01 April 2020

The Night Big Ben Fell


I expected this piece to be the highlight of my January 15th column on Today in Mystery History.  Unfortunately it turned out that my original source was wrong: the event in question happened a day later.  Rather than hold back until 2030, the next time January 16 falls on a Wednesday, I decided to make this a free-standing entry, so to speak.

Our subject is a radio hoax, one that terrified large parts of a nation and led to furious condemnation of the brilliant man who conceived it.  It happened--

Excuse me?

I believe I heard some of you saying: "Slow your roll, Lopresti.  You are off by a lot more than one day.  Orson Welles famous broadcast of 'War of the Worlds' didn't happen in January at all.  It was the night before Halloween, 1938."

Right you are, dear friend, and completely wrong as well.  Because I was referring to a different hoax. One with a mystery writer front and center.

Monsignor Ronald Knox was an English Catholic priest, and a mystery writer.  He is best remembered today for his  Ten Commandments of detective fiction, which were at least partly tongue in cheek.  Example: "Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable".

In 1926 the  British Broadcasting Company (It didn't become the Corporation for another year) was being criticized for being boring, so they hired the famously witty Knox to give them some spark. And spark he did.

On January 16th, in a studio in the back of an Edinburgh music store he performed a one-man show.  The BBC warned that the show was going to be humor, but it began like any news show.  Then it reported that protesters had gathered in Trafalgar Square, led by Mr. Poppleberry, the leader of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues.

In between less-interesting news reports came announcements of mob violence, explosions, and the roasting alive of one official who "will therefore be unable to deliver his lecture to you." And then a mortar attack on the Houses of Parliament:  “The clock tower, 320 feet in height, has just fallen to the ground, together with the famous clock Big Ben.” Finally the BBC itself was attacked.

It may seem crazy that anyone could take this nonsense seriously, but radio was still a new medium (having started in the UK in 1920) and sound effects - used liberally here - were unheard of, so to speak.  Keep in mind that the Bolshevik Revolution was a fresh memory, and a national strike in Britain was being planned for the spring.

So people called the BBC demanding to know what was really going on.  Some people wanted the Navy to attack the entirely fictional rioters.  "People Alarmed All Week-End" ran one newspaper headline.

Martin Edwards, in his excellent book, The Golden Age of Murder, suggests that this disaster encouraged the BBC to look for a less risky form of entertainment and led to some of the greatest British crime writers, including Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, and yes, even Father Knox,  to create a round-robin mystery for the radio.

So, that's the true story of a radio hoax.  And none of this has been an April Fool's joke.

31 March 2020

For Your Quarantine-House Arrest Viewing Pleasure


by Paul D. Marks

I work at home. And we live off the beaten path, so I'm home a lot and used to it. Disciplined. Etc. But knowing that I shouldn't be going anywhere and that everything is closed still gives me a feeling of unease. Before, if I wanted to get out somewhere I could. Now I pretty much can't cause everything's closed, social distancing and all the rest. So, even though not much has really changed for me, it's still different. But Buster still gets his walks.

So, in this time of “sheltering in place” and concerns about being out in public, I thought I’d suggest some fun movies for your quarantine. And I hope I remember them correctly. But even if my descriptions aren’t 100% correct they’re close. I think. I hope. Maybe. Also, I’m not including movies where zombies come after people or people turn into zombies or zombies have romances with other zombies or zombies have romances with humans. (Note: This is a zombie-free blog post.)


Outbreak – A virus moves from monkey to humans. Starts conquering the universe until Dustin Hoffman and Renee Russo save the day.

Contagion – A virus moves from bat to humans—sound familiar? Starts to infect the world, until Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet save the day. Get Matt on the horn. Stat.


Panic in the Streets – A doctor and a cop have 48 hours to stop pneumonic plague from conquering the world. Richard Widmark saves the day.

The Killer That Stalked New York – Evelyn Keyes is a smuggler who arrives in New York infected with smallpox. She eventually feels guilty, turns herself in and saves the world.


The Andromeda Strain (1971) – A virus comes to earth from outer space and begins to conquer the world until Owen Marshall, I mean Arthur Hill and pals save the world.


12 Monkeys – A deadly virus almost wipes out humanity—until Bruce Willis saves the world. He has to go back in time to do it though. Of course, this is after he saved the Nakatomi Building in Die Hard I (The real building of which was a couple blocks from where I used to live. I remember watching it go up in the distance.) and rescuing the Fed’s gold bullion stash in Die Hard III. He’s a busy dude. But he couldn’t save his hair.



The Stand – A deadly plague kills off most of the world. Who (actor-wise) saves the day depends on which version you watch.

