Irene in pictures . . .

Locally, the crisis has subsided - all roads leading to the bagel shop are now open. And personally, the storm wasn't much of a crisis for me: my house remained dry and intact, and I spent the better part of three days playing with my chainsaw, smoking cigars, and jawing with neighbors and guys with big trucks. Not exactly a hardship.*

The Hudson Valley overall, however, was pretty hard hit. One of the local papers has been encouraging readers to submit photos. A bunch are here:

Last time I checked, their paywall was down for hurricane coverage. The photos are a mixture of the mundane, the goofy and, unfortunately, the tragic. There are even a few extremely beautiful shots in the mix.

Looking at the pictures is oddly nostalgic - you think: I lived just down the street from that road collapse, I got my hair cut in the place across from that lake-filled avenue, I was just down that way last week . . .

Things are even worse further north and in Vermont. Our prayers are with you . . .

*Floyd was a different story, but we don't talk about him...
Ranger Howard M. Henry, American hero

One of the great things about history is that you never know all there is to know. There's always some new little detail to discover, some small piece that makes what you puzzled over more complete.

Readers are often filling in those puzzles. That's been especially the case with my book Rangers at Dieppe, where I had the privilege of helping to bring a previously unknown story to light. There's a lot about the battle and the Rangers who were there that I don't know; new information is always welcome.

The other day, I got a short book written by a member of Howard Henry's family. Tech 4 Howard Henry gave his life at Dieppe; he was among the first Americans to die in combat in the European theater.

His brother, Donald Henry, supplies a number of details about Howard, who was his older brother. Howard was drafted, either during the latter part of 1940 or the early part of 1941. This was before the U.S. was in the war, of course, but already the country was getting prepared. Mr. Henry notes that he was attached to a cavalry unit - an interesting reminder of exactly how much the world was changing at the time.

Howard went to England in March or April 1942. He would have learned about the formation of the new combat unit sometime afterwards, and volunteered to join it. He was one of the first members of the battalion, which was modeled on the British commandos. To make it, he had to pass a number of physical and mental tests, and survived a fairly rigorous winnowing process. The fact that he was chosen to go on the raid indicates he must have been one of the best of the best - a total of fifty Rangers accompanied the Canadian and British troops who landed at Dieppe. The Rangers' job was to fight, then report back on what they learned. (You can get more information on the Rangers at my website, and of course I hope you'll read my book, which goes into greater depth.)

Mr. Henry's book is a family history, privately created and published only for his family. But it's a trove of interesting information about how people lived in the 20th and 21st centuries. It's been donated to a number of libraries in Kentucky; I'm sure some future researchers and historians will be grateful.

High and dry . . .

More the latter than the former - we got our power back last night and we're returning to normal without damage.

The center of town, though, is still flooded, with a lot of the small and not-so-small roads wiped out or otherwise impassable because of the water. A lot of people have been affected, though all are working to recover quickly.

Thanks for your thoughts. The regularly scheduled mayhem will reconvene shortly.

(Yes, the last few entries were robo'd... Technology is wonderful, ain't it?)
Different cultures . . .

I happened to see the cover of the July/August edition of Poets & Writers* the other day and got a reminder of how different the writing world is from Hollywood and gaming. There are the cover were four agents being lauded as "game changers" who "turned their debut writers into last summer's hot new author's."

The agents were considerably more modest than the headline writer or even the article's author. But while it's tempting to simply dismiss the story as the latest example of Silver Bullet Wishism, the fact remains that literary agents are held in a much higher regard than their comrades in other fields.

In Hollywood, (writers') agents are generally considered at best as a necessary evil. And I've heard more than one game producer say anyone who uses an agent can't be any good. But literary agents on the whole have a very  positive reputation, even with publishers, who in theory should be their natural opposition. (I do know of a few exceptions, on both sides of the equation.)

Part of that may be because a good number of agents started as editors. But I think much of it has to do with the cultural difference between publishing and other art and entertainment fields. Books, even commercial fiction and nonfiction, are still regarded as somehow above the commercial fray.

They're not, of course. But those of us who write them like to pretend they are, at least occasionally.

