Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Spectator Crime

Sometimes a community buries a murder so deep that the people who live there forget what really happened, or even that anything happened at all.

Like Leonard Wood’s mutilated body, the facts surrounding his murder are buried so deeply that few people in Letcher County, Kentucky, know the atrocity took place. Even his name is not sure, with some reports calling him Leonard Wood and some calling him Leonard Woods. But Wood’s murder was so outrageous and his subsequent mutilation so horrendous that it made national news in a time when there was no television and precious little radio.

To find out more about Leonard Wood's murder, read my post on today's In Cold Blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Effects of Baze Case beginning to show

The effects of the Supreme Court decision to hear the case of Kentucky murderer Ralph Baze are beginning to show. For more information, read my post today on In Cold Blog.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When is an apology not an apology?

When it comes from Sam Adams The Beer. The Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams Beer, has issued a statement regarding its cease and desist letter to the Portland, Ore., D.J.s who bought the domain names and Unfortunately for The Beer, there really is a candidate for mayor of Portland named Sam Adams, and the D.J.s bought the names with the promise of giving them to Sam Adams The Candidate if he would appear on their show.

Those two web sites have been temporarily pulled because of the legal action. Not much word yet on what other Sam Adamses are doing about it. Sam Adams The Author (me) is still blissfully using his own name

The statement issued later by Sam Adams The Beer actually uses the words "for that we apologize" in regard to the incident involving Sam Adams The Candidate, but that's about as far as the mea culpa goes. In fact, the apology isn't for threatening to sue, or even for saying the company was willing to "discuss" allowing Sam Adams The Candidate to use his name "probably for the length of time the election is being held." No, Sam Adams The Beer apologized for not researching the matter more fully before sending the letter.

In other words, Sam Adams The Beer is sorry its bullying tactics blew up in its face.

No one should really be surprised by a nonapology from the Boston Beer Company. President Jim Koch has been issueing pseudo sorries for quite a while. In 2002, Koch apologized for appearing on a radio show during which couples had sex in public places. The fact that one couple ... well ... coupled in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York caused a major uproar. Koch claimed he didn't intend to be part of a program that "crossed the line." He neglected to note that his company sponsored the event, and it was his second year to provide the commentary. According to Fortune magazine, each couple received a list of sites to be used for sex, with Saint Patricks listed at 25 points.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A beer by any other name

Sam Adams has a problem. Oh, not me -- at least not yet. I mean the other Sam Adams. One of the other Sam Adamses. Actually two of the other Sam Adamses.

I happen to live in Kentucky. But Sam Adams who lives in Portland, Oregon, is running for mayor, and in doing so he's drawn the unwanted attention of a lawyer working for a third Sam Adams -- namely Sam Adams The Beer.

Mark Mason and Dave Anderson, hosts of a KEX-Radio show bought two web domains -- and, and Sam Adams The Beer has had its lawyer send a nasty letter to Mason and Anderson demanding that they surrender the domains. The problem is, Sam Adams The Beer has been using the trademark since 1984 while Sam Adams The Candidate has been using his own name since 1963. Coincidentally, Sam Adams The Author (me) has also been using the name since 1963. On learning this, Sam Adams The Beer's attorney has hinted that she might allow Sam Adams The Candidate to go on using his own name as his web address until the election, but not after that.

So far, I haven't gotten a letter demanding that I surrender or I'm not sure whether Sam Adams The Rocky Mountain News Columnist, Sam Adams The Philadelphia City Paper Film Critic, Sam Adams The NFL Tackle, or Sam Adams The KEZI Sports Anchor have had any contact from Sam Adams The Beer, but I'm sure we're all waiting breathlessly.

Some people are calling for a boycott of Sam Adams The Beer, but since Sam Adams The Beer is demanding that Sam Adams The Candidate give them his web addresses, I would suggest he at least give them something.

How about the finger?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Back in May, I and about a thousand others reported on the giant pig that 11-year-old Jamison Stone killed in Alabama. It weighed in at 1,051 pounds, was photographed by a newspaper and was reportedly a wild boar.

The first reaction by everyone was that it was a hoax. Of course that was also the first reaction to Hogzilla, a giant hog killed in Georgia, but when investigators dug up the carcass they discovered it was indeed an outlandishly oversize hog. It wasn't quite as big as first claimed, but it was indeed humongous.

Turns out that the Alabama pig really was as big as claimed, but that's where the truth in the story ended. Field & Stream, the venerable hunting and fishing magazine, reports that the 11-year-old really did kill the pig, but there were several key facts that the "hunting guide" failed to tell anyone. Number one, the hog was killed on a fenced hunting preserve, and number two, it was so tame its previous owner had named it. The owner of the preserve bought Fred the pig from a farm four days before the hunt, invited the local newspaper to tag along, and took the little boy and his father straight to the giant pig. In other words, the "hunt" was roughly akin to what farm boys experience every November at hog-killin' time. They walk out to the hog lot, pull out the .22 and start the process of converting pig to pork.

Now the boy and his dad apparently didn't know the pig was a farm animal when they hunted it, but they certainly knew it was a game preserve because it charged by the pound for pigs killed.

This once again points out the unsavory practice of canned hunts, in which animals are confined on fenced farms and "hunters" pay big bucks to go out and take target practice on tame animals. The most notorious of these in recent memory was the case of Troy Gentry of the country music group Montgomery-Gentry, who pleaded guilty to shooting a tame bear with a bow and arrow, and then tagging it as though he had killed it in the wild. Presumably Gentry, the pretty-boy half of the music duo, was trying to improve his redneck credentials by pretending to be a brave hunter who tracked down a dangerous bear in the wilderness with only his trusty bow. Too bad the wilderness in this case was a three-acre woodlot surrounded by an electric fence, and the bear had the suspicously cuddly name of "Cubby."

(You're a real macho man, Troy. Maybe you should dump Eddie Montgomery and join The Village People. )

While Gentry's action was illegal, what the Alabama game farm did was perfectly legal. However, it was about at unethical as anything I can think of. Canned hunts not only take away the dignity of the animals, they damage the reputations of all hunters. The owner of the preserve should have to pay not only cruelty to animals, but cruelty to that little boy for the ridicule he's had to suffer for his prize pig.

As a side note, Field & Stream has a quiz this month to see whether you can tell the difference between a wild boar and a farm pig. If you plan to hunt in Alabama, it might come in handy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Monster stalks the unfriendly skies

Somewhere in the bowels of the U.S. Department for Homeland Security, a mad scientist is laughing maniacally as his creation rises from its slab. Its boots clump-clump across the floor and it roars its displeasure at the lightning bolt called September 11 that breathed life into its dead body. Small children flee from its withering glare. Women scream and men tremble with fear. The monster sees, and is satisfied.

