Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weston DeWalt

When I met Weston DeWalt, he said "Nice to meet you, Petrea Celeste."

Celeste is my middle name. I don't use it much, and it's not exactly all over the web. I said so.

"I'm a researcher," he said. No kidding.

Gary Weston DeWalt is a Pasadena author who came to worldwide notice in one of the most compelling stories to hit recent Los Angeles headlines. It began when his imagination was sparked by a single sentence he'd read about a boy who went missing near JPL in 1957 (on my 2nd birthday). Tommy Bowman was never found. DeWalt's idea was to write about how that loss affected Tommy's family over the years. But his research led him deep into a complicated tale involving bulldozers, bad men and even, peripherally, Charles Manson.

Mostly, though, DeWalt came across more and more unsolved cases of missing children, and all those children pointed their fingers at one man: Mack Ray Edwards.

The Pasadena author with a penchant for research helped solved a case that had gone cold more than 50 years ago. And along with LAPD Detective Vivian Flores, DeWalt may have unearthed even more crimes and at least one more criminal. The full story hasn't been told. Yet. DeWalt and Flores are writing the book.

Weston is no stranger to headlines. In 1997 he co-authored The Climb with Anatoli Boukreev, partly in answer to charges made against Boukreev in Jon Krakauer's bestseller, Into Thin Air about the 1996 Everest Disaster. The Climb sparked controversy which DeWalt had to answer because Boukreev died tragically soon after publication.*

It's a delight to converse with Weston DeWalt. He's smart, engaging, well-read and full of stories, some about his research. And after an hour or so it becomes clear that though crime and controversy may intrigue him, it's the people who hold his deepest interest. He cares about Anatoli Boukreev, who saved lives on Mt. Everest then didn't live to fully answer charges against his character. He cares about Eldon Bowman, who after fifty years has experienced little closure regarding the loss of his son. He cares about Detective Flores, who worked so hard on the case of the missing children. It has affected her career, DeWalt says. "It's affected her whole life."

There's more to know about Weston DeWalt, but this post is getting long. I know how Weston feels when a subject just grabs you.

*(I recommend Wikipedia as a beginning, not an end, to research.)


Bibi said...

Well, golly..."Who is that cute little man?" I asked myself when I saw his photo on the portal. Then, seeing his name, I thought you should have saved him for the W on ABC Wednesday. But I am glad I dropped in to check this absolutely fascinating post about a very interested and interesting man. I'm going to Google etc. him now.

Jim said...

What an interesting and rewarding life he has had. I bet you could listen to him all day and not worry about the time.

Afyonkarahisar said...

A Beautiful photograph. We Learned About it is one of the? Good work.

marley said...

What a fasinating post, and a fasinating man. He look like the sort of person who gets the bit between his teeth and won't let go until the end result is discovered.

Why was he researching and meeting you? Are you his next project?!

Jilly said...

What a fascinating story and such a interesting man - such a GOOD man. I loved reading about him. You didn't go on too long. Some do. You don't because you write so well and hold our interest right through to the last word. Truly.

Petrea said...

Bibi he's not so little, but you could say he's cute. And Jim, you're right: I could listen to him all day. He's not the type to talk all day, though. A good researcher is also a good listener.

Welcome, Afyonkarahisar! Thank you for visiting. I'm a fan of Izmir; and will visit your blog today.

Marley, he researched me because I asked to meet him, not the other way around. I'm interested in meeting published Pasadena writers and interviewing them for my blog. The first one was Dianne Emley. I'm hoping there will be more.

Petrea said...

Hi Jilly, just missed you. (I was wintering in Menton, as a matter of fact.) I usually work hard on the written part of my posts, but especially when I'm writing about a writer. So I'm grateful for your kind words, thank you.

Trish said...

fascinating stories, interesting man.

the pic is amazing---the reflection in the window shows you were across from Vroman's...which I think is VERY appropriate!

St├ęphane Kardos said...

Petrea Celeste is a beautiful name, tres tres joli.

D.C. Confidential said...

Gorgeous portrait and wonderful write up, Petrea!

USelaine said...

P, your writing really is inspiring. Style, clarity, pertinence. Sometimes, a sweeping little dance move. Your profiles have me thinking about doing something similar here. We have musicians, authors, journalists, artists, retired scholars... even fantastic everyday people worth introducing. Hmmm.