Runaway Virus – I haven’t actually seen this one, but a “runaway virus” is out to get the world. I’m sure somebody saves the day. Wanna bet on it?

The Devils – Lotsa hanky panky in the town of Loudun in 17th century France, while the plague rages in the background. Burn ’em all at the stake…and hope the plague burns with ’em.

The Hot Zone – Follows the spread of the Ebola virus. I sure as hell hope someone saves the day.

Pandemic – There’s a handful of things by this title in which a virus spreads. I think someone will save the day.

Now, if we can only get Matt and Evelyn and Renee and Richard and Dustin to save us.

Okay, don’t get on my case for trying to be a little funny here.

I’m sure there’s many more. So feel free to add to the list in the comments. And please no political comments.

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

Coming June 1st from Down & Out Books - The Blues Don't Care:

Got another early review for The Blues Don't Care. Thank you to Sam Sattler at Book Chase.

"The Blues Don’t Care is a fun, atmospheric look at 1940s Los Angeles that almost perfectly captures the tone of all those old black and white gangster movies of the day. Bobby Saxon is such a fan of those films himself that he uses them as training films in his quest to make himself into a detective capable of solving a murder the police have little interest in solving for themselves. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it makes him crazily reckless. And that’s exactly why The Blues Don’t Care is so much fun. (Well, that and one other thing about Bobby you’re going to have to learn for yourself – trust me.)" Sam Sattler, Book Chase



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

30 March 2020

Talking About Dialogue III: Dialogue and Plot


by Steve Liskow

Last time, we discussed how dialogue can deepen character, so today we'll look at how it can advance your plot.

Obviously, we need to understand the situation and what is at stake, and we learn that through exposition. An information dump or obvious explanation too early in your story kills pace and energy, and may drive your readers away. Playwright Jeffrey Sweet shows us there's a right way and a wrong way to convey information.

Hemingway's short story "Hills Like White Elephants" presents a man and a woman arguing over her having an operation. Since they know what the operation will be, they never explain it to us, but it's clear and drives the story. The opening scene of David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross shows two men using jargon they never explain, but eventually the audience has enough context to understand that they're real estate agents. Both examples show Private Exposition, so-called because the characters don't share it. It gives information, but provides tension and doesn't slow the action. As long as your characters speak to each other and not to the reader, you're fine.

Public Exposition has the people explaining things so the reader knows them, too. This means at least one character in the scene has to be brought up to speed. It's typical in mysteries when someone has to explain the situation to the sleuth. Be sure someone in the conversation doesn't know what's going on or this can become heavy-handed and smothering.

"I was talking to John, who, as you know, is your brother."

Ibsen and Chekhov used to load their first scenes with servants discussing what their masters were up to, and it was like watching ice melt. Ira Levin even pokes fun at it in his play "Critic's Choice."

The test is simple: if both characters know what they're talking about, don't explain it to the audience. If at least one character is in the dark, add details, but sparingly.

Jodi Picoult talks directly to the reader in House Rules when Emma explains what it's like to live with a child who has Asperger's Syndrome. She puts it in the context of incidents that have happened, which gives it conflict and more life than a lecture.

If you're not sure about what you've written, read it aloud. If you hear yourself lapsing into a monotone, it needs more conflict or energy. And maybe less telling.

Plot points involve your characters doing things or discovering information that changes the situation. Dialogue can make that happen. The easiest way is to have one character tell someone else what's going on. This is good if you're trying to move your plot in a new direction. Jeff tells his wife: We're not going to Atlantic City this weekend after all. I just got laid off.

Dialogue can introduce new obstacles, which is a variation on the new information. showing how a character reacts or perceives that new problem deepens your characterization as it moves your plot along, so you get double action for the same low price. You can increase the tension if one character realizes that things aren't what they seem to be, too. Maybe Beth tells Martha that the company has decided to interview someone else for that supervisor slot that she expected to get.

Dialogue can create conflict either directly or indirectly and sometimes the indirect approach is better. One person resists, but is subtle about it.

James Scott Bell offers several ways to avoid dialogue that is so agreeable that it becomes dull.
The second person changes the subject, answers a question with a new question, counter-attacks, or interrupts. All those tactics can lead to a more open confrontation or even an explosion, but they don't have to. It's like watching Congress. Nothing gets resolved, so it increases the tension. If you use all these methods through the first two-thirds of your story, your tension will keep growing until it's time for your big release.

Dialogue can use emotions to manipulate people, too.

There are only two basic ways to make people do something: Force and Manipulation.

