higdonHow to get away with the perfect murder is one of those bull session perennials, a topic of unending fascination. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, a pair of University of Chicago students, took the matter a little too seriously. Convinced their intellectual superiority as Nietzschean supermen gave them not just the means but the right to commit murder, the pair killed Robert Franks, a friend of Loeb’s in the Kenwood neighborhood. The crime was planned in great detail, with a cover-up as intricate as the murder itself.

Except Leopold left his eyeglasses at the crime scene.

The Leopold and Loeb case remains a much-studied piece of criminal and Chicago history. Tony-award winning playwright John Logan penned Never the Sinner, a courtroom drama about the case that’s playing right now at Victory Gardens in Chicago. Tonight, PBS’s series The American Experience airs an episode on the case.

UIP publishes one of the more acclaimed examinations of the Leopold and Loeb crime and trial. Hal Higdon‘s Leopold and Loeb: The Crime of the Century digs up secret testimony and a host of unanswered questions surrounding Franks’ murder. Separating fact from myth, Higdon unravels the crime, the investigation, and the trial—a media spectacle that saw Leopold and Loeb defended by none other than Clarence Darrow, the era’s most famous attorney. Higdon’s razor sharp account of their chilling act, their subsequent celebrity, and their ultimate emergence as folk heroes resonates unnervingly in our own violent time.

CorzineF15Nathan Michael Corzine is an instructor in history at Coastal Carolina Community College. He recently answered some questions about his book Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball.

Q: Are there any surprises when it comes to the examination of drug use in Major League Baseball? Is it somehow more common for ballplayers than other types of lines of work?

Nathan Michael Corzine: Yes, there are always some surprises. Of course, the initial surprise – although this is fairly well known now – is the way some older players, long retired, admit that had they been given the opportunity to use modern performance enhancers, they would have done so. I think it speaks to the eternal athletic search for an “edge” (or perhaps, in our high-pressure modern sports, something to take the “edge” off) that is part of not only professional sports, but a great many professions far from the playing field.

That said, I don’t think it is necessarily more common for ballplayers. I suspect, and most numbers that I’ve seen, would suggest that ballplayers use/abuse drugs at about the same rate as society more broadly. Today the debate centers on drugs like Adderall, ephedrine (used to deal with asthmatic problems), and other mainstream drugs used by a diverse range of people – students cramming for a test, tired office clerks, Wall Street stock jobbers, and athletes from the amateur ranks to the professional.

Q: Many people know that ballplayers have been known to indulge in substance abuse throughout the game’s history; the hard-partying tales of Babe Ruth come to mind. But how far back does the use of drugs for performance enhancing purposes go back in baseball’s history?

Corzine: I think, to some degree, it probably goes back to the beginning of, at least, the professional game. Considering that the notion of performance enhancement is as old as sport. Think of the Greeks and Romans ingesting “horn powder.” It was common in many popular sports of the 19th century (cycling), and we know pitcher Pud Galvin experimented with a famous testosterone cocktail, we can probably be sure that baseball, even in the beginning, was not immune to the temptation of artificial enhancement.

The intention to enhance performance (by any means necessary) was certainly there, misguided though it might have been. Consider the stories of Pete Browning, or Mickey Welch, and a host of others, who that thought their alcoholic intake would enhance their performance (or was actually required to perform at all). The more contemporary example of Josh Hamilton suggests the pervasive sense that tobacco use was also part and parcel of performance – when a player quit using, his performance dropped.

Q: Was there an era when did cocaine became more common in MLB club houses?

Corzine: Much like the broader culture the game reflects, the cocaine blizzard swept into clubhouses in the 1970s. That is when the foundations of a broad, troubling, network of acquisition, use, and abuse became linked to the game. All of the signs, and frankly most of the knowledge about cocaine, were there well before the attitudinal shifts in the 1980s when broader governmental awareness and increased focus on the problem coincided with the exposure of the sports world’s connections to the drug.

risseTo judge when an emerging pathogen enters the historical record, we look to medical journals and the Centers for Disease Control.

To judge when an emerging pathogen enters the zeitgiest, we look to panicked news reports and conspiracy theorists on the Internet.

By that measure, then, the Zika virus has gone mainstream. Not as an epidemic, mind you, but as an idea, a delivery system for fear.

The new UIP title Driven by Fear, by acclaimed historian of  public health Guenter B. Risse, shows that people have turned disease outbreaks to social and political ends for a long time. Emotions, not surprisingly, play a huge role. San Franciscans turned their house of pestilence—the facility where they isolated victims of plague, syphilis, leprosy, and smallpox—into far more than an instrument of public health. The pesthouse became a dry cell powering the human need to stigmatize, emotional states like xenophobia and racism, and a widespread dread and disgust with the sick in general and the Chinese sick in particular.

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The Zika virus. It’s making headlines and provoking anxieties. A disease-causing pathogen carried by Aedes mosquitoes—the culprits behind yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya, among other ills—Zika was isolated in Uganda in the 1940s. Mosquitoes being mosquitoes, and humans having the habit of helping the insects breed and spread, Zika charged east across Micronesia and the Pacific. Recent reports of outbreaks center on Brazil, but the Centers for Disease Control have tracked it to several countries in Central and South America.

