Shiloh’s Razor

This image of William Shiloh, flanked on one side by Frank Converse and on the other by Edward Green, was created using AI by Gene Sticco, General Director of the Mystic Side Opera Company.

Shiloh and Co.

A poem by John Holland 


What numerous barbers arrive in our town 

They raise their poles and they next take them down

Because there’s no man can successfully go

And hold out his own against Shiloh and Co.;

For who can a razor so tastefully strap,

Or friz up curls on a dignified chap

When Sunday comes around 

Every girl to her beau 

Says, “You’ve been to the sanctum of Shiloh and Co.”

These are the only known images of William Henry Shiloh, pictured above – and possibly below as well in the second photo, standing in front of his establishment at 42 Pleasant Street in Malden, Massachusetts.

Photographer E.C. Swain, whose studio was located next door to Shiloh’s barbershop, captured many views of life in Malden during the 1860’s.

He utilized stereographs where one image was slightly different than a second creating an illusion of depth when viewed together using a stereoscope.

Visore stereoscopico portatile, con messa a fuoco manuale

Swain’s self-portrait.

When I began researching and writing my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank, based on the true crime of the first murder during a bank robbery in American history, my focus was on the bank teller, Frank Converse, the victim of the crime and Postmaster Edward Green, who shot the seventeen-year-old teller and robbed the bank on December 15, 1863. There was abundant source material on each and more than one clear image of both men.

Abel Bodied is a work of fiction but it is based on years of researching newspapers, census records, and genealogy. Because of the coverage of Frank’s murder, dozens of newspapers from as far west as San Francisco and as far east as London reported on the crime and the search for the criminal. Even while tens of thousands were dying on Civil War battlefields on a daily basis, the daylight murder and bank robbery was so shocking, so unexpected – it captivated readers across the divided country.

The first chapter of my novel initially focused on Green’s thoughts as he walked away from the bank after shooting Converse twice and stealing $5000, worth close to $120,000 in today’s money. I continued writing the first draft but was never really satisfied with it. I considered a couple of other ways to start the book but thought I would circle back to it when I was truly content with the novel as a whole. Little did I know then that eight years would pass before it would be published. I continued working on the story – adding details and chapters – but I realized the beginning of the book was vital and I would need to find a way to entice the reader, and more importantly at the time – myself as a writer, so I could discover the motivation to complete a novel.

I did not set out to write a story where William Shiloh played such a prominent role. In the newspaper coverage after the murder, he is barely mentioned. Both the images and the details of the man are obscure. The life of Green was portrayed not just in numerous newspapers but in a twenty-three page pamphlet, “The Life, Character and Career of Edward W. Green, Postmaster of Malden” written by Benjamin Russell in 1864. This was the prime source material I uncovered at the Malden Public Library, built as memorial to Frank Converse by his grieving parents and opened to the public on Frank’s birthday, October 1, 1885, more than two decades after his murder. When I researched other items collected in the library about the crime and studied maps from this era of my hometown, I pondered, “Maybe this will be basis for the novel I always hoped I would one day write!”

I thought this book would be an Edward Green story and, in large part, it still is – but my muse also had other ideas along the way and William Shiloh’s perspective on the crime would soon intrigue me the most as an aspiring author.

After the robbery, Green spent some of the stolen money to sit for his portrait with a photographer in Boston named R.J. Chute. I thought it curious why he would not instead simply visit Swain’s Malden location a short distance across the street from the post office. I had no idea and no way to ever find out the true reason for his decision. Now with smart phones, we take selfies all the time but sitting for a professional photographer during this time was a rare, time-consuming event beyond the reach of many people except the affluent. Green, days after the robbery, possessed enough purloined, expendable cash on hand to splurge on this item of vanity.

The idea came to me to create a scene where Green visits Shiloh to tidy up a bit before taking the train into the city. This provided an opportunity for the barber to pose the question for me to Green about his choice of photographers. With the true answer forever unknown, I would defer to the alchemy of my muse instead.

Any question a character in a novel asks leads to answers, and then hopefully a series of further questions and answers for the writer. This somewhat frivolous question of Green’s choice of photographers led me to the more compelling queries involving complex themes. Shiloh’s barbershop became the setting of an author’s laboratory leading me to explore the subjects of race, class and position in the 1863-1864 town of Malden with the Converse murder as the catalyst to delve into each topic.

My initial inquiry was how would Shiloh react to a man he suspected was the villain entering his shop unexpectedly and sitting in his chair? And then what were his inner thoughts as he held a sharpened straight razor so close under the suspected murderer’s neck? Did he believe Green was aware he had spotted him walking away from the bank before the crime was discovered?

There were tales of black barbers, slaves in the Confederate South, killing white men with a slice of a straight razor. There seems to be some debate of their historical veracity. Whether they were true or not, I placed the rumor in Shiloh’s head with my fiction. In the scene, he portrays a practiced calm demeanor externally but inside he is accessing the situation and contemplating his present and future safety in the presence of the postmaster. The intensity of those fight or flight options before Shiloh were so palpable that they caused me to inhabit the scene myself as I wrote – as if I was a participant instead of just the author conjuring their description.

I thought a man who had already committed murder was dangerous and capable of further bloodshed if he was perceived to be a suspected killer and that William would realize the same as I amped up the barber’s uncertainly and anxiety on the page.

Here is an excerpt from that scene in my novel:

“Was the postmaster suspicious of the knowledge William held of him? The barber contemplated his options. If Edward tried to attack him, he thought he could flee and surely outrun him. Yet if Edward was carrying a gun on his person, perhaps the one recently wielded for the heinous violence at the bank, William feared there could be no escape.”

This was the very first scene I wrote that I experienced the absolute thrill of being a novelist! A shudder ran up my spine as I wrote from Shiloh’s perspective. My thoughts and his thoughts converged as one collective mind. Typing this chapter caused a visceral sensation in me as if I was holding his straight razor myself instead of my laptop.

Feeling momentum, I kept this chapter in the middle of the book and continued to work on the first chapter I was unhappy with periodically as I added scenes and chapters. Yet, when I re-read this chapter once more during my editing process, I was aware it was the best one I had written up until to that point.

So, I moved it to the start of the novel and this solved my first chapter problem with a clean cut and paste of Shiloh’s razor. Eureka! I had my story. It was now not just a book about the killer and the victim – but the witness of the crime as well. This changed the whole novel for I began to write more scenes about Shiloh and his perspective.

I asked myself, who was he? This distant image of a man standing there in the street, proud, conveying dignity in front of his business enticed me to imagine more of who he might have been and how his part in this narrative could develop. If the photo was unclear, his story in my creativity was forming details and coalesced in his character as the sentences and paragraphs shaped my narrative.

The photos of Shiloh, blurry and from a distance, are still the foundation of the man that I decided to make, if not the center of the story, its very conscience. I wanted to know more about William – so taking off my journalist hat and instead wearing my novelist’s hat, I invented the story. I had the template and I could fill in the rest with my imagination. Being a writer can be very powerful. The man and all the other real people in this novel have been dead for well over a century but in my mind’s eye, they were all alive once more and I could connect the dots of their stories within the perimeters of my research any way my muse led me.

Who was he? The historian in me had these images and an odd paragraph here and there in 1864 newspaper reports. Then, there were census records and genealogical background. Learning all I could about him directly, was just the starting point.

The following is my description of his part in the story from the back of my novel and as well as the home page of my website:

William Shiloh was born a free man in Delaware but by the end of the 1850’s, he was not certain he would remain one much longer. He fled north with his growing family to Malden and opened a barbershop, along Pleasant Street, catering to the affluent men in the town. From his windows, William could witness all that transpired in Malden Square – although he was barely seen by the townsfolk he observed.

Life was difficult, but William remained optimistic that it was improving day by day. That hope was obliterated by dread the morning Frank Converse was found shot and the bank robbed. Being the only one who held the knowledge that Edward Green was the last person to exit the bank before the crime was discovered, William suspected that the postmaster was the villain and that belief would only continue to grow.

In many ways, William Shiloh is the heart and soul of this novel. A righteous man, yet a reluctant witness. He fears the townsfolk won’t believe him for the mere fact that he is not one of them. He is an outsider. The color of his skin also makes him worry that an accusation directed toward a white man as the criminal might instead fasten the guilt squarely upon himself.

The fact that Edward Green committed murder in broad daylight terrifies William. William’s main priority is to keep his family safe and the best way to accomplish that, he believes, is to not bring any undue attention on to himself. Yet his conscience struggles with the dilemma of what is safe for him – and what is just for the family of the murdered Converse boy and the frightened people of the town.

In my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank – Shiloh is fictionalized since I was drawn to the story but wanted to tell it in a narrative form.

When my novel was released, someone chided me that I got parts of the story wrong since they had access to the internet and read a couple of articles. Even though I had dedicated many years to learning all I could about the Converse murder and the time period, I replied that I was a fiction writer. The book is historical fiction not a non-fiction book.

The past is convoluted, memories are fallible and historical records are not always reliable. For example, a crime blog that comes up high in any google search when you type in “Edward Green Malden” states Edward Green was thirty-two when he committed the crime while his birth record and all other evidence I researched on his age points to a June, 1837 birth, making him twenty-six at the time of the crime.

There are discrepancies in the accounts of William Shiloh’s age. Census records before 1850 are less detailed. The 1865, 1870 and 1880 census records state Shiloh was born in 1817. His death record infers his birth occurred in 1819 whereas a newspaper account of his death implies he was born in 1813. My research does point to his being born in New Castle, Delaware about six miles south of Wilmington below the Mason/Dixon line.

He married Emily Butler from New York. They had seven children. The oldest, William, died at a very early age. By the time of the events in my novel. William and Emily’s remaining children were Henrietta, aged sixteen, Caleb, aged eleven, Mary, aged eight, John, aged four, Phillip, aged three and Annie, aged one.

My book is not about what Shiloh looked like for the only images of him were distant with his features indiscernible. but more importantly, what he saw. He was a witness to a crime but he was also a witness to a whole town, a whole era in American history. In many ways, as an outsider, he noticed more than others expected and with far more certainty than he could reveal.

He was my spectator to all the action but by being so, he became larger part of the focus of my main story. Like Nick Caraway’s perspective in The Great Gatsby of the conflicted love story of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan or Ishmael in Moby Dick as he watches Ahab frantically and foolishly chase the white whale, Shiloh treaded carefully around Edward Green after Frank Converse’s murder and contemplated with care how to proceed.

