Book Tour Dates – The Original Battle Creek King of Crime

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People have been asking if we are coming to Michigan to do any speaking or signing events for our latest true crime book…The Original Battle Creek Crime King: Adam “Pump” Arnold’s Vile Reign.  There’s no doubt that Arnold was a devious and despicable character – and a murderer of his own son.  This book provides a Victorian-era glimpse into the nefarious dealings with a kingpin of crime – some humorous, some deadly.

Here’s the one’s we know at this time:

Thursday, Oct. 13, 7pm

Heritage Battle Creek

 

Friday, Oct. 14, 3-5pm

Books & More of Albion

 

Friday, Oct. 14, 8:10am

WBCK Radio (TENTATIVE)

 

Friday, Oct. 14, 6:30-8pm

Willard Library

 

We hope to see you there if you are in the area.

New true crime book is out…Pump Arnold The Original Battle Creek King of Crime

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The Original Battle Creek Crime King: Adam “Pump” Arnold’s Vile Reign is finally out.  My daughter Victoria Hester and I penned this book and it is a neat Victorian-era look at a small city boss – Pump Arnold.

The idea for the book came to us from the folks at Heritage Battle Creek.  Mary Butler and Elizabeth Neumeyere suggested that Pump Arnold was worth looking into.  They were right.  Arnold was far from being a criminal mastermind…if anything he was very public and downright flaunting of his criminal escapades.  For several years it was rare that he was not in the newspapers for either going to court or being arrested.  His criminal enterprise was diverse – everything from illegal liquor sales, to arson, to bank fraud, to prostitution.  He ran a bar/casino in the “bad lands” of Battle Creek Michigan – clashing with the mayor, the press, law enforcement, and even his own lawyers. 

Ironically, the biggest seller of illegal hooch in the city was married to a member of the Women’s Christen Temperance Union (WCTU).  Arnold’s life was chock full of strange twists and irony.  His son, George, was essentially the town drunk, a very public drunk – like a violent version of Otis from the Andy Griffith Show.  Like Otis, George even showed up at the jail to check himself in!  The Arnold Clan’s clashes with the law all have a Keystone Cops feeling about it, set in the “wild west” era of Michigan’s history.  Arnold was so crafty that upon his death, he tricked the WCTU to erect his tombstone.  A man that wily practically demanded that a book be written about him.    

And while parts of this book are humorous, others are quite serious.  Pump Arnold murdered his own son George.  There is a Greek tragedy tone to their relationship and the fact that the father was the purveyor of what turned his son against them.  Their clashes were public; played out in the streets and in the press.  When George’s body was plucked from the frozen Battle Creek river all eyes turned to Pump as the perpetrator.  The trial was the “biggest in the history of Battle Creek.”  Citizens packed the street just to catch a glimpse of Arnold getting a shave. I have to admit the man was a true character.    

This is more of a traditional fare for true crime readers.  For me it was a break from writing about cold cases which tend to be emotionally and mentally exhausting.  The real challenge was to paint a picture of the setting for readers.  This is not the Battle Creek of “Cereal City” fame.  This was the era before Kellogg’s and Post when BC was more of a frontier town.  It’s a period that rarely gets written about. 

In writing this we had to delve into some interesting side journey’s as well.  For example:  I spent one entire week researching prostitution in early Michigan.  I got to work with historical societies in New York as well while on the trail of Pump’s earlier life.  As with any good story, you have to go where the research takes you.  Sometimes those places can be pretty strange.

The title – well, that’s the marketing staff weighing in.  I like having the word “vile” in there – you don’t see that on many books. I’m more of a fan of three word title books…but these allegedly know more about book marketing than me…  

It is always a treat to write a book with my daughter Victoria.  We kind of enjoy our status of being the only father-daughter duo writing true crime.  She tackled the hardest part of this project – Pump’s trial for murdering his son George.  We easily could have written another 15k words about the twists and turns of this almost comical trial.  I think my favorite part is that they brought a couch into the courtroom for Arnold to rest on, and that he verbally clashed with witnesses and his own defense team.    

