Captain Blood

Rathbone, you scoundrel . . . What is a girl, more or less?
Rogue Warrior - the next paperback

The sample cover for Dictator's Ransom, due out this fall. (Email me if you see any typos, OK?)

CA's fun and all, but I still gotta cut the grass when I get home.

Or the weeds. Whatever.

Thriller giant Jeffrey Archer is putting out a new edition of Kane & Abel, one of his earlier thrillers. Not content to just approve the new cover, he did something few authors are brave enough (or have the pull) to attempt: he revised the book.

I don't mean change a few words here or there. He supposedly added 27,000 new words . . . though allegedly he also cut enough that the book's actually a little shorter. (I've never heard of an author subtracting words on a rewrite, so take that with a grain of salt.)

Me, as soon as I'm done with a book, I'm done. I'd prefer not to come face to face with any part of my past . . .
Tehran today - gunshots

Authors' friends

So I'm reading this book and I get to the part where the hero parties with some of his friends, which of course I recognize as being a kind of set piece wherein the writer gives some props to his real friends.

The purpose being to tell other writers that his friends are cooler than their friends.

Heh. Beef could outdrink them all. And that's before he got the chainsaw out . . .
Gotta love Cowboy Pilots

So I get on the plane Sunday night and we're about to pull away from the gate when the pilot comes out and grabs the microphone.

"Wanna thank y'all for flyin' with us. I'll be your lounge singer tonight . . . No, no, I'm flying the airplane, ain't I?"

Ten minutes later we're zipping on the taxiway to the runway, going so fast the wings are flapping. Suddenly he slams on the brakes.

"Just making sure you believe me when I say put your seat belts on."

We got to CA forty minutes early. God bless 'im.
Iran . . .

. . . is not about us.
More in Tehran

The video shows one of the protesters shot by the government criminals.
Tehran, today

North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (June 18) - North Korea may fire a long-range ballistic missile toward Hawaii in early July, a Japanese news report said Thursday, as Russia and China urged the regime to return to international disarmament talks on its rogue nuclear program.

More and more, this looks like the best possible solution to North Korea: Target and nuke the leadership. Destroy all nuclear facilities. Obliterate strategic missile launching sites.

A dozen B-2 sorties. Thirty minutes over Pyongyang. At most.

Sure, we end up owning North Korea. But given all the bankrupt companies we've been taking over lately, why not nationalize a bankrupt country?


I ran into Dogboy in the bar the other night.

"Hey," I said. "How was that MI6 thing?"

Dog Boy frowned, then ordered a beer.

"So?" I asked. "How was it?"

"I don't know what MI6 is," he said. "Is it a new car?"

"Come on, you told me you were going. How many C's did you meet? Was the real James Bond there?"

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

He shook his head and walked away. I'd have believed him, except that a decidedly English accent had slipped into his voice. I followed him over to the pool table.

"So seriously, you're not going to tell me?" I asked.

"So seriously, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"What I'd really like to know is, how did you get an invitation, and I didn't?"

Dogboy rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Eightball?" he asked.

"Eightball," I said, realizing that somethings in life are better left unexplored.

The most incredible thing about Iran isn't the crackdown following the stolen election, but that so many people didn't see either event coming.

But it shouldn't have come as a surprise. People don't want to admit that live in a dictatorship, or that they have limited rights, or even that their leaders are evil, until the batons hit them over the head. And many not even then.

When the truth can no longer be denied, first there is despair, then hope, then new action. Even overnight, some Iranians have been talking of the future.

For my friends who helped on the Dreamland book - our prayers and wishes are with you.
The latest from Iran

Tehran, June 13, IRNA — Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Saturday that the voter turnout of over 80 percent and the 24 million votes cast in favor of the president calls for real celebration.

In an important message, issued after the 10th Presidential Elections on June 12, Ayatollah Khamenei said that the enemies are creating provocations out of ill-wish in order not to let the Iranian nation be joyful and happy about the election results.

The despots stand (more) revealed . . . but honestly, what did you expect?
How low can you go?

Low is low, but lead is at whale turd level . . .
What the big deal about pitots is

I'm getting tired of reading news stories that don't explain all this:

The reason the errors in the speed input matter in the crash of AF 447 is this:

Airplanes have to go a certain speed to stay in the air; anything slower, and they stall. That speed is determined by a range of factors, and varies depending on many of those same factors (weight and altitude, say).

You also have the possibility of a high speed stall (or buffeting forces that literally tear you apart) on the other end of the spectrum, by going too fast.

