Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Tax Day, Fellow Americans!

I know, I know, since you actually don't have to mail it till Monday, some of you are just getting started with the returns. Some of you have just gotten the bad news from the accountant and are staring with longing at the liquor cabinet, wondering if 11:00 AM is too early to start drinking (It isn't. Not today). Others are looking up countries that don't have extradition treaties with the U.S. (Samoa looks like your best bet, so long as you don't screw up and end up in American Samoa. Be sure to check your airline reservation). Some of you are considering armed insurrection. (The meeting's at midnight down by the docks. Knock three times and ask for "Esteban." I'll bring the potato salad, but we still need someone to bring ice).

However you're spending April 15, remember. It could be worse. I'm not sure how, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Shut Up and Sing?

The news rocketed through the mystery/crime blogosphere like an electric current: Barry Eisler, author of the excellent John Rain series, has a blog. Barry being Barry, it's a fine blog, a thoughtful blog, filled with Barry's incisive dissection and analysis of current events. Since those events tend to involve hot-button issues, the discussion in the comments section has tended to be, ah, lively. And it's caused some other bloggers, such as Sandra Ruttan, to ruminate on the question of whether writers, who are after all in the business of selling a product, should be overtly political in their on-line discourse, lest they offend potential readers.

Should we just, in the words of the abominable Laura Ingraham, just "Shut Up and Sing"?

Here's my answer: If I offend anyone here, if you don't want to read my books because you don't like my politics or the way I express them....well, I'll just have to learn to live with it. As I posted in the comments section on Sandra's blog, I was a columnist before I was a novelist. I'll most likely continue to do both. In fact, the reason I picked up the pen again after a fifteen year hiatus was because I saw things going on in the world around me that red-lined my bullshit meter. Those things have increased, not decreased.

On the other hand, don't be too disapponted if you've read the columns or blog entries and pick up the books expecting them to be overtly political. That sort of thing makes for cardboard characters and lousy fiction.

I also find it strange that the only people who are being warned "oh, don't write political stuff on your blog, you'll alienate readers" all tend to lean liberal. Nobody, to my knowledge, is telling Orson Scott Card to keep quiet because his conservative views might alienate readers. Why is it only the Barbara Streisands and Dixie Chicks being told to "Shut Up and Sing", and not, say Toby Keith?

Finally, I have to say that, before I was either a columnist or novelist, I was and I remain a citizen of this country, a country that I love with a deep and abiding passion. If I see it being taken down the wrong path by charlatans, mountebanks and fools, I'm not going to just "Shut Up and Sing."

I'm going to stand up and raise hell.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Calling All N.C. Hell-ions!

If you're looking for a bit of fun after the gloom and doom of Tax Day, or you want to hear a little Good Day in Hell before the holiday celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord, I'll be at The Regulator in Durham this Saturday, April 15th, at 7:00 PM. (I don't know who thought it was a good idea to book me into a bookstore in a college town on Saturday night on Easter weekend, but hey, mine is not to reason why...) Afterwards, the forecast is for booze, blues and barbecue, not necessarily in that order.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Good Day in Hail: The Southern Kentucky Book Fest

Well, I'm back from the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green, and I'm happy to say that, not only did I sell a bunch o'books, I had a large time.

First off, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting author, travel writer, rum connoisseur and all around cool guy Bob Morris. Bob writes the Zack Chasteen series of mysteries, each one set on a different Caribbean island. I picked up a copy of Bahamarama at the festival and finished it on the plane home. I can tell you that Bob has now taken a place on my lookout list, i.e., the books I look out for so I can buy them the day they come out.

Soon after, Bob and I fell among blonde companions, which is to say the lovely and fiercely talented writers Tasha Alexander and Kristy Kiernan. Right now, I'm into Tasha's first novel, a Victorian-Era mystery entitled And Only to Deceive. It's a keeper. And if the online excerpt from Kristy's upcoming novel Catching Genius is any indication, I can't wait to read the whole thing. Kristy's definitely an author to keep an eye on.

Soon the posse was augmented by "thrash novelist" Nathan Singer. Now I ask you: how can you not like a guy who considers "thoroughly appalling" a good blurb for his book? Nathan writes them dark, and he writes them exceedingly well. Some day I hope to introduce him to Ken Bruen. The final member of the crew to join up was Kentucky writer and musician Kirby Gann.

Suffice it to say that, soon after, merriment ensued. Tasha has snapshots of the same over at her website.

Oh, and as a bonus, I got to tell Gong Show creator Chuck Barris what a huge influence his creation has been on my life and world view. I'm sure he's never heard that before.

