Selections from Shurik’s Memoirs

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109. Major General Andres Larka & Artur Sirk

The Vaps proposal for constitutional reform was scheduled for popular vote on October 14-16, 1933. Since the two previous ones were defeated, my party decided during its national congress on June 18, 1933 to support it. The Vaps proposal won by 72.8%, the turnout 77.9% of eligible voters. I believe many non-Vaps voted for it just to end the constitutional crisis that had dragged on for years. The Estonian Encyclopedia stated that the Vaps, headed by A. Larka and A. Sirk, then began fierce attacks on democratic and parliamentary systems. Their goal was to grab power for themselves. In 1934, the political scene would turn tumultuous.

The politicians in the center of the coming upheaval were Konstantin Päts and Johan Laidoner versus Major General Andres Larka and Artur Sirk.* Larka (b. 1879), Estonia’s first Minister of War, had an illustrious career that included fighting in the Russia-Japanese War, on the Eastern Front during WW I, and in Estonia’s War of Independence. In the 1920s he fell ill with throat TB, and the expenses incurred for treatments in Switzerland forced him to sell his Voore manor house and land in Keila Parish. Afterwards he started to manage a farm and mill in Saue and became the candidate of the League of Liberation in the 1934 presidential elections. When by March he had garnered overwhelming support (primarily in the larger cities and Saaremaa), the acting head of state Päts along with Laidoner declared a state of emergency to stop Larka. The elections were postponed indefinitely, and Vaps leaders and many of its members were arrested. Larka was incarcerated twice between 1934 and 1937 for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government even though evidence was lacking. One historian wrote that he was victim of mainstream politicians’ fear of a fascist type democratic victory. Larka retired and would have only a few years to enjoy life with his family. After the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the communists arrested him on July 23, 1940 and sent him to Kirov Oblast (Russia) where he died in Malmoz prison camp on January 8, 1942. The location of his grave remains unknown.

What Larka lacked in charisma and oratorial skills, his deputy Artur Johannes Sirk (b. 1900) possessed in abundance and is credited with transforming the Vaps into a popular movement. Sirk fought in the War of Independence’s student battalion, enlisted in the army, and received a law degree from Tartu University. Arrested in 1934 as part of the roundup of Vaps, he escaped from prison and fled to Latvia and then on to Finland where he was joined by his wife Hilda and their daughter. From there he directed political intrigues and became involved with plans for a rebellion against Päts. When the security police discovered the plot and arrested the leaders, he left Finland and stayed in several countries. On August 2, 1937 he fell to his death from a hotel window in Luxembourg. While the officials ruled it a suicide, several historians assert that Päts’s agents were involved. Sirk and his wife are buried amidst VIPs at Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki. Using heavy-handed methods, Päts neutralized the Vaps movement.

*The account that follows is compiled from numerous Internet sources.


Q: What are the criteria for Shuriks Picks?

A: Picks of the Month are books that we read during the previous month and found them enjoyable and/or they dealt with an important or neglected topic. With occasional exceptions, the books should be in print in English. We also review e-books and ARCs (advanced reader editions) but not unpublished works. We moved in 2011 and again in 2012. If you do not have our new address and want to submit a review copy, send us first an email. Acceptance of a book will not guarantee that it will be reviewed or mentioned. Our interests include classics, true crime, mysteries, history, and the environment. No erotica, porn, or ultra-violence.

Q: Do books qualify that are controversial or present ideas with which you disagree?

A: Yes, we welcome controversial books if they are well-written and informative. They are good for the publishing industry.

Q: Will your opinion of an author or publisher influence which books are chosen?

A: Somewhat as to which books we will choose to read but not our evaluation. There are some authors we like as persons but not their books and others we don’t like but have picked their books. In the case of two publishers, we have looked at scores of their mysteries but have found every one boring and thus tend to skip their novels.

Q: Can the same author be picked more than once? More than two months in a row?

A: Yes. Picks represents books we liked the best during the previous month.

Q: Would you include a book on the basis of having read only a review?

A: Not for Shuriks Picks or other reviews. However, we do mention books in the Commentary section based on reviews or announcements.

Q: How do you choose which books to read?

A: We have a list of books we would like to read that is compiled from book reviews, recommendations, review copies, gifts, and books we purchase.

Q: Will you publish negative reviews?

A: Unlikely. Our goal is to promote books and reading. We might make occasional negative comments. 

Q: Do you recommend publishers for authors wanting their book published?

A: No. Problems can develop with the most respected publishing houses. Before we would sign with any publisher we would have a reputable literary lawyer or agent review the book contract.

Q: What does it cost to have books chosen for Shuriks Picks or otherwise mentioned?

