Tag Archives: biography

Blitz: The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens by Chrysta Castaneda & Loren C. Steffy

Chrysta Castañeda & Loren Steffy
Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Courtroom Drama
Publisher: Stoney Creek Publishing Group
Date of Paperback Publication: September 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 300 Pages
Finalist, 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award
T. Boone Pickens, legendary Texas oilman and infamous corporate raider from the 1980s, climbed the steps of the Reeves County courthouse in Pecos, Texas in early November 2016. He entered the solitary courtroom and settled into the witness stand for two days of testimony in what would be the final trial of his life.
Pickens, who was 88 by then, had made and lost billions over his long career, but he’d come to Pecos seeking justice from several other oil companies. He claimed they cut him out of what became the biggest oil play he’d ever invested in—in an oil-rich section of far West Texas that was primed for an unprecedented boom. After years of dealing with the media, shareholders and politicians, Pickens would need to win over a dozen West Texas jurors in one last battle.
To lead his legal fight, he chose an unlikely advocate—Chrysta Castañeda, a Dallas solo practitioner who had only recently returned to the practice of law after a hiatus borne of disillusionment with big firms. Pickens was a hardline Republican, while Castañeda had run for public office as a Democrat. But they shared an unwavering determination to win and formed a friendship that spanned their differences in age, politics, and gender.
In a town where frontier justice was once meted out by Judge Roy Bean—“The Law West of the Pecos”—Pickens would gird for one final courtroom showdown. Sitting through trial every day, he was determined to prevail, even at the cost of his health.
The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens is a high-stakes courtroom drama told through the eyes of Castañeda. It’s the story of an American business legend still fighting in the twilight of his long career, and the lawyer determined to help him make one final stand for justice.

“Think you know T. Boone Pickens, the larger-than-life business titan,
energy trader, and corporate raider? Think again. The attorney representing Pickens in his final major court battle and the business writer who covered him most over the decades reveal a whole other T. Boone that few people outside his bubble could have ever imagined.”
Joe Nick Patoski, author of Austin to ATX and host of the Texas
Music Hour of Power

“Chrysta Castañeda and Loren Steffy have accomplished the remarkable. They’ve taken issues most familiar to lawyers and judges, woven them into an incredible story and presented to all an enjoyable journey through The
Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens.
Craig Enoch, Former Texas Supreme Court Justice and founder of the Enoch Kever law firm

CHRYSTA CASTAÑEDA is a Texas trial attorney specializing in oil and gas disputes. She formed her own boutique law firm in 2014 after more than twenty years as a partner and associate in some of the world’s top law firms.


LOREN STEFFY is a journalist and author of four other nonfiction books: Deconstructed: An Insider’s View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek) (Stoney Creek Publishing, 2020), George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet (Texas A&M University Press, 2019), Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (McGraw-Hill, 2010) and The Man Who Thought Like a Ship (Texas A&M University Press, 2012). His first novel, The Big Empty, was published in April 2021.
Website Instagram Twitter
Facebook – The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens
Facebook – Stoney Creek Publishing

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Post, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Promo: Equal Opportunity Hero by Phil Price

T.J. Patterson’s Service to West Texas

  Genre: Biography / African American Leaders
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
on Twitter  ┃ on Facebook
Date of Publication: November 20, 2017
Number of Pages: 277
On April 7, 1984, T. J. Patterson became the first African American elected to the Lubbock City Council, winning handily over his four opponents. It was a position he would go on to hold for more than twenty years, and his natural leadership would lead him to state and national recognition.

Patterson grew up during a time of American social unrest, protest, and upheaval, and he recounts memorable instances of segregation and integration in West Texas. As a two-year-old, he survived polio when African Americans were excluded from “whites only” hospitals. When he attempted to enroll at Texas Tech after graduating from all-black Bishop College, he was not allowed even to enter the administration building–the president would speak with him only outside, and then only to say Patterson could not be enrolled. Two years later, his aunt would become the first African American to attend Texas Tech.
Patterson spent his whole adult life as a grassroots activist, and as a city councilman he understood how important it was to work in solid partnership with representatives from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of the city. Over the years, Patterson took every opportunity to join African American and Hispanic forces, but with a few exceptions, the traditional geographic divide of the minority population limited his efforts–and yet Patterson never gave up. His brave public marches to homes of known drug dealers brought attention to their undesirable activities. Patterson also supported city investment in Lubbock history and culture, plus new development activity, from annexation to paved roads to water mains to fire stations. During his long career he truly was an equal-opportunity hero for all of Lubbock’s citizens.