At this stage of writing the book, each chapter had a title. Shiloh’s Razor was what I called the first chapter representing the barber’s profession and the sharp line he had to navigate as a witness to the crime. As a black man, every decision was perilous to him and the consequences of each could cost him his freedom or his very life. Since I had changed the start of the book from Green’s internal thoughts to those of Shiloh’s as Green enters his shop days after the murder, I wanted the book cover to convey the barber looking out the window as the postmaster walked away from the bank after his crimes. This cover was one possible option but I settled on a closer perspective of Green as he traveled away from his crime.

A deeper dive into where Shiloh was from in Delaware and a law enacted that a black man in that free state seen as indolent could still be enslaved clearly drove Shiloh north and propelled my novel about the murder of Frank Converse by Edward Green also into a story about William Shiloh.

As I finished my final edits, I reread the brilliant Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. His nameless narrator was an invisible man in the 1950’s New York City. William Shiloh in 1860’s Malden was the same but with the added danger of bondage depending on the outcome of the ongoing Civil War. The uncertainty of his fate, determined by others, placed every action he took and didn’t take as a chess match with men who didn’t perceive him capable of playing. I wrote him as a character who was both aware and astute as he was forced to navigate the unknown perils he faced.

The Converses are the most prominent family in Malden’s history. Elisha Converse, who would serve as the city’s first mayor, amassed a fortune running the Boston Rubber Shoe Company. His distant cousin, Marquis Mills Converse, after Elisha’s death, founded The Converse Rubber Shoe Company also in Malden. It would eventually become world famous with the creation of its Chuck Taylor’s All Stars and the expanded popularity of basketball.

In June of last year, I was invited to speak about my novel in the Library dedicated to Frank Converse at the Converse Family Reunion.

As president of the First National Bank, just a short distance from Shiloh’s barbershop. Elisha installed his first-born son, Frank, as an apprentice of the head cashier, Charles Merrill. Frank was alone in the bank on that fateful December day and Edward Green, a desperate opportunist deeply in debt, took advantage of his friend’s trust to rob a large sum of money and steal Frank’s life in the process.

When Gene Sticco, the General Director of the newly formed Mystic Side Opera Company, contacted me about producing an opera based on William Shiloh’s story within Abel Bodied. I suggested we call it Shiloh’s Razor after the chapter that had been my epiphany to finding my focus as a novelist.

To have William Shiloh now be the focus of a planned opera is very rewarding. His character began as an instrument in telling the tale of the Converse murder story – but he eventually metamorphosed into a full orchestra in my mind in order for me to complete my lifetime goal of writing a novel. I am excited to see his story performed on the stage!

Get ready for an exciting collaboration between Malden author, Michael Cloherty and Malden’s Mystic Side Opera. We’re thrilled to announce the creation of an original modern opera “Shiloh’s Razor,” based on Cloherty’s historical novel, Abel Bodied!

“As a novel, Abel Bodied is an emotionally intelligent piece of writing that not only takes readers inside the psyche of its characters but delves deeper into what’s in their hearts;” said MSO General Director Gene Sticco (Above left w Cloherty), “but Williams Shiloh’s story, his conflict and emotions about the challenge he found himself facing… there’s no art form other than Opera that can bring that to life in way that will impact everyone who see it.”

This powerful and thought-provoking story centers around the life of barber William Shiloh, a free black man during the Civil War, who is the only witness who can help solve the murder of Frank Converse at the Malden Bank. But as fear spreads through the community that there is a killer on-the-loose, Shiloh must confront his own internal conflict about exposing the killer, knowing that in doing so he risks everything, including his own life.

It’s the Opera you didn’t know wanted! … and as always thank you @idlehandsbeer for the encouragement in a stein to pursue our dreams!🍻

Mystic Side Opera Company

On Thursday, March 9th at 6:30 P.M. at Pearl Street Station, I will be reading Shiloh’s Razor for the first time! This will be a book-signing event and it’s a special occasion as “Chalk Outline” the beer brewed in conjunction with my novel, Abel Bodied, by Bone Up Brewing Company will be on tap! I hope to see you there! Cheers, Michael Cloherty!

Malden, MA – the first town in the colonies to support the American Revolution

Sketch of Malden
We now instruct you, sir, to give them the strongest assurance, that if they should declare America to be a free and independent republic, your constituents will support and defend the measure, to the last drop of their blood, and the last farthing of their treasure.

On this Patriots Day, we remember the shot heard around the world at the Battle of Lexington Green. Lesser known is the unique role Malden played in the formation of our county.

For Malden, Massachusetts was the first town in the colonies to declare in a letter to the Second Continent Congress their desire for independence from Britain. I referenced this historical event briefly in my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank in scenes set in Hill’s Tavern, also known as The Rising Eagle. In my novel, the townspeople discuss the search for the killer of Frank Converse at the Malden Bank, the ongoing Civil War and the town’s role in the formation of our country.

Hill’s Tavern

In 2001, local historian Bill Fowler wrote an article that appeared in the Boston Globe where he posed the argument that the “real birthplace of independence” could be none other than Malden.  Fowler based his claim on the date of the Malden Town Instructions.  While there were many other towns who expressed letters of support for independence, Malden’s letter dated May 27th, 1776, was the first!

This document has been celebrated throughout Malden’s History but in recent years has been elevated to an annual event.  Each year on the Friday prior to Independence Day, we gather at the Malden Public Library to listen to a recital of the Town Instructions as they were written and delivered on May 27, 1776.

City of Malden website

The library was built as a memorial to Frank Converse and the portrait of the seventeen-year-old victim of the first murder during a bank robbery in American history was my inspiration for writing Abel Bodied. This video recorded on July 2, 2021 is an edited down version of the official document but the entire declaration is included here:

Sir–A resolution of the hon. house of representatives, calling upon the several towns in this colony to express their minds in respect to the important question of American independence, is the occasion of our now instructing you. The time was, sir, when we loved the king and the people of Great Britain with an affection truly filial; we felt ourselves interested in their glory; we shared in their joys and sorrows; we cheerfully poured the fruit of all our labours into the lap of our mother country, and without reluctance expended our blood and our treasure in their cause.

These were our sentiments toward Great Britain while she continued to act the part of a parent state; we felt ourselves happy in our connection with her, nor wished it to be dissolved; but our sentiments are altered, it is now the ardent wish of our soul that America may become a free and independent state.

A sense of unprovoked injuries will arouse the resentment of the most peaceful. Such injuries these colonies have received from Britain. Unjustifiable claims have been made by the king and his minions to tax us without our consent; these claims have been prosecuted in a manner cruel and unjust to the highest degree. The frantic policy of administration hath induced them to send fleets and armies to America; that, by depriving us of our trade, and cutting the throats of our brethren, they might awe us into submission, and erect a system of despotism in America, which should so far enlarge the influence of the crown as to enable it to rivet their shackles upon the people of Great Britain.

This plan was brought to a crisis upon the ever memorable nineteenth of April. We remember the fatal day! the expiring groans of our countrymen yet vibrate on our ears! and we now behold the flames of their peaceful dwellings ascending to Heaven! we hear their blood crying to us from the ground for vengeance! charging us, as we value the peace of their names, to have no further connection with,– who can unfeelingly hear of the slaughter of–, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul. The manner in which the war has been prosecuted hath confirmed us in these sentiments; piracy and murder, robbery and breach of faith, have been conspicuous in the conduct of the king’s troops: defenceless towns have been attacked and destroyed: the ruins of Charlestown, which are daily in our view, daily reminds us of this: the cries of the widow and the orphan demand our attention; they demand that the hand of pity should wipe the tear from their eye, and that the sword of their country should avenge their wrongs. We long entertained hope that the spirit of the British nation would once more induce them to assert their own and our rights, and bring to condign punishment the elevated villains who have trampled upon the sacred rights of men and affronted the majesty of the people. We hoped in vain; they have lost their spirit of just resentment; we therefore renounce with disdain our connexion with a kingdom of slaves; we bid a final adieu to Britain.

Could an accommodation now be effected, we have reason to think that it would be fatal to the liberties of America; we should soon catch the contagion of venality and dissipation, which hath Britains to lawless domination. Were we placed in the situation we were in 1763: were the powers of appointing to offices, and commanding the militia, in the hands of governors, our arts, trade and manufacturers, would be cramped; nay more than this, the life of every man who has been active in the cause of his country would be endangered.

For these reasons, as well as many others which might be produced, we are confirmed in the opinion, that the present age would be deficient in their duty to God, their posterity and themselves, if they do not establish an American republic. This is the only form of government which we wish to see established; for we can never be willingly subject to any other King than he who, being possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and rectitude, is alone fit to possess unlimited power.

We have freely spoken our sentiments upon this important subject, but we mean not to dictate; we have unbounded confidence in the wisdom and uprightness of the continental congress: with pleasure we recollect that this affair is under their direction; and we now instruct you, sir, to give them the strongest assurance, that if they should declare America to be a free and independent republic, your constituents will support and defend the measure, to the last drop of their blood, and the last farthing of their treasure.

24 Hours in Boston

Ten years ago, April 15, 2013, unfolded as a sad, chaotic day in Boston. In the days that followed, authorities would track down the brothers responsible for the terror. But during the first day, the city was in shock, fearing and bracing for the possibility of further attacks.

Before the bombings, during my shift at Fox 25 News, I was prepared to edit uplifting stories about local and visiting marathon runners striving and competing in the world famous Boston Marathon. There were angles every local news station always covered year after year; the difficulty of approaching and conquering Heartbreak Hill, Team Hoyt, Dick Hoyt running and pushing his son, Rick, in his wheelchair once again for an incredible twenty-six miles.

It started as a lovely day of tradition and celebration for the region with the Patriots Day reenactment at Lexington Green, a morning Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and the main focus of the day – the runners and the spectators who cheered for them from the starting line in Hopkinton to Boylston Street, close to the Boston Public Library. And then it wasn’t. Two bombs went off near the finish line.

As all the local television stations scrambled for answers and went live with wall-to-wall coverage, I was tasked with viewing and compiling a narrative from several hours of footage and live programming and producing and editing an overview of the terrible day.

Boston was reeling and uncertain, grieving and overwhelmed. Later, we would learn of the victims lost that day, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell. MIT police officer Sean Collier was murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers who attempted to steal his gun after their images were released by the FBI. A year afterwards, Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds would die from injuries sustained in a gun battle with the Boston bombers in Watertown.

We witnessed the resiliency of so many who overcame the injuries inflicted on their bodies and their psyches with pure courage and fortitude as well as the heroism and dedication of police officers and medical professionals. David Ortiz would give a speech that meant more to the city than all his Hall of Fame at-bats combined. Boston Strong would not just be coined as a phrase but instead spoken as a collective mantra of perseverance for the region. But during those first twenty-four hours in Boston, tranquility abruptly turned to tragedy.

