D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
All Roads Lead to Murder
979-8850121686 $35.00 Paper/$14.99 Kindle
All Roads Lead to Murder charts NYPD homicide procedurals, stems from Stewart Bird's working day (spent with NYPD Detective Sergeant Detective Vernon J. Geberth, who was investigating a homicide in the Bronx), and provides three murder stories based on his real-world experiences. The resulting novellas here (Murder at the Yeshiva, One Murder at a Time, and Go West Old Man) all feature explorations by NYPD homicide detective Mo Shuman, who is on the cusp of retiring, but never more involved in his profession. Rather than backing away from cases, Mo not only embraces them, but finds these cases reaching into his personal life as his last involvements involve hunting down murderers whose actions heavily impact his own future. The progressive nature of these tales makes them perfect for presentation under one cover, linking Mo's shifting objectives in a manner that is uniformly appealing, logically presented, and compelling in their ability to move between murder mystery and personal impact. The trio opens with Murder at the Yeshiva, in which Mo and his partner Detective Dynaburski are charged with hunting down a murderer whose ability to affect Mo's future is dangerously powerful. Shuman has grown up on the Lower East Side and still lives there. His familiarity with the area, his Jewish background, and the nature of both murderer and victim leads him to dark examinations and connections a Shuman traces the pathways of past and present to find answers to seemingly disparate clues that just seem to lead to more puzzles. Stewart Bird's ability to craft a winning story steeped in a powerful sense of time and place, where the savvy detective must tap these roots in order to both find resolution and resolve a murderer's real intentions, creates an especially intriguing set of circumstances as rabbis and rules coalesce to produce insights Mo struggles to weave together. One Murder at a Time sees Mo not retiring, but reuniting with former partner Mike Gallagher on a twenty-year-old cold case that turns hot once again, with new evidence and ideas fueling its continuing relevance. As the duo find their probe igniting simmering passions of the past, their families and lives are threatened by forces that still hold a vested interest in keeping the past subdued against all odds. In this case, the only odds for resolution rest on two dogged investigators whose noses for trouble uncover situations that lead them away from the Cold Case Squad and the NYPD to situations far outside their familiarity or comfort zones. The answers lie in arenas that challenge both detectives on personal and professional levels as events provoke questions about connections between love, money, and the two detectives who draw ever closer to a dangerous truth. Bird crafts a simmering tone of investigative quandaries and interpersonal relationships in this story which further expand Mo's life and habits while adding the overlay of a case which reaches from New York to the New Jersey suburbs, Alexandria, Virginia, and beyond. His expansion of Mo's identity and processes from Murder at the Yeshiva to this very different challenge enhances an approach that personalizes the processes of investigators, perps, and the motivations and experiences that lead them down a deadly path of confrontation and trauma. Go West Old Man brings the personal aspects of investigative prowess home as Mo once again finds any hopes of retirement thwarted—this time, by a gang war that destroys any ideals of peace. In trying to escape this life-altering experience, Mo instead finds himself embroiled in a different style of gang war far from his native New York and connections. Working with Deputy Sandoval, Mo finds he must employ his most savvy procedural processes in order to resolve not just this gang war's fits and starts, but the impact a similar situation has made upon his life. Once again, Bird crafts a story of investigative strength that derives its main attraction from juxtaposing personal and professional challenges. It's unusual to have events evolve in a murder mystery from a series of progressive cases that also follow character growth. Receiving these three novellas under one cover gives readers the rare opportunity to better know Mo, the NYPD, and the cases that lead not to pat resolution, but life-changing lessons. Libraries and fans of detective procedurals who look for stories steeped in a gritty sense of place, an attractive lure of psychological growth, and questions about making it home alive from this kind of work will find All Roads Lead to Murder outstandingly realistic and compelling. Stewart Bird pairs thought-provoking drama with crime stories that feature, as their main attraction, a series of plots that lead to a greater result: a thought-provoking, involving story of a detective's ongoing evolution.
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
ALL ROADS LEAD TO MURDER
BY STEWART BIRD ‧ RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30, 2023
A collection of three gripping, well-told police procedurals.
Bird chronicles an aging New York detective's cases in this trio of crime stories.
