30 June 2012

The Thinker Crowd

by Elizabeth Zelvin

Somebody once said that writers are people who haven’t forgotten their childhood. I’ve never been quite sure what that meant or if it was necessarily true. Certainly, many fine writers have evoked the sense of wonder and the magical thinking associated with childhood, as well as its pain and powerlessness. I’ve read many books that portray kids—and groups of kids—as living in a world of their own that adults don’t even know exists, much less influence. For example, Lord of the Flies succeeded because the archetypal view of kids as pack animals in whom cruelty and the desire to scapegoat lie just beneath the surface must have struck a chord in many. In adolescence too, we have certain archetypes.A friend recently explained the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and by extension, a host of bubble gum movie comedies with a misfit protagonist) by saying the show’s simple premise was, “High school is hell.”

My problem with this is that high school wasn’t hell for me. Nor did my experience there focus on clothes or dates or popularity or stuff. I did have a “crowd”, a group of friends. But I’ve never seen anything like “the Thinker crowd” in a book or movie about teens. There were about 200 of us in a large high school in one of the outer boroughs of New York City. We were the intellectuals and radicals, the kids who ran the school newspaper and literary magazine, the kids who signed petitions and wouldn’t say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The boys wore black turtlenecks and blue denim work shirts, and I paid so little attention to fashion that I can’t even remember what the girls wore. We didn’t drink at our parties, and the only dancing we did was Israeli folk dancing. More often, we sat on the floor and sang folk songs. We brought our guitars to parties as a matter of course. Manhattan was our Mecca: we spent Saturday afternoons at the Museum of Modern Art (then gloriously free) and our Sunday afternoons hanging out in Washington Square Park. The musicians we came to hear played for the sheer love of it. They didn’t even pass a hat.

The “Thinker” that gave us our name was an illicit little journal we put out on topics of general interest, like nuclear weapons, the Chinese communes and Israeli kibbutzim, and the works of Aldous Huxley. The red diaper babies among us, kids whose fathers had fought romantically in the Spanish Civil War, gave it its tone. Looking back, I’m not convinced I understood half of what we said. But I had a great time thinking I did. We also had “Thinker parties” at which a topic would be chosen and hotly debated. This was the Fifties. We didn’t even do drugs. We called ourselves beatniks—the term “hippie” hadn’t been invented yet. And we lived in New York City, where the driving age was 18 and most graduated high school at 16 or 17. We knew a lot about politics and culture and nothing about sex and cars.

We had a Thinker party along with the formal 30th reunion of my class’s graduation. (The official reunion was fun too, since the “other crowd,” the conventional ones who ran for student government and joined fraternities and sororities, had turned into perfectly nice people.) About three dozen of us from the Thinker crowd showed up. We still had plenty to say to each other. We all agreed that the good time we’d had in high school was remarkable. Like me, many remembered the quality of friendships within the group and the relative absence of sexual rivalry, competitiveness, and malice. Now it’s more than fifty years since graduation, and every year I hear of one or more who have died. Even if I hadn’t seen them for decades, I remember them vividly. I won’t forget any of us.

29 June 2012

Rebirth in a Smartphone

by Dixon Hill
 
SleuthSayers is about Reading and Writing and Mystery. 

At least, that’s how I understand it.

So, this week’s blog is about all three: Reading, Writing, and a very special type of technical Mystery my dad and I experienced this past week.

An odd thing happened to me on Tuesday. 

I became the new owner of a Smartphone with an unlimited data package.

This strikes me as odd, because — up until Tuesday — the only cell phone I had access to was a Virgin Mobile prepaid flip phone that didn’t even text very well. (Not that I have a lot of “texting” friends, at 49 years old.)

Even more striking, perhaps: the computer I use to make my posts on this blog is hooked to the internet via aol dial-up! Which means that I can now access this blog site faster on my phone, than on the computer I use in my office.

I don’t know about you, but I find that fact a bit odd.

( I know: Some of you are still thinking, “DIAL-UP?!? What — has he got a club in the corner that he hunts dinner with, too???” To those folks I would simply say: “It’s not a club; it’s a shillelagh. And it hangs in the sacred spot beside the empty slot where my Kukri (or Khukuri) used to hang. Because – as of last weekend -- my Kukri now hangs on the wall in my 4th-Grade son’s room!” And NO I did not trade my Kukri to my son for a smart phone. He asked if he could hang my copy of the famed Gurkha knife on his wall.)

Nonetheless, I find the fact that my phone can access this website much faster than my work computer a bit of a shock.

It shouldn’t really surprise me, of course. As the son of a guy who taught computer programming at the local university, my childhood was steeped in the belief that we would all be walking around with computers on our wrists by 2050 or so — which now sits just under two-score years away.

I personally thought we’d also all beat the morning rush hour by wearing personal jetpacks, by this time. Evidently, I was wrong about the jetpack thing. And, my smart phone probably wouldn’t fit too comfortably on my wrist, unless I were one of those guys who like to wear gladiator cuff-bracelets that extend half-way to the elbow. On the other hand, I can do things with this new phone that Dick Tracy never even dreamed about — even if he did have a two-way wrist radio!

Not only can I access the internet with my new phone, it’s also easier to read this blog on my phone, than it is on my computer. I mean: I can see the words better. That’s not a huge thing to me, when the person in question is myself. But, it had an entirely different meaning — a HUGE new meaning! — when it came to my 85-year-old father.

You see: my dad got a Smartphone the same day I did; we got them together. 

He’d been out, the day before, with a woman who sometimes comes over to lend a hand. She drove him to an appointment, but made a wrong turn along the way. They got a bit lost. That’s when the woman pulled out her smartphone and brought up Google. She entered the address they were looking for, and her phone (as dad put it) “told her how to get there.”

Dad REALLY wanted that application! I think I know why he wants it, and it makes sense to me. In fact, it’s the whole reason we wound up getting new phones.

And, a magical thing happened at the phone store.

 My dad’s sight was restored.

 I don’t mean that his vision problems were miraculously cured. What I mean is: My dad was able to see something he hadn’t been able to see in over a year-and-a-half

His EMAIL!