Dr. Frankenstein is alive and well, and his monster is terrorizing airline passengers everywhere. Only the monster that the Frankensteins in government created isn't wearing its signature black t-shirt and suit coat: she's wearing a flight attendant's uniform.

Since Congress passed new laws making it a crime to interfere with a flight crew, stories just keep cropping up about grouchy flight attendants who have decided that annoying passengers are a threat to national security. More and more, the targets of the flight attendants seem to be children. A three year old and her family were kicked off an AirTran flight in South Florida earlier this year. Last year, a woman was removed from her flight for breast-feeding her infant. In 2003, a Northwest Airlines flight attendant finally pleaded guilty to assault after spiking the drink of an unruly 19-month-old with a prescription depressant.

Last week, an Express Jet Airlines flight attendant kicked Kate Penland and her 19-month-old son Garren off a plane in Houston, telling the pilot that the mother threatened her. The mother and other passengers say there was no threat; the flight attendant was simply annoyed because the child kept talking while she did her pre-flight safety instructions. After Penland refused to use "baby Benadryl" to quiet the child, the flight attendant invented the threat and had the pilot return to the gate to eject the mother and her son.

Sara Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, was interviewed about the situation on CNN Friday morning, but apparently failed to grasp the concept that this was a child. Nelson rambled on about the government's failure to provide security training to flight attendants, who she described as our "first line of defense" against terrorism.

Personally, I think Nelson is being unfair to the U.S. government. Our nation's flight attendants are doing a bang-up job at defending us, and we should be proud of their successes. Thanks to the billions of tax dollars spent and the coordinated efforts of brave stewardi like those mentioned above, we have absolutely nothing to fear from babies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Profiled in Owensboro, Ky., newspaper

Suzi Bartholomy plans to feature Precious Blood in her column in The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer tomorrow. (The paper costs a dollar per day to view on line, so be prepared if you attempt to read the column. The Google link to Suzi's name is the best I could do because of the accessibility of the web site.)

Suzi is an editorial assistant, columnist and avid reader, whose husband, a literature professor, runs a popular poetry reading series. Her regular column and her News and Notes column are widely read in Owensboro and the surrounding area. I worked with her when I was assistant city editor at the M-I.

Perhaps Kentucky, better than any other place, proves the adage, "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." And perhaps no towns in the state but Whitesburg, where the crime detailed in Precious Blood occurred, and Owensboro are more illustrative of that fact. Whitesburg is in the far southeastern reaches of Kentucky, and Owensboro is in the northwest. Whitesburg lives and dies by coal, but corn is coin of the realm in Owensboro. Whereas Whitesburg is a mountain town, Owensboro is a river port. And while Whitesburg has a mere 1,600 residents, Owensboro is the third largest city in the state with a population of 55,000 and a metro population of 111,000. Despite those differences, Owensboro residents should identify with the folks in Whitesburg.

Letcher County, where Whitesburg is located, is on the Virginia border, but Pike County residents like to point out that their county, not Letcher County, is the eastern-most in the state. Owensboro is in the western third of the state, on the Indiana border, but people in Paducah scoff at the idea that Owensboro is western Kentucky. But more than anything, the two are similar in the closeness of their residents. Owensboro is a small town masquerading as a city. Its longtime residents are every bit as intimate at those in Whitesburg. I hope Owensboro residents enjoy Precious Blood, and find some common ground with their neighbors 300 miles to the east.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back in action

With a new baby and two crashed computers, I've been limping along on the Internet lately. One of my machines (my older, slower one) is back up and running now, so I should be posting more again.

For those of you who may have missed the earlier post, In Cold Blog is in full swing now. That blog is a joint effort by 30 true-crime authors, police officers, prosecutors, crime victims, and editors. It is the brain child of Corey Mitchell, author of Strangler, Evil Eyes, Hollywood Death Scenes and others. I've kept up with my once-a-month duties on that blog. You can find my latest post updating the case I wrote about in Precious Blood at that site.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Judge releases Genarlow Wilson

A judge has overturned the sentence of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old convicted of aggravated child molestation for having sex with a 15-year-old classmate.

Wilson, an honor student and football star, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of being registered as a sex offender. His case had become a rallying point for people who believe he was wrongly convicted. A Monroe County, Ga., judge today (Monday) reduced that sentence to 12 months -- time Wilson has already served. He also voided the requirement that Wilson register as a sex offender.

The judge's ruling basically mirrors a Georgia state law passed earlier this year in response to Wilson's case. The legislature approved the law because of the outcry over Wilson's sentence, but did not make it retroactive.

Wilson, now 21, was one of six high school boys who rented a motel room, stocked it with liquor and marijuana, and invited female classmates to join them for a New Years party. The party came to light after a 17-year-old girl awoke the next morning naked except for socks. She called her mother saying she could remember nothing about the night before and thought she had been raped.

When police investigated, they found the motel room littered with condoms and a videotape showing the 17-year-old girl having sex with several of the boys, including Wilson, and a 15-year-old girl performing oral sex on Wilson and some of the others. The 15-year-old said she did not drink or smoke pot, and performed the acts willingly. All of the boys except Wilson pleaded guilty. Wilson stood trial, was convicted and received a mandatory 10-year sentence.

UPDATE 6/12/07 8:20 a.m.
Attorney General appeals; Wilson still in prison

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker has appealed the judge's decision to release Wilson. Rather than being released, Wilson remains in jail pending the appeal. Wilson has turned down an alternative plea bargain offered by Baker because it would require him to plead guilty to a felony. Though the proposed plea would remove the charge from his record and take him off the sex offender list once a post-release rehabilitation program was completed, it would also subject him to a 15-year sentence if he was found to have violated the conditions of his early release.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wheelchair off to the races

How fast can a wheelchair go? It depends on whether it's being pushed by an 18-wheeler.

Ben Carpenter, a 21-year-old man with muscular dystrophy, was crossing the street in Paw Paw, Mich., when the light turned green and a semi pulled slowly away from the stop line. The driver didn't see Carpenter, who was apparently so close to the truck that he was hidden behind the high hood.

The handles of the chair got caught in the truck's grill, and Carpenter was off to the races. The truck drove two miles down a two-lane highway before it turned into the parking lot of the trucking company, and a police officer stopped the driver. Carpenter wasn't hurt, but his wheelchair was a little worse for wear. It seems wheelchairs really weren't designed to hit 50 miles per hour on asphalt.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Book signings were fun, successful

I'd like to thank the folks at Waldenbooks in Ashland, Ky., and Borders Books and Music in Huntington, W.Va., for making Saturday such a great day. I'm including employees and the people who stopped to buy Precious Blood or just to chat. I hope and be back in the tri-state area soon.

