‘Cooper’s Daughter’ on WGN Radio

My publisher, Dusty Sang of Chicago’s Stay Thirsty, was interviewed recently on WGN Radio.

He was nice enough to mention “Cooper’s Daughter: A Rick Crane Noir.”

But more important than that, you’ll get a sense of what a really interesting guy he is. And why I’m lucky to be doing business with him. He’s been a great editor, a great mentor, and done much to make me a better novelist.

Check it out.

http://wgnradio.com/2014/08/21/talking-media-with-dusty-sang/

Remembering Ed Beyea

This is a piece I originally wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press back in 2006. 

I reprint it here every Sept. 11 to remember Ed Beyea, and everyone who was there on Sept. 11, 2001.

Shortly after I joined the Lake Elmo (Minn.) Fire Department, Chief Greg Malmquist
asked me if I’d think about writing a piece for the local paper about my
training.

“You’re a writer,” he said. “Maybe you can help us with
recruiting.”

It’s been a year and I’ve been through Firefighter I and II and Hazardous
Materials Operations, and took the extra step of getting my EMT
certification (most volunteer fire departments require only First
Responder). After all that, I was still struggling with what to write. Then
on June 20, a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal caught my
attention.

Ed BeyeaIt was written by Michael Burke of the Bronx. His brother, FDNY Capt. Billy
Burke of Engine Co. 21, was inside Tower 1 of the World Trade Center when it
came crashing down on Sept. 11, 2001. Why was Billy Burke there, even though
the order to evacuate had been given and most who weren’t trapped on the top
floors had already escaped? Because he refused to leave the side of Ed
Beyea, a quadriplegic trapped on the 27th floor. I grew up with Ed Beyea in
New York and know all too well how he died that morning.

Ed was paralyzed in a swimming pool accident three years after he graduated
from high school in 1978. He eventually moved into an assisted living
apartment complex on Roosevelt Island, which sits in the East River between
Manhattan and Queens. Never one to sit around and let life pass him by, Ed
became proficient enough with his oral joystick to land a data-entry job at
Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield in the World Trade Center.

The trip from Roosevelt Island to midtown Manhattan, then to the Financial District, was
taxing enough for regular commuters; it was doubly so for a guy in an
electric wheelchair. But one of Ed’s co-workers, Abe Zelmanowitz,
volunteered to help him get to and from work each day. It was a commitment
that he would not abandon, even under the most dire circumstances.
Shortly after the second plane hit Tower 1, workers were told to evacuate.
This was obviously a problem for Ed, who couldn’t get down the stairwell
easily. It wasn’t long before Ed had difficulty breathing. Abe could have
easily left Ed there and made it out alone, but he refused to leave Ed
behind. They were soon joined by Billy Burke, who also refused to abandon
Ed. All three were killed – together – when Tower 1 collapsed. (Their
stories can be read in the New York Times’ Portraits of Grief and at
memorial sites on the Internet.)

The inscription on the Marine Corps’ Iwo Jima Memorial reads, “Uncommon
valor was a common virtue.” I think the same can be said of Sept. 11 in general, and of Billy Burke and Zelmanowitz specifically.

Reading Michael Burke’s letter and remembering the details of Ed’s tragic
death crystallized for me why I’m a firefighter. I think I speak for a lot
of firefighters when I say that I do it mostly because it’s a commitment to
something more important than myself. Yes, we all love the camaraderie and
the trucks and the thrill of the call (90 percent of which turn out to be
routine). But it goes deeper than that.

We don’t talk about it much, but we all know that one day we might be asked
to do for our neighbors what Billy Burke and Abe did for Ed. We hope that if
that time comes, we’ll have the courage to answer the call. The fact that
we’re willing to even try is what makes us respect and care for each other.

This selfless commitment is certainly what motivated Billy Burke and Abe.
Thanks to them, Ed didn’t die alone. As terrible as that scene was, I’m sure
Ed was comforted by their presence.

