19 March 2019

Sometimes The Big Sleep Comes Too Soon


This post will be a little different than the normal post for me.

Anne

My friend Anne Adams died in February, from breast cancer that had metastasized and for which the treatments had become ineffective. This is what she said in one of her last e-mails to me: “I’m feeling OK, but not doing well in terms of treatment. I’ve pretty much gotten to the end of anything that works for me. My doctor is looking for some trials, but unless something like that turns up, I’m looking at about 2 to 3 months before I’ll be doing The Big Sleep.”

Unfortunately, both she and the doctors turned out to be right.

She had been fighting this for years, and had better times and worse times. So it wasn’t a total shock on the one hand, but on the other it was. She was relatively young – not old enough for Medicare. I’ve known her for decades and at one time we were very close, though not as much lately. But we still kept in touch.

We initially got together through a buddy of mine she was seeing and when they came into town (L.A.) one time I met her. Then, when she moved here on her own and wanted to get into the film biz, I was one of the few people she “knew,” so we got together and became fast friends, initially bonding over our love of movies, both classic and contemporary (at least contemporary for when we met, not so much movies today). Since our schedules were fluid we often got together to go to screenings and for the movies we missed in the screenings we’d often go see at a matinee the day they opened. We loved movies, as well as Hollywood history. But our friendship expanded to much deeper levels as we got to know each other over time.

She encouraged my writing in the dark days before I’d had any success and she brought me up short if I whined too much about the business. She didn’t have any trouble getting established in the business, working mostly in post-production or as a producer. We saw a lot of each other in those days, traveled together, and just had a very close relationship that withstood the test of time, even if it wasn’t as close as it once was. So she was very intrinsically involved in my life.

In fact, without a push from Anne I might not have gotten together with my wife, Amy. I met Amy when another friend “roped” me into helping produce a live old time radio benefit for UNICEF (that’s a whole ’nother story…). A friend of Amy’s had also volunteered her to work on it. And we met there, but I didn’t think Amy would remember me after our brief encounter that first night. And I only knew her first name and sort of where she worked. So I was a little hesitant to call her. But Anne said, “Well, what do you have to lose? All she can do is say ‘no’.” So I called Amy and the rest – to make a long story short – is history. But I might not have followed through if not for Anne giving me that little prod, so I owe her much for that.

Anne was at my wedding and my bachelor party (which was not limited to guys, though Amy wasn’t there). In fact, she also sort of MC’d and “produced” our wedding.

Anne also did something else for me/us that I will always be grateful for – besides pushing me to call Amy – though it might seem superficial on the surface. Once she got established here she knew a lot of people. And one of them is one of the band members in Paul McCartney’s band. I am and forever will be the Ultimate Beatles Fan. And Anne got Amy and me backstage to see him. It was an amazing moment.

Amy, Anne, Paul


We had recently talked about getting together but it never happened as the disease progressed rapidly.
In one of our last correspondences, she said, “I’m getting tons of emails (but nobody wanting the stove, [an antique stove she was trying to place before she died] of course), so this text will be short. Let’s plan to talk after the holidays.” Well, we never did talk after the holidays. We never saw each other again. Her disease progressed and she passed on on 2/16/19. Here’s a link to her obit on Legacy . com: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/anne-adams-obituary?pid=191640884

Anne, McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., Paul,
former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda in blue shirt in background 