* - The article doesn't appear to be on the website, which can be accessed at

Long gone . . .

Hard to write about Vietnam today - which of course is the setting for the Red Dragon books - without these scenes somewhere in the background:

But that's a long time ago. In the books, Vietnam and the U.S. are (very uneasy) allies. The Battle of Cao Bang - which took place in 1979 during the war between China and Vietnam - is more directly relevant  . . . though it too is ancient history now:

The Chinese propaganda doesn't tell the real story (duh). The Vietnamese fought the theoretically superior Chinese army to a standstill. China did not gain any of its major strategic objectives in the war, and cemented Western analysis that its army was primarily suited to defense (a prejudice that remains today). Whether the Vietnamese would have been even more aggressive in Cambodia and elsewhere in Indochina if the war hadn't occurred is an open question.

Would the outcome be the same today?

The British . . . resistance?

If you're a World War II buff, you've certainly heard of the World War II's French Underground.

The British planned for one as well. You can find out about it here; there's a book coming out as well.

The General is on Facebook

Omar Bradley gets his own Facebook page:

Which raises the question - is it considered proper to "like" a five-star general?

Actually, I can't think of a general whom it would be more appropriate to "like" - Bradley was the real deal, a common man with a general's touch, as opposed to the other way around.

I hope my book is the start of a renaissance for the general, who truly deserves a lot more attention than he's gotten.
A new book review site . . .

... and this one is definitely worth your attention - it's hosted by one of the best editors I've had the pleasure of working with, Kevin Smith.

I think he once said some nice stuff about Kevin Brown coming over to the Yankees, but otherwise his judgment is pretty sound.

Paris liberated

August 25th is officially the day Paris was liberated, though the Germans had effectively lost control earlier . . .

The Germans basically surrendered Paris and fled in the face of the American advance and Resistance uprising; while obviously extremely important politically, Paris had no military value and American commander Omar Bradley would almost surely have preferred to bypass it entirely. In fact, he was much more worried about finding a way to feed the people there than possible German resistance. That's characteristic Bradley - he didn't give a hoot about political symbols; he wanted to kill Germans.

At the tail end of the film, you can see American troops marching in -- that's actually a division maneuvering toward the battlefield further east, which Bradley had diverted to make it seem like he thought taking Paris was a big deal. (He seems in the clip to be thinking, "Get past the damn traffic circle and go!")

Maybe the funniest thing about the liberation of Paris was that while the Free French had been "designated" as the liberators, Bradley ended up having to threaten to take the privilege away from them because they dawdled on the way - the French people were so excited to be free, they welcomed their soldier countrymen with wine, song and women every step of the way. And what soldier can resist that kind of offensive?

More than a bunch of bull . . .

I'm not sure how you could even touch this one:

Bull semen spill causes scare, closes highway
NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - A spill of frozen bull semen bound for a breeder in the state of Texas triggered a scare on Tuesday that temporarily shut down a U.S. interstate highway during the morning rush hour.

Details, such as they are, here.
Target audience . . .

Marketer: So we've analyzed the likely sales demographics on your new book, and they look pretty decent: male, 35 and over, serious readers . . .

Me: Great.

Marketer: There's only one problem. That segment is pretty far from your usual readers.

Me: What's their demo?

Marketer: Alcoholic twenty-something Yankee fans who smoke cigars and sit in their mom's basements all day playing video games.

Me: Does this mean you won't be doing much advertising?

Marketer: Not only that, but you're paying for lunch . . .

Air defense 50+ years ago

Aside from the old iron and electronics, I was intrigued by this late-'50s era IBM promotional video because of the geography - most of the shots are from the Hudson Valley and upstate New York.

The main IBM plant still  exists, though it's changed a lot over the years. The plant's (and company's for that matter) main products were mainframes for commercial use, though as the video shows military applications were an important product line. IBM's growth fueled the development of the Hudson Valley; in some ways it was the Silicon Valley of its day.

Like many businesses at the time, IBM had started as a very family-oriented company and kept those values as it grew; employees had a full range of benefits and even a country club where they could go to. (They also had a dress code that called for suits and ties, as you can see in the video.)

The company was truly international - it was a standing joke in the '60s and '70s that IBM stood for "I've been moved" - but most of the important development and production occurred in the U.S., and the U.S. (and its citizens) benefited.

Nowadays, a lot of the work takes place elsewhere; and that's where the benefits accrue.

[Design World is an engineering website where I first saw the video.]
Talking Bradley . . .

Lately I've been gearing up for the Bradley bio, which means that I've been talking to press types about the general. I don't usually get a chance to talk about history, military or otherwise, so it's a real bonus when you meet someone like Neil McCabe, the editor at Guns And Patriots, who's both knowledgeable and a great conversationalist. He's served as an Army historian as well, which makes him doubly interesting.

Only problem is that he's a Red Sox fan. So you know there's something messed up in his psyche somewhere.

Actually, we spent a pretty enjoyable (for me, anyway) half-hour or so on the phone talking about Bradley last week, and he's posting some of it as a podcast this week. (You can get there from here:, among other places.)

I'm hoping they cut out my stuttering. They also probably cut out the part where we talked about the Yankees and the Red Sox. I have to say, Neil gave at least as well as he got. Of course, at the end of any conversation between fans of the two teams, there is this: 27 World Series victories.

Game music . . .

To answer requests, you can hear some of the AH soundtrack here:

Brad & Monty . . .

A snippet of Omar Bradley and Bernard Montgomery during World War II - I'm not sure exactly when, but it looks to be around the time of D-Day . . .

Certainly it's before the Bulge - way before, by the way Bradley is smiling.
Publishers' dilemma

From the Guardian:

All of which raises the question: just what is the role of "traditional publishing". Aside from readers and writers, publishing is made of middlemen, with retail mediators on the one hand and arbiters of taste and merit on the other. Publishers, however, don't just select titles to commission, most hone and polish them relentlessly. Add that to marketing and publicity and you might feel that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this model until, that is, you introduce it to the less-than-gentlemanly, cut-throat world of 21st-century retail and realise that is where the muddle creeps in.
Publishing, as a whole, hasn't really been keeping up. Giving in to demands for ever-greater discounts from supermarkets, the high-street chains and Amazon in order to get stock moving and push the unit price down, they have in the process been voluntarily chiselling away at the royalty rates of their authors.
Full story here.

The line about honing books is a bit quaint, and would definitely be in the eyes of some beholders. (Publishers aren't doing much to build the next generation of editors, considering their salaries, but that's a topic for another time.) The article does lay out the key points of the present situation.

Speaking of Santana . . .

For Jerry . . .

Jose Chepito Areas . . . still hitting them strong . . .
A different kind of bookseller . . .

Eleven years ago, Charles Mysak snagged a primo parking spot on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 68th Street -- and he hasn't budged since.
The sidewalk bookseller keeps his inventory piled up in the beat up green '94 Civic, held partially together with duct tape, and feeds the meter $36 a day -- in quarters -- to hold on to the spot.
Traffic agents paper him with parking tickets for overstaying his welcome, and he's even been towed once or twice, but the defiant Mysak, 60, continues to hold on to the spot he first claimed during the Clinton administration.

Read more:

It looks like all the books he sells are second-hand, which means no royalties to the authors. Still, you have to admire his tenacity.

How to do it right . . .

Though I must confess, even at home, I almost always use a lighter.
Catch a buzz from the Cuz . . . 

My friend @YankeesInk (Jerome Preisler) recently did a feature on Rick Goldfarb, better known as Cousin Brewski, one of the best beer vendors at Yankee Stadium. Catch the story here.
Unfinished business . . .

Steve Wilson, who calls himself a six-time "failed novelist," has started a site dedicated to abandoned novels - works whose authors gave up on them before they could be finished.

I'm not sure if it's the most depressing site in the world, or the most hopeful. Decide yourself - you can get there from here.

I too have abandoned ideas - many, many of them, though all before they got as far as these. The one exception was what I called my baseball book, which is a thriller I stopped writing about halfway through, when I got the idea for Coyote Bird. Coyote became my first published novel, and for various reasons I never got back to the baseball book.

