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Friday, June 30, 2023

"Old West Stories of Love" and "Medieval Passions"

Embark on Epic Journeys with the release of these two Book Box Sets: "Old West Stories of Love" and "Medieval Passions. 

I am so excited to have my Prarie Rose Publications short stories in one place. It's one of the best gifts for my journey of another year around the sun.

I hope that these box sets will transport you to different eras, ignite your imagination and captivate your heart. 

In "Medieval Passions" you will step into the rich tapestries of  Medieval Spain, Germany, and the Scandinavian Region. Lose yourself in the intrigues of those long-ago lives as they navigate life's trials and tribulations to ultimately find the love they didn't know they needed.


Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Colorado's rugged landscape, "Old West Stories of Love" combines action and romance in these historical stories. Experience the adventure as outlaws, cowboys, and resilient heroines struggle to survive. Journey with them as they find their forever loves in the untamed, raw beauty of the Old West, where danger and desire dance in a dance of fate. 


Regardless of your preference, you will find something to pique your interest. So grab a cup of tea and lose yourself in one or both of these box sets. This is your invitation to open the pages and let the magic unfold. Don't wait. Click the links and get started.

If holding a book in your hand is more your 'cup of coffee' you can get the print version on Amazon.

Medieval Passions - Amazon
Old West Stories of Love - Amazon

I have to thank Livia for the amazing covers. This journey would not have been as joyous and exciting without the support of Cheryl when I first started out. Both of these amazing women have a special place in my heart for helping me make a dream come true. 




Monday, June 26, 2023

Anglo-Saxon and Viking Riddles

Today,  I thought I would talk a little about a less-well-known aspect of English literature: Anglo-Saxon poetry. There are some beautiful and very poignant poems in Old English. Poems such as 'The Seafarer' and 'The Wife's Lament' speak to us even today of love and loss and longing. There are poems that contain useful information - verse is a useful memory device - and poems celebrating places such as Durham, battles such as the battle of Maldon, biblical heroines such as Judith and profound mystical experiences. 'The Dream of the Rood' takes the idea of the cross on which Christ was crucified: the 'wondrous tree' from which he hung, and has the tree speak to us directly as it too suffered with Christ.

    There are riddles about wine, about a bookworm, about a reed, about a shield, about a plough. Some are saucy and double-edged in meaning; all give clues as to what people noticed in those times, what was important to them, what amused them. Some of the original riddles can be seen here:

I read them and even in translation I feel directly connected to a people long past - a wonderful, slightly eerie event.

The Vikings were also keen on riddles and verse. In one Icelandic saga, the god Odin, who is in disguise, challenges King Heidrek to a contest of wits via riddles which the king has to solve. 

Here is a Viking Riddle, taken from the saga and reproduced from this site

I yearn to have / what I had yesterday.

What do I long for, my lord?

It hurts men / and hinders words,

yet also elevates speech.

Can you solve / oh King, this riddle?

(The answer is ale.)

Here is one my own riddles. Very simple! You will easily guess what it is.

          "A giant, now toppled,

          hollow and dead,

          still glides where it never would

          when alive."

If you are interested in Viking culture and magic, please see my novel, "The Viking and the Pictish Princess" published by Prairie Rose Publications. This novel is set in early medieval Scotland.

Lindsay Townsend

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – June – Beauty and the Beast #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

Join me here for a year of movie trivia fun as I post 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 June movie scene.

Name of Movie: Beauty and the Beast
Historical Time Period:
Location: France
Occasion/Purpose: relationship development
Type of Dance: Ballroom Waltz

Previous Months:

January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May - Chocolat

Beauty and the Beast is a fairytale written and published c.1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Billeneuve. Her story was then abridged, rewritten, and published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which has come down through the years as the most familiar version. The story has undergone many iterations on film and television, on stage, and in written form.

For this article, I’m commenting about the ballroom waltz (Tale as Old as Time) in the 1991 Disney animated movie and in the 2017 live-action movie.

It is generally accepted that the waltz scene is the defining moment when Belle and Beast realize their mutual love. I disagree.

I believe it was love at first sight for Beast, when Belle took her father's place in the dungeon. While Belle has grown fonder of Beast as the story unfolds, even at the end of the dance, she hasn’t fallen in love with him. That moment occurs right after the dance when Beast gives her the magic mirror and tells her to go back to her father.