I’ll just finish that off by saying I miss her and will continue to do so.

~~~

Clyde

Clyde Williams is another friend who died of cancer recently. I met him when I was looking for someone to do a voiceover for a promotional video. He had a great voice, very expressive. After we met on that project we became friends.in b

Clyde led an adventurous and exciting life. He served in Viet Nam. And said he had once been on a security detail or honor guard for JFK. He was even scouted by the Dodgers. But his true love was art and painting.

You would have thought we didn’t have all that much in common, but we really did. He was from Loosiana. A cowboy. An artist

I am none of those things. And if I could draw a decent stick figure it would be a major feat. Though I do live in cowboy country now, so we had that in common. And Clyde liked it up here, kept saying how much he’d like to move here.

In an article from the LA Times (“Black Cowboys Honored for Reel Contributions, 8/1/2000-LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2000/aug/01/news/cl-62235 ), he said, “‘My grandfather had me herding cattle as a kid,’ Williams said. ‘I understand the cowboy and the body of the horse. I started sketching them when I was 6. It's a passion. That's why I'll always be a cowboy in my heart.’”

He painted western and cowboy art, black cowboys and Buffalo soldiers, African-Americans in the military, as well as Indians and other western scenes. His work was exhibited at the Autry Museum of the American West. He loved the whole cowboy culture and he loved to read western novels, particularly Louis L’Amour. He had almost every if not every one of his books in hardback and was very proud of that. I helped to fill out his collection and that made us both happy. He also liked all stripe of western/cowboy movies.

Clyde and I could and would talk for hours, about anything and everything. He liked to talk about the changing nature of his neighbored. About wanting to do more acting or voiceovers. And he’d always ask about my wife Amy, whom he was very fond of.


He’d also talk about the red tape and hassles at the VA. And in the last year or two that kind of talk and talk of his disease featured more and more in our conversations. And there’s certain things I’d like to add here but feel that I can’t for personal reasons.

I also hadn’t talked to him for a while. No particular reasons. That’s just how things go, as I’m sure you know. I found out he’d died when I sent him a Christmas card and it came back marked “Deceased.” That was quite a shock.


I didn’t know him as well nor as long as I’d known Anne, but we bonded quickly and became friends. Sometimes you just click with someone. He gave me several prints of his works and I treasure them, both for what they are and as a symbol of our friendship.

And I miss him, too.

~~~

As writers, I think a lot of us strive for some kind of immortality through our writing. We hope to be remembered after we’re gone. Some achieve that, most do not. The way most people remain “alive” is in our memories, as we think about them, reminisce, deal with our regrets. Anne and Clyde will remain alive as long as I’m living – I know I’ll think of them often.

So the moral of this piece is – if I can get a little preachy – every time something like this happens I vow to not let things go so long, vow to get together, go to dinner, etc. But they often don’t get acted on, because we’re human. So don’t put things off. You’ll regret it as I do now. And I’m telling that to myself again now – don’t put things off. And I know I’ll do it again as others will do it with me. That said, I have a date next week to see a friend I haven’t seen in ages, but someone I’ve known since forever, a friend and former writing partner. And I hope that nothing happens to get in the way of our connecting so I won’t have anymore regrets, at least not for a while.

~.~.~
And now for the usual BSP:

The third story in my Ghosts of Bunker Hill series, Fade Out on Bunker Hill, appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. If you like the movie Sunset Boulevard, I think you'll enjoy this story. In bookstores and on newstands now:



Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com

18 March 2019

Terra Incognita

by Steve Liskow

A few weeks ago, I saw a submission call for "Detective Mysteries" in the 2000 to 4000-word range, and with what now passes for a generous pay rate. Alas, the deadline was only two weeks hence, and I know how I work well enough to know I couldn't produce a salable story in such a short time. My stories rarely go out in less than the sixth draft, and the first one usually takes me about a week.

I went through my colossal file of unsold stories and WIP. Of 23 unsold stories (some of which were heavily revised into something that did sell), several were "crime" stories, but only two or three involved detection and a sleuth. That holds true for my published short stories, too. Two or three feature Trash and Byrne, who star in my roller derby novels and support Zach Barnes in his series. Two others feature Woody Guthrie from my Detroit series. But most of my stories, sold or not, are one-offs, and they tend to focus on people who get away with something...or not.

My novels include six featuring Connecticut PI Zach Barnes, four featuring Woody Guthrie (a fifth is in a complete second draft), two roller derby novels with Trash and Byrne, and two standalones, one a quasi-police procedural and the other a coming-of-age novel that revolves around a crime.

The point was brought home to me strongly this past weekend when I presented my short story workshop, one of my most popular offerings.

In that workshop, I point out that one of the advantages of the form is that it gives writers the chance to experiment with new characters and techniques without committing a huge amount of time or effort. A novel takes me about 15 months in several installments, and with revisions, between 1200 and 1500 pages. That's a major undertaking.

