Damned To Eternity: The Last Victim of the Great Midwestern Floods

Released December 24, 2007: Did James Scott really cause a destructive levee break during the Great Midwestern Floods of 1993,or was he an easy scapegoat for a town raging at its devastation?

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review:

damnedcoverPitluk, a contributor to Time magazine (Standing Eight: The Inspiring Story of Jesus El Matador Chavez), vividly brings to life the Great Midwestern Floods of 1993, when the town of West Quincy, Ill., was devastated, and the possible miscarriage of justice that ensued. After a levee failed, suspicions focused on local troublemaker James Scott, then 24, who a dozen years earlier had helped set fire to a school. Scott was eventually convicted in the levee break and sentenced to life under an obscure state statute of intentionally causing a catastrophe. Pitluk does a superb job of bringing all his characters to life, including Scott, his beleaguered parents and police detective Neal Baker, who had Scott in his sights after seeing what he thought was a suspicious interview with Scott on TV. The case against Scott appears weak, in Pitluk’s account, relying mostly on his alleged admissions to unreliable witnesses, and there was compelling expert testimony that the levees could have broken without human help. Pitluk also indicates that the town’s antipathy toward Scott was a large factor in his conviction. Most readers will come away believing that Scott was railroaded, the victim of his own big mouth and his community’s desire to find a scapegoat.


Standing Eight: The Inspiring Story of Jesus “El Matador” Chavez

Released May 30, 2006: The Inspiring Story of Jesus “El Matador” Chavez, Who Became Lightweight Champion Of The World

standingcoverThe inspiring, true story of Jesus “El Matador” Chavez, who overcame enormous obstacles, including a prison sentence and deportation to Mexico twice, to become Lightweight champion of the world.

Here is the inspirational story of Gabriel Sandoval, who grew up in the small dirt-poor town of Delicias, Mexico. Crossing the U.S. border with his family as a young boy of seven, he settled in Chicago, where he learned to speak English and to box-winning three Gold Glove championships-and where he also joined a gang, committing a robbery in his teens that landed him in one of the most violent prisons in America, Statesville. After his three-year stint in prison was up, he was met by an INS agent and put on the first plane to Mexico City with fifty dollars in his pocket. He eventually re-entered the U.S. illegally. Settling in Austin, Texas, he resumed his boxing career and changed his name to Jesus “El Matador”-after the Chicago gym in which he learned to box-Chavez, and went on to become the Lightweight champion of the world.

But the story doesn’t end with this crowning achievement. He applied for a driver’s license, and his real name, Gabriel Sandoval, came up on the computer and he was found to be in the U.S. illegally. For the second time, he was deported to Mexico before gaining his U.S. citizenship after a long, protracted fight with the U.S. government.

Standing Eight is the triumphant tale of a strong-willed fighter who refused to stay down for the count and overcame tremendous obstacles to become champion of the world.