Believe it or not, it’s been over 40 years since those lyrics were introduced by the Steve Miller Band. As I think about the breast cancer blogs I’ve been writing for what seems like 40 years, I think it’s time to slip on into the future and get some of these words in more substantial print, that is, the medical journals.
I’ve been blogging off and on for 18 years, setting up an interactive web site in 2000 before the word “blog” became popular and before one could post with ease. My first site (EZ Breast Info) was so complicated, I had to follow written instructions that took about 10 steps to post. Today, posting is a snap, but the writing is still hard (to do well). Some of my blogatorials are only a few references away from being publishable, and that’s where I’m going to focus for the next few years until retirement. In the meantime, my comments here will vary between medical and non-medical.
Currently, I’m very busy promoting Killing Albert Berch, the story of the murder of my 30 year-old grandfather in what I believe is the only time in history that a white man was killed for violating the sundown laws. More precisely, he hired an African-American, Robert Johnigan, to work as a porter in the Berch’s hotel in 1923 Marlow, OK, and allowed Johnigan to live in the hotel. Thus, both men were in violation of the signage at the town’s outskirts: “Negro, do not let the sun set on you in this town.” Both men were killed 10 days later. The book, however, is far more complicated than this summary would seem.
In Oklahoma, book sales are brisk, and Killing Albert Berch has moved into the #2 bestseller spot for non-fiction in the state (#1 being the award-winning, movie-to-be, Killers of the Flower Moon, where I have to admit I thought the story better than mine).
On June 2, 2018, I spoke at a town event at Marlow, OK where the audience of 100 was warm and gracious and very interested in the story. The library venue was located only blocks away from where my grandfather and the porter were killed 95 years ago. As the audience lined up to have me sign their books, many told of their connection to the story, usually as descendants of one of the characters. I have added greatly to my knowledge of the events by people coming forward to offer new information.
Originally, I had a section on the book’s web site – www.KillingAlbertBerch.com – where readers could post their additions to the story. However, the feature was not used, and readers have contacted me instead by phone, e-mail or Facebook messaging. I now claim that my book is “continuing to write itself.”
In July, I’ll tell the story of the Johnigan family additions since the book was published. If you’ve read the book, you know that I went to great lengths to locate Johnigan descendants, and in fact, made a connection to a Minneapolis branch of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, this branch of the family was shocked to learn about the murder of their ancestor, something that had been buried long ago, until I stirred the pot. In the end, they opted not to participate in my book.
Then, six months after my book was published, I was contacted through a Facebook message by a different branch of the Johnigans. Someone had given the family historian a copy of my book, believing it might be about his ancestor. He introduced himself to me by saying, “I’m the two-times great grandson of Robert Johnigan…in your book, you asked, ‘Where Have You Gone, Robert Johnigan?’ as a chapter title. Well, the answer is simple: We are still here!”
Next month – details about the Johnigan family in the aftermath of the murders.