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Monday, March 27, 2023

An Affection for Tumblers


An Affection for Tumblers.



When I was nine years old, travelling with my parents on a long car journey, my mother entertained us with stories. One story in particular stayed with me.

She told of a monastery in the middle ages where the monks offered prayers to a statue of the Virgin Mary. One monk had been a tumbler and juggler and to honour the Virgin he tumbled and juggled before the statue. The Virgin showed her pleasure by coming down from her niche and embracing the monk.

This is a famous medieval story, “Our Lady’s Tumbler,”. The tale is here:

The story was depicted in a stone carving in Exeter Cathedral. A replica of this carving can be seen here:

Clearly the Virgin Mary in medieval times had an affection for tumblers, an affection that other medieval people also held. In 1306 an acrobat, Matilda Makejoy, was paid by the royal household. Such dancers could be athletic and graceful or tumble in a jesting manner, playing for laughter. They could also be well paid and respected - Richard II paid John Katerine, a dancer from Venice, over £6 for playing and dancing before him, a sum not far short of £3,000 today.

The character of that juggling monk intrigued me. As a tumbler and juggler he would have probably been a performing player. Someone independent, not tied to land or manor or place. Someone lithe and acrobatic, used to surviving by his own skills and wits.

Later I took that germ of a character and created Geraint, the brash, cunning juggler who becomes an ally to my medieval female exorcist Yolande. Geraint is suspicious of all authority and stands up to everyone- a vital skill in helping my heroine.


Here’s an excerpt with Geraint at his determined, stubborn best.


“You know this man?” Michael Steward forgot the plight of his three daughters in his doughty disapproval of her companion, who grinned and clapped his bare feet together like a pair of hands.

“Geraint Welshman is my servant.”

That was the lie she and Geraint had decided upon yesterday evening so that she could spend last night at the reeve’s house, and Geraint would spend it watching the graveyard and church for any sign of revenants.

So what is he doing in the stocks? Look at him, winking at me and juggling pebbles for the crowd. He may be a strolling player, but does he have to turn every occasion into a show? He can be out of those stocks in a moment. Why isn’t he?

A buxom matron pushed to the front of the tightly knit group. “He stole a loaf of my bread and put his hand up my dress!”

Geraint answered roundly, “I paid for the bread, goodwife, with my tumbling, and kept my hands to myself.” Iron bit into his next words. “This I swear, especially the last.”

“You call me a liar to my face?”

“I say you are mistaken. No more, no less.”

Yolande knew he was aggrieved. Geraint might filch a king’s deer or a lord’s trout but he did not thieve from the people and he never made free with his fingers. Glancing at the blush on the older woman’s neck, she understood the desire—did she not feel it herself, every day?—but even so, matters had gone far enough.

“I have two good silver pennies here to see my servant set free, before his feet rot off,” she intervened, hoping she sounded tart and disinterested.

Sprawling in the stocks as if on the most comfortable of thrones, Geraint rolled her another bow. “Lady, you are all grace, but I wish to prove my innocence.”


To see what happens next, please see my novel “Dark Maiden”.

 Link here:

Lindsay Townsend

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – March - Easy Virtue tango #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

Thank you for joining me for the third installment of dance scenes from movies set in historical time periods. I will give a brief summary of the movie’s plot and an equally brief set-up to the scene.

Each month on the second Wednesday, I will post a movie clip and link back to previous movie scene articles here on the blog.

 This is the criteria by which I'm choosing movie scenes:

  • In a non-musical movie, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.
  • In a musical drama, the characters in the dance scene don’t sing to each other.
  • In a musical drama, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.
  • The historical cut-off is 1960, because that date works for me. ;-)

Side note:  The article “Classic Literature is Not Necessarily Historical Fiction” on the BookRiot website offers an interesting explanation on what constitutes historical fiction and where various historical date lines are drawn.

Onward to the March movie scene.

