Discussion of True Crime at the Historical Society of Michigan’s Meeting

True Crime Covers

Small wonder that people have a strange perception of true crime authors…

Last week I was honored to attend/present at the Historical Society of Michigan’s: Michigan in Perspective: The Local History Conference in Sterling Heights Michigan.  I was on a panel with fellow New York Times Bestselling Author Mardi Link and award winning author and documentary producer David Schock.

I got the idea for the event a few years ago for the panel because of a rejection letter.  I had written an article about an unsolved murder in a community from the 1960’s and had submitted it to an unnamed state history magazine.  I was told that true crime, especially unsolved crimes, was not considered historical.  Ouch – that hurt.

That response resonated with me.  In my mind I had not written about a murder as much as I had also provided a lot of historical context for the community where the crime took place.  It hit me then that many mainstream historians probably don’t hold true crime writers in the same category of historians that they themselves are in.

In my presentation I hoped to raise awareness around the role that true crime authors play in documenting history. Historically true crime writers got associated with the seedy-side of authoring.  When you look at the covers of old issues of True Detective magazine you could get the wrong impression of us – that we are into female dominance and bondage.  There is also an element of true crime writing that doesn’t go after current high-profile crimes.  These books are often bestsellers but don’t provide a lot of history and their sensational nature tends to paint true crime authors as a modern form of ambulance chaser.

The work that David and Mardi and I do however is not contemporary crimes but those from the past.  We document the local history as context for the crimes we are writing about.  We have to.  Local history provides the social framework where these murders took place.

We have to document local history so that the reader understands the people, their motivations, and their place in the drama.  Without including a lot of local history, the victims can become faceless and voiceless to the reader.  Many true crime authors are stewards of local history.  We are often some of local history’s prime champions.

Major crimes play a role in a community.  They are often defining events etched into the memories of the people that are there, even if they had not role in the crime itself.  People remember significant crimes.  They become part of the local culture, part of a shared memory of a key event.  Consider this:  People remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy was killed or when the World Trade Centers were taken down.  These were crimes, albeit large scale criminal acts, that are burned into our memories.  Smaller murders have the same effect on a smaller, more community-wide scale.

In one of my books, The Murder of Maggie Hume, I (along with my co-author Victoria Hester) wrote about the urban development of Battle Creek Michigan in the 1970’s.  If I had written a traditional non-fiction history book on the subject – it would have sold roughly three-to-five copies.  By weaving that history into the book about the crime, it has been read by a significantly larger audience.  True crime, as a genre, is much more broadly read than traditional history books.

Most people don’t realize that the research we do on books and films is almost identical to the techniques used by non-fiction writing historians.  I feel safe in saying that because I write non-fiction history books (mostly military).  Some historians may cringe at the thought of us being the same, but trust me, we are historians through-and-through.

Finally, as David likes to point out, our works are often calls to action.  The three of us primarily work in a niche in true crime that deals with unsolved cases.  When we write a book, we are looking for new answers.  We generate tips and leads.  We ensure that the crime does not slip into the darkness unremembered or unsolved.

The turnout for our presentation was pretty large and we got a lot of positive questions and comments.  People always bring up crimes we should be looking at.  I have to admit, I knew only a little about the Oakland County Child Killings (OCCK) but now I am doing a little bit of digging into that subject.  It seems this is one of those unsolved cases that is screaming for the right attention – a historical true crime perspective.  More on this later, depending on what my digging unearths.

I encourage you to go and read Mardi’s and David’s books and view David’s stunning documentaries.  As I told Mardi, I read her book, When Evil Came to Goodhart, at least once a year.  You should too.  Overall, I had a blast – I met some neat people, and got to spend an hour or so with some top-notch talent in my field, which was a great treat.


Review of CBS’s Crime Drama Battle Creek


“Did two million people just move to Battle Creek?”  Well, technically, they did, at least for an hour a week. 

Having been raised in Battle Creek Michigan, and having written several books about not only Battle Creek, but crime in Cereal City (Lost Eagles, Murder in Battle Creek, The Murder of Maggie Hume), my objectivity  is a little strained in this review. I want this show to be successful, not because it will help my books but because Battle Creek deserves a success.

