TICKET TO HELL: A REVIEW OF M. WILLIAM PHELPS’ DANGEROUS GROUND

Admittedly, ‘DARK MINDS’ was one of my favorite shows on the Discovery ID channel. And, like most shows I get into, it was short-lived (three seasons). So when DARK MINDS host and true-crime journalist, M.William Phelps announced that he was releasing a book about his ‘friendship’ with the serial killer known only as ‘Raven’ of course I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book.
DANGEROUS GROUNDS is that book and it’s a ticket straight into hell.
[SPOILERS] Raven was none other than Keith ‘The Happy Face Killer’ Jesperson – convicted of killing 8 women throughout the early 90’s and known for his smiley faced signed letters written to authorities.
This book chronicles Phelps’ five year ‘friendship’ with Jesperson while working on DARK MINDS. Now, if you’ve watched any amount of the ID channel then you probably know Phelps from his frequent appearances on their programs (Deadly Women, etc). I get it, he can come off as somewhat of an ‘over-dramatic’ storyteller with frosted tipped hair and hip flavor saver. However, if you’ve read any of his books you see what a thorough investigative journalist he is with a tenacious voice for victim’s rights.
That being said, I wasn’t expecting all that much when I opened up DANGEROUS GROUND. I figured it would be a series of conversations with an ‘infamous’ human monster full of ghost stories and serial killer tropes.
Damn if I was wrong.
This book dug its claws into my flesh. It haunted my dreams. I still can’t shake it.
DANGEROUS GROUNDS is a case study, a series of interviews, and a personal diary all wrapped up in one engaging package. The book exposes Jesperson for the sociopath he is and by no means is it meant to ‘celebritize’ his murders. Sure, there’s plenty of juicy details from Jesperson’s killings. Especially ‘interesting’ is the explanation of how Jesperson tied up a victim underneath his semi and drug the body for fifteen miles between Brady and Gothenburg, NE (my neck of the woods) to erase any identifying features.
However, where this book shines is Phelps account of how their relationship pulled him into a psychological inferno. He writes with brutal honesty about his own struggles with alcoholism and faith while dealing with his sister-in-law’s murder and, ultimately, his brother’s death from addiction. It’s a front row seat to the near total breakdown the author had at the hands of Jesperson.
Always in search for the truth, Phelps writes about the challenge to properly identify one of Jesperson’s victims, giving the reader a behind-the-scenes look at all the hard and heartbreaking work that goes into such a venture.
There’s a lot going on this book and Phelps pulls it off. It’s a book that will stick with me long after finishing it.
DANGEROUS GROUND is a must-read for true crime enthusiasts and those willing to step foot into the dark corners of human depravity. It belongs on the shelf right next to IN COLD BLOOD and     HELTER SKELTER.

Yeah, it’s that good.

2018: BE DANGEROUS

“Let us not live in a culture of other people’s ideas. Let us create our own.”

-Me.

     I remember a college kid.

This kid buried his nose in philosophy books, theater history, and art films.  He wrote works based on the words of Sarte, Camus, and Brecht. He wrote a play in class and sent it off to his mentor. “I want to see this produced.” said the mentor. It never happened.  The kid studied the cutup method by Burroughs – the films of David Lynch. The kid  swore that there wasn’t a decent book written after the 1970’s.

He went to upstate New York in the summer of 2000. He spent most of his time there filling notebooks, drinking scotch, and printing off pages of his manifesto using the printer in the theater office. He decided then and there that he wanted to become a writer. He wanted to change the world.

Obviously, that kid was me.

Now almost twenty years later, that kid is all but dead. He’s been buried under years and years of safety.  Self doubt and fear have left him chained in the closet – silenced. Truth is, I never set out to do this. It just happened. I started listening to others that said ‘write what’s safe’. ‘Write what sells first. You can always do the ‘dangerous’ stuff later.”  Now, it’s twenty years later, and I’m sad to say we have a generation full of vampire novels, zombie apocalypses, paranormal romances, and wizarding adventures.  The technology of e-publishing was supposed to revolutionize the printing world. Instead, it pretty much gave us an over-saturation of all the crap that was already out there.

It’s time to bring dangerous back – to push the boundaries.

So let this be the year I start pushing boundaries – physically, emotionally, and creatively. I want to change things. I want to create things that matter. Yes, that sounds pretty idealistic – naive – but, look down at that vampire/love story/post-apocalyptic adventure/kids with cancer/ supernatural horror manuscript your working on and ask yourself ‘is this really going to change the world?’

I hope you’ll join me.

I don’t regret anything I’ve written. It’s just that I have a disease that says it will chop off at least 15 years of my life, and my poor lifestyle choices will probably take another five or so off of that. So that means I have a good twenty years or so and I don’t want to spend them putting out garbage that could possible sell.

So where am I at now?

