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Category: Obituary Page 1 of 3

Really?

September? Holy cow, bookies, my bad! I didn’t know it had been that long since my last entry. How did you survive without me?…don’t answer that!

Today’s will be short. I had no idea that in 2011 we lost both Anne McCaffrey and Brian Jacques. I never met Ms. McCaffrey, but I didn’t correspond with her in Ireland briefly, and she sent me a few signed bookplates. Very nice. As for Mr. Jacques, him I met. He was at the old Davis-Kidd one day and there must have been 400 people at the signing. You could only get two books signed per person, so I cheated and brought my two kids. They weren’t happy, but our house wasn’t a democracy so they were there. Mr. Jacques had the best voice I have ever heard, deep, slightly raspy, very English, but not in a stuffy, upper-class sort of way, in a pleasant every-day accent that would have made the phone book sound good.

I’m gonna miss them both.

So long Dick Francis & William Tenn

Hi bookies, it’s a cold, gray day again in West Tennessee and that seems fitting.

***We say goodbye to Dick Francis, aged 89. Master of the horse-thriller, so to speak, with a risque sense to him. I remember when his wife died he didn’t think he could go on writing, but he did. As a writer, to go right on writing right up until the last words are written, well, that’s about as good as it gets.

RIP Dick Francis

***Not satisfied with just taking Francis, the Grim Reaper also came for William Tenn, noted SFF writer, also aged 89. Tenn’s real name was Phillip Klass. He stopped writing SFF nearly 40 years ago but his short work was so iconic that in 2004 he was named a Grandmaster of the genre.

Farewell William Tenn

R.I.P. Stuart Kaminsky

Sadly, crime writer Stuart Kaminsky has died. I hate it when authors I like and have met pass away, even moreso than the sadness I feel at every author’s death. Kaminsky was immensely popular with his core fans and deserved to be much better known than he was. I met him at EyeCon in St. Louis in 1999, thanks to Robert J. Randisi, who worked like a dog to pull off the best convention of any sort I have ever attended.

Stuart Kaminsky

Mid July and it’s not hot

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

The highs in Memphis this weekend will be in the mid 80’s. That’s right, about 10 degrees below normal for July. This great weather is scary.

***Ted Kennedy’s auto-biography, co-written with the co-author of Flags of Our Fathers Rom Powers, has been slated for a companion deluxe edition to accompany the trade edition. True Compass will have a 1,000 copy print run bound in leather and selling for $1k a pop. That’s one way to quickly get back 1/8th of the reported $8 million advance. The special edition will be ‘electronically signed’, which sounds to me like a euphemism for an auto-pen signature, the sort of autograph that is worthless to collectors. Michael Crichton did this with the deluxe edition of The Lost World, but his only sold for about $35.

So, forgive me for being cynical, but this sounds like one of those books that political cronies and wealthy friends will buy and stick on a shelf as an obligation, a rather back-handed way to funnel money to the publisher to thank them for funneling money Teddy’s way. And if I sounds irritated, it’s because I am. How many worthy authors are out there trying to sell exciting and important books to cash-strapped publishers who insist on pumping out mega-numbers of this sort of twaddle? Does they actually expect to sell anything approaching half of the 1.5 million initial print run from this book? Good grief, I’ll be surprised if they sell even a third of them. Meanwhile we will continue to read how the economy is killing book sales. Maybe if publisher’s paid more attention to selling good books and less to selling bloated and self-serving political monuments their bottom line might look a little better.

Of course, no matter how bad this book might turn out to be, no matter how self-serving Teddy’s cathartic ramblings are, they cannot possibly wind up being the worst book published this summer.

Not with the sequel to The Da Vinci Code coming.

Kennedy’s book

*** We aren’t that far from the 2009 Southern Festival of Books, which takes place in Nashville the second weekend of October. I have held off commenting because it would be nice to put up a link to this year’s lineup of authors, which is scheduled to be published on July 1. It never is, of course, it’s usually around the 10th, so that’s why I haven’t said anything before this. But come on, people, today is the 15th and the Festival is less than three months away! If someone from out of town wants to attend, but is waiting to see the lineup first (in other words, me), do you have to wait until almost the last second to give us a heads up? If I do attend there are lots of details to get set up and you are making this very difficult.