Well, then, if not for the purpose of having Belle and Beast realize their mutual love, what does the dance scene accomplish for me?

Dance scenes offer the opportunity for intimacy—hands touching, gazes meeting, bodies brushing against each other. Belle's and Beast's physical closeness enhances the trust they’ve  been establishing. There is respect and gentleness in their expressions and movements. They clearly enjoy being with, and near, each other. The dance scene is lovely. It illustrates the progression Belle and Beast have made toward mutual love.

Most importantly, the dance is the metaphor of breaking through the barrier of Beast’s animalistic physical appearance. Belle has accepted him for who he is. Beast not only realizes this, he’s humbled and appreciative. If he wasn’t completely in love with Belle at this point, he is now.

In the animated movie dance scene, Beast finds himself filled with trepidation and uncertainty as he stands in the center of the ballroom. Belle offers her hands for him to take, and he’s surprised, taken aback. Belle maintains an innocence throughout the dance. We see gentle smile and soft gleam in her eyes when she looks at Beast. For his part, Beast gains confidence in his dancing and in the acceptance he feels from Belle.

In the live-action dance scene, when Beast gives the ballroom a once-over, we get the sense of him recalling all the parties and dances he used to attend in this ballroom. There’s a hint of regret and remorse in his sigh and shoulder-drop. Belle holds out her hands. This Beast is more confident than animated Beast when he takes hold of Belle’s hands. Belle is also more confident in herself. Live-action Belle does not exude the innocence of animated Belle. Belle’s strong spirit and personality dominate the scene. As they leave the ballroom, like animated Beast, live-action Beast is fully in love with Belle.

Both versions of the waltz scene move the story appropriately according to each movie’s mood and characterization.

There is chemistry between animated Belle and Beast during the dance. I care about them. I like them. I want them to make it to their happily ever after. Clnversely, that endearing chemistry is lacking between live-action Belle and Beast. They seem to be dancing, because they have to. Tale as Old as Time is the heart of the movie. It wouldn’t be Beauty and the Beast without the waltz scene. Their interactions feel superficial.

Live-Action Beauty and the Beast waltz scene:

Animated Beauty and the Beast waltz scene:

On another note:

Blogger hasn’t been playing nicely with the comment and reply feature. As such, I am unable to leave comments and/or replies on the Prairie Rose Publications’ blog. Therefore, I am responding now to the commenters on my May article of the dance scene on the riverboat in the movie Chocolat.

Lindsay: I agree completely that the movie “Chocolat” is hands down better than the book “Chocolat”. The screenwriter took the core of the book’s story and greatly improved upon the plot and characterization. As you said, the movie is uplifting. The book is not.

C.A.: That’s a great way to describe the importance of the dance scene in “Chocolat” -- pivotal. As readers, we saw the attraction building between Vianne and Roux. What follows with the boat burning, though, is edge-of-your-seat watching for several minutes, which is another pivotal scene.

Renaissance Women: It is a magical clip. The music. The way Roux and Vianne dance together – Vianne self-consciously at first then Roux gaining her trust. It’s such a great movie.

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Last Public Execution in Edinburgh

The Last Public Execution in Edinburgh

By C. A. Asbrey

These brass plates, one set into the pavement, the other inscribed plate mounted on the wall, mark the spot of Edinburgh's last public execution on June 21st 1864. They can be found at the corner of George IV Bridge and The Lawnmarket, and they mark the spot were George Bryce was hanged for the murder of Jeannie Seaton. The brass plates mark the foot of the gallows.

I'll look at the murder in another post, but the execution itself became the stuff of legend for all the wrong reasons.

Bryce's crime was both public and savage, causing public outrage, so by the time he was due to be hanged, the public appetite for revenge was ripe. Public executions in Scotland had become less common since the 18th century, but they still took place. 273 people were publicly hanged in Scotland between 1800 and 1868, comprising 259 men and 14 women. A further 207 were sentenced to death, but reprieved or respited. It's worth noting that Scotland had fewer capital crimes on the statute books than England, and fewer hangings, reflecting a differing societal approach to crime and punishment. Even though they had over two hundred crimes for which you could be hanged, most were commuted to either imprisonment or transportation. At its highest, Scotland was hanging roughly four people a year in the 19th century. Compare that to an average of sixty per year in England—it was rarer, but it still happened—and that added to the pageantry of the occasion.

