Keith Roysdon spent over 35 years as a professional newspaper reporter in Muncie, Indiana. During that time he collected awards from organizations like the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists, Hoosier State Press Association, and the Associated Press Managing Editors. in his books (co-written with Douglas Walker) Wicked Muncie and Muncie Murder & Mayhem, Roysdon shares with us the largely unknown stories of Muncie that will shock readers with their violence and intrigue. Roysdon and Douglas will have a third Muncie true crime book released in 2020 from History Press.
Mr. Roysdon was kind enough to chat with us about Muncie's history and, of course, pizza!
After reading this Q&A, make sure to check out Mr. Roysdon's books and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!
1. Until we started reading through your books, we had no idea that Muncie had such a colorful and interesting history. In fact, in your intro to Wicked Muncie you mention that Muncie (like many Midwest cities) had the nickname of Little Chicago. Do you have a brief anecdote that might capture some of the seedier or sensational parts of Muncie's history?
In October 1949, a shoot-out at Muncie's New Deal Cigar Store, a gambling joint, left three men dead and several wounded. Yet the men responsible were barely punished, with one serving only a five-year prison sentence.The crime left people across Indiana outraged and helped cement Muncie's already-growing reputation as a lawless town. In 1965, a prosecutor in an unrelated case pleaded with a jury to convict, noting, "Muncie had a reputation of being a place where you could kill a man and get away with it."
2. What are your favorite pizza places in Muncie and which toppings do you like to get on your pizza?
Muncie is known for pizza favorites like Pizza King and Greek's. My favorite is Mancino's, where you can't go wrong with sausage, pepperoni and mushroom. But really, everything they have is good.
3. J. Ottis Adams, David Letterman, Francis Focer Brown, Mary Jane Croft, and Jim Davis all have strong ties to Muncie. Do you think that there is something about Muncie that serves as an inspiration to world-class artists and performers?
It's interesting that Muncie is such a pop culture touchstone, from Letterman and Davis to movies like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Hudsucker Proxy." TV shows like "Angel" name-checked Muncie and "Agents of SHIELD" has set portions of episodes here. I think a lot of it stems from the the 1929 and 1937 sociological studies by the Lynds that called Muncie "Middletown," or the typical small American city. Since that time, news organizations from around the world have come to Muncie to gauge the city's take on contemporary life.
4. We have several members from Muncie and we think it is one of the best cities in Indiana. However, we occasionally come across folks who have a disparaging attitude toward the city. Despite its colorful and sometimes sinister history, what are your favorite things about present-day Muncie?
Muncie has traditionally been a hard-hitting and hard-hit town. It led the nation in meth lab busts for a couple of years and I broke the news, in 2016, of an FBI investigation into government corruption that has resulted in several indictments so far with the investigation ongoing. The city has been hurt by economic downturn, with the last of the city's large-scale auto plants closing in 2009. But Muncie has Ball State University, Ball Memorial Hospital - together the two are the city's top employers - a good arts and music scene and a population that is growing more diverse each year. The people of Muncie can be rough around the edges but are helpful, supportive and philanthropic and deserve far better political leadership than they've had over the decades.
5. If you could have a pizza dinner with any three people from history, who would you choose and why?
There's nobody I'd rather sit down to eat with than my wife and son, but of historical figures I've never met, I'd go with Robert B. Parker, my favorite mystery writer, hell-raising political writer Molly Ivins and President Barack Obama.