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FORENSICS 182: SPOOKY SCIENCE

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.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

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.

Thomas Sullivan: GHOSTED POSTS HOSTED COAST-TO-COAST

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 [ http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/newsletters/02162012.html ], 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 [ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O79GQTE ] and Barnes & Noble [ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/case-white-thomas-sullivan/1120482249?ean=2940150574632 ] 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 mn333mn@earthlink.net . 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:

http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.sullivan.395

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.

Isolation.

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.

I WRITE, THEREFORE I AM.

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.

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.

Isolation.

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.

I WRITE, THEREFORE I AM.

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.

FORENSICS 181: IT PAYS TO BE WELL INFORMED

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.

It was a wet, dreary day in the early 1930s. Albin Francis Karpowicz was sitting in an automobile with its engine idling. He took out a pencil and wrote the mileage indicated on the car’s odometer in a notebook. He then drove several miles along a road that led southward out of town to a point where another road led off to his right. He stopped just around the corner, took out the pencil, consulted the odometer and again noted the mileage in the notebook. He repeated this procedure until he reached a point that was a fair distance from where he had started. This was the last of a number of exploratory drives in the area. Along the route, he cached emergency medical supplies, food and
gasoline at readily accessible, strategic points.

At the beginning of his route, he had been parked across a street from a bank he was planning to rob. The mileage he noted indicated exactly where he would be turning during his subsequent getaway. His plans left little if anything to chance. At the end of his route was a location that was on the way to a hideout.

While growing up in Topeka, Kansas, an elementary school teacher had shortened his name to Alvin Karpis, which he continued to use. He, with Barker brothers Fred and Arthur “Doc” Barker, were to become three leaders of what was known as the Barker-Karpis gang, which reportedly had as many as 25 additional members at one time. A third Barker brother was Herman, and a fourth was Lloyd. In 1923, the four brothers were all in jails or reformatories. Although they were criminals, Herman and Floyd Barker were not members of the Barker-Karpis gang.

The gang and its members robbed banks, kidnapped wealthy persons, committed highway robberies and murders and even robbed a train and a mail truck. After a life of crime and constantly having to look over their shoulders when not confined, how did the careers of the Barkers and of Karpis end?

In 1927, after being wounded by Kansas police, Herman Barker apparently committed suicide.

In 1935, Ma Barker and her son , Fred, were killed by the FBI in a Florida hideout.

In 1939, Doc Barker ended his life in Alcatraz. He had escaped to the shore of the island, but, in spite of of having been spotted by guards and ordered to stop, he continued and was shot and killed.

After having served 13 years in Leavenworth penitentiary, Lloyd Barker had gone straight for a time during which he had served as a U.S. Army cook during WII. He was awarded a Good Conduct Medal and received an honorable discharge. He then managed a market in Denver, Colorado until his wife killed him in 1949.

Informants had several times provided information to authorities that had come close to resulting in the capture or death of Karpis. On a Saturday night, shortly after Karpis and Hunter had fled Hot Springs, an informant gave the FBI a general location of their hideout there. The first shot of many was fired into the hideout at 6 a.m. the next morning, but there was no one inside. Soon after Fred’s and Ma’s deaths, Karpis and an accomplice were tracked to an Atlantic City hotel, but were able to shoot their way to a getaway car and escape, leaving behind their girlfriends. Karpis’ girlfriend was eight-months pregnant and was wounded. She gave birth to a boy, who was adopted by Karpis’ parents.

A tip from an informer finally ended Karpis’ crime career in 1935. The tip revealed where Karpis had rented an apartment in New Orleans. Authorities covered every conceivable escape route leading from it. As Karpis was told later by his captors, he was very lucky. They had been prepared to open fire on the apartment first and drag bodies out later. Fortunately for Karpis, he and a companion happened to walk out of the building and enter a car parked across the street. Their car was quickly blocked, and Karpis was captured without a shot being fired. Surprisingly, among the agents that took part in the actual capture of Kapis, not one had brought handcuffs. Kapis’ hands were finally secured using a necktie.