Mo Shuman is a police detective in New York's 12th Precinct. Known as "Shuman the Human" for his unusually strong sense of empathy (at least for a cop), he finds his humanity challenged and reaffirmed in equal measure by the people he encounters on the Lower East Side. Along with his ex-partner and best friend, Mike Gallagher, Shuman is about the best New York has to offer when it comes to solving a tricky murder case, but now that he's on the verge of retirement, he's mentally preparing himself to leave it all behind; Bird covers the final cases of Shuman's career in this omnibus collection. In "Murder at the Yeshiva," the Yiddish-speaking Shuman is assigned to investigate the death of a yeshiva student underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. In fact, the young man was a student at the same yeshiva Shuman attended during an earlier, more religious period of his life. As Mo shepherds a new, less-experienced partner through the case, he's moved to confront his relationship with his own Jewishness. In "One Murder at a Time," Shuman eschews retirement to work with Gallagher again as part of a cold case unit. "Gallagher had pitched the Cold Case Squad as a bunch of dinosaurs who knew how to solve difficult cases. Shuman owed Gallagher big time. Gallagher had saved his life twice, and Shuman figured if he retired he'd never be able to pay off those debts." It turns out, however, that some powerful people may not want two dinosaurs digging up long-buried bones. In the concluding "Go West Old Man," murder strikes much closer to home—in Shuman's own household—leaving the bereft ex-detective looking for a distraction from his pain. He finds one at the Texas border, of all places, where a reporter friend of his is suspected of murder after her girlfriend turns up missing. With each case, Shuman's humanity is put further to the test—and eventually he may reach a breaking point. Bird's matter-of-fact prose mixes sober descriptions of his characters and the city with jocular back-and-forth exchanges between cops and civilians, as when Shuman's lieutenant explains why he picked him and his partner for the yeshiva case: " 'Boss,' said Dynaburski, 'I really don't know this yeshiva stuff.' Mulroy turned to Dynaburski. 'You're Jewish, aren't you?' 'But not like Orthodox or anything.' 'You two are the only Jewish homicide team in the city. Even Israel can't put together a team like this.' " Shuman makes for a winning protagonist—professional, mildly introverted, slightly haunted, with a deep love of New York City and of the close-knit Puerto Rican family he married into. The pieces flow nicely into one another, telling a continuous story even as each feels self-contained. The transition to Texas in the final volume may strike some readers as jarring, but regardless of the setting, Bird manages to capture the ways in which crime—and particularly murder—seems inextricably woven into the American experience.
A collection of three gripping, well-told police procedurals.
Pub Date: June 30, 2023
Page Count: 609
Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
Review Program: KIRKUS INDIE
Awards & Accolades
GET IT ✔
Stewart Bird is a playwright, author and filmmaker. He has been a lifelong New Yorker, born in the Bronx, and now living on Long Island.
Contact Stewart Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org
1970-1986 He wrote, directed, and co-produced a dramatic feature film, Home Free All, which is distributed by Almi Films. Furthermore, he has also produced and directed numerous feature-length documentaries, including the award-winning Finally Got the News (with Peter Gessner and Rene Lichtman) on auto workers in Detroit, Michigan; Retratos on Puerto Rican community; Coming Home on Vietnam veterans; and The Wobblies (with Deborah Shaffer) on the turn of the century labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World and Building the American Dream: Levittown, New York on William Levitt's creation of suburbia.
1987 He wrote and produced for WCBS in New York a half-hour special on Teenagers and Alcohol. Additionally, in 1987, he wrote an original one-hour dramatic story for Wonder Works entitled The Mighty Pawns which won numerous awards including the NAACP Image Award and Silver Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival.
The Mighty Pawns played nationally on PBS and the Disney Channel.
Home Free All was at the Montreal Film Festival, USA Film Festival, and was distributed theatrically across the country by Almi Films. It is also distributed nationally on videocassette by Vestron.
Retratos was aired nationally on PBS.
The Wobblies played theatrically and educationally throughout the world. The Wobblies was selected in 2022 to The National Film Registry, Library of Congress. It has been restored by the Museum of Modern Art and is in their permanent collection.
Finally Got the News and Coming Home are distributed educationally by The Cinema Guild.
Building the American Dream: Levittown, New York, is distributed by The Cinema Guild. Credited on ABC's Nightline (with Jeff Greenfield).
Grants for his films have been received from many sources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, N.Y. Council For the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts.
Stewart Bird, All Roads Lead to Murder. 2023
Steward Bird, Dan Georgakas, Deborah Shaffer, Solidarity Forever (Lake View Press, Chicago, 1985).
