Sunday, 31 August 2014

Murder in Ketchikan

Pretend you are looking at a picture of Speckled Jim, the most famous carrier pigeon of all time.
Or a perky doo as we would call it.

This is a blog written in adverse conditions. I’ve gone back to the good old days of  carrier pigeon, the halcyon days of smoke signals and these words are reaching the blog site via one of those wee carts that run along rail lines, with two men (one of whom will be Buster Keaton) pumping away at the handles. To music.

Pretend you can see a picture  of the aforementioned wee handcart thingy,  the men will be wearing bowler hats, the track stretching to infinity beyond.

My internet is down.  Somewhere went on fire, all NTL virgin media email has crumpled. Twenty two minutes to open one email. I could fly round the world and show you all the pictures that were supposed to be in this blog in person quicker than I could upload them.

Imagine here that picture of superman zinging round the planet…. I could superimpose my own face on it. Supercaro.

So this is a pictureless blog but we are all writers with good imaginations so I am giving you some wee descriptions of what I would like you to imagine when appropriate!

Insert here a picture of me kicking Richard Branson up the …(insert any piece of his anatomy here).

The blog was going to be about Ketchikan, the south easternmost city in Alaska, population of about 8000.  On my travels I noticed that populations in Alaska half in the winter months but this is not so with Ketchikan for reasons that will become clear.

Picture of pretty houses, on stilts, over the creek.

It is named after Ketchikan Creek.  The Tlingit name for the creek is Kitschk-hin and the creek in question  was the ancient summer fishing camp for the Tlingit people. The actual town was established by Mike Martin in 1885 and the island it sits on was named Revillagigedo in 1793 by Captain George Vancouver.

Picture of Mr Vancouver here.

It has, famously, the world's largest collection of standing totem poles! As well as lots of Liquid Sunshine (rain). I read something very technical about measures of its ‘oceanic climate’  which basically said (weatherwise) Ketchikan was on a par with  Scotland or Northern Ireland. Rainy with cool but not frozen winters and mild summers. I would like to change that word ‘mild’ to the words ‘non-existant.’ But that  explains  why the population feel they can hang around.

Picture here the image of my South African friend Stan trying to play golf at Moray in the rain, getting very wet and pretending he’s having a grand time. ( Actually the weather was kind to him but that image pleased my sadistic Scottish soul.)

As well as lots of films I’ve never heard of, Ketchikan has featured in ‘the Love Boat’ and ‘Baywatch’.

You may insert mental image of Pamela Anderson in that costume, or Mr Hasselhoff in those trunks...hope that wasn't too nauseating.

Ketchikan seems relatively crime free, everybody is probably too soaked all the time. But twenty years ago two tragic murders occurred. They are known as the Tarp murders as both murders wrapped their victims in tarpaulin in an attempt to delay discovery.

Murder one took place in the summer of 1991 when residents began to complain of foul smells and lots of flies buzzing around one garden. The police investigated and discovered the smell was emanating from a rolled up tarpaulin in the back garden of Dana Hilbish. She explained that her landlord had left her some fish there, and it was going off. For some reason the police did not check what actually was under the tarpaulin and it was only after more complaints, more flies and a few more weeks had passed, that the police realised the truth.

Under the tarp were the remains of Dana’s common law hubby,  Charles Dalby. They had four daughters together but had never been married. The story behind the murder is as old as time itself. Dalby found out his wife was having an affair and he wanted to win her back. She didn’t want to come back.

He had been killed by two gunshot wounds to the head. Dana had covered his absence by saying that he had gone to Hawaii. But Dana was no master criminal. Her prints were on the gun and the gun was still in the house. His blood was found in the living room with a distinctive spatter pattern that would be expected in a gunshot wound. Drag marks that showed he had been pulled to the garden and she had been seen by her neighbours, fiddling about with the tarpaulin.

 Dana’s counsel tried to blame the unnamed man she was having the affair with and she maintained her innocence throughout. She was sentenced to 99 years.

