Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Rash Of Hit-and-Run Incidents Plagues The Bay State

You've heard of the legend of the Boston driver, haven't you? Motorists from our neck of the woods are notorious for their driving, which is, by turns, too aggressive, too irrational, too heedless of the laws and way too often downright crazy. Some (like my dear departed Ma) attribute Boston driving to the, quote-unquote, "Irish scofflaw" influence, whereby motorists of Irish descent supposedly flout the laws established by Anglo-Saxon grandees. Even beyond its status as a vile, anti-Irish canard, this theory makes no sense when you consider that a lot more law-makers (not to mention law-enforcers) in the Bay State are Irish than Anglo-Saxon. Then there is the theory that Boston drivers are screwy because the roads themselves are screwy, having once been meandering cow paths and all that. Maybe so, but I've seen as much crazy driving on I-95 and I-93 as anywhere else - and those were built during the Cold War 1950's to transport nuclear weapons and provide escape routes for evacuees and their design is about as disorderly as a geometry lesson. Another theory holds that the high concentration of both college-age kids and liquor-serving establishments in the Boston area enable a "perfect storm" of vehicular mayhem. Still another theory contends that Massachusetts, being the liberal state that it is, doesn't punish its serial traffic offenders enough, allowing them to stay on the road when they ought to be stuck on the sidewalk. Or maybe the best theory is one that accommodates all the half-truths that engender every other theory.

Whatever the reason, Boston traffic still sucks, and always has. It almost killed me once, as a matter of fact. During a long slog home from a bar in the wee hours of my misspent youth, I was stumbling across the Alewife Brook Parkway when a sedan stuffed to the sun-roof with young folks whizzed by, just missing my ass by inches. Some others I know of have not been so lucky. A girl I went to grammar school with, just six months married, was killed by a hit-and-run driver when she opened her car door to haul out Christmas presents. I could go on, but I won't.

There's been a rash of hit-and-run incidents in the Greater Boston area in the last month or so. It could be one of those random clusters of events that spuriously suggest a trend - or it could really be a sign of something changing for the worse. Here are a few cases plucked out from Google News:

1) 55-year old Paul Baran of Taunton struck and killed 17-year old Nicholas Silva-Thomas while the latter was riding his skateboard in the middle of the street. Baran fled the scene, but later turned himself in. Although Baran was not apparently intoxicated during this incident, he had a rap sheet that went back longer than Silva-Thomas had been alive, including "more than 30 misdemeanor charges — ranging from speeding, driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in property damage — as well as a score of hearings, some involving Baran’s status as a habitual traffic offender." When he was hauled into court this August, the event marked the 16th time Baran's license had been revoked or suspended since 1989. Yet, until recently, he was still driving. Even if he is found guilty of "leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death", Baran could serve as little as two years - or less. And that's not counting parole.

2) 47-year old Jon Ravida of East Boston struck and killed 22-year old Sothay Pen as the young woman was crossing Route 1A in Revere. She died of severe head trauma at the scene. The Boston Globe reported that Ravida "has an extensive driving record dating to 1987, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. His license has been suspended four times, and he was ruled at fault in two accidents." Mr. Ravida did not turn himself in, but was in fact identified by witnesses who noticed the damage to his SUV (of course, an asshole like this would have an SUV) and his suspicious behavior when he stopped at a gas station near the scene.

3) 34-year old illegal immigrant Nicolas Gauman struck 23-year old Matthew Denice while the latter was riding his motorcycle, and dragged the young man's body behind his pickup truck for a quarter of a mile. Denice had just been graduated from Framingham State College with a degree in Computer Science. Gauman was not only driving while intoxicated, he was also driving with an open container of liquor in his vehicle.

It could be that economic stress is ramping up both the distracted mindset and the substance abuse that is causing these incidents - as well as the fear of oblivion that encourages a man to flee from his own crimes - but that is no excuse. I say, let's get tough on irresponsible drivers - and then maybe later on we can get tough on bankers and hedge-fund managers and CEO's.

