Sunday, December 18, 2016

Merry Christmas History From The Ford Rotunda

Over a period of twenty-seven years, the Ford Rotunda hosted over 16.5 million visitors. In the 1950's, it was the fifth most popular tourist attraction in the United States. 

The building was ten stories tall. Its steel and aluminum framework was covered with Indiana Limestone to match the Ford Motor Company's Administration Building across Schaefer Road. The building resembled four gear wheels stacked in decreasing size from the top to bottom.

It was originally built for the Chicago World's Fair and opened to the public on May 14, 1934. After the fair was over, the building was reconstructed on a site in Dearborn, Michigan and used as Ford's World Headquarters for a brief time. The building was closed to the public during World War Two and used as a tech center for military training.  

The Ford Rotunda was reopened on June 16th, 1953 to celebrate Ford Motor Company's fiftieth year in business. It was used as an exhibition center displaying all the recent models of Ford automobiles. In addition to a Test Drive Track ride which circled the building, other exhibits were The City of Tomorrow, The Hall of Science, and something called The Drama of Transportation.

Fifty-six years ago on November 9, 1962, the roof was being waterproofed with hot tar in preparation for the annual Christmas Fantasy exhibition. The roof caught fire and within an hour, the building had burned down. The nine year long holiday tradition came to an end. 

Those of us from the Detroit area who grew up when the Rotunda was in its heyday, namely we Baby Boomers, sadly remember the passing of this great Christmas tradition.

For a video presentation of the Ford Rotunda from the Dearborn Historical Society, view this link:

For more detailed history of the Ford Rotunda, consult this link:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

America Plays Its Trump Card

Respect the presidency regardless of who holds the office. Whether you like Trump or not, he will soon be our president. Either support him or become part of the loyal opposition. As Americans, those are our only viable choices. 

Denying reality is not an option and neither is cutting-and-running. We are all bound up in this moment of history together.

In Hoc Signo Vinces.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ambiguity Mars The Jane Mixer Case

Forty-eight years after the murder of University of Michigan coed Jane Mixer, a University of California San Diego professor believes the man convicted of the crime--Gary Earl Leiterman--may be innocent. After consulting with six DNA experts, Distinguished Professor of Psychology John Wixted has written an article in this month's Association for Psychological Science Observer in support of his belief that contaminated DNA evidence convicted the wrong man.

In 2005, Gary Earl Leiterman was identified through DNA analysis as Mixer's assailant in her March 20, 1968 murder. Mixer's presumed murderer, long held by the public to be John Norman Collins, was exonerated by default when Leiterman was convicted of Mixer's murder thirty-six years after her death. 

Perspiration stains found on a nylon stocking tied around Mixer's neck were examined for DNA. The FBI using their CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database came up with a direct hit on Leiterman. Complicating the DNA evidence in this case was a spot of blood found on Mixer's hand. It matched the blood of John Ruelas, who was only four years old at the time. 

The obvious contamination at the crime lab did not sway the jury. They found Leiterman guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberating less than three hours. Since his incarceration, Leiterman has been proclaiming his innocence because of irregularities at the crime lab where the Mixer forensic analysis was done.
Professor Wixted believes Collins may still be the prime suspect in Jane Mixer's murder. He believes there is compelling evidence pointing to Collins's involvement--though there is no hard evidence to support that finding. Leiterman hopes he and his lawyer can get a new trial clearing him of the crime after serving over ten years of his life sentence.

Giving Leiterman hope are updated FBI standards and protocols for DNA labs (Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories) effective September 7, 2011. Of its seventeen provisions, #7 Evidence Control, #9 Analytical Procedures, and #14 Corrective Action look the most promising for Leiterman's defense. The new provisions were tightened to ensure the quality and integrity of DNA data generated by these labs. Had these protocols been in place during the Leiterman trial, it is doubtful the DNA evidence would have been admissible in court. What that means for Leiterman's future is yet to be determined.

Professor Wixted's article:

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Jane Mixer Murder--John Norman Collins or Gary Earl Leiterman

In her profoundly personal memoir, The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson gives readers a glimpse of what lies behind the curtain of American jurisprudence and its affect on the surviving members of one family. Miss Nelson is the niece of Jane Mixer, John Norman Collins' alleged third victim.

Thirty-six years after Jane's perplexing murder on March 20, 1969, the Mixer family had to endure testimony of the details of her tragic death in a trial held in Wayne County, Michigan, in 2004. For over three decades, Jane's murder was lumped together with the six other unsolved killings in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, despite fundamental differences including where, how, and what condition the body was found.