To explain: Dad lost all vision in one eye over a year ago, after undergoing his 13th eye operation. And, the vision in his other eye has been deteriorating badly. All this, while my mom was in the hospital, then brought home in Hospice care, and during the next eleven months or so as dad became her primary care-giver (at his insistence), until she passed away six months ago. Since then, he’s had 40/200 vision in his good eye, with only glasses on, and improved (though far from perfect) vision when wearing both glasses and a contact lens. As one doctor put it to me: “It’s sort of like your father has about one-half of a good eye.”

Even wearing both contact lens and glasses, dad hasn’t really been able to see his email messages — or very much else on his computer screen. In truth, he can’t see much on the printed page, either; not unless it’s blown up to about a font size of 75. Instead — in print, or on-screen — he had to puzzle out the blurry shapes he was seeing, piece each letter together in his mind, then mentally assemble the words from those letters, and try to reason out the meaning. And, he did this while under extreme stress (as his wife lay dying), then extreme exhaustion (because he’d worked himself half to death taking care of her). Yet, he insisted on personally handling his finances and other daily business, as he’d always done, as well as sending out letters and emails informing distant friends of my mother’s death. I suspect you can understand the constant tension of working under such circumstances.

 Here’s a bit of mystery about smartphones, however:

Evidently, the magnification system available on the smart phone is quite different from that on a computer. The phone (from what I’ve noticed on mine, at least) is designed so that when you magnify a website, it magnifies portions so that they fit the screen size. Leigh could probably tell us that this has more to do with the way a smart phone interacts with the internet, possibly even that the phone actually interacts with a different part of the net than the computer does. I don’t know: I don’t understand these things, nor do I let that fact keep me up at night.

To me, the important thing is that -- when the phone store guy got dad up on the new smart phone, and dad got to his email account -- I heard him gasp, “I can SEE it! I can REALLY SEE IT!

For the first time since that last eye operation, over a year-and-a-half ago, my dad could actually see his email — because of the particular way his smart phone displayed it.

And, looking at him, hearing the excitement in his voice — seeing that excitement light-up his face! — I realized: I had just witnessed my father having his sight restored.

That dad’s sight was restored through technology is not just incidental.

 He taught computer programming at Arizona State, when the field was so new that he had to invent his own curriculum. That technology provides the only “dad-friendly” reading venue we’ve been able to find, to date, seems somehow fitting. And let there be no doubt: this phone is like a key for my father, unlocking his ability to read and write, once more. I thought he’d eschew typing with the on-screen keyboard, and just opt for the microphone aspect his phone provides, when it comes to writing things into his phone. But, over this week, he’s become pretty adept at using that keyboard too. And he's talking about finding other ways to exploit the new-found doorway back to the world of the written word. 

I find myself constantly reminded of what he told me in the car, as we drove home from the phone store: “Son, I can’t explain . . . . It’s like I’m coming ALIVE again!” 

My father was a voracious reader all his life. But, for the past 18 months, he hasn’t been able to really read at all.

Now, he can read again. It’s had a huge impact on his life. And, when he realizes that his phone can access books, that impact will grow even more. If he can find a way to exploit the phone the way he wants to — Well, even I, a fiction writer, can’t imagine where this will all end.

At the far end of all the thinking I’ve done this week, however, I’ve come to an incontrovertible conclusion: The writer who ignores a technology that’s capable of having such a tremendous impact on the reader, does so at his/her own peril.  I know other writers on SS have covered this topic before.  But, I thought a slightly different "insight" might not be a bad thing.

 See you in two weeks!
 --Dix

28 June 2012

Justice Left to the Fates?




by Deborah Elliott-Upton


It is easy to question whether justice has or is being done. It seems (from a public standpoint anyway) people get away with murder, while others are being imprisoned for lesser charges.

Personally, I believe most law enforcement, judges and juries are doing the best they can. That being said, the media reports the extremes and sometimes, I am left scratching my head as to the fairness of it all.

One of the talk shows recently discussed Dr. Conrad Murray's four-year jail term after a jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

Dr. Murray's girlfriend who testified in the trial said he was reading voraciously and transporting himself to other locales through that reading instead of spending his time in a dreary prison. She also said he was quite popular with the inmates.

Anyone see something wrong with this picture?

Would I enjoy spending more time reading? Of course, I would. Think about it: no responsibilities beyond probably keeping his cell area neat and personal grooming. I'm not sure if he has any sort of manual labor to do within the prison system, but the girlfriend did not mention that in the segment.

I'm not going to commit a crime in order to allow myself more time to read or study, but it all seems unfair.


To many, Fate seems to be the ruler we dare not tempt. I'm not one of those. I am a slight risk taker. I've mentioned before, if I were on Jeopardy! (and much to my husband's chagrin) I would most likely place a large wager on my answer to Alex Trebek's Final Jeopardy question.

That doesn't mean I would tempt the Fates by committing a robbery or plotting a murder, except on paper. I am perfectly willing to do that as often as possible. My schedule is a bit more harried than Dr. Murray's, but I'm thinking, this is probably an excellent time for him to pen his own bit of fiction.
His name recognition alone would probably make it a best-seller, which also isn't fair, but it happens.

Are we the Captains of our Fate or are we ruled by the Fates? Interesting question that keep philosophers in business.

"What would you do if you absolutely wouldn't get caught?" I was asked by a fellow writer.

"That depends on my conscience, I suppose," I answered.

The thought of the cloak of invisibility conceived by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series comes to mind. What would any of us do if we were concealed from everyone else? Is the answer to that a matter of our personal ethics, a rendering to a higher power or a code of justice in our society?

If you wouldn't get caught.

Would you:

* pull off a Big Heist robbery that wasn't picked up on security cameras?

* Care to be a fly on the wall (so to speak) to hear what others discuss when you aren't there?

*Paint some grafitti on a wall to show off your secret talent?

*Take a risk you wouldn't ordinarily attempt?  


For me, just being invisible to the world while someone reads one of my stories is enticing. And if I'm being honest, to see the facial expressions when an editor is deciding on my current publishing fate.

Is life unfair? Sometimes. Are we in charge of our own free will or do the Fates allow us what they believe we should have in life?

They are questions which we may never truly have the answers to until we face the final mystery of our own death and what comes next.

Until then, I may just tempt the Fates a little and carve out some personal time every day to read just one short story. I don't think that is too risky, but I know I will benefit from the experience.

That personal victory of filling our time with more reading is like taking Fate is in our own hands. If only for a few minutes a day.