As firefighters, we hope we give similar hope and comfort to the victims we
treat and the communities we serve. Working in Lake Elmo and other small
town and cities across the country, we certainly don’t expect to be part of
a mass-casualty incident like Sept. 11. And even if we never do get “the
call,” we know that in our own small way we make a difference in peoples’
lives every day.

We’re often a calm voice, a reassuring pat on the hand, welcome relief in
their hour of need. And while these victims may not be at the center of the
most devastating terrorist attack in history, the world they know and love
is often crumbling around them. In many ways, it’s just as tragic and
devastating for them as it was for Ed Beyea.

I’m not sure if this is the piece that Chief Malmquist was looking for, but
I now know that this is why we’re firefighters.

Just Call Me Jerry

Jerry LewisSolid four-star review of “Cooper’s Daughter” from France. 

Crisp, snappy writing, very much in the “noir” style.

I really like that. 

Here’s the rest of the review:

Characters are well developed & there are far fewer errors than I typically find in indie books. Having spent my 4 years of college in upstate NY, not too far from the locale of this book, I enjoyed Mr. Yost’s depiction of an area he depicted so well. I will look for other books by this author.

That makes 20 out of 24 reviews that are either four or five-star. 

And the second book in the Rick Crane Noir Series is just around the corner. Stay tuned. 

Variable Pricing Comes to the NFL

Interesting AP piece today on the NFL embracing variable pricing, meaning they charge more for high-demand games (Packers-Bears) and less for other games (Chargers-Jets). And, of course, the Minnesota Vikings still can’t give tickets away.

At the Packers-Titans pre-season game in early August.

At the Packers-Titans pre-season game in early August.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Many NFL teams are following the leads of other sports — dropping prices for less desirable games while jacking up costs for the biggest matchups.

“The reality is not every game is created equal,” said Jennifer Ferron, senior vice president of marketing and brand development for the New England Patriots.

In cold-weather cities, games in December may be less attractive than those in early fall. Weeknight games pose more of a challenge to fans who must work the next morning. It’s tougher to sell or re-sell tickets to games between bad teams where no rivalry is involved.

Variable pricing already is used in major league baseball, the NBA and NHL. After several years of study, half the NFL clubs are making the move this season, particularly with preseason games.

“The advantage to the league is we have season ticket members that are more satisfied with their NFL experience. That’s clearly our priority,” said Brian Lafemina, the NFL’s senior vice president for club business development.

Seven teams use variable pricing for season tickets and single-game tickets — Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit, New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle.

Nine use it only for single-game tickets — Atlanta, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, the New York Jets, St. Louis, San Diego, and Tennessee

How are they doing?

“Anecdotally, it has certainly been seen as a positive from season ticket members,” Lafemina said. “There really haven’t been any negative implications yet and I don’t think there will be.”

The Green Bay Packers are one of the teams looking into variable pricing and likely will use it next season.

“Over the evolution of the game and the preseason, preseason games are just a lot different than they were 15-20 years ago,” Packers President Mark Murphy said. “Starters play fewer minutes. The feedback that I’ve gotten from fans is, with the face value as high as it is, for preseason it’s hard for them to re-sell them.

“I think if we lowered the price for preseason it would help fans.”

With NFL ticket buyers now exposed to the plans, it could become easier for them to be satisfied with future increases for games in one price tier while others remain unchanged.

For now, “I don’t think you can infer that any pricing increase was due to variable pricing,” Lafemina said.

The Patriots charged $117 for each of 10 games for certain seats last season. Now those seats cost $57 for each of two preseason games, $117 for four regular-season games and $147 for the other four. The total cost, $1,170, is unchanged.

For the Chargers, “the varying of single-game prices provides an opportunity to more closely align face value and market value, which should improve sales,” chief executive officer A.G. Spanos said.

The Bills have three regular-season tiers for their most expensive seats — $130 for the “gold” level against New England and Miami, $112 for “silver” games against San Diego, Minnesota, the Jets and Green Bay and $99 for “bronze” games against Cleveland and Kansas City. The top price for those seats for each regular-season game last year was $102.

“So far so good,” Bills chief marketing officer Marc Honan said. “We’re seeing the games we thought would move are moving well.”

