So you’ve completed your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While beginning your marketing campaign usually happens well before your book is completed, getting your first reviews can’t happen until your book is done or in a final draft status.
Many stores won’t carry a small press or self-published book that doesn’t have reviews from a recognizable publication. So how do you get someone to pay attention to your book among all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions they see every month?
City Book Review, publishers of the San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review and Kids’ BookBuzz all have programs to help you. Kids BookBuzz is only for kids, tweens and young adult books, but the other two will take almost any book you have (including children’s books).
So how do you get your book reviewed by the San Francisco Book Review?
If your book is within 90 days of the publications date, you can submit it for general review (at no cost). The closer you are to the 90 days, the less of a chance it will have to be reviewed, but you can still start there. The SFBR gets more than 1000 submissions a month, and only reviews 300 or less, so your likelihood of getting your book reviewed in this way is less than 33%. But you can give it a try and see if it gets reviewed.
If your book is more than 90 days past its publishing date, or you really want to have it reviewed and don’t want to just hope it’ll get picked up through the general review, you can go through the Sponsored Review program. While there is some controversy about paying for a review, SFBR is a respected publication like Kirkus or Foreward Reviews and doesn’t offer vanity reviews for payment. You can expect the same level of professionalism from their standard reviews. And they don’t mark sponsored reviews any different than the other reviews.
Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Review
There are a lot of different options for getting your book reviewed, mostly around how long it takes to get your review back, and if you want more than one or an interview as well.
Standard Reviews Take 8-10 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
Expedited Reviews Take 3-5 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
Get more than one review for the same book you’ll get a discount on the normal cost of 2 or 3 reviews. Reviews range in price from $150 to $299.
Getting a podcast interview for Audible Authors to promote yourself and your book, and you can add an interview to a review package at a discount.
And if you really like your review, you can have it posted on the other publication’s website for $99, or get a new review from a different reviewer. Both can help with your marketing and search engine optimization.
So how do you get your book reviewed by the Manhattan Book Review?
The Manhattan Book Review uses the same format for the San Francisco Book Review. Different audience, so if you’re an East Coast author, you might be more interested in having the credit from MBR over SFBR. Personal taste is the only difference between the two for reviews. If you are a local SF or Manhattan author, they will also flag that in your review.
So how do you get your book reviewed by Kids’ BookBuzz?
First thing, all of the reviews for Kids’ BookBuzz are done by kids. They are select age appropriate books, but the kids read them and write the reviews themselves. The younger kids have some help from their parents, but the words are all theirs. Don’t expect any easy reviews either. These kids see a lot of stories, so they know good books when they read them.
“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” So said the famed novelist Jorge Luis Borges, and if you love those musty old buildings packed with study carrels and knowledge, you probably share his heavenly sentiment.
Today, the library is as essential as ever. I mean physical libraries, the same brick-and-mortar buildings that have been lending books since the dawn of America. However, how does a place full of hardbacks and CDs keep pace with the digital universe? By adapting to its logic and evolving with the times.
Armed with a simple library card, you can put your tax money to good use and support one of the noblest institutions there is – all the while enjoying a near-limitless supply of literature, periodicals, music, movies, and even free office space. Here are just a few of the perks your local library has to offer.
1. eBooks and Audiobooks
When you think “library,” you think books. But books come in many varieties, including picture books for kids, paperbacks for the beach, and large-print books for people with visual challenges.
The explosion of media has birthed multiple new formats as well: libraries today also boast an impressive number of eBooks and audiobooks, all for free with a library card. All you need is your eReader (such as the super-cheap Kindle) and/or an audiobook app that supports your library’s file types (such as Overdrive), and you can binge on books the way you binge TV shows.
Just keep in mind eBooks and audiobooks from the library come with due dates, just like the print books do – you’ll be able to keep your copy for generally about two weeks, then you’ll have to renew your reading material, or let it be available again to other library cardholders.
Specific titles, especially beloved bestsellers, may not always be available either. However, you can place hold requests, just like with print books, and get the link to download your copy as soon as it’s available.
2. DVDs and CDs
Long before streaming, libraries made a go of competing with video and music stores with one big exception – the tapes, DVDs and CDs would be free to check out with a library card.
Sure, the selection might be somewhat more limited, and new releases wouldn’t get there as quickly, and sometimes the DVDs or CDs would be scratched and difficult to play. The movies would be free, and still are free at your local library right now.
The best approach to a library’s selection is to treat it like a thrift store: you never know what’s been donated over the years, so you can browse the eclectic collection for old favorites or bygone blockbusters you never got around to.
3. Wi-Fi and places to work
The “virtual office” usually means one of two things: your house, or a cafe. Coffee drinks add up, and sometimes leaving the house is a boon for productivity. The solution: an open table or padded chair, courtesy of your local book-lender. Every major library has free Wi-Fi, outlets, and designated places to work, and your only limitations are the hours of operation. (And don’t make any phone calls, obviously).
Libraries often have secluded workspaces and conference rooms you can reserve.
Need a computer too? Virtually all libraries have desktops available, and some even have laptops you can rent on site. These devices come with time limits on their use, but they’re still handy for many situations, and they often have printers available for use as well. So libraries make excellent work locations.
5. Free images
Need great stock images that are more historical or natural, or need to look at famous works of art, or some local maps? Libraries can help with all of that. The New York Public Library has 200,000 free images you can use for any purpose, and you can download them from your home right now. It also has a collection of 180,000 works of art, literature, and performance, many of which are in the public domain, as well as 672,000 items in its digital collection in general.
Also, don’t forget to see what similar services your local library has—you may get to see some great old maps of your town or portraits done by local artists of yore.
6. Classes on Technology
As an inexpensive alternative to more formal continuing education classes, libraries often host classes and workshops on various subjects. These classes might be on technology, accounting, or studio art. In the case of the D.C. library system, there might even be a class on how to avoid NSA spying. Classes are often divided by age, offering courses to teens and adults to better account for their relative learning levels, and some libraries even offer courses aimed at young children to encourage literacy and necessary math skills.
Libraries also frequently offer ESL programs to help those less familiar with English gain fluency. Since these classes are free, they’re aimed at a large audience, so typically they’re designed for serious beginners. If you already know a bit about Excel, taking a class on it at your local library will likely cover what you already know.
7. Activities for children
Libraries are heavily geared toward children, from individual sections (organized by age groups and reading ability) to kid-friendly programming, like storytelling and play sessions.
Kids may also access computers with pre-installed games and learning programs. (Full Internet access may be restricted as well).
8. Employment help
As mentioned, libraries offer free classes that can give you the skills to put on a resume. On top of that, many local libraries have job listings on their website, particularly with local companies that hire often, and some libraries offer programs to provide some basic resume and cover letter critique to those seeking it out.
If you’re looking for work, your local library can be a fantastic resource for you. Check out your local library’s site, and ask about it next time you go in for any of its other amazing services and resources.
9. 3-D printers
Some of the most tech-savvy libraries, including college libraries, offer 3-D printers for use. It’s all part of what’s called the Maker Culture, providing spaces for people to create things that they use or sell.
Check with your library for availability, any associated costs (some libraries offer printing for free but charge for the plastic that is used) and policies. You don’t want to get caught printing something that could get you in trouble.
While Wi-Fi is almost always available in libraries, more are offering hotspots for checkout. This gives internet access to people that otherwise don’t have it, ensuring that libraries are doing their part to close the digital divide.
Schools sometimes borrow the hotspots for their students, or families will get the devices so the kids can get some homework done. Check with your library before you go get a hotspot, as the devices can have long waiting lists.
11. All Kinds of Devices
In well-endowed libraries, you can borrow an arsenal of digital equipment by the hour. If you only need a camcorder to record a short meeting, or you just need a laptop for long enough to edit a few dozen photos, this is the perfect arrangement.