That sounds fair to me.

27 June 2012

Time to get Brutal

by Robert Lopresti

I have said  before that I think the best part of writing – better than seeing your work in print, better than cashing a check, better than attending the opening of the film adapted from you book, surrounded by adoring fans in skimpy—

Sorry.  Where was I?    

Best part.  Right.  The best part is the moment of creation.  There is no idea and then suddenly, miraculously, there is.  Amazing.

Often I can tell you exactly when and where that moment happened.  I was driving down the road and a song came on the radio and – Hey!  That line is meant to be a book title – And I almost drove off the road.

But sometimes it isn’t that easy.  Take “Brutal,” my story currently gracing the September issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.  (On finer newsstands everywhere, and some lousy ones too.)

I can tell you that this story is a mash-up of a Jim Thompson novel and a Neil Simon movie, and that’s true.  But it doesn’t tell you where the idea came from.  I didn’t wake up one day and say: “Thompson and Simon!  Perfect together!”  No, something brought the two tales together in my head, and whatever that was Is lost in the swamps of memory.

So let’s talk about the story itself.  Coyle is a professional assassin, one of those guys, as he says, “who can kill you with one finger.”  He is in a big city going after a high-value target.  Things go well for a while and then, conflict being the heart of fiction, things go not so well. And that’s pretty much all you need to know about the plot.  Go read the thing.

But first, I wanted to tell you one more oddity.  A century ago Robert Benchley wrote an essay called “Mind’s Eye Trouble,” in which he lamented his lack of visual imagination.

I seem to have been endowed at birth by a Bad, Bad Fairy with a paucity of visual imagination which amounts practically to a squint...  This limitation of mine might not be so cramping in its effect if the few visual images which I have were not confined almost exclusively to street scenes in Worcester, Massachusetts, the fortunate city which gave me birth...  (I)t is not the ideal locale for the CHANSON de ROLAND or the adventures of Ivanhoe.

Benchley goes on to say that he pictures the entire history of the Roman Empire taking place in a driveway on the corner of May and Woodland Streets, while all the events in Dickens take place on the second floor of a house on Shepherd Street.

I suffered from that problem when I was a child, but as I saw more of the world I outgrew it.  But here’s the interesting bit…

I recently sold another story to Hitchcock’s, and, like “Brutal,” this one begins in a rundown office building.  I happen to know for a certainly that both stories are in the same building. 

How do I know?  Good question.  Neither the building nor the city are named.  The slim descriptions of the buildings don’t even overlap much.  But I am sure, largely because I based them on the same building I visited a few years ago.  

At this point some writers or writing teachers might try to draw a moral out of that.  Like: both stories sold because they were focused on a real place, real in my imagination and therefore vivid to the reader.
To me, that’s magical thinking.  But obviously I don’t know where my next story idea will come from or set itself (see the beginning of this piece).  So the fictional building manager should probably tighten security.

 Before I fold my tents I want to thank R.T. Lawton for reading "Brutal" in its earlier days and giving me the benefit of his advice.  The check is in the mail, R.T.  Not to you, of course, but you can't have everything.

26 June 2012

Funeral March

by David Dean

In my last post, which was about weddings, I mentioned that I had just returned from one.  I also said that as I had grown older, sadly, I attended more funerals than weddings.  What I didn't say was that I had attended a funeral on that same day.  To be accurate, I had attended a sea burial--the funeral Masses for my wife's parents having been celebrated long before.  It had been their wish to be cremated and then to have their ashes scattered together at sea.  And that is what we did on a beautiful morning off the coast of Cape May.  My wife led her siblings and our collective children in a prayer known as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  This had been an especial devotion of both Bob and Jackie whose day it was, and so we honored them in this way. 

It's a fairly recent development that Catholics are allowed to be cremated.  It was not always thus.  For many, many centuries this practice was forbidden by the Church as a heathen rite.  In the very early days of Christianity many pagans practiced cremation; sometimes in spectacular fashion, e.g. the Viking's long-boat funeral pyres!  Quite the send-off!  Of course, a different view might have been taken by valued servants of the deceased as they were sometimes left on-board for the proceedings.  But, as the Christians believed in the resurrection of both soul and body on the final day, it was deemed inadvisable to burn the remains.  Since those dark times a consensus has been arrived at; that as we believe in a God that created life and promises resurrection, perhaps he can do so with whatever material we leave behind.  Oddly, there is still some controversy over the scattering of ashes.

Unlike weddings, funerals crop up quite frequently in mystery stories.  Not usually as the setting for the crime itself, but often as the end result thereof.  Often there is graveside plotting while the minister/priest/rabbi/imam drones on about the deceased.  Not infrequently we are introduced to the players at graveside.  Sometimes the attendees are carefully scrutinized for signs of guilt.  It was once a custom to expose the accused to the corpse of the murder victim to see if his wounds bled afresh at their presence--a sure sign of guilt!  It is not recorded how efficacious this method was.  As I understand it, at a certain point during decomposition wounds may seep once more. I  suspect timing was of the essence with this method--bad timing in the case of the innocent.  There was also a theory that the victim's retina retained an image of the last thing it witnessed...quite possibly his slayer!  Again, this practice appears to have fallen by the wayside for unexplained reasons.  

Like weddings, funerals are part of every culture and faith.  Even if one has no faith in the hereafter, the dead must be dealt with and that generally entails a funeral of some sort.  I've attended funerals that celebrated the life of the deceased--most often when the person has lived a long, productive life.  On these occasions, there tends to be a good deal of joking and laughter along the sidelines as people share good memories with one another.  But I've also been present at the opposite: funerals that result from accidents and murder, suicides and death at too young an age.  It's hard to celebrate a life that's been cut short, however many good memories they have left behind.  There's always that, "What if...?" left hanging in the air; never to be answered.

Different customs apply, as well, not to mention the last wishes of the deceased.  It was my Grandmother Dean's wish that her six sons dig her grave with shovels and lower her coffin into it themselves.  She did not want a backhoe, or other machinery involved, and her wishes were complied with to the letter.  It seemed very appropriate, that as she had labored to bring each of them into the world, that they should labor to carry her out of it.  There were no complaints amongst them.

