20 August 2013

Sic Transit Gloria, Mason

Have you ever heard of F. Van Wyck Mason?  I couldn't place the name when I stumbled across it recently.  Since then, it's been on my mind.  But let me start at the beginning.
Earlier this year, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine published a story of mine, "Margo and the Silver Cane," that I'm hoping will be the first installment of a new series.  It features a young woman working in radio in New York City in 1941 who finds herself drafted into an amateur counterespionage operation.
For a Margo story I was writing a few weeks back, "Margo and the Milk Trap," I needed a few titles of bestselling novels from 1940.  Once upon a time, filling that need would have meant a drive down to the central library and a visit to the microfilm room to look over old reels of the New York Times.  Nowadays, one can simply do a search on Google or Bing or whatever for something that sounds like an unproduced Busby Berkeley musical:  "Bestsellers of 1940."  So that's what I did.  Most of the titles and authors on the resulting list were familiar, either from my past reading or from film adaptations.  But one author-title combination was completely unfamiliar.  It was Stars on the Sea, by F. Van Wyck Mason.

F. Van Wyck Mason
Intrigued (and, as always, easily distracted), I did a search on Mason's long name and found a Wikipedia entry.  It turns out that Mason was a fellow mystery writer.  He was also a writer of historical novels for both adults and young adults and a decorated veteran of both world wars.  He died on August 28, 1978, thirty-five years ago next Wednesday.  And I couldn't remember ever hearing his name.

After Mason's somewhat improbable service in World War I (he was a seventeen-year-old lieutenant when the war ended), he attended Harvard and started an importing business that took him to many exotic places around the world.  Sometime in the late 1920s, he began writing short stories for pulp magazines.  His success at this was described thusly by Wikipedia:  "The magazines paid well at this time and he was able to build a comfortable home outside Baltimore, Maryland."  (Sigh.)

In 1930, Mason began a long-running mystery series featuring Hugh North, army intelligence officer and James Bond precursor.  The first title in the series was the appropriately named Seeds of Murder.  The last in the series was 1968's The Deadly Orbit Mission.  By the late 1930s, Mason was doing so well he was able to "split his time between Nantucket, Bermuda, and Maryland."  (Heavy sigh.)

During the war, Mason served as Eisenhower's staff historian and was with the first troops to enter Buchenwald.  After the war, he resumed writing the North series and his historical novels (Stars on the Sea, his prewar bestseller, was one of these) and started writing historicals for the school kid market, under the name Frank W. Mason.  (Early on, he seems to have written mysteries as "Van Wyck Mason" and historicals as "F. Van Wyck Mason."  Later, this distinction went away.)  When he died in 1978--drowning while swimming off Bermuda--he'd published over seventy books.

After squeezing Wikipedia dry, I found my curiosity was far from satisfied.  I switched over to Amazon to order a Hugh North mystery from a used book seller.  The book I selected was The Shanghai Bund Murders from 1933.  In it, North must solve a series of murders and decipher a dying man's cryptic last words in order to save Shanghai from a bloodthirsty war lord.  Politically correct, it ain't.  North is the kind of lean, tight-lipped hero who is always ratcheting up his keen powers of perception to a perceptively keener power, but by the end, I was rooting for him.  That ending left me wondering if Ian Fleming, James Bond's creator, had read The Shanghai Bund Murders before starting Dr. No.  North ends up a prisoner in an underground torture chamber and, to escape, he must wiggle out through a sewer.  The description of that wiggling is not for the claustrophobic.  (There's another curious link between Mason and Bond.  007's birthday, according to experts on the subject, is November 11, the same as Mason's.)

So why is F. Van Wyck Mason so little known today?  For mystery fans, like me, it may be because Hugh North gave up solving murders sometime after World War II and evolved into an espionage agent.  It may be because Hollywood never clasped North to its celluloid bosom.  Or perhaps the question should be stated differently:  How does any popular author stay popular, with so many shiny new ones hitting showroom floors every year? 

I don't know the answer to either question, but next Wednesday I'll be lifting a highball (North favored them) to F. Van Wyck Mason and to all those dead magazines that paid him so well.

19 August 2013

Lessons Learned

Jan GrapeLawrence Block wrote an excellent article on procrastination in his book, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit. The book is a collection of the columns Mr. Block wrote for Writer's Digest. In the article he talks about Creative Procrastination, the time we sometimes spend doing things other than writing. Not always, but often that time is really when our subconscious works on our story. Yes, really. Of course, that's not always the case. Often writers just put off writing and doing other things. I've vacuumed floors, cleaned bathrooms, done laundry, taken a walk or a shower just to keep from sitting down and working on my WIP (work in progress.) But he isn't saying to become a sloth either. What you have isn't necessarily writer's block.

We may have a general idea of the next book, or chapter or scene but feel things are not quite jelling. It just may be we need a Time Out, which is the next chapter subject in Larry's book. If we have a deadline we can usually force ourselves to set a schedule. Write so many hours or pages or words per day and get our deadline met. Other times we drag ourselves to the computer and maybe miss our goal for the day by a long shot.

Perhaps the scene or chapter isn't working for some reason and we have no idea why. It's just not totally wrong to take a walk or do the laundry. A little creative procrastination or a little time out is probably what our creative brain needs.  I'm always amazed when I think how the subconscious works. Mainly I try not to think about my muse. Because if I try to wrestle it to hop into action, it has a tendency to tell me to go jump off a cliff.

However, if I take a time out and let the whole thing simmer on the back burner for a little while, things seem to straighten out completely. I can sit down at the computer and the words will flow. A direct line from my brain to my fingertips and I almost can't type fast enough.

The flip side, naturally, is even after a time out, maybe of a few hours or a day, things still seem muddled and I know I have a schedule or a deadline then I have to sit my behind down in the chair and write. And keep writing.

Oftentimes when I'm writing, I think the work is going badly. That all I'm writing is total junk; I have to keep writing.  I have to realize the editor portion of my brain is trying to take over and I have to tell it to "shut up and go away." I've learned that usually the next day what I wrote before isn't half bad. I know that every word I write isn't going to sing but I need to stay on task. That once I'm at the end of the story and write the end I'll be able to look at it more objectively.

Once I set the work aside, two or three days, or even a week, and pull it out I'll find that it's pretty danged good. I can see where I need to revise. Increase tension. Strengthen a character. Or even delete a page or three. That's where the revisions come in. Some writers hate revising. I mainly don't mind because I know I can make my story better with revisions.

