Books

A rural farm in Kansas. A wealthy family with a dark secret. A missing young woman. That's the basis of a new book by a local author. She shares how a real-life small Kansas town — and her background as a criminal defense attorney — helped inspire her novel.

Then, a look at how police department throughout the country (including in KC) are using technology that mines cell phone data.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

On March 20, 1978, William Least Heat-Moon left Columbia, Missouri in a Ford van. The van, which he named Ghost Dancing, would be his home for the next three months.

He was 38 years old. His marriage was falling apart. He'd lost his teaching job due to staffing cutbacks. His decision to get behind the wheel in search of America's stories was part dream, part desperation.

Now that the van is a literary artifact, he has to visit it in a museum. And he's careful not to get behind the wheel. Sitting back in that driver's seat makes him misty eyed.

The New York Times calls him "one of the most acclaimed travel writers of his time." A chat with William Least Heat-Moon about his Kansas City roots, his new novel and how he got his name.

Guest:

  • William Least Heat-Moon

Ken Doll / Kansas Center for Economic Growth

The Sunflower State's budget is a mess and lawmakers in Topeka are struggling to solve the state's fiscal woes. Today, a former budget director evaluates the precarious situation. Also, we speak with novelist Ellen Hopkins, who experienced the kidnapping of one daughter and the drug addiction of another.

Courtesy of Brit Bennett

A new species of rat has made its way to Discover Magazine's list of top scientific discoveries in 2016. KU professor Robert Timm shares how he came across the Rattus detentus, and why he named it after a detainment center on the mammal's home island off the coast of Australia.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

When Donald Trump declared his presidential candidacy, few guessed he stood a real chance. The now-president's longtime friend and former adviser Roger Stone thought otherwise. Today, he shares his insight. Then, we learn about the evolution of Kris Kobach's voter Crosscheck program and the story of how one Kansan got caught up in it.

Penguin Random House

Valentine's Day is next week, and it can be either the greatest or the worst holiday of the year. Today, we get some perspective on the nature of romantic love, and try to reconcile two different ways of thinking about it. Then, Sue Klebold recollects the morning her son, Dylan, and Eric Harris opened fire at Columbine High School. She speaks of the aftermath of the shooting, and her advocacy for mental health and suicide prevention.

Edward C. Robinson III / ECR3.com

A filmmaker from Poland and a former journalist from Kansas hope a combination essay-contest-and-documentary-film-project will help bridge the state's (and the country's) well-documented divides.

That's what happened in Europe and New York state, says Ewa Zadrzynska, the filmmaker who started Poetry Unites in Poland in 2006. 

E.G. Schempf

When Grand Arts closed in the fall of 2015 after a 20-year tenure in the Crossroads, Stacy Switzer, the artistic director of the organization (calling it a "gallery" would be inadequate), said it had been a place of "extraordinary" freedom for artists. 

Miguel Vieira / Flickr - CC

During the 20th year of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, outside of Strong City, Kansas, a new documentary explores how the park was created and is sustained. Then, we learn about the life of Forrest "Phog" Allen, who amassed 590 wins in 39 seasons coaching the KU men's basketball team.

Sage Ross / Flickr - CC

Do you drink pop ... or soda? Do you wash something or "warsh" it? Those answers depend on where you grew up. Today, we learn How to Speak Midwesternand discover why the Heartland dialect is so different from our Illinois and Minnesota neighbors. Then, consumer advocate Ralph Nader shares an important message in his latest book, Animal Envy, a fable akin to Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm.

El Dorado Police Department

In a twisted crime spree that lasted from 1974 until 1991, Dennis Rader stalked and killed ten people in and around Wichita, Kansas. During and after the spree, he taunted pursuing authorities in letters he sent to police, local news and, once, left in a book at the public library. In the letters, Rader established his identity with a handle that caught on quickly: BTK.

Several regional schools have seen intense, sometimes violent protests focused on social and civil divisions, but the UMKC campus has largely been spared. Today, we find out what makes the metro institution different. Then, a futurist shares her strategies for predicting trends in technology, business and more.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Great ideas may be hard to come by, but a new book has us thinking all that's needed is a change of scenery. We also remember the attack on Pearl Harbor, 75 years after it catapulted the nation into WWII. This week's Statehouse Blend Kansas features freshman Democrat Cindy Holscher.