We don't do wakes much any more.  It was once a widespread custom that has fallen into disuse.  I think we've grown too fastidious for such things as sitting up all night with the dead.  In Ireland, the local pub sometimes offered their services for such occasions.  The deceased was laid out in a room off the public area and there friends and relatives would come to pay their last respects.  Those waiting could refresh themselves as needed in the saloon.  The term "wake" derives from just what it sounds like...staying awake.  It used to be believed amongst many peoples, that during the short period between death and burial, the soul continued to reside within the corpse.  During this brief span it was vulnerable to dark spirits who might attempt to snare it and carry it away to hell.  Thus the family's duty was to keep watch the night before the burial Mass in order to protect their loved one's soul.  It was important to stay awake or the forces of hell might succeed.  Staying awake was certainly aided by visiting friends and neighbors telling stories and gossiping.  How the whiskey and ale helped remains unclear other than to attract said friends and neighbors.  Perhaps I could enjoy funerals more if, like wedding receptions, there was an open bar.

Ah well, believe it or not, I have another funeral to attend this week--a dear woman who was our court clerk for my entire police career.  She actually worked into her nineties (this after an earlier career in Jersey City) and was only recently considering retirement.  Hers will be one of the 'good' funerals--a celebration of a life well-lived and a woman most loved.  My former department will offer an honor guard and I expect to hear (and tell) some good stories… and even laugh a little.                               

25 June 2012

AKA

by Fran Rizer
Mary Anne Evans
AKA George Eliot
What do Silas Marner, Jane Eyre, and Heathcliff, have in common?  They each had his/her story told by a female writer whose books were first published under a male pen name because it was not thought appropriate for women to be writers during the Victorian period..

Silas Marner was written by George Eliot whose real name was Mary Anne Evans.  High school and college students still study her works including Adam Bede.

Emily Brone
AKA Eric Bell




Heathcliff and Jane Eyre live on in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Novelist sisters Charlotte, Emily, and AnneBronte all wrote under pseudonyms when they were first published.  They chose to present themselves as brothers.  Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre as Currer Bell; Emily Bronte  wrote Wuthering Heights as Ellis Bell; and Anne Bronte's first works were published under the name Anton Bell. The sisters' first effort was a book of poetry with works by Ellis, Currer, and Anton.  It was self-published and sold only two copies!

Surely times have changed enough that women freely publish their works as females, but the prejudice hasn't been fully erased. Jeanne Rowling's chronicles of Harry Potter were published under the name J.K. Rowling because her publisher believed the stories would be better accepted by young male readers if they didn't know Harry's world was created by a woman.

Joanne Rowling
AKA J. K. Rowling
Charles Lutwidge Dodson chose his pen name by translating his first two names into Latin (Carolus Lodovicus) and then anglicizing them to Lewis Carroll.

Eric Blair proposed four pen names to his editor.  Three of them were rejected, including Kenneth Miles and P. S. Burton.  The editor chose George Orwell. which Eric had selected because of the River Orwell in Suffolk, England.

Some readers assume that the Richard Bachman novels were written by Stephen King before he became successful and switched to his own name.  Actually, King was already recognized and was churning out more than one book a year.  His editor advised that the public wouldn't accept more than one book a year from him.  King decided to publish Rage under his maternal grandfather's name--Gus Pillsbury.  The pseudonym was leaked, and King changed the pen name to Richard Bachman.  The name came from King looking around and seeing a Richard Stark book on his desk while listening to "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive on his stereo.

Gore Vidal
AKA Edgar Box, Cameron Kay
and Katherine Everard
Gore Vidal's early books outraged critics and led to his facing a blacklist.  Vidal turned to murder mysteries under the name Edgar Box.  These books were Death in the Fifth Position, Death Before Bedtime, and Death Likes It Hot.  Vidal also wrote an international intrigue entitled Thieves Fall Out under the name Cameron Kay and a Hollywood melodrama called A Star's Progress using the byline Katherine Everard.  The "Everard" came from a gay bathhouse in New York City. 
Ray Bradbury AKA Ron Reynolds, Anthony
Corvais, Guy Amory, Doug Rogers,
William Elliott and probably others.

The late Ray Bradbury was prolific in both his work and his use of pen names.  At age nineteen, he and some friends started a fanzine.  In the first issue, Bradbury  published his work under his own name and as Ron Reynolds.  In the seccond issue, he used three pseudonyms: Anthony Corvais, Guy Amory, and Doug Rogers.  His first breakthrough was in 1945 when he had three stories accepted almost simultaneously by Mademoiselle, Charm and Collier's.  He'd submitted them under the name William Elliott and had to call editors to have checks cut in his real name.


Probably the best known pseudonym is Samuel Langhorne Clemens's use of Mark Twain.  Closer to
many of us is Jolie McLarren Swann.  The Black Orchid Novella Award published in the August. 2012, issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is "Inner Fire" by Jolie McLarren Swann. 
Rearrange the letters in Swann's name to discover the author's true name.

Join me in two weeks for continuation of this blog about pen names. I'll share with you some I use and introduce you to my friend/mentor who was a successful mystery/thriller writer who changed her pen name and has made it to the New York Times Bestseller List.

Until we meet again, take care of ...YOU!

24 June 2012

Absurdity Trumps Common Sense

by Louis Willis

In my March post, “The 13th Juror,” I discussed how a judge addicted to pain pills was removed from the bench because of his criminal activities in obtaining the pills. A special judge was appointed to decide if defendants in a 2007 carjacking-torture-murder case should get new trials. After the three male defendants were convicted, two of them were given life sentences. The ring leader received a death sentence. At the time the original judge was removed from the case, the female defendant had been found guilty of facilitation but had not been sentenced. The original judge I called P. The special Judge, whom I called G, without holding hearings, granted all four defendants new trials.

I’ve been following the latest developments in the case through the Knoxville News Sentinel because my daughter could still be on the witness list.

In his decision, Judge G concluded that Judge P’s addiction and criminal activities deprived the defendants of “constitutionally sound trials”. He also decided that he could not act as the 13th juror because of credibility issues with Judge P and the witnesses. The prosecutor appealed the decision to grant new trials to the three male defendants, but did not appeal the decision on the female because of Judge P’s erratic behavior during her trial.

The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that Judge G was wrong in granting new trials and directed him to address the issue of whether the credibility of the witnesses was crucial in the state’s case. The Court stated that if Judge G concluded the witnesses’ credibility was key and could not evaluate their candor from the transcript alone, he must grant new trials. The Court further ruled that the defense must show proof of error before new trials may be granted. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, Judge G again ordered new trials for the three male defendants without holding hearings.