Someone told me a long time ago, that you have to tell yourself the story first, then you are able to go back and get the story in shape for others to read.

I envy writers who are able to write a book with only a few minor revisions. I'm just not that good. I also am unable to outline a story. I know authors who do a sixty-seventy page outline of their book. I know others who write a brief outline. Maybe three or four pages. If I outline, it's like talking too much about the book. I get bored if I know too much. I  do a whole lot better when I fly by the seat of my pants. I have sometimes made a brief outline when I feel I'm about at the halfway point. Mostly so I can see if I need to add or subtract an element. Generally, I know how the book ends but not always whodunit. Feels like it works better for me if I fool myself then maybe the reader will be fooled. But basically I'm not concerned with the plot because my major thing is my characters.

Okay class, let's recap. Allow yourself some creative procrastination or time out. Don't beat yourself up if it seems like things are going badly. Most of the time, they're not.  If you really want to learn more about these subjects and how to deal with them, find a copy of Lawrence Block's book, Telling Lies.

And remember, each writer has to do what works best for them.+

18 August 2013

The Truth shall set thee free

by Leigh Lundin

For at least the past half century, clerks and bureaucrats offer consumers the excuse “It’s not our fault, the computer made a mistake.” As a computer specialist, I know that behind a mistake is another human and the proffered excuse is an attempt to mitigate or evade responsibility. It’s not that computers are infallible, but they do what people tell them to do.
In a couple of small towns where I grew up, town gossips considered their mission to find out about everyone else’s business while hiding the skeletons in their own closets. One of the women complained her husband wouldn’t share the tidbits he picked up at the local grain elevator. He became my hero.

Some victims must have felt vindication when one of the worst dashed back and forth, spying upon her own daughter making out in her boyfriend’s car in front of her house, then running to the back bathroom, climbing up on the tub and peering out the rear window spying on another couple having at it. In her gusto, she slipped on the tub, fell and broke her arm. Her screams and the subsequent ambulance brought all pleasurable activities to a halt. The lessons I took away was that– private as I am– tight lips and an open bearing is a wise policy.

Thus, when it comes to government, I lean towards the-truth-and-damn-the-consequences policy, not in every instance, but the vast majority of the time. And this is what I’ve learned from the Snowden and Manning affairs: Our nation, our government survives pretty damn well when the truth comes out. Might these examples suggest the less secrecy the better? Or at least shouldn’t we open our eyes and engage in a discussion what secrets are wise and what aren’t?

Friday morning I was listening to CNN pontificate about the Edward Snowden affair. Their hostess pointed out that people either believe he’s a hero or a traitor. I’m not sure this reflects political leanings but the guest on the left took the position Snowden’s a betrayer whilst the guy on the right claimed Snowden’s a patriot. I never did hear anything of importance from the guest in the middle, but my mind may have tuned out following an amazing, jaw-dropping, mind-numbing statement: The NSA apologist (the guy on the left of the screen) said something to the effect we can’t so much blame NSA’s crimes on people, because these crimes are committed by computers.

Wh– what?

Going back to my opening paragraph, computers do what people tell them to do. In centuries past, defendants might have tried “Your Honour, t'were me fourteen vicious dogs wot ripped apart me wife’s paramour all on their own selves,” or “It were an accident pure and simple, Judge. Me horse reared up and clopped the landlord on ’is head.”

But blaming computers, it’s like saying:
  • “I didn’t cut them joists too short, my saw did.”
  • “Officer, I didn’t run the red light, my car did.”
  • “Judge, I didn’t shoot the guy, my Glock did.”
Fortunately, we crime writers seldom bring up the computer-ate-my-homework excuse, else without humans, we’d have little to write about. Imagine the detective’s dénouement: “Based on the prints, I determined the digits are digital and the bite marks are bytes. Yes, the culprit is the CDC-6600.”

17 August 2013

Hail to the Chief

by John M. Floyd

Rob Lopresti's entertaining column a couple weeks ago about different actors who have played the same detective/sleuth started me thinking. (Always a dangerous thing.) What role, I found myself wondering, would be the most difficult for an actor to take on? A terrorist? A child molester? A serial killer? Possibly--but challenging roles don't always have to be bad guys, right? What if you had to play a familiar, famous, and/or heroic part? Wouldn't that be just as hard to do? If you're the producer, who (besides maybe Clint Eastwood) would you choose to play Jesus Christ, or Jonas Salk, or Jack Kennedy, or Davy Crockett? (I won't list God, here, because in my opinion no one could ever top George Burns.)

With that in mind, consider this puzzle. Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept it, is to match the following twenty actors and the films in which they portrayed a fictional President of the United States. Answers are at the bottom of the column.

(As I tried to recall these roles, I found myself surprised anew by some of the choices the casting folks made to play our Commander-in-Chief--and in some cases found myself wishing we could've swapped out some real-life Presidents for the ones we saw on the screen.)

Here are the candidates:

1. Henry Fonda
2. Peter Sellers
3. Morgan Freeman
4. Bill Pullman
5. James Cromwell
6. Harrison Ford
7. Donald Pleasence
8. Jeff Bridges
9. Robert Culp
10. Michael Douglas
11. John Travolta
12. Richard Widmark
13. Kevin Kline
14. Gene Hackman
15. Ronny Cox
16. Cliff Robertson
17. Charles Durning
18. William Hurt
19. Fredrick March
20. Jack Nicholson

And the movies:

A. Air Force One
B. Seven Days in May
C. The Pelican Brief
D. Escape From New York
E. Absolute Power
F. Dave
G. Vanished
H. The Sum of All Fears
I. Captain America
J. Vantage Point
K. Deep Impact
L. Independence Day
M. Dr. Strangelove
N. Escape From L.A.
O. Mars Attacks!
P. The Contender
Q. Fail-Safe
R. The American President
S. Twilight's Last Gleaming
T. Primary Colors

A few observations: My pick for the best movie performance as POTUS would be Morgan Freeman, and (although I didn't include television series, here) I think the best TV prez was The West Wing's Martin Sheen. The best portrayal of a real President was probably Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

To me, the most unlikely casting choices were Jack Nicholson and Jeff Bridges (can't get The Big Lebowski out of my brain, here)--but Bridges did what I thought was an outstanding job.

