Saturday, June 27, 2015

OMGs - Oh My God, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs!

As I suspected when I've done radio spots for RUNNING WITH WILD BLOOD, I would be questioned about the plot and the characters. You see Wild Blood is an outlaw motorcycle gang that is under suspicion in the novel for taking part in, or knowing who, killed Juliet Trapp, a 16-year-old student at Winter's Farm Academy. My heroes, Moriah Dru and Richard Lake, delve into the cold case and come to some surprising conclusions and doubts that Wild Blood members did the evil deed. So, they convince the club to allow them to ride in their ranks to a Bike Week charity event in Florida to help solve the crime and perhaps clear their club and its members. There's plenty of distrust on the part of the bikers -- after all Lake's a cop and Dru's a PI. The tension from all sides, plus rival clubs they meet along the way, lends violence to the mystery.

While I admitted to the radio hosts that I romanticized what many call thugs, I also shared my research on biker clubs in general.

First Harley Prototype - Wiki

Biker clubs have been a part of American culture as long as the motorcycle itself. Harley Davidson considered by many as the premier bike had its beginnings in 1901. Although not the first motorcycle invented -- the Indian brand bicycle company invented the motorized bike in 1900 -- it was one of the first when 20 year-old William S. Harley drew up plans for a small engine and four-inch flywheels. For the next two years, Harley and his childhood friend Arthur Davidson worked on their motor-bicycle in a Milwaukee machine shop. By 1907 they were selling their first bikes.

The first motorcycle club was formed in 1904 when the Yonkers Bicycle Club morphed into the Yonkers Motorcycle Club -- some 23 years before the founding of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) in 1927. In San Francisco the very first SFMC meeting, attended by 12 charter members, took place in November 1904 at A. Freed’s Thor Motorcycle Shop near famous Fulton Street.

When bikers wore coat and tie

Outlaw "gang" clubs

One of the first was The Outlaws Motorcycle Club, a one-percenter club that was formed in McCook, Illinois in 1935.

Probably the most well known American biker gang, The Hell’s Angels, have a long and thorough history on American highways. Much information concerning their origins is hazy due to their long-standing code of secrecy. Sometime in the 1940’s in California Hell’s Angels MC was formed. Their insignia is the “death’s head” logo which is copied from the insignia of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron.

Many of the members of outlaw gangs (as well as non-outlaw clubs) gravitate to the motorcycle culture when they leave the military. According to sociologists -- who purport to know these things -- men grow used to the company of men and the culture of war. After service, especially during war time, they find life mundane. The thrills, the wild and free, "don't tread on me," lifestyle has drawn at least 44,000 men to what the Justice Department calls OMGs - Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

From a riot in Hollister, California to this week's shootout at Waco's Twin Peaks, OMG's have left a history of violence in their wake.

On of the first and most famous is the American Motorcyclist Association's rallies in Hollister, California. The influx of bikers was good for business at first, but after World War II, the rally was bigger than ever with a flood of veterans drawn to the excitement and freedom associated with motorcycles. Beer bottles littered the streets, and people were sleeping everywhere. Bikers did what bikers do. They raced around and popped wheelies. The state police were called in to clear the town.
The event got big play in Life magazine and inspired the 1953 film "The Wild One," starring Marlon Brando. His leather jacket and brooding demeanor gave a face to the bad-boy biker image.

The Hells Angels added to the lore. Hired to provide security at a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, a gang member killed Meredith Hunter, a man who rushed the stage with a gun after an earlier confrontation with Hells Angels. The stabbing was captured on film. Witnesses reported several gang members stomping on Hunter. Promoters had paid the gang in beer, and members had numerous scuffles with concertgoers throughout the day of the concert.

The Bandidos Motorcycle Club goes down in infamy after two brothers ripped them off in a drug deal, selling them baking powder instead of meth.The gang kidnapped Ray and Mel Tarver, drove them into the Texas desert and forced them to dig their own graves before shooting and killing them.

My Wild Blood does not practice the devilry of other one-percenters, but are people who love their culture, avoid harming "civilians" or killing cops -- and save Moriah Dru's life.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Tale of Four Flags

I've been traveling and haven't blogged lately, but being home now, the subject of the Confederate Flag has me weighing in -- from an historical perspective and a personal up-close look at the changes made in one state's flag.

When I was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a movement initiated by the NAACP grew to change Georgia's flag that had been flying from 1956 to 2001.

Official State Flag of Georgia 1956-2001

Seen below is the earlier flag that had been redesigned to incorporate the Southern Cross, misnamed the Confederate Battle Flag, after a controversial ruling known as Brown vs. Board of Education.


With the pressure building on the Georgia General Assembly, flag activists' efforts succeeded in 2001 and Governor Roy Barnes pushed through a design that, though continuing to depict the Southern Cross, reduced it prominence. 

This move angered both sides of the Southern Cross debate, and contributed to Barnes's defeat in the next election. 

The following year, amidst dwindling demands for the return of the Southern Cross version, the Georgia General Assembly had the flag redesigned again, adopting a compromise. The design would use the first Flag of the Confederacy called the Stars and Bars with a simplified version of the state seal within the circle of the 13 stars on the flag's canton. That, today, is Georgia's flag.

Georgia flag 2003-Present
First Confederate Flag 1861
The true Stars and Bars

About the Southern Cross also known as the St. Andrews Cross and the Confederate Battle Flag: Although the Southern Cross was incorporated in a second and third Confederate Flag during the War Between the States, it was never approved by the Confederate Congress as a stand-alone "Battle Flag" of the Confederacy. It began life as the Battle Flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. It is today sometimes called the Stars and Bars, but the true Stars and Bars was the flag of 1861, which was changed in 1863 because it resembled the U. S. Stars and Stripes on the battlefield.

Called the Stainless Banner, it was the official Confederate Flag in 1865.

It all began: In December 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union just months after Abraham Lincoln, from the anti-slavery Republican Party, was elected president. In April 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C.

Ten other states would eventually follow South Carolina in secession, forming the Confederate States of America. However, of the three flags the Confederacy would go on to adopt, none are the Southern Cross "Battle Flag" that is traditionally recognized today. Southern political scientists James Michael Martinez, William Donald Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su write:
The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans' groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election

Georgia's Four Flag since 1920.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

Thursday, May 14, 2015

CONGRATULATIONS to The Cast and Crew of Milton High School on their Outstanding Cirque du Soleil Performances

Of a hundred people you survey on the street, I have to be among the few who had not been to, or seen in its entirety, a Cirque du Soleil performance. Until, that is, I saw Cirque Avontuur, a production of Milton High School -- a school known for its theater programs, and one from which my granddaughter will graduate this year. Milton High School is in Alpharetta, Georgia. The high school's plays and musicals have won "first in state" for the last four years. My granddaughter, Tori, has four rings to show for her work on stage lighting the shows.

About Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil is the largest theatrical producer in the world. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and located in the inner-city area of Saint-Michel, it was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Lalibert√© and Gilles Ste-Croix.

Photobucket Stock

They toured Quebec as a performing troupe, but encountered financial problems until they received a government grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Lalibert√© hired Guy Caron from the National Circus School to re-create it as a proper circus. Its character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals define Cirque du Soleil as a contemporary circus.

Each show has its own theme and storyline. Shows have continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props.

Milton High School's Cirque Avontuur.

Cirque Avontuur at Milton High School
Cirque Avontuur, is an upbeat adventure based on the decisions, or lack of decisions, that we make in life and how those moments render our outcomes. Doorways of all shapes and sizes will serve as a symbol of the entrances and exits that we make as we take departures along our individual journeys.

Milton High School's Cirque Ravstava.
The Milton Cirque shows are unique pieces of theatre, and have proven popular with audiences like the sold-out Cirque Ravstava.

Milton is the only public high school in the country with a cirque program as a part of the regular theater curriculum. The audition-only class of over 60 students attracts students with various athletic and specialized skills like tumbling and dance. Cast members also train on various apparatus including the Cyr wheel and silks, and often train with some cirque professionals that travel to the school to work with them on mastering specific skills.

 The young men and women in the Milton Theatrical Program work tirelessly to perfect their art, and I congratulate them for improving on their talents. May they go on to whatever success they dream for themselves.

Gerrie Ferris Finger
Running with Wild Blood

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Good Walk at The Players

I should be working on my next novel, but instead I’m watching The Players on television. Will Rory keep his #1world ranking? Will #2 Jordan Spieth soar in his quest to steal #1 for himself? Will #5 Jim Furyk finally win a much coveted Players? Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is his adopted hometown. The Sawgrass golf course is in his back yard. And, as everyone is hanging on needles to witness, will Tiger Woods keep the chipping yips at bay? And will Angel Cabrera and Keegan Bradley go round 2 over a disputed drop?

Important questions with important consequences. Money. To the winner, whatever his ranking, goes a dazzling $1.80 million.

Sawgrass Clubhouse

To the victor, besides the money (that dazzling $1.80 million) goes 80 points towards his world ranking, the most points besides the majors where winners get100 points. The winner also receives many opportunities to score more cash: a 5-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 3 year invitation to the Masters Tournament, 3-year exemptions for the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, and an exemption to that year's PGA Championship in August. And, if he's a PGA Tour member, he earns 600 FedEx Cup points.

Not bad for four day's of fun, if you ask me.

The Players Championship, aka Tournament Players Championship, aka The Players started in 1974. The championship offers the highest prize fund of any tournament in golf. The field usually includes the top fifty players in the world rankings, but unlike the three major championships in the United States, it is not an official event on the European Tour.

The Players is often considered the “fifth major” Beside the top money prize, The Players host course is the beautiful and prestigious TPC at Sawgrass. The Stadium Course at which the tournament has been played since 1982 is the home of the iconic par-3 #17. I can tell you it’s not long off the tee for women, but keeping the ball on the island green is tricky. A high soft shot is required. A line drive sends it top-spinning into the water.

Island Green

Have a great round and a fine weekend.

 Gerrie Ferris Finger




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Great Mystery Mistress Leaves Us

From Wikipedia
Ruth Rendell, creator of the sensitive Inspector Reginald Wexford, was a novel mentor of mine, as was PD. James and Ngaio Marsh. That excellent trio came after Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith and Dorothy Sayers. So, sad to say, I learned that Ruth Rendell succumbed to an illness earlier this week. One of the most prolific authors in the mystery genre -- more than 60 novels -- she died at age 85 following a stroke. The family of Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, announced that she passed away in London on May 2. 

There will never be another Wexford, and for that the mystery world has lost a very human policeman. Inspector Reginald Wexford was a flawed man, and so related to the flawed villains he pursued.  His wife is the placid Dora. His daughters are Sheila and Sylvia. He has a good relationship with Sheila (his favourite) but a difficult relationship with Sylvia (who feels slighted though he has never actually intended to slight her).

The first Wexford book was published in 1964. It was several years later that I read From Doon with Death, and that started me on a Rendell addiction. The talented Baroness never feared tackling such psychological subjects as racism or physical domestic abuse. She and the late PD James are credited with pioneering the psychological thriller.

Baroness Rendell wrote a darker series as Barbara Vine, plus many stand-alone novels, short stories and novellas. Many thought her writings were cutting-edge literature. Labels aside, I thought they were brilliant.

Rest in Peace, Baroness.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Harper Lee's Mockingbird

I was not a big fan of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I never got the title. I grew up in the country and the darn birds were a loud nuisance.