In Miami, it costs $80 to $165 in section 430 in the upper deck to watch the season opener against the Patriots. If you wait to see the Chargers on Nov. 2, that cost would range from $41 to $71.

Tom Garfinkel took over as the Dolphins’ chief executive officer last summer and made it a priority to increase attendance in a stadium that has had more than 10,000 empty seats in recent years.

The Packers don’t have trouble selling seats, with people waiting years to get season tickets. The added challenge is that the team has a separate season package for Milwaukee-area residents, who make a two-hour trip north to get to games.

They typically get the second and fifth games of the season, no matter the opponent. But in a variable pricing structure, the strength of an opponent would have more weight.

Would that package cost more if the opponents were the division-rival Bears and Vikings? Would it cost less if the two opponents were less desirable, non-conference teams?

“A little bit of an issue somewhat with the variable pricing is kind of accurately predicting what games are worth more in terms of face value,” Murphy said.

The Patriots have done that analysis.

They decided that watching the rival Jets in mid-October this season is worth more than possibly driving on snowy roads for the last regular-season game against Buffalo three days after Christmas.

“We felt like we had enough data to make some educated decisions,” Ferron said. “We haven’t received any negative feedback.”

Celebrating the 200th Birthday of Gunmaker Samuel Colt

By Mark Yost

The Wall Street Journal

Springfield, Mo.

Not only the 100th anniversary of World War I but the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore—which produced the “Star Spangled Banner”—and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battles to capture Richmond and Atlanta are being remembered this year. But one anniversary has (not surprisingly) gone mostly unnoticed by the mainstream media: the 200th birthday, in July, of gunmaker Samuel Colt.

One of the Colt 1911s used in the 1907-11 trials.

One of the Colt 1911s used in the 1907-11 trials.

Colt’s innovative early revolving pistols and John Browning’s semiautomatic Colt M1911—the official sidearm of the U.S. military for seven decades and still considered one of the best handguns in the world—played important roles in U.S. history. And one of the best collections of Colt revolvers and M1911s is at the National Rifle Association’s National Sporting Arms Museum in the Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store here.

This museum, opened just a year ago, was a perfect marriage. The NRA had too many pieces and not enough display space at its national headquarters in Fairfax, Va.; Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris is a respected firearms collector who wanted a high-caliber way to draw more people to his store.

Even without the Colt collection, the museum would still be a lure given its nearly 1,000 pistols, rifles and shotguns dating from the 1600s to today. The walls of glass cases tell the story of firearms in America—the collection of rifles alone including such highlights as the Kentucky rifle, Lewis & Clark’s revolutionary air rifle, and the 1903 Springfield championed by President Theodore Roosevelt after he found his Rough Riders outgunned in Cuba.

Roosevelt and his son Teddy Jr. play a prominent role here. On display is the father’s c.1910 Frederick Adolph double rifle in .450-500, used for big-game hunting, as well as the Browning Model 1900 .32 semiautomatic pistol he kept on his nightstand in the White House. A panel nearby tells visitors that he also used the gun to teach his grandchildren to shoot from the balcony at the family’s Sagamore Hill estate in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Also here is a painting of Teddy Jr. killing a panda in the Himalayas, which he brought back to researchers at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Ike's favorite shotgun.

Ike’s favorite shotgun.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s Winchester Model 21 shotgun is at the museum, too, his name and five stars inlaid in gold. In the Hollywood display cases, there are guns used by James Garner in the television version of “Maverick” and by Mel Gibson in the film; several of John Wayne’s guns, including his Springfield Model 1873 .45-70 from John Ford’s “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949); and the Uberti Model 1847 reproduction used first by Kim Darby in “True Grit” (1969) and then by Clint Eastwood in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976).

The museum is also home to the guns and artwork of the Remington Arms Co. factory collection, the National Trap Shooting Hall of Fame and an impressive collection of Old West guns from Jesse James, Annie Oakley and others.