Lengthy driving rap sheet for alleged hit-and-run Taunton driver frustrates family, friends of dead teen (Enterprise News)
DA accuses hit-run suspect of a coverup (Boston Globe)
Illegal Immigrant Charged in Hit-and-Run Death of 23-Year-Old Massachusetts Man (Fox News)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recession Causes Violent Bay State Inmates To Get Paroled Too Early

Below is a link to an article suggesting that Massachusetts state budget problems - and, by extension, budget problems everywhere else - are encouraging maximum security prisons to grant parole to violent criminals prematurely. The author cites the case of Domenic Cennelli, the recently paroled career criminal who shot a policeman to death at a Woburn mall last Christmas. If that case weren't horrific enough, there is always the not-so-comic relief of some nut-bag named Raymond Wallace who was barely out of jail 18 months before he went all gonzo. A "heavily armed" Wallace, disguised like the armored car robbers in The Town (does that mean he was dressed like a nun?) robbed, of all things, a Salem pet supply store last St. Patrick's Day. Outside of the fact that this dude was clearly (and quite pathetically) aiming to be Top Irish Criminal of The Month, he very likely should never have been released to be begin with. As for statistics, it definitely seems that early releases for violent offenders have escalated in direct proportion to the worsening of the economy. While in 2007 only 27 were let out onto the streets before they served their full sentences, 49 were released early in 2008, 48 in 2009, and 51 in 2010. What this means is that, at a time when more and more people are unemployed or underemployed and possibly becoming desperate enough to commit crimes, more of those who have already been convicted of such crimes are flowing back onto the streets. One can imagine the more experienced criminals crowding out the newcomers and taking up all the, ahem, robbery "opportunities" for themselves. Even "breaking bad" won't catch you a break these days, I guess. When you have a burgeoning labor surplus even in the world of crime, that will only make the desperate more desperate and it really will be time to watch your back - and your bank account, if you still have one.

I-Team: More Violent Criminals Getting Parole (CBS Boston)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ex-D.A. Type Now Prosecutes Imaginary Criminals

Raffi Yesseyan, a 1991 U.Mass. Boston alumnus, worked as the District Attorney's office of Suffolk County from 1995 to 2006. He consorted with detectives, visited crime scenes and interrogated innumerable Boston miscreants. He used to come home from work every day with vivid stories to tell. One day his wife told him that he should start writing it all down. And his wife wasn't his only inspiration. It appears that the Boston law enforcement community was infused with a particular literary sensibility - "As a young assistant district attorney, I was in court one day talking with another ADA and a Boston cop. The two of them were carrying on about a certain author who they thought was the best 'serial killer' writer. The conversation piqued my curiosity, so I borrowed a book by this author from one of them and read it. As I read the novel I kept telling my wife that I could write a book like this. Being a writer herself, my wife encouraged me to do it."

Raffi has published at least two well-received books - 8 In The Box and 2 In The Hat. (I know, some guys do colors, Erle Gardner in his Perry Mason series did alliterations - "The Case of The Vindictive Violinist" or whatever - but this guy apparently does numbers. Good luck to him when he gets to 13. Nonetheless, if serial killers are his thing, a scorecard fixation on numbers would reflect the mindset of his antagonists and would therefore be quite apt.)

He doesn't believe he'll ever run out of material. His acquaintance with the world of crime is deep and authentic. Moreover, Boston fascinates him. "'It’s hard not to want to make Boston a character,' he says. 'I don’t think you ever run out of things to write about in Boston. There’s just so much to tell about the city.'" We expect that he'll be contributing to Boston crime fiction for a long time to come.

As for the formula he's using, he cites his influences here: "Thomas Harris created the best depiction of a serial killer as well as the psychology of the killer. George V. Higgins influenced me with his ability to create 'real' dialogue. One trick in fiction is that dialogue has to approximate the way we speak. If dialogue were truly real, it would be boring and repetitive. James Patterson provided the structure and the use of third person multiple point of view."

I don't know about you, but it is difficult for me to imagine a synthesis of Thomas Harris and George V. Higgins. I mean, I can't picture Hannibal Lecter trying to stand still while some George V. Higgins character expounds profanely in his face for twenty pages of monologue. There would be Boston-accented body parts on the good doctor's supper plate by the day's end, I'll tell you. But that combination of influences could generate a potent hybrid. I look forward to reading him.

