Pick of the Month, January 2014



Blunt Impact by Lisa Black, Severn House, $28,95


An attractive single mother, Samantha Zebrowski, 29, who is licensed for cement work, falls from the 23rd floor of a jail under construction where she is employed. Is it accident, suicide, or homicide? Forensic detective Theresa MacLean believes it’s murder, and the motive might involve personal relationships. She also investigates possible links to corruption, which is common in the construction business for numerous reasons, one of them the unrealistic pressures to keep costs down while being required to hire at lest 20% minority contractors even if others will do the work more cheaply. Meanwhile, Ghost, the victim’s endearing 11-year-old daughter who is a witness, is stalked by the perpetrator determined to kill her.

Readers of this solid mystery will walk away with respect for skilled blue collar jobs and gain insights into some of the problems faced by contractors, a major one the delays and price changes that are out of their control yet lead to financial losses and hefty fines.


The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard by Stephen Jimenez, Steerforth Press, $26.00


For many, the myth lingers of Matthew Shepard as a clean-cut, All-American college student brutally murdered for being gay by two homophobic strangers. Only the part about being brutally murdered is true, according to the award-winning journalist Stephen Jimenez who researched the 1998 homicide for 13 years, a quest that took him to 20 states and D.C. and at times caused him to fear for his safety. He uncovered a web of lies perpetuated by the media; local law enforcement; President Clinton and other officials; special interest groups; Matt’s family & friends; and the killer Aaron McKinney and his defense team. They all had vested interests to hide the truth.

Jimenez concludes

*Matt and Aaron were not strangers but had intimate relationships, one of which was the buying and selling of crystal meth.

*Aaron was bisexual, and neither he nor his accomplice, Russell Henderson, was homophobic. The motive was drugs and money, not “gay panic” as Aaron claimed.

*Matt was no role model. He was a severely troubled young man: a drug dealer and addict and male escort who suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. At age 15, Matt was arrested for molesting two 8-year-old boys. For this crime, he received counseling and spent time in a mental hospital.

*Matt had been repeatedly victimized. He was a sickly child, treated for ADD and delayed puberty, and sexually abused by three men, one of them a relative. When he needed support the most, he was sent to boarding school in Switzerland and during a field trip to Morocco was gang raped. Prior to his murder, he appeared fearful, perhaps because he was HIV positive and/or because he was over his head in the drug trade.

*Although the illegal drug trade figured prominently in the case, far too many people avoided it or covered it up for this to be a mere oversight. Some 80% of the meth sold and used in Wyoming was produced in Mexico or by Mexican cartels operating in the U.S., and their tentacles reach far, implicating several local cops. Aaron chose the “gay panic” defense because he wanted to hide his homosexual side, hoped it would lead to a more lenient sentence, and above all feared bringing attention to the drug trade, which would’ve been tantamount to a death sentence. One might view Matt and the others in this sad story as victims of meth.

The Book of Matt raises numerous issues:

*The importance of facing the truth and how elusive the truth can be. Some of those wanting to hide the truth tried to stop the author and/or resorted to vicious personal attacks. For example, former Laramie police commander Dave O’Malley ridiculed Jimenez’s investigation of the meth angle and pressured the prosecutor to avoid him, and Clinton aide Sean Patrick Maloney smeared him personally and professionally.

*What was Russell Henderson involvement? Was he railroaded as some claim? Jimenez notes that Russell’s mother, Cindy Dixon, was raped and murdered in 1999, her killer serving only four years, while Russell received in the same courthouse two life sentences with no parole even though questions remain as to his role. Might her death have been a warning from the cartels?

*How readily can Americans be manipulated? Within days of Matt’s murder, there were vigils, marches, and demonstrations with some turning violent.

*To what extent have the Mexican drug cartels infiltrated our government? This brings to mind the conviction during the George W. Bush era of two Border Patrol Agents on the word of a Mexican drug dealer illegally in this country.


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books, ages 2 & up


The catchy rhyming text and robust illustrations make this bestseller a great bedtime story especially for boys.


Specialty/Small Press

St. Joseph’s University Press is a scholarly publisher whose interest include Early Modern Catholicism and the Visual Arts, Jesuit Studies, and Regional Studies. Its publications include Acting on Faith: The Confraternity of the Gonfalone in Renaissance Rome by Barbara Wisch and  Nerida Newbigin and the award winning Philadelphia: A New Urban Direction by Jonathan Saidel, Marisa Waxman, and Anthony Di Martino.


Author submissions: Query first. They welcome book proposals. Manuscripts are to follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition.


Top 10 Most Memorable Quotes of 2013

  1. Quote of the Year - President Barack Obama: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep you health care plan, period.” It was voted “Lie of the Year” by Politifact. The rest of the quotes follow alphabetically.

  2. Roger Ailes: I like [Joe Biden}, but he is dumb as an ashtray.”

  3. Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor: “God is a white racist . . .” A response to this on social media was: “Then it’s okay to be a racist.”