But the reason to come here this year is to celebrate Colt, and the museum certainly does that, displaying his guns just inside the entrance in chronological order and putting them in historical context. In the 1830s, when Colt began designed and manufacturing, most pistols were single shot. Colt’s Patterson was unique in that it was a revolving cylinder around one barrel, versus the more common pepperbox shooters in which the multiple barrels in one housing rotated with each pull of the trigger. Despite its revolutionary design, the .36-caliber, five-shot pistol never caught on with the public or the Army, which found the Patterson, N.J.-made guns fragile and the charge weak, according to NRA curator Jim Supica, who walked me through the exhibit. Colt went broke and the story might have ended there if not for Capt. Samuel H. Walker of the Texas Rangers, who came to Colt and suggested design changes and a higher caliber. The .44 Colt Walker, the most powerful handgun until the .357 of the 1930s, put the gunmaker back in business, and his manufacturing was improved by Elisha K. Root, who took over Colt’s new factory in Hartford, Conn.

The Colt Model 1873.

The Colt Model 1873.

Colt continued to improve on his design until his death in 1862, ensuring the company’s continued success through the turn of the 20th century. For instance, the Walker cylinders were known to crack because of too much gunpowder and the poor metallurgy of the day. Colt’s Dragoon series, with shorter chambers and a lighter load, fixed that problem. By the start of the Civil War, Colt’s factory, the largest in the world, employed 1,000 people and turned out 150 revolvers a day. And while Smith & Wesson is credited with making cartridge rounds popular, Colt quickly adopted the technology.

Among the famous Colts on display here are the 1851 Navy in .36 caliber carried by Commodore Perry when he opened Japan to the West; the 1860 Army model in .44 caliber favored by Union officers (Colt ended his contracts with Southern states in 1861); and, of course, the Colt single-action Model 1873, the classic handgun of the Old West.

Fast forward to 1900. The military sidearm of the day was the .38-caliber Long Colt, which proved ineffective at stopping Moro tribesmen in the Philippines. Trials for a replacement began in 1900 and lasted until 1911. The U.S. Cavalry first tested 1,000 Lugers in 7.65mm to prove the efficacy of semiautomatic pistols. By 1907, the field was whittled down to just three guns, all .45s: Savage, Colt and only two or three Lugers ever made in that caliber. Luger ultimately dropped out, figuring the fix was in for a U.S. manufacturer. Between the remaining two, the John Browning-designed Colt won hands down. Government testers fired 6,000 rounds through both guns; the Savage experienced 37 jams, while the Colt had none.

The museum has both the Savage serial No. 4 and Colt serial No. 134 pistols used in the 1907 trials, as well as one of the 1,000 Luger 7.65mm tested in 1900. These guns alone are enough to draw visitors to the museum to remember the man of whom it was said, “Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.”

Mr. Yost is a writer in Chicago.

Remember, It’s Just a Game

By Mark Yost

When I sat down to write this piece, I was going to make the bold suggestion that the NFL ban alcohol at all games. Colleges, too.

I’d just been to a pre-season NFL game in Nashville. The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans. In essence, a game that meant absolutely nothing.

TitansIt was a miserable night. A torrential downpour started about a half hour before kickoff and didn’t let up until almost halftime. When I sat down in my seat five rows behind the end zone, it was raining so hard that the water puddling at the bottom of the concourse covered the first row of seats. But this being August in Tennessee, and it being the start of another NFL season, more than a few fans were happy to stand in the deluge in the $8 ponchos (made in China for 3 cents) that the Titans shop was selling by the pallet that night.

Like most games, fans stood for the national anthem, the kickoff, and the first few plays of the opening drive by the Packers. But after a few plays that moved the action further downfield, most everyone sat down.

Except for that guy.

You know who he is. He shows up at every sporting event, in almost every section. The fan in the jersey and cap who initially seems a bit rabid but sane, and then proceeds to makes it clear that he hasn’t come here so much to have a good time and enjoy the game, but to make sure that everyone else’s experience is as miserable as possible. Add in generous amounts of alcohol, a common ingredient at both NFL and college games, and this guy’s really fun to be around.

