"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Summers With Papa" a work in progress

I adored my grandparents, Roxie and Alfred. So when they moved away from Detroit, where our whole family lived, I was devastated. But they wanted to return to the ocean, having both been born in North Carolina on the Atlantic coast. The pull was just too great to keep them from moving to Tampa, Florida where Papa would build them a home not far from his beloved sea. I made many trips to Tampa as I grew up and still have vivid memories of my adventures with my grandfather, fondly referred to as Papa.

An excerpt from Roxie and Alfred: A Memoir 

     Papa woke me at five o'clock in the morning like he always did. We were going fishing, he said, for Shovel Nose Shark. It scared me a little and I let him know that I didn't think fishing for sharks was something I wanted to do. But he insisted that I would love it as he loaded up his truck with fishing gear,our jackets, hats, and lunch.

     "Hop in , honey. It'll only take me a couple of minutes to attach our boat and trailer."

     We drove out onto the causeway between Tampa and Clearwater. All along the way there were fishermen standing or sitting in beach chairs near the shore. Papa pulled into Mac's Bait and Tackle Shop to pick up a few more necessities and then we were off to find the channel. That's where he said the Shovel Nose Sharks would be. Every time he mentioned those sharks my heart jumped down into my stomach and my right knee started twitching. I'd never gone fishing for anything larger than a catfish and I couldn't imagine how we were going to get a big old shark into the boat by ourselves.

     The sun was dimmed by a sky full of clouds that morning. When we reached the channel, no one else was there. Papa maneuvered the truck around so the rear end of the trailer was pointing toward the water. There was a short driveway to roll your boat down into the water from the trailer. I jumped out when the truck came to a stop and ran along side, until papa had unstrapped the boat and began easing it down into the water. I tried running my hand along the edge of the boat in an effort to steady it, but a gust of wind blew sand in my face and down the front of my shirt so I had trouble seeing where I was going.

     "Sure is windy today, papa. Do you think maybe there's a storm comin' up? I don't see any sun comin' out either."

     "Never you mind, honey, papa knows what he's doing. Won't be no storm today."

     I was a little skeptical about that last remark when another gust of wind swirled around my bare legs and blew my hat right off. Grabbing my hat away from the wind, I ran to get our jackets out of the truck. I thought I better roll up the windows too. Papa came and lifted out our fishing rods and bait, and locked the doors. We headed for the boat, which stood waiting for us in the lapping water. The laps were growing higher and higher by the minute. I wondered why papa didn't notice.

     "Come on, honey. Let's get underway. Ships ahoy."

     "Ships Ahoy, matey" I said and into the boat we both jumped, me first and then papa so he could give us one last big shove away from the shore. He yanked hard on the cord of the outboard motor and the nose of that little boat lifted into the air and took off like it had some place important to go. I looked down into the water. It was so black you couldn't even see the bottom.

     "Papa, why is the water so black?"

     "It's not black, honey. It's just very deep. We’re in the channel where big boats can go though to the other side of the causeway without getting stuck on the bottom."

     "How come we're in the channel?"

     "Cause that's where the sharks hang out."

     My right knee started twitching again and I prayed to God that we would not be eaten by one of them.

     Papa trolled us out a ways "See how fast the water is moving in the channel? It carries a lot of shark food with it," he said. "And when there is abrupt change in currents, the salt, or the water depth, there's even more food."

     "I don't see any food."

     I didn't see a thing in that cold, black water but I knew that Papa knew what he was talking about. He had been a sailor longer than I'd been alive.

     The wind whipped around the bottom of the boat knocking over one of the cans of bait and scattering pieces of crab meat all over. I zipped my jacket up to my chin and tied a blue bandanna tight around my head. The temperature had dropped and we hadn't even put our rods in the water yet. I threw on a pair of fisherman’s gloves and returned the bait to the overturned pail, stopping to thread a large chunk of crab meat on my hook like Papa had shown me.

     "Throw your line in, honey."