Hats off to: the organizers of the Festival, who kept everything running so smoothly in the face of tornado warnings and baseball sized hail; Bowling Green attorney and mystery aficionado Bart Darrell for excellent moderation of our panel on Saturday and for not one but two wonderful restaurant recommendations; the staff at the Holiday Inn University Plaza in Bowling Green, who could not have been nicer or more accommodating (except for the surly bartender, and even she mellowed out after a while); and of course, all the wonderful folks who came out to browse, to chat, and to buy books.

A big middle finger, however, to the lady who walked up to my table, picked up a book, read the back cover, and made a face as if she'd smelled something bad before tossing it down and walking away. I love you too, hon.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hammer, We Hardly Knew Ye

Latest Newspaper Column:

As a new member of the Republican Party, I was shocked and dismayed at the announcement that one of the leaders of the party’s Congressional Caucus was retiring from the field.

Tom DeLay, the Texas congressman and our former majority leader, announced this past week that not only has he decided to drop out of the race, but he’s also decided to leave Congress altogether.

My shock and dismay, however, turned to admiration when I read DeLay’s reasons for leaving the race.

“I think I could have won this seat but it would have been nasty,” he said. “I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign.”

Wow. Who knew a guy who proudly bore the nickname “The Hammer” for his hardball tactics could suddenly get so sensitive about a “nasty” and “negative” campaign? It brings a tear to my eye that someone would be so noble and self-sacrificing as to spare the voters of Texas anything that might be negative or nasty in politics. Not to mention the prospect that the Democrats might steal the election by, you know, persuading people to vote for a candidate that wasn’t under indictment.

Inspiring, I tell you. Inspiring.

Some cynics might say that the decision, announced on Tuesday, comes suspiciously close on the heels of the announcement that Tony Rudy, DeLay’s former press secretary and deputy chief of staff, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

Rudy’s plea deal involved the usual promises of “cooperation” with ongoing investigations into official corruption. DeLay, however, stressed in an interview with Time magazine that he came to this decision last Wednesday, the 29th, two days before Rudy pled out.

Some of those liberal cynics might also find it odd that the next day, the 30th, DeLay sent out a fundraising letter for the campaign he says he’d just decided to abandon.

“Dear Friend,” the letter began. “The real battle has begun. This November, we face a serious challenge to our core conservative beliefs.” The letter goes on to describe in stirring terms a recent documentary made about DeLay, which he compared to Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9-11.” (When we Republicans play the Michael Moore card, you know we’re serious. Moore’s fat, you know.)

“Now is the time to show these national liberals we stand together and are not afraid to fight for our conservative Texas values,” the letter states. “I urgently need you to renew your commitment in my campaign today.”

Now, if you gave to the DeLay campaign in the days between the time he decided to drop out and the time he actually did so, fear not. Thanks to a recent FEC ruling rendered in the case of former Republican Congressman and convicted felon Randy “Duke” Cunningham, DeLay will most likely be able to use the money raised from his loyal supporters to defend conservatives’ most important “core belief,” namely keeping conservatives out of jail.

Thanks to the FEC ruling, DeLay, like Cunningham, will be able to use money raised in his campaign to pay for his legal defense. I’m sure that will make DeLay’s backers in Texas feel better, even if the “battle” they’re financing wasn’t against Democrat Nick Lampson but instead against Texas D.A. Ronnie Earle. Or perhaps some federal prosecutor to be named later. We Republicans are understanding like that.

Speaking of understanding, the reaction of fellow Republicans reminds me of why I decided to join the GOP. “[DeLay] has served our nation with integrity and honor,” said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who succeeded DeLay in his leadership post earlier this year after DeLay was indicted.

That’s what I love about my new party. I mean, who cares if DeLay was “admonished” by the ethics committee three times in one year? It was all in good fun. They didn’t really mean anything by it.

Heck, DeLay’s fellow Republicans not only changed the committee rules to make it harder to bring ethics charges, but they also changed the membership of the committee to put on two members who had contributed to DeLay’s legal defense fund. Now, that’s the kind of honor and integrity a guy like me can really relate to.

And it’s not just the high pooh-bahs of the party you can count on in a pinch, it’s the rank-and-file.

Check out this comment from the conservative Web site “Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t care if DeLay broke a few laws. He was good for our side, and I’d rather have a corrupt Republican than an honest Democrat.”

You’ve got to love the fact that, no matter how corrupt you are, you can count on your fellow Republicans to back you up.

Let me stress, however, that I’m not counting on my newfound brethren and sistern in the GOP to bail me out of something I’ve actually done, or something I actually plan on doing. It’s just nice to know you, my fellow Republicans, will close ranks and back me up if I stumble, so long as that stumble doesn’t involve being caught in bed with either a live man or a dead woman. And even the dead woman might be negotiable. Again, no plans for either, but hey, stuff happens.

Thank you, and God bless the GOP.