This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.


The 1930s were banner years for crime in the United States. Newspapers were filled with details of the exploits of criminals. They often included pictures of the most notorious, and St. Paul readers sometimes thought they saw the worst of them walking their hometown streets and eating in their restaurants. The gangsters included Alvin ”Creepy” Karpis, “Babyface” Nelson, John Dillinger, “Machine Gun” Kelly and even some of Ma Barker’s sons.

Minnesota was a state that was hit hard by criminal activities. It had suffered four straight years of unbridled crime. In 1932, it was host to 20 percent of all bank robberies in the United States. There was, however, a period during which, in spite of there having been a large number of bank robberies across the country, St. Paul had not experienced even one.

John J. O’Connor, former detective, chief of the St. Paul Police Department and then mayor of the city, had much to do with that record. Under pressure to rid the city of crime, he reorganized the police force and, in 1900, had hatched a bizarre, but apparently effective plan that quickly reduced major crime … at least temporarily.

He spread the word throughout the Midwest that criminals were welcome to use St. Paul as a safe refuge without being arrested if they committed no major crimes within the city limits. They had merely to check in when they arrived and pay required bribes. The plan was referred to as the O’Connor Layover Agreement. It brought an almost immediate end to serious crimes within St. Paul. In one of his autobiographies, gangster, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, stated, “If you were looking for a guy you hadn’t seen for a few months, you usually thought of two places. — prison or St. Paul. If he wasn’t locked up in one, he was probably hanging out in the other.” So, some of the newspaper readers’ sightings that looked like infamous criminals might well have been sightings of the real infamous criminals.

One can only imagine the amount of crime this deflected to neighboring cities. In addition, although other crimes were discouraged within St. Paul, gambling and prostitution were not. Reportedly, O’Connor’s wife, Annie, was the owner of a bordello.

Aware of what a good deal they had in St. Paul, visiting criminals policed each other. No criminal wanted to bring down the wrath of other criminals by being responsible for putting an end to the O’Connor Layover Agreement.

Under such a system, the police were free to respond to petty crimes while criminals policed each other. While O’Connor was in charge, he managed to minimize crime within the city, but he retired in 1920 and died in 1924. His successors were either not able or not disposed to maintain his record, and crime crept back.

Ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933, marked the end of prohibition. It also cut off the flow of money made from illegal liquor, which resulted in criminals having to make money by other means.

Criminals making and distributing illegal alcohol had often been regarded as modern Robinhoods who provided what a respectable portion of the public craved. For example, even Al Capone was greeted with applause when he attended a major-league baseball game. When crimes got more serious, however, the public got increasingly outraged and demanded that something be done about it.

Crimes that contributed to the outrage included the infamous 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, when seven persons were lined up against an inside wall of a North Clark Street cartage garage in Chicago and riddled with bullets. One victim, namely, Frank Gusenberg, had 14 bullet wounds, but survived for some three hours, maintaining that he had not been shot.

The 1929 attack was reportedly meant to kill only a Capone rival gang leader, George “Bugs” Moran. Ironically, Moran was the only one who managed to survive. Upon nearing the garage, he had spotted what appeared to be a police car parked outside and had retreated to a nearby coffee shop.

In 1932, details of the infamous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s, baby became headlines of a vast number of newspapers. The abduction and murder of his son resulted in Congress enacting the Federal Kidnapping Act, often referred to as the Lindbergh Law. It enabled federal authorities to pursue kidnappers who had taken their captives across a state line. A number of states enacted “Little Lindbergh” laws covering kidnappings that did not involve crossing state lines. Some states enacted laws that, if a victim was harmed in any way, allowed capital punishment. During the 1970s, the United States Supreme Court revised the laws so that kidnapping alone no longer constitutes a capital offense. The law includes a special provision to be applied in cases when minor children are abducted by their own parents.

The kidnapping of the President of the Theodore Hamm’s Brewery, William Hamm Jr., in 1933 and, in 1934, the kidnapping of the president of the Commercial State Bank, fed the printing presses of many newspapers. Both the brewery and the bank were located in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In 1933, a group of gangsters tried to free another, one Frank Nash, whom they discovered was being returned to Leavenworth Penitentiary, from which he had escaped in 1930. The group included Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd. The attempt took place outside the Union Railroad Station in Kansas City and cost the lives of two Kansas City Police Officers and two federal agents. Ironically, the person they were trying to free was also killed. The skirmish became referred to as the Kansas City Massacre, and its details were the subjects of debates for some time. Floyd was killed the following year. Woody Guthrie wrote a popular song about him.

The O’Connor Layover Arrangement remained in place for nearly 40 years, but unrestrained crime gradually returned to St. Paul. That finally forced action by some of its citizens and the federal government.


When asked about his Layover Agreement, O’Connor stated, “Under other administrations, there were as many thieves here as when I was chief, and they pillaged and robbed; I chose the lesser of two evils.”

More information about Alvin “Creepy” Karpis is available in my previous essay dated September 19, 2014 and titled FORENSICS 181: IT PAYS TO BE WELL INFORMED. It may be found in the Storytellers Unplugged archive. Karpis was called “Creepy” because he had an extremely sinister smile.

Bugs Moran was born Adelard Cunin in 1893 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He died in 1957 of lung cancer in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. He had once been considered to be the wealthiest gangster in Chicago. When he died, he was reportedly worth only about $100. He was given a pauper’s burial in the prison cemetery.

Gangster tours are available in St Paul. The sites include locations where infamous criminals stayed and where they played.


Thomas Sullivan: CPR FOR WHACK-A-MOLES

Your emails are an inspiration and an education – thank you very much – especially after a Q&A such as last month’s. I’m tempted to make whole columns out of single questions, but my answers seem to cause new Qs to pop up like whack-a-moles, so here are eight more. As usual, the questions range broadly, and I’m honored by your confidences whether you are struggling in your own life or just curious about some trivia in mine.