Most such lending occurs at colleges and universities, where students must use their student IDs to check out expensive electronics. But some technology is only available at your library, or at least would be hard to find anywhere else: librarians may provide easy access to microfiche readers, transparency projectors, laser disc devices, cassette players and vinyl record turntables. Such old-school devices may reopen while archives of lost material.
Copyright 2018, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
In the latest edition of things no one asked robots to do for us, creative agency Redpepper created a device that takes all the fun out of the beloved “Where’s Waldo?” children’s puzzle books.
The machine, called There’s Waldo, finds the candy-cane-striped gentleman in just seconds using Google’s Cloud AutoML and AI image recognition technology. But what possible applications could this lead to, besides stopping humanity from being able to hide in crowds?
“Maybe a fun use would be seeing what cartoon character the AI thinks you look closest to? Maybe could detect comic book forgeries?” Redpepper’s chief technologist, Matt Reed, told The Verge.
All right, robots, so you found Waldo, but do you have any idea who Waldo is or why he’s here?
In 1939, the newly established Penguin Books decided to branch out from its trademark paperback fiction and Pelican non-fiction titles and to try its hand at UK travel guides. Six guides to various English counties were initially published, complete with touring maps, aimed at the motoring middle-class traveller. Emma Jane Kirby has been driving around the UK with those first-edition guides in her hand to see how Britain has changed since the start of World War Two. Last stop: Devon.
I feel a little sad as I trot on to Exmoor. Not just because the heavens have opened and I’m soaked to the skin, but because Devon is the last stop on my tour of Britain accompanied by Penguin’s 1939 county guides and I suppose I’ve become nostalgic for the gentler days described in their pages.
Through a clump of hawthorn trees where I try to find shelter, a herd of wild Exmoor ponies eye us curiously under dark manes. Abbi, my stout, sweet-natured Exmoor trekking pony, gazes back at them seemingly without any resentment or longing to share their freedom. A young mare whinnies to her as we walk on but Abbi doesn’t turn her head; she knows there’s no going back.
F L Loveridge, who penned the 1939 Penguin Guide to Devon, was a farmer on Dartmoor and was anxious that his readers should admire Exmoor’s equine community. Linzi Green, my trekking guide from the Exmoor Pony Centre which aims to promote and protect the breed, couldn’t agree more.
“A third of Exmoor is in Devon,” she reminds me as she tightens the girth of her pony, Fleeter. “And these intelligent, strong little ponies have always been a part of Devon’s history – they’re even mentioned in the Domesday book.”
Once a devotee of the large horse, Green admits she’s now completely sold on the Exmoor pony that never grows above 12 hands three.
“So long as you’re not 6ft and you’re under 12 stone (76kg), anyone can ride them!” she laughs, as we prepare to canter back across the moor.
“But only a year after your guide was writing about them, they were nearly wiped out completely,” Green adds, over her shoulder.
“They were rustled in the Second World War and taken to northern cities as a food source. There were only 40 or 50 left after the war and they were needed for breeding rather than riding, so other breeds overtook them in popularity.”
“Bampton,” Loveridge informs readers, “is the animated scene of the famous pony fair where large numbers of Exmoor ponies and sheep throng the streets and buying and selling continues all day!”
Not any more.
“Attitudes changed,” says Exmoor pony historian Dr Sue Baker, whom we meet back at the stables. “Running foals through a horse fair is quite traumatic and in days gone by people weren’t quite so sensitive about how stressed animals got. Now horses are sold privately from farms and it’s much better, I think, for the welfare of the animals.”
Unsaddled, Abbi and Fleeter are now chomping happily at their hay nets and I ask whether this little pony might come back into fashion one day?
“We have 4,000 Exmoor ponies in the world now,” says Baker.
“I love the idea that you can ride on Exmoor on an Exmoor pony and see the herds there and know that people have done this since Celtic times. What I’d love to see is Devon take pride in what they have and to see that pride translated into buying foals. Thank goodness after their terrible fate in the Second World War the ponies came through!”
As our guide, F L Loveridge, was a farmer on Dartmoor, it feels only fair to make a brief detour south-west to admire that moor’s ponies too and I choose to visit Haytor, which he assures me is “one of the most visited spots on the moor… with fine views”.
It certainly seems to be frequented by the Dartmoor ponies, which have clustered in impressive numbers around the picnic site and the car park, hopeful perhaps of a tourist’s discarded apple core.
“They’re super ponies but they need a purpose to be here,” calls Philippa Whitley from behind the counter of her mobile pasty and coffee van. “They are costly to farmers and they need a purpose so we can ensure their survival.”
Whitley explains that she and her farmer husband have long been campaigning on this issue and I ask her whether she has a solution.
“Oh yes,” she says, handing me a coffee with a friendly smile. “Pony burgers!”
I gag a little on the coffee.
“Pony or ‘taffety meat’ is good meat that’s low in cholesterol,” she continues. “And in times past – in 1939 – your Dartmoor farmer author would certainly have eaten roast pony for his Sunday dinner. So yes, I’d like to see the Dartmoor pony in the human food chain again and I’d like to sell pony burgers from my van.”
As I watch a couple of holidaymakers tentatively order vegetarian pasties while taking selfies with the ponies, I wonder whether Devon is quite ready to eat pony again. But how strange that 80 years ago the appetite for pony meat almost wiped out the Exmoor breed, yet 80 years on a resurgent appetite for taffety might help to save the Dartmoor variety.
If you look closely at the inside page of the 1939 Penguin guide to Devon, you’ll notice that it’s not just F L Loveridge who’s credited as the author but also an E A Loveridge, who, on examination of the fly leaf, turns out to be his wife.
“The responsibility for her share,” writes Loveridge rather grudgingly, “rests chiefly with her family, as some twenty of their summer holidays were spent at different places in North Devon.”
I wonder how poor Mrs Loveridge felt about this dismissive put-down and really hope that, after dutifully making them, she spat in his pony meat sandwiches…
But it wasn’t just his wife that our guide’s author managed to offend.
“Dawlish itself is one of the quieter modern resorts. The bathing is good but the cliffs are always crumbling and it is unsafe to stay under them,” he wrote.
“Now that,” chuckles James McKay from the Penguin Collectors Society, “made a certain town clerk at Dawlish Urban District Council very cross!”
McKay explains that, some 15 years after publication, Penguin lawyer Michael Rubenstein (who would later shoot to greater fame as the man who defended the publishing house in the Lady Chatterley obscenity case) was still dealing with the irate clerk, who insisted the cliffs were perfectly solid and that Loveridge’s comments were libellous.
Penguin eventually agreed that the comment would be removed from future editions of the guide – a promise that was easy to keep as the guide went out of print soon afterwards. McKay shows me the final tongue-in-cheek correspondence between the lawyers and the Penguin editor, ASB Glover, who wrote in 1954:
“Nonetheless, without prejudice, I don’t intend myself to sit under the rocks of Dawlish without putting my umbrella up.”
On the cliff path overlooking Dawlish beach and the railway track beside it, a train thunders past at high speed.
“That’s the Exeter train!” says councillor Rosalind Prowse, who sits on Dawlish town council. “Did you see the photos in 2014 when the sea breached the wall and the railway track was swinging and floating in the air?”
The devastating storms of 2014 that shattered the railway line at Dawlish effectively cut off the South West from the rest of the country and left the only rail route into Cornwall hanging like a rope bridge over the sea. Engineering teams worked day and night to repair the line and the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited and promised help and funding.
“It cost about £40m to set it right,” remembers Prowse. “But it hasn’t answered the main problem and that takes us back to your 1939 guide and the talk of crumbling cliffs – the crumbling cliffs are the problem here, not the sea or storms, it’s the soft red sandstone that’s eroding fast.”
Dawlish is now contemplating a more permanent solution to its crumbling cliffs by pushing the railway line on to a causeway further out to sea and stabilising the base of the cliffs between Dawlish and neighbouring Teignmouth. But the go-ahead depends on public consultation and government funding.
