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A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nationby Tal Mcthenia
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;Bandgt;andlt;Iandgt;A CASE FOR SOLOMON: BOBBY DUNBAR AND THE KIDNAPPING THAT HAUNTED A NATION andlt;/Iandgt;andlt;/Bandgt;chronicles one of the most celebratedand#8212;and most misunderstoodand#8212;kidnapping cases in American history. In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar, the son of an upper-middle-class Louisiana family, went missing in the swamps. After an eight-month search that electrified the country and destroyed Bobbyand#8217;s parents, the boy was found, filthy and hardly recognizable, in the pinewoods of southern Mississippi. A wandering piano tuner who had been shuttling the child throughout the region by wagon for months was arrested and charged with kidnappingand#8212;a crime that was punishable by death at the time. But when a destitute single mother came forward from North Carolina to claim the boy as andlt;Iandgt;her andlt;/Iandgt;son, not Bobby Dunbar, the case became a high-pitched battle over custodyand#8212;and identityand#8212;that divided the South. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Amid an ever-thickening tangle of suspicion and doubt, two mothers and a father struggled to assert their rightful parenthood over the child, both to the public and to themselves. For two years, lawyers dissected and newspapers sensationalized every aspect of the story. Psychiatrists, physicians, criminologists, and private detectives debated the piano tunerand#8217;s guilt and the boyand#8217;s identity. And all the while the boy himself remained peculiarly guarded on the question of who he was. It took nearly a century, a curiosity that had been passed down through generations, and the science of DNA to discover the truth. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;A Case for Solomon andlt;/Iandgt;is a gripping historical mystery, distilled from a trove of personal and archival research. The story of Bobby Dunbar, fought over by competing New Orleans tabloids, the courts, and the citizenry of two states, offers a case study in yellow journalism, emergent forensic science, and criminal justice in the turn-of-the-century American South. It is a drama of raw poverty and power and an exposand#233; of how that era defined and defended motherhood, childhood, and community. First told in a stunning episode of National Public Radioand#8217;s andlt;Iandgt;This American Life, A Case for Solomon andlt;/Iandgt;chronicles the epic struggle to determine one childand#8217;s identity, along the way probing unsettling questions about the formation of memory, family, and self.
"First reported by McThenia on This American Life and expanded with Dunbar's granddaughter, this thorough examination of the fight over a boy claimed by two grieving mothers is a thoughtful look at the elusiveness of truth and the fluidity of identity. In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar disappeared from a Louisiana swamp, sparking a massive search. But the drama intensified when, eight months later, a boy matching Bobby's description was reported seen with an itinerant piano tuner. When tramp William Walters was found with a boy in neighboring Mississippi, Bobby's father, Percy, couldn't immediately identify the boy as Bobby. But soon the Dunbars' minds were made up and a media frenzy set in. Walters insisted he'd been traveling with the boy, Bruce Anderson, since before Bobby Dunbar vanished. But the Dunbars' high social status and media sway prevailed over the claims of Julia Anderson, a destitute woman and mother who claimed the boy with Walters was her own lost son, Bruce. Walters was eventually convicted of kidnapping. Decades later, Cutright arranged for a DNA test to determine Bobby Dunbar's true identity. It's difficult not to empathize with both sides of this case, as everyone loses something — particularly the child caught in the middle. Agent: ZoÃ« Pagnamenta, ZoÃ« Pagnamenta Agency. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A Case for Solomon tells the spellbinding story of one of the most celebrated kidnapping cases in American history, and a haunting family mystery that took almost a century to solve.
In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar, the son of an upper middle-class Louisiana family, went missing in the swamps. Eight months later, he was miraculously found in the company of a wandering piano-tuner, William Walters, who was arrested and tried for kidnapping. But when Julia Anderson, a destitute single mother, came forward to claim the boy was actually her son, Bruce, the case exploded. Which family did he really belong to?
The boy grew up as Bobby Dunbar and raised a family of his own. In 2000, his granddaughter, coauthor Margaret Dunbar Cutright, began to dig into the legend. After years of research, debate, and a DNA test, the truth finally emerged: her grandfather was Bruce Anderson, who had been legally kidnapped by the Dunbars. For Margaret’s family, it was a wrenching blow. For the descendants of Julia Anderson and William Walters who had known the truth all along, the news brought comfort and vindication.
First told in a stunning episode of Public Radio’s This American Life, A Case for Solomon incorporates family and archival research to weave a unique, gripping drama of family and childhood, class and power. It is the story of an epic struggle to determine one boy’s identity that raises unsettling questions about the formation of self.
The real story of a boy who grew up pretending to be a missing boy called Bobby Dunbar, told by his granddaughter, from THIS AMERICAN LIFE.
About the Author
Tal McThenia researched, reported, and wrote “The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar,” a one-hour radio documentary for the acclaimed public radio series This American Life, which aired in March 2008 and is the focus of this book. In documentary film, Tal was Associate Producer for Out At Work: America Undercover, which aired on HBO, Every Mother’s Son, which aired on PBS’ P.O.V. series, and Signal To Noise: Life With Television, a 3-hour public television series. He has received residencies at the Virginia Playwrights’ Workshop and The MacDowell Colony. Margaret Dunbar Cutright is the granddaughter of Bobby Dunbar, the victim of the kidnapping that is the subject of this book. She grew up with the family legend, that her grandfather was in fact the son of Percy and Lessie Dunbar, kidnapped by a tinker and returned to his biological family. Her research includes comprehensive investigation and analysis of primary sources, including newspapers, family correspondence, and legal documents, as well as extensive and ongoing contact with descendants of Julia Anderson and William Walters, the alleged kidnapper.
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