This is a police drama from Vince Gilligan who brought us Breaking Bad.  At its core, this show is about two characters – a grizzled local officer who plays by his gut instinct, and a FBI outsider who relies on technique.  It’s one of those classic odd-couple mixes where their working together makes both better.   With one episode under our belt we still don’t have all of the chemistry in play yet – but there is fertile ground here for the writer’s the experiment with.  At the same time this odd-couple mix is old ground in television.  This has the effect of you looking at this series and feeling you’ve seen this kind of drama before.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s a disaster.

There is a wry undertone of humor in this series which I think will be its saving grace.  The writing is top-notch in this show.  There are some great one-liners in the episode which seem to fly by if you’re not listening for them.  Solid writing may yet carry this series more than the actors.  For example:

Milt: “I love it here, are you kidding me? I grew up in a small town, so this is just like coming home.”

Russ: “You grew up in Michigan?”

Milt : “Monaco actually, but, you know, same deal.”

In some respects, Battle Creek reminds me of The Rockford Files (now I’m dating myself).  The characters are not pristine but closer to real life than what you see on CSI Miami.  The Agnew character is actually kind of fun, but in a James Rockford kind of way, rough around the edges and funny only by his response to the situation he’s in. By the end of the episode Agnew admits he’s flawed and that his new partner can help…but he hates him.  And the FBI agent Milt Chamberlain’s former boss certainly dropped a hint there is more to this character than we have seen so far.

The Battle Creek Police Department is portrayed as having almost no working equipment of its own and forced into constant improvising.  The incoming FBI agent brings with him an army of forensic investigators and tools.  While this worked well for the first episode, I’m not sure how this theme will play out long-term.

The secondary characters, where the meat of future stories are built off of, are a well rounded mix.  As with all shows of this genre, it will take half of the first season for us to start to see the interactions between the ensemble of characters to determine if we really like it.

Battle Creek is a metaphor for any Midwestern rust belt city.  Its connections to the real Battle Creek in this first episode are tied to the opening credits.  The opening sequence with the locomotive cracked me up since I spent 1/3 of my childhood stuck behind a train in Battle Creek.   I know a lot of my friends in Cereal City would like to see the show reflect more of the real Battle Creek, its characters, its locations, etc.  My caution to this criticism is:  be careful what you wish for.  A trip to Meijers or Walmart on a Friday or Saturday night might change your thoughts of including more of the real Battle Creek in the show.  (Seriously, there can’t be that many people in Rascal Scooters…they outnumber the people that can walk…) 

The real Battle Creek is struggling with gangs and drugs while trying to emerge from its past and clean up its image.  It is a city that is on the cusp of recovery.  It’s been on that cusp for decades though, always out of sync with the rest of the world.  I mean the city got a disco in 1984 – while the rest of the company celebrated the death of disco.  My own experiences with the BCPD indicate there is a significant gap between the real-world and the portrayal on the show…thank goodness.  This isn’t a docu-drama, it is a dry comedy/drama.  The BCPD bears no resemblance to the officers in the episode.

As a side note:  I want to see the winter episodes of the show, which, according to my calculations, should account for roughly 75% of the episodes of the program.  When I see kids going out for Halloween wearing winter coats under their costumes, I know they have really captured the essence of Battle Creek.

Will the show make it?  It’s too early to say.  You really need to have about 3-5 episodes of any series under your belt before you can see if the characters are developing in ways you like.  The time slot is rough, but at least it is not up against The Walking Dead or some other series that would crush it. If the show can build some momentum and a following, it might just survive.  I sincerely hope it does. It will all come down to good writing and character development, and you can’t get that out of one episode.

I’ll watch this show, but On Demand.  I like it, but not enough to stay up on a Sunday night with the dreary Monday morning looming so close in the distance.  In the end, this gives you a good idea of how much I think of the program.  It is worth watching but I am not going to be on the edge of my seat to see it as it airs.

And for my friends in Battle Creek, I can only hope that this show is successful because it will draw in more tourist dollars and visitors to the community. Who cares if it’s filmed there or not?  #BattleCreek

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. 