     The sea around the boat had started a steady roll and gentle waves were breaking against the sides of the boat. As I leaned a little over the edge to make sure there was a good spot to drop in my line, a splash of salt water licked my forehead and ran down my entire face, stinging my eyes. The line fell out of my hand and into the black water.

     "Just hold tight to your rod, honey, you'll get a bite soon."

     I straddled the seat, positioned my feet against the other side of the boat, and leaned back on the plastic cushion Papa always kept under the seat. Holding tight to my fishing rod with my left hand, I placed my thumb and forefinger on the reel. I knew what to do when the moment came. The movement of the boat had such a mesmerizing effect on me, my eyes began to slowly close. My body relaxed and the fishing pole fell out of my hand catching on my tackle box. I sat up suddenly aware the boat was rolling from side to side. Just then papa's reel gave a loud whirring sound and started to unwind.

     "Papa! the shark! the shark!"

     Papa jumped up, stationing his feet firmly on the bottom of the boat. He leaned back slightly and positioned the handle of his fishing rod on his navel. He began to wind up the line onto the reel, fast at first, then gradually slowing until it seemed an effort. The boat was now rocking back and forth steadily so much so that papa was having trouble maintaining his balance. The entire rod was bent forward. Something huge must have a hold of it, I thought. I covered my eyes picturing papa being swallowed up by a giant Shovel Nose Shark.

     When I opened my eyes, there was papa wrestling with the strangest looking fish I'd ever seen. It was about two and a half feet long and looked like a cross between an eel and a large pike, only flatter. It was grey and smooth on the top side and stark white underneath. When it opened its large slit of a mouth you could see sharp, inch-long, pointed teeth all around the edges. I was scared that it would chew off one of papa's hands. But he held it down with all his might and removed the hook which had snared him in the lip. The boat was still rocking but papa didn't seem to notice. We had drifted far out into the channel towards the open sea. A drop of rain hit my nose and then another one.

     "I got my shovel nose shark," papa said, smiling proudly.

     "Well if that’s what it is, where's his shovel?"

     "Right here," papa said. He pointed to the head of the wriggly animal.

     "See that flat piece just above his nose?"

     Holding on to both sides of the moving boat, I crouched down low and crept closer to papa and gaped at the strange thing.

     "That's his shovel?," I asked.

     “Sure is,” papa said. “Only some people call it a hammer.”

     Just then a wave of water gushed over the side of the boat flooding the bottom and heaving the boat to one side. A light steady drizzle of rain had covered my head and shoulders.

     Papa's arms flew up in the air tossing the hammered creature towards the sky. I stayed in my crouching position and followed its path 'til it came down hitting the rear seat of the boat hard and landing at my feet, thrashing furiously. If I hadn't been so scared out of my wits, I would have felt sorry for it. Papa had lost his balance in the shuffle and was half-way out of the boat, both legs dangling in the icy brine.

     "Papa! papa!

     The boat leaned way over with the weight of his body. I started to jump up thinking I could help him.

     "Nancy, don't move! Stay right where you are. Don't stand up, just try to slide yourself to the other side of the boat, along with as much of our paraphernalia as you can." By that time, the fish had squirmed into corner at the back of the boat and was lying very still.

     Papa threw one leg over the side and tried to pull himself up into the boat, which by this time  had tipped so far in his direction, it nearly touched the water.

     It was raining pretty heavily then and both papa and I were soaked to the skin. I  shivered and bent over and laid on my knees to try to capture a little heat, keeping my eyes on Papa the whole time.

     "Come on, papa, you're almost there. Give it another try. Please don't leave me out here alone with Mr. Shovel Nose."

     Papa gave a huge heave ho and threw himself into the boat. For a moment he just lay there breathing in and out heavily.

     "Where's my shovel nose?" he lifted his head and yelled.

     "He's back in the corner. Just leave him there, Papa. He's fine. He's taking a little rest.”

     We were both so relieved that papa hadn't succumbed to a watery grave that neither of us noticed how much the boat was rocking back and forth or that the ocean was becoming more and more turbulent, not to mention the incessant rain. Papa made his way to the back of the boat and sat next to the outboard motor. He checked out his fishy friend and gave a hard tug on the cord. Nothing happened. He gave it another tug and still nothing happened. Turning in his seat he faced the motor, bent forward and gave it several hard pulls, one after the other. Still nothing happened.

     "Where are the oars? he yelled

     Papa got up turned around and switched to the middle seat, where he sat when he was rowing. Both oars were on the bottom of the boat. He carefully placed them in the oar locks. Turning the nose of the boat away from the shore, he tried to row but the waves were beating so strongly against the back of the boat it wouldn't move an inch. Papa struggled against the waves and gave another hard pull on the oars. The right one lifted in the air out of the oar lock and pitched towards the outside of the boat. He let go of the left one and grabbed the escaping one with both hands. The boat started turning in circles, as he retrieved the oar and threw it to the bottom of the boat. The ocean had swelled around us and was lifting our little craft high each time another wave crested. Both my knees were twitching now and I was praying out loud.

     "Dear God, please..."

     Papa made his way to the back of the boat again and began yanking on the cord of the outboard motor. The motor began to whirl immediately and the boat lurched forward, throwing the shark up on the seat next to papa, who was trying to turn the boat around and point the nose towards the shore.

     "Let him go, papa. He's just a baby. He needs his mama"

     Papa sat there for a moment. He looked at the fish, who lay very still beside him. Then he looked at me.

     "Please, papa."

     He looked back at the fish, who lifted his head slightly, then at me again. With his right hand on the motor handle, he picked up Mr Shovel Nose and tossed him into the sea.

     Wiping his hand on his soaked shirt, he focused on the journey back to shore. He had the motor turned on high so that we were skipping along the tops of the waves. A huge gust of wind gave us a shove from the rear. We were going so fast Papa's fishing hat blew off and rolled across the white crested waves.  His white hair danced in the wind and a wide grin transformed his worried face. We were home free and he knew it.

     I was ecstatic. My prayers had been answered. As I scanned the shore line, I could see that papa was headed right for the shore where our truck was parked. Papa never slowed down. He gunned the motor and steered it right up on the shore onto the grass. It stopped suddenly throwing both of us forward. I toppled into his lap and he held me tight. Papa had saved our lives. I will never forget that day without sun in the briny sea with papa. He was truly my hero.


*Note: Papa was confused about the name of the shark we caught. There is a Shovel Nose shark and a Hammer Head. He kept referring to the one we caught as a Shovel Nose, but it was actually a Hammer Head.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Life keeps getting in the way

     I can't believe I haven't been here since the end of February. I apologize to all my regular readers. What have I been doing? The first thing that comes to my mind is I've been living my life which, by the way, has gotten somewhat hectic. No, I haven't stopped writing. I've managed to fit that in whenever I have time to sit down. 
     I'm still running my business, although the house is still up for sale and I hope to be living in Vermont by next year at this time. The bed and breakfast started getting really busy again the end of January. It stayed that way through most of May. But has begun to slow down again. We got through the Kentucky Derby with two new helpers. The employee thing has been in flux since John quit last Christmas. Hoping it'll stabilize soon.  
     I am still working on re-writing the first three chapters of my memoir, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen. It is definitely getting better, but still is not where I want it. I've included excerpts from my first chapter below

Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen

The Big Move

      At sixty four, divorced and retired, with my family scattered around the United States, I made the most impulsive decision of my entire life. With no prior business experience and little start up money, I moved to a new city where I only knew one person, bought a 125-year-old historic mansion, and opened a bed and breakfast.