My average short story runs about 4000 words, between 15 and 20 pages. Even with revision, that's several weeks and maybe 100 pages. I seldom print ANYTHING out until the third or fourth draft because it's not worth the paper yet.

That means if you don't want to use the same characters or setting and try something different, this is your chance to do it. Try that unreliable narrator with the odd speech pattern. Try the factory or sports setting you've avoided. Introduce that young, old, or opposite-gendered point of view. Try humor or present tense. Try second person or a new genre.

"Little Things," which eventually won Honorable Mention for the Al Blanchard Award, came from a failed story featuring Max and Lowe, two homicide cops from the Woody Guthrie series. The first part was in the point of view of a seven-year-old boy and the rest came through Maxwell. It didn't work, but the kid was a revelation. He was bright, but he lacked the life experience and sophistication to understand what was happening. Not long after that, I overheard two children arguing at a miniature golf course and Brian and Amy, two bright kids who don't understand the significance of Amy's innocent chatter, materialized on the spot.

"Susie Cue" was an experiment that came from meeting a former classmate at my high school reunion. None of the characters is at all like a real person, but the name "Susie Cue" popped into my head after meeting a real Susie. Johnny, a mentally challenged 19-year-old, fought his way to the front of the line, and he had a crush on Susie. It took me a long time to find what made him tick, and eventually I found that all his images were either tactile or edible. A fellow writer praised me for giving him such a limited internal life, and it worked. Nobody seems to notice that the 3600-word story only has ten words that are more than two syllables long, and that four of them are proper names. The story took me over a year because I didn't recognize Johnny's potential at first.

"Teddy Baer's Picnic" is an exercise in low comedy, which you can see from the title. I enjoy irony, but seldom aim at outright humor. Here, puns and rimshots fly like bees in a rose garden. All the characters have names that are puns on different kinds of bears: Bronwyn, Grizelda, Ursula, Kodiak...The story is a comic mass murder. I wrote it for a particular submission call, but the market didn't take it and Mystery Weekly grabbed it last fall. Several readers left positive comments, so maybe I should try something like that again.

Brian, Susie, Johnny and Teddy Baer's daughters and ex-wives couldn't sustain a whole book. Some techniques don't, either. Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights Big City" is a novella rather than a full-length novel because you can only sustain second-person POV and present tense for so long.

But in a short story...

17 March 2019

Kung Phooey

by Leigh Lundin

Whew! This tough week culminated in a funeral for a neighbor who’d become a friend. Ryan, killed at age 36 in a highway accident, left behind his fiancĂ©e Kelly and three little girls.

Earlier this week, I spent six hours in our local courthouse, home of Kayci Anthony and a few other notorious cases. I swear the building was maximally architected (supposedly that’s a real word) to maximize uncomfortability (another real word distinguishable from discomfort).

Rules at the Orange County, Florida Courthouse require shuffling from Room 350 to Room 370 to Room 130.02 to Room 240, and so forth. At each location, one pulls a ticket and waits thirty minutes to ask a single question, be told that the clerk isn’t allowed to offer advice, but maybe try Room 357.

Promotional videos play in some of these chambers showing ‘ordinary citizens’ waxing ecstatic in a script about their wonderful courthouse experience. A Tallahassee attorney who complained about the high price of parking was told that it’s actually a benefit because “After $15, parking is free!” (I know, I don’t get it either.)

On the lemonade side of this lemon week, a friend sent me a minute-long Reddit video. I located the original 3-minute clip on YouTube on the EnterTheDojoShow channel.

Meet the hilarious Master Ken who can answer all martial arts questions including those no one asked. This is a man who felt the 1970s should never have died.

His site offers T-shirts and even a book with this exciting cover. The Dow of 11th Degree Black Belt Master Ken must not be confused with either Dao (Tao) or a maximum of ten degrees.

Eat your heart out, Jackie Chan.

