Men in My Town

A Conversation with Keith Smith, Author of Men in My Town

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on June 30, 2009

Q: Keith, I understand you’ve recently finished writing a book. Tell us about it.

A: The book is titled, Men in My Town. It’s a suspense novel based on the true story of the abduction, beating and sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy in Lincoln, Rhode Island in 1974 and the brutal unsolved murder of his attacker in Providence in 1975.

Q: What can you tell us without spoiling the plot for those who haven’t yet read the book?9781439226254-FrontCover

A: The story focuses on the young boy’s relationship with a few men in his town, men who are close to the boy and his family, men who watch over him, men that protect him after he’s been assaulted. They’re good men with the capacity to do bad things. It’s a story that causes the reader to revisit their position on the question, “Does the end ever justify the means?” and vividly juxtaposes the good and evil that can exist simultaneously in every man.

Q: Why did you write Men in My Town?

A: There are a number of reasons. First, it’s a good story worth telling. It’s a gripping suspense novel with a storyline that includes characters based on real people, real places and real events. It’s a glimpse into the street hustle hiding in the peaceful suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island in the 1970’s, complete with gamblers, bookies, car thieves, petty criminals, organized crime, hard-working honest men and a murderer or two.  Secondly, Men In My Town is my personal story. I am the 14-year-old boy in the story and only a few people, very few people, know what really happened to me on that cold winter night in 1974. I wrote Men in My Town to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family.  And finally, I wrote the story to raise awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

Q: Why did you wait 35 years to tell this story?

A: I’ve been silent because of shame and guilt. I was ashamed that a man sexually assaulted me. My guilt was based on wanting to protect my protectors, to eliminate the possibility that someday, someone would get arrested and perhaps go to jail for killing the guy for what he did to me. I’ve been fighting these thoughts, these feelings, these emotions, for decades and I’m finally able to properly deal with these things. I now realize that I shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty because I’m not responsible for what my attacker did to me… and I’m not responsible for what others may have done to him.

Q: What makes Men in My Town unique?

A: It’s unique because it’s the only fact-based suspense novel that I’m aware of that deals with the subject of male sexual assault and the unsolved murder of the pedophile rapist. It’s unique because there aren’t many novels set in Rhode Island and this is the first novel ever set in the Town of Lincoln. Men in My Town is unique in that it helps people understand that violent crimes against children can occur anywhere, even in bucolic, beautiful, sleepy little suburban towns like Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Q: Are there other works, either books or movies, that you think are similar to Men in My Town?

A: Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River comes to mind. Mystic River opens with the abduction and sexual assault of a young boy from a tight knit, working class suburb of Boston. It deals with pedophilia, murder, secrets, average guys, cops and criminals. Michael Corrente’s movie Federal Hill, set in Providence, deals with relationships between close friends, organized crime and what I refer to as ‘street hustle.’ If you’re familiar with either Mystic River or Federal Hill, you may see similar themes in Men in My Town.

Q: How long did it take you to write this book?

A: The story has been with me since 1974 so I can actually say it took me 35 years to write this book. The actual writing, putting pen to paper, hammering out the story, revising drafts, took about 6 months; working with editors, literary agents and publishers took the project out to a full year.

Q: How did you write Men in My Town? What was your process?

A: I wrote this story inside out. I didn’t start by writing chapter one, page one. Instead, I listed the events that I wanted to write about, the places I wanted readers to visit, the characters I wanted readers to meet and the emotion I wanted readers to feel. I wrote sections one at a time capturing the events, places, characters and emotion, then pieced them together in a sequence that made the story whole, like a quilt.

Q: I understand you left Rhode Island in 1982. What do you miss about Rhode Island?

A: I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in the Fairlawn section in the south end of Lincoln, 4 miles north of Providence. Everyone on my block knew my brothers, my sisters, my mom, my dad and me. People went to baseball games at the field in the fall, skated on the pond in the winter and lined up on Smithfield Avenue to watch the Memorial Day parade in the spring. There was a wonderful sense of community, security, peace. People sat on their porches and knew their neighbors. Neighbors watched out for one another, took care of each other. I miss that. I also miss coffee milk, clear chowda, clam cakes, great Italian food on Federal Hill and the beaches from Narragansett to Watch Hill.

