Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti - September 2016 Book Talks

Me speaking at Brewed Awakenings in Saline--April 2016.
photo: Ryan M. Place
For anyone who missed this post the first time around, several Terror in Ypsilanti book talks are planned at the end of September for Southern Michigan. If there is enough demand, I will return in the spring and schedule more. Here is what I have scheduled:

  • September 24th - St. Cece's Brewery [6-8 pm], 1426 Bagley Avenue, Detroit, in Corktown. Over 21 only! Sponsored by Book Club of Detroit.
  • September 27th - The Corner Brewery [5-7 pm], 720 Norris Street, Ypsilanti. Over 21 only!
  • September 28th - Adrian District Library [6:30-8:30 pm], 143 E. Maumee Street, Adrian
  • September 29th - Ypsilanti District Library [6-8 pm], 5577 Whittaker Road, Ypsilanti.
  • October 1st - 1700 AM Radio interview at 6:00 pm.
Autographed copies will be available but limited to stock on hand. Signed copies can also be purchased at my author website listed below. Come to one of my book talks if you can. I'd like to meet many of you in person and try to answer any questions you may have. 

For more information about my books or to buy an autographed copy, check out my author website:
gregoryafournier.com 

Also available at Amazon.com
Kindle, KOBO, B&N Nook,
Google Books, and ibooks  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Victorian Theater and The Limelight


In the Victorian period, the expression in the limelight meant the most desirable acting area on the stage, front and center. Today, the expression simply means someone is getting public recognition and acclaim.

The limelight effect was discovered by Goldsmith Gurney in the 1820s based on his work with an oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. Scottish inventor, Thomas Drummond (1797-1840), built a working model of the calcium light in 1826 for use in the surveying profession.

The calcium light was created by super heating a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide) with an oxy-hydrogen flame that gives off a bright light with a greenish tint.


Eleven years later, the term limelight was coined to describe a form of stage illumination first used in 1837 for a public performance at the Covent Garden Theatre in London. 

By the 1860s, this new technology of stage lighting was in wide use in theaters and dance halls around the world. It was a great improvement over the previous method of stage lighting, candle powered footlights placed along the stage apron. 

Limelight lanterns could also be placed along the front of the lower balcony for general stage illumination providing more natural light than footlights alone. 

A lighthouse-like lens (Fresnel lens) was developed that could direct and focus concentrated light on the stage to spotlight a solo performance. Actors and performers must have felt they were living in the heyday of the theater.

The term green room has been used since the Victoria period to describe the waiting area performers used before going on stage. Theater lore has it that actors would sit in a room lit by limelight to allow their eyes to adjust to the harsh stage lighting, preventing squinting during their stage entrances.

Although the electric light replaced limelight in theaters by the end of the nineteenth century, the term limelight still exists in show business, as does the term green room.

Today, the green room celebrities use before appearing on talk shows is not usually painted green. The room still performs a similar function as in the Victoria age--to prepare a performer to go on stage.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zug Island Novel Gets Facelift

July 2017 marks fifty years since the Detroit Riot left its indelible mark on American history. Anyone who experienced this week of bloodshed and arson can never forget it--43 reported deaths, 7,000 arrests, 4,000 injuries, 2,500 buildings looted or burned to the ground, 5,000 residents left homeless, 16,682 fire runs, and a river of fire ten blocks long.

Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel tells the story of two young men, one white and one black, who push the boundaries of race as they explore each others culture. Set in 1967 against a backdrop of industrial blight and urban decay, Jake Malone and Theo Semple get a crash course in race relations as they stumble in and out of rhythm on Detroit's mean streets discovering the face of racism comes in every shade of color.
 
Kirkus Reviews, a publishing trade magazine, said of Zug Island, "The novel is tightly written with a dramatic plot, well-rounded characters, and clear insights into social history. An engaging, dynamic story that grapples intelligently with the themes of race, class, and morality."

My newly revised 2nd edition has a new cover and includes several enhanced scenes. Since writing Zug Island in 2011, I've learned more about the Detroit communities of Delray, Black Bottom, and Paradise Valley, and the enhanced narrative reflects that. Also new is a segment on the Algiers Motel murders conspicuous by its absence from the original. 

Copies are available online from Amazon.com, B&N, and Kindle. 

