13 September 2019

Can the Beatles Vs. Stones Debate Make Us Better Writers?


Beatles Vs. Stones
Photoshop by Grace Maddox
by Lawrence Maddox

Two recent concert experiences got me reconsidering the ultimate rock 'n' roll litmus test: The Beatles or the Stones? Sure you can like them both, even simultaneously, but which one is better?


A manual on how to skirt
death, three chords at a time.
That was a no-brainer for me when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I was a Stones fanatic. My favorite albums were Beggars Banquet and Some Girls, and I played them on an endless loop. I read everything about them, including Tony Sanchez's down and dirty Up and Down with the Rolling Stones: My Rollercoaster Ride with Keith Richards. I totally lost interest in the Beatles, who just didn't seem to rock.  The Stones were fuel to all my youthful ne'er-do-well activities in a way the Beatles could never be.

Things change.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from work and I was hit by a tidal wave of traffic. Then I remembered: The Stones are playing the Rose Bowl tonight!  I live so close to the Rose Bowl that concerts sound great from my backyard, and even better from certain points in my neighborhood. I hurried home, poured a couple Makers on the rocks, and my wife and I took a stroll and listened. I have a writing assignment I have to finish, but I put it on the back burner (again).
"It just had to be done.
So we did it."

The Stones sounded great, and even though I got the requisite nostalgic ping, my long-standing take on the Stones was affirmed. I've had a growing dissatisfaction with the Stones for years, and I can narrow it down to one main reason: It's their lyrics. In my humble opinion, they don't hold up. I've looked into this, and here's what I've come up with.

The Rolling Stones recently wound up their No Filter tour, an amazing feat for four blokes pushing 80. Even more impressive is Mick Jagger going back on tour after having a catheter inserted into his aorta last April. My dad had similar surgery at a similar age, and as tough as he was I can't imagine him going on a North American concert tour afterwards.  "It just had to be done. So we did it," Keith Richards told the Toronto Sun.

Unlike the Who, the Stones at least make the pretense of touring to promote a new record.  They are masters at wringing product out of their tours. Album. Tour. Live album. Throw in well-timed greatest hits packages (they've got 26 compilation albums total, starting with 1966's High Tide and Green Grass through 2019's Honk), and you start to see the Stones for what they are: a disciplined, calculating, business-oriented music-making machine.

Keith Richards' Life.
It could seem, though I'm loathe to knock the insane success of the Glimmer Twins, that the Stones may take a mercenary approach to their songwriting as well. In Keith Richards' 2010 memoir Life, he writes that Mick would often hurriedly write the lyrics in the studio before the band had to record the song. Keith quotes Muscle Shoals engineer Jim Dickinson, who witnessed Mick writing "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses." "I watched Mick write the lyrics [to "Brown Sugar"]," Jim Dickinson is quoted as saying. "It took him maybe forty-five minutes; it was disgusting! He wrote it down as fast as he could move his hand." Dickinson said Mick did the same for "Wild Horses," taking about an hour.

In a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger said that he also wrote a lot of songs while on the road with the band. "You get back from a show,  have something to eat, a few beers and just go to your room  and write. I used to write about twelve songs in two weeks on tour. It gives you lots of ideas. At home, it's really difficult because you don't want to do anything really but read, and things like that."

The Glimmer Twins 
Journalist Johnathan Cott asked Jagger why he mumbled some of his lyrics. "That's when bad lines come up. I mean I don't think the lyrics are that important," Jagger answered. When pressed about the "really good" lyrics to "Get Off my Cloud," Jagger's answer was refreshingly honest and unpretentious: "Oh they're not. They're crap."

There is no doubt that the Stones have written well-crafted and thoughtful lyrics.  In a '95 interview with Rolling Stone Jagger talks about writing "Sympathy for the Devil" all on his own in his house in Chester Square.  From their own words, its seems fair to say that writing lyrics has often taken a back seat to recording. Lyrics are often written on the job, with the clock ticking. Rewrites don't always happen. Playing the song, finding the song's sound, is paramount.

Months before I eavesdropped on the Stones at the Rose Bowl, I took my family to see Ringo Starr at the Greek. My two kids are pre-teen, and I've taken this window of opportunity (while they still listen to me) to force stuff I like into their unsuspecting worlds. I've made them watch all the original episodes of Jonny Quest with me. We tune into Svengoolie on Saturday nights to watch cheesy horror films. It's jazz and classical stations when we drive. I play them Beatles music and show them Beatles movies. They love the Beatles. For now, anyway.

Ringo Starr, Honorary
Santa Tracker
Ringo has a band made up of famous people from other bands. The youngest member is Colin Hay from Men At Work,  just to give you an idea of how far back these cats go.  It's a nostalgia show all the way, something the Stones, admirably, haven't done much of (a notable exception being 2016's Desert Trip, dubbed "old-chella" by the Burning Man crowd). We sang along to all the old Beatles songs with Ringo. I'd never sang along at a concert in my life, and I've seen Frank Sinatra. I'll never forget sharing that with my kids.

A must-read for Beatlemaniacs
The Beatles wrote everywhere and anywhere, and their songs were often personal in nature.  Lennon wrote "Help" at home after a night at the recording studio. "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for help," Lennon told Playboy. "In My Life" started out as a poem Lennon wrote about his childhood. McCartney wrote the music for "Yesterday" at his girlfriend Jane Asher's home. He sat on the song for weeks, calling it "Scambled Eggs" until he could compose the lyrics. "Eleanor Rigby" was another song McCartney tinkered with for awhile. It was later finished at Lennon's home, with all the Beatles contributing.  Ringo suggested "darning his socks," George "all the lonely people."  After their trip to India, the Beatles came back with a ton of songs that became The White Album and beyond. When you listen to the Beatles, you get the impression that those lyrics are vetted. There's no mumbling through half-baked writing.

So what do these masters of pop have to do with that lingering writing assignment I mentioned somewhere at the top, or your lingering writing assignment?

Akashic's Dublin Noir,
signed by Jim Fusilli and Gary Phillips.
Courtesy of the Maddox Archives
Jim Fusilli is a Wall Street Journal music critic who also writes crime fiction.  I was introduced to him by his terrific story in Akashic's Dublin Noir, "The Ghost of Rory Gallagher." It's about the price a fan pays for his obsession with a dead rock star.  As a side note, if I hadn't been so wowed by Jim's Akashic story, I may have never written "Old Cold Hand," published in Akashic's 2010 Orange County Noir. Anyway, when I heard that Jim was giving a writer's workshop, I jumped at the chance to attend. It was a good intro to creative writing, and Jim sprinkled it with rock 'n' roll anecdotes.