Q: Well we’re glad you’re back in Rhode Island, at least for today. Keith, how do we get a copy of Men in My Town?

A: Men in My Town is available now on You can pick up a copy of Men in My Town at all public libraries in Rhode Island and public libraries in Mercer County, New Jersey. If your local library doesn’t have a copy in their collection, they’ll typically order one after they receive a few requests, so please visit your local library and ask them to stock a copy or two. Discounts on orders for 10 or more books are available, just email your request to

Q: Thanks for being with us tonight.

A: It was my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Men in My Town.


Keith Smith, author of Men in My Town, is a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault Survivor and a Keynote Speaker on issues of child safety. He’s available as a speaker for conferences, seminars and fundraising events benefiting non-profit organizations, government agencies, companies and professional associations dedicated to helping children who have been sexually abused. 

Men in My Town by Keith Smith.

Available now at

Email the author at


Sex Abuse Victim Finds Solace in Written Word

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on May 25, 2009


Monday, May 25, 2009


EAST WINDSOR — March 1, 1974, was like any other day for Keith Smith.

The then 14-year-old boy attended a hockey team meeting at his coach’s barbershop in Lincoln, R.I., after school. Around 6 p.m., Smith headed home, but made a decision that forever altered his life.

“I decided to hitchhike,” he said. “A car pulled up to me, opened the door, and I got in.” What happened next is every parent’s nightmare — Smith was beaten and raped by a serial pedophile — a 29-year-old man who had been arrested, jailed and released many times before the abduction.

“It is the real story of a 14-year-old kid who was assaulted by a man not familiar to the victim,” said Smith, who now resides in East Windsor with his wife and two daughters. “He was a stranger. I did not know him.”

Smith, who until January was employed as a vice-president at Merrill Lynch, recounts the details of that horrible night in his new novel, “Men in My Town.” It is the story of Smith’s ordeal and the subsequent events that remain a mystery to this day.

According to Smith, his assailant was never convicted of the crime because he was found brutally beaten to death in the streets of Rhode Island one year later. “Men in My Town” is Smith’s catharsis. It is also a fictionalized composite of the characters he grew up with and an imagining of who may have killed the predator.

“The book has a few different angles,” Smith said. “The man who attacked me owned an adult book store, and went to prison for distributing pornography. So maybe the mob killed him. Maybe he had ties to organized crime.”

Another theory in the book is that he was killed for what happened to Smith, although the boy kept the ordeal a secret for 35 years.

Photo by Butch Adams / The Times

Smith retells the events of that night as if it happened yesterday. His voice shakes with the memory as he tells his cautionary tale of what happens when you get into the wrong car, in his case a purple AMC Gremlin.

“I asked him if he could drop me off at a business called ‘Hartley’s Pork Pies,’ and he drove right past it,” he said. “I then told him to pull over at the Fairlawn Lincoln fire station, and he drove right past that. I knew I was in trouble.”

The driver remained silent for an eighth of a mile before he slowed down to make a right hand turn. Smith’s plan was to open the door and roll out of the car, but the man had it rigged so the car door wouldn’t unlock.

“When the door didn’t open, he pounded me on the side of my face with his fist,” he said. “I was trapped in the car.”

Smith then made a conscious effort to memorize the license plate number written on the inspection sticker, which was located on the passenger side of the car windshield. He scratched the inside of the door with his fingernails so investigators would have evidence he was in the vehicle.

“I kept thinking, ‘if I live through the night, I will make him pay,'” he said.

After the attack, Smith was let out of the car. He found a broken cement block on the ground and hurled it at the man’s car as he drove away, smashing the entire rear window.

Smith ran, cowering under parked cars in fear that the stranger would come back to harm him. Eventually, he made it home. His father, Albert, and his brother, Brian, immediately knew something was wrong. After he told them everything, he was brought to the police station.

When the suspect, who Smith calls “Ronald Kohl” — not his real name — in his book, was arrested, the boy was asked to identify the man in a photo lineup. Smith was asked to testify at the indictment that summer, and a trial date was set. “Kohl” was released on bail.

