Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review: Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison

In 1954, Harlan Ellison moved to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn with the intent of joining a street gang, research for his next tome. His experiences as "Cheech" Beldone, from his ritual deflowering of one of the Baron Debs to an Indian knife fight with a fellow Baron, are harrowing and disturbing images of gang life in the 50's.
Although the "when you're a Jet, you're a Jet" ideals are now "cute" compared to gang life in the new millennium, it's still horrifying. Memos From Purgatory is actually two books in one; Book One:The Gang deals with his gang life, while Book Two: The Tombs is an account of an occurrence six years later in which Ellison spends 24 hours in New York's jail system. Set up and tipped off to the police by a disgruntled acquaintance, Ellison is held on weapons possession (stemming from the weapons from his gang days that he used as display on his lecture tours about the book). It's at this point Memos From Purgatory loses me. Whine, whine, whine. That's all Ellison does in this second half. He does admit that there are those out there who would question his frenzied reaction at being incarcerated for only 24 hours (and acting like it's 24 years), and I suppose I'm one of them.
The whole time I was reading Book Two: The Tombs, I kept thinking, "Man, Ellison, calm down." He gives a good overview of the miserable conditions of jail in the Big City and the screwed-up judicial system that accompanies it, but the overreacting is just too much. I heartily hand it to Ellison for having the nerve to join a street gang and write about it, but Book One: The Gang should have stood on its own. Book Two: The Tombs seems a senseless afterthought, more so when Ellison admits that the inclusion of a one-in-a-million chance meeting with the head of the Barons, a fellow jailbird, was a fictional device suggested by the original publisher because he felt there wasn't enough linkage between the two halves of the book. Well, there still isn't.
Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Signing: Madison Avenue Maxi by Ben & Elke Gazzara

Ben Gazzara, star of “Road House” and “Dogville”, and his wife Elke, will be signing copies of Madison Avenue Maxi on 1/30/08 7:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Warren Street. New York, NY.

About the book:

When Ben Gazzara and his wife, Elke, reluctantly agree to adopt the pet dachshund their daughter no longer wants, the couple unknowingly takes a new member into their family.

Neither of the Gazzaras is a "dog person," and the sudden presence of a pet in the lives of these jet-setters appears at first uncertain. However, the ever-sweet, playful, and surprisingly smart Maxi immediately endears herself, and soon she becomes the Gazzaras’ unlikely "child" in the empty nest of their Madison Avenue townhouse. The little dog accompanies the pair everywhere — to the theater, restaurants, dinner parties, world-class hotels, receptions for heads of state, and even the dentist.

Madison Avenue Maxi is the story of a love affair between a dog and her owners. With heartfelt humor and a dog lover's eye, Gazzara chornicles Maxi's antics in Manhattan as well as at their second home in Tuscany and over travels to the French Riviera, Brazil, Spain, and other luxurious locales. Along the way she meets celebrities such as Roman Polanski, Gena Rowlands, John Voigt, Danielle Steele, Gay Talese, Peter Bogdanovich, New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Frank Gehry. Madison Avenue Maxi is a warm, touching memoir of man — and woman's—best friend.

Book Review: 58 Minutes by Walter H. Wager

I would not have picked this novel up if it weren't for the giant "Basis For The Movie DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER" plastered across the front cover. Not that I'm a huge fan of the movie, either, considering its the worst example of cookie-cutter-sequel garbage, far worse than the two films that followed it. However, I'm always interested in how novels differ from their big screen counterparts.

The first two chapters are pretty much what you expect. Flowering scene-setting description of the Big Apple in the winter, and a sharp and brutal introduction to the villains. The lead bad guy and all of his henchmen are what you expect, and are handled competently. They are cold and calculating, diverse and colorful, and most of all, deadly and ruthless.Then we meet the hero, and it all falls apart.The irony is bittersweet. In the Die Hard series, the selling point of the John McClain character is his lack of superhero credentials. He isn't the best there is at what he does, he's just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances surviving by the skin of his teeth with a lot of luck and determination.

Now meet Captain Frank Malone. In just one six page chapter, we learn that Frank Malone is; a handsome blue-eyed blond,instantly intimidating, two-year best Ivy League Quarterback, an expert hand-to-hand combatant, NYPD pistol champion, cool under attack, admitted to both Harvard and Columbia law schools, a highly decorated hero, the youngest captain in the force, and recognized by all New York cops as a first-class commander, and powerful yet merciful role model.

Bored yet?

This kind of over-the-top jack-of-all-trades Super Cop, clones of which can be found littering Clancy-Lite terrorism thrillers like this by the dozens, are barely recognizable as human beings, let alone realistic characters that lend themselves to the reader's sympathies. When Doc Savage wannabes like Frank Malone swagger onto the scene, there's no doubt that the bad guys don't stand a chance. But where's the fun in that?

Thrillers usually work because we like to watch someone prevail against overwhelming odds, but stacking the chips in favor of a nearly perfect hero caricature leaves the reader betting on a sure thing, which assures a happy ending but destroys any real tension or suspense.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Flatsigned Press to Sue Don Imus

A book publisher that bought an ad on Don Imus's radio show is suing the shock jock and his former bosses at CBS Radio for more than $4 million, saying Imus insulted the book he was paid to promote.

It was the latest controversy to follow the radio personality, who was fired by CBS Radio in April 2007 for insulting a women's basketball team with a racial slur. He has since returned to the air with another network.

Flatsigned Press said in a New York state court lawsuit filed late on Wednesday that Imus's show had agreed to a script for the 30-second spot in January 2007 to promote a book by former President Gerald Ford on the investigation into the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Imus laughed as he read the script, calling it "cheesy," the lawsuit said.

"These bastards have been waiting for him to croak so they can unload" the books, Imus said on the air, according to the lawsuit.

Ford served on the Warren Commission that conducted the official inquiry and his book "John F. Kennedy: Assassination Report of the Warren Commission" was published shortly after Ford died in December 2006.

"Imus unilaterally changed the language of the live read, which was completely contrary the agreement agreed upon by the parties," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also names Infinity Broadcasting Corp., Sports Radio 66-WFAN and CBS Radio. Infinity, which used to be a division of Viacom Inc., became part of CBS Radio when CBS and Viacom split in 2006.

"Imus in the Morning" was produced and broadcast by the CBS-owned WFAN radio station in New York and syndicated on some 60 stations nationally. The program also was simulcast on cable television's MSNBC, but MSNBC did not air the ad and was not sued.

Representatives for CBS and Imus were not immediately available for comment.

In December, Imus returned to radio with a nationally syndicated show broadcast out of WABC in New York in a deal with ABC Radio Networks, which is owned by Citadel Broadcasting Corp.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Signing: ICEMAN by Chuck Liddell

On Jan 29 2008, 1:00 PM, Chuck Liddell will be signing ICEMAN at Borders, 100 Broadway.
About the book:

Iceman: My Fighting Life

“When I walk out of the tunnel, I can see the lights, hear the music, feel the crowd, but it all begins to close off as I near the cage. By that point I’m thinking, I’ve been training hard, it’s time to focus....Every man is born with a fight-or-flight instinct, and mine is to fight. It always has been.” —From the Prologue

What’s it like to have no fear, to make people cower in their shoes, to know the sweet satisfaction of knocking a guy out with a single, devastating punch? You have to read my book to find out. I’ve been called the baddest man on the planet. I’m the face of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the leader in mixed martial arts and the fastest growing sport in America. In 1998 I won my first MMA fight. Not long after, the UFC came calling, and eventually fought my way to become the #1 ranked light-heavyweight contender in the world. Not bad for a bartender with a college degree in accounting.

