Adages - Not a happy camper: a chilling true crime story in the wastelands

By Published on .

Most Popular
Maxim critics say the magazine's writers can't write themselves out of a sidebar, or a cut line. In other words, their prose stylings are as truncated as a laddie boy's attention span. Five hundred words, that's it, the max, the limit of their prose potency.

Jason Kersten, senior editor at Maxim, proves the nattering nabobs wrong. He has just published a brilliant new book, "Journal of the Dead" (Harper Collins), and it's about 66,000 words long. An Adages Book Club selection this month, Journal is based on a 4,200 word article Jason wrote for Maxim (January 2000) about Raffi Kodikian, a young man who killed his best friend, David Coughlin, with a pocket knife during a camping trip gone bad. The two buddies got lost in the New Mexican desert in the summer of 1999 and David, suffering dehydration and extreme exhaustion, asked Raffi to put him out of his misery. "Journal" is about this alleged mercy killing and its aftermath-the murder trial of Raffi. It's in the great non-fiction tradition of Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild" (approximately 70,000 words) and even Norman Mailer's weighty "The Executioner's Song" (about 400,000 words). Jason is a sharp reporter and storyteller and this, his first book, is not just page-turning true crime story, it's a brooding meditation on the desolation of the desert and of the pair of privileged young men who got lost out there. Jason is a very generous guy; he leaves the final judgement of Raffi's guilt or innocence up to the reader.

Jason's now pushing for longer stories at Maxim. "Part of my job here is fighting for more space and less photos," he says.

Good luck, says Adages.

Out-of-the-box thinking

Adages would like to offer a little friendly advice to the advertising experts at The Wall Street Journal. The Journal recently introduced an online "advert mailbox," where people can send questions about the advertising industry. One curious reader recently inquired after the identity of "Jack" in the Jack-in-the-Box commercials. The Journal offered up a five-paragraph response but no answer. "We have no word on who provides his voice," the Journal wrote. "Chalk it up as a Madison Avenue mystery, but we'll try to stay on top of this one for you."

Perhaps Adages can be of some assistance. A simple check of Ad Age's electronic library turns up a handful of stories dating back to the late 1990s that reveal what most everyone in the business knows anyway: Jack's voice is that of his creator, Dick Sittig, who runs Secret Weapon Marketing, the Santa Monica ad agency that handles Jack-in-the-Box.

Madison Avenue mystery solved.

Skin-deep TV

The Discovery Channel is jumping on the "extreme makeover" reality bandwagon. Of course, being a science network, that means they're sharpening their scalpels.

The network is in production on the last segment of "Plastic Surgery: Before and After" a 10-hour series that has been on the air since July, and it is looking for volunteers.

"We are not looking for contestants so much as patients," says Joe Mackin, president of PerfectYourself.com, which is helping Discovery on the casting call. The Web site lists 4,700 certified plastic surgeons that users can contact for tips on nipping and tucking.

The site is now in the TV business. "We are trying to find the perfect story in California," says Joe. "The stories surrounding plastic surgery that are not vanity oriented are very moving." As an example of a "moving" story, Joe mentions the case of two potential patients who signed up for the show. "They are forgoing their vacations this year to have his and her rhinoplasties to celebrate their tenth anniversary. I guess they want to make the next 10 years look a little different."

Send your before and after shots to rlinnett@crain.com

In this article: