Sunday, April 12, 2015


--Always great to start a tour with lots of familiar faces in the crowd, including my sainted-mother-in-law Rhoda Kurzweil and good friends Stephan Placido and Karen Sattinger and many others.  The store proprietor Diane Sinchuk has been boosting the work of yours truly since the days of John Deal and she continues on, despite the fact that I am now out of mysteries and into histories.  The audience was about as engaged in the Q&A as any I have ever seen, largely because of the current drought conditions in California (and the looming shortage caused by over-development in South Florida as well.)  The focus of WATER TO THE ANGELS is primarily on what happened in Southern California 100 years ago, but, history has a way of repeating itself.  Mulholland built the LA Aqueduct as a way out of a drought that had plagued the city for more than a decade.  He would never have dreamed that one day the population would surpass 10,000,000--as he often told city commissioners, "growth has its limits here."  But, unfortunately, developers paid about as much attention back then as they do today.

Friday, April 10, 2015


--The touring on behalf of WATER TO THE ANGELS is about to begin.  Please come by and join the general hilarity, which includes a little chat, some Q & A, and a book signing.  If you can't make it, any of the stores will be happy to take your order for a signed/personalized copy.
Saturday, April 11, Delray Beach, MURDER ON THE BEACH 6 PM (272 NE 2nd Ave.  561-279-7790)
Monday, April 13, Coral Gables, BOOKS & BOOKS 8 PM (265 Aragon, 305-442-4408)
Sunday, April 19, Los Angeles, LOS ANGELES FESTIVAL OF BOOKS 12:30 PM (USC campus,booth signing at Skylight Books #138, 305-778-6068)
Tuesday, April 21, La Jolla, WARWICK'S 7:30 PM, (7812 Girard Ave, 858-454-0347)
Wednesday, April 22, Pasadena, VROMAN'S 7 PM (695 E. Colorado, 626-449-5320)
Thursday, April 23, Corte Madera, BOOK PASSAGE 7PM (51 Tamal Vista Blvd., 415-927-0960)
Friday, April 24, Mendocino, GALLERY BOOKSHOP & BOOKWINKLES 6:30 PM (319 Kasten St., 707-937-2665)
I will also be dropping by to sign copies at COPPERFIELD'S in Sebastopol (707-823-2618), at BOOKS, INC. (415-776-1111) in San Francisco and at COMPASS BOOKS (650-821-9299) in the San Francisco Airport.  If you would like to have a copy signed or personalized, just call the store.
Check back for updates, including an event TBA at THE BOOK MARK in Neptune Beach/ Jacksonville (904-241-9026)
 Also in California, sort of:
June 6-June 13, Tecate, Mexico, RANCHO LA PUERTA, Writers Week, with co-faculty Madeleine Blais and Ellen Sussman.  This is the place where "spa-dom" began.  Put it on your bucket list.
September 25-27, Kalispell, WRITERS OF THE FLATHEAD, Annual Conference. Couple days talking about life and art in the shadow of Glacier National Park.  What is not to like?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


You may have come here from the new landing page that the good folks at Harper Collins/Ecco have created to help spread the word about Water to the Angels:  William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct and the Rise of Los Angeles.  Or maybe you were looking for the order form for the executive model of the Hurricane Floor Mop.  In any case, I am glad you dropped by.  I am not the greatest blogger--my excuse is that I only have so many words in me--but I keep vowing to do better.  I will start my promised semi-regular posts having to do with the launch of WTA by pointing out that when I started work on this book four years or so ago, there was no drought in California (well, aside from the fact that California has basically always been in a drought compared to Eastern states).  I simply wanted to write the story of the formidable accomplishments of a character who my research showed me was one of those larger-than-life types from another era, a man who conceived of and built the most significant civil engineering project in American history:  the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  When I began working on this project I did not know the full contours of Mulholland's achievement.  I was simply guided by a chance comment made by Robert Towne, Academy Award winning screenwriter of CHINATOWN shortly after that terrific film came out in 1974.  Towne's statement (says my failing memory) was something to the effect of, "I wish I could have told the true story behind Chinatown because that is as fascinating as what we made up."  That comment stuck with me for many years until it was time to begin a new book, and when I began to dig into the historical record, I saw exactly what Towne meant.  All this Chinatown material forms one of the later chapters in my book, so if you are intrigued, there is just one more reason to go buy your copy now.  One thing I will tell you is that, as I suggested to Towne when he and I talked, the real William Mulholland (he was a colorless pipsqueak called Hollis Mulwray in the film) was the same imposing, powerful type as was bad guy Noah Cross (John Houston).  I wondered to Towne if he might have derived his portrayal of Cross from the real-life Mulholland.  "I never thought Mulholland was a bad guy," was all the answer I got.  More to come, including a breathless blow by blow account of the author's tour through California, including a stint at the Los Angeles Festival of Books on Sunday, April 19.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