Karpis spent from 1936 to 1962 in Alcatraz, the most time any convict had been confined there. The lifetime total of Karpis’ prison time was 33 years. He was eventually paroled and deported to Canada. With professional assistance, he published THE ALVIN KARPIS STORY in 1971. (It would have been illegal for him to have published such autobiographical material in the United States.) Karpis moved to Spain in 1973 and published ON THE ROCK in 1979. He died that same year, apparently from natural causes.

While driving Karpis across Canada between media interviews about his books, a publishing representative stopped to visit her bank. She asked Karpis if he would like to come in with her. “No dear,” the ex-bank robber replied, “you take care of the vault, I’ll drive.”

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Due to a sinister facial appearance when he smiled, Alvin was also known as “Creepy” Karpis. Fellow gangsters usually called him Ray. In Alcatraz, he was registered under his original name … plus AZ 325.

Most efforts to permanently eradicate fingerprints are unsuccessful. Karpis had his removed surgically. While he was in Alcatraz, his fingers were printed every year to see if his fingerprints had grown back, but they never did.

In addition to persons’ identification and gripping assistance, vibrations attending fingerprint ridges when they brush across rough surfaces amplify and transmit signals to sensory nerves involved in the perceptions of textures.

The kidnapping of William Hamm, Jr. the president of Hamm’s Brewery,
by the Barker-Karpis gang in 1933 led to the first attempt to obtain fingerprints from paper notes bearing ransom demands.

No Hamm beer was available where Hamm was being held. To avoid offending Hamm, one account has Karpis washing labels off beer containers of different brands of beer before offering them to him.

Desperate, to halt the rising amount of crime in the United States, the FBI assembled a group of agents skilled in hunting for the country’s major public enemies. The groups were known as “flying squads.” During 1934 alone, they managed to permanently rid the world of Lester “Baby Face” Nelson Gillis, Bonnie and Clyde, Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Charles Marley, Eddie Green, Harry Pierpont, Homer van Meter, John Dillinger, John “Red” Hamilton, Tommy Caroll and Wilbur Underhill. This left Karpis to be the last of the existing “public enemies number one.”

The term, “Public Enemy,” was used in ancient Rome. In the 1930s, “Public Enemy Number One” was used in the United States to designate a “criminal whose activities were extremely damaging to society,” Al Capone was awarded that title in 1930. John Dillinger inherited it when Capone was jailed. Pretty Boy Floyd, when Dillinger was killed, and Alvin Karpis, when Floyd was killed. Karpis was thus the last Public Enemy Number One. It was from this term that the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list evolved. (See also: FORENSICS 142: THE TOP TEN.)

Additional infamous gangsters killed during the Great Depression Era included Dutch Schultz, Frank “Jelly” Nash, Jack “Legs” Diamond and Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll. Al Capone survived, but spent the time between 1931 and 1939 in prison. Paroled in 1939, he spent his remaining years at his Palm Island estate in Florida, where he suffered the mentally debilitating effects of syphilis until his death in 1947.

Arizona Donnie Barker was the mother of the four Barker brothers. She was better known as Ma or Kate Barker. The location of a hideout of Ma and Fred Barker in a cottage in Florida was discovered when the FBI tracked letters Ma had sent to one of her sons. In one letter, she mentioned a large alligator in Lake Wier. She even mentioned that locals called it “Gator Joe.” That also happened to be the name of a local restaurant, which was “Gator Joe’s.” Reportedly, an informant also provided information to the FBI about the location in Florida of a cottage where Fred and Ma Barker were staying. The FBI subsequently visited the cottage. That resulted in a gun battle during which Fred and his mother were killed. Reportedly, a mother being killed did not sit well with the public, and the FBI was accused of creating a myth that Ma was the ruthless leader of the Barker-Karpis gang.

According to Karpis, “Ma was always somebody in our lives. Love didn’t enter into it really. She was somebody we looked after and took with us when we moved city to city, hideout to hideout. It is no insult to Ma’s memory that she just didn’t have the know-how to direct us on a robbery. It would not have occurred to her to get involved in our business, and we always made it a point of only discussing our scores when Ma wasn’t around. We’d leave her at home when we were arranging a job, or we’d send her to a movie. Ma saw a lot of movies.” When she traveled with her boys, she simply gave the group the appearance of an innocent family. She did pester, and perhaps bribe, authorities for the release of her boys, but no records have been found that she was ever arrested or charged with a crime. The Barker boys’ father, George, was never part of the Barker-Karpis gang.

