Monday, September 26, 2011

Lost Eagles Honored With a State History Award in Michigan

This weekend the Michigan Historical Society bestowed upon me the State History Award for my book Lost Eagles. I have known about this for about three weeks but couldn't say anything per agreement with the Historical Society. They didn't want to let the proverbial cat out of the bag so I played along. The award ceremony was at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City Michigan.

Let me start by saying this is an incredible honor. To be acknowledged both as a writer and a historian is something that is fantastic on many levels.

I didn't earn this alone. Jean Armstrong who helps with my research deserves a lot of credit for the hard work she does behind the scenes. There are dozens of libraries, museums, and historical societies that contributed to this book as well.   Most people never see the hard work that goes on doing the research on a project like this. 

This is not so much about me but about the man I wrote about, Frederick Zinn. Getting this award solidifies his place in Michigan history. Fred was a remarkable man that changed how our nation dealt with service personnel that were missing in action. He was a distinguished military officer, aviator, Legionnaire, OSS counter-intelligence officer, humanitarian, state representative and public servant. Fred was a humble individual. I am merely the person that brought his story out. This award is as much to Fred and the rest of the Zinn family as it is to me as the author.

The entire team at the U of M Press deserves some credit as well. The Press doesn't do a lot of military books but they had the foresight and vision to see this for what it was…a story about a Michigan hero. I love writing but it's folks in the editing department that make me look good, not to forget the public relations people.

I wasn't the only award winner. The Battle Creek Historical Society (where Fred lived in his later life) won for their educational program. A number of Central Michigan University grads won (three of us that we discovered all sat together at the ceremony) won awards. Overall it was a great night for Battle Creek Michigan and for Central Michigan University.

On a personal level, I love the idea of calling myself an "Award Winning Author and Historian." Being acknowledged by your peers is something that is hard to ignore or downplay. I appreciate the support my family gives me in indulging this hobby of mine.

Alright, my five minutes in the limelight is over. I have a true crime book coming in the spring and one being written right now that needs my attention.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: Skyjack - The Hunt for D. B. Cooper

I have been a closet D. B. Cooper aficionado for some time. With the recent news story that the identify of the hijacker might finally be known, I was even more jazzed that the book Skyjack was being released. The story of the identity of the hijacker fizzled after a week or so. Sadly, so did my enthusiasm for this book.

I thought that Skyjack was about the D. B. Cooper Case. It uses that as a basis for the book, but really does not offer too much in the way of new information. Instead the author uses this platform to tell the story of his fringe involvement in the case and how he came to write the book. I was hoping that someone that had access to the FBI files would have produced new information, new leads, interesting tips, etc.. What we get instead is the story of the author tracking down several wannabe Coopers, never giving us closure on anything. All of this is put in with a sprinkling about the actual hijacking and the investigation.

As a true crime author myself, you have to put a little bit of what drew you to the case into the book. This is a significant portion of this book however.  More than once in the book the author fanaticizes about his getting the Pulitzer for this very book. Frankly, I don't see that happening.

The tracking down of the Lyle (Kenny) Christenson as a suspect, for example, has been covered in TV documentaries already…to no avail. The FBI ruled him out in 2007 yet the author doggedly follows this lead, adding no new information or details.  
It is difficult to write a book about a crime that hasn't been solved - I myself have been working through that in recent months. Having said that you need to offer the reader new information or this is just a rehashing of things they may have been exposed to. The author fails here, if not in new details, in their weight and validity.

I came away knowing nothing new about the crime or the investigation. A disappointment? Unfortunately yes. Should you pick it up? Only if you know nothing about D. B. Cooper or the crime, even then you'd be better off going to the internet and reading from some of the postings there.  This book is heavy on fluff, light on entertainment or new information. 

Sadly, I recommend passing on this book.  I say "sadly" because I am still waiting for a very good Cooper book to be written.