I was raised by a single mother and inspired by my grandfather, a first-generation Irish American from Mafia-run Brooklyn. I learned how to fight at a very young age. Now I’m 6'2", 220 pounds, and a trained lethal weapon, but I’m also fiercely loyal, maybe even a bit sensitive, and unexpectedly romantic. In raw detail, and with total honesty, I’m going to tell you the story of my fighting life—both inside and outside the Octagon—including my childhood in the poor section of Santa Barbara, gritty insider accounts of my major fights, stories behind my trademark mohawk and nickname, my ongoing rivalry with Tito Ortiz and deep-rooted friendship with Dana White, and how I balance life as a father, a UFC champ, and a superstar—or try to, anyway. With never-before-seen photos, Iceman is my true, no-holds-barred story of fighting my way to become a champion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Press Release: SIMON SPOTLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT to Publish Jose Canseco

Simon Spotlight Entertainment (SSE), a division of Simon & Schuster, announced today that it will publish Jose Canseco's VINDICATED, the follow-up to his #1 New York Times bestseller Juiced. Written with bestselling author and screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves, the book is scheduled for publication on March 31, 2008.

Canseco's first book was largely responsible for breaking open the steroid scandal in baseball. VINDICATED goes even further, looking at the state of baseball post-scandal and Mitchell Report.

Jennifer Bergstrom, Vice President and Publisher of SSE, said "Since Juiced was published four years ago, the issue of steroids in baseball has only gotten bigger. VINDICATED is a compulsively readable book that should act as a call to action for Major League Baseball."

"Believe it or not, Juiced just scratched the surface of the steroid issue for me," Canseco said. "I still have a lot more to say to help save the game I love."

Bergstrom negotiated the deal, which includes world rights, with Bret Saxon of TMP.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tom Wolfe to Publish New Novel Set in Miami, Back to Blood

Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group USA, announced today that the company has acquired rights to publish the new novel by Tom Wolfe, the celebrated bestselling novelist and journalist, author of such American classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and most recently I Am Charlotte Simmons.

Titled Back to Blood, the novel will consider class, family, wealth, race, crime, sex, corruption, and ambition in Miami, the city where America's future has arrived first. Characters include a young nurse of Cuban ancestry married to a famous French-emigre sex doctor, a freshman journalist on the trail of a Russian-mob-comes-to-Miami story, his wary editor, a second-generation Cuban police officer, a woman of Haitian background who passes for Anglo, and dozens more.

Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch said, "The opportunity to work with the American master Tom Wolfe is the kind of thrill and challenge that people entering book publishing dream of. I picked The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby off a library spinner rack in nineteen sixty- something and it tore the top of my head off-I'd never imagined a writer's voice could be that alive on the page. Everyone at Little, Brown is exhilarated to be working with Tom Wolfe to bring his new novel to readers in the Internet age."

David Young, CEO of Hachette Book Group USA, said, "Tom Wolfe is one of a kind, a master craftsman and social observer and comic writer of the highest caliber. I am thrilled to bring the many assets of the Hachette Book Group, publishers of great literary fiction and of enormous bestsellers, to bear in helping Tom Wolfe find the biggest readership of his already extraordinary career."

Mr. Wolfe was represented in the negotiation by his longtime agent, Lynn Nesbit of Janklow & Nesbit. The book will be edited by Little, Brown senior editor Pat Strachan. Ms. Strachan was formerly Mr. Wolfe's editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where she worked with him on The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and four other books. Little, Brown acquired North American rights, and publication is planned for 2009.

Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group USA. Founded in 1837, Little, Brown has long been recognized as a publisher committed to publishing fiction of the highest quality and nonfiction of lasting significance. Hachette Book Group USA is a leading trade publisher based in New York and a division of Hachette Livre, the second-largest publisher in the world.

SOURCE Little, Brown and Company

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review: Tears of Rage by John Walsh

Don’t ask me why, but John Walsh has always rubbed me the wrong way. That’s the main reason I read this book, because if I’m going to have an opinion on somebody, I’d rather it be an informed one. And that’s really the only difference this book has had on my opinion: it has informed it.

John Walsh isn’t a bad guy, and it is undeniable that both his political movements and his television shows have helped people and changed awareness and legal procedures for the better. But despite all he has done, it’s hard to actually like him.

The first fifty pages or so of the book deal with his personal background and personal history spanning from his childhood through the early years of Adam’s, and it is this completely self-indulgent section that really displays Walsh’s personality. By his own account, he is street-smart, a tough and skilled fighter, a great athlete as well as extremely bright, has never known fear or a lack of confidence, has saved lives without even thinking twice about it, and has never failed in any endeavor that he has pursued. Basically, he’s perfect. But what bleeds through this is the reality that he suffers from an oversized ego that motivates his self-centered world view. This self-centered (bordering on selfish) attitude is apparent in stories related by him in such away that you must assume that he doesn’t see it himself. When Adam is born, for example, he is told by the hospital where his sick father is that he can not bring the child into the cancer ward, at the risk of infecting the floor full of patients with little or no immunity left. Knowing only that he wants his father to his grandson before he dies (which he would have anyway, as later they all go to Disneyworld together), he sneaks the newborn into the hospital via fire escape, regardless of the risk he puts the others in the cancer ward. Also, it is impossible that anything done by him or his wife could be wrong or ill-informed. When mentioning Adam’s natural birth without the aid of Lamaze, he makes a point of saying “I don’t even think there were those classes back then.” Being 1974, Lamaze was already a string movement, especially on the east coast where they were. Later, for their second child, he states that she started Lamaze classes then, but only in her eight month, when the fifth or sixth is when you usually begin. Nothing out of the ordinary there, right?

This self-centered egotism extends immediately to his son, whom he declares was the perfect one in the hospital. “All the other little babies, some were splotchy, others a little misshapen. Adam was the perfect little baby everyone was looking at.” Granted, every parent feels that his or her child is special, but by John Walsh’s factual depiction, it is quite possible the Adam, had he lived, would have been revealed as the Second Coming. Apparently, Adam did not share a single negative trait with the other dirty, filthy, and ill-mannered children that wander the planet. And everybody loved him and wished he were theirs, and all of their adult friends felt more comfortable talking to him than to other adults, because he was that well-mannered and mature and responsible and perfect. Blech. Some of his praise towards Adam also reveals a sort of class elitism, as he takes great pride that “Adam had sharp clothes. On the playground all of the other kids looked kind of scruffy compared to him.” It seemed important to Walsh that his son wore “not sneakers, but Top-Siders. And small Izod shirts instead of regular tee’s.” And let’s not forget about the Captain’s Hat, “…an expensive one with a black braid and a visor.” In the course of Reve Walsh’s description of the day that Adam disappeared, she makes mention of the hat at least three times, pointing out at each instance that it was “a nice one, not a cheap knock off version” like the other children wear. She even goes as far as to complain that this detail (among others) should have been used when the store attempted paging Adam.