Jim talked about the importance of carrying a journal and being ready to write all the time. It's been roughly twelve years since Jim's workshop, and I'm not sure if he connected the Beatles to the habit of always being ready to write or if I did it on my own, but it stuck either way. John and Paul were always on. They never stopped writing. They jotted down their ideas and sweated over lyrics until they got them right. George too. He stockpiled and reworked songs that he couldn't get on Beatles albums because, well, Lennon and McCartney. When the Beatles broke up, he put these songs on All Things Must Pass, perhaps the greatest of the fab four solo albums.

My copy of Aaron's 1956
Assignment: Treason.
The second in the series.
Don't think the Stones don't have their lessons, too. In my post from April 19 ("Edward S Aarons and the Great Spy Series That Never Came in from the Cold") I write about the insanely prolific Edward S. Aarons, the creator of the Assignment series of novels, arguably the first US Cold War spy series. From 1955 until his death in 1975, Aarons wrote 42 Assignments. His output and longevity was very Stones-esque. Aarons was one of many paperback writers of the period (I wonder which one Paul had in mind on "Paperback Writer") who wrote book after book, often labeled men's action adventure. Many of these writers weren't feted at the time, though they're being rediscovered. They churned out titles, and sometimes they couldn't stop to be too precious with the words. It's like Keith said about going on tour after Mick had his surgery: "It just had to be done. So we did it."

I could use some of that Stones "get it done" mentality right now. I'm still struggling to finish that writing project I should have been done with months ago. I could blame my lagging on things like a crashed-beyond-all-repair hard drive, but that's just whining. I need Keith over my shoulder, getting cigarette ash on my computer keyboard, saying "Time is money, mate. It's NOT on my side or yours. Get with it."

I think we reach for the Beatles, for that work that will echo beyond us through generations; but we need the lessons of the Stones.  We need to push and meet our deadlines; to keep turning out product;  to not let the drug busts, Anita Pallenberg, heart surgery, or a busted hard drive defeat us. You can't alway get what you want, but if you try sometimes...

Learn more about Jim Fusilli at JimFusilli.com. Jim's latest, The Mayor of Polk Street, is available as an Audible Original.

Music is like a true friend who understands us and sticks by us no matter what unworthy slobs we secretly are. When someone knocks our favorite musicians, it can tick us off. And by "someone" I mean me, and by "us" I mean you good folks. If you need to vent, please comment here; or on twitter at Lawrence Maddox@Madxbooks; or drop me a line at Lawrencemddx@yahoo.com. Remember, it's only rock 'n' roll.

To the left is Fast Bang Booze. The sequel is the writing assignment I mentioned. To the right is Orange County Noir, 2010. I had Jim Fusilli in mind when my story got accepted.


 

12 September 2019

Pentecost - Burning Up Every Wrong


by Eve Fisher

A month ago, I read Miriam Towes' Women Talking, a novel about the unbelievable but horrifically true story of a group of Mennonite men in the Manitoba Colony of Bolivia who "went around spraying an animal anesthetic into neighboring houses at night, rendering everyone unconscious, and raping all the women (infant, elderly and relatives included)".  At first the men in the colony denied that it happened.  Then they accused the women of everything from adultery to demonic possession.  But then some were caught.  Not that things got better for the women:  after arrests and confessions were made, psychological support was offered to the rape survivors by Mennonite missionaries, but the Bishop of Manitoba rejected it. He said, "Why would they need counselling if they weren't even awake when it happened?"  And the victims were and are being pressured to forgive the rapists, under threat of losing their eternal salvation if they don't.  (Manitoba case

Once again, proof that 99% of sex crimes are NOT about sexual desire, sexual desirability, or even lust.  They're about power.

In an authoritarian world, the real definition of power - unprettied, unsoftened - is the ability to do whatever you want and get away with it.  And one of the absolute proofs of power, to sociopaths, psychopaths, and pack mobs, is the ability to do anything you want to someone subordinate/inferior to you and get away with it.  Especially sexual dominance.  And if someone actually decides to rebel against the pecking order and resist and report?

DENIAL:
It never happened!  It wasn't like that!  It was consensual!  Demons must have done this!  S/he's lying!  What did s/he do to lure him on?
DEFLECTION:
Roy Cohn.jpg
Roy Cohn
Roger Stone on Roy Cohn:  "Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men."  (Source)
DEFENSE!  DEFENSE!
Alan Dershowitz:  A john “who occasionally seeks to taste the forbidden fruit of sex for hire...  Prostitutes know what they’re doing—they should be prosecuted. But you shouldn’t ruin the john’s life over that."  (New Yorker
And as for rape, well - A young boy's life shouldn't be ruined over "20 minutes of action." (Brock Turner)
DISTRACTION:
Look!  Squirrel!  Someone else is worse!  They did that!  What was she wearing?  What was she drinking?  Why did she go there?  Why didn't they report it sooner?  What are they trying to get out of it by reporting it now?
DISTRACTION AND DENIAL:
Of course it never happened, s/he's not my type!  Who'd want to **** her [him]?
And we're back to the age-old "excuse" that sexual assault is based on the desirability of the victim, rather than an exercise of power.  But the truth is, rapists rape and abusers abuse the same way pigeons poop and bank robbers rob - that's what they do.  There's almost nothing you can do except lock yourself up in your house and wear body armor, and even then - well, read something about the Boston Strangler.  No, I'll take that back:  what you can do is avoid sociopaths, psychopaths, cult leaders, war zones, riots, authoritarians, and pack mobs.

The trouble is, that's hard to do.  Always has been.

My story in Liz Zelvin's Me Too Short Stories:  An Anthology is "Pentecost".  It's 1990, and Darla Koenig is the first female pastor in Laskin, South Dakota.  Not everyone is welcoming.  Nothing personal, just general principles, you know?  Not sure that women should be preaching from the pulpit.  Things might have to change.  Everything's fine the way it is.  Darla should be grateful that she's even allowed in.  And no one wants to deal with an old predator, even if he is still predatory.  So Darla has to, even though she knows that doing it herself could be one of the most dangerous things that she will ever do, for herself, her career, and the young girls of Laskin. 

A lot went into "Pentecost."  The Hutterite colonies throughout the Midwest.  They are hardworking religious communes that are also deeply, profoundly, completely patriarchal and capitalist.   They're also hard-drinking.  Sometimes things happen.  Sometimes someone talks about them.

