New Book Will Fully Explore 1873 Smuttynose Island Ax Murders
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
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March 5 is my wife's birthday. It is also the 140th anniversary of the 1873 ax murders on the Isles of Shoals. That's especially weird since my wife and I are summer stewards on Smuttynose Island. We stay in the old Haley Cottage about 10 feet from where the "murder house" once stood. And this year, to make things weirder still, I am writing a book on the Smuttynose murders. (Continued below)
The ink is barely dry on the book contract. We're looking at a late 2014 publishing date. My literary agent suggested the idea. The publisher is in New York City. And I'm up to my armpits in dark, scary stuff. So far I have read over 150 newspaper clippings about the murder of Anethe and Karen Christensen who are buried in Portsmouth's South Cemetery. I'm up to my neck in the 350-page transcript of the murder trial of Louis Wagner. It's the tragic tale of a robbery gone bad, but with a twist or two or three. The murders took only a matter of minutes, but I'll be reliving this horrific event, night and day, for an entire year.
So if you have any special insights into this homicide case, now is the time to tell me. My research has tentacled out in a hundred directions. I'm tracking the lawyers in the case, the judge, the jurors, the people who testified at the trial, and more. I'm studying up on the fishing industry in the 1870s. I've been reading up on the way the mechanism worked that opened the floor of the gallows where Wagner was hanged two years later in 1875. I've been to the prison where Wagner was kept. I'm learning more about the type of wooden dory he rowed 10 miles to the Shoals and back. I'm learning how to bait trawls, empanel a jury, and autopsy a body.
MURDER BOOK article continued on next page
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