Force is the threat of physical, mental or emotional violence, and verbal violence can be very effective. If your parents or an older sib constantly belittled you, you know how much it hurts.

Manipulation plays on the emotions of the other character and may involve an attempt to instill an emotion, generally a negative one like Guilt, Fear, Jealousy, Anger, Lust, Envy, Greed...

You can show angers through pouting, accusing, name-calling, sarcasm or evasion to create tension, too. Action tags can help, too. They show instead of tell, and they can move a scene along without calling attention to themselves.

"What makes you think I'm jealous?" Melissa's fists tightened until her knuckles turned white.
"You are so beautiful..." Tom buried his face in Clytemnestra's raven curls.

Use "said" and not some showy synonym from a thesaurus. And remember that people cannot shrug, nod, snort, smile, wink or laugh a line of dialogue. I know, amazing, isn't it?

If you have only two people in a scene--which makes life easier--you may be able to write the dialogue by itself and leave out most of the tags, especially if the two speakers have different speech patterns, which we discussed last time. If you use a tag occasionally to help people keep track, it's enough. The Hemingway story I mentioned above does this.

It's easy to speed up the pace of the scene by limiting the length of sentences and speeches, too. Cut description, narration, and tags. Interruptions are good, too. Increasing the tension makes the pace feel faster, too. To slow down a scene, do the opposite. Add introspection and analyzing from the POV character and use longer sentences with more qualifiers.

Dialogue can give information through response or suggestion, too, instead of telling.
"Why do you want to talk to that jerk?" means "I don't like him."
"You actually live here?" suggests "It's a dump."

And finally, a line of dialogue can be a transition into a new scene.
"What are we doing here?" Jack stared at the seedy motel and reached for his gun.

I love dialogue because it offers you so many good choices.

29 March 2020

A Pound of Flesh: Journaling



The all-powerful "They," whoever these experts are, suggest that writers should journal their daily experiences to help out their writing. Thus, I begin the process. But, first a short prologue to aid the reader on a little background.


A month ago, we returned from a Caribbean cruise and as several of you may know, the cuisine on a large cruise ship is very plentiful and very tasty. Both of which are a problem. Plus, one has to add in all those vacation rum and cokes, not to mention a few rounds of of tropical concoctions served up from various fruits and alcohol. The conclusion of this type of situation usually results in the start of a well-intentioned diet shortly after the traveler returns home.

However, in my case and in the interests of full transparency, I must confess that the weight problem started shortly before we left for the cruise. Somehow, I had gained three pounds before embarkation. My only excuse is that I must have been anticipating the feast to come. But then, as so often happens, succumbing to temptation is sooner or later  followed by remorse and a certain amount of pain while trying to get back on track.

Okay, so here's the deal, starting with the first full day back home:

Sunday:  220.6 lbs.
     ate wisely, no desserts, no alcohol
     Goal: to get back to my 1967 going-to-Vietnam weight of 199 lbs.

Monday:  219.6 lbs.
     ate a big breakfast, no lunch, had soup for supper, no sweets
    okay, you got me, I had a couple of rum and cokes, it's called tapering off, besides, I needed some
    compensation for having to shovel 4" of snow this morning. Snow leeched out my new Caribbean
    tan.

Tuesday:  218.6 lbs.
     don't know why that .6 pound thing keeps hanging on, but hey I'm losing a pound a day so far and
     I have a weight loss haircut to look forward to this afternoon.
     ate a good breakfast, MAY skip lunch.
     Okay, so I put a little white rum in my cranberry juice for breakfast, but I've still got that weight
     loss haircut coming up to help me stay on pace.
     Made half a sandwich with deli-sliced ham, but it was the thick sliced bread, not the thin sliced
     type of sandwich bread, so had to add more ham. Need to speak to wife about buying some thin
     type sandwich bread.
     This afternoon, even though I told her not to do it, the wife baked blueberry muffins for the two
      grandsons to have a snack after school. Those warm muffins are great when they are fresh out of
     the oven. In my defense, I did NOT put butter on them.
     Slipped a little on the rum and cokes after supper, but figured them as a reward for doing so well
     with the weight.

Well, here we are with DAY 4. Today's weight came out at 218.0 pounds. That's still good, I lost .6 pounds from yesterday. Finally, got rid of that .6 thing following me around on the scales every morning. The haircut weight loss must've worked. Not sure what to do about tomorrow. I've only got so much hair.
had a good breakfast, most important meal of the day.
Okay, I did pour some Kalua in my coffee cup, but there was also some coffee in that same cup. It's something I learned from a friend on the ship one morning at breakfast.
Too much good food in the house to skip lunch. Waste not, want not. May have to do a few situps to counteract lunch intake. Supper will be another problem. Don't think I can do that many situps. Wonder if a couple of pushups would suffice to counteract supper?
Rum all gone. Need to make a resupply run.