He was there on that Saturday night in Nashville. Along with three college-age girls who were equally annoying. They were sitting in front of most everyone else in our section. Or, I should say, standing a few rows in front of all of us. Despite scattered calls for “down in front,” they didn’t budge the entire first half, their defiant postures the full-body equivalent of giving the middle finger to the rest of us.

When the rain let up briefly in the second quarter and a 30something guy sat down with his young son, he politely asked the girls to please sit down so that his son could see the game. Their response can’t be printed in this newspaper. 

The NFL (and other major sports) has long had a problem with fan behavior. I wrote a famous piece for The Wall Street Journal in October 2007 about the crowd at a Monday night game in Buffalo that made the Roman coliseum look like a Sunday afternoon church social. A few years before that, I wrote a piece for the Journal about the coarsening culture at college games titled “Dis, Boom, Bah.”

The Buffalo piece created a bit of a groundswell. Local papers (including this one) followed up with stories of their own fans’ outlandish behavior. Bryant Gumble did an HBO “Real Sports” segment on the subject. It all led to the NFL instituting its first-ever, league-wide Fan Behavior Policy. But as my experience in Tennessee demonstrated, the league – and its fans – still has a long way to go. And frankly, I’m not sure what they can do about it.

Again, my kneejerk reaction was to write a piece suggesting that we ban alcohol at all college and pro games. Then I thought it through. How are you going to police the tailgate and other pre-game drinking? How drunk is too drunk? Eventually, I realized that alcohol isn’t the problem. Common courtesy is.

I know it’s a quaint notion in the age of Twitter and the Kardashians, but when did it become OK to be a jerk? More importantly, when did the outcome of a sporting event become so personal and all-important?

Think about it: Whether your team wins or loses, it will have absolutely no impact on your job, your marriage, your kids, or anything else in your life that should matter more than the final score of some meaningless game. Yet, far too many people act like it does. What I experienced in Nashville is not an isolated incident. Ugly confrontations, some of which lead to fist fights and even death, will no doubt unfold more times than we care to contemplate over the next four months.

So as we begin another football season, let’s try and remember one simple thing: It’s just a game, folks.

Mr. Yost is the author of “Varsity Green: A Behind the Scenes Look at Culture and Corruption in College Athletics.”

The Two Tony Stewarts

Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the New York Post:

Regardless of whatever’s decided in a courtroom in Ontario County or the court of public opinion, any verdict on the Tony Stewart incident will be a mixed one. And that’s because of Stewart himself.

He’s one of racing’s most mercurial drivers. Like his longtime idol, A.J. Foyt, who once punched an Indy 500 security guard for simply asking to see his credentials, Stewart has been known to be a bit of a hothead.

His fans love to tune to his radio frequency during races to hear his four-worded tirades against his crew when they don’t get the car just right.

The Angry Tony Stewart.

The Angry Tony Stewart.

Ironically, Stewart is not only famous for his angry outbursts, he’s also guilty of getting out of his car in the middle of a race and letting a fellow drive know exactly how he feels, just as young Upstate New York driver Kevin Ward did on that fateful Saturday night. Stewart’s been known to throw both his helmet and his fists in anger.

Still, much of this behavior occurred when he was much younger. People close to him say anger-management counseling has made a huge difference.

These days, according to his inner circle, you’re more likely to encounter a magnanimous Tony Stewart than the monster Tony Stewart.

Indeed, many people know him to be one of the kindest, most generous people on the planet. For instance, when he won the Nascar Sprint Cup Championship in 2011, Stewart made good on a promise to take his entire 160-member race team — everyone from mechanics to fan club envelope-stuffers — to Las Vegas for the awards banquet.

I’ve had my own run-ins with Stewart’s Jekyll and Hyde personality. I’ve been at press conferences where he’s told reporters, “That’s a stupid question.” (In his defense, it was.) I’ve also seen the kinder, gentler Stewart away from the glare of the Nascar spotlight.

The Happy Tony Stewart.

The Happy Tony Stewart.

Stewart now owns tiny Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, one of the grand cathedrals of sprint-car racing. He took over the track when it was on the verge of closing, pumped a bunch of his own money into it and preserved one of the great events of the sport, the King’s Royal.