Name of Movie: Easy Virtue
Historical Time Period: 1930s
Location: England
Occasion: Formal ball at the Whittaker’s estate
Type of Dance: Argentine Tango


 Easy Virtue is a 2008 British romantic comedy film starring Colin Firth and Jessica Biel. The movie is based on Noël Coward's play of the same name. The play was previously made into the 1928 silent movie Easy Virtue by Alfred Hitchcock.

 It is a dark, social comedy set in the early 1930s England in which a world-wise American widow, Larita, meets and impetuously marries a young Englishman, John Whittaker, at the Monaco Grand Prix. When they return to England, John's mother, Veronica, takes an immediate and strong dislike to Larita, while his father, Jim, finds a kindred spirit in her. Larita also meets John's former girlfriend, Sarah Hurst, who is gracious, but hurt, about the marriage, because all her life, it was understood she and John would eventually marry. The Whittaker family is ‘old money’, but they have fallen upon hard times, and the family fortune is all but gone.

Warning – Spoilers ahead

Scene Set-Up

It is important to know while viewing this dance scene, that Larita and Jim have a platonic and respectable father-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship all through the movie. He admires her for her spunk, intelligence, and free spirit. She admires him or his wit, intelligence, and compassion. They have found a friendship built on mutual loneliness. They are both out of place within the family dynamics. Larita has been devoted and faithful to a fault with her husband, John, but they have reached incompatibility for several reasons, not the least of which is Veronica's refusal to accept Larita into the family.

The song Jim and Larita dance to is an Argentine tango—Easy Virtue Tango—performed by the Easy Virtue Orchestra.

What you don't see just before this clip begins is John dancing with Sarah. It is clear he realizes he should have married her instead of impulsively marrying Larita.

Larita and John have had words over his unwillingness to leave the family home, so they can build a life together away from his controlling mother's influence. Larita initially says she’s not coming to the party, which is all right with John and Veronica. But Larita ‘crashes’ the party, and finds herself in a near-hostile environment of people looking down their noses at her in judgment.

On to the tango:

0:01 to 0:46 Larita accepts a glass of champagne, surveys the crowd to assess their collective attitude toward her presence, and asks the orchestra to play a tango. She approaches her husband.

0:47 In a last ditch plea that says we can save our marriage if we can find common ground, Larita asks John to dance with her. He doesn’t want to be seen with her, so he turns her down in a completely ungentlemanly, and cowardly, manner. This signals the end of their marriage.

1:08 Veronica and daughters Hilda and Marion watch with disdain.

1:16 Larita, now flaunting and taunting, gives the on-lookers her heel, which is a satisfying go to hell gesture.

1:25 Sarah's brother, Philip, approaches Larita in what, at first glance, seems to be a kind offer to dance with her in this awkward situation. Through her facial expression and body language, Larita shows her appreciation. He spurns her, though, because he thinks he's cool and considers himself her superior in class and breeding. He isn't. He's a jerk. His wink is a sanctimonious put-down.

1:41 Larita scans the crowd for a friendly face.

1:43 And there he is. Like the cavalry riding in at the last moment, Jim is there for Larita. 

And they tango. Oh, how they tango. 

2:17 The close-up of John peering from (hiding?  lurking?) the shadows reveals his backboneless nature.

By dancing with Larita, Jim is telling his wife and, everyone there, to also go to hell. He's done with his marriage. He knows it. His wife knows it. Dancing with Larita clinches it, since the dance is not only scandalous, it is sexy.

2:35 Veronica says to one of the daughters that she won't stop this scandalous spectacle.

2:57 There’s John again. Creepy.

3:14 The song fades. Jim and Larita share The Look that means they were meant for each other, and they’ve just realized it.

3:17 Veronica applauds and gushes Marvelous. Marvelous. She reeks of insincerity. It’s all a show for the crowd. She wants Jim gone, but she can’t be the one to end the marriage. Everyone will see she isn't at fault. Jim and Larita are to blame. This way she can continue to suffer in dignified silence with her stiff upper lip properly stiff. 

(Aside: We get a hint there is a family friend (widower) who is ready to step up and console Veronica once Jim is gone, and Veronica is more than willing to accept his money and his status.

Much was accomplished during this dance scene that was more effective than merely using dialogue.