Q: [UK] How do you bring characters to life?

A: Helps to remember that your work is a world entirely of your making, so play God – and the devil too. Breathe into your characters. Give them CPR. Create, create, create those purely human markers like thoughts, feelings and actions (or inactions) that reveal motivation. I’m not saying to stop the movement of a story in order to do this, but do not let things and events take over without being filtered through the values/flaws/personality of your characters. Trust the reader to get on board by latching onto familiar emotions that you write into new and unfamiliar journeys that lead somewhere. Also keep in mind that real life makes us dynamic, not static. The drivers of plot should CHANGE characters just as life changes people.

Q: [NY?] How long does it take you to write a novel?

A: DIAPASON 23 days. CASE WHITE 39 years. All my other novels somewhere in between.

Q: [Ann Arbor, MI] I love your photographs in the newsletter and I even save some. Did you ever publish a picture of the woman you call the-love-of-your-life, how about it? You must have some. Just curious.

A: What…you think I’m wearing a trenchcoat lined with postcards? Well, OK, of course I have a number of photos and many have asked since I wrote about her three years ago, but I thought my verbal description was more than skin deep. Tell you what, I’ll give you some musical matchups. Think of a cross between Taylor Swift and a young Olivia Newton John for the eyes and the resonance of Swift’s speaking voice (especially when she does all those little “mms” and “hmms” in her songs). You could add ONJ’s radiant but slightly shy smile for another visual – .

Q: [Canton, OH] I’ve just finished your novel CASE WHITE and I feel like the whole world has changed for me. I would love to know exactly how much of it is true?

A: Generally speaking, my publishers thought that everything I made up was true and everything that was true they thought I made up. All of the background is documentable, as are the historical figures. Most of the personal interactions (such as the romance between Krantz and Lutka) are fiction. The missions and bizarre quests, fantastic as they are, really happened. The culminations of the plot are my invention – a synthesis, really – in order to give coherence to how a nation could go insane for 12 years. What’s frightening is what’s left over from that era in today’s world.

Q: [Zephyr Hills, FL] What are you reading now?

A: I’ve long been fascinated by the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill and her incredible marriage to Charlie Chaplin, so I finally picked up the definitive biography OONA: LIVING IN THE SHADOWS.

Q: [?] How much can I expect a first novel to sell for?

A: Nothing. Don’t want to be crass here, but few writers sell any novel, fewer still a first novel. If you write because you LOVE writing, I’d say that’s worth the effort, sale or not. And of course you can self-publish, in which case the question should be, “How much do you want to spend?” If you do make a sale, it will depend on what rights you’ve licensed (digital, traditional print, POD print, audio) and what the publisher offers if anything for an advance. Few epub/POD/audio publishers offer any kind of advance, but they pay better royalties. Traditional print publishers that have an actual print run as opposed to POD (print on demand) usually pay a guaranteed advance against royalties. An advance for a FIRST novel is likely to be only a few thousand dollars up to perhaps $15K. Most releases never earn past the advance, first book or otherwise. The adage used to be that seven out of ten novels lose money, two break even, one pays for the rest. Marry rich or keep your day job is always good advice…

Q: [Boston, MA] I consider myself an intelligent person, so why can’t I work out the relationships in my life? Everyone I trust comes up short. Please don’t tell me my expectations are too high, because then I’ll have to ask you how is it you always write about idealistic expectations.

A: Maybe the first thing to do is to make sure you’re interpreting everything right. You say no one lives up to your trust. That may have more to do with emotional security than intelligence. Here’s something I posted on FB a while back: There are people who turn everything inside out looking for a negative reflection on themselves, and the more intelligent they are, the more they find until paranoia beats them into a corner and self-destruction wins. In other words, it may not be your expectations that are too high but your walls. Fear of being hurt can stunt your life. I don’t know if that applies to you or not, but I do know that people who would rather overestimate threats than risk being fooled are often fooled and seldom satisfied. Think about it. If someone wants something from you and your defenses are unrealistic, would they scale your walls out of compatibility with your fears? They may be skilled at scaling those walls or attracted by the challenge itself, but their object isn’t sympathy with what’s unreasonable; it’s to get whatever it is they want from you. Now, maybe that still works out for you in the long run, if satisfying your defenses is your only criterion. But IS that your only criterion? Doesn’t sound like it, and as you already know, the vetting process for something more is disillusioning. Ask yourself, though, if someone who accepted all your demands COULD fulfill your other criteria; or would accepting them in itself contradict the other things you want?

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage or follow me on Facebook:


This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.


Anthony Harold Turner was not a twin, and his DNA matched that acquired from three rape victims. The probability of him not being the rapist was reportedly one in three trillion. Given such odds, authorities were confident that the match provided sufficient evidence to try and convict him of the rapes. Turner denied having been the rapist and claimed that someone else must have committed them, but he was convicted of the crimes.

One can only imagine how shocked the authorities must have been when, while Turner was in jail awaiting sentencing, a woman reported having been raped; and DNA acquired from her was found to match Turner’s DNA. Since Turner was not a twin, his DNA should have been unique. The new find might not only set him free, it could raise serious doubts about the reliability of forensic DNA accuracy.

In view of the double threat, an investigation was mounted that revealed Turner had snuck a small ketchup packet containing some of his semen out of jail. Family members had then passed it to the woman and paid her to claim she had been raped. Turner’s sentencing proceeded.

The field of DNA forensics is somewhat more complicated than the foregoing case implies. A somewhat similar situation occurred when another jailed individual’s blood DNA matched that acquired from an actual rape victim. Another investigation was mounted, and it revealed that the inmate’s brother had, years before, provided him with some of his bone marrow for a transplant. The future inmate had had a blood disease and had been treated with chemicals that destroyed his bone marrow. Bone marrow donated by his brother was then introduced into one of the future inmate’s veins. This caused the creation of disease-free blood containing his brother’s DNA.

