'In Cheesman Park': a memoir of knowing evil

What if a friend turned out to be a rapist? Point Park professor Steve Hallock recalls his college-era experience

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Steve Hallock, director of the School of Communication at Point Park University in Downtown Pittsburgh, says it's unusual for reporters to get deeply familiar with criminals they're writing about. "It's not often that a journalist has the opportunity to really know and depict the personality and character of a [convict]," he said.

Mr. Hallock, 64, found that out during the more than 25 years he spent as a reporter and an editor at papers in various states, including Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, Ohio and here in Pennsylvania at the Butler Eagle.

But when he was a college student in Denver in the late '60s and early '70s, Mr. Hallock was good friends with a young man, not a student, who he eventually learned was a rapist. What he discovered is a dramatic part of his new book, "In Cheesman Park" (Codefore Publications, $25). Mr. Hallock tells the story of the young rapist while recalling all the interesting times he experienced during his college years in his native city.

The young man, called Lon, told Mr. Hallock he was a rapist after he had been arrested during the crime; then Lon confided he had raped another woman years earlier but said no one but he and the victim had known about that crime.

Years later, Mr. Hallock was telling his wife about his days at the University of Colorado, when the story about the rapist came back to him. "It just dawned on me. This is really an interesting story of a real-life rapist I knew. I should write it," he said. "I thought that it was really a story to be told because of some attitudes toward women in our society.

"This is a story of a certain era, a certain period of political, social and cultural change in our history, and I was part of that," Mr. Hallock added. "It was an exciting time, I think, and this is the story of a weird and down side of that period of time."

He started writing "In Cheesman Park" between his journalistic and academic assignments and finished it in about two years. The book, published this autumn, reads like an excellent novel but is even better because it is true.

"It's all true," Mr. Hallock said. "Obviously, I didn't carry a tape recorder then, but the situations and dialogue are depicted accurately to the best of my remembrance. And the events and people are all real and true. I obviously have changed all of their names."

Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com.

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