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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review - Angels & Their Hourglasses by JM Surra

Imagine you could change history. If you could use the knowledge you have today, think what you might share with people who lived fifty, a hundred or more years ago. Would people listen and learn? Could you effect a positive change? These questions must have fascinated author JM Surra. The son of a WWII airplane mechanic, he grew up with an inherited love of planes.

In Angels and Their Hourglasses, Ben's love of early aviation history is nourished by his grandfather. At the end of a "marriage talk" weekend with Katie Lynn, Ben takes off in his 1938 Waco biplane. A massive black storm cloud soon chases him through the skies. Unable to dodge or outrun it, Ben's plane is tossed around and crashes into a field.

He awakes in the dark to throbbing pain and confusion. Finding his plane scattered around him, he tries to get up and faints. The second time, a voice wakes him, "Easy, now. You're hurt..." Ben recognizes neither the men gathered round him nor his surroundings.

The man speaks, "I would say that introductions are in order...My name is Zantford. Zantford Granville."

Ben grew up with his grandfather's stories...tales about the Granville brothers and other pioneers of aviation. He knows the brothers well. What he doesn't know is how he could have ended up in 1929.

Surra mixes real and fictional characters, time travel and actual historical events in this exciting novel. He brings the characters and the time period to life, and makes it easy to believe that Ben's story could happen. It's a treat to see another perspective to characters we know from our time frame only - people like Jimmy Doolittle and Howard Hughes.

Ben is a believable hero torn between his old life and the beloved history of his new life.

With seemingly insignificant changes, Ben changes history. It's a great journey for the reader's imagination. From flights of fancy to serious ponderings, the story lends itself from simply a good read to a deeply introspective "what-if."

The book is currently available as a Kindle e-book through Amazon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Luke the Detective Dog: Guest Blogger

Luke the Detective Dog is tail-waggin' excited that he will become a guest blogger on in August. He wanted to introduce himself and his new venture.

Hi, I'm Luke! Getting a chance to give dogs a voice is better than chewing on a bone. I've often wondered if other dogs think like I do. For example, I love to roll my head around in dried bird doo-doo - it's my idea of cologne. I love to run as fast I can all through the house - it's a great obstacle course and the louder I growl, the better. I think it's unfair that my humans eat stuff that smells good and give me old hard pieces of stuff that smells awful!

You won't believe this one! Mom loves it when I patty-cake. I do it because she giggles and then lets me chew on her hand.

One other thing - since I've been helping Hap Lynch solve mysteries, I've discovered that bad guys stink!

See what I mean! Do other dogs think like me? Maybe if humans read the interviews, they'll learn what we like. Dogs of the world, let's unite and make our voices heard! Let me know if you'd like to have your say!

Of course, we always have to let our humans know how much we love them.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Noted Nature Cinematographer John Bax

John filming near Brownsville, TX

John Bax, born in Belgium, is now a Canadian citizen and a resident of the US. His story is an "ugliness to beauty" tale that starts in pre-WWII Belgium and takes him all over the world in search of birds.

Over the years, he filmed and sold his work to Discovery, National Geographic, Untamed World and other international programs. His work has reached viewers in more than 200 countries.

John 's travels took him from the Arctic to the Tropics as he searched for rare and exotic birds to film. Now in his 80s, he is still filming and producing videos to teach people about birds and their habitats.

Working on his story and reviewing his work is a venture into nature's beauty and man's determination to capture it. I hope to finish the book this year.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Murder is for the Birds nominated for e-book award

I'm pleased to announce that Murder is for the Birds (set in the South Padre Island area) has been nominated for the Global eBook Awards.

Luke the Detective Dogl is in a big-time, tail-waggin' celebration!

Join Luke and Hap as they solve another crime!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Books Galore at the Police Writers Conference

If you like mysteries, crime fiction and legal thrillers, I met the folks you should know.

I just returned home from the Police Writers Conference in Las Vegas and I'm pleased to report that I met a group of talented writers who love writing. At the booksignings, authors autographed copies of either their fiction or nonfiction titles. A lot of the members spent their lives in some type of law enforcement or public safety work.

The presentations and panels offered information on related subjects including forensics, undercover cops, fire fighting, and psychiatry in police work.

I love books where the setting is another character. I plan to purchase several titles set in places like New Orleans, the Caribbean and along Route 66.

You can find a list of members at .

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

National Wildlife Turkey Federation Helps Joplin, Missouri Youth

Armed with fishing poles and motivated by compassion, NWTF volunteers and partners recently gathered at the Neosho Fish Hatchery to host a free fishing event for 200 Joplin, Mo., youth.

From the fortunate few who suffered minimal damage to their homes to the child from a single-parent home who lost his only parent and a sibling, each story is bound by a common thread: a massive tornado that ripped through their town and forever altered their lives.

