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Category Archives: crime

But I Don’t Really Like Serial Killers

Some time ago I blogged about getting a book by M. William Phelps through interlibrary loan. that was a well-deserved shout out (I love that expression) to the Mid-York Library System. Today I’d like to give a shout out to M. William Phelps.

I first encountered Phelps on an episode of one of my favorite crime shows, Snapped. he had written a book on the case being covered and was giving background. In addition to finding his comments informative, I noticed he was fairly gorgeous. Oh, I know, the informative part is the most important thing, but I can enjoy the scenery while I’m at it, can’t I?

I discovered M. William Phelps has a Facebook page. That was where I learned about his new series on Investigation Discovery (one of my favorite cable channels), Dark Minds. I’m always ready to check out another crime show. Dark Minds is on past my bed time (I definitely need my beauty rest), so I have been DVRing them to enjoy at my leisure.

The show is about serial killers. I must confess that serial killers are not my favorite kind of murderer. I like a nice, personal murder for a good reason, like greed or jealousy. Something anybody could understand. I don’t mind hearing about real serial killers, though, as long as it’s a well put together show. Just as an aside, I’m bored by the fictional ones, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Phelps concentrates on unsolved murders. By investigating and publicizing, he tries to heat up cold cases. What Dark Minds has that other cold case shows do not is 13. 13 is an incarcerated serial killer who through remorse or self-aggrandizement works with an FBI agent tracking other serial killers. The agent talks to 13 over a speaker phone with Phelps present. We don’t see 13’s face or even hear his real voice. It’s a little creepy, and the viewer gets a delicious sense of getting real inside information, especially when we see the shots of the corridors of the maximum security prison.

I have to confess, I’m not enamored of 13. He must be in control at all times. When he’s done he says, “That’s all” and breaks the connection. No options. In one episode, Phelps expressed his frustration to the FBI agent. I was glad to know I was not the only one. Some of 13’s insights I’ve heard before from FBI profilers and others. For example, why did the killings stop? The killer died or moved or is in prison for another crime. Still, 13 has a perspective that few of us (I hope) share.

Normally when I DVR a show I like, I watch several episodes in a marathon. I don’t do that with Dark Minds. I find it too disturbing. But it is a compelling show, and I intend to catch every episode.

The book I read, Too Young to Kill (Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011), is not about a serial killer but a sad story about a teenager killed by two other teens. It is thoroughly researched, including background on teen subculture that can’t have been easy to come by. Phelps also brings you right into the emotional experience of the victims’ parents. It is a gripping, moving story.

Phelps knows about the suffering of victims’ families from personal experience. His sister-in-law was murdered and the case is still unsolved. This puts him in the same category as two other of my most admired people, John Walsh and Dominick Dunne (at least, Dunne’s daughter’s murder was solved; I don’t know about Walsh’s son’s). All three suffered tragic losses at the hands of criminals and all three became passionate victims’ advocates. They turned their sorrow into service to others. I can’t think of a better thing to say about anybody. It also makes me think. I have blessedly never suffered such a tragedy. Do I have to wait for something terrible to happen before I try to help others? I hope not, and I’m looking for things I can do to help. In the meantime, I’m enjoying reading Phelps’ books and watching his TV show.

Last Woman Hanged

Tuesday I attended a lecture sponsored by the Herkimer County Historical Society. Does that sound cultured and intellectual? It may have been. It was also a great deal of fun.

James M. Greiner, author of Last Woman Hanged: Roxalana Druse, was talking about the famous case. I have many times noticed the historic marker outside the 1834 Jail and wanted to learn more about the local murderess. Last December, Greiner was at the Historical Society signing his book, but I missed it, which was too bad, because I had previously told my entire family NOT to buy me Christmas presents, because I was buying myself the book (they got me presents anyways, but that’s a whole other blog post).

