Vin Scully, That Artful Dodger

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced yesterday that legendary broadcaster Vin Scully will be back next year for a 67th season behind the microphone.

In honor of that, here is my 2009 piece from The Wall Street Journal, marking his 60th year broadcasting Dodger games in both Brooklyn and L.A.

Vin Scully, That Artful Dodger

By Mark Yost

Los Angeles

The Major League Baseball playoffs begin tonight, and with them will come justifiable criticism of some of the abysmal sports commentary that regularly trudges across the airwaves. For a refreshing change, I would direct listeners to the smooth tenor voice and pithy commentary of Vin Scully. This is Mr. Scully’s 60th year in the Los Angeles Dodgers broadcast booth, and he is nothing short of the best play-by-play man working in sports today.

ScullyThe pregame banter for the first of three recent Rockies-Dodgers games was filled with information you could have gleaned from the morning paper or a blog. The Dodgers needed just one win to clinch the National League West (which they did Saturday night); a Phillies loss helped the Dodgers secure the best record in the National League. When Mr. Scully finally took the mike, he distinguished himself in just one sentence.

“It’s a very pleasant Friday night here in Los Angeles,” he said, telling radio listeners from Petaluma to Panama City something they couldn’t possibly have known unless they were here at the game. More important, Mr. Scully, who’s 81, wasn’t just setting the atmosphere but building a rapport with his audience. “I don’t announce,” he told me in an interview before Saturday’s game. “I have a conversation.”

But once the game starts, Mr. Scully is all business. From the first pitch, you need the skills of a court stenographer to keep up with the facts and figures—all interesting and relevant—that he weaves effortlessly into a dialogue that’s nothing short of poetic.

For instance, he noted that the Colorado Rockies had been 15½ games back in June and red hot coming into this series. He then reminded listeners that the Rockies were batting a paltry .168 against left-handed pitchers, like Dodgers starter Randy Wolf. Those aren’t off-the-cuff remarks, but indicative of the preparation Mr. Scully puts into every broadcast.

Unlike many of today’s commentators, he understands that what has happened is more important than what might happen. Thus, when Ryan Spilborghs came up to bat in the first inning, Mr. Scully said: “Rockies with runners at second and third. Torrealba, the butter-and-egg man, just delivered a double to drive in two runs. Wolf has made 30 pitches so far in the first inning and the Rockies lead two to nothing.”

Mr. Scully didn’t come out of the womb delivering such eloquent and informative commentary. He was tutored by legendary broadcaster Red Barber. In 1950, when he was only 23, Mr. Scully joined his mentor in the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcast booth and learned to never root for the home team, not to socialize with the ballplayers, not to listen to other broadcasters, and to know when to shut up. “Sometimes, nothing says it better than the roar of the crowd,” Mr. Scully said.

Although he spent just four years at Mr. Barber’s elbow, they were formative years. “In many ways, I was the son he never had,” Mr. Scully recalled fondly.

In 1954, Mr. Scully became the sole Dodgers broadcaster. When the team moved to L.A. in 1958, the native New Yorker went with them. It was in Los Angeles that he forever put his imprint on this team and this city.

Mr. Scully credits the transistor radio with his early popularity. In fact, fans from the era told me that so many people brought radios with them to the team’s first West Coast home, the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum, that broadcast engineers were vexed by feedback from Mr. Scully’s own voice.

Ross Miller, a 55-year-old Los Angeles pediatrician and Dodgers season-ticket holder, was one of those fans who grew up with Mr. Scully in his ear. “What’s amazing, what really speaks to Vinny’s talent, is the fact that he was describing a game we were watching with our own eyes, yet his words painted the picture so much better.” Indeed, sitting in the Dodgers press box, I found myself averting my eyes from the field, preferring to let Mr. Scully describe the action.

