About that story from The Bitter Southerner

Some of you have been reading Rapid Eye Reality since 2001. Other folks have found it in the years since then. Some of you are just arriving after having read “Bust” on The Bitter Southerner. Welcome and welcome back.

Almost exactly five years ago at this time, I was sitting at the Redwood Bar and Grill with three amazing writers (Howard Swains, Ryan Kallberg, and Neal Pollack) and I told them the story I’m telling on The Bitter Southerner this week. I told them then because I was just a few days removed from walking through a bloody house and even fewer days removed from hanging out with a guy who had just won millions in Vegas. I was still reeling from both.

I showed the guys some pictures from the scene of the shootout that looked like this.



By the end of the night—best I can recall—we’d all decided it was a story that should be told. We just couldn’t figure out the right place to tell it.

By and by, I found The Bitter Southerner. It was the place I wished I had the vision to create. It gives a home to the best stories from and about the South. What’s more, the people behind it like whiskey, so we’re simpatico. By and further by, editor Chuck Reece found me, I told him this story, and here we are today. It’s the same story–now much more deeply-researched–told in exactly the right place.

“Bust” is coming out in four parts that will span one epic story over two parts, an epilogue, and an essay of a more personal nature. As they are published, I’ll link them here:

Bust (Part 1) The Guns of G-Vegas
Bust (Part 2) Go underground or leave home
Bust (Part 3) Southern Poker Refugees
Bust (Part 4) Final disclosures

Gallery of images from the crime scene

If you found this story because you know Rapid Eye Reality, then I would encourage you to read and support The Bitter Southerner. The site operates ad-free on funds it gets from supporters and people who buy the cool stuff from the General Store. In this digital “must-have-click-bait-to-survive” age, that seems almost ridiculous, but it’s working because the storytelling, photography, and design are as good as it gets, hands down.

Or in the more likely event you found me because of The Bitter Southerner and are wondering what I do when I’m not telling bloody poker stories, here’s a quick catch-up:

BradWillis.net: More about me and my writing
@BradWillis: My Twitter account
Rapid Eye Reality on Facebook: How to keep up with my writing via Facebook.

Although I spend a majority of my time writing about poker around the world, my nights and weekends often end up focusing on other subjects. Here are some recent pieces folks have told me they like.

Carry me home: My flight home with an American hero

The monsters are real: When a monster stole a little girl from my hometown

Giggling at hell: Children practicing how not to get murdered

This is our home: Raising my white children 2015 South Carolina

Dear Son: On the morning of Sandy Hook

If you’d like to read more, I’ve posted other links in the clips section of BradWillis.net.

That night at the Redwood, we had a friendly bartender and we told a lot of stories, but the one I’m telling this week is the one that has stuck with me ever since. It’s not a happy story, and it’s still too early to tell if it will have a happy ending. Nevertheless, it’s a story that I felt had to be told. So, thanks to The Bitter Southerner for helping me tell it.


Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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3 Responses

  1. Rick Lecture says:

    A very well written story of a terrible night. This happened not long after I was learning all of the ins and outs of Greenville’s poker underground. I know several of the people involved and heard many of the stories but this really showed every side of it.

    Great job.

  2. John Jeter says:

    You are beyond incredible.

  3. David Bass says:

    Brad, the Bust series on Bitter Southerner is fantastic. A few weeks ago, I was playing at a private game in Raleigh, NC that was raided. As raids go, this one was almost lame. Two agents, a simple knock on the door, nobody freaked out, no weapons drawn, all players released in less than 10 minutes, no cash or property confiscated and the host not charged with any crime. They just told him to shut it down.

    Of course, many years from now when I try to recount the incident for my grandchildren, I’ll tell a fish tale, and your chronicle of Aaron Awtry’s saga will inform my narrative. Maybe with a few re-reads of your story and enough self-delusion, I’ll begin to believe I was actually there.

    KKing David