Fortunately, in such cases, cells from tissues other than blood or marrow, would still have their original DNÅ. In cases where recipients’ own bone marrow had been only partially killed, they would have a combination of their own DNA and that of the donors.


Within our bones, there resides soft tissue referred to as marrow. It produces blood-forming cells that mature into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells earn their living by carrying oxygen throughout one’s body. White blood cells defend against infection, and platelets help stop bleeding.

The abbreviation “BMT” used to refer to “bone marrow transplant. Since both blood and marrow provide stem cells, it now refers to “blood and marrow transplantation.” If a person’s own stem cells are used, a transplant is known as autologous. If someone else’s stem cells are used, it is known as allogeneic. If an identical twin’s stem cells are used, it is known as syngeneic.

Reportedly, the hematopoietic component of bone marrow produces approximately 500 billion blood cells per day.

There are two types of bone marrow: red and yellow. The red mostly comprises hematopoietic tissue, and the yellow, mostly fat cells. Red, most white blood cells and platelets originate in red marrow. At birth, all marrow is red. As a person ages, more and more red marrow becomes yellow. About half of adult marrow is red and is found primarily in flat bones. Yellow marrow is usually found inside the middles of long bones. Our bodies are capable of converting yellow marrow back to red to increase the production of blood cells if blood loss is severe.


‘Scuse our hiccups! Storytellers is back up after some unpredictable technical glitches, and I’m back with my unpredictable takes on the universe in general and writing in particular. Have to catch up with the crazy backlog in my mailbox, and so this column will be Q&A with the first question coming from the guy half-covered in snow waving a ski pole who looks disturbingly like me.

Q [SELF]: Hey, Sullivan, how is the new configuration going to affect your columns on StorytellersUnplugged?

A: Won’t. At least not the column itself. However, while previously archived columns are still accessible on SU, most of their comments are not. You can still use the links in old Sullygrams, mirror sites, my author’s website, Google searches and such, or search my name right here on SU, and you’ll get the columns. There were something like 11 of those columns missing from the previous archive anyway, so I’m going to try to restore them (a slow work in progress) along with comment threads on my author’s website ( ).

Q [Westland, MI]: Have you ever written porn?

A: (chokes on chicken bone) Well, if piano legs were “dressed” in piano skirts during Victorian times because they were thought to be too like feminine gams, I suppose almost anything could be called porn from someone’s point of view. Speaking for myself, I define porn as relentlessly and anatomically sexual without any additional context or meaning. So by that definition, no, graphic porn is boring and shallow to me. I don’t do graphic for the sake of graphic or out of gratuity or to degrade. On the other hand, I wouldn’t shirk from describing human passion that was essential to the telling of a tale or revealing of the human condition.

Q [NYC]: Who do you think is the most overrated writer?

A: Hang me for blasphemy, but I’ve never been wildly enthusiastic for Hemingway (attaboy, Sully, pick on somebody dead). That said, if he were an unknown, I’d probably wonder why he was underestimated.

Q [Hartford, CT]: You write so convincingly about relationships it makes me wonder why you write horror?

A: Mercy! What makes you think horror can’t deal with relationships? (Don’t tell Edgar Allen Poe…) “Horror” is just a label. If I explore psychological fear or a hint of something magical, it will be called a whole bunch of labels, horror included. Writers aspire to understanding human nature in order to create compelling characters with believable motivations, emotions et al, so the more true-to-life the characters and comprehensive their lives, the more the reader feels the tour de forces that happen to them – whatever the emotion. The chief thing Stephen King has going for him is his ability to create “normalcy,” if only to yank the rug out from under it. And I don’t know why most my mail is about relationships, but I’m flattered that someone wants to know what I have to say about human beings or details about my personal life, particularly since every enduring novel has at heart some form of love. Without that passion and universality you get just another popcorn read of things and events.

Q [Pasadena, CA]: Are you a gamer? I think The Water Wolf would make a great game.

A: Not a gamer, but I would be if I started down that slippery slope. Too addictive. Besides, real-life adventures do infinitely more for me. But THE WATER WOLF turned into a game? Now that’s a different “story,” and I shamelessly concur, it would be an awesome game. So, after you invent it, shoot me the licensing agreement and cut me a check.

Q [Hutchins, WI]: I disagree with you about getting over someone who has hurt you. My husband would never hurt me, which is why I love him.

A: ‘Fraid I’m gonna hurt you by asking isn’t that self-love? Your reason for loving your husband sounds more like gratitude to me. Nothing wrong with self-preservation, but separating that from caring about another person is how you discover what love really is. The statement to which you refer about getting over someone who has hurt you was my attempt to describe just such a distinction. Or to put it another way, when someone gives you too much pain for you to ever have expectations of them again, the answer is simple. Never have expectations of them again. That doesn’t mean you can’t actively love them.

Q [Bartlesville, OK]: I know you build your day around exercising but do you write before you exercise or after?

A: My day is built around exercise? (‘scuse me…down one! up two! – pant, pant). Really? You make it sound so formal. I guess you could call it that, but if all I was doing was sweating and driving my heart rate up, I might not bother. Ah, well, grant me that I’m shaping my thoughts while “exercising” and I’ll make the case that one of the other things I’m doing while romping through the forest IS writing. In fact, before the advent of recorders on cell phones etc., I used to call home in the middle of a workout and leave Voice notes. I also remember writing in my own blood one time and another time asking a lady hanging clothes outside if I could borrow a pencil and a scrap of paper. I take it you are a writer who also works out a lot? Here’s a kick you might try: wake up tomorrow and right off the pillow go do your exercise thing. If you can overcome the urge to gnaw the bark off trees in lieu of breakfast, the natural low-blood sugar hallucinogens you produce can put some Technicolor in your imagination!