Stewart Bird, Peter Robilotta, The Wobblies, The U.S. vs. Wm. D. Haywood, et al. (Smyrna Press, Brooklyn, NY, 1980).
CBS NEWS, New York, Producer 48 Hours
FIRE: Two parts on a 9 alarm fire in Boston's Chinatown. A portrait of the Boston Fire Department and its Commissioner, Leo Stapleton. (4:37, 455).
Trauma: A story about former boxer, Juan Collado was struck by a hit and run driver and miraculously survived his wounds at a local emergency ward but was refused lifesaving treatment by 11 California hospitals basically because he didn't have the right medical insurance. (6:50).
Another America: Two parts on country singer Dwight Yokam. Although he now lives in Hollywood we see the strong connection to his roots in Floyd County, Kentucky as reflected in his music and his life. A story on the economic hardships in Floyd County, Kentucky: A look at family-run coal mine and the booming underground business of cockfighting. (6:50, 3:35).
Underground: A story about Incest in Baltimore. A look at a child who is recovering victim and a father in jail who is unrepentant about his incestuous relationship with his daughter. (5:17).
Stuck on Welfare: He was Point Producer on this hour and also produced two stories: A portrait of Welfare Worker Norman Klobarcher #1469. The perfect bureaucrat struggling with a stressful job. (7:28). A story about how Wisconsin is attempting to prevent poor people from surrounding states coming to Wisconsin for higher welfare benefits and how a young woman from the Chicago Ghetto brought her whole family to Wisconsin for the better life. (6:18).
Earth Wars: A portrait of Bonnie Reiss the Executive Director of ECO (Earth Communication Office), a former Theatrical Attorney in Hollywood who is now rallying the Hollywood Community to save the environment. (6:00).
FOX TELEVISION, New York. Producer A Current Affair
Alan Berg: This is the story of the murder of the irreverent Denver radio talk show host, Alan Berg, and the growing violent movement of white supremist neo-Nazis. (9:00).
A Cycle of Justice: Six members of a hard working farm family, the Aldays, were murdered in the small, rural Georgia town of Donalsonville by three escaped convicts. Fourteen years ago in the Seminole County Court House the escaped convicts were convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair in an apparent open and shit case. (7:00).
This Jail's for You: This is the story about a Florida inmate in a half-way house doing the last year of a sentence for armed robbery and working full-time outside the facility. On Christmas Eve he is caught with two six-packs of "cold" beer in his room. He is arrested and convicted and given fourteen years' additional sentence to serve and sent back to maximum security prison. (5:00).
Elvis Presley: This is an unswerving look at Elvis' rise to stardom and his slow tragic demise. There are interviews with Red West, his best friend and bodyguard, David Stanley, his step-brother, and Lynda Thompson, his lover, who had to leave because she could not watch Elvis kill himself. (18:00).
Big Foot: This is the story of a murder in upstate New York where a woman was bludgeoned to death and a likely suspect, 6-foot-9-inch Terrence Murname, was arrested and convicted of the crime. Police claimed they found a bloody sneaker print that matched Murname's size-16 sneaker. But police could find no other forensic evidence to link Murname to the murder. (9:00).
Ivan Boesky: The greed that led Ivan Boesky to commit crimes in order to illegally make hundreds of millions of dollars by insider trading information is paralleled in the film Wall Street. (6:00).
Scenario for Death: Three Joplin, Missouri high school youths including the class president were accused of murdering their classmate Steven Newberry by beating him with baseball bats in a brutal Satanic murder and then stuffing him down a well. They claimed Steven was inferior and showed no removes in his killing. But Newberry, a nice kid, had become obsessed with good and evil after hanging out with his classmates and wrote a short story which predicted and paralleled his demise at the bottom of a well. (7:00).
The Night Natalie Died: This investigative piece raises the possibility of a cover up by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Coroner's Office on how and when Natalie Wood died. (22:00).
Son of Sam: Along with author Maury Terry, who spent ten years writing his book The Ultimate Evil, an examination of Satanic cults in the U.S., we look at the thirteen shootings and six murders David Berkowitz was convicted of as the lone crazed killer who heard voices in the Son of Same shootings in the summer of 1977. A convincing case is made that Berkowitz was part of a Satanic cult based in Westchester County that was involved in all the shootings. (16:00).