Disease and related subjects hold a prominent place on the UIP backlist and, for that matter, our roster of new releases. Below we present a few works to inoculate you with the invincible vaccine of knowledge.

duffyThe Sanitarians: A History of American Public Health, by John Duffy
The first modern history of public health services in the United States, The Sanitarians traces the evolution of the field from the late 1700s to the present. John Duffy, one of the leading authorities on American medical history and public health, provides a panoramic view, skillfully detailing how services have evolved to fit into the broader framework of American social, political, and economic change.

Starting with the 1793 yellow fever outbreaks, Duffy traces how urban growth led to the establishment of permanent health agencies as a means of coping with increasing health and sanitary problems. With the discovery of the role of bacteria, public health departments virtually eliminated major contagious diseases in the first half of the twentieth century. That immense task finished, they shifting their focus from sanitation and infection to organic disorders, environmental conditions, and other problems inherent to advanced industrial societies.

savittMedicine and Slavery: The Diseases and Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia, by Todd L. Savitt
Prey to brutal treatment, inadequate housing and sanitation, and poor diets, Virginia’s slave population had a distinctive medical profile that included sickle-cell anemia, lactose intolerance, and tuberculosis. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive study of its kind, Medicine and Slavery offers valuable insight into the alleged medical differences between whites and blacks that translated as racial inferiority and were used to justify slavery and discrimination. Todd L. Savitt evaluates the diet, hygiene, clothing, and living and working conditions of antebellum African Americans, slave and free, and analyzes the diseases and health conditions that afflicted them in urban areas, at industrial sites, and on plantations.

Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine: Ancient Sources, Translations, and Modern Medical Analyses, translated and with commentary by JoAnn Scurlock and Burton R. Andersen
Going way back, this fascinating volume makes readable the pathbreaking medical contributions of the early Mesopotamians. Cuneiformist JoAnn Scurlock and medical expert Burton R. Andersen combine their talents to survey this collected corpus and discern magic from experimental medicine in Ashur, Babylon, and Nineveh. Diagnoses in Assyrian and Babylonian Medicine is the first systematic study of all the available texts. Together, they reveal a level of medical knowledge not matched again until the nineteenth century BCE. Practitioners in these nations developed tests, prepared drugs, and encouraged public sanitation. Their careful observation and recording of data resulted in a description of symptoms so precise as to enable modern identification of numerous diseases and afflictions.

Lucander photoDavid Lucander, author Winning the War for Democracy: The March on Washington Movement, 1941-1946, was recognized by the African American Historical Society of Rockland County (NY) with this year’s Griot Award.

The award is given “for outstanding contributions in transmitting African American history across generations.”

Winning the War for Democracy details the efforts of grassroots organizers to implement the March on Washington Movement’s (MOWM) program of empowering African Americans via meetings and marches at defense plants and government buildings.

In the book, Lucander looks beyond the man most closely associated with MOWM, charismatic civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, and places a focus on the organization’s efforts at the local level.

Winning the War for Democracy is also the winner of the 2015 Missouri History Book Award, given by the State Historical Society of Missouri.


You’ve heard some version of the rumors by now. Amazon, online giga-retailer to us all, intends to open brick-and-mortar bookstores that may or may not expand upon the ideas found in the Seattle bookstore it opened in 2015. (That is, offering book prices that match the big, big discounts on the website.) Numerous media sources quote a figure of 300-400 new stores, though all the stories add the caveat no one has any firm idea on numbers. In fact, the “300-400″ being thrown around seems to come from a single source in the mall operator industry. That’s less than rock solid evidence.

Still, humanity has to refill the Internet with something each morning, and everyone’s in on speculation about the potential of Amazon landing in hundreds of retail corridors.

Wiser or at least more thoughtful minds seem to have reach a shaky consensus in the last twelve hours: these retail outlets will in fact merely front a system of warehouses that will help Amazon distribute its products and cut the billion dollars or so in shipping costs it must pay each year to FedEx, UPS, and the like. Some people have also proposed that the sites will serve as hubs for Amazon’s fleet of delivery drones.

Very interesting.

Roger Cardinal coined the term outsider art in 1972 as an English-language parallel to art brut, the raw art or rough art Jean Dubuffet described earlier. Britannica defines it thus: “Any work of art produced by an untrained idiosyncratic artist who is typically unconnected to the conventional art world, not by choice but by circumstance.”

Henry Darger created a 15,145-page fantasy novel supplemented with about 300 pieces of visual art. Filmmaker Jessica Yu made the acclaimed documentary In the Realms of the Unreal about Darger and his magnum opus. Darger also features in the now out of print UIP book Self-taught & Outsider Art: The Anthony Petullo Collection. Unconventional art, meanwhile, continues to grow in popularity and critical esteem, a laudably democratizing impulse.

University and small presses have a long commitment to unconventional artists. Indeed, providing an outlet for the unconventional—whether in art, thought, or outlook—is a big part of what makes such publishers essential.

