Blind Tommy was one of those guys you saw hanging around on the street when you were growing up, the kind who didn’t really belong to any group or gang, and who everybody knew was a little slow.
That was all most kids knew about Blind Tommy, except for the kids who went to St. Mary’s.
Like everybody else, Blind Tommy bore the beatings and bullying patiently; he’d learned that protesting just made things worse. Until one day in Sister Theresa Joe’s class.
Sister Theresa Joe went to swat him for something he did, or didn’t do, or might have been going to do if he’d been quick enough to think of it. As she moved in, Blind Tommy shot up out of his chair. The next thing anyone knew, Sister was on the floor, passed out.
Nobody liked Sister Theresa Joe, not even the other nuns, but that didn’t help Blind Tommy. The principal hauled him off to her office, where Tommy sat on the bench and waited for his mother. When she got there, she walked right up to him and socked him across the face. Blind Tommy fell down in a heap, right in front of the principal.
That forced act of contrition kept him in school. But from that point on, nuns kept a pretty wide berth. Until years later, when Blind Tommy went to work at St. Calvin’s Hospital.(more to come . . .)
Voters in Venezuela will go to the polls Sunday to decide whether to make dictator Hugo Chavez dictator for life - or at least as long as the oil keeps flowing and he can pay his thugs to keep him in power.
Surprisingly, there's a virulent movement against him, which this video is part of. The catch phrase means, roughly, Why don't you shut up?* If Chavez doesn't rig the election too badly, the voters may tell him just that. Then things may really get interesting.
Why should we care? A good hunk of the oil that heats our homes and the gasoline that fuels our cars comes from Venezuela . . .
*Ironically, the phrase originated from a put-down from the king of Spain. Obviously, there's a lot to be said for constitutional monarchs.
Her: I had a terrible writing day.
Me: How's that?
Her: I'm totally blocked. The characters are pissed off. One of them actually told me this afternoon to get bent.
Her: I wanted him to do something and he just cold-cocked me and said: "Why should I do what you want me to do? Just so you can have a little drama in your plot? Piss off."
Me: Time for drinks.
Her: I wrote him as a teetotaler, but I'll give it a try.
The magazine, World War II, bought first serial rights to Rangers at Dieppe and is featuring an excerpt from the book in their December issue.
I've written for magazines before, but this one feels like it's remote control - someone else did the excerpting . . .
And did a very nice job, telling a story but not telling the entire book. An art in itself.
From the Creative Use of the English Language Department:.
(Nov. 27) - The Army is retrofitting 1 million uniforms to bolster pants that have been tearing during the rigors of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers in Iraq began reporting "crotch durability problems" with their combat uniforms in July 2005, according to the Army. Jumping into Humvees, hopping from helicopters and scrambling after insurgents have popped inseams on the baggy pants.
The plot continues to thicken . . . From the NY Times:
LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov. 26 — Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, back from exile, denounced the military dictatorship of Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, today and said he would lead street protests if his demands for the general to lift emergency rule and reinstate the Supreme Court were not met.
A day after his return to Pakistan, Mr. Sharif signed his nomination papers for January’s parliamentary election at a court in Lahore as his supporters packed into the courtroom chanting "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif!" the Associated Press reported.
Separately, a spokesman for General Musharraf said the president would “most probably” be sworn in Thursday as a civilian head of state, removing his uniform and relinquishing his role as chief of the army on Wednesday. “He is going to take off his uniform a day before that," the spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, told AP Television News, referring to the swearing-in ceremony slated for Thursday.
The whole story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/27/world/asia/27pakistan.html?ex=1353819600&en=bea4dc529c193c69&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
One of the great things about being published by Tom Doherty books, is that, while the house is still a major publisher, it's small enough that the publisher himself not only knows who you are but even will go out and have a beer or two with you when you're in town.
Admittedly, that cuts both ways, especially in my case. But let's accentuate the positive . . .
One of the things that you end up talking about, inevitably, is the state of the business. We hear a lot about how people don't want to read, how computer games and the web are seducing readers, etc. But Tom pointed out that we almost never hear about the biggest problem with the industry right now - over the last few years, we've lost literally hundreds of book distributors and thousands of book stores. Everyone knows about the demise of independent stores, but the contraction or outright disappearance of book chains has had just as much of an impact, and in terms of sheer numbers, maybe even greater, on the number of books sold, especially at the mid-list level. His point wasn't that people don't want to read any more - they're not getting as much of a chance to buy books as they used, and that's really what's hurting us.