Generally, those two speeds are fairly far apart -- say, too slow is 120 knots and too fast is eighty or eighty-five percent of the speed of sound. But as conditions change, they get closer and closer together. As it happens, one critical place those conditions change is at high altitude. All of this varies according to the design of the aircraft (and its weight, the temperature of the air, etc.).

There is a point at which the difference between too slow and too fast is extremely narrow. Pilots call this "coffin corner." At some theoretical point, there is literally nothing the pilot can do to prevent a stall.

And let me mention that stalling at high altitude and (relatively) high speed - though not absolutely and necessarily fatal - is not very pretty. Even in good weather.

The theory that's being advanced behind the scenes in AF 447 is that the crew and plane found themselves in a coffin corner, and that something subsequently occurred to make them lose control of the aircraft.

That's why the fuss about the pitot tubes, which record the aircraft's speed. Getting the wrong speed first makes it impossible to use the automatic pilot, and then adds considerably to the pilot's difficulty level. (There are backup methods for judging your speed, which would surely have been used or at least tried in this case.)

There's a lot more to the theories, but frankly most of it is simply speculation. Until there's more information, not even the most educated guess can tell us what happened. We don't know for a fact that they were in that sort of flight condition, let alone why and how they got there, or what happened next.

One thing does seem unlikely at this point - given what we know about the weather and the maintenance messages that came from the aircraft right before it disappeared make it unlikely that a bomb went off. Unlikely, though admittedly not 100 percent impossible.
Words to live* by . . .

"Not too many people got a code to live by anymore, kid . . ."

* Or steal cars by. Same difference.
This explains it . . .

Just got this email. I've been wondering why I'm not rich. Don't bother calling today - I'm hunting for the right ATM . . .

Dear Beneficiary,

It is obvious that you have not received your fund which is to the tune of $6.8million. Due to past corrupt Government Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for their selfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of it all in an attempt to swindle your money which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.

The National Central Bureau of Interpol enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Umaru Yar'Adua to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to you and other individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum, Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes.

You have the option of receiving your fund by either check or ATM card.

. . .

Phone call

I hadn't heard from Dogboy lately, so when the caller ID flashed his name, I grabbed the phone, even though it was well past midnight - the time he usually calls for bail money.

Dogboy: Hey, how's it going.
Me: What jail are you in now?
DB: I'm not in jail, dude. That was last week.
Me: So what's up?
DB: I'm wondering if you want to share a hotel room in London for the MI6 thing.
Me: Huh?
DB: The bash. I'm a little tight this month -
Me: Wait a second - you're invited to the MI6 anniversary celebration?
DB: Well, yeah.
Me: You got invited and I didn't.
DB: Oh . . . (silence) . . . Hey, listen, I'm sorry for bothering you.
(the line went dead)
Business as usual . . .

It's hard to be optimistic about fixing what's broken with the economic system when you realize things like this are going on:

Ailing, Banks Still Field Strong Lobby at Capitol

. . .the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, was missing its centerpiece: a change in bankruptcy law he once championed that would have given judges the power to lower the amount owed on a home loan. It had been stripped out three weeks earlier in a showdown between Senate Democrats and the nation’s banks, including many that are getting big government bailouts. . . .

Full story here.

You don't have to agree with the actual measure, one way or the other, to see the problem.
Flight 447

Reports are now trickling out detailing a series of messages from the airliner that indicate a loss of systems over a three or four minute interval while the aircraft was under manual control and after it had encountered serious (though not necessarily catastrophic) turbulence and lightning. In addition, the debris field is said to contain a large fuel slick, which would tend to rule out the possibility of an explosion involving the main fuel tanks. At the same time, the size of the debris field suggests the plane was in pieces when it came down.

One of the rumored messages - at this point, all leaks and unsourced media reports have to be treated skeptically - relates to an "erroneous speed" at the time the pilot was reporting severe weather, nearly fifteen minutes before the final message, and roughly ten before a series of messages indicating very severe problems aboard the aircraft. Because of the nature of the message (and the reporting), it's not clear what exactly the problem with the speed was, and whether it was due to a sudden weather condition or some problem aboard (or with) the aircraft.

Let me state the obvious: As terrible as this tragedy was, determining its cause may prevent many other deaths in the future.
Best analysis of Flight 447 weather . . .

Detailed documents here:

Main web site here:

The weather may be one factor; there will almost certainly be more . . .
The mainstream media catches up

60 Minutes recently did a show on the situation in Afghanistan, which several people who have been there recently have said is a very good overview of what's going on there.

