Tag Archives: Black Swan Image Works

‘Page Turners’ book study group of North Carolina Skypes with me about “The Burning of The Piping Rock”

Skyping with an author may not be something new to you, but it was to me when recently I was a part of a “Skype with the Author” event. But in this case, I was the author!

Members of Page Turners, the book study group of the Tryon United Methodist Church of Tryon, North Carolina decided to read my historical mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock.

Tryon United Methodist Church

Tryon United Methodist Church

The Page Turners’ leader is Lynn Montgomery. And in the spirit of “full disclosure” I have to report that one member of Page Turners is my cousin, Laura Bitter. Laura had read my novel and proposed it to her fellow members of Page Turners, who said yes. (Thank you, Laura, and your fellow Page Turners!)

Here’s how Laura describes Page Turners: “No dues, no refreshments. Just monthly gatherings to share thoughts about recent books and older books that have been selected by the group.”

And what a wonderful group! This time they were to meet at Laura’s house. Laura said the Page Turners had questions for me and asked me if we could have a phone conference. I said, “Sure!” Then someone suggested we Skype and the next thing I knew, Page Turners member Pam Monterisi was adjusting the screen on Laura’s laptop and we were off and running!

SkypeIn case you’re not familiar with Skype, it is an application you can install on your computer (PC, tablet, iPad, Android, etc.) to allow you to communicate with others having Skype on theirs. It allows you to see and speak with people in real time.

The Page Turners folks had wonderfully probing and insightful questions. As we talked about the novel, I learned so much. When you hear questions about your work and the characters in them, you find yourself reacting to those characters, considering them, sometimes defending them.

MacFinn's Drugstore

MacFinn’s Drugstore

I had a chance to talk about how much real history there was in the book. Many of the memories expressed by protagonist George A. King were real—things he’d spoken of during his life that I had recalled, especially his memories as a PT Boat Commander in WW II, as well as his memories of working at MacFinn’s Drugstore in post-war Saratoga Springs with all of its casinos, mob activities and crooked politicians. He was held to be a sympathetic character by the Page Turners.

Saratogian headline 10-17-1954 copyOn the other hand, Harry the Torch, the other main character in the novel, was not held to be a sympathetic character. That was understandable, as Harry is an arsonist after all, but I confessed that I’d come to like Harry to a degree I wouldn’t have thought possible as I first began writing the novel. As with any fictional work, once the actual writing starts, the characters take over. They lead me in directions I had not foreseen, and they reveal things about themselves I hadn’t known.

One surprising question was: “How was I able to transcribe all those microcassette tapes?” that George A. King had recorded prior to his death. Well, I have an answer for that, but I’d rather tell you during a Skype session with your reading group or your class! If you’d be interested in Skyping with me to talk about my novel and about writing in general, please contact me on this site by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button and together we’ll figure out a good time for me to Skype with your group, class or workshop.

If by chance you are reading this post, but haven’t read The Burning of The Piping Rock, you can purchase a copy at your local bookstore or online at Amazon.com. Click on the “WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK” tab for more information.

My thanks go out again to the Page Turners book study group of the Tryon United Methodist Church. You really know how to make an author feel special.

I’m looking forward to Skyping with your book group, your English class or your Creative Writing class or workshop! Contact me, please.


The design for this site, all artwork used on it, and the cover artwork used in The Burning of The Piping Rock was created by Black Swan Image Works.

American Pharoah faces the “Saratoga Jinx” on Triple Crown winners

American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Saratoga Springs—It’s all about American Pharoah. Whether we don’t know a horse from the carrot it’s chomping, we all seem to know about American Pharoah. Tomorrow (8/29) we’ll all see if that Triple Crown winner breaks the “Saratoga Jinx” at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

With this world-wide American Pharoah mania, all eyes are on Saratoga Springs—and on its infamous gambling history. Last Sunday journalist Heather Kovar had me on WTEN TV’s News10 @ 9am to talk about those gambling heydays, as one of her top stories was on whether Triple Crown winner American Pharoah would be visiting Saratoga Springs while the ravers was run. (Thanks, Heather!)