Armed with a positive DNA match, as well as convincing circumstantial evidence, Gary Earl Leiterman, a retired male nurse working in Ann Arbor at the time, was found guilt of her murder. John Norman Collins claimed since the beginning he never knew Jane, now he was exonerated for at least one of the seven Michigan murders he was accused of. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

With unflinching honesty, Miss Nelson tells us the ins-and-outs of her aunt's case with brutal clarity and a benumbing sense of self-awareness that only comes from profound emotional trauma. Early in her book, she asks herself, "Who am I to tell Jane's story?" I can think of nobody better. Later in the book, she finds herself getting drawn into the media vortex of the trial and its aftermath. Miss Mixer has some insightful things to say about American media's fascination with the "dead-white-girl-of-the-week" club.

After reading Maggie Nelson's memoir, I am reminded that disturbing the feelings and memories of the families of the other victims in the Collins case is not to be taken lightly. These girls deserve to be remembered as living human beings, rather than victims of something wicked that happened in another time no longer relevant today. For their memories and what happened to them to simply fade away is unacceptable.

This is Ypsilanti, Michigan history, however unpleasant for some individuals or for the city. The six other murdered girls deserve to have their stories told for the record as well, like Maggie Nelson did for the memory of her aunt, Jane Mixer. I want to honor these lost young women by relating the most accurate account of these matters as possible and bringing some degree of closure to people who cared about these young girls. In the end, the public deserves the truth.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

John Norman Collins Trolls Strike Back

Early on in my writing of Terror in Ypsilanti, my primary goal was to pay a debt to history and restore the real names of the victims which were changed in the novelized treatment The Michigan Murders. John Norman Collins's name was also changed to mask his identity--a courtesy he does not deserve. Many of the people in law enforcement who worked on these cases and others in the know were dissatisfied with Edward Keyes's version. Too many assumptions and presumptions.

Even John Collins criticized the liberties Keyes took with the descriptions of his family and his motivation for committing these crimes--his mother. Collins claims he never read the Keyes book, but how else could he comment on it? In Terror in Ypsilanti, I went easy on Collins's family. They never killed anybody.

Over the five years it took to research and write this book, I received nasty emails from a number of people using fictitious names. For example, one goes by the handle Disrobing Furball. Some complaints came from Collins acolytes and some from fraternity brothers who took exception with any re-examination of these cases. Some few of these guys have reason to feel uncomfortable. They knew or suspected Collins of these crimes early on but remained silent.

Now that my nonfiction treatment of this subject matter is out, these same people have surfaced on my Amazon book page giving me particularly nasty reviews. They stand out because my reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but these have a distinct pernicious quality and are thinly disguised personal attacks. I would regard their comments more seriously if they were informed, and they had placed their real names on their reviews. But they hide behind pseudonyms. All I can say is consider the source.

In a recent Detroit News article [September 27, 2016], Collins claims he hasn't read my book but is quoted as saying it is "HEARSAY AND SPECULATION." For five years, he has refused to speak or meet with me but uses a go-between when he wants to communicate--knowing I'll get word of it. The woman he has chosen for this duty has been corresponding with Collins for years and speaks with him every Tuesday over the phone for fifteen minutes. She and I have been communicating for the last several years and have developed a cordial relationship.

Last Tuesday, Collins phoned and told her he was "Super Pissed! But my Ypsilanti and Center Line friends have my back." Now, I know the source of the toxic reviews. As an author, criticism comes with the territory, and I expect to get my fair share, but personal attacks are a horse of a different color. I welcome all fair and honest remarks and reviews.

Amazon Terror in Ypsilanti page:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Media Exposure--On the Air and On the Net

On October 1, 2016, AM1700 Ypsilanti talk show host Mark Maynard interviewed me about my true crime book Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. If you were unable to attend one of my recent book talks, this interview is the next best thing. The running length is forty-nine minutes. 

The Saturday Six-Pack with Mark Maynard:

If you don't have a spare hour to listen to my radio interview, Investigation Discovery Crimefeed featured Terror in Ypsilanti in its September online edition. One of my readers put me on to it last week. Here is the link in case you missed it too: 

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: 

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

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]:

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked true crime book: 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, 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: 
Google Books
For bulk order discounts, contact

Autographed copies are available on my website 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 would be most appreciated as well.