“We desperately need a solution for the cliffs,” insists Prowse. “The railway is vital for the economy of Dawlish and the South West.”
I just hope no-one has told the former clerk for Dawlish Urban District Council.
None of the Penguin guides ever suggests the names or locations of good restaurants or places to eat, but they do occasionally warn travellers to take care with any local fayre.
“Most of the cider apples that are grown are now sold direct to factories, but a few conservative farmers still use their own presses,” writes Lovering. “The inexperienced should remember that the potency of home-made cider is very different from the factory-made product, and treat it with respect.”
At the South Devon Sunshine Beer and Cider Festival at Newton Abbot, the cider is treated with hallowed reverence.
“Try this Dartmoor one,” says Ian Packham, vice-chairman of the local Camra branch as he pours a couple of inches of the cloudy golden liquid into my glass tankard. “It’s just over 7% so we’ll go easy to start.”
I feel the stress of the day dissipate as the warming nectar hits my bloodstream. There are six Devon ciders being shown at this year’s festival and I make no protest when Ian’s colleague Bob Southwell, who is Camra’s chairman in South Devon, opens the tap of another barrel into my glass.
“In 1939, 90% of the farms would have sold cider,” Southwell says as he watches me closely to check I’m appreciating the new taste. “But few would have sold commercially. In 1939 cider performed another role – it was a form of payment to agricultural labourers. Part of their wages were subsidised by cider. It was totally illegal but mind you, this is Devon!”
I glance around the marquee and notice that beer is much better represented at the festival – there must be at least 70 beers on offer compared to just six Devonshire ciders. When I look back down at my tankard, it’s been refilled – as if by magic.
“It’s true that Devon has become famous for beer,” says Packham. “We have some very famous brewers around here. But cider has been undergoing a revival here in the last 20 years. The production methods are different from ’39 but it’s still very natural and the cider is significantly stronger than the fizzy cider you’d buy in a pub.”
The fuzziness in my head may be trying to tell me something but I hear my voice asking Bob Southwell where I might buy some Devonshire cider to take home.
“There are 35 cider makers in Devon,” he smiles. “Some are very commercial with tasting rooms, others are just farmhouses where you can drive up and they’ll bring it out of the barn for you. There’s just one difference – in 1939, they’d have come out with it in a jug, today it’s in a box with a plastic container inside.”
“With the strength written on the box!” adds Packham.
I think of Loveridge’s warning as my head begins to swim and quickly make my excuses.
Scroll down for links to her reports from Kent, Derbyshire, Cornwall, the Lake District and Somerset
“One Devonshire industry that has increased and become more widely known in recent years is that of pottery making. There is a large pottery at Bovey Tracey, others at Barnstaple…” says my guide.
At the Kigbeare Studios near Okehampton, acclaimed potter Svend Bayer shrugs when I read out this section from the Penguin guide.
After completing his studies at the University of Exeter, Bayer went to work as a thrower at Brannams pottery in Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, where Loveridge advises his 1939 readers they can spend a “most interesting time” watching pots being thrown. Having moved to new premises in the late 1980s, the company ceased all operations in 2005 and the original kiln now stands defunct in the car park of a medical practice.
“By the time I worked there, the tradition was so watered down that it was time to get rid of it,” says Bayer. “The world was changing and it was cheaper to import from the Far East or Italy and Spain than it was to make pots there. It was better dead.”
Bayer shows me his huge wood-fired kiln and explains how the burned wood ash and embers colour his beautiful stoneware pots. His logs are meticulously and skilfully stashed in huge piles that remind me of the intricacy of dry stone walls.
“I am influenced by South-East Asian pottery, but my roots are definitely in the North Devon tradition,” he explains, as we sit in the hot sunshine drinking coffee from his beautiful mugs. “My shapes are based on the North Devon jug and storage jars. I obsess about the North Devon jug!”
He tells me that the North Devon pottery tradition predates that of the more renowned Stoke-on-Trent and that the clay, found only near Barnstaple, is thought to have arrived on a glacier and has nothing to do with local geology. Pots and pitchers would have been decorated with a white liquid slip that was then scratched using a technique known as sgraffito to produce designs or patterns.
“I don’t think it would be honest if I decorated in the old style,” says Bayer. “If you just copy something, you’ve missed the point. But if you can capture that spirit, then that’s something important.”
Twenty-two miles south-east, at Bovey Tracey, the pottery that our 1939 guide boasted of has also gone – but the riverside mill now hosts the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and the largest contemporary crafts venue in the South West. As an educational charity, the guild runs a wide outreach programme teaching crafts in schools and offers mentoring and networking for the county’s potters.
“We’ve got about 75 members working in ceramics today,” says the guild’s Lisa Cutler, as she shows me around the summer exhibition. “There’s definitely still a strong pottery heritage in Devon but with a contemporary take. The industry has declined but we’ve built up something else.”
Through the open windows of the mill I can hear the gleeful, irresistible sound of children’s laughter and I’m drawn outside to locate its source.
Crossing the bridge, I see scores of 10 and 11-year-olds dressed in their school uniform jumping into the river and splashing each other with the Bovey’s cool water, while their parents and teachers look on, applauding. It’s an old ritual, I’m told, to celebrate the end of the children’s time at primary school. In September they’ll have to knuckle down at big school.
I watch their joyful, carefree faces, dappled in the late afternoon sunlight and suddenly feel terribly emotional. I think too of our insouciant holidaymakers in the summer of 1939 who perhaps also came here to have a picnic and a paddle, unaware or unwilling to believe that in just a couple of months Britain would be at war and that play time and the holiday season would come to a juddering halt.
I close the orange tattered cover of my last Penguin guide and a line of poetry from Philip Larkin floats into my head:
Over the past two years, New Hampshire professor and writer Seth Abramson has cultivated a #resistance Twitter following of more than 500,000 by posting lengthy threads prognosticating about the direction of the investigation into President Donald Trumps ties to Russia.
And now, following in the footsteps of other #resistance heroes, hes looking to leverage his Twitter fame to get into a new line of business. In his case, hes shopping a book.
People have been blindsided by the Trump phenomenon, explained Aram Sinnreich, a media studies professor at American University. They need an explanation to help them deal with the current political climate, he added. And so popular pundits look to cash in on that need.
In a lengthy proposal for the book, tentatively titled Proof of Collusion and exclusively obtained by The Daily Beast, Abramson writes that his Twitter followers have long clamored for me to bookify my feed.
Indeed, in recent weeks, Abramson has been attempting to do just that, circulating the proposal to a number of major literary publishers.
According to the proposal, the book will be based off of edited and rewritten versions of his Twitter threadsa conceit, Abramson declares, whose time has come. The book will create a comprehensive, chronological review of the Trump-Russia case by transforming my Twitter threads into prose.
A book of this sort is daring, he writes. Few if any have leveraged the advantage that books offer in collating, organizing, and amplifying in narrative form an intensely followed Twitter feed.
Abramson would be just the latest #resistance pundit to attempt to cash in on the fervor surrounding the Russia investigation.
Self-described D.C. technocrat Eric Garland attempted to turn his bombastic Twitter feed into a revenue stream by creating a private, locked account where subscribers pay $10 per month for exclusive tweets. So did former NSA official John Schindler, who convinced several thousand followers to pay for many insights that The Outline pointed out he also offered for free.
Ed and Brian Krassenstein, two prolific #resistance tweeters accused of running websites that propped up online scams, released an anti-Trump childrens book last month titledHow the People Trumped Ronald Plump, which has pages dedicated to collusion and glorifying special counsel Robert Mueller.
The reality, though, is that if Vladimir Putin is using a tape involving urine to blackmail our president, we have to love America enough to speak of urine publicly and objectively, without snickering or frivolous humor.