Veterans Day 2014


Photo by Jon Barrett 

I write books on the Great War so Veteran’s Day has special meaning for me – being the 11th day of the 11th Month – timed with the Armistice that ended hostilities in that conflict.  WWI is a war that has (as a result of the centennial) only now started to get its due.  The Americans were there for such a short period of time that the war did not have the emotional impact that WWII did.  Yet we suffered 116,000 deaths from combat and other means along with another 204,000 wounded.  When you consider the short period of time US troops were in battle, these losses are staggering.  Remember – the US ground forces engaged in only two campaigns which spanned less than three months time.  At that rate, in only a year, the US would have easily passed the casualties in the US Civil War.

The stories of the men that fought in that war are no less harrowing and courageous as those of WWII.  In some ways it was a more horrific war.  The use of chemical weapons made battle deadly and crippling in ways we cannot comprehend.  When you look at the aircraft of the era, flying at high altitudes with limited oxygen, in frigid open cockpits – the romantic image gives way to the grim and bitter realities of that kind of fighting.

I am privileged to write about such men.  Recently I spoke at the Museum of the US Air Force for the League of WWI Aviation Historians on Frederick Zinn.  Fred was the subject of my award winning book, Lost Eagles.  A Galesburg/Battle Creek MI native, Fred was Michigan’s first aviator.  He was the United States first aerial combat photographer (in 1916, a year before the US joined the war).  Fred sent all of the replacement pilots to the front in WWI.  When the war was over, he pioneered the search for missing airmen.  In WWII (at over 50 years old) he established the systems for tracking and identifying missing airmen, all while serving as a counter-intelligence agent in the OSS in Europe (precursor to the CIA).

I arranged with the Museum to bring Fred’s uniform out from storage for the League members to see.  I like to think it made my lecture more tangible, more real.  When it came out though, there was a sense that Fred Zinn was there, in the room.  He stood before us, in that French aviator’s uniform, basking for a few moments in silent glory – praised and applauded by people that had a minor comprehension of the risks he had undertaken in a war that has been often forgotten.  I have no words to convey what it was like to stand next to that man’s uniform.


During his life, Fred never claimed the accolades that he deserved.  He was a humble man.  His commitment was to the families of those men that remained missing – in both world wars.  Fred understood that Veterans Day was not just about the men and women who have seen battle – but it is about the families who bear burdens and emotional scars that most of us cannot comprehend.

On this Veterans Day let us remember not only those that have given their full measure for our nation –but those that are missing still, awaiting for us to bring them home.  Let us remember as well the families of our vets and what they have given up for our country.  Let us remember all of the Frederick Zinns – the silent heroes who, in their own ways, changed the world we live in.   Let us remember the wars, great and small, where blood has been shed in the name of freedom.

Wrap-Up Of Our Book Tour in Michigan – The Murder of Maggie Hume

The week in Michigan on book tour for The Murder of Maggie Hume, was incredible.  We met a lot of neat people and were welcomed with a tremendous amount of support in having this crime resolved once and for all.  Like many books I’ve worked on, this one is never fully complete – not until the case is tried.

I know people think book tours are about selling books.  Not true.  Oh, I’m sure some authors subscribe to that – but not us.  When you write about a cold case it is about getting the story out there.

We started out with an interview with WBCK radio in Battle Creek.  For Victoria, this was her first radio interview and she did great.  I’ve done all of this stuff before, so for me this is old hat.  It was fantastic to watch my co-author daughter go through her first radio and TV interviews though.  It brought back the memories of when this was all new to me.

IMG_1942WBCK – getting the word out. 

Victoria and I paid our respects to the victim as well.  This wasn’t a photo-op, this was us fulfilling a solemn duty, an obligation, to a young woman we never met.

Mandi Zimmerman, a Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department officer, has become our buddy over the last year and is one of those handful of people that worked behind the scenes to make this book come to fruition.  Mandi was one of the first people to say, “look into this case,” and facilitated some of the meetings we had that started this entire project.  Mandi invited us for a tour of the jail in Battle Creek.  I will admit, touring a jail sounds a little off the beaten path – but this was four quarts of awesome sauce.  The jail is highly innovative in their approach to incarceration.  It really is a city within the city.  We learned a lot – and even got a view of the cell that held Michael Ronning (as well as a chance to talk to folks that knew him then).  I came away deeply impressed with the administration of the facility.  The staff were top-notch officers who have difficult jobs to do but work with incredible focus.

