“View From the Sixth Floor”

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My first book is currently available at Amazon in both Kindle and print. This story had been running around in my head for many years. My visit to Dallas, Texas and what was the Texas School Book Depository was the catalyst that pushed me to finally write it. As I stood near the so-called “sniper’s perch” I couldn’t connect that space with the “”x” on the street which marked where the target had been.

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I remember all too well the day President John Kennedy was assassinated as well as the days that followed. I was ten years old and I saw a man shot on television; a man who subsequently died. No it wasn’t the president. It was the man who was accused but never proved guilty of the crime. Lee Harvey Oswald was 24 years old. All my children are now older than he was when he was gunned down. He had a wife. He had two very young daughters. He was never given the opportunity to defend himself.
I know that President Kennedy was also murdered on the streets of Dallas. He had a wife. He had two small children. He carried the promise of a better America, a peaceful America, and possibly a prosperous America. As an Irish Catholic he was my mother’s hero. He represented what could happen to the child of any immigrant. Perhaps she looked at me and thought maybe someday her child could be president. After the assassination I have no doubt she gave no more thought to that.
I sat with my mother throughout the television coverage of the Presidential funeral. She cried as though a member of our family was being memorialized and buried. It was very disturbing to watch my mother sobbing.

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Years later I realized I never saw Oswald’s funeral. When I researched it I was appalled to learn he had no pall bearers. Newsmen covering the event were drafted to assist Oswald’s brother in carrying the casket from the hearse to the grave site. There were no mourning crowds for Oswald. The service was attended by his wife, his children, his mother, and his brother. If he had friends they did not step forward to speak about him. There was no remembering anything good he might have done. Had he been a good son, brother, husband, or father? The implication was that he was a very bad man who beat his wife, disowned his country, and murdered a popular president. Other than that he was a non-entity. It wasn’t until many years later I began to learn more about Lee Oswald. With that came the questions. Had he been the sole assassin? Or had even been part of a conspiracy to kill the president?

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Jack Ruby eliminated any possibility of Oswald telling his side of the story. Yes, he had denied shooting the president the entire time he was in custody until his death. Even at the last when he was being coerced to confess he professed his innocence. No deathbed confession from Mr. Oswald, a man who publicly handed out flyers on the streets of New Orleans supporting Fidel Castro; a man who attempted to renounce his US citizenship when he went to the USSR during the “Cold War. This was obviously a man who had no qualms about being in the spotlight for controversial reasons. If he was so anti-Kennedy and had successfully assassinated him why wouldn’t he crow about it? With one bullet Jack Ruby destroyed the opportunity to ask questions that might have provided answers.

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The reason’s Jack Ruby gave for his extraordinary actions were as absurd as the act itself. He felt sorry for Jacqueline Kennedy and did not want her to have to return to Dallas for a trial. He did not want people to think Jews were cowards. This might make sense to some people. I do believe most people would find this as illogical as Oswald’s denial of his culpability in the assassination.

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All this led to my writing “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale”. I wondered what might have happened if Oswald had lived to tell his side. Where would we be today? While my book is a work of fiction, drawn from my own imagination and interpretation of events it does raise some interesting questions.
Perhaps someday we will find dusty old files hidden away in a corner of the National Archives. Better yet, maybe somewhere in this wide world someone does know the truth and will speak out providing irrefutable evidence to confirm his story. We can only wait and hope.

View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale

“The Boy in the Suitcase”

The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg, #1)The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I purchased The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis some time ago and it sat on my Kindle while I read other better known books. Two days ago I started this Danish crime thriller and could not put it down. Although I struggled with the imagined pronunciation of Danish names and places the story itself was so engrossing I didn’t mind the extra effort.
From the first page I was drawn into the lives of the characters and the question of where this story was going. Nina Borg is a Red Cross nurse with issues of her own which she has to push aside in order to deal with the mystery. By helping her friend Karin she is drawn into a dangerous game as she tries to save a three year old boy who has been hidden in a suitcase in a Copenhagen train station. Pursued by a strange and violent man who wants the boy back, Nina travels across Denmark trying to find out who the boy is and why he was in the suitcase.
Nina’s determination to help the boy is matched only by the determination of Sigita whose son Mikas has been kidnapped. As each woman fights tooth and nail to save the boy the true nature of the crime unfolds. With a surprising and unexpected turn the story culminates in a nail biting conclusion.
Every character in this book is another piece of the puzzle of both the boy in the suitcase and the women who struggle to save him. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a surprise ending. Strong female characters make this a must read for women.

