Between Daylight and Hell is my first book, published in 2016 by Whittles Publishing of Dunbeath in Caithness.
It features individuals who left their native Scotland, moved to America, and disgraced themselves in one way or another. Some were violent or corrupt, others incompetent or drunken. What interested me most was that, in all cases, the ‘crimes’ they committed had become lost in the mists of time. They made headlines at the time but are now forgotten.
The book will hopefully bring these people to justice. They deserve to be remembered for their scandalous and in some cases murderous behaviour.
It was a long time in the making. The research took between six and seven years, and the writing a further year. Between Daylight and Hell truly was a labour of love.
Here are just some of the many encouraging media reviews.
Undiscovered Scotland: Scots Who Left a Stain on American History
Dundee Courier: New book explores the Scots who left a stain on American history
Books From Scotland: Scots Who Left a Stain on American History
Here are some of the unsavoury characters who feature.
David Jack was the man who inspired the title. A notorious land-grabber in California, he was told by a group of squatters whose property he had confiscated that they would ‘suspend his animation between daylight and hell’.
The distinctly odd John Dowie claimed to be a reincarnation of the prophet Elijah. He formed a church that attracted followers from all over America – then he proceeded to fleece his flock to the tune of millions of dollars to line his own pockets. A forerunner of the crooked evangelists of the 20th century.
Mary Garden was arguably the greatest operatic soprano Scotland ever produced. Unfortunately she also proved herself an ungrateful and ungracious diva. She cruelly turned her back on her benefactor who had invested thousands of dollars in nurturing her musical talent, provided her with free bed and board, and paid for her to follow her dream in Paris.
William Dunbar was born into wealth and was a son of the Scottish Enlightenment. He then built up a plantation in America’s deep south and treated his Negro slaves like chattels. In one case he ordered that a female slave have her hand cut off before being hanged.
To my mind William Stewart is the most despicable character in the book. As a member of a Mormon Church militia unit, he took part in the slaughter of a wagon train of men, women and children passing through Utah. One onlooker said Stewart slit the throats of young girls as they begged for mercy.
The blundering incompetence of James Abercrombie cost hundreds of lives at the Battle of Carillon. He was in charge of British forces in North America purely because of his political and family connections, he hid while the soldiers under his charge were mown down, and he fled when it became clear the battle was lost.