Seth Abramson book proposal
More established journalists and pundits have gotten into the Trump-Russia book game. Investigative journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff published a book examining Russian interference in the 2016 election, while CNN pundit Jeffrey Toobin announced his intention to write a book focused on Muellers ongoing probe. GOP strategist and Daily Beast columnist Rick Wilson recently published Everything Trump Touches Dies, which in part excoriates the presidents actions in relation to the Russia investigation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News pundit Gregg Jarrett, who recently transformed from news anchor to Sean Hannitys go-to pro-Trump commentator, made Amazons bestseller list with his book criticizing Muellers investigation as a hoax. His colleague Jeanine Pirroa close friend of Trumpssimilarly skyrocketed up the New York Times bestseller list with Liars, Leakers, and Liberals, her self-described expos of a deep-state anti-Trump conspiracy.
Abramson, too, is offering publishers a built-in readership, in his case his large Twitter following.
Over numerous pages, Abramsons proposal lists the many celebrities, artists, pundits, political organizations, and brands that follow his voluminous Russia-investigation posts online.
Abramson name-checks reporters with whom he claims he speaks regularly, including journalists from The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic, and includes a recent email in which CNN host Chris Cuomo asked Abramson: How come you have not been on with me?
As Abramson has become a staple of #resistance Twitter feeds, The Atlanticdubbed him a conspiracy theorist, The Washington Postdescribed his style as interpreting liberally from news reports, and Slate knocked him for recycling information you could find on any news site and adding sinister what-if hypotheticals to create conclusions.
When Abramson isnt listing off the prominent journalists he speaks to in his proposal, hes often dismissing the medias coverage of Muellers Trump-Russia probe.
Abramson claims he has often beat news outlets to major stories, adding that he connected seemingly disparate facts major media outlets do not endeavor to reconcile.
And in an eye-popping section titled A PEE TAPE Q&A, Abramson asks why wont anyone in Washington or media investigate the infamous Steele dossier that alleges Trump paid prostitutes to perform golden showers in a hotel room during one of his visits to Moscow.
Abramson claims the fabled story is a taboo subject in the United States because were prudes and the media knows it.
The reality, though, is that if Vladimir Putin is using a tape involving urine to blackmail our president, we have to love America enough to speak of urine publicly and objectively, without snickering or frivolous humor, the proposal reads.
Abramson also plans to offer his anti-Trump book readers good news: By his calculations, the Trump administration will likely end by mid- to late 2019.
Sinnreich cautioned that such Twitter-style punditry can be misleading.
Making sense of complex systems requires one set of expertise, he said, and channeling peoples rage and frustration and giving them short, serialized outlets for rage and frustration is a completely different skill.
Readers should not expect any significant new revelations in Abramsons book. As he explains in the proposal, he does not have time to produce new, original reporting for a book.
Though he compares his book to one by Corn and Isikoffwho he notes have far lower engagement than he does in terms of daily retweets, quote-retweets, and reader likesAbramson says he does not have time to report new information because he is working on several projects, including a separate forthcoming memoir titled Thread.
Everybody is searching for something. Paul Ashby’s search began with an unexpected phone call on July 8, 2017. It was a Saturday night in Townsend, Tennessee, a small town just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An affable Army vet with gray hair, a goatee, and wire-frame glasses, Paul worked as a concierge at a rustic event space called the Barn. He was dressed in his usual top hat and coattails that night, greeting guests who were attending a wedding.
Paul had lived in Townsend, off and on, since 1974. In 1990, he separated from his wife and moved with their 4-year-old son, Eric, into a mobile home, then a small hilltop house nearby. He turned the modest two-bedroom home into a hippie retreat, teaching himself to make artisan cheese and hanging a purple sign with his favorite quote by the front door (“There is no path to peace … The path IS peace”). He’d often take his son trekking through the nearby hills and rafting down the Little River.
Paul had raised Eric mostly on his own, struggling to relate to his son’s fascination with computer games and anime. Eric would carry his laptop a quarter mile down the hill to a telephone pole in an attempt to speed up his internet. “He’d be sitting down there at 1 o’clock in the morning,” Paul recalls.
Eric was grown now—31 years old—but still had that headstrong streak. He had recently developed a singular obsession: an epic treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains devised by an enigmatic art mogul named Forrest Fenn. In 2016, Eric had moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to devote more time to the hunt, which involves deciphering the clues in a cryptic poem, and on June 28, 2017, he told friends he had solved Fenn’s puzzle and was going to retrieve the treasure. Paul didn’t know much about the treasure hunt, but he was happy to hear his son was out hiking and rafting as he had as a boy. That day, Eric posted on Facebook. “I hope today turns out to be the success I’ve hoped for,” he wrote. “Wish me luck.” Ten days later at the Barn, Paul received a call from an unknown number.
“Mr. Ashby?” said a young woman on the other end of the line.
“Yes?” Paul replied.
“Your son is dead. He fell out of a raft and drowned.”
Paul figured his son was up to some kind of joke. “Tell Eric now is not the time to be playing pranks,” Paul replied. “I’m in the middle of a wedding.”
“No, Mr. Ashby, you don’t understand,” the woman said. “Eric is dead.” Then she hung up.
Paul clutched his phone as the wedding party swirled around him in what felt like slow motion. He tried calling the number back but no one answered. When he dialed Eric’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. Who was the unknown caller? Where was his son? And why would Eric risk his life for an eccentric old man’s game?
Forrest Fenn doesn’t own a watch, a cell phone, or a GPS. “I am not ready for the 21st century,” he told me. When I visited him one sunny afternoon last April, he didn’t seem to be much like a man for the 20th century either. He’s 87, with wispy white hair and inquisitive eyes. His favored outfit is blue jeans, a belt with an ornate turquoise buckle, and Hush Puppies shoes. He lives on a couple acres of land in a sprawling home on the Santa Fe Trail. American Indian artifacts and Western curios line his walls: buffalo skulls, arrowheads, moccasins, and original paintings by the masters of the frontier. “Ralph Lauren came here and tried to buy that headdress,” Fenn said, pointing to one in a feathered row hanging in his study. As with most of Fenn’s stories, it’s hard to know what to believe. As he admits in his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, “one of my natural instincts is to embellish just a little.”
Fenn grew up in Temple, Texas, and still carries the soft twang of the Lone Star State. Though his father was the headmaster of his grade school, he sometimes played hooky, hunting for arrowheads in nearby creek beds. “When the sun was out, the smell of freedom was more than I could resist,” he wrote in his memoir. He spent his summers working as a fishing guide in West Yellowstone, Montana, where his family had a cabin. After graduating from Temple High School in 1947 and marrying his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor, he joined the Air Force. He flew hundreds of missions in Vietnam and was twice shot down, earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
Fenn returned home on Christmas Eve, 1968, and retired from the Air Force two years later. He had been interested in American Indian artifacts since childhood, and he decided to make himself into an art and antiques dealer. In 1972, using the $12,000 annual stipend he received as retirement pay, Fenn moved his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and bought an adobe home, where he turned the ground floor into a gallery. Fenn made up for his lack of experience with a showman’s streak. Noticing that competing galleries took out small black-and-white ads in local newspapers, he spent $3,000 on a full-page color notice in Architectural Digest.
His brash marketing methods worked, and wealthy collectors began visiting his gallery. “I’m a great schmoozer,” he told me. Before long he was among the top-selling art dealers in town, he claims, earning up to $1 million a year. He transformed his modest gallery into a lavish, two-acre homestead featuring three guest houses, a rapturous garden, and a pond containing two alligators named Elvis and Beowulf. Fenn says politicians and celebrities including former president Gerald Ford, Robert Redford, Cher, and Steve Martin made pilgrimages to Santa Fe to purchase his exotic goods and attend his legendary parties. Jackie Onassis once left behind a bottle of brandy, Fenn adds. He offered me a sip from what he claimed was the same 36-year-old bottle: “Shut your eyes and imagine you’re drinking it with her.”
