The Golden State Killer’s Arrest – The Perspective From the Desk of a True Crime Author

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The faces of evil.  

I was overjoyed with the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo for several of the Golden State Killer’s brutal crimes.  For the victims, it means that his crime spree of 12 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries, was finally over.  He will never call his victims again and threaten them.  He will never cause nightmares with the survivors.  He looks like a pathetic old man who will likely spend the rest of his days behind bars…something I am quite comfortable with.  His reign of fear and torment are done.

We will learn more about this douchebag’s activities over time.  The nuts and bolts of the investigation will be played out the courts.  He may talk, he may clam up.  In the end it doesn’t matter.  It is a rare thing, to beat DNA evidence.

I write true crime books about cold cases.  I was thrilled when the news was announced.  I listened to the press conference live in the background while I worked my day job, hanging on every word.  It gives hope to the thousands of victims and family members out there waiting for resolution on their open cases.  At the same time it sends a ripple of fear into every murderer who believes he or she had gotten away with their crimes.  Justice comes…prodding painfully slow in many cases…but it comes.  Every uncaught serial murderer out there had a restless night of sleep as a result of this arrest.  Once more, they are forced to look over their shoulders and wonder when, if ever, the long arm of the law will apprehend them.  Good. Let these bastards sweat.  Let them worry.  Let them have a healthy dose of fear and mental anguish.

When they held the press conference the first question asked was, “Did Michelle McNamara’s book on the case have any influence?”  Law enforcement said no.  I respectfully disagree.  Her writing of that book, like any book written on a cold case, keeps it in the public’s eye.  Books like I’ll Be Gone in the Dark keep the pressure on law enforcement when it comes to cold cases.  While her book did not necessarily generate a tip that led to DeAngelo’s arrest, it spawned at least three documentaries to be produced in recent months.  It made the phrase, “Golden State Killer,” become embedded as part of our true crime lexicon.  It kept the public’s interest in the case and as such, keep the pressure on law enforcement.  While they offered Ms. McNamara any credit, I will extend it at this time.

There are others that wrote books on the case that deserve equal credit.  Countless podcasters covered the case over the last few years too and they deserve a professional nod from the true crime community.  They were part of a secret army of citizens that were struggling to keep this case fresh in the minds of a generation that did not know this murder/rape spree. They are part of that unspoken True Crime brotherhood that refuses to let cold cases remain frigid.  Hats off to all of them as well.  A job well done!

When I proposed writing my first book on a cold case, Murder in Battle Creek, there were publishers that wouldn’t touch it.  Not because of the writing or the content, but because it was about an unsolved murder.  I remember one telling me, “Who wants to read about a case that never gets closed?  True crime books have to have an arrest, a trial, and a conviction…that’s how they end.” It was such a narrow view…and discouraging.  It was as if they were saying the victim (Daisy Zick) didn’t matter, that because their crime was unsolved that no one cared. I felt differently.  I cared, and I didn’t think I was alone.  I think the public likes to be a part of such an investigation.  They want to know what went wrong and set it right.  It is in the public’s nature to want to help.  They want the facts and want to play armchair detective.  They want the pain and suffering of the families to end too.  I didn’t’ give up on trying to sell the book and was eventually successful.

The result – over two dozen new tips and leads…one just two months ago.

My second cold case book, I wrote with my daughter Victoria Hester.  The Murder of Maggie Hume exposed the flaws in some of the investigatory work in that case, as well as exposed a suspect that the public had never heard of.  The two of us had full cooperation with the prosecutor’s office and police.  We reached out to the public in speaking events and made sure the story got to as many people as possible.  The word got out.

The result – new tips and leads for the authorities to act on.

Our second book together, A Special Kind of Evil, The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings, has generated numerous new tips that have been turned over to the authorities. We have met with numerous people that are pounding the pavement in their own way, looking for resolution.  I know some folks think true crime authors make their money off other people’s misery.  They are wrong.  Most of us, the ones I know, simply want to help.

I feel like we’ve done our small part in shaking the stigma about writing about cold cases in the publishing world.  This recent arrest fills me (and my daughter) with renewed energy on the new cases we are exploring, as well as some of the new avenues we are looking into on the Colonial Parkway murders. The new cases we are looking into are exciting and bitterly cold.  We look forward to thawing them out and bringing them into the light of public debate, investigation, and speculation.

Those of us that write about cold cases never are done with our work; not until the arrest and conviction takes place.  We are on the cases until they are resolved.  That’s part of the commitment on our part. We don’t take that responsibility lightly.

