About the Author
James Corcoran is an associate professor
and chair of the Communications Department, Simmons College, Boston. Away from the classroom, Professor Corcoran continues his study of extremist groups and domestic terrorism. He has penned a series of opinion pieces about domestic terrorism that have appeared in the Boston Globe, Newsday of Long Island, as well as other publications. A new textbook, News Reporting and Writing, by Lorenz and Vivian, dedicates a chapter to Corcoran's reporting work on the late Gordon Kahl which earned him a 1983 Pulitzer Prize nomination and served as the basis for his first book, Bitter Harvest.
Corcoran has also collaborated with civil rights attorney Morris Dees on a book about the militia movement in the United States, entitled Gathering Storm. Corcoran was prominently featured in the first hour of a three-hour documentary, Evil in Our Midst: Hate in America, that aired in the Spring of 2000 on the Discovery Channel.
North Dakota looked like a Norman Rockwell canvas. Its people, largely untroubled by such big-city problems as pollution and crime, prided themselves on their church going values and small-town friendliness. Their grain elevators groaned with bumper crops. On Sunday, February 13, 1983, blue skies and bright sunlight bathed a peaceful land. The Heartland, however, was not as it seemed. "Something terrible, and terribly important, was taking place," writes Pulitzer Prize-nominee journalist James Corcoran. There was fear and hatred in the land, and it was about to erupt in violence.
It happened on a country road near Medina, North Dakota, when Gordon
Kahl, federal tax protester and Posse Comitatus member, shot it out with federal marshals attempting to arrest him for violating terms of his probation. Kahl and his son killed two marshals on the road, after which Kahl became a notorious and elusive fugitive. Like a bandit hero, the income tax evader and cold blooded murderer was celebrated in legend and ballad. Even after federal authorities tracked him to a farmhouse in Arkansas and killed him, many of Kahl's admirers refused to admit he was dead; some still do not.
James Corcoran has native knowledge of North Dakota and intimate
knowledge of the Gordon Kahl case, having covered it for The Forum of
Fargo-Moorhead. Since first publication of his book in 1990, no other chronicler has produced such a compelling narrative of the events, or such an insightful analysis of them, as he. Bitter Harvest is an American tragedy treating a time of national discontent. More particularly, its republication by the Institute for Regional Studies reminds us that it is a story of the northern plains, a story upon which we must reflect.