I live in the city now, and they're still a loud nuisance that steals the voices of insects, animals and other birds. At night, my word, they'll keep you awake mimicking crickets or bob whites (quail). Baaaa -- (upnote) -- White! Said over and over, it gets on one's last nerve, as we say in the South.

About the title, Sparknotes writes:
  1. "Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. Throughout the book, a number of characters (Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley, Mr. Raymond) can be identified as mockingbirds—innocents who have been injured or destroyed through contact
    with evil."
US Fish and Wildlife Photo

Okay. I never thought of mockingbirds as innocents, in fact they are rather crafty. Why not To Kill a Bluebird? Now that songbird, with its distinctive beloved voice, is welcome in every garden as a voracious feeder of pesky insects and are a  joy to see and listen to on a lovely summer morning.

US Fish and Wildlife Photo

I realize I'm picking on an icon, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a sensitive author. I read the book when I was a teenager -- in school, of course -- and again about ten years ago to see if my first twinges of boredom reoccurred. It's still slow-moving like the South of the period in which it was set. (Though, by today's literary fiction standards, and length, it moves along.) And, having experienced the attitudes in the book, I appreciate the value of it in today's society. For me, the shrill of the mockingbird's voices resonates with that which is stolen rather than that which is innocent.

Told from a child's point of view, we meet the Finches (bird irony here?) one summer. Scout, her brother, Jem, and their friend, Dill, plot a way to aggravate the town weirdo, Boo Radley. Into this "innocence" the alledged rape of Mayella Ewell, the white daughter of the town drunk, occurs. That crime hardly phases the kids. But then Scout's father, Atticus Finch, is hired to defend the alleged rapist, Tom Robinson, a black man; and soon the children are witness to the town's deplorable attitudes -- racism, classism and the valiant struggle for justice against ignorance.
Harper Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926, Lee wrote one novel and vowed to never write another. She helped research a book by her life-long friend, Truman Capote: In Cold Blood. However, she will publish a book that she wrote before her famous Mockingbird, titled, Go Set a Watchman, to be released in July, 2015.

 As quoted in To Kill a Mockingbird, "People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for."

So true.

Happy Reading (whatever your preferences)

Gerrie Ferris Finger
Running with Wild Blood - 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Inspiration on the Highway from Hell

A motorcycle mama I am not. My son will attest to that -- and my grumbling fear every time he fired up his bike. He's had a fixation with motorcycles since my father bought his only grandson a motor scooter. My generous father also bought him a pony but that's for another post.

My son's last bike was a huge Harley Davidson. While I am not a rider, I, too, have been fascinated with motorcycles and the culture created by generations of hard core bikers -- and not all clubs (never gangs) are of the outlaw bent, also called 1%er's.

From Pinterest

A couple of years ago, we were on the highway from hell -- I-95 from Georgia to Florida -- and a string of bikes flew past us. (My husband is no slouch when it comes to speed.) That's when the idea of writing a Moriah Dru/Richard Lake thriller/mystery that would feature a biker club came to me.

I know, it's so easy to connect murder with an outlaw club, which is what I made Wild Blood. But, more than that, in Running With Wild Blood  I was able to explore the mystique and romance of the culture itself. I learned many arcane things from my sources, which were given to me by those who know all kinds of bikers, including outlaws.

In my reporter days I met several scruffy-looking bikers at Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, S. C. They were the spokesmen (no women) -- the front men or hail-fellows of the clubs. In the last few decades, the big national clubs have campaigned to clean up their image by holding charitable bike events in places where they are welcome. In winter, Florida seems to be a magnet for Bike Weeks. Who doesn't want to get the cold north wind out of their faces?

While Running with Wild Blood reflects biker practices and traditions, and bikers with hearts-of-gold, it's really about heinous murder, misunderstood people, judgmental society and those in august positions misbehaving. Center stage are Dru and Lake riding with the club to solve the mystery of it all.

Sons of Anarchy it is not.

My best to readers and riders alike!

Gerrie Ferris Finger