Heather Kovar

Heather Kovar

Well, we know now that American Pharaoh is more than visiting–he’s running in the Travers. The only speculation now is whether American Pharoah can beat the “Saratoga Jinx” on Triple Crown winners competing in the Travers Stakes.

For those unfamiliar with horse racing, here’s a short explanation of the Travers and the Triple Crown. The Travers Stakes has been held at Saratoga Race Course since 1869 and was named for William R. Travers, the first president of the then Saratoga Racing Association.

The Triple Crown is officially “The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.” Three-year-old Thoroughbred horses that win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in a single season are Triple Crown winners. The first Triple Crown was won in 1919.

And what is this “Saratoga Jinx”? It’s simple. While twelve horses have won the Triple Crown, only one of them has ever won the Travers Stakes—Whirlaway in 1941!

NYRA’s webpage on Whirlaway  reports that, “in 1941 the crowd-pleasing ‘Mr. Longtail’ often landed above” baseball great Joe DiMaggio and boxing legend Joe Louis “on the front pages of the nation’s sports sections.” It also states that the famed jockey “Eddie Arcaro called him ‘not the best, but the runningest’ horse. His trainer called him dumb, stupid and crazy.” Out of the Whirlaway could unpredictably run all over the track, but then always pulled out at the right moment to leave the others in his dust. Arcaro rode Whirlaway to his Belmont victory for his 1941 Triple Crown victory.

Whirlaway was now slated to run in the Travers on August 16, 1941, when tragedy struck! Ten days before the race, on August 6th, the Jockey Board of Stewards suspended Arcaro from riding because of charges of “rough handling” of the horses he rode. Instead, Alfred Robertson took Arcaro’s place. The racing world was in a state of frenzy.

Piping Rock Casino

Piping Rock Casino

In the Spa City, the casinos and other businesses were finally enjoying a financial revival after the Great Depression and this race was symbolic of that revival. What would happen now? Never mind that most of the world was already at war, with the US was aiding the beleaguered British in their fight against the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. (And Pearl Harbor was 103 days away.) No, what was vital was the Travers!

On Saturday, August 16, 1941, the stands at Saratoga Race Course were packed for the Travers Stakes. As the horses broke from gate, Whirlaway sprung to action—well, almost. William DuPont’s Fairymant took the lead by 15 lengths and Samuel D. Riddle’s two horses, War Relic and Lord Kitchener, were coming up strong. Whirlaway wasn’t doing well.

Cy Peterman of the Philadelphia Inquirer summed it up best: “When Whirlaway turned on the pressure, all chances of a shock were erased. Up to the mile post, before he made his move, he looked as if bound to make history repeat. . . . But once Whirlaway came into full stride there wasn’t much to it. As far out as the 16th pole the race was over; he was almost four lengths ahead at the finish, and Fairymant had two and a half on Lord Kitchener.”

Peterman also reported that, “By his victory, Whirlaway took down another $16,900 for [Whirlaway owner] Warren Wright. Chicago sportsman who found there are more ways of raising dough than with the baking powder he manufactures.”



Wright was presented with the gold cup by Samuel D. Riddle, owner of War Relic and Lord Kitchener, and George H. Bull, president of the Saratoga Association.

And since that day 74 years ago no Triple Crown winner has ever won the Travers Stakes. In fact, Whirlaway is the only Triple Crown winner ever to have won the Travers!

Damon Runyon

Damon Runyon

“The play,” as author Damon Runyon described gambling in Saratoga’s gaming heydays, is understandably high. In just a few days, the Travers purse has risen from $1.2 to $1.6 million. As of this writing (Friday, 8/28) the odds are, well, odd. Saratoga Race Course is showing 3/5 odds, while across the pond in the UK, Ladbrokes is offering 28/9 odds. (We attempted to find Runyon’s Bookie Bob, but Bob’s kidnappers have yet to release him.)

Adding to the frenzy is that Saratoga Race Course has sold out seating for tomorrow’s Travers!

So, all that remains now is to see if Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh breaks the “Saratoga Jinx” and wins the 2015 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

In this instance, all bets are definitely on!

A Celebration at the Holidays!

