Thursday, April 4, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway - Velvalee Dickinson: The "Doll Woman" Spy by Barbara Casey

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Velvalee Dickinson - The "Doll Woman" Spy by Barbara Casey. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as a guest post. There's also a tour wide giveaway. Check out the rest of the stops on the tour here for more guest posts, excerpts, reviews, interviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: Velvalee Dickinson - The "Doll Woman" Spy
Author: Barbara Casey
Genre: Biography. True Crime
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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, 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.
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EXCERPT:
As the country absorbed the shock of the bombing at Pearl Harbor and tried to adjust to the new and difficult reality of rationing and travel restrictions while tearfully watching their loved ones depart for war zones in places unknown, the “Doll Woman,” Velvalee Dickinson, continued sending out her chatty, gossipy correspondence to her clientele and other doll enthusiasts.

One letter about dolls, however, posted from New York and sent to SeƱora Ines de Molinali in Argentina, was intercepted by wartime censors because of its unusual and somewhat confusing contents, as well as incorrect postage. The letter, dated January 27, 1942, was brought to the Bureau’s attention in February 1942. Purportedly written by Maud Bowman of Portland, Oregon, the letter mentioned a “wonderful doll hospital” where the writer had left her three “Old English dolls” for repairs. Also mentioned in the letter were “fishing nets” and “balloons.”

If dolls were somehow being used to assist the enemy, it wouldn’t be the first time. During the American Civil War, contraband, medical supplies, and messages were smuggled across the Northern lines inside the hollow interiors of dolls carried in the protective arms of little girls. More recently, smugglers from the United States concealed amphetamines inside small, soft “Minion” dolls and shipped them to Israel.

FBI cryptographers, and in particular C.A. Appel, examined the letter and eventually concluded that it was likely the “dolls” in question were possibly three warships and the “doll hospital” was a West Coast-based shipyard where repairs were made. They also speculated that the “fishing nets” referred to an aircraft carrier with antitorpedo netting on its sides, the “wooden doll” was an older battleship, and the “little boy” was a destroyer. “Balloons” mentioned in the letter probably disclosed information about coastal defenses and other critical information on the West Coast.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, as well as book-length works of nonfiction, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Her nonfiction true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly, has been optioned for a major film and television series. Her nonfiction book, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, is under contract for a major film. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency. Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan.

In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband, and three pets who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

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GUEST POST:
If you could spy on any person or company and not get caught, who would it be and why?

Thank you for your interest in my latest nonfiction book, Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy. It is interesting that you ask me about spying since the true story of Velvalee is about spying for the enemy.

Velvalee 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’s crime was based on greed. She never felt remorse, nor did she apologize to the U.S. Government. I don’t think she realized the seriousness of her actions.

If I were going to spy, it wouldn’t be based on greed. Rather, it would be for the sake of curiosity. For example, I would love to be in the room when President Trump meets privately with Xi JinPing, the president of the People’s Republic of China. Or, to be able to listen to the private conversations of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. The nation is in such a state of conflict right now, and politics plays an important role in day-to-day events.

Going back in time to another country and another era, I would have enjoyed listening to the Royal discussions when Edward abdicated the thrown. Can you imagine that conversation? “Hey, guys, I don’t want to be King. I am going to marry an American woman who has been divorced twice.”

Of course, over time, more and more of these things are revealed. But it would be fun to be present at that moment in time.

Thank you again for your interest.
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GIVEAWAY:
Barbara Casey will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. Be sure to leave a comment at a different blog stop each day to increase your chance of winning. A list of participating blogs can be found here. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

69 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this book with us. I think we all enjoy reading about new books we previously didn't know about. Also, thank you for the giveaway.

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    1. Thank you, James. I am so glad you are following my tour.

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  2. All the Ups and Downs - I am so happy to be here today and be able to spend time with you and your bloggers. Thank you for hosting me and for your interest in my latest book.

    ~ Barbara

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful read! Thank you for the giveaway!

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  4. Thank you for stopping by, Maria. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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  5. You are welcome. I hope you enjoy reading about my latest book.

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  6. Fantastic sounding book! I would love to read this one!

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    1. Thank you, Amy. I hope you get a chance to read it. I appreciate your comment.

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  7. Sounds like an interesting book. I love True Crime.

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    1. When I first started my research on Velvalee, I knew nothing about doll collecting. That was what she used for her coded messages. It really is a fascinating story. Thank you for stopping by.

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    1. I am so glad that you do. The dolls positioned on the cover were some that were in Velvalee’s massive collection. Thank you for your comment.

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  9. Hi, Barbara. As an author of both fiction and non-fiction novels, which do you enjoy writing more? Has any of the research that you've done for your non-fiction titles influenced your ideas for your fiction stories?