As mentioned by Karpis ,a fellow gangster, Fred Hunter, had purchased a new Ford in Corpus Christie and he and a friend had driven to a police station in Karpis’ car to obtain something related to the registration of Hunter’s new car. While there, the two heard a radio broadcast warning persons to be on the lookout for a Maroon Buick suspected of being driven by Karpis. A memo was dispatched to every FBI field office stating that, as of a few days previously, a 1936, maroon, four-door Buick sedan was in Karpis’ possession. The FBI assigned six agents to drive through every street in Hot Springs searching for a red Buick. Both Hunter and Karpis thought it wise to rid themselves of the maroon Buick. It was the car that Hunter had driven to the police station, and it was parked directly in front of it.

While Alcatraz was being closed, Karpis was transferred to the McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington state in 1962. While there, he met a young musician. He felt sorry for the lad because of his background, which had already included stays in various orphanages, reformatories and prisons, and gave him guitar lessons. The young man was a long way from being physically imposing, but he more than made up for that by having a knack for manipulating persons. Karpis was aware of sometimes having been unnecessarily manipulated himself. The young man questioned Karpis about his contacts who might help him get ahead in the entertainment business and be “even bigger than the Beatles,” but Karpis hesitated to provide him with any. The guitar student’s name is Charles Manson.

Thomas Sullivan: ZOMBIES FOR LIFE

Hey, you…AUTHOR! Feeling a little guilty, are we? Head not in the game because Heart is playing Walter Mitty again with fame and fortune? The baby’s diaper needs changing, your spouse is giving you hurt looks, friends with radiant deceit in their voices encourage you to finish writing that novel, mom & dad are still waiting for you to grow up, and your boss drums his fingers every time you lean into the computer screen to scrutinize that double-spaced page on your Desktop that he can’t quite make out from his desk top.

Or maybe you are not an author but some other shlub with dreams (we are all shlubs in relation to our dreams). “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for,” says the poet in defense of dreaming. It shouldn’t matter what your dreams are or whether they match up with what others want you to be (what are you, a social insect existing for the good of the colony)? You don’t have to peg your self-worth to the limiting assessments and manipulations around you. It is not an indulgence to let your fantasies get in the game. It is an essential of survival. My personal conviction is that the gap between what is in our hearts and what we actually do is the most pernicious conflict in our lives.

The greater the difference, the more unhappy we are. So why facilitate the gap? Why not shrink it instead? Write that novel, chase your Olympian fantasy in your Nikes or Speedo, pour out your soul in a trusted sanctuary, suspend the rat race for stolen hours of being pure you. Time-outs are a win-win for all of your worlds if they keep you balanced, inspired and motivated! Finding exclusive moments to let your dreams breathe can give you the strength to sustain and even improve your functioning in obligatory roles. Not to mention the flipside, which is that if you never let your dreams breathe, inevitably you will pay the full price anyway. Either you become a zombie-for-life (how’s that for an oxymoron) or your world of appearances suffers a sudden catastrophic collapse after you reach your limit.

Most of us go quietly into conformity for at least part of our lives. The expectations of cultures, societies and relationships are usually the premium paid for some form of security. But the strange thing is that we come to regard that as a moral truth instead of simply an arrangement. We actually become conflicted when we dare follow our natural instincts instead of our conditioned instincts. Should the imperatives of security trump one’s unique path? If you have to sacrifice the essence of who you are or what you feel and what you do in order to pay for it, what is left to secure? Appearances may make life convenient, but if they totally smother your dreams, you are extinct anyway. For the person who thinks it through, getting that perspective straight is a key link to inner harmony and a great relief from fear and guilt. Narrowing the gap between who we are and what we do is what fulfillment and ultimately happiness are all about.

Confession: for a mostly dark part of my life I did not practice what I am preaching here. I played the role of a shlub. Seemed like a good idea at the time – very noble, very responsible, very practical, very caring. Only problem was, I could have been all of those things without surrendering to extinction. Shlub-dom was not what I signed up for. I adopted the role, thinking I would genuinely become the part in someone else’s play. Meanwhile, the real me was lying in a morgue somewhere with a toe tag rehearsing permanent paralysis.

