Tag Archives: True Crime

The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson – My Review

Texas Society Marriage & Carolina Murder Scandal
T. Felder Dorn
Genre: True Crime
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing / The History Press
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Date of Publication: April 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 192 pages, 30 b&w images
Jennie May Walker Burleson was envied for having everything a woman of her time could want—the privileged upbringing, the dazzling good looks, the dashing war hero husband. She was admired for demonstrating that a woman could want more, from the front of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession to the bottom of a Mesoamerican archaeological dig. But as she stood over the body of her husband’s second wife, gun in hand, society’s envy and admiration quickly hardened into pity and scorn. T. Felder Dorn examines the complicated trajectory of her life as socialite, suffragist, and shooter. 

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The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson – My Review

“The lady dressed in black came in past me, and went up to where the second
Mrs. Burleson was sitting, and as she did, she laid her hand on the back
of thechair, leaned over, and at the same time shoved her bag right
in the back of Mrs. Burleson….”
I’ve read about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 regarding its devastation and the lives it took. Author T. Felder Dorn vividly explains in a small snippet from twelve-year-old, May Walker Burleson, what she and her family endured during the hurricane.
What was more revealing was how the six thousand people who died in the storm were dealt with. I cannot imagine sending them off on a barge and then bringing their bodies to land to be burned out in the open. That tragedy there was enough to deal with for the entire book but the tragedy episodes only increased with the continued story of May.
The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson recounts the life of May from her marriage, to her suffragist involvement, to her divorce, to murdering her husband’s second wife. The book further details the murder court case, her time served in prison and lastly May’s final years.
While almost clinical in its storytelling, the book is well researched. Courtroom testimony in both the contentious divorce of the Burleson couple to the murder trial is summarized well. What’s fascinating is the story behind the divorce and it actually being granted. I did not know that divorce’s back then could have a jury decided the granting of the divorce.
Dorn’s book gives small glimpses of history, especially on the 1913 Suffragist parade in Washington, DC. Plus, May was sent to Waverly Hills Sanatorium reputed to be one of the most haunted places in the U.S. One of the best features of the book is the historical photos interspersed with each chapter.
It is hard to imagine how a woman who had the world at her feet threw it all away from her marriage to her riches to her family.

T. Felder Dorn graduated from Duke University in 1954 with a BS in chemistry and was awarded a Ph.D. in that discipline in 1958 by the University of Washington. He was a member of the chemistry faculty at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1958–69 and then served four years on the program staff of the College Board in New York. From 1973 to 1991, he held administrative positions at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, serving as associate dean, dean, and vice-president for academic affairs. His last ten years at Kean were spent as a professor of chemistry. He retired in 2001. Felder Dorn and his wife, Sara Ruth, have resided in Millburn, New Jersey, since 1973. They have three children and three grandchildren. Dorn has previously published four books: Challenges on the Emmaus Road: Episcopal Bishops Confront Slavery, Civil War, and Emancipation (University of South Carolina Press, 2013); Death of a Policeman, Birth of a Baby: A Crime and Its Aftermath (Xlibris, 2012); The Guns of Meeting Street: A Southern Tragedy (University of South Carolina Press, 2001); and The Tompkins School, 1925–1953: A Community Institution (Attic Press, 1994).



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The Writing and Titling of the Hunt Book

To only be able to go back through a door of history to see the truth of history in the certain time.

Sooooo – I’ve been writing and research the true crime story of the Hunt murders for seven years. I thought I was done in the fall of 2016, but feedback on the manuscript suggested I was not before it goes off to another publishing house. While the edits were minor they improved the flow of the story. One university press had the book for over year before they came back without even reading the book and said, “It needs more work.” The book itself has been revised 18 times since I put all the research into a book format.

From the beginning of placing the thousands of research pages into chapters, those chapters have been moved around, large amounts of text have been relocated to other chapters and I edited out a lot of nonessential wording.

Many people don’t understand the process of writing a nonfiction book or any book for that matter. It is one thing to revise a blog post, a research paper or even an article and a 300 + page revision of a book is overwhelming. I will admit that even during my many revisions I found new errors and even identified errors in spelling of names throughout the book.

The last person to give me an honest read-through feedback liked the writing and the story. She even came up with her own questions regarding the murders. She’s read true crime books and mysteries all her life, so I trust her. Another reader offered her insights about not including my side stories of my research process or even putting them at the end. That suggestion I’m still considering.

The title of the book has evolved over time, yet nothing I came up with really sat well with me. The proposed titles never seemed to jump off the page and connect the complicated story of this journey. A recently proposed title of “A Journey from Small Town Murder to Mystery” may be the perfect fit. The book is a documentary of the attempted murder of Dr. Roy Hunt, the actual Hunt murders, along with all the trials, along with the murder of the sheriff whose trial ties into the Hunt murders in the most unique way.

Thank you to the friends who’ve given me honest feedback. A Journey from Small Town Murder to Mystery – may be the title this book has long needed…