Of The Poison Lady, the Beatles and rascally raccoons

I had the pleasure and honor to be a featured presenter at the 9th Annual Sterling North Book & Film Festival in Edgerton, Wisconsin, on Sept. 27.

Not only was it great to be able to present Buddy Schumacher’s story to the public during two presentations I made that day, but the weekend also presented an opportunity for me to talk with fellow authors and film makers.

I wanted to tell you a little about some of my fellow authors, some of whom presented at the festival and some of whom attended and sold books.

Before we arrived in Edgerton, festival organizers sent all of us contact information for our fellow presenters. Deborah Blum was the first author from the event that I friended on

Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum

Facebook. A Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, author and professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Deb’s most recent book is “The Poisoner’s Handbook.” I didn’t find out until I got to Edgerton the night before the event that this New York Times paperback best-seller had become a PBS documentary that I had seen about six months previous.

I do have to mention what the New York Times said about “The Poinsoner’s Handbook:” “The Poisoner’s Handbook is an inventive history that, like arsenic mixed into blackberry pie, goes down with ease.”

Since her book centers on some of the same research I had looked into in my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” and centered on some of the same time period as my book, I was very interested in talking to her.

My wife and I were able to spend some time with her both Friday night at the authors reception as well as during the festival on Saturday. She sat in on one of my presentations, and we traded books.

I think I also unintentionally gave her a new nickname. After we were all introduced at the authors reception, we were invited to give a few remarks. Deb spoke, discussing these day’s most popular poison, among other things. She said that one of the best antidotes was alcohol … the kind you drink.

When I stood up to speak a little bit, I said “I don’t know what it says about me that the first author from this event that I friended on Facebook was The Poison Lady, I am sitting at the same table as The Poison Lady and I sat my wife between me and The Poison Lady.” I also mentioned that my wife was in more danger since she had not had anything to drink, but I felt safe having had a few glasses of Champagne.

I actually went on to say something seriously germane to a book and film event, and my wife said I did a great job. One of my points was that authors should write what they are passionate about, but as readers, we should keep our minds open to various genres and “read outside of the box” once in a while.

Jim Berkenstadt

Jim Berkenstadt

One of the next authors to speak was Jim Berkenstadt, a lawyer by trade who managed to get jobs with both the The Beatles and the Chicago Cubs and wrote a book called “The Beatle Who Vanished” about Jimmy Nicol, a drummer who subbed for Ringo Starr when the Beatles went on a world tour early in their career. Being fan of both sports and music, I enjoyed swapping stories with Jim. He also called Deb Blum “The Poison Lady” during his spiel.

Doug Welch is another sports enthusiast/author I met at the Sterling North festival. He wrote “The Ashippun Trap: A Novel of Baseball and the Milwaukee Braves’ Final Season.” Doug is involved with the Rock River League, a baseball organization from which I used to take phone calls when I worked in

Doug Welch

Doug Welch

the Milwaukee Sentinel sports department in the late 1980s. The commissioner at the time, Elmer Marks, would call in with the results from the games that night. I still have an affinity for the Hustisford Astros to this day, even though I never saw the team play. Doug is also involved with the Milton College reunion committee. The college ceased to exist many years ago, but anyone who ever watched a Seattle Seahawks football game back in the 1980s will have most likely heard the announcer at one point in the game mention that Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg was “from tiny
Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.”

Another author I met has invited me to give a seminar at her writers workshop in

Kathie Giorgio

Kathie Giorgio

Waukesha, Wisconsin, next year. Kathie Giorgio, whose first novel, “The Home for Wayward Clocks,” was nominated for a Paterson Fiction Prize, asked me to talk “about nonfiction, or how to cross nonfiction over into fiction, or something like that which reflects the genre of your book.” So, I’ll be doing something like that on July 18, 2015, at the AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop.

Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, a husband/wife mystery writing team, shared a table with me in the Edgerton High School gym, where we sold and signed our books.One of their books, “The Body in Bodega Bay,” is based in the same city that Hitchcock’s “Birds” was based. They are both professor emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin and very nice people.