Well, years ago (around the time of my diagnosis) I was plagued with nightmares. I turned those nightmares into THE (the only novel I’ve ever published).  After the passing of my father in November, the nightmares have returned. I have pages and pages of them written down and plotted out. Will they ever come to light? I can’t say.

I’ve spent the last five years or so working on a book about serial killers and the sex trade in a small Nebraska town.  It is a crime/ psychological thriller that replaces imaginative monsters for the real life horrors that haunt us. Will it see a Summer release? Probably not.

Right now the whole universe is on standby while I weed through old material and search for new. It is my creative world, and for the first time, I feel completely in charge of it.  All I know is that this year will be full of excitement, pain, joy, and nightmares.

I can’t wait.

5 LIFE TIPS I’VE LEARNED FROM WATCHING WALKER, TEXAS RANGER

Chuck Norris tells me to watch Walker Texas Ranger, therefore I have to.

It is my guilty pleasure, and I bet my guilty pleasure could kick your guilty pleasure’s ass.

If you’ve ever watched the show (or happen to own it on DVD-not that I do) you know that WALKER is a phenomenon all its own. Chock full of overdone action, exploding with unbelievable heroics, and showcasing acting that would make any soap opera scowl, WALKER has punched a place in our psyche.

And whereas the show will never be truly recognized for its effects on culture or winning any awards for social change any time soon, I have discovered that there are many life lessons that can be learned from watching it.

After much ‘study’ I have come up with a list of 5 successful life strategies that can be taken from Walker, Texas Ranger and practiced by us mere mortals. These are 5 rules that will help you kick much ass in your personal life. You don’t even have to wear a black stetson or a fancy pair of shit kickers.

Mount up!

  1. LESS TALK, MORE ACTION: Walker is a man of few words. He’s too busy kicking bad guy ass to wax some useless dialogue about whether or not so and so is ‘just not that into you’. Walker doesn’t tweet. Walker doesn’t update his facebook page every time he single handedly disables a Mexican drug cartel. He just does it.

How many of us just sit around and talk about all the great things we want to do? How many people go to the grave full of regret over unaccomplished goals or empty promises? We have lists and lists – honey do lists, project lists, goals, bucket lists…etc.etc. but we never act out on a single one.

Stop whining about being underemployed, being alone, writing that great novel-JUST DO IT! Start punching out the small stuff. Before you know it you will be achieving your dreams and never looking back.

  1. ALWAYS HAVE BACK-UP: On the rare occasion Walker finds himself stuck in a particularly doomed situation he has his trusted friends to help him out. Every Walker needs a Trivette (personally, my favorite character in the show). You need a good friend to help you out when things get tough. A good friend will help you overcome the tough obstacles. They’ll save your ass during the occasional warehouse shootout.

However, never forget…

  1. ONE MAN CAN OVERCOME HUGE OBSTACLES : It never fails. In every single episode Walker finds himself cornered by a group of B-grade thugs. One of them always yells ‘GET HIM GUYS!” and all hell breaks loose around our hero. It doesn’t matter if he’s unarmed, out-manned, and out of time -Walker finds some crafty way out of it.

Think only superhuman Walker can beat the odds? Wrong! You have many skills and abilities that you never knew you had until you are forced to use them. How many times have you been down to the wire on a big project and still pulled it off? Somehow you manage to get rent paid. You still breathe at the end of a tough day. Have faith in yourself. Maintain confidence at all times and you will succeed. Of course, having a big gun doesn’t hurt either.

  1. USE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE: This is one of Walker’s most powerful crime fighting tools. He catches evil doers off guard and turns the tables in his favor. I’ve seen the man take out an entire gas station with a single bullet while being perched safely on a helicopter flying overhead. I’ve even seen him play dead just long enough to hop back up and unleash a storm of suffer upon the enemy.

Always keep them guessing. Do something unexpected. One way our enemies maintain power over us is by knowing our routine. That douchebag at work is going to take credit for something awesome you did because he knows you won’t speak up. Every morning you find yourself stuck in the same traffic and stressing out because you always leave at the same time and take the same route. Change it up a bit. Put that bully in their place. Take a new street to work. Put on that tacky Hawaiian shirt!

  1. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS -ROUNDHOUSE KICK: Okay, so I’m not condoning the use of violence to achieve success. You know when Walker is about to win a fight because here comes that slow-mo shot where he is swooping around in mid-air -breaking the skulls of any villain within twenty feet of him. Yeah, don’t do that. I tried it once and now I can’t have children.

I’m speaking of doing something extreme. I found myself in a very unfruitful relationship for years until one day I just stood up and said ‘no more.’ I walked away and never looked back. Throw those cigarettes into the trash. Ask that crush out for coffee. Put your foot down to that overbearing boss. Break into Paradise By The Dashboard Lights the next time you’re at a karaoke bar. Remove all processed foods from your cupboards.

Start living life Walker, Texas Ranger style. Your life will only kick ass if you kick ass.