Many of you probably think I have something against my hometown given the number of true crime books I’ve writing about mid-Michigan (Secret Witness, Murder in Battle Creek, The Murder of Maggie Hume, this book).  That’s not true.  In fact our next true crime book is not in Michigan but in my birth state – Virginia.  More on this in another blog post I promise!   

We are planning to go to Battle Creek mid-October for a few book signing events and lectures. 

Obviously I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Original Battle Creek Crime King: Adam “Pump” Arnold’s Vile Reign. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it. 

Cover for our new Pump Arnold book is in!

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Pump Arnold for President – The Greater of Three Evils

Even after all of these years I get a bit of a thrill to see what the marketing and art departments at the publisher come up with for a book cover.  This one is special for two reasons – it’s my second book with my daughter Victoria; and it’s about the town I was raised in, Battle Creek Michigan.

Our original title was a lot crisper, in my opinion, but the marketing gurus love to rework a title.  It’s a rarity that my working title actually makes it on the book.  Such is life.

I like this story.  One, it’s the Victorian era, which is something I haven’t done much writing or research in before.   Second, there’s a murder and a huge trial – the biggest in Battle Creek’s history up until that point.  Third, Adam “Pump” Arnold was involved in just about every kind of crime at the time.

There are times this book will make you cringe – and at times you will laugh.  There’s almost a Greek tragedy about Pump killing his son George, which is kind of neat. We tried to tie it all together with the history of the burgeoning community at the time…the era before Battle Creek was “Cereal City.”

The book comes out sometime in August.  We will come back to Battle Creek in October to talk about Pump (and the things we didn’t put in the book!)  For now, I’m just happy to see this awesome red cover of this new true crime story.

We just finished our latest true crime book!

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An image we were unable to use for the book – Adam “Pump” Arnold

Smell that?  That’s that new book smell.  There’s a certain feeling you get when you finish a book and today I’m basking in it.  My daughter (and co-author) and I just finished, The Original Battle Creek Crime King:  Adam “Pump” Arnold’s Vile Reign.  When you finish a book there’s a sense of relief, happiness, and a hint of dread (will people like it?)

The book was re-titled last week by the publisher, before they read the book.  I know, it doesn’t sound like it makes sense but almost every publisher I have had seems to be keen on renaming the book.  As I told my editor, “You could call it Free Beer if it will help sell books.”  By the way, I am someday going to title a book just that to prove the point.

This book was fun to write.  Victoria did a lot of the heavy lifting with Pump’s trial for the murder of his son.  It wasn’t easy work given the months of testimony, trying to distill that down into something that made sense.  Arnold was a character almost worthy of a Dickens novel.  There’s a bit of Victorian villain about the man that makes him both hated and entertaining.

The publisher insisted on a lot of photographs for the book and Heritage Battle Creek and Willard Library came through for us.   We tried to weave in the early history of the city into the story of Pump’s rise to power.  There’s some great stuff we came across and I think the large number of photographs will only enhance the book.

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Pump’s foe’s – the Battle Creek Police Department.  I love the dog in the photo and the sign of the police department.  

Every city out there had a Pump Arnold lurking in the shadows.  This is not as much the story of Battle Creek, but of every city.  We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did writing it.

So what is next?  We begin the final edit process, then the magic happens and it becomes a book.  We have been told that the book will be out sometime this summer.  As authors, we are often the last to know the release date.  It’s a strange industry to say the least.  Victoria and I will then schedule some events in Michigan to lecture about the book.  Follow my blog if you want to know more.