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:

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked Book Talk Announcements

John Norman Collins
Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked [TIY] is in its final stages and will be available from the printer in the next few weeks. I want to thank those people who have ordered autographed copies from my website Because the book runs about 460 pages, the index is taking longer to compile than my publisher expected.

In anticipation of my first shipment of books, I ran off the shipping labels to stay ahead of the game without realizing that the USPS sends out Your package has shipped notices. Expect shipment in early August. Thank you for your patience and my apologies for any confusion. 

Everything else is running smoothly. Copies will be available sometime in August on and in a Kindle ebook edition. The Eastern Michigan University bookstore plans to carry TIY for its fall semester.

St. Cece's Pub in Corktown.
So far, I have scheduled three book talks and signings for the end of September in Michigan--one in Detroit and two in Ypsilanti.

My first presentation is sponsored by the Book Club of Detroit on Saturday, September 24th at St. Cece's Pub located at 1426 Bagley Ave. in an area known to Detroiters as Corktown. Food and drink can be purchased at the bar and brought downstairs where I'll be talking between 6 and 8 pm. Because alcohol is served, participants must be 21 or older.

On Tuesday, September 27th from 5 until 7 pm, I'll be speaking at the Corner Brewery at 720 Norris Street in Ypsilanti. Attendees must be 21 or older. I.D.s are checked at the door. Light snacks will be available and liquid refreshments can be purchased at the bar.

The focus of this presentation will be the impact these seven murders had on Eastern Michigan University--on and off campus. Three of the seven victims were EMU coeds, and the prime suspect was an EMU student who police believed was responsible for most if not all of the killings. The person credited with linking Collins to the Karen Sue Beineman sex slaying was an EMU graduate and rookie campus policeman.

On a side note, John Norman Collins worked at Motor Wheel Corporation with Andrew Manuel, his partner in petty and grand larceny. What was once the administrative building of Motor Wheel now houses the Corner Brewery across from the old factory.

State of the art Ypsilanti District Library--main branch.
My final talk is scheduled for Thursday, September 29th from 6 until 8 pm. at the Ypsilanti District Library located at 5577 Whittaker Road, south of I-94. My focus for this talk is the impact the Washtenaw County murders had on Ypsilanti and the region. There is no age limit for this presentation, but parental discretion is advised because of the violent and graphic nature of these crimes.

Signed copies of TIY will be available for purchase at each of these events. Hope to see many of you at one of these venues.

Links to:

St. Cece's []

The Corner Brewery []

Ypsilanti District Library []

Monday, June 27, 2016


Photo: Nicole Fribourg
Spring 2016 was busy for me. I completed Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (TIY) and re-edited Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel for a revised 2nd edition commemorating fifty years since the civil unrest of July 23, 1967.

As if that was not enough, I also earned my cyberpunk badge learning to build and maintain my new author website. Starting today, I am open for business.

Terror in Ypsilanti will go to print in mid-July. Advanced copies are available at Expect four to six weeks for delivery until books are in the pipeline. All orders must be within the delivery reach of the United States Postal Service.

The final page count for TIY will come near 480 pages including a map commissioned for the book, several reader supplements, a photo gallery, and a subject index. I have not been told the final price point, but I have seen an Author Review Copy of the book and am pleased with the end result. I'm certain the book version won't be listed under $24.95 because of its length and quality.

I am direct marketing TIY on my website for $20 plus $4 postage and handling. An e-book Kindle edition will be available on in the near future as well as the paperback edition. Discounted bulk and library copies will be available soon from my publisher They honor a one-year return policy to vendors for unsold books.

The publishing business is notoriously slow.
In January 2016 at the San Diego State University Writer's Conference, I met literary agent Chip MacGregor. After reading my manuscript, he was interested in representing my book. 

MacGregor was optimistic he could place the book with a traditional publisher but warned it would take two years to see TIY in print. Waiting two more years was unacceptable.

When he told me I would lose creative control beyond the manuscript, I decided to independently publish through Wheatmark. I did not want to see my vision for the book corrupted. By independently publishing, I made all the decisions. My researcher Ryan M. Place in Detroit and I have worked too long and hard to make compromises and cede creative control to a publishing house concerned primarily with the bottom line. 

Building an audience and keeping readers interested is not open-ended. Five years is a long time to ask readers to wait. Several key people who helped me tell this story have died and others anxiously await the book's release. I wrote the best account I could with what I had to work with. Now, it is time for the book to find its audience.

--My author website link:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ypsilanti, Michigan History - What's in a Name?

