Patricia Bryan

The Plea

THE PLEA tells the story of Wesley Elkins, a young boy, who was sentenced to life in an adult prison for the murders of his abusive father and stepmother. The crime occurred in Iowa in 1889. Wesley was only eleven years old at the time of his crime. He was a small child, who weighed just 70 pounds and stood 4 feet 7 inches tall. Thanks to progressive and sympathetic prison wardens and teachers, Wesley was educated in prison and became an outspoken advocate for his release, writing eloquent letters to his many supporters. His supporters included newspaper editors, politicians, and educators. Eventually, Wesley was granted a conditional release by the governor of Iowa. We tell the story through primary source documents, legal records, and Wesley’s own letters. The book is extensively researched but reads like a novel–it is a narrative of the crime, the investigation, Wesley’s years of incarceration, the account of the legislative debates that led to a recommendation of his release, and the story of Wesley’s life after he gained his freedom.
Patricia Bryan
Patricia Bryan is a graduate of Carleton College and the University of Iowa College of Law. She has a Masters in Tax degree from NYU. Patricia practiced law in New York City for six years before accepting a position as a professor of law at the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1982. For the past four decades, Patricia has taught classes in Basic Tax, Corporate tax, and a seminar in Law and Literature. She and her husband, Thomas Wolf, are the co-authors of Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland and The Plea: The True Story of Wesley Elkins and His Struggle for Redemption. Patricia is also the co-editor of Her America: “A Jury of Her Peers” and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction by Susan Glaspell. All three of Patricia’s books are available from the University of Iowa Press.

Thomas Wolf was born, raised, and educated in the Midwest. A graduate of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois (1969), he later earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1975). Wolf is a two-time winner of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. He is the co-author with Patricia L. Bryan of both Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland (2005) and The Plea: The True Story of Young Wesley Elkins and His Struggle for Redemption (July 2022). He is also the author of The Called Shot: Babe Ruth, the Chicago Cubs, and the Unforgettable Major League Baseball Season of 1932 (2020), which was named “Best Baseball Book of 2020” by Sports Collectors Digest.

Patricia and Tom live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


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