I was able to meet a couple of the film guys that were invited to the festival, too.Since I’m in the process of writing a screenplay based on my book, I was eager to get some insight into the film industry.

Mark Winter actually lives in Wauwatosa about three blocks from where Buddy Schumacher lived at the time of his disappearance in 1925. He stopped me in the hallway at the high school to tell me he was very interested in what happened to Buddy since he lived so close. Mark entered film school at the age of 46 and has now produced, directed, written or done cinematography for several films.

Alex Falk, another film guy, is the arch-enemy of CGI (computer-generated imagery). He does makeup and prop fabrication for sci fi movies. I was only able to chit chat for a short time about his craft while gnashing on some scrambled eggs and an English muffin.

I was thrilled to meet Arielle North Olson, daughter of the man for whom the event was named. Arielle, an internationally known children’s author in her own right, sat in on one of my presentations and seemed to enjoy it, or at least that’s what she told me.

One author who was at the festival but whom I didn’t get a change to meet was David

David Wiesner

David Wiesner

Wiesner, the 2014 recipient of the Sterling North Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature. David is a fantastic picture book creator, who has had three of his books win Caldecott Medals. He’s only the second person to win this award three times. The Philadelphia-area resident is a fantastic illustrator who tells children stories through facial expressions and body language.Kids need to learn those communication skills, too.

Among the authors who did not give presentations, I met two ladies who have done quite a bit of writing., In fact, one of them, Sherry Derr-Wille of Janesville, Wisconsin, has had 73 books published in the past 10 years. Wow! She describes some as “nice” and some as “naughty.”

Pamela Quinlan has a children’s series called The Spring Pond series, which tell stories about animals. The central character, Herman the Turtle, actually belonged to Quinlan’s son.

I wish I could have talked to all the authors.Everyone has such interesting stories about where they get their inspiration, how they got to be authors, what inspires them, and where they go from here.

Before I conclude, I do need to mention a little about Sterling North’s Rascal raccoon character that was made into a Disney movie with Bill Mumy, best known as Will Robinson in the “Lost in Space” TV series playing Sterling North. Rascal became an animated series in Japan, and the character became so popular that Rascal stories popped up, and children became so enamored of the animal that they begged their parents to get them a pet raccoon. As it turns out, baby raccoons make good pets, but adults do not. A lot of these imported raccoons were let go when they stopped being cute and cuddly and kid friendly, creating a nuisance in Japan. Read more here.

Sterling North Book & Film Festival Photos

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This is my biography as it appeared in the preview section.

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The Edgerton Reporter produced a terrific, 24-page preview section of the 9th annual Sterling North Book and Film Festival on Sept. 27, 2014. I was honored to be chosen as one of the 17 presenting authors. This is the welcome message from Edgerton schools on Page 2. I was surprised and humbled that they chose to include me in this.

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I clean up fairly nice when I want to. This is the night of the authors’ reception, the day before the festival. My wife, Kimberly (background), always looks nice.

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They had T-shirts for sale for just $10, and I forgot to buy one!

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I presented a PowerPoint presentation on my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” twice. I was honored to have among the attendees, Sterling North’s daughter, Arielle North Olson, an author in her own right, and Deborah Blum, a columnist for the New York Times, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of books, including “The Poisoner’s Handbook.” That book was made into a PBS documentary.

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There must have been close to 50 authors (I should have gotten an exact count) selling books in the Edgerton High School gymnasium on Saturday.

K me speak

Here I am speaking at the authors’ reception on Friday night. My wife said I did a great job. If you disagree, argue with her.

K Me Sterling home

Here I am in front of Sterling North’s boyhood home in Edgerton. He is most well known for his children’s book, “Rascal,” about the adventures he had with a pet raccoon when he was 11 and living in this house.

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The organizers do a bang-up job raising funds throughout the year so they can afford to pay all these great authors (and filmmakers) to the event. They had a contest to see how many people could figure out where “Rascal” was photographed around Edgerton.

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Sterling North preview in the Columbus, Indiana, paper

This news item was published in The Republic (Columbus, Indiana) today regarding my Republic large 092114presentation at the Sterling North Book and Film Festival in Edgerton, Wisconsin on Sept. 27.

