Book Review: C.G. Cooper’s Corps Justice novels are well-plotted, enjoyable thrillers

Carlos Cooper

C. G. Cooper, author of the Corps Justice series

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time about a thriller series that was fast and fun to read. I stumbled across C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice series through BookBub’s daily email telling me about Amazon book deals. My practice is that, if a free book listed in BookBub looks even remotely interesting, I download it onto my Kindle. After all, since it’s free, no harm, no foul, right?

Of course, an awful lot of the time, free books are free because no one in their right mind could possibly want to buy the darn things. They’re horribly written, horribly plotted, or horribly proof-read — or sometimes a combination of all three.

However, sometimes a free book is a wonderful little marketing surprise. My assumption is that these books are marketed as free or very cheap (usually 99 cents) to function as loss leaders. After all, if you move enough books (even if you’re giving them away), you’ll still rise up in the all-important Amazon sales ranking chart.

Which gets me to C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice novels, the first three books of which are currently available for free. The books are thrillers that feature veterans (mostly Marines) working together to foil dastardly plots against America. The two main characters are Cal Stokes, a former Marine whose father founded a hugely successful security company, and his friend Daniel Briggs, who is also a former Marine, and whose story is told here. The other recurring characters are mostly Marines, although there are vets from other branches of the service, as well as a resident computer genius.

[Read more...]

Book Review: Dennis Koller’s “Kissed By The Snow”

Early this year, after reading and enjoying Dennis Koller’s The Oath, I naturally sat down and wrote a review. Because Dennis is a local author, I sent him a copy of my review because I always like to expand my network of local conservatives.

Dennis and I began corresponding, and our correspondence quickly turned into a lunch meeting. I cannot say enough nice things about Dennis and his lovely wife (whose name I’ll omit here, out of respect for her privacy). Both are politically conservative in a really thinking way — something that’s not surprising, I guess, given Dennis’s Jesuit education. He’s a smart, analytical person and would naturally be drawn to the same kind of spouse.

It was at our first lunch that Dennis told me he was working on a new thriller. When he told me the premise, I thought it was incredibly imaginative. As we met several more times at various conservative lunches, Dennis continued to fill me in on the book. When Dennis completed the book, now named Kissed By The Snow: A Rob Kincaid Thriller (A Rob Kincaid Novel Book 1), I was delighted when he sent me an advance copy, which I felt fully lived up to Dennis’s promises.

Here’s the thing, though: I can’t tell you what that devious, clever, surprising plot twist is, because to do so would ruin the novel for you. What I’ll do instead is reprint here the book’s Amazon blurb for Kissed By The Snow, and then add my own comments:

As the highly trained leader of the Red Squadron Security Agency, Robert Kincaid is used to working under the radar—taking care of government jobs that wouldn’t exactly pass congressional oversight.

But in this case, it’s not strictly business. After a Mexican cartel murders his father, Rob is thirsty for revenge. And he’s more than willing to take the War on Drugs into his own hands when his firm is hired for Operation Snow Plow, a secret FBI plan to rid America of drug-related violence once and for all.

As Rob gets deeper and deeper into the FBI’s plan, he uncovers a tangled web of lies and conspiracies that encircle the very core of Operation Snow Plow. As he attempts to unravel that web, he finds himself in a high stakes game of odd man out, where he has been targeted as the odd man.

As with his previous novel, Dennis has a light, deft touch when writing. He doesn’t write with Tom Clancy’s incredible density or Lee Child’s blood-spattered violence. If I had to compare Dennis’s writing to anyone, I would say that he reminds me of Agatha Christie — or, how Agatha Christie would write if, instead of being a woman born in England in the waning years of Victoria’s reign, who wrote countryside and parlor murder mysteries, she was a Jesuit-educated, conservative American man who writes thrillers starring a former Navy SEAL. It’s not the subject matter that makes the two comparable; it’s the fact that both focus on the characters and their relationships (both good guys and bad) as unfolding events lead all of them to a powerful denouement.

Koller has a good technical mastery over the SEAL’s gadgets, but he never overwhelms readers with tech talk. He has a good sense of the details of conspiracies and crimes, but he doesn’t bury the reader in a sea of often irrelevant details. He just moves the story forward in lean, simple prose, adding in whatever information is necessary to keep the reader moving with the story. Agatha Christie, right?

If you’re looking for a fun, fast-moving thriller with some wonderfully surprising plot twists, I highly recommend your giving Kissed By The Snow a try. You can buy the e-book through Amazon, at the links I provided, or, if you want a discount on a hard copy version, you can check out this link.