This killer has a historical connection to The Boston Strangler? You may never have heard of him… but his crime was the first of its kind in American history?

The Boston Strangler and The Malden Murderer

The home at 11 Florence Street Park is long gone as is the parking lot which replaced it, one that I once used as a short cut to Malden Square. The wind stirs in my imagination as those painted yellow lines in my memory lift up fluttering like police tape in the air. They hover above the paved-over perdition of where the suspected Boston Strangler once rested his head at night as the women of Greater Boston lay restless, tossing and turning, each terrified that they might be his next victim.

So what do the infamous Boston Strangler and the historically forgotten Malden Murderer have in common?

Working in Boston television news for almost thirty years and editing scores of news video packages covering criminals and criminal cases from the spectacle of Whitey Burger’s capture in Santa Monica after years on the lam to countless murderers or mere petty thieves hiding sheepishly behind a wall or a court officer – just out of view of the television news pool camera during arraignments … no two criminals (in my knowledge) share such an unique historical link as Albert DeSalvo and Edward Green.

For both men were apprehended along the very same street… Summer Street in Malden, Massachusetts – one hundred years apart and more than likely just about a hundred feet apart as well.

Edward Green, “The Malden Murderer” was arrested in 1864 for committing the first murder during a bank robbery in American history. On December 15, 1863, the Malden postmaster shot seventeen-year-old bank teller Frank Converse twice before stealing $5000 from the First National Bank of Malden. In 1964, Albert DeSalvo was arrested and charged with being the “Green Man” after a series of sexual assaults across four New England states. The following year, he confessed to being “The Boston Strangler” while at Bridgewater State Hospital which houses the criminally insane and those being evaluated by the court system. In 1967, he was convicted for the Green Man sexual assaults and sentenced to life in prison.

This aerial map of Summer Street in Malden is a few years old. The city looks far different now than it did in 1964, never mind how it appeared in 1864.

DeSalvo was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1931. Serving in the army in post-war Germany, he met and married Irmgard Beck. By 1955, the couple and their infant daughter were living at 11 Florence Street Court in Malden, off of Florence Street and opposite Clement Street. By 1960, a son was added to the family.

I am a lifelong Malden resident. From the late nineties until ten years ago, I lived close to the corner of Clement Street. In 2012, I started writing my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank.

Since I was a boy, I had gazed at the portrait of Frank Converse in The Malden Public Library built as a memorial to the slain son of grieving parents and bestowed to the city in a trust.

Frank’s father, Elisha Converse, was the founder of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company. A few years after Elisha’s death, his distant cousin, Marquis Mills Converse, established the Converse Rubber Shoe Company which became world famous with the introduction of the Chuck Taylor All-Star and the rising popularity of basketball.

I had become obsessed with writing a novel about Frank’s murder. Immersing myself in a cocktail of history, imagination and persistence, I finally published Abel Bodied in the summer of 2021.

Since it’s release, the novel has inspired a local craft beer, a series of sold-out interactive pub crawls, (six more are planned for this summer) and an opera which is currently in development.

But back more than a decade ago when I was typing the first pages of Abel Bodied about an indebted Malden postmaster desperate to solve all his financial issues at once by shooting his young friend and robbing the bank, I had no idea that one of the most notorious suspected criminals in American history had lived directly across the street four decades prior.

I believe the Converse murder is the ultimate Malden story lost to history. Albert DeSalvo’s story is not a Malden story per se – but his nine-year residence and arrest in Malden have elicited but a scant few printed words, either barely mentioned or just entirely skipped over in each telling.

According to the Malden Police Department, DeSalvo committed no known crimes in the city but it’s simple prudence for any criminal to avoid drawing any undue attention to the location they call home. Much easier to blend into a larger city like Boston and then return home for the night to a nearby suburb safely ensconced from both detection or suspicion. Eight of the murders connected to The Boston Strangler occurred in the city for which the killer is named with two in Lawrence and one each in Lynn, Salem and Cambridge. While the City of Malden did not hold any of The Strangler’s victims, its residents, like all of those in the entire Greater Boston region, lived under the duress of a serial killer’s whims, while being completely unaware that one may have dwelled amongst them the entire time.

In the early 1970’s, all the homes on Florence Street Park were razed as well as any physical connection of DeSalvo to city. The Heritage Apartments, built as elderly housing, was constructed closer to the Pleasant Street section of the old neighborhood.

The area closer to Clement Street where the DeSalvo family once resided was paved over as a parking lot. Their home, located to the top left of the looped dead end, had only recently been built when this map from 1897 was drawn. The house was about seventy years old when DeSalvo was apprehended.

Note the large parcel with Elisha S. Converse’s name nearby. The father of the murder victim at the Malden Bank owned this and many plots of land throughout the city.

While in 1964, the women of Greater Boston were terrified and uncertain if and when the Strangler would strike next, a century before, three thousand residents in the town of Malden, an idyllic community with growing industries such as the Boston Rubber Shoe Company, were also on edge with a murderer on the loose.

To put this era in perspective; the Smith & Wesson Model 1 revolver, based on the invention by Samuel Colt, that Green employed to shoot his friend had just been introduced in 1857. Until the local doctor arrived and confirmed the cause of Frank’s injuries, the townspeople who discovered Converse bleeding on the bank floor thought he had either struck his head or had a boil burst. They had no concept of what a gunshot wound looked like and they reacted in pure horror at the revelation. Had a Confederate taken the train into town to rob the bank, killed the young teller and then departed as quickly as he had arrived? Or even more frightening, was one of their own neighbors responsible for the murder?

This bank robbery murder occurred more that two years before the James Younger Gang held up a bank in Liberty, Missouri, killing an innocent bystander as they rode away. While the perpetrator at the Malden Bank, Edward Green, was far from a famed gunslinger, he was someone just as dangerous – a desperate opportunist. A newlywed with a child due in mere days, the postmaster sought out any solution he could find to solve his debt, retain his position and provide for his family. Frank was alone in the bank with a pile of cash in plain view. The temptation to solve his problems all at once was too strong for Green to resist. He shot Converse twice and stole the money.

Malden, a few miles north of Boston, only had a single constable on duty at the time. The Boston Police force founded in 1854 contained a team of five detectives. The day after the murder, two of these detectives, Benjamin Health and William Jones, arrived at the local depot to investigate the crime. Decades before the use of fingerprints, the main means they had at their disposal to solve the case was to pound the pavement and speak with as many witnesses as possible who could reveal pertinent details of the crime. One such witness, the barber, William Shiloh plays a key role in my novel. Shiloh’s Razor, the upcoming opera will be based on his part in the drama.

There is some disparity of the number of victims connected to The Boston Strangler; some sources claim eleven while others say thirteen but DeSalvo confessed to killing thirteen women. You may ask why there was such a panicked reaction to a single victim in the 1863? Even with thousands of men dying on Civil war battlefields each day, this single murder was so unique, a crime so startling and implausible at the time that it was not only splashed across the Boston papers but also reported in the New York Times the next day. The news of the crime and the search for the criminal was covered by newspapers from as far west as San Francisco and as far east as London. The killer was dubbed The Malden Murderer.

For more information about Abel Bodied, read my recent interview with A Daily Dose of History.

When I had started writing my book I had no notion that, some thirty-eight years earlier, police had converged just across the street waiting to arrest a man who is suspected of being one of the most infamous criminals in American history.

Film crew in front of DeSalvo residence in 1968

I was aware of The Boston Strangler. Who wasn’t? However, if the knowledge ever crossed my mind that DeSalvo held a Malden connection, I couldn’t have conjured at the time that his former residence was just a couple hundred feet away from my own.

Last week, in preparation for this blog, I walked around my old neighborhood with a new perspective. Just as I had imagined Edward Green exiting the bank, as I walked along Pleasant Street, one of his pockets stuffed with money and the other with his recently-used revolver warming his side – now as I stood on the corner of Clement and Florence Streets looking at where Florence Street Park once existed, I sensed similar echoes from the past. I visualized DeSalvo approaching from the other side of Florence Street in the direction where I stood – neither of us aware or seeing the other. If he was indeed responsible for all of the Strangler’s crimes, he passed unnoticed just as he did for so long while residing at 11 Florence Street Park.

Current view from Clement Street across Florence Street to where the DeSalvo home on Florence Park once stood.

Years ago, I crossed here at Florence Street every day and continued obliviously toward the paved-over remnant of a side street I never knew existed. Now, as seen in the photo above, it contains The Residences at Malden Station Apartment Building. While I was living on Clement Street, it was a parking lot. Passing through a pedestrian entrance in a short chain link fence, I walked over blacktop in-between rows of yellow painted lines and then under the opening in The Heritage where cars could pass through into the courtyard of Malden City Hall towards the Square.

As I journeyed to Pleasant Street, I did not see the erased residence of a man some have likened to America’s Jack the Ripper. All I noticed was multi-story senior housing and a mundane parking lot. The only thing I ever paused to consider about this spot as I traversed it was that whoever owned it was making a bundle on parking from commuters that took the MBTA into the city. The Malden Center MBTA Station, built in 1975, was so close that if I chose to take a right on Florence instead of entering this lot, it would have been a mere ninety second walk from my front door.

The home at 11 Florence Street Park is long gone as is the parking lot which replaced it that I once used as a short cut to Malden Square. The wind stirs in my imagination as those painted yellow lines in my memory lift up fluttering like police tape in the air. They hover above the paved-over perdition of where the suspected Boston Strangler once rested his head at night as the women of Greater Boston lay restless, tossing and turning, each terrified that they may be his next victim.

I don’t believe Malden has ever been the focus of Albert DeSalvo’s story before this blog. Why would it be? There is a lot more to unravel in his life, among them his difficult childhood and his long criminal history. Many still question if the Strangler victims had multiple killers. Others question the extent of DeSalvo’s involvement and even describe him as a blowhard who sought the notoriety of being an infamous serial killer.

My focus the last decade or so has been on Edward Green and his confessed murder of Frank Converse. I know quite a bit about that and at the end of the day, I am a novelist first and foremost and writing a novel based on an untold story in my hometown was what interested me most. But as far as Albert DeSalvo – what draws my intrigue to him is the surprising proximity to where he lived and where my novel began.

DeSalvo confessed to being The Boston Strangler claiming responsibility for the murders of thirteen women between the years of 1962 and 1964. Later, he recanted these admissions. In 1973, he was stabbed to death in Walpole State Prison. He was never tried or convicted of any of the Strangler crimes.