For those of you patient enough to have given this little match-puzzle a try, here are the answers:

1-Q -- Henry Fonda, Fail-Safe
2-M -- Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove
3-K -- Morgan Freeman, Deep Impact
4-L -- Bill Pullman, Independence Day
5-H -- James Cromwell, The Sum of All Fears
6-A -- Harrison Ford, Air Force One
7-D -- Donald Pleasence, Escape From New York
8-P -- Jeff Bridges, The Contender
9-C -- Robert Culp, The Pelican Brief
10-R -- Michael Douglas, The American President
11-T -- John Travolta, Primary Colors
12-G -- Richard Widmark, Vanished
13-F -- Kevin Kline, Dave
14-E -- Gene Hackman, Absolute Power
15-I -- Ronny Cox, Captain America
16-N -- Cliff Robertson, Escape From L.A.
17-S -- Charles Durning, Twilight's Last Gleaming
18-J -- William Hurt, Vantage Point
19-B -- Fredrick March, Seven Days in May
20-O -- Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks!

These are of course not all instances, but these came first to mind. Anybody know of others? Can you think of some actors who did an especially good--or bad--job?

NOTE: I'll be back in two weeks, and--having temporarily satisfied my Netflix fix--I will then try to produce a column more in keeping with mysteries or writing, or both. No promises, though.

Love them movies . . .

16 August 2013

Street Psyche, Part 1

by R.T. Lawton

When you're working the streets, it helps to have a certain mind set. Perhaps one of the best ways to explain this matter of the mind is to use a portion of Wikipedia's definition of Psy-Ops: "Various techniques are used...to influence a target audience's...belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning or behavior. It is used to...reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator's objectives... Target audiences can be...organizations, groups and individuals."

Whereas psy-ops is generally a technique employed by the military in order to out maneuver the enemy, law enforcement and undercover agents also find it useful on a smaller scale. Here's a couple of examples which fit the definition, one for fun and games and the other as self-protection.

We knew where a smack house was operating in Kansas City, but at the time we didn't have any informants who could go into that particular house and make a heroin buy to give us probable cause for a search warrant. But then, the dealers in that house weren't aware we had that problem. So, for fun and games, we designed a little play action, knowing full well that the opposition kept a lookout at their front window to watch the street, plus they located their stash of several ounces close to their bathroom toilet for a quick flush should The Man suddenly appear at their place of business.

One nice summer day, to play with their minds, we had a car with two agents suddenly come screeching up to the curb in front of their house. The two jumped out of the car, loudly slammed the vehicle doors and ran towards the front door (covering a lot of distance from side to side) while screaming FEDERAL AGENTS. It was said later, that the dealer's toilet got a good workout before the two agents inexplicably turned around, quietly walked back to their vehicle and drove off. Then we waited a week.

The next time, the car had four agents decked out in bright blue raid jackets come screeching up to the curb. Loud door slams again. Screaming, the agents ran as far as the edge of the front porch before turning and walking back to their vehicle. Once again, the toilet saw lots of action. After that, we gave them two weeks to calm down.

The third time, we used two cars of agents in raid jackets. And, every time after that, we escalated the appearance of an actual raid by sending more cars, more agents, even having some of the vehicles jump the curb to imply this time was serious. We also varied the times and intervals to keep them off balance.

Eventually, the dealers realized we were playing with them and that much of their illicit profits were literally going down the drain.They gradually became more confident and lackadaisical, even quit flushing their bags of smack when we showed up. We gladly allowed them these little victories of finally beating us.

Then, one day we got an informant into the house for a buy. Shortly afterwards,. we descended upon that house with a search warrant, several cars, a multitude of agents and a sledge hammer for the door. This time we didn't walk away. One agent held the screen door open, the hammer man took it down and the first two-man team went all the way through to the bathroom. To keep the flusher from hitting the handle, they had to body check him into the bath tub. Ouch. Meanwhile, the rest of the teams secured the house and those within it. We got the heroin for evidence in court and had fun playing with their minds while working up to it. Our version of Psy-Ops.

It also helps when you're figuring out your role for undercover.

The majority of times I went under for a buy, I took advantage of the general public's perception of those bad-ass bikers riding Harleys. Even if dealers didn't personally know a biker, they had probably seen some old B-movie depicting bikers as scary dudes who carried guns. And, since I was going to always carry a gun while undercover, I went with the biker image. One, most dealers were careful how they treated me, and two, if anyone happened to see the handgun in my waistband, they were more apt to accept it as part of the image. In short, I was manipulating an individual's reasoning and behavior.

To further the military concept of "false colors," four of us on a task force went so far as to create our own motorcycle gang, colors and all. That way, when the undercover agent went in to make a buy, his surveillance (the rest of the gang) normally stationed outside, instead went in with him. There were no problems with rip-offs under these circumstances, there were several law enforcement witness to the buy details when it came court time, and the dealers assumed it was a natural situation for the whole gang to be in their living room during a purchase. Yep, if he did it right, a guy could have a good time outsmarting criminals, even bikers in other gangs.

Next time, a more dire set of circumstances where even one-man psy-ops could mean survival.

15 August 2013

Crime and Punishment, Old Style

by Eve Fisher

Whenever people wax nostalgic around me - always a big mistake - I bring up premodern dentistry, medicine, plumbing, pest control, and law enforcement.  Let's not tackle the horrors of the first four, but stick to law and order.  There wasn't a lot of it.  For one thing, of course, there weren't any police per se, before our own Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie became the first Lieutenant General of Police in Paris in 1667.  (The London bobbies were established in 1829.)  This didn't mean that there was a whole police force in Paris:  there were some "police chiefs", constables, archers, and men of the watch, but the main staff was an intricate web of informers who would cheerfully tell anything they heard for money.

M. de la Reynie
God help you if the informers turned you in.  As I mentioned in the last blog post, standard investigative practice until at least the 19th century was to question prisoners under torture.  (In ancient Rome, a slave's testimony was admissible only if it had been extracted by torture, because it was believed that they wouldn't tell the truth otherwise.)  The only exceptions were if you were a member of the nobility or the royal family, in which case...  maybe not.  The other exception was England, which abolished the use of torture in 1640, except for the use of "peine forte et dure", i.e., pressing, for those who refused to answer guilty or not guilty in an attempt to hang on to their estate for their kids.  (They used this during the Salem witch trials.)