Phil Price has been friends with T. J. Patterson for more than twenty years. Now retired, Price was President and CEO of a marketing and design agency. Over the years he has served the Lubbock Independent School District, the Lubbock Better Business Bureau, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, and other city agencies. He lives in Lubbock USA, with his wife, Victoria.

Author Interview
   blog tour services provided by


Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Post, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Promo & Giveaway: A Witness to History by Janet M. Neugebauer

George H. Mahon,
West Texas Congressman
By Janet M. Neugebauer
Foreword by Kent Hance
  Genre: Texas History / Politics / Biography
Date of Publication: June 30 2017
Number of Pages: 576
Scroll down for Giveaway!
This is the story of George H. Mahon, a man who went to Congress in 1935, when the House Committee on Appropriations still allocated a small amount of money to buy military horses. Forty-four years later, when Mahon retired as Chairman of that same committee, the committee was debating funds to purchase a bomber capable of traveling at 2,000 miles an hour. With a career spanning nearly a half century—spanning almost the entire Cold War—Mahon grew from a West Texas country lawyer to one of the most powerful men in the US House of Representatives, serving twenty-two consecutive terms from 1935–1978.
During his time in Congress, Mahon worked easily with the giants of government, enjoying the friendship and confidence of seven of the eight presidents with whom he served. He worked just as comfortably with his constituents in the Nineteenth Congressional District of Texas. Mahon served on several Congressional committees, but it is through his service on the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations that he had the greatest national impact. He often bragged that under his leadership the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations was the most non-partisan committee in Congress. Mahon led the subcommittee with a strong but gentle hand that earned him the respect of all who served with him.

Janet M. Neugebauer is deputy director of the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University. Her many works include Lambshead Legacy and Plains Farmer.

Kent Hance is a former Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and a former member of the US House of Representatives.

   April 26-May 7, 2017 

Sneak Peek Images
Sneak Peek Images
Sneak Peek Images
blog tour services provided by


Leave a comment

Filed under Giveaway, Lone Star Book Blog Tours

West Texas Middleweight by Frank Sikes

The Story of LaVern Roach
(Sport in the American West Series)
Frank Sikes
Genre: Biography
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Scroll down for Giveaway!
LaVern Roach, a skinny kid from the small town of Plainview, Texas, rose from obscurity to become one of boxing’s most popular figures during the 1940s. Roach’s rise to prominence occurred during an era when boxing shared the spotlight with baseball as the nation’s top two professional sports. As a result of Roach’s death—which marked the first nationally televised fight during which a boxer died from injuries received in the ring—the sport of boxing came under closer scrutiny by the general public than ever before.
West Texas Middleweight is the story of Roach’s all too brief journey from a West Texas amateur, to enlistment in the US Marines, where he captained the nation’s most successful military boxing team, to becoming a Madison Square Garden main eventer. He received the distinction of being named The Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” for 1947 and was considered a top ten contender for the middleweight championship of the world. This book chronicles Roach’s road to his final fight—and it explains why, as noted by legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, “boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
email: ttup@ttu.edu
phone: 800.742.2982
Sikes guest post pic 2


By Frank Sikes


The Muhammad Ali-Angelo Dundee partnership created a boxing legend which lasted for over half a century. Ali, arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, recently died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74. His partner in fame, Angelo Dundee, arguably the best boxing trainer who ever lived, passed away on February 1, 2012 at the age of 90.


What does this have to do with West Texas Middleweight, the Story of LaVern Roach?


Angelo was a seasoned trainer, who had already produced his first world boxing champ in Carmen Basilio, when he first met 18 year old Cassius Marcellus Clay. The relationship got off to a rocky start. After Clay won his gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, all of the trainers were trying to sign him to a professional contract. All with the exception of Dundee, who didn’t want to take the time and trouble in helping turn an amateur into a professional fighter. Fate eventually brought the two together, forming boxing’s most successful boxer/trainer relationship and the rest is history.