While I was in Ashland, my old friends and fellow writers G. Sam Piatt and George Wolfford stopped by. The three of us were reporters together at The Daily Independent, but I haven't seen much of them lately. That's George Sam, Sam and George in the picture at the right. I saw a lot of old friends from my days in Ashland, and I made some new friends while I was there.

Paul at Waldenbooks has invited me back again, and the people who work at Borders were super, super nice. Both stores have signed copies of my book in stock, as does the Barnes & Noble in Lexington, Ky., where I signed books on May 18.

I also had the pleasure of meeting an 11-year-old New Yorker who has written his first book and is looking for a publisher, and a young man who has written a book of poetry to help him get through the death of his mother. It's good to see kids and teens who are interested in writing, and actually write without being told to by their teachers.

True crime has a new home on the web

I wrote last week that our new true crime blog was about to launch. I'm happy to report that the launch was successful.

Last Friday (June 1) marked the first day for In Cold Blog, a blog devoted specifically to true crime. I had the honor of being the first to blog.

The new blog features 30 true crime experts. The lineup includes 22 true crime authors and eight others., including a police officer, a prosecutor, crime victims, forensic artists, editors, and television and Internet reporters. Each blogger will be featured one day a month, but may also post at other times.

In Cold Blog is the brainchild of best-selling true crime author Corey Mitchell, who recruited the other bloggers to join him in the venture. Bloggers will write about cold cases, current crimes, and other subjects related to true crime. Readers are welcome to comment, and we'll try our best to answer.

The complete roster of bloggers is as follows:

Sam Adams, author of Precious Blood

Pat Brown, criminal profiler & author of Killing for Sport

Andrea Campbell, forensic artist and aspiring true crime author

Kathryn Casey, author of Die My Love, The Rapist’s Wife, A Warrant to Kill, She Wanted it AllCarol Anne Davis, author of Sadistic Killers, Women Who Kill, Couples Who Kill, Children Who Kill

John Ditmars, Travis County Sheriffs’ Deputy and Senior Corrections officer and aspiring true crime author of The Candy Man

Joseph Foy, witness who put serial killer Coral Watts behind bars for life

Ron Franscell, author of Fall

Michaela Hamilton, Executive Editor of Kensington True Crime

Steve Huff, true crime blogger

Laura James, Editor of CLEWS Historic True Crime Blog

Aphrodite Jones, author of The FBI Killer, Cruel Sacrifice, A Perfect Husband, Red Zone, All She Wanted and more

Andy Kahan, Director of the Crime Victims Assistance of the Mayor’s Office of Houston and leading voice against murderabilia

Joyce King, author of Hate Crime, Forgotten Hurricane, Growing Up Southern: White Men I Met Along the Way

Paul LaRosa, author of Tacoma Confidential & Nightmare in Napa and producer of CBS' 48 Hours

Gary Lavergne, author of A Sniper in the Tower, Bad Boy from Rosebud, Worse Than Death, Lives of Quiet Desperation

David Lohr, featured true crime writer for CourtTV’s Crime Library

Steven Long, author of Out of Control, Every Woman’s Nightmare, Death Without Dignity

Dennis McDougal, author of Blood Cold, Angel of Darkness, In the Best of Families, Mother’s Day, The Yosemite Murders and more

Corey Mitchell, author of Strangler, Evil Eyes, Murdered Innocents, Dead and Buried, Hollywood Death Scenes + more ***Editor of In Cold Blog***

Gregg Olsen, author of Starvation Heights, Cruel Deception, Mockingbird, If Loving You is Wrong, Bitter Almonds and many more

Donna Pendergast, Michigan Assistant Attorney General

M. William Phelps, author of Murder in the Heartland, Every Move You Make, Lethal Guardian, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Perfect Poison

Dr. Katherine Ramsland, author of The Science of Cold Case Files, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers, The Human Predator, The C.S.I. Effect and many more

Simon Read, Author of In the Dark, On the House, The Killing Skies

Fred Rosen, author of Lobster Boy, Body Dump, Needle Work, Did They Really Do It?, The Historical Atlas of American Crime and many more

Harriett & John Semander, mother and brother of Elena Semander, a victim of serial killer Coral Watts (Harriett was instrumental in keeping Watts from being released from a Texas prison. John is a freelance writer and film producer living in Los Angeles)

Suzy Spencer, author of Wages of Sin, The Fortune Hunter, Wasted, Breaking Point

Mike "Necrolagnia" Stinski, Drummer/lyricist for death metal band Divine Pustulence and hardcore true crime fan

Carlton Stowers, author of Open Secrets, Innocence Lost, Scream at the Sky, Sins of the Son, Careless Whispers and many more.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

True crime blog starts June 1

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was working on another project, and that I would have an announcement soon. Here it is.

Tomorrow, June 1, I'll be the first to post on a new true-crime blog called In Cold Blog. The blog is the brainchild of best-selling author Cory Mitchell. He's invited me and 28 other true-crime authors and experts to join him in the effort.

This should be a big deal for fans of true crime. To read the blog, just go to You'll find nothing more than an an announcement there today, but the blogging starts tomorrow.

I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Move over, Hogzilla

Hogzilla, an eight-foot, 800-pound wild hog killed in Georgia, is no longer the biggest beast on the block.

An 11-year-old Alabama boy has killed its granddaddy.

The Associated Press is reporting that Jamison Stone of Pickensville, Ala., killed a hog weighing 1,051 pounds. This isn't some farmer's overweight Poland White. This was a wild boar with five-inch tusks. The boy, his father, and two guides found the dinosaur-sized pig while hunting in eastern Alabama. Stone shot it eight times with a .50-caliber revolver before the hog finally gave up the ghost.

So what do you do with a half-ton hog? Eat it, of course. And how do you do that? One sausage patty at a time. The Stone family is having the hog ground up at a meat packing plant -- all except the head, that is. They're having a taxidermist mount that. No word yet on where they'll find a wall big enough to hang it.

Newspaper features story on Precious Blood

The Independent of Ashland, Ky., has a feature story about PRECIOUS BLOOD this weekend. The story is written by Lee Ward, Lifestyles editor at the paper.

I'll be in town for a signing June 2, and Lee wrote the story in advance of that appearance. Thanks, Lee.