Book Review — Bing West’s “One Million Steps : A Marine Platoon at War”

One Million StepsA new book went on sale today: Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy and would like to share my impressions with you.

West, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, has now added a sixth book to his series about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In One Million Steps, he describes his experience when he was embedded with a Marine platoon in the Sangin distinct of Afghanistan during a six month period covering 2010 to 2011. As with all of West’s books, it is extremely well-written. West is a master of lyrical simplicity, something that fits very well with the way in which his book pulls us into the lives of the young Marines struggling to take back territory from the Taliban in the Sangin province of Afghanistan.

The Marines who fought these daily battles won’t be remembered in the same way as the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal.  This historical amnesia won’t arise because of any Marine failings, though.  As has been true for generations of Marines before them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 sacrificed themselves mightily. Their battalion suffered the greatest losses of any unit in Afghanistan.  These sacrifices, however, will gain no traction in the public imagination because this is an unusual war.  While Marines fight to win, 21st century rules of engagement, combined with Obama’s political calculus, placed these Marines in an untenable situation, where winning was impossible.  Unlike previous wars, where even a lost battle, if fought with sufficient bravery, could imbue other fighters with the will to win, in Afghanistan victory was the true No Man’s Land.

As West ably explains, the Marines were ordered to an area of Afghanistan that Britain, which had previously tried to occupy it, had basically ceded to the Taliban. The British left the Americans a single fortified area surrounded by the Taliban; by farmers who were both victims of and collaborators with, the Taliban; and by thousands of IEDs buried in land that was an inhospitable combination of canals, marshes, primitive compounds, and small open fields surrounded by dense foliage. The correct way to have subdued this region, of course, would have to take every piece of modern land and air technology available and go in with guns blazing — perhaps preceded by Israeli-style warnings to non-combatants that they should vacate the land or prepare to die.

What happened instead were Sisyphean Rules of Engagement (“ROEs”) that prohibited Marines from firing offensively, instead limiting them to defensive fire after they’d already run the risk of casualties. Worse, if the Marines sought to engage in any more than a running skirmish in response to shots fired while they were out on patrol, a battalion, not of fellow warriors but of lawyers, had to review the proposed fight plan first to make sure that it didn’t violate the ROEs.  Even knowing about this bureaucratic, legalistic twist on warfare, reading about it in One Million Steps is still a shock.  It’s just mind-boggling that lawyers were calling the shots in a genuine ground war (as opposed to the lawyer’s usual field of battle — a courtroom). Wars are fluid, dynamic situations; lawyers are stolid, cautious, and risk-averse. To make fighters in the war dependent on lawyers is insane.

Even worse for the Marines in Sangin was that they were fighting under a Commander-in-Chief who was committed to defeat and retreat. That these young men willingly put themselves in the line of fire every day, day after day, under the most dreadful circumstances, all in service of a Commander who had already erased the word victory from his vocabulary, and who would soon spell out for the enemy the exact date and circumstances of the surrender is another mind-boggler.

Despite the adversity pressing down on them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 never lost their commitment to the Marine ethos. Whatever the job demanded of them, no matter how pointless, quixotic, or dangerous, they would do their best to get the job done. Using a combination of brute strength, craftiness, and moral and physical courage, all under the umbrella of masterful leadership that encouraged both team playing and personal responsibility, they went out every single day through hostile Sangin territory and killed the Taliban in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole .  .  . only in this game, the mole was doing its best to whack back.

One of the strengths of West’s writing is his own service as a Marine forty-years before. West has a visceral understanding of what faces a grunt fighting an often chimerical enemy who observes no rules of war; who has the entire untouchable civilian community under his thumb; and who has had years to prepare the ground for war in the enemies’ favor. Although West’s language never becomes heated or bombastic, his descriptions of the Marines’ circumstances are vivid, realistic, and manifestly accurate. West is manifestly not a desk jockey suddenly playing with the big boys.

