Please come visit us at our new location: https://uwpress.wisc.edu/blog/.
We are proud to announce these five books debuting in May.
Primed for Violence
Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland
The assassination that changed a nation
“The interwar period was an often violent time in which the demons of the twentieth century increasingly had their way. Brykczynski places the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in the context of growing antisemitism and the emerging challenge to democracy in the recently independent Polish nation. An important story, thoroughly researched and compellingly told.”
—John Merriman, Yale University
The Athenian Adonia in Context
The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice
Wisconsin Studies in Classics
Rediscovers the influence of women’s rituals on Lysistrata, Plato, and diverse Athenian works
“Persuasively reinterprets the Adonia as a ritual that brought Athenian women’s dissenting voices into the public arena to critique male social institutions and values. This innovative work draws on an immense range of ancient sources—literary, documentary, artistic, and material.”
—Laura McClure, series editor
Edited by Yutian Wong
Studies in Dance History
An essential guide and model for current studies of Asian American dance
“A methodologically diverse and eclectic approach to Asian American dance studies, where dance is both method and content. These essays illuminate the ways that dance shapes, troubles, and pushes against the contours of what counts as Asian American cultural production.”
—Priya Srinivasan, author of Sweating Saris
The Invisible Jewish Budapest
Metropolitan Culture at the Fin de Siècle
A groundbreaking, brilliant urban history of a Central European metropolis in the decades before World War I.
“A magnificently consequential book. Gluck examines the vibrant modernist culture created largely by secular Jews in Budapest, in counterpoint to a backward-looking, nationalistic Hungarian establishment and a conservative Jewish religious elite.”—Scott Spector, author of Violent Sensations
Worse than the Devil
Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror
Dean A. Strang
An unjust trial, as patriotism, nativism, and fear swept the nation
“A riveting account of a miscarriage of justice relevant to our times, when fear of radicals of a different stripe may infect our system of justice.”—Booklist
In Memoriam, Jean Sue Johnson Libkind, former marketing manager of the University of Wisconsin Press
JEAN SUE JOHNSON LIBKIND, retired publishing executive and literary agent, died Oct. 17, 2015 at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse, Philadelphia. Mrs. Libkind, 71, had resided in Philadelphia since 1984.
Mrs. Libkind, born in Racine, Wisconsin, operated a literary agency in Philadelphia, the Bookschlepper, representing university and academic publishers in the management of subsidiary rights. After graduation from Park High School in Racine, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1966 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She attended the university on a scholarship from Western Printing of Racine, the publishers of Golden Books, where her father was a staff artist. She also attended summer school at the University of Oslo, Norway. While at the University of Wisconsin, she was managing editor of the student newspaper, the Daily Cardinal. She also served as a board member of the Daily Cardinal Alumni Association.
Before starting her own agency, she was director of publishing operations for the Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia, and before that worked as a marketing manager for the University of Pennsylvania Press, the University of Georgia Press, and the University of Wisconsin Press. She had also served as managing director of Worldwide Books in Ithaca, New York. Her professional affiliations included Women in Scholarly Publishing, of which she was a founding member, the Philadelphia Publishers Group, Women in Communications, and the Madison Press Club.
She was among the founders and later president of Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary Park, which improved the neglected property outside the walls of the historic prison in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood. While a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, she was president of seven after school day care centers. She was a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Athens, Georgia, and was until her recent illness active with the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, including its women’s book club.
She was preceded in death by her son, Eric David Spradling; her father, John B. Johnson; her mother, Jean Barr Johnson; and step-mother, Loretta Richards Johnson. She is survived by her husband, Robert L. Libkind, as well as aunts and cousins in Wisconsin, Alaska and Norway.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the American Heart Association.
Jean Sue has asked that the following be sent to all her friends in the event of her death:
Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.
If I, if I’ve been unkind, I hope that you will just let it go by, and if I, if I have been untrue, I hope you know that it was not to you.
I saw a man, a beggar leaning on his crutch. He said to me, “Why do you ask for so much?” There was a woman, a woman leaning in a door, She said “Why not, why not, why not ask for more?’
Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.
— Leonard Cohen.
Here are some things you’ve heard me say; I call them “GienTsu-isms”—
- It is not enough to survive. One must do it with a sense of style, a sense of grace and a sense of humor.
