Stabbing Eastward

Cleveland's true-crime king takes his grisly quest to Vermont.

There just aren't enough gruesome crimes and dead bodies in Cleveland to keep writer John Stark Bellamy II busy. So he's moving to Vermont later this year, where perhaps he'll be blessed with a new wellspring of headless torsos and cellar-dwelling killers.

"I would have to resort to grease fires and drive-by shootings, if I persisted at this," says Bellamy, whose move follows his retirement from the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Before he goes, he's promoting Death Ride at Euclid Beach and More True Tales of Crime & Disaster From Cleveland's Past, the newly released fifth book in his popular death-and-destruction series. Its title tale relates the story of a rebellious kid who defied the rules, stood up on a moving roller coaster, and promptly fell to his death in 1943. Other yarns are more amusing. There's the swanky Shaker Heights party that was broken up by marauding thugs. The sleepwalker who strangled his mom. The Lakewood toddler who looked like Hitler.

No wonder Bellamy's moving. These attic-clearing tales are a far cry from the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run or the Cleveland Clinic blaze that killed 123 people in 1929. Both were chronicled in his previous books.

The son of two reporters, Bellamy developed an attraction to grisly subjects at an early age. "It was perfectly normal and indeed acceptable to talk about torso killings at the dinner table," he says. "I've probably looked at more microfilm of Cleveland newspapers than any man alive or dead. I've compiled an index, which includes about 12,000 items of murder and mayhem all over."

Bellamy's already outlined his next book, which he plans to start writing once he's settled in Vermont. And -- guess what? -- it's set in Ohio. "It's the most sensational and interesting murder I've ever come across," he says. "I can't really say what it is, because it's too valuable a property to share. And it takes commitment and research on a [full-time] basis.

"So much mayhem, so little time."