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tv   Book Discussion on The Wilderness of Ruin  CSPAN  March 29, 2015 11:18am-11:55am EDT

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medical aid and some of the guerrilla wars around the world, helping out there as well. and lead a good life. but to have this complete book of manuscripts to be able to draw on, and it was one of many partial or complete book manuscripts that was just a treasure. so one of the ways history gets written is from what's there. i always tell people if you want to be remembered in history history doesn't remember the victors. history remembers the people who kept a record. >> one last question. final question. >> thank you much for your books. i especially i read the making of the atomic bomb twice. what struck me about that book, those books and this is they are about a such a pebble the air that change everything after. have you considered writing about world war i? >> i have but i kind of missed the window. this was the year to publish a book on world war i. i would love to go back to do
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it. there's still shells of mature that haven't been dug up. for that matter, i don't know if you know but at the national archives in washington there's a whole roomful of any scrips, medical documents in particular, from the american civil war that have never been opened. they are in brown paper wrappers tied with a ribbon, and no one is ever looked at them for 150 years, or whatever it is. i mean i have of course the first world war was extraordinary human experience on many levels, but i think i kind of missed my window. i'm working right now on a book about, another book of course. that's how it make a living. i'm working on a book about what sounds like the unpromising subject of energy transitions. i will eventually be writing about oil. i'm sure i will come back to dallas more than once, but right now i'm writing about elizabethan england when they ran out of trees close enough
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the luggage be able to afford to transport them. and they had to switch to coal. and they just hated coal. the preachers said coal is the devil's excrement. you find underground. it's black and dirty. it smells like sulfur. obviously, the devil did his business there and that's what cool is. stay away from this stuff. they had a terrible time switching to coal. that's the kind of thing again. most of the world rant on whale oil for the first half of the 19th century. that's a the people who could afford it used for lighting and when they knocked off most of the whales to the reason melville had to go to the south pacific to do the work that led to moby dick is that the were not anywhere else left in the north atlantic. we were knocking off 10,000 whales a year and by the time the 1850s came along, they were going all the way out to
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the sea of japan, all the way up to the arctic, what used to be a two-year voyage was taking six years, and the whales crisis comes out. and then some genius you may know this story, thought what is this smelly stuff that oozes out of the ground in pennsylvania? and then they figured out a way to refine it to kerosene and kerosene replaced whale all. but by the 1890s when the lightbulb came along and cities were switching to rapidly to electric, the oil industry was saying what are we going to do? they had this waste project they couldn't use called gasoline that they were dumping in the river at night to get rid of it because it was useless and they didn't have any other place to put it. and, unfortunately, the automobile came along just in time to save the oil industry. so there are lots of stories. they haven't been told as usual.
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the last book written on natural gas as an industry was published in 1938. so i'm just having great fun beginning this work on this next book which i'm sure you will enjoy. >> thankthank you very much. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you. spirit richard rhodes will be outside of the sign does. the books are still for sale in the welcome center. socom by a book and get a personalized. we will see you on february 19 with kate alcott and a touch of stardust. >> [inaudible conversations]
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>> booktv is on facebook. like is to get publishing news schedule updates, behind the scenes pictures and videos. author information and to doctor with authors during our life program. >> roseanne montillo recounts the search for jesse harding pomeroy who was arrested at age 14 for the serial torture and killing of children in the working class neighborhoods of boston in the late 19th century his capture spurred a debate on mental illness and criminal justice system. >> and now i'm pleased to introduce roseanne montillo. roseanne montillo joins us from just over the river. is a professor of literature at emerson college were courses blend writing and literature with history and philosophy. you might be for me with her last book, 2013 critically acclaimed the lady and her monsters which the new york times said sparked across the page, follow her on twitter at
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roseanne montillo 16. is boss in a world-class city? it's a hot topic today in gilded age boston wanted to show wondered the same thing. oliver wendell holmes declared the city up of the solar system. 14 years later the city nearly burned to the ground. boston did just have to rebuild. it had to redefine itself. in the midst of all this children began to disappear roseanne montillo's new book, triple ticks on the paper it's a torrent of boston and the youngster took a called the city is over and it's the sort of headline grabbing sensational true. roseanne montillo nick sims than a storable historical conviction all encrypting christic according to publishers weekly, delving deep into this of boston's circa 19 such, roseanne montillo enters a riveting true crime tale that rivals anything writers in the 21st century and talk. so please join in welcoming her to harvard book store. [applause]