And as you probably know, public hangings were a spectacle. People flocked to view these hangings for miles around. Stalls were erected to sell every kind of produce, and peddlers mingled with the crowd selling food, drink, and even quickly made keepsakes of the crime or the accused murderer. They attracted criminals too, being a great opportunity for pickpockets.

A souvenir from the execution Sarah Dazley,
known as ‘The Potton Poisoner’
Scots called an executioner 'the lokman' and sometimes 'the doomster'. It's easy to work out the origins of 'doomster' as the man who sent you to your doom, the origins of 'loksman' are a bit more obscure. A lock was an old unit of measurement, equating to a handful. It's the origin of the term lock of hair. This referred to the way the executioner was paid; by a lok of the taxation of the goods brought into the city for each execution. During The Witch Trial craze the city locksman made £5 18s 6d, equivalent to over £1,250 ($1,451.69)in modern currency. Adjusting for inflation that equates to £175,911.37 today, made in one year alone. In later times, it also came with a furnished house on Fishmongers Close. However, by the time George Bryce was hanged, it was no longer an expense the City Fathers wished to bear. So few hangings took place it didn't seem worthwhile, so they sought out a hangman from another area to do the job. Even though around four executions took place each year, that was spread over the whole country, and often did not affect Edinburgh at all. The parsimonious officials went for the cheapest tender for the job, but when they selected Thomas Askern from York, they made a mistake. Like all of York's hangmen, he had been drawn from the prison population, and had been in jail for debt when he embarked on his new career. He does not seem to have been the competent hangman, with at least two broken ropes, and a few slow-stranglings meaning that various authorities refused to employ him, but Edinburgh selected him nonetheless. That set the scene for what was going to unfold on execution day.

On the day of the execution, thousands (some say twenty-thousand)had gathered to watch the end of a savage killer, and the atmosphere was high with a need for vengeance. Part-carnival, part lynch-mob, people were baying for Bryce to be dispatched, as the whispered gossip of the crime had been exaggerated in the telling and re-telling until the public outrage was at fever pitch. Bryce was pelted with stones and rotten produce as he was led to the gallows, and even as he stood on the trapdoor itself. Leather straps were fastened around Bryce's limbs by hungover hangman, his fingers fiddling with the buckles as he was still dulled by drink from the night before. Askern had fitted the rope to the gallows at first light, sunrise having taken place at 3.31 that day. He had come straight from the pub. The abuse didn't even stop when the minister tried to lead the condemned man in his final prayers. An uneasy hush descended as the final signal was given, but even that was punctuated by a few hoots of derision.

The gallows were screened off below the line of the trapdoor, meaning that when the body dropped, it disappeared from public view—or at least it should have. It didn't. Bryce dropped a mere two feet and was left dangling in full view of the assembled crowd. Askern had failed to measure the rope to a significant degree. Some said that the hangman was still drunk, others said he was deliberately cruel. It is true that he had been carousing the night before, and consumed a significant amount of drink. But so had the crowd. Many of them had stayed up all night, drinking at the local taverns before rolling up to watch the public spectacle.

A decent drop by a skilled executioner would have broken the man's neck and dispatched him quickly. but instead the man dangled there, suffering slow strangulation. People were horrified, and the longer it went on, the angrier they got. The mob who had been baying for the man's blood were turning on the authorities for allowing this act of cruelty to continue, but they were legally unable to step in to halt a sentence from being carried out. A Margaret Dickson was hanged in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in 1724 but later awoke. After that, the words 'until dead' were added to the death sentence—making it illegal to stop the sentence from being carried out before the end.

They say it took up to forty minutes for Bryce to slowly expire, and in that time the town worthies found that the missiles were now headed in their direction, and with enough venom to make them flee. Public unrest rose, with fights and violence spreading in the combustible crowd into the streets beyond the site of the gallows. It is said that Askern only just escaped with his life as the mob swarmed the gallows. He left on the ten-fifteen train out of Waverly Station in a compartment blocked off for him to travel alone. Crowds gathered around the train before it left and Askern sat with his back to the window to avoid being seen.