A: Nothing. We neither charge nor pay for the blog content and have never been involved in financial dealings (other than accepting review copies). This applies also to products we mention. We like to support reading and literacy, authors (published & unpublished), bookstores, and libraries.

Q: What happened to November 2012 blog?

A: We have no clue, and Apple no longer provides tech support for iWeb. The November 2012 blog was up for at least eight months. Then it disappeared from our computer and from the Internet. Even listing it in the archives disappeared. We had a printout and added a shortened version to the October 2012 blog.


Pick of the Month, November 2017



The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb, Atria Books $26.00

The Unquiet Grave is based on a true murder trial held in 1897 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia that involved testimony from a ghost. Although the death of the beautiful Zona Heaster Shue is declared an accident, Mary Jane Heaster believes her daughter was murdered and makes it her mission to bring the killer to justice. The story is told from the point of view of the mother, the strong-willed and resourceful wife of a struggling farmer, and of James P.D. Gardner, an African-American lawyer defending the accused killer, a white man. He is second chair to the controversial Dr. William Parks Rucker, who was a rabid Union supporter and at the same time owned slaves.

People react to the death of a loved one in a variety of ways. And their reactions can have consequences. Mary Jane directs her grief outward and seeks vengeance, eventually announcing that Zona’s ghost accused her husband Edward “Trout” Shue of killing her. Her efforts lead to exposing the hidden side of domestic abuse and reopening the investigation. Her husband Jacob, however, wants to forget the murder as if it never happened and for her to do nothing, stating it won’t bring back Zona. Their conflicting positions place strains on the marriage. While Trout acts grief-stricken, the community believes he is faking it and finds his behavior inappropriate, fueling suspicion that he was responsible for Zona’s death.

Gardner also has lost loved ones. He was able to recover tolerably well from the death of his first wife Eliza, his successful practice providing distraction. After the death of his second wife Alice, however, he saw only loneliness ahead and turned his grief inward. His attempt to commit suicide lands him at Lakin State Hospital for the Colored Insane. During 1930-1931, his thought-provoking conversations with Dr. James Boozer, a young African-American psychiatrist, involve race relations; issues faced by black professionals; and the tumultuous life of Dr. Rucker and their role in the Greenbrier ghost case.

This riveting novel is beautifully written and culminates in a powerful ending. The characters and era come alive. Interesting historical accounts woven into the plot include the exploits of Confederate spy Nancy Hart and her surprising encounter with Dr. Rucker. While conducting background research, McCrumb discovered parallels between Zona’s case and that of Maria Marten (murdered in 1827 in England), which later became a popular play and might have influenced Mary Jane. Readers are left with the warning: Beware when a man starts to isolate his wife from her family. Highly recommended.


The Prince of Paradise: The True Story of a Hotel Heir, His Seductive Wife, and a Ruthless Murder by John Glatt, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, $7.99

The Prince of Paradise starts with the rise and fall of Ben Novack Sr. He is best known as the founder of Fontainebleau, an Art Deco hotel with antique French décor that drew Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and other celebrities to Miami Beach. Arrogant, vindictive, and a womanizer, he went from riches to bankruptcy and lost his beloved Fontainebleau in 1977. His marriage to his second wife Bernice, a former supermodel, ended in divorce. Their son Ben Jr., born in 1956, grew up in the landmark hotel and was a spoiled brat raised by a series of nannies.

As an adult, Ben Jr. lacked social skills and had an abrasive personality, Kelsey Grammer being one of his few friends. He launched a successful convention-planning business, collected Coca-Cola memorabilia, and became one of top five Batman collectors in the world. His dream job was to be a police officer, and he performed conscientiously his duties as a reserve officer with the Fort Lauderdale PD where none knew of his weird obsessions. His second wife Narcisa “Narcy” Veliz Pacheco would accuse him of having forced her to undergo breast operations for his entertainment. For years, he had paid for breast augmentations for girlfriends and acquaintances so he could watch the operations - his own private body modification live shows. He also had an amputee fetish, which entailed courting young amputees and hoarding photographs of nude and semi-nude models with artificial limbs.

From the start, Bernice hated Narcy, an Ecuadorian stripper whom she viewed as an uneducated gold-digger, and feared she was trying to poison her. Although Narcy converted to Judaism to marry Ben Jr., she continued to practice voodoo, and her unmarried 16-year-old daughter had a son and soon a second one. The couple’s fights often turned violent, some of them over his mistresses (who all were after his money). She blackmailed him over his financial crimes and amputee porn and hired thugs to beat him up, telling him, “If I can’t have you, nobody will.” Unfortunately, he failed to heed the advice to divorce her and instead agreed to reconciliation.