The actual disappearance of Adam at Sears is, of course, the reason for anything, and it is also the main reason that I lose respect for John Walsh, as the one the fact that he and Reve refuse to admit, to themselves or anybody else, is that they (or, more directly, she) are just as much at fault as anybody else. The simple fact is that Adam’s mother leaves him alone in the store for a period of time that, while she is unclear about (“I was gone a few minutes. Five. Maybe ten altogether.”), can logically be clocked at a good ten or fifteen minutes by examining the list of things that she claims happened while he was from view. Also, during this time, she points out that she had made sure that he was close enough that she “could have” peeked around the corner at any time to check on him, which of course means that she didn’t. Then, when she suddenly can’t find the child she had left alone in the store, she becomes frustrated and angry when her situation isn’t immediately made top priority. This may seem a bit harsh on my behalf, but anybody who works in retail can tell you that negligent parents let their children run around stores all the time, then automatically assume that it is the store’s responsibility to play babysitter and round up their strays. And this is the same attitude that Reve, understandably yet at the same time predictably and unfairly, assumes almost immediately when her initial concerns are not met with the utmost urgency. John is quick to say that this is because his wife “She had on shorts, she was a woman, and she looked nineteen years old”, but the truth is because she was acting like your typical negligent parent. They goes out of his way to imply that the store and the police were slow and unwilling to help, yet neither of them knows who called finally called the police (which would mean that the store did, and means that they certainly didn’t), and neither do they know who first informed the media during the first few hours of the search (which would mean that the police did, and again, that they didn’t). Does this make them bad parents? No, but their refusal to admit that others did take immediate steps to help them that they did not take themselves makes them stubbornly reluctant to share in blame. When they eventually dropped the lawsuit they brought against Sears, they claimed that they did so because the Sears lawyers were going to drag their names through the mud, and so they dropped the suit to protect their family as well as Adam’s Foundation. The truth hits a bit closer to home, that Sears was no more responsible than the mother who left the child unattended for up to a quarter of an hour.

Another distasteful trait of John Walsh’s is his tendency to use his dead son to win arguments. It is very evident throughout the book that Walsh has a short temper and a lack of emotional control, and in fact seems almost boastful of it. And while I like a “man of action who doesn’t play nice” as much as the next person, I tend not to trust people who describe themselves as such. And while Walsh rightfully argues against the bureaucracies and politics that repeatedly impede him, his arguments always seem to be punctuated with phrases indicating that not he, but his innocent, brutally murdered son, demands that justice be served. Being the savvy advertising executive that he never tires of describing himself as, Walsh seemed to learn early on that while you can argue with a hot-headed activist, you can’t argue with a dead child.

Again, I’m not painting Walsh as a demon, as he has done much good. And I am also not implying that he is completely bull-headed. He is the first to admit that he wouldn’t have gotten a fraction of the media coverage he did if Adam were a lower-class minority child, and I agree with him completely for his criticisms of the psychics and religious fanatics that attempted to use the situation for their own advantage, as well as when he defends his wife against claims by the media the Reve didn’t act the way a grieving mother should act, as if there is a right and wrong way for individuals to handle emotions that very few of us ever (thankfully) have to contend with. And while he at times seems to bend over backwards to both slam the cops and FBI for their bungling his son’s murder investigation while at the same time praising both agencies for the good they do, it never appears phony or heavy handed. And, unlike Jon Benet’s parents, both John and Reve were quick to cooperate when the investigators turned their attention to them, knowing that the quickest way was to eliminate themselves as suspects. You see? I’m not out to get the guy. But when he talks about teaching his six year old son how to use a diving knife (yeah, that’s safe), and when he recalls the humorous story of when he left his six month pregnant wife alone in shark infested waters, I can’t help but feel a little contempt for him.

Oh yeah, a pretty good book, tends to cover all of the bases. Just beware that it isn’t an objective view of the Adam Walsh case, but rather one man’s crusade to tell his own story the way he sees it.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Signing: Puff & Other Family Classics by Peter Yarrow

Peter Yarrow, member of Peter, Paul and Mary, signing copies of Puff & Other Family Classics on 1/19/08 2:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Ulster Avenue. Kingston, NY.

About the Book and CD

Those who grew up on -- or raised children to -- Peter, Paul and Mommy will be mesmerized by the fresh folk sounds of Puff & Other Family Classics. Joining the talents of Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary), his daughter Bethany Yarrow, and her musical partner, cellist Rufus Cappadocia (the pair also record as Bethany & Rufus), the disc reflects both a broad view of folk musics as well as an internationalist groove. For example, on "Blue Tail Fly," a tune most closely associated with Burl Ives, PB&R maintain the original's easygoing gait but liven things up with harmonies by Peter and Bethany on the well-known chorus ("Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care") and a folksy-jazzy fusion of electric and acoustic guitars. A deep admiration for Celtic folk ("Shule Aru") and American roots music ("Foggy Dew") is constant throughout, as is a blend of the familiar and the unexpected. Whether listeners know "Careless Love" from Bessie Smith or Madeleine Peyroux, they'll enjoy the expert finger-picking, loping rhythm, and sweet melancholy of the version here. The trio transform the soulful warning dished out by the old gospel number "You Better Mind" into a Stax-influenced workout, with a slithering bass line and swirling organ underpinnings. But the crowning moment here is certainly the title song, which finds Peter revisiting his best-known tune, trading verses and harmonizing with his daughter on a beautifully restrained update that reminds us once again why a good story bears retelling. Turns out that sometimes you can go home again.

Press Release: PUNAHOU BLUES by Lemon Shark Press reveals underbelly of private school attended by Barack Obama.

Cast as a first person memoir, this book journeys through the multicultural high school attended by Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Chapter titles include "The Drug Club," "The Fight of the Century," and "Bad Boys."

Experience the trials and tribulations of teenage life and the then tricky matter of interracial dating. The book is a series of narrations told by Jeffrey, highlighting events in his life starting from the first grade and leading up to high school graduation. One of my favorite chapters includes “The Ring,” in which Jeffrey, who is at this time in the first grade, has become obsessed with a diamond ring that his father possesses. This ring belonged to his father’s grandmother, and while Jeffrey knows his Ten Commandants (thou shalt not steal), he eventually gets hold of it and begins his task of taking the ring apart, prying the prongs open in order to take each tiny diamond for his own. What Jeffrey does not realize is the worth of these diamonds, not even understanding what a diamond really is. There is a scene in which Jeffrey plays with the gems in the bathtub, subsequently shoving them down the drain when he thinks he’s about to be caught. When the cleaning woman is blamed and fired for the “theft”, Jeffrey keeps quiet. The hilarious resolution at the end of chapter one will have the reader laughing out loud. Boys will boys, as they say.

The book reads like a memoir, with scene after scene of boyhood memories as Jeffrey grows up. He learns to stand up to his “enemies” when uncle Sharkey teaches him to box, and he also tells the tale of his first crush, on pretty girl in school named Debbie Mills who only had eyes for Wayne, one of Jeffrey’s tormentors. It’s tough growing up as a haole in Hawaii, but Jeffrey and his brother manage to survive and reach adulthood intact.

One of the delights of this novel is the author’s free use of the local language. This reader is quite familiar with some of the more common words and phrases spoken in Hawaii such as “haole”. With the help of the glossary at the back of the book, any reader not familiar with the Hawaiian slang will be able to pick up new vocabulary that is familiar to those born and raised on the Islands. Barack Obama undoubtedly picked up the local lingo while attending school at Punahou and I'm certain he would enjoy reading a book set on his old campus.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Review: The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Phillip K. Dick

Very few Science Fiction authors manage to create memorable works that easily retain their relevance in the near and/or distant future. Phillip K. Dick is one of those talented few, and The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is one of those works.

