The Car Thief’s Good Intentions

“I guess it’s the release,” he says, struggling to explain his compulsion to drive away in someone else’s car. “It’s calming. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the speed.”

Published: Feb 5, 2020
Length: 14 minutes (3,500 words)

A Killing in the Hills

Looking for answers in a decades-old murder case set deep in the Missouri Ozarks.

Published: Feb 10, 2016
Length: 23 minutes (5,882 words)

The Wrong Man

Did police insist on blaming Cornell McKay for a 2012 robbery to cover up their own ineptitude?

Published: May 13, 2015
Length: 26 minutes (6,600 words)

Certifiable

How a squad of self-appointed experts quietly took over the billion-dollar autograph industry:

Today, few autographs are bought or sold without the blessing of either Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) or its competitor, James Spence Authentication (JSA). The two companies have come to dominate the market, verifying hundreds of thousands of signatures each year.

Business is so good that they use garbage cans to hold the cash they collect from reviews at hobby conventions. EBay, the world’s largest facilitator of memorabilia auctions, endorses both companies to its customers. Nothing seems beyond the scope of their expertise, from Frank Sinatra’s scrawl to baseballs defaced by Mickey Mantle.

Published: Mar 27, 2014
Length: 18 minutes (4,661 words)

Little House in the Present

So the Great Depression runs through Little House in the Big Woods like a big three-hearted river.

Perhaps most striking, however, is that the book’s central theme is made most conspicuous not through the events and details described in its pages but by the things that aren’t there.

There’s no Depression in the Big Woods. There’s no sign that the Civil War was less than a decade in the nation’s rearview (aside from one minor character, Uncle George, who ran off to be a drummer boy and came home “wild”). There are no banks. There isn’t even a cash economy: A description of the family’s visit to the store in town depicts a dazzling oasis of consumerism, but Pa pays for the calico and the sugar in trade, with bear and wolf pelts. There’s no government. In fact, a government would seem superfluous. No need for police or courts, because everyone gets along. The Ingallses have everything they need thanks to Pa’s seemingly limitless frontiersman skills and Ma’s “Scottish ingenuity” on the domestic front.

Published: Nov 24, 2011
Length: 23 minutes (5,835 words)

In a tiny town just outside Joplin, a landmark adoption case tests the limits of inalienable human rights

Tonight, in a modest brick row house in the sleepy city of Carthage, beyond the Ozark Mountains and the mines of southwest Missouri, past the poultry plants and churches along Interstate 44 and U.S. 71, down the block from the Jasper County courthouse and historic town square, a five-year-old boy is going to bed.

Chances are the boy is unaware of the battery of lawyers debating his future. He’s probably oblivious to the national immigration debates he has stirred, the newspaper headlines he has generated, the two school-district employees whose firings are directly linked to his circumstances. He very likely has no idea that the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington, D.C., is in his corner, or that a lone circuit court judge will decide his fate this winter.

Published: Oct 20, 2011
Length: 25 minutes (6,271 words)