Q [Ames, Iowa]: You’re a hopeless romantic, I can’t believe you want to stay single. You should be in love.

A: Who says I’m not? Being in love is easy. Being loved, not so much. On the other hand, if all someone wants to do is give, they are in bomb-proof mode. … OK, I get your point. But so many people I hear from feel alone and ask me why I’m so happy being alone, and I’m not alone. Yes, I would have chosen a soulmate, if that were possible. But I’ve only known one that would have worked, and I see almost no instances where it has for others, at least by my standards. Almost – ‘nother subject. Who fills your darkness at night, who hears your pillow talk? I would rather fill mine with the silence of fantasies and the voice of my imagination than forever babble condescensions to someone with too many limitations and no-go zones. Anyway, there are compensations and I’ve been richly rewarded with those, mostly through unusual friendships with unusual people.

Q: [?, UK] I’m glad you still write your column, especially since a lot of the authors here come and go.

A: Thanks, and I expect to keep writing columns as long as it works for me and readers. My reasons may be a bit different from the many distinguished alumni who have graced this blog. I think it’s completely natural for contributors to make their thoughts on the craft a matter of permanent record here and then move on. Many of them said as much, and having created that legacy simply felt they needed to put time and energy into paying projects with deadlines. That’s where my experience has differed somewhat. Long ago I realized that it’s hard to judge incoming traffic to SU. For whatever technical reasons, stat gathering isn’t always accurately reflected, and very few people will take the trouble to post comments. It may have something to do with mirror sites or pathways or WordPress protocols and remote links in – I really don’t know. Also, I delete more than 90% of incoming comments as specious attempts by someone to raise their ratings for another site. But even if there weren’t strong legitimate interest as indicated by email, I feel that I’m creating essays that I’ll use down the line (already have, as a matter of fact) and that could be valuable both monetarily and as a legacy. I think Bob Jones, having collected and published three e-book sets of his terrific columns (Forensics 101-103 through David Wilson’s Crossroad Press), is an excellent example of how that works. Finally, SU columns remain a terrific connection with readers, whether they search you out or Google you inadvertently – a lot of my email is generated this way. As careers play out, this blog grows in relevance as a repository for author views. It not only builds fan bases and creates friendships, it creates sales.

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage or follow me on Facebook:

*I am not a Muse.*

“And it’s a powerful thing, the learnt reflex to look at a woman and see someone who is by definition unaccomplished, a novice; someone’s disciple, companion, muse; someone with no power or expertise of her own.”

The longer I move in the circles that I do, the more stories I hear whose kernel is the attitude encapsulated in that paragraph above. A man… is born knowing his craft, apparently. Even when he is bad, he is by definition somehow, better than any other poor fool who does not share that gender. It is just THAT easy to dismiss a woman at a gathering like this as a lackey, an assistant, a secretary, a junior editor who’s been allowed out of the office/schoolroom as a treat for the child (as it were). That, or the “disciple… companion… muse” mentioned above. A man is born knowing his craft; a woman is incapable of ever transcending a certain level of foothills, as it were, because it is not for her alone to breathe the rare air of the high literary mountains unless she happens to be a disciple, a companion, a muse.

*I am not a Muse*.

Or, if I have inadvertently been one to anyone at all, it is not as an ethereal damsel floating in the first pink flush of the dawn light whispering wondrous words into someone else’s ear, to be claimed by someone else’s mind, and pen. If I am a Muse at all, it is my own Muse, listening to my own wondrous whispers at dawn. As much as some might seek to scoff at such claims, yes, I HAVE walked those mountains without either leaning on the arm of a man for support or floating before him as a wispy spirit guide into the dizzying heights above the eternal snows.

Why is the distillate of a man’s mind automatically wisdom and truth and holy writ, and of a woman’s nothing more than lullabies and sweet romance and laid-down fine needlework? Why can a woman’s writing not be great and powerful and wise? WHy can it not be heard, and understood, and given its due? What is it that makes men walk into literary gatherings only to have their eyes slide over (the few) women in the group as though they were not there at all, as though they were there by accident, or (worse) by *permission*? What makes my mind inferior to that housed in a body which happens to have different plumbing than my own?

Time and time again women have taken the name of a man in order to stake a claim in the literary arena. Take the Bronte sisters (who ended up being the Brothers Bell). Take George Sand. Take James TIptree Jr. And it’s a known thing (pace JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin) that all too frequently a woman author who wishes to hide her gender identity will take refuge behind the shield of the initials, just like JK Rowlings did.

It’s insidious, a bitter little thread in the tapestry – it’s known to happen, because it needs to happen, because so few of us who have to lay claim to a feminine gender finally have the stamina to stand our ground, to stay the course, to expect that at some point in our lives and our careers we might be seen as WRITERS – and by that I mean as writers of substance, and not just dismissed as those girls who just dabble in this writing lark, who write “silly penny-dreadful romances” or “children’s books”. Not LITERATURE. Not ever that. Our puny little fluffy brains cannot stretch to that. Literature is defined by men, apparently, and its first commandment is that its progenitors have to be men, too.

I believe I will speak for many of my (fairer) sex when I recoil from this patronizing head-patting, gather myself up to my full and not inconsiderable height, and declare… I AM NOT A MUSE – I am nobody’s muse except perhaps my own. I am a writer. In my own right. I do not need to be a man’s amanuensis or inspiration in order to have my own ideas and words heard. Never MIND the battle of the genders of the actual authors – I do not believe that my WORDS are tainted by my being female, or made worse by it. And neither are those of my sisters in the pen.