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Why Stay? Why Leave? Why Abuse?

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I have listened to the questions and read the responses to the domestic abuse questions; why do the abused stay and why do they finally leave. While I admit it started me remembering my personal experiences it also got me thinking about why I was being abused. Once again, as I had many years ago, I questioned whether I had done something to deserve the mental, emotional, and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of a man who claimed to love me.

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Following the long thread back to the first time I had been shoved over a coffee table I realized I could not recall what had precipitated the action. I knew where it was, I could describe the living room in my mother’s apartment, but I could not remember the conversation leading up to the push that sent me flying over the table leaving it in pieces and my arms and legs scratched up and bleeding. I was about 18 years old and had already given up a lot of my “freedoms”; how I dressed, where I went, who I talked to, what I watched on television. Most likely the argument was related to one of those things. But I question what could have been so critical that my fiancé thought it was okay to strike me? Had I argued back about some insignificant thing?
Why do abusers abuse? Obviously it isn’t love or concern. It is about Power and Control. I don’t know why one person would so desperately need to control another person but that seems to be the answer. Because when I examine all the instances I keep coming back to control. He wanted to control every aspect of my life while using the excuse he was “protecting” me. I had grown up in New York City so I knew very well how to protect myself. Yet I chose to believe he was controlling me out of love. It was beyond my comprehension that there could be any other reason for his behavior.

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Back in the ‘70’s and 80’s domestic violence and more exactly Intimate Partner Violence was not a subject for public consumption. It was the secret behind closed doors that not even law enforcement recognized. I had never known anyone who was abused or so I believed. Now I know that one in four women has experienced some form of abuse. So I imagine someone I knew was being abused in some fashion. However back then it was a private matter and it certainly didn’t happen in the homes of respectable families. Now I know that domestic violence knows no class, no religion, no race, no lifestyle, no income, and no reason other than control.
Why did I stay through ten years of marriage? In the beginning I believed things would improve. I loved my husband in spite of how I was treated. As I said I even believed he loved me. After I had children I stayed for the sake of the children believing they needed both parents. I never considered the negative effect our fighting and the treatment I received would impact them. I often lied to myself saying they did not know what was going on. I know now that wasn’t true. And I also know intimate partner violence affects the entire family.
Why did I leave? After ten years of marriage I realized things were not getting better. In fact things had grown decidedly worse. And for the very first time I had someone who saw what I was experiencing, recognized my distress, and offered me a temporary escape. My parents didn’t do that and as an only child I had no brother or sister to help me. Toward the end I had deteriorated to the point of self destruction. I had come apart, stopped eating, and often considered suicide. The thought of my children kept me alive and in the end it was concern for them that gave me the courage to leave.
Still the questions of why stay and why leave remain. Every person has a threshold. I had finally reached mine. Many women will return to abusive relationships time and again. I was lucky. In spite of the financial difficulties and the threats and fears I never went back.

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Almost twenty years after I left my ex husband I remarried. It took me that long to find someone I trusted. That trust has not been misplaced. My husband has embraced my children and grandchildren as his own. Better yet they have embraced him as theirs. I have never again relinquished control of my life nor have I been expected to. I am not just a survivor of domestic abuse; I am a thriver. I am me, and I like the person I am.

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“View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale”

viewView From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale

Why are strangers suddenly appearing in a sleepy North Carolina town? What do they have to do with widow Olivia Roberts? Why is her neighbor and friend Bill Horton so dead set against her traveling to Dallas, Texas? When she journeys from her North Carolina home to Dallas in search of answers to questions from November 22, 1963 she learns more than she ever expected.
“View from the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale” is a story of “what-ifs”? What if the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 was a conspiracy? What if accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was innocent? What if someone knew the truth and could prove it? What if someone you trusted turned out to be hiding a secret so big it could change history?
This is a tale of friendship, love, political intrigue, and murder.