The broadcaster insists that he never comes to the ballpark with any prepared lines, which makes some of his legendary calls all the more remarkable. In 1956, when Don Larsen went into the last inning of the only perfect game in World Series history, Mr. Scully said: “Let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball.” In 1974, when Hank Aaron stepped to the plate to break Babe Ruth’s home run record, Mr. Scully noted: “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.” In 1988, when Kirk Gibson hit a walk-off home run to win the first game of the World Series, the broadcaster said: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

But perhaps his greatest call of all time came during Sandy Koufax’s perfect game: “Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the ninth, nineteen-hundred and sixty-five, he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game.”

Later in the inning, he said, “there’s twenty-nine thousand people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.” And when Mr. Koufax struck out Harvey Kuenn to end the game, Mr. Scully simply said, “Swung on and missed, a perfect game,” then let the crowd speak for 38 seconds. I can’t imagine a broadcaster today shutting up for three seconds, much less 38.

The Dodgers host the Cardinals tonight to start the National League Division Series. The game will be broadcast nationally using the latest high-definition television technology. But I’d argue that the clearest picture of the game will come via radio and, as has been the case for the past six decades, it will come from Mr. Scully.

Two Different Views of 1945

Here’s my latest Arts in Review piece in The Wall Street Journal:

Two Exhibitions Look at the End of World War II

By Mark Yost

Berlin and Independence, Mo.

BerlinThere are two important new exhibits to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the more ambitious being “1945—Defeat. Liberation. New Beginning.” at Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum. It looks at 12 European countries, each with its own mini-gallery, at the end of the war. While the histories of four of the major combatants—Britain, France, Germany and the Soviet Union—are profiled in the museum, they are fairly well known. So the real reason to come here is to learn more about the war’s immediate impact on smaller countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg and Norway.

If there is a common theme, it is the huge appetite for revenge, and we’re told through biographies, newspaper clippings, cartoons and courtroom drawings that postwar Norway was divided between the “Ice Front,” which wanted to mete out the worst punishments to those who collaborated with the Germans, and the “Silk Front,” which wanted to be more forgiving. To illustrate this, there is a biographic panel on Vidkun Quisling, the Norway defense minister who founded the Fascist Nasjonal Samling in 1933 and was a Nazi collaborator throughout the war. He was tried and executed on Oct. 24, 1945.

On the Silk Front was Jens Christian Hauge, who was gracious in accepting the German surrender in May 1945 at the Akershus Fortress on behalf of the Milorg, the Norway Resistance that was founded in 1941, began working closely with Britain’s Special Operations Executive in 1942 and trained some 40,000 fighters. After the war, Hauge argued for Norway to take a more active role in Western alliances. On display is a decorative ashtray of the first Norwegian jet fighter he helped commission, a British De Havilland Vampire.

In Belgium, postwar tribunals handled more than 400,000 collaboration cases from 1944 through 1949, with a surprising 83% of them dismissed. Of the nearly 1,700 people sentenced to death, one panel explains, Belgium executed less than 250. The Luxembourg gallery features displays that focus on the people’s resourcefulness in dealing with shortages of food, clothing and building materials after the war. Shown here is a large wooden cabinet that was made from discarded German mine casings. In the Netherlands gallery, there is a homemade grain mill that the Dutch used to grind anything they could forage during the great “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45.

In addition to displays of artwork, artifacts and other objects, there are pertinent facts printed in large type in both German and English in each gallery. Things like, “No other country lost a higher percentage of its Jewish population” than the Netherlands. The curators, Maja Peers and Babette Quinkert, have also correctly labeled Poland “The primary state of the Holocaust.”

In the Polish gallery, we learn about Rachel Auerbach, a journalist and author who secured a number of documents early in the postwar period documenting the Holocaust. Also on display is the striped concentration-camp jacket of Feliks Wojciechowski, who was interned at Stutthof. While the jacket brings to mind many images from the genocide and those who survived it, the curators remind us that, owning no other clothing in the world, many survivors wore this garment home after being liberated and, sometimes, for months until they were given or bought new clothes.