My book, Leopards Kill, is set a little further into the badlands you see in the video. The situation has gotten even worse than I thought it would - and I was far from an optimist.

Inattention kills - wars as well as soldiers.
The Guru on baseball

Baseball is the only sport where, no matter how old or out of shape you are, you are utterly convinced that you could go down to the dugout, grab a bat, and get up and knock one of CC's fastballs out of the park.

That's why baseball is so great.*

See you at the game . . .

* I paraphrased a bit. It's fun editing an editor.
Flight 447

Sudden loss of cabin pressure + electric cut + large debris field = catastrophic airframe event

catastrophic airframe event = ??explosion??

I wouldn't rule anything out at this point.
Game trailer

Rogue Warrior - the game

Dick's in LA this week at E3, the big video game show, helping preview the new Rogue Warrior game.

It's a blast, literally and figuratively. You get to play as Dick, conducting a mission in North Korea, with all the attendant mayhem and Murphy-isms you'd expect. The game will be out this fall - just ahead of a new RW novel.

(That's Richard Marcinko, SEAL Team 6, and Dictator's Ransom for all you search engines out there.)

The cover of Dictator's Ransom, btw, is based on a screenshot from the game. It'll be out in paperback by the end of September, if not before . . .
The problem with Kindle . . .

. . . You can't throw it across the room when you come to a part of a book you don't like.

Well, actually you can - it's just that you're going to seriously regret it after it lands. Unlike a paperback.

I was thinking about this fact while listening to some of the speakers at the BEA book industry conference this past weekend. And while it started as an irreverent, wise-ass remark-toid, it provoked ideas about the future of books that are, maybe, more relevant.

Books - the physical objects - have played a critical role in transferring and preserving knowledge for two or maybe three thousand years. They've gone through relatively few major changes in that time, each one connected to technology. They've also also evolved as mass entertainment media. While they've never really been dominant in that role, it's been as critical in their history as the transfer of knowledge has.

Like the printing press, the possibilities of electronic/digital media and networks has once again thrown the fundamentals into flux. Books' role as the primary reservoir of knowledge has been challenged if not superseded by the internet. Go into any elementary school and ask the kids what they are using for their research projects. The first answer they give will be "the internet."

You can debate whether that's good or bad, but the bottom line is, it's a fact.

As entertainment media, books face a similar, though not quite as fundamental challenge. For the moment at least, they are physically the most efficient means of providing a long-scale imaginative experience - or whatever it is that a novel delivers. But that, too, is changing, and whether people will lose the taste for that form of entertainment - as they have mostly lost their taste for poetry - remains an open question.

Most people in the industry today think that books will basically migrate on-line, where they will resume their traditional role as reservoirs of knowledge and providers of entertainment. I don't know that that's a good assumption. Even if it is, their nature will surely change. If you look at the books being produced in medieval monasteries and those being produced after the invention of cheap paperbacks (and the distribution system that made their sale on a mass market level possible), you can't help but realize the difference is so vast that you're essentially talking about a different product.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that books do migrate and survive successfully to the electronic realm. Digital media makes a large number of things possible that ink and paper can't, at least not economically. Graphics are only the beginning; video, audio, live links to other media - the possibilities are vast.

Given that, it seems logical that the electronic or digital version of a book will be considered, should be considered, more valuable than a print version. If, for example, you're reading about a World War II battle - Dieppe - and you can instantly see a map of the battle site, view newsreels, etc., etc., that's worth more to you than simply being able to read the text.


Well, duh. It's not a radical assumption at all. But I didn't hear anyone mention that at BEA, and in fact have yet to hear anyone point that out when discussing E-books. On the contrary, E-books' value is seen primarily in terms of their distribution system - they're cheap (and quick) to get to market, since you don't have transport costs, etc., etc. (Amazon and Google are doing their best to corner and add to the transport costs, but that's another post.)

The nature of books, storytelling, knowledge transfer and the book industry are all very much in flux. But the people who are mostly looked on for direction mostly don't seem to have much of a clue. We're often not even picking the right people to listen to.

Panel after panel at the BEA featured people who were supposedly experts on topics simply voicing opinions from very limited positions. Can a group of authors, none of whom actually make their living publishing books, really provide insight on the role of publishers either in the present or the near future?

It's an interesting, if difficult, time to be a writer. I'm not sure whether it's a consolation knowing everybody else is confused, too.
I mean, duh . . .

How come everyone who signs up to follow me on Twitter has pictures they want to sell?