Monday, July 31, 2006
In the piece, Scott Rosenberg speculates as to what, really, is the administration's foreign policy over there and suggests this as a fourth option:
"(4) There is no one at the wheel. "Let it play out" might be a calculated stance, but it could also be the pure deer-in-the-headlights paralysis of a White House that is so far out of its depth it cannot muster any sort of coherent response to a crisis. In other words, there might not be method to this madness; in the immortal words of Martin Sheen's Willard in "Apocalypse Now," 'I don't see any method at all.'"
I don't know about you, but my sinking-gut feeling is that this last scenario is the most likely."
It's worth a read, but for me that last one recalls those seven eternal minutes W spent reading My Pet Goat in the Florida classroom.
Deer in the headlights, indeed.
As you know, I don't do reviews. I don't need that kind of pressure. Parsing plots, evaluating prose, dissecting craft is a lot like work, and I don't need any more of that.
This is an appreciation. The Power of the Dog is a great book. Winslow uses the history of the Drug War and our insane, immoral and ultimately counterproductive involvement in Latin American politics as a foundation for this book. There are times it's tough to tell what's fiction and what's fact, because so much of this has been kept secret from us, the average schmucks. And that's because our foreign policy and this fekakta Drug War are being run by people who make Mel Gibson look sane.
Man, I wish I'd written this. Pick it up.
Friday, July 28, 2006
So I said yes.
And forgot. (Loyal readers will know I've had a few other things on my mind this week, but that is still no excuse.)
You can see the results of the virtual cocktail party with honored guest, JD Rhoades, here.
The ladies throw a nice get-together. Thanks for the invitation, Tasha.
Work has been hard. Not as hard as staring at yak ass all day, but still hard. Yesterday I worked all afternoon for three paragraphs that I'll probably toss out this morning.
But this weekend, I think the end of the novel is within grasp. If I ignore everything else and write, I think it will be ready to send out.
No, this is not my next novel. This is still the ghost novel that has plagued me for too long, keeping me from the next book and any semblance of sanity.
My friend Jerry is right, and timely, quoting Mr. Waits. You got to get behind the mule.
He's also right about his paintings. They do take over a room, which is a problem only if you have a weak, watery personality.
Of all things, that's a problem I do not have. Bring on the paintings.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I wrote an entire scene last night. It was short, and it took a herculean effort to mentally shed the real estate crap that's stinking up the landscape, but the end of this book is near.
Baby steps. I'm taking baby steps.
(By the way, that's a baby lemur up there. An Aye-Aye. Next time you're in town, stop by the Duke Primate Center. Lotsa lemurs, inlcuding a few of these Nosferatu-lookin' critters.)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Here is why loud music, kids' toys and cops with guns are a bad combination.
Brooklyn - Police responded to a complaint of loud music and dope smoking and shot a guy in a scuffle. How it happened depends on whom you believe.
There was a birthday party in the courtyard of a housing project. That much is not in dispute. People were having a good time. Now, we all know that in George Bush's America, that makes your gathering highly suspect. Good times can only mean trouble, people. If you're getting together to burn Dixie Chicks CDs, that's OK. Parties? Not so much.
The cops say two officers asked the group to turn down the music. They left, and returned later. According to police, when the officers returned people were smoking marijuana.
Are we seeing a pattern in police shootings here?
The cops approached a man they described as the D.J. (my guess is they described him as other things too, but off the record) and asked him to turn down the music. The police say the guy responded by punching the officer in the face. Considering the request, that might have been a bit of an overreaction.
A fight broke out. Of course. It's Brooklyn.
In the melee, Mr. Ramirez, that's the dude who got shot, hit a police officer with a kid's scooter. The other officer, having spent more time at the range than the cops who shot the pit bull, fired once, striking Mr. Ramirez in the torso.
“He fell straight down,” one of the neighbors said, and no, I did not make that up. "He fell straight down." I'll bet he did.
But neighbors say the cops' version of what happened is bullshit.
Of course. It's Brooklyn.
They say the music was not even playing when the officers returned. The cops stopped Mr. Ramirez’s stepfather and asked him for identification and the man, not speaking English, said "Huh?" or the Spanish equivalent.