However, in 2013, authorities were able to connect him to the only victim of which they had retained any usable forensic evidence. They retrieved a discarded water bottle from his nephew. That DNA tested as a familial match with the seminal stains left at the crime scene of the last known victim of the Strangler, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan. DeSalvo’s remains were then exhumed from his grave in Peabody, Massachusetts. DNA extracted from his femur and three of his teeth conclusively determined he was her killer.

“DNA specialists calculated the odds that a white male other than DeSalvo contributed the crime scene evidence at one in 220 billion.”

Joint statement from Boston Police, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office

“We may have just solved one of the nation’s most notorious serial killings.”

“This leaves no doubt that Albert DeSalvo was responsible for the brutal murder of Mary Sullivan, and most likely that he was responsible for the horrific murders of the other women he confessed to killing.”

Martha Coakley- Massachusetts Attorney General 

The Boston Strangler, the best-selling book written by Gerold Frank, mentions that police waited for DeSalvo at his Malden home. It states he tried to back his vehicle away but was cornered and captured. A film, based on this book, released in 1968 forgoes his arrest near his residence in Malden altogether by showing DeSalvo, portrayed by Tony Curtis, attempting to break into a Boston apartment only to find the husband waiting inside the door. A chase soon ensues and the police, on the alert for the Strangler, arrest the suspect after he is struck by a car and pointed out by the pursuing husband of this fictional intrusion.

In fact, DeSalvo, who had served time before for other crimes, was initially arrested at his Malden home on Monday, November 2nd after police determined he matched a composite sketch of a suspect who assaulted a Cambridge woman on October 27th. (Perhaps this the arrest in which Frank is referring) He was arraigned the next day and released on bail. Authorities in other local communities as well as those from Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire thought DeSalvo fit the profile of sexual assaults in their jurisdictions. Connecticut State Police believed he was “The Green Man” who posed as a repairman in green work pants to gain access to homes and prey on women.

An article from WickedLocal.com dated July 12, 2013 reported about the new DNA evidence which linked DeSalvo to the last victim of the Boston Strangler. But for the purposes of this blog, the most vital information it contains is the location of where DeSalvo was apprehended.

 DeSalvo was arrested by three Malden police officers. He reportedly fled when investigators from the Connecticut State Police showed up at his home, only to be arrested off Summer Street by Malden Police according to a Nov. 5 report in the Malden Evening News. 

Around that same time, former DeSalvo neighbor Patricia Whitcomb told The Malden Evening News she remembered seeing DeSalvo flee from police.


The Boston Globe reported this the day after DeSalvo’s arrest:

A 32-year-old Malden father of two is undergoing psychiatric observation today as police from four New England states charge him with being the notorious “Green Man” wanted for sexual attacks on at least a dozen housewives.

He was arrested last night by Malden Police accompanied by Cambridge officers and Connecticut State police following a chase through Malden Square.

Police staked out DeSalvo’s home for a half-hour and then chased him through a back yard and over a fence to make the arrest.

Boston Globe, November 6, 1964

This article is copyrighted but the advertisements which surrounded the news of the arrest of an accused serial rapist are not. The Jordan Marsh Company advertisements for panties, sleepwear and what appears to be a nurse’s uniform take up more than seventy percent of the page. There are a couple of other short articles including one about about Vice President Hubert Humphrey placed above these ads, however the arrest of DeSalvo is squeezed right down the middle of these images of women.

DeSalvo lived just off Pleasant Street, where many of the events in my novel took place. It is likely that the family shopped at the Jordan Marsh located there. This department store was adjacent to where The First National Bank of Malden once stood. The original 1850 structure was replaced by a larger one in 1901 and held a series of banking institutions until very recent years when it was converted into a brewery. It’s possible that DeSalvo banked there and if he did, he might have stood in the exact same spot where Edward Green murdered Frank Converse. Maybe he also shopped at the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, a world famous sneaker company which is unlikely to have existed without the original Boston Rubber Shoe Company founded by Frank’s father. 

When I requested some information on DeSalvo’s arrest from the Malden Police Department. They stated this:

Our records indicate that he was arrested by the Malden Police Department on a warrant from Cambridge PD. The date of arrest was Thursday, November 5, 1964. The time of the booking was 12:15pm. Sergeant Cronin was the Officer-in-Charge and the arresting officers were, Lt. Houghton, Sergeant Desmond, and Officer W. Hook. The address, which no longer exists, was 11 Florence Street Park. DiSalvo was then handed over to Cambridge PD Sergeant M. Neil and J. Galligan.

Malden Police Department

I wasn’t alive in 1964 but I have read messages from several people who were living in Malden then. They describe a tunnel that led from Summer Street under the Summerside Lodge function hall which is now the Pearl Street Station Restaurant and Bar.

This is speculation on my part, but was that where DeSalvo was heading to avoid capture by jumping a fence by the tracks to enter this tunnel? Or did he hop another fence and flee down Pleasant only to be apprehended on the lower portion of Summer Street?

Is it possible that DeSalvo ran directly behind my former home on Clement Street to escape capture, jumped a fence and then crossed the train tracks to get to Summer Street? That would make his arrest just south of Pearl Street Station – perhaps about 20 feet or so. If he was attempting to enter the tunnel, he would have been apprehended right on what is now the Pearl Street Station property. 

The restaurant’s structure was originally built as a station in 1891 along the Boston and Maine Railroad. Later, it was converted to The Summerside Lodge. Pearl Street Station, opened as a restaurant and bar over thirty-five years ago, has the unique distinction to be in close proximity to both the capture of DeSalvo and of Green.

With the tunnel so near to his home, DeSalvo surely was aware of it. Yet crossing the these railroad tracks to evade police contained its own perils. 

Here is how one former resident explained the close call he incurred while hopping fences and crossing the tracks: 

From the Summer Street side you could walk right onto the tracks just below the Summerside. I walked up those tracks hundreds of times as a kid in the 60s. The tunnel smelled strongly of pee. I can’t quite remember now where either end of the tunnel came out, but I seem to remember it was blocked in some way that didn’t matter to a kid. In other words, they didn’t want you in there, but nothing much kept you out. I used to walk those tracks past the Summerside up to the wooden steps that went up to Mountain Ave. Those steps were also blocked on either end, but it was just a matter of hopping fences. I lived on Sterling Street but was in fifth and sixth grades at the Holmes School, so I did that every day. One day, I was daydreaming as I walked north on the southbound tracks. I heard a sound, looked up, and saw a train bearing down on me. I jumped toward the other, northbound, tracks only to realize just in time that there was a train there, too. I was stuck between the trains as they passed each other. I was incredibly lucky not to have been hurt or killed, and I realized it. I remember sitting in class trembling, really traumatized.

Carl Chimi

In 2008, David Faustino, known for playing Bud Bundy on Married with Children, portrayed DeSalvo in Boston Strangler The Untold Story but the 1968 film, The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, is by far the best-known depiction of the Boston Strangler. Now a new film, Boston Strangler, has just debuted on Hulu. Keira Knightly portrays Loretta McLaughlin, a reporter for the Boston Record American. She and her colleague, Jean Harris, played by Carrie Coon, investigated the series of murders and sexual assaults and are credited with coming up wih the moniker of the killer. The movie also stars Oscar winner, Chris Cooper.

In January of 2022, some scenes in the film were shot in Malden. Pearl Street Station was a staging area and catering location for cast and crew.

The Lyrics of Midnight Rambler written by The Rolling Stones allude to Albert DeSalvo after he confessed to being the Boston Strangler. I wrote The Ballad of Edward Green after completing the final draft of Abel Bodied. Joseph McShea sings and plays guitar on the song.

Henry Fonda and George Kennedy filming scenes in Malden near Albert DeSalvo’s former home

Lincoln was president when Green committed his crime. Kennedy was president during the majority of the Strangler’s crimes. Like the connection between the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy, such that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln and both had Vice Presidents named Johnson – Green and DeSalvo have interesting parallels besides the location of their arrests.

  • Even though he was labeled with such names as The Boston Strangler and The Measuring Man, DeSalvo was arrested as The Green Man, known for his green work pants while committing sexual assaults.
  • DeSalvo was born in Chelsea as was Frank Converse, the murder victim of Edward Green. 
  • Both Green and DeSalvo were arraigned in the East Cambridge District Court after their arrests on Summer Street. 

The Strangler murders occurred in the decade before I was born. However, I was drawn to a crime much further in the past because I gazed at the portrait of Frank Converse each and every day when I was a small boy. When I looked at Frank Converse, he looked back at me. He was familiar, like an older brother from another era. Now I’ve grown far older – while Frank’s image in his portrait has never aged a day.

Malden is mostly erased from the story of DeSalvo’s arrest but this is where it occurred. DeSalvo walked the same streets as Green did and they both lost their freedom on the same stretch of Summer Street one-hundred years apart.

Florence Street is a connection between the crafting of my novel on Edward Green at Clement Street and this blog on Albert DeSalvo and his residence at Florence Street Park. A sort of crosswalk between killers. With Summer Street, the scene of their captures, juxtaposed just on the other side of the tracks.

An army of investigators, both professional and amateur, have sought either to incriminate or exonerate DeSalvo. Was Desalvo solely responsible for the crimes attributed to Strangler? Six decades after the sexual attacks and murders, it seems unlikely the other dozen murders will ever be conclusively solved.

However, his confession, retracted before his own murder, along with articles, books, and films fixated on him as the villain of these crimes will forever affix the name Albert DeSalvo with that of The Boston Strangler.

DeSalvo is said to have frequented the West Side Grill beside his home. In my novel, many of the scenes with Green and the townspeople of Malden are set in Hill’s Tavern, also known as The Rising Eagle. It was frequented by John and Abigail Adams and the Sons of Liberty plotted for revolution within its walls.

On Wednesday, April 12th, I will be at The Rising Eagle in Melrose, named after the original tavern. I will be reading from Abel Bodied at this signing event. Chalk Outline Hoppy Amber Ale, brewed by Bone Up Brewing Company in collaboration with my novel will be on tap!

A Daily Dose of History author interview

Once a month or so we offer an author who has written a book of history or historical fiction an opportunity to introduce his or her work to fellow followers/history buffs. This month we are pleased to introduce Daily Dose of History follower Michael Cloherty, author of the historical novel Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank. The novel, which has received heaps of praise, tells the forgotten story of America’s first murder during a bank robbery. The book has inspired interactive mystery pub crawls and a local craft beer. A stage production is in the works.

DDOH: Please tell us a little about yourself and your novel. 

MC: I’ve worked as a Emmy-award-winning video editor in Boston television news for over two decades. While my work focuses on current events, I’ve always been drawn to stories from the past. That’s why I find your Facebook page so fascinating! I think it’s fantastic that you generously allow myself and other authors a platform to share our books with an audience as interested and curious about history as we are! Thank you!

