Book Cover

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Your Great Book

Dear Mr. Goodwin:

I purchased The Winecoff Fire quite a few years ago and just read it again for the third time this past weekend (and I know it won’t be my last re-read). You and Mr. Heys did a phenomenal job with the book – the research and writing was amazing.
Today over my lunch hour, I searched the internet, and, after all these years, found your website. I am so glad you put this together.

I grew up with a fear of fire. Fortunately, neither my relatives or I have had any personal experience with fire. So, I am not sure where the fear came from. At some point past my college years, my fear turned to an interest of wanting to learn more about the famous fires that have taken place in the U.S. That is when I began to read books about all of the famous U.S. structure fires – the Winecoff, Coconut Grove, MGM Grand Hotel, Our Lady of Angels School, Beverly Hill Supper Club, etc.

In addition to my reading I have done some online research and have collected some pre-fire memorabilia from these different sites (i.e., a pre-fire key from the MGM Grand and pre-fire swizzle sticks from the Beverly Hills Supper Club – memorabilia I could acquire on e-Bay). I am a scrapbooker and want to put together a book on each of these disasters. When I saw the memorabilia section on your website, I could really appreciate that.

I am really glad you and Mr. Heys wrote this book. It shines a light on a tragedy that should not be forgotten and one which we can all learn from.

It must have been amazing talking to the individuals who survived this tragedy. I would be mesmerized hearing their stories. It must be frustrating, though, not seeing an exact cause of the fire ever “officially” determined. I assume you support the arson theory, which must make the frustration level even greater…knowing that someone got away with this horrible crime. Do you think it was Roy McCullough who set the fire?

Thank you for reading through all of my rambling. God bless you for remembering the people -- both the victims and the survivors -- involved in the Winecoff fire.

Caroline Lilienthal
Minneapolis, MN

Dear Caroline,

Thanks for your very kind e-mail. Because we worked so hard on the book it's always gratifying to know readers still benefit from it.

I can understand your interest in the families who are touched by fires. We continue to be astounded by the reaction we get from families who tell us we've answered many lingering questions about their loved ones.

A fire's impact on a family seems to outlast the impact of other tragedies: car crashes, heart attacks, etc. What we've learned about the Winecoff fire's lasting impact could fill a second book. Just last week a fellow mailed me a photo of his aunt, Ethel Stewart, room 1228. He just wants her remembered. Watch for a new post soon on winecoff.org that will do just that.

Actually, I don't feel any frustration about the mystery surrounding the fire's origin. In fact, I remain intrigued by it. You are correct, Roy (Candy Kid) McCullough is our favored suspect but Richard Fletcher, room 510-12, the Luckey brothers, room 330 and others were there with motives and opportunities also.

Congratulations on converting your fear of fires to a productive interest in them. That's a good trick. A cool head in an emergency is essential. Our study of the Winecoff fire showed us that many who panicked died unnecessarily.

Thanks again and stay safe,