“Cops asked the father for ID,” said Sonia James, 45, from Canarsie, referring to the stepfather. “He didn’t have ID. They started cuffing him. They hit him in the head with a nightstick. The son (the guy wielding the scooter) ran up. They got in a confrontation.”
That's when Mr. Ramirez fell straight down.
The question for you today is, who do you believe?
Me, I think it was Charlie Stella who started the fight. Of course. It's Brooklyn.
Tsoris, as in gehakte tsoris, or a heavy dose of trouble. Nothing the Planet can't endure, God knows, but trouble still.
The people who put a contract on the house are backing out. The problem? The house isn't perfect. Nothing major. The roof, foundation, electrical and plumbing are all fine. No, there are some pieces of siding that need to be replaced. A couple clouded windows. All of which we're fixing, but it's not enough. These young people are scared.
And it's no wonder. The young woman's father is one of these macho jerks who made it a point of telling me he was a builder in the first few minutes. He sent four, yes four, inspectors to look at the house. For those of you who have never gone through this process, that's like having four irritable editors going over your manuscript, looking for trouble.
So they submitted a 16-page report which scared the youngsters and now they want out. OK. That's fine. It just puts us back two weeks, and now we have to keep the house in museum condition to show, and it's a pain in the ass. But the repairs will be made, the price will go up, and more of our lives will be eaten up by bullshit.
The real problem is that, for the first time in a long time, my writing was moving forward. Now all I can think of is this house, and the repairs, and showing it, and going through this whole mishigas again.
How do any of us stay focused on our fiction when life insists on sticking its fugly head in the door every few minutes and blowing us a cosmic razberry? How do you do it?
Tsoris. That's the word for today, Planeteers. Tsoris.
Monday, July 24, 2006
This from today's Times.
Three officers were grazed by bullets yesterday morning, when the police fired more than two dozen shots at a pit bull that had locked its jaws around a fourth officer’s leg in a Bronx building.
That's right, you had one cop whirling around a Bronx hallway (which you know is as narrow as George Bush's reading list) with the dog latched onto his calf, and he's screaming "Shoot the son-of-a-bitch!" or words to that effect, and the other cops are popping off rounds like it was a Baghdad wedding.
Twenty-six shots were fired at Red, the pit bull. Nine hit the dog. The others skinned the legs of the police officers who danced a 40 caliber rag in the gathering gunsmoke.
The dog's owner said the officers were in pursuit of a teenage boy they saw smoking marijuana on the stairwell when Red got between the cops and the kid. The kid got away, but not before losing his buzz.
Red was described by neighbors as "a good dog who was kinda quiet and kept to himself pretty much."
Maybe this thing has turned the corner.
Friday, July 21, 2006
This is what happens on a Friday when I should be working but instead I'm listening to WWOZ and lurking around unsavory Internet sites reading salacious gossip like this:
Laura Bush is sick of W's playing hide the chorizo with Condi and stormed off to spend the night at the Mayflower Hotel just north of the WH. Apparently, a hotel staffer confirmed that the First Lady's spent at least one night there last week.
We all know that Condi's slipped and called W her husband. Now, as a married man, I know if a single woman I worked with called me her husband, Jenny would say I had some serious splainin' to do.
The guy should know better than to mess around in domestic affairs. Because if Laura leaves him, Georgie Boy best watch his ass.
That Laura is one stone cold killer.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
This time, I am the proud future owner of Wicked Break, the follow-up to Jeff Shelby's terrific Killer Swell, a sun-soaked mystery set in San Diego with surfing protagonist Noah Braddock.
Am I like totally stoked, dude? Cha.
But you can buy your own copy here. What are you waiting for? Go.
And you can read about my awesome feat of prose-purloining brilliance at First Offenders.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Read Beneath A Panamanian Moon!
Oh, wait, I've already milked that steer.
No, I'm not about to slip a bit of sly product placement into my posts about pubic shaving (use Gillette!) or Cleveland Steamers (Don't forget to visit the Rock and Roll Museum!)
Not unless the money's right, I'm not.