      It was June 1995, eight months before I opened my bed and breakfast. My furniture was in the van and I was all packed and ready to leave Chicago.The movers slammed the heavy doors together and walked around to the front of the moving van; I watched them from my third floor apartment window as they climbed up into the cab, then I started toward the front door. What if they forgot something? I decided to take another look around.
     As I walked past the front door and circled back down the wide hallway into the apartment again, the squeals of my little three year old grandson echoed in the hall near the empty bookcase where the stereo had been.Alek and I had danced there to Old MacDonald Had a Farm over and over…twirling and laughing, enchanted by the music. Despite my oldest daughter Kylie’s attempts at pulling away from me emotionally, she did allow me to bond with my first grandchild and Although I knew I had to leave Chicago, leaving Alek would be very hard. When I told Kylie I was leaving, I'll never forget the look of relief on her face; it hurt so much...like salt in an open wound.
      I walked toward the windows at the front of the apartment as sunlight from the living room began to creep into the dim hallway, falling on the glossy hard wood floors that extended straight ahead and throughout the entire apartment.
     Living in the big city had become way too expensive and I knew I had to find some place cheaper. and, although I loved Chicago and this apartment, I had nothing really tying me here except Alek, as Maggie my closest friend had already retired and moved back to her home town in Kentucky.

     ...I took a sharp turn to the right and, walking into the sun room, stopped at one of the windows to look outside again as bright sunlight fell against the panes, warming my cheeks and flooding my eyes so that I could barely see the van still parked in front. The sun room was a charming little room just big enough for a round pedestal table, four chairs and a few more plants, where last Christmas I draped the table with a red and green plaid cloth and invited all my closest friends as well as the gang from Crane High School and my daughters to a farewell get-together.16 minutes ago
      I filled a crystal punch bowl with creamy eggnog, as they began to arrive, and circled it with little crystal cups, wedging in red satin bows and sprigs of holly.“ So you’re leaving us, eh?” Mario walked into the sun room flashing that beautiful smile of his. He and I had been colleagues at Crane High School; his classroom right across the hall from mine.
     “Yeah, I’m gonna start my second career” I laughed a little nervously as I told him.

     “Bet you’ll be glad to get away from the little darlings?’

     “ Not really, Mario. I’ll probably miss everyone like crazy.” Mario and I never socialized outside of school, although I wouldn’t have been against gazing into his dark brown Italian eyes at dinner in some nice restaurant. But we took breaks together at school and talked about the kids a lot. I loved being a teacher and was always thinking up ways to entice them to learn.

     “What are you going to do in Louisville? You bought a house there, right?” Angie said.

     “Yeah, a beautiful, Victorian, like the ones down on Fullerton Avenue. Only those in Louisville are a lot cheaper. But just as big.”

     “ How big?”

     “Almost forty five hundred square feet. Five bedrooms and three baths.”

     “And you’re gonna live there all by yourself? Marcie’s eyes widened.Saturday at 9:11am · Like · 4
I guess they all thought I was crazy cause the whole room looked over at me in awe.

     "I’m turning it into a bed and breakfast.”

     “A bed and breakfast?” everyone said in chorus. You would have thought I’d said I was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge.

     “I never heard you talk about wanting a bed and breakfast,” Angie said.

     “Me neither.”

     “Me neither.” By now I had the attention of the whole room.
     “I never really thought about owning one until I saw this house,” I said.

     “You mean you’ve decided to open a bed and breakfast cause you want a Victorian house? Marcie asked.”

     “Yeah, she’s crazy, right?” Mario looked straight at me and winked.

     “I am not. This is a brilliant idea. I can live in a beautiful, historic home and make some money at the same time. The business will pay for the mortgage.
     “I didn’t know you knew how to run a bed and breakfast.” someone across the room said, with a smile and a modicum of sarcasm.

    “Well, actually I don’t, but how hard can it be?” I said, trying to convince myself.  I had a very romantic notion of what a bed and breakfast was and had no idea it was a business. I know, unbelievable for someone who’s supposed to be fairly intelligent. But stupid or not, I was doing it. I was such a risk taker, the thought of doing it excited the hell out of me.
      It was hard to believe I had lived in Chicago thirty years. I did a lot in those thirty years….got divorced three times, earned degrees in education and music, taught high school, worked on a Ph D and traveled in and out of the country many times.  I was thirty four when I moved there and now, at sixty four, I was about to start a new career, one I knew absolutely nothing about. I must be nuts …starting a new business at age sixty four in a town where I only know one person. I stood there for a moment staring at the empty room.  A shiver slowly made its way up the back of my spine. Yes, it would be an  adjustment, but I’d gotten through three divorces, my first husband’s suicide, and the death of my beloved grandmother and felt emotionally stronger each time the grieving was over.