The Burning of The Piping Rock

The Burning of The Piping Rock

Happy Holidays to you all! I hope you’ll join in my holiday celebration of Santa’s having arrived early at Matchless Books™ with this “present”: my Saratoga mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock, has passed the 500 copies mark in sales!
While perhaps a little number for a major author in a huge publishing house, for a struggling, self-published author this is number is large. When I first started out having it printed by Northshire bookstore, my heart was in my throat. But, my book is now in Indie (Independent) bookstores from here to Charleston, SC, as well as on Amazon.com in Kindle eBook format (http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Piping-Rock-Joseph-Cutshall-King-ebook/dp/B007QV0U2O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419104593&sr=8-1&keywords=Burning+of+the+piping+rock); and through IndieBound—website of Indie Bookstores nationwide (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781605710976).
When it comes to selling The Burning of The Piping Rock, the Indie bookstores have been my best friends. And so, as I celebrate my novel’s continuing sales, let me salute all those Indie bookstores that have made my book available by telling you a bit about the top three Indie bookstores, those that have sold the largest number of my novel:

Lyrical Ballad Bookstore (http://www.lyricalballadbooks.com/) – 7 Phila St.; Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; 518-584-8779.
Owned and operated by John and Jan DeMarco Lyrical Ballad Bookstore has been a part of Saratoga Springs since 1971. Lyrical Ballad Bookstore was the first to carry The Burning of The Piping Rock and has sold the greatest number of copies to date. Lyrical Ballad Bookstore has its Phila Street entrance right off Broadway in the basement of the former Saratoga National Bank. In fact, you can still see the bank name on the Broadway façade of the building. What is remarkable, too, is that an original bank vault is in Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, loaded with one of civilization’s greatest treasures, books—over 100,000 books and antique prints and maps! If you are an ardent bibliophile, this is your store.
Speaking of the former Saratoga National Bank, here’s a nice coincidence. That bank featured prominently in New York State’s 1953 racketeering trial of James A. Leary, head of Saratoga’s Republican machine, which serviced the mob’s illegal casinos with banking operations. And Leary also features prominently in The Burning of The Piping Rock.
Thank you Jan and John DeMarco for your support!

Northshire Bookstore (http://www.northshire.com/); 4869 Main Street Manchester Center, Vermont 05255 and Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, at 424 Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 (http://www.northshire.com/northshire-bookstore-saratoga).
As I mentioned above, I first had my novel printed at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester. Northshire Bookstore is a family-owned, independent bookstore founded by Ed & Barbara Morrow in Manchester Center, VT in September, 1976. It moved to the Colburn House in 1985 and about that time the Morrows’ son, Andy, joined the firm. It expanded in 2003 and, in 2012, made the bold decision to open a second Northshire Bookstore on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, NY. Both are wonderful to browse and to shop in.
Northshire carries my novel in both their Manchester Center and Saratoga Springs bookstores. Northshire also prints new copies of The Burning of The Piping Rock, which is resells to other bookstores.
Thank you Northshire Bookstore for your support!

Battenkill Books (http://www.battenkillbooks.com/); 15 East Main St.; Cambridge, NY 12816.
Battenkill Books, a beautiful bookstore on Main Street next Hubbard Hall, has been in operation since 1989. Owned and operated by Connie Brooks, it is a “must see” place in Cambridge. I gave a reading there and loved the experience.
And here’s exciting news! Battenkill Books announced December 15, 2014 that it has received a major donation from author James Patterson, as part of his campaign to support independent bookstores across the nation (full story). Connie Brooks said, “We will use the money to expand our children’s section into an unused space alongside our building on Main Street. We will create a dedicated room for our youngest patrons, which will include expanded space for picture books and early chapter books. The new space will also be able to accommodate our popular summer reading program.”
Congratulations, Connie Brooks and thank you for your support!

And thanks to all of you for following my blog. May your Holiday Season be joyous and your New Year be filled with happiness and health!

For all the places to buy a copy of The Burning of The Piping Rock, click on this “Where to Buy the Book” page. https://pipingrock.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=52&action=edit&message=1

Patrick Gilgallon takes “The Burning of The Piping Rock” to new heights!

'Piping Rock' at LG 09-13 - photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

‘Piping Rock’ at LG 09-13 – photo by Patrick Gilgallon.