Are we looking at any other true crime books?  Victoria turned in her chapter and said, “What’s next dad?”  We may shift to Virginia next.  I wrote an article about the Colonial Parkway Murders and interviewed one of the victim’s brother – Bill Thomas.  I have to admit, that story is tugging at me.  Of course, it’s an unsolved string of murders and I have to be mentally ready to tackle a cold case.  You get emotionally involved any time you embark on an unsolved murder…or in this case, eight.  As the only father/daughter duo writing true crime, we both need to determine if we’re ready to commit to these murders and do it right.

In the meantime, I need to do a little bit of fiction – just to clear my mind.

Hip-Deep in Pump Arnold

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“The Greatest Criminal in Battle Creek History”  Image from the Battle Creek Daily Moon

I have been in Battle Creek for the last few weeks taking care of some personal issues.  Being back in town has proved useful because in the evenings and on weekends, I have been working on my book about Pump Arnold – Battle Creek’s First Kingpin of Crime.  There is something that is nice about being in town while doing the research and writing about the subject.  I like visiting the places I am writing about – though in this instance, most of the landmarks are long ago erased.

I’ve found some new things – including the image above – one of the best we’ve had of Pump to date.  I have had to explore some things I hadn’t anticipated – such as the history of prostitution in Battle Creek.  Pump is proving to be a fantastic vehicle for telling the story of early Battle Creek, before it became “Cereal City.”  There’s something compelling about the Victorian Era.

The book has proven challenging.  Pump and his son (and victim) George Arnold were constantly in court, either being arrested or resolving charges against them.  How do you write about such events without totally boring the reader?  I have tackled this head-on by emphasizing the humorous aspects of these arrests and lawsuits.  Fortunately there is a lot of quite funny material buried in newspaper accounts from the period.  The reporters of the period had their tongues firmly planted in-their-cheeks when writing some of their accounts of Pump and George Arnold.

It’s a new twist for me, interjecting a small amount of dry humor in a true crime book.  Then again, that kind of humor was part of the Victorian era, so it oddly works.  There is a dark overtone to the book, because this is a grim story of paternal filicide, a father killing his son.  What is becoming clear to me as a researcher is that Pump and his son George were on a collision course throughout their lives.  There was bound to something climatic between the two, something tragic that was preordained, inevitable.

My co-author (and daughter) Victoria Hester is working on “the biggest trial in the history of Calhoun County.”  Her job is as daunting and challenging as my own.  I can’t wait to see what she develops as our different parts of the book merge together.

I’ve gotten to do some detective work in too over the last few weeks.  Willard Library’s local history section is a treasure trove of information.  Each time I go, I find a little bit more. I have been able to take the time each night to explore every little tip, every lead, every fascinating sidebar.  I keep poking and probing at the story, and each time something new tumbles out and gets my attention.  I love it.

One of the big challenges is the changes to all of the street names.  Some of the streets have changed names 1-3 times over the decades.  This makes it tricky.  You have to constantly remind yourself that Jefferson is Capital Ave, for example.

Later this week, in the evening, I’m visiting with some members of the Battle Creek Historical Society (Heritage Battle Creek) to get some additional images. Our publisher, The History Press, wants a lot of pictures.  This is always a challenge.  I don’t like just putting pictures in a book for the sake of putting them in.  This means finding images that are representative of the period, that can put the reader there – on the streets of Victorian era Battle Creek.

From what I’m seeing, this book is going to be a romp in BC’s past, with one of the most colorful characters to emerge in Western Michigan History.  I hope you agree.

Real Crime Magazine

The genre returns to the magazine rack!
The genre returns to the magazine rack!

It used to be that the genre of true crime magazines was a powerhouse.  Even J. Edgar Hoover subscribed to True Detective Magazine.  The articles were often written by reporters covering the cases or by officers themselves, (using pseudonyms).  Often times the photographs were pulled right out of the case files or from newspaper archives.  For many people, it gave them their first true exposure to the genre.  The magazines were pulp quality, gritty, often with sensationalized titles.