We are not here to guide you anywhere, gentlemen. Find your own way up the mountain. The only thing the “girls” ask of you is not to get in our way when we try to do the same, or, worse, attempt with all of your might to tell us that the mountains are just an illusion and we should lower our eyes and look back down to the ground, as we should, enver raising our gaze from the toes of our shoes. Don’t tell me where I can’t go. And if you can’t get there by yourself, don’t expect me to lead you there and then bow out as you plant your own flag on the summit and claim it for your own.

I am not a Muse. I am a WRITER. Get out of the way.


This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.


Tim had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1988 and served in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, winning several medals. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the American military was reducing the number of its troops, and Tim accepted an early discharge.

He and several of his friends had developed a hatred of the federal government in response to the killings of the wife and son of survivalist Randy Weaver at his Idaho cabin by federal agents and to the deaths of 75 Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. On the second anniversary of the Waco disaster, Tim parked a Ryder, Ford F-700 truck he had rented on the north side of the nine-story Murrah Building, which housed a number of federal agencies, in downtown Oklahoma City. He got out, locked the truck and walked to a yellow Mercury Marquis he had positioned several blocks away. The license plate had been removed from the car and a note left covering the Vehicle Identification Number. The note stated, “Not abandoned. Please do not tow. Will move by April 23. Needs battery and cable.”

At 9:02 a.m., he heard an explosion. He wasn’t the only person who heard it. Reportedly, it could be heard and felt some 55 miles away. It was the sound of the worst homegrown terrorism in U.S. history. The truck had contained home-made explosives that created an 8-foot-deep, 30-foot-wide crater, rubblized a third of the Murrah Building, destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 automobiles and shattered glass in 258 buildings. Damage was estimated to be $652 million. Of more importance, 186 persons were killed and some 680 nonfatally injured.

What followed was to be one of the most exhaustive investigations in FBI history. To ensure that every piece of evidence and every participant in the bombing was found, reportedly, more than 28,000 interviews were conducted, some 43,000 leads were tracked and nearly a billion bits of information were reviewed. The total weight of all evidence gathered amounted to more than three tons.

Among the evidence discovered was the rear axle of the truck. From it was learned a vehicle identification number, which was traced to a body shop in Junction City, Kansas. Shop employees helped the FBI construct a composite drawing of the man who rented the truck. Agents showed the drawing around the city, and hotel employees provided the name of Tim McVeigh. A check with the Bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division provided the surprising news that McVeigh was already in custody.

Coincidentally, an Oklahoma State Trooper had stopped McVeigh’s car while it was traveling northward because it had no license plate. He was found to be in possession of an unlawfully concealed weapon and was arrested. His arrest took place only 90 minutes following the explosion. His clothes were found to bear traces of chemicals used in the explosion. Also, the trooper who had arrested McVeigh found a business card of a Wisconsin military surplus store the latter had hidden in his police car while handcuffed. Upon the back of the card, McVeigh had written, “TNT @ $5/stick, need more.”

In view of the evidence, McVeigh was prosecuted and subsequently executed. Persons who had aided in and/or knew about McVeigh’s bombing plan were also prosecuted.


As a result of the bombing, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was passed. It also resulted in legislation enacted to deter future terrorist attacks on federal buildings by increasing the protection around them.

McVeigh had carried a Glock 21 pistol with which to trigger the explosives if their fuses failed. If that had occurred, he would, of course, have been the first fatality resulting from the explosion.

The effects of the explosion were estimated to have been equivalent to that caused by an explosion of 5,000 pounds of TNT. Seismometers 4.3 miles away and 16.1 miles away recorded the explosion as measuring approximately 3.0 on the Richter Scale.

Means of identification of the dead found in the rubble included blood and DNA analysis, dental examinations, fingerprinting and full-body X-rays.

Recovery efforts were halted periodically while listening devices so sensitive that they reportedly could detect human heartbeats could be used to locate survivors.

More than 12,000 persons took part in relief and rescue operations after the explosion. Rescue workers were provided with 15,000 to 20,000 meals during ten days by the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. More than 100,000 meals and 100,000 gloves, hard hats, knee pads and ponchos were provided by the Salvation Army. More than 9,000 units of blood were donated. Tens of millions of dollars were donated and used to aid disaster relief, for long-term medical and psychological needs, to compensate victims and to provide college educations for each of 219 children who lost one or both parents during the explosion.

During McVeigh’s subsequent trial, the prosecution called 137 witnesses.

Following his trial, McVeigh eventually stopped his appeal process and requested that a date be set for his execution. His request was granted.

According to federal law, the President must approve the execution of federal prisoners. President George W. Bush did so. The execution was the first federal execution in 138 years.

Reportedly, there were some 60 domestic terrorism plots tracked between 1995 and 2005. In 1996, there were 858 domestic militias and other antigovernment groups. By 2004, the number had dropped to 152. Soon after the bombing, 500 FBI agents were added to investigate potential domestic terrorist attacks.

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This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans. The ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section of this essay contains material found during research. It is not always closely related to the main subject of the essay, but is thought to be interesting.

The essay is In keeping with a tradition of offering a spooky piece in honor of the October month of Halloween.


Al fostered concern among his parents and teachers that, because he was so slow to learn, he would never amount to much. Even when he read, he would silently mouth words before trying to pronounce them. When he was five years old, however, he began to erase the concern after his father gave him a compass. He was fascinated by the way it behaved, always pointing in the same direction, and he wondered why it did so. He later said, “I can’t forget … that this experiment made a deep and lasting impression on me.” He was later to write, “Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

His interest in the way things worked having been spiked, he proceeded to study science, especially as it applied to light and movement. When he was but 12 years old, he astounded his family by formulating an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem. In 1905, when he was but 26 years old, he published four scientific papers, one of which earned a Nobel Prize. In 1915, he published a paper on a geometric theory of gravity.

