Saturday, June 23, 2012

Virginia Creeper is available for Kindle!

This morning I went for a five mile run.  I don’t break any speed records, I’m simply preparing for my second Army Ten Miler this October.   As I ran this morning I cleared my head and drank in the fact that Virginia Creeper was finally out.  The ebook released yesterday evening and is already selling strong.  Virginia Creeper on

Eight long years, that was the journey of this book to finally reach press.  Wow.  Some of this was pure perseverance on my part.  The story was deeply personal, one that demanded to be told.  I knew that and hung in there, confident that I’d find the right publisher with the right vision to see this through.  I was deeply pleased that Hydra Publishing saw the same potential as I did and contracted for the book. 

As I ran I reached the turnaround point at the Rappahannock River and the rickety old steel bridge between Culpeper and Fauquier Counties.  This morning, the sunlight was burning off the summer rain from last night – mist rose up where the beam of warmth penetrated and hit the road.  I stopped for a moment at the base of the bridge on Waterloo Road and looked across it.  About a half mile from where I stood was Minerva Funderburke’s house.  It was there that the story really started.  I remember it all too clearly.

Writing about where I live in Virginia was harder than it seems.  If you have never been to Warrenton or Amissville, I wanted you to understand the culture, the people, and the lifestyle of the people I wrote about.  We may be only 50 miles from Washington DC, but in some respects we are on another planet.  This book is personal, not just because I'm in it, but because is helps people see the beauty, history, and people of the Piedmont. 

The book is the kind of book that keeps you up at night.  I cringe to say it is a horror book, because it is much more than that.  Let me say this, I avoided all of the gratuitous blood-bath scenes that some authors use.  It would have been easy to turn it into that kind of book.  That’s not my style.  This is the kind of terror that gnaws away at your imagination, at least it did for me and the other people involved with this book.  I invite you to read this book at night, alone, but that’s only an invitation by someone with a twisted sense of humor. 
The question I keep getting is, “is this a true story?” No comment on my part.  My thinking here is the answer to that question isn’t really important, is it?  The principles all know, and that’s all that matters to me. There’s always more to a story than what appears in the newspapers and on TV, that much is for sure. 

You’ll have to read Virginia Creeper for yourself.  Who doesn’t like a little nerve-rattling terror on hot summer nights? 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Secret Witness Book Tour – Part 2:

Demonstrating the size and wrapping of the bomb package
In the middle of the week I did a neat session at the Albion District Library.  It has been 25+ years since I was downtown Albion and I forgot just how quaint the town was.  Cyndi and I walked around on the main street for a long time.  Those brick roads reminded me of Battle Creek as a child.  You really haven’t driven a Michigan road in the winter until you’ve driven on red brick roads with a touch of ice. 

There were over 40 people in attendance in Albion.  A number of former Marshallites were there with some interesting theories and memories of the era that Secret Witness is set in (1967-1970).  In at least one case this was where the rumors outlived the truth…she claimed that she knew for sure that Bernice Chism was having an affair with Paul Puyear.  Paul denied this as did Bernice.   And, if true, it does not explain why Enoch Chism would have killed Nola Puyear.  If anything, given his jealousy, he would have tried to kill Paul.  She was unswayed in her thinking despite the facts…such is the power of rumors.   

Also there was a member of the Chism family that was present.  She was very polite and courteous.  Enoch Chism was the murderer I featured in the book and honestly I was a little nervous as to having someone from the family there.  She told me that, in her opinion, I had been fair with the book. 

Later that day it was off to the publisher’s office to film a piece for their web site.  The University of Michigan Press was great to see again and we filmed the video fairly quickly.  I was against a green screen so who knows what will eventually appear in the background!  From there, it was off to Warren to see my wife’s family and our son who’s attending school in the Detroit area.  I managed to do an interview with MLIVE for the Jackson Michigan newspaper with Zeke Jennings.  Zeke had lived both in Marshall and Barryton so he knew the proverbial lay of the land.  Here’s the interview:  MLive Interview with Blaine Pardoe

Friday it was back on the road to Battle Creek and Marshall.  We did a second session at the Marshall District Library and it was packed – another 50 attendees!  Better yet there were some special guests.  Don Damon, the man that delivered the bomb that fateful day was there as was former chief of police for Marshall, Herold Reuss.  What was wonderful was that people were receptive to the book and I wasn’t the only person signing books – so did the chief and postman! 

