End Paper #1: Why Did I Write Hellhound?

Hellhound is the result of a long and widely scattered set of my seemingly random life decisions whose order and direction seem inevitable only when taken as a whole.

In short, I believe I have been led to this point in my life for specific, solid reasons. Many of those are described below and are fundamental to my motivation for writing this book.

Likewise, Hellhound is my attempt to adhere to the literary imperative to “write what you know.

With that in mind, this is why I wrote Hellhound.

I was born and grew up in a scandalously fractured but historically and politically significant family in which my mother and father married and divorced each other three times before marrying different people the fourth time.

The family was also fractured by genealogical fault lines. My mother’s side (Bradford in actual life) owned two plantations in the Mississippi Delta — Mossy Island near Morgan City and Saints Rest, not far from B.B. King’s hometown of Indianola.

In Hellhound, substitute “Stone” with “Bradford” and you’ll get a pretty accurate image of my background. The thoughts and actions of the book’s protagonist, Brad Stone, pretty much chart my own divergent path from my family.

Obviously, Stone’s military background is far more exalted than mine — which consisted of Naval ROTC and an appointment to the Naval Academy which was rejected because my near-sighted eyes were worse than 20/200 without glasses. No radial keratotomy vision correction back then.

Ironically, that academy appointment was arranged by family friend and raging racist U. S. Senator James O. Eastland.

Eastland was a close ally of my maternal grandfather —- Jack Wester Bradford — who was a Democratic Party kingmaker in the 1920s and ’30s back when he and other cotton aristocrats (and Delta pseudo-slave holders) ruled Mississippi and worked to keep its wealth and power all white.

Bradford was nicknamed “The Judge” even though he never held a formal judicial office. Family papers passed down to me by my mother include correspondence between The Judge and Governor Hugh White in which my grandfather issued instructions that the governor agreed to follow.

For the Judge, politicians existed as errand boys to do his bidding.

Significantly, that conflicted with my father’s family which included my great-great-great grandfather former U.S. Senator J. Z. George whose statue, I have publicly and repeatedly urged, be removed from its pace of honor in the U.S. capitol’s statuary hall. Various other Congressmen and Confederate generals filled out the family constellation of rogue stars. George invented the literacy test and the poll tax – two foundations of Jim Crow segregation.

As one of the key authors of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, he added those disenfranchising concepts.

Because of my parents’ fractured marriages – they married and divorced each other three times before marrying different people the fourth time –  I spent most of my formative early childhood in Itta Bena, a small Mississippi Delta town about 12 miles from my birthplace in Greenwood.

When I lived in Itta Bena, my grandmother’s full-time household staff included two African-Americans: cook/housekeeper Lena Gray and chauffeur/butler Al Thomas who had been originally hired by the Judge and who catered to my mother until she married my father in 1933.

In times of marital strife, my mother fled to that privileged environment. She did it so often that my grandmother added a complete two-bedroom apartment on to the main house for her. My early childhood memories of my father were me crying because he was so frequently absent.

As a consequence of having servants to handle household affairs, my mother never learned to cook or adopt any sense of household duties. Family photos show many images of me as an infant being cared for by young Black women in crisp white uniforms.

None of those photos included my playmates who included the Black children of the women who cared for me. One of them taught be how to ride a bicycle. Shortly before I entered first grade, that playmate disappeared. My mother told me, “that’s the way things have to be. It’s just like birds. You never see bluebirds flocking with cardinals.” I missed that little boy and cried for him a long time.

In church and Sunday school – mainly Presbyterian and Methodist sects – I was taught that it was God’s will that the white race should rule all other the races, especially African Americas.

As I grew older, the only consistent, stable adult man in my life amid all the marital strife that oscillated between Itta Bena and Jackson was a wise Black man, Al Thomas. I spent many hours with Al as he carried out his household duties including the times he spent bartending illegal liquor (Mississippi was still a “dry” state) at the veterans club on the Itta Bena square near the Roebuck Lake bridge.

Like Brad Stone in Hellhound, I learned much about growing up and becoming a man from Al Thomas. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for how I grew up. He also saved my life once when I was a small child. That incident is described in Hellhound.

Years later in Jackson, my family pulled political strings that allowed me — at age 13 in 1962 — to become the youngest page to serve in the State House of Representatives. This was during a special midnight session designed to block James Meredith from becoming the first Black student at the University of Mississippi – Ole Miss.

I vividly remember feeling at the racist glee that accompanied the attempt to bar Meredith. That feeling resulted in an awakening that had hit a crisis point in a required Sunday school Bible study session. During that session I questioned the teacher about racial injustice and noted that Jesus must have had dark skin and was a Jew (“They called him rabbi.”)

We had words and that was the beginning of a personal rebellion that ricocheted through agnosticism, extensive study of world religions (including classes in college), flirtations with Eastern religions and (like Brad Stone in Hellhound), and finally a conviction that God starts when the scientific unknowables begin.

In any event, the 1962 attempt to bar Meredith failed. When he finally was admitted, the resulting riots by white people ensued in Oxford, the home town of Ole Miss where my great-grandfather Andrew Armstrong Kincannon had been Chancellor. My grandfather William Lewis Perdue had been a professor of chemistry there following his Ph.D. from Princeton. That Perdue married the Chancellor’s daughter. Then, while she was still pregnant with my father, he abandoned her and disappeared. My father spent his entire life trying to locate his father – unsuccessfully.

My early experiences at the incongruity of white religion and race, and the evil lack of decency on the part of white people ate at me. As I grew older, the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers affected me deeply, especially when his assassin was lionized by many white people who expressed the opinion that “he got what was coming to him.”

I eventually left the state after being kicked out of Ole Miss for my substantial involvement in a large, peaceful protest. I was abruptly financially self-supporting at age 18. My father stopped speaking to me because I had “abandoned my heritage.”

Years later I would work as a top aide to Mississippi Governor Bill Waller who – as Hinds County District Attorney – had prosecuted Evers’ assassin against the will of the Democratic Party powers and despite death threats and fire bombings from the “good” white people.

But long before my work with Gov. Waller, I began to hang around the fringes of the civil rights movement in high school. At first, I was a minor player, more curious then than active. My “gateway drug” to activism led me to help fill out the ranks of supporters who lined the streets for protest marches. I was a grain of salt in a sea of pepper.

After that I began passing out flyers that others wrote.

My first step to useful action began when I started buying carloads of groceries and delivered them to the worst-hit Black neighborhoods. When getting to a ramshackle house, that often required walking on wooden planks over a ditch of raw sewage that ran along the side of the unpaved road.

In 1966, a close friend and I stood with the crowds lining Highway 51 in Madison County, between Canton and Jackson to support James Meredith’s March Against Fear. It was an extremely hot day, and a car in the procession carrying a group of school teachers from Ohio had overheated on the side of the road.

My friend and I offered to get water for the radiator. But when we were filling up the bucket from the faucet on a roadside house, the owner came out with a shotgun. We sprinted to my car but were quickly pursued by the homeowner and another man.

After a long car chase over gravel and unpaved roads, we lost them courtesy of my reckless driving and the powerful V-8 in my Plymouth Satellite which my mother had given me for my birthday that year.

That event pretty well crystallized my support of the Civil Rights movement.

I had made my choice and taken the leap of faith (nod to Kierkegaard) needed to set me on a course different from many of my friends.

However, I continued to keep my increasing involvement and interest in civil rights away from my family and most friends.

Keeping this secret was easy because I explained that my absences from school were occasioned by my intense interest in science and science fairs. That was often true when I visited a lab that Millsaps College had let me use for my high-energy particle experiments.

In May 1966, I won a number of prizes at that year’s International Science and Engineering Fair for a novel form of ion-based space propulsion that the front-page newspaper articles dubbed “The Cosmic Engine.”

Ion engines were just in the development stages as NASA at the time and were notorious for low thrust. To fix that, I built an ion engine like the ones that NASA was using, then gave it an electrical “afterburner” by interfacing it with a linear particle accelerator I built. Given enough time, that could create a velocity approaching the speed of light.

During this time, I also played high-school football and began to be more vocal about racial equality. Despite the cold shoulder that most students gave the token Black students, I learned their names and greeted them in the in the hallways between class changes, and in the classes I shared with them. I also had a secret adolescent crush on one of the girls. That crush was never fulfilled, but the fantasy is amplified by Brad Stone and plays out as a key part of the Hellhound plot.

All this resulted in a vigorous whispering campaign when I ran for student body president against: “Don’t vote for Perdue because all the N——-s are voting for him.”

The fact that I won that election, gave me a deep feeling of hope for the future and my fellow classmates of every hue.

After graduating in 1967, I grudgingly enrolled at the family university: Ole Miss. I had been accepted at MIT, but my father (true to the genealogical imperative of Southern ancestor worship) refused to allow me, and vowed not to pay a cent toward college unless I went to Ole Miss.

So, I went to Ole Miss, promptly got substantially involved in a small civil rights protest in my first semester, and instantly got kicked out.

I fled to Elmira New York where – thanks to my science fair project work – Westinghouse had given me a nuclear technology and satellite instrument internship the previous summer.

While my sweet Westinghouse technology internship work in Elmira was no longer available, the company gave me a technician position in their color picture tube factory and encouraged me to get back to school. I did that at the State University of New York, Corning where I earned an associate’s degree in math and science, also becoming the first student in school history to graduate with a perfect 4.0.

As a result, Cornell recruited me and in 1972 I got a Bachelor of Science “With Distinction” in my studies that included chemistry, biology and communications.

Having found a talent for journalism as editor of the Corning student newspaper, I paid my way through Corning and Cornell by working almost full-time for the Elmira Star Gazette and the Ithaca Journal.

I honed my skills as an investigative reporter working the consumer beat at the Journal, something I later advanced with Jack Anderson, The Washington Post, Dow-Jones and other national outlets.

Despite all this, I never lost my interest in racial justice and continued to follow events in my home state where there seemed to be a breath of fresh air in what national media called “The New South.” I later found that my hopes were far too high, and that the old ways were just waiting for a surge worse than anything COVID did to the state.

But, in 1973, while serving as a faculty member at Cornell, I wrote a widely read article for The Nation: “Mississippi: A Giant Step to Moderation” which subsequently led to my being hired by then-Gov. Bill Waller.

In 1974, I went to work as press secretary to Congressman (and later U.S. Senator) Thad Cochran who had been elected in 1972 as a prominent part of the “New South.”. Thad was a member of a now-extinct breed of political dinosaurs: Social liberal, economic conservative Republicans in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY), John Anderson (R-Illinois), Pete McCloskey (R-California) and Lowell Weicker (R-Connecticut).

It’s important to remember that at the time Thad had been elected with a surge of Black voters, the Mississippi Democratic party which was still under the iron hand of old-time, hide-bound segregationists exemplified by Senators James Eastland and John Stennis.

Thad was the first congressman of any party since Reconstruction to hire Black staffers for major positions. But Thad grew increasingly frustrated with the other Mississippi fresh face – Congressman Trent Lott – as well as the bulk of Congressional Republicans who were trending toward the right.

Pathetically, the current (as of 2022) U.S. Senator from Mississippi (elected to Thad’s post after his death) is an extremist, right-wing, racist Republican: Cindy Hyde-Smith.

She’s proud of being seen here posing with Confederate artifacts (web link) while visiting the Biloxi home of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In a now deleted Facebook post, Hyde-Smith wrote of Davis’s estate, which is now a historic site. “Mississippi history at its best!”

Hyde-Smith and the rest of the state’s return to Jim Crow politics came years after I had felt Thad’s frustration with increasingly extreme politics. So, in 1977 I felt that I had done for him all that I could and returned to the media (web link), when the opportunity came write an investigative book about Congressional corruption.

That experience resulted in the exposure of what became the “Koreagate” scandal involving South Korean CIA payoffs to member of Congress. I was able to invent a method for piecing together shredded documents (web link) from the office of the main perpetrator, Tongsun Park.

