If Billy Joel had grown up in Iowa instead of the Bronx, it’s doubtful he’d have composed Iowa State of Mind. Somehow, undulating cornfields and somnolent little towns don’t inspire in the same way that majestic skyscrapers and frenetic lifestyles gave rise to New York State of Mind. That fast-paced way of living was what lured me away from Iowa and into journalism, which would take me to major cities. But please, dear reader, do not think I am disparaging Iowa, which ranks among the highest in the nation in literacy rate. (That happened after my departure, which I prefer to think was unrelated.)
Into the Big City . . .
My first newspaper job was at The Herald-News in Joliet, Ill., where I won an award from the Northern Illinois Editor’s and Publisher’s Association for an investigation of fire hazards in seedy hotels, which I stayed in for a week. It was a short hop to Chicago, where I cavorted weekends before joining The Associated Press, covering airplane and train disasters, and nearly getting myself killed in reporting on race riots.
Tropical Tampa …
Though in love with Chicago, I left for the promise of greater writing opportunity with the Milwaukee Journal (now Journal Sentinel). I’d done a lot of police reporting in Joliet, and was a full-time police reporter in Milwaukee for more than a year, burnishing my résumé with a story about a murder that resulted in a coroner’s inquest.
Murder in Milwaukee …
Hearkening the call of the mild – weather, that is – I departed from lackluster, frigid Milwaukee for tropical Florida and the Tampa Tribune, where my reporting on appliance dealers attracted a state investigator and forced them to abandon their shady sales tactics.
Winding Up in West Palm Beach …
I was fond of Tampa and the paper, but after I excelled in a one-night substitution covering a school board meeting for the education reporter, editors insisted I fill that slot permanently. Bidding farewell to its rich Hispanic traditions, I settled in for a nearly 15-year stint at the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach. I spent most of that time writing fascinating features, and covering enriching culture and entertainment, while exposing an embezzler
Magazine Milieu …
Leaving journalism for a period, I tried my hand at a business venture, but realized that wasn’t my forte and returned to the world of words with Palm Beach Media Group. For its flagship magazine, Palm Beach Illustrated (PBI), I won an award from the Florida Magazine Association for a story on astronaut Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and the future of space travel, and penned a potpourri of celebrity profiles, including one on Winston Churchill’s grandson. As copy chief for the group, I edited Naples Illustrated in its first year and won for PBI the Best Written Magazine award from the state association. I also won an award from the American Heart Association for a story on the benefits of walking.
Nouveau Novelist …
As a freelance writer and editor, I now am authoring books. I ghost-wrote A TALE OF TWO CONTINENTS: Jetting Across the Globe to Have a Baby, then penned a coming-of-age novel, BREAKING OUT. My current novel is the roman à clef MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died. I am presently writing a third novel which, like MURDER, centers on injustice and redemption.
Additionally, I blog on three subjects: sociopolitics, grammar, and alternative health care.My most recent writing venture is a book entitled Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, with a First Edition by Pegasus Books (the one in California) and a Second Edition by Precipice Press. It’s a suspenseful mystery novel about a supersensational murder that sets the stage for political intrigue, sex, violence, romance, and a tainted justice system. It follows on the heels of my first novel and a ghost-written book. I already am at work on a second mystery.
A journalism career spanning 35 years preceded this foray into creative writing. My natural curiosity and zest for all aspects of life, critical characteristics of a journalist, were manifest from birth. I caused my parents no small amount of distress, shaking the bed headboard and rocking in my high chair, to the dismay of the barber in the shop below the apartment, who glared up a side staircase at me when I was 2.
Four years later, the family left the sandy shores and whitecaps of Lake Michigan for the undulating green cornfields of Iowa, where I attended two colleges and earned a B.A. in English and German, then completed graduate studies in journalism at the University of Iowa after a three-month stay in Europe.
Journalism Career Unfolds
At my first newspaper job, with The Herald-News in Joliet, Ill., the intensity I showed in the high chair translated into a zeal to uncover fire hazards in shabby downtown hotels, in which I stayed for a week. My investigation won me an award. Three nights after Dr. Martin Luther King was shot to death, I came upon the aftermath of rioting that no one was covering and walked into the ghetto to write a mood piece, which made the front page.
My next stop was The Associated Press in Chicago. Six weeks after my arrival, I was sent to O’Hare International Airport to cover an airplane crash that killed 30 people when the craft plunged into a hangar. Inside the temporary morgue, I pretended to be an investigating official. My ruse was discovered and two burly Chicago cops escorted me into the freezing cold. Riots erupted on the anniversary of King’s death, and I was sent to the infamous Cabrini-Green high-rise public housing project. Still possessed of Iowa’s small-town naïvete, I walked to within 125 feet of about 150 young blacks crowded around the entrance of a shabby dry cleaners they were looting. I left after a middle-aged black man on the sidewalk yelled to me, “You better get outa here. They gonna jump you.” A car with six AP newsmen later saw me walking in the area and ordered me into their car, wondering if I had lost my mind.
Preferring expository writing, I turned down an offer to write radio news at The AP’s New York headquarters and went to the Milwaukee Journal (now Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). A highlight of my tenure there was the tenacious investigation of a murder that the police had swept under the rug. The story forced a coroner’s inquest.
I left the snow and cold for Florida and the Tampa Tribune, where my story on bait-and-switch tactics by appliance dealers brought disciplinary action by a state agency.
Next, I spent almost 15 years at the Palm Beach Post as a reporter, feature writer, and jazz and entertainment writer, interviewing and writing profiles of a plethora of jazz stars. My last assignment was classical music critic, a position I was unprepared for and did not seek, but one into which I dived enthusiastically, if unremarkably. I then tried my hand at entrepreneurship, but it turned out to be a sticky business. Tiny gourmet food operations abound, I found, and my line of divine chocolate and butterscotch dessert sauces only broke even after four years.
Following a few short-term writing jobs, I was hired to write and edit for Palm Beach Media Group in West Palm Beach. After I became senior writer and de facto copy chief for the group, its flagship publication, Palm Beach Illustrated, won an award for Best Written Magazine in Florida. I won two writing awards during almost 10 years with the company.
I learned to play the clarinet in early middle age, then tenor saxophone, and was a clarinetist in a crack, 65-piece community symphonic pops band for many years. I got to play some professional big band gigs on saxophone because my house had a room where the band could hold rehearsals. I knew I had arrived in a performance for a convention of the National Association of Corrugated Box Manufacturers at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach. I ran distances for many years until discovering strenuous uninterrupted exercise was counterproductive, and switched to a modified interval-training regimen of sprints, squats and jumps, and 110 pushups at a pop. In recent years, I have become a fairly proficient ballroom dancer.