- The mark of a civilization is how it treats its old, its young and its ill. We are barbarians.
- “If you give a child a love of reading and teach him to read with ease, the child can learn anything.”
- Romance doesn’t end in a marriage; the love evolves into something far deeper than mere romance with a bit of whimsy emerging every once in a while, just for fun.
- It is not enough to practice what you preach; you must have the courage to preach what you practice.
- It’s that damn “Y” chromosome: the leg of the Y gets caught in a man’s ear and he can’t hear what you’re saying.
- There are twenty people in the world and everything else is done with smoke and mirrors.
- The good news about the human race is that 99.9% of the people are doing the best they can; the bad news is that 99.9% of the people are doing the best they can.
- A bird in the hand leaves a messy palm.
- I earned every one of these wrinkles and gray white hairs.
- I’m an old woman and I can do what I want.
- The opinions of those who wish you well matter; the others can go to hell.
- It is easier to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission.
- Every time I see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s some damn gnome with a lantern.
- She’s got Bette Davis eyes; I’ve got Madelyn Albright’s hair.
- Most policies are like fire hydrants. Everybody wants to leave his/her mark.
- Subset: There is always a Chihuahua who thinks he is a Great Dane..
- In case of an emergency, call an ambulance.
- When the organic material impacts with the ventilating device, have a beer and remember the good times.
With love and affection—Jean Sue
- Remember: No place is safe: Mrs. Elizabeth Anne Hewelett Hodges, 32, was asleep on the living room couch when a nine-pound meteor came through the roof of her Sulacauga, Alabama house, bounced off the radio and struck her hip (November 30, 1954). She was bruised; the radio did not survive.
Reposted from the blog MoralesWrites by Jennifer Morales
Jennifer Morales is on a national book tour for her fiction collection, Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories (UW Press), and having conversations about race in America
Tuesday was the first time on the Meet Me Halfwaybook tour when the travel schedule, the weather, and our health aligned to allow me and Keren to get out with the “Please Talk With Me About Race” sign. The sign is about 4 feet tall and is painted with black lettering on a white background. We have a 1×4 to prop it up so passersby can read it easily.
We looked for an area of St. Louis that had two things: diverse foot traffic and a laundromat. (It’s Day 6 and we were running out of underwear …) While the clothes spun in the washer, we drove down S. Grand Avenue to find a good place to set up shop. There was a little pocket park in the middle of a row of restaurants, Ritz Park, run by the local business improvement district. It had concrete benches near the sidewalk where diners, students, and others were going by. So when the laundry was dry, we went back there.
I settled myself in on one of the benches with the sign next to me and put on my “door face” — the open, welcoming, cheerful face I used to wear whenever I rang a doorbell during voter outreach on the campaign trail.
I took notes on each interaction we had — from the African American studies professor who outlined the racial divisions in St. Louis County for us, to the white man who flew by saying, “I’m late for a meeting but I’m so glad you’re doing this,” to the black homeless Army veteran who told us how he lived and worked odd jobs in this neighborhood “365 days a year” but was still regularly arrested by white police officers for no reason at all.
But I want most to talk about Gordon. He is a 30-year-old African American man, currently down on his luck and couch surfing. When I asked him if he would talk with me, he looked at my “Please Talk With Me About Race” and said, “Sure, as long as you’re talking about how to end it. As long as it’s for good.”
After he told me familiar stories about his dealings with cops — don’t gather in groups larger than two, try to stay by older folks if possible, walk away slowly if you see a white cop coming but don’t let him know you saw him — I asked Gordon if he thought the state of racial dialogue was better or worse since the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson.
“Definitely worse,” he said. The people in the mostly white areas of the county were using the protests that followed Brown’s death as further reason to look down upon and shut themselves away from young black men like Gordon.
I asked him what he thought would change things for the better. He thought for a short minute and said, “It’s going to take time, all of us being human and all. It’s going to take time.”
He paused and then pointed to organizing. He called on the “old heads” to help the younger generations focus their protests in the most powerful and effective ways. But he acknowledged the importance of mass protest to make the case for justice, regardless. “Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t do it all himself. It was a lot of people over a lot of years.”
Finally, he mentioned white allies speaking up. He had recently seen an old movie about a black man charged with rape and the white lawyer who defended him.