But we have sold our house. Now it's on with the Great Purge of '06 as we prepare to move into a sailboat-sized 1200 square feet. Everything Must Go!
All except my books, records, CDs, guitars, amplifiers and the Durham Bulls baseball signed by Tim Robbins.
Other than those things, Everything (else) Must Go!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Once again, Dear Leader affirms what the the rest of the world suspects by groping the Chancellor of Gemany. See video here.
Someone needs to have a talk with Human Resources.
I only had a moment before talking to a corpse, but I got it in.
"It was easy," I said.
Mickey Spillane is dead.
I started to write a real hardboiled obit, but my heart wasn't in it. I read a few of Spillane's books and found his prose about as subtle as Mike Hammer's name. I was more taken by Chandler and Hammett and Cain, guys who created characters without the swagger. I don't care much for swagger. Never have.
But what do I know?
Spillane got the job done and clocked in with a great career. His books sold in the millions, made into dozens of movies, the best being Kiss Me Deadly, and a couple decent TV shows. You got to respect that.
It was Stacy Keach in the last series, made in '84, that I remember best. Told with a bit of class right from the opening theme, Earle Hagen's Harlem Nocturne.
Mickey Spillane is dead.
Hardboiled would not be the same without him, and that's not a bad legacy.
Ciao, Mickey. Don't forget your hat.
Update: The Divine Ms. Weinman, of course, has all the links to all the bloggy goodness re: Spillane. Check it out here.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I will, of course, blog on the experience.
Jerry and I have a 35-year history of road trips. I can guarantee this one won't be like the old days when we used to do winter trips, wine bottle hanging out the window, chilling in the winter air. I doubt if we'll pass our exit three times because we're THAT HIGH and singing THAT LOUD. And the chances of us crashing on the floor of a woman who owns far too many cats are slim, but who knows? I will stick a toothbrush in my shirt pocket, just like the old days when this was considered packing for the trip.
It'll be fun.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Dick Cheney's favorite news source, the NY Times, reported yesterday that a paralyzed man has been controlling a robot through a small sensor stuck in his brain. According to the Times, this guy could open e-mail, play Pong (Pong!) and draw a crude circle on the screen through the sheer robot-controlling power of his mind.
Sure, the paralyzed guy gets one now, but soon we'll all be getting this thing stuck into our cerebral cortex. Think of it! The Times reports that the lucky paralyzed bastard could change the channel on his TV (no more lost remotes!), and he could move a robot's hand around, which gives new hope to all those poor Cheeto-stained guys blogging in their jockies that some day a robot babe will, you know, give their own hand a break. (No more tendonitis!)
Controlling robots with your brain. Can it get cooler than that? I don't think so.
Next: Jet packs for everyone!
Monday, July 10, 2006
See that monkey up there? That's a white-faced monkey and in person they look like little old men. (I don't know who the girl is, but damn, look at the size of her hair! She could have a whole monkey family living in those locks.)
But I digress.
When I lived in Panama, there was an exotic pet store in PC run by an English woman. Near the front of the store was a white-faced monkey who would stare at customers as if he knew something about you so secret and loathsome that it repulsed him beyond the limits of primate patience. That, of course, made him endlessly fascinating.
One day the monkey was gone, sold I was told, to a nice American family in the Zone. One week later the monkey was back. I asked why. The English woman refused to tell me until I badgered her and she admitted, her voice a whisper, "He has the most disgusting habit of masturbating in public."
If I'd had the money, I would have bought him right there, dressed him in a little officer's uniform, sans trousers, and installed him on a perch near the PX.
Flog away, little monkey, flog away.
Do monkeys call that spanking the human?
Now, I really have to stay away for a while and concentrate on my work. Please, Mindy, don't ask about monkeys again. OK?
(That monkey up there looks like he's a venerable wanker, doesn't he? Maybe that's a clue to the mystery of that gigantic hair.)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Ah, the young fools, Chris Everheart and Kim Mizar-Stem have hung up their collaborative shingle in the great time-eater we call the blogosphere. I put a link thingie up over there, and here's one here Inside the Weenie Factory, just in case you're too damn lazy to roll your goddam mouse to the side and click, like that's such an effort.