16 March 2019

And the Winner Is . . .

by Herschel Cozine


NOTE: I'm pleased today to welcome my friend Herschel Cozine as a guest blogger. Herschel has published extensively in the children's field, and his stories and poems have appeared in many of the national children's magazines. His work has also appeared in AHMM, EQMM, Woman's World, Flash Bang Mysteries, Over My Dead Body, Orchard Press Mysteries, Mouth Full of Bullets, Great Mystery and Suspense, Mysterical-EWolfmont Press's Toys for Tots anthologies, and many other publications. His story "A Private Hanging" was a finalist for the Derringer Award, and his flash story "The Phone Call" won a Derringer in 2017. Herschel, it's great to have you here at SleuthSayers again! -- John Floyd


It's that time again to take a break from the meaningful and helpful blogs and just relax. I promise that there is nothing in this blog that will help you in any way. But if you have a few minutes to spare and don't care how you spend them, I encourage you to read on.

Winning the Derringer Award is indeed an honor and I am unashamedly proud of it. In the writing community such an accomplishment is one which we all struggle to achieve. But it is not a bed of roses. The experience, at least MY experience, was fraught with angst and tension that at times defied description.

Let's start at the beginning. One writes a story, finds a publisher, sits back and considers its future. Is it good enough for an award? The only way to find out is to submit if for consideration.

So I did. In January of 2017 I sent it in to SMFS (Short Mystery Fiction Society) for consideration in the Flash category. Then I waited. Two months. An eternity.

I woke up one morning and found an announcement that my story had been chosen as one of the finalists for the Derringer. My euphoria was tempered by doubt. I quickly looked at the source of the announcement. I have a cousin who is fond of practical jokes. He once entered my picture in the Ugly Dog Contest. It was a rotten thing to do. (I finished right behind a snaggle-toothed Pomeranian with one eye.) This, I thought, was his doing. But further research proved that this was genuine. Still, I was a little dubious. I had learned of this honor on April 1, another reason for being uncertain of its authenticity. Was this on the up and up?

I finally accepted the news and shared it joyfully with my wife. My excitement was tempered by another sodden thought. Perhaps there had only been five stories submitted. That would explain it. I checked the entry list and saw that some thirty-odd stories had been entered. Encouraging. I had beaten at least thirty (one, by the way, of my own among them). So far so good.

Then I saw my competition. I was familiar with three: O'Neil. Craig. R. T. Lawton. I was also familiar with their writing. As far as I was concerned, the game was over.

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. The judges had spoken. Now it was up to the members: fellow writers, some of whom were already upset that their entries had not made it. Was that good or bad? I wasn't sure. They would judge with a critical--and professional--eye.

I read the stories carefully, putting aside personal prejudice and desire. It was depressing. All of the stories were worthy of the award. I cast my vote and went to bed. My entry now had at least one vote. It was a start.

I steeled myself for a month-long wait. April has only thirty days. As you can see, I always look for a silver lining. Still, it was going to be a tension-filled month. I worked in the yard until it was the showpiece of the neighborhood. I cleaned out the garage. One could now eat off the floor. (My wife asked me to get the names of the judges so she could send them a thank-you note.)


May first finally arrived. I hurried to the computer and navigated to the SMFS website.

There it was!!! "Winner in the flash category . . ." I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was surreal.

A thought immediately came to mind. Fake news! The polls had been rigged. There must have been millions of illegal voters. I was certain there would be a call for a recount. The Russians must have had something to do with this.

Congratulatory messages started appearing on the SMFS site and in my personal email. I finally--and happily--accepted the good news. I had won!


Now this sobering thought: I had to wait six months to claim my award. Not only that, but it would be given in Canada. If I wanted to accept the award in person, I would have to endure a cross-country plane trip (I live in California), hoping I would not be dragged from the plane in mid-flight (I would be flying United). In order to enter the country one must provide valid identification, such as a passport or birth certificate*, and a notarized statement that you did not vote for Donald Trump. My passport expired in 1973 and my birth certificate is so old it is illegible. Back in those days they only recorded "live" births, and it wasn't clear that I was eligible. It would be my luck that Canada would build a wall (which the U.S. would pay for), and keep the "undesirables" out of the country. Thankfully, there wasn't enough time for that.

(*I learned that birth certificates are no longer accepted. Fortunately, I updated my passport.)

When I made my reservations, in May, I hoped that nothing would come up to prevent my attending. Sure enough, two days before I was to leave, the city of Santa Rosa started to burn and I lived in an area that was dangerously close to the fires. My first inclination, of course, was to cancel the trip. But cooler heads prevailed (i.e., my wife's). "Sitting around here without electricity or gas is not going to help," she said. "I will be well taken care of by the kids."