Dick's not-so-distant dystopian future is one where global warming is an adaptable but growing dillema, with the bulk of humanity virtually sealed away in air-conditioned office buildings and apartment complexes. The solution, space migration to nearby planets, is such a bleak and arduous task that 'settlers' need to be drafted. These off-world settlers often resort to drug-induced shared hallucination involving miniature recreations of life back on earth. Within this structure we find corporations employing psychics to predict future sales trends, upper class elitists physically evolving themselves into 'superior beings', naturally created drugs that allow users to connect on different plains of reality and traverse freely throughout space-time, to name a few. In the center of it all is the titular Palmer Eldritch, a powerful and mysterious businessman who has spent decades communing with alien races, and has returned with what he claims to be mankind's mental and spiritual salvation.

What would normally be a one-trick-pony for other authors becomes a multi-layered examination of everything from religion and philosophy to physical/mental evolution and individual freedom versus responsibility. Dick doesn't bother with simple 'Good Vs. Evil' conflict, but instead shows us that both possibilities are sides of the same coin, and simply asks us to call it in the air. Highly recommended for those who like to think about a book long after reading it.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review: Inhuman Beings by Jerry Jay Carroll

Detective novels are nothing new, and neither are invaders from beyond stories, but you don't get many crossbreeds of the two outside of the hardcore futuristic sci-fi realm. In this regard, Inhuman Beings is an enjoyable treat.

Carroll's novel is tightly written, short and sweet the way detective novels should be. He doesn't skimp on the characters or back story, just the excessive pages of prose some authors veer off in to explain it.

It may seem unusual to complain about getting more than you asked for, but that is my major problem with the novel. The book description promises a lone detective suddenly involved in a subversive alien invasion, and Carroll delivers the goods right away, keeping a steady pace and developing the dangers at a quick and steady pace. However, the third part of the book changes gears with the involvement of government officials that eventually buy into the main character's claims of an alien attack, and a story of a lone man against insurmountable odds becomes a low-budget retelling of Independence Day or Invaders from Mars. It isn't exactly a bad change, but it was the former story I read the book for, not the latter.

Also, as good as the book is on keeping the reader interested in the main character, this is mainly due to the pace and tension his lone crusader status affords him. As soon as he becomes part of an underground force battling the aliens, the tone and feeling of the book is lost, along with a great deal of the tension.In short, I enjoyed the book that I first picked up to read, but it wasn't the same book I eventually put down.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Press Release: Former President Bill Clinton To Write Book For Knopf

NEW YORK, NY — Former President Bill Clinton is writing a book on citizen activism and service to be published by Alfred A. Knopf, it was announced today by Knopf Chairman Sonny Mehta. The b o o k, an important and timely examination of how we can move our nation and world away from conflict and towards accomplishment, opportunity, and responsibility, will be published in late 2007 or early 2008. In the book, President Clinton will discuss the groundbreaking work of the Clinton Foundation as well as the work of similarly inspired non-governmental organizations and private citizens throughout the world. The book will highlight the remarkable stories of some of the many private citizens who are doing public good that President Clinton has met throughout his travels, and will provide information to readers about ways they can get involved in these efforts.

“Since leaving public office, I have met so many good people who are doing tremendous work to help improve the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world,” said President Clinton. “We all have the capacity to do great things like this, and I am writing this book to encourage others to join their ranks. My hope is that the people and stories in this book will lift spirits, touch hearts, and demonstrate that citizen activism and service can be a powerful agent of change in the world.”

The Clinton Foundation, the centerpiece of President Clinton’s post-presidential work, is a multi-million dollar non-profit that, among many other activities, provides HIV/AIDS treatment drugs and testing to thousands in the developing world, fights childhood obesity in the U.S., and has generated over $2.5 billion to combat poverty, religious conflict, and climate change through the annual Clinton Global Initiative.

“Bill Clinton is writing about the most substantive issues of our time,” said Mehta. “He is writing about people who are using their time and expertise to solve problems and save lives. This book will offer a blueprint for companies and individuals to make meaningful contributions to the world.” Robert Gottlieb, who worked with President Clinton on his bestselling memoir, My Life, will again serve as Clinton’s editor at Knopf. My Life remains one of the best-selling hardcover memoirs of all time, with over 2,000,000 copies sold in the U.S. Additionally, My Life has been published in over thirty different countries worldwide.

Alfred A. Knopf is the flagship imprint of the Knopf Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House, Inc., whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG, the international media company. For more information about Alfred A. Knopf, visit our website at

Press Release: Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas is the Subject of a new Graphic Novel

Del Rey Manga, an imprint of Ballantine Books at the Random House Publishing Group, announced today that it has acquired an original graphic novel starring Odd Thomas, perhaps the most memorable and beloved character Dean Koontz has ever created. The charismatic young fry cook from Pico Mundo, California, has appeared in three New York Times bestselling novels: Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, and Brother Odd, which was one of Koontz’s fastest-selling hardcovers. Odd, who has the ability to communicate with the dead, has inspired more readers’ letters than any other of his characters, according to Koontz.

Koontz’s characters—including Odd, his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn, Pico Mundo Chief of Police Porter, the ghost of Elvis Presley, and many more—will be drawn by one of the top original-English-language manga artists working today, Queenie Chan. Chan, author of the popular mystery-horror series The Dreaming, will script the story as well. Publication is planned for Summer 2008.

The graphic novel will follow Odd’s race to solve the murder of a young boy whose killer appears to be stalking a second child. It is set in the time before Odd Thomas and takes place in Pico Mundo. The book will be edited by Del Rey editor-in-chief Betsy Mitchell.

Says Dean Koontz: "I'm delighted that Odd Thomas will come to life in manga, that the enormously talented Queenie Chan's beautiful art will define his world and the desert town of Pico Mundo, and that the project is being guided by such capable hands as those at Del Rey."

Queenie Chan comments: “It’s an honor to work with Dean on this project, and I’m glad he’s chosen me for this new story of Odd Thomas. I read his novels when I was in high school, and never did I imagine that I would have the chance to work with such a well-known and established author today.”


Dean Koontz is the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers. He lives with his wife, Gerda, and their dog, Trixie, in Southern California.
Queenie Chan was born in 1980 in Hong Kong, and migrated to Australia when she was six years old. She began drawing at the age of 18, and in 2004 began drawing a mystery-horror series called The Dreaming for Los Angeles-based manga publisher Tokyopop. Since then, the series has been translated into four languages, with the third and final installment arriving in November 2007. Apart from her professional work, she also draws a number of online manga strips on her personal site:


Del Rey ( was founded in 1977 as a division of Ballantine Books under the guidance of the renowned Judy-Lynn del Rey and her husband, Lester del Rey. Del Rey publishes the best of modern fantasy, science fiction, alternate history and manga. Ballantine Books is an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, which is a publishing group of Random House, Inc, the U.S. publishing company of Random House, the trade book publishing division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the world’s leading international media companies. In the summer of 2003, Random House joined together with Kodansha in a creative partnership to bring some of Kodansha’s top properties to the United States, making Random House the first major trade book publisher in the United States to do so.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Book Review: 253 by Geoff Ryman

There are 253 passengers on a seven car Tube train that is about to crash. Every person, along with their thoughts and actions on their brief train ride (and including footnotes explaining their direct and/or indirect relationships with other people on the train), is described in exactly 253 words each.

While on the surface this may sound like nothing more than a mildly interesting experiment in constrained writing, the book manages to reach a deeper meaning than you would expect. Whether you read the book from beginning to or flip around to random parts at your leisure, the overall effect is the same; allowing you to freeze a moment in time and examine the lives and deaths of 253 people with more in common than they will ever truly realize.