Never Forget

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On September 11, 2001 I had been working in my new job with the University of Tennessee, housed at the Department of Human Services. In a little over a month my soon to be fiancé would be moving to Knoxville from New York City. At the time he was working in lower Manhattan a few blocks from the World Trade Center. I was going over a file when a co-worker passed my desk saying some idiot had flown a plane into one of the Towers. As I jumped up to get more information she realized what I was thinking. We hurried to the break room where a television was streaming live video. There was a group of us gathered in that small space. I could see both towers burning. Then, as if in some slow motion science fiction film, I watched as one of the towers collapsed. I watched the clouds of debris spread like a blooming flower of dust, expanding over the area and covering everything. I sank to the couch unable to speak.
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I did not know the love of my life was in the subway beneath the terror above experiencing his own terror. Trapped in a subway car that could not go forward and staggered back to the previous station in bursts of energy he believed he might die.
I spent hours trying to reach him by phone but lines were overburdened and calls went into space. My father was living in Queens and I did manage to get through to him. Although he was only miles from what has become Ground Zero he was calm and unconcerned. In many ways his attitude got me through the next few hours.
As our country was being attacked and thousands were murdered in what had been my hometown for thirty-five years we heard more news. A plane crashed into the Pentagon and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. My husband finally reached me by phone and told me he had gone to Chinatown for lunch after escaping the subway. It would be some time before I got all the details of what he experienced. At that moment I was first furious that he had not gone straight home, then concerned because his behavior seemed irrational. How could he think of lunch when the city was collapsing? I realize now he was unconsciously grasping for something normal in the midst of madness.
We all have our stories and our memories of that terrible day. It has taken years for my husband to be able to watch video of that day and he is still disturbed by the memory. On the other hand I watch again and again as the towers are hit and come down. I remember when they were being built. I remember taking my children to the observation floor. I remember the shops, the offices, the elevators and escalators. Most of all I remember the throngs of people inside. Try as I might I cannot connect with the horror of the moments he spent beneath the ground as the towers descended or the confusion he felt as he finally came up into a world of darkness where residue and debris clouded the air and obscured the sun. All I can do is hold his hand and thank God he is here.
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We must never forget that day. We must remember where we were, what we felt, and the thousands who died and thousands who still suffer from the experiences. There are families who lost loved ones, loved ones who still suffer physical and mental effects of the day. Those weren’t just Towers that came down. There were people who had every right to believe they were safe, working to support their families. They were not soldiers. They did not go into a war zone. Most never had the chance to say goodbye to loved ones and those who did say good bye could not understand why this was happening. For all those who lost loved ones we must remember; for those who survived and carry the burden of the day we must remember. We must tell our children and grandchildren. And we must count every moment as a gift, cherishing our time with loved ones. Because like it or not, there are a lot of madmen in the world and life should be treasured in the memory of those who lost their lives on that dark day.
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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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Apparently the new internet rage is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ve lost count of how many of these challenges showing people dousing themselves with ice water I have seen during the last few weeks. According to Wikipedia, the internet know it all resource, “The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research. It went viral throughout social media during mid 2014.[1][2] In the United Kingdom, people also participate in the challenge for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated people have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation.” It is a great way to raise awareness of this dreadful disease. However, it seems to me it would be more beneficial for those who take the challenge to also donate to the research being done to find a cure. Granted there may be many people who do in fact contribute financially as well as taking the challenge. And awareness has certainly been raised. I question how many who have taken the time to video themselves dumping buckets of ice water over their heads have also taken the time to actually learn about ALS and how it affects those afflicted. It almost seems as though for many it has become both a contest and a way to establish themselves as internet activists when in fact they don’t know what they are talking about.
I would encourage those who do take up the challenge to donate if they are financially able and also to learn about ALS. I don’t expect anyone to do in-depth research. But I would hope they could at least explain simple things like what it does to the body, why it is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and where the money donated goes.
Awareness may have been raised but knowledge may be taking a back seat. And while we are at it, maybe this is a good time to create challenges for other illnesses and issues such as Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Homelessness, and Poverty. These are also critical issues worldwide that cry out for conscious recognition and research that could lead to cures or solutions. We don’t have to pour ice water, maybe we need to just look into our own communities and see what the need is and address it with donations of money, time, or whatever else can be done to alleviate pain.