George Bryce Death Mask

This is where it gets obvious that the power of the press sided with the establishment, and they sought to sanitize the incident and protect the image of Edinburgh—The Athens of the North. Blatant lies were told. Official witnesses said that, "On making the fatal plunge, the body remained in perfect stillness for the space of about thirty seconds, after which a slight tremor of the spinal cord, a clutching of the fingers, and a slight drawing in of the foot were the only movements perceptible. There was no struggle whatsoever indicative of suffering. Dunfermline Saturday Press – Saturday 25 June, 1864 p.4"

"The body fell three feet, and entirely disappeared from the view of the public. Dundee Courier and Argus, June 22nd, 1864"

"Only the rope being seen, the vast crowd began immediately to disappear. The Southern Reporter, June 23rd, 1864"

"The executioner drew the bolt, and, with a few slight struggles, the convict expired. The Times, June 22, 1864."

It's clear none of that was true. The image of Edinburgh had to be protected at any price, and the newspapers happily obliged. Nobody in power wanted to be presented to the world as incompetent cheapskates who hired an unskilled drunk to perform a blundered execution that spurred a riot, that in turn, had to be covered up. After all, if you admit to the unrest, you have to admit to the reasons behind it. It's a brilliant example of fake news and public manipulation. And Edinburgh was the world's leading light in science and medicine. The City Fathers didn't want the world to know that they also had a populace who drank all night and rioted at the scene of an execution. More than anything else, they didn't want their city—a bastion of culture and learning—presented as a hard-drinking, authority-challenging, haven for a heaving underclass ready to turn to violence—even though it was both. Edinburgh had long been a dichotomy— a city of extremes, existing side-by-side.

The town council meeting after the mess also shows that the newspaper reports were total fiction. They had to do something to make sure that the debacle wasn't repeated, and it led to the end of public executions in Edinburgh. From that point on, they took place in Calton jail, where all the deaths were recorded as quick and merciful. How true that was can only be guessed at, given the reports on George Bryce's.

It was not the last public execution in Scotland. That took place on the other side of the country, on Glasgow Green in 1865 when Dr. Edward Pritchard was hanged for murdering his wife and mother-in-law, and was suspected of murdering a maid. That was also a public order disaster, and that hangman let the body down too fast, and it crashed through the baseboard of the coffin, smashing it.

In the face of making execution an unseemly public spectacle, and the authorities looking increasingly unprofessional, public executions in Scotland were totally banned after Robert Smith was executed at 12 May 1867 at Buccleuch Street Prison for the robbery, rape and murder of nine-year-old.


“Oh, my goodness.” Beryl Clutterbuck held open the front door. Her blue eyes blinked at Vida, fixating on her top hat. “I’ve never seen a lady dress like you before.” 

Vida smiled. “That’s because I’m not a lady. I’m a doctor. Doesn’t your doctor wear a coat and hat like this?” 

“Oh. There are women doctors? I didn’t know that was allowed.” The older woman’s lips twitched into wide grin. “The hat is just perfect for a doctor, although I’d like to put a flower in it.” She paused. “Or a great big feather. A peacock feather would look lovely.” 

Beryl stepped aside to allow Nat and his oddly-dressed companion to enter. “I’m an adherent of the rational dress movement.” Vida swept into the hall. “Women wear clothes which are far too restrictive. I do the same job as a man, so I will dress in much the same way. I would wear pants, too, but that just causes far too many problems.” 

“Rational dress?” Beryl’s little mouth pursed into a raspberry, as though unfamiliar with either word. “What’s rational about dressing like a man?” 

“Rational dress refers to everything women wear. Surely, you’ve heard of bloomers? They’ve gone out of fashion now, but the union suit has remained with some of us. I’m wearing one now.” 

“Union suit?” asked Beryl as Nat groaned in the background. 

“Yes. Combination underwear.” Vida propped her hands on her hips, betraying a thicker waist than Mrs. Clutterbuck. “Corsetry is the work of the devil. It constricts the organs, the breathing, and is there to serve no purpose other than male titillation. I have no time for it.” 

Beryl gasped before whispering in theatrical horror. “You don’t wear a corset? Isn’t that indecent?” 

“Of course not. I’m a professional woman. I’m not here to attract men. I’m here to do a job of work.” 

“My Charles always said that professional women were the worst at dressing provocatively, but I suppose it depends on the profession. Speaking of which, Catherine French is here to see you, Mr. Dunvegan.” Beryl led the way to the drawing room. “You are welcome, anyway. I do hope you can help poor Abigail, Mrs. Doctor. She’s so depilated.” 

“She’s what?” 

“You know, floppy, no energy.” 

“Oh, debilitated.” 