In the meantime, the good guys have racked up a heck of a triumph.  This arrest is a victory for the law enforcement.  It is vindication and resolution (hopefully) for the many victims of this scumbag.  And, despite what was said in the press conference, it is a win for Michelle McNamara and her countless long hours of work and effort to keep this case in the public’s eye.

#truecrime

#GoldenStateKiller

Visiting Crime Scenes

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Ragged Island Refuge – where Robin Edwards and David Knobling were murdered.  The map of the refuge has been blasted with a shotgun, an indication of how creepy and dangerous some of these locales are.  

As a true crime author, I visit crime scenes.  I feel obligated to do so.  The only way you can really appreciate or even describe a place is to stand there and look at it yourself.  I’m not looking for clues, but for the kind of subtle nuances that you cannot pick up when you pull up a place on Google Earth.

I primarily write about cold cases.  I’m not looking for any evidence or something that will change the case.  I just try and get a feel for the locations.  You wish the trees or the road could talk though.  They bore witness to horrific acts and stood mute as the crimes unfolded.  If only…

I was talking with my publisher, Steve Jackson, and we both relayed stories of how we have found there are true crime readers that make pilgrimages to these locations.  Steve actually was driving by one such locale in Colorado and spotted a woman walking in the snow, carrying a copy of his book.  Both he and the fan were a little surprised when he approached her in the frigid snow.

Ron Franscell, an outstanding true crime author, goes so far in his Outlaw series (the latest being Outlaw Los Angeles which you should go purchase) to include GPS coordinates for the key locations.  Ron clearly is ahead of the curve on this topic and gives his fans what they want – a physical connection to his written words.

I encountered this with every true crime book I’ve written.  Readers go to these spots to see them for themselves.  I remember after writing about the murder of Daisy Zick (Murder in Battle Creek) the owners of her house told me that they had been unaware of the murder that took place in their home.  They noticed right after the book came out that there was a steady stream of cars on their little dead-end road, all slowing as they drove by.  People went to Jono Drive to see the home where Mrs. Zick died.

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The former Zick home in Battle Creek, from my own convert visit.  

Similarly I get people asking me online where the Tasty Café was in Marshall Michigan, the subject of my book, Secret Witness.  I understand the curiosity.  For me as a writer, the location is important.  It is a stage where heinous acts took place.  It is a setting, a tangible link to a crime.

On one instance, for the book, The Murder of Maggie Hume, my daughter (and co-author) went with me to compare the confession of Michael Ronning with the physical placement of the apartments.  It proved important.  From where Ronning said he saw Maggie in the window, it was physically impossible to have done so because of the angle of the building.   We retraced her steps as best we could that night, even grabbing a bite at the Ritzee in Battle Creek, where she had been before her murder.  Distances and travel time become important for us to try and replicate.

As an author, I don’t advocate or recommend that people go to the sites I write about.  In some cases, they are downright creepy, if not dangerous.  I don’t recommend it – but I know people do it anyway.

For our upcoming book, A Special Kind of Evil, The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings, I will be doing a number of blog posts in the coming weeks talking about the crime scenes we visited and our observations and some photos we were unable to include in the book.

Victoria Hester and I spent time at all of the spots, so that we could get it right in the book. There are problems we faced with the visits, as well as some weird stories along the way.  In the case of one of the murders, David Knobling and Robin Edwards, the exact spot where the bodies were found has long since eroded away, the victim of storms over the decades.  In the case of Keith Call and Cassandra Hailey we can only visit where Keith’s car was abandoned.  There has not been any physical evidence they were actually on the parkway.  With Cathy Thomas and Rebecca Dowski; we visited where their bodies were found, but again, there is no evidence they were killed in that spot.  Only in the case of Annamaria Phelps and Daniel Lauer can we be relatively sure they were killed at or very near where they were found.

For those of you that visit the sites, I offer this advice – be careful.  Some locales attract bad people.  #TrueCrime  #ASpecialKindofEvil

 

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.

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. 

 

A Few More Tid Bits From My Book Tour for Murder in Battle Creek

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I’m still getting in bits and pieces from my book tour, scouring my notes, etc..  All of this while I am starting on another book – this one on the tale of Sawney Bean.

One thing I found stuck in my notebook came from Carlos – a sketch of the interior of the Zick home. If I recall correctly, he played there as a child.  I know a lot of folks who have read my book wanted to see the interior – but this is a pretty good rendering.