“To Kill a Mockingbird?” I suggested.
“Yeah, that was it. White people have to get to the point of saying ‘This is wrong.’ That white lawyer knew the guy didn’t do it, so he stood up.”
Read more of Jennifer Morales’s blogs from her tour, talking about race in America at MoralesWrites.com.
The Midwestern History Association this week announced the winner of its first annual Frederick Jackson Turner Award, bestowed on an individual for lifetime service to Midwestern history. The honor is conferred upon Margaret Beattie Bogue, professor emerita of history and liberal studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Bogue joined the University of Wisconsin Extension program in 1966 and later the Department of History at UW–Madison. Her research interests have included the fisheries and wetlands of the Great Lakes region as well as Midwestern agricultural and environmental history.
The Midwestern History Association was formed in 2014 to advocate and support greater attention to Midwestern history among professional historians. Bogue is the first recipient of this new award, which will be presented April 17th at the annual meeting of the Midwestern History Association in St. Louis, in conjunction with the Organization of American Historians conference.
“The Midwestern History Association is proud to confer the first Turner Award upon Professor Bogue, who has been a long-time leader in studying the American Midwest, especially its deeply agrarian character and the decisive role of the Great Lakes in the region’s development,” said Jon K. Lauck, president of the association.
Bogue’s definitive history of the decline of the Great Lakes’ fisheries—Fishing the Great Lakes: An Environmental History, 1783–1933 was published in 2000 by the University of Wisconsin Press and received national and regional awards, including the Wisconsin Library Association’s Outstanding Achievement book award. She also brought the rich local histories of the Great Lakes region to the general public through two guides to historic sites: Around the Shores of Lake Michigan and Around the Shores of Lake Superior, also both published by UW Press. In her 2007 second edition of the Superior book, she added historical essays on the Ojibwe presence, French exploration, industry on and around the lake, and the impact of this human history on the natural environment, garnering that book several awards, including the Award of Merit for Leadership in History from the American Association for State and Local History. Her first book, in 1959, was Patterns from the Sod: Land Use and Tenure in the Grand Prairie, 1850–1900 (Illinois State Historical Library).
“Margaret Bogue does meticulous research and analysis, but she makes her work accessible to general readers as well as scholars. She’s always been active in bringing history to the citizens of the Midwest and Great Lakes regions,” noted Gwen Walker, editorial director of the University of Wisconsin Press.
The Turner Award is named for the prominent historian Frederick Jackson Turner, whose famous 1890 lecture on the influence of “the frontier” on American identity considerably shaped the historiography of the Midwest and the broader field of U.S. history. Turner was born in Portage, Wisconsin, in 1861 and earned his BA from the University of Wisconsin in 1884. His essays on regionalism and the American Midwest won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1933. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin and later at Harvard, Turner trained many historians and helped shape many fields of historiography. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the discipline of American history was his focus on Midwestern history, an emphasis that was carried on by his many students.
The members of this year’s Frederick Jackson Turner Award committee are Pamela Riney-Kehrberg of Iowa State University, Brian Hosmer of the University of Tulsa, and Jane Pederson of the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire.
Jason Knirck’s new book challenges the depiction of the 1920s as a period of political inertia in Ireland
Reposted from the IRISH TIMES
BY JASON KNIRCK, author of Afterimage of the Revolution: Cumann na nGaedheal and Irish Politics, 1922–1932
In March 1923, Ireland’s Cumann na nGaedheal government was criticised in the Dáil (Irish parliament) for allowing the military to seize cattle found trespassing on a landlord’s estate. TJ O’Connell of the opposition Labour party claimed it was hypocritical for the government to insist on strict enforcement when Sinn Féin had openly encouraged disrespect for the law during the revolution.
In response, vice-president Kevin O’Higgins denied that his party had preached anarchy and famously said, “we are the most conservative-minded revolutionaries that ever put through a successful revolution.”
This rather disingenuous statement has come to define Cumann na nGaedheal and the postrevolutionary period in Ireland, as historians often depict the 1920s as an era of stultifying conservatism and inertia. John Regan has even labelled the government counter-revolutionary, with its main goal being the creation of the Irish Party’s imagined Home Rule state.