I read somewhere that she had been fully rehabilitated in jail and had become a keen gardener. She even trains dogs to aid the disabled. Before the internet carve up I found a quote from Dana about one of the dogs she trained, Sha Ren. This was reported in the Daily News in 2010. “She said being a trainer in the program taught her compassion and how to let go. ‘Sha Ren wasn't ever mine, but she'll always be here,’ Hilbish said, holding her hand to her heart.”

Just a year later, Dianna Wyatt disappeared. Her body was found 5 days later, wrapped in a tarpaulin, weighted down and left underwater in a log yard in Ward Cove. Friends knew that she had been concerned for her own safety, and had been planning a divorce from her husband Ronald. She had contacted a woman’s aid hostel and they had offered her a room there and then. But, like many women in that position, she turned it down maybe thinking that the next time she would get away before being hurt, or she could talk him down. Whatever her reasoning, it was a fatal mistake.

Ronald doesn’t seem to have been a master criminal either. He told his work mates that he had planned how he would kill his wife should the need ever arise and that his ideal method would be…. to wrap her body in a tarpaulin, weigh it down and drop her in the log yard at Ward Cove.

A security guard saw Ronald’s car at the mill just after Dianne disappeared, he even took the plate  number of it. Ronald’s story that he had just stopped by the river to relief himself just didn’t cut it. He was too close to the deposition site well within the time frame.

 He tried to blame the counsellor his wife was attending for her martial issues but  it was obvious to the jury that Ronald would lose his wife’s considerable assets if their divorce went ahead. He also got 99 years.

I was in Inverness last week talking to some school children. One girl, the class swot, asked if all serial killers were as clever as the media portrayed them. I answered that, by definition, the answer was yes. You have to commit three or more murders over a specific period of time to be a ‘serial killer.’  

Which means you have to be clever enough to get away with the first one. Or two. Or three.
She nodded thoughtfully. Her teacher told me later that she  was the brightest girl in the class.

Hopefully the strange mystical, magical world that is the internet will be back in order next week.


Friday, 8 August 2014

The Big Launch and the Wee Launch

Friday the 31st was the launch of the new book. Fraught with difficulty due to Commonwealth Cycling Road Race and sweating men in Lycra. Traffic chaos, no parking etc. The hotel we normally go to post launch had trebled its prices and the Waterstones' staff could not get home. So we stayed in store to have a drink and a nibble.

Two months before we had noticed that the south side of town would be annexed from the city centre. So we had a pre launch launch there on the Wednesday....

It sold out of books within 48 hours.
A lovely policeman told me the story of the time he was assaulted by an elephant we both know. He lied on the incident report form I think ....
The Waterstone's in Newton Mearns has a deal with the cafe in the mall so no catering duties for the author. Just great coffee and a nice interview from Russel, with one L, MacLean.

Then for the big night on the Thursday we had the issue of getting £100 worth of wine plus glasses, plates etc to the venue.

I don't like children.  But I realise the potential they have for cheap labour so I said to my Faithful P A (FPA) if I could borrow hers for a tenner. On a buy one get one free kind of offer. (She has two, I can't tell the difference between them. One is sulky and moody , the other is noisy and mouthy. Sometimes it is the other way round. They both have long limbs that we needed to fold up on a busy train. Both have a problem with their left hand. The palm of that hand is permanently attached to an I phone. Is that a disease?)

                                                          The mood of the FPA's children

They were bribed with money and the offer of breakfast in Costa if they pulled a suitcase each from Central station to Waterstones, Sauchiehall Street, about 10 minutes dragging time.

                                   the average child can pull these no bother if you bribe them enough

I do annoying things with children like buy them drum kits for Christmas. In Costa I loaded them with additive ridden bright pink drinks and sugary snacks just to make the FPA's life more unbearable. Then they wanted to spend their earned pennies on Loom Bands - the latest craze.  The FPA was busy telling them  there were no loom bands anywhere in Glasgow - all sold out while hurrying them past shop windows. While  I was helpfully showing the short people the massively expensive loom band stock in the same shop windows.
I will make my point that dogs are better than kids. Mathilda the staffie has never wanted a loom band.