"But what about our house?"

"What will you do about it? Wave your arms and make the fire go away? Leave it to the pros."

It was her way of saying I would only be in the way. I got the message.

I went.

The ceremony itself was impressive. However, I almost missed my big moment due to the fact that I didn't hear Melodie call my name. I am eternally grateful to Rob for getting me to the podium on time.

I was, and still am, honored and humbled by this award. My heartfelt thanks to all who voted, regardless of their choice. A big turnout made the award that much more meaningful.

NOTE: I have a flash story published this year that I plan to enter in next year's contest. With any luck I won't win. (Just kidding.)






15 March 2019

Today in Mystery History: March 15th

by Robert Lopresti

A few years ago I started a website called Today in Mystery History, listing one event in our field for every day.  It turned out that the amount of Fame and Glory generated was not sufficient to balance the effort, so I stopped adding to it.  But that left me with a whole lot of date-specific data.   I decided I will occasionally use some of it here.  So, take a gander at what happened on this date in previous years...

March 15, 1861. Rodriguez Ottolengui was born in Charleston, South Carolina.  He was a pioneer in the field of dentistry (x-rays, root canals, etc.) but he was also an author of mystery novels and short stories.  Ellery Queen listed his book Final Proof as a major step in the history of the mystery short story.

March 15, 1946. On this day Kenneth Millar left the navy.  A year later he published his first novel, Blue City. Eventually he settled on the pseudonym Ross Macdonald.

March 15, 1948. On this date the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote to his friend the mystery writer Norbert Davis: “Your mags are wonderful. How people can read Mind if they could Street and Smith [Detective Story Magazine] beats me."


March 15, 1950. Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train was published.

March 15, 1972.  Francis Ford Coppola's  The Godfather was released.  It went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

March 15, 1985.  On this date Ian Rankin  conceived his great character, Inspector John Rebus.

March 15, 1989. Sue Grafton's F is for Fugitive was published.

March 15, 200?  On this date 22-year-old singing star Cherry Pie suffers yet another overdose in Miami Beach.  Thus begins Carl Hiassin's Star Island..

So that's one date.  364 to go. 



14 March 2019

Conspiracy Theory 102: Hot Housed

by Eve Fisher

Shtisel - Courtesy IMDB 
We've been watching Shtisel on Netflix - and if you haven't, I highly recommend it.  See the IMDB Link HERE.  One of the top rated shows in Israel, currently in its third season (2 are available on Netflix), it's about a Haredi family in Geula, Jerusalem.  For the most part it ignores politics, just follows life in a religious, internet-free, television-free, almost radio-free neighborhood. The community follows strict haredi customs and the youngest son (and our hero) Akiva (on the left in the photo), is an artist, which means he's considered a "screw-up" by most, including his father.  We love it.

The haredi world is a closed world, and closed worlds fascinate me.  I've written before about cults, of which I saw so many back in my California youth.  But there are lots of closed worlds.  The Amish.  The current Facebook / internet world where the algorithms are designed to lock in to your politics, tastes, fears, and [obsessive] interests and give you nothing but more of the same.  Prisons.  The streets.  Some neighborhoods.  Clubs.  Anywhere that people are so isolated (by chance / choice / force) that they really have no contact with the outside.  This leads to some very interesting - and often very wrong - ideas of what's going on in the rest of the world.

An example:  A few years ago, I heard from someone who'd been living on the streets for a decade or so that Texas was a much better place for the homeless than Georgia, because the cops treated people a hell of a lot better in Texas.  As long as you were white, you were welcome.  I'm sure you can unpack all the fallacies that went into the making of that little dream yourself.

Another example:  One of the guys at the pen had to go to the hospital the other day.  The next day, everyone was spreading the word that he was dead.  He wasn't.  He was returned alive and tired.