Autographed copies are available at my author website: http://gregoryafournier.com


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

John Norman Collins Kelly & Company Interview


In 1988, serial killer John Norman Collins gave a television interview from Marquette Branch Prison in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Years before Ted Bundy, Collins was luring young women to slaughter. From the summers of 1967-1969, Collins murdered a minimum of seven women and left them along the country roadside terrorizing residents in the college towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. On July 31, 1969, Collins was arrested for the murder of Eastern Michigan coed Karen Sue Beineman.


In my nonfiction account of these murders Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked, I reveal the backstory of this rare Kelly & Company [Detroit morning talk show] interview interspersed with commentary by people associated with these cases. John Kelly hosted the studio portion of the show and his co-host [wife] Marilyn Turner flew up to Marquette Prison to conduct the prison interview.

All of Collins appeals had run out and his attempt at an international [Canadian] prisoner exchange failed. This was Collins's last chance to take his story to the public and make his case that he was railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor and a rogue county sheriff. 

Collins was in control of the interview until Marilyn Turner blindsided him with "Did you love your mother, John?" With that single question, Turner cut through his self-protective stratagems. For the rest of the interview Collins was sullen and disoriented. When the studio audience was polled at the end of the show, votes ran 2 to 1 against Collins. John's roll of the dice to manipulate the media came up snake eyes.


John Kelly and Marilyn Turner1988 Kelly & Company John Norman Collins interview [44 minutes]: https://youtu.be/JfD3O69PCvw

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked true crime book: gregoryafournier.com also available on Amazon, B&N, and other online booksellers. A Kindle edition will be available soon. It takes a couple of weeks for a new title to work its way into the system. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Ships



On Friday, August 12th, I took shipment of 500 copies of Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. Readers who have been waiting weeks for their copies should expect their books in the mail this week. I spent Friday and Saturday getting them ready for USPS pickup on Monday. I would like to note that TIY is made in America.


It has been said "Body odor and excuses--everybody's got some." When my book was sent to the printer, it went on their printing schedule. The contract states in small print that orders of 500 or more copies take a minimum of two weeks. There you have it. Now that I have inventory, future wait times for shipment should be no more than a week.

For people wanting to purchase multiple copies, amazon.com will save you postage, especially if you have Amazon Prime. A Kindle edition will be available anytime soon. It takes a couple of weeks for a new title to work itself into the Amazon network. The book lists for $22.95 on Amazon and $9.95 on Kindle. 

Also available online from:

BarnesandNoble.com 
Google Books
KOBO
ibooks
 
For bulk order discounts, contact Wheatmark.com.

Autographed copies are available on my website gregoryafournier.com for a limited time

If you are so inclined, run a photo of yourself with a copy of TIY and post it on your social media. That would help spread the word about my book. Writing a review for Amazon or goodreads.com would be most appreciated as well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Michigan Homegrown Terrorism of the 1930s--The Black Legion

I like to think I am well-versed in Michigan and Detroit history, but it wasn't until I recently read Tom Stanton's Terror in the City of Champions that I learned of the Black Legion, a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan. The original group called the Black Guard was founded in the mid-1920's as a security force for Ohio Klan officers.

After being kicked out of the Klan for establishing a fiefdom, Dr. Billy Shephard from Lima, Ohio, further radicalized the group. They became the Black Legion, an even more ruthless and reckless organization than the Klan. In 1931, a Michigan regiment was established by Arthur Lupp of Highland Park.

From there, Virgil "Bert" Effinger began to reorganize the group throughout the Midwest and became the group's spokesperson. Every new member had to repeat an oath "In the name of God and the Devil." They were given a .38 caliber bullet cartridge and told another one had their name on it if they violated their vow of secrecy.

Some people were tricked into joining by friends or family and soon discovered they were in over their heads. High-ranking officers wore black capes with gold trim and brandished weapons openly. The legion expanded aggressively through deception, threats, and brutality. Beatings and torture were used to keep errant members in line.
Policemen display captured Black Legion vestments and the tools of their trade.

The Black Legion boasted having over one million members nationwide. At its height in Michigan, there were 5 brigades, 16 regiments, 64 battalions, and 256 companies. Law enforcement estimated membership at 20,000 to 30,000 statewide. The Detroit area had 10,000 members. Michigan State Police investigator Ira Holloway Marmon discovered Black Legion strongholds in Highland Park, Ecorse, Wyandotte, Lincoln Park, Saline, Monroe, Irish Hills, Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, and of course, Detroit. Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio had active chapters also.

