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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 10, 2006

Bryan To Discuss 'Midnight Assassin' Research At Law School

Patricia Bryan, author of "Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland," will talk about researching her book in a discussion on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 1 p.m. in room 235 in the Boyd Law Building. Admission is free and open to the public.

"Midnight Assassin," co-written by Bryan and her husband Thomas Wolfe, is a historical whodunit about the 1900 ax murder of Indianola farmer John Hossack. His wife Margaret was eventually tried and convicted for the crime, even though evidence was sparse, based on law enforcement claims that she was an abused spouse who finally snapped. Her conviction was later overturned on appeal and she was freed after a second trial resulted in a hung jury.

As part of her research, Bryan read hundreds of newspaper articles; transcripts from the coroner's inquest, the grand jury hearings, and the trial; legal briefs; probate records; local histories; and private memoirs. She interviewed descendants of the Hossacks and other Indianola residents, finding that the crime still resonates there a century later.

Bryan, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina, is a 1976 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law. Her lecture will also focus on the work of journalist Susan Glaspell, who wrote about the murder at the time for a Des Moines newspaper, and the connections between Glaspell's reporting and her later literary interpretations. She gained fame later as a playwright and fiction writer, including a play and short story based on the Hossack murder.

In addition, Bryan will discuss the provocative questions the case raises relating to domestic abuse, the criminal justice system, the way stories are told, assumptions about gender and social roles, the responsibility of communities, and the complexity of family relationships. 

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,