KSNF-TV Anchorwoman Toni Vallier said, "My husband and son had a blast, but even more so our young friend Josiah had the best time ever. His mother told me he couldn't stop talking about the whole day and told her every little detail. He doesn't get to experience outdoor fun like that so he was more than thrilled. You have created memories of a lifetime for so many children."

Seeing all the destruction on the evening news sparked an idea for Sugar Creek Gobbler NWTF Chapter President Dan Fuller. The idea soon morphed into a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Neosho Fish Hatchery to give Joplin youth a momentary escape from the daily trauma they now face.

Fuller said, "The devastation an F-5 tornado causes to buildings is hard to comprehend unless you see it for yourself. It's gone; stuff's just gone. And what kept eating at me was the youth were just starting their summer vacations. So all of a sudden, that was stripped away along with their homes, their lives and their loved ones. We had to help."

Studies confirm the benefits of giving youth chances to participate in recreational activities and helping them identify positive things when they are surrounded by the negative effects of a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster.

So in less than three weeks, Fuller and the Sugar Creek Gobblers NWTF Chapter volunteers set about making their vision — giving Joplin youth still struggling to rebuild their lives a carefree day of fun, free of charge — a reality.

From flashlights, sleeping bags and blankets to trophies, t-shirts, and all-you-can-eat ice cream, no participant or volunteer left empty-handed or empty-hearted.

"There were lots of smiles, lots of hugs and a few tears. It was a hugfest," Fuller added.

It was the same compassion that inspired volunteers like Kim Murray to dedicate her time to making the daylong JAKES fishing event a success.

"It was touching to see how excited the youth were when they hooked their fish and so cute to see all of them in their green t-shirts surrounding the pond," said Murray. "There were countless excited, leaping and smiling kids who wanted to show off their fish to anyone and everyone."

Participants also enjoyed the NWTF's new JAKES Take Aim shooting trailers, fully stocked by Daisy Outdoor Products with airguns, pellets, targets and other equipment to let youth try target and sporting clay shooting in a safe, fun environment.

The NWTF's JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) program was developed in 1981, and is dedicated to teaching the principles of wildlife management and safe, ethical and responsible hunting. The program is designed for youth up to age 12.

The NWTF would like to thank all partners who made the Joplin JAKES event possible, including Conservation Federation of Missouri, Friends of the Neosho Fish Hatchery, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri National Guard, Missouri State George C. Clark Chapter and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information about the NWTF JAKES outreach program, call (800) THE-NWTF or visit

Sunday, July 3, 2011

John Reno Served Ten Years in Missouri State Pen

John Reno (MO State Pen files)
Lawless gangs roamed freely in the post-Civil War years. John Reno and his three brothers - Simeon, Frank and William - had all served in the Union Army. After the war, they became known as the Reno Gang. They created chaos across the Midwest. In 1866, they have the dubious honor of successfully carrying out the first train robbery in Indiana. They fled to Missouri where they robbed the Davies County, Missouri Treasurer's Office, escaping with $22,000. By that time, the Pinkerton Detective Agency joined in the hunt for the brothers.

After he was caught, John was sentenced to 25 years and sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. While he was incarcerated, his brothers continued their lawless ways of mayhem and murder until Indiana vigilantes caught and lynched them. The Missouri Governor commuted John's sentence from 25 to 10 years. He was released on February 18, 1878.

"Rage at Dawn," a 1955 movie starring Randolph Scott and Forrest Tucker, tells their story. Tucker plays John Reno and Scott portrays the lawman who caught him.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The 47 Bloodiest Acres in America

Main Entrance of Missouri State Penitentiary
In 1967, Time Magazine christened Jefferson City’s Missouri State Penitentiary “The 47 Bloodiest Acres in America.” Aptly named, it tells the true story of bloody assaults, murders and riots.

It gives a real sense of time and place to learn that the penitentiary opened during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 and during Andrew Jackson’s tenure in the White House. The year that Alcatraz began taking prisoners, the Missouri facility celebrated its 100th birthday.

Sonny Liston - Cell #33
The prison operated continuously from 1836 to 2004 and housed a number of infamous criminals. James Earl Ray escaped from the prison and later assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. Championship boxer Sonny Liston developed his fighting skills as an inmate. Pretty Boy Floyd served time for a robbery.

Women inmates lived in conditions that horrify us today. In the early years, they received far worse treatment than the men. No facilities were available to them. In 1891, a judge actually pardoned a baby that came to the prison with the mother. I plan to cover some of their stories in future blog posts.

Forty people succumbed to gas-chamber execution; many experienced the “dungeon” cells where they lived in total darkness twenty-three hours per day. “Firebug” Johnson spent eighteen years in a dungeon cell.

Today visitors can tour the prison, hear the stories, see the cells of famous inmates and even experience the total darkness of the dungeon cells. Special ghost and paranormal tours offer a different viewpoint than the history expeditions. Most tours are either two or four hours; however, there is an all-night paranormal experience.

If you live in Missouri, or travel through the state, a tour of the Missouri State Penitentiary is an experience that interests all ages. Check out for more info.