Go back in time to 1945. World War II was over and the soldiers were coming home. Among them was twenty five year old Angelo Dundee, who in his own words, said “I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” His older brother Chris had put together one of the largest boxing teams in the country, called Dundee’s Dandies. He offered Angelo a job, which Angelo best described as a “gopher” – running errands and doing whatever Chris wanted done. Chris discovered that Angelo had a talent for writing and soon had him writing publicity material to send to the young boxer’s hometown newspapers.


There was one boxer that he was really impressed with and had no problem in producing sporting clips to send back home. His name was LaVern Roach. LaVern, a twenty year old Texan, had gotten out of the Marine Corps, where he won a national Golden Glove championship, the best fighter to come out of the Marines in World War II, and was named the Amateur Boxer of the Year by Look Magazine. Just like Clay years later, LaVern’s ambition was to become a world champion boxer. Instead of going back to Texas, he decided to stay in New York City, which was the heart of the boxing world. He soon became the star of the Dundee Dandees, forming a friendship with Angelo. In Angelo’s own words, “I had the pleasure and honor to meet LaVern Roach as a person and a human being – great on both accounts – He would have been a fistic star at ‘any time’ – championship material. Walked like a champ in and out of the ring.”


Angelo’s skills working with the young boxers were soon recognized by bother Chris, and his duties expanded to where Angie began his training in the boxing ring as a bucket-man, then a cut-man for LaVern and the other boxers.   So before there was an Angelo Dundee, there was a LaVern Roach.


Angelo Dundee reached the summit of boxing with Muhammad Ali but received some of his earliest training with LaVern Roach.


Angelo’s first words to me were “Boxing Changed because of LaVern Roach.” His parting words were “Good luck with the book. Boxing is in need of a good story.” Angelo died six month later, but not before he attended Ali’s 70th birthday party.


Angelo (age 90) and Ali were reunited for the last time at Ali’s 70th birthday party. Angelo Dundee died about two weeks later.


Frank Sikes, a third-generation West Texan, grew up in Plainview, where LaVern Roach, along with Jimmy Dean, were hometown heroes.  Sikes graduated from Texas Tech in 1967, then was a US Navy Officer proudly serving aboard the USS Little Rock stationed in Gaeta, Italy from 1968-1970.  He attended the University of Houston School of Business, from 1973 to 1975, and got his master’s degree in religion from Wayland Baptist University in 2011.

Frank and his wife Nancy have been married for 50 years and have two grown children out of the house, and two Boston Terriers, Molly and Maggie (or as some suggest Boston terrorists) who rule the house. Lubbock has been home for the past 30 years with stops in Newport, RI; San Francisco, CA; Gaeta, Italy; Houston, TX; and Albuquerque, NM.  West Texas Middleweight is his first book.
Connect with the author on FACEBOOK.

 Each Wins a Signed Copy of the Book 
Each Wins a Signed Copy of the Book PLUS a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card


   June 1 – June 10, 2016

7/1       Country Girl Bookaholic  – Review

7/2       My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview #1


7/3       Forgotten Winds – Guest Post #1


7/4       Margie’s Must Reads Review



7/6       StoreyBook Reviews  – Author Interview #2


7/7       Book Chase Review


7/8       The Page Unbound Author Interview #3


7/9       Missus Gonzo  – Guest Post #2


7/10    It’s a Jenn World Review


   blog tour services provided by

Leave a comment

Filed under Giveaway, Guest Post, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Uncategorized

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz


Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

In celebration of the paperback release of Dr. Mutter’s Marvels, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz will be in-conversation with Mellick T. Sykes, MD, MA (Anat) FACS, the Archivist from the Texas Surgical Society and a Clinical Professor of Surgery, to discuss the life and times of Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter, founder of the (in)famous Mutter Museum of medical oddities in Philadelphia. Their conversation at BookPeople in Austin, Texas on October 12th at 7 pmwill feature surgical instruments from the oftentimes treacherous (and fascinating) world of medicine and surgery during the early 19th century. The talk will be followed by a brief Q&A and signing. 