* * * *

  ...I turned and walked through the French doors into what was originally the dining room. It made a wonderful airy office space. I loved the hard wood floor and the oriental rug that had covered it. At the far end of the room, I’d moved in a second desk strictly for writing and sat working on my Apple computer day after day. It was in that very room I first started writing my dissertation.
    My one year Sabbatical had begun in September almost three years before. I registered at the University to work on an advanced degree. Since the Board of Education required a complete physical every few years, I made an appointment at my clinic to do it before classes started. A couple of days after my appointment, the clinic called saying they found something suspicious on my mammogram. They suggested a biopsy. As I often do, I went into denial and put it off until October. I finally went in as an outpatient on my birthday, October ninth. The results were not good and I was told I needed a lumpectomy and probably radiation and/or chemo. I had stage one breast cancer.
    I did not quit school and go into cancer treatment hibernation.  I continued as planned. Every day, for eight weeks, I went to the Michael Reese Cancer Center for radiation in the early morning, took classes at the university in the afternoon, and worked as a teaching assistant, in the evenings. That’s how I had always handled unpleasant things. I threw myself into the solution or the business at hand, or just went into denial for a period of time and dealt with the aftermath later. I’d gotten very good at it over the years. I was great in a crisis.
     I spent most of my recuperation period alone. Although Kylie had taken me to the hospital for my biopsy and lumpectomy, she did not offer to help in any way afterward, nor did she call to see how I was doing. In many ways, I wasn’t surprised. Thank God for Kristie, who called and emailed on a regular basis and let me know frequently how concerned she was. In fact she offered to make the trip from Austin, where she lived, to Chicago to be with me a while. But, as usual, I preferred to handle the situation alone.
     The radiation was scary to me, so I helped myself through the fear and anger by drawing pictures of  "The Radiation Team from Hell.” They sat hunched over on motor cycles wearing helmets and goggles and looking fierce as they came after me dead on. I pasted them on the wall over my dissertation desk and talked to them disparagingly every day. Somehow, this diffused their power over me…a technique I learned while reading how psycho-therapists treated patients with panic attacks. As usual, I got myself though another traumatic ordeal.
     My cancer was only stage one, so fortunately they got it all with a lumpectomy and I hadn‘t needed chemo. I treated myself to the summer in Africa. It was very expensive, but I’ve never regretted it.  It took me away from the angst of  a year of studying, teaching, and cancer. And it helped with the depression that came once that year ended and my mental state plunged.
     I went on Safari, gorilla trekking, and sight seeing…from Kenya to Tanzania. to Lake Kivu, Burundi, Zaire, and Rwanda. Over that summer, my state of mind gradually stabilized. When I returned to Chicago, I was ready for another year of teaching choral music, and Chaucer to high school kids. I was glad to get back to teaching. I loved it, and it took my mind off of everything else.
    I finished checking the apartment for things the movers might have left behind and looked out the window again. This time they were gone, on their way to Louisville, Kentucky. I hated to leave this place but decided I better get on the road. It was a five to six hour drive straight down I-65 and I wanted to get there before dark....

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Digging Deeper

     I know I'm vacillating back and forth, but I honestly don't think that's a bad thing. After all, I'm not in a hurry. I mostly started writing my memoir to see if I could do it and because I simply love the process and activity of writing. When I thought I was finished, after several re-writes, I queried a handful of agents. Several of them requested I send them my MS but that's as far as I got. There were no real takers. Fortunately though, I got valuable feedback. The majority said my writing was good, but the one remark that stood out loud and clear was that I needed to dig deeper.