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    1. That is such an interesting question! I really enjoy letting my imagination run loose, which I can do when writing novels. But I must say, I really enjoy doing research on a little-known subject. It is a challenge, but so rewarding. So far, none of my nonfiction books have influenced my fiction.

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  10. This sounds like an interesting book, thanks for the chance!

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  11. Sounds fascinating! Thank you for hosting.

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  12. It sounds like a very interesting book.

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    1. Thank you, Jessy. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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  13. Sounds like a great read love this cover.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. The dolls displayed on the cover were dolls that Velvalee had in her enormous collection of thousands of dolls.

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  14. I’m truly looking for forward to getting my hands on this book! It sounds great,

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    1. Thank you so much, Renee. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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  15. This book sounds like a very intriguing read.

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    1. Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate your comment.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy. I was drawn to the background as well. It looks like an antique satin.

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  17. Oh this sounds so good. True Crime stories are one of my favorites! Lots of twists and turns! Barbara Casey is a new author for me!

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it. Thank you so much for your comment.

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  18. For the author: where do you get your ideas for your stories.

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    1. Hi Darlene. For nonfiction I tend to look at interesting and strong women who have somehow strayed off the "normal" path. I try to understand their motivations for the crimes they have committed. I also try to find subjects who aren't that well known so that I can introduce new stories to my readers. Fiction is totally different. My ideas for novels might come from a single line of poetry, or perhaps a story from my family that I can embellish. Each novel seems to be inspired by something unique. Thank you so much for your question.

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  19. I'm looking forward to reading this one!

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    1. Thank you, Victoria. You have followed me on other tours, and I appreciate your interest.

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  20. The book sounds interesting, thanks.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it. Thank you for commenting.

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  22. True crime reads are my ultimate favorite genre. I plan on reading this one and hopefully soon.

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  23. thank you for your giveaway

    tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

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  24. Awesome book! Love the authors mind set!

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    1. I appreciate that. Thank you for stopping by.

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  25. I don't remember reading about Japanese spies in history class. Thanks for the informative book.

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    1. Velvalee was the only US woman spy who managed to give US military information to the Imperial Government of Japan. Remarkable!

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  26. Question for the author is... How long does it take you to write a book?

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    1. It depends on whether it is fiction I am writing or nonfiction. For nonfiction, I spend a good 6 months doing research--sometimes longer if I am waiting on information from the FBI or some other source. Once I have my research completed, I can usually complete the book in 2 or 3 months. Writing novels is different. I still do research for the things I bring out in my stories, but I can usually write a novel in about 5 months. Thank you for the question.

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  27. Question for the author ..... How long on average does it take you to write a book?

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  28. This is absolutely on my to read list

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    1. Thank you, Ashley. I am so glad it interests you.

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  29. What’s the best way to market your books?

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    1. I always budget a certain amount for the marketing of my books. I really enjoy one-on-one contact with my readers, so I schedule a few speaking engagements at writers' conferences and book events. My time for these is pretty limited, however, so I have found that virtual tours such as what GoddessFish provides is enjoyable and productive. I do a lot of radio interviews and guest appearances, and my publishers and distributors do a lot of marketing on their end. Somehow it all seems to fit together.

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  30. What does your family think of your writing?

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    1. My two daughters are grown and on their own, but very proud. My husband, dog, and two cats are all very supportive. For me, it isn't just a job--it is a passion. Thank you for asking.

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  31. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

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    1. Writing nonfiction and fiction is so different. It is critical in nonfiction for it to be well researched, well written with an entertaining and compelling story. Probably one of the most important elements is that it be something new; not something that has already been written about repeatedly. When writing fiction, imagination plays a key role along with strong, interesting characters, a believable story line, with fun and unanticipated elements of surprise.

      Great question. Thank you for asking.

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  32. I am fascinated by both biographies and true crime; the amount of research authors must do is inspiring. This is a new to me historical figure as well. Love learning new things.

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  33. I am so glad you stopped by and commented, Michelle. I hope you get a chance to read my book about Velvalee. She was quite an interesting character.

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  34. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

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    1. I do a lot of advance research until I find something or someone I am really interested in. It has to be an idea that hasn't already been written about or something unfamiliar. That makes writing about it more challenging, but it also makes it more rewarding. Thank you for stopping by and for your question.

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  35. I am so looking forward to reading this. Dolls and female spies...I am hooked.

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    1. I am glad you are hooked, Audrey. It is an interesting story, and I hope you enjoy reading my book about Velvalee.

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  36. sounds like a fun one

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    1. A serious crime committed against the United States Government, coupled with a woman who not only collected dolls but used them to assist her in spying. This is certainly an unusual take on what we normally think of a spy. Thank you for your comment.

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