Anyway, back in Renaissance and Enlightenment France (say, the 1500 through very late 1700's), most judicial proceedings were presided over by either your seigneur (lord) if you were a peasant, or a judge/panel of judges (if it was a question of a felony), or a chambre ardent (if you were suspected of witchcraft), or the King, if you were sufficiently noble.  Punishments varied:
The Bastille
  1. Banishment, exile, monasteries/convents for the wealthy and the nobility.  (It helped if you could flee the country - like Olympe de Soissons - before they came after you.)
  2. Imprisonment in the Bastille or another old castle with damp, insufficiently lit cellars for the wealthy or too offending nobility (just a reminder:  a noble family could ask the king for a lettre de cachet, which would imprison the recalcitrant relative for life).  Also, the occasional political prisoner - Voltaire was sent to the Bastille three times, twice for his incendiary writings and the last time because he challenged the Chevalier de Rohan to a duel.  Voltaire was a peasant, Rohan was a nobleman, a lettre de cachet was given, and I for one am amazed that he ever got out. 
  3. Burning for witches.
  4. Flogging, branding, more torture and/or hanging for the lower classes.
  5. The galleys (for all classes).
Numbers 3 and 4 were done publicly, and drew big crowds because they were considered entertainment.  A certain Dr. Patin wrote to the father of his pupil that the boy had been doing so well that tomorrow he was taking him - as a treat - to see a man broken on the wheel.  (W. H. Lewis, The Splendid Century, p. 175)  And let us never forget Casanova's account of watching two people having sex while they watched the four hour execution by torture of Damiens, would-be assassin of Louis XV. 

And then there were the galleys.  Today there is a growing issue with privatized prisons (I hope), in which prisons are run for profit and the prisoners are turned into slave labor ($0.25/hour is the norm; $3.25/hour is considered good wages), which could lead to the question:  are people being arrested and convicted because they are really guilty, or because the prison needs to be full?  (After all, standard private prison contracts require a certain level of occupancy, no matter what the actual crime rate is, so even if crime goes down, people still need to be arrested...)   Back in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the question was whether people were condemned to the galleys because they were guilty or because more oarsmen were needed to man the fighting ships of the Mediterranean.  Louis XIV ordered the courts to sentence men to the galleys as often as possible, and, instead of the death penalty, send them to the galleys for life.  And so it was done. 

File:The réale returning to port.jpg
The Reale - a galley ship of Louis XIV
As you can see from above, galleys were open boats, that could use sail or oar for the best maneuverability possible.  The reason that they were manned exclusively by convicts was because they'd tried using paid free men in the 14th century, but the paid workers just couldn't get up the speed and endurance.  It took constant application of the whip - and other tortures - to get the men rowing for their lives.  (By the way the Ottoman Turks and the Barbary pirates both used galley slaves, usually captured Europeans.) 

The galley slaves - galériens - were made up of Turks (who really WERE slaves, bought by the French government from the Barbary pirates and other sources), military deserters, salt smugglers, plain criminals (including nobility - the Chevalier de Margaillet, for example, was sent there for raping his niece, who by the way, must have had connections of her own to get a conviction), and Huguenots (i.e., Protestants, which was illegal in 17th and 18th century France).

Galley slaves had nothing.  They were branded GAL for galérien.  Their heads were shaved for lice, and they were given only canvas drawers and a red hat.  They lived in the open because there was literally nowhere else for them to go.  They lived on biscuit and bean soup - and, being France, when they were at sea were given a cup and a half of wine day.  They slept and ate and defecated where they sat (although I suppose if they were the oarsman closest to the side of the boat, they went over the side).  They never washed.  Five men chained to an 18-foot oar, pulling it with all their might - for life.  A Huguenot galérien said that "One would not think it was possible to keep it up for half an hour, and yet [thanks to the whip] I have rowed full out for twenty-four hours without pausing for a single moment."  (Lewis, p. 220)  Such appalling labor only happened during a heated battle - and during a battle anyone who died, or even fainted, was cut loose and flung overboard. 

19th century Marseille
In between battles, things weren't so bad.  In Marseilles or other ports, they got better food, fresh from town.  And in the autumn and winter, when there were no battles, while the galley slaves remained on the boat, life was better.  The officers were billeted ashore, so the slaves had room to spread out.  They were required to practice a trade during the winter months - anything and everything from music to repairing clocks to (for the absolute incompetents) knitting stockings.  (In other words, they had to pay for their own incarceration during the winter.)  And each galley was allowed one week ashore in rotation, when they could wander the port town with their skills and goods, selling, and stealing everything in sight.  Which they got away with.  Because here's the one advantage of being a galérien:  once sentenced, since it was (usually) for life, the French judicial system washed its hands of you.  You could do anything, and you would not be tried again.  Granted, your captain could flog you, mutilate you, kill you - but the courts could and would do nothing more.  No wonder Marseilles had a reputation for being rough:  port life during the centuries of galériens was incredibly dangerous for civilians.  The galleys finally came to an end in the mid-1700's, but the term galérien remained the standard term for a prisoner until well after the French Revolution.  (For one thing, after the end of the galleys as a fighting part of the French navy, convicts were still kept in chains on galleys moored in the harbor of Toulon and other port cities.)

The wheel and the stake, beheadings and burnings were all much more public, but the the two secret hells, the fates worse than death, were the lettre de cachet and sentencing to the galleys.  Either way, you got to live - for a while - but probably spent that life wondering why.  Some great literature has been written around hell, though, and its aftermath:   "The Count of Monte Cristo", "Les Miserables", "A Tale of Two Cities", all tales of escape, all tales of new life - but the Count, Jean Valjean, Dr. Manette are all marked, changed  forever.  But perhaps the book closest to the spirit of the galleys and the dungeons is Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" - where one sentence only leads to another, and when he counts the days of his sentence, he has to add extras for the leap years...

14 August 2013


by David Edgerley Gates

We were just walking out of CASABLANCA, the new picture starring Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan....
I always thought this would be a cool opening line for a story, setting up the alternate history angle from the get-go. (There are plenty of these might-have-beens. The original casting Peckinpah wanted for THE WILD BUNCH, for example, was Lee Marvin and Brian Keith.) In the case of CASABLANCA, though, this was a misleading Warners PR plant: Bogart always had a lock on the part.

Alternate history is an interesting genre, usually lying somewhere on the outskirts of SF or even fantasy. The first one I remember reading was packaged in an Ace double novel, and I've forgotten the title, to my chagrin, but the premise was that the Spanish Armada had successfully invaded England, so Spain became the dominant European and New World power for the next four centuries. Often the key to alternate history is just such a defining event. If typhus hadn't ravaged Hannibal's armies in Italy, Rome would have remained a provincial backwater, and Carthage taken control of the Mediterranean trade routes.