In the 1960’s and 70’s readership dropped.  The solution that most publishers went with was to attempt to entice readers with covers showing women in various stages of undress, tied up, helpless against their attackers.  The magazines were already seen as seedy and the covers didn’t help.  After all, reading about murder, rape and robbery was seen as fringe reading.  The new covers were appealing more to sex and drug crimes.  I actually remember as a kid when they went from being in the rack with every other magazine to being in the exclusive rack with Playboy and Penthouse…and thus out of my reach.

Near the demise of the true crime magazines...
Near the demise of the true crime magazines…

The other thing that killed the true crime magazine was the fact that there was a rise in books on the subject.  People often wanted more than just an article on a particular case.  As the books increased in sales, proportionally the magazines lost readers.  By the 1980’s they had all but disappeared. We’ve been left with only the occasional Life special edition dealing with crimes to fill this gap.

Welcome to the 21st century.  A UK publisher, Imagine Publishing, has taken a defibrillator to the genre, pumping in the voltage and releasing a new true crime magazine. I found out about the magazine because I was asked to pen some articles for it (in the second and third issues).

http://www.imagine-publishing.co.uk/portfolio/magazines/RealCrime

What the editors have done is to take the basic concept of a true crime magazine and make it highly engaging for a contemporary audience.  They moved away from the shady-side of true crime visually.  They utilize a lot of graphics in the form of maps, blueprints, etc., to really engage the reader visually.  They’ve also brought in some strong writers (no, I’m not tooting my own horn here – give me a break).  I like the fact there’s book reviews in the issues too.

They are filling a gap in the marketplace rather brilliantly.  Finally, those of us that like true crime can secure a monthly fix.  For those of you interested, the second issue will have an article on the Daisy Zick murder.  What’s new. and in the article, is someone got me the layout of the house so I could provide a new level of detail to the murder scene.  The third issue of the magazine will have an article I’ve written on the Colonial Parkway Killings in Williamsburg VA.  These crimes have really intrigued me on a number of fronts.  Having a serial killer possibly still on the loose is the kind of thing that always attracts my attention.

For me, writing for the magazine is helping me explore some crimes at a more cursory level, without all of the in-depth research I have to do to write a book.  It also allows me to present some material that has surfaced after a book has come out, which has been resigned to my blog alone.

If you’re a true crime fan, check it out.  In the US, I know they carry this at Barnes & Noble.

Researching a new true crime project…or two…or three…

Having finished Sawney Bean (Fonthill Media 2015), I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from writing true crime.  Truth be told, I’ve been doing some research into some murders, but have been focusing on writing a massive project in a fiction genre (Sci-Fi Military).  I can’t go into details right now but I’m on book three of the effort and am sure that my BattleTech fans will love this.  It is SO COOL.

True crime is calling me again though…most likely late this year.  My daughter, Victoria Hester, and I have just inked a deal with a publisher for another true crime project in Battle Creek, Michigan.  This one will deal with a murder that took place in 1895 and the string of crimes that led up to it.  I’m kind of excited about this – the preliminary research so far is very promising and quite entertaining.  I like that fact that it takes place in a period before Battle Creek was Cereal City.  It is one of those eras that most people just don’t know much about.

I never really stop doing research of some kind.  I’m a research junkie.  Part of it is being an armchair historian, part is loving the thrill of finding new information or a new perspective on something.  So even when I’m not writing, I’m reading, digging, writing archives, getting files, thinking and re-thinking information.  Part of writing true crime is taking thousands of bits of information and organizing it in a way that makes some sense for a reader.

This new book project is one where we know who committed the crime, unlike my penchant for unsolved crimes.  Sometimes you need a break from unsolved crimes.  They take a mental toll on you that lasts far beyond the writing of the book.  Every unsolved case I’ve written about weighs heavy on me.  I become plagued with the same burning desire as the investigators – to find a resolution.