DDOH: How did you become aware of the story and what led you to write the book?

I have a degree in English literature. In my twenties, I attempted to write a novel based in the 1880s – but didn’t finish it. When I turned forty in 2012, I began to research and write Abel Bodied. Astonished that no other author had written a novel based on this historic crime, I worried one might before I finished. Besides the murder and robbery, there were many other layers to the story that intrigued me both both as a journalist and as a novelist. It took many years and while I was discouraged at times, I persevered. If I needed inspiration, I visited the victim’s grave. His face is carved in the gravestone but has been weathered by time. I also walked along the street where the killer and victim worked and paused at locations to envision what may have occurred over a century-and-a-half before in their daily lives. Immersing myself in a cocktail of history, imagination and persistence, I finally published the novel in the summer of 2021.

MC: As a boy, I spent countless hours in my local library a few miles north of Boston. It was my favorite place. The Malden Public Library, also known as The Converse Memorial Building, was constructed in 1885 by the grieving parents of a slain son.

Each day as I entered, I passed under a portrait of Frank Converse, flanked on each side by those of his mother and father, Mary and Elisha. Before noon on December 15, 1863, Frank, became the first murder victim during a bank robbery in American history. 

Frank’s father was the first mayor of Malden and made a fortune as the president of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company. A few years after Elisha died in 1904, his distant cousin, Marquis Mills Converse, built on that success by founding the Converse Rubber Shoe Company – also in Malden. Converse footwear became world famous with the introduction of the Chuck Taylor All-Stars and the rising popularity of basketball. 

While the Converse name is well-known, the historical Converse murder is not. My dream since my childhood in the library was to one day write a my own novel. About a decade ago, I realized the tale I had been always searching to tell was right in front of me the whole time. The library held some resources related to the crime, the Converses and the history of the town. I also researched through hundreds of newspapers from the time, census records and the genealogy of the main characters involved. 

DDOH: For most of us, murderous bank robberies are something we associate with the Old West, not New England during the Civil War. What was Malden like then and what is like now?

MC: That is what I believed before I began writing this story. The murder at the Malden Bank occurred more than two years before the James Younger Gang shot and killed an innocent bystander after robbing a bank in Liberty, Missouri. An article on Wikipedia considers this crime to be the first peacetime armed bank robbery. 

However, Edward Green’s motives for robbery and murder were completely unrelated to the war. He was known as someone who was not interested in politics whatsoever. While far from a famed gunslinger such as Jesse James, he was someone just as dangerous – a desperate opportunist. Green lived far beyond his means as postmaster and mismanaged the funds for which he was responsible. A newlywed with a child due in mere days, he sought out any solution he could find to solve his debt, retain his position and provide for his family.

His seventeen-year-old friend was the bank teller across the street. The youth was alone in the bank, a pile of cash in plain view. The temptation to solve his problems all at once was too strong for the postmaster to resist. He shot Converse twice and stole $5000, worth close to $120,000 in today’s money. 

The Malden Bank a few years after the murder and the Bailey Building

At the time, Malden, was an idyllic, growing town with a population of about three-thousand. The battlefields of the Civil War, where men were dying by the thousands each day lay distant. The town seemingly outside the reach of such violence.

In my newspaper research, I kept coming across advertisements imploring able-bodied men to join the fight. Since this was the first murder of its kind, I had decided to frame it as an analogy of Cain and Abel. The Civil War is known as a war of brother against brother. The murderer and his victim, although not related, were reported to be the closest of friends. All of these factors led me to title the novel, Abel Bodied. 

Today, Malden is growing, diverse city of sixty-five thousand residents with great restaurants and a growing gaming district which includes such activities as indoor rock climbing and questing game challenges. 

DDOH: The principal characters in the novel are quite interesting. During your research and writing did any of them strike you as particularly intriguing?

MC: When I started the book, I focused on the killer, the victim and the grieving parents. There is a love triangle as well that I discovered that sheds more light on Green’s deceptive character. The Count Joannes was a unique individual who plays a large part in the drama and was treat to write as he added tension and comic relief. But the barber was someone who in many ways become the focus of the novel.

William Shiloh in front of Shiloh and Co. Barbershop

William Shiloh was born a free man in Delaware but by the end of the 1850’s, he was not certain he would remain one much longer. He fled north with his growing family to Malden and opened a barbershop, along Pleasant Street, catering to the affluent men in the town. From his windows, William could witness all that transpired in Malden Square – although he was barely seen by the townsfolk he observed.

Life was difficult, but William remained optimistic that it was improving day by day. That hope was obliterated by dread the morning Frank Converse was found shot and the bank robbed. Being the only one who held the knowledge that Edward Green was the last person to exit the bank before the crime was discovered, William suspected that the postmaster was the villain and that belief would only continue to grow.

In many ways, William Shiloh is the heart and soul of this novel. A righteous man, yet a reluctant witness. He fears the townsfolk won’t believe him for the mere fact that he is not one of them. He is an outsider. The color of his skin also makes him worry that an accusation directed toward a white man as the criminal might instead fasten the guilt squarely upon himself.

The fact that Edward Green committed murder in broad daylight terrifies William. William’s main priority is to keep his family safe and the best way to accomplish that, he believes, is to not bring any undue attention on to himself. Yet his conscience struggles with the dilemma of what is safe for him – and what is just for the family of the murdered Converse boy and the frightened people of the town.

DDOH: Abel Bodied has received lots of glowing reviews. You must be very pleased with how the book has been received.

MC: Though it’s impossible to please every reader, it’s been extremely rewarding to have my novel be so well-regarded by so many! I have received truly wonderful compliments from people, some saying they felt transported back in time to when the events took place as they read. A few have bought several copies to share with friends and relatives so that is just incredible. I am grateful to my friend, Peter Caso, who helped promote my novel on his All About Malden Facebook Page

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson tweeted out after reading the novel in just a couple days that the only way it could be better was, “if it was made into a movie or Netflix series.”

My most gratifying and nerve-racking moment occurred when I was invited to the Converse Family Reunion last summer where I spoke about my novel, with Frank and his parents’ portraits hanging on the wall behind me, to a dozens of Converses including some direct descendants of Elisha and Mary.

I am quite fortunate to have the support of the mayor and the city. My book was released just as a wave of covid was receding and the city was planning a series of summer festivals to revive local business and bring people back to Malden Square. My first book signing was across the street from the site of the bank robbery, now a brewery and in front of what was once Green’s post office, now an Irish pub. I signed those novels with, “from the scene of the crime!” 

Next Kevin Duffy, the city’s Strategy and Business Development officer, next came to me with an idea that floored me. Malden had hired Incantrix Productions to stage interactive Murder at the Malden Bank Mystery Pub Crawls with performers in period costumes playing the key roles of Green, Shiloh and the Converses. The stops include the aforementioned brewery and Irish pub as well other drinking establishments that are pertinent to the crime. We have now sold-out seven of these pub crawls with more planned for the coming summer. The city also commissioned a phone app with augmented reality that brings Malden’s history alive including the bank murder. 

My own marketing idea was to have a local brewery brew a beer in connection with my novel. Bone Up Brewing Company in the neighboring city of Everett debuted, “Chalk Outline” Hoppy Amber Ale in their taproom during a book-signing event in January of this year. Future book-signing events at other locations with the beer on tap are upcoming.

DDOH: What’s next for you? Are you working on anything new?

MC: I am editing the follow-up to Abel Bodied and hope to have it published, fingers crossed, later this year. It continues from where the first novel left off. There are plot points to complete and some added twist and turns based on true events which have been a joy to write. I have some other local history I am contemplating using as a basis of a novel as well. Also, a newly formed local opera company, Mystic Side Opera Company, approached me to turn William Shiloh’s part in Abel Bodied into a stage production. It will be called, “Shiloh’s Razor.” This is in development but I am very excited to hear my words sung and performed on the stage! 

DDOH: Where can readers find your book?

MC: Abel Bodied is available in some Massachusetts stores and many online retailers. Please ask your favorite local bookstore to order it for you. Here is link on my website link for purchase options:

Also, for further details about my novel and news about my upcoming book and events, please like and follow my Author Facebook page: PlottingthePast

Thank you Daily Dose of History and all of you reading this post!

DDOH: Thanks for participating and thanks for helping to keep history alive! Once a month or so we give a randomly selected Daily Dose of History follower who is the author of a book of history or historical fiction the opportunity to introduce other followers to his or her book. If you would like to participate, just send a message with the title and a brief synopsis of your book.

Here is the link to A Daily Dose of History Facebook Page. It is a great informative follow!

Thursday, March 9th at 6:30 P.M. I will be at Pearl Street Station in Malden reading Chapter One of Abel Bodied for the first time – It focuses on William Shiloh and sets up his dilemma in the novel of how he should handle the knowledge that the postmaster sitting in his barber’s chair may be bank robber and killer of Frank Converse. “Chalk Outline” Hoppy Amber Ale brewed by Bone Up Brewing Company as a collaboration beer with my novel will be on tap for the first time in Malden! Stop by for great food and drinks and a novel based on the first murder in a bank robbery in American history. Cheers, Michael!

“Chalk Outline” Amber Ale author collaboration beer with Bone Up Brewing Company

Portrait by Albion Bicknell

Frank Eugene Converse, killed at age seventeen by his friend, Postmaster Edward Green, during the first bank robbery/murder in United States history was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. Buried in Malden, his grave hasn’t moved but it is now located in the City of Everett.

Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, MA

For at the time of the events in my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank, in 1863, Everett did not exist.

Everett became a city in 1870. Like its neighbor to the east, Revere, it was also named in honor of a person – though one far more obscure. Edward Everett, like the true story my book is based upon has been mostly lost to history.

Everett served as president of Harvard, governor of Massachusetts, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. He was known as a great orator. Unlike Paul Revere’s midnight ride immortalized by Longfellow’s poem, Everett is best known for giving a very long speech after the battle of Gettysburg – a few months before the Converse murder.

After Everett finished his two-hour speech, President Lincoln delivered perhaps the most eloquent, meaningful speech in American history, his Gettysburg Address, in just a couple of minutes.

Bone-Up Brewing Company is located in what was once South Malden, so it is perfect that the release of the delicious “Chalk Outline” Hoppy Amber Ale, brewed in celebration of my novel, is now on tap at the brewery!

Two of the things I love to do the most are drinking great local craft beer and talking about my novel. Since my novel’s publication, I have combined the two by having many of my book events in local breweries and bars. The City of Malden has staged a series of sold-out Murder at the Malden Bank Mystery Pub Crawls with more planned for the summer of 2023!