What if the Germans had won WWII? This being an enduring subset of the genre, and a fascinating one. Len Deighton's SS-GB takes place in an occupied Great Britain, after the RAF loses the air war. Robert Harris hit the ground running with FATHERLAND, an enormously spooky thriller, hinging on the plausibility that all evidence of the Holocaust could be destroyed, and the memory of mass murder erased from the historical record. The precursor of both these books is Philip K. Dick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

Japan occupies the West Coast, to the Rockies, Germany the East Coast, to the Mississippi. A weak buffer state exists between them. The engine of the story is the struggle of the two great Axis powers against each other, worldwide, a Cold War that's about blow wide open, and there are also factions and succession rivalries, inside the Reich. The conspiracies, though, are the backdrop to more intimate and familiar characters, and the mechanisms they develop for living in a police state---the Japanese hegemony is nowhere near as brutal, on a daily basis, as the German.

Three dramatic devices surface and resurface all through the book. The first is historicity, the quality an object or an artifact has to absorb and embody the past, a Zippo lighter Franklin Roosevelt may have had in his pocket, say, when he was assassinated in 1932. The play between the counterfeit and the authentic mirrors the storyline. Are we imagining all this? (And there's a huge black market in fakes, such as Zippo lighters.) The second meta-device is a novel within the novel, an alternate history, in which the Allies turn out to have won the war. But this fiction isn't quite the world as we now know it, either. It's skewed in other, odd ways, so again, 'reality,' or authenticity, is slippery, a construct, really, and not immutable. This idea is doubled on itself with the third device, which I think is utterly inspired. Every character in the book consults the I CHING, and the fall of the yarrow stalks or the coins establishes fate. In fact (or, in 'fact'), the novel within the novel is written using the I CHING, each fictional historical development a roll of the dice, in effect. Or to put it another way, pay every attention to the man behind the curtain.

None of this is meant to suggest THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is self-indulgent, or some elaborate post-modernist prank. It's mischievous, and often deceptive, but always highly entertaining, and entertains the unexpected. Nobody in the story is flat, or arbitrary. Everybody holds their own as a fully-fleshed person, and each of them holds their own future in trust, however the yarrow stalks may fall. The great strength of the book is probably that character is fate, and nothing is fated. There will always be defining events, but history is accident. The choices we make are only inevitable in hindsight. For there to be an alternate reality, we have to decide first which fiction we believe.

13 August 2013

Who Was That Masked Writer?

In 1968 or 1969 Paul McCartney said a wistful and startling thing in an interview. He said the Beatles had discussed the idea of going out on the road as a bar-band named Randy and the Rockets. They would wear hokey capes and masks à la Count Five, he said, so no one would recognize them, and they would just have a rave-up, like in the old days.
When the interviewer suggested they would be recognized by their voices, Paul seemed at first startled … and then a bit appalled. 
                                                                   Stephen King
                                                                   Why I Was Bachman 

      In The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck ended a famous soliloquy with the conclusion “we can’t start over.” This may be true, but that has not stopped some writers from trying. 

       Writing as someone else, that is, under a pseudonym, has always enjoyed a subversive and at times roguish popularity among writers. Over the years there have been many motivations for hiding one’s name -- Mary Ann Evans, author of Silas Marner, for example, wrote under the pseudonym of George Eliot because she believed that to be taken seriously in the mid-1800s an author really ought to be male. Thankfully, we are well past such “necessities,” but, for a host of reasons, authors still, at times, give in to a temptation to write as someone else. 

       Mysteries, which are all about secrets, have always been a particularly fertile ground for cultivating new identities. Ellery Queen, a pseudonym on his (or their) own, also wrote pseudonymously as Barnaby Ross. Earl Stanley Gardner wrote the Perry Mason mysteries under his own name, but wrote his D.A. Doug Selby mysteries under the name of A.A. Fair. Ruth Rendell writes not only as herself, but also as Barbara Vine. The reasons these writers,and many others, decided to write as someone else are varied, but among particularly popular novelists, such as those who have staked out claims to the top spots on The New York Times list, there is a particularly tantalizing temptation to coin a new name. They want to prove John Steinbeck wrong. 

J. K. Rowlings and friend
       Apropos of all of this, on April 30 Mullholand Books published a new mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, by “first time author” Robert Galbraith, described on the book jacket as an ex-military officer making his first foray into fiction writing. Although a debut novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling attracted the attention of a number of reviewers, including The New York Times, which had this to say about the book: 
Robert Galbraith has written a highly entertaining book... Even better, he has introduced an appealing protagonist in Strike, who's sure to be the star of many sequels to come.... its narrative moves forward with propulsive suspense. More important, Strike and his . . . assistant, Robin (playing Nora to his Nick, Salander to his Blomkvist), have become a team - a team whose further adventures the reader cannot help eagerly awaiting.
There was also a shared theme in the reviews of the book -- it seemed too good, too polished, for a first time work. The reviewers began to wonder, and to speculate. 

       In any event, buoyed by similarly favorable reviews The Cuckoo’s Calling was doing passably well for a first novel, selling 8,500 copies within a few weeks of publication and garnering two inquiries concerning possible film adaptations. It was then that the wife of a lawyer in the London law firm that had done legal work for the book, revealed on Twitter, contrary to the terms of a secrecy agreement, that the author was none other than J. K. Rowlings. Rowlings has now admitted authorship, settled with the law firm, which has committed to making a large donation to the same soldiers’ charity that is also receiving the royalties from the book. 

       When asked why she elected to begin a new series using a pseudonym, and writing as a man, Ms. Rowlings had this to say: 
I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.  
I [also] wanted to take my writing persona as far away as possible from me, so a male pseudonym seemed a good idea. I am proud to say, though, that when I “unmasked” myself to my editor David Shelley who had read and enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling without realizing I wrote it, one of the first things he said was “I never would have thought a woman wrote that.” Apparently I had successfully channeled my inner bloke! 
George Eliot could not have said or done it better! 

"Richard Bachman" from the
Thinner book cover  (Actually Stephen King's
agent's insurance broker)
       J. K. Rowling was not the first best selling author to succumb to the temptation to begin again. Stephen King attempted the same feat in the 1980s when, writing as Richard Bachman, he published five novels before being outed in 1985 just about the time that the fifth Bachman book, Thinner, was beginning to do well in the bookstores. Stephen King reportedly had several reasons for inventing Bachman. First, King is remarkably prolific and his publisher, early on, feared that publishing at the rate King wrote -- more than a book a year -- would flood the market. So a pseudonym created a new outlet. 