A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country’s most famous museum of medical oddities Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia, performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the mid-nineteenth century.
Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time. Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s renowned Mütter Museum.
Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation—despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s “overly modern” medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the “[P. T.] Barnum of the surgery room.”
Even in the middle of the ocean, Mütter could not get her out of his mind. He excused himself early from dinner, stopped well- meaning conversationalists mid- sentence, and rushed down to his sleeping
quarters just to hold her face in his hands.
To an American like him, she appeared unquestionably French: high cheekbones, full upturned lips, glittering deep- set eyes. For an older woman, she was impressively well preserved, her temples kissed with only the slightest crush of wrinkles. When she was young, Mütter imagined, she must have been very beautiful, though perhaps girlishly sensitive about the long thin hook of her nose, or the pale mole resting on her lower left cheek. But that would have been decades ago.
Now well past her childbearing years, the woman answered only to “Madame Dimanche”—the Widow Sunday— and all anyone saw when they looked at her was the thick brown horn that sprouted from her pale forehead, continuing down the entire length of her face and stopping bluntly just below her pointy, perfect French chin.
The young Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter had arrived in Paris less than a year earlier, in the fall of 1831. Even for Mutter, who had always relied heavily on his ability to charm a situation to his favor, it had not been an easy trip to arrange. He was just twenty years old when he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s storied medical college. To an outsider, he may not have seemed that different from the other students in his class: fresh- faced, eager, hardworking. But he knew he was different— in some ways that were deliberate and in other ways that were utterly out of his control.
Perhaps the most obvious of these was Mutter’s appearance. He was, as anyone could plainly see, extraordinarily handsome. Having studied his parents’ portraits as a child— One of the few things of theirs he still possessed— he knew that he inherited his good looks. He had his father’s strong nose, impishly arched eyebrows, and rare bright blue eyes. He favored his mother’s bright complexion, her round lips, and sweet, open oval face. His chin, like hers, jutted out playfully.
Mutter made sure to keep his thick brown hair cut to a fashionable length, brushed back and swept off his cleanly shaven, charismatic face. His clothing was always clean, current, and fastidiously tailored. From a young age, he understood how important looks were, how vital appearance was to acceptance, especially among certain circles of society. He worked hard to create an aura of ease around him. No one needed to know how much he had struggled, or how much he struggled still. No, rather he made it a habit to stand straight, to make his smile easy and his laugh warm. He was, as a contemporary once described him, the absolute pink of neatness.
The truth was that, financially, he had always been forced to walk a tightrope. Both his parents had died when he was very young. The money they left him was modest, and thanks to complicated legal issues, his access to it was severely limited. Over the years, he grew practiced in the art of finessing opportunities so that he could live something approximate to the life he desired. At boarding school, he was known to charge his clothing bills to the institution and then earn scholarships to pay off the resulting debts. When he wanted to travel, he secured just enough money to get him to his destination and then relied on his wits to get him back home.
And now that Mutter had achieved his long time goal of graduating from one of the country’s best medical schools, he focused on his next goal: Paris.
Paris was the epicenter of medical achievement: the medical mecca. Hundreds of American doctors swarmed to the city every year, knowing that in order to be great, to be truly great, you must study medicine in Paris.