If you have a minute (and 56 seconds), please take a look at this great YouTube video that the good folks at Ecco have put together on behalf of BRINGING ADAM HOME.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


publishers weekly--11/29/2010

*(starred review)

Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America

Les Standiford with Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews, Ecco, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-198390-0

On July 27, 1981, six-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a Sears store in Hollywood, Fla., and his partial remains were found in a canal two weeks later. Novelist and nonfiction author Standiford (Last Train to Paradise) charts with devastating precision the decades-long search for the killer and the evolution of Revé and John Walsh (John is executive producer and host of America's Most Wanted) from grieving parents into powerful advocates for missing children. In 1983, Jacksonville police arrested drifter Otis Toole for arson and murder, and he began talking about a little boy he'd killed in south Florida. Myriad confessions (and retractions) followed, containing details only the killer would know, but evidence disappeared, potential witnesses were never interviewed, and Toole was never charged. Convicted on other charges, he died in prison in 1996. Twenty-five years after Adam's abduction, the Walshes asked Matthews, a renowned polygraph investigator and retired detective, to conduct an independent investigation; Matthews concluded that Toole was the killer. Standiford's account is riveting, heartbreaking, and supports John Walsh's statement: "it's not about closure; it's about justice." 8 pages of color photos. (Mar.)

The current issue of Continuum, the magazine of the University of Utah, contains a nicely written piece by Chicago journalist Dave Wieczorek about yours truly and the writing of Bringing Adam Home. In the piece, I talk about the awful irony: just as I was finishing a book about a family who had lost a son, my wife Kimberly and I suffered our own tragedy. This is a club no one wants to join, my friends. But it also explains why I feel Bringing Adam Home is the most worthwhile book I have written. Kudos to Dave for his fine work. Here is the link to the piece, "Lost Innocence."

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Here is the lead from a WSVN-TV news story that ran in South Florida on January 6:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A new chapter has been written in the murder case of Adam Walsh, as an author has published never-before-seen evidence.

The victim's father, John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," said this should prove, once and for all, who killed his son. "For 27 years we've been asking who could take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him," Walsh said. "The not-knowing has been a torture. That journey's over."

The link to the entire video clip of the piece by Senior Investigative Reporter Derek Heywood follows:

The WSVN story was prompted by articles that ran earlier in the week in the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald, focussing on the luminol photographs developed by Det. Joe Matthews that support the case against Ottis (Ought-iss) Toole, identified as the killer by Hollywood (FL) Police in 2008, after they viewed the results of Matthew's independent investigation which he carried out pro bono on behalf of the Walsh family.

When print reporters contacted me for comment, I told them that while the blood-evidence photographs are indeed dramatic, they are really just one part of an irrefutable tapestry of evidence set forth by Detective Matthews. I added that Matthews' work is nothing short of amazing--and inspiring--in a weary time such as ours, but that part didn't make the papers. The WSVN piece captures the story and its significance in a nutshell, however, and I urge you to have a look.

What is most remarkable about the photos is that they sat as in a moldering file in Tallahassee, undeveloped and neglected for more than 25 years. Though their existence was noted and catalogued in the evidence records, none of the hundreds of law enforcement officials involved in investigating the crime over the years had ever bothered to examine these photographs--incredible but true. Of course it is maddening that such lapses occurred; and it is sad indeed that the Walshes had to wait so long for the degree of closure they finally received; but in the end, we can be heartened that such selfless and dedicated individuals as Joe Matthews are still with us.