Criminal Minds (Boston Globe)
Mystery Writers of America (Raffi Yasseyan)
Author Interviews (Raffi Yasseyan)
On "2 in the Hat" and Raffi Yessayan... (Jungle Red Writers)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Irish Mob-opedia

I'm providing a link here to a Wikipedia article about the Irish Mob which is itself a reference hub, providing links to yet other sites. The article is comprehensive in an extremely skeletal kind of way, but it mentions Irish gangs that I've never heard of. Irish gangs in Canada (The West End Gang of Montreal), Australia, St. Louis (the colorfully named Egan's Rats), England (the clerkishly yclept Clerkenwell crime syndicate AKA The Adams Family AKA the A-Team), Birmingham, Alabama (some dude named "The General", though not the same as the Dublin one), Georgia (another dude called the Celtic Boss), Omaha, Minneapolis ("Dapper" Danny Hogan), Philadelphia (the K&A Gang) - and even a Boston bunch I'd never heard of, the Gustin Gang of the 1920's. These plus the usual suspects - the Winter Hill Gang, the Westies of Hell's Kitchen (I recall showing up to do some off-hours dirty work at a Twin Towers investment firm one Saturday circa 1990, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, and the boss said I looked like a Westie - which made me smile, which may not have been his intention), and the "Nucky" Johnson outfit in New Jersey on which Boardwalk Empire was based.

The site also lists the names of various movies and books that feature Irish gangs. Like Gangs of New York, the bizarre Daniel Day Lewis/Leo DiCaprio vehicle that completely whitewashed away the ugly racial overtones of the New York draft riots during the Civil War. Yes, indeed, Irish gangs go back that far. The article does not extend to the Old West, where many outlaws were of Irish descent - Billy the Kid himself was originally Billy McCarty from Brooklyn. Nor does it mention the Ned Kelly gang of 19th century Australia. No mention either of the granddaddy of all Irish mobs, the IRA. Ah, well. The plenitude of Irish and Scots-Irish criminality precludes full coverage, but this is nonetheless a worthy resource for the discerning crime buff. The Irish Mob page also includes a link to a "List of American mobsters of Irish descent". In my past life, I would have yearned to be included.

Irish Mob (Wikipedia)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Combat Boy by James Vance Elliott

You got to check out the crime novel just published at Smashwords by my doppelganger, James Vance Elliott. It’s a rip-snorting read with a heart of gold. And it costs only 99 cents! Less than the cost of a can of orange soda, except that it won’t make you fat or rot your teeth.

Combat Boy is a tale of two time periods. It starts in the winter of ‘78. Jimmy Carter's in office, stagflation reigns, and huge snowstorms are pounding the Northeast. Imagine you're a kid just out of college, but unemployed and living at home. Your best friend stops by with a couple of joints and asks if you want to paint the town red. Would you go? Sure you would. The next thing you know, you've bar-hopped your way into a Boston gangland massacre. Your best friend dies, so does everyone else - except for you. And the only way you survive is to pick up a dead man's gun. By reflex alone you take down the bad guys. You even manage to kill the crown prince of Boston crime. Then you panic. Even if the cops don't arrest you, the daddy of the thug you killed – a bad-ass named Blackie Dyer - will wipe you off the face of the planet. So you tear out of town in your best friend's car, hoping the blizzard will cover your escape.

That's what happens to Eric McKenna in Combat Boy. He becomes a fugitive, but everywhere he goes, Blackie Dyer's men chase after him. With the help of two young ladies, a hippie conman, and a bad cop with a guilty conscience, he somehow eludes his fate. By the end of '78, he's hitched a ride to San Francisco in a van full of computer genii, and starts to learn their trade...

