Sunday, November 25, 2012

Social Media and the Daisy Zick Murder

Daisy Zick near the time of her murder 

Now that I’m done with my Cuban Missile Crisis book, I’m turning my attention to my true crime book on the Daisy Zick murder in 1963.  The working title for this is: A Special Kind of Evil. I’ve spent a good six hours going back over the police case file and my notes on the case.  

Unlike my previous books, I’m leveraging social media (Twitter and Facebook primarily) to solicit information on the case and people.  I’ve made some postings simply letting people know I’m working on the project.  I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get. 

The reaction has been incredible.  First off, there have been two tips that were solid enough for me to pass onto the State Police.   This is fantastic.  Secondly, a significant number of people came back with memories they had of the crime or of Daisy herself which I have been able to include in the book.  Some were unsure if their information was of interest or use – but it was.  Even the rumors they heard are part of the myth that has built up around this case over the decades. 

Social media like Facebook is changing the way authors connect with communities.  I’ve been able to leverage pages like “You know you’re from Harper Creek if you…”  same with Battle Creek, etc..   I have connected with Historical Societies via Facebook, as well as some people directly.  It never ceases to amaze me how connected we’ve all become.  I have been able to link up with relatives of some of the officers involved with the Zick murder over the years too.  I find with my true crime projects that people want to know about the men investigating the case almost as much as the victims and killers. 

So has this led to a resolution of the case?  Time will tell.  It has helped me produce a better book, and for that – I’m grateful.  And for those of you that weren’t sure about contacting me – don’t hesitate.  My email is at  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Yes, I DO read comic books....

I read comic books. There, I said it. I'm a 50 year old guy that reads comic books. In my youth this was the equivalent of a tattoo that says 'GEEK!" back when being a geek simply drew the abuse of the jocks in school. I doubt at my age that anyone is going to give me a swirly or a titty-twister, but I am fully prepared for such attempts.   I don't live with my mom, I married a beautiful woman, I have two highly successful children, and have a pair of semi-successful careers.  

When I was a young adult I recognized comics for what they were - great stories. These were shared universes where the characters were fully developed yet every month, developed a little more. We had recurring characters (good and bad) that showed up on other intellectual properties. Of course at the time I didn't think of the words, 'intellectual properties,' but you get the drift.

There were a lot of us that were comics readers, we didn't talk to others about it. For decades there were two camps - DC fans or Marvel fans. I was a DC guy but enjoyed reading Spiderman from time to time. I was as stunned as everyone when Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacey.

The problem with comics is that they had a stigma associated with them. Society looked at a 30 year old purchasing the latest Iron Man as the kind of guy still living in his parent's basement. That wasn't necessarily the case. Most of us simply recognized good stories and characters. Still, for decades, we purchased comics in relative secrecy because of memories of the purple-nurples of our youth.

Then the Batman movies came out - followed by Spiderman. Suddenly, comic stories had become socially acceptable. The release of the Iron Man franchise and the reboot -of Christopher Nolan's Batman made that stand out even more. Face it, you enjoyed the Avengers, even if you never read Marvel comics as a kid. Welcome to the party pal.

There are times when I got a year or two without a comics. I'm a reader, not a collector. My comics are not an investment, that's whacked. I pick them up to read them. For a long time it was hard to jump back in with the complicated story lines and sub plots. But DC recently rebooted its entire franchise, starting all over with the classic comics. Marvel has started Marvel Now! which is not a reboot but a new set of storylines. In the last year or so, the comics industry has realized that it needs to make it easier for people to join our ranks as readers. I've been able to jump back in on the Batman miniseries (The Return of the Joker - Death in the Family) and in two of the Marvel lines (Iron Man and The Uncanny Avengers - a mix of the X-men and the Avengers). Oh yeah comics industry, I'm back!

As a writer of science fiction in shared universes, I've always wanted to author a comic book or two - and who knows , I may do just that at some point. For now, I consider my reading as "advanced research."

