The Perfect Murder? Prologue

One of the strangest stories I ever covered was the disappearance of industrialist Joe Derr in Acapulco, Mexico – and the ensuing tug of war between his prospective benefactors: Donald Baggett, his albino bodybuilder lover and accused killer, and the small Pennsylvania town that exiled him for being a homosexual when he was a boy.Continue reading “The Perfect Murder? Prologue”

Chapter 2: Titanic Rising

I’d like to say that Cy Ruthenburg’s rich tale of Joseph Derr’s rake’s progress, which hinged, in part, on the unexpected but not unwelcome debut of Oklahoma oilfield gambler Titanic Thomas in Evansville society, wafted on a fuzzy atmosphere of scotch above a spreading Ohio River sunset just over his shoulder, but since Cy’s clubContinue reading “Chapter 2: Titanic Rising”

Chapter 4: Hijinks at the Paradise and the Last Man to See Howard Hughes Alive

Unfreeze the frame and Donald Baggett and I are standing on a desolate Evansville street at 2 a.m. If he’s gone to all the trouble of killing his paramour, making his body vanish and confounding the Mexican Federales, the FBI, Interpol and Detective Clay Stinson of the Evansville P.D., I don’t really expect Don toContinue reading “Chapter 4: Hijinks at the Paradise and the Last Man to See Howard Hughes Alive”

Chapter 5: The Final Footfalls of Joseph Derr

So there we were, Jorge Camps and I, greeting gray daybreak with a couple of bottles of Negra Modelo after completing a strange and most unholy carnal via crucis along Acapulco’s notorious Condesa Beach. We’d chatted up transvestites, prostitutes, pederasts, boys on leashes, bondage buddies, sadists and masochists (like love and marriage, you can’t haveContinue reading “Chapter 5: The Final Footfalls of Joseph Derr”

The Last Detail

In the late 1980s, my shooter buddy Keith and I traveled to D.C. for what would become the largest public demonstration in American history to that point, far bigger than Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington. The occasion was a pro-choice rally. Hard to beat a gorgeous spring day in D.C. with a story that was gonna write itself.

You Can’t Go Home Again (And Why Would You?)

With the exception of Pittsburgh, where inter-generational families cling to each other like refugees in a lifeboat, a preponderance of Americans, particularly the college-educated, eventually leave their hometowns behind. You can find no end of sociological studies (and lamentations) online about the decline of the geographically proximate extended family.

A Big Muddy Meander With a Beat You Can Dance To

Cash grew up poor and never lost his workingman’s sensibility. He sang songs about the lower-crust: the thwarted factory worker, the soldier home from war with crushed limbs and broken spirit, the Native American stripped of his land and his pride, the highway patrolman who chases his law-breaking brother to the state line and is relieved the law compels him to turn back.

Riding The Natchez Trace

The Nachez Trace Parkway is a miracle. So is finding it with your phone’s GPS. Since the Trace doesn’t have a route number, Siri sent me to and fro, to this side and that side of Nashville. Finally, after two hours of tracing and retracing interstates to the east, west and south, I got off the highway and asked an old farmer how to get there.

What’s at Stake in the Pennsylvania Special Election

When I moved a bit farther out into Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs just ahead of the 2016 election, a fair number of my new neighbors’ yards sported Trump/Pence signs, with one lonely Clinton/Kaine sign holding down the corner. Eighteen months later, as the special House election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone looms, campaign signs have sprouted in many more yards and Lamb is definitely leading in my very unscientific sign poll.