Their members were primarily angry, white, Anglo-Saxon males who were transplants from the South during the boom years of the auto industry in what history marks as the Great Migration. Whites and blacks with little or no industrial skills flooded into Detroit heeding Henry Ford's clarion call, "Jobs at $5 a day." Competition for work was fierce in the 1920s, but during the Great Depression, people were killed over jobs.

The legion was frustrated by the economic and social instability of the 1930s. They felt alienated by Detroit's industrial landscape. One of their core beliefs was that Anglo-Saxon Protestants were being pushed aside in America because foreigners [Catholic and Jewish immigrants] and blacks were taking their jobs--jobs they believed they were entitled to.

Being in the legion made members feel connected with something larger than themselves. Membership for many people increased their self-esteem and sense of white supremacy. They absolutely believed race mixing was destabilizing the American way of life leading to social degeneracy.

Legionnaires widened the scope of their wrath to include terrorizing and often murdering welfare recipients, labor union organizers, and political opponents. Probably more than anything else, the Black Legion hated socialists and communists. The legionnaires were an early Let's make America great again! movement. But theirs was a secret terrorist society.

Using fronts like the Wayne County Rifle and Pistol Club [members honed their shooting skills in the club's backroom firing range] and the Wolverine Republican Club [where thinly disguised rallies and gatherings were staged], Legion-approved speakers would rail against their perceived enemies and rally the faithful. New recruits would hear lengthy diatribes whipping the crowd to a frenzy of hatred.

The legion provided easy answers to the complex questions of their day. One of their political fliers read, "We will fight political Romanism [Catholics], Judaism [Jews], Communism [Socialists], and all 'isms' which our forefathers came to this country to avoid," all the while wrapping themselves in the American flag. 

Charles Poole
Works Progress organizer Charles Poole [22 year old Catholic] was shot five times at point blank range in Dearborn Township on May 13th, 1936. A number of key Legion members were arrested and convicted.

Investigators uncovered the organization's propaganda, their enrollment records, some Black Legion robes and hoods including the tools of their trade--guns, bludgeons, blackjacks, and whips. Dayton Dean was convicted of being the trigger-man in Poole's death. Once on the stand, Dean sang like a canary.

For more details on the Black Legion, view this link: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/11/28/history-the-black-legion-where-vets-and-the-klan-met/

In 1937, Warner Bros. Pictures made a movie about the Black Legion starring Humphrey Bogart. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027367/

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ann Arbor John Norman Collins Film Clip Surfaces

Collins leaving the Washtenaw County Building with Sheriff Douglas Harvey looking on.

Last week, Christy Broderick sent me an exclusive short 8mm film clip taken by her grandfather, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Broderick, Sr. It depicts John Norman Collins walking across the jail parking lot and being loaded into the back of a jail van in 1970. The two officers escorting Collins in the film clip are Dwayne Troltz and George Rider.

Collins mugging for the cameras.
The journey was a short one across the street to the Washtenaw County Building where testimony was about to begin in the Collins case. Collins swaggers and looks jovial in this brief clip. Perhaps he still thinks he can beat the murder rap.

Also seen in the video is Sheriff Douglas Harvey on crutches hobbling across the parking lot. Harvey was the county official who brought the original charges against Collins on July 31, 1969. Judge John Conlin made Harvey responsible for Collins's safety and security to and from the courtroom. The defense saw this as a conflict of interest issue and portrayed the county sheriff as the villain.

Ironically, Sheriff Harvey recently had crashed his new Harley into the back of a semi-truck on Interstate 94. Harvey appeared in court wearing a hip-to-toe plaster cast and testified from a wheelchair. Collins's attorneys Joseph Louisell and Neil Fink could not get the sheriff off the stand quickly enough. They didn't want the jury to feel sympathy for him.

Super 8 Bell & Howell projector.
I want to thank Christy for giving me permission to share this exclusive and historic 8mm film clip on my blog before the images fade away completely. Christy has agreed to have a proper digital copy made for posterity. I hope to upgrade the present link with the improved digital copy.

Christy's grandfather found the reel of Super 8 [8mm] home movie film hidden in a box at home. He told Christy about the film, so they projected it on the wall. She recorded the flickering image on her cell phone and sent it to me. Notice the clicking of the sprockets on the projector.

One minute, thirteen second film clip of Collins and Harvey walking across the Washtenaw County Jail parking lot from 1970:  https://youtu.be/8pohfGroiKo

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. Check out my website: gregoryafournier.com