As a sidebar; Why write another book in Calhoun County MI?   Do I have some morbid desire to cultivate old murders where I was raised?  The truth is probably pretty simple: I like writing about my hometown. Battle Creek is a microcosm for every small city in America.  Like every city, there are crimes that help define the collective memories of the citizens.  Beyond that, I’m sure there’s some deep-seated psychological explanation for it.  Hell, someone may get their doctoral work done analyzing why I live in Virginia but write about my home town.  Until I do write about other crimes outside of Michigan, I ask that you just play along please and hold off on the psycho-babble.

On other possible fronts, I am scratching the surface on another Battle Creek murder, this one unsolved. It is the murder of Diana Black.  From time-to-time I scan the newspaper accounts of her death and I have to admit it intrigues me.  I’m a long way off from pursuing it as a book, but it is on the list for consideration.  Strangely enough some folks have reached out to me asking me to look at this case, which always makes it more fascinating to me.

One closer to my current home is the murder of Tammy L. Thorpe in Fauquier County Virginia in October of 1988.  This case speaks to me.  I can’t explain it much beyond that.  There is something about the nature of her death and the period it took place that draws me to this case.  I strongly feel that whoever committed this murder knew the victim – it was deeply personal, and that’s interesting.  Again, I’m a long ways off from tackling this, but it’s on “the list.”

Tammy Thorpe.  If you have information on this case please contact the Fauquier County Sheriff's Department.
Tammy Thorpe. If you have information on this case please contact the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Department.

With both of these cases I have to factor in two things; the cooperation of the authorities and the victim’s families.  The first part is a requirement, and with cold cases that are still open, there is always a chance (pretty good really) that the authorities won’t release the case files via a FOIA.  If that doesn’t happen, writing a book can nearly be impossible.

Support of the family is not a requirement but it sure can help.  You might think that families would be behind such efforts willingly.  As a true crime writer, I can tell you, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes there’s a hint of opening old wounds.  Other times there’s a feeling that, “you are going to make money off of a painful incident we still suffer from.”  I understand that apprehension and I prefer to undertake a project if the family is willing to cooperate.  That doesn’t mean I won’t do it regardless, but it is my preference.

The final consideration is if my daughter is willing to do the book with me.  I like having a partner in crime (pun intended).  We are the only father-daughter duo doing true crime and she’s a lot of fun to work with.

Anniversary of the Murder of Daisy Zick

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Daisy and Floyd Zick — 1940’s

January, with its biting cold and bleak white snows, always somehow takes me mentally back to Michigan.  Every below-zero windy  day makes me think of January 14, 1963 and the death of Daisy Zick.  As this week approaches the anniversary of her murder, I thought it well worth revisiting.  Needless to say if you want more on this – please check out my book, Murder in Battle Creek – the Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.

Daisy worked the afternoon at the Kelloggs  Company  in Battle Creek Michigan (specifically Wattles Park), my hometown.  Her house is a mile from where I was raised.  The day of her death in 1963 was  a bitterly cold one, temperatures below zero, a gusting wind making the cold even more stinging – and snowing.  In the morning, she prepared her lunch to take to work, spoke to her husband, her boyfriend, and others on the phone, and prepared to go meet her friend for coffee before work.

At around 10:00am her neighbor saw someone at the Zick’s porch/mudroom  door. That individual was likely allowed in by Daisy, and also  was her murderer.   The physical evidence allowed investigators to recreate much of what happened in the tiny ranch house that morning.  Daisy confronted her attacker in the kitchen area.  At some point she tried to use the phone, likely to call for help (no small task in the pre-9-1-1 days).  Her attacker severed the phone line with a knife, most likely the murder weapon, believed to be a Spoilage knife from Kelloggs.

At some point Daisy fled to the bedroom and was struck about the head and stunned.  Her assailant went to her closet and got a sash from her robe to tie her hands up.  The killer stabbed her several times on her bed, but Daisy reawakened and struggled.  She got up and ran to the spare bedroom.  Her murderer began to stab her viciously in the torso.  Daisy sank along the wall, pulling the Hi-Fi unit.  Based on the stab wounds, her killer sat astride her body and brutally stabbed at her body.