Someday, though. Maybe that means it doesn't fit in the unfinished category?

I learned about this site from Richard Curtis, the mega agent whose book on agenting is still valuable, and whose insights into the business (sometimes published at e-reads)  are always interesting, whether you agree with his conclusions or not.
Download a free chapter . . .

. . .  of General at War, my bio of Omar Bradley, from this page:

And you can check out my website,, for more on the general.
You have to fight to win

Guns & Patriots has very kindly posted a commentary I wrote recently.

It's just a reminder that, while we certainly want to avoid war when possible, once we find it necessary to fight, that's what we have to do. Fight.

Seems obvious to me. But I was amazed to discover that even during World War II, there was a certain reluctance to be as vicious as necessary to win. Fortunately, the top commanders, including Omar Bradley, recognized what had to be done, and were willing to accept the consequences.
Google wants to be Apple . . .

. . . in the post-PC age.

Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility

Combination will Supercharge Android, Enhance Competition, and Offer Wonderful User Experiences

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA and LIBERTYVILLE, IL – AUGUST 15, 2011 – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: MMI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for $40.00 per share in cash, or a total of about $12.5 billion, a premium of 63% to the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares on Friday, August 12, 2011. The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.
Full release here, with stories all over the web.

The question is - will this be a brilliant move, or something akin to the AOL-Time-Warner merger, Cisco's move into consumer gear, etc., etc...

Is there anyone left?

The Good War . . . and the home front

This past week I spent a bunch of time working on things related to my forthcoming biography of Omar Bradley. In the process of that, I happened to review a ton of old newsreels related to the war.

This one on the Battle of the Bulge reminded me that the passing of years has rounded quite a lot of the edges off our picture of the war. We often think of World War II as having had one hundred and ten percent backing at home, from Dec. 7 until the end of August 1945. In the popular imagination, the war and our soldiers were always foremost in people's minds, and Americans gladly sacrificed to help bring victory.

The truth is much more complicated. If you listen to the tone of this newsreel - which was broadcast well after the Bulge had been won - you realize the narrator is berating people who are doing less than their bit back home. It's not particularly subtle.

(While Germany had been defeated when most people saw the film, the U.S. still faced difficult battles in the Pacific.)

From an (amateur) historian's point of view, the way the Bulge is presented here is fascinating on another level - the emphasis on the horrors and the horrendous toll (as opposed to, say, the heroes of the 101st or even the fact that the battle made it easier to get across the German frontier). The newsreel, others like it, and reporting that was being "spun" to keep Americans working hard for the war effort, all helped shape the view of the battle. That view influenced the first wave of historians, and in fact continues to influence us - it's hard to step away and look coldly at what happened without being at least somewhat swayed by these early reports.

Which isn't to comment on their accuracy, one way or the other. The footage, of course, is pretty cool.

The future of publishing?

A few months back, intellectual property attorney Lloyd Jassin wrote a blog entry about ebooks and subscription models.* To sum up:

The ambiguous digital book future is getting clearer day-by-day. It's not about ebook reading devices, it's about monetizing ebook readers.  Amazon is poised and ready, as evidenced by their willingness to build a business by selling ebooks below what they paid for them.  Google is ready, too.   Free works for Amazon and Google.  It's just bad for publishers

(The whole entry is must reading for anyone interested in publishing; it's here.)

Recent developments by Amazon and its Kindle cloud, seem to be pushing in the direction Jassin describes. I'm not sure whether it's the "ultimate" stop, but as usual Lloyd is thought provoking and on the cutting edge.

* Hat tip to a Twitter feed this morning that reminded me about this. If you're interested in publishing, @LloydJassin belongs on your timeline.

Suds from the Cuz

Cousin Brewski has been working the second tier at Yankee Stadium lately, and I say we're better for it.

The Cuz is a legend, but as you can see (or rather can't), he doesn't slow down enough for a photo.

He's been taking a run through the second tier along the first baseline down near the foul pole just before the beginning of the game. I know he's selling what everybody else is selling, but somehow the Suds from the Cuz taste better. Ain't that always the way?