Twenty years later, it’s the height of the dotcom boom. Eric is now a widower and the father of two sons. Although he's living under an assumed name, he’s an executive for a firm that sells crime-detection software, and they've sent him back east to run the Boston office. Back on home turf, he lets his guard down. He goes to visit his dad’s grave. Unknown to him, the Boston mob has staked out the cemetery for years. They find out he’s back in town. Blackie Dyer's old lieutenant, who ruined his career by not catching Eric in '78, just wants him dead. But Blackie’s surviving son Declan has other plans. He wants to toy with Eric - not to kill him, but to rip his soul apart, piece by piece. He befriends Eric's troubled older son, and tries to lure him into the same world of violence that derailed his dad. Will the kid take the bait? And what will Eric do if he does?

Buy the eBook at the link below and find out. What have you got to lose? Free samples available!

Combat Boy at Smashwords

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Actual Boston Crime Story That Inspired Session 9

In 1995, an up-and-coming financial VP at John Hancock Insurance in Boston came home one evening and murdered his wife, after he reportedly "burned some ziti" he was cooking for their supper. Forty-year-old Richard Rosenthal then "strangled his wife to death, carried her out to their backyard in Framingham, and dissected her body." And that was not all - "With a rock, he smashed her face beyond recognition, and placed her heart and lungs on a stake as a symbolic gesture or trophy." My first thought when I read this is that he must have had a very bad day at the office.

Rosenthal took a shower after committing the crime, then scooped up his 4-month old baby daughter (who stayed mercifully intact), and drove off from the house. He ended up at the house of some people he did not know, volunteering odd comments about "gun control". When the police were summoned, he made an incoherent confession, blathering on about how he "had an argument" and had "overcooked the ziti". He was swiftly charged with first degree murder and the case took on a weird life of its own. When he recollected his crime in the comparative tranquility of his attorney's office, Rosenthal backed away from acknowledging his guilt and claimed that he had killed his wife because he thought she was an alien. "Presumably, the alien delusion explained why he ritualistically removed her vital organs after killing her and placed them on an 18 inch stake; to assure the 'alien' was really dead."

This was the foundation of an insanity defense, which did not work. Investigation later revealed that his wife, Laura, had gone to work at least twice - in 1990 and 1993 - with a black eye. With such clear evidence of prior domestic abuse, Rosenthal's insanity defense lost all credibility and he was convicted of murder.

According to Brad Anderson, who directed the Greater Boston-based horror movie Session 9, Rosenthal's bizarre actions were the inspiration behind the crack-up of the movie's hapless villain, Gordon. Working around the clock to finish an asbestos-stripping job at an abandoned loony bin, and stressed out over the pressures of supporting a new baby, Gordon falls prey to an evil spirit. When he returns home from his first day on the job, he brings his wife roses and attempts to kiss her - only to murder her impulsively after his amorous shenanigans cause a boiling pot of spaghetti to spill over and give him a nasty burn. Implicitly, he kills the baby as well. Afterwards, poor Gordon denies the whole event and admits only to his partner, played by David Caruso, that he merely "hit Wendy". Eventually Gordon's seething guilt explodes into full-blown paranoia and he kills everyone in sight. Very scary movie, probably the most frightening movie with a Massachusetts setting that I have ever seen.

Random factoids:

Session 9 was filmed on location at the former Danvers State Mental Hospital, and some of the creepy detritus presented in the movie actually existed on site.

Paul Guilfoyle, playing the character who grants Gordon the asbestos removal contract, was born in Canton, Mass. and graduated from Boston College High School.

The character "Mike" - supposedly the egghead among the asbestos removal crew - dropped out of "Tufts Law School". There is no such thing - at least not by that name. Tufts does have something called the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, but a standard law school it ain't.

Burnt Ziti Murder (Celebrate Boston)
David Caruso and Brad Anderson on Session 9 (AboutFilm)
Session 9 (Wikipedia)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Strange Case Of Dr. Richard Sharpe

Transgender people have a rough enough time in our society as it is without being saddled with the egregious anti-role model of Dr. Richard Sharpe. Dr. Sharpe grew up working class in the declining industrial town of Shelton, Connecticut, where he was regularly punched out by both his machinist father and his boorish peers. He claimed to find relief from this abuse by dressing up as a girl - although I can't see how this would have worked as a refuge, except in a totally wigged out, multiple-personality-syndrome kind of way. In most cases, I think cross-dressing would get you pounded out even more. Almost miraculously, despite his social problems, serious quirks and unpropitious economic status, young Richard was able to win (and eventually to marry) a pretty, upper middle-class girl as his high-school sweetheart - and to obtain a medical degree from the University of Connecticut. Once he graduated, he took his bride up to Boston with him when he accepted a prestigious post-graduate assignment at Harvard Medical School. He did so well there that they made him a member of the faculty. So far, so good, you would think. An exemplary triumph over life's adversities! But wait - there's more...