Perhaps the most moving item here is a ticket to the March 1947 Warsaw trial of Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss, the longest-serving commandant (1940-43) at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Again, the context gives it more meaning: It belonged to Jakub Bajurski, who was interned in Auschwitz and wrote on the back of the ticket, “I was there,” while Hoss was on the stand claiming he did nothing wrong.

Another little-told story here is that of Czechoslovakian Jew Jana Sindelarova, who was forced to move to Bohemia in the late-1930s, where she met and married Hans Schindler. In 1942, they were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, a fortress city that the Nazis turned into a concentration camp that held some 144,000 prisoners, mostly Jews. After being liberated, she heard that her husband was among the survivors being held in a Red Cross refugee center. The museum has on display the Red Cross arm band she wore to sneak into the camp and reunite with her husband.

***

Seven time zones away, at the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum outside Kansas City, is “Till We Meet Again,” another 1945 exhibit well worth seeing. This one is focused on the end of the war in the Pacific and the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan to force its surrender and save the lives of an estimated one million American soldiers who would have died in an invasion of the Japanese main island.

The first two galleries recap the war, both at home in the U.S. and in Europe. Among the posters declaring that “Loose Lips Sink Ships” and pitching Victory Bonds is the letter that World War I veteran and then-Sen. Truman sent to the draft board, offering his services and noting that “I still consider myself a pretty good Field Artilleryman.” Gen.George C. Marshall rejected his overture.

There’s also an oversize copy of “Mein Kampf” that was given by Hitler to Robert Ley, head of the German Labor Front, in 1938; it was confiscated in 1945 and given to Gen. Walter B. Smith, who then gave it to Truman. Also on display is one of the pens used by German Gen. Alfred Jodl to sign the surrender at Reims, France, on May 7, 1945. It was given to President Truman by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.

But perhaps the most fascinating artifact here is in the Victory in the East gallery. It features the safety plug for Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki by the American B-29 Bockscar. Also on display here through Sept. 11 is the Japanese rescript issued by Emperor Hirohito, on loan from the National Archives, essentially telling the Japanese to stand down, the war is over. A panel here notes that not only were rescript leaflets dropped all over Japan, but the emperor himself read the statement on the radio, the first time ordinary Japanese subjects had ever heard the emperor’s voice.

Also here are the maps from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s White House Map Room, showing the various plans for the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. One map reads “Invade Jap Homeland, Fall of 1945.”

According to curator Clay Bauske, the maps were salvaged by Navy Cmdr. George Elsey, a White House duty officer who walked by the Map Room after the war had ended and saw workmen tearing them off the walls. He called Mr. Bauske several years ago and said, “I have these maps . . .”

After verifying who he was, and what they were, Mr. Bauske sent the maps to the Pentagon to be declassified. They are now on display for the first time.

Mr. Yost is a writer in Chicago.

Jason Hewitt: Stay Thirsty’s Rising Star Author

DynamiteGood interview with Jason Hewitt, who has been named Stay Thirsty Publishing’s Thirsty Rising Star.

His first novel, “The Dynamite Room,” is a World War II yarn, which I like, but with a completely different twist. Here’s a segment of his interview in the Stay Thirsty Summer magazine:

My wounded German soldier came to me first. By chance, in a library, I had come across some reports that during the summer of 1940 – when England was under the threat of invasion – German bodies were occasionally washed up on the beaches of south east England, either from Luftwaffe planes shot down over the English Channel or torpedoed U-boats; and of one particular beach where discarded German food was found that showed no sign of having just been washed up on the tide (the chocolate was dry, not tampered by the sea, and looked like it had just been taken freshly out of a bag). The fear amongst the locals was that another German body had been washed up, except that this time the enemy was not drowned but very much alive, and now loose in the Suffolk countryside. This instantly sowed the seed of an idea. What if a German had really landed? What if he had taken shelter somewhere? What if somebody else was already hiding there? And who, from a dramatic point of view, would be the most unlikely person for him to be “trapped” with? From this final question eleven-year-old Lydia was born.