Tuesday’s talk took place at the Herkimer County Courthouse, at Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners, a favorite walking place of mine and Tabby’s. I walked over, because Steven planned to drive straight from work (always fun to have a rendezvous). The event drew a large crowd. I could have gotten there much earlier and saved us seats closer to the front. Then again, with such a large crowd, some people may have taken exception to my saving a really good seat for somebody who may not arrive on time. Our seats in the back turned out to be fine, however; we had no problems hearing.

Greiner’s book is all about the facts of the case. Apparently everybody who grew up around here “knows” that Roxalana Druse fed her husband’s dead body to the pigs and was hanged on the hook in back of the jail, neither of which, it turns out, was the case. I have to confess, I didn’t know (or “know”) any of that. You see how much I missed out on, growing up in Rome.

We heard a lot about the true case and about the research Greiner undertook to find out about it. He is an excellent speaker, very organized and articulate, and obviously passionately interested in his subject. He says he follows the rule “Write what you love.” I wrote that one down.

He had previously published two books on the Civil War and wanted to do something different. He said he called up the Historical Society and said, “I want to do a murder.” (I wrote that one down, too.) He said the historical society lady’s response was to the effect of, “Not Gillette, he’s been done to death!” I must confess that made me feel a little vulgar, because I can’t get enough of the Gillette case. I don’t think any disparagement was meant, only that Greiner wanted to explore uncharted territory. As pointed out on the back of Greiner’s book, the Gillette case has overshadowed the Druse case. This book helps to even up the score.

I was able to purchase the book Tuesday. Several people attending had already read it and told me it was an excellent read, impossible to put down. After the talk, I went to the front of the room to get the author to sign it.

“Oh, I signed all of them.” He showed me where he did.

“Oh, I’m silly.” I did feel silly, especially as I was debating in my head whether to say Cindy or Cynthia when he asked me who to make it out to. That’s what author’s at book signings in movies always do.

I was really happy I was able to attend the talk and to buy the book. I look forward to reading it. Copies are available at the Herkimer County Historical Society, 406 N. Main St., Herkimer, NY. For more information call 315-866-6413.

True Crime at the Library

Thursday I made my way to Basloe Library in Herkimer, NY, to pick up a true crime book by M. William Phelps.

This was kind of a big deal for me, because I had requested the book through http://www.midyork.org. I am not very computer savvy (although a past master of understatement), but I am just about able to find something through midyork.org if I know title and/or author (I used to use the card catalog with all those drawers, remember that? I was pretty good at that).

I had in fact been meaning to look for books by Phelps for some time now, ever since I first saw him on Snapped, giving background on a case he had written a book about. I have a lot more to say about him, but I think I’ll wait till I’ve read the book and do a whole blog post. In the meantime, suffice it to say, I typed his name into the box at midyork.org and selected one of the titles that popped up, Too Young to Kill.

In due course, the library left a message on my answering machine that the book was there, and in due course, my husband remembered to tell me about the message (just kidding, he told me about it that same day). Thursday I stopped at the library on my way home from work. I felt a little clunky in my steel-toed work shoes, but even so it was difficult to resist the temptation to wander the shelves looking for more books I might like. I resisted that temptation, but not the temptation to look over the book sale. For one thing, I thought I might find something Steven would like. After all, I owe him a Valentine present (and a full Valentine dinner; see earlier post).

Of course I found things I would like. It would be germane to the title I gave this post to say I found several true crime books, but alas I did not. I did find a book about The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain. That will no doubt include Richard III, who any Shakespeare buff can tell you murdered his young nephews in his quest for the throne. Historical crime, what’s not to like? I finally selected Duane’s Depressed by Larry McMurtry for Steven. It is the third book in the trilogy that includes The Last Picture Show, a book which Steven owns. I also got a collection of Dorothy Parker. Who doesn’t like Dorothy Parker?

The three books came to $1.75. They were hard pressed to make change for a ten, which is what I had.

“Oh wait, maybe I have correct change.” I dug in my pocket for my coffee out of the vending machine money. “Here’s a ripped one. Maybe you can tape it.” I counted out three quarters while the librarian got out the tape.