In 1988, at the age of 58, Fenn was given a diagnosis of kidney cancer. Two years earlier, his 81-year-old father, William, was told he had pancreatic cancer, Fenn says. After 18 months, William killed himself by taking 50 sleeping pills, according to his son. “I respected him for having the courage to go out on his own terms,” Fenn recalls. After being racked by chemotherapy and an unsuccessful surgery to remove the cancer, he says, he was given a 20 percent chance of surviving three years. As Fenn tells the tale, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps—but with his own swashbuckling twist. He would fill a treasure chest with gold and jewels, he thought, and carry it to a special place in the Rockies. Then he would swallow a bottle of sleeping pills and die beside his riches. But first, he would write a poem containing clues to the treasure’s location. “Take the chest,” read an early draft of his poem, “but leave my bones.”
The “problem” with the plan, Fenn says, is that he recovered. Over the next several months, then years, he slowly grew stronger, and in 1993 he was declared cancer-free. After being homebound by his disease for years, Fenn was overcome with a renewed appreciation for nature and an urgent sense of purpose. “We need to get off the couch, out of the game room, and away from our electronic gadgets,” he says. He now saw his hunt as a way to entice people into the wild.
Late at night, alone in his artifact-laden study, he tweaked and revised his poem. Finally, in 2010, long after he first hatched the idea, he was satisfied. He acquired a 10- by 10-inch bronze treasure chest and filled it with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and gold coins he’d collected over the years at gun shows and auctions. He added two gold nuggets from Alaska, “as large as chicken eggs,” he says, as well as an old Navajo bracelet with 22 prehistoric turquoise disc beads inlaid in silver.
One summer afternoon that year, Fenn drove into the Rockies—for how far and how long, he won’t say—with the chest and the treasure in the trunk of his sedan. He made two trips to his destination. First, he loaded the empty, approximately 20-pound bronze box into a backpack and lugged it into the mountains, breathing heavily. He stashed it in a spot dear to his heart. Then he returned with the gold and jewels and filled the chest. “I was entering into strange territory in my mind,” he recalls. He walked back to his car feeling giddy about what he’d done. “I said in a loud voice, ‘Forrest Fenn, did you really do that?’ ” he says. “No one was around, and I started laughing.”
In the fall of 2010, Fenn commenced the treasure hunt with the publication of The Thrill of the Chase, which includes his completed poem. The 24 lines contain nine clues to the chest’s location, “in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe,” he says.
Fenn originally printed just 1,000 copies of his memoir and stocked them at Collected Works, an indie bookstore in Santa Fe. In 2013, Hemispheres magazine ran a story on his treasure hunt. Soon after, the Today show aired a series on Fenn, and his slim, 150-page book became an overnight sensation. Thousands of buyers from as far as Italy and Ecuador flooded Collected Works’ website. (First prints of The Thrill of the Chase can now fetch more than $750 on Amazon.) Despite Fenn’s intent to lure people away from their devices, his hunt had all the ingredients—a cryptic puzzle, a tantalizing fortune, an intriguing mastermind—to go viral. News coverage followed, from national TV broadcasts and local newspapers throughout the Southwest. What started as one man’s quirky swan song became a real-life Ready Player One.
Fenn achieved Wonka-like status among the self-described Searchers, the online community that cropped up around his legend. Lovers of riddles and outdoor exploration converged to form a dedicated network of blogs, message boards, websites, and Facebook pages devoted to the hunt. Toby Younis, a retired digital media executive who cohosts a Fenn fanatic YouTube show, A Gypsy’s Kiss, says the internet helps them “crowdsolve” the puzzle. Searchers espouse theories in Fenn forums and detail their quests in YouTube testimonials. Dozens of Searchers meet in Santa Fe each June for Fennboree, an annual fanfest.
But despite the hive mind enthusiasm of the Searchers, others grapple with doubts about the truth of Fenn’s tale. They imagine an 80-year-old man—or even a young, healthy person—carrying a bronze chest across his back. What kind of terrain—steep, wooded, rocky—could he traverse without tripping over tree roots and stones? Though a handful of Fenn’s family and friends claim they saw him filling the chest, there’s no way to prove what was inside, let alone what it could be worth. And, barring its discovery, there is no way to prove that he actually hid it. Given the more than 100,000 square miles of mountains where the box could be located, it seems unlikely that even the most intrepid Searchers will find it anytime soon, if ever. Still, over the past eight years, the possibility that the bounty does exist has been enough to spur treasure hunters into the red canyons of the high desert and wild rivers of the Rockies.
Fenn claims he receives more than 100 “treasure emails” from eager seekers every day. He told me that 350,000 people have looked for the treasure, an estimate he bases on his always-full inbox. For devout Fennheads, the appeal isn’t just the money, it’s “matching wits with Forrest,” says 64-year-old Cynthia Meachum, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since retiring from her job as a semiconductor engineer in 2015, she’s devoted her life to looking for Fenn’s treasure, first in a remote valley near Taos, New Mexico, and now near Yellowstone National Park. The hunt tends to attract people with technical backgrounds, Meachum says. “We’re probably the most egotistical group of treasure hunters, because we all think, ‘I use logic every day in my job. I use flowcharts. I use schematics. How hard can this be?’ ” she muses. “Well, none of us have found it.”
Over the years, Fenn’s poem has inspired Talmudic interpretation. One Searcher on the website Fenn Clues posits that, based on the first line, “We are almost surely looking for a location that satisfies ‘alone.’ So, a Solitary Geyser or a Lone Indian Peak would fit the bill.” Other determinations are more arcane. A Searcher nicknamed the White Knight insists the “blaze” in the 13th line refers to a turtle-shaped tattoo on the chest of a character in Marvel’s illustrated version of the 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. How that translates to the modern-day landscape is unclear.
Since publishing his treasure riddle in 2010, Forrest Fenn has doled out about a dozen additional hints in interviews, books, and TV appearances.
Though Fenn occasionally stokes the frenzy with interviews, he regards online sleuthing as unnecessary. “There is no reason for anyone to use the internet or social media when going to search for the treasure,” Fenn told me. “All they need is a map, a plan, good health, and a buddy to go along for safety reasons.”
Perhaps inevitably, determined Searchers have disregarded his advice. In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old man from Broomfield, Colorado, disappeared with a raft while hunting for the treasure near Cochiti Lake in New Mexico. The news devastated the Searchers, who, for the first time, had lost one of their own. Bilyeu was embedded in the Fenn community: He was friendly with Dal Neitzel, who runs one of the most visited Fenn treasure websites, and he once met Fenn at a book signing in Santa Fe. Disturbed by the news, Fenn paid for a helicopter to carry a search party. Six months later, Bilyeu’s remains were found on the banks of the river.
In June 2017, Jeff Murphy, an alleged Searcher from Batavia, Illinois, died of an apparent fall near the 7,000-foot Turkey Pen Peak in Yellowstone National Park. The same month, Paris Wallace, a pastor from Grand Junction, Colorado, died near the Rio Grande. The deaths have only garnered more publicity for the treasure hunt, spurring stories by Nightline, The New York Times, CBS News, and others.
The Searchers aren’t the only ones at risk. Fenn and his family have found strangers digging in his backyard for the treasure, he says. One woman wandered up the driveway to pray. In April 2017, Fenn sought a restraining order against a 55-year-old Texan who showed up at his home taking photos.
Despite all this, Fenn insists it would be wrong to halt the hunt. “If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?” he says. “An average of 12 people die each year at the Grand Canyon. There is a risk in nearly everything we do.”
After graduating from high school, Eric Ashby started cooking in restaurant kitchens around Townsend, nursing dreams of becoming a professional chef. With a wave of dark hair, mischievous eyes, and a ready laugh, he made friends easily. He never had much money, according to Heather Britt, a friend of his, but he didn’t seem to care about material things.