WaPo
The sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Church, and other Evangelical churches. Again, patriarchal societies in which women are not allowed any leadership or pastoral roles, and are expected to "graciously submit to the leadership of her husband".  In which the perpetrators were protected, hidden, and - if everything came tumbling out - were quickly, publicly forgiven, while victims were silenced, ignored, told they had to forgive and forget to maintain their salvation, sometimes even made to confess their "guilt" in rape and abuse.  (Evangelical Church Sexual Abuse; SBC Church Sexual Abuse)

The new church group in the South Dakota small town that - in 2015!!!! - wanted to use the community room in the apartment building Allan & I lived in, and assured the owner of said building that "In our church, women know their place."  (They didn't get the room.)

An incident from my childhood.  Another, on-going incident from those days, when every child in my Southern California neighborhood knew that the guy on the corner was molesting his foster children.  But it was the 1960s, and we didn't dare say anything, because we knew that, as children, to even know what sexual molestation was meant that somehow we'd lost our innocence - and that meant something was wrong with us.  How could we know that without being corrupted?  And we would end up punished.

Darla runs headlong into this issue.  When she makes a couple of suggestions to at least rein in the predator she's told, "The town might be embarrassed."  When she suggests that the victims band together to pull him down, the janitor, Portia Davison, tells her:
"I don't know many women in this town who'd be willing to admit that something like that happened to them.  And we don't have any proof.  He's a lawyer.  His dad was mayor.  He hangs out with Judge Dunn and everyone on the City Commission.  To them, Davisons like me are trailer trash, and you're not from around here, not any more.  Nobody's going to listen.  And people might get hurt.  Especially the girls."
Portia was right.  To speak up would mean that every ballet student for the last 20 years, but especially the ones right now, would be pointed out, whispered about, objects of pity but also of suspicion, sullied...  To speak up and be doubted would ruin Darla's image, if not her reputation.  Darla would be called a troublemaker and a feminazi and every other misygynistic slur, and it would be another ten years at least before there would be another woman pastor in Laskin. 
And it wouldn't even matter whether they were believed or not.  Even if they were, Darla would be hated for opening the can of worms, and the girls would still be held somehow at fault.
It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair, it wasn't fair.
Don't worry.  Darla finds a way through the dilemma.  A very effective way. 

Check out how she pulls it off - and many other wonderfully satisfying stories - in Me Too Short Stories:  An Anthology, available on Amazon.com HERE,, at Barnes & Noble HERE.

And for those of you in NYC, there will be a launch party at the Mysterious Bookshop in the Big Apple on Tuesday September 24!

Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology by [Zelvin, Elizabeth]

11 September 2019

The Disappeared


David Edgerley Gates


I wrote a story a couple of years back called "A Multitude of Sins," that got left out in the rain for a while, and eventually appeared in the January/February issue of Alfred Hitchcock. But how the story worked its way from the back row to the front seats illustrates something about our writing habits, and squirreling away the odd detail.


"A Multitude of Sins" is about the serial unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez, the so-called feminicidio, which has been going on for the past fifteen years or so, or perhaps more to the point, since the establishment of the maquiladoras along the border. If you don't know what I'm talking about, the maquiladoras are an enterprise culture, factories established on the Mexican side, by American corporate, what they produce exempt from duties and tariffs. The idea, not in itself a bad one, is to provide jobs and raise income levels. If you consider that girls form the countryside might previously have spent a few years in the whorehouses of Villa Acuna or Piedras Negras, this seems like a better deal, or at least disease-free. It might remind us of the New England mills, early in the 19th century, when they recruited young female labor from the local farms, and put them up in dorms, and sent them home afterwards with a nest egg. Assuming they didn't lose a finger or an eye to the heavy machinery.



The problem here, and you can see the punchline coming, is that the girls crowding in to work at the maquiladoras develop the characteristics of a herd of wildebeest, and the predators wait in the tall grass to pick off the weak, the newborns, the stragglers. Four thousand deaths, by some accounts. Hard to write it off as a statistical blip.


So, not focusing on this, just having it in the background, my peripheral vision, I run across a story about bones being dug up at a building site west of Albuquerque. Dead girls, it turned out, maybe a dozen of them. Best guess, a window of four years, they were buried out there. Dental records identify some of them as reported missing by their families. They were in the life - they were users, they were hookers. You can see where I'm going with this. They were picked off when they fell behind. 


But the murders stopped. This graveyard had a start time, and a cut-off. What happened? Maybe the guy was doing time. Maybe he died. Maybe, my reptile brain suggested, he left town. He went to more fertile ground, where dead girls weren't even being noticed. What put this in mind was a series of portraits, an exhibit by the artist Erin Currier. She did a show of imaginary pictures, this is who these women were, these dead women in Juarez. They had names, they had moms and dads, they had ambitions, they had audacity. They had their own interrupted memories.


I'm thinking, wait one. There's a way to use this. Not to trivialize it, but a way to tell a story. And so I did.

Erin Currier at Blue Rain Gallery, in Santa Fe. Opening on Friday, 09-13
Erin Currier's website
http://erincurrierfineart.com/


All images copyright Erin Currier 


10 September 2019

Music to Write By


by Barb Goffman

Some people need silence to write. I could go either way. Silence works. But sometimes, so does music. Certain songs just put me in a creative mood. Here are a few songs/albums that I sometimes work to:

Songs from Ally McBeal. Yes, the show aired about twenty years ago, but the music is still peppy and/or soulful. Either way, it gets my fingers flying. Thank you, Vonda Shepherd and all the other artists on the album.

My favorite songs on the album are "Searchin' My Soul," "Walk Away Renee," and "Maryland." But I can't listen to any of these songs individually if I want to use them for creative purposes. My brain knows the order they appear on the album, and if I don't hear them in that order, I get pulled out of what I'm doing.

Cracked Rear View by Hootie & the Blowfish. I played this album over and over in the mid-90s as I filled out my law school applications. It kept me in the zone. And it does the same today. I listen to it while writing and while editing.

Funny thing is I can't name a single song on this album off the top of my head. It works that well as background music--it blurs into my subconscious, keeping me from getting distracted.

The soundtrack from the movie Somewhere in Time is one of my go-to albums in the winter. You may think that's odd because the movie wasn't set in the winter, but there's something about this music that feeds my creativity on cold gray winter days.

One nice thing about this album is it's all instrumental, and the songs are somewhat similar to each other, so they blend from one to the next easily, and I don't even notice them really, yet they help keep me focused.