I worked at The Independent, known by staffers at the ADI, in the 1990s. It'll be strange to be in the old hometown. I haven't been there in about 10 years and most of the people I knew at the paper have moved on. I hope I get to visit with some of the ones that are still in the area anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Interview with the Santa man

I had a very pleasant interview this morning with Jack Pattie on WVLK-AM 590 in Lexington, Ky., about PRECIOUS BLOOD. Jack's a great guy and a fantastic interviewer.

I'll be at Barnes & Noble at Hamburg Pavilion from 5 to 7 tonight to sign copies and meet with readers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New link added

I've added a link on the right to a schedule of author events. Clicking will take you to, but naming it as I have might make it easier to find.

The next events are on May 18 in Lexington, Ky., and on June 2 in Ashland, Ky., and Huntington, W.Va. You can click the link for more information.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Trial in football player slaying moved

Thirteen years after University of Kentucky football player Trent DiGiuro was killed by a sniper, his accused murderer has won a change of venue.

The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that a Fayette Circuit Judge ruled May 8 that Shane Ragland's murder trial had received too much publicity in Lexington, where DiGiuro was killed. Ragland's trial will be moved to Louisville.

DiGiuro was shot and killed on his twenty-first birthday, July 17, 1994, as he celebrated on the front porch of a house he had rented on Woodland Avenue, near the UK campus. Ragland, a fellow student, was convicted of the murder in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but his conviction was later overturned.

Ragland has maintained his innocence, and has his own web site presenting his side of the story and offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to "the arrest and conviction of the actual killer of Trent DiGiuro (not Shane Ragland)."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On the radio

I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon talking with radio host Pam Shingler on WMMT-FM 88.7 in Whitesburg about Precious Blood. We covered everything from police procedure to Appalachian stereotypes, and it was a very pleasant experience.

I'll be on WVLK-AM 590 in Lexington, Ky., on May 18 to discuss my book with morning show host Jack Pattie, and I'll be signing books that afternoon at Barnes & Noble in Hamburg Pavilion. It's a strange experience for me. I'm used to being the interviewer, not the interviewee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Professor apologizes for Appalachian slur

Peter Gordon, an assistant professor at Columbia University, has apologized for comments he made in The New Yorker magazine.

Gordon used the term "Appalachian inbreeding" to defend the intelligence of a South American people he has been studying. Columbia was flooded with emails complaining about the remark and demanding an apology.

Apparently Gordon didn't see this paper from the University of Kentucky.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A depressing truth

I spent much of today at a murder scene, taking photographs and walking the rutted road that the alleged killers took when they brought the victim to the site, killed him and dumped his body. It wasn't a fresh scene -- the body was discovered and removed some six months ago -- but it still brought the truth about violent death into sharp focus once again.

I've been at death scenes -- natural deaths, accidental deaths and murders -- many times. It's part of the job when you're a reporter, and I did that job for 18 years. It's also part of being a true-crime author. Every death is different, but there is one overriding truth in all of them: it is not glamorous. On television, in movies and in music, violent death is high art. The reality is that violent death is depressing and very often degrading.

The elderly victim from the crime scene I visited today was strangled in the middle of a muddy road, and his face was held in a puddle to make sure he was dead. Then he was dragged along the road and up a hill, losing scraps of clothing, shoes, and a cap in the process. Finally, his body was rolled down a hill toward a stagnant, algae-covered pond and left crumpled next to a foot-high pile of empty beer bottles. He lay there for two weeks before police finally located his body.

That place says more about the attitude of the killer or killers than any testimony at trial could ever say. This man's life was no more valuable than an empty bottle, no more than the rusted hulk of an appliance dumped over the hill a scant 50 yards away. The killer thought no more of this man than the jagged shards of coal and slate over which the body was dragged after the murder.

In the wake of the Virginia Teach shootings, attention is focused again on the movies, and music that might or might not incite kids into violent behavior. Rather than attack the movies, I believe a more effective means of addressing young people's fascination with death would be to expose them to the real thing. Real murder victims aren't glamorous. They're dumped with the garbage, or found floating face down in a cesspool.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is Columbia professor qualified to teach?

Peter Gordon, an assistant professor at Columbia University, interviewed by a writer for The New Yorker magazine used the term "Appalachian inbreeding" in a quote defending the intelligence of an Amazonian tribe.

The question now is this: Who is going to defend Gordon's intelligence? The quote was so stupid on so many different levels that it begs another question as well: Is Peter Gordon qualified to teach?

Columbia has a hell of a good reputation, but if it employs people of Gordon's caliber, that reputation might be in danger. Words cannot adequately express how colossally ignorant Gordon's statement was. And his non-apology ain't gonna cut it either. When called to account for what he said, Gordon stepped in the cow pie again.

Gordon told Lee Mueller of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "It was just a reference. I'm really sorry. I really was just talking about a tribe in Brazil." Since when does Appalachia have anything to do with South America? To make matters worse he said he would never intentionally offend Appalachians, noting that his wife lives in Northern Kentucky. Sounds an awful lot like the "some-of-my-best-friends-are-black" defense.

Don Imus just lost his job for using a racial and gender slur to describe the Rutger's women's basketball team, but it appears Gordon is going to get away with using an ethnic slur against Appalachians. Columbia's only response was that it doesn't censor its faculty.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Whitesburg suddenly a different town

The city of Whitesburg, which I describe in PRECIOUS BLOOD as a town where alcohol is against the law, is now a changed place. As of 6 p.m. today, Whitesburg became wet.

When the polls closed and the votes were counted, the wet forces had won overwhelmingly. I don't have the total vote now, but with the two largest precincts counted, the referendum on restaurant alcohol sales was ahead by 261 votes. There are not enough registered voters in the third precinct to reverse the trend, even if every voter in the city limits voted "no."

But while the referendum passed by a wide margin, it will take at least four months before the first legal drink can be sold. The city will become wet 60 days after the election results are certified, during which time the city must appoint an ABC administrator and pass the other necessary ordinances. The licensing process will then take about 60 days for each restaurant that applies. This is a abbreviated information, of course. You can get the full story from the state ABC Board.

Once it's official, restaurants that seat at least 100 people and are inside the city limits will be able to apply to sell alcoholic beverages by the drink, as long as they earn at least 70 percent of their receipts from food.

Book signing on April 18

I will be signing copies of PRECIOUS BLOOD at the Harry M. Caudill Library in Whitesburg, Ky., tomorrow, April 18, beginning around 9 a.m.

The library is just down the street from the Letcher County Courthouse, where the criminal proceedings outlined in PRECIOUS BLOOD took place in 2002. The signing is part of the library's celebration of National Library Week.

A tragedy and a failure

Thirty-three dead. Twenty-four wounded. The number of dead and wounded in the Virginia Tech massacre speak not only to the unbelievable tragedy of the shooting, but also the failure of our society on many different levels.