Now Tor/Forge is doing a lot to deal with this - and obviously it's working, since they've had a string of best sellers this past year. But listening to Tom and Bob and some of the other experienced hands talk about how selling at the wholesale level used to be done, you can't help but feel a huge amount has been lost. When those guys (and gals) broke in, they had to forge relationships with literally hundreds of different distributors, jobbers and others responsible for getting books in stores. Those middlemen knew an enormous amount about their individual markets.
Maybe computer information systems can replace that human knowledge. But it'll never replace the camaraderie that came from riding with a guy at four or five o'clock in the morning, with only a cup of coffee to keep you warm as you picked his brain about what people really wanted to read, and just as importantly, how to design book covers and marketing campaigns to get those books in front of the customer.
The internet is fantastic for bringing readers to writers; I "talk" with readers just about everyday through email and learn a tremendous amount every time. But there's no real equivalent for publishers, and I think the entire industry - writers included - have lost a bit because of it.
I was in New York last week to meet the Rogue Warrior - aka Richard Marcinko - aka Demo Dick - and talk about what's going on with the next installment and get some new ideas on how to best blow things up. We met with the publisher and had a great time, talking promo campaigns and book signings and media launches. Of course, I only hung around for the beer.
At the moment, I'm not supposed to say anything about where the book takes place or what happens, because not everybody is back.
That's the cover story, anyway. Rogue Warrior: Dictator's Ransom should be out next fall.
One of the great things about traveling with Dick is the fact that restaurants magically open up tables when he shows up, no matter how many people are with him and what time of night it is. But I guess maitre d's respect someone who knows 143 ways to kill a man with his bare hands.
I'm in Manhattan, walking down Broadway in the low 30s, high 20s, heading for the Flat Iron Building and a meeting with our publisher. It's drizzling, but I've hit it just right - every loader, roustabout, door watcher, construction worker and general flunky is out taking a cigarette break, affecting the bored nothin' happenin' late fall NY look. Every other car that passes is a Mercedes S sedan.
There's a siren in the distance, then another and another. Ten police cars steam by, flanked by an emergency services van and an ambulance.
The Rogue Warrior is back in town.
The NY Times reported Sunday on some steps that the U.S. has taken to help secure nuclear weapons in Pakistan. The story is good, as far as it goes . . .
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.The real point of the story supposedly is this:
Debate is growing about whether an American classified program has done enough to help protect Pakistan's nuclear weapons.Actually, even the story indicates that the debate took place a few years ago, and it's not at all clear that it's growing, but I digress . . .
The article spends quite a lot of time focusing on the PALS or failsafe code safeguards (that of it as a PIN number that prevents nuclear weapons from being used by unauthorized people), and the fact that the administration debated giving the technology to Pakistan. They ended up deciding not to, supposedly for legal reasons.
Not to defend the decision, but the story doesn't explain that if you understand that technology, it's possible that you could use that knowledge to defeat similar systems in American and Russian weapons. As for the argument about the law preventing it . . .
While PALS systems are important, and something similar should be part of any nuclear device, the presumed lack of those safeguards are only a small part of the overall problem posed by Pakistan's nuclear program.
In fact, the bombs themselves are only the most obvious part of the problem. In the meantime, a good portion of the money given to Pakistan has clearly not been spent as intended. But you probably expected that.
Not the least thing that's interesting about the story is the revelation that the NY Times has been sitting on the information about the secret training aid and Failsafe coding debate (and presumably much more) for several years, supposedly because the administration feared that the stories would harm efforts to secure the weapons. The speciousness of that argument is matched only by their reasoning for printing it now. The newspaper's position basically boiled down to, We're only going to report on this when there's nothing anyone can do about it.
But read the story yourself:
Eventually, you'll read stories that everything is fine because there are contingency plans to secure the warheads if all else fails. Those plans are great as book plots - yes, I speak from experience - but they're poor substitutes for national policy.
Bounty Hunter Bob (3)
Bounty Hunter Bob never found the
We still have beers from time to time. His sidekicks have changed - the gorilla who whipped out the shiny iron in the parking lot is long gone, replaced by stiffs even less discreet. But Bounty Hunter Bob's MO remains the same.
The other day he started telling me a story about a case he was working on.