I also have individual songs that I play on repeat. "Under Pressure" by Queen is one of them. It won't work when I'm editing, but for writing, oh, baby, this song does it for me. I set it on repeat and type, type, type away.

So those are some of my go-to music choices. The key to all these songs is that they make me feel energetic but they're not distracting. What I notice is when the music ends.

How about you? Do you need silence to write? Can music help you? What works for you?

09 September 2019

Crime Scene Comix Case 2019-09-004, Baby Napping


by Velma

Our criminally favorite cartoonist, Future Thought channel of YouTube, is developing a following among SleuthSayers. They produce more than one animated comic, but our favorite is Shifty.

Remember him, the none-too-bright crook who looks like a Minion in prison stripes? Baby napping… It’s not what you might think when Shifty comes skulking. Ah, the self-defeating little guy.


That’s crime cinema. Hope you enjoyed the show. Be sure to visit Future Thought YouTube channel.

08 September 2019

Mental Illness Is Not a Political Football


by Mary Fernando

I have previously written about the myth that those with mental illness are dangerous. Spoiler: they are not.

What is happening now politically is very concerning. Politicians are blaming mass shootings on mental illness and – as I cited before – Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of 350 mass killers going back more than a century, has found that only one in five are psychotic or delusional. This means that 4 out of 5 mass murderers are people who are clinically sane.



Why do politicians blame mass murders on the mentally ill? Many agree with Fareed Zakaria that “turning immediately to the "sickness" of the shooter and piously calling for better mental-health care is, more often than not, an attempt to divert attention from the main issue: guns.”

This may well be true but it is damaging to label those with mental illness as dangerous to society. The prevalence of mental illness is difficult to nail down but “Around 1-in-7 people globally (11-18 percent) have one or more mental or substance use disorders. Globally, this means around one billion people in 2017 experienced one.”

This means that when we think of those with mental illness we should think of our family members, our partners, our children our friends and neighbours because that’s where you will find them. Or not find them because many hide their symptoms and suffering for fear of - you know - being labeled dangerous. That’ll certainly send someone into hiding.

Worse - mental illness is being used as an insult to those with political views we disagree with.


This is my tweet from this week:






tweet

The politician my tweet was directed at is not as important as the patients this politician’s tweet was directed at: those with mental illness have become the scapegoats of politicians.

Paraphrasing MLK gave me pause. However, his writings are filled with empathy for those suffering from discrimination and I thought that it might be appropriate to use this for this very maligned minority.

What I want to address is my dream: blaming and insulting (along with the unrealistic depictions in books and on screen) presents a very unrealistic portrait of those suffering from mental illness. After a long career of treating mental illness, I can describe them with some degree of confidence. They are just like you and your family, friends and children. They have the same wonderful qualities and the same vulnerabilities, the same bad jokes and the same hilarious ones. I could go on, but you get the picture.


I feel I must say this very loud for the people at the back: mental illness is a medical diagnosis no different than that for diabetes. It requires diagnosis and treatment and both should be given with care and compassion. Just like someone with diabetes or cancer - everyone with mental illness will have their own unique personalty but not the ones that politicians try to give them.

I was pondering - ok, I was fuming - about this issue the other day and thought about the origins of medicine. Originally all disease was thought to be in some way connected with the evil doings of those who are ill. So, diabetes, cancer and depression fell into the same category: “In prehistory, people believed that pain and disease originated from evil spirits. Disease resulted when these evil spirits entered the body. Witch doctors and shamans were employed to exorcise wicked beings…”

The belief that illness is caused by evil spirits taking residence in a patient changed when modern medicine discovered the actual etiology of physical illnesses. However, some still think that there is something evil in people who have mental illness.

Today many use the term ‘mental health’ “… to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, and said ‘illness’ reinforced prejudices against asylum patients because it implied segregation between the sick and the well. Focusing on health countered a persistent misconception that only some people are prone to psychiatric problems.”

This terminology is a double edged sword. Focusing on what is healthy in these patients is a good thing. However, there is value in identifying an illness. To tell a patient they have a physical illness is often a relief because they finally have an explanation for the symptoms from which they are suffering. They can explain this to those close to them, and get comfort and help when the symptoms flare up. The same applies to those with mental illness. I have found patients are immensely relieved to finally have a diagnosis and treatment plan. I have seen their relief when they can speak to those they love and get support in the same way those with physical illness get to lean on those in their life. 



 I’m comfortable with the term ‘mental illness’ and also happy to use the term ‘mental health’ if people prefer. What I want is to end the stigma, to treat each patient as just that: a person with an illness that can be be diagnosed and treated. The illness doesn’t define the person. Their character defines them.

07 September 2019

LOST in Africa



by John M. Floyd


I love reading novels and watching movies--sometimes I wonder which I enjoy most. And what's really fun is reading a novel and then seeing the movie adaptation. Usually the book is better than the movie (The Hobbitt, Dune, Bonfire of the Vanities, The Stand), sometimes the movie's better than the book (The Godfather, Dances With Wolves, The Graduate, Forrest Gump), and occasionally--not often--they both turn out great (To Kill a Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove, Deliverance, The Green Mile, Mystic River, Eye of the Needle, Goldfinger, The Silence of the Lambs).

I recently re-read a novel I'd discovered in high school, and then re-watched its movie adaptation, which I'd seen in college. The book is The Sands of Kalahari, and the movie (with a relocated "the") is Sands of the Kalahari. It's another of those rarities that, despite the title change, came across well on both the page and the screen.

I've always thought some of the best movies are adapted from novellas--The Shawshank Redemption (from Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), Apocalypse Now (from Heart of Darkness), Stand by Me (from The Body), and so on--because a novella's length tends to correspond more to a 90- to 120-minute film. Short stories have to be embellished, novels have to be condensed, but novellas are aa a good fit. That theory seems to hold true for Kalahari. Most sources refer to it as a novel, but it's a short one--my ratty old hardcover copy is only 192 pages. Probably because of that, the film version was able to stick pretty close to the book's storyline.

Quick facts: The novel The Sands of Kalahari was written by William Mulvihill and published in 1960; the movie Sands of the Kalahari, released in 1965, was directed by Cy Endfield and starred Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker, and Susannah York. Trivia: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were originally scheduled for two of those leading roles.