Check out the fancy Sterling North Festival poster!

Here is a promo poster for the 9th Annual Sterling North Book and Film Festival, to be held next Saturday in Edgerton, Wisconsin. I’m excited and honoredSterling North 2014 poster to be one of the featured presenters at such a prestigious event.

Last year’s event featured the real Patch Adams, the doctor/clown/author whom late actor Robin Williams portrayed in the movie of that name.

I’ve been scheduled to do presentations on my book, Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” from 10-10:45 a.m. and 2-2:45 p.m. in Room 374 at Edgerton High School that day. See a full schedule of the day’s activities, as well as other information about the event at the Sterling North Book and Film Festival website.

The Festival gives otherwise unavailable access to authors and scholars while encouraging the exchange of ideas and values – it’s like having a back stage pass to all the best concerts!

This is a FREE family event that promotes literacy and the city of Edgerton. So, if you love your local library, you will definitely love this event!

I’m looking forward to meeting you at the festival!

Best-selling author digs ‘Murder in Wauwatosa’

It’s an honor to get a message from someone who enjoyed my book. “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterioud Death of Buddy Schumacher.” It’s extremely professionally gratifying when an author whose work I respect gives the book a glowing review.

New York author Michael John Sullivan recently posted a review of my book on Amazon.com. His trilogy — “Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness,” “Everybody’s Daughter” and “The Greatest Gift” — is fantastic. His books have been getting national attention and winning awards. He is also the author of a series of children’s books featuring the “Sockkids.” I was honored to have been asked to provide feedback for “The Greatest Gift” before it was published. When someone of this much talent and experience says he likes my book, I am humbled.

Here is what Mike has to say about “Murder in Wauwatosa:”

“Reporter/author Paul Hoffman goes to great lengths to examine one of Wisconsin’s most baffling murder mysteries. It’s obvious that Hoffman has extensive reporting background as he outlines the case from many angles, including a map that gives you a visual impression on where it happened.
“Hoffman discusses this horrific murder through many eyes and resources too. He discloses how he heard about this murder and why it’s fascinated him enough to write a book about it. The 1925 death of Buddy Schumacher is described skillfully. Hoffman even points out how the local media covered it and why they covered it the way they did.

“Hoffman does his own homework too. He performs extensive research, dusting off records and archives. It’s done with a professional standpoint giving you the impression that Hoffman may have given us the most complete account of a mystery that may never be solved.

“You need a strong heart to take this journey with Hoffman. But it’s well worth re-reading it to make sure you haven’t missed anything in the little details. It’s what makes Hoffman good at his craft.”

Thanks, Mike!

Sterling North press release

One of the press releases about to go out to media types regarding my presentation at the 9th Annual Edgerton Sterling North Book and Film Festival later this month (Festival organizers are taking care of most of the Wisconsin media; it’s up to us presenters to get info to our hometown media outlets):

Paul J. Hoffman, Author of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” To Present at 9th Annual Edgerton Sterling North Book and Film Festival

(Sept. 12, 2014) – Paul J. Hoffman, author from Columbus, Indiana, has been chosen, along with renowned authors, the Wisconsin Poet Laureate, other nationally recognized poets, film and TV industry presenters, at the 9th Annual Edgerton Sterling North Book and Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Edgerton High School, Edgerton, Wisconsin.

The Festival, named for well-known children’s book author Sterling North who was raised in the area, is free and open to the public.

Hoffman’s book is the true account of the 1925 disappearance of an 8-year-old boy, the ensuing search for him, and eventually, the investigation into the lad’s killer. The story follows the hopes of a family and a community that the boy would be found alive, and then their desires that the perpetrator be brought to justice, all woven around an investigation that saw eye witnesses change their stories, evidence apparently going missing from the district attorney’s office and two confessions, neither of which authorities believed. The book discusses forensic tools available to authorities at the time and sheds light on such issues of the day as Prohibition, mental health care and nearby “hobo camps.” The book also discusses the good things that came out of the horrible tragedy, while also raising several questions that have never been answered.

