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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:Historical / Civil War Era
  • Language:English
  • Pages:274
  • eBook ISBN:9798350921861
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350921854


by Brian C. Becker, Ph.D.

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Pardonable blends historical facts with an underlying fictional story. These facts, however, are truly stranger than fiction. First, James "Big Jim" Howard was his family's leader in the country's most deadly feud, known as the Baker-Howard feud. Violence from this feud peaked during the last years of the 19th Century in Clay County, Kentucky. In the midst of this feud, Big Jim and Lou follow a bitterly contested campaign for Governor in the Fall of 1899. When the Republican William Taylor wins the vote count over Democrat William Goebel and takes the oath of office as the next Governor, Kentucky Democrats revolt. In the midst of this revolt, both parties expect violence, with armed men looming around Frankfort. On January 30, 1900; William Goebel is shot by an assassin. Goebel succumbs to his wounds, and becomes a martyr. The manhunt for Goebel's assassin is long on political rhetoric, but short on evidence. The authorities indict Big Jim Howard as the assassin. Howard's trial will be conducted by none other than Judge Cantrill. Regarding the second principal fact, during that same Fall of 1899, Lou Bettigole was a 17-year-old college freshman at Yale. A New Haven "townie", Lou had never traveled, but longed for adventure. Pardonable departs from fact into fiction when Lou is recruited by his school newspaper to spend several weeks in Clay County reporting on the Baker-Howard feud. There, Lou and Big Jim form a special bond of friendship. Lou's time in Kentucky gets extended to cover Kentucky's bitterly contested election for Governor. With protests and threats of violence by both parties, Lou finds himself in Kentucky in January witnessing an assassin shooting William Goebel. In the days following the assassination, Lou finally moves back home to Connecticut. But with the arrest of his friend, he finds himself devoting years of his life commuting back and forth to Kentucky to free his friend from prison.
: Lou Bettigole could not believe his good fortune. Recruited to travel the country as a reporter for the school newspaper, Lou was first assigned to cover the 1899 baseball season. For the baseball-loving 17 year-old; an unexpected telegram from New Haven interrupted his dream assignment. The Yale Daily News was now sending him to the country's most dangerous locale, Clay County, Kentucky. Clay County had recently seen a string of one revenge murder after the other, in the long-running Baker-Howard feud. Several blocks away from Lou's hotel in Manchester, Kentucky lived the man at the center of the feud, thirty-three-year-old James "Big Jim" Howard. A stoic, contemplative man; Big Jim had tried to broker a truce between the families. Lou and Big Jim soon met and began to spend time together walking throughout Clay County. The two men felt comfortable opening up to each other, and quickly became the closest of friends. With the feud news waning, the Yale Daily News sent a telegram asking Lou to stay on for a few more weeks to monitor the hotly-contested Kentucky Gubernatorial election between Republican William Taylor and Democrat William Goebel. Several weeks later on election day, Taylor received two thousand more votes than Goebel. That was far from the end of this election, however. Committees met and hearings were held to investigate the voting. Despite the rancor and fighting, Taylor was inaugurated in December. But soon, the Democrats lodged formal protests. In late January, Lou traveled back to the state capital, Frankfort. There, he could feel and see tension in the air with armed men from both parties patrolling the city. On the morning of January 30, Lou left a key at his hotel's front desk for Big Jim Howard who would be arriving on the 10:30AM train. The friends planned to meet in the plaza in front of the State House just after Noon. At 11:15AM, Lou was standing near the State House when he saw a man point a rifle from the third floor of a nearby building. Seconds later, the man fired. The bullet hit William Goebel as he was walking in the plaza. In the chaos that ensued, Lou could not locate Big Jim Howard until late that evening. The two friends spent the next few days together, as Democrat operative Judge James Cantrill swore in William Goebel as Governor on his deathbed. Goebel's untimely death calmed the political fires in Kentucky, however, as Goebel became a martyr in Kentucky. By then, Lou and Big Jim had returned to their respective homes. Lou was finally settling into a routine at home and thinking pensively and what a great experience he had in Kentucky on his walk home from Yale. When he walked into his home, his parents greeted him at the front door with frowns and a telegram from a Kentucky friend. "FRANKFORT POLICE ARRESTED BIG JIM HOWARD AS GOEBEL'S MURDERER. JAMES CANTRILL WILL BE THE JUDGE AT TRIAL. COME QUICKLY!" Lou raced back to Kentucky, as he worried about the fairness of a trial with Judge Cantrill, the appeals process in Kentucky, whether Big Jim's family could survive with him in prison for months or even years, and how long it might take Kentucky to elect a Republican Governor who might consider pardoning Big Jim. It was a lot to take in, even for a "seasoned" eighteen-year-old reporter. Fortunately, The Yale Daily News and the New Haven Register agreed to cover Lou's expenses in exchange for publishing his accounts in the newspapers … and in this book, Pardonable. Note: The characters and main stories from Pardonable are typically accurate to history, including the feud, the election protests, the assassination, and the murder trials. The exception is Lou Bettigole's role in Kentucky. He was a baseball-loving Yale freshman during 1899, but he never traveled to Kentucky as a reporter nor befriended Big Jim Howard. Lou Bettigole was in fact the great-grandfather of the author.
About the author
BRIAN C. BECKER, Ph.D. has worked as an economist in Washington, DC since 1992. With a love of history passed down from his family; Brian has developed a special interest in American history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pardonable represents Brian's second historical novel, following the 2019 publication of Unpardonable. With his wife, Grace, Brian lives in McLean, Virginia.