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June 29th, 2012 2 Comments

A Snitch’s Dilemma

This weekend the New York Times Magazine publishes my story about Alex White, a police informant in Atlanta who helped bring his handlers to justice after they tried to use him to cover up their accidental killing of a 92-year-old widow.

I became interested in informants a couple of years ago after one in the employ of the FBI led four black Muslim men from Newburgh, New York (the “Newburgh Four”) to synagogues on my street in Riverdale, where they dropped off what they thought were bombs. read more

May 22nd, 2012 5 Comments


Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing is still considered contraband in New York state prisons — at least until the seven pages deemed a threat to security back in 2000 have been torn out. But though my book can’t come in whole, it appears that, as of last week, I can. read more

April 16th, 2012 Comments Off on CSI: Our Kitchen

CSI: Our Kitchen

I take sugar in my coffee, and make daily use of the diner-style dispenser in our kitchen. I like how the sugar comes out of there in a hurry.

Apparently I’m not the only one.
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January 28th, 2012 7 Comments

Yo, CO! Vinny Retires

I was lucky, when I entered corrections some years ago, that my training instructor was Vinny Nigro. He was a man of exacting standards who had a great sense of humor — mostly at his own expense. (“The inmates call me Abbott,” he said, a reference to the fat member of the Abbott & Costello comedy duo of the 40s and 50s.) That humor was a welcome relief in the boot camp atmosphere of corrections academy read more

November 21st, 2011 Comments Off on Warm/Cold Turkey Breast

Warm/Cold Turkey Breast

On Thanksgiving, I will be among the millions of Americans who have the somewhat unpleasant experience of handling a raw turkey, recently out of the refrigerator, relieved of its plastic coating. Somebody has to rinse the big clammy thing, pat it dry with paper towel, and otherwise prepare it for the oven. In our family, that person is me. read more

September 27th, 2011 Comments Off on The Fair Ophelia

The Fair Ophelia

Some of my subjects, I admit, are a bit dark. But this one is the opposite. I first came upon Ophelia Dahl in Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. (I had met Farmer while researching the story of Christy Mirach in the early 90s—see my previous blog post for more.) The daughter of author Roald Dahl, read more

September 13th, 2011 Comments Off on Girl, Grown Up

Girl, Grown Up

In 1994 I published an article in the New York Times Magazine called “The Hand-Off.” It was about the search of a young mother with AIDS, Evelyn Mirach, for someone to become guardian of her daughter, Carmen (nicknamed Christy), age 11, once Evelyn died. (This was before the advent of anti-retroviral drugs to treat the disease.)

Last month the magazine did an update on Carmen, read more

August 7th, 2011 2 Comments


Last Sunday was my friend Rick’s birthday. But two weeks earlier, his car’s odometer reached 200,000. Which matters more?

I know about the miles because he took a picture of the zeroes turning with his BlackBerry and sent it to me. I imagine he did that because the car used to be mine. It’s a 1995 Honda Accord EX wagon; my wife and I got it new. Rick took possession at 90,000-some miles, and drove it home to North Carolina. And has driven it and driven it and driven it since. read more