       But part of it was, in King’s words, the same hunger that tempted J. K. Rowling’s to invent Galbraith. Here is what King said in Why I Was Bachman, the essay that accompanies the 1985 omnibus volume The Bachman Books collecting the first four of Richard Bachman’s novels: 
You try to make sense of your life. Everybody tries to do that, I think, and part of making sense of things is trying to find reasons . . . or constants . . . things that don’t fluctuate. Eveyone does it, but perhaps people who have extraordinarily lucky or unlucky lives do it a little more. . . . Part of you wants to think that you must have been one hardworking S.O.B. or a real prince or maybe even one of the Sainted Multitude if you end up riding high in a world where people are starving, shooting each other, burning out, bumming out, getting loaded, getting ‘Luded.  
But there’s another part that suggests it’s all a lottery, a real-life game-show not much different from “Wheel of Fortune” or “The New Price is Right” . . . . It is for some reason depressing to think it was all -- or even mostly -- an accident. So maybe you try to find out if you could do it again.  
Or in my case, if Bachman could do it again. 
       King’s experiment was also cut short. The next Bachman book was to be Misery, and, in King’s words, “I think that one might have taken 'Dicky' onto the best-seller list.” Rowling’s experiment was cut way short, even though her next Cormoran Striker mystery will still be published under Galbraith’s name in 2014. 

Robert Galbraith and Richard Bachman sharing a stage
       It is interesting to compare Galbraith and Bachman with, respectively, Rowlings and King. Galbraith's mystery is much grittier than any of the Harry Potter books.  The Cuckoo's Calling is prone toward the use of idle profanity, darkly modern themes and urban settings.  And Bachman is also darker than King.  Bachman’s The Long Walk is sort of like The Hunger Games but without the love story -- just children dying in a televised contest. And Rage, centering on a young gunman taking over a school room, has been withdrawn from the market out of concern as to what it might prompt or might already have prompted. 

       But while the pseudonym authors differ markedly from their creators, behind the curtain, nonetheless similar narrative voices are discernible. Before being outed by a meticulous book store clerk who found an obscure reference to King in one of the Bachman copyright documents, there was rampant speculation that Bachman was King premised on the similarities of sentence structure, word usage, and plots. And today, 30 years after King’s Bachman experiment, apparently computerized digital comparisons between the Harry Potter books and The Cuckoo’s Calling were on the verge of outing Rowling when that tweet from the lawyer’s wife pulled the rug out from under her. 

     As noted, Galbraith and Bachman were doing respectably well before their identities were pierced. But sales in each case went ballistic when the pseudonym mystery was cracked. The Washington Post reported that “the news helped [The Cuckoo’s Calling to] climb straight to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list” the next week. And Richard Bachman’s Thinner was selling very well when King was outed. “But the fact,” King observes, “that Thinner did 28,000 copies when Bachman was the author and 280,000 copes when Steve King became the author, might tell you something, huh?” 

       Galbraith will continue to write mystery novels, but as a known pseudonym of Rowlings. Bachman, according to King, died of cancer of the pseudonym in 1985, although some “posthumous” Bachman works have been published since then. 

       In the end, what can we say of these experiments? Do they ultimately prove that hard work wins out or do they validate the lightning strike of luck? Both The Cuckoo’s Calling and the Bachman novel The Long Walk were rejected by publishers that would have jumped at the works if armed with a little foreknowledge. 

       Experiments cut short may ultimately yield no good answer. But on a side note, consider this. Amidst the confusion that attended the news that Rowlings was, in fact, Galbraith, and the ensuing rush to secure copies of her new book, Ron Charles of The Washington Post reported an item that can keep us pondering: 
The Cuckoo’s Calling isn’t the only Cuckoo title on The Post’s list this week. Cliff Stoll’s nonfiction story, The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage is No. 4 on the nonfiction paperback list.  
Why would a book from 1989 pop up now? Are NSA employees buying copies in bulk? Are Rowling fans confused about her pseudonym? Or is it just wizardry?  
That lightning may have struck Cliff Stoll.  Assuming, of course, that he is Cliff Stoll.

12 August 2013

Wherefore Art


by Fran Rizer

Curiosity is a characteristic shared by most writers. Toe Hallock’s name intrigued me from the first time I saw it in SleuthSayers Comments. Being my usual shy, retiring self, I didn’t hesitate to investigate.

Toe Hallock
Toe Hallock
I learned that Toe and I have a lot in common. We both graduated from USC, though his USC is the University of Southern California while mine is the University of South Carolina. We are both proud grandparents, though he has a granddaughter while I have a grandson. We’re both teachers who got serious about writing after retirement, but our greatest similarity is an intense love for the written word since childhood.

And, yes, I found out how he came to be called Toe. In X-Ray School Anatomy studies at Fort Sam Houston, his class learned the names of human bones. The word Hallux was brought to their attention. It meant “Big Toe.” From then on, Hallock was called “Big Toe” until it was later shortened to “Toe.” After his military service, Hallock used his legal name professionally, but when he began writing and discovered hundreds of Brad Hallocks out there, he became Toe Hallock again. So far as I know, he’s the only one.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome my guest blogger for today— Mr. Toe Hallock!

Wherefore Art

by Toe Hallock

To begin: Thank you, Fran Rizer, for sharing your space. Most certainly, your audience will return when you, the real deal, come back. And fans of Fran, believe me when I say I’ll make every effort not to discourage your faith in SleuthSayers. All the people who contribute to this blog are topnotch, the best at what they do, and an inspiration to the rest of us aspiring writers.

Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
A fascination with words is what led to my wanting to be a writer. Which began when I first learned to read. Those Dick and Jane page burners opened a whole new world for me. How in the world do they do that, I wondered? You know, create something seemingly out of nothing. What a great challenge. Putting all the elements, words, together in such a way so as to fabricate a Universe of your own creation. Like in the Big Bang theory. I wanted to do that.

It all revolves around words. Savoring their sounds, their subtle meanings. Finding ways to give those words a whole new life. Crafting inspired phrases that produce a burst of revelation in the mind’s eye of the reader. Transforming their thoughts, and exceeding their imaginations.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
Music and lyrics, words and phrases. These are combinations so powerful, that in the hands of the truly creative artist, they can transform one’s experience from the mundane into the sublime. Think Verdi. Think Shakespeare. And many of our contemporary composers and authors. There is a wealth of wonderful examples from the past and the present. As far as the future goes? I doubt we would even recognize it. It will embrace a whole new Galaxy of technological wonders. But, the storytellers… the storytellers will always be revered as those who explain and clarify the trials and tribulations of humankind. It is they who will expose the negative aspects confronting an overcrowded planet. It is they who will reveal thoughtful solutions, offer hope, and provide some sort of escape from life’s daily pressures. Being a writer is a proud heritage connecting past, present, and future. Can’t beat that.