When I interviewed him at Eldora for a July 2009 Wall Street Journal feature, he couldn’t have been nicer. Away from the Nascar pressure cooker, where his day is regimented minute by minute for more than 40 weeks a year, Stewart clearly becomes a different man.

This, of course, makes the incident in Canandaigua all the more unfathomable. It’s easy to imagine Stewart losing his temper at Martinsville or Bristol, two of the half-mile bullrings where Nascar still races. But a little-known short track on a Saturday night racing sprint cars? I can tell you — and he would, too — that there is nowhere in the world that he is happier.

There are also some questions for Nascar in all of this. Since the early 1990s, when it started to shuck its good ’ol boy image for a more corporate look and feel, Nascar has tried to keep a short leash on drivers like Stewart. In turn, many fans will tell you that Nascar took away much of the character(s) of the sport.

I was at North Wilkesboro, one of the short tracks that wasn’t glamorous enough to make it in the new Nascar, in the early ’90s when a fight broke out in the garage between two drivers. It was just a short tussle — a few punches thrown, words exchanged. I don’t even recall who was involved.

Buddy Baker

Buddy Baker

But I do clearly remember Buddy Baker, an old-time Nascar driver-turned-broadcaster, turning to the crowd shortly after the fight broke up and loudly proclaiming, “Hot damn, boys, this is the way we used to settle things.”

He had a point. Maybe if Nascar allowed a few more minor dustups in the garage, if everyone who deviated from the corporate script wasn’t called on the carpet for the slightest transgression, drivers would work these things out among themselves.

Sure, a few punches might get thrown, a few uniforms ripped. But if Nascar gave these drivers a little more latitude, let them be themselves, maybe it would not only spice up a sport that has become staler than a month old loaf of Wonder bread, it might just prevent explosive outbursts far worse than the minor shoving match I saw in the North Wilkesboro garage.

As for which Tony Stewart was on that track in Canandaigua, only he knows for sure. And he’ll have to live with it.

Mark Yost is a former reporter for National Speed Sport News and author of “The 200 MPH Billboard: The Inside Story of How Big Money Changed Nascar.”

 

Dark Enough to be Interesting

That’s the latest review of my new detective mystery, “Cooper’s Daughter: A Rick Crane Noir.”

It’s the 18th 5-star review the book has gotten since coming out in June. 

The reviewer also said the book was, “A good throwback to the classic detective story.”

If you haven’t read Cooper’s Daughter, pick up a copy today. Here’s the jacket copy to whet your whistle.

When his daughter is found dead in a Binghamton rail yard and the police treat it like a cold case, Bill Cooper hires the one man who can figure out what happened – Rick Crane. But as the Upstate New York private eye digs into the case, everyone tells him to “let it go.” Crane doesn’t, and soon discovers that the death of COOPER’S DAUGHTER was about much more than the murder of one wild young woman.

 

Rick Crane: A Classic Noir Hero

That’s according to the latest review of “Cooper’s Daughter: A Rick Crane Noir,” my new top-10 noir mystery.  

A classic noir with flawed but honorable hero who is willing to face real danger to make sure that justice is done. Good pace with all the details you need to get sucked in and lose several hours.

Here’s what others had to say about the book featuring a hardboiled private eye in Upstate New York: 

– A good throwback to the classic detective story. Dark enough to be interesting.

– Rick Crane has serious personal problems and an “Iffy” moral code that allows him to move through the underworld on his way to morning Mass with little concern.

– Looking for a good fast moving PI story? Well, stop right here. Great characters, good plot, and well written.

 

Cooper’s Daughter: Telling It Like It Is

That’s the latest 5-star review of my new noir thriller, “Cooper’s Daughter” on Amazon.

Ray, one of Kindle’s regular reviewers, wrote: 

Very good to excellent book. The author is pretty close to telling it like it is. Looking forward to reading more of his work.

Hang on, Ray. You won’t have to wait long. I’m almost done with Jimmy’s Nephew, the second bookin the Rick Crane Noir series, due out this fall.