Why would someone kill 33 of his fellow students? Why didn't the college cancel classes immediately when the first two bodies were discovered -- two hours before the deadlier rampage began? Why were students not warned of a possible shooter on campus earlier?

Police are still investigating the incident, but one thing has become abundantly clear already: If future tragedies are to be avoided, students must be taught how to respond to these emergencies. Witness after witness in the Blacksburg college said they hid under their desks while the shooter pumped bullet after bullet into their classmates. So far there is no word of anyone attempting to stop him. Students blocked the door in only one known case.

Students in the U.S. are taught from their earliest experience in school not to fight back. They are taught to be passive -- to take any abuse without striking out to protect themselves. If they do defend themselves, they receive the same punishment as the aggressor. This is a ludicrous policy. Confronted with a crazed shooter, passive behavior will only get you killed.

The first response should be to barricade the door and prevent the shooter from getting in. If that fails, students should be taught to respond with force. A man with a gun will probably wound an attacker, but he will certainly kill many if they hunker down under flimsy school desks. Those desks would be much more effective as missiles than as shields.

Would the number of dead have been less had students fought back? It's impossible to say. But the numbers certainly couldn't have been higher.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Plagiarism or something worse?

Faces are red at CBS News over a segment of Katie Couric's Notebook that the network now acknowledges was taken almost word-for-word from a Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Zaslow.

Notebook is a column-like segment in which Evening News anchor Couric allegedly opines about things that have caught her attention. I say allegedly, because CBS now says that a producer -- not Couric -- wrote the piece after the idea for it came up at a meeting about what the Notebook should include. CBS fired the producer, whom it declined to name.

The question is, which is most embarrassing: The revelation that someone at CBS plagiarized a column from the Wall Street Journal, or the revelation that the network's top reporter doesn't even write her own column?

And network brass wonder why CBS News comes in third in the big three's nightly news race.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Changes in Whitesburg

It has only been two days since PRECIOUS BLOOD came out, and already some of the things described in the book may be changing. As I noted in the book, alcohol sales have been banned in Letcher County, Kentucky, since World War II, but an election is set for Tuesday, April 17, to change that within the city limits of Whitesburg.

The ballot initiative, if passed, would allow limited sale of alcoholic beverages in Whitesburg. Restaurants that seat at least 100 people would be able to sell beer and wine by the drink, though hard liquor would still be illegal. It would also be illegal for anyone to open a bar, since at least 70 percent of the establishments income would have to come from the sale of food.

Predictably, there's been a hue and cry from certain quarters about the vote. Personally, I hope it passes. While there are only four restaurants in town that are big enough to qualify for sales, I think you'll see more if the measure passes. I know for a fact that one large chain restaurant wants to move in, and I think others will probably follow suit. It would also allow restaurants to sell wine produced less than 10 miles away at Letcher County's only winery. Currently, the wine can be sold only at the Highlands Winery or to wholesalers.

Right now, anyone who wants a drink with their meal have to go to Perry County or the city of Pikeville, Ky., or to Wise County, Va., to get it. Whitesburg can only gain economically if tourists can have a nice dinner with wine there, rather than going somewhere else to get it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Publication day!

Today is the publication date for PRECIOUS BLOOD. Amazon is advertising that you'll get the book tomorrow if you order it today. You can order by clicking the PRECIOUS BLOOD links in this post, or by clicking the Amazon link on the right side of the page. You can also see the cover and read about the book at the above links.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A road for Rosie

In World War II, women working for the war effort were epitomized by Rosie the Riveter, a woman helping to build bombers in Michigan.

Now, thanks to efforts by the Kentucky Colonels and the Somerset Junior Women's Club, Rosie will be honored in her home state. Kentucky Highway 1247 at Science Hill, Kentucky, will be renamed the Rose Leigh Monroe Highway. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on the change this morning.

Monroe, a widow and mother, moved to Michigan from Pulaski County during the war and took a job as a riveter in a plant that made B-29 and B-24 bombers. She was chosen for a Defense Department movie because of her name, and because of her resemblance to the painting of woman in a bandanna and overalls used on posters promoting women as defense plant workers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Something I'll never experience

One of the most spectacular tourist attractions in the world opened today, and it's one that I will never experience.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk has a glass floor that protrudes 70 feet past the rim of the canyon and 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. Those three facts are precisely why I will never be on it. I have a hard enough time with the Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap, and that's on solid ground with a concrete floor. I can't imagine standing on a four-inch slab of glass and staring straight down the maw of the Grand Canyon.

Hopefully others won't be as squeamish about the view as I am. The Skywalk could provide a much-needed boost to the Hualapai American Indian tribe. The tribe now suffers from crushing poverty and a 50 percent unemployment rate. It's leaders allowed a Las Vegas businessman to build the $30-million Skywalk in hopes that it will attract tourists -- and money -- to their home 90 miles west of Grand Canyon National Park. Construction of the attraction at the canyon, which the Hualapai consider sacred, was not without controversy. Let's hope the return is worth the compromise.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A busy time

There are a lot of things going on right now. PRECIOUS BLOOD will be officially released April 3, but I've already been distributing copies to people who helped me and to media. The response has been good so far, and I'd like to thank those of you who have pre-ordered the books.

I'm also involved in another project that I can't talk much about yet, but keep checking this blog. There will be a pretty major announcement soon that should be of special interest to true crime fans.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

And you thought flying couldn't get any worse

When Paul Trinder woke up during the flight from Delhi to London, he thought the lady who had sat down beside him in the first-class cabin looked awfully ill, so he asked the British Airways flight attendant what was wrong.

The answer wasn't quite what he had expected. The lady that attendants had just plonked down in the seat beside Trinder wasn't sick at all. She was dead.

According to The Associated Press, the woman had died in the economy-class cabin during the flight, and attendants had moved her body and her grieving family into the first class cabin to give them some privacy. No one warned Trinder in advance; they just carried the body to the front and sat it down in the seat beside the sleeping passenger.

The AP quoted a statement from the airline that said about 10 passengers a year die in flight and, "The deceased must not be placed in the galley or blocking aisles or exits, and there should be clear space around the deceased. The wishes of family or friends traveling with the deceased will always be considered, and account taken of the reactions of other passengers."

Apparently the airline didn't include Trinder in that accounting.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The pork was delicious

I had a nice dinner last night with folks from Appalshop Inc. in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and a group of faculty from NYU's Tisch School. The NYU group was in Whitesburg for its annual exchange with Roadside Theater, Appalshop's internationally acclaimed theater troupe.

