Yes, it is true - we let him get away

After all of the Apocalypse Now questions, what I'm asked most often about Leopards Kill is whether we really let Osama bin Laden escape after 9/11.

The answer is, yes.

This wasn't widely known when I was working on the book, but it is gaining more attention. Supposedly, the Senate will be looking into it soon, at least according to this story in the Times:

Senate Report Explores 2001 Escape by bin Laden From Afghan Mountains

WASHINGTON — As President Obama vows to “finish the job” in Afghanistan by sending more troops, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has completed a detailed look back at a crucial failure early in the battle against Al Qaeda: the escape of Osama bin Laden from American forces in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora in December 2001.

“Removing the Al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat,” the committee’s report concludes. “But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide.”

The report, based in part on a little-noticed 2007 history of the Tora Bora episode by the military’s Special Operations Command, asserts that the consequences of not sending American troops in 2001 to block Mr. bin Laden’s escape into Pakistan are still being felt.

The report blames the lapse for “laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.”

Story here (and elsewhere, if you don't like the Times).

A lot of the operational details remain secrete for a number of reasons unrelated to embarrassing people, but the outlines are pretty much there.
Thanks for the fun . . .

Mom brought her stuffing, Aunt Marie brought her ricotta cheesecake, and the Old Guys beat the Young Turks in both football games. It was a great Thanksgiving. We're still partying, some of us....

The only question I have: When did I get assigned to the Old Guys team????
We're back

Sites are back up. Thanks for your patience.

And we appreciate the hits.
Websites blown out . . .

Sorry folks - we just found out that some our websites - and one of the Rogue Warrior sites, - experienced technical problems due to heavy usage over the past few days. We still have some intermittent problems.

Sorry for the problems - we're working on fixing them.

And thanks for looking up us up. We truly appreciate your support.
Here's a fact

More people will learn about the war on terror from Modern Warfare 2 than from reading the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and just about any other eight newspapers combined.

Make gnocchi all morning and you realize why those old Italian ladies had forearms bigger than Popeye's . . .
Ospreys on the line

Been a long time coming . . .
Gee, this is a shock

Wall Street Finds Profits Again, by Reducing Mortgages

As millions of Americans struggle to hold on to their homes, Wall Street has found a way to make money from the mortgage mess.

Investment funds are buying billions of dollars’ worth of home loans, discounted from the loans’ original value. Then, in what might seem an act of charity, the funds are helping homeowners by reducing the size of the loans.

But as part of these deals, the mortgages are being refinanced through lenders that work with government agencies like the Federal Housing Administration. This enables the funds to pocket sizable profits by reselling new, government-insured loans to other federal agencies, which then bundle the mortgages into securities for sale to investors.

The upshot is, they take private underwater mortgages which some helped write in the first place, and foist them off on the government. Which is, um, you and me.

The story, which is here, goes on to talk to one couple who had a $440,000 mortgage reduced to $314,000. I'm sure they're very nice people, but at least according to the story the husband is the sole bread winner, and he's a 62-year-old janitor in California. I guess janitors there get paid a lot of money.
What bankers really think . . .

Mr. Blankfein [head of Goldman Sachs] recently defended his firm’s pay and profits in an interview with The Times of London in which he said that Goldman was “doing God’s work.”

Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare Game Features Awaiting Orders, Repairing Trucks
A good day

Worked on the firewood pile. Any day you get to use a chainsaw is a good day.
Big stories

Speaking of Rogue Warrior . . . some readers were asking during one session or another about why the last few books have had such "big" plots - doing battle with Fidel in this case, the North Koreans, et al. Save the world versus rescue the (relatively unknown) kidnapped civilian.*

Part of it has to do with the reality angle - the stories are intertwining with things that are really going on in the wide world, what Dick's concerned about and up to, and so on.

But another part has to do with the times. Our perception, over the last several books, is that the big stories, with a lot at stake, are what people want to read. It's not just us - both publishing houses have emphasized that. Maybe we're just living in hyperbolic times, but there seems less appreciation or maybe room in the mass media for anything that's narrower or less than apocalyptic.

As for the next book - we're already working on it. Dick's made a couple of trips to the locale, gotten back with his skin (mostly) intact, and we've got some great material. Big and small.

Without me getting in trouble this time, either. At least so far.

Oh, you can get Seize the Day here. Or here.

* No, you didn't miss an installment. I made those up to illustrate the point. Sheesh, grasshopper.
You want one . . .

. . . you know you do.

The new Rogue Warrior watch. And it keeps good time, too.

Here's a review.
Let's do it

I keep reading a lot of bs about New York not being able to handle a terrorist trial.

Give me a break. We've already done it. And I'm sorry, but keeping our collective mouths shut isn't going to make us any less of a target.

We're ready to fry the sob. And if it's what he wants - so much the better.
What editors don't understand (#2,459)

Friend of mine was recently talking to an editor-type, who wanted to know how the work on his latest book was progressing. He did the writer shuffle, but the editor insisted on trying to pin him down.

"So what happens to this character?" asked the editor. "How does [the character]* pull the [plot point]* off?"

"Don't know," said the writer.

The editor-type went nuts.

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

The meeting went downhill from there. I'm not sure if the editor-type thought my friend was bullshiting, being cruel, or somehow slacking off. But the upshot of it was a screaming match and some door slamming. Sorry I missed it, actually.

Now maybe he was bs'ing, or being cruel, or even slacking off, but what he said about not knowing what specifically was going to happen was surely true. The good stuff only happens when you get there. (Ditto the bad, but we don't have to go into that.)

That's what being a writer is - to a large extent, figuring it out when you get there is what makes it interesting.