January Movie Dance Scene: Cat Ballou

February Movie Dance Scene: The King and I

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
writing through history one romance upon a time


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Hazzard by Name, Hazzard by Nature

Hazzard by Name, Hazzard by Nature

By C. A. Asbrey 

Linda Hazzard's Mug Shots 
Dr. Linda Hazzard was born Linda Laura Burfield in Carver, Minnesota on Dec 18th 1867, as one of eight children. She grew up to be a quack, a fraudster, and a killer,  who sold fake starvation cures to the unwary. A legal loophole in Washington State allowed her to be registered as a medical practitioner despite having no qualifications. In her book, The Science of Fasting, she claimed to have studied under Edward Hooker Dewey, a properly qualified doctor, and a proponent of fasting cures.

Edward Hooker Dewey
He advocated two meals a day and no breakfast, and for some other ailments, a fasting cure. Whilst this was popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was not a universally accepted regime. The British Medical Journal noted errors in Dewey's published work and called it a 'foolish delusion'. Another doctor noted that fasting should only be conducted under medical supervision and that Dewey took things to extremes. Linda Hazzard was way more extreme than Dewey. it's doubtful that Hazzard ever actually met Dewey, and possible that she only read his work. 

Linda Hazzard self-published books give us some insight into her rigorous regimes. She gave patients only small amounts of vegetable broth, numerous enemas, and 'rested their systems' with days of almost total fasting. Massages were so vigorous that nurses reported that they sounded like beatings.

She left her first husband to start a sanatorium in Minneapolis, and that's where the first death happened. Bizarrely, she was not held accountable for the death as she was not medically qualified, but was evasive when questioned about the victim's missing jewellery. She managed to slip out of charges and carry on with her life. That's when she met her second husband, Samuel Christman Hazzard. He had a reputation as a drunk, a lecher, a swindler and a thief who had been thrown out of West Point for stealing. On top of all that, he had been married twice before, and didn't even bother to divorce the last one before marrying Linda. That resulted in a two year sentence for bigamy.

Samuel Christman Hazzard

After his release in 1906, the family uprooted and moved to Seattle where Linda opened a sanatorium in Olalla called Wilderness Heights. It was about forty miles from the city, and it wasn't long before the new establishment claimed its first victim. Daisey Maud Haglund was thirty-eight, and left behind a boy of three, Ivar. Ivar Haglund grew up to make millions with a chain of seafood restaurants, despite the irony of his mother dying of starvation. In 1908 Ida Wilcox  succumbed, followed by Blanche B. Tindall and Viola Heaton in 1909. Mrs. Maude Whitney died in 1910. When civil engineer Earl Edward Erdman took the cure in 1911 and died of starvation three weeks later. Yet the patients kept coming, despite newspaper coverage of the death toll. The cures were dressed up as more than just dietary, as this picture from Linda Hazzard's book Fasting for the cure of disease shows a claim to both physical and moral transformation.

And it was a considerable total: 1908 Lenora (Mrs. Elgin) Wilcox, Daisey Maud Haglund. The official cause of her death was stomach cancer. Her inability to eat would have caused her to starve to death even without Hazzard's assistance. Ida Wilcox 1909, Blanche B. Tindall, Viola Heaton, Eugene Stanley Wakelin died from a bullet in the head on Hazzard's property. There was speculation that this was murder but was unproven. 1910 Maude Whitney, Earl Edward Erdman, L. E. Rader, 1911 Frank Southard, C.A. Harrison, Ivan Flux, Claire Williamson, 1912 Mary Bailey, Ida Anderson, Robert Gramm, Fred Ebson – Supervised by another fast enthusiast. 

And the crimes were not driven only by dogma. You may remember that Hazzard was accused over missing valuables from Mrs. Wilcox, but nothing was proven. She was also under suspicion over property owned by C.A. Harrison. During his fast, Hazzard gained control of some of his cash and property, and his family was told he died with no more than seventy dollars left. This was a man of means. A publisher and was looking to buy a ranch before he encountered Linda Hazzard. 