Enough of the philosophy explaining why I’ll never give up. Did I just end with a preposition? Obviously, I still have much to learn. Please stay with me. After a succession of knuckle balls and sliders, it’s time for a change-up. I am going to share just a couple of words and phrases (out of hundreds) that, for whatever reason, intrigue my quirky nature.

Just a couple, I promise. Starting with a comment I made earlier about Dick and Jane stories being ‘page burners.’ Looking back, what an odd thing for me to say. But the thought pushed its way to the front lobe of my consciousness and refused to leave. Turns out there is a term for that. Malaphor. It’s a blend of two metaphors. In my case, ‘page’ turner and barn ‘burner.’ Both of which imply excitement. In fact, the term 'malaphor' itself is a combination of two words: malapropism and metaphor. Online research revealed that the term was coined by Lawrence Harrison in a 1976 Washington Post Op-Ed piece.

The ‘view from thirty-thousand feet.’ This phrase is irksome. The intrigue comes from how often it is used by self-important know-it-alls who have deceived themselves into thinkin they are more informed than their groundling staffs. It’s particularly popular among those who inhabit the executive sphere of the business world. They fly a lot and want everyone to admire their obvious sophistication from accumulating so many travel miles. Frankly, I think it is they who miss the big picture, not those doing the real work and looking after the day-to-day details. Besides, when they talk perspective they really mean bottom line. How it affects their bonuses, stock options, and other perks. Growing profits in an effort to please investors may, of course, result in the downsizing of job positions and personnel. But, despite this great sacrifice, these BTOs will maintain stiff upper lips when they proclaim “the vagaries of life are favorable to some, not so favorable to others.” Don’t you just love these guys?

In closure – I believe I can sense the collective sighs of relief (my own included) – I offer this:
I’ve passed along this strand of beach before
the dawn of life upon its callow shore…

When I was six, a child, I think I remember
my Grandpa held me up to a window that
faced the tiding sea, and told me if I looked
hard enough, I could see the waves.

It was magic then, to a boy so young, to see
an ocean where it shouldn’t be in a pane of
glass against all previous knowing:
This before I learned reflection is an art.
Yours truly, Toe

11 August 2013

PINs and Passwords, Part 2

The Saint
The Saint
Today’s message, bottom line first.
  1. Users spend more time thinking up names than they do passwords.
  2. Worry less about the variety of characters you use in a password (or P@$$w0rd) and opt for long passwords, which offers far more security.
  3. You’ll find examples of the most common passwords at the end of the article.
Now, if you’re in the mood as a writer or reader to learn how passwords are created, stored, and broken, read on.

Good Book, Bad Passwords

In managing programmers and a computing center, I was responsible for the final line of security. Although networked, our machines faced fewer threats than computers do now. They wouldn’t pass muster today, but I leaned on Biblical and historical words, such as that original password, shibboleth. Our discs required separate access passwords to read, write, and multi-write, so I not-so-cleverly chose Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Naturally you see a problem: If someone cracked one, they should be able to figure out the other two.

Biblical passwords still flourish throughout the internet, albeit in the form as first names: Angel, Daniel, David, Faith, Grace, John, Jordan, Joshua, Michael, and the most often appearing name: Jesus. Let me tell you, folks, you shouldn’t rely on Jesus (the name at least or that ever-popular jesus1), to protect your private information. As Leslie Charteris's The Saint might say, the ungodly never sleep.

Deep and Wide

I can’t seem to get away from Biblical allusions today.

We can look at a password in two dimensions, depth and length. A simple PIN number is 10 characters in depth (0-9) and typically 4-digits wide, although PIN lengths up to 10 digits and passwords over fifty characters aren’t unheard of. We might say an alphanumeric upper case only password is 36 characters deep, for example: AARDVARK. Computer scientists use the fancy term ‘entropy’ in reference to ‘uncertainty of a random variable,’ usually considered in code-breaking. Mixed case greatly increases the ‘entropy’ or difficulty in guessing it, e.g, AaRdVaRk. Allow any character of a keyboard, and you run up the difficulty again, i.e, /\år∂vårk. Conversely, rely only on numbers or single dictionary words (or puerile swear words), and you seriously compromise the security of your account.

The ‘aardvark’ example at right shows passwords represent a two-dimensional array. From a Chinese menu, you pick one character from column one, another character from column two, etc. The greater variety of characters allowed, the greater the difficulty of cracking. But entropy increases even faster if you type longer passwords.

So, pardon me for restating the cliché, but longer is better. Thus you can radically harden your password by increasing its length, i.e, Tough_nut_to_crack, assuming your provider allows passwords that long. The lesson here is you potentially gain more strength from longer passwords versus short ones with special characters. Pick anything you privately know and like, perhaps a quotation or phrase that sticks in your head and go with that.

Cracking the Code

How do crackers break passwords? They know the frequency of passwords like we show below, so normally they take a few stabs at the obvious, ‘123456’ or ‘password’. If they’re serious about cracking your account, they use a script to run through the possibilities in the ‘aardvark’ table at right, a character at a time, just like an odometer. I encourage you to make life as difficult as possible for them.

But the ungodly have other ways. If a malicious party can trick you into downloading a tiny piece of code, they can monitor your keystrokes. This works in a way similar to child monitoring software, but it transmits your keystrokes– all of them– to a third party somewhere else in the world.

Soft and Hard

While we’re on the subject of nanny monitoring software, you might want to check nobody’s monitoring you! You’re vulnerable to anyone who has access to your computer.

Eli Lilly
A client had a problem of files being deleted. Eli Lilly thought someone was logging onto and vandalizing machines after hours, but couldn’t figure out how. After advising the client to make personal backups of everything, I went on the hunt for two possibilities: either a keystroke monitoring program or a discreet hardware device called a keystroke logger that plugs between the keyboard cable and the back of the computer.
keystroke logger © CNH Tech

The culprit turned out to be an insecure (and in my opinion nasty) little supervisor who didn’t want her subordinates to shine too brightly. Ofttimes a woman’s workplace impediment isn’t men, it’s other women.

In my consulting experience, such micro-espionage tricks are hardly unique. You never know when or where you might be spied upon.


