Friday, March 22, 2019

Terror In Ypsilanti Gets Second Wind

Seven months ago, I shelved my promotions for my previous books to concentrate on my current project about Detroit's Purple Gang. Then last week, I received a Canadian media company's inquiry about purchasing a two-year option for the audiovisual rights to develop Terror In Ypsilanti and promote a movie or cable series. No guarantees of course, but the executives at Big Coat Media are optimistic they can market a film project based on my true crime book--especially after the 2019 Netflix success of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile starring Zac Effron as Ted Bundy.

The antagonist in my true crime Terror In Ypsilanti is Michigan serial killer John Norman Collins. Collins would be better known nationally if it wasn't for Charles Manson and his Family. One week into Collins's trial, the Helter Skelter murders blazed across the headlines drawing the national and international press to the Hollywood Hills leaving the Collins case in obscurity.

In 2013, Investigation Discovery produced a documentary for their Crimes to Remember series entitled "A New Kind of Monster." At the time, the working title of my book was The Rainy Day Murders. Before publication, I changed the title to Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. Collins was convicted for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, which became the focus of I.D.'s program. But there were six other Collins murders he was never tried for. These brutal murders reveal his demoniacal contempt for women.

For three summers between 1967 until 1969, Collins stalked the college towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Michigan creating terror among their residents and taking great satisfaction in taunting the Washtenaw County sheriff and the local police.

I'm hoping this Canadian media opportunity reinvigorates the story and gives viewers a broader understanding of the crimes of John Norman Collins against seven young women who had the grim misfortune to cross his path.

Crimes to Remember "A New Kind of Monster"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Lutes Casino, Yuma, Arizona

When I drive to Tucson from San Diego, I always stop in Yuma at Lutes Casino just across the California and Arizona state line--the Colorado River. Lutes is one of the premier dive restaurants in the United States. Despite its name, the only gambling that goes on is the sale of Arizona lottery tickets. The building was constructed in 1901 as a dry goods store called The New York Store. In 1920, a pool hall moved into the building, and Lutes still has pool tables making it the longest operating pool hall in Arizona. The restaurant/bar specializes in basic American bar food--nothing fancy but always good.

Robert Henry (R.H.) Lutes acquired the business in 1944 as payment for a $10,000 debt. The sixty-eight-year-old Arizona landmark has the look, feel, and smell of an old-time saloon because that's what it is. The twelve-foot-high walls are festooned with old movie posters and photographs of Hollywood icons and vintage neon signs. Lutes displays the most eclectic collection of what-nots on every available surface. The ceiling is hung with all sorts of oddities. The chotchkies are less a collection than an eye-popping assault on the senses. One wall has pinball machines and modern coin operated games, and the pool tables are at the back. The place is also a domino parlor.

Before R.H. Lutes became a casino/restaurant owner, he was Yuma's Justice of the Peace and coroner. R.H. is said to have married 18,000 people and buried 905. He was Justice of the Peace until 1952. In the 1930s, he opened the Gretna Green Wedding Chapel named after a famous Scottish marriage destination.
During the war years, he married many military personnel. Prior to 1957, Arizona did not require a blood test or a three-day waiting period. In Yuma's marriage mill heyday, there were a dozen wedding chapels.

Yuma became a favorite wedding destination for many of Hollywood's famous 1930s and 1940s actors and actresses. Most of the celebrities simply wanted to escape publicity and the studio spotlight--people like Constance Bennett, Charlie Chaplin, John Barrymore, Claudette Colbert, Gilbert Roland, Franchot Tone, Victor Mature, Charles Boyer, Alice Faye, Tony Martin, Bette Davis, Loretta Young, Buster Crabbe, Gloria Swanson, Mary Astor, and studio mogul Louis B. Mayer.

When blood tests eventually were required in Arizona, Lutes opened a serology lab run by his son Bill, who was a graduate of University of Arizona in biological sciences. If a groom or bride tested positive for disease, the law stated that if the infected party was undergoing treatment, he or she could still be married. "Cupid with a Hypodermic"--Dr. Roy R. Knotts--would give the infected person a shot so the couple could marry. The year before the blood test was required, the Yuma county clerk issued 18,000 marriage licenses. The following year, the figure dropped to 2,000.

Not every Hollywood movie star got married in Yuma to escape the press. Western movie star Tom Mix and his co-star Mabel Ward were married on the steps of the Yuma County Courthouse before 3,000 guests--memorialized by Yuma Daily Sun photographer Bob Werley.

Ghost Adventures in Lutes Casino on Travel Channel

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Literary Classics: Author Gregory A. Fournier on his award-winning bo...

Literary Classics interviewed me a couple of months ago in concert with my Gold Medal award in their 2018 crime category for The Richard Streicher Jr, Murder: Ypsilanti's Depot Town Mystery.

Looking forward to the awards ceremony in Rapid City, South Dakota this May--especially a tour of Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Many thanks.

Author interview: Literary Classics: Author Gregory A. Fournier on his award-winning bo...: