Saturday, April 4, 2015

4/4/1976 John Ball suffers a home invasion

April 4, 1976.  John Ball was a successful writer from the start.  His first novel n The Heat Of The Night, introduced his most successful character, Virgil Tibbs, won the Edgar for Best First Novel, and was made into an Oscar-winning movie and a TV series. 

One thing he did with his success was start collecting jade.  Unfortunately those precious stones collected unwanted attention.  On this date, early in the morning, Ball opened the door and found himself looking at a huge man with a .38 automatic in his hand.  Ball, with a black belt in karate, decided not to fight.  He was soon bound in masking tape, barely able to breath.  In less than twenty minutes the precious jade figurines "some of which I had carried back from the Orient on my lap to guard against breakage," had been dumped into a pillow case and carried off. 

The cops, using a variety of methods - including hypnosis! - identified the bad guy, who was caught and convicted. 

You can read Ball's whole account of the ordeal (titled "211 Dossier") in I, Witness, a remarkable collection of essays by mystery writers about their experiences with true crimes.  My favorite part is the TV reporter who asked him to "please remove the bust of Hitler from the mantlepiece" before they started filming.  Ball explained that it was Poe not Hitler (his Edgar award), and it wasn't going anywhere.

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