And that had always been Mutter’s plan: to be great. More than that: to be the greatest.
Getting to Paris, however, was not an easy endeavor. He knew— as all gentlemen of limited means did— that sailing as a surgeon’s mate with a U. S. naval ship in exchange for free passage to Europe was an option open to him, but competition was always considerable and fierce. Mutter spent months submitting letters and applications to the secretary of the Navy, trying to use charm, logic, and bravado to secure a position. He even implored his guardian, Colonel Robert W. Carter, to ask prominent men close to President Jackson to write letters on his behalf, explaining, “[I] am afraid that I shall not be able to obtain an order unless I can get my friends to make some exertions for the furtherance of my plan.” Despite all the effort he expended, no position ever materialized.
Mutter could only watch as the wealthier members of his graduating class departed for Europe with financial ease. Others returned to their hometowns with their new degrees, bought houses with their fathers’ money, and started their practices using their families’ connections. Mutter remained in Philadelphia, and his hopes remained fixed on Paris.
Mutter felt his luck about to change when he read about the Kensington in a local Philadelphia paper. For months, the Cramp shipyard had been building a massive warship. The rumor was that it was being built for the Mexican Navy, and that upon seeing its immense size— and cost— they opted to back out of purchasing it. However, the most recent update was that the giant ship had sold after all, to the Imperial Russian Navy.
Mutter saw an opportunity. He went to the Cramp shipyard and asked if the American crew in charge of sailing the Kensington to Russia was in need of a surgeon’s mate. That he was just twenty and only a few months out of medical school was a minor detail. He hoped that being present, able, and willing would be enough. Luckily for Mutter, it was. A few weeks later, he boarded the ship (later to be renamed the Prince of Warsaw by Tsar Nicholas himself ), and left America for the first time.
The ocean was like nothing Mutter had ever experienced: vast and wild and so incredibly loud. He had hoped the enormity of the newly built warship— with its four towering masts and immense spiderweb of rigging— as well as its extensively trained crew would offer him comfort during the weeks at sea, but the experience was more taxing than any book or anecdote portended.
He did not anticipate that whether he was holed up in the bowels of the ship or clinging to the aft railing, his body would be trapped in a relentless cycle of emptying itself. That his stomach would never become accustomed to the rolling blue- black swells of the sea. Nor did he realize how intimate he would become with the ship’s beastly stowaways— bedbugs and fleas,
and rats. He would wake to bugs crawling in his hair and mouth, and fall asleep to sounds of the rats chewing through his clothes, attempting to suss out even the smallest morsel of food. And then there were the storms, the nights when he felt certain the vessel would break in two as mountainous waves crashed over it, the ship itself painfully groaning with each hit. The ocean seemed nothing but a frothing black maw, hungry to devour him.
When the sea was calm and the sky bright and blue, he forced himself to stand on the ship’s deck and look toward what he hoped was Europe. He tried to enjoy these moments, but he didn’t know true relief until the crew pointed out birds appearing in the sky, a sign that they were approaching land, after more than a month at sea.
When Mutter finally arrived in Paris, it immediately reminded him of the ocean; it too was vast and wild and incredibly loud. Unlike at sea, however, in Paris he felt perfectly at home.
Its streets were packed, people and buildings in every direction. His world was suddenly and delightfully filled  with new sounds, new scents, new music. There were colorfully dressed women sweeping the streets, and strapping men carrying enormous bundles on their heads. There were strange- looking carriages that seemed like relics of a barbarous age, which were in turn being pulled by enormous and brash horses. Even the food being eaten at street- side cafes seemed strange and exotic to Mutter. The city avenue was a vast museum of wonderful new sights to gawk at, and it seemed that the French wanted it that way. They loved to look, and to be looked at. It was true what Mutter had heard: Those French who could spare the time would flamboyantly promenade every day. And on Sundays, absolutely everyone did.