I was so pleased to be in a library again and wondered why I’m not there on a regular basis, looking for books or just sitting at a table writing. I could have written this whole blog post there and saved myself some time in front of the computer. Have to keep that in mind for next time. In the meantime, I’m busily reading the book by Phelps and will report back.

Cooking with Crime

I was going to title this “Cooking with Cindy,” but I thought two hard Cs sounded better. I was going to add that crime is more interesting than Cindy, but quite frankly, that is not always the case.

Saturday I did not get out of the house to do fun Mohawk Valley things. In my defense, I was not free till the afternoon and by then was tired and low on ambition (this after a bad-ass if unblogworthy morning). Well, I think I am allowed to watch crime shows and crochet on a Saturday afternoon (or almost any other time; it is one of my favorite things to do). I decided to also write in the TV Journal, because writing is always a good thing to do.

I found a feature called Weekend Mysteries on HLN. The first show was Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayna Hinman. I had seen shows featuring Dayna Hinman, she is a famous profiler. Today’s episode featured a wealthy Texan. Did he die of natural causes, suicide or murder at the hands of his gold-digger wife?

Of course I also needed to start cooking. Steven was hard at work, and I had promised him a good supper. I started by pouring myself a glass of Chardonnay, so I could cook with wine, then peeling and garlic-pressing several cloves of garlic. I set the timer so they could breathe for 15 minutes (a friend sent me a link explaining that; it has to do with cancer fighting compounds). This also gave me an excuse to watch 15 minutes more of the show.

It was a disappointing case, but I don’t like to give away the ending in case you like to catch it sometime.

The next show was called The Investigators, and the case had also been covered on Snapped. I love those! A husband is gunned down on the beach during a romantic stroll with his newly-reconciled wife. Surely the grieving widow could have nothing to do with it.

During commercials I made it back out to the kitchen. I put the garlic in the blender with olive and canola oil and some basil out of a tube I had found in the produce section (I can’t wait till summer and fresh basil out of my container garden). I tossed some onion in this mixture and put it in a 350 degree oven. Later I added eggplant and much later fresh mushrooms. I normally do this in a 400 degree oven but thought I would try the effects of baking over roasting. It was quite successful.

We had the mixture over angel hair pasta, which I had also tossed in the basil/garlic oil. I put grated Parmesan on mine. Steven had dilly bread from the Ilion Farmer’s Market with his (ooh, so I do have a local connection after all. Yay!) (actually, if you want another local connection, I drank my wine out of a glass obtained at a fundraiser for the Herkimer Crusaders).

During cooking and eating, I also viewed a couple episodes of Sins and Secrets, one of which was also seen on Snapped. Mixed in with all this, I also got some crochet done. Crime, cooking, crochet, three of my favorite things. Not a bad Saturday in the Mohawk Valley.

Trudging Through Tuesday

It really was not that bad of a day, but I felt like being alliterative.

I wrote three different blog posts while I was at work today: one before starting work at 7 a.m., one during the 9 a.m. break and a third at the 2 p.m. break (I called my husband during lunch; it was his day off). Actually, none of the posts was complete, and the third was really short, because I was busy making silly jokes with my co-workers. Be that as it may, none of those posts pleased me.

I got home from work in time for my one of my favorite crime shows, City Confidential. Today’s city was Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’d really like to check out some of these cities, and not just because of the murders that took place there. After City Confidential, I got interested in an episode of Notorious. They were showing a case I had seen profiled on another show, Power, Privilege and Justice, I think.

Before you go thinking I’m all morbid, loving these crime shows, let me assure you these shows are classy entertainment. The coverage is in-depth and informative, and there are no cheesy reenactments. I hate cheesy reenactments, and very few reenactments are not cheesy. The shows were not graphic either, as evidenced by the fact that we ate dinner during the second.