Here's the basic plot. When a private aircraft crashes in the vast Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, the six survivors--five men and a woman--are left in a place where few humans have ever set foot. They finally stumble onto a barren valley of cliffs and caves and manage to locate enough food and water to keep them going. Their only companions in the valley are bands of curious and sometimes-savage baboons, and the six soon realize that no one's coming to rescue them. As the pilot of their ill-faeted plane sets off alone across the wasteland to try to find help and the other five hole up in a cave and try to keep from starving, one of them decides to improve his odds of survival by eliminating the rest of the men in the group. To say more would give away some great twists and revelations, so I'll stop there.


I can't help seeing some similarities to the TV series Lost, here. A diverse group of travelers find themselves stranded and on their own in an unfamiliar and dangerous place, and have to deal with (1) their harsh environment, (2) each other, (3) their own faults and fears and insecurities, and (4) the deadly beasts that live in and around their new home. Along with love and friendship and heroism there's plenty of danger, despair, lust, jealousy, betrayals, illness, violence, racism, etc., and--as we writers well know-- the more levels of conflict there are, the better the story.

This is a good one. I've now read the novel three times and seen the movie at least five or six times, and it never seems to get old.

The next time you have an urge for a wilderness survival tale, give one or both versions of this story a try. And if you do read it or see it, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, may all your flights be safe and your adventures baboon-free.

Keep up the good writing.






06 September 2019

Preservation


by O'Neil De Noux

When I was a teenager, the politicians in New Orleans wanted to put an expressway through the French Quarter to modernize the city's transportation system.

From 1964 through 1969, the elevated expressway was designated Interstate 310. The plan was to run it off Interstate 10, down Elysian Fields Avenue to run along the Mississippi Riverfront and connect with the Mississippi River Bridge. It would continue all the way to Earhart Boulevard to become the Earhart Expressway into Jefferson Parish. This elevated 6-lane expressway (40 feet high and 108 feet wide) would separate the Quarter from the river with the federal government paying 90% of the cost.



90%. The politicians salivated at all that money. These are the same guys who let the federal government cut down miles of beautiful, ancient live oak trees along Claiborne Avenue to build the elevated I-10 through the city.

Opposition gathered quickly by the Louisiana Landmarks Society and Vieux Carré Propery Owners Association. Unfortunately, local government was all behind this, from the governor to mayor of New Orleans to the city council. It was a 'go'. It would have killed the ambiance of the old French Quarter, overpowering it with noisy traffic and exhaust fumes. The preservationist worked hard to kill the project, even against pro-expressway local media (newspaper and TV). Preservationists worked the streets and the voice of opposition grew.

One man stopped everything… cold. US Secretary of the Transportation John Volpe shocked everyone by killing the project. He just said no. He invoked Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, declaring the expressway would do irreversible damage to the historic French Quarter – which is what the preservationists argued.

In retrospect, some of the local politicians declared they had been wrong. Former mayor Moon Landrieu (father of recent mayor Mitch Landrieu and former US Senator Mary Landrieu), who was on the city council at the time, looked back and wondered what the hell he was thinking.

The stupidity was stopped by New Orleans preservationists and John Volpe.



Information from:
https://prcno.org/turning-back-the-highwaymen-saving-the-vieux-carre-from-the-riverfront-expressway/
https://www.nola.com/news/article_50a45a30-b25b-11e9-a32c-8fddd41786f6.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vieux_Carré_Riverfront_Expressway


That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

05 September 2019

Holy Bastard: Pope Stephen VII & the Cadaver Synod


by Brian Thornton
Read, — how there was a ghastly Trial once Of a dead man by a live man, and both, Popes
— Robert Burns, The Ring and the Book

This week's foray into historical bastardry concerns the Papacy and a pope “convicted” of terrible crimes nearly a year after his death!

The late 9th and early 10th centuries marked a period of widespread political chaos in Italy dubbed the “Iron Age” of the Papacy. For example, no less than twenty-five men served as pope between the years 872 and 972. During this time the Papacy came to be viewed as the ultimate “plum job” by Rome’s wealthy families, many of whom vied with each other to see one of their number don the shoes of the fisherman and in turn dispense ridiculous amounts of patronage amongst his kinsmen.


Feuds developed, blood was spilled. A pope was poisoned, and the reigns of his successors became successively shorter (many of them also meeting violent ends). In the midst of all of this chaos, where a pope would change canon law by this or that decree, only to have his reforms overturned by an antagonistic successor, one pope took matters even further.

He ordered a predecessor’s corpse dug up and put on trial.
Funny, he doesn't look crazy…

Enter Pope Stephen VII, who reigned as pontiff from May of 896 to August of 897.

These days people (Catholic or not) tend to view the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church as a benevolent, invariably elderly man dressed in clean white robes, apolitical, a living symbol of the Church’s stances on things such as social justice and mercy.

This was not always the case.

The Papacy has been around for millennia; it is one of the oldest institutions in the Christian Church. It stands to reason that a position like this one, which has been occupied by any number of different men over the course of its existence, has been occupied by the occasional loose screw. In the case of the Papacy, one could make the case that the law of averages has been stood on its head, and the office has seen enough loose screws, screaming rivets and outright nuts to fill a toolbox.

One such loose screw was Stephen VII, a churchman so off his rocker that he was given to toasting the health of the Devil and blaspheming against God. Add in the fact that Stephen was politically beholden to the family that ruled the nearby Duchy of Spoleto, and things start to get interesting.

During the Middle Ages the idea went that if a Pope was Christ’s vicar on Earth, he ought to have actual territory to rule like any secular feudal lord. This usually included the city of Rome and varying amounts of adjacent territory.

Since the Papacy at the time was scrambling for money and troops of its own, a succession of popes (including Stephen VII and many others) made outside alliances with powerful Italian families bent on adding the prestige of the Papacy to their own names. The Popes of this period usually accomplished this end by offering to legitimize the rule of the ally in question with a formal papal coronation (literally having the Pope himself place the ruler’s crown on his blessed head) in exchange for military aid and protection.

One pope who had done this was a predecessor of Stephen’s named Formosus, whose reign lasted five years (891-896). During that time Formosus (whose name in Latin means, “good looking”) had crowned the young Duke of Spoleto Holy Roman Emperor, then turned around and offered the same crown to Arnulf, King of Germany.

Am I saying Jude Law would play him in the movie?
No. But I'm not NOT saying it..

Arnulf had answered Formosus’ invitation by invading Italy and taking Rome, where Formosus promptly crowned him Holy Roman Emperor as well. Needless to say, this caused an uproar in Spoleto, especially with Angiltrude, Queen of Italy, Duchess of Spoleto, and erstwhile Holy Roman Empress, mother of the underaged Duke of Spoleto (who, lest we forget, had already been crowned Holy Roman Emperor himself).