Our October 9 Willard Library session at the Miller-Stone building was packed – quite literally standing room only with over 181 guests.  For Victoria, this was the largest audience she had ever spoken too.  She even got to put her nursing skills to a test when a guest fell. Victoria gets a lot of experience helping elderly people who fall in her day job.  The audience was very supportive of our talk.  We were surprised when we finally got to meet John Hume.  We had been corresponding with him for some time but had never seen him live.  The support of the family was important in our efforts and it was nice to associate a face with a name.  The Hume’s have been through a lot and it had to be warming to see that the Battle Creek community was solidly behind them in hoping this case is resolved.

Miller StoneFrom the BC Shopper – a glimpse of the crowd

The family of Bart Thiessen were there as well.  By the end of our trip we felt like unofficial members of their clan.  Our book released details of the auto accident that took their son’s life and the possible ties to this murder.  The book was a means of getting that story out in public for the first time.

Also at the meeting was the mayor of Battle Creek and his wife – both of which were former police officers.  We really liked meeting Barbara Walters who had worked the case, she had such energy and memories of this investigation.  Calhoun County Prosecutor Dave Gilbert was there as well as our friend Bill Howe who was wonderfully instrumental in our research efforts as a former investigator for the Prosecutor’s office.  Mr. Gilbert was quoted the next day in the Enquirer saying that he hoped the book would lead to new tips in the case.  I’m pleased to say that has started to happen.

We can’t thank Bill Howe enough for his guidance and support in the writing of the book.  Former officer Elwood Priess was also there which was a real treat too, I even saw him signing some books.  Judge Mike Jaconette, a former cold case investigator in the Hume murder was present as well.  In total, there were almost a dozen former officers with some sort of connection to the case who were there with one objective in mind – getting final justice for Maggie Hume.  Some of the retired officers even said they were willing to work the case in their spare time pro bono.  The community is solidly behind resolving this case for Maggie and it was an honor to meet these people.  I came away thinking, “this case is going to get closed.”

On Friday morning we went to Grand Rapids to be on Take 5 and Company to talk about the case.  http://www.wzzm13.com/story/entertainment/events/2014/10/10/murder-maggie-hume-book-authors-battle-creek/16975391/ That afternoon we did a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Grand Rapids – and had dinner with cold case specialist and documentary creator – David Schock.  Dave wrote the intro to my book, Murder in Battle Creek, on the murder of Daisy Zick.  If you remember that Janet Chandler case a few years ago, it was Dave’s class (and his leadership) that did the documentary that drove that case to being reexamined and leading to multiple convictions. People that write about cold cases are a different breed of true crime authors.  It’s a tight-knit community and David is one of the most dynamic and innovative men you will meet.  We are on the same mission, using different media to achieve those goals.  Check out his site (and the cases he documents) at www.delayedjustice.com.

book signing in BC

Saturday was our book signing at Barnes and Noble in Battle Creek.  We continually had 3-5 people gathered at the desk talking to us or getting autographs.  Several tips were generated there, right at the table at Barnes and Noble.  We also had people out in the store just in case the suspect we named in the book, Jay Carter, appeared.  We had a potential sighting of him, hovering behind us, but this remains unconfirmed.  We got photos as well from our friends in the store.  The mystery man left the store after pacing behind us for a few minutes.  If it was him, and the intent was to intimidate or somehow confront us, it failed. I tend to think it was just a mistaken sighting.

Sunday was a lecture session with the Battle Creek Historical Society.  The turnout here was good as well.  People in the community all seemed to share a common theme – they want this crime resolved.  They want an arrest.  They want the families involved to have closure.

We met up with family over at the Dark Horse in Marshall for dinner.  It was actually nice enough to have a meal outside, probably the last for the year.  It was great to see that the Horse hasn’t changed with all of the publicity their TV show had heaped upon them.

Monday we did an interview with Dave Eddy for his local cable TV show which will air in a few months.  We are related to Dave by marriage and his interests in the case were keen.  Sheri Sherban also had us on for a segment of her TV show Be Scene too.   People liked to focus on the fact that we are the only father daughter team writing true crime books but the real story was the case itself.


That evening we had dinner with the Thiessen family.  These fine folks attended a lot of our events and were far too complimentary of the work Victoria and I did.  We now have a bond that is beyond words.