Then, in 2014, a motorcycle accident left Eric with a gangrenous leg. He told his dad that a doctor prescribed him oxycodone for the pain, and he got hooked. Though Eric fully recovered from the accident, “he couldn’t get away from the pills,” Paul recalls. Later, Eric took a swing at a plainclothes police officer who had pulled him over. He was convicted of assault and sentenced to seven years’ probation.
Eric first heard about Fenn’s treasure hunt in early 2016. He immediately geeked out over the riddle. As a child, Eric had immersed himself in fantasy books and sci-fi shows like The X-Files, and Fenn’s puzzle had a similar allure. Tempted by the mystery and still struggling to overcome his oxy habit, in April 2016 Eric moved to Colorado Springs, where he had some friends. He knew he was violating his probation but thought that if he stayed in Townsend he’d end up back in jail anyway.
The change of scenery was just what he needed. He kicked the pills, his friends say, and found a job as a server at Edelweiss, a kitschy German restaurant. He lived in his car for a while to save money and started dating Jamie Longworth, a local medical marijuana grower.
By early 2017 Eric had become consumed by Fenn’s treasure hunt, talking about it incessantly. He often stayed up late after waiting tables, smoking weed and compiling clues on his laptop. He tracked possible locations for the treasure on maps, homing in on Royal Gorge Park an hour away. Often he’d call Longworth to tell her how close he was to decoding Fenn’s clues. Eric wasn’t driven by money, she says. He enjoyed the intellectual puzzle of it all. “He was one of the smartest guys I ever met,” Longworth recalls. “He would say his goal in life was to be fascinated by a blade of grass.”
One day last spring, Eric met up with a group of friends and declared, “I know where Forrest Fenn’s treasure is,” says David Gambrell, who was there that day. According to Longworth, he believed the area where the “warm waters halt,” as the poem describes, was the Arkansas River. He connected another clue, “put in below the house of Brown,” to the home of a local physician, Dr. Brown, who had lived in the Gorge. And he deduced that the “blaze” Fenn cites referred to a fire that had happened nearby. When Eric described the precise location—nearly 60 miles southwest of Colorado Springs near Sunshine Falls, along the Arkansas River—Gambrell’s gut tightened. He urged Eric to take precautions. “Make sure somebody’s with you,” Gambrell told him. Eric replied that he’d already made a few trips to that area, but bad weather and high waters had prevented him from reaching his destination. When he told Longworth where he was headed, she urged him to reconsider. “I was completely convinced it was unsafe,” she recalls. “I didn’t want him going.” On June 28, Eric went anyway.
Ten days later, Paul received the anonymous call while he was greeting wedding guests. When he couldn’t reach his son, he called the Fremont County sheriff’s office in Colorado Springs. They told him there had been a reported drowning, but no body had been found, so they couldn’t identify the victim. A few days later, he was contacted by detective Sterling Jenkins, a stocky, goateed officer who specialized in marijuana enforcement. Jenkins couldn’t find a missing person report for Eric Ashby. It wasn’t unheard of for people to vanish in the rivers and mountains around Colorado Springs, but it was unusual for the disappearance not to be reported. Paul later told Jenkins that he believed his son had been out searching for Fenn’s treasure, but the detective had never heard of the hunt. “I didn’t know if it was an accident,” Jenkins says. “I didn’t know if it was foul play. It could be a hoax.” The detective vowed to find out what had happened.
Word of Eric’s disappearance soon spread across Searcher blogs and message boards. But unlike Bilyeu, who had attended Fenn book events and was immersed in the Searcher community, Eric was unknown to other treasure hunters. Though he had spent hours poring over their theories and tips, Eric wasn’t an active participant in Searcher forums. He rarely shared his hunches online, and he often went treasure hunting alone. As details about Eric’s checkered past emerged, some in the close-knit Searcher network viewed Eric’s disappearance with skepticism. One faction pushed to distance the Fenn community from Eric’s case, arguing that his rumored drug use would cast the hunt in a negative light. Others questioned whether Eric was looking for Fenn’s treasure at all when he went missing. When I asked Neitzel about Eric’s case, he bristled and refused to answer. “Let’s move on,” he said gruffly. Eric, they seemed to say, wasn’t one of them.
Without the aid of the Searchers, Eric’s friends and extended family dissected Fenn forums and Facebook pages for possible clues that might lead to him. “We called ourselves the Investigators,” recalls Britt, his friend from Townsend.
Lisa Albritton, Eric’s half-sister on his mother’s side, led the family’s efforts from her home in Largo, Florida. Though she and Eric had grown up in different states, she in Florida and he in Tennessee, the siblings were in touch often.
In truth, it didn’t take long to find out what had happened to Eric. Shortly after Paul received his mysterious phone call, Albritton went to Eric’s Facebook page and posted a query on the growing thread of comments from Eric’s concerned friends: “Does anybody know the names of the people my brother was with?” she wrote. “Please feel free to message me, add me, I don’t care I just need answers.”
A friend of Eric’s in Colorado Springs quickly replied with a profile picture of a smiling, twentysomething woman with shoulder-length blond hair, dark eyebrows, and a fashionably shredded pink shirt, along with a name: Becca Nies. “Can somebody tell me what role she plays in this?” Albritton replied. Longworth offered an answer: “She was with him, as well as her boyfriend Jimi Booker, when he ‘drowned,’ ” she posted. She then provided a screenshot of a Facebook message that Nies, who had worked with Eric at Edelweiss, had sent her on Saturday, July 8, just hours after Paul got his mystery call, and 10 days after Eric had gone missing.
Nies said that she was with Eric and three of her friends that day. “On wednesday june 28th,” Nies wrote, “we went on that treasure hunt. Eric drowned in the river unfortunately. Im sorry to tell you like this, you deserve to know.… Very sorry.”
“If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?”
The note from Nies should have put an end to the sleuthing, but it only seemed to spark new clues and paths to investigate. “How does she know he drowned if he hasn’t been found?” one of Eric’s friends replied on the Facebook page. “Sounds like some bs to me,” offered another. The police weren’t giving any information, and Eric’s body had not been found. In that vacuum, and in the heated detective atmosphere of the treasure hunt, rumors flew: It was a fight that landed Eric in the water, a scheme to steal the treasure from Eric and leave him behind.
The most vexing question remained: If four people had watched a man disappear underwater, why did they wait 10 days to tell anyone? That delay stoked its own conspiracies. “Something strange is going on it seems like with no one wanting to talk to anyone!!” one Investigator posted. “They really aren’t gonna like it when a bunch of people from Tennessee show up on their door step!!!”
“Exactly!” Britt replied, “And that’s what it’s gonna take!”
That July, Albritton launched a GoFundMe page hoping to raise money to drive to Colorado. Eric’s family continued to check in with Jenkins, but as far as Albritton could tell, the sheriff’s office was making little progress. She pleaded for help in finding her brother. To her surprise, she received $3,500 from a single donor: Forrest Fenn. Word about Eric’s disappearance had spread across Searcher blogs and message boards, eventually reaching the Wizard of Oz himself in Santa Fe.
Albritton and a cousin made the drive from Florida to Colorado in four days. They arrived in Colorado Springs and checked in to a hotel. Days later, they went to Nies’ apartment. Eric’s red Mercury Cougar was still out front, where he left it the day he disappeared. Albritton cued up Facebook Live as she approached the car, video streaming—just in case anything happened. “We’re going in the car, and I’m just going to try to grab everything I can,” she narrated, her voice tense. In the back seat, Albritton found her brother’s backpack. Heart pounding, she grabbed it and sprinted back to their car.