In addition to his work on such heavy subjects, he and his student, Leo, once focused their brains on a more down-to-earth subject. They invented a down-to-earth-refrigerator. Of course, it was no ordinary down-to-earth refrigerator. Its novelty and most important advantage was that it comprised no moving parts. They obtained a patent for it in 1930.

In contrast, nine years later, Al did something that was of worldwide significance. He signed a famous letter written by Leo to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making him aware of scientific studies and experiments that indicated there was a good possibility of making an extremely powerful bomb and warning him that other countries might be able to do the same. Al was, of course, Albert Einstein, and Leo was Leo Szilard. The last paragraph in their letter alone expresses the urgency of the matter.

“I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines, which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weishlicker [sic], is attached to the Kaiser Wilheim Institute in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.”

Einstein also sent two letters to President Roosevelt in 1940. This ultimately gave rise to the Manhattan Project and the development of nuclear weapons by the United States.

During the 1930s, Einstein battled with Danish physicist, Neils Bohr, over the completeness of quantum mechanics. Einstein pointed out a paradox involving the separation of a pair of entangled, subatomic particles where each particle seemed to be instantly aware of the state of the other, even if they were far apart. Einstein argued that, according to the special relativity theory, this would have been impossible. He referred to it as “spooky action at a distance.” This counts as one ghostly bit mentioned in this essay. There are many more related ghostly items, though. Actually, the ghostly items referred to number in the thousands. They are nuclear weapons, and they continue to haunt us all.

Reportedly, as of 2013, there were approximately 17,300 nuclear warheads in the world: Russia had 8,500, the United States had 7,700, France had 300 and China had 250.

Einstein reportedly said, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


Einstein also said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Those readers interested in the Einstein refrigerator can retrieve detailed information about it from the internet by entering the following:

The year 1905 mentioned in the foregoing is often referred to as the “miracle year.” The subjects of the papers published by Einstein during that year were Brownian motion, mass-energy equivalence (E=mc^2), special relativity and the photoelectric effect. He was awarded a Nobel prize for his work on the photoelectric effect. The subject of the mentioned paper Einstein published in 1915 deals with gravity and is known as the general theory of relativity.

An example of entangled particles would be the result of a particle decaying into two photons. The photons would be entangled.

Reportedly, having noticed her daughter often stopping at Einstein’s house on her way home from school, her mother asked him why she was doing that. “We have a deal” he said, “I do her math homework and she gives me cookies.”

Einstein played violin and once was playing with a violin master. The latter was not bothered if Einstein missed a note or two, but he could not stand his getting out of time. Once, when Einstein’s timing wavered, the frustrated master reportedly shouted, “Mein Gott, Albert. Can’t you count?”

While in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to attend a meeting, Einstein and a companion reportedly decided to take in a movie. They bought tickets and turned them in to get into the theater. Upon discovering that the the movie wouldn’t start for a time, they decided to take a short walk around the neighborhood. Worried, and ever humble, Einstein asked how the ticket taker would remember, when they returned, that they were the persons who had already bought tickets.


Your questions are both tricks and treats to me any time of year – “treat” because I’m so glad to get them and “trick” because some are daunting to answer. In any case, I’m giving it my best Halloween shot here. But please don’t feel overlooked if you sent something I didn’t use. In fact, what gets used may date back months or longer, so you never know. I select questions by “3 R’s”: Relevance, Repeaters, Relationships (always try to get at least one relationship question in because you send more of those than anything else). Take it away, Q&A…

Q [asked by a neighborhood child, who thankfully won’t read this answer]: How old were you when you quit trick or treating with friends?

A: Stunned silence. There’s an age limit? Hmmm. For the record, I think I lost my enthusiasm for costumes (and Halloween chocolate) about the time a kid who was trading everyone chocolate malt balls for the stuff they wanted to get rid of announced he wasn’t wearing any underwear. (Srsly, there’s an age limit?)

Q [Adelaide?, S. Australia]: I love Sullygrams and columns and I’m just wondering which your fans liked best if you have any idea.

A: Anytime I write about characters or relationships, a flood of responses comes in, but the Valentine’s newsletter February, 2012 [ ], and the column for that same month were personal accounts of the love of my life and still bring in an occasional email, most of which offer advice to me or she-who-kindled-the-flame.

Q [Livonia, MI & others]: The new TV series Extant has a premise like one of your short stories I read years ago but I can’t remember the title.

A: The premise of a lone woman in space coming back pregnant is the same that I wrote about in a story called “The Fugue,” published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine in 1979. In my story she was returning from Mars which made it about an 8-month trip and fed into the birthing immediately on her arrival back on earth. Since all her life signs were monitored on board, ground control knew she was pregnant before she arrived. In any case, you can’t copyright an idea, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen a plot I published used as the basis of a movie or TV show. For all I know, the idea wasn’t new with me either.

Q: [several emails]: questions about the release date of CASE WHITE.

A: It’s out! Just out. This is my first all new novel in several years, but the truth is I’ve suppressed most of it for over three decades. Written at the height of my identity crisis in the marketplace, I wanted it to unify all aspects of genre and mainstream that were dividing me into different readerships. CASE WHITE is an epic brew – historical, mainstream, thriller, romance, mystery, adventure, religious legend, literary – with strong characters who live the paradox of a nation that went insane for 12 years. But the novelization travels well before the era of two world wars. I still find it difficult to talk about the four years of intense research it took to write the first draft. There were some golden opportunities in the early publisher interest, including one very large advance, but they would have required me to “Ludlum-ize” the novel – narrowing it into one genre for marketing purposes and defeating the purpose of bridging labels. It’s a tough sell, trying to become a genre unto yourself, a writer for all seasons; but unless I can market myself whole cloth, I’ll forever be parsed into separate fan bases. I think readers are more eclectic these days, and with the advent of low-cost e-books, fans are less hesitant to reach across borders. So, it’s time. Thanks to those who have already picked up on the book, and if you’re reading CASE WHITE and finding it compelling, would you please consider posting a review? More info will come to my website, but here are the links to Amazon [ ] and Barnes & Noble [ ] as the book builds toward Christmas.