Contrasting and comparing their personalities and motivations affords the reader an almost God-like chance to examine the fantastic and mundane worlds of a train full of strangers as an intrinsic whole.But don't let that scare you away. If you rather enjoy as a distraction rather than a perceptions-enhancing experience, it easily works on that level as well. No matter how you attack 253, it remains a truly unique book in both structure and subject matter, and equally enjoyable whether read in short bursts or cover to cover.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Monday, January 7, 2008

Jack Kerouac Exhibition at The New York Public Library Coincides with 50th Anniversary of On the Road

Diaries, manuscripts, snapshots, and personal items of Jack Kerouac, the visionary author whose pioneering work helped to established the Beat Movement in the United States, will be on display in Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road, an exhibition on view at The New York Public Library November 9, 2007 through March 16, 2008. The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's landmark novel, On the Road, which has captured the imagination of several generations and established its author as a major figure in American literature. The exhibition will be drawn almost exclusively from the contents of the Jack Kerouac Archive, housed in the Library's Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and will display many unpublished Kerouac materials as well as typescript and manuscript drafts of On the Road. A major highlight of the exhibition will be the famous "scroll" typescript, on loan from James Irsay, owner of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts, of which the first sixty feet will be unrolled in a specially-designed set of interlocking display cases. The scroll itself will be on display from November 9, 2007 through February 22, 2008; the exhibition continues through March 16, 2008. The exhibition will be located in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Admission is free.

A host of literary and physical artifacts displayed in the exhibition will bring to life Kerouac's career as a writer, from his earliest journals to typescript and manuscript drafts of his novels, short stories, essays, and poetry to diaries, journals and correspondence. Kerouac was an assiduous diarist and journal keeper. In a 1939 journal entry, recorded upon arriving in New York to attend the Horace Mann School for Boys, he wrote, "I wish to say that this journal is a continual refreshing resource for my castle, which surrounds me; it keeps me aloof from teeming humanity; it keeps me in contact with myself. By that I mean that a continual flow of ideas from my turbulent mind find their way into these pages invariably." His journals, diaries, and correspondence reveal a mind consumed with the goal of finding a way to give his experience of life on and off the road its most effective creative expression, and the drafts of his fiction, poetry, and essays record the history of those efforts. Kerouac's minutely detailed fantasy baseball and horse racing materials, which he created as a boy and played with throughout his life, will also be on display. In addition, the exhibition will include photographs of Kerouac, his family and friends, as well as objects that Kerouac treasured throughout his life, such as the crutches he used following a football injury while playing for Columbia University, and items memorably described in his writings, such as his harmonicas, his Buddhist bells, and his railroad track lantern.

Other sections of the exhibition will be devoted to Kerouac's youth and passion for sports; his early literary influences, such as William Blake, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, and Thomas Wolfe, illustrated by the Berg's rare editions and manuscripts, as well as by books from Kerouac's library; and his spirituality, which drew from both Buddhism and Roman Catholicism. Most of Kerouac's principal novels, such as The Town and the City (1950), On the Road (1957), Maggie Cassidy (1959), and Big Sur (1962), will be displayed in early drafts or rare editions, as will a representative sampling of his unpublished poetry. The richness of the Beat movement will be documented in a major section that will display a few selections from the Berg Collection's newly acquired William S. Burroughs Archive, as well as manuscripts, rare publications, and drawings by and photographs of Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other Beat notables. This section will also include a few examples of the media-driven "Beatnik" phenomenon, through the lurid cover art of pulp paperbacks.

A companion volume to the exhibition, written by curator Isaac Gewirtz, will look at Kerouac's life and works through the lens of the journals, diaries, and other materials in the Kerouac Archive, much of which has not previously been available to scholars. This hardcover book will be extensively illustrated in 4-color with items from the archive, including not only manuscripts and typescripts, but also Kerouac's paintings and drawings and selected items relating to his fantasy baseball games. In addition, the Donnell Library Center will organize a complementary film series.

Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road is on view November 9, 2007 through March 16, 2008 in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall at The New York Public Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Library, located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Admission is free. For more information, call 212-869-8089 or visit

Antiquarian book fairs; book print & paper show

Books at the 25th Street Armory

January & 11 and 12, 2008 5:pm to 9:pm and 11:am to 5:pm

69th Regiment Armory 68 Lexington Avenue New York, New York


This quality show features exhibitors from across the US and from England as it continues it's twice a year presentation of high-end antiquarian books, prints, maps and paper ephemera.

There will be something in every category of books, vintage prints, old maps, documents, manuscripts, photography, and ephemera. You will be able to find fine leather bindings, items about architecture, medieval and renaissance manuscript pages, literature, history, travel, first editions, natural history, vintage paperbacks, comic books, children's books and prints, crime, conjuring, Americana, sporting books, classics, decorative bindings, science, technology, autographs, art, erotica, signed books, early printed books, music, film, theater, and much more - all for sale to the public.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Press Release: New Imprint To Offer Omnibus Editions Of Popular Manga Series With New Cover Art, Color Pages And Bonus Content

San Francisco, CA, January 3, 2008 – Viz Media, LLC (Viz Media), one of the entertainment industry's most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, brings a new perspective to the manga marketplace with the launch of a new imprint called VIZBIG Edition. The new imprint will release omnibus editions of top-selling manga series in a larger 5-3/4 x 8-5/8 size (larger than the standard 5 x 7-1/2 manga) with special premium presentations including new cover art.

Rurouni Kenshin will be the first series to receive the VIZBIG Edition treatment this month, with Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z set for May release and Takehiko Inoue's Vagabond will follow in Fall of 2008. These VIZBIG Edition titles have an anticipated initial cover price of $17.99 and will be released quarterly. Several other titles are also presently being considered for future VIZBIG Edition publication.

Each debut VIZBIG Edition will contain the first three volumes of the original graphic novel series presented with larger trim size, bonus color pages and added content such as author interviews, updated text and character art. The new editions serve as ideal comprehensive introductions for new readers to some of manga's best-known titles, and a great way for seasoned fans to see their favorite titles in a new perspective.

Rurouni Kenshin, the internationally bestselling series created by Nobuhiro Watsuki, depicts the adventures of Himura Kenshin, a “rurouni,” or wandering samurai, who was once an assassin of ferocious power but now fights to protect the honor and safety of those in need. The story, set during the Meiji era of Japan during the 1800s, has been adapted into a hit anime series, three films and several novels. This title was also the first manga to be placed on the notable USA TODAY top 150 list.

Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, created by Akira Toriyama, are universally recognized as modern manga classics. With a unique blend of martial arts, science fiction and memorable characters, they update the classic Chinese legend of the Monkey King. Dragon Ball follows the life of a monkey-tailed boy named Son Goku in a 16-volume series that has since become one of the most successful manga properties ever created. Goku's life changes when he meets a girl named Bulma and sets out to help her gather all seven Dragon Balls, which are scattered all over the world. If all seven are gathered, a powerful dragon will appear and grant one wish. The 26-volume series sequel, Dragon Ball Z, picks up when Goku has grown up. Earth's ultimate warrior now has a son named Gohan who is even more powerful than his father. Together they use martial arts and other powers to battle time travelers, aliens, deities and the mighty Super Saiyans to save the universe. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z together have sold more than 500,000 copies in North America and the 400+ episode anime series was a consistent ratings winner on Cartoon Network.

Also coming out in a VIZBIG Edition in September 2008, Vagabond is an action-packed portrayal of the life and times of the quintessential warrior-philosopher--the most celebrated samurai of all time! Striving for enlightenment by way of the sword, Miyamoto Musashi is prepared to cut down anyone who stands in his way.