Having said that, the Festival is a bunch of fun, there are always too many authors to possibly meet them all and the biggest danger is overspending on books. In other words, if you’re reading this blog then it’s the kind of event that would set your hair on fire.

*** I realize that we are all used to idiotic ideas coming out of Washington, but it appears that stupidity no longer knows any restraint, as some moronic Democrat think tank proposes giving every student in America that hell-spawned device known as a Kindle. That’s right, spending tax money on one of the nastiest inventions of the last hundred years, as we all wallow in a recession. This is further proof that if you want to write a novel more outrageous than reality, the bar is set very high. The good news is that it seems unlikely to happen, but for people just to consider this shows how far we have fallen as a civilization.

One of the worst ideas in the history of Man

*** I see where George Carlin’s biography is due for release in November. Carlin was an American original and I can only imagine the stories he had to tell, which it appears he put down in Last Words.

George Carlin has his final say

*** I note with sadness that the founder of SFF’s seminal magazine on the industry, Locus, the innovative editor Charles N. Brown, died July 12. Behind me as I write this are boxes filled with decades worth of Locus issues, if you wanted to work in the SFF field, or keep up with it or just read some great reviews and interviews, that was/is your magazine of choice.

RIP Charles N. Brown

July 1st already?

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

The 4th of July is coming up soon, I hope you all have something delectable to read. How else would you celebrate American Independence than by reading whatever you want?

For those following the 2009 European Adventure Tour, the next segment is coming shortly.

*** Western writer Don Coldsmith has died. I am not familiar with his work, but in reading his obituary it was obvious that here was yet another writer I wish that I had time to read. His Spanish Bit books are about the Plains Indians in the time when the Spanish have just introduced the horse and how it changed their lives. No doubt I would love them. They sound like a great gift for someone who loves westerns and history.

The Passing of Don Coldsmith

*** The horrors of the Nazi camp system seem to encompass every aspect of human existence, including prostitution. In a new book to re released in Germany in July, The Concentration Camp Bordello: Sexual Forced Labor in National Socialistic Concentration Camps, Schonigh Verlag, author Robert Sommer has collected the most comprehensive data yet made available on the women who survived the camps by serving as prostitutes for both the soldiers and the inmates. He also explores the issue of whether or not these women were ‘volunteers’, a claim which has made it easier to overlook this crime.

One more horror in the long list of Nazi horrors

*** And, as if to prove that new books on World War II may be expected on an almost daily basis, there is a new one on FDR’s efforts to help Britain during 1941, when she fought on alone against Germany after the Fall of France. To Keep the British Isles Afloat: FDR’s Men in Churchill’s London 1941 by Thomas Parrish, documents the efforts of FDR’s two point men, Harry Hopkins and Averill Harriman, to simultaneously encourage England and rouse the USA to the dangers of Germany.

Since I haven’t read this book the one caveat that I might have is if the author plays up the danger of a German attack on mainland America. If he does, then I lose interest, because that simply was not going to happen. However, I will assume that a recognized author such as Parrish will not make such a silly mistake.

FDR’s fight to help England in 1941

Making headway

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

First, the ongoing drain on my time and energy may be coming to an end. Let’s hope so. At the least I’m making headway. If anyone ever asks you to be executor for an estate, think twice before you say yes. I had no idea how much time, effort and willpower it took.

*** The new issue of iloveamysterynewsletter is posted. I have a couple of reviews in it, and now a link back to this blog. also, I’m changing the descriptive header at the top to something a bit less accurate and a bit spiffier. Given the choice between content and spiffiness, I’ll pick spiffiness every time.

*** The Nebula Awards were given out last weekend. For those who don’t know, the Nebulas are awarded to Science Fiction writers based on the votes of fans, kind of like the People’s Choice Awards, as opposed to the Hugos, which are more like the Oscars. M.Scott Edelman is a longtime SF writer/editor and here’s a link to his blog from that weekend: Edelman does the Nebulas. Some great photos there, as well.