Now that I'm iPad enabled, I've found that comics have successfully become available in this venue as well. Marvel has the leg-up here. In each hard-copy comic is a code you can enter to get a free copy digitally. So, I can carry my Marvel collection with me. How cool is that? 

I am pleased that The Big Bang Theory features a comic store as a recurring locale.  I, like the characters, wear tee-shirts with super hero fairness I have been doing that for years, much to my wifes' chagrin.  I enjoy that show more because of the insider jabs at the nerd community - like when they argue about comic characters.  

Now my three year old grandson is into comics. Every so often we go to the comic store in Gainsville VA and he gets a comic from the kids rack and I pick up a few select titles. At least three times a week he comes to my office at night and we read the comics (I summarize them for him). You can see the glimmer in his eyes, he's hooked. Circle of Life man…that's what it is.

Don't poke fun at those of us who read comics. If it wasn't for us you wouldn't have had your summer blockbusters this year. Remember, there are more of us out there than you know. Carry on true believers...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veteran's Day 2012

I know the US government recognizes this holiday Monday, but I am a historian and recognize that on the 11th hour, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour is when the Great War came to an inglorious end.  Because I write biographies of Great War figures (Graf von Luckner, Frank Luke, Frederick Zinn, and my upcoming book on Bert Hall,) I recognize the significance of getting the day right.  It’s not just about being a federal holiday in the US, it is a day of honor and respect with our allies overseas who lost a generation of men in a horrific meat grinder of a war. 
Honoring our veterans shouldn’t be limited a single day out of the year.  It should be an unconscious acknowledgment of the role of the military in our lives.  This is not just about the men and women in the service, but their families as well. 
When I wrote my book Lost Eagles, I became exposed to the MIA/POW issue as it pertained to WWI and WWII.  Honoring the living is important – but so is respecting those whose final fates still have not been determined; and their families who never received closure.  The plight of those that were prisoners of war or those that have gone missing whose remains have never been found has a profound impact on those they left behind.  When I started that book I thought it was important for the sake of honor to bring our missing men home.  I learned that it was more important to the families. 
So on this Veteran’s Day my heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the families of those that serve and those that have never come home.  We have not forgotten, nor will we, the sacrifices that you all have made.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Movie Review - Argo

I was 16-17 years old when the Iranian Hostage Crisis played out. My memories of it were not fond. We had given the corrupt former ruler of Iran refuge in the US. Protesters overran our embassy and took our embassy staff hostage. The US appeared impotent to do anything to get them free. We sent a rescue mission in at one point but it was a debacle that resulted in lost American lives and no hostages freed. 

In the middle of this six Americans were seemingly smuggled out of Iran by the Canadians. They had managed to flee the embassy and avoid being captured. What we didn't know at the time was that their flight was the result of a CIA operation that just barely was successful in getting them their freedom.

That is the core of what the movie Argo is about - the secret mission to get these Americans back home. And it is one of the best movies I've seen since The Avengers.

First and foremost the casting is brilliant. The people cast look almost identical to their real-life counterparts which I think is awesome. I'm not a Ben Affleck fan, nor do I dislike him. His character was incredible. This is not some over-the-top action thriller. This is a real-world CIA exfiltration mission and despite the low-key approach, you really ended up liking both Affleck and the character he played.

Here's the deal - you know these people get out of Iran in the real world. But the tension is so high in this movie you are on pins and needles the entire time. There are so many things working against these potential hostages and their CIA savior (Affleck) that you are riveted right until the end of the movie.

The character I ended up loving the most was Affleck's CIA boss - played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston. Let's be blunt, Cranston is one of the most stunning actors in Hollywood, doing everything from comedy to high drama. In this role he is stunning. The audience a few times actually applauded his character. How often do you hear that about a movie?

Finally, Hollywood is producing new, fresh movies rather than retreads/reboots of old franchises. Argo has moments of humor, a few minutes of pure terror, and acting that is worthy of an Academy Award. This is a must-see film that reopens the old wounds of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and provides just enough historical context to make it very pertinent even today. I would give this six stars out of five - Argo is THAT good.