TOPLESS GOSPEL CHOIR— An eBook about murder in Baltimore

Wednesday, October 17th 2018 @ 11:30 PM


The Topless Gospel Choir, by Hal Riedl, is currently available on Amazon for $2.99.  Click here to purchase.

The Topless Gospel Choir, by Hal Riedl, is currently available on Amazon for $2.99. Click here to purchase on Kindle


Written by Hal Riedl, an ex-Dept. of Corrections
case management specialist and book reviewer
for The Sunday Sun, it’s available from Amazon
for $2.99  Click here to purchase on Kindle

When the wife of the State Parole Commission Chairman comes home from an early-morning run, she finds her husband dead on the front sidewalk, having been dispatched by a professional assassin with two bullets at the top of his spine.

A senior prosecutor and a detective are assigned to represent the City — which is never named, but based on Baltimore — on a task force assembled by State Patrol. The Governor is said to assign the highest priority to the apprehension and prosecution of the killers.

An excerpt from Riedl’s The Topless Gospel Choir follows below, with more available on Amazon (click here) along with purchase information.

This is the city primeval.
The murmuring Bloods and the Dreadlocks
Meet to package their poison.
Their guns and their phones are stood down,
Their mules and their mouthpieces gather.
A shipment of untold proportions
Bids fair to make them all rich

Leo’s epic poem, his way to kill time in court until the judge comes out.

The cellphone dings. A text reads, “Get your ass outside and call me. Lulu.”

Leo knows he has time until the judge appears. Nothing’s going on in chambers, but Vance never comes out before 10. It’s a matter of principle, of lordship, with him. Let the teeming marketplace of the criminal docket seethe and fret, a judge has his dignity and his blood pressure.

The crowd in the long dim echoing corridor is thick. Baby mothers with small children; grandmothers, defendants on bail, defense counsel on cellphones; cops in their civilian best, their ID badges on lanyards round their necks; a few folks looking lost and frightened — witnesses, most likely. The karma in this place, Leo thinks, is horrid. If these walls could talk, they would scream.

He finds the unoccupied end of a corridor bench and calls Lulu. That would be Louise. Where does she get off texting him like this? She thinks intimidation works, but it only browns him off. Still, he might as well get it over with. She won’t let up until she hears from him. He punches in her number for a live conversation.

Read more »


Journey, a Western is Baltimore-born author Stephen H. Foreman’s latest novel. He discusses it here exclusively with Voice of Baltimore and will do so again publicly June 17th at The Ivy Bookshop.

Journey, A Western is Baltimore-born author Stephen H. Foreman’s latest novel. He discusses it here exclusively on Voice of Baltimore and will do so again publicly at a June 17th reading at The Ivy Bookshop on Falls Road.


Stephen Foreman grew up here
and was locally educated,
a graduate of City College
and Morgan State University
What follows is a brief synopsis of the novel, available at The Ivy Bookshop and on (Click  here  and here.)  Excerpts will be published by Voice of Baltimore in coming weeks.
By Stephen H. Foreman
Set in the early eighteen hundreds in the wild desert wilderness of New Mexico Territory, the novel Journey, A Western follows the lives of three distinctly different characters whose destinies are one.

There’s Journey herself – the name is short for Sojourner — a fiercely inde- pendent, horse-whispering 16-year- old of mysterious origins. Reuben Moon, the stoic half-Mexican, half- Apache hunter/tracker who raises her. And Esau Burdock, a brutal and pragmatic, wealthy slave trader.

The story opens on a November night in 1833, the sky on fire with meteors, each character alone, experiencing the storm. The narrative then delves into their individual histories.

Journey is born to a runaway slave who dies giving birth to her in the wilderness. Reuben comes upon the scene and manages to save the baby’s life. He raises her with Prita, a noseless Apache woman who was exiled for adultery, and Joel and Leah, a Quaker couple involved in the Underground Railroad.

Reuben loses both his parents by the time he is eight, his mother to cholera and his father to a Comanche raid. After witnessing the murder, he is raised as a Comanche captive. With an unnervingly natural talent for horses, he lives among them, and is eventually allowed as a young man to go free.

Esau is born to a petty criminal on the streets of London and is caught red handed at age 14 and given a choice: hang or go to New Orleans in indentured servitude. Over the years he claws his way up the ranks, and through grit and many would say evil, becomes a massively successful plantation master in New Mexico Territory.


Journey, Reuben, and Esau’s stories collide in the summer of 1834 when Esau holds a rendezvous of horse racing and trading.

Despite being only 16, and a girl at that, Journey joins the race. She doesn’t win, but she’s caught the attention of Esau. A year later, a mountain lion is terrorizing the area and Esau comes across Journey and Reuben in the desert as he hunts for it.

Read more »



Vice President Richard Nixon, right, “debates” with John F. Kennedy in a TV studio following the second Presidential Debate (Oct. 8, 1960). A month and a day later, Nixon refused to call for a recount of the election results.

Vice President Richard Nixon, right, “debates” with John F. Kennedy in a TV studio following the 2nd Presidential Debate (Oct. 8, 1960).  A month and a day later, Nixon declined to call for a recount of the election results.


