Craig Brandon's Clipping File

A collection of random articles, neither the best nor the worst, from my thiry years as a writer. Click on the links on the right to read them.

Two Americas

During the summer of 2010 I spent some time as an enumerator for the US Census Bureau, a job once held by one of my ancestors a century ago. It was sometimes dangerous, especially when a Tea Party activist pulled out his handgun and accused me of arriving from Washington to take his gun away. He was not impressed when I told him I was his neighbor and had not been to Washington in several years. The story at the right, outlining my observations as an amateur sociologist, was published as an op-ed in the Keene Sentinel.

Midnight in the Night Owl Cafe

As the adviser for the student newspaper at Keene State College, I spent a lot of time in the student center late at night and so could not avoid hearing the music and applause coming from the amateur night competition at the campus hot spot. After observing, I convinced my fellow members of the Keene State Today editorial board that it would make a great story. At right is the result.

NIGHT OWL CAFE

The Campus Sundial

Most alumni gifts take the form of trees or plaques, so when I saw a sundial being installed on campus, I asked the workers what it was and how it worked. It turned out that it was immensely complicated and strangely out of place in an era when digital clocks were everywhere. But that turned out to be part of its charm. This was published in Keene State Today,

SUNDIAL

Perp Walks

Police departments and the press operate in a curious symbiotic relationship. The press needs the cops for juicy crime strories and the cops need the hacks for publicity. This creates some strange bedfellows and this story is about one of the most bizarre: perp walks. The cops escort an accused felon in a completely unnecessary trip around the block for the sole purpose of giving the news photogs a photo op. The story at the right, from Law and Order Magazine, is my attempt to tell the history and legal status of this phenomenon.

PERP WALKS

Horses Condemned to Die

I first came across this bizarre story in a Vermont newspaper. It was pretty unbelieveable that horses were to be killed because their owner had insisted on it in his will. What developed was a battle between legal purists and horse lovers that was published in Horse Illustrated.

HORSES

Myth and Mystery in the Adirondacks

One of my claims to fame is that I am the world's foremost expert on the Gillette murder case of 1906, which Theodore Dreiser used as the basis for his novel An American Tragedy and later the movie "A Place in the Sun." I wrote about this in my very first book, Murder in the Adirondacks, but believe it or not, new information still appears about this very old event and Adirondack Life allowed me to write about it in the article at right.

CHESTER GILLETTE

Party Schools

My award-winning 2010 book The Five-Year Party has also made me an expert on America's higher education "party schools," a designation that is much dreaded by colleges and universities. I wrote the op-ed piece at the right for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution just after the University of Georgia was named the top-ranked party school in America.

PARTY SCHOOLS

Thomas Bartlett Interview

At the end of the 1970s, I was a brand new education reporter in Utica, N.Y. working for the now defunct Utica Daily Press, and I was much impressed by the wisdom of Thomas Bartlett, who has just resigned as president of Colgate University. He was the kind of college president that was once common but is now quite rare, an articulate, charismatic visionary who was not too busy to share his time with a green cub reporter. My story at right was later reprinted in Colgate Today.

BARTLETT

Who Wants to be Called Cheshire?

When I tried to sell my 2007 book Monadnock: More Than a Mountain to national publishers, the reponse was "You are writing an entire book about ONE mountain? Are you nuts?" So I discovered the joys of self-publishing. In the aftermath of the success of that book, I tried to pitch this op-ed piece to the Keene Sentinel, but they rejucted it and it was later printed as a letter to the editor. It's all totally tongue-in-cheek of course, meant to be taken as good fun.

CHESHIRE

The Oneida Indians Predict Their Future

Being a weekly columnist for a newspaper sounds like a dream job until you have to come up with story ideas. It's easy at first, of course, but after a few months the ideas run dry. During a two-year stint as a columnist for The Daily Press, I had my share of hits and misses, with the hits often featured on the front page. But every once in a while I dug up something truly significant. The story at the right about the big dreams of Oneida Indians living in a trailer park sounded so odd that the editors almost rejected it. Since it was published in the 1980s every word of it has come true and those Native Americans living in the trailer park are now all millionaires thanks to the Turning Stone casino.

ONEIDAS

A Visit to Tolstoy's Russian Estate

In 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Albany, NY adopted Tula, Russia as its sister city and a group of local citizens formed the Albany-Tula Alliance to collect money and clothing for distribution in their time of need. The Air Force supplied the airplane to carry the donations and the Albany Times-Union supplied me, their general assignment reporter, to go along to chronicle the event. It was, by far, my most difficult assignment since there were no working telephones I could use to file my stories. I ended up sending them through a system no one had yet heard of, the Internet. I filed the stories in Tula's city hall and they arrived at a local school, where they were printed out and carried over to the newspaper office. None of the editors really understood the process and when I got back I wrote a story describing for readers what the Internet was. The story at right is about my visit to Leo Tolstoy's estate, just outside Tula, which was being ravaged by pollution.