     OK, so I need to dig deeper. Now that shouldn't be too hard should it? Alas, I was wrong about that. It was very hard. I didn't know where to start. In fact, I was somewhat confused about what that meant and how to do it. I went back to the journals and the how-to books to find the answer. Some were helpful, like Stephen King's and a couple of others, but most were not.

     I finally realized it was up to me to find a way. So I began sitting with a scene for hours, first thinking about it, then picturing it, and finally feeling it, trying to get to the soul of it. I would ask myself How did I feel when this happened? or ...when he of she said this or that to me? I was working on my first three chapters, 'cause those are the ones most agents ask for. I was actually making a modicum of progress, but it was taking forever. Finally, I decided to hire a content editor.

Best idea I've had in a long time. She was great. She pointed out all the places I needed to reveal more about myself, about my feelings, my motives, my thinking and so on. She also included suggestions and asked questions that got me thinking. I printed out all her edits and re-read my first three chapters, referring to her notes and making changes as I went along.

When I finished, I was delighted with the result. My chapters may not be perfect, or even salable ( I'm not a publisher), but the pages have come alive. 

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

More research on the Purple Gang

 After doing a little more research, I found this: "Detroit's Infamous Purple Gang was one of the most notorious organized crime groups of the 20th century. The gang  evolved from a juvenile street gang through their rise to power and eventual self-destruction. They exemplify the dark side of the  Prohibition-era in Detroit history. Detroit had a gold rush atmosphere and a thriving black market during the 1920s that attracted gangsters and unsavory characters from all over the country."

Detroit News July 16, 1999
Article by Paul R. Kavieff:  http://apps.detnews.com/apps/history/index.php?id=183#ixzz2KEgZFLa4

Rum running
"With the advent of Prohibition in Michigan on May 1, 1918, the young delinquents quickly graduated from nuisance types of street crime to armed robbery, hijacking, extortion, and other strong arm work. They became notorious for their high profile manner of operation and their savagery in dealing with enemies.

     The four Bernstein brothers, Abe, Joe, Raymond, and Isadore (Izzy), soon became the recognized leaders of the mob. The Purple Gang was never a tightly organized criminal syndicate but a loose confederation of predominantly Jewish gangsters. By the early twenties, the Purples had developed an unsavory reputation as hijackers, stealing liquor loads from older and more established gangs of rumrunners. The Purple Gang always preferred hijacking to rumrunning and their methods were brutal. Anyone landing liquor along the Detroit waterfront had to be armed and prepared to fight to the death as it was common practice for the Purples to take a load of liquor and shoot whoever was with it. In the early years, the Purple Gang preyed exclusively on other underworld operators, insulating them from the police.

     The young Purple Gangsters came under the tutelage of two older and established Detroit mobsters in the early twenties named Charles Leiter and Henry Shorr. These two men operated a legitimate corn sugar outlet on Oakland Avenue known as the "Oakland Sugar House." Leiter and Shorr became the mentors of the Purples using the younger men for strong arm work, extortion of local businesses, and to muscle in on the alley brewers to whom they sold bootleg supplies. As a result, the Oakland Sugar House Gang was born, in reality only an early phase of the Purple Gang's evolution.

     With their numbers swelled by the influx of mobsters from other cities who came to Detroit to cash in on the golden harvest of Prohibition, the Purple Gang prospered. The mob soon branched out into other rackets. During a period of strife in the Detroit area cleaning industry, the Purple Gang was used as terrorists by corrupt labor leaders to keep union members in line and to harass non-union independents. This conflict became known as the Cleaners and Dyers War. Bombings, thefts, beatings, and murder were all methods employed by the Purples to enforce union policy. They were paid handsomely for their services. The labor war ended with the Purple Gang Trial of 1928 in which all of the Purple Gangster defendants were eventually acquitted. The gang emerged from the trial unscathed and became the dominant power in the Detroit underworld. The Purples ruled the Detroit underworld for approximately five years from 1927 to 1932.
In September 1928, Purple Gang defendants were found not guilty of extortion in the "cleaners and dyers war." This photo shows the prosecutors, defense lawyers and defendants during the trial before Judge Charles Bowles.
     The gang rose to underworld prominence rapidly after a machine gun massacre at the Milaflores Apartments in March of 1927. Three imported gunmen suspected of killing a Purple Gang liquor distributor were butchered in the ambush. Fred "Killer" Burke, famous for his role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, was hired by the Purples as the machine gunner. Two other notorious Purple Gang gunmen also participated.