Don Damon is incredible on many levels.  He told me that the day before he had been baling hay.  His memory of that day is pristine – he can recount every minute of that morning.  Chief Reuss was great because he gave me two tips on other crimes I should be researching. 

Friday night I was off to Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo.  We had a small turnout but I always have a lot of fun with Gloria the owner. 

Saturday capped off the week with a signing at the Barnes and Noble in Battle Creek.  Straight-up book signings are always a little awkward for me.  You sit at a table, smile, try to be engaging without being pushy.  This one was easy.  People were lined up a few times to talk to me and get books – which was fun. 

The highlight of that event was that I met Jim King face-to-face.  Jim is Daisy Zick’s son and he and I have corresponded and talked on the phone, but now we met each other live.  Daisy Zick is the subject of a book I have been researching.  Jim was incredibly nice and kind enough to loan me 25 photos of his mother.  Photos are important when you do non-fiction books, at least for me.  It makes the subject more real, more tangible.  More on this book project in a later posting. 

After a week of events, TV, radio, web and other…we were ready to head back to Virginia.  Of course I have some events planned there too, more on those in some future post.  In the meantime – go buy Secret Witness!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Secret Witness Book Tour – Part 1:

I toyed with daily blogging about the book tour in Michigan last week but honestly, I needed the downtime.  Overall I was pleased and found the events engaging.  It was good to be back in Marshall, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo again. 

First stop – Be Scene TV with Sherii Sherban.  We had a very engaging discussion about the book.  Here’s a link if you want to watch it. Be Scene TV Interview on Secret Witness  Sherii's always a bundle of energy and a lot of fun to sit and have a discussion with. 

Monday evening I was at a packed (50+) crowd at the Marshall District Library.  I’ve done speaking engagements at the National Archives, the US Navy Museum, and on national TV and radio shows.  Oddly enough I was most nervous about this event.  The reason is simple, if I didn’t do a good job as a researcher and historian – I would be insulting and enraging a lot of locals.  The good news was the book was very well received (with one exception – I’ll talk about that later). 

In the crowd were a number of the key players – Fred Ritchie, former Calhoun County Sheriff’s Deputy and one of the key investigators.  Ron DeGraw, the secret witness that broke the case was there as well as others.  People who had read the book felt it was accurate.  Those that hadn’t were excited about reading it. 

There was one dissenting opinion.  A relative (by marriage) to the family of the victim that felt I didn’t reach out to the victim’s family.  For the record I did.  I didn’t track down every relative out there, that much I can assure you.  When you are writing a book like this you can’t spend hours trying to track down everyone born since 1967 to have them weigh in on it.

In this case she told me that one of the relatives wanted to, “Kick your ass.”  I did a quick check to make sure I had not time-warped to the sixth grade back at Wattles Park Junior High.  The real issue here was that the family had not shared the full truth with the children.  My book put them all in an uncomfortable place.  There’s a lesson to be learned here, don’t keep all of the family secrets from the kids.  In this day and age, some are bound to get out.  Clearly it was not my intention to embarrass anyone, hence I had done a reach out to the key people who were still alive at the time of the crime.  Strangely enough, she purchased two books...

I met with the Battle Creek Enquirer reporter Trace Christenson who interviewed me for a short time.  Trace is a neat guy and we are at opposite ends of the same spectrum.  He covers true crime for the paper – things as they happen.  I delve into them after the fact.  We may not agree on everything but it is great to talk to someone who understands the system and key players now.  We even managed to get in a few minutes on the subject of one of my upcoming books – the Daisy Zick murder in 1963. 

On Tuesday I had lunch with the wife of Detective Kenney, her daughter, and granddaughter.  I was able to provide them a limited glimpse into their husband/father/grandfather through the research I did in my book.  She kept thanking me but it was me that owed them the thanks. 

That evening I did a small event with the Battle Creek Heritage (Historical Society).  I always enjoy meeting with members of this group.

More to follow…right now I need to finish unpacking.