Furthermore, focusing on only two main characters allowed me the time and space to really put them under the microscope, to slowly unpack their issues, and give them the depths and complexities that I might not have space for otherwise in a more populated novel. Making Lydia eleven years old also created a more interesting dynamic between them. If my German soldier had been holed up with an adult woman the readers’ expectations for the story would have been very different and the plot much more predictable.

Sounds like a great read. Check it out.

Museum of the Pacific

PacificToday, Aug. 9, marks the 70th anniversary of when we dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Five days later, the Japanese would surrender and effectively end World War II, even though V-J Day wouldn’t be formally declared until Sept. 2.

Here is the piece I wrote in 2010 for The Wall Street Journal on the Museum of the Pacific in Fredericksburg, Texas, what I consider one of the best World War II museums in the world.

The Full Story Behind the War in the Pacific

By Mark Yost

The Wall Street Journal

May 21, 2010

If “The Pacific,” the 10-part miniseries that just concluded on HBO, has piqued your interest in the war against Japan, then I’d suggest you make your way to this little town about 90 miles west of Austin. It’s home to the National Museum of the Pacific War, which tells the story of Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima in exquisite and engaging detail. Having been to all the major war museums in Europe and the U.S., I left here thinking this is perhaps the most comprehensive, well-organized and informative military museum I’ve ever seen.

When visitors enter the newly remodeled George H.W. Bush Gallery, their tickets are given a 48-hour time stamp. Many will use all 48 hours. The museum is organized into small galleries that proceed chronologically from the opening of Japan and China by the Western powers in the 19th century to the war-crimes trials that followed the Japanese surrender that ended World War II. Each gallery provides an overview of the topic—a particular island campaign, U.S. treatment of the Nisei, flying “the Hump” in India—and then breaks it down with informative plaques, interactive kiosks and relics that keep visitors engaged without overwhelming them with too much information. I particularly liked the panels posted periodically that told visitors what was going on in the European theater at the same time.

The museum opens with a film about the Depression and the economic hardships that made Germany and Japan vulnerable to the fervent promises of nationalism. It then steps back nearly 100 years to examine the internal struggles and regional conflicts that ultimately led to war in the Pacific. Most interesting is the fact that while China shunned Western imperialism, Japan embraced it as a model, especially its expansionist ambitions. Given this and Japan’s martial shogun culture, it’s no surprise that when Japan’s 1890 education code asked students, “What is your dearest ambition?” the correct answer was “To die for the emperor.”

Furthermore, while World War I left Europe and the U.S. with a distaste for war, it only served to convince the Japanese of the need to wage all-out war against Korea, China and Russia for regional hegemony. This mindset—victory at all costs and the shame of surrender—provides important insight into the enemy the Allies would eventually face. It was the motivation for the genocide of Shanghai and Nanking. It explains why “they just kept coming,” as one of the characters in HBO’s “The Pacific” notes after the battle of Alligator Creek on Guadalcanal, and why the U.S. had to use not one, but two atomic bombs to subdue Japan.

This is all told well here. The exhibits proceed at a deliberate pace, from the prewar history to the sea battles and the Marines’ island-hopping campaigns. Some of the names are familiar (Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa), some less so (Kwajalein Atoll, the Aleutians, Eniwetok). But all are important, and we’re told why with interactive maps, oral histories and explanations of strategies.

For example, we learn that the Allies took out the airfield at Rabaul, but left the 135,000 Japanese troops on New Britain, Papua New Guinea, nearly untouched. Cut off from air and sea, they were essentially trapped with no supplies. Visitors also learn that Gen. Douglas MacArthur spent much of 1943 slogging it out on New Guinea, an island 1,500 miles long, 400 miles wide, mostly covered with dense jungle and peaks as high as 16,000 feet. The fighting was so fierce that at Buna the Japanese took coastal defense guns, lowered their angle to five degrees, and used them to destroy Stuart tanks.

