I grew up on a farm in Nebraska, attended a one-room country school, and read everything I could get my hands on. In 1968, I was awarded a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Creighton University in Omaha, then served in the U.S. Army’s 30th Military Police Battalion in San Francisco. Among my duties was following school buses around base to try to ward off a possible attack by the Zodiac killer.
After the Army, I took a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1971, worked the police beat and copy desk for The Omaha World-Herald for nine months, then landed a reporting job with The Arizona Republic in 1972. Arizona was wide open: lots of land fraud and the odd mob killing. Don Bolles was one of the leading investigative reporters for the Republic, and I consulted with him on crime stories. On June 2, 1976, he was fatally injured when someone set off a dynamite bomb attached to his car. I was one of four reporters assigned full time for several months to investigate the murder. I also covered several of the associated trials.
Over the years, I continued to favor stories involving crime and mystery. I found several missing heirs, including Arthur Jeffrey Kinnan, a second cousin of the novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling. A lawyer and a private eye had been looking for Kinnan for a year and he was about to be declared dead when I offered to take up the search. I found him in two days. I also did a story on a Washington lobbyist who disappeared for 20 years, then turned up saying he’d been on the run from the mob all that time. And I wrote about an impostor who left behind a $4 million estate.
In the early 1990s, I teamed up my favorite reporting partner, Randy Collier, and in 1992, we shared the Arizona Journalist of the Year award. We covered a police sting operation known as AzScam, which led to the criminal convictions of several judges and legislators. We also helped an American tugboat captain get out of a Mexican prison by publicizing the falsity of his drug-charge conviction. And we wrote about funeral homes mixing up the ashes of the people they cremated, so their relatives didn’t know whether the urns they were getting contained their loved ones, other people, or a mixture.
I retired from the Republic in 2008, but I haven’t stopped writing. These days, I’m doing fiction and biography, and sometimes even self-help. It’s an odd mix, but then I’ve had an odd career, or at least one that has encompassed the telling of many strange stories.