Beryl nodded. “Yes. That’s what I said.” 

“Depilated means she had her hair removed.” 

“Oh, no. That would be silly. She has beautiful hair. Why would she do that?” Beryl opened the door. 

Vida darted a look at Nat who shrugged and whispered in her ear. “I did tell you that Mrs. Clutterbuck’s unusual. She means well. She speaks without thinking.” 

A young woman with glistening brown hair stood as they entered the room. Vida noted that her hazel eyes fixed immediately on Nat. 

“Mr. Dunvegan.” She trilled in delight. “I came to see how your wife is today.” 

“This is Mrs. France,” said Beryl in flat, bored tones. “She’s here a lot now.” 

“Call me Catherine.” The visitor extended her hand. “I try to help wherever I can. Such tragic events demand that a neighbor should step in, don’t you think?” 

“Yet, you are in the lounge. Not even in the kitchen,” said Vida, raising her eyebrows. “What kind of help?” 

“Well, moral support.” 

“Well, I’m here now. You can get back to your husband.” Vida removed her hat to reveal short curly hair. “Thank you for your support.” 

“She doesn’t have a husband,” said Beryl. “She’s a widow.” 

Vida nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss. You aren’t wearing black. I take it he died some time ago.” 

“A year in February,” Catherine replied. “He was ill for some time. Sadly, it wasn’t unexpected.” 

“Just over a year?” Vida’s brows arched. “You’ve slighted the mourning early?” 

The young woman’s chin tilted in challenge. “Why, yes. Life goes on. My Rodney would have wanted it that way. He was full of life.” 

“He was full of whiskey.” Beryl chuckled. “He was rarely sober. It was the drink that took him. Poor Catherine had a lot to put up with, but I suppose his money robbed her trials of their sting.” 

“I loved him. He had a kind heart.” Catherine sniffed. “He found great joy in life.” 

“He certainly did. He never stopped celebrating,” said Beryl. “I remember your wedding. He could barely stand upright. You were a beautiful bride, though. All dressed in white organdie. Very vaginal.” 

Catherine’s eyes widened. “I think you mean virginal.” 

Vida grinned, her grey eyes twinkling like polished steel as she looked Catherine up and down. “I think we all know what she means. Now, I must get up and see Abigail.” She paused, slapping away Catherine’s hand which had ventured over to Nat’s lapel to pick away a piece of lint. “He’s a married man, young woman, and his wife is my dearest friend. If you think for one second that your machinations are beyond me, you are sadly mistaken.” 

“I was only—”

“I know what you were only doing. You were leaving, Mrs. French.” Vida glowered at Nat. “And I’m ashamed of you, allowing this.” 

His jaw dropped open. “I haven’t done a thing.” 

“Good. Keep it that way.” Vida strode over to the door. “Show me up, Mr. Dunvegan. Lovely to meet you, Mrs. French. We don’t need your help any longer.”

        Kindle Link        Trade Paperback Link


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Trackdown - Robert Culp

 Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (c) Doris McCraw

We're halfway through the years and there are still some great old-time Westerns to be investigated. This month is the early Robert Culp vehicle. Links to other posts will be at the end. Now, onto the information.

Most people remember Culp from the 1965 TV series 'I Spy'. However, he starred in a show long before that hit. The show 'Trackdown' aired from 1957-1959. Culp starred as the Texas Ranger, Hoby Gilman. The thing I enjoyed about the episodes I've seen is the focus on solving the crime, not so much on the shoot-outs. Culp brought a gravitas to the character that made his character fascinating to watch.  

The show was a spin-off of the Dick Powell, Zane Grey Theatre anthology that aired in the 1950s. In fact, the pilot episode was first aired as 'Badge of Honor' on the anthology. The show was endorsed by the state of Texas and the Texas Rangers according to a Wikipedia article. That made it a rarity in the entertainment industry.

Robert Culp as Toby Gilman
photo from Wikipedia

As for Culp, his portrayal of Gilman, in my opinion, was brilliant, along with the writing and directing. Another thing to remember is a season was 39 episodes during this time so the season ran for almost nine months. 

This thirty-minute show is a wonderful look at early television and the diversity of shows. In many ways, it is almost more detective show than the classic Western, but that does not take away from the fun of taking a trip back in time. You can check out an episode using the link below.

Trackdown - Self-Defense

For the earlier posts in the series, see below.

Cimarron City

Whispering Smith