West also conveys admirably the strong connection between the individual Marines, all of whom are stuck in the middle of nowhere, seeing their comrades fall in often fatal and always devastating welters of blood, and putting their lives on the line every day. While these young men’s peers are at college, or holding down jobs, or just slacking off, these men, all of whom are volunteers, are living by the rules their much-admired Sargeant Matt Abbate wrote on a piece of plywood that he then hammered onto a wall:

1) Young warriors die
2) You cannot change Rule #1
3) Someone must walk the point (where you are sure to die)
4) Nothing matters more than thy brethren . . . thou shalt protect no matter what
5) Going out in a hail of gunfire . . . pop dem nugs until they body runs dry of blood . . . AND LOOK HELLASICK

Another great virtue of West’s writing is that each of the young men he mentions, even if only briefly, is a real person. West is not a Marxist who sees soldiers as cogs, units, victims, representatives of their race or class, statistics, or any other socialist group designation. To him, each is an individual with a name and a story. Moreover, to the extent too many of these young men died, each is a person who deserves the dignity of being remembered once more as the person he was, someone with hopes, family, and plans for a future that was never realized.

One Million Steps often makes for painful reading because we are seeing a tragedy play out in real-time. At the national level, the Marines were contending with two administrations that were, and have continued to be, terrified of the prospect of fighting a full-blooded war.  Worse, the second of these two administrations was frightened even of the possibility of victory. Serving on the ground under this schizophrenic, neurotic, diffident, sclerotic bureaucracy were men who, for whatever reason (a thirst for adventure, a fear of boredom, a craving for the camaraderie that only military services brings), chose to fight in an army governed by fear, constrained by counter-productive rules, and opposed to victory. There is no way this could end well.

Nevertheless, uncomfortable reading or not, Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War is a book that deserves to be read. We need to read it to understand the nature of our enemy, even if our political class continues to turn a blind eye. We need to read it to appreciate that this country is still capable of producing men of high-caliber, discipline, commitment and bravery. And lastly, we need to read it because young men, tucked away in a forgotten corner of an unpopular war, deserve to be recognized for their courage and sacrifice.

A Dean Koontz bargain: “Odd Thomas”

Thanks to a post I did mentioning Dean Koontz’s libertarian leanings, I learned that several of you are Dean Koontz fans.  Because I’m now a Dean Koontz fan myself (having read several of his books in a weekend frenzy), I wanted to let you know that one of his books — Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel — is on sale for $1.99.  I got the book (I can never resist a bargain) and wanted to make sure you had a chance too, before the sale goes away on September 20.

Incidentally, if you like the book, there’s also a fairly well-rated Odd Thomas movie that came out last year.

The suggested list of books for a high school government class

Rear view of class raising handsIf you’re wondering why the younger generation blindly supported Obama through two elections; why they are reflexively hostile to conservatives and Republicans; and why, even though Obama has dismally failed them, they are incapable of considering another, less intrusive, approach to governance, just contemplate the list of books a local high school Government teacher recommended for the class’s mandatory reading requirement:

scan0009

scan0007

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking most (or all) of those books hew Left, way, way, way Left.

Since the list is supposed to consist of suggestions only, I’m trying to think of a few counter suggestions.  I need books that present conservative approaches to government and economics. Moreover, to the extent that a high schooler is going to be reading the book, I think my counter suggestion should be eminently readable and entertaining.  Of course, since I’m trying desperately to think of something quickly, before the weekend is over, I’m pulling a big, fat blank.

Still, keeping my requirements in mind (accessible, entertaining, easy-to-read), my top choice for a suggestion is Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change, which I think is one of the most readable political books out there. Goldberg has an incredibly deft touch. He makes his points lightly, often humorously, without ever resorting to browbeating.

What do you guys think?

Blame it on Kathy Open Thread

Thought-Bubble-White-Board_8296556In an earlier post, I mentioned that, given Dean Koontz’s libertarian outlook, which apparently seeps into his books, I should try reading some of his stuff. In response, Kathy from Kansas wrote:

My own favorite (and one of Koontz’s personal favorites) is From the Corner of His Eye: A Novel, a long epic whose narrative spans many years.

That’s quite a recommendation so, when I discovered that I could download a Kindle version for free from my library’s online site, I started reading the book yesterday and couldn’t stop. I’m at the quite thrilling, magical, thought-provoking moral denouement that comes 93% of the way through the book, and I still can’t stop. I’ve just got to finish it. If you took the book away from me now, I’d burst into tears and become effectively useless.

I will blog this afternoon, but I have to finish reading From the Corner of his Eye first. Until then, please enjoy yourselves with an Open Thread.  And if you miss my writing, just remember to blame it on Kathy.  (Just kidding, of course. I am deeply grateful to Kathy for her recommendation.)