A rioting-in-the-streets example: Just a few months ago, someone posted on-line about how young Somali men ran amok at a ValleyFair in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 22, 2018, hundreds of them, and the police had to be called, and it turned into a dangerous riot. And the main stream news media wasn't even covering it! (Their emphasis, not mine.) So I checked it out. First, their source: USA Really - one of the more unreliable sources in newsmedia - "According to eyewitnesses who were at the park that night to celebrate Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, “a group of nearly 100 Somali men mob rushed past security and amusement park staffers at the front entrance and proceeded to run through the park and instigate fights among themselves and with guests.  Cliff Hallberg, who was inside the park with his children at the time the fights broke out said it was very frightening for his children. 'I saw about 60 Somali teenagers push their way through lines and scream at guests.  This looked like a targeted attack on law enforcement,' Hallberg added."

What USA Really neglected to mention: It was ValleyFair's "Valleyscare" "Halloween-Haunt" night for adults and teens, so there shouldn't have been any children there, and that while multiple fights did break out, that happened at 11:00 PM, with scheduled closing time at 12:00 Midnight anyway, and the police mopped it all up pretty quickly.  No injuries, no property damage, and only 3 people arrested for minor offenses.  (MPR, CBS, and multiple other news outlets.)   Personally, I suspect that alcohol was involved more than race...


Anyway, I posted the news reports, and was told that I'd just proven their point - the news media was covering it up!  They'd even changed the time!  They had eye-witnesses!  Look at the video!  I pointed out that there was no video, and I was told, semi-ominously, "It's coming!"  It never did.

No, I'll take that back.  It did.  For those of you who like exaggeration and labeling, here it is.  All I can say is, if you think this is a riot, you've never been in a riot.  (I have, in L.A.  A riot is an unmistakable occurrence, and it's not a thing where someone says, in a rather bored voice, "we're never gonna get out of here.")  Again, the videographer never mentions "ValleyScare", "Halloween-Haunt", or that this is all happening after eleven at night.  But of course, the videographer is Laura Loomer, a notorious Internet conspiracy theorist.

(BTW - this does not mean there's no gang violence in Minneapolis. See the National Gang Center, where you can also look up your home town and see how you're doing. White, Somali, Hmong, Native American - there's a lot of gangs. Same as in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and every other big city.)

Back to prison for a get-rich-quick-scheme example: "An inmate hands me what looks like a 15th-generation photocopy, asking about the Social Security benefits available to him when he gets out. The piece of paper promises years of free financial benefits from the government.  This is another prison folktale: the myth of a lucrative handout, post-incarceration. The Social Security Administration is aware of such misinformation and has published brochures explaining how Social Security really works for inmates returning to society.  “But the paper says you will deny this program exists,” the inmate says, after I hand him one of those very brochures.  I am at a loss for words. He leaves my (accurate) brochure behind when he exits the library, a cruel reminder that people hear what they want to hear." 
(Conspiracy Theories in Prison)

A fatal example:  The Heaven's Gate cult, which firmly believed that the Comet Hale-Bopp was the mother ship coming to take them home - after they'd killed themselves.  So they killed themselves.

A harmless (?) example:  When I was teaching history up at SDSU, a student came up to me and asked, "Is it true that your parents were CIA agents who got killed in a car wreck in Europe?"  Well, who am I to stand in the way of a good dorm legend.  So I asked, deadpan, "Who said it was a car wreck?"

Extremely dangerous examples:  Pizzagate, White Supremacy (including all its variations from Aryan Nation to KKK), The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a/k/a anti-Semitism), Reptilian humanoids, the Flat Earth Society, George Soros, the assassination of everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Diana, Princess of Wales, the Illuminati, Chemtrails, Black Helicopters & UN concentration camps & the barcodes on the backs of traffic signs, Birthers, QAnon, and, of course, the "Truthers" who declare that various things (from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook) never actually happened.  (Thank you WIRED for a list and a portal.)

