Murder, chaos and good times. That may seem an odd title but I can assure you that for me this is situation normal. Let me explain.
Back in 2019 B.C. (before COVID) my latest book, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66 was published by Rio Nuevo Publishers. That was in late fall.
Apparently the blending of Route 66 and true crime stories piqued interest. In spring 2020 notice was received that the book had been awarded a silver medal in an international independent publishers competition.
And then during the apocalyptic year of 2020, I began fielding requests for presentations on the subject via Zoom. I was still being asked to talk about the founding of the American auto industry, Route 66 adventures and southwestern history. But morbid curiosity put discussions about murder and mayhem to the top of the list.
As more people began reading the book there was a noticeable uptick in the receipt of terse, angry and even occasionally subtlety threatening notes. These stemmed from inclusion of events such as the Tulsa, Springfield, and St. Louis race massacres as well as similar incidents from the history of Route 66.
At first I found being called left wing, socialist, anti American and liberal, comments often prefaced with colorful use of obscenities, as mildly humorous. Now, however, I view them in a larger context and see them as symptomatic of the increasingly toxic climate in this country.
But as a primary goal of the book, as it is with my writings and speaking engagements, was to add depth and context to the subject of Route 66, and to spark informed discussions, these derogatory comments will be ignored. But I can’t help but feel that being so narrowed minded it is possible to look down a beer bottle with both eyes is rapidly being considered a virtue and that doesn’t bode well for the future of the republic.
This year I added another dimension to my repertoire. As I began work on developing a narrated self guided tour to the historic district in Kingman, Arizona for Kingman Main Street, the discovery of obscure and fascinating movie and celebrity history opened another new chapter in the Jim Hinckley’s America story.
To date a lot of the discoveries have been Kingman centered. And that is the subject of a presentation that will be made at Mohave Museum of History & Arts in Kingman, Arizona on October 16. But I have ventured down a few rabbit holes and found that many Route 66 communities have some surprising celebrity history.
And I have found some obscure and odd stories. Who was Bessie Love and why was she visiting Kingman? On a bet did Jack Dempsey go a few rounds in the boxing ring at the Sump bar during a visit to Kingman, Arizona?
Counted among the casualties of 2020 was my work with tour groups. Unfortunately this summer was only mildly better as COVID 19 continues to inhibit a return to normal tourism.
But when it comes to tourism there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Even though the season is winding down, it has been a delight to meet with Austin Coop’s Two Lane America tours. Sharing stories about Kingman and Route 66, and answering questions during the tours lunch stop in Kingman has provided a sense of normalcy.
Shades of normal times are also found in the support from Steve Wagner of the Route 66 Yacht Club and Scott Dunton of the Kingman Route 66 Association. They provide pins, patches and other items that I can provide as free souvenirs.
As I look toward 2022, and a return of tourism I will be seeking support for other organizations, businesses and communities. I will be looking for souvenirs that can be provided to travelers, and advertising sponsors that will be my partner in promotional initiatives. Good times, better times just around the corner.