*** Sadly, it should be noted that Thomas Deitz has died. Dietz was young, 57, a well known SFF writer and by all accounts a good guy. I’m sorry I never had the chance to meet him.

Thomas Deitz

*** I find this next item fascinating. Why do people are publications spend so much time, effort and space on negative book reviews? If the book is wretched, why waste your breathe going on about it? It’s a really good question.

For example, the second worst book I’ve ever read is The Da Vinci Code. Complete and utter rubbish, not only because of its idiotic ‘research’, I can stretch willing suspension of disbelief pretty far, after all, but moreso because of the hideously poor writing involved. Dan Brown has never met a cliche he can’t use at least a dozen times, and the book buying public seems to crave more of this. So why do people like me feel the need to go on and on about it? I think the article makes some good points about that very thing.

Why bother bashing books?

*** Here’s a book I want to read about an event I didn’t know happened. Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo. It seems that after he left office, Truman and wife Bess, and nobody else, went on a 2500 mile road trip across America. Imagine such a thing! You’re hanging out eating breakfast at a diner, dead tired after getting off work in the bicycle factory, and in walks the former POTUS and his wife to grab supper. Incredible. And yet, apparently, quite true. This may be one of those ‘I’ve got to look this book up’ books.

Harry and Bess go for a drive

Good news, new news and bad news

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

The ‘life comes at you’ stuff that has eaten up my time in the last few months has been at it again, so my apologies for not having a blog up lately. This could continue for a while yet, but I hope not. Anyway, let’s get to today’s news and comment.

*** Ah, leave it to the French to make something good out of something very bad. In this case, the very bad part was surrendering to the Germans during World War II. Sure, the downside was pretty drastic, having German soldiers getting big discounts and the best tables in all of the swankiest restaurants, putting up with those drab Gestapo men standing on street corners giving you the creeps. No fun. But the upside! Ah, the upside. If you were a madam in a bordello, or even just a common streetwalker, those were the best of times.

At least, that’s the claim in a new book that has France all a-twitter. (No, not Twitter, a-twitter.) 1940-1945, Erotic Years by Patrick Buisson is a history of the French sex business during the German occupation. According to many of those Buisson interviewed for his book those years were an absolutely howling good time, business was booming for brothels and the Germans were just fun-loving teutons far from home who only wanted to have fun.

Quite predictably, the French aren’t wild about this book, portraying as it does a harsh reality many would like to forget, namely, that not only did the French Army gets its butt kicked badly but the French people weren’t all that upset about it. C’est la vie!

When the Germans came it was party time for the French!

*** I’m a big movie buff, especially good war movies, and double especially war movies about World Wars 1 and 2. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of good WW2 movies, but far fewer about WW1. I mean, once you’ve shown the horror of living in a mud-filled trench for months at a time, with machine guns ready to slice you in half and the occasional artillery barrage that might obliterate all traces you were ever there, there just isn’t all that much left to portray. Except for the very small number of movies about the war in the air. And one of the best of those was The Blue Max. George Peppard was great, of course, but the whole thing was well done.

Did you know that it was based on a book? It was. And that book’s author has, sadly, just passed away. Jack Hunter was 87 and lived in one of the great cities of America, St. Augustine, FL.

Blue Max author has written his last chapter

*** I have to admit that reading stories about great book collections being auctioned is something that I always find fascinating. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s just the chance to see what other people collect, to wonder where they found this or that rarity. Anyway, he’s a short piece about a major collection going under the hammer down under.

New Zealand collection auctioned

*** When Burt Reynolds posed for Playgirl magazine there was quite an uproar. How could a man possibly be a pin-up? Women didn’t want or need that sort of thing, did they? It was considered bad form and, to a male eye, with good reason. But Burt wasn’t the first, oh no, not by a long shot. No doubt some ancient Roman had his likeness carved into a wall somewhere for the admiration of the girls. But even if Trajan wasn’t a pin-up in his day, we know someone who was: Hermann Goering.