It was a interesting evening, from the revelation by a film teacher that network television is now ordering short features as well as traditional half-hour and hour shows to the another New Yorker confiding that poke salat is one of her favorite foods. I spoke for about 10 minutes about small-town journalism and being an author, and in general had a great time. One surreal part of the evening was standing at the door of the Courthouse Cafe, where I have blended into the background for 20 years, and autographing books.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Blog interview on Emerge

Jennifer Prado interviewed me in February for her blog " Emerge - New Authors," and the interview went up Monday -- by coincidence, the same day that Precious Blood became available for sale. You can read Jennifer's interview with me here.

It's here!

Precious Blood is out early! Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and Booksamillion all list it as in stock and ready to ship. I had no idea it was already available.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Making the world safe for skiers

You're a clerk on the midnight shift at 7-Eleven when this guy walks up wearing a ski mask, lays a candy bar on the counter and reaches for his hip pocket. Do you:

A) Scream, wet your pants and hand him the cash drawer
B) Grab the .38 from under the counter and drop the sucker, or
C) Take his money, hand him his change and wish him a good night?

Kevin Lambert of Winstead, Conn., hopes you don't take the Dirty Harry approach. Lambert was once arrested and sentenced to perform community service for posing for a picture in a convenience store while wearing a ski mask. Now he's started a web site dedicated to "Striving to keep America Warm By Combating Ski Mask Discrimination."

Lambert and a group of his friends now regularly go around town in ski masks to remove the stigma associated with the full-face toboggans that he says has been created by terrorists and robbers. Let's hope he lives to fulfill his dream.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Advertising run amok

First, a bunch of dimwits who thought they were funny posted signs that people mistook for bombs in strategic locations around Boston to advertise a cartoon. Now a softdrink maker, who I won't identify here for fear of giving it the publicity so it so desires, has caused the historic Granary Burying Ground to be closed. The British-owned company hinted that it might have buried a coin worth up to $1 million dollars inside the cemetery, which is the final resting place of my namesake Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and other historic figures.

Treasure hunters showed up at the gate determined to find the coin, forcing Boston parks officials to lock the gates and post guards. The company has since admitted that it hid a coin worth $10,000 behind the lip of a stone doorway to a 200-year-old crypt.

Turner Broadcasting paid the city $2 million to offset the cost of police used to investigate the sign incident, and police charged the two men who placed the signs with crimes. Let's hope the Brits have to pony up the same sort of dollars to pay for their ill-conceived plan. The people who placed the coin, and ordered it's placement should also be charged. I can't help but wonder if someone involved got some perverse pleasure from the thought that treasure hunters might start digging up the fathers of the American Revolution.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Music City

I just got back from Nashville, Tenn., where I visited friends and stopped by some fantastic bookstores.

This is the fifth time I've been to Nashville, and I always find something new when I go. It really is a beautiful city, with a lot of different things to do. Hopefully, I'll be going back for a booksigning after PRECIOUS BLOOD comes out in April.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Weirder and weirder

Anna Nicole Smith spent her life in the tabloids. Now it looks like she'll spend eternity there.

Prince Frederick von Anhalt, the husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, has said he once tried to adopt Smith because "she wanted to be a princess," and since he was already married to Zsa Zsa, adoption was the only way to give Anna what she wanted. By the way, he also claims he had a 10-year affair with Smith and may be the father of her baby.

This guy just admitted publicly that he tried to make the woman he had had sex with for 10 years his adopted daughter. How twisted is that?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

PRECIOUS BLOOD information on web

Kensington Publishing Corp., the publisher of my book PRECIOUS BLOOD, has now added the book to it's web site. The book can be ordered direct from Kensington once it is printed. In the meantime, you can pre-order from most online booksellers, or through this page.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Forgiving and forgetting, or hiding the past?

If you were hiring someone, would you want to know if that person had been convicted of stealing $500 from his previous employer? Do you think it's important for a school to know that someone applying for a job has served time for possession of cocaine?

If so, you might want to contact the Kentucky General Assembly. The House Judiciary Committee just sent a bill to the floor that would expunge some felony convictions from court records, the Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting.

Crimes eligible to be erased by the law include crimes such as theft of more than $300, possession of narcotics, and other Class D felonies. Class D Felonies are punishable by one to five years in prison. Violent crimes and crimes against children would be excluded.

Rep. Rob Wilkey, D-Scottsville, is sponsoring the bill. Currently, Kentucky law only allows misdemeanors to be expunged. Misdemeanors are punishable by fines or by 12 months or less in the county jail.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Harry Potter getting more exposure

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is due in stores in July, but the buzz over the new book isn't the only exposure Harry Potter's getting. Daniel Radcliffe, the 17-year-old actor who plays Harry in the movies, is giving theater-goers the full monty in the play Equus in London's West End.

Parents who have taken their children to see Radcliffe fully clothed in the Harry Potter movies are not amused. The reaction from teenage girls is a little different. No word yet on if or how Radcliffe's decision to appear nude in the play and bare-chested in promotional photos will affect his role as Harry Potter.

Those of you want to read the book can preorder it on my other website. Those who want to see Radcliffe nude will have to see the play. Sorry.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog says spring is on the way

Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog in the world, forecast spring this morning.

If you really think about it, the groundhog is never wrong. If he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, it's only a month and a half till spring. Honest -- check your calendar.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No such thing as a free lunch

A bald eagle in Alaska bit off more than it could chew when it swooped down into a dump and picked up a severed deer head.

The bird managed to lift off with the head, but it didn't get very far. Either weak from hunger or merely overestimating its own strength, the eagle struck a power line, causing an explosion that knocked out electricity to 10,000 residents in Juneau. The impact killed the bird.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The politics of sex crimes

The Georgia legislature is finally poised to do something about the case of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old convicted of aggravated child molestation for having sex with a 15-year-old classmate.

Wilson, an honor student and football star, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of being registered as a sex offender. His case has become a rallying point for people who believe he was wrongly convicted.

A web site has even been created asking people all over the world to sign a petition saying, "I register my outrage and object to the wrongful conviction of Genarlow Wilson for Aggravated Child Molestation for a consensual sexual act with another teen. A ten year prison sentence is wrong. He should not have to register as a sexual offender."

As usual, well-intentioned people have over-simplified the situation.

Wilson was one of six high school boys who rented a motel room, stocked it with liquor and marijuana, and invited female classmates to join them for a New Years party. The party came to light after a 17-year-old girl awoke the next morning naked except for socks. She called her mother saying she could remember nothing about the night before and thought she had been raped.

