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Archive for October, 2009

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

If any of you, my beloved readers, are among the 1.7 million who live in the greater Austin, TX area, I hope you’ll come out to the Texas Book Festival this Saturday morning to hear my panel.  Historian Jacqueline Jones and I will be talking about different approaches to recreating history.  My session is at the same time as Richard Russo’s, so come on out and help me punk his turnout. 

copper_cover_avail_nowSpeaking of audiobooks, which is what I am now doing, today is the official release date of The Copper Bracelet.  This is (for the time being) an audio-only multi-author thriller which includes a chapter by this humble blogger.  It’s a sequel to a multi-author thriller called The Chopin Manuscript, which you don’t have to listen to first because (a) it is not a necessary prerequisite; and (b) I didn’t have a chapter in that one, so why bother?  The way it works is swell pal Jeffrey Deaver wrote the opening chapter, and then it got passed from author to author, each of us having two weeks to write our part and then pass it along to the next sucker.  At the end it goes back to Deaver for the final chapter.  Other contributors include many of my friends, friendly acquaintances, and people I’ve heard of, including Joseph Finder, Lee Child, John Gilstrap, Jim Fusilli and plenty more.  Head on over to Audible to find out more, listen to the first chapter for free, and slap down your hard earned cash.  It’s also available at the iTunes store.

This is the ’04, which looks a lot like the ’05 except for one small detail.  Can you guess what it is?

This is the ’04, which looks a lot like the ’05 except for one small detail. Can you guess what it is?

And it’s been a while since I’d done a wine review, so I’m happy to report that good values in ’05 Bordeaux are still trickling in to Costco.  I picked up the Château Haut-Faugeres St. Émilion Grand Cru the other day for $20.99, and I’m here to say that this is an excellent value.  Those of you know me know that my inclination is usually toward Margaux and St.-Estephe, but if you’ve got a hankering for some beautifully structured, right bank action, this is your pup.  A big, enticing nose of blueberry, vanilla and cream.  Blueberry also dominates the taste, with undertones of prune, black cherry, cedar and floral and mineral notes.  I decanted for an hour before drinking, and at first sip I was impressed with great structure and balance.  Medium-bodied, good length.  I give it 90 points.  As always, my wine reviews and habits can be voyeuristically observed via my CellarTracker page.

Also, I’m having dinner with Junot Diaz tonight.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
I'm blogging about my cat.  That makes me cool!

I'm blogging about my cat. That makes me cool!

My efforts to write a thoughtful blog entry are being squashed this new kitten we’ve adopted.  She’s very cute, which is nature’s way of keep me from killing her for walking all over my keyboard while I’m typing or biting my glasses while I’m trying to read. 

So, I’ve more or less given up on reading film reviews in The New York Times, which are less frequently review the film supposedly up for consideration than the reviewer using that film as a springboard for a whole lot of cleverness.  That said, I totally loved A. O. Scott’s review last week of the new Lars Von Trier film, Antichrist.   As it happens, I don’t much care for Lars von Trier, which is why I read the review.  I was hoping for blood — and got it!  Full disclosure:  I liked the first few episodes of Lars von Trier’s TV show (released in the U.S. as) The Kingdom, but the program soon went downhill, as did von Trier’s films.  I thought Breaking the Waves was unberarable crap gussied up as art.  Who’s with me?  In my view, he’s the kind of filmmaker who can only exist in Northern Europe – a product of long, unending winters and public funding for the arts.  Though, to be honest, those are two things I kind of like.

The New York Times also tells us that the Battle of Agincourt wasn’t really such a big deal, thus crushing your belief that Shakespeare always told the truth.  On top of that, it turns out that women who dress like men aren’t fooling anyone, and if men are deceived by them, they’re unlikely to marry these women once the secret is out.  Also, Flute and Bottom were probably gay.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
It's a puzzlement.

It's a puzzlement.

Since shortly after my first novel was published, I’ve received occasional emails from people who want me to send them free books because they are sick or disabled or their child is sick or disabled.  At first I always did so, thinking I must be some kind of monster not to send a sick kid a wheelchair a novel about Jews in early modern Europe.  Lately I’ve taken to ignoring these emails.  I always wonder if it’s just a scam.  Even if it’s not, I don’t understand the impulse to ask strangers for free things,.  Plus it’s not like I have a mail room or a personal assistant or anything.  It’s not like asking for a free book from, I don’t know, Levi Johnston or something.  He can just have one of his peeps take care of it for him.  I, as I may have mentioned, have to haul my ass over to the post office.  That’s not nothing.

In the last week I’ve received two pleading emails from a man who says he’s undergoing massive cancer surgery, has no money, and wants me to send him books.  Something about it doesn’t feel quite right.  Still, I can’t help but feel it would be crappy not to send this guy books on the off chance he is telling the truth.  But even if he is telling the truth, he’s still some stranger who is asking me to haul my ass over to the post office and mail him some of my stuff for free.  I’d welcome your opinions on this.  What’s my move?

One concern is that if I don’t send this man books, he may curse me like Alison Lohman is cursed in Drag Me to Hell, which I watched last night. Like everyone out there who owns a Y chromosome, I love Sam Raimi’s films, and this was a good one.  Raimi is a guy whose projects so often radiate the sheer exuberant joy of telling a basic story in broad, effective strokes.  So, if you are wondering if you should see this movie, then you should, but some spoilers are coming, so be warned.

Surely we can all agree that profit and individual gain cannot be principles upon which a decent society are to be based.  Let’s ask her.

Surely we can all agree that profit and individual gain cannot be principles upon which a decent society are to be based. Let’s ask her.