DAY 5: 219.2 lbs.  Ooops!
Those two growing teenage grandsons coming to the house for a hearty breakfast five mornings a week before school are putting a kink in my diet plans. Wife doesn't help the situation either with all her baking of cookies and other high calorie snacks in the afternoon for after school treats.
Hid the bottle of Vanilla Crown Royal immediately after breakfast, but evidently not well enough. Found it again behind the cans of Coke in the refrigerator right after supper. Gotta get better at hiding things. Still haven't made that resupply run.

DAY 6:  2xx.6  lbs.   Damn!
Well, I gave it a shot, but don't think this journaling thing is going to work out for me.

END of Journal


28 March 2020

Why Writing a Cozy Murder May Kill Me


For most of my author life, I have written mob capers. (Okay, there was that trilogy of ribald sexy fantasy that started my career, but surely that’s in my past. At least, that’s what I tell the priest.)

There have been seven of them. (Mob capers. Not priests.) An eighth will be coming, but in the meantime, my publisher wants me to write a cozy mystery. “You’re already writing comedy,” she said. “This is merely a different sub-genre. And cozies have a HUGE audience in the States.”

More than capers, she not so subtly pointed out.

I know about cozies. Some of my best friends write them. These are authors who can somehow do without sex, violence and profanity in their writing lives. My protagonists are not that sort of people, at least by choice, but I digress.

Thing is, if I was going to write cozies, I was going to have to clean up my language. It may come as a surprise, but mob caper characters don’t actually say, “Golly” and “Goodness me” when they get hit with a chunk of lead.

So as I embarked upon project clean-up, I pulled from my past, aka my dad’s side, which is firmly British. (As opposed to my mother’s side, which had bases in Sicily and The Hammer. ‘Nuf said.)
Most cursing in our house was Brit. I grew up on a steady diet of colourful West Country language.

However, this was a cozy, so I played it light. Even that didn’t work with my publisher.

The first word to go was Pits. “Pits!” Penelope yelled.

Publisher: “What is Pits? Nobody in the States will know what you mean. Use Rats.”

“Rats,” Penelope yelled, while closing the car bonnet.

That didn’t work. I tried again. It got worse.

Soon, ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ were off the table.

Me: “Really?”

Me (throwing arms in the air): “I’m Canadian.”

“But they don’t know that,” she said, as if that were some sort of naughty secret we had to keep.

I retreated to Rats and Holy Cannoli.

But problems resurfaced quickly. “You’re a cow!” said Peter.

Publisher: “You can’t use cow. It sounds…”

Me: “Too trashy?”

Publisher: “Bestial. And with respect to the current scandals in Hollywood and DC…“

Me: “Gotcha. Not suitable for a cozy.”

It didn’t end there. Other phrases came under the knife. My whole vocabulary was at stake. Thing is, every non-naughty British expression seems to be…well…so much more expressive than the American equivalent.

“You filthy swine!” is much cooler than “You dirty pig!”

“Damn and blast!” really rocks it over “Darn and boom!”

It’s taken a long time and a lot of soul searching, but I may have come up with a solution to this whole cozy language problem. Something my publisher should be happy with, that isn’t a four letter word, and that shouldn’t offend the clergy. Not only that, it pretty well tells the tale.

“Curses!” said Penelope.



Melodie Campbell does her cursing south of Toronto. She was hardly ever a mob goddaughter, at least not recently. You can buy The Goddaughter and the rest of the series on Amazon.com and all the usual suspects.

Melodie Campbell
Winner of the Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards
"Impossible not to laugh." Library Journal review of THE GODDAUGHTER

27 March 2020

Our New Normal



    ***    I don't remember exactly when I met Kristin Kisska. She's one of those people I happily see every year at Malice Domestic, someone who loves mysteries as much as I do. Getting together at Malice with friends like Kristin is like attending a big family reunion. So I was delighted to start doing things with her outside of Malice, including being in two anthologies together, FIFTY SHADES OF CABERNET in 2017 and DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM in 2019, and having the occasional lunch in this little town we found that's halfway between our homes in Virginia. Kristin writes suspense, has had several short stories published, and is also working on a novel. I'm thrilled to welcome her as a new member of our SleuthSayers family. She'll be blogging with us every three weeks. Take it away, Kristin!
                                                                                                            ~ Barb Goffman


Thank you for the kind introduction, Barb. I'm thrilled to join the SleuthSayers' ranks.