Today I received two other little gems.  One, the NPR interview I did with Cynthia Canty. You can play the interview if so inclined.  NPR Interview

This also came in – an interview I did on Ann Arbor local TV.  TV Interview

The book still continues to sell and draw attention – which is great.  That means that there’s still a chance that the right tip might come in that helps officials close this case!

My Book Tour for Murder in Battle Creek

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I’m back in Virginia and emotionally exhausted from my book tour for Murder in Battle Creek – The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.  It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me, but stressful.  You have to remember at these events anyone can walk up to you and say anything.  You have to be mentally on and focused.  As much as I like the public, I was surprised by the number of people who were taking time out to come and listen to me.

My first event was at the Battle Creek Historical Society.  I had been at a convention in Indianapolis Thursday-Sunday and had driven home to Virginia just in time to turn around and head back to Battle Creek on Monday.   The society set me up in the Carriage House which held about 20-30 people.  We quickly grew to overflow that building out into the parking lot! The folks there estimated about 100 people – though I think that was optimistic.  I got to talk to some wonderful folks like Jim Hazel and the current owners of 100 Jono Street (who had me autograph a book to the new owners that would be purchasing their house soon.)

Bear in mind this week when I wasn’t doing book tour stuff or driving around, I was working my day job out of my mother’s house in Wattles Park.

On Tuesday I met with the Historical Society to talk about Pump Arnold, one of Battle Creek’s more colorful criminals – then I went to Schuler Books in Grand Rapids.  The group was smaller but attentive.  It is interesting that true crime books surpass the audience of the city where the crime took place.  While there I got to connect with Dr. David Schock who wrote the forward to the book.  If you have never met Mr. Schock you are missing a treat.  One of his many talents is investigating cold cases.  We are part of a small brotherhood that concentrate on these cases.  His new book, Judicial Deceit is doing well – I recommend you pick it up.

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Wednesday was Ann Arbor.  I was interviewed by Cynthia Canty of Michigan Radio – NPR. She was quite polished – NPR never ceases to amaze me at the quality of their interviewers.  I then was interviewed for a local cable access news program, then spoke at the Ann Arbor Library downtown.  Daisy Zick’s newspaper girl was there, relaying stories of how she was nervous collecting from Floyd Zick because of his gruff attitude.  Fantastic stuff  – and moreover there was a good sized crowd there. \

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Thursday was an evening event at Willard Library (at the Miller Stone building).  I figured that a few people would show.  We had between 140 and 150 attendees!  There was a lot of great questions and interest in the case.

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The audience at the Willard Library Event

Friday I was in Kalamazoo at the Barnes & Noble.  Good turnout there too.

Saturday was an early morning interview on Channel 3 in Kalamazoo about the book.  I spent some time at Willard Library checking newspapers and old yearbooks, doing some preliminary research on next year’s potential project.   People came up to me in the library with the greeting of, “You’re that author aren’t you?”  Wow.  A celebrity in Battle Creek.  Apparently you have to move away to be recognized there.

The afternoon was consumed with the book signing at Barnes & Noble in Battle Creek.  Generally speaking I’m not a fan of book signings.  Usually there are bursts of activity and some slow times when you are sitting at a desk alone with a pile of books.  Not this time.  I showed up early and there were already eight people in line – and the line didn’t disappear for four hours.

A number of people tied to the book showed up.  Daisy’s granddaughter Lori showed up, as did Jim King, Daisy’s son.  Fred Ritchie came by too for a while.  Detective Steinbacher’s daughter showed up to get an autograph on both Murder in Battle Creek and on Secret Witness.  Numerous people came up and said, “We’re friends on Facebook!” and I’m sure we are…it’s just hard to juggle all of those friends and keep them straight.  Michael Cooley, Albert Cooley’s son, showed up too.  He had never really known his father.  I told him he needed to talk to Roy Bechtol – and low and behold Roy showed up!  The two of them talked for at least 45 minutes.  It was one of those rare moments when things just seemed to come together.

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Detective Steinbacher’s Daughter

Some former Harper Creek graduates came by as well…which was nice.  I apologize if I didn’t recognize you folks at first – it has been a few decades.  One of my best friends from those years, Greg Hartford, swung by with his new girlfriend who is having a very positive impact on his life.

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Roy Bechtol is in the white shirt next to me at the table.