Guy woke up one morning after having a dream that his wife had cheated on him. Guy went to a lawyer, who called Bounty Hunter Bob.
“It’s a total bullshit case, but times are getting tough,” said Bob. “Plus, there’s the fringies.”
“You mean fringe benefits?”
Bounty Hunter Bob winked. “The wife’s a real looker.”
“You got disbarred for that, didn’t you?”
Bounty Hunter Bob just smiled. I guess the standards are lower when you’re a private dick.
Bounty Hunter Bob (2) . . .
Despite appearances, Bounty Hunter Bob was, and is, a generous sort, and also the sort who doesn't turn down the chance to have a drink in the middle of the day, or any other time. We ended up going down the street to the Derby, which at the time was owned by a friend and a half of mine. The half-friend was behind the bar, which was good, because that meant we only paid for one round out of two.
If my friend had been there, not only would we have to pay for every drink, he would have put us on the hook for the potato chips, too.
After his second or maybe third beer, Bounty Hunter Bob started telling me his life story. Or one version of it - I found out later the story tends to change depending on which bar he's in.
Hewasn’t really a low-life bounty hunter bum. He was a low-life private detective bum. Somewhere in the dim past he’d been a lawyer and been disbarred. Not for taking money or anything like that: it was a divorce case, he was repping the husband, and ended up sleeping with the wife. Pretty hard to figure, if you ever saw Bob. . . .
Bounty Hunter Bob (1)
I first met Bounty Hunter Bob in a parking lot in
I’d just had lunch with a political hack I knew and was about to get into my car when a dark sedan whipped up from behind, blocking me in. Two guys jumped out. One of them had a very pretty, very large and very shiny magnum revolver in his hand, which he pointed in my direction.
“You keep pointing that fucking gun at my head and somebody’s going to be sorry,” I said.
The odds were very strong that it was going to be me, but I didn’t think adding that would help the situation.
“Easy now,” said Bounty Hunter Bob, coming around the other side. His cheap brown suit wasn’t buttoned, probably to better expose the 9 mm stuck in his belt. “I need to see some ID.”
“Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”
Bob got this dumb-shit grin on his face and pulled out his wallet.
“So you’re a private investigator,” I told him. “So what?”
“No fair. You said you’d show me yours.”
I pulled out my wallet. Because a deal’s a deal, and that was still a very pretty cannon his sidekick was aiming at me.
“Just a coincidence, friend,” he said. “Check it out.”
He showed me a police bulletin for a suspected murderer in
“But he’s probably carrying a gun and is an asshole besides,” said Bob, taking the bulletin back. He gestured to his henchman, who got back in the car.
“Who says I’m not?”
"So when you buying me a beer?" I asked . . .
They have nukes, we have ... what exactly?
The country’s dictator, General Musharraf, is at the center of vortex of forces pulling
We get news stories in the West about radical Islamists and the havoc they’re causing in
Why is all this turmoil important for the rest of the world?
So let me ask . . . am I just nuts, or does Bhutto’s return seem a little like Khomeini’s to
One thing that's clear - Condi's as clueless as anyone in the Carter administration ever was.
World War II novels
Norman Mailer's death will get a lot of people reading or rereading The Naked and the Dead, which is good. An even better novel from that war is James Jones' Thin Red Line. Jones is probably best known (if known at all) as the author whose book was the basis of From Here To Eternity. You might start there if you want to read his novels about the war in order.
And speaking of great books that were made into movies, one of the best fiction editors I've ever worked with manages to recommend Guns of Navarone every time I see him. That's Alistair MacClean's great book - a lot more suspenseful than the others . . . unless of course you've already seen the movie.
But it's worth reading even if you have. Same with the others.
"There are two kinds of brave men: those who are brave by the grace of nature, and those who are brave by an act of will."
- Norman Mailer
Forget the tributes*. If you haven't read The Naked and the Dead, take it out of the library today. Stick with it; it gets a lot better.
*But if you must, read this article in Esquire by Tom Junod: http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0107lastman
Most people don’t know Ted Rensink, and there’s no reason they should. No one’s made a movie about him, and while his name does appear in a book (or will when it's published this January), he doesn’t fill up many pages.