For those who have never been to Yankee Stadium: Cousin Brewski is a beer vendor who has been selling beer in the stands for years and years; he was undoubtedly working the aisles back when I was sneaking it in. (Something that's impossible now, but that's a topic for another time.)

His tagline: Who's ready for Cousin Brewski? comes from a local (and later national) rock-era dj named Cousin Brucie who had a very popular show on WABC in the late 1960s. But Cousin Brewski is himself a legend, full of great stories, stadium lore, and, well, always ready with a beer.

I'm not sure how old he is, but while he's been there for a long, long time, he's not the longest-working vendor at the park. I'm not sure who is, but one of these days I'll track him down.

The star of his own war footage

A reader sent this to Dick, who passed it on. Pretty intense story, and even more amazing footage. Kudos to the guys who tracked the flier down.

The new Assault Horizon trailer . . .

Note: Unfortunately, there's a glitch in the code here.
Depending on your browser, you may have to hit the pause
after it plays through the first time to get the video to stop.
But not to worry: the game is just as relentless.

From Russia with love . . .

The Russian navy has been developing new versions of its submarine-launched ballistic missiles for some time now. There are at least two different systems thought to be close to deployment, one liquid-fueled and one solid. This story, based on Russian defense releases, focuses primarily on the liquid fueled version.

The weapon is positioned in this report from a Russian English-language news service as an answer to anti-ballistic missile systems, another interesting spin. From the news site, RT:

The new Russian liquid-fuel Liner missile is world’s most advanced submarine-based strategic weapon with range and payload capabilities surpassing every model deployed by any other country, its developer says.
The submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Liner can carry up to 12 low-yield MIRV nuclear warheads and has a payload/mass ratio surpassing any solid-fuel strategic missiles designed by the US, UK, France and China, the developer Makeyev State Rocket Center said in a statement. It is very flexible in terms of what its payload can be, varying and mixing warheads of different capabilities.
The design bureau believes that the missile, which was first tested on May 20, will ensure the use of Delta IV class submarines until at least 2030.
There are seven vessels of this class in the Russian Navy, and they are armed with the SLMBs Sineva. The Liner is a highly advanced version of the Sineva missile.
There is little further detail about the Liner’s specifications so far. Sineva is a three-stage ballistic missile. It has a reported operational range of almost 12,000 kilometers, listed throw-weigh of 2.8 tonnes and can be launched from up to 55 meters deep.
More here:

Interestingly enough, the story goes on to list some of the main drawbacks of liquid-fueled weapons -- namely weight and complexity. (Not that any rocket or nuclear warhead is a simple device.)

The Russians have had their share of development problems, of course, especially with solid-fueled tech, as this video from last year shows:

The timing of the new story may have been completely coincidental, but it seems interesting to me that it comes as the international press begins picking up on China's progress with aircraft carriers. It's not that the missile is counter to the carriers. Rather, it seemed more like someone saying, hey, we're doing cool stuff too.

Merritt Books - a great local book store

Everyone knows about the big book stores, both on-line and in "real life." As an author and a reader, I truly appreciate them all.

But a big part of my heart belongs to the independents, the small "mom and pop" places where the owners and workers know their customers by name. One of my favorite is Merritt Books in Millbrook, N.Y. (Their Facebook page is here.) That's why I keep supplying links to them (as well as to the bigger chains and on-line stores) as I did earlier when mentioning my Omar Bradley book, which will be published next month.

Why support local bookstores? Service is one reason - just as a matter of survival, independent bookstores have to do a better job than a lot of their rivals. Giving back to the community is another - Scott and the gang at Merritt are a huge community presence in the towns where their stores (he's up to three) are located. And I'm sure the same is true of the independent bookstore near you.

I'd link to them all if I could.
Portrait of a hero

My biography of one the greatest (but unsung) generals in american history will be published next month. You can pre-order at many places, including here, here and here.
Project Longhand

I've pretty much given up trying to read the book into the computer, or even directly type it in. The problem is, I want to revise too much as I go. and once I start changing one thing, I change another, and another, and soon the stuff on the yellow pad no longer makes any sense.