Once Mutter had secured modest student housing, he set out to promenade himself. He’d been sure to pack his finest clothes for the journey: suits cut close to his slim frame (his natural thinness being perhaps one of the only benefits he’d gained from the illnesses that had plagued him since childhood) and made from the most expensive fabrics he could afford in the brightest colors in stock. Years earlier, a schoolmaster once wrote to Colonel Carter, Mutter’s guardian, that his pupil’s “principal error is rather too much fondness for a style of dress not altogether proper for a boy his age.” Clearly, that schoolmaster had never been to Paris.
Mutter enjoyed the moment, peacocking on Parisian streets for the first time, a master of his fate. The lines between Mutter’s starting points and his destination were not often straight, but he took pride and comfort in knowing that he always got there. And the next morning, he would begin the next phase of his mission, his true goal in Paris: to learn everything he could about modern medicine until his money, or his luck, ran out.
In 1831, over a half million people called Paris their home, and by royal decree, each French citizen was entitled to free medical treatment from any of the dozens of hospitals within the city limits. The hospitals were typically open to any visiting doctors, provided one could show them a medical degree and, when necessary, place the right amount of coins into the right hands.
Studying medicine in Paris became so popular that guidebooks were written just for the visiting American doctors. Nowhere else in the world, one wrote, could “experience be acquired by the attentive student as in the
French capital . . . where exists such a vast and inexhaustible field for observation. . .”
And it was true. Where else but Paris would there be not one but two hospitals devoted entirely to the treatment of syphilis? Afflicted women were sent to the Hôpital Lourcine, a hospital filled with the most frightful instances of venereal ravages. The men were sent to the Hôpital du Midi, which required that all patients be publicly whipped as punishment for contracting the disease, both before and after treatment.
Hôpital des EnfantsMalades was a hospital for ill children, and was nearly always filled to capacity. It had a grim mortality rate— one in every four children who came for treatment died there— but the doctors on staff assured visiting scholars that this was because most of the patients came from the lowest classes of society and thus were frequently brought to the hospital already in a hopeless or dying condition.
Doctors specializing in obstetrics could visit Hôpital de la Maternité. It served laboring women only, and averaged eleven births a day. Some days, however, the numbers rose to twenty- five or thirty women, each wailing in her own bed, as the doctors and midwives (called sages-femmes) rushed among them. New mothers were allowed to stay nine days after giving birth, and the hospital even supplied them with clothing and a small allowance, provided they were willing to take the child with them. Not all of the women were.
So the Hôpital des EnfantsTrouvés for abandoned children was founded. Newborns arrived daily from Hôpital de la Maternité from women unable or unwilling to keep their children, as well as those infants whose mothers died while giving birth, as one in every fifty women who entered Hôpital de la Maternité did.
The Hôpital des EnfantsTrouvés also allowed Parisian citizens to come directly to the hospital and hand over a child of any age. The hospital encouraged families to register and mark the children they were leaving so


they might reclaim them at a later date, but the families who chose to do so were few. In fact, the vast majority of the children there had arrived via le tour.
Le tour d’abandon (“the desertion tower”) was merely a box attached to the hospital, constructed with two sliding doors and a small, loud bell. An infant was unceremoniously placed in the box, the door firmly closed behind it, and the bell was rung. Upon hearing the bell, the nurses on duty would go to le tour to remove the infant, replace the box to its original position, and wait. Every night, a dozen or so infants were received in precisely this way.
For a while, it had been in vogue for wealthy, childless individuals to adopt children from the Hôpital des EnfantsTrouvés to bring up as their own, but the practice had long since fallen out of fashion. At the time of 
Mutter’s visit, more than sixteen thousand children were considered wards of the Hôpital des EnfantsTrouvés, and of those, only twelve thousand would live to adulthood.
There were hospitals for lunatic women and for idiot men, hospitals for the incurable, for the blind, for the deaf and dumb, and even for ailing elderly married couples who wished to die together— they could stay in the same large room provided that the furniture they used to furnish their room became the property of the hospice upon their deaths.
And perhaps most astonishing to the visiting American doctors, Paris had the École Pratique d’Anatomie, which provided any doctor, for six dollars, access to his own cadaver for dissection. In America, cadaver dissection was largely illegal. Many doctors resorted to grave robbing to have the opportunity to examine the human body fully. In Paris, twenty doctors at a time would whittle a human body down to its bones— provided they could stand the smell and the ultimate method of disposal of the dissected corpses: At day’s end, the decimated remains were fed to a pack of snarling dogs kept tied up in the back.
However, more than any single hospital, what most attracted Mutter to Paris were the surgeons: brilliant and daring men who were to him living gods, redefining medicine and at the zenith of their renown.

You know what biographies I actually enjoy reading? The ones that don’t read like the typical sources you used in grade school to do a book report on some famous person in history. Aptowicz does a masterful job of pulling you into the gruesome 19th century world of medicine with her fiction-like narrative, while providing you with loads of facts (just in case you actually are writing a book report). Each chapter opens with an excerpt written by the great Dr. Mutter, and you can tell right away that you are dealing with a sound intellectual. The diagrams of some of his procedures included in the work coupled with Aptowicz’s vivid descriptions are grotesque yet fascinating. As I read a few choice paragraphs aloud to my husband, he asked, “How are you still reading that?!?” I answered that it was so amazing that I wished they had videos of his work online. I probably couldn’t sleep much afterward, but I think it would be worth seeing the magic.
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is an award-winning non-fiction writer, poet, and touring author. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she first visited the Mütter Museum in the fourth grade. She lives in Austin, Texas.


blog tour services provided by



Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Lone Star Book Blog Tours