Other interesting facts: During World War II, the U.S. lost 52 submarines, 48 of them in the Pacific. Iwo Jima was the only island battle where U.S. casualties outnumbered Japanese. Total civilian deaths of the Pacific war: Allies, 22.6 million; Japanese, 580,000. And contrary to popular belief, the firebombing of Tokyo killed more than the two atomic bombs combined.

There are profiles of some the great military leaders of the Pacific war, such as Gen. Alexander Patch, who sent the following message to Adm. William Halsey at the end of the Guadalcanal campaign: “Tokyo Express no longer has terminus on Guadalcanal.” And Adm. Chester Nimitz, who was born here in Fredericksburg. The Nimitz Foundation operates and provides much of the support for the museum.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the Japanese atrocities chronicled here, especially given recent remarks by “The Pacific” producer Tom Hanks, who said it was American racism that fueled the war against Japan. If anyone was motivated by racism, it was the Japanese, who had a sense of racial superiority that made the Nazis look like card-carrying members of the ACLU. It’s what drove the Japanese to wage a “war of terror”—the museum’s words, not mine—against the Chinese, be the first to use aerial bombardment against civilian populations, and commit the atrocities at Shanghai and Nanking.

But the museum is even-handed in dealing with America’s shortcomings, as well, primarily our treatment of the Nisei, the Japanese-Americans who were interned shortly after Pearl Harbor. I didn’t know that there were 5,000 Japanese-Americans who were serving in the armed forces in December 1941. They were immediately declared either 4F (unfit for service) or 4C (enemy aliens). When Nisei boys turned 18, they were drafted like other Americans. Those who refused were dubbed “the No-No Boys” and sent to federal prison.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the museum is in the middle of Texas Hill Country. It’s beautiful here, but because of its location the museum draws only about 100,000 visitors a year. A museum of this quality—and importance—needs to be seen by many more. Maybe “The Pacific” will spur attendance.

Mr. Yost is a writer in Chicago.

Jimmy’s Nephew Is Free This Weekend

Jimmy's NephewAhead of the upcoming publication of “Mary’s Fate,” the third book in my Rick Crane Noir series, my publisher, Stay Thirsty Press, has put “Jimmy’s Nephew,” the second book in the series, on sale for free this weekend.

How can you beat that?

Here’s an excerpt:

Working a guy over – especially if you’re a cop – is pretty much a lost art.

You wanna deliver shots that hurt, but don’t leave too many marks. Well-placed punches that get your point across. So far, Lt. Sean Swift of the Ontario County Homicide Squad was doing just fine.

“Come on, Rick,” said Sergeant Mike Crocker. “My partner’s having too much fun with this.”

I tried to catch my breath and forget the pain racking my body. But not far away was Lt. Swift, pacing the 10-by-12 cinderblock room with the two-way mirror, intercom on the wall near the door, and video camera tucked up in the corner. His deliberate steps and sideways glance made it clear to me that he wasn’t done.

Not by a long shot.

“You’ve been around long enough to know how this works, Rick,” Crocker said across the gray-metal interrogation table that separated us. “Tell us what we want to know and we can all go home.”

“Except for you, scumbag,” Swift said with a sneer “You’re gonna go to Attica and be some gorilla’s girlfriend for the rest of your short, miserable life.”

I looked down at the olive-green metal trashcan in the far corner and laughed out of the corner of my mouth. Before I could look up again, Lt. Swift had crossed the six feet separating us and delivered a hard right across my jaw. For a few seconds, I thought I might pass out.

“That one’s gonna leave a mark, Swifty,” I said after shaking off the punch. “Too bad. Up until now, your technique’s been pretty good.”

I didn’t know if his friends called him “Swifty,” but what else would you call a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, freckled Irish cop named Sean Swift?

“I told you guys,” I said, giving Swifty a look back that told him he hadn’t broken me.  “You got this all wrong.”

It was a line they’d heard a thousand times. But they weren’t buying it. Not tonight.

Besides, I wasn’t some run-of-the-mill perp they’d picked up from a bar fight, or a DWI they’d nabbed driving home from the local Kiwanis Club. I was the lead suspect in the biggest case these two would ever see.