Struck by a sudden mysterious paralysis, Arnulf withdrew from Italy, leaving Formosus to pick up the pieces. Formosus responded by dying shortly afterward, to be initially succeeded by a couple of popes with ridiculously short reigns (one of them only lasted two weeks as pontiff!), and eventually by Stephen VII, the certifiably crazy political pawn of Spoleto’s ruling family.

About six months into his reign, Stephen had Formosus dug up and propped up in a chair in the Vatican, where he was then placed on trial (called, appropriately enough, the Synodus Horrenda in Medieval Church Latin, and known in English today as the far tamer "Cadaver Synod") with Pope Stephen himself sitting as judge. Formosus (or rather his corpse) was accused of (among other things) being ambitious enough to actually want to be pope (the nerve!).

No one is sure of Stephen’s reasons for putting on this, the ultimate show trial, but historians speculate that he was feeling pressure from Angiltrude and her supporters to delegitimize Formosus’ reign (thereby also wiping out Arnulf’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor) and suffering from some well-documented psychosis.

The trial lasted for weeks, during which time Stephen would frequently interrupt his own papal prosecutor in order to rant at Formosus’ moldering corpse, calling it all manner of names, accusing it of murder, blasphemy and several other crimes with which it was not actually charged. How the corpse responded is not recorded.

The Lateran Palace today. The "trial?" took place here.

The trial’s outcome was a foregone conclusion. The corpse was stripped of its expensive papal vestments, the first three fingers of its right hand (the three with which a pope blesses his subjects) were cut off, and the body was briefly reburied, this time in an unmarked grave in a graveyard reserved for foreigners. Within a couple of days it had been dug up yet again and tossed in to the Tiber River, only to be pulled out by a monk loyal to the dead pope’s memory.

This “Cadaver Synod” resulted in riots throughout Rome which eventually cost Stephen first his papal throne and eventually his life. He was strangled in prison less than six months after “condemning” the dead Formosus (once again, Formosus’ reaction, if any, to this news is not recorded).

A fitting end for one crazy bastard.

04 September 2019

Think Green




Meeting an old friend in Galway Cathedral.
by Robert Lopresti

In August my family spent three weeks in Ireland, the ancestral home of one-eighth of my genes.  I wish I could tie it to mysteries or writing, but I really can't (except for the ending of this piece, as you will see).  I suppose I should just be grateful I have no crimes to report.  But, in any case, here are my random  observations from the Rocky Road to Dublin.

* Speaking of crime, we were warned in advance that "People there are so friendly you will think they are trying to get something from you."  We found that to be an exaggeration, but in Galway, where we spent the first week, some people did go above and beyond. The same woman helped us in two different neighborhoods, making me wonder if she was following us.

* In Galway (but not Dublin) every supermarket sold packages of pancakes, just like you might buy tortillas or naans here.  They often said "American style!" although I have never seen them sold that way in America.

* And speaking of food oddities, This photo shows a combination I never expected to see:

*One more food thing!  Pizzerias in Dublin don't seem to believe that basil goes on a Margherita pizza.  It was invented to honor the queen of Italy and has the colors of the national flag.  Red (tomato sauce), white (mozzarella), and green (basil).  You guys are apparently honoring Switzerland. 

* Every shop in Dublin bragged of "Ireland's Best Coffee!" or "Dublin's Favorite Burger!" or "Best Ice Cream!"  If someone had promised "Temple Bar's Third-Best Tea!" I would have purchased some just out of gratitude for the change.

* By coincidence we arrived the week of the Galway Races, which is a Big Thing in the horsey world.  Every day one of the main streets was stuffed with buses taking people off to the track.  Thursday was Ladies Day and it looked like prom night, with the city full of young women in fancy dresses, wobbling along on five inch heels.

* One of the highlights of our trip was taking the ferry to Inis Mor, largest of the Aran Islands off the west coast.  They say there are three thousand miles of stone walls on the three islands, and I believe them.  We rented bikes and peddled our way to Dun Aonghasa, a fort that is at least 2,500 years old.  When I put this photo up on Facebook one my friends asked: "Is that blood on the gateposts?"  Could be, could be.

* My favorite living Irish non-mystery author is Roddy Doyle.  (You may have seen The Commtments, based on his first novel.)  A few years ago he created a Twitter account as research for a novel.  Doyle filled it with conversations between two imaginary friends in a pub and this proved so popular that he turned it into a play, which has been performed in pubs in the British Isles for a few years.  Two Pints just premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.  We got to see it, and it is hilarious.  I hear it is coming to America  next year, so be on the look-out.

* Being archaeology nuts we made a special trip to Newgrange, a 5,000-old-passage tomb in County Meath.  What you see in this photo is a man-made hill. On the winter solstice the sunrise shines straight through the passage into the tomb.  You can enter a raffle to be one of the lucky people inside to watch it happen, but be warned that, this being Ireland in December, you may see nothing but fog and rain.

*We also visited Tara, the famed home of Celtic history.  Unfortunately, it is much more interesting from the air.  On the ground you see mostly rolling hills and can't detect much of the ancient patterns.  Not surprisingly, there are signs warning that drones are not permitted.

* If you know your Irish history you know that the General Post Office in Dublin was the center of the Easter uprising in 1916.  (So legendary did it become it that the joke goes that "thirty brave men marched into the post office and ten thousand heroes marched out.")  You can visit the GPO now and see a terrific exhibit that tries to explain the whole event with its bloody background and bloody aftermath.

* The National Library of Ireland currently has an excellent exhibit on W.B. Yeats.  It is definitely worth an hour of your time featuring recordings of his poetry, rare copies of his books, and art connected to his life.   (His brother and the unrequited love who was his muse were both fine painters.)  What struck me as weird was I did not see a single mention of what I think of as his most famous poem.  

Also on display was a survey Yeats received from some university on the subject of creativity.  One question asked: what did he do in the fallow periods when he was waiting for inspiration to strike?  His answer: read detective stories.  Good man!

The reason we scheduled our trip for August was to coincide with the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Dublin.  Some of you may remember that I reported here about an earlier Worldcon.  This one was also plenty interesting and I'll tell you about it in two weeks.  In the mean time have a cup of third-best tea, or something..





















03 September 2019

Negotiating Writing Contracts


by Paul D. Marks and Jacqueline Seewald

A couple of months ago I read a blog post by Jacqueline Seewald that I really liked and thought contained a lot of good advice. So I asked Jacqueline if I could re-post it here at SleuthSayers as I thought our readers would also find it interesting and useful. She updated it a bit and gave me permission to share it.