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>> thank you very much for coming out tonight but i know it's a holiday so you would perhaps would be somewhere else but thank you for coming here today. i think i will talk lived about how again did jesse pomeroy how he actually found me. i was working on my last book, the lady at her monsters, and i was browsing the harvard university library. they have wonderful online collections and i was looking for information on the body snatchers for my last book. so harvard has a wonderful collection on body snatchers, all kinds of creepy, wonderful, beautiful stuff that i was interested in. i didn't put anything that really tight intimate topic, but some of the search engine on the harvard library library brought me to differentto adifferent collection will have nothing to do with my topic but was interesting as well. it was a collection from a detective from the 1860s who was a boston police detective. his name was james woods and i
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love detectives. i love detective stories. i was teaching a class many years ago at lesley university. i have taken many classes, and he seemed interesting and fun and a lot of good things perhaps will come out of it. one of his cases, harvard has a very long list of cases that he worked on com and one of his cases was the jesse pomeroy case. and, in fact he said it was the youngest, one of the youngest serial killers he had worked on. seem to like very good topic for my next book. i did really know too much about him. i couldn't find an awful lot about him. few people really had ever heard about him so started digging around a little bit in the boston libraries and archives and places around the city. and i discovered a lot. for those of you who don't really know about jessie, jesse was born in charlestown in 1859.
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he was a local boy if you will. he was born with a slight defect in his right eye. his eye looked really white and because of that it'll make fun of him quite a bit. his family his schoolmates. he was abused because you looked a little bit different, and he really got beat up for the picky really got abused at school. children who are much older than him and much bigger than him really made him pay dearly for that. his own father believed that maybe he was possessed he was some kind of sign of the devil something terrible within. his father really abused him terribly. so he grew up knowing quite a lot of pain and in turn the only way he could control that, he started abusing children who are much younger and much smaller than he was.
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people did know that it was actually him doing that early on. they found out in 1871 when children that crossed the street in chelsea, started suffering and talking about someone, a young boy who would befriend them and take them places, give them candy give them money taken to the circus, just be friendly to them. and eventually he started taking them into sheds, places that were far away from the city, and there he really abused them cut them burned them and sexually mutilated them. the city didn't really want to deal with that. it was a very local story in chelsea until boston realized that something more was going on. "the boston globe" got wind of it and they wrote an article about him. that was published early in 1872. and as soon as that hit, people realized that maybe get
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something more on hand, and even his mother sort of recognized that there was something about the description that people were giving that sounded familiar. she learned that maybe this boy that people didn't know too much about, she had an inkling that it was her own son who was doing the. instead of doing the police, what she did was take the whole family away from charlestown and moved into south boston. she figured maybe away from the environment that they were things would stop. instead what she did was just take the problem away with her because while the abuse stopped in chelsea it started up again in south boston. over there he almost right away he became isolated. he became lonely. children didn't really want to play with them so we started walking the sands of south
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boston, the beaches of south boston, and over there he would come across little children who would have sort of kind of lonely as well and he started abusing them as well. he got away with that for quite a long time until one boy who was not as fragile as the rest of them gave the detectives a clue that really helped them to figure out who was doing this. joseph kennedy was the little boy who told them that he could give them a good description because he recognized this boy, this really tall boy who was doing these things, had a really funny looking little i. and because of that they narrowed down the person that you're looking for if these are looking all over the city the detectives were looking through the schools. they went looking all over and they still didn't find it. jesse pretty much gave himself up. one day while walking home from school he decided that it would