Dr. Sharpe became a successful dermatologist, eventually starting his own business specializing in laser hair removal. He also began a line of skin-care products to augment his hair-removal outlets, accruing assets of more than $2 million. Meanwhile, his cross-dressing continued, as did his frequent rages and a flourishing alcohol problem. To many, the only outward evidence of his weirdness was that he "plucked his eyebrows and looked odd". The man had an obsession with skin - with having very smooth, hairless skin - that much was obvious. In this, he is reminiscent of John Michael Karr, the Jon-Benet Ramsey-obsessed pedophile who had his facial hair removed in preparation for a sex change. Sharpe also - as the pictures show - favored long, wavy hair, sporting it far longer than most of his fellow hippie-generation baby boomers would (or could). One might argue that his transgendered mindset contributed as much to his professional and business success as to the emotional disorders that destroyed his marriage and made him a murderer. He seems almost like a cross between a mad scientist and a cosmetician. You must take the good with the bad, as they say, but eventually the bad side of his "smooth skin" mania deranged him. His wife Karen, herself a nurse, may have been attracted to Sharpe originally by her own nurturing instincts, as surely he was more of a "wounded creature" than any sort of alpha male. But a weird sort of alpha male he did indeed become. Doctor! Millionaire! Harvard High Muckety-Muck! A tumorous sense of self-importance may have fueled his drunken rages, and Karen ultimately discovered that the sensitive boy in need of love had morphed into a tyrant. At which point, she took out a restraining order and filed for divorce.

Dr. Sharpe responded to his wife's rejection by puncturing her own skin with repeated shots from a .22 caliber rifle. There were "three witnesses" to the crime, and Sharpe had no chance of escaping conviction. Although a court-appointed psychiatrist found him to have numerous mental disorders - including depression, alcoholism, rage issues and PTSD among them - he was found guilty of murder. He hanged himself in his cell in 2009, using a noose made out of bedsheets. Too bad he didn't have any silk available.

Yet another unbalanced gifted person wreaking havoc on the university-infested landscape of Greater Boston

Richard Sharpe, Cross-Dressing Harvard Doctor Who Killed Wife, Found Hanged (Huffington Post)
Sharpe Takes The Stand In Murder Case (The Boston Channel)
Cross-Dressing Dermatologist Who Killed Wife Found Dead in Prison (Fox News)
Lifting The Veil (People Magazine)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Record-Setting Boy Fiend Of Boston

As one of the blogs I link to below states, we have become accustomed to the idea that children who kill other children are a new phenomenon. We think of the British ten-year-olds, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who abducted and murdered a toddler named (of all things) James Bulger back in the nineties, or of the many cases where children commit homicide in the inner cities of the good old U.S.A. In fact, child murderers are nothing new. One of the earliest on record was a native Bostonian. I present to you Jesse Pomeroy, who was born in Charlestown in 1859 and died in Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in 1932. The picture here, which depicts the "Boy Fiend" in his later years, clearly shows that Jesse was a nasty piece of work.

Jesse Pomeroy seems to have been blighted by nature, having been born with a harelip and a bad eye, alternately referred to as a "marble eye" or a "milky eye". He also may have been feeble-minded, but somehow I doubt this - as other sources attest that he was "very intelligent" and had an enough initiative during his incarceration to write a fairly readable autobiography. What is more likely is that he was himself severely taunted or bullied as a child, and that was the catalyst of his precociously psychopathic behavior.