The blame is almost always our own in such cases. We cheat ourselves. If you farm out oversight of your life to outside expectations, you really can’t complain about the compromises, ulterior motives or manipulations that shape your days. It may be the bargain you make for acceptance and security, but it is not the moral compass your inner self needs for happiness and fulfillment.

At least it shouldn’t be.

Understanding that is how you come to terms with the fear and guilt that keep you in line with those outsider expectations. Fear and guilt should be what you feel when the gap between what you want to pursue and what you actually do pursue in your life overwhelms you. You are not made for extinction or hypocrisy. Getting the guilt wrong for the sake of appearances is like saying, “You didn’t see me steal that wallet, therefore I’m not a thief.”

Taking back the territory that you allowed forces outside yourself to usurp in the first place is how you get back in balance. Your survival depends on it! So don’t expect to submit your game plan for outside endorsement. Let self-honesty be the arbiter. Truth will allow you to accommodate without surrender. “Render unto Caesar”…but give your dreams and moments of perfection life support. You are worthy of them. Now, go write that book…

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

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

http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

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Five things to do with your life before you’re ready to be a writer…

Before you can write about life, at least adequately, you have to have lived it. In some way, shape or form. And I don’t mean vicariously on Facebook, or even online at all. There’s more than five things, of course. But these are pretty broad. You can feel free to add in subcategories, or nuances.

1) DO SOMETHING DANGEROUS. Know what an adrenaline surge REALLY feels like. You cannot possibly write about one without that visceral knowledge. And “dangerous” is huge – you can fit in a lot of things under that umbrella – do something that your mother might have warned you about, or something that society considers “unsafe”, or something simply exilarating. Here’s a few of my candidates:- three of my (young, female) friends and I once climbed down from Table Mountain in Cape Town, on foot, in the dark, sliding down scree slopes and falling into the switchback roads, until we finally ended up hitch-hiking a ride the rest of the way down in a solitary car coming down from the topside parking lot, with a single male occupant inside. He was nice. We were taken down the mountainside and deposited at its foot without any incident at all. I was in my twenties; this was half my life ago. The adrenaline rush remains to this day.

– I jumped off a mountain. WIth an instructor, to be sure, in tandem, but still – I parasailed off a mountainside. I have pictures to prove it. When my father saw them – unexpectedly, before I did, long story – his response was, “If you survived that, when you get home, I’m going to kill you.” Yeah. Adrenaline.

– I swam off the edge of a coral reef. The adrenaline of THAT makes my teeth ache right now while I am thinking about it. The experience can still make my heart race.

– I gave my heart completely. And had it broken. And it HURT. And I’m the better off for having dared to do it.

2) TRAVEL. You will gain only a very limited understanding of humanity if you seek it only with people who live in the small town where you were born, and you’re too afraid to venture beyond the edges into the great wide world beyond. Learn at least the basics of another language in which you can communicate with people who are NOT LIKE YOU. The world will open up like an unexpected dream. It’s fun if your destination is far flung and exotic, but it doesn’t have to be. Take a road trip. A train ride. If you have to start small, begin by going an hour, two, four, six, outside your comfort zone. Then,if you feel ready, tackle the world. Some of the places I’ve been:

– Fiji and Tahiti (learned a few phrases of the Micronesian/Polynesian vernacular, learned to snorkel, swam with dolphins, saw an octopus and a coconut crab in the wild, made friends with local people and learned their dreams.And I will never forget the colours of the coral lagoons, nor the black depths of ocean that lie beyond them. The colours of the world.)

– Vienna (walked the polished wooden floors of its Imperial palaces and the cobbles of its streets, listened to waltzes, drank young wine in the wine shops of Grinzig, tasted Sacher Torte in the Sacher Hotel where it was born.)

