Someone who, a hundred years from now, falsely repeats something evil about me, injures me right now.
Spite Work: The Trials of Virginia Rappe and “Fatty” Arbuckle, a revisionist history by James Reidel and Christopher Lewis is a completed manuscript of 970 mspp. and presently being copyedited
The titles of the book’s parts reflect the “biblical length” of the endeavor.
- The Introduction includes a review of literature, discussing the earlier works about the Arbuckle case and their treatment of the model and actress Virginia Rappe. This part also features a biographical essay about Roscoe C. Arbuckle from birth to about 1916.
- 1 Virginia discusses Rappe’s origins and early life. There is even a “tortured” genealogy (she could have joined the D.A.R.).
- 2 Virginia covers Rappe’s Hollywood period.
- The Apocrypha of Maude focuses on Arbuckle’s Labor Day Party itself and her fatal injury in room 1219 of the St. Francis Hotel.
- The Wisdom of Lazarus is a narrative based on the preliminary investigation of Rappe’s death as a criminal matter. As a result, a criminal trail followed. This part also includes an account of Rappe’s interment, which anticipated other fulsome Hollywood funerals to come.
- 1 Judges through 3 Judges covers the trials in which Arbuckle wasn’t the only defendant. There was a liminal one as well: the changeable personhood of Rappe herself. We end with the aftermath of the third trial.
- The Epilogue follows the fates of key figures in the Labor Day party and Arbuckle–Rappe trials.
Needless to say, COVID-19 impacted the research and writing of this book in good ways and bad. We had hoped to meet the centenary of the Arbuckle–Rappe case with a finished book. We were also in a race against declining interest, attention spans, and all the vicissitudes of publishers wanting to pass on just about everything that comes across their iPhone screens.
But there are other scholars at work, too. So, the “special taste” for books about events that took place a hundred years ago during the hoary Silent Era have company.
Our publication plans will be announced on some future date.
Virginia Rappe in an anticipatory pose with her favorite black obsidian ring in view, Photograph by Albert Witzel.
*The curious epigraph that prefaces the book.