He started his career at the age of twelve, when he and his family were living in Chelsea. He allegedly assaulted a number of boys between the ages of seven and eight, stripping them naked and flogging them, and doing other unpleasant things such as breaking their noses, knocking out their teeth and threatening to cut off their penises. He was not caught at that time, but his mother - suspecting her own son of these misdeeds - moved the family to South Boston, where she opened a dress shop. Perhaps in unconscious rebellion against a parent who clothed others for a living, Jesse continued to tear off the clothes of his younger peers. He assaulted two other young boys, this time stabbing them with pins and penknives, biting bits of flesh off their buttocks, and even - in the case of one six-year-old - attempting, "unsuccessfully, to cut off his penis." To top it all off, he quite literally rubbed salt in their wounds after he was done. The sheer carnal greediness of his violence suggests both cannibalism and homosexuality, or possibly some unholy combination of the two. Or it manifested something else entirely, a compulsive hatred that drove him to try to destroy these boys - as symbols of his own tormentors - through one means or another. Both boys miraculously survived the abuse. Jesse was eventually apprehended and sentenced to a period of six years in a reformatory. He was released on probation in January 1874, at the age of fourteen.

Jesse was freed at the height of his puberty, which could only have enhanced the psychosexual component of his violence, and his crimes predictably escalated. He expanded the range of his victims in both age and gender, striking less at age peers of his younger self but at those who seemed the most vulnerable. He murdered both a ten-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy. Both corpses were "stabbed and mutilated". He was apprehended for these crimes as well, and tried as an adult. The defense argued not guilty by reason of insanity, but that didn't work - it rarely does - and he was found guilty of first degree murder. He barely escaped execution. As it was, he set a record (apparently still unbroken) for being the youngest person ever convicted of murder in Massachusetts. He spent the next fifty-three years in Charlestown Prison - forty-one of those years in solitary confinement. That long stint in solitary may have been in punishment of his frequent escape attempts, but here too he set a record. Only the Birdman of Alcatraz ever spent more time in solitary than Jesse Pomeroy. He was transferred to Bridgewater State Hospital for reasons of ill health in his early seventies - a mere forty years before Albert DeSalvo himself went there to die.

Jesse Pomeroy (Wikipedia)
Jesse Pomeroy "Boston Boy Fiend" (Murder by Gaslight)
Jesse Pomeroy (The Wacky World of Murder)
Jesse Pomeroy The Boy Fiend (Celebrate Boston)
The Autobiography of Jesse Pomeroy

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Ultimate Town Vs. Gown Murder Case

In April 2003, Alexander Pring-Wilson was a 25-year old graduate student at Harvard in Russian studies. Originally from Colorado, Mr. Pring-Wilson - like, he claims, his sisters - always carried a penknife with him, should any sort of need for this tool suddenly arise. That sounds like a cowboyish bit of practicality on one level, considering where he was from, but it landed the poor bastard in a world of hurt. One evening, after about "7 to 10 drinks" at a number of bars in the Davis Square section of Somerville, Mass. - including The Burren and the Rosebud Diner (which I visited once in my own student days) - Pring-Wilson started home. Walking, by all accounts, unsteadily. As a matter of fact, he was walking so unsteadily that a couple of townies began to make fun of him from a parked car. As Pring-Wilson admitted, he countered their taunts with a few rude remarks of his own. The townies got out of the car and a fight ensued. Pring-Wilson claimed that the townies were beating him about the head. Fearing for his life, or just acting out of instinct, he pulled out his penknife and stabbed one of the townies - an 18-year old named Michael Colono - "five times in the chest and abdomen during the fight, which lasted just 70 seconds." Colono, whose heart was pierced by a near-random thrust, died on the scene.

Michael Colono was no angel. It turned out he had a criminal record - and a temper. His previous exploits included "a 2001 episode in which he threw money in the face of a cashier at a pizza restaurant, then kicked in the front door and shattered the glass." Curiously, he was waiting outside another pizza restaurant with a friend, Samuel Rodriguez, when they accosted Pring-Wilson. The guy seemed to have had a thing about pizza.