When police investigated, they found the motel room littered with condoms and a videotape showing the 17-year-old girl having sex with several of the boys, including Wilson, and a 15-year-old girl performing oral sex on Wilson and some of the others. The 15-year-old said she did not drink or smoke pot, and performed the acts willingly. All of the boys except Wilson pleaded guilty. Wilson stood trial, was convicted and received a mandatory 10-year sentence.

Now people are screaming racism and demanding a full pardon for Wilson. Never mind that all of the victims and all of the accused were of the same race.

As a result of the conviction, the Georgia Legislature relaxed the law, reducing what Wilson admitted doing to a misdemeanor. Georgia courts refused to apply it's provisions to Wilson because the law specifically states it does not apply to cases before its passage.

The legislature is now taking what seems to me to be a well-reasoned step. It is considering another law, Senate Bill 37, that would allow judges to decide whether the sentences of people convicted prior to the new law should be reduced. You can read about it in The Macon Telegraph. If you feel Wilson should not have received 10 years in prison, then register your support for the new measure by e-mailing State Sen. Emanuel Jones at the following address:

Friday, January 26, 2007

Two months and counting

PRECIOUS BLOOD will be available in stores beginning April 1. You can move to the front of the line by pre-ordering now. Thanks in advance to those of you who do.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And if the flight attendant has a tantrum?

A family was kicked off an AirTran flight in South Florida after the three-year-old daughter threw a tantrum and refused to sit in her seat. Now there's a split between people who are applauding the airline and the rest, mostly parents, who know that children are not as compliant as single people think.

Crying children irritate everyone -- especially their parents. If I could have stopped my kids from crying in public I would have, but it doesn't work that way. Once they start, it's almost impossible to stop them. They're like the railcar fire near Louisville last week -- they just have to burn themselves out.

The only good solution is don't take them to a theater unless you're prepared to leave the movie in the middle and don't take them on an airplane unless you're prepared to jump.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Appalachian storytelling more than just talking

My friend Angie DeBord, a storyteller from Virginia, asked me to help get the word out about the one-day storytelling class she will help teach at Southeast Community College in Cumberland, Ky.

Angie is a great performer, and I know anyone who takes the class will get a lot out of it. The information is below.

February 10
(snow date February 17)
Saturday 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM

Community Stories/Community Theatre is a workshop for members of community theatre groups or arts councils, community scholars, theatre artists, playwrights, storytellers, and community activists who want to learn the process of collecting stories from your own community and developing a community theatre production rooted in these stories. The session will include organizational information and grant possibilities as well as hands-on activities to model the process. Presenters: Angelyn DeBord and Theresa Osborne. Lunch will be provided. Cost is $10 payable at the door. Early registration is advised due to limited class size.

Edsel T. Godbey Appalachian Center
Southeast Community College
700 College RoadCumberland KY 40823

TO REGISTER: Contact Judy Sizemore at
Directions will be sent with registration confirmation.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Peter Pan, move over

Yahoo news is reporting that pants will be a thing of the past next year.

The new bottom half for men? Leggings. That's right, the tight staple of women's wear is supposedly going to show up in the men's department.

As far as I'm concerned, they can stay in the men's department. I'd sooner wear a kilt.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fire on derailed train still burning

A fire that started before 9 a.m. yesterday (Tuesday) when a train derailed outside Louisville is still burning.
According to news reports, the fire was still out of control at 6 a.m. today. More than 60 firefighters were trying to extinguish it. Some worked 12-hour shifts.
The fire began when a CSX freight train derailed between Shepherdsville and Brooks. Fourteen railcars containing the chemicals butadiene and cyclohexane, both highly flammable and posing inhalation hazards. Residents and workers within a one-mile radius of the fire have been evacuated to shelters set up in Okolona, several miles northeast of the fire.
The National Guard has been mobilized and is helping monitor air quality.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Red Cross opens shelter for evacuees

The Red Cross has opened up a shelter at the Okolona Christian Church at the corner of Mt. Washington Road and Preston Highway in Louisville for persons evacuated from the area around the train crash at Brooks.

Residents were evacuated from a three-square-mile area around wreck. Firefighters were allowing the fire to burn itself out. Fourteen railcars, some carrying chemicals that posed inhalation and explosion hazards, were still burning after the 80-car train derailed near Interstate 65, about five miles south of Louisville.

National Guard mobilized for train fire

The Kentucky National Guard has been called out to help with evacuations around the train fire in Bullitt County, Kentucky.

The fire is still burning at 12:45 p.m.

Train wreck updates

I just realized that Blogger is not time stamping updates to existing posts. The updates for the train wreck near Louisville are in the post below.

Another train wreck

At least 14 tanker cars are piled up and burning at Brooks, Bullitt County, Kentucky, near Louisville. The train was operated by CSX Transportation. No other details yet, but I'll post them when I get them.

UPDATE: Airline flights have been diverted around the column of smoke from the train wreck at Brooks. Brooks is about four miles south of the Interstate 265 loop around Louisville. The wreck occurred about 9 a.m. Schools are being evacuated because of smoke from the fire.

UPDATE: Brooks is a populated place, not a city. It is just across the county line from Jefferson County, where Louisville is located.

UPDATE: The Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that the chemical aboard some of the tankers is an inhalation hazard, but that the specific chemical is not known. This probably means the car placard is a non-specific placard. Such placards give general information about the chemical on board, but not the specific name of the chemical.

UPDATE: Brooks had a population of 2,678 in 2000. Louisville had a population of 256,231, but it has since merged with most of the Jefferson County to form Louisville Metro. The county had a population of 693,604 in 2ooo.

UPDATE: If the placard on the train cars reads "Inhalation Hazard (6)," The Emergency Response Guidebook recommends avoiding inhalation and skin contact and isolate any spills or runoff. The materials could cause serious injury or death. Responders should wear self-contained breathing apparatus, keep unauthorized persons away, stay upwind and stay out of low-lying areas. Enclosed areas should be ventilated.

It also recommends evacuation within a half-mile radius of the fire.

Since firefighters are using water on the blaze, it seems most likely that this is the type of material involved.

There is also a placard for "Inhalation Hazard (2), which is much more serious. This placard means the substance may be fatal if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Dry chemical or CO2 fire suppressants only are to be used.

UPDATE: The situation at Brooks is apparently more serious than first thought. At least one of the tank cars involved in the accident contained butadiene, a chemical used in the production of synthetic rubber. Butadiene has a guide number of 116P in the Emergency Response Guidebook, meaning it is extremely flammable, will form explosive mixtures in air and may polymerize explosively when involved in fire or heated.

Ruptured containers may turn into rockets as escaping gas explodes.

In case a railcar fire, responders should evacuate everyone within a one-mile radius of the fire.