I didn't set out to make our upside-down world my debut post topic. But as I stared at the draft of my original post, all my writerly brain could process was the haunting image of Italians serenading each other in unison from their balconies.

Isolated. Empathetic. Vulnerable.

A fraction of a heartbeat later, the source of their angst was no longer confined to their charming corner of Earth. No one needs me to rehash how our new reality escalated to the point of flipping our world on its axis. New terms have invaded our day-to-day vernacular: exponential growth, social distancing, quarantine, self-isolation, flattening the curve, triage, and pandemic. Do you feel as if we're living a dystopian thriller yet?

As a crime fiction author, I've always craved extended stretches of uninterrupted hours to draft whatever my muse inspires. The darker the scene, the better. With restaurants, bars, schools,  gyms, sporting and cultural events, closing, the world as we know it ground to a halt. Now that I seemingly have endless batches of time, I can't concentrate for more than a few minutes. My muse has apparently self-isolated away from me as I obsess over following COVID-19's lightening fast, stealth invasion.

Apparently, I'm not alone.

Most of us can agree, Plan A is to finish that gosh darned novel (novella? short story?). But no writer needs to add personal guilt on top of the world's crazy. People have varying levels of distress from losing control. While so much of this global health crisis is out of our control, if you and your family are safe, healthy and stocked with food and necessities to hunker down for the time being, then join me, take a break from the news, and let's together take back control of what we can influence. We can tee-up our writerly careers for the post-virus world, or at least until your muse decides to inspire you again (if she is visiting you at the moment, congrats! Go forth with Plan A and write).

For the rest of us still in shock, here are a few suggestions for a productive Plan B:

Journal. We are collectively experiencing a global crisis. Record your thoughts--the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly--while you are hyper-aware of these events. How frequently are you oscillating between the highs and lows? What surprises are you noticing in the news and your social media feeds? Are you experiencing conflicting emotions? What methods are you using to cope? These notes will be both therapeutic now and could make for a compelling and relatable character sketch for later.

Spring Clean. By now, your home's walls have squeezed ever closer, and you may even have a household of "work colleagues" where once there was silence. Fling open those windows and let in some fresh spring air. While you're at it, deep clean your writer's cave. And by deep clean, I mean dust off (sanitize?) and organize both your paper and digital work space. Don't forget to spruce up your author website with updated books, bios, and check all your links. Oh, and be sure to back. up. your. files.

Connect. We've all experienced the constant stream of news updates, social media memes, and reactions ranging from denial to panic. Take a break from that madness to connect with other writers and readers. Also, if you are active on Twitter (a.k.a. the watercooler for authors), check out the shiny new hashtag, #WritersInQuarantine, which is where many are now meeting every Friday evening.

Learn. What is your window of concentration?  Half an hour? Before you binge the umpteenth comedy on Netflix, watch a Ted Ed video on http://ed.ted.com/. A link to a list of hundreds of topics on their playlist can be found here. An hour? Demo a free Massive Open Online Course (a.k.a. MOOC). Pro tip--search the word *forensic* on Coursera.com and you'll find dozens of lectures that might re-pique your passion for solving crimes.

Book promotions. For the love of all things noir, please pause any scheduled push-posts, especially on Twitter.  Hitting the right tone is critical, and right now, the audience is anxious on many levels. Best case scenario, any book promo post that feels robotic will be ignored as noise, but more likely you'll risk being muted or unfollowed.  Now is the time to engage organically– emotionally– with individuals across your platform.  I can't stress enough, connect at a human level, not with a sales agenda. If, and only if, it makes sense in the greater conversation, drop a link to your work.

That said, be ready to hop on unique marketing opportunities as they arise, such as this book blogger submission call (see Tweet to the left) for debut mystery authors. Interested? contact Stephanie directly on Twitter @bookfrolic or by email (stephanie <at> bookfrolic.com). Her offer is still available.

Separately, Author Stephanie Storey (@sgstorey) Tweeted that she is also offering to interview authors (all genres, including mystery and crime fiction) who've had to cancel new release events due to coronavirus. You can message her through the contact page on her website, StephanieStorey.com/contact.

Pay it forward. The world is stuck at home and craving entertainment as a distraction. During these strange times, take the cue from the A-list museums, opera houses, Broadway, and even some of our bigger-named bands, and drop one of your ebooks (or some other digital content) for free.  Be *that* artist. Your readers will be grateful and remember how you offered them an easy escape from these daily stresses. Have you already gifted the world with a free ebook? Thank you! Drop a link in the comments below for other SleuthSayer blog readers to find and enjoy your work.

