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Evidence of Murder

In the summer of 1924, the nation’s attention was riveted by the “trial of the century,” the Leopold and Loeb case. Two teenagers from wealthy Chicago families were accused of murdering a 14-year-old boy. The crime dominated newspaper headlines nationwide, even making a lasting impression on 7-year-old Samuel Roen, who lived in New Castle, Pa.

Roen (CAS ’39) studied journalism at Pitt and wrote for The Pitt News. He became an Air Force public relations officer and then publicity director for New York City’s MCA/Universal talent agency, where he worked with celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis.

In 1949, after a snowstorm trapped him on a commuter train for more than 12 hours, he decided to move to sunny Orlando, Fla., his wife Marcia’s hometown.

There, his fascination with the Leopold and Loeb case turned into a new career. He has since written more than 1,000 accounts of murder cases for national publications. “I started writing murder stories, very concerned that I could ever sell the first one,” says Roen. “But once I broke into it, I just kept writing.” His latest book, Evidence of Murder: A Twisted Killer’s Trail of Violence (Kensington Books), details the 1997 search for the killer of Florida engineer Carla Ann Larson.
Cindy Gill




Meeting Faith

In mid-1980, Faith Adiele went to Thailand, becoming the “first-ever female, Black Buddhist nun.” Readers interested in self-actualization and a trek into the unknown (or, simply, a good read) won’t be disappointed by her account of that experience, Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of A Black Buddhist Nun (Norton).

Meeting Faith is essentially a memoir of what it’s like living in an intensive meditation community. In the book, Adiele—who is an assistant professor of English at Pitt and a graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—describes days consisting of vowed silence, living on a single daily meal, rising at 3:30 in the morning, and spending 19 hours a day in meditation. She encountered hissing cobras, forest fires, flying rats, and decomposing corpses, but here lies the beauty in her work: her ability, through personal narrative with accompanying journal entries, to weave intense, sometimes funny, sometimes touching experiences with pointed information about the life of a practicing Buddhist cleric.

Her quest for identity was also featured in the PBS documentary My Journey Home. Chronicling her quest, she says, “is my way of expanding comfort zones.”
— Matt Stroud (CAS ’04)




Pittsburgh Love Stories

Love is defined by a driving lesson in Allegheny Cemetery, by climbing concrete walls in Panther Hollow, by pinching pierogies with women who have pinched for eight decades. It’s defined by a blind woman crossing Forbes Avenue, by red Hush Puppies on fat feet, by crouching on a fire escape to listen to a couple making love on a summer afternoon.

Love is defined by 20 Pittsburgh writers in Pittsburgh Love Stories (The New Yinzer). The book is a collection of essays, fiction, and poetry written by local writers, including some of national renown with Pitt connections. Jennifer Meccariello (MFA candidate, CAS ’01), director of The New Yinzer, asked the writers to submit stories that centered “on a positive emotional reaction to this city. Imagine a nonliteral love letter to Pittsburgh.”

Meccariello birthed the book in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. In the white-walled box known as the MAC computer lab, she typed a proposal for a Sprout Fund grant that would later finance the publication. She typed out her vision of creating a forum where writers could explore the relationship between themselves and the people or homes or bridges of Pittsburgh. She typed about love.
—Cara J. Hayden (CAS ’04)




Soldiers of God

There in Yellowstone National Park, just the day before, Jay D. Glass watched a mother bison plant herself firmly between her newborn calf and a wolf nearby. Glass (KGSB ’81), neuroscientist-psychologist and avid wildlife observer, says the sight further reinforced the ideas that shaped the second of four books he has written, Soldiers of God: Primal Emotions and Religious Terrorists (Donington Press Ltd.).

Glass describes how genetics shape human behavior just as surely as it determines eye color, illustrating how behavioral patterns originate from animal ancestors. As a result, he contends that free will is illusory; even environmental influences such as nurturing take a back seat to genetic instructions that are hardwired into the brain.

Belief in God, for example, is a vestige of belief in a dominant male in the animal kingdom, says Glass, and chimps, our closest animal ancestors, will kill to defend their king. Glass believes that understanding the shared legacy of man and animal can help explain how terrorists can kill in the name of God. He realizes that not everyone will agree with his logic, but that doesn’t bother him. “Facts are the facts, and the facts are utterly convincing.”
Kris B. Mamula




Solovki

As Roy Robson wrote, he’d grunt in frustration. He couldn’t stop questioning what he was writing.

Can I say it was a cloudy day and the storms were bad? Is the narrative strong enough?

Robson (FAS ’87), an associate professor of history at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, wasn’t frustrated with the subject, the Solovki Islands. The Russian historian had purposefully selected these islands bordering the Arctic Circle because historical events that occurred in Russia seemed to happen on these isolated islands on a smaller scale. He was torn. He wanted to write a narrative that would appeal to a lay audience, but the historian in him wanted to write a critical analysis.

“For centuries, historians had been storytellers. In the past century, we have turned into critics,” he says. “The only other issue that was a challenge was to be as specific and true to my sources as I could be, while also weaving what I had hoped to be an interesting narrative picture.”

The picture was interesting enough for Robson’s book Solovki: The Story of Russia Told Through Its Most Remarkable Islands (Yale University Press) to be mentioned in The New Yorker. The magazine wrote a positive review of the book in its “Briefly Noted” section.
Meghan Holohan





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