UPDATE: The Courier-Journal puts the fire near Huber Station Road, which makes the fire about halfway between Louisville and Shepherdsville, a city of 8,334 people about eight miles South of Louisville.

UPDATE (11:48 a.m.): Emergency Management officials say the chemical burning is cyclohexane, a chemical used in the production of acids used in nylon manufacturing.

Cyclohexane, under guide number 128 in the Emergency Management Handbook, is highly flammable and has many of the same dangers as butadiene.

What are we -- Cleveland?

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire in Cleveland, Ohio.

Yesterday, the Kentucky River in Estill County, Kentucky, caught on fire. Or maybe it didn't -- emergency personnel disagree.

At issue is whether chemicals carried by four runaway rail cars got into the river and caught fire. Firefighters say it did. Emergency Management officials say it did not. You would think this would be a pretty simple thing to determine, and firefighters seem to be eminently qualified to make that determination. But emergency management officials, who arrived after the fire department, say no chemicals got in the water. Something's fishy here.

It's sort of like the change in stories about how the accident occurred. Kentucky State Police say the four runaway rail cars slammed into an engine parked on the track by CSX Transportation employees as a means of stopping the runaways. CSX says that never happened because it would be contrary to standard operating procedure. Yeah. Right.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Stupidity causes evacuation

Residents in Estill County, Kentucky, had to be evacuated after four runaway train cars, one of which was carrying butyl acetate, slammed into a locomotive. Among other things, butyl acetate is used as a flavoring agent in foods and fragrances, but it is toxic in high concentrations if swallowed or inhaled.

Ordinarily, this could be labeled a horrible accident, but in this case CSX Transportation officials ordered the locomotive placed on the tracks purposefully to stop the cars, which had been rolling free for 20 miles. Maybe I'm the one off track here, but shouldn't you expect a fiery collision if you place a stopped locomotive in front of runaway train cars full of flammable chemicals? It seems to me the better course would have been to place a locomotive on the tracks traveling at nearly the same speed as the cars, then let the runaways catch up slowly. Or put the locomotive on the rails behind the runaways, then catch them and couple up. Either solution would have to be less catastrophic than the method used by CSX.

As it was handled, the end result was an explosion that destroyed all four cars and the locomotive, and caused a toxic cloud to spread over the community. Twenty homes, a coal tipple and a factory were evacuated. Residents in nearby Irvine were told to shelter in place.

The National Transportation Safety Board was on its way to investigate. Seems that someone has some 'splaining to do.

UPDATE: Now CSX "cannot confirm" that it moved a locomotive into the path of the runaway train cars, The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting.

Friday, January 12, 2007

MySpace not my bag

I was proud of myself. I had never signed up for MySpace. I had never visited it. I wanted nothing to do with it.

But then magazines and authors started putting up MySpace pages and I felt I was
obliged to visit and see how other writers were using it. Then I learned that you have to sign up for MySpace to view the content. I signed up, and I immediately regretted it. It is everything I imagined it would be, only worse. Crappy color schemes, virtual "friends" that show up unbidden, and faux popup ads.

Aren't the real popups bad enough?

I now have an empty MySpace profile, an empty MySpace page, and I'm sure I'll soon have a full email inbox -- full of spam messages because I had to give an address to MySpace.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

When a phone was a phone; not an iPhone

What I really want in a cellphone is to be able to call someone. That's all. I want to pick it up, dial a number and talk to someone. I don't want to listen to music on it, I don't want to surf the Internet, and I don't want to check my e-mail.

I've got a great little phone. It's about three years old -- prehistoric by cellphone standards -- but it makes calls. It has a few other features that I have used -- for instance I occasionally put something on the calendar if I don't have a piece of paper to write it down on -- but its main purpose is to call someone.

So now Apple Inc. is getting all this buzz over the iPhone. It calls, it surfs, it downloads, it messages, it dances, it sings, it gets sued. All for the Apple egotist. So egotistical, in fact, that Apple has used a trademarked name owned by another company to name its new $600 toy. Apple, of course, says Cisco Systems' resulting lawsuit is "silly."

Well Apple could have avoided this silliness if it hadn't been silly enough to use a name someone else owned for its silly new product. Yes, I said silly.

Why would anyone want a touch screen on a phone you carry in your pocket? It's supposed to have a "proximity sensor" to keep it from dialing, but what about scratches? How long will it be before you have drop another half a grand for a new iPhone because you can't read the screen anymore?

I carry my little phone in the same pocket as my change, my ink pens, and my pocket knife. I go hunting with it, camping with it, running with it. I've dropped it on everything from concrete to gravel to a hardwood gym floor. It still works, reliably, every time. Let's see the toy formerly known as iPhone do that.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No smoking, please.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has done something no man in the history of the United States has been brave enough to try: She has banned smoking in the Speaker's Lobby, the room where Members of Congress gather during votes.

Personally, I hate breathing secondhand smoke and I was perfectly happy when my county government banned smoking all together in public places. The District of Columbia has passed a similar ordinance, but neither law covers federal property because, of course, cities, counties and states can't regulate the federal government.

But Nancy Pelosi can -- at least her little corner of it. And she's a got a great big gavel to enforce her rules.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Winter finally arrives

Too late for Christmas, but we have snow on the ground before Spring at least. I dropped my kids off at school this morning and picked them back up an hour later when school was canceled.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is Miss USA a hillbilly, a redneck or something else?

The Lexington Herald-Leader had an interesting article asking whether readers know the difference between a hillbilly and a redneck. Interesting, if for no other reason, because Lexington sits in the heart of the Bluegrass and I'm sure most of the people there are deeply offended by being called either. The debate came about because a plethora of bloggers, who don't know a certain part of their anatomy from a hole in the ground, decided that Miss USA is a hillbilly.

Obviously, they've never been to Russell Springs. There ain't a hill worthy of the appellation Appalachian within 75 miles of the place. For those of you who think everyone in Kentucky is a hillbilly, please look at a topo map. Kentucky is more than 400 miles from end to end, and comprises five distinct physiographic regions. Only one of those contains hills; therefore only one contains hillbillies.

Hint: We're in the eastern end, y'all.

Twelve weeks to go

I'm sending back corrections on the page proofs of PRECIOUS BLOOD today. Since this is my first book, I really don't know what's next. The publication date is April 1, and the books are supposed to be shipped to book stores in mid-March, so there couldn't be much left to do.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Interview in e-zine this month

My interview with author Bob Sloan is in Eclectica Magazine this month.

Bob is the author of Bearskin to Holly Fork, Home Call and Nobody Knows, Nobody Sees. He's also a fellow Kentuckian and all-around nice guy. You can read what he has to say in the Reviews & Interviews section.