The common notion is that the promise of the revolution faded in the 1920s as a conservative government replicated the institutions and ethos of its colonial predecessor. While the achievements of the revolution undoubtedly disappointed many, and were largely carried out in an atmosphere of social and cultural conservatism shared by much of the Sinn Féin leadership, recent research has increasingly questioned the depiction of Cumann na nGaedheal as counter-revolutionary or static.
The revolution and its emancipatory rhetoric cast a deep shadow over the following decade, as members of the government and their anti-Treaty opponents generally defended their policies by invoking revolutionary principles. Although most Treatyites understood the importance of the transition from active revolutionaries to government ministers, this shift did not necessitate a wholesale abandonment of revolutionary ideals.
Like any postrevolutionary government, Cumann na nGaedheal emphasised some aspects of the revolution while downplaying others. Notions of self-determination, anti-imperialism, and Irishness inherited from Sinn Féin became the key points around which Cumann na nGaedheal policies pivoted.
Taking a closer look at the Free State’s relationship with the British Empire is crucial in this regard. Despite constant criticism that the government was pro-British or pro-imperial, Cumann na Gaedheal consistently sought to protect and expand the state’s sovereignty against British threats.
The broadest strokes of this policy are well-known, culminating with the 1931 renunciation of the British parliament’s right to legislate for the Dominions, but the government’s support for Irish sovereignty went beyond these major initiatives.
Shortly before his assassination, for example, O’Higgins represented Ireland at a naval disarmament conference in Geneva. Although Ireland had no immediate interest in naval matters, O’Higgins attended in order to prevent Britain signing any agreement on behalf of the “British Empire,” an entity that he claimed had no legal existence.
The Irish government also earlier turned down a British offer to pay the expenses of Irish delegates travelling to London for the 1926 Imperial Conference, seeing this as an infringement on Irish independence. In this case, the desire to protect sovereignty even triumphed over the tightfistedness of the Department of Finance.
The government also invoked the other Dominions in protecting its sovereignty. Treatyites claimed that existing Dominions would be guarantors of Irish freedom, as any British interference with the Free State would implicitly threaten other Commonwealth members as well. This reimagined the British Commonwealth as an anti-imperial empire: a collection of sovereign states united against the metropole.
continue to page 2, on the Irish Times site here
For your holiday shopping convenience, we have suggestions of University of Wisconsin Press books that would be great gifts! At this special gift suggestions page, find a wide range of selections: biographies, fiction, movies, poetry, traveler’s tales, natural history, Civil War, hunting and fishing, farm stories, classics in translation, Wisconsin, and more. Or just use the “custom search” box in the left sidebar to search our books using the key words of your choice.
By Lev Raphael, originally published on The Huffington Post
That’s right. And not just black citizens. All citizens. Skin color doesn’t matter.
A sea change has been taking place over the last decade that’s been invisible to most Americans. Across the country, in big cities and small towns, police forces have been turning into armies. It’s taken the events in Ferguson to blow things wide open.
The fancy word is “militarization,” but it sounds too clinical for what’s been going on. Even before 9/11, the Pentagon was lavishing cops in every state with military equipment, but that’s escalated since 2006 as the Pentagon has unloaded surplus assault rifles; armored vehicles; planes and helicopters. The total dollar amount has now reached into the billions since that terror attack has made everyone think they’re the next target, now matter how improbable it might seem.
Even tiny towns want armored personnel carriers. And they use them. For things like serving warrants and drug raids. That’s right. For ordinary police work that used to done without military hardware.
45,000 SWAT team raids take place in this country every year. The U.S. is now a war zone and our police have morphed into soldiers. They raid at night for maximum shock and awe, break down doors, use flashbang grenades, shoot people’s dogs, wreck homes, and commit violence on innocent citizens. They often raid the wrong house because their information is out of date. Sometimes they even kill unarmed citizens. And they haven’t really been accountable to anyone, despite the string of news stories that have been appearing on local TV stations and in local and national newspapers for years.
I started reading about these epidemic SWAT raids about five years ago and how police forces were recruiting ex-military and radically shifting their consciousness and their perceived mission. Forget serving the public. The public is the enemy, at least potentially, and the enemy has to be crushed. As more ex-soldiers have entered the police force and more cops have been trained by the military, the danger has increased to the general public everywhere.