Book Review: Don Mann’s four thrillers about Thomas Crocker and his SEAL Team Six guys

Hunt the JackalWhen it comes to Navy SEALS, Don Mann is the real deal.  He was an active duty Navy SEAL for seventeen years, including eight years on SEAL Team Six.  As he describes his experiences:

As a member of Seal Team Six for over eight years and a SEAL for over 17 years, he worked in countless covert operations, operating from land, sea, and air, and facing shootings, decapitations, and stabbings. He was captured by the enemy and lived to tell the tale, and he participated in highly classified missions all over the globe, including Somalia, Panama, El Salvador, Colombia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In addition to (or as augmentation for) his role as a SEAL, Mann is also a high endurance athlete, who has been in over 1,000 races (mostly extreme runs that make marathons look like a walk in the park).  At one time, he was the 38th highest ranked triathlete in the world.

If anyone is qualified to write thrillers about a Navy SEAL Six team, Mann is the one.  To date, Mann has actually written four such thrillers (in addition to a slew of non-fiction books about SEALS).  The four thrillers are (1) Hunt the Wolf: A SEAL Team Six Novel; (2) SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Scorpion; (3) SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Falcon; and (4) SEAL Team Six: Hunt the Jackal. (For all but Hunt the Falcon, Ralph Pezzullo is listed as co-author.)

I received Kindle copies of all four SEAL Team Six novels from a book review site with which I’m affiliated.  The reason behind this largesse was the fact that the official publication date for the fourth book is May 13.  With my fondness for Navy SEALs and for thrillers, it was a foregone conclusion that I would gobble the books down all at once.  I managed to read all four in a day-and-a-half.  Looking back, this was a mistake.  Because they are formulaic, reading them one on top of each other, without a decent interval of a few months between each one, highlighted their mechanical qualities and threw their flaws into relief.  I think I would have liked them more had I read them less.

Before I get too deep into this, let me say that I have no problem with formulaic books.  Most authors have a template they use, and readers keep returning to their books because they like that template.  A perfect example of this is Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, the 18th of which (Never Go Back : A Jack Reacher Novel) I had just finished reading just before I picked up Mann’s series.

The Reacher novels are pleasantly predictable:  Ex-military cop Jack Reacher wanders aimlessly and across the United States and invariably stumbles upon grotesquely violent criminals who leave a wide swath of destruction in their wake until Reacher comes along and turns them into mulch.  What makes the books work is Reacher’s character.  He should be ridiculous, because he’s something of a superman, able to out-reason and out-fight every bad guy he comes across.  Take away his impulse to be on the side of the gods, and he’d be a monster.

In fact, though, Child has made Reacher a very interesting character, because he walks us through Reacher’s logical process:  What does Reacher notice as the bad guys approach him?  How does he analyze the situation?  What moral decisions is he making as part of this analysis?  What tactics does he decide upon and why?  And finally, how effective were his chosen tactics when he finally used them?  Child puts you directly into the brain of a type of savant, a man preternaturally skilled at analyzing dangerous situations and turning them to his advantage.

Child’s books are also meticulously plotted.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that Child is a massive stoner.  He’s got the kind of obsessive attention to detail that makes sense only if someone is ripped on a drug that makes the hard work of imagining and writing such details fun, rather than deadly dull.  Indeed, Child’s attention to fascinating details is so good that one can forgive the absence of an actual plot.  For example, Child’s last book,  Never Go Back, had an insanely stupid, lame denouement, something that’s antithetical to denouements.  After all, a thriller, even if it can’t be thrilling, should at least be interesting.

When it comes to Never Go Back, though, Child didn’t even try.  Still, Reacher is such an enjoyable character, you want to read the book anyway, and are willing to forgive Child his sins as a writer at least long enough to read the next Reacher book (should there be one).

Mann’s formulaic novels aren’t as good as Child’s book, but they’re not bad.  Had I read them spread out over months, in the order in which they were published, I probably would have enjoyed them more than I did.

I know this sounds as if I’m damning Mann’s books with faint praise, and maybe I am.  I need to make a full disclosure here, which is that I soured on the books about halfway through the third and in the beginning of the fourth.  My low-level ill-will arose for a very specific reason, which is that Mann’s and my biases clashed.

In both the third and fourth books, Mann attacks the Israeli military.  In the third book, it’s a completely gratuitous swipe about the Israeli special forces not being as good as they think they are.  In the fourth book, the opening scene includes a quite detailed swipe at the Israeli military, implying that its members are rule-bound, cold-blooded, vindictive cowards.  This might have been forgivable if this detailed scene had related to the rest of the book, but it didn’t.  By book’s end, it’s clear that this anti-IDF sideline wasn’t necessary to the main plot.  Mann just felt he wanted it in there.