Q [Abilene, TX]: Do you believe in ghosts?

A: Maaaaay-be. But not if you mean bedsheets floating around the ceiling (hark, I hear a trumpet). I do strongly believe in emotional echoes, residual will, and especially telepathic connections, dead or alive. My father – contrary to what you would think on the surface if you met him – had astonishing ESP. I seem to have it too in selective ways and with selective people.

Q [Burlington, VT]: I feel silly asking, but why do you call your friend who posts on your column Amalgam? Is that his real name or are you using it like the word itself?

A: LOL. Neither. I’m MISusing it like the word itself. Bob Jones is a super learned guy (in my estimation one of the most brilliant men on the planet), as I’m sure you know, but many years ago he mispronounced “amalgam,” and it was so rare to hear him make a mistake that I hung it on him for a nickname. We used to meet for a weekly lunch, and I think the restaurant could’ve sold tickets for our debates that hopscotched in quantum leaps from subject to subject. For the record, the mispronunciation is AM-al-gam.

Q [Stillwater, MN]: I was struck by what you answered the woman in your column titled Knights in Armor. Perhaps you are right about men valuing women for their choices in addition to their looks, but valuing someone less means you love them less.

A: Continuing to receive emails on this one. As I used the terms in that column (and in one of my comments afterward, which is what I think you are referring to), loving someone and valuing someone (in a romantic sense) are not the same thing. Loving is your potential and capacity for giving to someone, valuing is recognizing what they can give to you. In that sense, loving is altruistic and valuing is self-serving in that you desire all of their potential to fulfill your romantic needs to the exclusion of others.

Lots of requests/questions about my monthly newsletter – Sullygrams – have been coming in, and so allow me to repeat that it’s free and usually comes with a dozen photos. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, just email me at . I’ll close with the last two paragraphs from this month’s Sullygram as a sample…

Whether you call it balance or compensation, the natural inclination of the universe is toward symmetry. Repress that and you force a change somewhere else. It’s a dynamic process you interact with more or less constantly. Unless, of course, you prefer stasis and inertia. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you are willing to trade the absence of lows for the absence of highs. If you haven’t the courage to reach for “happily ever after,” then you probably shouldn’t start “once upon a time.”

Life is like Halloween, filled with costume changes in search of balance. But if you never take off the makeup, the real you may as well be a fantasy. Much better to brush the cobwebs off your window, look out at the world, and whisper, “Trick-or-treat?”

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

You can see all my books in any format here on my webpage or follow me on Facebook:

The Five Stages of the Writing Life

It’s a little like Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s the kind of dirty little secret that everyone who knows you already knows about you.

It’s so obvious, you with your little notebook always in your pocket, the way you forget appointments (or sometimes entire days) because your head is in a whole different space, the way your eyes sometimes light up in the middle of an unrelated conversation and whoever you’re talking to sighs and stops talking because they know you’re no longer listening.

You’re a writer.

You have friends warning people you’ve just met not to say anything interesting in front of you because they’ll end up in your book. Places you’ve visited when you were twelve, or twenty one, or thirty five, or yesterday, suddenly pop up in intricate detail on a blank page and sit up and beg for a story to be written about them.

It’s an addiction. Worse, it’s an infection. My own mother calls it my “writing virus”. It’ll take over your life if you let it. It will take over your life if you don’t. If you’re a writer… you’re toast.

The writing life has stages, though, and they can be mapped almost exactly on the better known five stages of grief, except that in the case of the writing stages, they throw up a plot twist and end up circular, dumping you more or less where you began. It goes something like this:

1. Denial and Isolation

Well, perhaps not so much denial in the literal sense because there’s that primal self-definition thing – I WRITE, THEREFORE I AM – that is engraved somewhere in the air above your head and you walk around with the weight of it pressing down on the top of your skull. You may want this or you may not, but you’re stuck with it. It is what defines you, so you do it.

The salient part of this stage is pretty much focused on that other thing – the ‘isolation’.

This is the ultimate thing that you do alone, in the early stages of the life you’ve chosen (or the life that’s chosen you, depending on how you look at it). Before you have readers, plural, people who pick up your words and give them the gift of life by passing them through the filters of their own eyes and mind and life experience and giving your words the kind of breathless vitality you could only have dreamed of when you put them down… before all that… you write for only one reader. Yourself.

Nobody else has seen those words. Some of them, nobody ever will, with very good reason. Those that you do plan to share, you hoard, and you hover over like a Helicopter Parent over a precious child, you arrange and rearrange them to show them off to the best advantage, you polish them, you examine them for imagined minute flaws. You write, and you rewrite, and you edit. And all of this you do alone. It’s you and the words against the world.


And still there’s that insistent little voice. I WRITE, THEREFORE I AM. And so you keep doing it. With a pencil in a notebook. With a keyboard on a tablet. In crowded coffee shops where you sit in your own bubble of isolation, your own carefully crafted world. In the light of a small study lamp, hunched over a desk in the corner of your bedroom ,or folded over the kitchen table at two in the morning, falling asleep with your head pillowed by your pages, you write.

Denial – no, I am not letting this take over my life! – and isolation – you’re on your own, baby – and here we go. Down the slippery slope.