I also love your photographic style. The sandy tans, sky blues, oak-leaf greens, dusky blacks, are hallmarks of your distinctive eye. Brava!

Bernie K. said...

I second (third?) Jilly & Elaine—brevity is your secret weapon, which nobody knows about, and is absolutely essential and crucial if you want to make us pay attention and follow what you say, because when you keep things short & sweet and don't go on too long, we're more likely (if not absolutely certain) to keep up with your train of ideas, or thoughts, or images, or similies, or smilies, um, than we would be if instead of doing that you took a long time to say anything that you write to communicate your ideas. Therefore, I'm so glad we understand each other. BTW, who's the guy in the picture?

Anonymous said...

I remember this story. Did detective Vivian Flores work on the Hillside Strangler case? did she ever take to wearing a flower in her hair?

Laurie said...

Petrea Celeste... what a perfect name.

Beautiful portrait. Now I want to go read his work.

Dan said...

What a great post and an interesting guy. Thank you so much for pointing him out and pointing me to his books. I am off the Amazon !!!!!!!!!!!!!

maria said...

what a great photograph. the color of the wall and his jacket could not have been matched better. as for mr. dewalt...very interesting and sooo one of the good guys.

Ted Thompson said...

Interesting piece of your life, thanks for sharing it with us.

(And now I know where the Celeste in Celeste Burch came from...) ^_-

elizabeth said...

Oh, this is interesting. It's so neat to hear about the different people who share this city.

I think your Quest For Writers is a brilliant idea. It goes so nicely with your Quest For Cafes, doesn't it?

altadenahiker said...

I had been following the story about the little boys lost. Must be the parents' ultimate nightmare -- to seemingly lose sight of your child for a couple of minutes, but actually lose them forever.

Ms M said...

Very intriguing post. And I did do further research because his stories piqued my interest.
Good photo, too.
And Petrea Celeste is a lovely name :-)

Petrea said...

Trish, we were actually at Zona Rosa on El Molino; a window next door reflected Vroman's on Colorado!

PA, I googled "Vivian Flores Hillside Strangler" and didn't make the connection. Found a photo of her, though, and she looks too young to have worked that case.

Thank you all very much for your lovely comments. I hope you'll find out more about Weston DeWalt and "The Climb." I'll be watching for his new book and hopefully let you know here when it comes out.

Cafe Observer said...

My theory is Celeste led out GW deWalt under pretense. Then she lined him up against de Wall on El Molino & Colorado, at which time you she told him not to move -to "freeze", then just say "cheeze," & then she shot him!

The weapon? a saturday nite point/shoot & ask questions later special.

Little did he know his research would not uncover her real identity: the radical, merciless Dr. Burchard. But he did know, but he knew 2 late.

This is the last know shot of the poor fellow.

A very mysterious detective story. With many unanswered questions on top of many more unasked questions. But, Burchard won't talk other than to repeat her lines seen on some unknown blog.

Intriguing, interesting, fascinating, it's wunderful, marvelous, that it could come to this.

monoblog said...

Interesting post and a fine portrait.

Couple of words on Celeste: I'm working for Bianchi bicycles. Bianchi’s most recognizable trademark is the paint color “Celeste”. Many stories
told about the origin of this color. Also known as "Bianchi Blue" (despite it's more like green). It is said to reflect the color of the Milan sky; probably before air pollution. :-)
But the most widely held story is that Edoardo Bianchi wanted a color for his bicycles that was easily spotted in the cycling peleton.

Dina said...

His research sounds so scary.
I fourth all that your articulate commenters have said about your style, Celeste. What a celestial name! And you live up to it.

Petrea said...

Thank you, Monoblog. He posed very well and was comfortable with the camera.

I googled Bianchi Blue: it's my color! Just what I would want my bicycle to be.

Dina, you're sweet! His research is scary, yes, but also compelling. And he's smart--he saw connections other people hadn't seen, thereby solving the case. Fascinating.

Caga said...

If we take DeWalt behavior during the 1996 Everest crisis as the measure of his ethics as a writer and human being, I have to say he's absolutely trash.

He does anything for money and fame.

Petrea said...

Whatever he does, he doesn't hide behind anonymous tags. He publishes it with his name on it and allows the world to judge.