Men in My Town

Lincoln native finds healing in suspense novel

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on April 24, 2009

 

 

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The Blackstone Valley’s Neighborhood Newspaper

By JON BAKER

PAWTUCKET  —  It was about 1 p.m., Thursday – as he maneuvered his blue 2002 Mercedes convertible up Route 95 and over the Connecticut line into Rhode Island – when the emotion hit Lincoln native Keith Smith like a “ton of bricks.”

“I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I hit the first mileage marker,” he chuckled. “I knew, with my book out there, I didn’t have any secrets anymore. It’s the first time since 1974 where I was back in my home state, and I didn’t have to hide anything.

“It was a freeing moment; I had a smirk on my face, and I definitely felt a change as I drove,” he added. “I left Lincoln, and the Blackstone Valley area, in 1982, but now I’ve got this feeling of victory. I survived all of it, and the secret’s dead. I’m still alive, and I’m thriving.”

Smith – now 49 and a self-described “family man” to wife, Rebecca, and two children residing in Princeton, N.J. – decided to make the trip not only to visit family and friends in his hometown but also to promote the March 16 release of his suspense novel “Men in My Town,” one inspired by actual events.

It involves an assailant who abducted, beat and sexually assaulted Smith on March 1, 1974. That predator, in mid-August 1975, was found fatally beaten on a Providence street, and no one has ever been arrested for the crime.

In The Times’ conference room later Thursday afternoon, Smith – formerly a Merrill Lynch vice president before being laid off from the Manhattan firm on Jan. 22 – revealed how he came to write the 18-chapter, 107-page book.

“First, it’s a great story worth telling; you’ve got a local kid who gets abducted and raped by a known pedophile, and the suspect gets beaten to death while no one gets charged. It’s better than TV,” he said. “Second, this was something I wanted to share with people I love, people closest to me, my longtime friends and relatives. “And, third, it’s to break the silence on male sexual assault, and to offer hope to those who still suffer in silence,” he added.

**

Fact is, that dismissal from Wall Street wasn’t the worst thing ever to happen to Smith. At age 14, then a Lincoln High sophomore, Smith reported to a youth hockey team meeting at his coach’s barbershop on Front Street. When the session ended, about 6 p.m., he decided to hitchhike home, rather than trekking the four miles.

“He was a total stranger, and I never saw him before in my life,” he stated. “I was ‘thumbing’ home, he pulled over, and I got in his car (in the novel, a purple AMC Gremlin) on Front Street. I told him to drop me off at Hartley’s Pork Pies on Smithfield Avenue, but he didn’t. He drove right past. I later asked him to stop at the old Fairlawn Lincoln Fire Department, but he drove right by.

“At that point, he wasn’t saying anything, and I knew I was in trouble,” he continued. “He took a right on Grafton Street, near what is now Brooksie’s. I tried to jump out of his car, but the door wouldn’t open because it was rigged. I did notice that his license plate number was written on the back of his inspection sticker, and I memorized it.

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Call Photo / Butch Adams

Following the assault, the attacker stopped at a strip mall on Higginson Avenue, across from the old Lincoln Lanes, and Smith fled, but not before shattering his rear windshield with a rock. He claimed he wanted police to be able to better identify who had caused such mental and physical anguish.

As Smith ran home, about a half-mile away, he panicked when he saw an approaching vehicle, scurrying under a parked car, a move he later deemed crazy and dangerous.

Finally, he reached his house, but doesn’t know exactly what he said to his father, Albert, or older brother Brian. Understanding by his behavior something was seriously wrong, they took him to the LPD. Police arrested the suspect – whom Smith called Ronald Kohl in his book – the following day, but he later was released on bail.

**

The following September, in 1974, Smith discovered he suffered from a blood disease called ITP, and spent a month at now-Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.

“Simply put, I had a low platelet count, and platelets make your blood clot,” he said. “My immune system, for some reason, recognized them as foreign.”

For decades, only seven to 10 people knew his secret, and he decided he wanted to change all that.

“In December 2007, my platelet count was dangerously low again; it was 7,000, and supposed to be at 300,000, so I was missing 98 percent of my clotting factor,” he said. “Doctors (at the Princeton Medical Center) literally had 24 hours to get it up to 40,000, or I’d run the risk of a spontaneous brain hemorrhage or stroke. I thought I was going to die, and that’s when I started writing more.

“Parts of this book had been written over the previous few years as messages I wanted to leave to my daughters – I’d call it a journal,” he added. “I wanted to make sure they knew what happened to me, but also how important Dr. Mario Giovanni Baldini, Memorial’s chief of staff, had been to me.”

He spent six days at the center, and – upon his release – began experiencing heightened nightmares of his race against his attacker.

“They had to do with me being under that car, trying to hide; how I was going to get away without him seeing me, killing me,” he said, pacing the floor of this conference room. “There were two secrets addressed in this book; the first was the abduction and being raped by this man, and the second was this guy was beaten to death.”

“I don’t know who did it; that’s the ‘novel’ part of this book,” he continued. “As I wrote, I thought as he must have, about his actions, his involvement in the pornography business, his life, and also who killed him. That’s all fiction …

One night, in September 2007, I jumped out of bed, screaming for help. Rebecca knew what was going on, as I had told her my story early on in our relationship. She told me I had to talk it out with a counselor, and I did. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

He always knew why he remained silent, but the counseling helped him deal with it.

“I was embarrassed and ashamed; I mean, I was 14,” he said, still walking the length of the conference table. “In my opinion, there are two kinds of sexual attacks – those familiar, done by people known to the person; and those unknown. The first group suffers from a violation of trust, and has serious inability to trust anyone. They don’t feel safe in their own homes. The second, in my case, suffer from a fear of random violence.”

“There’s a big difference,” he added. “As a 14-year-old boy, I came to realize the world wasn’t a safe place. My peace and tranquility in my teenage world had been destroyed by a horrific act of criminal sexual violence.”

**

Just six months ago, he compiled his notes and wrote around them, finally achieving his goal approximately two months ago.

After three weeks on the market, Smith has sold about 200 books, though he’s received numerous e-mails from people as far away as England and Germany about excerpts published online.

“One person asked me if I would change anything that happened if I had the opportunity: My answer was ‘No,’ and here’s why: In my heart, I believe he (suspect) was murdered because of what he did to me. I also explained that if it didn’t happen, he would’ve been free, on the streets, and he would have grabbed another kid from my neighborhood. Some other kid may not have been as lucky as me.”

“I lived through my night of terror, but others may not have,” he added. “I really believe he would’ve progressed to the point of killing his victims … Because of what happened to me, he was beaten to death – with a fractured skull and a broken leg – and, with him dead, he no longer has the ability to harm anyone else. What I went through was a small price to pay.”

He now serves as a Trustee of a non-profit organization called PEI – Kids in Lawrenceville, N.J., helping those who suffer deal with similar traumas. “What I want from this book is for other people who have suffered in silence to gain the strength to help themselves,” Smith said. “They need to share their stories with the people they love. I never pictured myself being an author, but I hope my story gives others strength, comfort, peace and hope. Writing this has been therapeutic. “Others need to know it’s OK to let it out.”

**

Men in My Town, published by BookSurge, is available for $14.99 on Amazon.com and as an “e-book” download for Kindle.

Email the author at MenInMyTown@aol.com

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One Response

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  1. Eva said, on May 20, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for leaving the comment on my blog – I am sorry I didn’t notice your story on the Violence Unsilenced site when it first appeared…

    Congratulations on finding the courage to tell your story..I truly believe you will find it to be the most healing thing a once victim can do…


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