My favorite BS financial example: "Sovereign citizens" don't have to pay taxes because of the “straw man” theory. According to Richard McDonald, a sovereign-citizen leader, "there are two classes of citizens in America: the "original citizens of the states" (or "States citizens") and "U.S. citizens". 
McDonald asserts that U.S. citizens or "Fourteenth Amendment" "citizens have civil rights, legislated to give the freed black slaves after the Civil War rights comparable to the unalienable constitutional rights of white state citizens. The benefits of U.S. citizenship are received by consent in exchange for freedom. State citizens consequently take steps to revoke and rescind their U.S. citizenship and reassert their de jure (something that exists in reality, even if not legally recognized) common-law state citizen status. This involves removing one's self from federal jurisdiction and relinquishing any evidence of consent to U.S. citizenship, such as a Social Security number, driver's license, car registration, use of zip codes, marriage license, voter registration, and birth certificates. Also included is refusal to pay state and federal income taxes because citizens not under U.S. jurisdiction are not required to pay them."  (Wikipedia)  
I've run into them on a regular basis up here - in the court system and outside the court system - and every one of them has not only been convicted and imprisoned, but no one from the Sovereign Citizen movement (which charges considerably for their Sovereign Citizen ID cards) has ever shown up to support them in any way, shape or form.  

Almost (?) harmless examplesThe Berensteins, the non-existence of Finland and Australia, and Shazaam the Movie (not to mention other movie conspiracy theories - see HERE).

Daily examples:  They're different.  They're weird.  They do things wrong.  They are wrong.  "Thank you, Lord, for making me the right _____  !"  Fill in the blank for yourself.

All of these - and many more - are examples of hot housing / echo chambers / isolation.  But the world is greater than that.  For that matter, the entire human body is greater than that.
"Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” - 1 Cor. 12:14-21


We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. - Desmond Tutu


Enjoy it.  

13 March 2019

Firefly

David Edgerley Gates

I'm reading a thriller called Firefly, by a Brit named Henry Porter. It's a recent release, last year, and the guy's new to me, but he's got some serious chops. This is his sixth book. He comes recommended by people like Joseph Kanon and Lee Child, and they've picked a winner.


Firefly is about a Syrian refugee kid, on the run from ISIS thugs, who survives shipwreck and flounders ashore on the Aegean coast, and makes his own slow dangerous path across Greece and Macedonia, into the Balkans, trying to reach Germany and what he imagines is safe haven. The trip is of course complicated by all sorts of hazards, not least of which is a determined pursuit by agents of Al-munajil - machete, in Arabic - an Islamic State jihadi gearing up for a terror attack in western Europe.

The other thread of the narrative is that British SIS is in the hunt for the boy, too, along with other friendly security services, French, German, because he gives them their best shot at identifying and intercepting Al-munajil. He's a stalking horse.

Where this parts company with the usual is in the character of the covert contractor they send into the Balkans after the boy Naji. He's an ex-spook named Paul Samson, now working the private side. A former refugee himself, of Lebanese extraction, he's fluent in Arabic, and specializes in hostage rescue. He's not your generic soldier of fortune, weary and cynical, but a stubbornly principled guy who's determined to find Naji alive, and save him.

Which is a real departure. We've gotten used to deeply compromised heroes, with spy fiction in particular. Even in Fleming, where Bond is supposedly under discipline, he's still a stone killer, off the leash. Later iterations, in LeCarre and Deighton and Charles McCarry, have authority issues and attitude problems and nervous bowels, if they're not in fact morally suspect. It's refreshing to have a hero who does the honorable thing without a lot of fuss or fidget. In this, Paul Samson is a close cousin to French film-maker Casson in Alan Furst's The World at Night, or even more so, to Ben Webster and Ike Hammer in Chris Morgan Jones' The Jackal's Share and The Searcher.

Often, the pure of heart are villains. Nobody's more convinced of their rectitude than the holy. And if not villains, then victims, or pawns. Eager recruits. (See, for example, The Little Drummer Girl.) There's actually a lot to be said for a character who does the right thing for the right reasons. I've been thinking about this myself, with regard to the people in my own stories. I favor a little ambiguity, but the sometime inflexibility of a guy like the Rio Arriba sheriff Benny Salvador or the old Texas star-packer Doc Hundsacker isn't always out of place.


There's a lot of uncertainty in the world these days, along with mixed messages, not to mention outright wickedness, and there's plenty of it on display in Firefly. Which is why you find yourself rooting for Naji, and for Paul Samson. The refugee crisis (or immigrant crisis, if you prefer) is brutally real, in Europe as it is elsewhere, and we can take some small comfort in small victories.