Alvin Lu, Viz Media Vice President, Publishing, is excited about the debut, saying, “VIZBIG Editions are more than just an alternative format to read your favorite manga — with full color pages, eye-opening larger trim size, and a premium presentation – they change the very experience of reading manga. For fans of these series, they are a great opportunity to relive their favorite stories from a completely new perspective, and for new fans, this is a great way to jump in and quickly get up to speed on what everyone's been talking about – the world-renowned stories and characters behind Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball Z.”

About Viz Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Viz Media, LLC (Viz Media), is one of the most comprehensive and innovative companies in the field of manga (graphic novel) publishing, animation and entertainment licensing of Japanese content. Owned by three of Japan's largest creators and licensors of manga and animation, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan, Inc., and Shogakukan Production Co., Ltd. (Sho-Pro Japan), Viz Media is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English speaking audiences in North America and a global licensor of Japanese manga and animation. The company offers an integrated product line including, magazines such as Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, graphic novels, videos, DVDs and audio soundtracks and develops and markets animated entertainment from initial production, television placement and distribution, to merchandise licensing and promotions for audiences and consumers of all ages.Contact Viz Media at 295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133; Phone (415) 546-7073; Fax (415) 546-7086; and web site at

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Book Review: Rules of Prey by John Sanford

I find it amazing that John Sanford manages to take a half-dozen interesting character quirks and combines them all to create a hero you couldn't care less about.

Maybe it's because I grew up with detectives like Columbo and Nero Wolfe, but I tend to like my heroes to have the occasional flaw. Lucas Davenport is a tough and experienced cop who doesn't play by the rules. He also has rugged good looks and an animal magnatism that allows him to bed almost every woman he meets (except stupid girls and the nun with the skin problem, so I guess that proves he has standards). But he also has a sensitive side, as he enjoys reading poetry on the sly. And he's a genius, a popular game designer, which means he's also wealthy. Wow, this guy is good at everything. How boring. He's the kind of character I would expect a sexually frustrated high-school student to create.

Now let's add a serial killer into the mix, but make him a socially inept loser who is inferior to our man Davenport in every way imagineable (oh, he's clever, but not as clever as Lucas), and you have two main characters that you really don't care to read about.

Sanford has a habit of making even supporting characters appear shabby, incompetent and unappealing around Davenport (including TWO pairs of Fat Cop and Skinny Cop duos), and has him so on top of everybody else that he has to advise the Chief of Police how to handle the Media and information control (don't the police have people to handle that?).

Finally, Sanford proves repeatedly that he knows little about police procedure or the historical crimes he references (newsflash: David Berkowitz was not the lone killer in the Son of Sam case, and he wasn't caught because a cop looked in his apartment window and saw copies of the letters. He lived on the second floor, you see...). I can only assume by the success of the Prey series the books have improved. Actually, I can only hope.

Reviewed by S. Michael Wilson

Friday, January 4, 2008

Book Signing: Made In America by Matt Hughes

Matt Hughes, 9 time UFC Champion, will be signing copies of Made In America on 1/7/08 7:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Richmond Avenue. Staten Island, NY.

Book Description

If you know anything at all about mixed martial arts and the UFC, then you know the name Matt Hughes. With devastating slams and ground-and-pound -- and nine championship belts to his credit -- Matt is the most dominant fighter in UFC history.

Matt was raised with his twin brother on a family farm in small-town Hillsboro, Illinois. Behind the postcard-perfect fields of corn, beans, and wheat stood a home consumed by bankruptcy, tension, and interpersonal struggles, but Matt reacted to hard times by playing hard and working even harder.

In high school and college Matt was an unstoppable wrestler, and he ended up a two-time Division I All-American. Whereas every year's top eight graduating college football players become instant millionaires, Matt got to stay on as assistant wrestling coach, doing electrical work on the side for fourteen dollars an hour. All of that changed the day he met legendary MMA manager Monte Cox, as well as Pat Miletich, a trainer who also happened to be the welterweight champion of the world.

Rising through the ranks of the independent fighting circuit and the UFC, Matt saw things that fans could only catch glimpses of -- until now. For the first time, a major UFC superstar has decided to answer all the questions the fans have about him, the organization, and the sport. You'll learn which fighter almost sent Matt packing from mixed martial arts; why he refused to speak to his role model, Randy Couture; and what his relationship with UFC president Dana White is like. He reveals in which match he found himself praying to God for help, why he originally refused a shot at the world title, and what it's like training at the Miletich Fighting Camp. Matt describes working on TV's The Ultimate Fighter, what really happened to Tito Ortiz during the legendary brawl on the streets of London, just how personal his rivalry with Frank Trigg became, and what it was like to go up against the mythical Royce Gracie -- and destroy him.

Matt discloses his most private thoughts and feelings during both his epic victories and his crushing losses. But when the gloves come off, there's Matt Hughes the man. He talks with unflinching honesty about his early hell-raising and his near-death experience, the moment he let God into his heart, falling in love with his wife, the birth of his daughter, and all the important events of his life -- and he shares personal photographs never before seen by the public.

A Christian, a family man, and a fighter, Matt Hughes could only have been made in America.

Book Signing: Memo To the President Elect by Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, will be signing copies of Memo To the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership on 1/8/08 - 7:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Union Square. New York, NY.

Book Description

The next president, whether Democrat or Republican, will face the daunting task of repairing America's core relationships and tarnished credibility after the damage caused during the past seven years. In Memo to the President Elect, former secretary of state and bestselling author Madeleine Albright offers provocative ideas about how to confront the striking array of challenges that the next commander-in-chief will face and how to return America to its rightful role as a source of inspiration across the globe.

Much more than a set of policy prescriptions, Secretary Albright's writing blends lessons from the past with forward-looking suggestions about how to assemble a first-rate foreign policy team, anticipate the actions of other key countries, make full use of presidential power without repeating the excesses of the Bush administration, and revive America's commitment to its founding ideals.

Albright's advice is candid—as conveyed in a confidential memo—and seasoned with humor and stories from her years in office. Drawing on her extensive experience as an advisor to two presidents and a key figure in four presidential transitions, she provides an insider's analysis of U.S. options in addressing the decisive issues of our era: terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rivalries in the Middle East, the potential for nuclear war, and headaches created by such troublesome leaders as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Venezuela's Hugo Ch├ívez, and North Korea's Kim Jong-il.

The 2008 election promises to be one of the most dramatic in our nation's history. Memo to the President Elect offers indispensable guidance for the next occupant of the White House—and a wealth of insights for voters to think about before deciding who that person will be.

About the Author

Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. Her distinguished career in government includes positions in the National Security Council and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She is the author of two New York Times bestselling books, Madam Secretary and The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs. She is the founder of the Albright Group LLC and Albright Capital Management LLC, chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, and the Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

James Ellroy, Author of L.A. Confidential, is the Subject of the Documentary available on DVD

The celebrated author of police stories and reigning expert on the 1940-1960 Los Angeles crime scene takes center stage in the eccentric and mannered James Ellroy: "American Dog", a glossy documentary that covers the same ground as Ellroy's autobiographical book My Dark Pages. Ellroy's life and career is a chronicle of obsessions that would give any film noir protagonist a run for his money. His mother was murdered when he was a child, an experience that, if the author is to be believed, determined the course of his life from that point onward.