To get Ben Jr.’s estate, Narcy plotted with her brother Cristobal Veliz and accomplices to first kill Bernice since she was the executor of her son’s will. After a couple of failed attempts, the 86-year-old Bernice was beaten to death with a monkey wrench. The Brower County ME declared the manner of death an accident. Three months later, Ben Jr. was murdered, his eyes gouged out while he was still alive by the same illegal alien who had killed his mother. John Glatt provides a detailed account of the murder plots, the investigation, and the trial. This engrossing true crime book depicts the consequences of bad choices in choosing a spouse.


Through Your Eyes: My Child’s Gift to Me by Ainsley Earhardt, illustrated by Ji-Hyuk Kim, Aladdin, $18.99, ages 4 to 8

In Through Your Eyes, Ainsley Earhardt celebrates everyday wonders through the eyes of a child. The story was inspired by her daughter’s sense of wonder and surprise during a trip to the park. This delightful bestseller is a follow-up to her Take Heart, My Child, which reached #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list last year.


Specialty/Small Press

Arbordale Publishing was established in 2004 as Sylvan Dell Publishing and changed its name in 2014 because of trademark conflict. They publish about 20 children’s books a year. Their mission is to promote reading, science, math, geography, and language learning. Its Nature Recycles How About You by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Cathy Morrison, received the 2013 Literary Classic Award.


Author submissions: They are especially interested in fiction manuscripts on elementary school level with math or science facts woven into the story. They are not interested in YA, holiday themes, biography, fantasy, poetry, or series of any kind. Submission guidelines are provided at

Site content © 2017



On October 1, 2017, 58 persons, ages 20 to 67, were murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada and 546 were injured when Stephen Paddock, 64, a Muslim convert, opened fire on those attending the annual Route 61 Harvest country music festival. ISIS took credit. Numerous irregularities surround this spree killing and are bound to inspire conspiracy theories: the release of contradictory statements and timelines by the authorities; the odd behavior by a hotel security guard reportedly wounded by Paddock; failure to release videos; questions swirling around the killer’s girlfriend Marilou Danley, a 62-year-old grandmother, whom he dispatched to the Philippines (where her brother is a “medicine man”) and wired her $100,000; etc. On October 25, Stephen’s brother Bruce Paddock, 58, was arrested at a North Hollywood assisted living house for possession of child porn. It’s unknown if this is linked to the massacre.


Starting on October 8, wildfires swept through Northern California wine country, inflicting enormous devastation. They caused at least 42 fatalities, making it the deadliest fire in the state’s history. They destroyed or damaged over 8,400 homes and businesses and displaced 100,000 persons. A suspect has been detained in one Sonoma County fire. He is an illegal alien from Mexico, Jesus Fabian Gonzalez, who has been arrested numerous times and deported twice. ICE had issued a detainer for him five times in the past year alone. However, Sonoma County refused to cooperate since it is a sanctuary country.


Swiss-American mountaineer and filmmaker, Norman Dyhrenfurth, 99, died on September 24, 2017 in a hospital in Salzburg, Austria. His many achievements include the 1963 American expedition that placed six climbers on the summit of Mount Everest and inspired generations.

An Almost Perfect Murder

John Glatt provides in Prince of Paradise a horrifying account of Alejandro Garcia’s murder of Ben Novack Jr.’s 86-year-old mother Bernice on April 5, 2009. Incredibly the death was ruled an accident caused by fall in her garage when she stepped out of her car. Even after new evidence surfaced, Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County (Florida) Chief Medical Examiner, insisted it was an accident and refuted any connection between her death and her son’s murder in a New York hotel on July 12, 2009. Only after another ME contradicted him and Garcia confessed, did Perper reverse himself. Perper had also mishandled the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith, who died on February 8, 2007, ruling the death an accident, something many dispute (and the Sheriff’s superficial investigation smacks of cover-up). In spite of his improper conduct in the Smith case, he wasn’t fired until 2011 and remained in office to oversee Bernice’s autopsy. The ruling of accident emboldened Narcy Novack and her brother Cristobal Veliz to orchestrate the murder of her 56-year-old husband Ben Jr.

In killing Bernice, Narcy and Cristobal would have committed the perfect murder if they hadn’t bungled Ben Jr.’s homicide, which eventually led to Garcia’s confession and their convictions. Nevertheless, they might get access to the victims’ estate. Even though a killer is not supposed to profit from his/her crimes, Florida provides a loophole. Thus, while Narcy is prevented from directly benefitting, Ben Jr.’s estate (including Bernice’s) can be awarded to her relatives who then may spend it on her and her brother. The estate is presently in litigation, with Narcy’s relatives predicted to win, something that has outraged many.

