Homicide 37: Seeking justice for Lance

Brendan McCarthy: “We need to chat with the people inside that house,” he tells Wischan.

As Pardo approaches, a young woman in the door’s threshold curses him. “Fat bitch,” she calls the stocky detective. And people here won’t talk to some cop, she assures.

Teens appear in the doorway, slam the door and scurry inside. The officers set up a perimeter around the block and wait.

Ten minutes later, several teens storm out defiantly. The detectives corral them.

A scream erupts from inside. Someone yells, “Don’t do it!”

The it has detectives worried.

Pardo draws his gun. As a linebacker-size colleague crouches beside him, the detective moves onto the porch, wondering what’s behind the door he’s about to kick in.

Tommy Tomlinson’s Tumor

I’m late on this, but say a prayer if you’re inclined for our friend Tommy Tomlinson, who is recovering from a surgery to remove a tumor from his heart. He writes: You’re not going to believe this, but it has nothing to do with me being a fat guy. I’ve got low cholesterol, low blood pressure, all that stuff. This tumor – it’s called an atrial myxoma, Google it sometime – is almost always benign. It shows up for no good reason in a very small number of people. One of the studies I found says the number is about 75 in a million.

Mama always said I was special.

Email him here: tommy@charlotteobserver.com

Who’s Good?

We talk a lot on here about good writers, but we’ve spent not a lot of time talking about good editors. I found myself the other day trying to list the best editors I’ve had, and I feel pretty lucky to have worked with some great ones. So let’s open the floor. Who out there in EditorLand is good? Let’s name some names.

Extreme Failure

Hank Stuever: Symbolic to our era like a sledgehammer to drywall, the biggest house that ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” ever made over — a sprawling, four-bedroom starter castle, a three-car garage mahal with a turret and all — has gone into foreclosure, in the ‘burbs south of Atlanta.

In that particular episode of the hyper-benevolent reality show, which first aired in February 2005, it took 1,800 volunteers a week to demolish the house with the overflowing septic tank that belonged to Milton and Patricia Harper of Lake City, Ga., and then entirely rebuild a new, larger house, while the Harpers and their three children went away to Disneyland. When they returned, they had the biggest house on Ahyoka Drive, with all the appliances and furnishings, plus enough money to pay taxes on it for decades, plus a fund to send their children to college.

The house will be auctioned off, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, next Tuesday on the steps of the Clayton County Courthouse.

The Harpers had used their home as collateral on a $450,000 loan from JPMorgan Chase and fell in arrears, the newspaper reported. He ran a home security business; she mommed at home. Happy to be on television back then, they declined to be interviewed last week, when a news crew showed up from local station WSB, wanting to know wha’ppen.

If You Were A Nut …

Charlie LeDuff looks like he’s having fun. Check out these Detroit News videos. Part I and Part II. I love his expression when the camera first flashes to him in Part II. And this line of questioning is beautiful:

Are you concerned some voters might consider you a nut?

If you were a nut — IF you were a nut — what kind of nut would you be?

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Jeff Klinkenberg: Tad Staples savors summer, especially afternoons when the cumulus clouds pile up like dumplings before turning gray and ugly. He likes when the atmosphere above Florida develops late afternoon indigestion. First there are the little rumbles, then the dramatic rolls. When the main course arrives he can hardly contain himself. He attaches two microphones to the screen front door. He clicks on his tape deck. He listens to what he is recording through headphones. As the tempest peaks, as the wind howls and the frontyard maple bends — as the crash-boom-bah apocalypse seems imminent — you can see him standing in the dim light, swaying to music that has moved his soul.

Staples, 56, is Florida’s Thunderman. He keeps track of it for the rest of us. It’s his hobby. He likes its majesty and power. He collects it on tape and in his memory. He listens, he critiques, he interprets.

Sometimes he sells a recording to a sound-effects company, but that’s just icing on the cake. Thunder is everything in his other­wise small world. He is always surprised when he discovers other people who lack his enthusiasm about thunder. They may tell him they are fascinated but they lie. He telephones, they don’t answer. He leaves a voice mail, they don’t call back.

“They just flap their gums about being interested,” he says after the latest bout of hurt feelings.


FOIA Works!!

Somebody buy the government a beer. Those guys work their asses off, toiling for years to get us important information:

If anyone is still wondering about the safety of a circus that came through Norfolk more than six years ago, we now have the answer.

A computer file of nearly decade-old federal inspections of a business that no longer exists, addressed to a reporter who no longer works at The Virginian-Pilot, arrived this week.

The records show that Sterling & Reid Brothers Circus, which was investigated after a worker beat an elephant at the Scope, had problems ranging from poor care to inexperienced staff to animals getting loose.

If only we had known that, oh, six years ago, when then-Pilot reporter Lou Misselhorn requested the documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

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So Long

Andrew Adam Newman (Anybody know if this Andrew Adam Newman is really Andy Newman?): There was a funeral the other day in the Midtown offices of Hachette, the book publisher, to mourn the passing of what it called a “dear friend.” Nobody had actually died, except for a piece of technology, the cassette tape.

While the cassette was dumped long ago by the music industry, it has lived on among publishers of audio books. Many people prefer cassettes because they make it easy to pick up in the same place where the listener left off, or to rewind in case a certain sentence is missed. For Hachette, however, demand had slowed so much that it released its last book on cassette in June, with “Sail,” a novel by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

The funeral at Hachette — an office party in the audio-book department — mirrored the broader demise of cassettes, which gave vinyl a run for its money before being eclipsed by the compact disc.

(Bonus track, from Stuever, circa 2002.)


Nigel Duara: Ten weeks after the largest workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, this is the new Postville:

Drunken brawls. A food pantry that is almost bare. Women afraid to walk alone at night.

Postville is now home to hundreds of men and women from tough towns and tough lives, brought to this northeast Iowa community by recruiters who entered homeless shelters in dusty Texas border towns offering $15 and a one-way bus ticket.

The impact is evident: New laborers are changing Postville. The Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant, the site of the immigration raid, once employed men and women with families. Now, its workers are mostly young, single people with no stake in the community and nothing to lose.

Tip Of The Day

Candice Millard last weekend at The Mayborn narrative nonfiction writers conference in Texas: You want your characters to be so good that readers miss them when the story is over.