This is my very first book tour and I was so excited to participate! You can read the synopsis, my thoughts, author bio and interview, and then enter the giveaway at the end of the post! Special thanks to Barbara Casey for allowing me to feature her book and interview her!
Title: Velvalee Dickinson: The Doll Woman Spy
Author: Barbara Casey
Publisher: Strategic Media Press (April 1, 2019)
Length: 171 pages
Genre: True Crime/Historical/Biography
Buy On: Amazon
Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own
Synopsis (from back of book):
Velvalee Dickinson was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from Stanford University, married three times, and then in the early 1930s moved to New York City where she eventually opened her own exclusive doll shop on the prestigious Madison Avenue. It was there that she built her reputation as an expert in rare, antique, and foreign dolls. She traveled extensively around the country lecturing and exhibiting her dolls while building a wealthy clientele that included Hollywood stars, members of high society, politicians, and other collectors.
When medical bills started to accumulate because of her husband’s poor health and business started to fail with the onset of World War II, she accepted the role as a spy for the Imperial Japanese Government. By hiding coded messages in her correspondence about dolls, she was able to pass on to her Japanese contacts critical military information about the US warships. After surveilling Velvalee for over a year, the FBI arrested her and charged her with espionage and violation of censorship laws. She became the first American woman to face the death penalty on charges of spying for a wartime enemy.
Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy is a carefully researched glimpse into the “Doll Woman’s” life as a collector of dolls, and as the highest paid American woman who spied for the Imperial Japanese Government during World War II.
I absolutely love reading historical books! However, I usually prefer reading historical fiction, since many of the historical non-fiction books I have read are not very well-written, and therefore very dry and boring. This was not the case with Velvalee Dickinson: The Doll Woman Spy.
My favorite historical time period to read about is World War II. I will read just about any book that has anything to do with WW II. Surprisingly though, I had never heard of the story of Velvalee Dickinson–in fact I did not even know she had existed–before reading this book, so it was neat to hear about a completely new story and person. Her story was so unbelievable that if it were not for the FBI-proved evidence, I would not have believed it.
I would say that this was on my list of most-readable history books, however, i did think a few parts were a little dry. Overall, though, I would say that it was very readable. I thought Velvalee’s story was unique enough that a movie could be made on her–and I would totally watch it.
I was disappointed on the ending of the book because I think that any person who betrays his/her country should be punished by death. Velvalee Dickinson was charged with espionage and given the death penalty, but somehow it all fell through and she just died peacefully at home of old age. I am not taking off any stars for the ending though because this is a non-fcision book so the author did not choose trhe ending. I believe that the author did an amazing job of writing about this extrordinary story, and I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical books and especially the topic of WW II.
Meet the Author:
Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, established in 1995, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014 Barbara became a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in true crime and other cutting-edge adult nonfiction. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.
Connect with the author: website
How did you discover the story of Velvalee Dickinson?
I was doing research for my book Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly when I discovered that a female American WWII spy was serving time at the same prison as Kathryn Kelly. The spy’s name was Velvalee Dickinson. I was intrigued so made a mental note to learn more about her once I finished my book about Kathryn Kelly.
Where did you get the research for your book?
The research on Velvalee was challenging. To begin with, there are no other books written about her. But at the time of her arrest and trial, newspapers around the world carried the story and I was able to access those. Also, I was given permission to access the FBI Vault files and go through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) for material. The amazing thing I learned through my research was that many people who lived through WWII still remember Velvalee, and I disovered interesting information through those connections.
How long did it take for you to write this book from start to finish?
I spent almost eight months gathering all of my research before I even started to write my book. Once I had the research, however, I knew how I wanted to organize my book so the actual writing and editing took about three months.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
My last three nonfiction books have been about strong, intelligent women who have somehow lost their sense of what is right and wrong. They paid the price, but it was surprising to learn how easily they were able to justify their moral compass toward the negative. It could happen to anyone.
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion? What about your book?
I write both novels and nonfiction. In each case I try to write a story that is entertaining, but also gives the reader something to think about. Velvalee does exactly that. She was a world-renowned doll collector, and that part of her life was fascinating. How she was able to use that to spy against the United States is remarkable.
Do you read a lot? If so, what genres do you most like to read?
I don’t have as much time as I would like to read for pleasure. When I do, I tend to read mysteries, especially those written by authors from Great Britain.
After writing this book, do you feel that this is something we can expect more from you?
Right now I am working on another novel for adults. Once I finish it, I want to turn back to nonfiction. I have already started looking into the background of a new subject. I am superstitious, so I don’t talk about my new projects until they are published, but I think this next nonfiction book will be another amazing story.
Book Tour Schedule:
May 27 – Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
May 28 – Readers Cozy Corner – review / giveaway
May 28 – My Devotional Thoughts – review / giveaway
May 29 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
May 30 – Literary Flits – review / giveaway
May 31 – #redhead.with.book – review / giveaway
June 3 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – review / giveaway
June 3 – Ani’s Books – review / author interview / giveaway
June 4 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review / guest post / giveaway
June 4 – Books for Books – review
June 5 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
June 6 – Readers’ Muse – review / guest post / giveaway
June 7 – Just Reviews – review
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