Throughout my TV watching, my dog Tabby kept coming up to me and gazing at me with appealing brown eyes. I knew what she wanted, so after Notorious I put my bra and sneakers back on and got out her leash. I only could have skipped City Confidential and walked her when it was still light out, but we can’t always look that far ahead.

Tabby pulled me as she often does toward the Historic Four Corners. I could see the Herkimer County Courthouse two blocks away. I remembered how when we had first moved into Herkimer, I would go running and get a little confused in the streets beyond Washington. Eventually I would look up and see the courthouse and know which direction to head.

We turned down Main Street and walked by a few open businesses and some sadly closed ones. Tabby looked speculatively at a small family getting out of a car, no doubt thinking they’d like to pet a cute dog. Unfortunately they crossed the street without giving her a glance. I heard the father telling the little boy to hold his mother’s hand.

Tabby wanted to go through the little park by Basloe Library, but I made her go down one more block, feeling I needed a little more exercise. When we approached Meyers Park, I remembered it is closed from dusk to dawn, according to the sign. Of course we have walked through the park in the dark many times. Tonight, however, we walked around the perimeter. For one thing, that sidewalk was more clear.

I saw some red lights in the distance and thought, “Christmas!” It was only a Swann truck. Good eats, but pricey. I especially like the Racetrack cones, but I’m on the South Beach Diet. We walked by St. Francis de Sales Church. The light in front of the statue of St. Francis made a big shadow of St. Francis’ head on the church wall.

We had a few minor disagreements on our walk. Tabby wanted to sniff more times and for longer than I felt like standing around, and when we got closer to home she wanted to jay walk. Dogs don’t know from crosswalks. Still, it was a pleasant enough walk. A little colder than I like. I pulled my fingers into the hand part of my gloves and made fists. I took a hot shower when I got home, which made my hands hurt. They’re feeling better now, and I see I’ve managed to type over 600 words. Not bad for not using any of the three posts I wrote earlier.

And now, speaking of classy crime shows, I think I’ll go watch World’s Dumbest Criminals.

Snapped Judgements

I know, this blog is supposed to be about the Mohawk Valley. I get out and patronize a local business, attend a local event or visit a local attraction and write about it as best I can. A couple of times a week I count local walks or runs. And of course there’s the weekly Lame Post, about which the least said the better. Even two posts in which I wrote about watching monster movies on TCM (hey, why aren’t they showing scary movies for Halloween month?) I tried to inject some local color.

That long-winded paragraph is by way of being an apology of sorts because today I’m going to write about my favorite TV show: Snapped.

Snapped is a documentary crime show on Oxygen (or is it called OH! now? I can’t keep track of these cable stations). They profile women who kill. They cover a pretty broad spectrum: abused wives who kill in self defense, ladies who are too religious to get a divorce (don’t get me started), ordinary wives who just want the insurance (with or without a double indemnity clause. Double Indemnity is one of my favorite movies). It isn’t all wives; sometimes it’s a daughter killing her parents or step-parents. Usually because she thinks she Juliet and didn’t read the play so doesn’t realize Juliet kills herself. Sometimes the woman is found innocent, sometimes guilty. Often they have the woman herself appear, proclaiming her innocence, and I sit there say, “You totally did it!”

What I don’t like is when they have cheesy reenactments. Reenactments are almost always cheesy. Most of the time they are not needed. Just tell me they argued. I don’t need to see two actors gesticulating at each other. I know what an argument is. The only time a reenactment is helpful is when it is something hard to picture. For example, the lady who demonstrated for the cops how she tripped on a book while putting away her husband’s gun, causing her to accidentally shoot him while he napped on the couch. Actually, that may have been a videotape the cops made of her explanation. If I was a cop, I would want to videotape such a thing.

My favorite way to watch Snapped is one episode after another, which is the way Oxygen usually shows them. My only problem is, I’ve seen them all (except for the “So New” episodes they keep promising me), sometimes several times. Still, it’s my guilty pleasure. I must indulge.

So here is something you can enjoy: in and out of the Mohawk Valley. Check you local listings.