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be fun to walk into a police station just to see what was happening, and the open the door and walked right in. the one person that he saw, the first person that he saw was this little boy that he had just abused committee pointed a finger at him and pretty much he was done. he knew that he had given himself up. he realized that it was too late, and he was arrested and taken to juvenile. at the time the court decided that he was too young to be placed in jail so he was sent to reform school. there was a state reform school at the westborough facility. back then he was supposed to be their up to the age of 18 which was six years. he was only 12 so they realized that perhaps by keeping them there for about six years these tendencies that he had what kind of grow, he would grow out of it
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almost like a disease. he would feel better. that his mother was the only person who really sort of understood him try to take care of him. and she made sure that he wouldn't stay there for too long. she had affairs with the local police commissioners, the local detectives and she made sure that they recommended his release early on. and 16 months after he went and he got out. he was able to leave before it was his due time. so south boston really didn't want him there. they didn't want him in their neighborhood. they knew that something terrible was going to happen, but regardless of that, he came back on. he managed to return, and for about five weeks he did very well. he worked with his brother. he worked with the family, but soon after about a month or so
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a little girl went missing, katie. she was about 10. she was not his usual style, if you will. i mean he usually went out looking for victims. he went out and picked children who were mostly boys. they were small very young. tv was a girl, which was unusual. she was a little bit older. she was 10 and she actually walked into the store where he was working, and she disappeared disappeared. the police managed to look into the store and they couldn't find anything. so they let him go. they didn't do anything to them. they searched the area. they searched the basement but they didn't find anything. until about five weeks later when they found a little boy right on the beach. they found a little mutilated four year old boy dead on the beach. they had an idea that maybe he was involved. he hadn't been too careful about hiding itself early on.
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lots of people on the streets of south boston had seen the little boy going around the bakery with jesse just walking around just parading around the streets so he really wasn't all that careful. and even on the beach where the little boy had died, there were some people that recognized the hat that he was wearing they knew he had been there. so with the description they had and just the home where he lived, and arrested them based on the past that he had an the clues that they have been. they managed to arrest him, and one of the people who arrested him was detected woods, but then this collection i found. and he has all the details wonderful details of the everest, if you can call the wonderful. maybe that's not the right word but a very detailed, gruesome details about the case. so they really looked at him. they connected his past to what
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he had done now. aside from the he had lots of scratches on his body. get lots of blood on the clothing that he was wearing and is the prints matched the footprints that have been found on the sand. so he was done if you will. even though lots of people have gone over that area before they figured that his boots were the ones that matched decisive the ones that were next to the body. so they arrested him and they imprisoned him. there was a huge trial at that time, and lots of people, they didn't really even want the trial but they figured the only way to get rid of jesse, someone like him with the g2 taking to boston common and just kind of hang him, if you will. it was the only reasonable way to get rid of someone like him. there were lots of questions that came up people wanted to know how was it possible that a
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14 year old boy could actually do that? it was unusual in the 1870s to hear about something like this. it was unusual for a child to do what he had done. people didn't really hear too much about it but those people who talked about it wanted to know if maybe he was come he came from a family that was mentally diseased. maybe he liked to really read those dime novels. they were called dime novels back in which were very bloody very gruesome. so maybe people thought those things that influenced his mind. maybe the abuse he had suffered as a boy had influenced what he was doing now. so they tried to find a reason as to why he was doing that. lots of people just thought that he was a horrible, terrible person. he was born that way so there was no reason to give any other explanation. but, of course, the trial was to be had.
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he was given a trial that started on december 8 1874. he was put on trial back then and at the time the city, in the city was the author herman melville come and he followed that while quite a bit. he was interested in madness evil mental illness so he followed that, what was happening to pomeroy. and the physician oliver wendell holmes, he liked to follow it as well. in his mind pomeroy shouldn't be, he didn't have to be placed in jail or killed. he needed to be studied. he figured he wasn't the only child who was doing these things. he was the only one that people have actually heard of so it would've been a very good idea to just study them and figure out if you could learn something from him but people did really agree with him and the jury didn't either because as soon as the trial was done, he was sentenced to die.
