Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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.

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.

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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