UMKC

Shooting off an email has largely supplanted the practice of hand-writing letters, but certain Letters of Note remind us of their allure. Then, we explore the 83-year history of the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a university staffer who's known to give lunchtime historical tours of the Midtown campus.

Penguin Random House

Are you looking for a special book for the young people in your life? If so, our panel of Johnson County Librarians have their holiday gift recommendations ready for you — and just in time!

From the story of a boy who finally connects with his distant father through the unlikely language of music, to a tale of some ragtag kids, and a loyal greyhound, escaping 13th-century France, these titles are sure to get your children through what could otherwise be a long winter break. 

For preschool through 2nd grade

James Hugo Rifenbark

Kyle Powell died in my arms, November 4, 2006.

That's the first line of Gerardo "Tony" Mena's poem "So I Was a Coffin," which he set to music, added photographs from other members of the United States Marine Corps' 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, and posted on YouTube.

What are the books that you turn to when you need to connect with something bigger than yourself? KCUR's Bibliofiles recommend their own personal classics, their dog-eared favorites that they turn to frequently.

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

First, a recollection of the Chief's overtime victory over the Broncos Sunday night. Then, a look at an agency that settled a case last month involving charges of illegal kickback payments, but is still doing business with the state of Kansas. Finally, Author Candice Millard recounts the adventures of a young Winston Churchill as detailed in her latest book.

With so many things competing for our attention these days, building an arts audience can be a challenge. Today, we learn how organizations like ArtsKC work to get people off the couch and into the concert hall. Then, find out what it was about a life on stage that brought award-winning guitarist Peter Himmelman to develop his own methods for more fully engaging creative potential.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Jazz is all about creativity and freedom, but casual listeners can sometimes find deciphering it a chore. Today, we learn How to Listen to Jazz. Then, they say everything's up to date in Kansas City, but are we a "world class" locale? Finally, a winded Brian McTavish presents his Weekend To-Do List.

Courtesy The Kansas City Star

My last encounter with Charles Gusewelle was early in 2015. He was trying to reach me by phone and I was on a weekend getaway to Key West. But I found his mysterious message — we weren’t fast friends, and I had no idea why he was calling — and returned the call. Of course, he was on deadline — this was a Saturday afternoon when I reached him. And the Sunday column he’d drafted was about me. Really?

I found that column this morning after learning that Gus had died, at 83, early Tuesday.

The creator and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.com talks about the challenges facing Muslim women in the wake of Donald Trump's election. Then we examine the soundtrack of the Vietnam War, and listen to some of the songs that helped American troops get through the conflict.

First, we look at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's latest plans for expansion that's raising a few questions with some of its neighbors.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Long before Tracy K. Smith was a poet, she was a young girl fascinated by the stars. That fascination was part of what inspired her book Life on Mars, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012.

American Public Square

In light of a campaign season some view as the most rancorous in recent history, we look at the role civility still plays in politics. Then, it's 3 a.m. and there's a phone ringing in the White House. If something disastrous happens in the world, it's the president's job to respond. We take a look at the history of disaster management by the Oval Office.

Like a good story, a song changes over time as it passes through different voices. We explore the Anatomy of a Song with writer and Wall Street Journal contributor Marc Myers, who recollects the oral histories behind some of the greatest classics in the past fifty years.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

With Election Day a week away, we check in with local political reporters for analysis of elections in Kansas and Missouri. Then, political commentator E.J. Dionne discusses the presidential campaign and themes from his book Why the Right Went Wrong. We finish with this week's Statehouse Blend Kansasfeaturing state Rep.

With Donald Trump urging supporters to watch for instances of voter fraud, we find out how the Jackson County Election Board ensures fair and free voting. Then, a 1938 Supreme Court ruling forced the University of Missouri Law School to accept black students, or create a separate school for them. The litigant, Lloyd Gaines, disappeared soon after, but his case made history.

Pages