Keep up with publishing news.  It may have been overshadowed by the global crisis this month, but not all publishing productivity has stopped. Don't get me wrong, many people are worrying-from-home like a lot of us. But just this past week, some literary agents have Tweeted asking authors for more queries and announcing that they've signed new clients. Acquisition editors publicized that they are offering book contracts. BookEnds Literary Agency's president and founder, Jessica Faust gave her behind-the-scenes insights into How Publishing is Operating in the Time of Corona in her blog post here. Also, be sure to follow Publisher's Marketplace for all the deal news.

Read. Whether you are executing Plan A or Plan B, keep reading.  Support our crime fiction sisters and brothers and venture out to experience other genres. Read local authors, indie authors, and traditional best sellers. Tackle your To Be Read pile--yes, the towering one on your nightstand--with gusto. Go ahead and add new titles to your list. But be sure to leave a review of the books you read on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and link to your social media pages.

Hopefully soon, we'll all stop singing the Coronavirus Blues, and our world will revert back to something more recognizable. Until that glorious day, what is your go-to Plan B?



PS – Let's be social:

26 March 2020

Little Plague on the Prairie:
The 1918-19 Diary of Anna Eneboe


Page One of Anna Eneboe's diary, which she kept from 1918 until late 1919:

Miss Anna Eneboe
Pierpont So. Dak.
My day book
Come read my thoughts

Anna Eneboe and her Diary

She was the great aunt of my dear friend Allyson Giles Nagel, who graciously gave me permission to use Anna's writing. The diary is very short, very simple, very spare, written in a small red notebook that's pretty worn after all these years. Anna was 19 years old in 1918, unmarried, and treasurer of the local Independence Red Cross (organized June 13, 1918). Some of the people mentioned in the diary are her older brothers, Henry (called Hank) and Rudolph (called Rud), her two adopted sisters, Lillian (called Lillie) and Agnes, her parents, and her future husband, Bernt Nerland. The family all lived on a farm outside Pierpont, SD, up in Day County, in northwestern South Dakota. Today its population is 135, back then somewhere between 314-400 (the census of 1910 and 1920 respectively). I've guestimated it to be around 380 in 1918.

Now, before we get started reading excerpts from the diary, you need to remember that the Spanish Flu roared through the United States three times. The first was in the spring of 1918. It was fairly mild and it disappeared for the summer. People believed that it was over. And then with the fall, came the flu, and October - when this diary begins - was the deadliest month of all. 195,000 Americans died that month from the Spanish Influenza.

Wikipedia – Link
Victims died within hours or days of developing symptoms, their skin turning blue and their lungs filling with fluid that caused them to suffocate. There was no treatment, no vaccine, no cure. Thanks to WW1 (BTW – the Spanish flu killed more soldiers than died in battle in WW1), there was also a shortage of doctors and nurses back home. And no one, no place was immune. Even President Woodrow Wilson got it in early 1919 while negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in Europe. (Link)

It's hard not to believe that it was the Spanish Flu's return in October, 1918 that got Anna to writing things down. Not that she knew it, but that month was the peak – but not the end – of the pestilence. But she was well aware that men were coming home from the war, some of them sick, some of them dying. That people all around her were sick, dying, but also marrying and giving birth. And that's what she writes about.

1918

Camp Funston Hospital Ward for Soldiers sick with Influenza

Oct. 14th – Hans Oswood seriously ill at Camp Funston of the Fluenza.
Oct. 15th – Alfred Nelson gassed in France in August and has been at the hospital since.
Emil Sanders sick of the Fluenza in Camp Dodge.
School closed in Pierpont Oct. 14th on account of the Flu.
Dr. Murphy sick of the Flu.
Mrs. Eddie Kamestad died in the evening Oct. 14th.
Luther Hofstad wounded severely in France Oct. 14th.
Edwin Ronshaugen died in Camp Funston of the Flu., Oct. 14th.
Kristian Mjolsness was married to Lina Likus Oct. 18th.
Anna Rindahl was married to Mr. Jensen November 3rd.
Mr. and Mrs. Monk Osby are the proud parents of a baby boy, born Oct. 3rd.
Rudolph Baukol lost in action [in pencil].
Magnus Brindenuven died of wounds received in France.
Oscar Nymauen died of the Fluenza in Camp grand.
My Note: "On Oct. 16, 1918, the South Dakota State Board of Health ordered everything closed: Schools, houses of amusement, sporting events, speeches, everything. The order was enforced by police and the Home Guard, a quasi-military force that patrolled cities looking for violations." (Argus Leader)