Then nothing happened. A year went by, and no trial. One week before the trial date, in August, 1975, “Kohl” was found beaten to death in the streets of Providence, and left out in the open to rot.

Smith’s book explores the still unsolved crime of the man who assaulted him. The release of the book on March 16 broke the silence he kept for 35 years about what happened that night.

“Why write the book?” he said. “It is based on real characters and real events that happened in my neighborhood. It is also about the men in my town. Some were gamblers; some were car thieves, or organized crime guys. A lot of them were regular hardworking guys.”

“Some people say to me the men in my town were bad men,” he said. “I say they were good men with the capacity to do bad things.”

The seeds of the novel were planted two years ago, when Smith started writing notes to himself as a way of preparing himself to tell his two daughters, aged 15 and 20, what happened. He kept writing, and completed the tome in December, 2008.

“People ask me how long it took to write the book, and I tell them 35 years,” he said.

Smith went to a few agents and publishers, and decided to self-publish with the “BookSurge” program.  He says about 400 copies have sold through The book is available by “print on demand,” which Smith says is a very “green way to publish.” “You order your book, they print up one copy and mail it to the customer,” he said.

Writing the book has been therapeutic for Smith, who now serves as a trustee of a nonprofit organization called PEI – Kids in Lawrence, helping young victims deal with trauma.

Already Smith has received letters from other victims who found his book online.

“I have gotten e-mails from around the world,” he said. “I heard from a woman that lives in an American Indian tribe in Northern Michigan, on the Canadian border. She told me there is an epidemic with boys being assaulted on Indian reservations, and she is using my book to help teenage boys be comfortable with confiding in an adult if it happens to them.”

Does Smith believe his attacker got the proper comeuppance?

“My neighborhood was safer because he was no longer around,” he said. “That animal that grabbed me was trolling my neighborhood looking for kids.”

Smith says now that his secret is published he is sleeping better at night. His nightmares, long triggered by news stories on television, are less frequent.

“What I want other victims to know is that they shouldn’t feel ashamed, guilty, or responsible,” he said. “I wasn’t responsible for what that guy did to me and I wasn’t responsible for what other people did to that guy.”

Men in My Town, published by BookSurge, is available for $14.99 on and as an “e-book” download for Kindle.  It is also available in the Mercer County Library System and on the shelves of Chicklet Books, an independent bookstore in Princeton.

Email the author at

Lincoln native finds healing in suspense novel

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




The Blackstone Valley’s Neighborhood Newspaper


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.


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 and as an “e-book” download for Kindle.

Email the author at

Men in My Town by Keith Smith. Available now at

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on April 22, 2009




The story of the abduction, beating and rape of a teenage boy, followed by the unsolved brutal murder of his assailant, is now a moving novel written by the man who survived this vicious attack.  

Men in My Town by Keith Smith.  Available now at  Email the author at

Email the author at

Men in My Town Reviewed on

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on April 22, 2009

(Linden, NJ) 
Men In My Town is a powerful story of a young boy’s trauma of being sexually abused and the scars that have remained with him to this day. It combines a vivid sense of memory, unique observational skills about life in Rhode Island in the 1970’s and an all consuming urge to survive in the midst of great fear. Keith’s story is a painful representation of what it is like to be sexually abused and how the forces of revenge expressed in violence can emerge from a shaken community. It takes a great deal of strength and courage for anyone to publicly share what is like to be sexually abused at a young age. Keith exhibits both qualities in a literary manner that draws you in immediately at the start of his book. Once you’re reading the book you won’t be able to put it down until you are at the last page. It feels like you have left this world and have been placed right next to Keith as he describes an almost unspeakable journey filled with horror,emotional trauma and violence. What emerges in the end is what President Kennedy once wrote about. Profiles in Courage. Keith’s story is a profile of courage. It is not too often that you get to encounter such bravery in a book. This is your opportunity to do so. Buy the book.

(Staten Island, NY)
Men in My Town is an intense and emotional story. The power of the story is in its message. By sharing his story, we get a glimpse into Mr. Smith’s life and how he handled the storms in his life with the help of a few men who he knew he could count on. The book will make you think about what’s important in life; it will challenge you to look at people in a different light. The book will pull dozens of emotions from you. I recommend this book to every person, no matter, age, gender, race, religion, personal interests or circumstances. The story is entertaining and inspirational.

(Freehold, NJ)
“Men in My Town” grabs you right from the start and does not let go. Mr. Smith does a fantastic job of bringing the reader in, his storytelling paints a picture that is raw, stark, vivid and unforgettable. From his horrific ordeal to each characterization of the men in his town you are made part of the story. You can feel Smith’s anxiety and fear and the anger of the men for what has happened to “one of their own” but their love for Smith and their sense of protecting the community is what drives them to do what many would consider unthinkable. This is a story that as Mr. Smith says “had to be told” I am glad that he did. I too remember a time when your neighbors were your friends and everyone looked after each other sadly for the most part that no longer exists. I dare you to put this book down after starting, I for one could not.

(Jacksonville, FL)
Men in My Town is a story that needed to be told; it is a story of a boy’s courage to face his accuser and live to see justice. It will be an inspiration to others who have been abused and need to take action against their abuser. It is a well-written and quick read, but one that you think about days later.

(Los Angeles, CA)
Men in my Town is a gripping story of a young boys life suddenly changed one night and how some men bring justice for him. I found it hard to put down and had to finish it to see what happened.

(Princeton, NJ)
Men in My Town is a bold and fresh story of the complex relationship between a half-dozen men and how their lives, choices, and actions play a part in a 34 year old unsolved murder. It’s an insider’s glimpse into the street hustle hiding in the peaceful suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island complete with gamblers, bookies, car thieves, petty criminals, organized crime, hard-working honest men and a murderer or two. Smith creates beautiful shades of gray in a black and white world of right and wrong and introduces you to a time and place where people blindly look the other way when the end justifies the means.

(Baltimore, MD)
This book is a captivating story from start to finish. It illuminates the horrible reality of child-male sexual assault – a topic that MUST be brought to the forefront of public discussion. Smith is courageous, talented and inspiring. A must read for all those concerned with child welfare, Rhode Island…and every other aspect of this fantastic story.

Men in My Town by Keith Smith. Available now at

Email the author at

An Introduction to Men in My Town

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on March 4, 2009

I recently finished writing Men In My Town, a novel based on the true life story of the abduction, beating and rape of a 14 year old boy and the unsolved murder of his rapist.  The story is set in the boy’s suburban hometown of Lincoln, Rhode Island where he was raped in 1974 and the gritty city of Providence where his rapist was brutally beaten to death in 1975.       

It’s a true story of someone getting away with murder.

This fact based crime novel focuses on the boy’s relationship with several men in his hometown, men who are important to the boy, men who look out for him, men that protect him, good men who occasionally do bad things. 

There’s Uncle Mike, a powerful and well-connected bookie, tied to the boy through a family relationship spanning three generations. 

There’s Kevin, a fulltime tow truck driver and part time car thief who handles “special situations” for Uncle Mike. 

We meet Bobby, a perpetually unemployed gambler who loves to bet the ponies at Lincoln Downs, living high when he wins and living scared when he loses. 

We’re introduced to Dennis, a tailor and volunteer fireman, who is as comfortable with a handgun strapped to his inner left ankle as he is with a fireman’s Scott Air Pack strapped to his back. 

We learn the rapist is a serial pedophile, owns an adult bookstore, was recently convicted on federal charges of distributing obscene materials, did time in prison and never wants to go back. 

We learn the recidivist child molester is being watched by the Feds, by his business partners and by men from Lincoln, including one who spoke 15 words that sparked 30 years of silence.

Why did I write Men In My Town? Because no other author could deliver more insight, passion and understanding of this boy’s experience and his relationship with the men who are his protectors. I can say this because Men In My Town is my personal story, a story told from my heart, about the emotion, fear, guilt and horror I experienced, and the silence I’ve maintained since I was abducted, beaten and raped on that dark, cold winter night in 1974. 


Keith Smith, author of Men in My Town, is a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault Survivor and a Keynote Speaker on issues of child safety. He’s available as a speaker for conferences, seminars and fundraising events benefiting non-profit organizations, government agencies, companies and professional associations dedicated to helping children who have been sexually abused. 

Men in My Town by Keith Smith. Available now at

Email the author at