The murder of a priest.

And not just any priest.

The bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, one of the biggest Catholic communities in Upstate New York.

And right now, the best suspect they had was me.

Rick Crane.

Local private investigator with shady connections to Jimmy Ricchiati, one of Upstate New York’s biggest mob bosses.

Whether I did it or not, they were gonna make this one stick. 

The Rick Crane Noir Podcast

Cooper's Daughter CoverStarted a new venture today: The Rick Crane Noir Podcast.

I set up an account on BlogTalkRadio and will start reading 15-minute podcasts of my Rick Crane Noir novels from Stay Thirsty Publishing. We’ll see how it works out. Just trying to generate some more interest for my novels, so that I can sell more books, make more money, move to Italy, and you can all come visit me.

I started today with Chapter 1 of “Cooper’s Daughter,” the first book in the series.

To remind everyone: Rick Crane is having his morning coffee at his favorite bar, Post Times, when Bill Cooper walks in. Cooper’s daughter, Darlene, has been murdered. The police don’t seem too interested, having quickly shuffled her case back to the Unsolved Crimes file.

“I’ll put it to you straight, Mr. Cooper,” I said. “You don’t strike me as a rich man.”

“Thirty years in the glass factory,” he said. “I ain’t rich, but I got some money saved.”

“Then why don’t you save it?”

“Because I can’t let my little girl end up like that.”

I felt sorry for the guy. Maybe it was his ratty clothing, or the look in his eyes. Whatever it was, I could tell that he’d spent 65 hard years trying to scratch out a living around here and about the only decent thing he’d done – in his mind anyway – was bring Darlene Cooper into the world. I knew if she ended up the way she had – an unsolved homicide statistic, found covered in soot in a dirty rail yard by a night watchman – it would break him.

“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Cooper. I got some business down in Binghamton. You keep your money for now. I’ll poke around a little. If I find anything, then we can talk about money.”

“You mean that Mr. Crane?”

“I don’t know who you talked to, but they should have told you that I’m a man of my word.”

“Thank you, Mr. Crane,” he said. “Let me give you my number.”

“That’s OK,” I said. “I’ll know where to find you.”

“Can I buy you a drink?” I asked him.

He looked at the bottles behind the bar the way a diabetic looks at a Hershey bar.

“I better not, Mr. Crane. It’s a little early…even for me.”

Check it out. I think you’ll like it.

Great Interview with Allison Brennan at Stay Thirsty

BrennanThe Stay Thirsty Summer magazine has a great interview with novelist Allison Brennan. She has written more than 20 novels, many of them NY Times best-sellers, including her latest installment in the Maxine Revere series. Her other much-heralded character is FBI agent Lucy Kincaid.

Here’s one of the questions and her answer:

STAY THIRSTY: Your latest novel, Compulsion, continues your bestselling Max Revere series and has your heroine investigative reporter working to unravel a sociopath’s brilliant and dark plan. Did you know how this book was going to end before you began writing it? Or, did Max Revere lead you through the thicket of facts and show you the way?

ALLISON BRENNAN: I never know how my books are going to end. The journey is half the fun of writing! I always start with a premise, a “what if” scenario, and my characters lead the way. The only thing I knew going in was that Max was right about the killer on trial – he had a partner. Proving it was going to be difficult, so I stepped into Max’s shoes and let her lead the way, starting with her interview at the courthouse and taking it each logical step forward. Sometimes, I surprise myself – that’s always fun.

Check out the whole thing. Well worth reading

I Write Nonfiction, Too

Varsity GreenJust a reminder to all my friends and fans that in addition to the Rick Crane Noir detective series, I also write nonfiction.

On top of my work for The Wall Street Journal Arts in Review and Book Review sections, I’ve written extensively on the business of sports.

Fans gearing up for the NFL season might want to look at my widely acclaimed, “Tailgating, Sacks and Salary Caps,” a look at the business and economics of what I called “the world’s most successful sports league.”