  4. Hillary Clinton, during hearings on the Benghazi scandal involving the murder of four Americans: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

  5. Howard Dean: “Benghazi is a laughable joke.”

  6. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins’ quarterback: “In the land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness.”

  7. John Podesta: “[Obama and his advisors] need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress.”

  8. Edward Snowden: “I don’t want to live in a world where there is no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

  9. Donald Trump: “We have to create jobs and we have to create them rapidly. , , , America must start to make things.”

  10. Ted Turner: “The world is in great peril and we cannot afford to lose. . . . How we treat the earth is the biggest expression of our success and failures as a society.”

Winners and Losers


  1. Chad Pregracke, 38, Illinois. Pregracke has dedicated his life to cleaning the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways. He organizes community cleanups across the country through his nonprofit Living Land & Water and provides important educational services. He was named 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.

  2. U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, 65, Oklahoma. His book Wastebook 2013 is the latest in this series exposing outrageous misuse of taxpayer money.

  3. The Duck Dynasty family. As expected, A&E reinstated Phil Robertson. President Obama revealed that he likes the show. USA Today reported that the controversy gave a significant boost to the sale of the family’s four books on its bestseller list: Happy, Happy, Happy (Robertson’s memoir), Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen, The Duck Commander Devotional, and Si-cology 1.

  4. Fisher House Foundation and Salvation Army are two of the charities who earned high ratings.

  5. Annie Moses Band, whose music crosses several genres. The band’s performances and the book The Song of Annie Moses: A Musical Quest, A Mother’s Gift by Robin Donica Wolaver received critical acclaim.

  6. South Carolina. A study by the Mardex Institute named South Carolina the most courteous state. North Carolina was second.


  1. Judge Jean Boyd, Texas. Ethan Croach, 16, killed four people and injured nine while driving after doing drugs. His lawyer presented the “affluenza” defense, and Judge Boyd apparently agreed that Ethan was too rich to go to jail and sentenced him to ten years of probation. Demands are growing for her removed from the bench. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. A while back, for example, a drunk illegal alien killed a mother and her small children and received less than a slap on the wrist.

  2. Tallahassee Police Department, Florida. TPD failed to properly investigate the rape charges against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in spite of DNA and other evidence. The accuser’s attorney, Patricia Carroll, revealed that since this case went public, other rape victims have contacted them with complaints against the TPD.

  3. Fernando Richter, 34, and his wife Sophia Richter, 32, Arizona. The couple imprisoned and   tormented her three daughters, ages 17, 13, and 12 in their “house of horrors” for around two years. After the two youngest escaped, the mother and stepfather were arrested and charged with kidnapping, child abuse, and sexual abuse.

  4. Actress/singer Miley Cyrus, 21. On top of her lewd antics, she added anti-Semitic remarks.

  5. Maurice Owens (aka The Banana Peel Man), 42, Washington, D.C. He sued the D.C. Transit Authority for $15,000, claiming he slipped on a banana peel in a Metro station. Surveillance cameras caught him planting the peel and looking straight into the camera. He is charged with 2nd degree fraud and filing a false police report.

  6. Lunenburg School Superintendent Loxi Jo Calmes and the suspect in a hate crime, Andrea Brazier, Massachusetts. When racist graffiti was spray-painted on the home of 8th grade football player Isaac Phillips (who is black), his white mother, Andrea Bazier, accused his teammates. Although there was no proof against the team, Loxi Jo Calmes cancelled the rest of the football season. Police, however, uncovered evidence pointing to the mom, Ms Brazier, as the perp who tried to frame the teammates. Her motive is unknown.

North Estonian Landscape by Richard Uutmaa, 1940, oil painting, on sale at e-kunstisalong.ee

left: Professor Ottomar Maddison (1879-1959)

right: Amto Normak, photo reportedly taken shortly before his death in 1929

Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book of Matt, is a liberal gay activist whose accolades include an Emmy and Mongerson Award for investigative Reporting. He found drugs and money were the pivotal factors in the murder of Matthew Shepard. He quotes President Clinton’s drug czar Barry McCaffrey: “[Meth] is destructive of the human spirit like noting we have ever seen . . . it is rapidly addictive . . .  [like] a blowtorch that melts your mental, spiritual, and physical person.”

Lisa Black’s Blunt Impact is the 5th in the Theresa MacLean mystery series. The 6th,The Price of Innocence, was published in November. Black is a crime scene investigator for a police department in southern Florida and a former forensic scientist for the Cleveland, Ohio coroner’s office.

Annie Moses Band’s  Pilgrims & Prodigals CD contains their hit song “Girl of Constant Sorrow.”

Senator Tom Coburn lists 100 examples of wasteful spending in his Wastebook, 2013 Edition (published December 19) that cost taxpayers  around $30 billion. They include $17.5 million in special tax breaks for Nevada brothels.

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