What could have been a clear-cut case of self-defense fell by the wayside when Pring-Wilson lied to the authorities, despite making the 911 call to bring them to the scene after the stabbing. "He initially told police he was a bystander at a fight during which a young man was stabbed. He later told a fire captain who responded to the 911 call that he had intervened in a fight between two other men because he had a pen knife with him." These falsehoods paved the way for Colono's buddy, Samuel Rodriguez, to introduce his own dubious claim - that Pring-Wilson started the whole thing by pulling open their car door as soon as he was accosted and starting the fight right then and there.

When Pring-Wilson went to the trial, Rodriguez's testimony bore the most weight, and Pring-Wilson was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Colono's criminal history was not introduced. This conviction was later overturned, and Pring-Wilson was retried, but that trial ended in a hung jury. In a third trial, Pring-Wilson entered a guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years. His troubles did not end there. As of June 2011, he was awaiting the results of a wrongful death suit filed against him to the tune of $260,000.

My own personal opinion is that Pring-Wilson should not have been so drunk in the first place - but, once drunk and under assault by a couple of probably very tough teenagers, his response was understandable. The prosecutors most likely played on townie hostility to the Boston area's ubiquitous college students - particularly Harvard students, and most especially WASP male Harvard students. The first trial shamelessly demonized Pring-Wilson to the extent that the FBI was seriously "liking" him, as they say, for a number of serial murders perpetrated in his native Colorado.

The moral of the story is this - don't mess with the townies, especially if your demographic profile puts you at a disadvantage in that vicinity. I.e., don't mess with the townies in Redneck-ville if you happen to be black. Conversely, don't mess with the townies in a politically correct college town if you're a privileged Anglo. Ironically, the PC ethos of liberal Harvard had so pervaded the mindset of the regular folks of Cambridge, Mass. that a Harvard boy had no chance. Talk about being hoisted on your petard.

Ex-grad student gets 2 years for killing (USA Today)
Pring-Wilson Takes the Stand (Harvard Crimson)
Alexander Pring-Wilson: The Last Trial? (The Freedom Bulletin)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Boston Bank Robber Novelist Also Writes About Vampires

Chuck Hogan, author of Prince of Thieves - the novel on which the movie, The Town, was based - grew up in Canton, Mass. and graduated from Boston College in 1989. Quentin Tarantino-like, he worked in a video rental shop for several years before he got his big break - selling his first novel, The Stand-Off, in 1994 for $500,000, followed by $400,000 for the film rights. Those were the days, the nineties, when unknowns could net some giant money for their first novels. If they were lucky. Now no one is lucky. Hogan himself had a few lean years after his first big success.

During a particularly fallow period, Hogan developed a jones for heists and started researching armored car robberies - which was pretty difficult to do. After all, many might think you were planning to rob an armored car yourself... Apparently, according to Hogan, he kept his eye out for armored car deliveries or pickups in the neighborhood, and actually followed the guys around. I don't know how he got away with this. If I tried it, they'd be staring at me like nobody's business. Hogan claimed he used the supremely beta-male-ish disguise of being a young Daddy in the company of his offspring. It worked. To quote Boston Magazine: “'I started seeing these armored trucks everywhere,” he said. “I would be in a store somewhere, like Kohl’s, and a guy would walk past with the bag. I’d head out to the front and I’d observe [him], walk around, see what was up.' Nobody gave him a second glance. 'I had very young kids at the time,' Hogan said. 'They were a great cover.'"

Out of all that research came Prince of Thieves, which became The Town, and as a result of all that Hogan was rolling in the dough once again. Plus he got to meet Ben Affleck. If that's your thing.

Does Hogan stick with gritty crime dramas set in his native Boston? Yes, and no. He also writes vampire stories. Ever more so of late, as with Twilight and True Blood they have become super-popular. Hogan has even been recruited by Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro to write a vampire series. With Hollywood dangling such huge carrots in front of you, what's a sellout to do? In a sense, he has sort of stuck with "banks". Having gone from criminals to, ahem, blood-suckers, he could be said to have merely switched from writing about bank-robbers to writing about the bankers themselves. Ha-ha... But I will try to restrain myself from making bad puns. Let it suffice for me to say that, whatever Hogan is writing about these days, he sure as hell is laughing all the way to the bank.