Cute pup, though. And them weenie dogs are mighty tasty.
Or has he?
As one Houston woman who lost everything said, "I want to see the bastard's body."
For those of you who don't follow multi-million dollar scams that don't have Ocean in the title, Ken Lay and his criminal cronies used Senator Phil Gramm's engineered deregulation (is it a coincidence that Phil's wife, Wendy, was a member of Enron's board?) to steal from employees, investors and California grandmothers. When caught, Ken's wife went on TV and sobbed that things were so bad that they had to sell one of their vacation houses.
But now Ken's shuffled off, joined the choir invisible, he is no more, he has ceased to be.
Or maybe not.
My wife and I often play the game "Who's the Bigger Cynic?" and more often than not, she wins. This time, however, I think I have her beat.
Jenny thinks Kenny Boy is alive, his face surgically-altered (he now looks like David Hasselhoff), living in Lichtenstein, surreptitiously spending his ill-gained gelt.
Ha! What a Pollyanna.
I think Ken's dead. Why? Because it was easier for the Bush family to whack him than it was to let him live, and possibly sing about the private doings of his butt-boy, the President. You can snort a lot of blow off a hooker's ass if you've got access to Enron's private plane, and George had plenty of access, flying all over the place during the 2000 campaign.
So the Bush familia did to Kenny Boy what George 41 did to Bill Casey, dead head of the CIA. See, when Iran-Contra broke open like an overripe melon, some of it threatened to get on Pop. By taking out Bill Casey, George Sr. managed to isolate all blame to Casey and Oliver North, the fall guy who was later rewarded with a cushy gig bloviating on Fox News.
Hey, it worked once. Why not again? So they grease the Kenster, eliminating a potential threat and shut up Jeffrey Skilling at the same time. Beautiful.
My wife is such an amateur.
Hey, I've been there. You say something that's misinterpreted and then wonder what the hell you did to enjoy such invective. Please accept my apologies. I usually see the best in people, and, well, my best was out wandering in the desert. You are very gracious to respond with the olive branch. I'm humbled and grateful.
We'll start over. If I can ever get this second novel out (and that's not a given), and we are at the same place at the same time, let's take some time to have a drink together. Elaine Flinn assured me we'd enjoy one another's company.
Thank you so much for this response. Next time, I'll work harder at being a better blogger. You didn't deserve this.
Jesus, why did I start a blog where everyone can see when I make an ass of myself? Oh, that's right, it's Olen Steinhauer's fault. Damn you, Olen. Damn you.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
They say that a panel is only as good as its moderator and when I saw that the panel I was assigned was scheduled for Sunday morning, 9 a.m. I assumed we'd be preaching to an empty room.
The panelists, aside from one unknown drunk, were all worth the price of admission:
The lovely Louise Ure who said she liked my book, which shows she either has excellent taste or is not someone you'd ask to cut the cards.
Bette Golden Lamb and JJ Lamb, husband and wife team who through some kind of criminal yin and yang, achieve a cosmic balance.
Blake Crouch, a young writer who kicks major ass on the page and is a gentle, sweet father in person.
But, in spite of these luminaries, how could we possibly rouse the few stragglers who might wander into our panel?
Easy. Have the Reverend Rhoades stage an old fashioned tent revival right there in the gilded Biltmore conference room.
Can I get a witness?
We had a great house of enthusiastic parishioners and before the service was over, many had been called over to The Dark Side. Hallelujah!
Thank you, Reverend Rhoades for guiding your flock with such envigorating spirit.
(By the way, Reverend Rhoades has been short-listed for the Shamus award. You know what that means. Dusty is a fucking nominee, bitch. Do not stand in his way.)
There were many throughout the weekend who made the weekend so goddamn enjoyable. Here are the ones I was sober enough to remember:
Robert Gregory-Browne. This guy is obsessed with my exploding pants. I don't know why.
Elaine Flinn. It was an honor to share the verandah with Elaine, a woman who knows more about this biz than the rest of us combined. Every time she laughed at one of my jokes I felt like top billing at the Copa.
James Rollins. James was another who was sucked into the gravity of our traveling show, all to good effect. Those cuts will heal in time, James.
