Sunday, August 24, 2014

Orlando is More Than a Big Theme Park

I'm just back from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the second biggest university in the country — and home of the largest freshman class, which you can see pictured above. I had the great pleasure of talking trash at their convocation, where every incoming freshman received a copy of Garbology as part of the First Year Experience program. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Portland Talks Garbology

The City of Portland is a world leader on sustainability and green policies — not to mention a beautiful, livable community. But there's one area where it falls short on the environmental front: garbage.

Portlanders make more trash than the average American. And though they are avid recyclers, they also send 50+ big-rig diesel trucks a day filled with trash to someone else's back-yard 150 miles away. Local leaders and environmentalists realize the problem and are determined to better.

This past week I returned from a series of cool "Let's Talk Trash" events in the city. I was happy to share the stories behind  Garbology at events hosted by OregonMetro and the Portland City Club. Here's the audio from the City Club discussion.
Campus trash, courtesy Portland State University

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Troll Toll

When received a threatening letter from a "patent troll," the Internet startup faced a no-win choice: capitulate and pay to license a dubious patent claiming ownership of the ancient art of matchmaking, or pay exorbitant legal costs to fight. 

Find out what happened next, and how Congress is dropping the ball on reining in ridiculous patents and trollish lawsuits, in my new article, Trolling for Dollars.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Solar Wars: The Battle For Your Rooftop

For Cynthia Cantero, putting solar panels atop her Oahu, Hawaii, home seemed like a no-brainer. In a state where most electricity is generated by burning pricey imported oil and where electricity rates are three times the U.S. average, she considered making her own power "a godsend."

Then her state's dominant utility pulled the plug on Cantero, and pushed the 54-year-old cancer patient and mother of five toward bankruptcy.

Read more about Cantero's all-too-common plight, and a nationwide campaign to derail home-grown solar energy in favor of utility-scale renewables, in my latest Sierra Magazine article, Throwing Shade.

(Sierra Magazine illustration by Thomas James)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writers Abroad, Writers Renewed

Teaching at the Abroad Writers Conference this winter at Lismore Castle, Ireland (and coming up again in late June at Lake Como, Italy), reminds me of just how powerful and energizing the simple act of getting away from the familiar can be. Surrounded by talented faculty and authors both aspiring and accomplished, living for a week in Ireland's oldest castle, did as much for my own writing as for any of our workshop participants. The entire experience was inspiring — great colleagues, new friends both Irish and American, and living in Sir Walter Raleigh's art-filled, sumptuous castle. How cool is that?

I can't wait for my next nonfiction workshop at the upcoming Abroad Writers Conference June 21-28 at the sublime Lake Como, Italy (photos below). Why not join us?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

eBook Debut: Over Here, Buried Secrets, Murderer With a Badge

One of the great things about eBooks is the new life and audiences they can bring to an author's work. So I'm pleased to announce the publication today of three of my earlier titles in eBook editions by Diversion Books.

Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream, shares the stories of famed filmmaker Arthur Penn, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, political leaders Bob Dole and George McGovern, and other men and women of the Greatest Generation who shared two things in common: they all fought in WW II, and they all used the original GI Bill to transform their own lives — and an entire nation. Over Here is, in short, the "after-the-war story" of the Greatest Generation. The original GI Bill opened college education to the masses, transformed America from a nation of renters into a nation of homeowners, and enabled an era of middle-class prosperity never before seen in the world.

The LA Times wrote of Over Here: "Deeply moving, alive with the thrill of people from modest backgrounds discovering that the opportunities available to them were far greater than anything they had dreamed of… Vivid… inspiring.. told with such warmth and enthusiasm."

Get the eBook in your favorite format.

Buried Secrets: A True Story of Serial Murder, is my first book, a true-crime tale of drug-running, ritual murder and official incompetence on the Texas-Mexican border. When college student Mark Kilroy, nephew of a senior U.S. Customs official, disappeared during spring break in the border town of Matamoros, the manhunt led to a drug-smuggling cult ruled by a Miami priest of black magic, Adolfo Constanzo. Exposed with him was a cult that committed dozens of human sacrifices, followers drawn from the highest levels of Mexican law enforcement, and years of getting away with murder because U.S. border law-enforcement agencies were more interested in fighting one another than fighting crime.

Wrote the Washington Post: "Chilling… a masterful job." Publishers Weekly called Buried Secrets "one of the best true-crime tales in recent times," while Ann Rule, author of The Stranger Beside Me,  said it was "the definitive book on the most despicable yet fascinating criminal of our time."

Get the eBook in your favorite format.

Murderer With a Badge: The Secret Life of a Rogue Cop, is the true story of the dirtiest cop in Los Angeles. Nicknamed “Mild Bill” for his unassuming manner, William Leasure, a seemingly ordinary traffic cop by day,  ran a ring of luxury yacht thieves and engineered murders for hire in his spare time. His home was a showcase of stolen property and stolen cars. He owned an airplane and a yacht — yet no one seemed to suspect Mild Bill of anything. Only a chance encounter aboard a stolen vessel led to his arrest. In writing this book, I had access to the investigators who made the case, and to Leasure himself as he sat in jail and handicapped his own trial day after day. That allowed me to  bring readers deep inside the story of what happens when the police investigate one of their own,  and into the mind of a cop who thinks he can get away with anything — and almost did.

The Flint Journal said of Murderer With a Badge: "a riveting glimpse of the dark side of human behavior... a fascinating walk on the wild side... Humes recounts Leasure's story with the skill of a master suspense novelist." The Miami Herald described the book as "Rife with vivid description… Disturbing." And Kirkus Reviews wrote: "Fascinating.. . a superbly crafted chronicle of one of the most complex, enigmatic criminals in memory. Far stronger and more compelling than most crime fiction."

Get the eBook in your favorite format.

Wine, trash, talk: Events Round-up

Whittier Meet the Authors and BookFaire: This Saturday, March 15, I'll be talking trash, wine and all things non-fiction, as well as signing copies of my biography of wine mogul Jess Jackson, A Man and His Mountain, and Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. And yes, I worked on both of these diametrically different books at the same time! Come find out how and why.

Later this month (air time to come), I'll be talking wine and A Man and His Mountain on American Public Media's Splendid Table.

On Sunday April 13, I'll be at the LA Times Festival of Books at USC.  My panel, "Nonfiction: Exploring a Singular Pursuit," will be at the Taper Forum at 2 pm, with authors Tom Bissell, Dana Goodyear and Greg Sestero and moderator Elizabeth Taylor.

Next up is the very cool Bay Gourmet Event on the evening of April 21 for A Man and His Mountain at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, where I'll be "in conversation" with the most powerful woman in the wine industry, Barbara Banke, chairwoman of Jackson Family Wines (and wife of the late winemaking legend, Jess Jackson, the subject of my book).

I'll be in Lake Como, Italy, June 22-29, for my second tour of duty at the Abroad Writers Conference, where I'll be leading an intensive nonfiction workshop geared to professional and published writers. It's not too late to sign up now!

And in August I'm off to Orlando to speak at the convocation at University of Central Florida, where the freshmen are kicking of their First Year Experience with Garbology as their campus common read. I was recently at the FYE conference in San Diego, where I spoke to college representatives from all over the nation on Garbology.