With the help of a quartet of former Jack Anderson interns – freelancers Ken Cummins, Jim Mintz, Wendy Kramer and Richard Sokolow – we pieced together an incredible array of smoking guns.

Ironically, the process I developed, taught a bunch of Iranian thugs how to reconstitute the shredded documents they found after looting the American Embassy in Tehran. See: “What The Argo Movie Got Wrong About Shredded Documents” (web link).

I also had a great, fun time teaming up with Jack Anderson who paired me with James (Six Days of the Condor) Grady (web link). Jim, and I – along with Ken Cummings – had a rollicking good time including busting up a gambling ring that was operated out of an office of the Capitol Police Force (web link).

I later freelanced for The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Monthly, Washingtonian and many other media outlets. As an investigative reporter for States News Service, and a Dow-Jones chain of daily newspapers, I covered the White House, Congress, Supreme Court and federal agencies and regulatory bodies.

I always looked at investigative journalism as a way to expose corruption — including racism.Along the way, I won a Freedom of Information Lawsuit against the Watergate Special prosecutor and was able to nail a former illegal campaign fund raiser for President Nixon as well as expose Robert Conkling, a top White House aide who, (with the help of friends in high places), had hidden his conviction on 18 counts of rape, sodomy and assault with a deadly weapon.

At the time, the pace was intense; life was intoxicating and the venues and articles were a journalist’s dream.

But then I quit that abruptly in 1978 when I was offered the opportunity to help run a Congressional campaign in Hartford Connecticut for Ben Andrews, “The GOP’s Great Black Hope.” Ben was a businessman and former head of the state NAACP.

I was astounded that the Republican party would get behind a Black candidate, but I was ever hopeful (incorrectly) that the party might turn away from “white is right” racism. I knew that Ben’s chances of winning were a long shot, but I saw this as a chance to try and make a difference. We nearly won, but Hartford — especially the suburbs — was simply too white. That was disheartening and posed yet another life choice.

I deferred an immediate decision to go back into the media. Instead, I bought a Eurail pass and took a long sabbatical, visiting 12 countries in three weeks. When I returned to my apartment in Washington D.C., I found offers from a number of media outlets. Fortunate, but I’d been there, done that and was sick of D.C. and tired of politics.

Then the decision was made for me: an offer to teach journalism at UCLA. Another opportunity to give back.

In addition to teaching journalism classes as part of the regular faculty, I served as advisor to the Daily Bruin and to the “special interest” publications including those serving African -American, LatinX, Pacific Islander, Jewish, LGBTQ+, and other non-WASP constituencies.

I enjoyed it all very deeply and was jazzed that I got a chance to ramp up my own commitment to social justice causes by helping minority journalists while also opening eyes among the mostly white Daily Bruin staffers to social justice issues.

I also taught those student journalists and the ones in my regular academic classes, the need for investigative journalism and well-sourced articles. I also fought to update all the publications from typewriters to electronic publishing.

That — along with the more aggressive reporting from the student newspapers — brought me into conflict with the administration. Toward the middle of 1983, I demanded that students get the modern publishing tools they needed for a proper education, or I’d resign. This became a public controversy in the wider Los Angeles community. The administration called my “bluff”, and I made another life decision: I resigned.

Suddenly, university bureaucrats announced they would provide an electronic system and started taking bids.

Job done.

Making this decision was an easy, thanks to the love and support of my wife and life partner Megan Mills. In addition to a titanium backbone, Megan had also be a successful stage manager for live theater in Los Angeles and had substantial experience with the foibles of creative people like me. After 40+ years of marriage, Megan remains the string to my kite. Without her, the kite flies crazy and crashes.

After punting UCLA, I was unemployed less than a week when a job offer came in that launched me into the hyperspeed world of Silicon Valley where I could use my experience in, and love of, science and technology.

