Interview with Richard O Jones

Published 2014-07-14.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When writing true crime history, I especially love the early part of the process, the joy of discovering an interesting crime and delving into it to see if it would make a good story for me. I can get lost for days in a newspaper archive following a thread. And then there's the joy of having a finished story in hand. Like Dorothy Parker famously said, the best part of writing is having written. All of the stuff in between is work and diligence and the reason I want to get paid for it.
What is your writing process?
For true crime history, I just take copious notes from the newspaper articles of the day, and then mold them into a smooth narrative in a modern vernacular. I usually do research in daylight hours and typically write late into the night, when there are fewer distractions and I can find my writing groove.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I spent 25 years as a writer for a newspaper. When that fell by the wayside, I wanted to turn my attention to writing history but the trade publishing world moves way too slow for me. I've always been a bit of a DIYer, for better or worse, so independent publishing seemed like a way to go for some projects that are hard to sell to the mainstream press.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love music, so I spend a lot of time listening to records, going to concerts or managing my collection of music. I am also a guitar player and songwriter, though I don't spend as much time on that as I used to.
Describe your desk
My desk is a futon. I have a mixed terrier named Chaplin who likes to have me close at hand. If I sit at a table or desk, he is constantly trying to get in my lap. But if I work from my futon, he is happy to curl up beside me while I work. He is there as I write this, dreaming little doggy dreams and letting me write.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
When I was about 12 years old, I read the "Alice in Wonderland" books for the first time and intuitively understood the vast power of the imagination to create worlds. The enchantment endures, and every once in a while I'll get the urge to re-read certain chapters. The Mad Tea Party and the conversation with the caterpillar are among my favorites.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My Dell Venue 8 Android. Her name is Veronica, and I am deeply in love with her. She is smart enough to handle all of the formats, so I can buy Kindle books or .pdf files and enjoy them equally.
Who are your favorite authors?
Elmore Leonard and Stephen King are both high on my list of contemporary authors. I also like the novels of Harlan Coben. What they have in common, I think, are unique voices and mad storytelling skills.
What do you read for pleasure?
These days, it's mostly old newspapers. Granted, I'm reading them with an eye toward future work, but I really enjoy following a story being written as it happens.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I discovered the story behind my most recent Two-Dollar Terror, "The Gas Fume Fugitive," while doing some freelance research into the 1975 Easter Massacre in my hometown. It turns out James Ruppert committed the third mass family murder in our humble town of Hamilton, Ohio. Charlie King, who opened up the gas pipes while his family was sleeping and hopped on a northbound freight train, was the second. I also have a story about the first one, "Lloyd Russell's Rampage," but I have to tie up some loose ends on my research before I publish it.
What are you working on next?
A 1917 case of a love triangle gone wrong, as they usually do. This one is about a spinster school teacher who fell for a married, philandering veterinarian and ended up killing his wife in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I stumbled on Grace Lusk when researching the Belle Wardlow story, which takes place in the same year. There are two elements to Grace's tale that interested me. First, although she was a crack shot and nailed her rival shooting from the top of a staircase to the bottom, she missed her heart when she turned the gun on herself. Had she succeeded, we would never have known all the sordid details that came out in the investigation and trial. Second, her lover spent time in jail, too, not for the murder, but for white slavery as he and Grace would often have their trysts across state lines.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Hunger, usually. Or an appointment. I am not a morning person.
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Books by This Author

Big Love in Little Egypt: The True Crimes of Lawrence Hight and Elsie Sweetin
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #10. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 19,900. Language: English. Published: November 10, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » History » American, Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General
The tongues of Ina, Illinois, were already wagging about the friendship between the Reverend Lawrence Hight, the local circuit-riding Methodist preacher, and the pretty young housewife Elsie Sweetin when their spouses turned up dead from similar sudden illnesses just a couple of months apart in the summer of 1924. Was it food poisoning as the doctors first said? Or something more sinister?