The prosecutor filed a motion with Judge G requesting that he recuse himself. Judge G refused to recuse (On my, I’m channeling Johnny Cochran!). He even threaten the DA with contempt of court, and told the DA’s special counsel he should report himself to the state board that polices lawyers.

Failure to follow the Supreme Court’s directive is bad enough but what is most disturbing is Judge G’s off the record actions in an attempt to prevent public scrutiny. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, he removed documents from the court records and ordered prosecutors not to refer to them in public. He corresponded with prosecutors through emails instead of issuing orders that would become part of the court record. He held meetings with lawyers in chambers instead of holding hearings. In his motion asking Judge G to recuse himself, the prosecutor cited emails in which the judge said little birdies were putting thoughts in his head.

Anyone should know, but especially a judge, that trying to keep judicial proceedings secret from the press in a high profile case is like trying to hide meat from a hungry pack of dogs. The press will smell something wrong in a New York minute (by the way, what is a New York minute?). Judge G allowed absurdity to trump common sense.

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, Judge G scheduled a hearing on the prosecution’s recusal motion for October 8, which will allow the DA to put his objections into the official record. Maybe, just maybe, common sense will begin to trump absurdity in this case.

The Blue Bird of Common Sense

23 June 2012

Selling Short



by John M. Floyd



There's been a lot of talk lately in online blogs and forums (I can't bring myself to say "fora") about short mystery markets.  Most of the discussions have focused on the fact that there aren't many of them left.

On the one hand, that's true.  There certainly are fewer now than in the short-story heyday of the forties and fifties, and I would guess that there aren't even as many as there were ten or twelve years ago.  Sometimes--especially if I find myself in a gloomy mood anyway--I still mourn the passing of magazines like Murderous IntentRed Herring Mystery MagazineMystery TimeFuturesDetective Mystery StoriesCrimestalker Casebook, etc.  The editors of those publications were extremely kind to me.

On the other hand, there are still a number of places out there that publish short mysteries, and consider unsolicited submissions.  I've come up with four categories that short-story writers might want to investigate, and have listed a few magazines that I know about first-hand.

1. Print markets

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine -- AHMM and EQMM have both been around for more than fifty years now, and they remain two of the top choices for mystery writers and readers.  AH is digest-sized and considers original stories up to 12,000 words in length; payment is based on word count.  They publish monthly except for two double-month issues each year, and occasionally feature short-shorts.  The magazine is available via subscription and at most large bookstores.  Editor: Linda Landrigan.

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine -- Sister publication to AHMM, although they operate seperately and do not share submissions.  Includes a "Department of First Stories" for unpublished writers.  They too are digest-sized, publish monthly with two double-issues, consider original stories up to 12K, and pay by the word, and they offer an online submission system that makes it easy for you to submit and check the status of your manuscript.  Available via subscription and bookstores.  Editor: Janet Hutchings.

The Strand Magazine -- A rebirth of the famous Strand that began in London in 1891.  It features original mystery stories of almost any length, plus articles, book reviews, interviews with top writers, and a series that profiles the fictional Great Detectives.  Full-sized glossy magazine, published quarterly,  available via subscription and off the rack at major bookstores.  Usually includes five or six mystery stories in each issue.  Editor: Andrew F. Gulli.

Woman's World -- A weekly publication that features one original romance story and one mystery in every issue.  For mysteries the maximum word count is 700, and the payment is a flat rate of $500.  Full-sized magazine, established in 1980, circulation around two million, receives 2500 submissions per month.  Available via subscription, and can also be found on the racks at most supermarkets, Targets, Walmarts, etc.  Fiction Editor: Johnene Granger.

Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine -- Digest-sized, published quarterly by Wildside Press.  A paying market (some have called it more of a book than a magazine) featuring original mystery stories, reviews, Holmes pastiches, nonfiction articles, and even some supernatural stories in the style of the old London Mystery Magazine.  Several issues have been published so far, with #8 upcoming.  Editor: Marvin Kaye.

2. Online markets

Over My Dead Body -- Monthly e-zine, billed as "The Mystery Magazine Online."  Paying market.  Each issue features interviews, short stories, book reviews, and movie reviews.  Editor: Cherie Jung.

Mysterical-E -- Online magazine of mystery/crime/suspense/fantasy, for more than ten years.  Includes a dozen or more short stories and several interviews and reviews in each quarterly issue.  Many, many stories are available in its archive area.  Non-paying market.  Editor: Joseph DeMarco.

Orchard Press Mysteries -- Longtime e-zine of mystery stories, general fiction, and poetry.  Guidelines instruct submitters to query first, using the OPM website's query form.  Non-paying market. Editor/Publisher: Richard Heagy.

3. Anthologies

The most familiar of these are probably the annual "best-of" publications sponsored by national organizations like Mystery Writers of America, but many other anthologies pop up from time to time.  Some might contact you and request that you contribute a new story or allow them to use a previously published piece, and some might put out a general "call for submissions" and then choose from those as magazines do.  Many anthologies wind up published before we as writers even know they were being planned, but if you find out about them in time they remain a good market for shorts.

I should note that some anthologies require original stories and others take reprints.  (Some even prefer reprints.)  Payment can be via royalties or a flat rate, and in some cases anthologies--like some magazines--pay only "in copies," by sending you at least one copy of the book in which your story appears.  Even if you wind up working for free, it's still a publishing credit for your resume.

There's another advantage as well.  If your story is accepted in an impressive anthology, it gives you the  satisfaction of appearing in a book alongside names that you might know and respect.

4. Other possibilities

There are some non-mystery publications that occasionally feature mystery fiction.  I've sold a bunch of mystery stories to places like GritPleiadesListenThemaPhoebe, and even Star Magazine--no typical mystery/suspense markets in that group.  So it never hurts to use the Internet or a guide like Novel & Short Story Writers Market to help you ferret out mainstream or literary magazines that also happen to use mysteries now and then.