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exploring the moonWe like science fiction. We admire science fiction. We always stay on the lookout for more scholarly work on science fiction. Behold! Over the weekend a new journal hit the stands. Published by the work-in-progress Museum of Science Fiction (location: Earth), the inaugural issue of the MOSF Journal of Science Fiction is available for free download. Strap in to expand your mind on a variety of fascinating topics including Hindu gods in three SF novels, loving the Other in SF by women, and Imperialism and Assemblage theory in Frank Herbert’s all-time classic Dune.

Veronica Hollinger, co-editor of Science Fiction Studies, provides a letter to the editor on her relationship to the field. She begins:

As a longtime science fiction reader, I no longer have much interest in novels of psychological realism. Realist novels tend to treat the world as a background to the foreground of individual character development and conflict. The world of such novels is a given and, therefore, requires very little attention except insofar as it impacts the characters who are central to its particular plots. In science fiction, the world itself is foregrounded and the characters are embedded in the world—whether that world is a future earth, some other planet, or the whole of the universe. Psychological realism magnifies the specifics of the individual psyche, while science fiction is the genre of the zoom-out.

Blurb. It sounds like an onomatopoeia for a noise made by infant humans. In publishing, though, the blurb—i.e. a quote on the cover praising the book—figures mightily in the marketing process. Why? Because over a century of mass market advertising has taught us that a testimonial from the knowledgeable, or better yet the famous, will convince the American consumer to buy anything. No judgment: who among us can resist buying a Seagram’s Wine Cooler or going into paralyzing credit card debt when the prospect is thrown at us by a celebrity?

Bread Sculpture 1In the academic publishing business, the famous/knowledgeable divide often comes into play. The Grail of the endorsement trade, its Starbucks-for-Life card, is the Celebrity Blurber, for the reasons mentioned above. Knowledgeable, while perhaps less sexy, is easier to find. Even an obscure field of study attracts its share of scholars. These experts offer a reliable pool of “blurbers,” to use the insider jargon, that a marketing department can contact for a project. Topics with mainstream appeal, not surprisingly, provide more options: established authors and that handful of intellectuals actually familiar to a segment of the public.

Like canines and jilted lovers, we in the publishing game are pleased with any praise whatsoever. When a blurber comes back at us with a comment like, “An absolutely essential re-evaluation of [academic topic] that also guarantees weight loss,” it makes our jobs very easy, assuming we spell all the words correctly.

We acquire blurbs in a number of ways, but three methods predominate: (1) taking praise from reports submitted by scholars and other experts who reviewed the book in manuscript form; (2) contacting names on a list of potential blurbers supplied by the author; (3) doing research ourselves on potential endorsers and emailing/calling those people. All work. All fail. It’s up to the individual we solicit.

Keep in mind, though: often their personal relationship to the author determines whether or not they help.

As an author, you can get a head start by sucking up to famous academics while still an undergrad. Read the professor’s book. Take her/his independent study section. By all means, ask her/him to be your faculty adviser when you move on to graduate school. If you do admirable work, particularly as a researcher for one of her/his projects, she/he will remember you, and not in the same way she/he will remember you if you burn down their lab.

I know. It sounds venal. It sounds shallow. It sounds anti-intellectual. It is, frankly, all of these things. But the world runs on rules that, while absurd, are also beyond challenge. The UIP just wants to help you navigate these ridiculous seas.

At some point in your studies, you’ll realize you want to enter Academia. Why not? It’s a proud tradition and in the unlikely event you get tenure you’ll probably get health and dental, and that’s not happening with a lot of jobs these days. Therefore, you may need to put out a book at some point—publish or perish, etc. Why not guarantee its success by cultivating a professional network?

And if you want to aim higher, say a residency on NPR or a part in a Matrix film, we can only go back to the beginning of this post: the more famous the blurber, the better. Become friends with a notable person or persons. Even a well-known racehorse is fine. Better yet, become relatives. As long as the person pretends to have read the book, they don’t have to actually open it. No kidding. We can’t afford a department that verifies that sort of thing. So, if your only famous cousin is a dumb celebrity or racehorse, you’re still golden.

ParksS15Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, edited by Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, has won the Best Edited Collection Award for 2015-2016, awarded by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS).

The award is given to honor an “outstanding example of newly edited work involving the insights of an editor or co-editor in bringing together the best work of multiple scholars in a single volume.

This award is also meant to encourage new scholarship that reflects upon the traditions of collaboration and diverse perspectives in our field.” The award will be presented at the 2016 SCMS Conference in Atlanta, April 1.

Signal Traffic offers an examination of the “media infrastructure” of technological objects, geophysical locations, and material resources that network the world. Contributors include Charles R. Acland, Paul Dourish, Sarah Harris, Jennifer Holt, Shannon Mattern, Toby Miller, Lisa Parks, Christian Sandvig, Nicole Starosielski, Jonathan Sterne, Helga Tawil-Souri, and Patrick Vonderau.

Signal Traffic is a volume in the Geopolitics of Information series.