Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Devil's Dozen Peers at Famous Murders

From the overheated desk of Paul Levine...

KATHERINE RAMSLAND IS AT THE CRIME SCENE: The forensics guru has a new book out: "The Devil’s Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took down 12 Notorious Serial Killers and The Real World of a Forensic Scientist." Co-written with Dr. Henry C. Lee, the book takes a look at famous murder cases and delves into the life of the high-profile criminalist, as well. Katherine is the author of 35 books and 900 articles, numbers which make me want to take a nap. I asked my pal Kate to describe her newest book:

"I wrote 'The Devil's Dozen' after separately researching the history of serial murder and the history of forensic science. I spotted how a number of serial killer investigations had changed the way things were done. For example, the FBI's profiling unit is the result of an increase in serial murder, and DNA analysis was first performed in a serial murder case. There was also a cool case about how brain fingerprinting spooked a killer into confessing. I thought it would be valuable to write a book for law enforcement that brought these insights together, which would also interest fans of true crime.

"At the same time, my work in forensics put me in a credible position to become a co-writer with criminalist Henry C. Lee, who was compiling a book with his former lab director on some of his cases. She was working on the technical angles, but they needed someone to manage other aspects, especially case histories. Dr. Lee wanted some autobiographical details and I'd also written two biographies, so it wasn't difficult for me to merge into this project."

Here's more about the book on Katherine's blog, The Graveyard Shift.

WILLIAMS-SONOMA AIR CONDITIONS BEVERLY HILLS! I like W-S and hate to trash the high-end kitchen doodad chain. Sure, the stores are overpriced. Seventy-nine bucks for a rolling pin? Why not just buy the apple pie at Marie Callendar's? (To be fair, the $79 model is made of marble). The salespeople at W-S are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. The store gives FREE cooking classes, which I attend. So what's my beef?

On Sunday, I spoke to two clerks, asking why the big double doors were propped open. (It was 98 degrees outside). They both said, "management orders." Apparently, management believes that shoppers on Beverly Boulevard are not clever enough to open a door and enter the store on their own.

I remember certain nightspots in San Francisco's Tenderloin District keeping their doors open. The theory was that young men might be too shy to otherwise come in, no matter how much they wanted to see Miss Tempest Storm in her pasties. (Let the record reflect that I was not so reticent). I'm not sure that today's shoppers, on the hunt for a panini machine, face similar problems.

Hint to management: If you cut prices in half, i.e., to an amount still in excess of what Target charges, people would be breaking down your doors.

I LOVE THE CATHOLIC FUNERAL MASS: I was deeply moved by the services for Sen. Ted Kennedy. Opera singer Susan Graham's soaring rendition of "Ave Maria" sent shivers through me. (My tribe's singing of "Hava Nagila" does not). One of my pals reminds me that the Jewish funeral prayer, "El Maley Rachamin" (God, Full of Compassion), when sung by a cantor with good pipes, is a pretty soulful song, too.

This is a little like arguing who's better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. But I'm crossing party lines here and sticking with "Ave Maria." It's a bit of an unfair fight. "Ave Maria," which of course translates to "Hail Mary" (leading Jim Born to think that's it's a desperation fourth quarter pass by the Seminoles), was written by Franz Schubert to be sung. "El Maley Rachamin," I believe, is a prayer set to music.

In Damien Cave's excellent New York Times piece on how the recession has taken Florida to the mat: "Florida these days often resembles the character played by its native son Mickey Rourke in 'The Wrestler': a broken-down piece of meat, damaged and sincere, but a little too messed up to drop familiar habits."

Paul Levine


  1. Did W-S have the door open AND the air conditioning on? Tut-tut. In this current Southern California heatwave, that's not very ecologically aware.

    I have several of Ms. Ramsland's books in my library. Thanks for reminding me to add another one to my TBR pile.

  2. So you got your photo autographed? Where was I, in the cloak room?

    PS: the Nordstrom in St. Louis suburbs is kept at approximately 42 degrees, causing everyone to buy sweaters in summer just to shop.

  3. James O. Born9/01/2009 8:42 AM

    Leave to a New Yorker to bad mouth Florida.

    We're a little battered but I noticed we're not near the top of states with cash shortfalls. Even for a big state we're less in the red than many.


  4. Matt Gutting9/01/2009 11:22 AM

    Actually, Schubert's "Ave Maria" is one of a number of settings of the prayer - it is, in fact, the prayer (which is typically spoken) set to music. I like the Gregorian chant versions, which are even closer to the spoken prayer.

  5. I heard Katherine Ramsland speak at a conference in Ft. Lauderdale a few years ago. She was not a great speaker. She was full of herself and went on too long.

    I'm sorry to say something like that but it was a common sentiment among the attendees.

  6. How much for a rolling pin? Ave Maria! All you have to do is use an old wine bottle - but wash out the last dregs of the shiraz, or your pastry will end up with a vinegary taste. For every fancy kitchen implement, there is a very down-to-earth substitute. I must add that I have a rolling pin, but I think it was about five bucks. They last, you know. My mother still uses the 60-year old rolling pin she had as a wedding present, and it still has the teeth marks in it where she tried to ward off a dog who was attacking her (they were living on a farm at the time - it's a long story of why she happened to be outside with a rolling pin in her hand, but there you go ...).

    Can't get over the sheer waste of air con/doors open. Try Sur Le Table, Paul.