Another alternative is to find a traditional publisher that will produce a collection of your short mysteries.  I've had three such books published by a small press, and another is scheduled to be released next spring.  And there's always the option of self-publishing your stories (individually or in a collection) in e-book form--something I've not yet explored, although I do have a couple of stories out there and e-available via Untreed Reads Publishing.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

So that's my pitch for today.  Some of the markets I've suggested are more prestigious than others, some pay better than others, some take longer to respond to submissions than others--but they are all buyers of what we as writers have to sell, and producers of what all of us suspense-fiction junkies like to read.  Personally, I try to regularly send something to all of them, and I try not to sink into a deep depression when I receive rejections, of which there are many.  (I've been fortunate lately, though: new stories are scheduled for publication in AHMMThe StrandWoman's WorldSherlock Holmes, and several others.  Nothing upcoming in EQMM, but believe me, I'm trying.)

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula in the marketing of short fiction, mystery or otherwise.  It's like roulette or bingo or the shooting arcade at the county fair: You pays your money and you takes your chances.  (As R.T. said in his column yesterday, you might "step right up" and not be a winner.)  But don't let your concerns about rejection keep you from playing the game.  As I told one of my writing students, I can't promise you your manuscript will be published if you send it in--but I can promise you it won't be if you don't.

Now where did I put that salesman suit . . . ?


22 June 2012

Step Right Up, Everybody's a Winner

by R.T. Lawton

You've no doubt heard the siren call of carny barkers at their stands on the midway, "Step right up, folks, everybody's a winner." And maybe you did step up, and maybe you didn't. Them guys have an enticing come-on to scam the unwary. Many of us suspect as much, yet somehow people keep trying their luck to beat the carny's game.

As scams went, we had a good one working for us too, everybody was a winner. Come on in and play. By combining federal, state and local resources, our task force picked out a one-room, one-story, old wooden building on the west side of the city and set up a t-shirt shop. This particular shop offered custom printing on any shirts or ball caps a customer wished to purchase. Inside and out, the setup was a totally legit business. Natuarally, there were a few extras not everyone knew about.

Behind the small counter at the back of the shop, sat the 300 pound proprietor. This part was pretty obvious to anyone entering the establishment. What patrons didn't know was that this previous motorcycle club member (he and I once wore the same club patch) was now a signed up Cooperating Individual for both the state and the feds. As part of our sting, he put word on the street that while he was in the business of selling t-shirts and ball caps, he also had an under the counter trade in purchasing illicit controlled substances. Business soon got busy. (At the left, we had our own shirts printed.)

In the side wall, just above the countertop was a microphone hidden behind the wall paneling. Behind the 300 pound C.I. and hanging on the wall above his head was a video camera installed inside a boxed mirror that advertised the shop in glass etching. Outside the store and across the four-lane street and half a block down was the safe house. Here, surveillance could watch a vehicle pull into the parking lot and see who went inside. A quick walk around the block by a member of the surveillance team provided a license plate number to help identify those entering the store. Plus, this is where the monitors were located for the video camera hidden behind the C.I.

A typical deal went like this:

The future defendant enters the store, looks around and waits until it's just him and the C.I. inside the building. Then, he approaches the front of the counter and negotiations commence for whatever product he has for sale. Let's say he's offering two ounces of coke or a pound of marijuana or both. The price soon gets set.

"Let me see the stuff," says the C.I.

The dealer hands over the contraband.

Our C.I. now holds up both bags of illegal drugs, one in each hand out to opposite sides, looks from one to the other and muses aloud, "Which one should I buy?"

Suddenly, the store telephone rings, He answers.

"Buy the coke," whispers a voice.

"Yes sir," our C.I. replies to one of the surveillance agents in the safe house, "your shirts will be ready on time." He hangs up and turns to the drug dealer. "Guess I'll take the coke."

Thus, we end up with drugs in evidence, and the conversation and action on tape. The seller is free to go, for now. But wait, this is too easy. We've got to have a little fun on the job, something to laugh about later over beers.

After the purchase is concluded, the C.I. points to slips of paper and a miniature plastic trash can setting on the counter. "My store has a once a week drawing for a free t-shirt and a free ball cap for our good customers," says the C.I. "So, write your name, address and phone number on an entry slip and stick it in that small trash can there. If you win, I'll call you."

Guess who won the drawing every week. Yep, anyone who sold us drugs. And when they came to the store to collect their prize, it got even better. The C.I. had them pose with their newly won prize proudly displayed in hand just below their smiling face so he could put their photo on his Winner's Wall, which was right above the hidden microphone.

When it was time to close up shop, we had names, addresses, telephone numbers and facial photos to hand out to all the arrest teams. Not surprisinly, all of our under the counter clients pled guilty as soon as possible. Guess they didn't want to have the entirety of their stupidity exposed in open court.

For us, it was all blue smoke, mirrors and fun. Unfortunately, the other side often failed to see the humor in all this. (On the right is our personal t-shirt logo.)