There is absolutely nothing antisemitic about Mann’s negative attitude towards the Israeli military, and I respect that fact.  It’s clear that Mann dislikes it as a military, not as a Jewish military.  I got the strong feeling that, at one time, or over a period of several times, Mann had some bad experiences with the IDF and he’s using his novels as a place to vent his negative feelings.

Being spiteful is Mann’s prerogative — and it’s my prerogative to get unpleasantly ruffled because of that spite.  I’m certain that the IDF has rotten apples in it, since all militaries do.  I have no idea whether the IDF and its special forces are overrated, but it’s entirely possible that they are . . . or not.  Nevertheless, I do feel that it was wrong for Mann to take self-serving, unnecessary swipes at a military that is on the side of the angels in the long war against the worldwide hydra of Islamic militants (along with the American military).  Israel is a sufficiently beleaguered nation to deserve some respite from creative vindictiveness.  The clash between Mann’s bias (not thrilled about the Israeli military) and my bias (supportive of the IDF) definitely dimmed my pleasure in his writing.

And now, finally, my review.  All four books have the same pattern.  Thomas Crocker is Mann’s alter ego:  he looks like Mann (mustache and thinning hair), he exercises like Mann (taking his team on extreme climbs in the Himalayas or extreme runs in the Sahara desert), and he works like Mann once did, heading a SEAL Team Six unit tasked with dangerous secret missions.  The book isn’t written in the first person, but we see everything through Crocker’s eyes and hear his thoughts.  He loves his country; hates the enemy; worries about the damage to his soul from the deaths he’s caused; cares for his team; loves his wife and his daughter, whom he constantly leaves behind because missions take precedence; looks at his rough childhood as the crucible that created the warrior that he now is; sublimates fear; and manages to continue moving despite the fact that he’s invariably concussed, wounded, bleeding, and sleep deprived.

Crocker’s teammates are more literary ciphers than real characters.  They exist to move the plot forward.  Akil, the team’s navigator, is the Egyptian-born Muslim who came to America as a child, is a stalwart defender of America’s freedoms against Iran’s Islamic totalitarianism and, when he’s not being incredibly brave and disciplined, thinks only of sex.  Mancini, the team’s weapons expert, is also the book’s expositor.  He’s a know-it-all with a photographic memory/  Wherever the book takes the team, he will offer commentary about the sights they see, the nature of the enemy, the weather, etc.  In other words, because the omniscient narrator never drops away from Crocker’s viewpoint, it’s up to Mancini to fill the reader in on everything Crocker cannot know.  The other term members are given names and details (beard, wife, smile, fiancée, etc.), but are sufficiently ill-defined as characters to be completely forgettable.

One of the two things I’ve taken away about SEALs from the non-fiction books I’ve read is that they are trained, and trained, and trained, and then trained some more.  The other thing that sticks in my brain is that they meticulously prepare for every mission.  Mann has realized that an action novel that spends too much time detailing all of the SEAL’s meticulous preparation will work best as a sleep aid, rather than a thriller.  Ironically, though, by avoiding all the mission detail, what Mann ends up with is a group of SEALs who rush unprepared into just about everything.  If it weren’t for their highly trained skills and their really cool weapons, these guys would be morons, doing everything by the seat of their pants and getting into big trouble because of it.

In the first three books, the team’s missions involve Iranian infiltration in North Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  In the last book, his team takes on a Mexican drug cartel.  In all four books, the team is constantly frustrated by politics, especially those emanating from the CIA, which is given over to extreme political cowardice.  In all four books, good people die, good people get wounded, bad people get horribly killed, and innocents get rescued.  The good guys usually prevail, but it’s a painful, demoralizing, bloody, bloody process.

I’d be more specific at this point, but I can’t.  Having read all four of the books in the same 48-hour period, they’ve run together in my mind, leaving only an overarching pattern without any defining details jumping out at me.

Looking at all four books a little temporal distance (I read the last one on Tuesday), I think the following is a fairly objective summary:  These books are not great, but they’re not bad.  They’re workmanlike thrillers that give some insight into (1) the never-ending training in which SEALs engage; (2) the enormous toll their work takes on their private life; (3) the terrible risks they take, partly out of love of country and partly because they’re very courageous adrenalin junkies; and (4) the genuine dangers in today’s world against which our armed forces and special forces protect us.  If you’re looking for a quick, easy-to-read, fairly interesting military thriller, you could do a lot worse than Don Mann’s SEAL Team Six series.  They won’t win any prizes, but they’ll definitely keep you entertained.