For the most part people were incredible. They gave me advice on my writing, including a lot of support for my technique of including local history into the books.  I was selling almost as many copies of Secret Witness as Murder.  I even sold some copies of my new business management book:  Business Rules: The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  My wife was getting nervous with a few people that showed up at ALL of the events.  “You’ve got stalkers honey!”  Naa, I just had people that were fascinated, just like me, by this case.  I welcome such enthusiasm.  One person gave me a name to pass onto the police to look into, which I will do shortly.

Most that stopped by wanted one thing – to see the killer brought to justice.  They wanted closure.  Not so much for them – but for the King family.  There was a sense of community that came out from this book that I had never anticipated.

A lot of people asked what I was working on next.  I admit I am poking at the Maggie Hume murder for a possible book.  If ever a crime felt like it needed to be closed (next to Daisy Zick) it is this one.  I’m still considering if it is going to be practical or not.  I have to admit, after a week back home, I’m kind of hooked on the case.  No less than 26 people told me during the week that I needed to write this book.  That folks, is something we call a subtle hint.

Thanks again Battle Creek.  It was good to be home – and I will be back soon!  If you have a tip or lead – I encourage you to contact the State Police directly.  The truth is out there and I’m sure you folks will get to it before I do.

Murder in Battle Creek Seems to Have Struck a Nerve

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I write a lot of books.  This year alone I will have 4+ books out in a number of different genres.  I’ve also been a writing for many years, so I’ve seen some books explode in sales, some fizzle.  They are all special to me in some form.  Despite this experience, I have been surprised by the public intake and reaction to my book on the Daisy Zick killing, Murder in Battle Creek.

A lot of people are reading the book.  I’ve heard stories of bookstores being out of the book – which is mixed news of course.  My own publisher, the History Press, said that Murder in Battle Creek was their number five bestseller last month.  Wow.  Usually when you write a book you don’t really have a good idea of sales for six months when the royalty reports come – not so with this book.  Radio programs and TV shows have lined up interviews with me.  I’ll be doing a segment on Kalamazoo’s Channel 3 on August 24 on the crime – and on NPR earlier that week.

I’ve been surprised as well at the number of people that have reached out to me via email or social media to engage on the crime.  People want to talk about this book – and about Mrs. Zick.  I have heard so many stories in the last few weeks about Daisy’s life, her bubbling personality, her warmth.  The memories, for the most part, seem to be positive but so are bits of her life regarding her infidelities.  Everyone seems to agree that no matter what, she did not live a life that warranted the kind of brutal murder she suffered.  Many of those that have contacted me echo the same sentiment – “So many of these names and places are familiar to me!”

It was a difficult decision to use the real names.  Some true crime authors don’t, and in my first book in his genre, Secret Witness, I used this approach.  The most compelling reason to use the real names however was that this case remains unsolved. You never know when a name may trigger some long-lost memory that might help this case get resolved.  I made a good effort to reach out to many of the key parties to let them know in advance that the book was coming out and offer them a chance to discuss their experiences tied to the investigation in 1963.  Finding some people after all of those years can be challenging as I’m sure you can imagine.  Many didn’t respond to my letters, understandably.

Social networking has proven to be the biggest surprise of all to me as a writer.  A lot of people are engaging me about what was in the case file, why didn’t the police do X, etc.  Some of the family members of persons of interest have reached out to me, exploring their own family histories in the process.  Who knows, they may surface some clues that might help close this case once and for all.  A lot of friend requests have come in via Facebook.  From what one person messaged me, I’m sure this book will be popular at the Kelloggs reunion in Florida next year…and with good reason.

I have also been reached out to by a number of people with suggestions for future books.  These are greatly appreciated.  I don’t go looking for ideas, they seem to find me. I had been planning on doing a few other Michigan history books, but there have been some crimes that people have sent me info on that definitely gotten my attention.

I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of my new virtual friends for real when I come to Michigan the week of August 19 for book signings and speaking events. Keep those comments coming…and if you have a legitimate lead regarding this case, please contact the Michigan State Police.

My Latest True Crime Book – Murder in Battle Creek – Releases This Week

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Daisy Zick – 1950

This week my latest true crime book, Murder in Battle Creek – The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick, starts shipping.  It usually takes a few days for this to work its way through the distribution pipeline.  Unfortunately I’m going to be out of pocket for most of the week; meaning that many of you will see the final book before I do.

I have to admit, I get a little excited when a book like this finally starts getting read.  This book is a little more exciting for me.  I’ve written true crime books before and am working on one right now.  What sets this one apart is that this crime remains unsolved.