Claire and Dorothea Williamson were wealthy young women from England with a deep interest in alternative medicine. They were of independent means, and didn't tell their family that they were admitting themselves into the sanatorium, as they had already met disapproval for their hypochondria.

In Better Times - Claire Williamson (centre) and Dorothea Williamson (left)

Despite other people having already been treated at Olalla, Hazzard told the sisters that the building wasn't ready, and admitted them to the Buena Vista apartments in Seattle. They were placed on a harsh regime under the care of a nurse, and Mrs. Hazzard offered to care for their diamond rings and property deeds in her safe. By April the women were emaciated and delirious, but were transferred by ambulance to Olalla. Claire also signed a codicil to her will stating that she would leave twenty-five pounds a month to the Hazzard Institute, and that in the event of her death she was to be cremated.

Dorothea Williamson after rescue 

On the 30th of April, Margaret Conway, the Williamson's former nanny in Australia received a strange message that caused her to sail to Seattle. She arrived on June 1st and Conway was met by Samuel Hazzard. He told her was told that Claire was dead and Dorothea was insane. They went to E. R. Butterworth & Sons mortuary, where she was shown an unrecognisable embalmed corpse of a woman. Dorothea was living in a rough shack, totally emaciated. A horrified Conway fed her. Dorothea initially begged to be removed, but changed her mind overnight. She was also approached by other starving patients who claimed they were prisoners, and begged for help. Hazzard was wearing clothing Conway recognized as belonging to Claire Williamson.

When Conway discovered that Dorothea had signed over power of attorney to the Hazzards, and they refused to allow Dorothea to leave. They had also been taking money form Dorothea's account. The Hazzards gained a legal guardianship on Dorothea to stop Conway removing her from Olalla, and announced that Dorothea was going to be spending the rest of her life with them. Conway was having none of it, and reached out to the women's uncle for help. When he arrived, Dorothea weighed only sixty pounds, and the Hazzards insisted that she could not leave until their $2,000 bill was paid. He negotiated less than half that amount and took Dorothea to a real hospital.

As the women were British citizens, the British vice consul put pressure on politicians at a higher level to ensure local authorities acted. Even then, the prosecutors tried to evade action by pleading poverty, but Dorothea insisted that she would cover the costs of the prosecution. Their bluff called, Linda Hazzard was arrested in August. She claimed persecution by other doctors, but The Tacoma Daily News headline read: “Officials Expect to Expose Starvation Atrocities: Dr. Hazzard Depicted as Fiend.” Hazzard insisted that a cabal of doctors were trying to undermine her successful therapies. She said, “I intend to get on the stand and show up that bunch. They’ve been playing checkers but it’s my move. I’ll show them a thing or two when I get on the stand.”

She never took the stand, as her lawyer considered it detrimental to her case. She was admonished for signalling to witnesses during the trial, and evidence was produced of her criminality, including forged diaries allegedly from Claire Williamson, in which the diamond rings were supposedly passed on to Linda Hazzard. The forgery was crude and not credible, and numerous patients were found to have handed over money and property to the Hazzards. There were even rumours that Claire Williamson's body had been switched with a healthier-looking one to try to hide the levels of abuse the victim received. Collusion with the authorities was inferred when it was found that an important state legislature, Lewis E. Radar, was one of her patients. He also handed over money and property and was moved to prevent him from being questioned in the case. He died in 1911.

Ex-patients and staff defended her. Even the husband of her first victim, John Ivar Haglund, stated that he was still a devotee and brought his son to her for treatment three times a week. Despite the cult-like devotion of some of her followers, people were appalled, and Linda Hazzard was found guilty of manslaughter. Newspapers speculated that she had got off lightly due to her sex, and that she'd have been hanged for murder if she'd been a man. She was sentenced to the penitentiary in Walla Walla, and released after two years. The governor pardoned her, but her medical licence was never reinstated, and she left to start a new practice in New Zealand.

She resumed starving people to death, and made enough money to return to the USA in 1921. She expanded and rebuilt her sanatorium, which the locals dubbed 'Starvation Heights'. A lack of a medical licence meant she had to market it as a 'school for health'. It burned down in 1935, and Linda Hazzard succumbed to one of her own starvation diets in 1938 at the age of seventy.