It's a good guide, and as long as I think about it as a first, very rough draft, all's well. But it has taken a LOT of time to get to this point. I'm behind where I want to be on it - not behind on deadline (yet), but off my schedule.

Was it all worth it? Eh . . .
In honor of International Beer Day

Because the right beer makes you do more intelligent things.
Bank fees . . .

There was a notice in tiny print on my business checking account statement today stating that my bank will begin charging for bank statements. That's in addition to the regular charges and such customer-oriented features as requiring a high minimum balance, paying no interest, charging for copies of checks (actual checks are no longer obtainable), and high fees for bounced checks, bad deposits, and lollipops at the teller window.

What's next? A fee to cover bad handwriting?

If so, I'll go bankrupt.

Why does my web browser offer to translate to English when I land on a Huffpost page?

And why does it take so long to generate a translation?
It's my review, I'll lie if I want to . . .

This may be one of the most in-your-face libel cases of all time:

My libel victory underlinesthe need for journaliststo check their facts
A critic is free to hate a book but this ruling found Lynn Barber had a reckless disregard for the truth

. . . Barber had made a major point of claiming that I had not interviewed her when, in fact, I had. She also claimed that I gave copy approval to my interviewees, which was untrue.
Combined with a few other factual errors, the false allegations contributed to the irresistible inference that I was a charlatan who could not be trusted to tell the truth. I wrote to the Telegraph requesting that it correct the errors and was shocked when they refused. According to Mr Justice Tugendhat, Barber made "a deliberate decision to mislead" the Telegraph's lawyers. As a result, the falsehoods lingered online, causing me all sorts of problems, and I was forced to seek legal representation to clear my name. . . .

Talk about your slam dunk.
The case is in the UK, which has different standards for libel than the U.S. (And it's even more complicated here, since libel is a state-level matter, and parsing fact from opinion is always an interesting legal exercise.) Still, I can't imagine the reaction a jury would have when presented with the fact that the reviewer who claimed NOT to have been interviewed was.

Full story here, with a hat-tip to Lloyd Jassin at for pointing it out (via Twitter).
Inside the game . . .

Great interview on (mostly screenwriting) process with Aaron Sorkin.
Ouch . . .

The Viper pilot was OK.
Speaking of black soldiers . . .

. . . and World War II:

Watching the trailer for the movie Red Tails the other day, I was reminded of the struggles black soldiers had joining the ground battle in Europe. Many were only afforded the chance to fight for their country (serving in combat units as opposed to support units*) because of the extreme shortage of men after D-Day. Many Americans don't realize this, but the military had trouble recruiting (and properly supporting) soldiers in the latter days of the war. Black soldiers helped fill the gap.

Though blacks served as combat soldiers under Omar Bradley, he was not originally a big supporter, and was among those who questioned whether they could be effective. He did, however, eventually recognize that he was wrong, and to his credit said so.

Look for more details in my biography of the general, to be published this fall. You can get to places to order it from this page here.

* Without getting too technical, the soldiers were not generally integrated in ones or twos. Rather, small units were formed, then integrated into larger units. Some of Bradley's opinions are shaded by the organizational considerations, and on a personal level there's evidence that he would have been considered far less prejudiced than most whites of his time. Still, it would be a pretty big mistake to call him an advocate for blacks during WWII.

Project Longhand

Talking my book into the computer has been pretty much a disaster.

Even though I did train the program, it continues to have quite a lot of trouble with my accent. To me, I have no accent. The machine has a very different opinion.

I'm guessing that the program would be fine for short things, and it does fairly well for small pieces of the book when I really concentrate on enunciating. But if I get going and speak the way I normally do - fughedaboutit.

New York curse, I guess.
Crazy collectors

Someone mentioned that the early editions of the Jake Gibbs books are collectors items, with mint (unsold) versions selling for seventy bucks and up.

God bless you, but I think you're out of your mind.

(You can get Kindle editions, a hell of a lot cheaper, here and here. The third book will be out soon.)