“Stormfront” by Carolyn McCray

StormFront (Book 1 in 3rd Cycle of the Betrayed Series)StormFront by Carolyn McCray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stormfront by Carolyn McCray is the latest offering in the Betrayed series. Like the earlier novels featuring Brandt and his team this is a story with a zealous religious cult who want to gain control of an ancient religious artifact. This time it is history’s long sought Noah’s Ark. Added to this are encounters with Middle Eastern groups and even the Chinese.
Fraught with tension McCray once again weaves historical fact with present day politics and weapons holding the reader in a grip of suspense. Joined by Rebecca who has left hers and Brandt’s children at home with Brandt’s mother they follow a winding and dangerous trail in search of the Ark. Aided by a member of the religious group known as the Foremen they seek to solve the mystery of the Ark.
The personal relationships of the team play a larger part in this portion of the series and we see the tender side of Davidson. The sexual tension between Brandt and Rebecca is not as obvious as in earlier books and it fits well since they are parents now.
Traveling through several countries the group even reunites briefly with British agent Vanderwalt in Venice.
This is a creative exploration of the Ark, the search for it, and the secrets it might contain. Riveting and adventurous Stormfront will hold your attention from beginning through the climactic end. As with all of McCray’s Betrayed novels I was left with the question, what if…?

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“Monster of Florence” Douglas Preston

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Monster of Florence” is the first non-fiction book I’ve read by Douglas Preston and it is nothing like his works of fiction. This book covers not only the serial murders that took place in Florence and near by but also examines the political atmosphere that influenced the investigation. While the story is sometimes difficult to follow because of all the suspects involved. The investigation is as compelling as the crimes, the investigators and courts often as diabolical as the criminals. Offering insight into the judicial system of Italy and the corruption hidden within, Preston carries the reader along through dark and dangerous paths. When even Preston and his journalist friend become targets of the courts the tension rises.
While the details of the murders are revealed they are not as important to the plot as one might expect. The point of the tale does not seem to be whether or not the killer is ever apprehended and tried but rather the process used to track the killer or killers down.
This is not a book for readers who want a mystery with a neat solution nor is it a tale that examines the psychology of the murders in any depth. It is more an expose of the Italian, especially the Florentine, criminal justice system. If you can get past the multitude of criminals on both sides of the law it is an interesting read.

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“Bloodstains” by Jeff Mudgett

BloodstainsBloodstains by Jeff Mudgett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Bloodstains” by Jeff Mudgett is a disturbing account of the author’s discovery of his family history. After learning his great-great grandfather was America’s first acknowledged serial killer, H.H.Holmes, Mudgett begins to question what impact that relationship might have on his own life. Holmes, whose real name was Herman Webster Mudgett, confessed to the killings of 27 individuals primarily during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Eventually he was executed for the murders but as Mudgett delves deeper into history he comes to believe the killer may have actually done away with hundreds, some in other countries. At times he was suspected of being Jack the Ripper although this has been largely disproved by the research of other’s. Diaries left by the senior Mudgett tell tales of torture as well as murder drawing Jeff into a downward spiral of horror. He questions if he has inherited the madness that possessed his great-great grandfather.
As he delves more deeply into the mind of the monster he begins to experience epileptic seizures when he refuses to obey the voice in his head which he believes is the voice of H.H. Holmes. Struggling with resisting the orders of the Voice and following his own moral compass he is driven to the brink of disaster.
Although written as factual I experienced a degree of disbelief as I read Mudgett’s story. While the history of Holmes has been recorded in newspapers and other literature there are portions of the story which could only have come from the killer’s own pen. Whatever the truth is the story is compelling and terrifying. This is a fascinating if sometimes difficult story to follow but well worth the read for anyone interested in crime and history.

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