– Kruger National Park, South Africa, and Etosha National Park, Namibia (saw lions and leopards in the wild, saw an elephant pace slowly and majesticlaly away into the purple African twilight, breathed in the dust and the heat while watching herds of Impala and zebra and wildebeest. Learned that rhinos are the firemen of the African savannah, and run TO a fire instead of away from it, and stomp it out with those hard-soled stumpy little feet of theirs if they can – which means that they can be damned dangerous to campsites when they blunder into the midst of fragile human campers.

– Japan (the first and only place on this earth where I was ever totally functionally illiterate – but I managed. Learned about the Shinto and the Buddhist faiths, and what each means to the Japanese people. Saw many beautiful temples. Saw many beautiful gardens. Been aware that I walked the ground where an ancient and vivid civilisation had thrived for CENTURIES, and felt breathless with that knowledge, particularly when gazing, in a museum, at a samurai sword from something like 1452 – still bright and shining steel and still probably capable of cutting a hair in half as it floated down upon its edge.)

But you get the idea. The world is a wide and wonderful place, and it is FULL of gifts.

3) FEEL REAL GRIEF. You cannot know what it’s like to lose a living thing that you love until you do that – until you lose the cat you’ve had by your side for the last fifteen or twenty years of your life from a simple and inevitable advent of old age or watch a beloved pet waste away before its time from something you cannot do anything about and make the decision on their behalf that they have suffered enough, or sit by the bedside of a grandparent who is slipping away and holding the soft wrinkled hands in your own knowing that they may not feel your doing so but that somehow, somehow, they know that you are there. Real grief is raw and bitter, and tastes of tears. Before you write of it, you have to have had it tear your own heart apart. Because everything else will feel inadequate to those readers of your future work who HAVE known such grief, and will know if you speak the truth.

4) FEEL REAL ANGER. *Something* should make you feel your way down to your core, until you find that cold hard ember that is at the heart of you, not the swift mundane attacks of being cross about someone cutting you off in traffic or being rude to you on a subway. Something should reach all the way down to that primeval thing, the cold fury, the anger that does not leave you blinded with temporary passion but leaves you clear headed and clear eyed and knowing that ALL OF YOU hates this thing that you are seeing, hates with every fiber, and even though you may not be able to do anything at all about it (or maybe not RIGHT NOW, anyway) leaves you considering and discarding options of what to actually DO about that thing that has taken you to this place.. True fury needs few words, that’s for sure, but if you want to write about it you have to know what it FEELS LIKE. What it feels like to be REALLY that angry. So look for something. Cruelty to animals. Cruelty to children. Pointless war. Something precious being willfully wasted. Ignorance and bigotry. Hypocrisy. Something, anything, something that you consider to be IMPORTANT ENOUGH to tap that cold fury in support of. Know it, understand it. Only then can you own it.

5) FAIL. Because you will. it is inevitable. Do what you need to do anyway, knowing that it may meet this fate. Because fear of failure is otherwise going to put the brakes on too many things that you need to do or want or know in your life before you can understand any other human being alive deeply enough to write their story. You HAVE to know what it means to fail. The lives of the very rich and the very happy seldom make for good story fodder – because these people are insulated from failure. Everything is handed to them, and if failure becomes a looming option then a scaepgoat is found to take the weight of it leaving the one who truly failed unscathed by it all. The most interesting stories come from people who have failed HARD, and then learned from that failure, and risen up like proverbial phoenixes to touch fire again. DOn’t be afraid to fail. Just be afraid of not trying.

Any questions…?

FORENSICS 180: IT PAYS TO PAY ATTENTION

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.

This piece departs from my usual fare in that a victim is not saved or a crime is not solved or avenged thanks to some new gadget, process or stroke of genius developed by a person or group working in the field of forensics. In this case, a kidnap victim used his observational skills and memory to help authorities catch his kidnappers and a cadre of persons who aided and abetted them following the actual kidnapping.

