One hundred years ago, a rag-tag army of military officers and civilians like these men overthrew the Czar in Russia and established what was known as the USSR, United Soviets Socialist Republic. In November of 1917. One hundred years later that revolution has completely unraveled. The USSR is now a collection of bickering states with a population half of ours and a GNP 15% of ours. It has devolved back to an autocracy. While it is true that the United States has lots of problems and we do a lot of stumbling, you only stumble when you are progressing forward. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Talk about truth being stranger than fiction! In 1898, during the Klondike Rush, a young man was killed in Dawson. (People did not die of old age then and there.) The Monty on duty found some letters in the kid’s pocket and informed his parents their son was dead. A year later, a cast iron coffin showed up in Dawson for the kid’s remains. Well, by then everyone who had been in Dawson the previous year was gone and there was no way to identify the kid’s bones. No one wanted to disappoint the parents, so they found some old bones, put them in the coffin and sent it back to some city on the East Coast. At that time, everything coming into Dawson had to be carried on someone’s back. The coffin had to be carried by men UP the Chilkoot Pass and, then, filled with bones, it had to be carried DOWN the Chilkoot Pass. A few months later, the coffin came back. The family had a doctor examine the bones and found them to be those of an Indian. So back the coffin came, crossing the United States for the third time, then up to Skagway for the second time, and up over the Chilkoot Pass on foot for the second time. The family’s instruction were to bury the bones and not send the coffin back. The bones were dumped into the graveyard and the coffin was auctioned off – and after changing hands a number of times, became Alaska’s first bathtub. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Wanna party?! This is a photograph of an ‘entertaining’ evening in Koyukuk in 1900, just at the start of the Alaska Gold Rush. Koyukuk has a troubling history. When gold was discovered in Alaska some wily entrepreneurs figured to cash in big time in Alaska. They chartered five steamboats and packed them full of building material – but not a lot of food. The steamboats plowed up the Yukon River and then the Koyukuk River where five small cities were constructed. It was a great idea except for one flaw: the stampeders expected to live off the land. It didn’t work. Alaska does not have the wild game population other states have and as I stated in my novel Noah, “By the middle of December, before winter had officially started, the Syndicate knew it was in very deep trouble. It was simply a matter of adding up how much food they had in all five cities, dividing it by the number of people who had to be fed and the answer was March, at least two months before the river broke.” Then there was made stampede, in the dead of an Alaskan winter, to get OUT of Koyukuk and find food before the men starved to death. As you can see from this photo, these men had absolutely no inkling of the unmitigated disaster that was about to befall them. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Here’s a blast from the past.  My past, at least. I was looking for a photo to show how times have changed in America and came across this one which illustrated how I have changed. In my 20s I would have focused on the woman on the blanket.  Yes, even then she was old enough to be my mother, but I still would have found this woman seductive. But when I found this photo a few weeks ago, the first thing I saw was the automobile.  Then the other automobile. When I was growing up I could identify every car on the road by its make, model and year. That changed with the proliferation of foreign cars, mostly Japanese.  And “Made in Japan” was a joke in the 1950s; no so today. I could not afford cars like these when I was growing up and now that they are classic, I still can’t afford them now. In a lot of ways, nothing has changed. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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One of the great gifts of the internet is what I call “The Gift of the Split-Second.” There have been millions of photographs since the invention of the camera but fewer than .00001% of them have been seen – before the internet. That was because the ‘old’ photographs only appeared in books and editors had to choose the best – artistic, editorial and human interest – to print. Not so today. I like photographs like this one because they capture – in a split-second – a moment in time when THOSE people were being who they really were. This photograph would never have appeared in a book because the men were drinking and not everyone in the photo was alert and expecting their image to make it through the ages. A man in back is pouring himself a drink rather than looking at the camera and the two sots on the stairway look as though they are about to pass out. The second seated man from the left is proudly holding what looks like a hot water bottle (perhaps a joke?) and the fourth seated man from the left has to tilt his head up to see through his glasses – just like I do. The seated man on the far right looks like he’s asleep. The setting is dingy, like an alleyway with a cart in the background. There are empty glasses on the table and bottles on the dirty paving stones along with some trash. This is a REAL LOOK at the past courtesy of the internet and the “Gift of the Split-Second.” [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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If you watch a lot of television – even if you are a millennial – you will recognize the man on the left as Colonel Harland David Sanders, the founder of “finger lickin’ good” Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sanders, by the way, died in 1980 – at 90 years of age. Take a moment to see if you recognize the other man in the photo. He is Vincent Damon Furnier and he appears here without make-up. Need another hint: He uses a woman’s name when he is onstage and he is not a crossdresser. If you guessed Alice Cooper, you are correct.
America is a land where you can start out as a nobody and end up a star. Until he was in his 50s, Sanders was still working for other people. Furnier, now known as “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” draws inspiration from horror films and gruesome acts of violence. When this photograph was taken, probably in the 1970s, both were at the top of their game. While it is odd to see them together, keep in mind this is America and here celebrity status breaks down all barriers. Only in America does age have no bearing on success or, for that matter, medium. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Here we have a shot of a raid in 1922. But this raid wasn’t on a speakeasy, brothel or illegal gambling joint. It was carried out on a beach. The crime? Knees. Too many of them – or, rather, two many of them – were visible. And you know, we can’t have women walking around in bathing suits showing too many knees. Why, these women should have been wearing birkas. That would have showed the proper moral restraint. Wait a minute! A woman can be arrested for wearing a birka. I guess it’s just as bad to show no knees as too many.
America has come a long way in a century. In 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment, women were being denied the right to vote in many parts of the country, their paychecks went to their husbands and it was not uncommon for women to inherit property. (Their husbands could, even if the inheritance was from her family.)
Like I said, we’ve come a long way in a century. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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William Harvey Carney (February 29, 1840 – December 9, 1908) was an African American soldier during the American Civil War. In 1900, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in saving the regimental colors during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863. Because his actions preceded those of other medal honorees, he is considered to be the first African American to be granted the Medal of Honor. An excellent depiction of that battle is in the movie GLORY. The Massachusetts 54th was commanded by seven white officers. One of those white officers — who was killed during the Battle of Fort Wagner — was my mother’s mother’s uncle. In reward for his service, his family was given land in Montana. They founded a city on that land: Lewistown, where my mother was born.

