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Journalist John Temple walks into a cold, stone, chapel-like building among the glass-and-steel skyscrapers of downtown Pittsburgh. This isn’t his first visit. He has been here many times as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tracking down details on stories. It’s not the building that draws him, but what’s inside—the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office.

He navigates his way through the marble and granite halls to find Chief Deputy Coroner Joe Dominick and Deputy Coroner Tiffany Hunt. “Want to take a ride?” Dominick asks, gesturing toward Hunt, who is on her way to cover a case.

That ride led to many others and to Temple’s first book, Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner’s Office (University Press of Mississippi). Temple (FAS ’02, CAS ’93) admits he was “a little intimidated about following dead bodies around all day,” but he felt compelled to return—frequently. The result is an intriguing portrait of life in a coroner’s office and the people who investigate how the toe-tagged met their ends. Interweaving the history of the coroner’s office and the science of crime-scene investigation with accounts of mysteries, murders, illnesses, and accidents, Deadhouse takes readers to the raw edge of humanity, where life meets death. —Seth Amitin

Farewell Forever

Two young newlyweds, Jack and Margaret Malone, gaze out over the bow of the Sarah Ann at the gray Atlantic as their home of County Cavan, Ireland, slips away forever into the salty mist behind them. With sails unfurled across its three towering masts, the ship begins its leapfrogging voyage from Ireland to Portugal, from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas, and finally to North America. Within three years, Ireland will be ravaged by the Great Famine, but for the Malones in 1842, New York harbor and a new life in America beckon.

Five seasick weeks and 5,800 miles later, the Sarah Ann slowly drifts around Governor’s Island and into the East River, where the Malones get their very first glimpse of bustling Manhattan. Here, beneath the skyline of wooden buildings, amid the clamor of busy streets, the couple sets foot on American soil for the very first time.

Over a century and a half later, the Malones’ great-great-grandson, John Malone (GSPIA ’61), writes his first novel, Farewell Forever (Trafford), a vivid reimagining of the courtship of his ancestors, the difficulties the couple encountered on their journey, and their arrival in the country that would become the author’s birthplace and home. —Erik Price

Beast of Never, Cat of God

Imagine walking down a trail in the Michigan wilderness. Suddenly, there’s a rustling in the bushes. Moving with the flow of a shadow, something emerges from the underbrush. It creeps low to the ground, its fur colored like a deer, with a catlike head that’s dwarfed by its muscular body and massive paws. You notice the extremely long tail as the animal quickly crosses the trail and disappears.

You’ve just met a puma, and if this encounter happened anywhere east of the Mississippi, official records say these cats have been extinct in the wild for years.

Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search For The Eastern Puma (Lyons Press) by Bob Butz (UPJ ’92) takes a look at the lives of a growing contingent who are “obsessed” to prove that mountain lions still exist in the Eastern United States.

“I learned a lot about what fuels belief in people,” says Butz. “What is this need that some people have in themselves to believe in things like pumas, UFOs, Bigfoot, and all these strange things despite all the evidence that exists to say that maybe that stuff isn’t real? The neat thing about the puma issue is that sometimes these things are real.” —RM

Tales from the Washington Redskins

Strapped in at 30,000 feet on a flight from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., the traveler thought it was “mayday” for May Day (his nickname).

But Mark May (CAS ’81), a two-time All-American offensive lineman at Pitt and first-round draft pick of the NFL’s Washington Redskins in 1981, survived a lightning-filled “flight from hell” to arrive in the nation’s capital, signaling an electric beginning to a successful—and often raucous—13-year playing career in which he garnered two Super Bowl rings and a wealth of stories. May, a charter member of Washington’s famed group of offensive linemen known as “The Hogs,” which included fellow Pitt teammate Russ Grimm (CAS ’82), gives new meaning to pork and politics in Mark May’s Tales from the Washington Redskins (Sports Publishing). The decorated Panther great—whose number 73 was retired by Pitt in 2001—recounts his time with the ’Skins, rubbing elbows with foes on the field and D.C. personalities off of it. His book chronicles the resurgence of pro football in the District during the ’80s while sparing no opinions on the state of the franchise today.

The 1980 Outland Trophy winner as college football’s top interior lineman, May was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December. —Chris A. Weber

Cooperstown Verses

Damn you, Johnny Bench. With one swing of the bat, the Cincinnati Reds catcher broke the hearts of Pittsburgh Pirates fans everywhere, hitting a two-out, two-strike home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie Game Five of the 1972 National League Championship Series, a contest the Big Red Machine would go on to win to reach the World Series. Among the crestfallen: a 9-year-old boy whose pain galvanized his passion for baseball and, years later, helped provide the genesis for a compilation of poems honoring 253 of the game’s Hall of Famers, Bench included.

The result is Cooperstown Verses: Poems About Each Hall of Famer (McFarland & Company, Inc.), Mark W. Schraf’s ambitious undertaking, marrying baseball and poetry. “The biggest challenge was trying to write something memorable about each player without retelling something everybody already knew,” says Schraf (CAS ’85), a professor of chemistry at West Virginia University. “I was fighting fame with many of them. With others, it was a challenge finding any information at all.”

Like a base runner stretching a double into a triple, Schraf pushes the boundaries with poems that are educational, poignant, opinionated, and sometimes personal. Thank you, Johnny Bench ... and Hall of Famers everywhere. —CAW

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