That's not an editor's head -- an editor has to think more like an engineer, figuring out how things are going to be connected. They want to make sure the bridge is going to stand before they cross it. Writers just say, hell, let's get to the other side. We'll figure out how we do it when we get there.

* The specifics are irrelevant. Besides, by the time I explain the specifics, you'll be checking ESPN for baseball scores.
Time to volunteer . . .

. . . for jury duty.

Key 9/11 Suspect to Be Tried in New York
WASHINGTON — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and four other men accused in the plot will be prosecuted in federal court in New York City, a federal law enforcement official said early on Friday.
Walkway over the Hudson

The last time I walked across the Hudson I was breaking the law if not defying gravity, climbing past the barricades and up over the missing boards to walk free and easy into what seemed like thin air. It was a spectacular feeling. And it was cold.

The other day I went back. The Walkway is now a unique public park, and you don't have to trespass or sneak anywhere, though figuring out a place to park may be a problem. It was just as amazing, at least as much for the thousands of people streaming in each direction as the view.

It wasn't cold. But somehow it seemed scarier if the thick fences on either side.

Directions and info here.
Speaking of what it is I do . . .

Which reminds me - I should plug my book, right?

Leopards Kill is out in paperback today... a few days early, to beat (well, hopefully join) the holiday rush.

You can get it here, among other places.
Dreaming of Bruce Willis

Marshal Zeringue runs a fascinating blog called "My book, the movie," which lets authors indulge in their fantasies of making it to the big screen. It makes for entertaining reading.

He kindly let me tell a story about Bruce Willis and Leopards Kill. Click here to get there.

The blog itself lives at

You can also catch up with Marshal at this site:

The blog is waging a virtual war for books - gotta love it.

A thrilla . . .
Tickets and deer . . .

I hadn't seen Dogboy for quite a while, but I knew he'd turn up eventually, and with deer hunting season on tap I wasn't surprised to find him at the local watering hole the other night, mooching beer and rooting, more or less, for the Yankees.

"Just the guy I wanted to see," he said, coming over to my side of the bar about a half hour before the game. "Can I get you a beer?"


"OK, give me some money."

A Guinness and a half later, Dogboy came up with a proposition -- a pair of Yankee tickets for my hunting license.

"What are you going to do with my license?" I asked.

"Take your deer. You ain't gonna get one anyway."

"I might."

"You never have the time. Or the patience. And your aim ain't what it used to be. Besides, if you really wanted a deer, you'd shoot one of the ones that run through your backyard."

"You still need a license."

"Oh excuse me, I didn't realize I was talking to a law abiding citizen."

"I obey plenty of laws."

"Let's cut the bull and get to the chaser," said Dogboy, showing off his deft turn of phrase. "I'll swap you two tickets to Game Six for your license."

Before I could say anything else, a guy at the end of the bar cleared his throat real loud.

"You're talking about swapping a hunting license for tickets to a ball game?" he said.

"Who's asking?" said Dogboy.

The man pulled out his wallet and flashed what looked like a badge.

I know what you're expecting -- what I was expecting. Dogboy, and maybe your truly, were about to miss a ballgame.


"You're a cop?" asked Dogboy. He sounded skeptical, mostly because he knows all the cops within a fifty mile radius.


"Conservation officer?" asked Dog.

"Might be," said the guy. "And a Yankee fan."

They went out for a smoke. Dog came back around the fourth inning, by which time the Yanks were pretty much out of it.

"You still on for that deal?" I asked.

"Too late," said Dog.

"I hate to tell you this, Dog," said the bartender. "But that guy ain't no DEC conservation officer. He's a plumber. I hope you didn't give him your tickets."

"I did," said Dogboy. He smiled. "But I got plenty more tickets where those came from."

"You related to one of the Steinbrenners?" asked the bartender. "Or are the tickets fake?"

"Neither. I just collected a whole bunch of them last year."

"The Yankees didn't make the playoffs last year, let alone the Series."

"Then the tickets must still be good, right?" said Dogboy. He slipped a twenty onto the bar. "Give me a beer. And another Guinny for my law-abiding citizen friend."

"You're paying?" I said in disbelief. "Since when?"

"Since you can get twenty-five bucks for a parking pass," said Dogboy, lifting his glass. "Last year's prices. A true bargain."
Book wars

In case you haven't heard . . . extends Internet price war on books

NEW YORK — The book price wars are no longer just for pre-orders. was offering hardcovers of John Grisham's "Ford County" and Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" for just $9 on Tuesday, the official release date for both books. Hardcovers generally have a list price of $24 or higher.

The price wars are driving publishers nuts. Even though no publisher has directly supported the lower prices with steeper than normal discounts (at least none have admitted it), the discounts are seen as decimating price points and killing or at least harming independent bookstores, who are losing sales because they generally can't offer to sell the books for less than they pay.

(The usual discount to book stores is 50 percent. That means the store paid somewhere in the area of half the list price to get the title. There are all sorts of promotions and other complications, but it's a useful rule of thumb. Oh, and authors generally get in the area of 6 to 12 percent, depending on the type of book, how many ultimately sell, the contract, etc. Yes, the guy or gal who wrote it gets the least amount of money in the process.)

There's some anecdotal evidence that the deeply discounted books are eating into the sales of other books a little lower in the pecking order, but given how slowly publishing works, it may be months before the real impact of this known.

At least somebody thinks people want to read books, and that they're worth bargaining over. The only problem is whether anyone will be able to afford to publish books when this is over.

Or write. But that's another subject . . .
Pretty ship

The USS New York arrived at its namesake city this morning. Impressive little canoe.

And if you sailors think we're standing you all for a beer . . . well, you're right.
So I get a flu shot . . .

. . . and I end up with the flu.

Makes sense.