But Ted played a big role in their lives. Ted was a National Guard volunteer from the Midwest in 1941 when the President finally managed to wake the country up about what was going on in
Eventually, Ted and a few hundred other young men found themselves in Ireland. Bored and anxious to do something to help America after Pearl Harbor, Ted volunteered for the Rangers, a new commando-style unit that promised plenty of action. Ted was a pretty capable kid, and after only a few days he was selected for what would have been a suicide mission, though of course he didn't it at the time -- and in fact wouldn't realize it for sixty some years. Fortunately for him, the mission was called off.
He was disappointed, but within a few months was fighting in Africa, then
The war over, Ted went home and picked up more or less where he’d left off, a little older, a little wiser, but most of all with some of the best friends a man could have. He married a beautiful woman, raised a fantastic family, and quietly became an important part of his community.
Not a story for the newspapers, certainly not one for a movie or novel. But Ted and the millions of men and women like him, quietly living their lives, have been the backbone of this country for many years. They’re our fathers, our grandfathers, our brothers, our sons, ourselves. They served in World War II, and in
I’ve been privileged to meet a few, not because they were heroes, not because their quiet manners often belie their wartime deeds, but because they’re regular men and women, and therefore a reminder of what we can all achieve.
Happy Veterans Day.
One of her sons turned her in. She was actually charged with a felony, but copped a plea.
Alleged explicit sex discussion gets mom probation
A Pardeeville (Wisconsin) mother accepted a plea agreement on charges she had a sexually explicit discussion with her two sons, even while she maintained she did nothing wrong and that she didn't understand why she was charged. . . .
According to the charges filed against her, Amy J. Smalley, 36, last year told her sons about several sexual experiences she had. She also allegedly described performing oral sex and also showed the two a sex toy.
"That is what I'm being charged with, but that is not what I did," Smalley said. "I believe I'm not guilty."
Smalley's attorneys unsuccessfully argued in court in July that the charges should be dismissed as the discussions should be protected as free speech between a parent and her children in the vein of sexual education. . . .
Full story: http://www.wiscnews.com/pdr/news/255942
So Fred calls up today and asks, "You know where I can get some body armor cheap?"
After I explained to him that body armor is one thing you don't want to get cheap, I asked why he wanted it. Turns out his new book has caused some problems in the Midwest city where it's set. He did a radio show today and the host predicted he'd be getting some death threats, probably by email.
"Emailed death threats don't count," I told him. "Unless the spelling and grammar are really, truly bad."
The book is a true crime account of a Polish priest convicted of murdering a nun. Personally, I think the priest is covering for a confession he heard, but that's how novelists think. Given that he wrote a whole book about it and is expecting death threats, albeit via email, Fred's probably right about who did it.
"Look at the bright side," I told him. "If you get killed, your book will definitely sell-through."
We were sitting at the bar Sunday afternoon during the Vampire Convention in Saratoga when a woman came over and said, "I'm the belly dancer who strips."
Just then the beer came and I had to turn around to pay. When I looked back, the belly dancer/stripper had been vaporized by a flash of sunlight from the nearby window. All that remained was some lint on the floor.
Next time, I start drinking earlier in the day.
My car inspection was up and my check engine light was on, so I went in to town to see Chuck and get it legal. Which is kind of a non sequitar in and of itself.
Back in high school, Chuckee was a pretty popular drug dealer. Not because of his prices – those were set – but because he always partied with the customers. If you bought your meth or reds or whatever was on special that week, he’d pull out a baggie of weed and offer to share a toke. A toke turned into a bone, and three hours later you had no idea what planet you were on, let alone why you’d come.
Being too friendly’s not a good idea if you’re a drug dealer, even for someone low on the food chain like Chuck. So eventually he got busted. I’m thinking he sang the blues and talked for his supper, because he didn’t spend too much time in prison.
He found God inside the joint, and when he got out he went straight. But he couldn’t find a job, so eventually he started making money fixing cars in this barn his father owned a couple of miles north of here. Ramshackle was invented to describe the way this barn looked – like a ram had been shackled to it and tried pulling every piece of wood from the ground. But his work was cheap and usually, well maybe just often, pretty good.
Eventually, supposedly with money he saved from changing disc brakes and blowing out fuel filters, he bought a place in the middle of town. My theory is that it was really bought with money he’d hidden from his drug days, but let me get back to the point.
My car needs to be inspected, so I go in to see Chuckee and after a few desultory words about the state of my soul - dark and getting darker - he takes a look at my car.
“Needs a new clutch,” he tells me.
“I can tell by listening. I heard it when you drove up.”