Winners and Losers


  1. Retired U.S. Army Captain Gary Michael Rose, 70, Alabama. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 23, 2017 for his heroism in Laos in 1970 during the Vietnam War. He risked his life numerous times to save wounded comrades and was himself wounded.

  2. U.S. Army cavalry scout Matthew Cobos, Hawaii. During the Las Vegas attack on country music fans, Cobos shielded a woman with his body, then whisked her to safety behind a vehicle. Risking his life, he rushed back into the line of fire to help the injured, using his belt as tourniquet and plugging bullet holes with his fingers. A true hero.

  3. Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, 62, Great Britain. He won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy described him as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection to the world.”

  4. Retired high-end cabinet maker Joe Jutras, 62, Rhode Island. In October 2017 he won the world record for growing the heaviest squash, which weighed 2,118 pounds, and thus became the first in the world to achieve a trifecta in the hobby of growing gargantuan foods. He had previously broken world records for largest pumpkin and longest gourd (these two records now have been surpassed).


  1. Disgraced film producer and co-founder of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, 65, California. Over 30 women have charged him with sexual harassment, assault, and rape, and their numbers keep growing. His wife filed for divorce, his company fired him, and pundits predict he will face criminal charges in the U.S. and England.

  2. Harvey Weinstein’s supporters. Although his perversions were widely known for decades, actress Meryl Streep called him “God” at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. She now claims she hadn’t known anything about his sex life - something few, if any, believe. Disgraced lawyer Lisa Bloom resigned as his counselor amidst charges of incompetence and inappropriate behavior. Fashion designer Donna Karan rushed to defend him and accused his victims of “asking for it.” When the price of G-111 stocks dropped and she faced a backlash on social media, she reversed her position and blamed “sleep deprivation” for her comments. Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s decision not to prosecute Harvey in spite of irrefutable evidence in the case of model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez led to demonstrations and suspicion of corruption.

  3. Billionaire founder and CEO of Insys Therapeutics Inc., John N. Kapoor, 74, an immigrant from India living in Phoenix, Arizona. He was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including RICO conspiracy. DOJ accused him of bribing doctors to overprescribe “Subsys,” an addictive opiate painkiller, and to defraud and mislead insurance companies. Six other Insys executives were also charged. The company’s stock fell 20% after the scandal broke.

  4. Recovering drug addict Kaitlyn Murphy, 31, Delray Beach, Florida. She cut her mouth by chewing on chards of glass and then filed a complaint with the restaurant to get free food and for an adrenalin rush. She had scammed ten restaurants over an eleven-day period and faces felony charges. Unfortunately scams to defraud restaurants occur across the nation and have helped to drive many of them out of business.


  link to first blogEntries/2008/11/4_Selections_from_Shuriks_Memoirs.html

Left: The protagonist in Sharyn McCrumb’s The Unquiet Grave, Mary Jane Heaster, who sought justice for  her daughter Zona. Right: Nancy Hart, Confederate spy who, along with her family, opposed slavery. It’s likely that she became a spy because of her outrage at the devious way the Union soldiers killed her brother-in-law.

Below: The house where Zona was murdered.

Voore Manor, watercolor by August Kilgas, 1930. The house was built around 1800 in Keila Parish, Harju County. A second, far more elaborate Voore manor house, now in disrepair, is located in Viru County.

Above: Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida. Photographer: Jim Rees, 2004

Below left to right: Hotel Heir Ben Novack Jr. and one of his killers, Aljeandro Garcia, an illegal alien from Nicaragua. Police photos.

Hidden Hillsborough: Historic Dependencies and Landscapes in a Small Town by Preservation Fund of Hillsborough, photographs by Elizabeth Matheson contains beautiful photos, essays by a dozen local citizens, and maps. Eno Publishers deserves kudos for their part in preserving and popularizing local history.

Major Gen. Andres Larka and his deputy Artur Sirk

Three of the 58 persons murdered during Stephen Paddock’s attack on country music fans are left to right: Calla-Marie Medig, 28, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She loved country music and running and had a bright future ahead of her. Starting as a server, she received multiple promotions, the last one to restaurant manager on the day before she left for her annual trip to Route 91 Harvest Festival. Jack Beaton, 54, Bakersfield, California. He died a hero’s death, sacrificing his life to save his wife Laurie on their 23rd wedding anniversary. His last words to her were that he loved her. Keri Galvan, 31, Thousand Oaks, California. She was eager to see one of her favorite singers, Jason Aldean, perform. She died in her husband’s arms and leaves behind three children.

Numerous newspapers and magazines paid tribute to all of those who died. GoFundMe campaign was established to help the victims and their families.