That’s one reason I wrote Assault With a Deadly Lie, a novel of suspense that explores the crushing effects of police brutality on innocent people. Because nowadays, none of us are really innocent in the eyes of the law. We’re all criminals, no matter who we are or where we live. As the defense lawyer in my book says, after 9/11, “You think you have rights and freedoms, but everything is contingent now.”
Lev Raphael is the author of twenty-five books in a dozen different genres: http://www.levraphael.com
Follow Lev Raphael on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LevRaphael
One hundred years ago, the outbreak of World War I in Europe eventually led to extensive domestic spying in the United States on German Americans and a startling array of other citizens and residents. Al McCoy’s article below, which was originally published in January 2014 on the blog Tom Dispatch, describes a century of surveillance cycles, documented in far greater detail in his award-winning UW Press book, POLICING AMERICA’S EMPIRE: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. Of related interest is another UW Press book, UNSAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: World War I and the U.S. Justice Department’s Covert Campaign to Suppress Dissent by William H. Thomas Jr.
Surveillance and Scandal
Time-Tested Weapons for U.S. Global Power
For more than six months, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) have been pouring out from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel, and Brazil’s O Globo, among other places. Yet no one has pointed out the combination of factors that made the NSA’s expanding programs to monitor the world seem like such a slam-dunk development in Washington. The answer is remarkably simple. For an imperial power losing its economic grip on the planet and heading into more austere times, the NSA’s latest technological breakthroughs look like a bargain basement deal when it comes to projecting power and keeping subordinate allies in line — like, in fact, the steal of the century. Even when disaster turned out to be attached to them, the NSA’s surveillance programs have come with such a discounted price tag that no Washington elite was going to reject them.
For well over a century, from the pacification of the Philippines in 1898 to trade negotiations with the European Union today, surveillance and its kissing cousins, scandal and scurrilous information, have been key weapons in Washington’s search for global dominion. Not surprisingly, in a post-9/11 bipartisan exercise of executive power, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have presided over building the NSA step by secret step into a digital panopticon designed to monitor the communications of every American and foreign leaders worldwide.
What exactly was the aim of such an unprecedented program of massive domestic and planetary spying, which clearly carried the risk of controversy at home and abroad? Here, an awareness of the more than century-long history of U.S. surveillance can guide us through the billions of bytes swept up by the NSA to the strategic significance of such a program for the planet’s last superpower. What the past reveals is a long-term relationship between American state surveillance and political scandal that helps illuminate the unacknowledged reason why the NSA monitors America’s closest allies.
Not only does such surveillance help gain intelligence advantageous to U.S. diplomacy, trade relations, and war-making, but it also scoops up intimate information that can provide leverage — akin to blackmail — in sensitive global dealings and negotiations of every sort. The NSA’s global panopticon thus fulfills an ancient dream of empire. With a few computer key strokes, the agency has solved the problem that has bedeviled world powers since at least the time of Caesar Augustus: how to control unruly local leaders, who are the foundation for imperial rule, by ferreting out crucial, often scurrilous, information to make them more malleable.
A Cost-Savings Bonanza With a Downside
Once upon a time, such surveillance was both expensive and labor intensive. Today, however, unlike the U.S. Army’s shoe-leather surveillance during World War I or the FBI’s break-ins and phone bugs in the Cold War years, the NSA can monitor the entire world and its leaders with only 100-plus probesinto the Internet’s fiber optic cables.
This new technology is both omniscient and omnipresent beyond anything those lacking top-secret clearance could have imagined before the Edward Snowden revelations began. Not only is it unimaginably pervasive, but NSA surveillance is also a particularly cost-effective strategy compared to just about any other form of global power projection. And better yet, it fulfills the greatest imperial dream of all: to be omniscient not just for a few islands, as in the Philippines a century ago, or a couple of countries, as in the Cold War era, but on a truly global scale.
In a time of increasing imperial austerity and exceptional technological capability, everything about the NSA’s surveillance told Washington to just “go for it.” This cut-rate mechanism for both projecting force and preserving U.S. global power surely looked like a no-brainer, a must-have bargain for any American president in the twenty-first century — before new NSA documents started hitting front pages weekly, thanks to Snowden, and the whole world began returning the favor.