While in town my blog got hit by someone associated with the suspect of the crime, Jay Carter.  It was pretty clear from the content.  This person tried to spin a story around Mr. Carter’s innocence.  My blog is not a forum for murder suspects to try and vindicate themselves.  Mr. Carter refused to meet with the cold case team in 2005, hardly the act of someone who was interested in resolving this case or clearing up old questions/issues.  One thing was clear – we are generating some tension out there.  I am more than willing to be the lightning rod for that kind of anxiety if it brings about an arrest in his case – be that any of the suspects or someone else.  Maggie and Bart deserve at least that.  Victoria and I put ourselves out there in public because we know the value of generating media interest in a case.

Tuesday we went to Ann Arbor to speak at the Pittsfield Library about the book.  We had a good size audience there, including people who knew the Hume family and/or lived in Battle Creek.  We did events in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids because we wanted the story of this crime to go far and wide in hopes of generating tips.  This is a crime that goes beyond Battle Creek.  People everywhere are interested in cold cases.

The results…the tips are coming in! 

So far Victoria and I have received four tips related to this crime and have turned them over to the BCPD.  They have them and will be following up on them.  As an author, I won’t solve this case, I am simply the teller of the facts and the crafting of the story in a readable format.  The professionals will solve this – and they have more tools and techniques available to them than ever before.

I understand people want to know what tips we received.  Sorry, that’s for the police.  When this case goes to trial, which we hope it will, we’ll write about it then.  This book isn’t done.  It won’t be complete without the arrest and conviction chapters…chapters I’m looking forward to writing when the time comes.

We encourage people to share their copies of the book (sacrilege to most authors) with people that may have lived in the area at the time.  I’m sure my publisher cringes at that thinking.  Everyone that reads this book is a possible source for new information that can bring this case to an end.  So spread the word, tell the story.

We aren’t going to solve this case.  One of you, however, may.  Don’t worry if the tip seems inconsequential.  Contact the Battle Creek Police Department. The key to this case is someone out there that heard or saw something. Like the X-Files used to say, “The Truth is Out There.”

Book Tour for The Murder of Maggie Hume


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!

New Major Book Project – Unsolved Battle Creek

I am pleased to announce that I will be writing another true crime book this spring – Unsolved Battle Creek.   This book will be published by The History Press who did such a masterful job with Murder in Battle Creek.  I am even more excited that I will be doing this book with a very talented co-author, Victoria Hester.  Victoria comes by her skills genetically – she’s my daughter.

I have dropped hints, some subtle, some less-so, about the subject of this project over the last five months.  We were waiting to make sure we had extended contact to the family of the victim.  This is a matter of respect on our part.  We also had to make sure we properly initiated/filed the appropriate Freedom of Information Act request with the authorities to obtain access to the case files.  Having done our due diligence, we’re comfortable with saying that the subject of this book will be the unsolved murder of Maggie Hume August 17-18 1982.

On August 17-18 of 1982 Margaret “Maggie” Hume was brutally attacked and strangled in her apartment in Battle Creek Michigan.  It has been acknowledged as one of the city’s best known unsolved murders.  Maggie and her family were deeply respected fixtures in the Battle Creek community.  She was not the kind of person that generated enemies, yet someone savagely killed this young woman. She is a woman that deserves to have her story told and the facts/evidence laid bare for the community.  She deserves justice.


Personally I have to consider any project like this carefully.  To me, it comes down to some basic questions.  Is the story worth telling?  Is there plenty here to keep people engaged when they read the book?  With an unsolved case, is there a chance to make a difference and perhaps help the case by generating attention and possibly new leads?  Are people even interested in this case?

I had no less than 15 people tell me that I needed to look into this murder, including several involved with law enforcement.  That, is what you call, “a subtle hint.”  Still, I did my due diligence and poked at the case just to make sure for myself that it was a sound potential project.  It is.  In fact, I think it is one of the most intriguing murders I’ve looked into in years.

Just from the handful of interviews we’ve done, it is clear that there is a lot of complexity in this case; many twists and turns.  There is much that the public never knew about the crime and the suspects.  Add into the mix that a convicted murderer, Michael Ronning, confessed the crime.  So why is the case still unsolved?  You’ll have to read the book for that level of detail.  Which means, of course, we have to get going and write it.