Man about Town: Chuck Hogan (Boston Phoenix)
Hubbub: Chuck Hogan, Bonus Interview (Boston Magazine)
Out on The Town with author and Canton native Chuck Hogan (Canton Citizen)
Chuck Hogan (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Time I Staple-Gunned The Precocious Immigrant

Back in my pitiful wasted youth - before Providence and before New York - I worked for a span of days coeval with the gestation period of a panda in a big-box store in the Watertown Mall. In the hardware and paint department. Lots of muscle-making warehouse labor, during which I learned to pilot greasy yellow pallet jacks like bumper cars and once even crushed one of my toes under a load of drywall panels. More fun yet was messin' around with all those nasty-lookin' and downright dangerous tools that hypocritically pretended to be hardware, but were really the coolest weapons. Box-cutters, for example. I sliced my thumb open once on one of those big Stanley models, and laughed all the way down to the band-aid aisle, gleefully dripping blood for the night crew to mop up. Screwdrivers, too. Power drills and circular saws. One of the best times I had back then was cannibalistically fabricating a product display out of the actual products we intended to display - lumber, glue, paint, drills, hammers, nails, screws and saws. We attacked two-by-fours as though they were Hostel victims and brandished power drills at each other like six-shooters. Yessir, all that, ahem, "hardware" could be fun. However, some of my fellow retail inmates frowned upon the idea of a twenty-one year old just having fun.

There was this kid whose family had emigrated from Soviet Armenia, the aptly named Ara Baboonian. Ara was curly-haired, bespectacled and pudgy, a perfect candidate for nebbishness who had somehow detoured his way into egomania. You see, Ara's Soviet grammar school education was so good he ended up skipping grades in his American high school, graduating at the tender age of fifteen. At that time, he was eighteen and a senior at Northeastern, and he didn't let anyone forget it. Especially some underachieving Irish retard like me. That zitty little feta-cheese ball would taunt me in the break room, at the registers, fuckin' everywhere. Eventually I got fed up. We were both on bagging detail at one of the registers during the Christmas season. Slappin' merchandise into brown paper bags, then folding over the top of each and stapling it with a big nickel-plated staple gun. Ara was taunting me again. "Ellie! Why you so slow, Ellie?" Zunk! Zunk! went my stapler. Zunk! Zunk! I tried to ignore him, but he kept at it. "You be here when you old man, Ellie!" Zunk! Zunk! "Ellie!" Finally, I'd had enough. Without changing my facial expression, or even glancing at Baboonian, my hand seamlessly glided from paper to flesh. I took the fat little heel of Ara's thumb between the silvery pincers of my instrument and went, Zunk! yet again. "AHHHHHH!" shrieked Ara. He glared at me at first with eyes full of concentrated evil. Then he saw what I had done to his thumb. "AHHHHHH!" he shrieked again. I just kept on working. When the register girl gave Ara a dirty look for his beta-man whining, he slunk off to lick his wounds - or at least take out the staple.

I had penetrated the flesh of a fellow human and caused him to bleed - but I was never disciplined for it. I was never called on the carpet by the square-headed big man in the office upstairs, the one who always tried to get us not to vote with the union. Our fancy pants department supervisor, the one with the Tom Selleck mustache and the two inch heels, he never mentioned it either. Nor did anyone else, although I did get a few of those "there's that bad-ass, let's stay away from him" kind of looks that would have served me well in a prison yard. But, fuck, I wasn't going to prison. I wasn't even going to be fired. I got away with it! All violence should be like that, I thought - at least the violence that I personally commit. Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH! The best part of it all was that Ara Baboonian never spoke to me again. At least not directly - although there were a few times during the dog days of the next summer when we peons commandeered the PA system at lunch-time, and threatened each other from afar with our amplified voices. "ELLLLLIEEE!" he would boom, his breathing thick and blustery, the corners of his hornrims knocking against the speaker phone. He sounded almost feral. You could practically hear the foaming of his saliva. "ELLLLLLIEEEE!" And I would answer back, with the smooth, subtle, sinister hiss of "AAAAARRRRAAAA.... AAAARRRRAAAA..."

I never saw Ara Baboonian again, of course - and I don't give a fuck if he's forgotten all about it. I still ain't sorry...