 At least twelve people died at her hands, but there's a good chance that a number of people were removed to other locations and their deaths put down to other conditions. Moving patients to confound investigation was part of her modus operandi. 

It's clear that there was a financial motive to her crimes, but her own devotion to the diet shows that she clearly had a deep root in the movement. But there's little doubt that she played on a belief system prevalent at the time. Her followers were variously adherents to alternative health movements gaining popularity, Theosophists, and other free-thinkers. The nineteenth century was a petri dish of alternative societies trying to find new, and idealistic, ways to live. Hazzard was also said to dabble in spiritualism and the occult, and Margaret Conway was amongst a number of people who stated that Hazzard seemed to have a hypnotic power over her victims.

Fasting has been around since ancient times, and as it's been reinvented in multiple forms as low calorie diets, juice fasts, cleanses, and even breatharians (who claim to live on air and light alone). It's not a concept that's going anywhere soon. However, Hazzard clearly played on people's fears, suggestibility, and understood the psychology of belief perseverance before it became a study in modern times. People tend to hang on to beliefs even when new information contradicts them. Delusions can be such a powerful hurt to a person's ego that to abandon them causes a psychological injury - and people have been seen to hang on to notions that kill them all over the world for a very long time.

Whatever the reason, Linda Hazzard did more than just believe. She stole from her victims. Such crimes were a new phenomenon at the turn of the twentieth century, and it was hard for a male establishment to believe that a mere woman could hold such sway over wealthy and educated men. Nowadays, she'd have been seen as the criminal cultist she was and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.    

Starvation Heights


“That’s my drink,” said Tibby. 

The stranger turned a smug sneer on Tibby. “It can’t be. It’s in my hand.” “It’s mine.” 

Tibby appealed to the barman for help. “He’s got my drink.”

The server rolled his eyes. “Have you seen how busy it is in here? I ain’t got time to watch everyone’s stuff. Look after your own drink.” 

“I’m trying to. Give me that.” Tibby reached up but the taller man held the glass up high, way out of the reach of the tiny man. “You know that’s mine.” 

Tibby jumped and stretched, huffing in his exertion in a game of alcoholic-keep-away much to the amusement of the ring of bullies who sniggered and jeered. “Look at the size of him. He’s a midget.” 

“I am not.” Tibby jumped once more. “Midgets are medically four-foot-ten. I’m five-foot-one.” 

“Five-one,” guffawed a vacant-looking goon. “You is a giant midget.”

 “Please, I’ve had a terrible day. Just let me have a drink in peace. Give me my glass.” 

“Yeah, give ’im his glass, Fred,” scoffed the large one with greasy hair sticking out from under a tatty cap. 

“Sure.” The stranger swilled back the contents before he held out the empty glass. “Here.” 

Tibby pulled back his reaching hand, his bottom lip growing and trembling beneath great blue globes which glistened with tears. “You drank it?” 

The men threw back their heads and guffawed, slapping one another on the backs and seeking support for their helpless mirth at this unexpected reaction. It was beyond anything they’d hoped for. 

“Yeah, get yourself another.” The bully snickered.

Tears streamed down Tibby’s face. “I don’t want another drink. I wanted that one. It was special.” 

Fred leaned forward, leering into Tibby’s face. 

“Well, you can’t have that one. I drank it.” 

“He’s cryin’. Can you believe this?” asked the smallest bully. “A grown man sobbin’ like a baby.” 

“I don’t believe this.” Tibby leaned over the bar, his shoulders heaving with deep sobs. “First of all, I get taken to jail for a crime I didn’t commit. Then I get fired, and to top it off, my wife told me she’s leaving me.” He backhanded away glistening tears as the band of bullies fell quiet. “This has been the worst day of my entire life. I come in here for a quiet drink and now, I meet you. Why do you want to stop me from committing suicide? It’s too cruel.”

 “Suicide?” a small voice murmured from the gaggle of miscreants. “

Yeah.” Tibby turned on the bully, pointing an accusing finger. “He drank my poison. A man can’t even kill himself in peace anymore.” 