21 June 2012

The Wild West Continues


by Eve Fisher

     For those of you who believe that fly-over country is the last bastion of American family values, boy, do you have a lot to learn.  South Dakota is ranked 49th in the nation for government honesty; i.e., it's 2nd in the nation for government corruption.  Only Georgia is worse.   
We get an “F” in everything from political financing to state budget process (always manufactured late the night before the legislature goes home) to ethics enforcement to…  it just goes on and on.  Basically, no accountability, no transparency, and no public access.  It’s the wild west, but with less gunfire. 
     And they get away with it for two main reasons:  
(1) this is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never do anything wrong; and 
(2) this is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never be so impolite as to raise a ruckus no matter what.  
A lot of people blame the Norwegian Lutheran Syndrome (there are whole books on this subject, not to mention Garrison Keillor), but people up here avoid conflict as if it were an unsedated colonoscopy.  The result is…   
      We get a lot of interesting businesses.  The national credit card industry, for example, is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota because, back in the day, SD passed a law that eliminated caps on interest rates right after the Supreme Court ruled that banks could charge interest based on where their credit-card operations were headquartered, even if the bank's main operations were somewhere else.  So everyone moved to Sioux Falls, and you’ve – we’ve – all had high interest rates ever since.  
      Another booming business in SD is selling South Dakota residency.  Check out: http://mydakotaaddress.com/  This is only one example of multiple little store-front operations that allow a person, in exchange for a yearly fee, to establish South Dakota residency and thus avoid paying state taxes in the state in which they actually live.  They provide a SD mailing address, and help people obtain “your new SD drivers license, SD vehicle registration and voters card.”  They collect the mail and send it on, send on absentee ballots for voting, and basically allow a lot of people to “live” in South Dakota, thereby avoiding property taxes in their home state and perhaps avoiding other things as well.  Who’s to say that the name they give is their real name?  
      Now, this is all fraudulent:  It’s mail fraud, voter fraud, tax fraud…  But, when I investigated it and brought it to the attention of all my state officials, I was told there was nothing illegal about it, and to contact them “when a crime had been committed.”  Well, at least one crime is going to be committed, at least on paper, because I can think of all kinds of reasons for people to use these, and some of them are going to show up in my mysteries.  
    And the latest hot businesses are shelf corporations.  These are entities that are created by lawyers incorporating a bunch of corporations that exist in name only—no assets, no employees, and no board members except the agent filling out the paperwork. (It’s sort of like the residency corporations, who have an owner and a person doing the mailings, and that’s it.)  Anyway, if you want to start a business, you pay a fee to the incorporator, and you’ve got a corporation.  And you the purchaser get complete anonymity.  The following is a pitch from Corp95.com:  http://www.corp95.com/
     “South Dakota is one of the best kept secrets in the corporate formation world.  The state has NO corporate income or franchise taxes.  Their annual fees are minimal ($50 per year) and they allow for the most privacy of ownership than in any other state. South Dakota is a low key environment and does not require that its businesses maintain any physical presence in the State.  Formation is fast and requires a minimum of personal information.  You will pay no more and sometimes less than some of those states that claim to offer privacy but do not actually do so. Why form your company in a state that claims to have no taxes, but then charges high fees to compensate for this. South Dakota truly does offer the most privacy at a very reasonable ongoing fee.  Call us at 800-859-6696 and let us provide you with the details for formation of your business entity in this friendly state.”
     Forty-ninth in the nation:  Georgia, look out.  We’re going to catch up with you.

20 June 2012

The Unmaking of Books



by Robert Lopresti

Vandalized book by fifteeniguana
Vandalized book, a photo by fifteeniguana on Flickr.

"Are you reading a stolen book?"

That startling question came from my wife a few weeks ago.  The answer was no, but I understood why she was wondering.

I was reading a paperback with the cover torn off and I am sure many of you have seen the note that appears in many paperbacks that reads like this:

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property.  It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

My wife is an accountant for a bookstore, so you can see how she would be particularly sensitve to this issue.  In this case, however, I was able to reassure her that the book had a cover when I bought it.  In fact, I had torn the front of it off myself for one very simple reason.

It was ugly as all hell. The book was THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR by Josephine Tey and the cover is supposed to show a young woman who has been badly beaten, but to me it looks like a severed head.   (You can judge for yourself... I will put it at the bottom of this page.  If you DON'T want to see it, jump past to the comments.)

So, that's why I was reading a book with no cover: not theft, but censorshiip. (Hey, if I can't  censor my own copy of a book, who can?)

But that got me thinking about a very strange habit of my father.  When Dad read a paperback he didn't bother with a bookmark.  When he finished a page he simply tore it off.  This used to drive me nuts, largely because I couldn't read the book , or even tell what the title was.

I have plenty of time to think about such things today because I am stuck at home - need I mention that the weather is beautiful? - waiting for delivery men.  After thirty-some years our platform bed is being demoted, or if you prefer, retired, to the guest room, and a couple of strong fellas will be showing up soon with a new one.  So I write this with one eye on the driveway.

Where was I?  Oh yes, I just finished another paperback and I suspect my father would approve of the way I shredded it.  But this was not done on purpose.  It was one of those oh-so-clever covers with a hole cut in it - in fact here it is.  The triangle on the left is a cut-out giving you a peek at the inside cover.  And, as I usually find to be the case, causing the book to shred as I read it.  I keep wanting to refer to the map at the beginning, but it has already fallen out.

It can be hard to keep track of books intellectually, as well as physically.  Walt Fraser, a professor I had in library school, said that a librarian was a person who could put something away and find it again.  Not always easy, alas.

For example, many years ago I got a paper ledger and started keeping track of every book I read, and even rated them.  Then one day, back in 2005, the ledger just disappeared.  I knew I never took it out of the house, so where did it go?  I suppose I should be glad they didn't ask for my librarian badge back.  (Okay, we don't get badges, but wouldn't it be cool if we did?)

Still no moving men.  Where was I? Oh yes.  Keeping track of books.

In Rex Stout's novels Nero Wolfe was a voracious reader.  When he started a book he marked his page with a bookmark of actual gold, a gift from a client.  If he decided he didn't like the book he would switch to a piece of paper.  If the book got worse he would start dog-earring the pages.  Only the books that kept the gold bookmark all the way through found a place on his shelves.

The moving men have been and gone, by the way.  The new bed looks lovely.  And guess what they found under the old platform bed?

Yup.  The ledger.  How it got there I will never know.

Do I have to start again reading all the books I haven't written down since 2005?

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. -Kohelet, alias Ecclesiastes.

And here is that awful cover...



19 June 2012

Cross Talk


by Dale C. Andrews
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Hard cases make bad law.
                  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
                  Northern Securities Co. v. United States
                 193 U.S. 197 (Supreme Court, 1904)

“Have you never —” said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward and sinking his voice —“have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?”
“I never have.”
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee. “Here it is,” said he presently:
“Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle. This terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil War, and it rapidly formed local branches in different parts of the country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power was used for political purposes, principally for the terrorizing of the negro voters and the murdering and driving from the country of those who were opposed to its views. Its outrages were usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked man in some fantastic but generally recognized shape — a sprig of oak-leaves in some parts, melon seeds or orange pips in others. On receiving this the victim might either openly abjure his former ways, or might fly from the country. If he braved the matter out, death would unfailingly come upon him, and usually in some strange and unforeseen manner. So perfect was the organization of the society, and so systematic its methods, that there is hardly a case upon record where any man succeeded in braving it with impunity, or in which any of its outrages were traced home to the perpetrators. For some years the organization flourished in spite of the efforts of the United States government and of the better classes of the community in the South. Eventually, in the year 1869, the movement rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since that date.”