As the gap has grown between Washington’s global reach and its shrinking mailed fist, as it struggles to maintain 40% of world armaments (the 2012 figure) with only 23% of global gross economic output, the U.S. will need to find new ways to exercise its power far more economically. As the Cold War took off, a heavy-metal U.S. military — with 500 bases worldwide circa 1950 — was sustainable because the country controlled some 50% of the global gross product.
But as its share of world output falls — to an estimated 17% by 2016 — and its social welfare costs climb relentlessly from 4% of gross domestic product in 2010 to a projected 18% by 2050, cost-cutting becomes imperative if Washington is to survive as anything like the planet’s “sole superpower.” Compared to the $3 trillion cost of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the NSA’s 2012 budget of just $11 billion for worldwide surveillance and cyberwarfare looks like cost saving the Pentagon can ill-afford to forego.
Yet this seeming “bargain” comes at what turns out to be an almost incalculable cost. The sheer scale of such surveillance leaves it open to countless points of penetration, whether by a handful of anti-war activistsbreaking into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, back in 1971 or Edward Snowden downloading NSA documents at a Hawaiian outpost in 2012.
Once these secret programs are exposed, it turns out that nobody really likes being under surveillance. Proud national leaders refuse to tolerate foreign powers observing them like rats in a maze. Ordinary citizens recoil at the idea of Big Brother watching their private lives like so many microbes on a slide.
Cycles of Surveillance
Over the past century, the tension between state expansion and citizen-driven contraction has pushed U.S. surveillance through a recurring cycle. First comes the rapid development of stunning counterintelligence techniques under the pressure of fighting foreign wars; next, the unchecked, usually illegal application of those surveillance technologies back home behind a veil of secrecy; and finally, belated, grudging reforms as press and public discover the outrageous excesses of the FBI, the CIA, or now, the NSA. In this hundred-year span — as modern communications advanced from the mail to the telephone to the Internet — state surveillance has leapt forward in technology’s ten-league boots, while civil liberties have crawled along behind at the snail’s pace of law and legislation.
The first and, until recently, most spectacular round of surveillance came during World War I and its aftermath. Fearing subversion by German-Americans after the declaration of war on Germany in 1917, the FBI and Military Intelligence swelled from bureaucratic nonentities into all-powerful agencies charged with extirpating any flicker of disloyalty anywhere in America, whether by word or deed. Since only 9% of the country’s population then had telephones, monitoring the loyalties of some 10 million German-Americans proved incredibly labor-intensive, requiring legions of postal workers to physically examine some 30 million first-class letters and 350,000 badge-carrying vigilantes to perform shoe-leather snooping on immigrants, unions, and socialists of every sort. During the 1920s, Republican conservatives, appalled by this threat to privacy, slowly began to curtail Washington’s security apparatus. This change culminated in Secretary of State Henry Stimson’s abolition of the government’s cryptography unit in 1929 with his memorable admonition, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”
In the next round of mass surveillance during World War II, the FBI discovered that the wiretapping of telephones produced an unanticipated byproduct with extraordinary potential for garnering political power: scandal. To block enemy espionage, President Franklin Roosevelt gave the FBI control over all U.S. counterintelligence and, in May 1940, authorized its director, J. Edgar Hoover, to engage in wiretapping.
What made Hoover a Washington powerhouse was the telephone. With 20% of the country and the entire political elite by now owning phones, FBI wiretaps at local switchboards could readily monitor conversations by both suspected subversives and the president’s domestic enemies, particularly leaders of the isolationist movement such as aviator Charles Lindbergh and Senator Burton Wheeler.
Even with these centralized communications, however, the Bureau still needed massive manpower for its wartime counterintelligence. Its staff soared from just 650 in 1924 to 13,000 by 1943. Upon taking office on Roosevelt’s death in early 1945, Harry Truman soon learned the extraordinary extent of FBI surveillance. “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police,” Truman wrote in his diary that May. “FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail.”
After a quarter of a century of warrantless wiretaps, Hoover built up a veritable archive of sexual preferences among America’s powerful and used it to shape the direction of U.S. politics. He distributed a dossier on Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson’s alleged homosexuality to assure his defeat in the 1952 presidential elections, circulated audio tapes of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philandering, and monitored President Kennedy’s affair with mafia mistress Judith Exner. And these are just a small sampling of Hoover’s uses of scandal to keep the Washington power elite under his influence.