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he was sentenced to hang. at the time the governor was the only one who could sign, even though the jury had decided that, the governor had to sign a warrant of execution, and he refused to do that. the governor didn't want the state to be sort of known around the country as a state would execute a 14 year old boy. he felt that he should have that mark on your conscious pick the state should have that stand and they don't have the state who would execute a 14 euro but that he refused to do that for well over a year. jesse was placed in the jail. right now the place is the liberty hotel right next to mass. general. so that what has become a very fancy hotel. back then it was the local jail. but he stayed there for over a year until the new governor came
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on, and he decided that it would be very kind of him not to execute him but to actually place of jesse in jail for life not onto place and, therefore, life but in solitary confinement. so he felt that this would be the only thing that would be kind enough for him to do. so jesse became one of the youngest people to be placed in a state prison in solitary confinement at the age of 16. he ended up staying there for over four decades, and he didn't get out from solitary until well, 43 years had passed. so he became only the second person in the country to spend that stretch of a time in solitary confinement. surprisingly enough he did very well. most people in solitary confinement committed suicide. they died after only about a week or so.
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he thrived. he actually liked it. he learned half a dozen languages. he had a chance to read a lot. he tried to escape the least a half a dozen times. probably even more than that but he was not very lucky in that sense because he managed to get out of jail but somewhere or another he was always count. a couple of times a cat gave him away. as soon as he got out from his cell he would have the little kittens that belong to one of the guards and it would just start meowing and people would be alerted that he'd been out of the cell. so we didn't come it was not because he didn't try hard enough, just, if you will luck was not at his side. i.t. tried it many, many times. in 1929 when he was 69 years old at the state he said he'd spent too many years in the state
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prison, and did become insane. he really wasn't. he had never been in sync, but they decided that he become too old to stay the. they transferred him to the bridgewater state hospital which is still in existence today. he was there for about two years, and even though he was close to 70 come he was still pretty crafty. he tried to escape a handful of times as well. no one knows where he was going because if he had been out of prison people would've killed him for sure. nobody wanted him around. but in 1932 he passed away of a very common disease to he just died of heart attack nothing more exciting than that, if you will. he just died. and by the time he died everybody else that he had known, james woods the cops who had arrested him they all
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passed away. he was sort of the last link to the 1870s. and those who were left behind tried very hard to forget about him. if you read the details of the 1870s up until the 1930s, very few people knew about him. very few people who wrote about that time period wrote about jesse. it was mostly because the city did really want to know too much, they didn't want to the outsiders to know that someone like jesse had really existed in the city. he was a stain, if you will. he was someone that you should remember. but you can still learn quite a bit if you look through the papers and the archives and information that you have on hand. so that's sort of in a nutshell jesse pomeroy's saga in a very abbreviated sort of way. a book is much longer, of
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course. there are a lot more details than that. i forgive you the cliff notes version of it. questions? >> i have a couple of questions. the first is, when you were doing research on him and his psychology, did you come across anything like, was this a case where he was were just a bad seed from the beginning? obviously the abuse that you described that he experienced and the bowling was part of it but whether other things that you found about his psychological makeup? >> he was born, just like up until the age of six or seven there was really nothing terribly wrong with them. he had an older brother who experienced pretty much the same home life that he did. he also was punished quite a bit from their father but as far as the jessica the only difference was that he was born looking a little bit different. so he paid for that if you
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will. children in his school, as soon as he went to elementary school, they started picking on him quite a bit to they started abusing them a lot especially the older children who were there. he experienced quite a few beatings on a daily basis. so i think that had a lot to do with it. his father also like to strip him naked from head to toe and really beat them up on a daily basis as well. so that didn't help his psychology at all. so a lot of what was done to him, if you look at the cases of what he did two other children, they are the same thing. it's not surprising that he liked to strip children and beat them up with about or you know, whatever was used on him, he used on others as well. he was just repeating a lot of what he experienced. >> and my other question is that there's been this sort of renaissance right now in true crime stories.
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there's this double cereal craze right now people are talking about the james, a series that was on hbo. do you sort of see your book situated in that anyone? >> i only saw one episode of james, so i haven't seen the whole thing. i think a professor with a true crime. they like to know what goes on in people's minds, or at least you like to guess. we like to think we would do things differently in that situation. we like to feel i would never do something like that and, of course, we would have had to expect anything like that, but we are detached on that as well. ..