Son of Satan: In this segment we look at a Satanic murder in East Northport, Long Island, and its connections to some other unsolved murders and appearances in neighboring Nassau County. In these cases, drugs, heavy metal music, child pornography, prostitution and Satanism are involved. (19:00.)
Solidarity Forever (book)
This study of the Wobblies is a vital part of our history that has never appeared in the traditional chronicles. It's time – high time – we knew of this indigenous American movement. An excellent book.
- Studs Terkel
The Wobblies (film)
"'The Wobblies'" is a history of the IWW, researched lovingly and corroborated by the reminiscences of some of the union's former members, who are now in their 80's and 90's. Along with filming interviews with these stalwarts, the directors have collected songs, posters, portraits and animated and live-action footage of the period. When the facts are presented as fully as they have been here, the feelings that accompany them aren't difficult to imagine."
- Janet Maslin
The New York Times
"In this heart-warming, brain-stirring compilation mixing personal testimony with archive material, we are shown America's first mass movement, the Industrial Workers of the World fighting against mounting odds for the bare minimum needed to keep body and soul apart. Instead of saving the world by turning inward for their own spiritual improvement, they set out to change it, regardless of anything that was inflicted upon them – beatings, assassinations, exile, imprisonment, insults, blacklisting. It is an illuminating history of democracy which deserves the widest audience."
- Alan Brien
The Sunday Times (London)
Building the American Dream: Levittown, NY (film)
In its way, "Building the American Dream: Levittown, N.Y." a new documentary by Hofstra University Prof. Stewart Bird and a team of student assistants, looks at both ends of America's archetypal suburb. Through interviews, old photos and home moves, Bird manages both to provide a touching portrait of Levittown's creation and to suggest that young people may never again have as easy a time financially in reaching the American Dream.
Beyond the great social achievement of Levittown was the story of Levitt himself. As it happened, Levitt gave his last interview to Bird. It was a poignant moment, the old builder talking about the future, after years of failed projects had ruined his business. "Now we're in a peculiar position," he tells Bird. "I'm incapacitated. My father and my brother, both dead. We're just marking time. But I have a regular organization ready to plunge in full-time. I need another six months. I'm just now beginning to walk." A few weeks later, the father of suburbia was dead.
- Jack Sirica
Mighty Pawns (film)
Chess is not your everyday, Super Bowl-type of game, but it serves as the fascinating backdrop of "Mighty Pawns," an excellent and inspirational story about the salvation of so-called "problem" students in an inner-city school. This is not one of those sterile, preachy message dramas, the soap-box approach. It's a realistic story about a new teacher in a tough environment, the students there bored and disliking their lot. Determined to arouse their interest, the teacher persuades them to try the game of chess eventually, but not easily, winning them over. By now the school team has been winning, and is going to the national championships. It's a happy ending, which avoids the peril of contrivance to get there. And, incidentally, this is based on real-life happenings at a school in Philly. The case is uniformly topnotch, the best of them being Terence Knox, as the dedicated teacher; Paul Winfield the principal, and Alfonso Ribeiro, the whiz kid at chess. Direction by Eric Laneuville and script by Stewart Bird are very good.
The Wobblies: U.S. vs. William D. Haywood et. al. (play)
"There is humor in the proceedings; I was constantly absorbed and because the tone of the show, despite its serious subject and implications was generally light, it proved enjoyable theater."
- Harold Clurman
"…The Wobblies is essentially a moving and fascinating document of our early bloody labor history."
- Arthur Sainer,
The Village Voice
Coming Home (film)
"The most accurate portrayal of Vietnam veterans I've ever seen."
- Dr. Robert J. Lifton,
Author of Home from the War
Finally Got The News (film)
"Its portrayal of men and conditions in Detroit makes Goddard's auto workers' discussion in BRITISH SOUNDS look like high tea…the film's off-hand coverage of life in the auto industry, and its effective presentation of a black militant position make it a very startling document to white middle-class audiences, radical or otherwise."
- Ernest Callenbach,
Home Free All (Feature Film)
Stewart Bird has benefited from his years of winning awards as the docu helmer of socially conscious pics like "The Wobblies," and "Coming Home," a docu about Vietnam vets that preceded the Hollywood production. He knows and develops his characters with tolerance and a great deal of humor, and displays a gift for straightforward story-telling about psychological complexity. Central to each of the principal's like is his experience in Vietnam, confessed to a montage of black-and-white flashbacks. The device does not interfere and slowly develops Barry's worst fears about conformity.