Unlike many criminals during the crime-ridden1930s, George Kelly Barnes, Jr. was not brought up in a poor family in a poor residential neighborhood. His father was a well-to-do insurance executive and his family lived in a fairly select area of Memphis. He enrolled in college, but he was far from being a good student and left after a few months. He married a fellow student, but, after having two children, his wife divorced him. He drove a cab for a while, but soon discovered that moonshining and bootlegging were more profitable. This led to his being arrested several times, and he left Memphis. Apparently, to keep his family name untarnished, he also assumed an alias of George R. Kelly. As he moved about, he served a few months behind bars in the New Mexico State Penitentiary for bootlegging, was next arrested in Tulsa for vagrancy and later charged with bootlegging. Kelly eventually took a job with a bootlegger named “Little Steve” Anderson. He soon left Anderson’s employ, reportedly in Anderson’s sixteen-cylinder Cadillac and with its owner’s mistress, Kathryn Thorne. Kelly and Kathryn were married in September of 1930.

Ms. Thorne did not come without a bit of her own baggage. She had a daughter with a husband she had married when only fifteen and had soon divorced. She had then tried another brief marriage. Following that, she married a bootlegger named Charlie Thorne. While away, she heard that he had cheated on her, and she headed home. On her way, Kathryn reportedly told a gas station attendant, “I’m bound for Coleman, Texas to kill that god-damned Charlie Thorne.” Charlie was found shot to death the next day. A coroner’s jury ruled his death a suicide.

Kathryn’s baggage also included her mother, who ran a bootlegging operation, a step-father, who rented his Texas ranch as a hideout to wanted criminals for 50 dollars per night, two uncles, who were in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas for car theft and counterfeiting, respectively. A cousin was suspected of counterfeiting, another cousin was a bootlegger and an aunt was a prostitute. Kathryn herself was no stranger to legal authorities and had been charged with shoplifting and robbery and had been jailed for receiving stolen goods and for prostitution. She had done time using a variety of names. Her actual name was Cleo, but she preferred to use Kathryn because she thought it sounded more glamorous.

Kathryn has been credited with helping to establish a reputation for Kelly as a ruthless criminal wanted for bank robbery, kidnapping and murder. She bought him a Thompson submachine gun at a Ft. Worth pawnshop for 250 dollars and insisted that he practice shooting it. She even distributed spent shells to relatives and friends as souvenirs and referred to him as “Machine Gun Kelly.” A wanted poster described him as being an “expert machine gunner.”

Kelly took part in a number of robberies. His first kidnapping was that of a banker’s son. Reportedly, however, he was not the desperado that Kathryn made him out to be. Kelly released the banker’s son when he convinced his kidnappers that he could not afford to pay a ransom, but that he would owe it to them and pay off the debt when he had enough money. (He never did.) Meanwhile, Kelly and Kathryn lived in a Fort Worth house that had been built by the late Charlie Thorne.

The crime that brought Kelly and his nickname, “Machine Gun Kelly,” to public notice was that of kidnapping oil tycoon, Charles F. Urschel. (He was the observant kidnap victim mentioned in the second paragraph of this essay.) Kelly and a partner, Albert Bates, forced Urschel from his Oklahoma residence late in the evening of July 22, 1933, interrupting a game of bridge he and his wife were playing with another couple on their front porch. Bates repeatedly referred to Kelly as Floyd, assumedly to make Urschel think Kelly was “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

Urschel was held captive on Kathryn’s father-in-law’s ranch in Texas. Items he took note of to foil his captors included the sound of an airplane passing overhead twice each day. After what he judged to be about five minutes after each flight, he would ask the person guarding him what time it was. He estimated the overflights took place regularly at about 9:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. He recalled there being a violent thunderstorm one day. During a conversation with a guard, he learned there had been a severe drought in the area. Two of the guards seemed to him to be father and son. He remembered hearing the creaking of a pump from which he was served minerally tasting water in a tin cup. He also thought to leave his fingerprints everywhere he could.

After Urschel had been kidnapped, his wife called the police and then called J. Edgar Hoover in Washington, D.C. Urschel sent letters to Mrs. Urschel and two family friends, advising them that the kidnappers were demanding a ransom of $200,000 in $20 bills. One of the friends delivered the money to Kelly at an arranged location in Kansas City, Kansas, on July 30. Urschel was freed near Norman, Oklahoma the next night. He walked to the nearest telephone and called a cab.