That took me along a 15-year path of startups, steep learning curves, and building my own companies including two wine publications, writing technology columns for high-tech publications, and as a founding columnist for TheStreet.Com,

Along the way, I also founded PocketPass — a financial technology company that was the first ever to roll out online merchandise payments. Sadly, that was 2001 before there was much of anything to buy online and the era of the smart phone was still six years in the future. Can you say “bleeding edge?”

Sometime in 2002, I got an email from an innovative educational operation in Sunflower County Mississippi that eventually became one of the crystallizing events that resulted in my writing Hellhound.

The email was from the Sunflower County Freedom Project (SCFP) (web link) that asked me if I could buy copies of Fahrenheit 451 for their reading program.

I did some research and found that SCFP was an astounding success, conceived and executed by veterans of the Teach For America (web link) project. SCFP was taking Black youngsters from one of the most impoverished areas in the United States and providing them with a learning environment and equipping then with an educational mentoring and personal development program that was successfully sending them on to major colleges and universities.

So, I bought those books and, over the following months, a lot more including their first WiFi system. For a while, I also served as a board member. The experience re-awakened my desire to do something for my home state, and for people whose ancestors had been exploited by my own ancestors.

This was particularly significant because SCFP was located in The Mississippi Delta, near Indianola and not far from the historical Saints Rest Plantation. SCFP was 18 miles from Itta Bena and 25 miles from Greenwood. Both of those areas play prominent roles in Hellhound.

That struck a loud chord because Saints Rest plantation had been owned by my grandfather “Judge” Bradford. What’s more, that plantation had been part of my inheritance.

When the Judge died, it had been passed along to my grandmother who, in turn, had passed along a portion to me and other grandkids.

Because I was a minor, that inheritance was administered by my mother and her sister. My piece of Saints Rest disappeared the instant I got kicked out of Ole Miss for my role in the protest. It was a dead-weight to the past and I was glad to see it gone.

More importantly, my first visit to SCFP, suddenly re-rooted me in my past. My eyes were re-opened and my memory refreshed from childhood.

That moved me closer to writing Hellhound.

After I finished Hellhound – which was editorially gutted, and renamed “Perfect Killer” – I resolved to see if I could make a contribution to the Delta and its people that played such key roles in the book.

I felt that helping to organize a continuing, self-sustaining monetary effort to support better education would be the best plan of action.

To do that, I organized Books ’n Blues (web link) in an effort to create a fun, entertaining fundraiser that could bring together authors and musicians. My goal was to build an event that could be repeated year after year.

In addition, I wanted to expand the base of charitable donors. I felt that a new source was needed because the same limited number of people in Mississippi continually get asked to contribute to worthy causes. But while there may be no limits to their depth of goodwill, the reality is that there is a limit to the depth of people’s pockets.

Rather than competing for a slice of the existing charity pie, Books ’n Blues intended to bake an entirely new pie to allow people to enjoy entertainment that had a charitable beneficiary.

My model was to seed fund a wine and food event with silent and live auction, music and food. This sort of function is repeated by many organizations all over California.

As one example, the 300-student school in Sonoma that both of my children attended, (web link)  netted more than $100,000 in April 2005 with its annual fundraiser. My goal was to adapt that sort of event to offer an entertainment benefit, open to and priced for people of all means and adapted to Mississippi tastes, culture and lifestyle.

I spent about $20,000 to cover the initial organization cost. In addition, my sister-in-law and one of her good friends bought a cool$12,000 top-of-the-line silent auction software program and spent their own money to go to Greenwood and train local volunteers on its use.

Our opinion was that the money was well-spent because it would be amortized by the proceeds from future fundraisers.

As the event took shape, it looked promising. The Chairwoman of the event was Myrna Colley-Lee (web link) — Morgan Freeman’s wife at the time (web link).

Viking Range (web link) — which is headquartered in Greenwood opened their arms and threw open their entire facility as the anchor venue for the event — auditorium, meeting rooms, cooking educational facility.

We recruited a great set of volunteers (web link). Some of the most prominent and expensive California wines were donated. Outstanding authors (web link) donated their time and travel expenses as did blues musicians (web link).

But even during the organization efforts, signs of trouble developed. African-American women – especially from the black sororities – were the energy backbone.