Drag Me to Hell is essentially a gussied up B horror movie, of the sort that Raimi obviously loves so well, but it is also very smart and thoughtful take on our current economic situation.  Lohman plays a bank loan officer to whom an elderly Roma woman begs for a third extension on her mortgage.  Lohman can either help this woman or she can prove to her manager she’s tough enough to make nasty decisions.  She’s hoping for a promotion, so she refuses to grant the extension, the old woman goes apeshit, curses Lohman, and supernatural mayhem ensues.  Good stuff.

But here’s the thing.  The film goes out of its way to show that Lohman has the choice between doing the right thing and advancing her career.  Throughout the rest of the film, Lohman insists that it wasn’t her decision – that she was doing what her boss told her to do or that she did not have a choice.  Interestingly, toward the end of the film, she has the opportunity to save herself by cursing someone else, even someone who has done her harm, and she can’t bring herself to do it.  In other words, she still sees herself as a basically decent person, and on some level she is a basically decent person.  At the same time, it’s very easy to make horrible decisions when there is money in the balance rather than morality.  Yes, it’s an entertaining horror movie, but it’s also an interesting a subtle meditation on the dehumanizing effects of capitalism.  Also, it’s got eyeballs flying around everywhere and goats being sacrificed.  Cool.

Monday, October 19th, 2009

So, Bouchercon is over, and a good time was had by all, even me, despite not winning the Macavity Award for best historical – probably because they didn’t want to give it to a Jew.  That’s my running theory.  I also somehow didn’t get handed a free Kindle by anyone.  I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve gone to without someone giving me a free Kindle.  It is beginning to get me down.  And while I’m complaining, how about the fact that they spelled my name wrong on my panel.  All of which makes me wonder if I didn’t win the Macavity because they don’t like to give it to complainers. 

I bet they didn't spell Sue Grafton's name wrong.

I bet they didn't spell Sue Grafton's name wrong.

But, there are lots of things to cheer about, including the fact that I caught up with many friends, including Joseph Finder, Mark T. Sullivan, Kenneth Wishnea, Kelli Stanley, John Gilstrap, and lots of others I’m probably forgetting.  Highlights included getting to chat with comics great Brian Azzarello and finally, after more than a year of email correspondence, getting to know Jonathan Maberry, a truly excellent, guy who writes first-rate novels and comics, and knows how to kill a man with a straw, though he probably wouldn’t unless pushed. 

A volatile and unpredictable crowd of violent readers patiently wait to get their books signed – by me!

A volatile and unpredictable crowd of violent readers patiently wait to get their books signed – by me!

My big fear was that no one would come to my Saturday morning panel, since we were up against another panel with both Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly, but we had standing room only, and I had a nice line of people to get books signed. 

In the end, a pleasant and productive weekend in which no one, as far as I know, did anything they’d want to conceal from the media.  I was hoping to come back with embarrassing stories about someone, but it just didn’t pan out this time. 

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I’m off tomorrow morning for Bouchercon — it’s a mystery convention, as if you didn’t know.  I hope to return with photos, good stories, and a new tote bag. It’s been a number of years since by last Bouchercon, so I now have far more Thrillerfest totes.

Speaking of vicious competitions, we’ll find out this weekend if I will win the Macvaity Award for best historical mystery.  I’ve been nominated for The Whiskey Rebels, and I very much deserve to win, despite The Whiskey Rebels not really being a mystery at all. I just hope the award doesn’t go to some Romanian, like the Nobel. I’m still bitter. I thought this was my year.  


She's laughing at me.

She's laughing at me.

The nominees are:  

  • Rhys Bowen: A Royal Pain (Berkley)
  • Ward Larsen: Stealing Trinity (Oceanview)
  • David Liss: The Whiskey Rebels (Thorndike/ Random House UK)
  • Jeri Westerson: Veil of Lies (Minotaur)
  • Karen Maitland: Company of Liars (Michael Joseph/ Delacorte)
  • Kelli Stanley: Nox Dormienda (Five Star)

I won’t mind if Kelli Stanley wins, since she’s my swell pal. If I win, however, I plan to point at her and laugh triumphantly.

Monday, October 12th, 2009


You know what?  I’m very sorry it’s been so long since my last entry.  It’s not because I’ve been so busy with my Amazon Kindle.  I haven’t been.  I don’t have one.  Those teases at Amazon have still not sent me a free Kindle.  I am filled with despair. 

No, I’ve been neglecting my duties as a blogger because I’ve had a script for Marvel that’s been kicking my ass and going through all kinds of re-writes, so by the time I’m done with my daily allotment of novel writing, and then script-writing, I’ve just been  lacking the blog enthusiasm.  I will try to better, but you people have got to stop sucking me dry.  I need some air.

This weekend we’ve got Bouchercon coming up, and these conventions usually offer lots of amusing anecdotes – at someone else’s expense – so, let’s hope for the best.  Tales from the hotel bar should be forthcoming next week.

In the meantime, allow me, if you will, to point you toward this article  in the New York Times, in which a woman is finishing up her project of reading a book a day and then blogging about it.  Now, perhaps I’m bitter because I went to her blog, and I saw the list of authors she’s read, and I’m not on it.  I am entirely justified  in hating both her and her project for this inexcusable negligence.  Unless she’s already read a bunch of my books, and loved them, and if that is the case, we can forgive her, yes?

That possibility aside, I am getting tired of these people doing something or other for a year, and blogging about it.  No one digs reading more than I, but reading a book a day for a year sounds pretty punishing.  Why do it?  What does it prove?  That you don’t have a job?  I’m not sure what else.  Reading, French cooking, no-footprint living.  These stunt blogs have got to go.  Can we not return to the wholesome world of self-absorbed, navel-gazing such as my blog offers?  Alternatively, if you have any ideas for a thing-a-day-every-day-for-a-year project that can get me media attention, please let me know.  Ideally, it should be something that doesn’t take a lot of time or energy.

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