This documentary-essay puts James Ellroy front and center, and he's an overpowering character. As a speaker he's simultaneously very articulate and very profane, an uncomfortable combination. His descriptions of his childhood discovery of a sleazy underside to everyday life are peppered with words that are, depending on one's point of view, either frank and accurate or offensively aggressive. His disclosures about his own checkered past carry an intense charge of noir romanticism. Ellroy may not be bragging about his nefarious life as a homeless peeping tom, but he's not contrite, either.

The show examines Ellroy's world and the mystique of Los Angeles as a place that beckons the ambitious and the foolhardy: "They come on vacation and leave on probation." Backward looks into history set up the twin homicides that formed Ellroy's young consciousness, the savage 1947 Black Dahlia killing and his own mother's murder in 1958. Somewhere along the line the subject of film noir enters. Ellroy partially linking it with his own work by saying that real detectives love the fantasy of Otto Preminger's Laura, wherein an investigator carries on a romance with a murder victim!

James Ellroy: "American Dog" follows its subject to various crime scenes and allows him to address the camera directly, narrating his own inner thoughts or reciting relevant passages from My Dark Pages and other books. Other speakers comment on the author in interviews staged in appropriate locales. Los Angeles Police Chief and Ellroy fan William Bratton stands in uniform before a bank of flags and praises the effect of Ellroy's books on the image of the LAPD. Retired detective William Stoner sits at the bar in the Frolic Room on Hollywood Blvd. to explain how Ellroy hired him to investigate his mother's murder 37 years after the fact. Actress Dana Delany tells us that Ellroy used her real name as a character in one of his books, a murder story about depraved lowlifes. Ellroy discusses his work with author Bruce Wagner but is mostly on screen by himself, ambling through the courtyard of the American Cinematheque (formerly the Egyptian Theater) or loitering around atmospheric downtown street corners. With his distinctive walk and Hawaiian shirts, Ellroy seems born to the neon and dark alleys.

Cameraman Neil Antin's stylish videography unifies the show with 'video-noir' lighting schemes. One speaker tells us of the anxieties of the Cold War while standing in what appears to be a property house specializing in neon signs. Dramatic musical selections from Vivaldi, Wagner and Stravinsky are used as atmospheric glue to tie disparate episodes together.

Writer-directors Clara and Robert Kuperberg only lose their footing near the end, when the show's various themes fail to come together. The docu wishes to recap Ellroy's excellent My Dark Places book in digest form, but the content just isn't there to dramatize Ellroy's change from hating his mother ("She was really just a whore') to accepting and loving her ("I learned the power of compassion"). The camera instead swoops over Los Angeles in search of spectacular aerial views to serve as wallpaper for Ellroy's mannered commentary. Ellroy's honesty is a lot like the testimony one of his characters might give. We keep asking ourselves why exactly he feels he must confess all these personal agonies.

Ellroy is fully aware that he's exploiting his tragic family history and he barely stops short of describing himself as a sick man. He need not apologize for his excellent books, as he's certainly a talented man. But after viewing James Ellroy: American Dog the fascinating writer of My Dark Places seems much less attractive. Ellroy and the Kuperberg show their awareness of this by placing a shot of Ellroy's dog Nikkle at the end of the show. Like Norman Bates speaking with the face of his dead mother, Nikkle 'speaks' with Ellroy's voice and warns the viewer that Ellroy is really a malicious exploiter and a terrible man. It's amusing, but the joke's on us.

Arte's DVD of James Ellroy: "American Dog" is an excellent presentation of a show with a beautiful look; the views of Los Angeles are a slick tour of a noir city. The audio is good and the music editorial excellent, with those classical pieces weaving in and out of Ellroy's edgy speeches. An extras menu leads to several interesting sidebar videos. Two dinner conversations with Ellroy and his friends (Rick Jackson, Bruce Wagner, Dana Delaney, Joe and Matthew Carnahan, Michelle Grace) at the Pacific Dining Car are followed by a 2005 reading of American Tabloid at the Hammer Museum by Ellroy, Bruce Wagner and Dana Delany. Ellroy is presented with the 'Jack Webb Award' by the LAPD, an honor that must have been a prelude to the film's interview with the oddly worshipful Chief Bratton. Galleries of vintage L.A. postcards, and gruesome crime scene photos finish the presentation.

For more information about James Ellroy: "American Dog", visit Facets Multi-Media. To order James Ellroy: "American Dog", go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007

"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Persia (now Iran) on October 22, 1919. Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Doris's mother adapted to the rough life in the settlement, energetically trying to reproduce what was, in her view, a civilized, Edwardian life among savages; but her father did not, and the thousand-odd acres of bush he had bought failed to yield the promised wealth.

Lessing has described her childhood as an uneven mix of some pleasure and much pain. The natural world, which she explored with her brother, Harry, was one retreat from an otherwise miserable existence. Her mother, obsessed with raising a proper daughter, enforced a rigid system of rules and hygiene at home, then installed Doris in a convent school, where nuns terrified their charges with stories of hell and damnation. Lessing was later sent to an all-girls high school in the capital of Salisbury, from which she soon dropped out. She was thirteen; and it was the end of her formal education.

But like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer), Lessing made herself into a self-educated intellectual. She recently commented that unhappy childhoods seem to produce fiction writers. "Yes, I think that is true. Though it wasn't apparent to me then. Of course, I wasn't thinking in terms of being a writer then - I was just thinking about how to escape, all the time." The parcels of books ordered from London fed her imagination, laying out other worlds to escape into. Lessing's early reading included Dickens, Scott, Stevenson, Kipling; later she discovered D.H. Lawrence, Stendhal, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Bedtime stories also nurtured her youth: her mother told them to the children and Doris herself kept her younger brother awake, spinning out tales. Doris's early years were also spent absorbing her fathers bitter memories of World War I, taking them in as a kind of "poison." "We are all of us made by war," Lessing has written, "twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it."

In flight from her mother, Lessing left home when she was fifteen and took a job as a nursemaid. Her employer gave her books on politics and sociology to read, while his brother-in-law crept into her bed at night and gave her inept kisses. During that time she was, Lessing has written, "in a fever of erotic longing." Frustrated by her backward suitor, she indulged in elaborate romantic fantasies. She was also writing stories, and sold two to magazines in South Africa.

Lessing's life has been a challenge to her belief that people cannot resist the currents of their time, as she fought against the biological and cultural imperatives that fated her to sink without a murmur into marriage and motherhood. "There is a whole generation of women," she has said, speaking of her mother's era, "and it was as if their lives came to a stop when they had children. Most of them got pretty neurotic - because, I think, of the contrast between what they were taught at school they were capable of being and what actually happened to them." Lessing believes that she was freer than most people because she became a writer. For her, writing is a process of "setting at a distance," taking the "raw, the individual, the uncriticized, the unexamined, into the realm of the general."

In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year. At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and had two children. A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury. Soon she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists "who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read." Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group; shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.

During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954. By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son. That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.

Lessing's fiction is deeply autobiographical, much of it emerging out of her experiences in Africa. Drawing upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns, Lessing has written about the clash of cultures, the gross injustices of racial inequality, the struggle among opposing elements within an individuals own personality, and the conflict between the individual conscience and the collective good. Her stories and novellas set in Africa, published during the fifties and early sixties, decry the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials, and expose the sterility of the white culture in southern Africa. In 1956, in response to Lessing's courageous outspokenness, she was declared a prohibited alien in both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.

Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in the novels of the nineteenth century - their "climate of ethical judgement" - to the demands of twentieth-century ideas about consciousness and time. After writing the Children of Violence series (1951-1959), a formally conventional bildungsroman (novel of education) about the growth in consciousness of her heroine, Martha Quest, Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment, in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in astonishing depth and detail. Anna Wulf, like Lessing herself, strives for ruthless honesty as she aims to free herself from the chaos, emotional numbness, and hypocrisy afflicting her generation.

Attacked for being "unfeminine" in her depiction of female anger and aggression, Lessing responded, "Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise." As at least one early critic noticed, Anna Wulf "tries to live with the freedom of a man" - a point Lessing seems to confirm: "These attitudes in male writers were taken for granted, accepted as sound philosophical bases, as quite normal, certainly not as woman-hating, aggressive, or neurotic."

In the 1970s and 1980s, Lessing began to explore more fully the quasi-mystical insight Anna Wulf seems to reach by the end of The Golden Notebook. Her "inner-space fiction" deals with cosmic fantasies (Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 1971), dreamscapes and other dimensions (Memoirs of a Survivor, 1974), and science fiction probings of higher planes of existence (Canopus in Argos: Archives, 1979-1983). These reflect Lessing's interest, since the 1960s, in Idries Shah, whose writings on Sufi mysticism stress the evolution of consciousness and the belief that individual liberation can come about only if people understand the link between their own fates and the fate of society.

Lessing's other novels include The Good Terrorist (1985) and The Fifth Child (1988); she also published two novels under the pseudonym Jane Somers (The Diary of a Good Neighbour, 1983 and If the Old Could..., 1984). In addition, she has written several nonfiction works, including books about cats, a love since childhood. Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 appeared in 1995 and received the James Tait Black Prize for best biography.
Addenda (by Jan Hanford)

In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University. Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography. It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views. Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.

She collaborated with illustrator Charlie Adlard to create the unique and unusual graphic novel, Playing the Game. After being out of print in the U.S. for more than 30 years, Going Home and In Pursuit of the English were republished by HarperCollins in 1996. These two fascinating and important books give rare insight into Mrs. Lessing's personality, life and views.

In 1996, her first novel in 7 years, Love Again, was published by HarperCollins. She did not make any personal appearances to promote the book. In an interview she describes the frustration she felt during a 14-week worldwide tour to promote her autobiography: "I told my publishers it would be far more useful for everyone if I stayed at home, writing another book. But they wouldn't listen. This time round I stamped my little foot and said I would not move from my house and would do only one interview." And the honors keep on coming: she was on the list of nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature and Britain's Writer's Guild Award for Fiction in 1996.

Late in the year, HarperCollins published Play with A Tiger and Other Plays, a compilation of 3 of her plays: Play with a Tiger, The Singing Door and Each His Own Wilderness. In an unexplained move, HarperCollins only published this volume in the U.K. and it is not available in the U.S., to the disappointment of her North American readers.

In 1997 she collaborated with Philip Glass for the second time, providing the libretto for the opera "The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five" which premiered in Heidelberg, Germany in May. Walking in the Shade, the anxiously awaited second volume of her autobiography, was published in October and was nominated for the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award in the biography/autobiography category. This volume documents her arrival in England in 1949 and takes us up to the publication of The Golden Notebook. This is the final volume of her autobiography, she will not be writing a third volume.

Her new novel, titled "Mara and Dann", was been published in the U.S in January 1999 and in the U.K. in April 1999. In an interview in the London Daily Telegraph she said, "I adore writing it. I'll be so sad when it's finished. It's freed my mind." 1999 also saw her first experience on-line, with a chat at Barnes & Noble (transcript). In May 1999 she will be presented with the XI Annual International Catalunya Award, an award by the government of Catalunya.

December 31 1999: In the U.K.'s last Honours List before the new Millennium, Doris Lessing was appointed a Companion of Honour, an exclusive order for those who have done "conspicuous national service." She revealed she had turned down the offer of becoming a Dame of the British Empire because there is no British Empire. Being a Companion of Honour, she explained, means "you're not called anything - and it's not demanding. I like that". Being a Dame was "a bit pantomimey". The list was selected by the Labor Party government to honor people in all walks of life for their contributions to their professions and to charity. It was officially bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II.

In January, 2000 the National Portrait Gallery in London unveiled Leonard McComb's portrait of Doris Lessing.

Ben, in the World, the sequel to The Fifth Child was published in Spring 2000 (U.K.) and Summer 2000 (U.S.).

In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain's most important distinctions, for her brilliant literary works in defense of freedom and Third World causes. She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

She was on the shortlist for the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005. In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Her most recent novel is The Cleft.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Quill Book Awards Announce Quill Books of the Year

Audio – presented by Mary Higgins Clark and Steve ShirripaTo Kill a Mockingbird
Written by Harper Lee; Read by Sissy SpacekPublished by Caedmon Audio, HarperCollins Publishers

Biography/ Memoir – presented by Tina Brown and Jonathan Groff Einstein: His Life and Universe
Written by Walter Isaacson Published by Simon & Schuster

Business – presented by Tina Brown and Jonathan Groff The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't
Written by Robert I. Sutton, PhD Published by Business Plus, Grand Central Publishing

Children’s Chapter/ Middle Grade – presented by Sarah Ferguson and Rocco DiSpirito The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Written by Brian SelznickPublished by Scholastic Press

Children’s Picture Books – presented by Jeff Dunham and Walter Flotsam
Written by David Wiesner Published by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin

Cooking – presented by Sarah Ferguson and Rocco DiSpirito Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition
Written by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan BeckerPublished by Scribner

Debut Author – presented by Dan Rather & Catherine Crier The Thirteenth Tale
Written by Diane SetterfieldPublished by Atria

General Fiction – presented by Lorraine Bracco and Gay Talese The Road
Written by Cormac McCarthy Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Graphic Novel – presented by Jeff Dunham and Walter Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels
Written by Scott McCloud Published by Harper Paperbacks

Health/ Self-Improvement – presented by Brooke Shields & Tiki Barber How Doctors Think
Written by Jerome Groopman, M.D.Published by Houghton Mifflin

History/ Current Events/ Politics – presented by Dan Rather & Catherine Crier The Assault on Reason
Written by Al GorePublished by The Penguin Press

Humor – presented by Stephen Colbert I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence
Written by Amy Sedaris Published by Warner Books

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller – presented by Mary Higgins Clark and Steve Shirripa What the Dead Know
Written by Laura Lippman Published by William Morrow

Poetry – presented by Dan Rather & Catherine Crier For the Confederate Dead
Written by Kevin Young Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Religion/ Spirituality – presented by Mary Higgins Clark and Steve ShirripaReligious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't
Written by Stephen Prothero Published by Harper One

Romance – presented by Brooke Shields & Tiki Barber Angels Fall
Written by Nora Roberts Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Science Fiction/ Fantasy/ Horror – presented by Lorraine Bracco and Gay Talese The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One)
Written by Patrick Rothfuss Published by DAW Books

Sports – presented by Brooke Shields & Tiki Barber The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Geniuses Who Make Up America's Top High School Chess Team
Written by Michael Weinreb Published by Gotham Books

Young Adult/ Teen – presented by Tina Brown and Jonathan Groff Sold
Written by Patricia McCormickPublished by Hyperion Books for Children

Special Awards:

Quill 2007 Variety Blockbuster Book to Film Award - presented by Joan Allen and Peter Bart
The Bourne Film Trilogy Universal Pictures

2007 Platinum Quill - presented by Lorraine Bracco and Gay Talese
David Halberstam

2007 Corporate Literacy Quill -- presented by Gerry Byrne