Dimitrios Ypsilantis
Where the Sauk Native American trail crossed the narrows at a bend of the Huron River, Gabriel Godfroy--a French-Canadian fur trader from Montreal--established his Indian trading post in 1809. Fifteen years later, Judge Augustus B. Woodward of Detroit with two local land speculators--William Harwood and John Stewart--laid-out a town on land they purchased from the original French settlers.

Judge Woodward was a Grecophile who wanted to name the town in honor of Greek war hero Demetrius Ypsilanti--a general famous for successes in his country's war for independence against the Ottoman Turks. This struck a chord with Woodward. America had waged its own war for independence against the British not so very long before.

Ypsilanti Woolen Company

His partners had a different idea with more commercial potential. They favored a name like Waterford or Waterville which highlighted the water-power feature of the Huron River to attract manufacturing business. Judge Woodward--being the major investor in the land project--had the final word. In 1824, the new town of Ypsilanti spanned both sides of the Huron River on the old Chicago Road (soon to be renamed Michigan Avenue). An area which began as a frontier trading outpost eventually became downtown Ypsilanti.

The east side of Ypsilanti developed when the Michigan Central train line began rail service in 1838, making the city an important economic hub for the area’s growing light-industry and agricultural concerns. A lovely, three-story train depot said to be the nicest depot between Detroit and Chicago was built in 1864. A two block long commercial district grew up along both sides of East Cross Street—aptly named Depot Town.

Original Ypsilanti train depot with landscaping.
The Depot Town businesses on the ground floors catered to the needs of weary travelers and light manufacturing. The upper floors were used for lodging, warehousing, or residential use. Depot Town was a destination for the Underground Railroad before and throughout the Civil War. Soldiers of the 14th and 17th Michigan Regiments left for the South from the Ypsilanti train station platform.

Depot Town Today
A fire destroyed the tower and the upper floors of the depot in May of 1910. New owners--Pennsylvania Central Railroad--decided to rebuild only the ground floor. Amtrak ended passenger service in 1982.

There may be some life in the old girl yet. Depot Town could be a stop on the proposed Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail line which would bring more activity into the area. Restoring the Depot Town train buildings preserves a remnant of Ypsilanti's history which could be re-purposed on the interior to increase the commercial value of the property.

I can envision a fine dining, Victorian-styled restaurant. Maybe a seafood restaurant. How about a sushi bar or an Asian noodle shop? Something that doesn't take business away from Frenchie's Sidetrack Bar & Grill or Aubree's Pizzeria & Grill. Ypsilanti's very own Gandy Dancer or something similar would be nice. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Vidocq Society - A Private Crime Fighting Organization

Union League Building in Philadelphia - Vidocq Society Meeting Place.
While doing research for Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked, I came across an interesting organization of forensic investigators called the Vidocq Society. This is a non-profit organization of dedicated crime fighting professionals who are known to law enforcement agencies but generally unknown to the public.

The Vidocq Society views themselves as "crime solution catalysts who operate outside the limelight." The group is dedicated to the service of society and shuns publicity. Any case or crime details released to the press are handled by the referring crime enforcement agency and not the society.  They prefer to work in the background. Their credo is "Veritas Veritatum" [The Truth of Truths].

The Vidocq Society is a highly regarded organization with closed membership rolls. The privilege to wear the society's unique red, white, and blue rosette has been bestowed on fewer than one hundred and fifty men and women. When a position opens up, potential new members must be sponsored by existing members. Seasoned investigators with verifiable skills often volunteer their forensic skills before being elected to Vidocq Society membership.

The group was co-founded in 1990 by Richard D. Walter [forensic psychologist], Frank Bender [forensic sculpture], and William Fleisher [FBI/U.S. Customs Special Agent] in Philadelphia at the Olde City Tavern in the Down Town Club. The society currently meets every third Thursday of the month at the Union League of Philadelphia.

At the Society's monthly meetings, they dissect the evidence under review hoping to rekindle or refocus the investigation. Unsolved cases are brought to their attention by some police investigating agency or a family member of the victim of an unsolved death or homicide. The Society serves in the background at the pleasure and direction of law enforcement.

Eugene Francois Vidocq
The Vidocq Society is named after Eugene Francois Vidocq, who in the Eighteenth Century was a crook turned cop. He is considered the father of modern criminal investigation. Vidocq was named the first chief of the Surete, founded in 1812. The Surete was originally the criminal investigative bureau of the Paris Police, but in 1966 it became the National Police Force of France. The Surete was the inspiration for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States and Scotland Yard in London. It is considered the pioneer of all crime fighting organizations in the world.