“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” recalled William Sullivan, the FBI’s chief of domestic intelligence during the 1960s, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter…’ From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.” After his death, an official tally found Hoover had 883 such files on senators and 722 more on congressmen.
Get more information about Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation by Alfred W. McCoy, or Unsafe for Democracy by William H. Thomas J.
The first time I visited the Door County peninsula, I was sure I’d followed the wrong map. This was Wisconsin? Quaint villages and cherry orchards. White sails on blue water and fishing boats dotting the far horizon. Cliffs and caves. Fudge shops and cool, quiet forests. The Wisconsin I knew was dairy country: small, family-run farms, the kind of place where you quite literally made hay while the sun shone (I drove the tractor) and arranged the daily activities around the milking schedule.
I didn’t grow up on a farm; but my mother did, and as a girl I spent many summer weeks and months helping my grandmother and uncle who ran the operation. I was one of the city cousins who counted the days to the end of the school year, eager to pack my suitcase and head north from Chicago. I thought of the farm experience as my summer vacation but in reality it was an introduction to a way of life that centered on hard work.
This was my Wisconsin until I discovered Door County. Stepping out on the peninsula – the “Cape Cod of the Midwest” – I was transfixed. The land is stunningly beautiful; the people welcoming; the pace relaxed. The county’s tourist attractions are impressive: three hundred miles of shoreline, five state parks, eleven lighthouses, a mecca for visual artists, writers and musicians.
But for me Door County is so much more than all the statistics suggest. It is where some twenty years ago pure luck handed my family ownership of a rustic cottage filled with handmade furniture and memories passed on by the previous owner. For me, having the cottage was a dream come true. By then the old farm had been sold and while I still had my childhood farm summers to treasure, I worried about how to provide such memorable experiences for my daughters. The cottage with the beach at its doorstep and summers in Door County answered that question.
The cottage never disappointed. Here on the beach my daughters discovered the freedom of doing as much or as little as they wanted. Here there was no schedule, no planned activities ─ just the simple joy of one day after another unrolling in a seamless parade of sunny mornings and moonlit evenings. Here they learned to make their own fun.
The cottage provided a bonus for me as well: for here I read. For hours, for days on end. Packing for a visit, no matter the duration, I crammed a canvas bag full of books, almost always fiction but sometimes poetry as well. Some were for me to read quietly, others to share with my family, reading aloud in the evening. The cottage was not insulated and the times I came up alone in the chilly spring to write, I’d drape wool blankets over the doors to keep out the drafts, build a fire and then pull up a chair as close to the flames as I dared and sit and read.
Reading did more than entertain and enlighten. Reading shaped me as a writer. As I transitioned from nonfiction to fiction, from magazine articles to the novel, I followed the prescribed steps to learn the craft. I signed up for classes and attended conferences and workshops. I joined a critique group and took in lectures and seminars. But beyond writing itself, the most important activity I embraced was the simple act of reading.
I always preferred mysteries and literary fiction, but it really didn’t matter what I read — historical fiction, thrillers, travelogues – as long as the writing had depth and feeling, the result was the same. Reading the words and sentences, the paragraphs and pages that others had composed made me a better writer. Something about the flow of words moving from the printed page into my brain vanquished doubt and set my imagination free. Reading was like eating; words became the vitamins that energized my writing and nurtured my thoughts. Reading dispensed courage; it cured writer’s block. The more I read, the more I wrote.
My debut novel Death Stalks Door County was spawned in the cottage overlooking the inland sea we call Lake Michigan. Chapters were written sitting before the fireplace or out on the small screened porch. The second book in the series was started there. The ideas for books three and four bubbled to life as I lounged and read in an old Adirondack chair set in the sand near the water’s edge.
There’s probably a scientific explanation, something about synapses and electrical connections between brain cells to explain how reading helps me write, how the thoughts and ideas expressed by other authors spark my own thoughts and ideas and send them flying to the page.
I think of the process as magic.
I try to read every day. When life interferes and pulls me away from books, I feel drained and grow listless. My work stagnates. In my world, writing without reading is akin to breathing without air.
It simply can’t be done.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners. Death Stalks Door County, released in May 2014, marks her fiction debut.