2.      Anger

In the end., it isn’t enough to write. You write, and then you finish writing, and your story needs SOMETHING ELSE NOW. So you pick it up, put it in an envelope and stick it in the mail, or put it into an email as an attachment, and you send it out. For others to see, and to judge.

And it is here that you encounter the four-letter word of the writing life.

The word is WAIT.

You wait for judgment. You wait for response. You wait for acceptance or rejection. If you play by the rules of submitting one thing at a time to one top market at a time you end up waiting a lot – and in the meantime you keep on reading (because that’s what writers do) and you read other people’s stuff, the stuff that got published, the stories and the novels that are being bought, read, talked about. And some of them make you angry beyond belief.

Because, no, the world doesn’t owe anyone anything, not even a living, let alone fame and fortune and such. And yet some people get it. And sometimes it is very much like unto the will of God, because the reason why they get it passeth all understanding.

You know a dozen writers of your own acquaintance (let’s leave out yourself) who can do better – who HAVE done better – than the latest thing hanging around the bestseller lists right now and you have no clue why that thing is there and not the much better stuff that is languishing around it, dying for the lack of a gentle eye upon it. You see something arbitrary get picked up by Hollywood and then a movie gets made and more people hear about the movie than knew about the story that inspired it and the story is reissued with a new cover which shows a scene from the movie and people buy it because they recognize the movie and everything takes off at a breakneck speed and whooo, it’s in the whirlwind.

And meanwhile that story you put in the envelope and sent out… well, you’re still waiting.

Yeah, there’s anger. It’s human. It’s human to pick up a book in a store, read the first five limping paragraphs and want to throw it against the wall in the righteous fury of the knowledge that you know you can do better than that. That in fact you HAVE DONE better than that. But that the stars weren’t aligned for your story, but they were for this other one. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Well, there’s two things you can do. You can give up. Or you use that fury to light a fuse under something different, something new. You’ll make the stars align, dammit. They will dance for you or you will die in trying to find the tune which they are seeking…

3.      Bargaining

….and that’s when you start to bargain with the Universe.

“If I write THIS kind of thing instead of THAT one, will you let me through?”… “If I write faster/slower/longer/shorter will you let me through?”… “If I do THIS instead of THAT maybe my life will change and it’s my name that everyone will know, it’s my stories that will get referenced in all the articles on the Internet rather than J K Rowling, or Neil Gaiman or Haruki Murakami or…?”

It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be you, or you’re nobody.

Being a pale copy of someone else… even if it happens exactly the way you want it to, and brings you all the fame you want and the comfortable old age you’ve been dreaming of, with a writer’s cottage by the ocean and tea on the beach at sunset bidding farewell to every day, it’ll be empty. It’ll be someone else’s fame and fortune. It’ll be an imitation of life.

At a mass signing I was in attendance at once it so happened, as it often does, that the star writer, at the top of the hall had a queue that stretched all the way down the room and out of the door. Most of the rest of us had one or two fans hovering by, or were “between” fans, watching everyone else’s queues while fiddling with our pens. One of the organisers of the event happened to hurry by, intent on some errand, and one of the other writers, the queueless hoi-polloi ones, said something about how they wished they had the star writer’s queues. The staff member heard, and, in passing, tossed back this comment: “Then write his stories!”

But that isn’t what we signed up for. We don’t want to write HIS stories. Or anyone’s stories. We want an audience for our OWN stories.

And at some point we all enter that bargaining stage.

What, what, *what* do we have to do to get that queue… for OUR OWN STORIES…?

4.      Depression

“This is NEVER going to work.”

It’s the stage that you hit after the hundred and first time someone sends back a story you love, a story you believe in, a story you KNOW would have an audience… if only if you could get it to one.

It’s the stage you hit after you reach the point where your rejections begin to read “I loved this but it just failed to completely get me for reasons I can’t explain.” – so close, but no cigar.

It’s the stage where you might send out a serious query to a publisher or an agent… and you NEVER hear back, as though you were some gnat which they just brushed off their arm and then forgot about immediately afterwards.

It’s the stage where you watch someone whom you’ve thought of as being in your own group, your own cohort, your own “class of [insert year here]”, but you suddenly see them start to stride ahead, win some huge award, garner enormous praise from someone you both admire, hit a bestseller list. And you don’t. It’s been said that you are always comparing the outtakes of your own life to the highlight reels of everyone else’s but while that’s a comforting metaphor, it doesn’t help when the depression stage hits and you become weepy and glum and resigned. And not even the work you used to love, the writing, the making of story, seems to be enough anymore. After all, why do it if nobody wants it, if nobody cares…

5.      Acceptance

…and then you get there in the end, and complete the circle.


This is my life. This is what I want to do. This is what I know how to do. This is what makes me, me. I am a well, and the well is full of words, and the words will come out one way or another. So – you keep on writing. You sit down and stare at the empty page or screen, and there are days when it terrifies you, and there are days when it’s a field of virgin snow just waiting for you to make tracks or snow angels on it. Either way, it’s yours. It’s your privilege to be here, your right, your responsibility.

You’re on the wheel, and it keeps turning, and you know that somewhere along the line you’ll end up at one of these stages again. But after a while you understand them, you learn to recognize them, you begin to be armored against them and you begin to be able to not just survive them but to expect them as part of an everyday existence and just the way the world is made.

You do what you have to do. And what you have to do… is write.

Writers have said they can stop any time. Some HAVE stopped, to prove a point, or because at some point they really were just that burned out. But if it’s real, if it’s you, sooner or later the silence inside of you begins to drive you crazy, and then you start to hear the voices again, the ones you thought had fallen silent and abandoned you. Because once you’ve heard them and listened to them they never… QUITE… let go of you.

It’s a life. It’s the writing life. And it’s the only one you have, you’re ever going to have, or you want.

Let’s go. Stage one, once more, with feeling. Into isolation. WRITE.