The other presenters for the 2014 Festival include 12 authors who will provide presentations about their books. Five other presenters will discuss how to create special effects, write, produce and direct films. Other authors are: Jim Berkenstadt, David Benjamin, Betsey Draine and Michael Hinden, Max Garland (Wisconsin Poet Laureate), Kathie Giorgio, Ben Mikaelsen, Doug Welch, Terry Wooten and Julie Woik. Film/TV/Special Effects industry presenters are: Deb Blum, Alex Falk, Liz Ridley, Bobby Schmidt and Mark Winter.

Arielle North Olson, daughter of Sterling North, will present the “Sterling North Legacy Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature” to David Wiesner, three time Caldecott award winner, at the opening ceremony of the Festival.

Link to my WUWM radio interview: http://paulhoffmanauthor.com/media-coverage-of-the-book/wuwm-89-7-fm-radio-interview-july-31-2012/

Link to my Fox-6 Milwaukee TV interview: http://paulhoffmanauthor.com/media-coverage-of-the-book/fox-6-milwaukee-interview-sept-23-2012/

For additional information on Paul J. Hoffman, please visit www.PaulHoffmanAuthor.com.

For information on the Festival and biographies of all the presenters, go to www.sterlingnorthbookfestival.com

Speaking schedule for Edgerton festival announced

The packet’s here! The packet’s here!

I received official word from Sterling North Book and Film Festival officials today on the speaking schedule for this year’s event, which will be Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Edgerton (Wis.) High School.705BuddyPostcard

My slots are 10-10:45 a.m. and 2-2:45 p.m. in Room 374, and I plan to have a PowerPoint presentation centering on my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.”

The book is the true story of a family and community coping with the 1925 disappearance of an 8-year-old boy in suburban Milwaukee.

The 9th Annual Sterling North Book and Film Festival features renowned authors, the Wisconsin Poet Laureate and other nationally recognized poets and film and TV presenters. The festival is FREE and open to the public.

In addition to my presentations, I’ll be in the gymnasium during the rest of the day to chat, sign books and whatnot.

Click here for a list of all the presenters and their bios.

Check out the Sterling North website for more information on the event, as well as on Sterling North, for whom the event is titled.

Bits of Milwaukee history (1846-1910)

Gallery

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OK, Milwaukeeans: Did you know that your city had the first Socialist mayor in the United States? Or that a Bay View-based iron mill was once the second largest manufacturer of rails in the country? Those are some of the … Continue reading

They didn’t have this stuff in 1925

Have you ever heard the phrase “This is the best thing since sliced bread?” Well, in 1925, they couldn’t say that. Because there was no store-bought sliced bread in America.

That’s one of the interesting little factoids I came across today while doing research for my screenplay adaptation of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” which is the true story of a little boy’s abduction in 192Malabar5.

This was an era of Prohibition, flappers, jazz, gangsters and the like.

However, it was not an era of the following items:

  • Talking movies (There wouldn’t be one shown at a U.S. theater until “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson in 1927). Mickey soap
  • Bubble gum (Walter Diemer came up with that in 1928 for his employer, Fleertoaster1 Chewing Gum Company).
  • Sliced bread (Not until 1928).
  • Pop-up toaster (Showed up in 1927, thus apparently spurring the slicing of the bread the following year).
  • Mickey Mouse (Disney created the character in 1928).
  • Kool-Aid (1927).
  • Aerosol cans (1926).
  • Frozen food (thanks to Clarence Birdseye for this in 1929).

There’s a lot of other stuff that wasn’t around in 1925. Like iPads and nitro-burning funny cars.

But, when this movie finally comes out, if you see anybody throwing slices of bread into a pop-up toaster or blowing a big pink bubble with their gum while watching a “talkie,” you can put that down on the Goofs section on IMDb.com.

Edgerton Sterling North Book and Film Festival featured authors

The Edgerton Sterling North Book and Film Festival has announced its lineup of featured authors for the Sept. 27, 2014 event in south central Wisconsin.

I am honored to have been asked to serve as a featured speaker this year. 

This is what organizers are saying: “Breath-taking. That’s what this Cast of Characters, if you will, really is when you stand back and look at all the amazing talent we have lined up for you this year!”

Get more information about the festival here.