By this time, the FBI had a fair idea who the kidnappers were. Mrs. Urschel and the other two bridge players had tentatively identified a photograph of Kelly as being one of the kidnappers. With the information provided by Erschel, the FBI located the ranch where Erschel had been kept. A check of airline schedules revealed that an American Airlines plane passed daily over Paradise, Texas between 9:40 and 9:45 a.m. and 5:40 and 5:45 p.m. Upon raiding the Texas ranch, they found the creaky pump, the tin cup and Urschel’s fingerprints. Kelly and Kathryn were arrested on September 26, 1933 during an early morning raid on a house in Memphis. At trial, they each received life sentences. They were not the only persons tried and sentenced in this case. A number of other persons were involved. As it ran its course, the case resulted in a conviction of 21 persons. Six earned life sentences and the rest, a total of more than 58 years.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Kathryn attracted suspicion when, on the day after the kidnapping, she tried to establish an alibi when meeting one of two detectives she had wrongly thought were corrupt. She told him she had just come from St. Louis, but he noticed red dirt on her car’s tires and Oklahoma newspapers on the car’s seat. He also recalled that she had previously invited him to take part in a kidnapping. There were two versions of what happened next. One is that the detective suspected that the Kelly’s were involved in the Urschel kidnapping and reported it to the FBI. The other was that there were two local detectives who contacted the FBI when they didn’t get a split of the ransom.

A vivid description of Kathryn Thorne was provided by J. Edgar Hoover when he reportedly quoted a man as having told a friend, “Remember that innocent little girl I was going to show a good time? She took me to more speakeasies, more bootleg dives, more holes in the wall than I thought there were in all Texas. She knows more bums than the police department. She can drink liquor like water, and she’s got some of the toughest women friends I ever laid eyes on.”

Until 1935, the FBI officially bore the title of the Division of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice.

An accessory to a crime is one who helps another to commit a crime. Aiding and abetting is a crime that includes persons who purposely have someone else commit crimes for them. Punishment for the latter is usually more severe than that for an accessory.

The nickname, “Machine Gun Kelly,” referred to Kelly’s supposed weapon of choice. While serving time in Alcatraz, he often boasted about having committed many crimes. According to a fellow inmate, however, he was such a model prisoner that other inmates referred to him as “Popgun Kelly.”

The development of the Thompson submachine gun and its use by gangsters–especially during the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre when seven persons were killed–reportedly led to the 1934 National Firearms Act and the public pressure for gun control in the United States.

Thomas Sullivan: CATCH A FALLING STAR, ONE FOOT IN ATLANTIS and PANDORA

Another round of what seems to be your favorite format is on the docket.  “Will the Jury [You] please be seated and the Witness [Me] sworn in? August Q&A is now in session.”

Q: [Bloomfield Hills, MI, and others] So glad to read that you are finally coming out with CASE WHITE.

A: Would you believe I’ve been sitting on this novel for well over three decades despite several lucrative near-agreements to bring it out in paper/hardcover/e-book?  It’s been a predicted blockbuster, but whether or not it gets attention or is lost in the e-book marketplace, it is time to get on with my life. I did four years of research into the bizarre archives of Nazi Germany that I believe no one has fully integrated into how a nation went insane for 12 years, but Publishers Row kept wanting me to “Ludlumize” the narrative for commercial purposes, and that’s why I’ve let it languish in my filing cabinet all these years. Am banking on David Wilson, publisher extraordinaire at Crossroad Press, and the power of this incredible story whose roots trace from the Crucifixion through a coherent chain of mystic lodges (“Every good German has one foot in Atlantis”– Goethe). CASE WHITE debuts soon…

Q [Waterford, MI – posted on a FB link about the daily life of highly creative people]: Thomas Sullivan…Sully, I would love to see your daily schedule/routine up there along with these others. You do more in 24 hours than others do in a week…and still find time to keep churning those books out of the ballpark ! Can’t even begin to think how you manage to do it all and still be so easy-going and stress free……tell us your secrets, please, tell us, do tell……(besides getting no sleep)

A: Routine?  I’m hard put to remember yesterday or predict tomorrow. But as for the living itself, I think it has to do with getting enough meaning out of each day as if it’s a piece of a puzzle that completes your life – in fact, pieces of a puzzle that explain all life. You do this not just with the things and events of a day but by using associations and metaphors styled with beauty and insights. Think of each day as a kind of solar system or an atom made up mostly of empty space.  If you spend your day in empty space, you go nowhere.  But if you cut out the empty space, you get to explore the planets, moons and central star stuff.  The richness is cumulative – which is why it’s important to USE not LOSE time. I hate to waste time. What am I doing here if I’m not supposed to use everything inside me? It amazes me when people drift in vacuums instead of connecting to the resources that light up what they are. You are not a corollary to circumstances or to what others think.