First Edition Cover
Eugene Francois Vidocq knew author Victor Hugo. In Hugo's novel Les Miserables, Hugo modeled both of his primary characters, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, after Monsieur Vidocq. Edgar Allen Poe based Inspector C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue on Vidocq also. Hermann Melville mentioned him in Moby Dick, as did Charles Dickens in Great Expectations. These authors were all inspired by Vidocq's real life exploits which contributed to his legendary crime solving reputation.

Among other things, Vidocq introduced to the Surete a card-index record system cross-referencing criminals and their crimes. He also pioneered the use of undercover surveillance, disguises, informants, and plainclothesmen. Vidocq was an innovator who applied the new science of criminology to police work. When he retired from the Surete, he opened the first private investigation agency and the first credit reporting bureau. Every private-eye in real life or in fiction owes Monsieur Vidocq a debt of gratitude.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Crime to Remember--John Norman Collins Episode--"A New Kind of Monster"

In early 2013, I was asked to participate on a new Investigation Discovery Channel series named A Crime to Remember. One of the producer's staffers read a number of my Fornology blog posts on John Norman Collins and the Washtenaw County murders of 1967-1969. At Discovery Channel's expense, I was flown to New York for my first television appearance. What a thrill!

Also included in the program to provide commentary were former Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey, forensic psychologist and author Dr. Katherine Ramsland, former Eastern Michigan University campus patrolman Larry Mathewson, and reporter Marti Link. The episode is entitled, "A New Kind of Monster."

After five years of research and interviewing people connected with these cases, my treatment of this subject matter Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins has the benefit of fifty years of hindsight and will be available in July on Amazon and Kindle. In addition to the seven murders and the restored court proceedings (trial records were purged by Washtenaw County officials) my book will include for the first time, John Norman Collins' prison years and his attempts to circumvent his life sentence without parole.

"A New Kind of Monster" was the second most popular episode of the Emmy winning first season of the series. It can be accessed at the link below, or it can be seen On Demand, at YouTube, Amazon Prime, IMDb, or Netflix.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Book Talks

 Presenting at Eldercare. Photo: Ryan M. Place
While in Michigan this April, I gave two presentations regarding my upcoming true crime book Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked--one in Ann Arbor and one in Saline.

On April 22, 2016, I gave a presentation for Elderwise Continuing Education in Ann Arbor at the Red Cross building on Packard Road. About forty people attended the two hour talk which included a PowerPoint slide show of photographs used in the book. This was the first time I spoke publicly about my book. I want to thank John Stewart for inviting me.

The next day, I gave another talk at Brewed Awakenings on Michigan Avenue in Saline. I would like to thank owner Kim Kaster for her support. Her coffee house gives independent authors an outlet for their books and provides a venue for local authors to meet interested readers. My presentation was about ninety minutes long with no PowerPoint. About twenty-five people came to hear about the Washtenaw County murders that happened almost fifty years before.

Claudia Whitsitt. Photo: Ryan M. Place
I was happy to be greeted by one of my former Ypsilanti High School students Jan Asher who came to show her support. Special thanks to Michigan author Claudia Whitsett for introducing me. Claudia recently won an Independent Publishers Book Award in Multicultural Fiction with her novel Between the Lines. Below is a link to Claudia's author page. Check her work out.

And to my great surprise, former Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey showed up to hear me speak. Doug was the police officer who brought charges against John Norman Collins. The former sheriff has supported this project from the beginning. At the end of the talk, he gave my researcher Ryan M. Place and me a rousing endorsement for our work. This is the kind of validation I don't get sitting in front of my computer screen. I look forward to more such moments.

Douglas Harvey and I at Brewed Awakenings. Photo: Ryan M. Place
Terror in Ypsilanti comes out in July and will be available on in quality paperback and Kindle ebook editions. Now that I have two speaking engagements behind me, I'm ready to schedule more presentations in Ypsilanti and Detroit in August and again in September or October when I'm in Michigan. This time around I will be armed with books. More details as I arrange them.

Thank you to everyone who came out to hear me speak about this dark period in Ypsilanti's history.

Claudia Whitsitt's author page:

Monday, May 9, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Book Cover Reveal

Between the summers of 1967 and 1969, a predatory killer stalked the campuses of Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan seeking prey, until he made the arrogant mistake of killing his last victim in the basement of his uncle's home. All-American boy John Norman Collins was arrested, tried, and convicted of the strangulation murder of Karen Sue Beineman.