That’s right, the Reichsmarshall himself, was once a glamour boy for women of the Reich to swoon over. Hitler’s Number Two was considered an ideal of German manhood, at least, he was before he gained so much weight that he looked like a bipedal walrus. And, largely forgotten today, Goering really was a hero of the First World War. He was an ace, a very good pilot and the last commander of the famed Richthofen Flying Circus. Goebbel’s propaganda machine had some actual grist for its mill with Goering, which must have surely irritated the club-footed little doctor no end, since the two men could not stand each other.

I do take exception with one piece of the article, however. National Socialism wasn’t so much a fascist regime as it was a hodge-podge of whatever kept the economy from collapsing at the moment.

Thank God he wasn’t wearing panty hose

*** Just when you thought Ebay could not do anything more stupid than they already have, along comes John Donahoe to prove you wrong. The doofus who ruined the company last year is now saying it may take another 3 or 4 years to completely destroy it. Not in so many words, mind you, but from the beginning nothing this man has said has come through, none of his changes have proved beneficial, the stock price is less than half of what it was…one can only wonder what he’s got on the board of directors that allows him to keep his job.

Ebay’s Donahoe says more stupid things to go along with all of the other stupid things he’s said

*** Here’s something you don’t see every day: Holocaust victims being pursued as terrorists. Jews in Lithuania who escaped captivity when the Nazis marched in, who then went on to fight a partisan war against the Nazis and their countrymen who helped the Nazis, are now being investigated for those actions.

In truth, Lithuania had no good choice. In 1940 they ceased to exist as a nation when the Soviet Union overran them without a fight. Stalin wasted no time in rounding up and executing thousands of Lithuanians who might oppose his rule, so is it any wonder that when the Germans came through on their anti-Bolshevik march the Lithuanians supported them as liberators?

That’s not to make excuses, merely to point out that things aren’t always as cut and dried as they seem. Anyway, this relates to books because much of the evidence against one of these so-called criminals is his memoir, The Partisan. The claim is made that members of a partisan band executed Lithuanians who aided the Germans. Seems pretty thin to me, but then again, I’m not a Lithuanian prosecutor.

Be careful what you put in your autobiography

*** For lovers of fine literature, fans of compelling thrillers and researchers of obscure history, this week brought the worst possible news: Dan Brown has written a sequel to The Da Vinci Code. That’s right, as if writing the 2nd worst book of all time wasn’t bad enough, now this hack has to slaughter a whole new generation of trees to publish more worthless nonsense. The only question for me is, after using every cliche known to the English language in his previous book, what will he do for an encore? Use the same ones again? Find cliches from other languages?

Fortunately, I won’t read this tripe and won’t care. May God have mercy on those who will.

Spring had sprung, but not anymore

Good day bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

Winter has made a brief comeback in West Tennessee, with cold temps and wetness galore. Here’s hoping sanity (and warmth) prevail soon.

*** This just in: one Congressman has brains enough to try and amend the idiocy of the law banning children’s books because of their lead content. Please let your Congressperson know if you agree that Congress should at least attempt to show some brains once in a while and amend this law. If you feel strongly, though, you should not email them; most will ignore it. One bookseller thought his Rep., Barney Frank, would be appalled by this, but it seems they discovered he is all in for this nonsense. Such representatives need to know if their constituents want this law amended to show at least a modicum of common sense.

One Congressman, at least, gets it

And a further explanation

*** Sadly, John Hope Franklin has died at age 94. For those who don’t know, Franklin was a famed black historian who more or less was the Civil Rights Movement. I met him at the Southern Festival of Books here in Memphis in 2006, when the mayor did not bother to even notice that he was in town, and his indifference helped Memphis lose the festival back to Nashville. Franklin was frail but kindly, signed anything anyone put in front of him, including my posters. A good man, I’m sorry he’s gone.

*** Being an Anthony Bourdain fan I found this short interview entertaining, if a bit tame. It’s like he’s become the Lou Reed of Food TV, edgy but not over the edge, whereas he used to be Iggy Pop. But they are both great in their own way, as so is Bourdain.

