TRACING A TRAJECTORY

Reflecting on the path my life has taken calls to mind the popular song Get Your Kicks on Route 66. It’s been a route of 66 twists and turns, stops and starts. My way has been a circuitous highway. And yes, I got some kicks, as well as a few flat tires, en route to the present stage in my life: writing a blog and authoring books.

I was born in Muskegon, Mich., and moved to Iowa at age 6 when my parents took their own route back to their, well, roots – and stalks (as in corn). High school was a time of turmoil for me, but I nonetheless graduated and entered tiny Central College where, eventually, seven family members matriculated. Though excelling in English throughout my school years, I regarded myself as not smart enough to take Latin in high school, and studied German in college, where a foreign language was required. I earned A’s and, chafing in the college’s religious environment, took a hiatus from my misery before entering Drake University in Des Moines and earning a bachelor’s in German and English. Then it was off to Europe aboard the USS United States, and three months of motorcycle touring and attendance at a Goethe Institute for foreigners learning German. Back in the States, I spent a semester at the University of Iowa, but decided that teaching German would be too sedentary for me. A professor at Central told me I had a flair for writing, and I returned to the university to study journalism after working briefly as a railroad clerk.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

My first newspaper job was at the Herald-News in Joliet, Ill., covering the police and municipal bodies. I distinguished myself in a story that inspired the chairman of the county board to rise from his chair and threaten me with eviction through a closed, second-floor window. Other highlights were a story on fire hazards at seedy hotels that I stayed in, and my portrayal of the aftermath of rioting when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

O’Hare Airport, Chicago, 1969 plane crash

Spending my weekends in nearby Chicago, I itched to move there, and landed a job with The Associated Press. After only six weeks, I covered a plane crash at O’Hare Airport that killed 31 people, making my way into an airline hangar that served as a temporary morgue, where 18 bodies lay side by side, grotesquely burned or devoid of limbs. On Father’s Day 1970, I sped south to Crescent City, where six propane tank cars exploded in a train derailment, injuring scores but killing none.

Crescent City, Ill., 1970 propane rail crash

An AP trouble shooter offered me a job on the radio desk at the New York headquarters, but I wanted more writing opportunity, and left for the Milwaukee Journal (now Journal-Sentinel). I spent half of my two-year stint there as a police reporter, my investigation of a murder forcing a medical examiner’s inquest.

Leaving my eminently forgettable experience in that freezing city behind, I headed for the tropics and the Tampa Tribune. My story on bait-and-switch tactics by appliance dealers prompted a state investigator to impose penalties. Substituting for the education reporter at a school board meeting one night, I wrote a story that ingratiated me with the paper’s editors, who decided I should replace her. My objections were in vain, and I found a job with the Palm Beach Post, where I spent 14 years as a reporter, feature writer, entertainment writer and music critic, a position that, despite feeling woefully unqualified to fill, I dove into enthusiastically, if unremarkably. I did, however, uncover an embezzlement scheme at a theater.

Winston Churchill’s late grandson

James Patterson

Trying my hand for a few years in a business venture that broke even, I returned to journalism. In nine years with a group of luxury-lifestyle magazines, I wrote numerous features about celebrities such as Winston Churchill’s grandson, Winston S. Churchill II; authors James Patterson, Elmore Leonard and Stuart Woods; moon astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin; and William Koch, billionaire brother of the much richer Charles and David Koch. I also served as copy chief for the group.

Astronaut Buzz Aldriin

The late Elmore Leonard

During my 35-year journalism career, I garnered several awards and accolades. Then, as a freelancer, I edited several memoirs before embarking on my current enterprise of authoring books. The first was a short memoir titled A TALE OF TWO CONTINENTS: Jetting Across the Globe to Have a Baby, which I ghost-wrote. Close on its heels came BREAKING OUT, a coming-of-age novel about a deeply troubled young man.

My current novel, MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died, rose in the Amazon rankings to No. 1 in the Criminal Procedure category of the Kindle edition, receiving mostly stellar reviews and garnering publicity in about 15 newspapers and magazines. I am excited about the novel I’m working on now, and anticipate more works in the future.

 

 

 

 

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