SD Historical Archives

Mrs. Martin Jacobson died of the Influenza in November at Nigdahl Minn.
The oldest boy of Rev. Danielson died of the Flu at Langford.
Ole Jacobson’s little baby boy died of the Flu Sunday evening 28th of Dec.
Henry was married to Jennie Eggen the 4th of Dec. at New Effington.
Alma Gunderson was married to Dennie Holland in December.
Selma Liknis was married to Synerk Anderson in October.
Josie Oswood was married to Boyd Vikers in August at Camp Lewis, Washington.
Enok Liknis was home in a furlough in Oct.
The soldiers who came home for Xmas is as following –
Earl Hutenburg
Hans Oswood
Gust Johnson
Mat Johnson
Harry Nerheim
Rev. Husley from France [in pencil – Y.M.C.A.]
Adolph Eikaness
Martin Midland - -
Mathilda Hanson was married to Mr. Olson
Howard and Marie spent Xmas with us.
A cablegram from the battlefields of France last week Thursday, conveyed the heartbreaking news of the first sacrifice made by one who spent his childhood days in Farmington, and lived here in the adjoined vicinity on the north, the greater part of his life.

Henry O. Osness in company with his brother Chester departed from Langford April 26, 1918, with the Marshall County soldier boys of that date, who were sent to Camp Funston, Kansas.

WW1 Soldiers Returning Home

A sorrowful group of half-sisters and brothers mourn his loss, also a number of other relatives.
He is survived by his two sister, Misses Josephine and Anna, and by three brothers, Chester, his comrade, and Theodore and Selmer.
Three years ago, Henry enlisted in the navy, but was honorably discharged on account of physical disability. He appeared well and was of a happy, jolly disposition. The selective draft admitted him, and he went to death bravely fighting for his glorious country. “Over the top” was his motto, and t’was there he payed the supreme sacrifice.After only a brief time, they were called “over there” and on July 11th Henry gave his life nobly in this great crisis, which the United States was suddenly thrust into and from which nearly the entire world is so grandly, so nobly extricating itself. Henry was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christian Osness and was born in Newport township, Marshall Co., June 10, 1889. The family resided in Farmington a number of years, during which the children were left orphans by the death of both parents.

O’er the sea there came a cable message from the battlefields of France.The golden star in their service flag appeals with honor and sadness to Henry’s countless friends here.
Henry is gone, never hereafter to wake nor to weep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
Ne’er more the bugle shall call you, call you to fight fierce and long.
Yours is calm rest. We your memory sacred will keep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
We gaze at a star turned to golden. That shortly in deep blue did shine. O that in heaven, your soul is in keep.
Sleep, soldier, sleep.
“Chester’s Tale”
Henry was blown to pieces. Half of the body were all that they could find to bury. There’s a little white cross somewhere in France that now marks his grave.

Aerial photograph of Pierpont,
Aerial view of Pierpont, SD.
Pierpont Quasquicentennial - Pierpont SD Facebook page

1919

January

Walter Sletten and Bernt Norland arrived from Camp Dodge Jan. 3.
School opened again January 6th – met Bernt at the Ladies Aid at Synert Sampson January 9thTheodore Roswell died in January
Old Mr. Brookings was buried January 9th.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Boyd Vikers a baby in January.

Boyd Vikers and Christ Oswood return home from camp.
Charly Paulson has been home on furlough.
Meeting in Falness [Lutheran Church, Langford, SD] Jan. 19 – also to Y P.M. in the evening.
Mr. Knut Syvertson and Mrs. Dahl was married this month.
Was at John Enstad Sunday the 12th in the evening.

21st - has been very lovely weather now for the last days. Today it is foggy.
23rd – Henry Fossum returned home from Camp Lewis. Oscar Brandly also is home from Washington.Olaf Syre returned home from camp.

Lillie’s partner was Clarence, my partner was Emil Erickson – we had a very nice time talking and laughing. Played games and so on. Shook hands with Olaf Syre. Hobart Syre and Joseph Nygaard came home today.23rd – very nice weather, social in Hainess school house tonite. Quite a few there. The sum paid for Baskets $72.74.
28th – had our first trip in the Overland to Pierpoint. Sawsa Brandle’s a baby in January

My Note The Overland was a "runabout", and the Overland Automobile was produced from 1903-1926. Pa's new vehicle was probably Model 83:

Overland automobile
Overland automobile (Wikipedia)
February

My Summation: February was cold, snowy, with more running about in the Overland. Alma Asdland died on the 10th and was buried on the 13th, which means the ground wasn't frozen solid. (Not always true in a South Dakota February.) There were meetings, cleaning, crocheting, and an oyster supper, along with one day when it was warm enough to play croquet, and more days when it was bitter cold with snow.