I chose this photograph for my book cover because it sets an evocative mood of foreboding and establishes the setting of the story. Of the many photographs I've seen of the Ypsilanti Water Tower, none compares with this one taken by Ypsilanti Township resident Anthony Cornish. Two short blocks beyond this iconic landmark, John Norman Collins lived and preyed on his victims. Rather than choose a lurid image for the front cover, I wanted something to set a somber tone.

Many former and current EMU students may initially respond to the cover photo with a smirk remembering the Water Tower's legend: If ever a virgin graduates from EMU, the tower will topple. But reading the first few pages of my book will disabuse them of any such sophomoric notions.

My version of the Washtenaw County murders will be fundamentally different from The Michigan Murders. First, my rendition isn't a novelization--it is true crime. I use the real names of the victims and their killer. In addition, Terror in Ypsilanti benefits from almost fifty years of hindsight and includes insights from participants in the investigations and reflections from people who knew the victims and/or their assailant.

I've restored the essential details and dialogue of the contentious court battle from hundreds of newspaper articles obtained from the Michigan Press Clipping Bureau. Thank goodness for the Fourth Estate.

The official transcripts for the most notorious case in Washtenaw County history were purged from county records in the mid-nineteen seventies. If it were not for reporters hanging on every word of the trial, these proceedings would be lost to time. It is from their work that I've reconstituted the trial.

For the first time anywhere, using documents from the Michigan Department of Corrections, I've written a survey of Collins' tenure at Jackson and Marquette prisons. These accounts reveal a side of Collins never before seen by the public.

Included within my book will be an area map showing the body drop sites, twenty-six photographs, a timeline of significant events, a listing of the people's names, a listing of places mentioned, and a comprehensive index. These reader aids should be helpful because of the scope and quirky nature of this tragedy.

Speaking at Brewed Awakenings in Saline, Michigan. Photo: Ryan M. Place.
Five years in the making,Terror in Ypsilanti is in its final production stages and will be available from in July 2016. A Kindle version is being formatted for ebook readers. Books can also be purchased at my book talks which I'm only now beginning to schedule. Stay tuned for more details.

Friday, April 29, 2016

FORNOLOGY Fifth Anniversary--325 Blog Posts Later

Photo: Nick Abadilla Photography
When Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel came out in 2011, my publicist Paula Margulies urged me to create a blog to establish a brand and help build an audience. I was reluctant because I felt the time and effort required to launch and maintain a site was out of proportion to any benefit I might reap. Five years and three hundred, twenty-five posts later, I can confidently say I was wrong.

Blogging original content does take time, but what I get in return is valuable. Here are ten benefits which make the effort worth my time.
  • structured writing practice
  • development of my writing voice
  • establishment of my brand
  • audience building
  • national and international exposure
  • improved editing skills
  • an information and research gathering tool
  • a vehicle for reader input and response
  • a platform for my work
  • and a legacy log for my grandchildren
From my work station stuck in the corner of my family room, I try to crank out a new post every seven to ten days. If I am out of town or backed up on other projects, I occasionally rerun a post, but I prefer to produce original content.

Regular readers of Fornology know my blog topics are eclectic and range from short historical pieces on Detroit and Michigan to travelogues on the places and people I visit. Some posts are about my books or about writing or blogging in general. Like this one.

Because Fornology is not a commercial site or tied to a professional organization, my hits come exclusively from people who show an interest in me or my work. When I returned from a speaking tour of Ann Arbor and Detroit this week, I discovered my blog reached a personal milestone of over 200,000 hits. Most of my hits are from the United States, but my international audience includes Russia (9,381), Germany (7,531), Ukraine (6,994), France (4,690), Canada (3,510), and countries across the globe.

With the help of my blog and the internet, people nationwide contacted me with information helping me tell the forty-seven year old story of Michigan serial killer John Norman Collins. Without these valuable resource vehicles, the writing of Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked would not have been possible. Now undergoing a final line edit, my nonfiction account of the Washtenaw County killer will be available in July 2016 on and Kindle.

Photo: Nicole Fribourg
Many thanks to everyone who follows my posts. If you would like to receive my Fornology posts automatically, subscribe by writing your email address in the Posts box in the right-hand side bar. Be assured, I do not capture, collect, or distribute your contact information. Every Share I get is appreciated.