Mindy Tarquini. A regular here at the Planet. Sorry about that resaurant mix-up. I think it was Stephen who offered tp pick up your check. And just send the book here. I'll sign it and send it back. I promise.
Elizabeth Krecker. She adds so much heart and soul to this blog, as she did in Phoenix. What a beautiful lady. Now, how do I buy those pictures you say you have?
Michael MacLean. Here's another man who should know better than to let the clown circus snatch him up in the dead of night. But thank goodness, he doesn't.
Jason Pinter. The editor who stepped in at the last minute and before the weekened was out had sixty-two novels, three nonfiction mss and a chapbook of gay cowboy poetry pressed into his hands.
Janine Wilson. How much more love can I show the woman who has hand sold BAPM to friends and strangers. God bless you, Janine. I want to have your babies.
Nick Hughes. Taught us The Mind of the Streetfighter with charm, humor and the requisite amount of sheer amusement at the thought that any of us would stand a snowball's chance in a real dust-up.
Mark Gimenez. Mark wrote The Color of Law, another first novel. I liked the book and I liked Mark, a real class act, in spite of being from Dallas.
Marcus Sakey. Didn't I see you at the bar? Yeah. I thought so.
JT Ellison. Didn't we dance out on the croquet court at 3 a.m.? Or was that...
Chris Everheart. Chris was a very funny addition to the clown show and it seemed, whenever I turned a corner, there was Chris, smiling, ready to make me laugh.
But nothing would have been the same without this crew:
Annie Chernow, a woman of class, taste, charm and discernment. Why she wanted to hang out with us is a mystery.
Pat Mullan, a man who knows a thing or two about having a good time.
Stephen Blackmoore, one of the funniest men I've ever had the good fortune to meet.
Kim Mizar-Stem, who is funny, smart and so willing to grace a graying group of gnarled old men with her luminescent beauty. What a mitzvah.
And Dusty Rhoades, my homeboy. He's more than our spiritual leader, he's a fucking nominee, bitch!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Pat Mullan, Dusty Rhoades, Stephen Blackmoore, Kim Mizar-Stem and some unknown drunk were a rolling source of sodden laughter, cheap jokes and rude noises. It's amazing none of us were cuffed, particularly since there were so many representatives of law enforcement in attendance (including the lovely Ms. Martinez, a former Federal prosecutor, and Mr. Born, a former cop who could make the bad guys die laughing).
I met so many people, if I don't mention you, it's because I don't want to encourage you to contact me.
Or, more likely, it's because I massacred so many brain cells that it's a wonder I remember my own name.
Here we go.
Steve Berry - moderator of the panel Dusty called Best. Panel. Ever. Sex in Thrillers with Booze, featuring:
John Lescroat - He writes, plays guitar, sings and serves up a fine Screaming Orgasm with the help of...
M.J. Rose - A woman who not only knows her way around an Orgasm but offered them up to strange men at the conference. God bless her. Her accomplice was...
Barry Eisler - Writer of the Rain series and brave blogger at Heart of the Matter. It was a treat to meet him in person, although he called me rational which shows he may be a good writer, but he's a lousy judge of character.
David Liss - He said such nice things about my book. Right out of the blue, too. Most people expect payment.
Keith Kahla - Editor at St. Martins who carried this message from Peter Wolverton, my editor: There comes a time you have to stop the research and write the book. Point taken.
Mary Elizabeth Hart - Beautiful owner of Mystery Galaxy Bookstore, the only bookseller who thought to stock my book. She sold out the second day. I love you, Mary Elizabeth.
Tess Gerritsen - She took the time to encourage me, diagnosing my second-bookitis as a common affliction, one only cured by writing. Thank you, Tess.
Christopher Rice - We talked briefly after the dinner and he was a thoroughly charming, and tall, young man.
M. Diane Vogt - She helped organize the conference and what a great job they did. I've only been to a few of these, but this was the best. Maybe because they liked my book.
Sarah Weinman - The Divine Ms. Weinman, as she's called by those of us who make her blog a daily must-read. I missed her at Bouchercon last year, so I was eagerly looking forward to meeting her in Phoenix. Why? Because I'm a fan. I like her fiction and wonder when the hell she's going to tackle a novel. Sarah? We're waiting.