After several years of late nights laying on the couch with my laptop, a craft beer on the coffee table by my right and our MinPin, Guinness, curled up next to me on my left – my wife, Jen, is very happy that that I have now discovered lots of other places to discuss my novel over beers!

Public speaking can be tough and in the past, admittedly, I have reached for liquid courage to help ease my nervousness as I did before this speech last June during the Converse Family Reunion where I spoke for a twenty minutes about my novel in the building erected in honor of Frank Converse in front of dozens of his blood relatives. That was a thrill – but also quite daunting.

It occurred to me during the many years of writing my novel that I would love to somehow have a local brewery brew a beer in connection to my book and the true crime on which it is based. I have come across many craft beers named after famous literature but, to my knowledge, “Chalk Outline” is the first beer brewed in collaboration with a local, Indie author.

My reading of the murder chapter in Abel Bodied, during the beer release event, though not as brief as Lincoln’s, like my speech at the library lasted about twenty minutes. It was followed by a lively Q&A about the book, my research and the writing process.

Thanks to all who attended! Shout-outs to my author friends, Mike Sullivan and Jason Rubin! You can click on their names for links to their work.

I would especially like to toast and thank Liz and Jared Kiraly and all of the Bone Up crew for truly making this writer’s dream come true with a terrific, tasty beverage that was well-received by all of those in attendance! Their beers are outstanding and they have a wide variety to choose from since they are constantly creating and brewing.

Chalk Outline is currently on draft in their taproom. My follow-up novel, long past the draft phase, is in a revision stage. However, it has taken longer than I hoped it would to ferment. My goal is to publish book two sometime this year and complete the story that has intrigued me since childhood as I studied each afternoon in The Malden Library below the portrait of Frank Converse.

Cheers, Michael!

Frank Converse: two portraits, one poem, an image carved into a gravestone weathered by time and a crime mostly forgotten by history… until now

This portrait of Frank Eugene Converse is one few people outside of his family have ever laid eyes upon before.

Frank was born on October 1st, 1846 in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Before noon on Tuesday, December 15th, 1863, the seventeen-year-old teller of the First National Bank of Malden became the first murder victim during a bank robbery in American history when Edward Green, the indebted Malden postmaster, shot his close friend twice in the head and stole $5000.

Discovered close to fifteen minutes after he was shot, Frank was unable to utter his assailant’s name. Alerted to the shooting, neither of his parents could arrive before their child gasped his last breath.

In 1885, Elisha and Mary Converse constructed the Malden Public Library as a memorial to their slain son as well as a gift to the town in which he had lived. They installed an art museum and established a trust to fund the library so their gift could live on in perputity – even if their son could not.

Like so many others who grew up in Malden, I walked past the familiar portrait of Frank Converse each and every time I entered the long room of the Converse Memorial Building.

I spent hours as a child there, surrounded by books, hoping to eventually write a novel of my own.

During my twenties, I endeavored to finish a manuscript without success. I took a break in my thirties from making another attempt and then in 2012 as I turned forty, I became transfixed by the historic crime committed in my hometown and couldn’t let go of my desire to tell the tale. I was shocked that no one else had ever written a book about it before.

I dived deep, committing eight years of my life to researching hundreds of newspaper reports from the time as well as census records and the genealogy of the main characters involved to create my historical fiction novel. I wanted the book to be based on my gathered facts and then let my muse add dialogue and some scenes to move the narrative.

I published Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank in the summer of 2021.

You might think that eight years is a very long time to write a novel and I would completely agree with you! It was not an efficient process, but it was the journey I was capable of completing.

I am very grateful to the City of Malden and all of those I have met in person or online in the past year. Thank you!

Here is a quick photo compilation of people at my book signings.

Special thanks to Malden Mayor Gary Christensen, Business Development Officer Kevin Duffy and my pal, Pete Caso, and his All About Malden Facebook page!

After the success of one event last year, the city scheduled a series of sold-out pub crawls this summer based on the historic crime in my novel. Actors from Incantrix Productions portray the real people involved – immersing participants within the true crime while on a pub crawl held in drinking establishments with connections to historic locations – such as the killer’s office and the scene of the murder. The pub crawl concludes at Idle Hands Craft Ales where I sign and sell copies of Abel Bodied.

Click the the image below for ticket information.

This year, my novel caught the attention of the Converse family and I was honored to be invited as both a guest and a speaker at their long-planned family reunion.

Talking about my novel based on the murder of Frank Converse in the library, a building dedicated to him, before an audience of his relatives was a surreal experience. A bookend of sorts to my childhood dream of becoming an author while studying within those very same walls.

Though slightly overwhelmed by the significance of the moment, I was also thrilled and grateful to where my writer’s path had led me. In fact, in an email I wrote to one of the organizers afterward, I stated that, “it certainly was the greatest family reunion I ever attended where I was not a member. But I felt like an honorary Converse just the same thanks to all of you!”

Read my blog about the experience and a transcript of my speech here: Converse Family Reunion

The welcome reception of the reunion was held on Friday, June 24th at the library. As I stood next to this bust of Elisha Converse, the man beside me introduced himself as Christian Costello Converse and asked me if I could take a photo of him alongside the sculpture of his 2nd great-grandfather.

After taking his photo, Christian informed me that he possessed another portrait of Frank in his home in Annapolis, Maryland.

The portrait we were gazing at beyond our view of the sculpture of Elisha, Malden’s first mayor, was painted after Frank’s death – but Christian informed me that Frank had sat for the artist in the one which had been passed down to him as a family heirloom. He forwarded this image to me.

Though I was aware that this other portrait existed, having an opportunity to finally see it was an unexpected surprise. That flimsy mustache where a boy is almost a man but not quite – sums up the potential of what Frank Converse might have been. A life with promise ended too soon.

Even now, contemplating this novel perspective of Frank as I write this – after being so immersed in the narrative of his murder for so long, I have the sensation of being in very select company – at least until I click on the publish button for this blog.

This likeness of Frank has been glimpsed by very few eyes over the last century-and-a-half. I am grateful to Christian for sending me this image and giving me permission to share it with all of you.

I owe so much to the portrait that I am familiar with, the one that I gazed at as a boy. The Malden Public Library has been a resource of learning for generations and Frank’s tragic end became a catalyst for my creativity. The portrait in the library ignited the fuse allowing my imagination to burn until I was finally able to complete my novel.

But this other portrait, though older than the one I’ve known all my life, perhaps just by a year or two, is brand-new to me and so enthralls my writer’s mind in unique ways. Frank was alive when it was painted, he had a pulse, he had a tremendous future ahead of him – yet no way to perceive how little time he had remaining.

Hundreds of miles away, a civil war was raging with men not much older than him dying by the thousands each day. Frank would not perish on a battlefield – but his death would be just as brutal while also being completely unexpected – for it was at the hands of someone he trusted and knew very well.

The reason I named my novel Abel Bodied is because Frank’s murder, like Cain killing Abel, was the first of its kind. Also, while Edward was not Frank’s sibling, they were reported to be the closest of friends and the postmaster was, in my fiction, and perhaps in real life as well, jealous of the life Frank possessed which was far beyond his own means.

I visited the Converse family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the neighboring city of Everett countless times as I was writing my novel. Frank was buried in Malden but in 1870, Everett broke off to become its own city.

Frank’s image on the facade of his grave has faded with time and exposure to the elements. I imagined the crime and those involved to create my novel – but I also pondered what Frank’s face must have looked like when the stone was new.

I tried to conjure the image his parents and his friends gazed upon when they visited his resting place in the initial years after he was buried. In my novel, I even created a scene where his killer visits the grave of his dear friend. Guilt-ridden, Edward is absolutely transfixed by the likeness of Frank and begins to talk to him as if he is really there. The postmaster then awaits a response which never comes.

The carved image of the friend he murdered lay so very clear, so vibrant before him, almost glowing in the late morning light as the sun rose behind him, that Edward expected an answer.

He paused for several moments. He imagined what Frank would say to him now if he was able to communicate or if he had been able to do so as their eyes met before the firing of the second chamber.

But the stone’s facade of his slain friend just looked past him and deliberately into eternity.

Superimposing Frank’s face from the portrait new to me onto his image etched in stone – but eroded by time, gives us this possible view of how his gravestone might have once appeared and how I imagined Edward Green saw it as he contemplated the great crime he had committed against his young friend.

The Converses were affluent enough to not only chisel their son’s countenance onto his gravestone but also to commission a poet to compose a tribute to him in the short window of a few days between his murder and his funeral.

This tender elegy, written in honor of a slain son – like the portrait of a living Frank Converse – has been viewed by a scant set of eyes. Copies of it were passed out at Frank’s burial service to the mourners. I included it in full in my novel, but you can read it here as well.

     AGED 17 YEARS
     DECEMBER 15TH, 1863

     The youth went forth at   early morn
     All healthy, bright and gay: 
     Before the sun the zenith reach'd
     A mangled corpse he lay.

     Pity and fear stalk'd through the town, And thrilled was
     every breast: Commotion dire filled the day,
     And darkness brought no rest. 

     To hunt the murder'r from his den
     Each lent a willing hand, 
     Nor sought they long before they found
     And mark'd him with Cain's brand

     Had the wretch died on battlefield
     A lustrous name he'd won,
     In death dishonor'd now he lies,
     That killed the well lov'd son.

     The boy's true heart would never yield
     From virtue's path to stray: 
     True to his trust, his life he gave,
     The cruel robber's prey. 

     A life so young, so well begun,
     He bravely might aspire
     To win the civic crown of worth
     With honor to his sire

     What anguish tore the parents' breast
     When death untimely came,
     And treachery with bloody hands,
     Put out his life's young flame.

     Tears avail not, nor loud laments,
     To ease the throbbing heart: 
     Remembrance of his virtuous life
     Alone can peace impart

     Where Woodlawn spreads its stately
     With winding walks around, 
     Beside a snow white monument
     His bed of rest is found

     There flowers are strewn - there wreaths
     are hung -
     There woodbine marks the grave
     Of all that was mortal was of him 
     Whom Jesus died to save.

     Midst that Sacred Sepulchral Scene,
     Nearby a shady bower,
     Where water sparkling from the fount
     Within a rustic tower
     Upon the mount the stone is rais'd,
     There should you ever coy
     In marble you will see impressed
     The image of the boy

     --John Davidson

Time has slowly wore down the face of Frank Converse chiseled upon his tombstone – as it has also erased the story of his historical murder from our collective memory.

I hope with my novel, these two portraits, a poem and a visage of his gravestone restored, at least digitally, that the tragedy of his murder gains meaning and significance once again.

Michael Cloherty

Turning fifty – a base camp on a climb to a higher peak

My ego tried to dissuade me from writing about this topic, but my muse was unrelenting. 

Today is my fiftieth birthday.

To many of us, fifty feels like a median point and society points to the number as being middle-aged. Though in reality, very few among us live to a hundred. In the United States, the average life expectancy is seventy-nine. Fifty may be just how I and many of us are wired to look upon a sum which is half of a number viewed as so important to us. Our history is built on centuries. We hate zeroes – but love them if a single number exists to the left of several zeroes in money and a single figure next to a zero in age.

There are many rights of passage in our society at specific ages, sixteen allows us to acquire a drivers license, twenty-one the ability to order a legal drink.

Otherwise, as we age, any number ending in zero holds all the power: ten, twenty, and thirty mark the milestones of youth, while forty is on the very cusp of something else, a transition of a sort. By then, our minds and bodies have both transformed like a favorite article of clothing, worn and perhaps frayed with small tears – but hopefully still retaining function and comfort.

Sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, and one-hundred are significant and show continued longevity and with planning as well as chance, good health and vibrancy for the fewer and fewer of us who arrive to those ages.

But the big 5-0, it is an age to be contemplative. This is a peak many of us expect, from a young age, to attain. Even if this milestone is not possible for all, we always assume it is for ourselves. With luck – it can act as a base camp on our way to some higher summit.

The days, the years, the decades – in fact each second whirls by at a variety of speeds. Your first day in school, your first kiss, your first grown-up job, your first apartment, the birth of a child, the loss of someone dear to your heart, your first love, perhaps a true love who envelops your entire heart over many years.

Joy, anger, fear, success, failure. Each life is a unique myriad of so many things – but one thing is undeniable, there is only so much time. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Animals are wiser than we know and certainly sense so many things outside of our realm of understanding – yet only we humans wear watches. We are obsessed with the passage of time and live our lives within its constructs. That’s why time travel books and movies fascinate many of us. In fact, that is true of fiction of any kind, for reading or writing a story allows an escape for us from the very moment in which we’re living and the uncertainty of the future to come. 

While finishing my novel, Abel Bodied, in 2020 – my imagination was often distracted from the chaotic events of the world around me as instead I immersed my mind in the Malden Bank murder of 1863.

They say time slows down during a car crash. Life is a series of ebbs and flows. Time is constant, yet our perception is fluid and distinctive to the both individual and the situation.

In the end, I believe, each one of the moments we are given has the possibly of ultimately transforming into either a pebble or a feather… for life’s decisions, big and small, all begin either with the weight of a rock or the flight of a bird. The choice is ours. We can be weighed down by our inaction or we can attempt to fly. 

Our circumstances or our abilities are often beyond our power of will – but our attempts to accomplish a task always lay within our decisions. The result of our inactions or actions are all we are left with in the end, remnants of pebbles and feathers. 

I won’t tell you to wear sunscreen, since that has famously been done, yet truthfully you should. But I will advise you to rise higher than you think you can achieve, for we are all capable of doing so, not always… but on occasion. If a goal really means that much to you – or if you feel in the very center of your being that inaction will only lead to regret, your effort is worthwhile. There is no shame in failure. Life is full of it yet sometimes effort is rewarded.

This advice is meant as much as a reminder for myself as it is for you and others. By this stage in life, I have amassed a large collection of my own pebbles – but I am happy to realize that there are some feathers scattered among the pile that now consists of my five decades. 

The clock is ticking and the choice is yours. Are you a bird or are you a rock? For the reality is we will only leave feathers and pebbles as consequences of our choices for time erodes all that exists in its wake. 

For my fiftieth birthday, I could have chosen to be at a beach or in the mountains, but the biggest joy I have received in the past year has been at book signings and conversing with people about a project that required so much effort for me to create. At times, I was reluctant to fly. But I persevered.

I do not have a quill to sign my novel with – but I imagine the sharpie in my hand represents a feather of a sort and that is how I choose to celebrate my half-century of livng – in Malden square during a summer festival, steps away from the scene of the true crime that has so captivated me, that drove me to research and then write a novel, no matter how daunting the task appeared.

If you have something you wish to accomplish, try your best. My friends, life is not easy but if you have a passion for something, follow it to where it leads. That is my birthday wish for all of you!

Best wishes,

Michael Cloherty

Abel Bodied Speech at Converse Family Reunion

June 25, 2022

The Story of my novel, Abel Bodied

Part 1

Malden Public Library

Page one of fulfilling my childhood dream of writing a novel began in this very building. I just was not aware of it at the time.

When I was a boy, I spent hours and hours in this library. I was a student at Cheverus which is a block away.

I would come here after school, do my homework, borrow books from the shelves. Dive deep into another form of knowledge, a form of escape – which is the joy of reading.

As I entered, I would look up at the portrait of Frank Converse, surrounded by the portraits of his father, Elisha and his mother, Mary.

I was aware this library was built as a memorial to Frank but I was a child and didn’t fully comprehend the significance of his young life ended far too soon. I was too focused on the book in front of me and to where it led my imagination.

In high school, I did some creative writing and then I was an English Literature major at Suffolk University. Four years of reading, Four years of delving into the minds of Joyce, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and others. However, I wasn’t sure if I could make a living a writer.

So, in the last semester of my senior year, I interned at New England Cable News and I have worked for the last 27 years in Boston television news, as a video editor, as a writer, tuning in liveshots.

During that first summer after college, I had a nightmare of a Union soldier chasing me around my childhood home. The next day I started writing a novel set in the 1860’s to the 1880’s in Malden. I worked on that novel throughout my twenties without ever finishing it. It is on a hard drive and I hope to return to it at some point.

In my thirties, I married, life goes on, work, commuting, vacations. My desire for becoming a novelist was set aside.

As I turned forty in 2012 – I wrote an article about the bank murder as a piece of Malden history. I knew a little bit about it but found myself truly drawn to the story, more and more.

Click book cover to buy!

Part 2
The Novel:

Writing this novel, I thought of myself as an archeologist, digging and digging until the story revealed itself. I researched hundreds of newspaper articles related to the crime.

Many of the numerous articles I read on a particular topic were often verbatim as they were transferred around the country by telegraph from one newspaper to another.

But occasionally, after reading the same words over and over, I would find one new little fascinating tidbit. It was like panning for gold. If you think of the task of what the 49ers did in California, it was many hours of tedium for that one moment of discovery and that for me was what the research of this book was like. It was always the thrill both of the research and then forming that research into the narrative.

Besides newspapers, I also sought out the census records and the genealogy of the main players in this tale, The Greens, The Shilohs and of course, The Converses, not as much as Peter knows by any measure – but I did my best.

Peter Converse, 2nd Great-Grandson of Elisha and Mary and organizer of reunion

I enjoyed researching the facts from long ago – but my muse also wanted to be creative and imagine how these real people lived, how they thought, what life was like in the time they lived, the struggles they encountered that were unique to them and more importantly the struggles that are familiar to us today, issues truly timeless to all people.

I was learning as I was going. Both of the history of the story and also of the craft of becoming a writer.

I have been working in journalism for more than half my life – but truly pining to be a novelist since I was a boy, this book is a combination of the two, allowing me to write a novel based on the true events.

Pleasant Street 1867 looking east toward Main Street. The Malden Bank was located right of the buggies, but just out of sight.

I had been waiting my whole life to write a novel and this story and the era in which it occurred allowed me to explore the themes which are universal to the alchemy of America since its inception which include race, class and gender.

But I like to think of all of my research as tent poles. I acquired all of this knowledge, the whole story, the timeline of these people’s lives, of the murder, of the Edward Green, the postmaster’s involvement and hints of what his motivations were. Of William Shiloh, a black barber, who witnessed all that occurred on Pleasant Street and testified of seeing Green pass back and forth across the street often to visit his young friend, Frank. And I filled in these tent poles with dialogue and the what-ifs of a fiction writer until I had my completed structure.

This is historical fiction. The title, Abel Bodied, is initially based on the fact that this was the first murder during a bank robbery in American history, more than two years before the James-Younger Gang, which may have included Jesse and his brother Frank that day, robbed a bank in Liberty, Missouri shooting and killing a bystander as they rode away. Coincidentally, the victim was also 17 just as Frank was.

Frank Converse’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, Ma – which was part of Malden at the time of his death

I was fortunate since the story occurred here that I could visit many of the pertinent locations like you are doing on this reunion weekend. Like Frank’s grave, the location of the bank and the former location of Green’s post office which is currently where Hugh O’Neill’s pub stands. It didn’t hurt that this pub was my local.

So, I thought of Cain and Abel. Though not blood, Frank and Edward were reported to be the closest of friends by many townspeople after the crime. Green, a horrible bookkeeper was deeply in debt with a baby on the way, his daughter, Alice, was born just ten days after the murder on Christmas day 1863 – so, it was an easy leap to think he was jealous of Frank the way Cain was jealous of Abel. I also thought of the Civil War raging where brother was killing brother.

The original First National Bank where the crime was committed was demolished before 1901, the current larger structure had housed a variety of other banking institutions until it recently was converted into Faces Brewery.

The Malden Bank a few years after the murder next to the larger Bailey Building

When I began this book, I wanted to visit the scene of the crime to get a sense of the place where it all occurred.

In 2012, it was a Bank of America. I was not a customer, had never been in the building before but my mind was full of my research and the portions of the novel I had started writing, I walked to the middle of the bank, did not approach any tellers or anyone else. Knowing the former footprint of the smaller original bank, I began to pace around like I was traveling back to 1863. It was as if I was all alone, just me and the story unfolding in my mind. Those around me vanished as I entered further and further into my imagination.

After a couple of minutes. Quite content with my visit and the sense and time of the crime, I wandered back out on the street, imagining how Green, the postmaster, had done so almost 150 years before. Trying to conjure what he was thinking after the crime, his emotions, what was going through his mind after killing his friend, regret, fear of being caught, relief of having a large amount of money, $5000, for the first time in his life.

I stood there contemplating all of these ideas and didn’t budge. I was disturbed from daydream by the fast approach of a burly security guard who must have thought I was a lunatic or was simply casing the joint. I walked away slowly and luckily, he went back into the bank. I never returned to that bank after that.

My novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank, took 8 years to research, write and edit. At some points I was concerned I would never finish it. My fear was that like so many others, I would be a middle-aged man with a half-written manuscript buried deep in a desk drawer.