A little about Jacqueline:


picture of author, Jacqueline Seewald
Jacqueline Seewald
Multiple award-winning author, Jacqueline Seewald, has taught creative, expository and technical writing at Rutgers University as well as high school English. She also worked as both an academic librarian and an educational media specialist. Nineteen of her books of fiction have been published to critical praise including books for adults, teens and children. Her most recent novels are Death Promise and Witch Wish. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications and numerous anthologies such as: The Writer, L.A. Times, Reader’s Digest, Pedestal, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Over My Dead Body!, Gumshoe Review, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Her writer’s blog can be found at: http://jacquelineseewald.blogspot.com

Take it away, Jacqueline:


How to Negotiate Writing Contracts

Recently I signed contracts with two different publishers for two separate novels, one a mystery novel in the continuing Kim Reynolds series, the other a stand-alone historical romance set during the American Revolution. Each contract involved negotiations resulting in compromises from both myself and the publishers. I was reminded that I might have some ideas that could be helpful to other authors who also don’t work with agent representation. I hope what I share with you will prove helpful.

Let us say you have written and rewritten until you’ve finally completed the best work of which you are capable. At last, you find a publisher who appears to recognize your accomplishment and achievement. And now you are offered a contract. There are perhaps a few things that you should understand about contracts.

First of all, publishers use contracts to protect their own interests. Writers need to be savvy enough to do the same. Even if you have the benefit of being represented by a literary agent, you should not be ignorant in this regard. Let's say you've been offered a contract for a work of writing you've created. What should you expect to be included?

If you can afford it, I would recommend that you have an attorney look over your contract. But let's assume that the publication is a small one and the amount of money offered is less than impressive. Obviously, it will cost you more than you would earn to have an attorney examine your contract. Also, it’s not likely that an agent will want to bother with it either.

When you need to act as your own attorney and agent, the best thing to do is read up on contracts for writers before you sign. Here's where books like Writer's Market can be helpful. Writer's magazines often carry helpful articles. Writer's organizations like: The Author's Guild (www.authorsguild.org), National Writer's Union (www.nwu.org), American Society of Journalists and Authors (www.asja.org), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (http://www.sfwa.org/contracts/) all carry valuable information.

In regard to newspapers and magazines, there are a wide variety of agreements. Some editors work by verbal agreement (the proverbial handshake) while others insist on detailed written contracts. I’ve had both types of contracts work out well--but sometimes not so well. It all depends on the integrity of the publisher.

Writers are usually asked to sell first serial rights or one time rights. This is preferred by authors. If you sell "all rights" to a specific work then you will be unable to sell reprint rights later. And many smaller publications are quite happy to purchase reprints. At times I’ve sold reprint rights to short fiction and novels for more money than I received for selling first rights. So avoid selling “all rights” if at all possible. Of course, you can request that reprint rights are returned to you at a later date, but be aware that the publisher is not obligated to return them. My suggestion: always negotiate. I have turned down several well-paying publications for both nonfiction and fiction because I refused to sell all rights. I don’t regret it.

Payment should be specified and agreed upon. It shouldn’t be left vague. Request payment on acceptance. You might not get it, but it's best to ask. Getting paid upon publication can lead to all sorts of problems. Not every publisher is honest or has integrity. Remember that contracts are negotiable. There's nothing wrong with asking for changes that benefit you.

Ideally, a kill fee should be specified. This means that if the publication does not use your work, it still has to pay you a percentage of the original fee.

If you do have a written contract—and that’s always best—request that a specific date for publication be included. Some publishers will hold your work indefinitely otherwise. And yes, this has happened to me as well.

Book contracts are much more complicated to negotiate. If possible, once you are offered a book contract, obtain the services of an agent or attorney. True you will be giving away a percentage of your earnings on a contract you have gotten for yourself. However, if a good agent will now agree to represent your future work, then you are doing quite well. An agent can often get concessions from a publisher that you cannot. Here are a few examples: a higher advance, higher percentage of royalties, more free advance review copies and/or final copies of your book. Also, a good agent can deal with the publicity department of the publishing house on your behalf. Well-connected agents can get your work seen by top editors at the major publishing houses. They network and know what particular editors are buying at a given time.

 Assuming you are offered too little of a payment to make this practical and interest a first-rate agent, then you should read up on contracts for authors before you make a decision to sign on the dotted line.

What should you insist be included in your book contract? You ought to insist on an advance. The advance is based on a formula that projects the book's first year profits. Many small or independent publishers claim they do not and cannot offer authors advances against royalties. However, the publisher hopefully can be made to see that an advance, even a small one, is viewed as "good faith" money by the author. If no advance whatever is offered, this is a sign that the publisher does not expect the book to sell well or doesn't plan to put much or any money in marketing and publicizing your work once the book is published. A nonrefundable advance is what the author should be requesting. As to royalties, request that they be based on the retail price or gross and not the net proceeds which often turn out to be quite small. Publishers generally want only to give you a net percentage which ends up as very little, especially when they claim that there are “returns” of your book. Creative accounting by publishers is quite a common practice and hard to prove. Hiring a forensic accountant simply isn’t practical for a majority of writers.

Publishers generally ask for every kind of rights possible. You may want, for instance, to insist that movie and theatrical rights be removed. Publishers often include option clauses in their contracts insisting that they be offered first rights to your next book. This can be a problem if your work is successful but you are still offered the payment terms of the previous contract. Worse still is the publisher's right to last refusal.

A time range for publication should also be included in the contract. Two years is acceptable; past that, all rights should revert to the author.

Another matter of importance: find out in advance if the publisher will be sending your book out for reviews. If possible, have this specified in the contract. Without reviews from major publications the majority of readers will not know your book exists. Your sales will be highly limited.

Above all else, accept no contract in which you are expected to pay for anything. I cannot emphasize this enough! Any request for fees is a clear indication of a disreputable publisher. Alarm bells should go off. Run, don't walk away! Be suspicious, because there are plenty of scam artists around. Check out writing scams via the internet. There are lists of so-called agents and publishers to avoid on many of the legitimate writer's sites. Check out, for instance, SFWA's Writer Beware: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware. This website offers valuable information.

My advice is to be patient. Take your time and consider your options carefully. Respect yourself and the integrity of your hard work. And don’t settle for less from a publisher.

If you disagree on some of what I’ve written or can offer your own helpful advice and information, please do so. Your comments most welcome to be shared!

***

Thanks for joining us at SleuthSayers and for the great advice, Jacqueline.