The murderer dumped out her purse and took the little cash she had and her car keys, then drove off with her 1959 White Pontiac Bonneville, abandoning the car on one of Calhoun County’s busiest roads – Michigan Avenue.  The murderer was seen by several people, driving the car and walking along the road.  Her killer walked off and disappeared in the wind swept snow.

 

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Looking east down Michigan Avenue from the spot where Daisy’s car had been abandoned. Imge 019

Daisy’s car.  Notice the marks on the side of the car where someone brushed up against it?  There is also a blood stain visible.  

For over a half-century his murder has remained unsolved.  The officers that worked this case were determined to find the killer, but it was more complicated than it seemed.  Daisy had several affairs – so the thinking was that it had may have been a jilted lover or an angry wife/girlfriend.  This was the initial focus of the investigation, and indeed many people at Kelloggs were interviewed and polygraphed.  The killer left evidence – fibers from his/her gloves and a single fingerprint which may or may not have been left by them in the car.  This was not a random killing – whoever did it overkilled Daisy, which pointed to them having a connection to her.  Her husband was cleared by alibi and by polygraph.

Daisy’s demise became part of Battle Creek lore.  People tended to focus on the brutality of the crime and the rumors of her affairs.  Having crawled through the police files, witnesses did come forward that saw her killer – by most accounts male, in her car.  By the time the investigators, principally Michigan State Police investigator Leroy Steinbacher, arrived at a possible suspect – years had passed. 

The man Steinbacher  believed murdered Daisy was William Newman Daily – her postman.   His description of the Zick garage door the morning of the murder was inconsistent with the evidence.  He was known to have commented as to seeing Daisy nude.  He had a violent temper as well.  He claimed to have seen a man walking on Michigan Avenue near the Chuck Wagon restaurant/bar around the time that Daisy’s car was abandoned, but then changed his story to say that it was a woman.   His rather unique hair style matched one eyewitness who saw the man driving Daisy’s car leaving her street after the murder.  When Daily attacked his daughter-in-law, he threatened her that he knew who had killed Daisy Zick.  Daily owned a coat that matched the eyewitness who saw someone at Daisy’s door that day — and stopped wearing it after the murder. 

What was missing was the motive for Daily.  While not necessary in a murder case in Michigan, motive certainly helps jury’s understand why a crime happened.  Perhaps Daily had an affair with Daisy.  He may have been a stalker that had been spurned by her. We simply don’t know – and Daily himself passed away several years ago.  Until his death, he refused to take a polygraph.  

One of the things that makes this case compelling is that it happened during the daytime hours, with eyewitnesses to the crime.  The killer would have had to be dropped off or walked to the crime scene – either way he/she would have been seen (and in 1963, offered a him/her a ride if they were walking on such a cold day.)  The killer abandoned the car on a busy highway – so someone had to have given this person a ride or his/her vehicle was nearby.  This person would have had blood on their clothing and gloves as well which should have attracted attention of someone.  

Then again, who could be more invisible in any neighborhood than a postman?

In writing the book I got to know Daisy’s son.  This crime left a void in his life, and the lives of his family.  Cold cases do that by their very nature.  These are good people and they deserve to know the truth of what happened – they deserve closure.  Daisy didn’t deserve this fate, nor does her family deserve the burden of the unknown.  

Having written the book on the subject, I never forget Daisy when January comes though.  I think about it and wonder if someone out there might hold an important bit of information or a clue that can bring this family justice once and for all.

So, as we hit the anniversary of this crime – I encourage anyone with knowledge to come forward with their tips.  This is still an open murder investigation – so if you have any tips or leads – please contact the Michigan State Police and let them know.  Someone out there knows something that may help complete the puzzle of this crime. 