I always feel I take my readers on a journey through time and space.  Having written historical books before, I know I need to put the reader in the community where this crime took place – and in this case, back to the year 1963.  This journey is different though.  Unlike a traditional true crime book where I’m able to tie a bow on it with the conviction of the murderer, this crime remains open to this day.  The trip I take the reader on is right beside me, attempting to make sense out of a half-century old case file and interviews.  At the end of this trip, we end up at the same place – each with our own opinion as to who may have committed this brutal killing.  I know some readers will go to the places in this book and I hope some will take up the quest themselves to bring final justice to Daisy’s family.  We will walk down this path together, but as a writer, I can only take you so far.

In the past I always change the names of some of the people involved.  Some true crime authors do this, some don’t.  In this case, I opted to use their real names.  My reason is this case is still unsolved.  The use of the real names may trigger a memory, or a story, or the ever-elusive tip that could help the Michigan State Police close this case.  The mention of people does not imply their guilt or even association with the crime – it simply means that their names came up during the investigation.  I am sure that some people will be offended by this – “How could my father/grandfather have been named?”  I’m not passing judgment nor should the reader.  The facts of the case are what they are.  If you want to see the details, anyone can file a FOIA and pay the copying costs to get a copy of the case file.

Daisy’s murder is still a topic of discussion in Calhoun County Michigan.  It elicits theories, speculation, and stories to this day.  Every time I’ve been in Battle Creek working on this book, people have reached out to me with their theories.  For some reason they are more comfortable talking to an author than the police.  Please be assured however, I share the credible tips with the proper authorities.

I’ll be doing a lot of speaking events in August about the book – giving folks enough time to read it.  I hope you’ll join me when I’m back in Michigan.  I’ll be talking about the things I didn’t include in the book (and why) and provide even more photographs and material than it was practical to put in the book.

Right now (subject to change) I’ll be speaking at:

Monday, August 19: Heritage Monday Night series with the Battle Creek Historical Society. 6 p.m. at the Kimball House Museum.

Tuesday, August 20, Schuler Books in Grand Rapids at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 21: Ann Arbor District Library 7-8:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 22, Battle Creek’s Willard Library 7:00 p.m.

Friday, August 23: Book signing @ Barnes & Noble Kalamazoo, 4-6 p.m.

Saturday, August 24: Book signing @ Barnes & Noble Battle Creek, 2-6 p.m.

I invite you to pop in, say hello, and tell me your story.  You can follow this blog to see updates and additions.  Remember, we’re on this journey together!

First Glimpse – The Cover And Some Intro Text To My Book on the Daisy Zick Murder

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For those of you that have been tracking what I write (both of you) you are aware of my latest true crime project:  Murder in Battle Creek – The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.  I’m doing this book with The History Press and it has been an exciting rollercoaster ride.  Most of the time books like this take a year or so to go from submission to printing – but this one has been a matter of weeks.  The reason is relatively simple:  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the killing.  It’s hard to ignore such an event for the sake of a publication schedule.

My writing is a passion and this book spoke to me on a lot of levels.  I was raised in Wattles Park outside of Battle Creek where the crime took place.  I am a big believer that true crime is a form of history and writing about the area where I was raised is always appealing.

The downside is that this crime remains unsolved.  To be blunt, my wife expressed concerns.  After all, this was a savage crime and the criminal was never brought to justice.  She was worried about my safety.  I wasn’t.  After all, even if the killer was in his 20’s or 30’s in 1963 – he or she would be in their 70’s or 80’s now.

It is the fact that the crime remains open that presented a challenge to me as a writer and a rare opportunity for readers.  The challenge came from the fact that I needed to present the facts from my interviews and reading the case file.  With the case unsolved and frigidly cold, there is a chance that the readers themselves may know that vital bit of evidence that helps bring it closure.  This book is a journey for us together to solve a mystery.

When the publisher asked if I wanted someone to write the forward I did – Dr. David Schock.  I will be writing more about this incredible man in another post.  Suffice it to say, when it comes to cold cases in Michigan, David is a bit of a legend.  Check out his site http://www.delayedjustice.com/.  I’ve ordered a copy of his new bestselling book, Judicial Deceit and trust me, if you live in Michigan, you should too.

The folks at Amazon.com have posted the cover of the book and you can read some of the material from the book right now.  I invite you to check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Battle-Creek-Mysterious-Death/dp/1626191344/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370185859&sr=8-1&keywords=daisy+zick

The week of August 19 I will be in Michigan doing book tour events talking about the book and signing copies.  More on that later.  In the meantime, let me know what you think of the sample posted on Amazon.