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she was not the most -- i hate to use the word, but pleasant. she was kind of unpleasant women. she did my people as well so she didn't have the greatest support system. she didn't know anyone to turn to your also, people didn't know too much about children who killed. today you hear about them unfortunately. on anonymous daily basis. back then she had no clue what she was dealing with. this was her son. this was her baby. people were accusing him, making
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fun of him, so she tried to protect his. i think she felt guilty that she couldn't do anything more. she did the -- you could. or should try to do the best you could. >> given his age it seems he had a rather inconsistent methodology at the beginning with his beatings. do you believe if he would've continued before he had gotten caught that it would've been working to send development similar to rather see real killers? >> it was not as inconsistent as you think you're the children he abused early on. started off almost by chance. he picked up lunch, brought into a little shed, gave him a couple of slaps and moved away. the second time he stripped him a little bit and cut him a little bit and moved away again. the third time he really tied him up. by the ninth child he had tied
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the knot to a poll stripped completely, cut, almost. by the time he got to boston the little girl that he killed, td, he killed her and buried her in the cellar of the house. he managed to cover her up. they have done unspeakable things to them. it was horrifying to read how far he had grown. so there is no denying. he got caught because he was so young. he went in thinking about hiding or trying to get away with the. >> and also i was going to ask with his early mutilation of animals and such do you believe
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any sort of antisocial personality disorder profile could've also -- >> he started by killing a cat very early on and also his mother had urged that she kept in her house. after about a week she found him dead in the cage. those were gone. if you read about profiles, one of the first signs you have antisocial behavior would the killing animals, not having any friends, not feeling very for your neighbors. you can go down the list. jesse had those and probably more. he was your classic psychopath if you will. yes. >> was there any history what became of the victims he used? it seems like something we consider a modern time. back in that era they might not have had social skills. >> they testified before he was
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sent to reform skill. that was the only detail you could find about him. people felt a little bit of shame for what was done. the parents of the victims didn't want their children to be exposed any more than was necessary. they testified for just a little bit. he pointed as the one who committed atrocities on them. nothing was left. no indication of what happened to them afterwards. none whatsoever. >> thank you. today you would know life beyond that. >> i am not sure if you birdie run into this or not. you don't have to harp on it but where did she do most of your research and what was the method and how long did it take? >> i actually found a colonel at the idea out here at harvard university online collection and
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materials that belong to one of the gtech is to work on the case. james woods was sort of the one that went after him that connected him to the cases in chelsea. if you look in his files he was one of the earliest detectives in boston and he was the first detective who opened up the agency in new england. his files stand in the 1860s to 1933. his son took over the agency as well. you have probably thousands of volumes. this was the one that really stuck with him the mouse because he said he's never seen anyone as vicious and as young as he was. so that collection was the first one that i looked at. also come in the state archives have all of the trial record all the information as well. the state house has a lot of material. bridgwater later on.
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state reform schools nowadays is called the lie land school for boys. change its name. and in boston to bpl. they have thousands of articles about him. at the time boston hide 250 newspapers and magazines and it was a good time to be a journalist that then. you can find thousands of articles. took me about three years to collect everything. >> after the fire that destroyed the city do you go into that anymore or is it really the backdrop of jesse story? >> it is mostly the backdrop. by the time the fire happened in 1872. people tend to know a little bit more about the fire that happened in chicago in 187110 to
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be the most famous kind of countrywide fire. the boston fire is not well known. the person dealing not with the cheese in the city. when the fire took place in sort of parallel in chelsea. they have been pretty much destroyed from the downtown area all the way down to the waterfront. the city was busy trying to rebuild. they have been in a poor section of the city. people didn't pay too much attention to children going missing and were children being abused by other children.
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for places to work. it was more important to get back city and kind of get the economy started up again. it was easy for him to do what he did. no one paid attention. >> you also mentioned some people wanted to study just need to figure out why. he ended up not being executed and living so much longer. did anyone else get the chance to talk with? >> you had a couple of doctors who tried very hard to study him. the occasional doctors when entering the trial period to figure out what to do with him. he was imprisoned for over 50 years. you would think they would have more of a point to study him. he had the occasional doctor who went after him. he


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