I also wrote a book on the business of Nascar, that surprised a lot of people with its inside look at how Nascar actually works as a business.

But my favorite nonfiction project was, “Varsity Green: A Behind the Scenes Look at Culture and Corruption in College Athletics.”

If you’re a fan of big-time college football or basketball, you may not look at your favorite schools the same way again after reading this book that looks at the business and economics of our sports culture, from AAU youth basketball to the NCAA.

Coming Soon: “Mary’s Fate,” Book 3 in the Rick Crane Noir Series

Here’s an excerpt from “Mary’s Fate,” the third book in my Rick Crane Noir series, due out in just a few days from Stay Thirsty Press.

Mary's FateThat’s when I stepped out of the men’s room and pulled my .45 out of the holster on my hip. Looking back toward the bar to make sure no one else was coming up the hallway that leads to the bathrooms, I reached into the inside pocket of my sports jacket and pulled out the silencer and screwed it onto the end of the barrel. Then I walked out the back door, and into the parking lot behind the bar.

Down on one knee up against the red brick building right under the men’s room window, trying to catch his breath, was Eddie Schorr, a low-level drug dealer who sold weed and a little crank – biker speed – in the bars around town. Towering over him were three humongous white dudes who could have been linebackers for the New York Giants. But they were Scorpions, an outlaw biker gang out of Syracuse easily recognizable by their black jeans, black t-shirts, and black leather cuts with their club logo on the back. All three of them had full beards and arms the size of tree trunks full of jailhouse tattoos. One guy had the club logo tattooed on his neck.   

I’d been careful to open the screen door slowly so that it didn’t creak. Once clear of the doorway, I let it go. The loud thwap quickly alerted everyone to my presence.

Two of the Scorpions turned toward me and went for their guns, but I had the jump on them. I fired two quick rounds into each – double taps to the chest. The muffled tunk-tunk of the silenced .45 bounced softly off the back of the building and then out into the parking lot, where it was absorbed by a dozen cars. I doubt anyone walking by out front heard a thing.

The third guy never pulled his gun but dashed around the side of the building the instant he saw me. He was almost to the front of the bar when I came around the corner in back, got down on one knee, steadied my aim, and fired.

I think I hit him in the leg. He stumbled for a few steps before regaining his momentum and disappearing around the corner of the bar.

And that’s how I ended up in the back parking lot of the Marconi Lodge on a muggy August evening, staring down at two dead thugs I’d just dropped like a bad habit beneath the soft purple glow of the bug zapper that hung above the screen door.

Get caught up on the adventures of Upstate New York’s favorite private eye in the first two books, “Cooper’s Daughter” and “Jimmy’s Nephew,” both available on Amazon.

Nice Nod for the Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation

In addition to being a great publisher, a valuable resource, and a fantastic mentor, my publisher Dusty Sang at Stay Thirsty Press is also a decent guy (hard to say, sometimes, in this business).

His son, Ryan, suffered from Bipolar Disorder and eventually overdosed after going off his medication. Dusty has dedicated Stay Thirsty to Ryan because, despite his illness, Ryan was always hungry for life, for new adventures, and bigger challenges. That’s what Dusty looks for in his authors, thus the name “Stay Thirsty.”

Dusty also spends a considerable amount of time on the foundation he named after his son. The group got a nice nod, recently, from People magazine and an interview with Mariel Hemingway, whose own family has a history with depression.

RibbonBiPolarVery few people who have bipolar are diagnosed early on. It can take years. The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation funds research to find a biological test to determine whether someone is bipolar. An early diagnosis can save years of pain. When a mood disorder is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, you may think you have a horribly rebellious child, but they are often suffering. They may also try to self-medicate. If you can figure out what someone is suffering from early on, it would help so many families. Then you can figure out the right medication and a healthy lifestyle and hopefully save a life.

In the interview, Hemingway is wearing the foundation’s Bipolar Awareness pin.

Good job, Dusty.