                                                                           The Five Orange Pips
                                                                           Arthur Conan Doyle

    An Associated Press article caught my eye last week and propelled me back to the days, pre-retirement, when I was Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Litigation at the United States Department of Transportation.  The story involved the State of Georgia’s ruminations concerning what to do about an application filed by the Ku Klux Klan to participate in the Georgia adopt-a-highway program. 

    “Wait,” I hear you asking.  “What has this to do with mysteries, or with writing?”  At least tangentially the answer might be “quite a bit.”  This request by the Klan to participate in State-run programs that clean the nation’s highways through voluntary participation by local groups is not the first.  Over the past fifteen years  the Klan has repeatedly sought entry into the adopt-a-highway programs arguing that it has a right to participate  In a nutshell, the Klan’s argument is that they have a Constitutional right to participate in the program, and to have the State erect a road-side sign proclaiming that participation, under the First Amendment, which provides that the State shall enact no law abridging a party’s right to free expression.  The Klan argues that it is entitled to show and communicate to all that it is a “good citizen,” that it deserves to participate in the program on an equal footing with other organizations and that it is entitled to have its participation communicated to the general public on a road side sign erected by the State.   

    The adage quoted above from Justice Holmes got it completely correct.  This issue is a tough one, and its solution could spark unforeseen consequences.  Putting my cards on the table, I am a liberal.  And I think, as a liberal writer, that the First Amendment should be given the widest coverage possible.  The protection of the freely-written word is the hallmark of an open,  thinking and questioning society.  And the antithesis?  Well, we know from history what to expect of societies that burn books.  Oliver Wendell Holmes also wrote the following:  “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought -- not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

    But, not unsurprisingly, I (like Sherlock Holmes in The Five Orange Pips where one of the first references to the Klan appears) am no fan of the Ku Klux Klan.  I certainly do not welcome the Klan's participation in any State program.  And yet I recognize that this puts me on the wrong side of the second Holmes quote – my gut reaction is to bar them “for the thought that [I] hate.” 

Unite States' Brief to the Supreme Court

    So should Georgia simply grant the Klan’s application?  On further analysis the issue becomes even more complicated.  While in the government I had the opportunity to work on all of the prior adopt-a-highway cases involving Klan petitions.  I was the Deputy in the Department of Transportation’s litigation office, and that got me a ticket to the adopt-a-highway ball.  In my current status, that of “recovering attorney,” I am not privy to the particular stretch of Georgia highway that has now attracted the Klan’s attention.  But I know the stretches that they have tried to adopt in the past. 

    In 1995 the Klan decided it would like to “police” a stretch of highway in front of a public housing project in Houston, Texas that was the subject of a desegregation order.  The Klan had already spearheaded a series of violent confrontations at the complex and had been enjoined by court order from being anywhere near the complex.  The petition to “police” the Texas highway was for the same stretch that the Klan was otherwise barred from.  The next mile that the Klan wanted to adopt was in downtown St. Louis Missouri – right in front of one of the oldest predominantly Black churches in the city.  Then they asked for a second mile in down-state Missouri – right in front of the home of a family that had adopted an oriental child (quite the “no-no” from the Klan’s perspective).   One can easily come away with the conclusion that these applications are not just about the Klan showing that it wants to be a good citizen.

    So the issue is the quintessential “hard case.”  On the one hand, a State government is understandably loath to turn these miles over to the Klan to patrol while gathering litter, and then also erect a State sign, for all to see, proclaiming the Klan’s participation in the State program.  On the other hand, denying these applications risks cutting back on the wide breadth of free expression guaranteed to all under the First Amendment, and does so on the basis (come on, let’s admit it) that we “hate” (there’s Justice Holmes’ word again) the whole reason for the existence of the Klan.

    In prior litigation raising these issues the United States was not a direct party – the adopt-a-highway programs are not Federal programs, they are administered by States.  The participation by the United States, therefore, was as amicus curiae – “friend of the court.”  In each case the United States attempted to walk a fine line – arguing that the Klan could be barred from the program while still protecting the breadth of the First Amendment.  The approach was successful in Texas, where the State's denial of the Klan’s petition to participate in the program was upheld, but unsuccessful in Missouri, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the State’s denial abridged the Klan’s First Amendment rights to free speech and free expression.   While the Associate Press article referenced above states that the Supreme Court agreed with that proposition, this was not in fact correct.  Rather, and despite the United States’ arguments to the contrary, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case at all, thereby leaving the Eighth Circuit decision in place and unreviewed.

    What is the best way to untie this Gordian knot?  I don’t know.  This is going to be one of those mysteries that presently remains unsolved and is therefore something for each of us to ponder.

     One possible solution (and my own view on the issue) is a little “out of the box.”  When I was involved in these cases I used to argue (without a lot of success) that what is called for here is a slightly new approach to the First Amendment.  What speech are we talking about here, really?  We are talking about a sign, erected by the State, proclaiming that an organization has undertaken to police a stretch of State road in order to control litter.  Who is speaking here?  I would argue that the speaker is the State, not the organization.  It is, after all, the State that erects the sign and the State that decides what the message on the sign will be.  A limited number of cases have recognized that States, as well as individuals, have freedom of speech rights.  Can the State be compelled to erect a sign on behalf of the Klan? Doesn't this deprive the State of its own freedom of speech, it's own authority to not participate in the activities of the Klan?

    And what does that compelled State action do to other affected parties?  If you were driving down a highway and saw a sign that said “McDonalds Restaurants ahead:  1 mile, 12 miles” and then you saw a sign that said that the next mile of highway had been adopted by the Ku Klux Klan, at  which of those two McDonalds restaurants would you be inclined to stop for lunch?  I don’t know about you, but I would drive the extra 11 miles.  Is this fair to the McDonalds that happens to be located on the mile allowed by the State to be patrolled by the Klan? 

    The particular mile that the Klan adopted in St. Louis, in addition to its proximity to that historic Black church, also is in front of the Anheuser Busch Brewery.  Should the brewery bear the commercial costs that might be associated with a picture showing both that State erected sign and the entrance to the brewery’s corporate headquarters, all in the same shot? 

    It seems to me that it is one thing for the Klan to have a right to express its views, even if (using Justice Holmes’ word) we “hate” those views.  But it is another thing entirely to say that the Klan has the ability to compel a State to participate, through the erection of a State-funded sign, in the dissemination of those views.  On this one, I am with Sherlock.  We know with what we are dealing.

    Just sayin.