Or maybe I have fond memories of the early internet days, when he was a regular poster on the Old AOL ‘Hardboiled’ board, during the time when Gone Bamboo was fresh on the stands. Those were certainly good times for your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Tony Bourdain lays it out

Sundays morsels

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

*** Crime writer Barbara Parker died yesterday, aged 62. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but from everything other writers have said about her, that’s my loss. I’m always sad when I learn of such events, I know she was beloved by writers that I knew and respect and they are feeling the loss today. What a shame. 62 is too damned young. The obit was written by Oline Cogdill, well known crime reviewer, who probably knew her as well as any newspaper columnist.

Barbara Parker RIP

*** Ha! I love a good Top Ten list, and this one’s better than most. What are the Top Ten books people lie about reading? What a great idea. What’s weird is that I actually have read 3 of the books on the list. I’ve read Orwell’s 1984 (and I’m living it right now), Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time (technically, I listened to this on unabridged audio, but I think that counts) and The Bible. I have also more or less read War and Peace, although I’m not 100% sure I’ve read it completely through.

Top Ten books you probably haven’t read, but say you have

*** I note with regret that I once more missed the Dublin Book Festival this weekend. Great city with some great bookstores.

*** Let’s file this under the category of: Building Inspectors Are A Good Idea. The Historical Archive of Cologne, Germany, collapsed last Tuesday, burying 1,000 years of priceless historical documents under tons of rubble, probably killing two people and leaving archivists wondering if anything can be salvaged.

So how does a building like this just collapse without notice? Or, were there warnings that were ignored? Does Germany have building inspectors? Considering how over-regulated Europe is these days one assumes that Germany has lots and lots of building inspectors. It boggles, it really does.

So much for the history

So long, Mr. Harvey


Good morning bookies. Stand by for news.

By now you have no doubt learned that we lost Paul Harvey yesterday at age 90. It’s hard to describe the vacuum that your friendly neighborhood bookseller feels because of this. Growing up in the days before talk radio was prevalent, Paul Harvey was the one radio newsman I can remember from my youth. He was a calming influence and I knew that as long as he was around, everything would turn out alright. Even to this day I have his web site bookmarked and listen to his daily newscasts whenever I have the time. ‘The Rest of the Story’ was and is one of my favorite programs. Damn, I’m going to miss him.

The photo above is looking out my office window. About midnight last night you would have thought we were in Alaska, the snow was pouring down, wind blowing, about as close to a blizzard as West Tennessee is ever likely to come. But, in typical West Tennessee fashion, it will all be gone quickly. This weekend it’s supposed to hit the 70’s. Let’s hope it stays there.

*** One of the more forgotten chapters in World War II is the contribution made by women, specifically, nurses. World War II Front Line Nurse by Mildred Radawiec MacGregor seeks to rectify that a bit, giving the experience of one such lady from Michigan.

World War II Front Line Nurse
*** Boy, talk about a book that’s right up my alley. The Lost City of Z by David Grann seems like something I would love to read, even without a visit to the author’s website. However, given that the site is ultra-nifty, this might just be one that BBG has to go out and find for himself. Dark, foreboding jungle, a lost expedition for a city of gold, mysterious diaries…Indiana Jones at his best and truest.

DavidGrann.com

*** Finally, your friendly neighborhood bookseller attended a book signing last week given by David Kidd Books and featuring t.Jefferson Parker. I had never seen Parker before and he seemed like quite a nice guy. He spoke for about 30 minutes about how and why he writes, his day begins at 6:30 am and ends at 5 pm, Monday-Friday, no holidays. Like many authors he chose not to read from the book he was touring to support, The Renegades, and personally I prefer it this way. I mean, if you’re going to read the book anyway, then why do you need the author to read it to you? But that leaves the author needing material for the obligatory talk, so I understand also why they do sometimes choose to read. Anyway, Parker didn’t have anything particularly revealing to say, but I liked his explanation of why he chose to write The Renegades. The plot centers around the shipping of money from the north, aka The United States, south to Mexico. He liked this idea because normally books about the drug trade are about smuggling drugs into the US, not smuggling the money they are sold for out of the country. Nice idea. I don’t usually read his stuff but I might make an exception.

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