And then there's one guy whose turd-like demeanor made the brilliance of those around him shine all the brighter. A foil of sorts.
I've been to three of these conferences and there's always one guy who epitomizes rude, self-congratulatory, smug and condescending behavior, and almost always toward his betters, because this guy is not a writer, this guy is a reviewer. There are reviewers I like. David Montgomery is one. But this guy is a lamprey on the body of publishing. In one short encounter (although it seemed much longer) this guy managed to insult me, my book (although he hadn't read it), first novels, St. Martins and the human race in general, merely by drawing breath and wasting precious oxygen. His name is Larry Gandle.
I know, I shouldn't piss off a reviewer, but fuck him. He was an obnoxious ass. His presence made me appreciate even more the generosity, warmth, charm, humor and self-effacing grace of the other people at the conference. I couldn't escape this loathsome toad's company fast enough.
Later, I'll write about the panels and the people who were particularly memorable. Stay tuned.
I didn't have a very good time in Phoenix. Anyone who was there can tell you I spent most of the time sulking in my room, watching movies at $87 a pop, drinking from the mini bar and sobbing uncontrollably.
Why? Well, as Dusty Rhoades called the recent unpleasantness, the only reason my novel was nominated for a Thriller was because of my gender, and as I didn't win, that can only mean my manhood was insufficient to take home the trophy. Apparently, Adam Fawer swings a bigger hammer than I do.
So to speak.
The truth is, I can't remember having a better time, which should tell you a lot about how I spent my 20's, and I was surprised by how little I did care about winning. Don't get me wrong, winning is good. I like winning. I even like winning awards because as anyone who has ever been awarded a shiny geegaw for Employee of the Week can tell you, winning is better than losing. But I was disappointed for about ninety seconds, and then Stephen Blackmoore brought me a drink and all was right again. Congratulations, Adam, and to Will Staeger, Mark Gimenez and especially to Stuart MacBride, your work made being considered for this award a genuine honor. How I ever made it into your company has always seemed a fluke.
And I suspect someone at Thrillerfest had the good sense to realize that me, a microphone and an open bar could not possibly add up to anything good.
I promised myself I'd drop as many names as possible so here goes.
People I was happy to see again, in no particular order:
Fred Rea. Fred's one of the few people I can talk to about the relative merits of the Makarov 9 mm vs the parabellum and he actually gives a damn.
David Montgomery. I like David. I like decent guys. David is a decent guy.
Sandy Balzo. Sandy kicked my ass in the Derringer Awards, making it easier to accept this loss. She's also a beautiful, smart, funny and incredibly generous writer.
Michele Martinez. Speaking of beautiful and talented, Michele is another person it's always good to see, because I know that if I stay on her good side, there's a smaller chance I'll be brought up on federal charges.
Gayle Linds. Gayle probably couldn't pick me out of a lineup, but she taught me a lot about writing a thriller.
Zoe Sharp. There are some women who just ooze class and charm, even when firing off a few belts through a Squad Automatic Weapon.
Joe Finder. Joe has never shooed me away, no matter how annoying I became, and I really did like Company Man.
Joe Konrath. Joe is a wonder, a whirling dynamo of entertainment. I'm a sucker for anyone who makes me laugh, and as some of you know, it's very difficult to make me laugh. Uh-huh.
Dusty Rhoades. I wish he'd stop following me around. People are beginning to talk.
People I wish had been at Thrillerfest:
Stuart MacBride, Ray Banks, Al Guthrie, Duane Swierczynski, Tasha Alexander, Byron Quertermous, Olen Steinhauer, Kevin Wignall, Josh Stallings, and there are more, I'm sure, that I'll think of as I write more.
Embarrassing updates: Oh, how about Jeff Shelby? Damn. And Sandra Ruttan. John Rickards and James Lincoln Warren. I consider John's absence the reason I didn't win.
In my next post, I'll mention all those people I met for the first time. Some I knew from blogs, some people were new to me. All of them made last weekend a great time.
More to come.