Back at their hotel, Albritton dumped out the contents of Eric’s bag: some moldy sandwiches, two cell phones, and a notebook. When she flipped the book open, she found a handwritten contract between Eric, Nies, and her friends agreeing to share whatever treasure they might find—51 percent for Eric and 49 percent to be split among the others. Albritton held the contract with a shaky hand. “Eric Ashby will be the executor of the selling and distribution (documented) of assets regarding said Quest,” the contract read. There was nothing treacherous in the document itself, but stoked by the hours she’d spent unspooling conspiracy theories among Investigators online, her mind reeled: Had there been a plot to kill her brother and steal the treasure? She reported what she had found to the Colorado Springs detectives.
Alarmed, Paul flew to Colorado Springs to search for answers. He met with Jenkins, who took him out to the spot on the Arkansas River where Eric had last been seen. Jenkins told him that two photographers had been taking pictures of whitewater rafters that day and called 911 after witnessing a possible drowning. But there was no way of knowing if the person had been Eric—the victim was unidentified and no body had been found. The people who were with him had been questioned, but Jenkins had not yet reached any conclusions. Desperate and sleepless, Paul called his brother, an Army specialist, for advice. If no one else could find his son, then Paul wanted to search the rapids himself.
“Can we go get him out of the river?” he asked.
“Paul, don’t even bother,” his brother said, “If the river is ready, the river will give him back to you.”
On July 28, a body was discovered by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer several miles down the Arkansas River. A Fremont County coroner later identified the victim as Eric Ashby.
After several weeks of investigating—questioning Nies and her friends Jimi Booker and Anthony Mahone, as well as the two photographers who had witnessed the incident—Jenkins and his team pieced together what had happened that day in June. Eric had driven to Nies’ apartment, where the group drew up a handwritten contract. They set off toward the river in an old green Jaguar sedan, stopping along the way to buy a cheap, two-person raft. They wound along mountain roads to a parking lot near Royal Gorge Park, where a suspension bridge hovers nearly 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River.
Eric led the group a few hundred yards through piñon pines to the edge of Sunshine Falls, a churning, boulder-strewn section of the river. As they watched rafts of tourists careen by, Booker told Jenkins, the current roared higher and faster than they had expected. Sunshine Falls is known for violent Class IV-V rapids, powerful enough to hurl rafters into the choppy water. Eric, who said he had been to the same spot on previous excursions, assured the others that it was still passable. “When he saw the river, he seemed OK with it,” Booker told me on Facebook Messenger, but “he said he had almost died on this hunt before.” (Nies and Mahone did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.)
Eric told them he believed the treasure was on the other side of the river. He planned to float across in the raft, retrieve the box, and bring it back. Despite his insistence that he had plenty of experience whitewater rafting, Eric had taken no helmet or life vest. He tied one end of a rope around his body and gave the other end to his companions on the river’s shore. “We weren’t prepared,” Booker told me later. “We had seen whole teams of rafters ride by with maybe six or seven people on large rafts, and they were still having a hard time riding the current with a professional guiding them.”
“They’re absolutely negligent. A life was lost. People watched it happen.”
Midway across the river, Eric’s flimsy raft started pitching uncontrollably in the froth, and he fell into the rapids. (Nies and Booker told the sheriff’s office he jumped out of the raft.) The rope slipped free from his waist as he was swept away in the fast-moving current. He attempted to make it to the other side but plunged underwater. When he hit the next set of rapids, known as the Sledgehammer, he went under again. This time he emerged facedown. He was carried away by the current.
From their post a short way downstream, the photographers looked on in horror as the body floated by. They frantically called 911 for help. Booker claimed that he and his friends searched along the shore of the river for half an hour, but the water was too violent. They returned to their car and drove away without waiting for the police to arrive. One of the photographers later told the police that he was troubled by the witnesses’ behavior, given the circumstances. “He told me it appeared as though they were not concerned with the unknown male’s well-being and had not bothered to attempt to assist the individual when he was in the river,” deputy Jeffery Moore wrote in his report.
Booker told me they took off because they knew the photographers had already called for help and felt there was nothing they could do. “I felt so powerless that it kills me inside,” he wrote me, “because my natural instinct would have been to jump in that water, but I know I wouldn’t have made it.”
Nies told Jenkins that she knew Eric had left Tennessee while on probation and didn’t report his disappearance to the authorities because she didn’t want to get him in trouble with the law. She said she wasn’t sure whether Eric was dead or alive. But by not giving the sheriff’s office Eric’s name, no one—including his family and friends—had known what had happened to him. “They’re absolutely negligent,” Jenkins says. “A life was lost. People watched it happen.”
On a rainy weekend in March, I attended an event for Eric at the Barn in Townsend, where Paul still works as a concierge. Paul had his son’s body cremated and brought back to the hills of Tennessee. Pictures of Eric hiking and cooking lined a table alongside a box bearing his cremains. Local country singers performed ballads on the small stage.
Now Eric’s family wants to make sure such negligence doesn’t happen again. They’re working with Colorado and Tennessee legislators to pass Eric’s Law, a “duty to report” mandate that requires any witness who sees someone’s life in danger to notify 911. Paul hopes the law ensures that “no one walks away,” he says.
He originally blamed Fenn for Eric’s death. “I wanted to see him hung out to dry,” he says. He’s since made his peace. Jenkins places responsibility on the Searchers. “As an adult,” he says, “if you make a decision to look for this treasure, you need to be prepared.”
When I talked to Fenn, he had distanced himself from Eric’s death. “I told myself that he was on drugs and had nothing to do with the treasure,” Fenn says. He continues to encourage the treasure hunt. In a recent interview with a blog called Mysterious Writings, Fenn wrote that his “gut feeling is that someone will find it this summer.” In fact, he reveals, a Searcher recently came within 200 feet of it. “Someone told me exactly where they were,” he tells me, “and I knew they were close.” He declines to say more, wary of tipping off the Searcher. His prediction, of course, will likely only spur more Searchers to return to the wild.
With each new death, the stakes of the search grow higher. Fenn continues to urge his followers to avoid putting themselves in life-threatening situations. (After all, he cautions, he was already 80 years old when he hid the treasure; there’s no need to assume feats of endurance.) This summer, thousands will take to the Rockies’ tributaries and trails, racing to glimpse the glint of a bronze chest in the wilderness. If it is discovered, many Searchers admit, it won’t just be the lost fortune they’ll miss—it will be the lure of adventure, the misfit community, the promise of the unknown around every bend.
Berkeley Police announced the arrests on Sunday of three protesters on weapon possession charges: (left to right) Jason Wallach, 41, Kate Brenner, 69, and Kristen Edith Koster, 50. (Berkeley Police Department)
Police in Berkeley, Calif., arrested at least 17 people Sunday as several hundred people gathered in the city for planned dueling protests that sparked fears of broader violence.
Two groups of alt-right protesters had announced plans for a “No to Marxism” rally at the city’s Civic Center Park earlier in the week. That prompted plans for a “Sweep Out The Facists” march and counter-rally that drew hundreds of people downtown.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that several dozen “anti-Marxist” protesters arrived at Civic Center at 12:30 p.m. At one point, the group pushed books off a table set up by a local Communist bookstore, but police and bystanders stepped in to head off any potential confrontation.
Approximately an hour later, a group of marching counterprotesters tossed fireworks and flares at police officers. No injuries were reported.
City officials said neither group had sought or obtained a permit for their respective rallies. On Friday, police issued rules prohibiting masks and items that could be used as weapons.
On Sunday, the police department posted photos of weapons they had seized on Facebook and Twitter. They included a hammer, rocks, wooden sticks, metal rods, and canisters of pepper spray.
“We are confiscating weapons and making arrests,” police said.
Those arrested included Jason Wallach, 41, and Kate Brenner, 69, both of Oakland, who were charged with possession of a banned weapon, police said.
Kristen Edith Koster, 50, of Berkeley, was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon. Maria Lewis, 29, of Emeryville, was charged with carrying a banned weapon and working with others to commit a crime.
Arrested protesters Maria Lewis and Thomas Parker. (Berkeley Police)
Thomas Parker, 22, of Berkeley, was also charged with working with others to commit a crime, as was 27-year-old Caitlin Boyle of Oakland. Blake Griffith, 29, of Oakland, was charged with vandalism.
Sarena Perez, 39, of Oakland, was charged with possession of a banned weapon. David Chou, 26, of Santa Cruz, was charged with possession of a banned weapon and working with others to commit a crime. Freddy Martinez, 31, of Berkeley, was charged with battery.
Arrested protesters David Chou and Freddy Martinez. (Berkeley Police)
Ericka Sokolower-Shain, 28, and Javier Cruz-O’Connell, 22, both of Berkeley, were charged with possession of a banned weapon. Jamie Hill, 30, of Emeryville, was also charged with possession of a banned weapon, as was 27-year-old Bella Podolsky of San Francisco.
“We’ve seen what the patterns are and one of the patterns is using nonviolent protests as a cover for violence and what we encourage people to do is to separate themselves from violence,” Berkeley city spokesman Matthai Chakko told KTVU Saturday.
Events last year turned violent when so-called “alt-right” groups clashed with anti-fascist groups, the station reported.
Arrested protesters Blake Griffith and Sarena Perez (Berkeley Police)
“No to Marxism” rally organizer Amber Cummings held a “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley last August in which 10 people were arrested, the Bay City News Service reported. A person dressed in black, the hallmark of the infamous Black Bloc, which advocates violence, destroyed another person’s camera, according to the news outlet.
Police said the list of banned items at Civic Center and Ohlone parks included metal pipes, baseball bats, glass bottles, pepper spray, knives or daggers, shields and slingshots, KTVU reported.
Arrested protesters Ericka Sokolower-Shain and Jamie Hill. (Berkeley Police)
Police also banned people from wearing masks, scarves or bandannas or anything covering their faces except for religious or medical reasons.
Sunday’s protests came one day after police in Portland, Ore. clashed with demonstrators protesting a rally by far-right groups. Local media reported that police ordered the counter-protesters to disperse, then moved in behind a volley of stun grenades. One of the rounds reportedly hit a counter-protester in the head, becoming embedded in his helmet and injuring him. One woman was taken to a hospital after being hit in the arm and chest with a “flash-bang” grenade.
Arrested protesters Bella Podolsky and Javier Cruz-O’Connell (Berkeley Police )
Four people were arrested.
On Sunday, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw ordered a review of the use of force by officers to determine if they followed policy and training guidelines.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Alex Jones believes Democrats planned "civil unrest" for the Fourth of July. Maybe he's thinking of fireworks.
Image: Getty Images
Where will you be on the Fourth of July?
Alex Jones thinks Americans will be fighting in a vicious battle over avocados and soy milk. The often disgraced conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “performance artist” claimed that Democrats are planning to launch a civil war on Independence Day in a tweet on Monday.
In the video Jones posted, he ranted that “establishment publications” that communicate with the government instead of the general public “began to develop a plan” using civil unrest and “racial strife” in order to “force Trump out.”
OK, Alex. Maybe he misinterpreted the annual fireworks displays as “civil unrest.”
But his attempt at riling up the public was turned into a patriotic meme as Twitter users imagined where they would be if a second civil war broke out.
Dearest Wife, Please allow me to unburden my soul. Earlier, at the Battle of Two Scoops, I killed an enemy soldier, a young lad who could not have been a day over 19. His last words shall haunt me for the rest of my life: “Womp Womp.” #secondcivilwarletters
Twitter users responded withthe hashtag #SecondCivilWarLetters, joking about battling incels and searching for Starbucks safe houses.
A brief skirmish yesterday against the 24th Kek Company, 3rd Incel Batallion ended in a terrible slaughter, though their commander sent a Gab post warning us that he had studied the blade. The field is a horror of blooded waifu pillows. #secondcivilwarletters
Like the correspondence between soldiers and their loved ones during the “first” American Civil War, Twitter users kept their spouses and family members posted with updates from the front lines of battle.
All: Our espresso machine is broken and our supply of Starbucks singles is running thin. Our avocado ration is cut in half and there’s a 10-minute wait for a charging port. Sherman was right: War Is Hell. Sent by my iPhone #secondcivilwarletters
I hope this letter finds you safe in Canada. As I write this letter, our fortunes seem to have improved. It seems the opposing forces provisions have been plundered by their leadership. I see red caps strewn everywhere. Stay strong my love. #secondcivilwarletters
Dearest Parents, The mess hall has run out of avocados so I was forced to top my toast with jam. The fog of war is so trying at times that even my therapy unicorn brings no comfort. 😢 #SecondCivilWarLetters
“Captured at Bowling Green. In tolerably good health. Avocado hardtack rations meager and chicory covfefe drunk cold to avoid microwave surveillance. Capt. Kardashian to negotiate prisoner exchange.”#secondcivilwarletters
Dearest, An entire battalion of red hats fell to us yesterday. We made them read entire books of the Bible instead of out of context passages. The heads of three exploded on the spot others wandered away as if their lives were a lie.#secondcivilwarletters
My Darling, War is hell. The Battle of Trader Joe’s lasted many days. We lost half our battalion, some to enemy fire, some to the dreaded Covfefe virus. I still live, but for how much longer I do not know.
My dear wife, Most of my battalion has succumbed to smallpox. The horrid disease was thought to have been eradicated shortly after the last civil war, but the enemy troops we recently faced were all unvaccinated. #secondcivilwarletters
At long last, by the grace of God & a lucky Uber alone, our Hortons Battalion has reached our American comrades. We brought with us shoes & poutine. Morale has soared. Gen. Maddow and Captain Avenatti will be leading our charge at dawn
In the video he released with his tweet, Jones actually admitted: “I’m not that smart!”
“How did you know they were planning a civil war,” Jones asked nobody in particular, before claiming that news organizations have been planning this “civil war” all along. “I told you! I’m not that smart!”
So no worries, you won’t have to fight through Chick-Fil-A on the Fourth of July. Alex Jones himself said he isn’t that smart.
The ruling was 5-4 along partisan lines, with conservative Justice Samuel Alito writing for the majority.
“It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers and transferred to public-sector unions in violation of the First Amendment. Those unconstitutional exactions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely,” Alito wrote.
In a blistering dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions.”
Reading from the bench, she added: “There’s no sugarcoating today’s opinion.”
At stake in the case
At the center of the debate is a 1977 Supreme Court opinion known as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that says while non-members of public sector unions cannot be required to pay fees for a union’s political activities, they can be required to pay so-called “fair share” fees pertaining to issues such as employee grievances, physical safety and training.
In recent years, so-called Right to Work groups as well as some conservatives on the court have pushed for it to be overturned. Wednesday, nearly half of all states have laws on the books that allow broad fair share fees for public employees.
The case was brought by Mark Janus, an Illinois public sector employee, who challenged the fees. He said that because he is a government employee, issues germane to collective bargaining are inherently political. He argued that the First Amendment protected him from having to support such political expression.
Janus has been represented in the challenge by groups such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents public sector employees, has described the challenge as a threat to American workers.
The public sector unions argue that they are required by law to represent all employees regardless of if they are members and that no one is required to join the union.
If non-members don’t have any obligation to pay fair share fees for the collective bargaining obligations, they would become free riders, benefiting from the representation without sharing the costs, the unions say. The coffers of public sector unions would also suffer if non-members were able to get services for free.
Alito noted, and dismissed, the impact to union funds.
“We recognize that the loss of payments from non-members may cause unions to experience unpleasant transition costs in the short term, and may require unions to make adjustments in order to attract and retain members,” Alito wrote. “But we must weigh these disadvantages against the considerable windfall that unions have received under Abood for the past 41 years.”
The Trump administration sided with Janus in the case, reversing course from the Obama administration in a 2016 case when the Supreme Court heard arguments in a similar challenge, but deadlocked in a 4-4 split following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.