I cannot read Marxists — or, why I do not mourn Gabriel García Márquez’s passing

Karl MarxI was so naive when I went to Cal. I didn’t realize that, in my history and English classes, the material we read was either created in the first instance by Marxists or, if it predated Marxists, was first run through a Marxist analytical filter either before or immediately after we read it.  All I knew was that I thought the material was nonsensical and, because of their adulatory prosing about it, that my professors were idiots.

It says a lot about the quality of education at Cal that, simply by parroting the teachers’ stupidity back to them, I managed to graduate from Cal Magna Cum Laude.  I even still have my little Phi Beta Kappa key hanging from a nail on the wall in my office. I offer these snippets of academic accomplishment not to boast, but to denigrate both the material used and the quality of teaching at Cal. My academic accomplishments are an embarrassing symbol of Cal’s deficiencies as an educational institution. To the extent I consider myself an educated person, I attribute that to my being an autodidact, hungry for knowledge, not to being a high level graduate of one of the world’s top universities.

Law school, at least, had the virtue of being nothing more than a fancy trade school. I had decent professors, wonderful peers, and enjoyed myself there. I managed for the most part to avoid indoctrination. Interestingly, in a setting in which I actually had to learn stuff and think, as opposed to just parroting back cant, I was a good, solid graduate, rather than a top one. My sub-stellar performance also resulted from the fact that I was quite ill during part of my time there, which proved to be a drag on my GPA.  (And yes, my ego demands that caveat.)

When I left law school, I vowed never to go back to a formal education system, a promise I’ve kept to this day. I find it exhausting merely to attend Open Houses at my kids very fine public schools. I have to fight against the urge to run out screaming when I hear the nice teachers lecture the nice parents about the topics and methodology they use when lecturing our nice kids during the school day. As the old hippie would say, “That’s not my scene, man.”

A sport of natureAlthough I vowed never to return to school, I have been in a variety of book clubs over the years, purely for social reasons. All of them have been run by nice young or middle-aged women who trust in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and high-end fashion magazines to tell them what they ought to read. That’s how I ended up having to read two authors I’d successfully avoided during my formal education:  Gabriel García Márquez and Nadine Gordimer.

To say that I loathed the Márquez and Gordimer books is to speak in delicate understatement. I hated their writing style; I hated their topics; I hated their values — I hated everything from cover to cover. As my well-intentioned friends struggled to find meaning in the books, I kept saying that the books were poorly written, boring, and unreasonable, and that their principles and conclusions were wrong.

I did not say back then that Márquez and Gordimer were Marxist because, back in the 1980s, I did not know that they were. In any event, as a nicely indoctrinated party-line Democrat, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to criticize anything on that particular ground.

I just knew that I hated reading these much-lauded books in exactly the same way I hated reading Supreme Court opinions (this was back in the late 1980s) by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. I knew that I ought to admire Marshall and Stevens and Brennan, and that I should hate Rehnquist and Burger, but the fact was that the former group wrote complex, unintelligible, illogical opinions, whereas the latter (as well as all other conservative justices but for the flopsy, wobbly Sandra Day O’Connor) wrote tight, well-reasoned, easy to follow opinions.  I eventually concluded that, because Marxism doesn’t work in the real world, any writing advancing Marxist principles must be muddled, vague, and unreasonable to hide that fact.

Now Márquez is dead and, while an individual’s death must always be a tragedy for his family and close friends, I feel no sense of loss. Instead, I agree entirely with the DiploMad, who has no problem speaking ill of the Marxist dead:

Love in the time of CholeraIn other good news, this time in Latin America, the Nobel-prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez is dead.

One of the great phonies and bootlickers of leftist dictators has passed from the scene. Those who love freedom can only be grateful.

I will speak ill of the dead. It is hard to exaggerate the damage that GGM has done to the image of Latin America and Latin Americans, portraying the region and the people as some sort of quasi-magical place, a place filled with ethereal, mystical beings without logic, common sense, and ordinary human emotions and foibles. For all his “magical realist” vision, he could not or would not see, for example, the horrors brought to Cuba and Cubans by the Castro brothers. On the contrary, he had an enormous house in Havana provided by the regime, with servants and cars at his beck-and-call, and a ready chummy access to the bloodstained brothers and their rule of terror. He convinced generations of gringo academic Latin American “specialists” that the region could not be understood in conventional terms; that supply-and-demand economics did not work there; and that ordinary people did not want individual liberty and political democracy. He helped perpetrate and perpetuate a horrid stereotype of Latin America, one in which the atrocities of leftist regimes could be ignored because the region operated on another level of consciousness, one beyond our poor powers to comprehend. Good riddance to this poseur and his unreadable sentences! An enemy of freedom is gone.

