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)

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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.

John C. Pritzlaff: From penniless immigrant to hardware tycoon

Researching real can be real cool.

In digging around for information for my upcoming screenplay adaptation of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” I’ve come across a real cool story of an immigrant who came to this country broke and ended up building a virtual hardware empire in Milwaukee.

John C. Pritzlaff (1820-1900)

John C. Pritzlaff (1820-1900)

John C. Pritzlaff, great-uncle to Buddy Schumacher’s father, Art Schumacher, was said to have absolutely no money when he sailed to New York City from Pomerania (an area now divided between Germany and Poland). In fact, he later said that he actually was $10 in debt at the time.

He managed to work his way up to becoming president of one of the country’s biggest hardware companies, on that at one time employed 400 people. When he died in 1900, he left a fortune that in today’s dollars might amount to near $8 million.

It took Pritzlaff a number of years to get where he got, and it started with the humblest of beginnings.

His father died when he was 19 years old, and young John decided to try his luck in America. He sailed to New York with a group of Lutherans, a trip that took four months. He then moved onto Buffalo, N.Y., where he worked for two years on the Genesee Canal.

In late October 1841, Pritzlaff reached Milwaukee. He performed many odd jobs – wagon driver, cook, wood chopper – until he landed a job as a shipping clerk for Shepardson & Farwell, hardware merchants. His salary his first year with the company was just $200 (about $5,600 in today’s money). It is said that he typically worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. for this low pay.

Pritzlaff stayed employed at the company through new ownership, and planned to open his own hardware store in 1949. But owner John Nazro convinced him to stay on another year with the promise that he’d help get Pritzlaff started in the business at that time.

Nazro kept his promise, and in 1850, he bought the stock for Pritzlaff and partner August Suelflohn for their downtown Milwaukee firm. Three years later, Suelflohn retired. In 1866, Prtizlaff bought out Nazro. Annual sales of $12,000 grew to hundreds of thousands under Prtizlaff, considered to be unusually honest for a businessman of such stature at that time.

It was said that Pritzlaff “enjoyed universal respect wherever he was known,” according to a story in the Weekly Wisconsin newspaper that was published immediately after his death. He was also “always on hand to contribute to enterprises of public usefulness.”

He was also said to be a zealous Lutheran. He was one of the founders of the Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Congregation in Milwaukee and donated land for a new church to be built at 9th Street and Highland Avenue in Milwaukee. The church is still located there today.

Pritzlaff married while he was still employed by Shepardson & Farwell. His wife, Sophia, preceded him in death by six years. The couple had eight children. One of his children, Elizabeth, married John C. Koch, a vice president at Pritzlaff Hardware who would go on to become mayor of Milwaukee. His younger brother, Henry, is one of Art Schumacher’s grandfathers.

The Pritzlaff Hardware Co. stayed in the family until 1958, when it was sold for $1.7 million.

 

‘Blackridge’ screenplay update

I’ve set aside my bowl full of cherries and my block of orange rind Muenster cheese to update you a little on the progress of my first screenplay. But don’t worry; the Torpedo Juice brand root beer obtained directly from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is nearby in case I get parched.

Many of you know that I decided to write a screenplay adaptation of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” the true story of the 1925 disappearance of an 8-year-old boy suburban Milwaukee boy and the subsequent search for his killer.

Going into this process, I knew I’d have to make a number of changes going from book to big screen. My brother, Andy Hoffman, who works for a production company in Chicago and who has a degree in such things cinematic, suggested I look into reading the late Syd Field‘s book “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” which is a step-by-step guide for writing sceenplays, from concept to finished script.Syd Screenplay book004

Another of Field’s advocates is director/writer/producer Bill Dever, a Franklin, Indiana, resident who graciously allowed me to bang my head against a wall for his movie “Resurrection,” to be released in October. Bill studied under Syd.

Armed with the advice in Syd’s book, along with the knowledge of the basic story already, I have begun piecing together the basics of my screenplay. I haven’t really written too much of the screenplay itself, although I did paste the text of my book into a Celtx file. That software helps format your sceenplay to Hollywood specs.

As I read the book, I take Syd’s advice and apply it to my situation. Here is some of the advice Syd gives, as well as how I’ve tentatively applied it to my screenplay, which I’m tentatively calling “Blackridge,” which was the name of the swimming hole little Buddy and his pals were headed for when he disappeared:

What is your movie about?

It’s about a person (Art Schumacher, Buddy’s father) in a place (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin) at a time (mostly 1925).

What is your main character doing? 

He’s trying to keep his own sanity as well as keeping his family from falling apart after the disappearance of his son and later the revelation of the boy’s murder.

What kind of story is it?

It’s a story about the relationships between a father and his family and his community and how those relationships can change when tragedy strikes.

The screenplay will consist of three acts, the first of which will be about 20-30 pages/minutes long followed by Plot Point 1, which is an event that changes the direction of the film. The second act will last about 60 pages/minutes, terminating with Plot Point 2. The final act will be 20-30 pages/minutes.

Act I (Set-up): We’ll be establishing Art’s character … who he is; what he’s like at church, home, work and in the community; how he reacts to certain situations; his relationship to some of the other characters, etc. We’ll also be introducing some of the other main characters.

Plot Point 1: Buddy disappears. The story is set in motion at this point.

Act II (Confrontation): Art begins his quest to find his boy. His desire to stay calm for himself and his family is challenged by nightmares, some of the newspaper reporters who hound his family, rumors flying around town, eye witnesses changing their stories, etc.

Plot Point 2: Someone confesses to the murder.

Act III (Resolution): Here is what happens to everybody, whether Art is successful or not in his quest. I won’t spill the beans on this, but I know what happens (in general, specifics yet to be determined).

I know I have a lot more work to be done. I’ll be doing even more research on the 1920s, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa than I did for the book. I’ve already looked heavily at some of the events and issues that shaped society back then, especially in that area, things like mental health care, media coverage, homelessness, Prohibition, etc. But there is so much more to know when trying to show a story in pictures than in words.

I’ve also spelled out on paper a lot of things that have just been rolling around in the back of my mind. These include jotting down the dramatic need of each major character… what do they want … and the conflicts that crop up that could prevent them from getting it.

Syd’s book is fascinating, with several examples from Hollywood movies that many of us have seen to help illustrate his points. I have started watching for certain things in movies I watch.

I’ve got quite a long way to go. But I should be able to stay on track and get through the outline phase before too long and get going on putting an actual screenplay together.

OK, back to the Muenster.

‘This is the way I like to see social history presented’

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Here are some excerpts from a pair of emails I received today from Nancy Cavanaugh, a resident of Wauwatosa, a reader of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” (she is also the author of a book on boomers … Continue reading

Thanks, Bay View Book Club!

I’d like to to thank the Bay View Library Book Club for choosing “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” as its book of choice to discuss at its Feb. 19, 2014 meeting at Bay View Library.

The Bay View branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.

The Bay View branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.

The Bay View Library Book Club meets the third Wednesday of each month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Frequently, the members choose stories that are historical and appeal to local interest. Books are held in advance for participants at the circulation desk at Bay View Library. New members are welcome! The library is a branch of the Milwaukee Public Library, the downtown branch of which I used for hours and hours of research.

Bay View is a section of Milwaukee south of downtown along the shores of Lake Michigan.