~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

Don't forget to check out Broken Windows, the sequel to my Shamus award-winning novel, White Heat. Betty Webb at Mystery Scene magazine says: "Broken Windows is extraordinary."


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

02 September 2019

Taking Stock


by Steve Liskow

When I was in kindergarten, we started school the day after Labor Day, and somewhere in the next few years, we backed off a day until Wednesday. when I was teaching, we retreated to the week before Labor Day. Now, most of the kids in Connecticut have been back anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

For most of my life, the first day of school was my "real" New Year. After grad school, summer became sort of mental hibernation until early August when I practiced cursive writing on vertical surfaces again and thought about updating my reading lists. I still consider autumn a new beginning and tend to take stock of the year up to this point.

Other people have shared less than radiant news about how the writing landscape is becoming more barren and challenging. Climate change, indeed.

Me, too.

Over the last several years, I have conducted eight to ten writing workshops a year. This year, I have done five and have two more scheduled. But one slated for this coming weekend with three other writers needs several more people to sign up or it will be cancelled tomorrow. I've already had three events cancelled this year because of low attendance. My only previous cancellation was in 2010, and it was because of a blizzard.

I've published stories since 2006, but the bulk of my income (cue the laughter) has never come from sales. It has been from workshops and editing. I haven't had a new editing client in about 18 months, and I'm reading more and more work online that tells me I'm probably not the only editor who is increasingly idle.

I've published three stories this year, one of which sold last fall. True to my New Year's resolution (the real new year), I have submitted five others to various markets and will send two more out in the next few weeks. Four of the five submissions have been out five months and several would appear in anthologies, which means my fee would be a share of the royalties.

Four independent bookstores have opened in the state within the last two years--three of them in the last year--but they all favor traditional authors. The one that will carry self-pubbed and indie writers charges a fee for shelf space and takes a 45% consignment cut.

What is on the horizon?

Well, I will publish a novel around the end of this year when my beta readers and I agree that's it's ready. The cover is complete, but I have regretfully told my designer that even though I love his work--which is true--I can't afford to pay him after this book. I have no novel in any stage of development: research, outline, drafts. The last time that was true was 2003 before I retired from teaching.

Because of Draconian budget cuts, I have conducted only two workshops at a library since 2017. I used to sell a book for about every three attendees, but sold two books TOTAl at workshops in the last two years. Significantly--and more about this in a minute--my digital sales are climbing.

That upcoming novel is the last work I expect to publish on paper. If I write other novels, they will go directly to digital format. Maybe because of the new year's resolution, or maybe because my attention span is shrinking, I'm thinking much more in short story mode. But as deteriorating advertising revenue, rising print costs, and sagging subscription sales decimate the print markets, I look seriously at going straight to digital for short stories, too. I'll submit them to those vanishing markets, but the increasingly long wait for a response means I have time to find stock photos and learn to design covers...at a fraction of the cost of my designer.

I'm not a presence in bookstores, and while I may not make much on the digital sales, it costs nothing to upload material, so selling one or two copies puts me in the black. Now that's depressing.

It's easy to assign blame for this state of affairs, but it's pointless. Everything changes, and sometimes progress comes with unexpected costs. You can only figure out how to work with them.

At my health club a few days ago, a woman wore a tee shirt that captured the situation perfectly. It wasn't about writing, but it applies to almost every aspect of life that I can name.

Science doesn't care what you believe.

01 September 2019

Helpful Hurricane Guide


by Leigh Lundin

At times I live my life around hurricanes, which is far better than dying by hurricane and not quite the same as living with a certain Gale. For the moment, powerful Dorian is presently confounding predictions but, with luck, may spare Florida and most of the North American east coast.

In honor of the moment, I promise not to be long-winded. For those who suffer mere tornadoes, here are actual tracking maps followed by what the hurricane categories mean.

Hurricane Tracking Charts
Hurricane v Florida size comparison
Florida Hurricane tracks
‘Smallish’ Hurricane Fran Hurricane Tracking Example

Hurricane Meanings and Actions
Category 1     119kmph • 74mph • 64knots
When cooking on the grill, you switch from paper plates to weightier melamine. You’re careful your new drone doesn't drift too far off course.

Category 2     154kmph • 96mph • 83knots
You bring beach towels in from the clothes line, assuming you live in a community that permits clothes lines. Peculiarly, many Florida towns and homeowners associations ban drying laundry outdoors in the Sunshine State.

Category 3     178kmph • 111mph • 96knots
Mow the yard. Think briefly about purchasing extra water, food, propane, and gas for your generator and your car… then decide to buy if the storm makes Cat 4. Chuckle about your timid neighbor who packs his SUV full of supplies and family and heads for Georgia or Alabama.

Category 4     209kmph • 130mph • 113knots
Reluctantly head to Costco for 400 gallons of water and discover the wretch before you bought the last three litres. Decide queue for gasoline looks too long. Buy beer.

Category 5     252kmph • 157mph • 137knots
Damn. Governor calls for evacuation. Your car’s tank reads ⅜ and your wife’s Volvo reads a quarter. Find the lawnmower where you left it in the back yard. Empty the fuel cans for mowing and then the mower’s tank itself into your car. Drain fuel from your motorcycle, your kid’s go-kart, weed-whacker, and chainsaw. Siphon wife’s vehicle. Your gas gauge now reads ¾, thanks to discovery of a gas can your neighbor left when they packed up and ran two days ago. Whoops! Electrical power goes out. You scramble to find your flashlights and then realize why batteries were on the shopping list. By candlelight, you grab a forgotten bottle of Zephyrhills someone opened and stuck in the fridge. Way in the back your wife retrieves a can of Tab she’s been hoarding. You load the unrefrigerated beer and depart with wife and child. The gate at the guard shack has blown shut, wrapping itself around a post. You squeeze past as it scrapes your car. Child wants to stop for restroom and food. Thanks to buffeting headwinds, your mileage drops to 14mpg. Every gas station has closed. Screaming child wants McBurgers. No restaurants remain open. Dodging debris, uprooted trees, and a sailboat in the road, you’ll make Gainesville and perhaps a little farther. And then you encounter a flying cow…

Category 6     285kmph • 178mph • 155knots ?
No such thing… yet. However, as climate change accelerates, so does the violence of cyclonic winds. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (actually a peculiarly numbered damage scale) does not define anything above a Cat 5 storm. Many experts believe it’s merely a matter of time before meteorologists are forced to include at least a Category 6 and possibly 7 if not switch to another scale entirely.
Stay safe!