Galley City by John T. Cullen

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= Lethal Journey =

=  A Novel: True 1892 Crime & Famous Ghost Legend  =

Noir 1892 Period Thriller Novel by John T. Cullen Dramatizes True History


Bookstore Metaphor: Read Half Free/Try-Buy

Dead Move: Kate Morgan and the Haunting Mystery of Coronado. The novel Lethal Journey started out as a dry, hour-by-hour dramatization contained in Dead Move —which is John T. Cullen's scholarly yet entertaining true crime (NONFICTION) analysis. Tons of true crime info at dedicated website Coronado Mystery, including Lottiepedia and lots of background info.

Lethal Journey. Soon, this dry dramatization grew legs and stepped outside of the scholarly analysis, to become a gripping 1892 noir period thriller (novel) in its own right.

JTC: "I wasn't really interested in the famous ghost story so much as I saw the 1892 true crime as a long-standing mystery to solve. My theory is that, if you don't believe in ghosts, the true crime will do just fine for an engaging mystery story. If you do believe in ghosts (and who doesn't have fun with a good ghost story?), then reading Dead Move and Lethal Journey will tell you how she got to be a ghost." The author adds: "My recommendation to readers is: read Lethal Journey first as a fast, thrilling read that explains much about the true crime of 1892. No ghosts involved—strictly true history and cold case crime analysis."


True Crime and Ghost Legend: Beautiful Stranger. The story of the Beautiful Stranger at the Hotel del Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, is arguably the strongest ghost legend in the area. On Thanksgiving Day 1892, a stunning young woman, traveling alone, registered at the Hotel Del under the phony name Lottie A. Bernard. After five days of acting increasingly strangely, she was found dead of a gunshot to the head on the back steps of the hotel, following a literally dark and stormy night of raging wind and ocean waves. Her story was immediately picked up by the Yellow Press of the day, and became a national sensation on the internet of the times: the telegraph. Until I published Dead Move, nobody had a clue who she was, or why she died. Rumors of scandalous affairs with men in high places abounded. The nation was breathless. The death certificate, oddly, has two names on it, and other mysteries abound. Time passed, and she is remembered only as the famous ghost of Room 3327 (originally Room 302) in the Hotel Del.

My Overall Take: I researched this purely as a true crime story, with zero interest in the ghost legend. That said, my position on the ghost legend is neutral. If you don't believe in ghosts, nothing lost—it's an incredible example of how true history is always far more interesting than myths. On the other hand, if you are one of the millions of San Diego/Coronado visitors intrigued by the famous ghost legend, here you can learn how she actually became the ghost in Room 3327 at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Not Kid Stuff. A Young Woman Suffered and Died Here. Over the years, poor Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Wyllie has become a personal matter to me. Most of us relish a good ghost story (myself included) especially at Hallow E'en. This was a living, beautiful young woman with dreams and ambitions, from a poor background. Her memory deserves understanding as a tragic human being, not as a frivolous Hallow E'en spook.

Fallen Woman, Cruel Times. She was a 'fallen woman' in a heartless, inhuman Victorian sense, in that her foreman at the bookbindery in Detroit got her pregnant. He was a rather despicable man with a wife and children, who took her away from Detroit on false pretext to get rid of her so he could resume his lifestyle of gambling, drinking, and womanizing.

This is why you want to read Lethal Journey Somehow, he latched up with a sociopathic grifter named Kate Morgan (right out of a James Cain novel), who tried to use Lizzie in a blackmail scheme against the owner of the fabulous resort Hotel del Coronado in 1892. The scheme went horribly wrong, and Lizzie—deathly ill, betrayed, abandoned, and hopeless—committed suicide by gunshot to the head, on the back steps of the hotel, during the Storm of the Century on a night in November 1892.

Read the novel—then, if you want more detail, read Dead Move (nonfiction analysis based on true, known history). There is so much more to this story, reaching from San Diego to San Francisco, from the West Coast to the White House in Washington D.C., to the doomed royal palace in Honolulu, and to the court of Queen Victoria in London. Lizzie wasn't the only tragic beauty in this tale—read about Crown Princess Victoria Ka'iulani (her mother a Hawai'ian princess, her father a Scottish businessman)… read, read, read! There is no end to this story, which affects the world into modern times.

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Bookstore Metaphor: Read Half Free/Try-Buy. No fuss, no muss, no obligation, no tracking, no cookies, not even a breath mint. Safe and sound at Amazon, where Clocktower Books has been an affiliate for over twenty years. Click the cover to start reading at Galley City.

read free galley onlineRead Lethal Journey online as an HTML Novel (read half = try/buy).

Secrets Hidden In Plain Sight. After retiring from aerospace and computer systems development, I took a part-time job as a shuttle driver at the Hotel Del 2006-2008, and first really studied the case of the Beautiful Stranger. In Dead Move, I was able to construct the first plausible theory in over 120 years. I figured out, in excruciating detail, that the entire matter was a blackmail attempt gone horribly wrong. The owner of the Hotel Del, in 1892, was John Spreckels—one of the wealthiest men in the country, based largely on his father's sugar plantations in Hawai'i. As I see it, a ruthless grifter named Kate Morgan (mistaken for the dead woman) dreamed up this plot, and used a young, 'ruined' shop girl from Detroit named Lizzie Wyllie to threaten Spreckels. Also in the plot was John Longfield, Lizzie's factory foreman. What Kate probably didn't realize was that, at that moment, John Spreckels was in the White House with old family friend President Benjamin Harrison, negotiating desperately against a Republican-corporate takeover of Hawai'i. Spreckels could not afford a breath of scandal, so his agents in San Diego created a massive coverup that has endured to modern times. The facts are all there, hidden in plain sight if one will study a little true history and ponder on it.

Noir Thriller, Based on True Analysis. Lizzie Wyllie, the Beautiful Stranger (in contradiction to traditional stories that the B.S. was Kate Morgan) died a sad and lonely death. She is the quintessential Victorian Fallen Angel come to life. It is truly a woman's story, and our hearts ache for the poor girl. Now, in Lethal Journey, I have dramatized the entire, heart-rending truth that does not require slogging through over a hundred footnotes and intricately detailed analysis. As people often say about my fiction: "I can already see the movie." I'm thinking of modern movies like The Illusionist and The Prestige set in the late 1800s, or gaslamp era.

Coronado Mystery: Visit the dedicated website for lots of detailed info. Stay tuned at Galley City (here) for upcoming sample reading (HTML Novel first half) of Lethal Journey. In the early 2000s, I became an Active Member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) after submitting copies of this novel. Clocktower Books became a Recognized ITW Publisher (no submissions currently, please).