This photo was taken by Patrick Gilgallon, a fellow devotee of Barbershopper music, who sent it in an email, saying: “While at my cabin on Lake George I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING The Burning of the Piping Rock! I couldn’t stop thinking about the story line when I put down the book periodically. So much could I NOT put down the book, that upon departing for a hike, I packed it in my backpack. At the summit, I read for 2 hrs.  What a beautiful day that was!!!”

To prove his point, Patrick attached this photo he took at the summit.

Thank you very much, Patrick, for your totally unexpected and totally appreciated email!

“Piping Rock” book reading this Saturday at the Shirt Factory

Just a reminder that I’ll be doing a Book Reading/Signing for The Burning of The Piping Rock this Saturday, July 20, at 2 p.m. Please join me at The Shirt Factory Gallery in Glens Falls, Corner of Lawrence & Cooper Streets (map). Open to the public free of charge. I’ll be with Mystery/Suspense writers Vincent Palazzo and David Cederstrom. (A big “Thank you” to author Maury D. Thompson [Facebook]). Visit the Shirt Factory Gallery website at http://shirtfactorygf.com/gallery.

Hope to see you there!

Piping Rock Casino

Piping Rock Casino

“Gangster Squad”: No Academy Award, but, ooooh, we our love our criminals!

Seen the new Sean Penn film Gangster Squad about the end of mafia member Mickey Cohen’s crime career.

Scheduled to be released last fall, Gangster Squad‘s release was held back until this January because of the Aurora shooting. January being a traditionally poor month for openings, along with the initial bad reviews, might well keep it from getting next year’s Academy Award. That in mind, you might not believe what I’m about to tell you!

Set in the late 1940s, Gangster Squad is a “True Crime” film based on the LA Police Department’s “Gangster Squad unit” that set out to get Cohen. Box Office Mojo defines “True Crime” film as “movies based on real crimes or criminals.” Box Office Mojo rates Gangster Squad NUMBER 6 on its list of the top 47 True Crime movies from 1980-Present. This is by sales, but still, despite some negative reviews (and some were pretty bad!) Gangster Squad ranks up there with such hits as Goodfellas and American Gangster.

Why, oh why, do we love anything and everything about organized crime? And why another B-movie about the mob of long ago and this psychopath Mickey Cohen?

Easy. Because we love royalty and organized crime is a kind of perverted royalty, with all royalty’s lineage, pedigrees and idiosyncrasies. Cohen was mob royalty—of a sort—tracing his lineage to New York mobster kingpin Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein was accused, though never convicted, of orchestrating the infamous Black Sox Scandal, the fixing of the World Series of 1919. Because of the Black Sox Scandal, organized crime rocketed from being fascinating to being a full-time obsession for Americans.

Rothstein came from a wealthy business family and used Prohibition, which started in 1919, to make crime a major American industry. He was vilified and glamorized in the press. He was so well-known that, when F. Scott Fitzgerald thinly disguised Rothstein as the racketeer Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, everyone knew Fitzgerald meant Rothstein.

“King” Rothstein had many knights at his crooked round table—gangsters such as Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello , Joe Adonis and Mickey Cohen. Rothstein was deeply involved in illegal gambling in the East. In the 1920s, he brought Lansky, Costello, and Adonis to Saratoga Springs, where they eventually controlled most of Saratoga’s illegal gambling casinos. One was Piping Rock Casino, which I feature in my historical mystery novel, The Burning of The Piping Rock. Rothstein was gunned down in 1928 and his proteges split up his empire and “blossomed.” Lansky became regarded as the financial brains of the mafia. Mickey became an enforcer.

America was deeply split over crime in the 1920s. While Americans voted for Prohibition, they lived evading it. While they condemned lawlessness, they found “little crimes” weren’t considered all that bad. Very soon “bigger crimes” weren’t considered all that bad, and quite quickly many criminals became celebrities. In the 1920s, people devoured the endless newspaper coverage about rum running, gambling, rival mobs and violent crime. Cities like Chicago became crime havens. Many magazines and books also featured true crime stories and detective fiction. In the late 1920s Hollywood started a decade-long string of films about racketeers, the underworld, and the mob. When the “Talkies” entered in 1929, audiences saw and heard mobsters speaking and their sub-machine guns blazing. They idolized Jimmy Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart portraying demented murderers and thugs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Damon Runyon began publishing his humorous stories about gangsters in the 1920s. Those left a legacy of a gentler, even kinder gangster. Think of Sky Masterson, as portrayed in Guys and Dolls.