     During the late twenties, the Purple Gang reigned supreme over the Detroit underworld, controlling the city's vice, gambling, liquor, and drug trade. They also controlled the local wire service which provided horse racing information to all of the Detroit horse betting parlors and handbooks. The gang even became the suppliers of Canadian whiskey to the Capone organization in Chicago. This arrangement was made after Capone was told by the Detroit underworld to keep his operation out of the city. Capone thought it more prudent to make the Purples his liquor agents rather than go to war with the gang.

     For several years the Purples enjoyed almost complete immunity from police interference as witnesses to crimes were terrified of testifying against any criminal identified as a Purple Gangster. Jealousies, egos, and inter-gang quarrels would eventually cause the Purple Gang to self-destruct.

The "Collingwood Manor Massacre" in 1931 took the lives of Hymie Paul, Isadore Sutker and Joe Lebowitz. This illustration from the old Detroit Times shows how the bodies were found in the apartment.
     In 1931 an inter-gang dispute ended in the murder of three Purples by members of their own gang. The three men had violated underworld code by operating outside the territory allotted to them by the Purple Gang leadership. Three members of the "Little Jewish Navy," a group of Purples who owned several boats and participated in rumrunning as well as hijacking, decided they would break away from the gang and become an underworld power themselves. The three men, Hymie Paul, Isadore Sutker aka Joe Sutker, and Joe Lebowitz, were lured to an apartment on Collingwood Avenue on September 16, 1931. They believed they were going to a peace conference with Purple Gang leaders. In reality, they were only going to their deaths. After a brief discussion, the three unarmed Purples were shot to death by the Purple Gangsters they had gone to meet. A bookie named Sol Levine, who had transported the three men to the fatal rendezvous, was arrested soon afterwards and was quickly frightened into becoming a State's witness. Levine had been allowed to live because he was a friend of Ray Bernstein. The State had a live witness to the murders and Levine's testimony was devastating. Three of the four Purples involved in the incident which became known as the Collingwood Manor Massacre were quickly arrested. Irving Milberg, Harry Keywell, and Raymond Bernstein, three high ranking Purples, were convicted of first degree murder in the Collingwood Manor Massacre and sent to prison for life.

     Although the Purples remained a power in the Detroit underworld until 1935, long prison sentences and inter-gang sniping eventually destroyed the gang's manpower. The predecessors of Detroit's modern day Mafia family simply stepped in and filled the void once the Purple Gang self-destructed.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Back to the drawing board

Had to readjust my New Year's Resolutions a bit. I decided to re-write my entire first memoir....all twenty two chapters. Based on lots of good feedback from agents, I radically changed the format of the first six chapters and carefully crafted some of the chapters. This, of course, has left my new memoir sitting on a corner of my desk, but at least I'm writing....lots, and every day. And, I have continued to write articles, and keep up my four blogs and the one for the Louisville Bed and Breakfast Association.

My focus, in the re-write, was on going deeper with my story, especially in terms of the narrator and how she changed over time. I also tried to emphasize and develop some of the conflict that arose between her and other characters. I've had to look at this work as you would a work of fiction and make sure all the major parts; such as, character development, dialogue, plot, story arc, etc are well crafted. This is no easy task, especially for a memoirist who isn't used to applying fictive techniques.

Anyhow, I will be back to my second memoir soon. I first want to send out more queries on the re-write. I only sent it to a small group the first time. I got good feed-back and a lot of good suggestions for making the work better.  Thanks to all the agents who were so positive. It gave me hope.

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