Hear! Hear! Yes! Absolutely. The DiploMad is correct in every respect. I knew then that I couldn’t stand Márquez’s loopy, unhinged prose, nor his loopy, unhinged ideas. Thirty years later, I not only understand the problem (Marxism), I have the pleasure of reading someone who gets it and states it better than I ever could.

A heads-up for Georgette Heyer fans: Her historical novels are on sale today on Kindle

Georgette Heyer fans know that, in addition to her exquisite, sparkling regency romances, Georgette Heyer also wrote several more serious historic novels about everything from the Norman Conquest to the Battle of Waterloo.  If you’ve dreamed of owning copies, you’ll be happy to know that, at least for today, Georgette Heyer’s historical novels are on sale.

One of my favorite writers — Ray Zacek — got a great write-up at PJ Lifestyle

The DaguerreotypeOne of my favorite new media novelists is Ray Zacek (who is also a friend of this blog).  I’ve already given enthusiastic thumbs up to two of his novels: The Taxman Cometh, which I reviewed here; and The Daguerreotype, which I reviewed here.

Because Ray is a wonderful writer, he’s starting to garner the attention he deserves in the blogosphere. The latest example is a fairly in-depth interview at PJ Lifestyle. Enjoy the interview and then give yourself the gift of a good read by buying his books.

The best rejection letter ever in the whole history of rejection letters

220px-Gertrude_steinI suspect most young people have never heard of Gertrude Stein — or at least, most straight young people, since Stein lives on as a gay icon. She was famous in her day for her prose style, which some called experimental, some called lyrical, and some called insane. The Wikipedia article on Stein actually does a nice job of summarizing her prose:

Typical quotes are: “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”; “Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle”; about her childhood home in Oakland, “There is no there there”; and “The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.”

[snip]

Her use of repetition is ascribed to her search for descriptions of the “bottom nature” of her characters, such as in The Making of Americans where the narrator is described through the repetition of narrative phrases such as “As I was saying” and “There will be now a history of her.” Stein used many Anglo-Saxon words and avoided words with “too much association”.

Stein predominantly used the present progressive tense, creating a continuous present in her work. . . .

Here’s a good example of her early writing:

A RED STAMP.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

In 1912, shortly after she began her literary career, Stein submitted a manuscript (“M.S.”) to Arthur Fifield, a publisher in London. He, in return, wrote her the most magnificent rejection letter I have ever seen:

Gertrude Stein rejection letter

April 19 1912

Dear Madam,

I am only one, only one, only one.  Only one being, one at the same time.  Not two, not three, only one.  Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour.  Only one pair of eyes.  Only one brain.  Only one being.  Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times.  Not even one time.  Only one look, only one look is enough.  Hardly one copy would sell here.  Hardly one.  Hardly one.

Many thanks.  I am returning the M.S. by registered post.  Only one M.S. by one post.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Fifield

Mental Floss has assembled a collection of nine other rejection letters sent to famous people, in addition to Fifield’s letter to Stein.  All are somewhat interesting.  Only the one (the one, only the one) to Stein is brilliant.

“The Bookworm Returns : Life in Obama’s America” — Book Sale *UPDATED*

Kindle.web_Andrea.coverMASTERUPDATE: The virtue of making lots of mistakes in life is that you get good at making heartfelt apologies. Here’s mine:

I really, really hate learning life lessons the hard way, especially when doing so inconveniences and even misleads others. Today’s life lesson was that, even if you think you’ve properly set-up a Kindle Countdown Deal for your e-book, you should check to make sure that the sale is actually in place before sending out the announcements.

Two days ago, I thought that I had set up a Countdown Deal that would begin today. At the same time, I scheduled a post announcing the deal, as well as this email notification. I was proud of myself for this unusual efficiency.

Pride goeth before a fall, of course.

It turns out that, even as my blog post automatically appeared and my email automatically got delivered, both announcing that my e-book is on sale, the $2.99 price on my e-book remained unchanged. I’d like to blame the Kindle Publishing process, but I can’t. The fault was entirely mine for not confirming that all systems were go before I launched my little publicity campaign.

I am so sorry I wasted your time. Having said that, it’s still a nice book to read and I still intend to put in on sale. When that happens, I’ll double check to make sure that Kindle and I are on the same page, and I’ll send out an announcement that’s the real deal.

*****

By any chance, have you heard of Bookworm’s The Bookworm Returns : Life in Obama’s America? It is, if I do say so myself, an utterly delightful book. Some (namely me) call it a clever and elegant compendium of essays offering insights into American politics and society. But why take my word for it — even though, since I wrote the book, some might say I have the inside track on just how wonderful it is? Others seem to like it too.

Before I tell you how much these others have liked it, let me entice you with a bargain:  Today through March 20, you can buy the book for $0.99, which is 67% off the regular price.  On March 21, the price creeps up to $1.99 (a 34% discount), where it will stay until 9 p.m. PST on March 23.  After that, if you still want to buy the book, you’re on the hook for the full $2.99.

Robert Avrech, who blogs at Seraphic Secret and who wrote How I Married Karen, a charming, book-length love letter to his wife:

[T]hen I sat down and read The Bookworm Returns: Life in Obama’s America, an eBook which should be mandatory reading for every American. Bookworm Room is a wife, a mother, a lawyer, and a blogger who is something of a hero to me. Whenever I need some common sense talk about difficult political or social issues, I make my way to Bookworm and see what she has to say. Her opening essay on guns, written as a letter to a teacher (but wisely never sent) is a classic discourse on the Second Amendment, and how best to protect our children. Because Bookworm is a brainy lawyer who has not sacrificed her common sense, she writes astonishingly clear sentences that manage to cut to the heart of, well, everything. Her chapters on what the Democrats have done to our health care system is, quite simply, revelatory.

Caryl B. Miller:

Deep in the wilds of Marin County on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge lives Bookworm, a pseudonym for a wonderful writer and culture warrior tilting against the predominant Left flowing current. I’ve always loved her blogging and here is a collection of some of her best work.

Her take on living in Obama’s America, delivered from what some people might call the heart of it alternately made me laugh and reflect seriously at what we’re becoming as a society, and I think it will have the same effect on you. It is, more or less, a diary on what we’re going through right now. And being a collection of short essays, it’s a great mental snack when you feel like giving your brain a treat.

Highly recommended.

Teri O’Brien, who blogs at Teri O’Brien and whose The ABC’s of Barack Obama: Understanding God’s Greatest Gift to America (Lies Obama Told Me) is an enjoyable, easy-to-read indictment of the Obama administration:

One reason that conservatives have a much easier time making logical arguments is that we constantly see our positions under siege by the popular culture, by academia, and by the legacy media. We have to defend our positions, which are laughingly characterized as “out of the mainstream” by people who think Bill Ayers is just a college professor from Barack Obama’s old ‘hood. We see our values and traditions mocked and denigrated on a daily basis. Not so for liberals. They spout crazy talk that goes unchallenged. They repeat threadbare clichés to each other as everyone nods in agreement.

One very notable example of the value of engaging in actual debate is the author of this book, Bookworm, a common sense conservative living in one of the most liberal bastions of the bluest of blue states, and the publisher of a popular blog. Her many fans know that she uses her well-honed intelligence to slice and dice liberal foolishness, and to expose its inherent inconsistencies with clever wit, humor and well-researched, hard evidence, delivered in extremely readable prose that is a delight to experience. For example, in a little over 600 words, she demolishes the anti-freedom, anti-choice Obamacare scheme by comparing it to grocery bag bans. Then I was the one nodding in agreement.

This book is not all wonky public policy–and even the entries written about serious public policy aren’t written in a way that is the slightest bit wonky. I cheered when she busted a liberal professor’s attempt to conflate the nihilistic world of Lena Dunham with the respect for traditional values permeating Jane Austen’s wonderful novels. I marveled at her profound insights about the cycle of life and death inspired by, of all the things, the death of a mouse.

The book is organized into short essays, which makes it perfect for a quick break during the day. Grab a cup of coffee, and be inspired and intellectually refreshed.

You will thoroughly enjoy this book, but beyond that, it will provide you with the evidence and solid arguments that you need to withstand the relentless liberal assault against what you hold dear.

Highly Recommended.

Terry Oberdank:

I have read most of what is in here from the Bookworm Room Blog but it was all worth reading again. She has a wonderful command of language and her values are very commendable.

Beth Vandiver:

“Bookworm” has her eagle-eye on the country and she’s a wonderful writer. If you like common sense, this is the book for you!

Needless to say, I am deeply grateful to those friends of mine who took the time and made the effort to say such kind things about my writing.  Perhaps those reviews will entice you to give the book a try….