 

Review – Eye of the Beholder: The Almost Perfect Murder of Anchorwoman Diane Newton King

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I read this book a few years back in paperback but it is now available in Kindle format so I thought I’d re-read it and I’m glad I did.  As a fellow author who writes about crimes in Calhoun County Michigan, Lowell Cauffiel has done an admirable job at writing about the murder of local ABC reporter Diane King.

I remember this crime only peripherally – because it comes up from time-to-time when doing my own local research into crimes.  When it happened we had already moved from Michigan but my mom told me the nuts and bolts of what the rumor mill was around the case.  At the time it was a very high profile case because Court TV, a new channel, was covering the trial (eventually).  Diane Newton King was a local news anchor on Channel 41 locally in Battle Creek MI.  She was shot dead in her driveway on February 9, 1991 while her two children were in her car.  The public strongly believed that she was being stalked by a crazed fan at the time (something she had gone to the police over after receiving a letter of cut out letters warning her.)  Her husband, Brad King, was a former police officer and part-time criminal justice instructor at Western Michigan University.  Dianne was a big fish in a little pond, and as such was well known and popular in the region.  The senseless brutality of her murder stunned the community.

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department rather quickly realized there were flaws in her husband’s accounts of the murder, his whereabouts, and actions after the crime.  Mistakes were made in the investigation – as they often are.  I know people are often fast to lay the blame with bad investigators but this was an atypical crime for this department – more of an assassination than a straight-up murder.  Brad King comes across as exceedingly arrogant, someone that was playing a game with the investigators.  As they dug deeper into the crime, they began to find evidence of Brad’s extramarital affairs and the lies he spread about his wife and their relationship.

This is one of those cases that is interesting to read about because the motive never really emerges, though Cauffiel does a good job at getting to it.  Brad’s motive, if it existed, is mixed with contradictions and in some respects makes no sense.  His wife was his gravy train, allowing him to work part-time and essentially run around on her.  Only her threat to reduce her work and stay at home put his life of sloth at risk.  I found myself wondering why he would rock that proverbial boat.  Motive isn’t necessary to prove in a trial, but it sure helps any jury understand why a crime happened.  This put a huge burden on the back of the investigators and prosecutors.

The author does a fair job at explaining where the Sheriff’s department struggled with the investigation and the strained relations they had with the Prosecutor’s Office.  I thought she did a good job of describing Marshall Michigan’s culture, but could have done more here with the history of the community.   This is more of a book for a mass market rather than one that tailors to the local readership, but I still think a little more history would have added some depth here.

The sections of the book penned by Brad King himself were disturbing to read when you realize that he was the suspect of the crime.  His perspectives of the investigations bothered me.  I’m never in favor of giving murderers a forum to vent their position.  I’ve had to block my own blog from some murder suspects or their friends from attempting to expound their innocence.  At the same time, I couldn’t stop reading these sections. I think as a writer, I would have included them because they are compelling.

My favorite part was the trial. I really enjoyed the strategy of tangling with Brad King in court and the vigorous defense he had.  It’s a dangerous chess match with lots of twists and turns along the way.  I won’t ruin the book’s ending for you – you’ll have to read that yourself.

For me, as a writer of Calhoun County history and true crime – I enjoyed the book.  First, the crime took place at Frank Zinn’s farmhouse – and I wrote about Frank’s brother, Fred Zinn, in my book, Lost Eagles.  In my book, Murder in Battle Creek: The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick, I interviewed Gary Hough who leads the task force on the King murder. He’s a neat guy to talk to about criminal investigations and taught me a lot about profiling and investigatory techniques.  The descriptions of Marshall mirrored my own impressions in my book, Secret Witness.  Jon Sahli, Gary Woods, and Nancy Mullett are discussed as part of the prosecutorial team working the King case – and two of the three of them helped contribute to my book, The Murder of Maggie Hume.  I found the tension between the prosecutors and law enforcement in the King case eerily reminiscent as the issues in the Hume murder.

