did Imogene actually have an affair with the FBI Agent who had been investigating her husband? Holden does a superb job of recreating Prohibition and the Roaring 20s in this book first published in 2002.

One of the most fascinating tidbits about this story is that it has been widely reported (but denied by F. Scott Fitzgerald) that Remus was the prototype for Fitgerald’s memorable character Jay Gatsby and Imogene the model for Gatsby’s wife, Daisy. Read it and see if you find any resemblances.

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