Of Rothstein’s many proteges, Meyer Lansky could be considered as the respectable type of gangster. Mickey Cohen definitely could not. Cohen came to crime as a child, barely avoiding his first arrest in 1923 at age nine for selling illegal alcohol for his older brother. With the exception of his years spent as a professional boxer, his career was all crime, all the time. Cohen ended up working for Lansky and Lou Rothkopf. They sent Cohen to Los Angeles in the mid-1940s to watch over Bugsy Siegel, another Rothstein protege. Cohen helped Siegel establish the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, a hotel Siegel managed. It is said Cohen murdered Siegel, following mob orders.

By the late 1940s Cohen had come to “own” crime in Los Angeles. This is the period of Cohen’s life described in Gangster Squad. The City of Los Angeles and the US government delivered Cohen a one-two punch. In 1949, the LA Police Department set out to destroy Cohen’s empire. In that same year, US Senator Estes Kefauver started his “United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce Committee”—the Kefauver Committee. America watched the Kefauver Committee hearings on TV (a first) as it grilled mobsters, crooked politicians and police, and anyone else involved in organized crime. By 1951, Kefauver had severely crippled the mob in America, shattering its  kingdoms, including those of Rothstein’s knights—Cohen, Lansky and others. Cohen spent four years in jail; Lansky a few months.

But the mob’s crime dynasty survived and has lived on—along with our fascination of it. From the 1950s on, there have been thousands of books, TV shows, and movies about the mob, some True Crime,  some fictional. The pendulum has swung back and forth between glorifying law enforcement officers (The Untouchables) to glorifying the mob (The Godfather).

And now, for good or ill, we have Gangster Squad. Why? It’s the power organized crime possesses. It fascinates us, just as we’re fascinated by other centers of human power—politics, religion, corporations, or royal families. Think of Shakespeare. He turned Richard III into a monster. Gangster Squad tries to turn Mickey Cohen into a human. Where’s Shakespeare when you need him?

The mob will probably always be with us, like death and taxes—or, as Mickey Cohen might have said, “like death and protection.”


Saratogian article on my January 8 presentation on “The Burning of The Piping Rock!”

This Tuesday (Jan. 8) at 7 p.m. I’ll be giving a presentation in the Saratoga Arts Center (320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs) on The Burning of The Piping Rock for the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation! Samantha Bosshart has written an article in The Saratogian about it called, Preservation Matters: Author unveils mystery of the burning of Piping Rock Casino at annual meeting! (Click on the article’s title to read it online.) Come join us!

Thank you Samantha Bosshart and The Saratogian!

Joe Cutshall-King

“Saratoga Living” puts Piping Rock on its Good Reads list!

Saratoga Living

Saratoga Living

The Burning of The Piping Rock has been listed in Kirsten Ferguson’s article “Good Reads for 2013” in the Winter 2012/2013 issue of Saratoga Living, the quarterly magazine of Saratoga Springs and Washington, Warren and Saratoga counties. Ferguson quoted John DeMarco, co-owner of Saratoga Springs’ Lyrical Ballad Bookstore as saying the novel is “a popular best seller at Lyrical Ballad.”

My sincere thanks to Kirsten Ferguson of Saratoga Living and John DeMarco of Lyrical Ballad Bookstore! — Joe C-K

Who’s the artist? Why, Black Swan Image Works!

     Readers ask, “Who did the artwork for The Burning of The Piping Rock”? It was Black Swan Image Works, a commercial design practice located in Westminster, Colorado and serving Denver and Metro North Denver—and a “bit” further east. Not coincidentally, the creative talent behind Black Swan Image Works is my brother, artist Michael King.
Also, not coincidentally, artist Michael King is having a birthday today. So, if you visit him at his Facebook page or his website, wish him a Happy Birthday!

Joe Cutshall-King

ps: To see what artwork interests and influences Michael, check him out on Pinterest!