I have had people tell me they didn’t enjoy this book but I found the author’s style good.  The end of the book, where the shift is made to first person, is a little jarring, but otherwise this is a good solid true crime read.  I give it four-and-a-half out of five stars – definitely worth picking up now that it’s out in Kindle format.

Book Tour for The Murder of Maggie Hume

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The Willard Library event at Miller-Stone last year for Murder in Battle Creek

When you write a true crime book a book tour is fairly commonplace, the publishers expect it. I enjoy and dread them at the same time.  I do look forward to discussing the subject of the book, not because it sells books – but because hopefully it will generate a tip or lead that might bring this case to the courts.  I like fielding questions about, “what didn’t you put in the book?” or “what are you working on now?”  Because I’ve written a few books on Calhoun County MI (Lost Eagles, Secret Witness, Murder in Battle Creek, and The Murder of Maggie Hume) as well as other genres, I have to be prepared for questions about a number of topics.

This book tour is great because I’m not alone – my co-author and daughter Victoria is coming along.  For her, this is all new.  I remember those days on my first book tour in New York for Cubicle Warfare, it was fun and stressful and a bit crazy, all rolled into one.  It will be great to see her experience some of this.

I enjoy connecting email addresses to faces and reconnecting with some of the great people that made this book possible.  We are also going to look into doing some research on some future books.  There’s plenty of crimes out there that need new light shed on them.  Working on cold cases you get the nagging feeling your work is never really done.

The book has been selling VERY well – it’s going into a second printing after a month (with a handful of corrections).  That’s a big deal in the publishing world.  Our first reaction was, “Great – The more people that read the book, the better the odds of getting to the right people that can drive this case to closure.”

Personally I will admit, these events can be exhausting. You never know who is in the audience or what agenda they might have.  I’ve had some strange encounters over the years.  Crowds of people tend to keep you on your toes mentally. I’ve had hecklers before – which is fascinating to deal with.  Now and then you get family and friends of the victim (as well as the suspects) showing up.

As a tip, when you introduce yourself don’t just drop your name but give us some context.  Victoria and I have a lot of followers on social media and correspond with a lot of people – so often times just a name isn’t going to ring a bell.  In my case this is especially true if you are someone I graduated high school or college with. Thirty-plus years can make face/name recognition a little tricky.

Some people come forward and say they know something pertinent to the case.  I cannot stress enough that if you have any information related to the death of Maggie Hume (or any other murder), please contact the Battle Creek Police Department.  We want to hear your information but we are not tasked with bringing this case to trial.  Any tips you give us, we pass on to the authorities.  We have to.  We want this case resolved.

Finally, our schedule is going to change (be added to) as we get closer to our arrival.  It happens.  The media sometimes spring things at the last minute.  I will be updating this blog entry to help keep things straight.

We are looking forward to seeing folks in Michigan, making some new friends, and answering your questions.  With your help – this case can finally see the light of day in a courtroom!

Thursday, Oct. 9, 8-8:30am – WBCK Radio, Battle Creek

Thursday, Oct. 9 at 6:30 pm

Willard Library Lecture – Miller-Stone Building, Battle Creek

Friday, Oct. 10 between 9-10am

WZZM-13 TV – Grand Rapids MI

Friday, Oct. 10 from 5 pm – 7 pm

Book Signing, Barnes & Noble, Woodland Mall Grand Rapids – 3195 28th St. SE

Saturday, Oct. 11 from 2 – 4 p.m.

Book Signing, Barnes & Noble, Lakeview Sq. Battle Creek – 5701 Beckley Rd.

Sunday, Oct. 12 at 2 pm

Battle Creek Historical Society Lecture – Fieldstone Center, in Conference Room 3 at 165 N Washington, Battle Creek

Monday, October 13 – Pre-recorded Interview with Dave Eddy

Tuesday, Oct.14 at 7 pm

Lecture, Pittsfield Branch Library – Ann Arbor – 2359 Oak Valley Dr.

We look forward to seeing you!