On the other hand, wealthy white women from the wealthy Grand Avenue side of the Yalobusha River and plantations beyond were less enthusiastic, less helpful and less willing to work alongside Black women. I did overhear one aging white Delta Belle complain that she was not brought up to do “hard labor” such as learning how to use auction software.

Despite that, the silent auction raised more than $15,000 (web link).

Sadly, without “outside agitators” like me to ramrod the next year’s event, the racial and socioeconomic divisions resulted in a mediocre event. It was the last one.

After the ultimate failure of Books ’n Blues, I was pretty well disconnected from the Delta and Mississippi as a whole. I followed Thad Cochran’s abuse at the hands of Tea Party (and narrow re-election thanks to the Black vote).

Thad’s death in 2019 severed one of the last things that had kept me connected to the state. Along with that disconnection, deaths in the family have left me with just one close relative in Mississippi whom I have promised to visit.

I also grew disconnected from book writing and publishing, given financial challenges, partly from a bad investment with a crooked bank (later closed by the Feds) plus my simultaneous tangle with The Da Vinci Code’s blatant plagiarism of my book, Daughter of God. I fought that one-sided battle (web link) to a draw and was vindicated by a major 2005 investigative article in Vanity Fair magazine — The Da Vinci Clone? (web link) That article documented how I had been out-lawyered, and falsely smeared by a sleazy PR campaign from the expensive flacks hired by Sony/Random House.

But the controversy had taken its toll. I had lost my long-time publisher, and was seen by other publishers as a troublemaker to be avoided. This also came about when the publishing industry was being disrupted by Amazon.

Pressed financially, many publishers sought shelter by being acquired by larger whales. Cost-cutting resulting from those mergers and layoffs meant that publishers cut marketing budgets and expected authors to do all that work themselves. Back in the 1980s I had been a managing director at MSLGROUP/Publicis — one of the largest PR and marketing firms in the world. However, I am a journalist at heart and never really loved PR: which is why I left it. As a result, I despaired at jumping back into that as my only client.

While I was burned out with publishers, I finally jumped into Amazon’s lap in 2006. First I reclaimed the rights to most of my previous books. With the super work of Christian Lane — a multi-talented publishing assistant — we published the books on Amazon.

At that time, I was busy with technology consulting gigs, but finally got around to writing a new original work: Die By Wire (web link).

I’ve found other activities (starting and running Wine Industry Insight (web link), and inventing the Clans recommendation algorithm (web link) that are more appealing to me than book marketing.

I have also returned to my first love, science. Since 2013 I’ve been researching the health effects of environmental chemicals — especially those from plastic.

That effort started with The Stealth Syndromes Project (web link), and segued to Stealth Syndromes Human Study (web link) then to The Center for Research on Environmental Chemicals in Humans (web link), and most recently, a published scientific paper (web link).

The scientific efforts are not just a matter of curiosity and aptitude, but also a way to give back. Significantly, the health of poor and people of color are disproportionately affected by the chemicals I study.

A blizzard of decisions directed every one of those decisions that increasingly separated me from Mississippi and social justice issues.

But as life continued, the next social justice chapter may have begun in 2013 when Shay Randall (Facebook handle, SuperShay Shay) an administrator for the private George Family Facebook group (web link) asked me to become the only white member of a family connected to J.Z. George. The George Family are my relatives because their ancestors had been slaves at George’s estate, Cotesworth.

I am jazzed to know these members of my family who have become my new and meaningful connection to Mississippi. Because slaves and their offspring don’t have birth certificates or other official registries of births and parentage, I’m actively trying to help the George Family members to use DNA forensics and technology to trace their ancestry.

You can track my previous writing about Perfect Killer and the Mississippi Delta at the Perfect Killer website (web link) and at my author site, Lewis Perdue (web link) and at my Amazon author page (web link).

A resume of sorts, focusing on work, can be found at: Ideaworx (web link) and at LinkedIn (web link).

Some Relevant Links To Supplemental Material

Hellhound on Amazon

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Softcover – 455 pages

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