In Pennsylvania, Stein shifts
from state to federal courts


Bubba and the Oval Office BJ
By Alan Z. Forman

In the aftermath of the 1960 presidential election, when voting irregularities in Illinois and Texas threatened to overturn John Kennedy’s razor-thin victory over Richard Nixon, the losing Republican candidate reluctantly accepted the “will of the people” and refused to call for a recount.

“It’d tear the country to pieces,” the then-incumbent Vice President instructed his chief speechwriter and adviser, Bryce Harlow, who was pushing hard for a recount, and brushed aside all pleas to challenge the result.

“[We] can’t do that,” Nixon insisted.

Contesting the election by calling for a recount would place the legitimacy of Kennedy’s upcoming administration in question, Nixon said, and would be, among other things, “devastating to America’s foreign relations,” adding that, “What if I demanded a recount and it turned out that despite the voter fraud, Kennedy had still won?

“Charges of ‘sore loser’ would follow me through history and remove any possibility of a further political career.”

It may have been the future Watergate President’s finest hour; certainly it was Nixon at his most statesmanlike. No matter that his own dirty tricks in the 1960 campaign might well have come to light had he demanded a recount.

The likelihood that Nixon was as responsible for election irregularities that year is proved by the scandal that ultimately sunk his own presidency more than a decade later, when a team of inept burglars working in his behalf broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. three days before the final presidential primary that spring.

Read more »



Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (left) is the LIbertarian Party’s nominee for vice president.  His running mate is ex-New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, left, is the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president.  His running mate is ex-New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.


When both nominees stink so bad,
what’s a reasonable voter to do?


Stealing the nomination and the party
By Alan Z. Forman
So what does a responsible voter do in a presidential election when the standard bearers of both parties are below standard?

When neither is likable? And when both of them are flagrant, unabashed liars and cheats?

When one is a fascist and the other a crook?

And when the third-party alternatives are deficient also?  The Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, for example, is unable to name a single world leader! and has never heard of the City of Aleppo.

It’s a choice most of us wish we didn’t have to make:  Between Scylla and Charybdis, a rock and a hard place; between a liar and a bigot, an untrustworthy woman and a less than trustworthy man.

So does one sit-out the election and not vote? Or do you suck it up, hold your nose, and pull the lever for whichever Republican or Democrat you believe is the “lesser of two evils”? the one that stinks the least, that’s only somewhat repugnant… and then despair at what is happening in 21st Century America?

Or do you vote for a third-party nominee or independent who hasn’t got a snowball’s chance of winning? Or maybe write-in the name of some other individual who isn’t actually on the ballot? — and hasn’t got a snowball’s chance of winning either?

In effect, a so-called “wasted vote.”

At latest count there are six third-party candidates to choose from, plus 19 independents, all virtually unknown to the voting public. And if you vote for any one of them, most people will probably say you’re wasting your vote.

Read more »



Journalist/author Bjarne Rostaing reviews a recent film with political implications
starring the venerable Helen Mirren, one of a select group of performers
to achieve the so-called ‘Triple Crown of Acting’ 

“Eye in the Sky” is a British thriller starring Helen Mirren.

      “Eye in the Sky” is a 2015 British thriller starring Helen Mirren.


A sexy bitch on wheels

By Bjarne Rostaing
By now everyone knows who Helen Mirren is. She’s won all the awards, she’s convincing as a cop or a queen, and she’s always been hot.

Her exotic roots — Russian nobility and Romani gypsy on one side, solid English working class on the other — produced a reliably excellent presence with great range that sticks to the emotional ribs.

Over time Mirren has achieved an eminence that allows her great freedom, and she pretty much owns “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller driven by several potent and omnipresent realities: armed drones, establishment decision-makers stepping on themselves, and the 21st Century power woman.

That’s Mirren as Col. Katherine Powell, driven by the death of a colleague murdered by a terrorist group.

Her counterpoint is a room full of those decision-makers, including at least one lawyer and cabinet minister. They debate and dither while Mirren manipulates and the camera darts around the globe, Nairobi to Nevada to Pearl Harbor to London.

Under director Gavin Hood it becomes a frenzied dystopian arrhythmic mental chase. Everyone is focused on what’s happening inside a suicide-bomber house as Mirren grinds forward and the hesitant senior deciders weigh the political risk in that big rich room full of power.

It’s a simple decision and it needs to be quick. It has been an observe/capture mission.

Under extreme time pressure and imminent danger of multiple same-day suicide bombings, does it become a strike-and-kill? The “eye in the sky” is an armed drone ready to strike, and collateral damage becomes a critical issue, embodied in a child who will be injured or die in a strike.

Like the film’s tempo, this is cranked up to overkill, but it opens space for Somali actor Barkhad Abdi (of “Captain Phillips”), whose humane bearing and sensibility reveal the limitations of the robotic acting that the film’s tempo forces on the other actors.

Abdi takes time to be subtle, and his interlude with the child is a relief, humanizing the film and easing the pressure with his slower stronger personal rhythm. Where Mirren becomes her mission, he does not, but relates to the other actors in his sequences more naturally.

Read more »

Search VoB Archives:

Web Design Bournemouth Created by High Impact
Voice of Baltimore webpage designed by Victoria Dryden
Copyright © Sept. 2011 | All rights reserved