Diving down rabbit holes: Fledgling 19-teens’ silent film industry proved distracting

Above: “Boy Playwright Shows Talent,” San Antonio Express, July 6, 1913, UNT Libraries, The Portal to Texas History

Seeking the feel of an era when trying to write historic fiction requires time-consuming research, but distracting detours are so seductive and somewhat justified as snippets gleaned slip into the pages you type.

Take Oliver Perry Wilson Bailey (1897-1978), tagged with an ambitious-sounding name. The 1910 Census, when he was but a lad of 12, recorded him as a professional rabbit-raiser living on South Alamo Street, now part of Hemisfair, in San Antonio. By 1913, he was an accomplished screen writer. Yes, the son of a reporter of the San Antonio Express already had sold screenplays to three different companies.

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If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*

*With apologies to William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) for lifting his sentence from “Retrospects and Prospects” and turning his porcupine into an ostrich to suit the Author’s own selfish purposes.

Few people pause to read acknowledgments at the end of a book, so the Author is plucking them out of An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead and plopping them right here, front and center. The Author wants you to understand her lengthy journey and who helped her along the way.

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An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat

There were presumably numerous perks to plunging into an affair with one of the wealthiest men in San Antonio. Having to stand trial for his murder is not one of them.

A true story is the basis for a “truthful” novel – An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead, released today via Amazon Kindle.

In November 1914, Hedda Burgemeister shot Otto Koehler dead in her bungalow on the southside of San Antonio—a cottage that was a gift to her from the victim. A self-made man, the German-born millionaire was president of San Antonio Brewing Association, as in Pearl Beer, and was prominent in civic and social circles. A trained nurse, Hedda was a more recent immigrant from Germany.

Was it murder or self-defense? How could Hedda possibly expect to receive a fair trial when the corpse in her bedroom owned the town—when the shooting was so sensational, it made headlines in newspapers throughout the country? Haunted by nightmares about a recent public hanging, the frightened young woman opts to run. It will be another four years before she voluntarily returns to stand trial.

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