Woman Slugged; Left for Dead: The True Crime of Handsome Jack Koetters
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #9. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 11,660. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
(5.00 from 1 review)
On November 14, 1912, house detectives at the Saratoga Hotel in Chicago discovered the body of a woman in room 409 on a blood-soaked mattress. The labels in her clothing led police to Cincinnati, where Mrs. Emma Kraft, a highly-respected widow who had recently taken up with a much younger man of dubious reputation, one "Handsome Jack" Koetters, and a nationwide manhunt was on.
Massacre on Prospect Hill: The True Crime of Francis Lloyd Russell
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #8. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 8,650. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » History » American, Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General
Hamilton, Ohio, was a notorious hide-out for Chicago gangsters in the era of Prohibition, and they brought with them vice and violence. The city's most horrific crime in that time had nothing to do with bootleg whiskey or fancy women, but with a hard-working bachelor trying to take care of his sick brother's family. He loved them so much, he would rather see them dead than homeless.
Man Beheaded; Dentist Sought: The True Crime of Richard M. Brumfield
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #7. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 22,200. Language: English. Published: September 21, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
(5.00 from 1 review)
Was the dentist Richard Brumfield mad? Or a criminal mastermind? Here's a true crime story that has it all: Poisoning, shooting, dynamite, a faked death and a real one, a mutilated corpse, a dark woman, a mystery package, a manhunt, a suicide attempt, an attempted jail break, dogged deputies, a determined prosecutor and the ever-heroic Royal Northwest Mounted Police who always get their man.
Hymns of a Raving Heart: The True Crime of S. Althea Berrie
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #6. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 9,850. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
When Fannie Berrie, the wife of the handsome pastor and famous writer of hymns S. Althea Berrie, died after a long illness and a serious bout of convulsions, no one gave it a second thought. That is, until the 52-year-old widower suddenly wed the his pretty 19-year-old secretary less than two months later, and the siblings of the dead woman paid for an exhumation and autopsy.
The Blood-Soaked Woman at the Top of the Stairs: The True Crime of Grace Lusk
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #5. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 24,690. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
Summoned to the home of his mistress Grace Lusk by telephone, Waukesha veterinarian Dr. David Roberts found his wife, Mary, dying in the parlor, a bullet through her heart, and Grace bleeding from a self-inflicted wound, standing at the top of the stairs, where she held the police chief and a doctor at bay for over an hour before she shot herself again.
Where's Your Mother, George? The True Crime of George Schneider
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #4. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 9,860. Language: English. Published: January 1, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
Everyone in the Schneider family presumed that the widow matriarch Catharine was staying with her favorite son George on his remote Ohio farm. When George, his wife Margaret and their seven children showed up to a family dinner without her, suspicions ran high. No one could believe the story he told about a pair of highway bandits and a shallow grave.
The Gas Fume Fugitive: The True Crime of Charlie King
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #3. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 15,510. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
(5.00 from 1 review)
Late one fall night in 1929, the barber Charlie King opened the gas lines of his Hamilton, Ohio, home and left his five sons and wife sleeping in the deadly fumes, then hopped on a freight train heading north. In spite of a heroic effort by police and neighbors alike, Ethel King and four of her children died in the tragedy. It was a year before he would show up behind a barber chair 250 miles away
The Arsenic Affair: The True Crime of Belle Wardlow and Harry Cowdry
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #2. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 15,950. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » General, Nonfiction » History » American
When farmer Lorel Wardlow died from an acute case of quinsy, the country doctor who took care of him signed off on the death certificate without an autopsy. The little town of Kyle was soon buzzing with gossip about his widow and her behavior with the farmhand Harry Cowdry, who helped take care of his boss in his last days. When the coroner got wind of the scandal, he started the investigation.
The Sleepwalking Slasher: The True Crime of Samuel J. Keelor
Series: Two-Dollar Terrors, A Two-Dollar Terror #1. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 10,860. Language: English. Published: July 8, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » True Crime » Murder » Serial killers, Nonfiction » History » American
(5.00 from 1 review)
Early one winter morning in 1903, Ohio laborer Sam Keelor awoke with a bloody cooper's hammer in his hand and his pretty young wife Bertha dead in their marriage bed next to him. He panicked and decided to get rid of the body, but cutting his pretty wife up into portable pieces proved to be more work than he bargained for, so he opted to cut his own throat instead. He made a mess of that, too.