Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

Home · Articles · News · Books · To Account for Murder BY William...
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To Account for Murder BY William C. Whitbeck

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - January 31st, 2011
Political Pawn: Judge recalls a state senator’s assassination in 1945
“To Account for Murder”
By William C. Whitbeck
The Permanent Press, $28
By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Murder and politics made uneasy bedfellows back in the Michigan of 1945. It was a time, just after World War II, when governmental corruption ran wide and deep through the state; when contracts went to the one who most generously greased a palm or two; and when deals were hammered out in Lansing clubs and bars, and in backrooms where whiskey flowed and paid-for women freely entertained.
Then came crusaders like Judge Leland Carr and special prosecutor Kim Sigler, who later became governor of Michigan, with subpoenas and indictments flying in all directions, shaking up the Purple Gang -- which was behind a lot of the corruption -- and the politicians happily at home in the gangsters’ pockets.
State Senator Warren Green Hooper, of Albion, got caught up in the widely thrown net and was set to testify before the one-man grand juror when he was found shot three times in the head, dead in his car, parked beside M-99.
Members of the Purple Gang went to prison for the murder, but the man who ordered the murder never spent a day in jail. This, even as reporters assigned to cover the story earned Pulitzer’s for their articles and one-third of the state legislature was, at one time, under indictment.

MICHIGAN MURDER
It is from this intriguing background of a true Michigan murder that the current Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, William C. Whitbeck, has set a mystery in which he uses the 1945 murder of a state senator as the jumping off place for his novel, “To Account for Murder.”
Whitbeck’s imaginary characters are set against the ins and outs of Lansing’s legal and political world. He draw’s heavily on his background among lawyers, crooks, and the innocent who appear before him, to give a portrait of a world rarely drawn with the precision we get here. The judge not only takes the reader through all the historical underbelly of gang/politician coziness but into the places and times when men were corrupted, and warnings were followed with murder.
In “To Account for Murder,” Charlie Cahill is back from fighting in World War II, minus his left arm — lost to a German machine gun, and without his father, who had been killed while running alcohol across the Detroit River during prohibition. Charlie is an attorney looking for a job in Lansing. He’s already been caught up in the murder of his lover’s husband and now becomes a part of the team investigating that very murder. The investigation takes him to places he never wanted to go, and exposes his own corruption as he works to get someone else convicted of the murder he abetted.
Cahill, at the beginning of the book, is on his deathbed, but with this chilling story to tell. The novel moves from November, 1996, back in time to those post-war days, back to the death of the state senator, and back into murky maneuverings through Lansing’s corridors of government right up to an ending that is a surprise not only for Cahill but for others around him.

LEGAL BEAGLE
As with all books where the writer has a particular and intimate knowledge of places or people—such as Aaron Stander’s “Shelf Ice,” Mardi Link’s “Isadore’s Secret,” Fleda Brown’s “Driving with Dvorak,” or Elmore Leonard’s stories of Detroit—it is Whitbeck’s knowledge of the law—the intricacies and arcane twists—that set this book apart, moving it from surprising twist to compelling turn.
The judge knows his territory and mines it well, delivering a deft mystery which seems not only close in time but in subject matter. Corruption never grows old. Not in the minds of those who read about it nor in the short memories of those who commit it.
The last judge to write a ringing story of lust and murder in Michigan was Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker and his “Anatomy of a Murder.” That novel was also loosely based on a true murder case and eventually became a widely acclaimed 1959 movie starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and Ben Gazzara.
“To Account for Murder” was recently chosen as one of the Michigan Libraries Notable Books for 2010, for its depiction of a Michigan murder and as an addition to the state’s history by a prominent jurist.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli’s next mystery, “Dead Dogs and Englishmen” will be out from Midnight Ink in May, 2011.

 
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