Tibby kept right in character and watched Fred grasp his throat. “Poison?” 

“I tried to tell you, but you kept pulling it away from me. I came in here to kill myself, but now you even took that from me.” 

“He’s bluffin’,” cried one of the crowd. 

“Ya think?” demanded another. “How often d’ya see a grown man cry in public?” 

“He ain’t exactly a grown man,” answered his friend. It wasn’t helping though, Fred’s eyes bulged and he doubled over thrusting his fingers down his gullet.

Fred’s friend grabbed Tibby by the lapels and shook him violently. “What kinda poison was it?” The journalist wailed and whimpered as Fred buckled at the knees. “What kind?” 

“Strychnine,” Tibby sniveled. “What have I got left to live for?” 

“Strychnine?” “Yeah, that’s why I had with whiskey. It kills the taste.” Tibby paused. “Along with the crushing pain of my pointless existence. I guess your existence has been rendered meaningless, now.” 

“I need a doc,” Fred bellowed, running for the door. 

“A doctor won’t be able to help,” Tibby called after the departing crowd. His tears had dried up and his smile returned with suspicious alacrity. “But get your stomach pumped, just in case.”

The barman wiped the bar with a grubby cloth and eyed Tibby with caution. “I ain’t gonna have no trouble in here.” 

“Hey, if you’d adopted that stance a minute ago, I wouldn’t have been driven to subterfuge.” 

The barman frowned. “There ain’t nowhere around here called Subterfuge. This is the Flying Horse.”

Tibby sighed. “Two more whiskeys, please.” His face lit up at the sight of Jake returning from the latrines. “Ah, you’re back. I just ordered some more drinks.” 

Jake’s brow met, picking up on the undercurrents and sideways glances going on around them. “What’s goin’ on?” 

“Nothing.” Tibby smiled his most innocent smile. “Some bullies took my whiskey but I told them how tough my day had been and they left.” He lifted the shot glass replete with amber liquid. “I ordered us some more. Now, about Callie. I’ve had a few thoughts.”


Sunday, March 5, 2023

A Look at TV Westerns - Yancy Derringer


 Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the author 

I am continuing my year-long look at TV Westerns, primarily the lesser-known shows that we may have missed, or were before some of us were born. This time I'm looking at the fringe Western, Yancy Derringer. I've written about his show before, but it bears another look. 

The show was set in New Orleans at the time of reconstruction after the Civil War and ran for one season. The star is someone I spoke of in the last post, Jock (Jack) Mahoney. I confess I'm a fan. Tall, 6'4", with amazing blue eyes, and a stunt man to boot, he was a devastating combination.

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Photo of Jock Mahoney from
Find a Grave

Some would say his portrayal of Derringer, a former Confederate soldier, captures the concept of the classic Western hero - a man of honor, quick wit, and ability to deal with danger.

The co-stars were no slouches either. Kevin Hagen as the assigned Northern administrator for New Orleans, was also tall, 6'2", and a perfect 'foil' for the antics of Derringer. 

The other male co-star was X Brands, also 6'2" and a part-time stuntman. Although of European Heritage he played the part of Pahoo-Ka-Wah (Wolf Who Stands in Water), a Pawnee who never said a word, and had a shotgun as his weapon of choice. Watching Brands and Mahoney is a joy. Their chemistry s what helped make the show so fun to watch.

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Photo of X Brands from
Find a Grave

I loved the attention to detail, and authenticity the show strived for. When I re-watch the shows I really feel like I'm in New Orleans during the reconstruction era. To me, this show is just plain fun and a testament to the Westerns of that bygone era.

Attached is a link to the first episode. Watch for the interaction between Brands and Mahoney as they're stranded on the river waiting for a boat to come along. Yancy Derringer - Season 1 Episode 1

Here's a link to last month's post. Range Rider

See you next time for another exciting adventure tale from Western TV shows I have and continue to enjoy.

Make sure to check out the other posts on this blog. The information and topics are as diverse as the stories the authors here tell.