Recently my new novel made it to the beach in Yelapa, Mexico (south of Puerto Vallarta), thanks to my old friend Dan Polovin, who traveled from his home in Boulder, Colorado. I can just about hear the waves rolling in, Dan!
New problems in analyzing crime-related DNA in Colorado resemble the wrongful conviction of a main character in my Montana Blues novel, as the Denver Post reports:
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is moving to retest DNA samples in thousands of criminal cases and expects to spend at least $7.5 million to remedy problems discovered in one longtime employee’s lab work, according to a state budget request.
Officials discovered “anomalies” in the DNA testing work of Yvonne “Missy” Woods last year and started both internal and criminal investigations into Woods. She worked for the CBI for 29 years and left before the agency publicly announced the anomalies in November.
About 3,000 DNA samples need to be retested by a third-party laboratory, CBI officials estimated in a January budget request. That will cost roughly $3 million. Additionally, the agency asked for $4.4 million to pay out to district attorney’s offices across Colorado to address claims by people who say they were wrongly convicted of crimes because of Woods’ work.
Big Sky Active Club, the group linked to the racist stickers applied to various sites at Montana State University in Bozeman, “has repeatedly appeared in news stories about white nationalist activity in Montana over the past year. Big Sky Active Club reportedly took credit last March for etching Nazi symbols at the Four Dances Special Recreation Management Area near Billings, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and named for a prominent Crow leader. Months later, residents of more than a dozen homes in Miles City reported receiving CDs in the mail containing audio and music files supporting the neo-Nazi movement.”
The Montana Free Press story continues: “In October, a peaceful rally outside the Missoula County Courthouse in support of Palestine was disrupted by a group of masked protesters carrying signs with neo-Nazi slogans, one of whom was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct. White supremacist activity was reported that same day outside Missoula’s Har Shalom synagogue …
“A ‘demonstration report’ posted online by White Lives Matter Montana last October listed five regional groups, including Big Sky Active Group, as participating in the demonstrations outside the Missoula courthouse and Har Shalom.
“Last month, the Great Falls Public Library learned that neo-Nazi propaganda stickers had been inserted into numerous books in its collection.”
Tones of violent racism in Montana run through my new novel, and recent news from the Daily Montanan shows the threat is real:
Marquayvion Hughes, a Black student at Montana State University in Bozeman (where Montana Blues is set), quit the university “in part because he no longer wanted to face white supremacism, he said. He was called the ‘n’ word at MSU, saw Nazi propaganda in trash cans on campus, and heard Bobcats at a football game ‘screaming racial slurs to members of the other team.’ …
“One student said she reported a poster with Nazi imagery and eugenics propaganda placed on her car. She saw similar posters plastered to poles around the parking lot.” …
Alexandra Lin, an MSU student “who is part Taiwanese … said she has received numerous death threats, graphic images of Asian porn, and racist messages, such as an email telling her to ‘Kill yourself, ch–k.'”
Now my new novel has wandered into Indiana, thanks to two eccentric Joes — Joe Rhodes (a semi-retired writer for major magazines such as Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone, somehow living in a van traveling North America for the last 14 years), and Joe Vitti (a semi-retired photographer for major newspapers including the LA Times and the Indianapolis Star, now living in Indiana). Here are pix of the Joes and the van in Indiana, and the van’s roaming to the California desert. Thanks, Joes!
My new novel is getting around, recently it went fishing off the Oregon coast, near the mouth of the Siuslaw River. My friend Mark Sabitt shot the photo, and he reports, Montana Blues seemed to inspire good luck on the line (a big Chinook salmon) … Mark is a retired defense attorney who serves as an assistant judge in Eugene’s Municipal Court.
A tiny lizard has been zipping around my Tucson living room, very aware and quick. I zoomed in to see it better — super cute. I think it’s an ornate tree lizard, a native species in the Southwest desert.