BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times August 23-29, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
Who has written three historical novels, a vegetarian cookbook, a basketful of recently republished classic books for children, a memoir, and co-authored a definitive three-volume work on baseball history? Naples resident Dorothy Jane Mills is that person. Eclectic? For sure. Eccentric? Maybe just a little.
Mills grew up in the Cleveland area. She recalls being an avid reader with early intentions of being a writer. In fact, she co-edited her high school newspaper before going on to major in English at what became Cleveland State University. There, too, she worked on the newspaper and also contributed to the literary magazine. She worked as a “copy boy” for the Cleveland News and then as a proofreader in the advertising department of the Halle Brothers Department Store.
In college she also discovered the drama of history. And, while performing part-time secretarial duties for various professors, she discovered Professor Harold Seymour. After her third year of college, Seymour divorced his wife to marry Dorothy, and she transferred to a branch of Case Western Reserve, now focusing on an education degree. The young married woman taught while completing her master’s degree, and she also began assisting her husband with his research for a Ph.D. dissertation on baseball history. The couple then moved to Buffalo, New York, where Mrs. Seymour taught and started work on a doctorate.
Harold Seymour’s first book, published when they lived in New York City, grew out of his dissertation and received much attention in the press. It was to be the first of three volumes on baseball history that he published, with his wife as unacknowledged co-author.
In the 1960s, the Seymours lived outside of New York City, continuing with the baseball series. Dorothy then wrote a series of ten children’s books that were published in 1965. These became very popular, and five of them have recently been republished for a new generation of young learners. These include Anne Likes Red, The Tent, and Ballerina Bess. The couple moved to New England in 1966 and the following year Dorothy Seymour became an editor at Ginn and Company, an established educational publisher.
Through the seventies and eighties, Dorothy did her free-lance writing and editing while helping Harold complete the next two volumes of the baseball history series. She became interested in Irish customs and history after spending part of a year living in Ireland with her husband. Returning to the States to be near research sources, Dorothy found herself doing more and more of Harold’s work as he became depressed and unfocused. After a while, it became clear that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
By the time Harold Seymour died in 1992, Dorothy had begun work on The Scepter, the first of her trilogy of historical novels. It deals with Austrian Nazis in the 1930s. In 1993, while on a cruise, she met a retired Royal Canadian Air Force officer named Roy Mills. After settling residence requirements, the two were married and found a vacation home in Naples. In 1998, The Sceptre was published on the internet. The following year, Roy and Dorothy Mills moved to Naples permanently and The Sceptre was published in hard copy. In subsequent years, an author now known as Dorothy Jane Mills continued the saga of Katya Becker with two more novels – The Labyrinth and The Treskel. In this expansive trilogy, Mills realizes her love of history’s drama and shares it with her readers.
But before bringing this final leg of the fiction trilogy into print last year, Mills published two other books, both nonfiction. The first, Meatless Meat, is a vegetarian cookbook that has won many fans. The other is her revealing memoir: Woman’s Work: Writing Baseball History with Harold Seymour. Here Mills reveals the details of her uncredited collaboration.
Baseball: The People’s Game, book three in Harold Seymour’s history series, includes five chapters on early women’s baseball for which Mills had done the research – and most of the writing. “These chapters,” she notes, “became the first to explain the extent of women’s play and the enthusiasm with which they played the game.” Indeed, Mills’ trailblazing research in this area led to her receiving an award from the Woman’s Baseball League – an engraved red bat – at the league’s initial conference in 2001.
So, what’s next? What does a historical novelist do with all that baseball knowledge? Mills writes, “A serious historical novel about a woman baseball player hasn’t yet been published. A few slight books for young adults have entered the market, but they fail to appeal to an adult audience. In this new book, my twenty-fifth, to be called Drawing Card, I’m writing about a young woman baseball player in Cleveland of the 1920s and 1930s. It tells the story of Annie Cardello, an Italian-American daughter of immigrants, who plays with independent and textile teams of the city and interacts with other Clevelanders from more exalted walks of life.”
Mills is available for presentations, and readers can subscribe to her free email newsletter. While awaiting the completion and publication of Drawing Card, keep up with this versatile writer and find out how to order her books by browsing the website dorothyjanemills.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at firstname.lastname@example.org.