“That’s the heat shield which you fixed six months ago," I said. "Or rather, didn't fix. What I need is an oxygen sensor.”
“I have a special on brakes.”
“You sure about that clutch?” he asks.
“The clutch is fine. Is the oxygen sensor. Which is on the top of the engine.”
Too late, the car is on the lift.
“Brakes look good,” he tells me.
“I know the brakes are good. It needs an oxygen sensor.”
“Hey, don’t yell.” He lowers it from the lift, hooks some fancy wires up to it, starts it up, then runs and gets a clipboard.
“Sorry, you fail,” he tells me a few minutes later. “You need an oxygen sensor.”
“Why didn’t you do that before you inspected it?”
“Dealer item. Can’t touch it,” he adds as he cheerfully scrapes off the inspection sticker. "Just following state regs here. Have to report you to DMV and take off your sticker. Uh, you ought to get it fixed real soon."
"So now I got to drive it around without an inspection sticker? What happens if the police stop me?"
Chuckee gives me a puzzled look. Then he says, “I’m running a special on brakes today. Brembos are half-price.”
I think I liked him better when he was a drug pusher.
Dogboy was so excited last night that he offered to buy.
"And not just the cheap stuff," he said, slamming a five on the bar. "Some of that imported draft pee you like. Man's beer."
Five didn't buy much at the bar we were at, but the thought was what counted.
"Married life agrees with you, huh?" I said. I hadn't seen him since he and Mama Squeeze made their hookup legal.
"Marriage - uh, don't know about that." He smiled and waved the bartender over.
His pupils weren't dilated, and his nose looked normal. So why was he in, not a good mood, but a buying good mood?
"I'm a lucky man," he told me while we waited for our beers. "Check it out."
Dogboy pulled out his cellphone and clicked up an email he'd saved.
De Lotto (Electronic Lotreij)
2280 GB Rijswijk
Our dear certified winner,
The Board of Directors of Netherlands lottery promotions announces to you as 1 of our 10th lucky Winners of this year annual New year Christmas Bonanza draw held on 29th of October 2007, here in United Kingdom. All participants for category A (online version) were selected randomly from World Wide Web (www) through computer balloting system drawn from over 100,000 names database, union associations and corporate bodies that are listed online. And your email address emerged alongside with 9 other as category .A. winner. Consequently you are therefore been approved for a payout of 2,000,000.00 (Two million Pounds) only.
The following particulars are attached to your lottery payment order.
I started laughing.
"Yo, what's so funny?" said Dogboy.
"Are you kidding me? It's a scam."
"Shit it is."
"It's one of those Nigerian things."
"That's where you're wrong A-hole. It's from the Netherlands. Whole other place. You are just one cynical son of a bitch. You probably don't even believe in Christmas."
I ended up paying for the beers myself, just like always.
From Batista Unleashed, continued . . .
Available now at Amazon, B&N, and your local bookstore...
The flight’s good, the stewardess is really helpful, and things are quiet… until we land in
, where we discover that our bags have not come with us on the flight. Omaha
Now you know, and every person in
Americawho has ever made connecting flights knows, that the problem had to do with the fact that our plane from was late coming in. Either they messed up there in an effort to get the plane off because it was so late – unlikely but possible – or when we landed in Urbana Chicagothey couldn’t find a numb nut smart enough to grab the half-dozen bags bound for and walk them thirty-seven feet from one plane to another. Omaha
But the man at the baggage claim area believes a federal conspiracy is involved.
“We’re only doing what the federal government allows us to do,” he says when Lashley, who has media interviews first thing in the morning, asks if there’s anyway to have the bags delivered to the hotel very early. “Those bags may get here around 9 a.m. – that’s when the next flight is – but we’re not allowed to deliver them until sometime between twelve-thirty and four-thirty.”
“The federal government decides that?” asks Kennedy.
The man looks at him pitifully. Obviously, Kennedy doesn’t understand the worldwide conspiracy.
“Well why didn’t the bags make it here in the first place?” asks Lashley, probably wondering if Attendant #2 decided to have them searched for a boarding pass machine.
“That happens because of weight restrictions,” says the man with a straight face. “Very important, weight restrictions.”
“With the bag or the plane?”
“The plane. When they’re full, they can’t take off.”
“Ours was half-empty,” says another passenger.
“There, see?” says the man. “Too much weight and they can’t take off.”Somebody probably ought to alert the FAA about that.