Then we headed home on the train to walk dogs, put children in cupboards/childcare service, take flat shoes off, put heels on to get back to Glasgow. I was writing the speech and started with the words Myra Hindley, two lesbians and a blonde in stilettos and it's easy to pull  the upper limb from a corpse if you know what you are doing. The man sitting beside me got up and left to sit elsewhere.

On the way to Waterstones the second time, the FPA and I beat this woman in a race across the street.

Ok so her marathon time is about three hours better than mine but my specialist event is beating Glasgow traffic...

I am on tour now, in fact as I write this I have no real idea where I am but it is by the seaside and very pretty. So  here is a photoblog of the event. Above is the mess we made. We bought enough wine if 30% of the audience had been driving. Of course due to the Games, nobody was driving so they drank everything alcoholic and were very merry. The official audience was aided in beverage consumption by a strange young man in Commonwealth Games garb who got very drunk indeed and had to be removed from the premises forcibly by the lovely James. Drunk young man was last seen heading down Sauchiehall Street singing 'Save all your kisses for me.'

Sensible photo of family

Sensible face...

They are all scared at this point, I am talking about page 218!!!!

The mess we made in the corner...

They are paying attention. I am offering to kill folk in books. Killing various council employees was very popular....  building control especially.

Showing Stuart's Dissection room picture...

And my tank picture!!!! Very proud of my tank I am but disappointed I don't get to elect folk to go in it.
I had a list ready.

I think Moira has just told me I can't put the drunk man in my tank at the morgue.

                                                 This man is a famous Scottish writer called Joyce.
                                                        He hit me on the head with a book.
                                                         He survived but now has a bad limp.
                                                            And can legitimately be called Joyce.
                                                             Don't mess with The Ramsay.

35 folk bought books quickly and went to the pub to see our pal run in the 110 high hurdles then joined us on the bus home.   The other 70 odd bought books more slowly as we kept them up to date with medal progress of Team Scotland. Much cheering.

We returned home at 11.30 at night. A 16 hour day fuelled only by black coffee and toast.  I was telling my other half that there were elephants in the house and he was not to alarm them. He told me I should go and lie down in a quiet room.
So I did.

I am going to fit myself with a GPS so I know where I am.


Friday, 1 August 2014

The friendly games, the friendly city

On Friday night  we took a brief tour on foot of my home town. And very proud I was too. The friendly city for the friendly games. This is Glasgow, with its best pants on!

The train on the way in, sunshine over the Clyde

A deserted street, no traffic!

Outdoor eating!

Buchanan Precinct, busy with street theatre

Bring it on. Indeed!

He sat very carefully, knees together

These are the beautiful but effective anti terrorism barricades 
over entrances to stations etc.

And if you get lost, just follow the lines

In George Sq now, a disrespectful pigeon 

James Watt,  the steam engine man

paramedics on bikes, a Glasgow cop

We are here, in the big G

George Sq ticket centre

The queue for this bus was round the block

Robert Peel ( we are fond of our statues!)

George Sq looking at the City Chambers

The Hotel where I do all my interviews! 
It's right next to Queen St station where the Edinburgh train comes in.

Just to remind you! It's an offence in public.

George Sq looking NE, this was where they filmed World War Z.
This building was American for a fortnight.

A bottle of Buckie..... an empty bottle of Buckie
(an alcoholic delicacy....) 

The Cenotaph

There were loads of these....

And these


The big G

The shop had loads of these left

But few of these

The slightly 'faster than the bike' response squad

Clyde the mascot

Street Theatre

interested spectator

uninterested spectator

Glasgow Central, bedecked in the Commonwealth colours

Going home