Skip, if you wish, the following explanation how letters and passwords are stored, although crime writers might find the techniques useful in a story. Let’s take an easy word, say EASY itself. Normally each letter of the alphabet and punctuation character is stored individually as a number. The letter E stores in binary as 0100 0101. This happens to be 69 in decimal, but programmers look at it in base16, hexadecimal, which works out to 4516 or x45. If a program stored this in ‘plain text’, it would be easily readable by anyone familiar with the encoding, say ASCII or UniCode.
word: E  A  S  Y
dec: 69 65 83 89
hex: 45 41 53 59
#: 1,161,909,081
Normally, companies and government agencies deal with sensitive data in two ways. One is to encrypt it. When you provide a credit card, the program should take a great deal of effort to obscure your card number while allowing it to be retrieved when the time comes.

They could also encrypt passwords, but why store passwords at all? When you think about it, all the computer needs is a yes/no answer whether the password you give now matches the original you made up long ago.

So programs create a different number that represents the password– a polynomial, a hash, or a modulus. Rather than look at EASY as a string of letters or even digits, we view it as one long number, just over a billion or precisely 1,161,909,081. This number looks large, but it’s minuscule in security terms.

To obtain its modulus (remainder), computers divide it by a huge prime number, though we’ll use a small one, say 33,331:
34859 r.23752
We don’t care about the quotient, only the remainder, 23,752, which we save as a user key code, rather than the user’s password, which could be subject to hacking. The program then deliberately ‘forgets’ the original password, information too vulnerable to keep around. Thus, a well-behaved database of users won’t contain any passwords, and because the program uses large numbers, especially the prime divisor, it makes cracking the code by anyone other than the NSA or a pimply-faced nerd in Ukraine extremely difficult.

How does it work? When a member logs in, he provides a password. Because the computer no longer remembers the original, it divides the given password by that large prime and if the result matches the stored key-code, it allows the user in.

Adapt and Adjust

Final tip: Use the longest possible password you’re comfortable with. If you have a difficult time with special characters and weird spellings, rely on this simple trick: Use a ‘pass-phrase’, not a password, or better yet, make up a sentence. For example: ’23 Valley of the shadow of death’. If your account provider doesn’t like spaces, then use underscores or omit them. If they severely restrict the length (like my stupid bank), then use the maximum and consider special characters. Adapt and adjust.

Following are the most common passwords harvested from four different internet web sites. Some of them aren't pretty. Learn and avoid!

 MySpace  FaceBook  Singles.org  phpBB
rank % password % password % password % password
1 0.24 password1 1.46 password 1.02 123456 3.03 123456
2 0.16 abc123 1.18 123456 0.61 jesus 2.19 password
3 0.12 password 0.39 12345678 0.41 password 1.45 phpbb
4 0.09 iloveyou1 0.26 1234 0.29 love 0.94 qwerty
5 0.09 iloveyou2 0.25 qwerty 0.20 12345678 0.82 12345
6 0.09 fuckyou1 0.21 12345 0.20 christ 0.60 letmein
7 0.08 myspace1 0.20 pussy 0.17 jesus1 0.59 12345678
8 0.08 soccer1 0.18 monkey 0.16 princess 0.53 1234
9 0.07 iloveyou 0.17 baseball 0.16 blessed 0.51 test
10 0.06 iloveyou! 0.17 football 0.15 sunshine 0.43 123
11 0.05 football1 0.16 letmein 0.13 faith 0.38 trustno1
12 0.05 fuckyou 0.15 696969 0.13 1234567 0.33 dragon
13 0.05 123456 0.15 abc123 0.12 angel 0.32 hello
14 0.05 baseball1 0.15 michael 0.11 single 0.31 abc123
15 0.05 soccer 0.15 shadow 0.11 lovely 0.31 111111
16 0.05 123abc 0.14 111111 0.11 freedom 0.31 123456789
17 0.04 hello1 0.12 master 0.10 blessing 0.30 monkey
18 0.04 qwerty1 0.11 superman 0.10 12345 0.29 master
19 0.04 summer1 0.11 harley 0.10 grace 0.23 killer
20 0.04 monkey1 0.11 1234567 0.10 iloveyou 0.22 123123
21 0.04 password2 0.11 fuckme 0.09 7777777 0.22 computer
22 0.04 nigger1 0.11 fuckyou 0.09 heaven 0.22 asdf
23 0.04 fuckyou! 0.11 trustno1 0.09 angels 0.20 shadow
24 0.04 nicole1 0.10 ranger 0.09 shadow 0.20 internet
25 0.04 cheer1 0.10 buster 0.09 1234 0.20 whatever
26 0.04 asshole1 0.10 hunter 0.08 tigger 0.20 starwars
27 0.04 fuckyou2 0.10 soccer 0.08 summer 0.17 1234567
28 0.04 blink182 0.10 fuck 0.08 hope 0.16 cheese
29 0.04 poop 0.10 batman 0.07 looking 0.16 pass
30 0.04 dancer1 0.10 test 0.07 peace 0.16 matrix
31 0.04 jordan23 0.10 pass 0.07 mother 0.16 tigger
32 0.03 football 0.09 killer 0.07 michael 0.15 aaaaaa
33 0.03 bitch1 0.09 hockey 0.07 shalom 0.15 pokemon
34 0.03 orange1 0.09 love 0.07 rotimi 0.15 000000
35 0.03 soccer2 0.09 michelle 0.07 football 0.15 superman
36 0.03 123456a 0.09 andrew 0.07 victory 0.15 qazwsx
37 0.03 baseball 0.09 sunshine 0.07 happy 0.14 testing
38 0.03 eagles1 0.09 jessica 0.07 purple 0.14 football
39 0.03 volcom1 0.09 asshole 0.07 john316 0.14 1
40 0.03 chris1 0.09 6969 0.07 joshua 0.13 blahblah
41 0.03 monkey 0.08 daniel 0.06 london 0.13 654321
42 0.03 flower1 0.08 access 0.06 superman 0.13 fuckyou
43 0.03 summer06 0.08 123456789 0.06 church 0.13 11111
44 0.03 ashley1 0.08 654321 0.06 loving 0.13 joshua
45 0.03 love123 0.08 joshua 0.06 computer 0.12 helpme
46 0.03 princess1 0.08 starwars 0.06 mylove 0.12 thomas
47 0.03 love 0.08 hello 0.06 praise 0.12 michael
48 0.03 nigga1 0.08 123123 0.06 saved 0.12 biteme
49 0.03 fucker1 0.08 ashley 0.06 richard 0.12 forum
50 0.03 angel1 0.07 666666 0.06 pastor 0.12 secret
• Credit for table: Jimmy Ruska