Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bullet Points: Independence Day Edition

• Don’t forget: ThrillerFest V begins this Wednesday in New York City.

• The fact that I’ve already read three books this year by South African crime novelists makes me wonder if blogger Peter Rozovsky is correct, when he writes that “South Africa is the next Scandinavia” when it comes to turning out mystery fiction worthy of international acclaim.

• If you haven’t experimented with African crime fiction yourself, Michael Stanley (the joint pseudonym of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) has put together a list of 10 top African crime novels for The Guardian. I’m pleased to say that I have at least read half of them. (Hat tip to Campaign for the American Reader.)

• I read about this year’s winners of the infamous Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with more than a bit of disappointment. I really thought that last year’s winners were funnier.

• The latest short-story offering in Beat to a Pulp is a World War I-era yarn titled “The Path to Brighton,” written by David Pilling.

• Congratulations to Martin Edwards on his 1,000th blog post.

• “I think ‘Write what you know’ is one of the worst pieces of advice you can give an aspiring writer,” opines Timothy Hallinan in the blog You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You? “Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers.” Read more here.

• In an interview for the Gutter Books blog, author Bill Crider answers questions about Texas messes, Anna Nicole Smith’s biology education, and the future of e-books.

• Meanwhile, John Connolly talks with Powell’s Books about his latest novel (The Whisperers), his most unusual job, his fondness for Ross Macdonald’s work, and more.

• New books by Marcus Sakey and Andrew Williams, Jeffery Deaver’s James Bond future, and the rise of crime fiction in both New Zealand and (again) South Africa are among the topics addressed in Mike Ripley’s droll new “Getting Away with Murder” column.

• I’m glad I could do my part in the search for old Batman tie-in novels.

• A programming note from Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai: “This coming Friday--July 9th--is the premiere of Hard Case Crime’s first ever TV series, Haven, on SyFy. It airs at 10 p.m. on Fridays in the U.S.; check your local listings for times and dates if you’re in another country. The series is based on our bestselling book of all time, Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, and I’ve been fortunate to get to work on it as a writer and producer. Yes, being a SyFy show it contains more supernatural elements that you’d normally associate with Hard Case Crime--but it’s also a mystery show at its core (the main characters are an FBI agent, a cop, and a criminal), and I promise we’ve got some great stories up our sleeves.” I must remember to tune in.

• Count me among those people who aren’t impressed with Wonder Woman’s less revealing new costume. Yes, it beats her horrendous “mod” makeover of the 1960s, but the new suit is rather dowdy compared with her previous star-spangled swimsuit. Steve Holland puts on offer a couple of WW’s old accessories, just for nostalgia’s sake.

• I often refer in The Rap Sheet to posts found in another blog, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, by Ivan G. Shreve Jr. But I’ve never known much about Mr. Shreve--until now. Click here for an interview he’s done with the Only Good Movies Blog.

Don’t expect to see a 23rd James Bond film at any time soon.

• For Bookgasm, Doug Bentin looks back fondly at the short stories of Herman Cyril McNeile, who is better known under his nom de plume, “Sapper,” as the creator of military officer turned private detective Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond.

As support increases for the new Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration has launched what seems to be a very useful new health-care reform Web site called


• Karin Slaughter picks half a dozen “best books” for Britain’s Express newspaper. Does anyone else, though, find it strange that all of those volumes have been published within the last couple of years? Surely, she has some older favorites ...

I love quirky history books.

• The author of Mysterious Manners has realized that while he may think he chooses reading material based on the author, plot, and title, what really draws him to one book over another could simply be “nice-size type, a good amount of leading, and fairly short chapters.” Read his whole essay here.

• Elizabeth Foxwell alerts me to the print comeback of Hildegarde Withers, “the angular schoolteacher with a talent for solving homicides.”

• The theme of the latest edition of Mystery Readers Journal is paranormal mysteries. Editor Janet Rudolph provides that issue’s lengthy table of contests here.

• I wasn’t aware that Argosy, one of my maternal grandfather’s favorite magazines, had generated so many books with its serialized fiction.

• To improve my waistline, it seems I ought to move back to Colorado.

• And this seems appropriate for Independence Day: A poll of 238 presidential scholars, ranking the best and worst presidents in American history, brings good news for the ghosts of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Other White House occupants, though, including the last one, fare much less well.


Uriah Robinson said...

Jeff, I do enjoy a quiet chuckle at your political digressions.

On what basis do these scholars rank William Henry Harrison, Tyler and Fillmore above George W ?

When Harding died in office he was called "a majestic figure who stood out like a rock of consistency." At his memorial service it was exclaimed "May God ever give to our country leaders as faithful, as wise, as noble in spirit, as the one we now mourn."

History will judge George W, and I have a feeling he will get a fairer deal in a 100 years than now.
Any system that ranks Clinton, a man who damaged the office of the presidency, alongside James Polk must have a few flaws.

David Cranmer said...

Last week pirates and this week WWI. Next is Dave Zeltserman.

Thanks for the link.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Dear Uriah/Norman:

You can see the rankings for each president, in many categories, here:

Admittedly, these are unscientific calls. Rather, the historians polled for this survey gave their opinions on how the 43 men who’ve held the U.S. presidency performed in regard to their ability to compromise, their willingness to take risks, their executive skills, their intelligence, their imagination, their relationship with Congress, etc. Harrison, Tyler, and Fillmore all received higher rankings in those categories than Bush Jr. did. Only Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson ranked below Bush according to the same criteria.

The reason for Republican Harding’s rapid decline in public opinion was that, shortly after his sudden death in 1923, his legacy was tainted with multiple scandals. First among those was the Teapot Dome affair, which showed that Harding’s flamboyant secretary of the interior, Albert Fall, had taken money from oil companies desiring preferential access to a former naval oil reserve in Wyoming. Later, Secret Service agents disclosed how they’d helped the president arrange trysts with a mistress in the closet of his White House office.

I disagree with you on George W. Bush’s ability to rise much in the ranks of U.S. presidents. I think he demonstrated quite clearly that he was poorly suited to the job, even incompetent in it, a slave to ideology over sense. This was a man, after all, who lied the United States into a prolonged and deadly war against Iraq. A man who refused to become involved in saving beautiful New Orleans from hurricane-whipped waters, but who--pandering as usual to religious rightists, and in concert with congressional Republicans--went out of his way to try and stop a husband in Florida from allowing his wife in a persistent vegetative state to die naturally. Bush frittered away a massive budget surplus left to him by President Bill Clinton, giving unnecessary and budget-busting tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, and refusing to veto massive spending bills sent to him by Congress’ then Republican majority. He further escalated U.S. deficits by throwing money at military build-ups and backing a prescription drug benefit program that didn’t even allow the government to negotiate with big drug companies for reduced rates on their products. This was a man who advocated privatizing Social Security, an idea that would have risked the sustenance funds of millions of Americans (yet a plan that continues to be promoted by right-wing office-seekers). This is a man who appointed thoroughly incapable cronies to vital government positions (remember FEMA’s Michael Brown?), engineered warrantless domestic spying operations, tried to sell shipping operations at half a dozen U.S. seaports to a company controlled by the Middle Eastern government of Dubai, and sought to expand the powers of the presidency well beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution.

As historian Sean Wilentz wrote in Rolling Stone magazine in 2006, “No previous president appears to have squandered the public’s trust more than Bush has.”

Sorry, Norman, but Bush belongs in the dark basement of U.S. presidential ratings. That should be just as clear 50, 100, or 150 years from now as it is just a year and a half after he was finally waved out of the White House.