March, 1919 - the flu returns - the Third Wave

1st – Sat. – Enstad’s – washed the floors and baked was what Hattie did, and I tried to help her along. Snap’d our pictures.
2nd – Sun. – kind of nice today. Rudolph came over after dinner. We made up a poem. In the evening we were discussing different things. Told our fortunes, and had a little lunch. Rudolph stayed over night. (In pencil on the side, Mrs. Ole Enstad died this morning.)
3rd – Mon. – very mild and nice this morning. Rudolph went to Lee’s and then he came back for me. We had a Dakota blizzard going home.
4th – Tue. – Mr. and Mrs. Carl Sampson a boy. Cold, but clear. Have not been doing very much. 5th – Wed. – washing clothes today, nicer weather.
6th – Thurs. – Ironed. Jennie baked cookies, I washed upstairs.
8th – Sat. – Doing the Sat. work in the forenoon and in the afternoon we four girls went to Bakke’s but only Selmer at home. In the evening, Julian and Hattie came over.7th – Fri. – Washed the floors. In the afternoon we went to town. Talked to Chris L. Oswood. Myrtle & Lillie went with us home.

11th – Tue. – Rud sick of the flu. Very nice weather. Not doing very much.
13th – Thurs. – Ironing. Colder. Feeling punk tonight. Uncle and Selmer is here.
14th – Fri. – Sick in bed today of the fluenza.
15th – Sat. – Sunshine again today. Been up this afternoon. Last year today we sure had a nice time this evening but now it is only memorys.
16th – Sun. – Home all day. Have the “flu”.
17th – Mon. – Feel better today.
18th – Tue. – Pa has the flu today – nice weather.
19th – Wed. – Nice weather. We are all feeling fine after the flu. Mrs. Huxley died of the flu.

And then it's done - the Spanish Influenza is over.

Wikipedia - Chitrapa - Own work

On Thursday, May 22nd, Anna and the family went "to Pierpont, had a reception there for the soldiers. First time I seen Chester in uniform. The soldiers were seated on the stage. Had Annie Sparks duet and a quartet. Drawed number on a Red Cross quilt and Chester won it. had ice cream and cake. Only one vacant chair and that was Henry Osness." (Whose death, as you'll remember, Anna recorded in the first part of her diary.)
23rd – Fri. – Lillie and I have been home alone today. The folks been in town. In the evening we went to Pierpoint to take in “The Birth of a Nation”.

A few more months, barely three pages more, and Anna's diary came to an end.
My Note: Anna mentions 14 cases of the flu, 6 of them in October, 3 in November-December, and 5 in March. In the whole diary, 12 people die - 3 in October, 3 in Nov-Dec., and the rest in Jan, March, May, two at least of whom died of the flu. Not a lot, right? But in a community of 380 people, where everyone knows everyone else and has since they were born, that's a lot.
Six cases of flu in October, including the doctor, would have frightened everyone. The whole family coming down with the flu in March would have everyone scared.
And those 12 people dead - they would leave a hole in the community, from the newborn to the soldiers who never came back. Small towns are tight-knit, and memories are long. Weddings and funerals, births and deaths, all get talked about for years, if not generations. The proof is that we know the rest of Anna's story, because it's still being talked about, in Allyson's family, and now here. Anna continued to live on the farm until she was married. She was an older bride: she and Bernt were married in 1931, when she was 32.

Lace or floral wedding dresses
https://vintagedancer.com/vintage/1930s-wedding-history/

But marriage isn't the end of the story, no matter how happy it was. And while I wish her story had a happier ending, it doesn't: Anna died in 1933, in childbirth, at the age of 34. As you can see from the photo of her in the casket, she was buried in her wedding dress, a custom of the time. The baby died as well.




Written On The Back Fly-Leaves of her Diary:

Could we but draw back the curtains that surround each other’s lives, see the naked heart and spirit. Know what spur the action gives. Often we would find it better, purer then we judge we should, we should love each other better. If we only understood.
I’m getting tired of dreaming. Dreaming of you all day. I’m getting tired of sceming [sic]. Hope I shall get you some day.
I envy the dimples that hide and go seek, and play with the roses that bloom on your cheek.
Our eyes have met.
Our lips not yet
But O you kid
I’ll get you yet
Smile, and the world smiles with you.
Weep, and you weep alone.

Anna Eneboe

Stay well, stay safe, stay  HOME.

PS - for Anna's entire diary, go here.

PPS - Other sources for information of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic in South Dakota include these article: