The Execution of Joseph Wood

60 Minutes, November 29, 2015

After the Joe Wood execution, July 2014

Michael Kiefer and Mark Curtis interview Jodi Arias

Interview with Jodi Arias attorney Jennifer Willmott

The Marissa DeVault trial on ABC's 20/20


The Jodi Arias trial on NBC's Dateline


About: Chasing the Panda

From Publishers Weekly

Wealthy American widow Ruth Harkness became famous in 1936 for bringing the first live giant panda to the United States, but little has been known about the two Chinese-American hunters who led Harkness on her trek through the Sichuan mountains in search of the panda. Kiefer, a freelance writer and former Outside magazine editor, tells the story of Quentin and Jack Young, dashing naturalists and adventurers. Kiefer first met Quentin in the late 1980s and spoke with both brothers (by then estranged), though he spent more time with Quentin. At the time of the expedition, the Young brothers and Harkness knew little about pandas (Quentin actually admits that he hated them), and Kiefer doesn't whitewash the cruelty of their mission. In the 1930s, only a handful of Westerners had seen these animals, and swashbucklers such as Theodore Roosevelt's sons, Ted Jr. and Kermit, had made a sport of hunting them. Once Chicago's Brookfield Zoo bought Harkness's panda, other zoos began to covet their own specimens, setting off a legacy of panda hunting that led to the animals' becoming endangered. At the same time, the author obviously admires Quentin, though he's aware how unfashionable and morally dubious his lifestyle as a hunter is considered today. As he puts it, "Quentin Young is the last specimen of an endangered species: the early twentieth century explorer-adventurer-naturalist." Readers interested in either this or the more traditional kind of endangered species will enjoy this well-researched, nuanced tale.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-The excitement and, depending on readers' sensitivity about hunting, the gore that surrounded one panda's journey from its natural habitat to an Illinois zoo in 1936 are part of this story. The true tale, however, lies in the relationship of those doing the chasing, in particular, Quentin Young, a neophyte naturalist in China who was challenged by his older brother, Jack Young, a celebrated expeditionist, to build a reputation by guiding an American woman through the bamboo thickets in Sichuan to capture the animal. Gutsy Ruth Harkness got a baby panda, fodder for a book, the drive to be a lifelong adventurer, and a broken heart after a month with Quentin. Personal interviews and solid research about the individuals before, during, and many years after the "chase" contribute to this captivating biography. YAs will see how nationality, politics, economics, and even sibling rivalry can make or break a person, and how time can tame one's outlook. Teens who tune in to "Biography," Animal Planet, or the History Channel will eagerly turn the pages and stare hard at the black-and-white photos, typical of the era, to find evidence of the melodrama described. A trip to the zoo will take on new meaning.
Karen Sokol, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In 1936 few westerners had ever seen a live giant panda. In fact, the only ones ever observed outside of China were dead --shot by big-game hunters and stuffed for museum display. This was all to change when Ruth Harkness, an American socialite, hired Quentin Young, a Chinese American hunter and guide, to lead her on a quest to capture a giant panda and bring it back alive. The sensation caused by Harkness' arrival with the infant Su-Lin is hard to imagine today, though the millions that visited him during his tenure at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo are echoed today by those viewing captive pandas around the world. Kiefer presents an exciting account of an unlikely expedition into the mountains of China, as New York urbanite Harkness set off to complete what her recently expired husband had begun: the capture of a giant panda. Period photographs are sprinkled throughout the text. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About: Speaking English

Chicago Reader, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Books / Spring Books Week Infinite gestation

Posted by Michael Miner on 04.11.12 at 07:10 AM

On March 27, 1981, a young Chicago writer named Michael Kiefer published a short story in the Reader called "Doesn't Anybody Speak English Anymore?" Kiefer liked his characters—Rudy, Hungarian super of a string of north-side apartment houses, and Harry, a kid from Wilmette who helps him out on maintenance runs—and used them again in 2000 in a short story he published in an airline's flight magazine. Now they're back, in a novel Kiefer brought out just three months ago. Creativity marches to its own drummer.


The novel is Speaking English, and the Reader story, somewhat revised (Harry, renamed, is now the narrator) is chapter two. The other short story is chapter five. "The book is pure Chicago," says Kiefer, now 59, who moved to Arizona in 1992. The delay in publishing Speaking English shouldn't be mistaken for an equal delay in writing it. In 2000 Kiefer quit his reporting job at New Times in Phoenix; "I didn't feel like writing anything for anyone else," he tells me, "so, nostalgic for Chicago, I sat down and wrote about 40,000 words for myself." That was his first draft of Speaking English, and he thought he had it sold. But, says Kiefer, the New York house that intended to publish it backed out when another Kiefer book, his first, did poorly despite good reviews.

That book was the nonfiction adventure Chasing the Panda: How an Unlikely Pair of Adventurers Won the Race to Capture the Mythical "White Bear," set in an era when Chinese pandas were exotic game, not cuddly emblems of detente. Kiefer did a lot of rewriting when a London editor showed a serious interest in Speaking English, but then she changed jobs and dropped out of the picture. Eventually Kiefer decided to join what he calls publishing's "brave new world."

He'd publish his novel himself.

For good measure, he'd republish his panda book. And he'd publish a couple more. He'd do it all using Amazon's CreateSpace, which lets authors design and load up their own books, to be sold as e-books for Amazon's Kindle and as paperbacks that Amazon prints and sells on demand. Kiefer chose as his paperback imprint Ni Modo Press, ni modo, he tells me, being a Mexican expression meaning "what the hell, move on."

"Does this lessen your interest?" says Kiefer as he explains the situation.

I tell him it compounded it. When the view outside your window becomes a brave new world, consult a map.

Kiefer says he wouldn't mind if I linked to his books on Amazon, so here's the link.

"People who have published books look at this more favorably than people who haven’t," he says. I'm sure that's true. Mere readers can hang on to fantasies of the dashing life of the author. Writers who struggle with agents and editors for a decade or more before their book is finally printed (or isn't) and then see it fall off the face of the earth six weeks later offer not only sympathy but a cheering section for authors willing to try another way.

Amazon lets authors like Kiefer promote their books by offering them as free downloads for a few days. He tried it with Speaking English, with so-so results. But he also tried it with Chasing the Panda. It was promptly downloaded about 5,000 times—bringing it a lot more readers than than it got from being commercially published a decade earlier—and actual sales followed after the promotion expired. "It doesn't really take money out of my pocket because it goes to readers who might not have seen the book otherwise," Kiefer reasons, "and then it generates sales and reviews and such, at no charge to me."

There's nothing about this brave new business model that would induce an author to give up his day job. Kiefer, fortunately, has one again. He covers the courts and legal issues for the Arizona Republic—"I've got a steady diet of serial killers and executions," he tells me. It's the kind of diet reporters once upon a time swore off to write books, but the world has changed.

We don't care how our writers do it. Here at the Reader there's a virtual shelf of books we claim as our own. We're adding Speaking English to that shelf.


About: The Lion Hunter

Phoenix New Times

By Paul Rubin Mon., May 21 2012 at 9:41 AM

Mike Kiefer, a longtime colleague of ours and (more important) a longtime friend, writes these days for the Arizona Republic, mostly about bad guys in trouble down at the Maricopa County Superior Court and elsewhere.

One of those bad guys is Jared Lee Loughner, pictured to the left (just so folks don't get the idea that Mike looks like that these days).

Mike is a fine reporter and a true wordsmith (we know one when we read one, just like the Supreme Court justice and pornography) and wish we still had him over here.

All that said, Mike writes novels "on the side," and will be reading from his latest, The Lion Hunter, tonight at 7 at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The address: 6429 South McClintock Drive.

The book, which we read over the weekend, is a compelling read about a conflicted fellow who works for the Arizona Game and Fish Department and is tasked with tracking down a bounty hunter who is killing mountain lions for angry renegade ranchers.

We actually skipped Mad Men last night (it's on DVR, natch) to finish the thing, and we're glad we did.

We fondly remember this real-life story that Mike wrote for us back in 1995, titled "The Lion Sting," which surely served as the seed for the fictional "The Lion Hunter."

It had this passage:

"Judging from the frenzied barking of the hounds, they'd treed their lion. Three shots rang out. Lutch sneaked down the outcropping for a closer view, and he could see Hendrix bent over a dead lion in the creek bottom, cutting off strips of meat to reward the dogs and maybe to eat himself. Predators, after all, hunt to eat, even if they relish the kill."

Good stuff, huh?

What we really wonder and may ask Mike tonight at his reading is where the hell he finds the time to write a damned good book. And, follow-up question, what do his editors think?

Maybe we'll just stick with the first question.