Forgotten about just like my first attempt at writing a novel in my twenties. Yet, I persevered because I was compelled to tell this story. To finish it. I couldn’t stop working on it. Even when I took a pause from writing, I couldn’t cease thinking about this historic event in my hometown which was unknown to most people.

I was shocked a book had never been released on the subject before. I wanted to finish as soon as possible in case some other author stumbled across the first bank robbery murder in our country’s history before I could publish my book.

Part 3
Finding the story arc:

The novel focuses on the grief of Frank’s parents and also on Edward Green’s wife, Clara, who had a difficult time being married to him.

But there are three people involved who are the main focus of this novel for me and this story. There is, of course, Frank, the victim, Edward, the killer, his motivations, the reasons he would do this to his friend and then you have someone I didn’t expect initially to be such a big part of my novel, William Shiloh.

William Shiloh standing in front of his barbershop on Pleasant Street

William, a black man born in Delaware below the Mason/Dixon line, moved to Malden before the Civil War to ply his trade as a barber. At this time in our nation, there were some German immigrant barbers but African Americans made up a large portion of the profession.

A barbershop was a place for affluent white men who expected an ornate parlor and a certain standard of elegance in these parlors. To put it simply, they wished to be waited upon.

One of the greatest compliments I have received as a writer was from my proofreader who loved my line that Wiliam’s shop faced north and the south was behind him. He had moved north, away from the threat of slavery. Yet, though his and his family’s lives were safer, they remained fraught with peril while the war to determine the freedom of his people was fought hundreds of miles away.

In between haircuts and shaves as he awaited his next customer, William could see everything that occurred on Pleasant Street. I imagined him as a careful, tactful man who observed the townspeople with great detail without being truly seen by them himself.

So, he allowed me to have a character with a unique perspective. He was a witness and as a black man certainly saw things differently than his white peers. He was an outsider who had carved out a little place for himself in town as a barber.

I had trouble finding the perfect way to start the novel. There were at least three first chapters which I wasn’t happy with. I moved a chapter I liked a lot, originally in the middle of the book, where William sees Edward approaching his barber shop days after the murder which William suspects Edward had committed, to the beginning of the novel.

This allowed me to have one of the main focuses of the story hinge on William’s decision whether to come forward or not with what he knows while considering the consequences of both options.

I wrote his character as someone who desires justice for the Frank and the Converse family – but also a man who has to be cautious for the safety of his own family and their place in Malden. For a story to work, a character has to face a dilemma or challenge and so William became the engine to move the narrative.

Part 4:

At my first ever book signing right across the street from the location of the 1863 crime.
June 26, 2022 Malden Summer Festival

I’ve looked at your itinerary the last couple of days and I think it is terrific! The reunion organizers did a great job of connecting you to every part of the Converse family in this area. What your family has imparted to this area, particularly to Malden. What Elisha meant to our city as its first mayor and what Frank’s passing meant to his parents and all they gave to the city including this beautiful building in Frank’s memory. The legacy they left of philanthropy is truly astounding.

I published my book last summer and the city has been very kind in supporting me. They gave me a prime spot on Pleasant Street feet from the scene of the crime during several summer festivals last year and more this year.

Murder at the Malden Bank Pub Crawl July 2021

Last year, they also staged a pub crawl with actors portraying the real people involved in the crime at locations pertinent to the true story like the killer’s office and the location of the bank robbery and murder. This year, we have some staged another pub crawl and five more are planned. There are 80 tickets per event. The next one on July 9th is sold out like the previous one and the others are also selling quite well.

Click the image below for ticket information and availability

Idle Hands Craft Ales

The crawl starts and ends at Idle Hands Craft Ales which is not too far from where the Boston Rubber Shoe Company once stood. At the end of the tour, I sign and sell copies of my book. I tell my wife all the time, the two things I enjoy doing the most are drinking beer and talking about my book and she is very happy that I have now found a place to do so outside our home! It did take 8 years to write the book.

Incantrix Productions during Murder Mystery Pub Crawl June 2021

When Mayor Gary Christenson read the book, he tweeted, “I started it on Saturday and finished it today. It was that good and the only thing that could top it is if the book was made into a movie or Netflix series!”
And I said, “Keep talking, Gary!”

I am very grateful to his and the city’s support especially Business Development Officer Kevin Duffy.

I had so much research and detail of this book that a few years into writing it, it grew to about 900 pages. It was too long and too unwieldy to finish so I cut it in half and focused on the first part, rewriting and editing it before I hired a copy editor, a cover designer, an interior designer and proofreader.

I self-published because I wanted to retain creative control of my work. Oftentimes, a publisher can change the characters, the plot, the cover, anything they want. I didn’t want to cede my autonomy – but I did want to hire professionals to allow me to create the best book I was capable of writing.

The remaining manuscript will be part two of the story which ends with Mary passing in 1903 and Elisha in 1904. I hope to have it published in the next year or so. While still a work in progress, I would like to read a passage from it now.

Appropriately enough, it’s Elisha speaking to Mary. It is how I imagined they discussed building this library as a memorial to their slain son.

“Our lives are finite and the best intentions we leave in our wakes are also finite – but with some luck, they can span not just decades but centuries.

For this reason, we must try. We must give even after our last breaths, Mary. Frank loved books and reading. He always had a book in his hands. We will construct this library for our home of Malden and in our heart of hearts we build this for our son. We do this for Frank!”

A terrible act of violence shows the fragility of the human body and the temperament of the mind of a troubled man. Edward Green was a desperate opportunist; he robbed the bank and killed his friend.

In contrast, the parents of the victim were givers, not takers. Years of philanthropy by the Converses proves the enduring triumph of their spirit after such a tragedy.

When the anniversary of the bank robbery and Frank’s murder, December 15th, was approaching last year – I went to the mayor with an idea. I wanted to emulate the philanthropy of Elisha and Mary on the terrible anniversary of their son’s murder.
Just as their lives were a beacon of charity and giving after the horrendous loss of Frank, I wanted the date of his murder to focus on the good works they had accomplished. I proposed we honor the legacy of your family to the city with a ‘Converse Day of Giving.’

I had only sold and signed trade paperbacks up to that point. I numbered my first signed hardcovers from 1-17 since that was the age to which Frank had lived. The first signed hardcover raised $90 in a drawing for Bread of Life – our local food bank.

Janet Andrulli won the first numbered and signed hardcover copy of Abel Bodied.

I gave the majority of the profits of the next 16 signed hardcovers, as well for a total of over $400 to Bread of Life. I plan to continue this event on the anniversary this year and hopefully for many years to come. To give back to Malden as the Converse family always has.

I have lived in Malden all of my life. Three weeks from today, I will celebrate my 5oth birthday.

My writer’s journey began here when I was a child and it is truly a marvelous bookend for me to be speaking about my novel based on the tragic murder of Frank Converse in the building dedicated to him surrounded by members of the Converse family knowing Abel Bodied graces the shelves of this library.

It was a thrill when the first copy of my novel arrived in the mail. It was fun for me to visit the gallery@57 in Malden Square steps from the scene of the crime, some Barnes and Noble locations and other book stores and take a picture of my novel on the shelves surrounded by so many other books. I felt a pure sense of accomplishment and joy.

Yet, when I met Dora St. Martin here last year and donated copies to the library and she informed me the library had purchased even more, this was surely the greatest thrill of them all.

To have my novel about a significant event in my hometown on the shelves of this library is astounding. Something I never could have guessed would occur when I was a boy doing my homework here or reading a book someone else had written. I have written my own novel and it is on the shelves in this library. There is nothing I am prouder to say.

Elisha left an indelible mark on this city. I am humbled and hopeful to say, I may have left a minor mark myself in Malden with this novel as well.

Thank you ever so much for listening and all the Converse family has given and continues to give to the citizens of Malden!

Converse Family Reunion

June 24th-June 26th, 2022

It was a great honor to be invited by the Converse family to be a guest and speaker at their family reunion this past weekend in Malden, Massachusetts.

The family initially planned to gather in 2020 to mark the two-hundredth birthday of Elisha Converse, but had to reschedule until this year.

Elisha was the first mayor of Malden, the founder of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company and the president of The First National Bank. His son, Frank, a teller in the Malden Bank, was the first murder victim during a bank robbery in American history. On December 15, 1863, Edward Green, the town’s postmaster, shot him twice and stole $5ooo.

Last year, I released my novel, Abel Bodied: Murder at the Malden Bank, which is based on the crime.

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The Malden Public Library was built by Elisha Converse and given as a gift to the city by he and his wife, Mary, to stand as a memorial to their slain son. The library opened to the public on October 1, 1885 which would have been Frank’s thirty-ninth birthday.

As a boy, I spent hours in this room surrounded by books and dreamed of one day writing and publishing a novel of my own. The young boy in these pictures below, with his clip-on tie, had to wait decades to finally fulfill his dream.

I worked on a novel through all of my twenties and just couldn’t finish it. I gave up. In my thirties, I put my ambition of being a writer on hold.

Abel Bodied took eight years to write and I didn’t start it until I was forty, yet the subject matter and the story was always right in front of me, waiting to be written. I just was unaware of it at the time.

For each time I entered The Converse Memorial Building since childhood, I would pass a portrait of young Frank, with the portraits of his loving, grief-stricken parents on either side of him.

Elisha and Mary’s images in these portraits reflect their long lives, but the image of Frank shows that he would remain forever seventeen.

Courtesy: Malden Public Library
Courtesy: Malden Public Library

Fast-forward to the present day, and I found myself standing in this very same library, on a very warm Saturday afternoon in late June, delivering an address about my novel to relatives of Frank, Mary and Elisha, including Rosie Converse Morgan, who is the great-granddaughter of Elisha and Mary.

Rosie Converse Morgan and I at the Library after my speech

My talk detailed the journey of a child with many books borrowed from the library’s shelves to an almost fifty-year-old man whose own novel based on a seminal moment in my city and their family’s history now exists among those same shelves.

My literary odyssey was truly coming full circle – not just being within the library where I daydreamed about being a novelist – but also speaking to the descendants and relatives of the people whom this horrific, historic crime affected so greatly. I am humbled and very grateful to the Converses for including me in their reunion! Thanks to them all and especially to Cici Spaulding for inviting me as a guest and a speaker.

‘Surreal’ is often overused but I can conjure no other word to describe the sensation of participating in these moments after decades of thinking about the 1863 crime and the long process of writing and finally releasing my novel detailing it in 2021.

Click the image of library below to continue and read my speech

The gallery below has images of the Malden Public Library, the reception for the Converse Family Reunion on Friday, June 24th, a dinner at Pine Banks Park Saturday and a memorial service on Sunday for Elisha and Mary Converse at the First Baptist Church where Elisha once acted as deacon.