[See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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If it takes you longer than ten seconds to read this license plate holder, you are a whippersnapper, a youngster.  For those of us over 40, it is a no-brainer. Which leads me to debunk the adage “with age comes wisdom.”  In fact, all age brings is bad knees and poor eyesight.  What brings wisdom are mistakes – IF you learn from them. There are lots of ‘old people’ who have held the same job for 40 years and think they know everything because they have made no mistakes.  No, people who have made no mistakes are people who have never tried anything new.

Over the past 50 years, America had gone through profound change. Industries that were rock solid in the 1960s are now long-gone. New technologies have changed our vocabulary, politics and view of both ourselves and the world. The knowledge of the 6,000 years is at our fingertips on our desk.  But the technology has only changed our access to knowledge, not our wisdom. A computer will make it faster but not smarter. Age may not make you smarter but it has given you a lot more time to make mistakes which WILL make you smarter.

If you can’t decipher the license plate holder, talk to your father or mother.  But before you do, here are a selection of words from the 1960s which I included in my eBook EATING A BEAR WITH ITS OWN TEETH.  See how many of these terms you know; then ask your parents about the others.

“Far out”             “Film at 11”                   PBX            lay a patch

Hang 10               “Where’s the beef”      33 1/3        Big John and Sparky

Burma Shave       carriage return            car hop      dimmer switch

Deep six               fink                                 hifi              index card

Mimeo                  matchbook                   PMT           Top end floor

Typesetter            whiteout                       USSR          Twist

[See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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As a writer, my mantra is “If you don’t have something unique, you have nothing.” If I cannot write something that ‘has never been read done before’ I am just another cookie-cutter writer. Walt Disney understood the power of uniqueness.  Here he is in 1955, 11 years before his death, outlining his vision for a theme park. Half a century after his death, Mickey Mouse is still one of the most recognizable personalities in the world, Disneyland alone hosts 18 million tourists a year and you can buy Snow White and the Seven Dwarf lawn figurines – from a 1937 movie – in most cities in the United States. Now that’s the power of unique idea. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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