Call it the karma of spring – a time of renewal and growth – or call it sheer coincidence.

But on the same day the wrecking ball first crashed onto the digs of the late Dallas Times Herald, where East Dallas author Jim Shutze had been on staff since 1978, network television aired the first of a series of TV movies based on books or stories by Shutze.

Add to that that he had just returned from New York, where he and his wife attended the annual awards dinner for the Mystery Writers of American, who had nominated Shutze for and Edgar award.

The movie, NBC’s “Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story” starring Elizabeth Montgomery aired in May, and was based on Shutze’s non-fiction book “Preacher’s Girl” (William Morrow, 1993) about a series of arsenic murders in North Carolina.

So, did Shutze host a viewing party for his first television movie?

“As a matter of fact, 15 minutes into the movie, I couldn’t find my wife and went downstairs – she was doing dishes,” he said. “But that’s how it is – you can’t expect spouses to care about this stuff.”

His first book, “My Husband’s Trying To Kill Me” (Harper Collins, 1992), was based on the true story of an attempted murder-for-hire involving a Dallas family. The book earned Schutze the Edgar Award nomination in the Best Fact Crime category.

“I didn’t win,” he said, “so after the dinner, my wife and I walked over to SoHo to see if we could buy an old Edgar that someone else had thrown away – no luck there, either.”

While the timing of it all – the movie, the nomination, the final chapter of the Herald – seemed to have cosmic connections, Shutze had been writing books since 1986, when he said he realized that the Herald’s future was tenuous, and he was going to have to find a way to make a living that didn’t involve writing a column for the paper.

“Seeing that wrecking ball hit the building really brought back a lot of tough feelings,” Shutze said, “because a whole lot of us were truly dedicated in winning the competition [with The Dallas Morning News]. The wrecking ball was the final blow that said we lost.”

While Shutze is still a regular columnist and contributor to D Magazine, he said his book and movie projects are taking over. In development are two movies based on Shutze stories: “Have A Nice Death’ by Republic Studios about a Houston murder-for-hire, and another true story about adult female twins in Alabama who conspire to murder. A book in the works, “Need To Die”, is about another murder, this one a prominent doctor in Arkansas.

When Shutze isn’t on the road doing research, he’s at home with his wife, Mariana Greene, who writes the Home and Design section of the Morning News’ Dallas Life Magazine, and their son, Will, who attends White Rock Montessori School.

“We’re trying to keep him away from typewriters and teach him to play with a toy cash register,” Shutze said of his six-year-old.

Between family, writing, serving on the boards of Head Start of Greater Dallas and the East Dallas/White Rock YMCA, as well as work with the Dallas Talented and Gifted High School and sculpting, Shutze enjoys leisurely walks with his Chesapeake Bay Retriever, “Chessie”.


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