The Hume family has been through a lot and has asked for privacy on this matter, which we are respecting.   The Hume’s are deeply respected in Western Michigan and in Battle Creek proper, so I ask that anyone reading this extend them the same respect we are.

I decided to have my daughter write with me on this because she’s good at writing, she’s won awards for her historical writing and research  – and she’s the same relative age as the victim.  Sometimes a different perspective makes for a better product.  In this case, I’m sure it will.   At the same time, Maggie and I graduated the same year, 1980, (from different high schools) so this crime is something I can offer some perspective of – namely Battle Creek in the 1980’s.  Our writing styles are very compatible.  Between the two of us, this should be a good book for readers to consume. I’m once more relying on the good people of Battle Creek to help us.

Victoria and I are going to Battle Creek the first full week of January to do the bulk of the primary research (and some interviews).  Should you have information you think might be pertinent, we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.  Bear in mind, we can’t do the real heavy interviewing until we complete reviews of the case files etc..  In the meantime my email is bpardoe870@aol.com.

It will take us several months (at least) to research and write the book.  During that period we will be reaching out to the Battle Creek community to ask for your help, insights, memories, etc..  I encourage you to tell us any memories you have about Maggie or about the crime.

This case is solvable…I am convinced of that.  The few informal discussion I’ve had with individuals familiar with the case certainly points to possible resolution. I also know that any case like this has to be handled carefully.  There is a killer out there.  Unlike my book on Daisy Zick, this is not a senior citizen or dead person that committed these crimes.  This individual might very well still be alive and free.

Personally, I have already been contacted by people who don’t want this book published.  They have their reasons.  We understand their concerns but we have to error on the side of justice for the victim.  We, as always, are going to stick to the facts.

Our job is not to solve the crime but to tell the story in a compelling manner, present the facts, and engage the community.  One of you may hold the key to resolving this murder.

What was it that Shakespeare wrote in King Henry IV?  Ah yes, “…the game is afoot…”

Update on Book Projects


The ebook of The FIres of October (Operation Scabbards – The planned US invasion of Cuba in 1962) is out and the hardcopies of the book are on their way from the UK.  I’m pleased to say that the book has already hit an Amazon.com bestseller list.  I must admit that I am chomping at the bit to see the physical book.

After considerable research, I’m finally starting writing a new book, Neverwars, for Fonthill Media.  This book details the early 20th century military color coded military plans of the United States government.  After my work on The Fires of October  I became fascinated with military plans of the United States for invading, well, the world.  These plans, starting in 1903 through 1938 cover a wide range of US plans to invade countries like Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, South America, China, the Philippines and others.  It’s a neat project I’m pretty pumped about.  This book has a lot of neat potential for military historians.

I recently re-secured my rights to my book on office politics – Cubicle Warfare – and I’m going to be re-releasing it (with some updated material) sometime in the next few months.  For people who like my book, Business Rules – The Cynic’s Guidebook the Corporate Overlords – this book will be a treat.  I’m amazed as I go through this just how relevant this book still is.  Moreover, it has never been made available in digital form.

I actually have another business book project that is nearly ready for editing. I’m not even putting this on the calendar yet.  When it happens, it happens.

I’m starting my edit pass on Sawney Bean – Dissecting the Story of the Scottish Cannibal Family.  For my true crime fans, this book will be a pleasant diversion.  This is a little different than my previous true crime works.  One thing is for sure, folks in Scotland are going to enjoy this little romp in Scottish history.

Sawney makes Hannibal the Cannibal look like a wimpy amateur

On top of this I am preparing a Kickstarter for sometime next spring – a Steampunk project called Confederacy of the Damned.  I’ve been working with a BattleTech artist on some of the artwork for the book and the Kickstarter.  Awesome stuff here!

This spring (January/February) if all goes as planned, I’ll be back in Battle Creek Michigan, my hometown, working on a new true crime project.  I say “as planned” because we still have some hurdles before I can make any sort of big announcement here.  There are a few things that excite me about this project – and I’ll be working with another writer on it – my daughter, Victoria Hester.  I think for this book it will be important to have a woman as the same age as the victim to co-author this book.  I’ve been looking for the right project for her and I to team up, and I think this is it.  It will give perspectives to the readers that I think are very important.  I know people want details – but I have none to offer at this point.