Q [FB friend posting from Arlington, Texas]: Why very little promo, Sully?

A: An excellent question I should ask myself every day.  And I guess the short – if not quite honest – answer is that I’m too busy living.  There was a time in Michigan when I did a lot of media.  A lot of TV, radio, and speaking engagements 3-4 times a week.  My publisher joked that I didn’t need a publicist – though a big chunk of that exposure was in general formats that didn’t necessarily push my writing.  The expectations got to be stressful and when I moved to Minnesota, I made up my mind to be as anonymous as I could.  LOL.  Very successful in that!  No one much knows or cares who I am here; and I can’t make up my mind whether I like that or not.  I know I should do more, and I’ve had some stunning near misses, including Hollywood options with A-list talent where the money couldn’t quite come together.  It’s been very uneven, e.g. a Norwegian publisher flies me all the way to Oslo to speak at the House of Literature or the government pays me to run a prestigious writers workshop but the local library knows me not. Largely my fault, as I continue to turn down things like an offer to pen a newspaper column or other engagements. My split career between literary and genre has made me a sort of “man without a country,” which I’ve compounded into inertia when it comes to promo. Hoping to bridge that in a month or two by releasing CASE WHITE, the novel mentioned above in the first question! Astonishing how badly I’ve managed my career, but like I said, I’ve been very busy living…

Q [Ogden, Utah]: You wrote about women worrying about their looks, but I think beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

A: Agreed. Women who look good but don’t do a thing healthwise to look good don’t look good to me.  The love of my life was the most naturally beautiful woman I ever saw, only it really didn’t take effect on me until I got to know what she was like inside.  Her physical beauty was a gift I greatly appreciated, but which – by itself – meant nothing.

Q [Columbus, OH]: Whatever it is that makes you happy I wish you would bottle it.  I’ve tried to adopt a positive attitude but something always shoots me down.

A: Happiness might not be unrelenting, but it is out there.  I can’t tell you why it works for me most of the time, it just does – and for others, as part of who they are.  I’m sure it helps to associate with that kind of person (“catch a falling star and put it in your pocket”). But you shouldn’t feel alone or isolated.  I’d say you’re more in the mainstream, from what I see of people’s lives.  If you don’t know that just from your own observations, you should read my email.  A lot of people (I mean a lot) have to brainwash themselves just to get through each day.  They may feel alone, worthless, outraged or wasted.  They tell themselves they don’t feel those things and they count their blessings, but many soldier on with vastly lowered expectations, disappointed, disillusioned, trying to be good in the eyes of others.  Is that you?  I believe in dream lives, but you have to make them happen.  You’re not chained to a bed post – chains are more often choices.  Find what makes you happy and give it a place in your life, even if it has to be a private part of your life.  “Render unto Caesar…”

Q: [Albany, NY] What is this box set coming out that you’re part of, 20 novels for $.99???

A: Yes, it’s for real.  It wasn’t out when you wrote your question, but it’s out NOW for a very limited time (30 days)! PANDORA’s box set is a collection of paranormal novels ranging from YA to adult by an impressive array of established authors. In just two days it was firmly on Amazon’s Kindle Best-Seller list! The idea here is to expand audience, even at a giveaway price. This excellent library-in-a-box will be unavailable after September 5th. So it’s now or never! My own novel of a global quest by a cynical adventurer who travels from an Inca fortress in Peru to the Giza pyramids to a strange churchyard in Connemara Ireland where he falls in love with a woman of – shall we say – more than mortal roots is included.  THE WATER WOLF is just one of the 20, so jump on this bargain if you like to read.  Available across the board of publishing, here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M04OSAC  Links to other e-book formats are on my website: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com

Thomas “Sully” Sullivan

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