Saturday, January 28, 2006

All Hail Sunshine!

Congratulations to Allan "Sunshine" Guthrie, who must now, by protocol, be addressed as "Edgar Nominee Allan Guthrie."

Kiss Her Goodbye was one of my favorite reads of 2005, and the Edgar nomination for Best PBO was well-deserved.

Twenty Years Ago Today

I was working as a waiter in a Darryl's restaurant in Durham, NC. It was still before noon, so it wasn't particularly busy. I was going back and forth from the kitchen to my tables getting things ready for the lunch rush. As I passed by the bar, I glanced up at the TV that was always on in there. Dan Rather's face was on the screen. I was almost to the kitchen before it struck me that that wasn't when Rather was usually on. There was stuff to do, though, so I put it out of my mind. Next trip back, Rather was still there. Hmm, I thought. This cannot possibly be good. As I stuck my head into the bar, the picture changed. It was the first time I'd seen it, but it wasn't going to be the last: that weirdly assymetrical cloud of smoke, pieces arcing off and trailing through the sky like errant comets.
"What happened?" I asked.
The bartender looked up from where he was setting down a pallet of beer mugs. "Space Shuttle blew up."
It was like being punched in the gut. I sat down on the steps leading down into the sunken bar area. "What happened?"
A shrug. "Don't know."
"Anybody get out?" It was a stupid question. No one could have gotten out of that.
Another shrug. "Don't know."
The nonchalance infuriated me. You idiot, I wanted to say. We just lost the stars.
I was wrong, of course. Wrong for being angry at a guy who, after all had his own crappy job to get through, and wrong for thinking it was the death of space flight. We didn't lose the stars, we just got set back. What we did lose was the lives of seven brave people, one of them a teacher who'd won a chance to go along and hold class from space.

Commander Francis "Dick" Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smith (a native of Beaufort, in my home state of North Carolina)
Mission Specialist Judith Resnik
Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka
Mission Specialist Ronald McNair
Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis
Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Should President Bush Be Allowed To Kill Kittens With A Hammer?

If you really believe that the President's authority in time of war is unlimited, then cartoonist August J. Pollak has a question for you.
And there's a survey.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski (2005)

Just finished The Wheelman, by my friend Duane Swierczynski, and was moved to write this review at Mystery Ink Online.

Buy this book now. It's the coolest thing I've read in ages. And I'm not just saying that because Duane is a friend of mine. This is one of those books that make me want to grab people on the street and demand that they read it. I've mostly stopped doing that, though, on advice of my therapist and probation officer.

What a Great Idea!

All of your favorite mystery-writer/fan/critic blogs* brought together in a festival of linky goodness. It's new! It's cool! It's !

*Oh, and this blog is there, too.

Metaphor? Simile? Either Way, Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist

Or at least that's the way the so-called "liberal media" would have you believe in the latest (and long-overdue) installment from the always-brilliant Udargo.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Latest Newspaper Column

Recently, the literary world was rocked by the controversy surrounding James Frey’s so-called memoir, “A Million Little Pieces.”

The book, (hereinafter referred to as “AMLP”) is supposedly the harrowing story of Frey’s battles with drug addiction, alcoholism, and crime. “I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal,” Frey repeats over and over, while calmly reciting some of the horrible experiences that particular trio of personal demons put him through.

The books begin with Frey hitting rock bottom: on a plane bound for Chicago, with no ID or money, wanted in three states, missing four front teeth, beaten, bloody and covered in his own vomit. (Boy, The Transportation Safety Administration was really asleep at the switch THAT day.) Of course, through rehab and personal gumption, Frey makes it back to sanity by the end of the book.

Well, no one loves a good recovery story as much as Oprah, who put Frey on the map and made his fortune by featuring “AMLP” on her show. Oprah herself was reportedly reduced to tears by the book, as were members of her production staff, who went on camera, eyes all damp and shiny, to describe how the book had moved them.

As we know, anything that makes Oprah & Co. cry is bound to make the cash registers ring. The book hit No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. It’s reportedly sold over three million copies and, we can assume, made Frey rich.

Unfortunately, it turns out that “AMLP” might just be a BOSPOBS, which stands for “Big Ol’ Steaming Pile Of” — well, you know. An investigation by the online muckracking site, “The Smoking Gun,” revealed that a lot of the incidents that supposedly befell Frey were totally fabricated.

It began innocently enough with TSG trying to track down a picture for its popular “celebrity mugshot” feature. They couldn’t find one from some of the more lurid crimes Frey claimed. They dug a little deeper. TSG reporters could find no police records to back up some of the felonies he said he’d committed.

He wasn’t actually involved in a horrible train wreck that took the lives of two girls, at least according to the girls’ parents. And so on. In the end, it turns out that Frey had originally written “AMLP” as a work of fiction, but it went nowhere. Repackaged as a memoir, however, the book was publishing gold.

You know me, folks. When I read something like this, I move quickly from “this is an outrage!” to “where can I get me a piece of it?” So, in my ongoing effort to make Dan Brown money off this publishing thing, I offer my own memoir, tentatively titled “A Few Large Chunks.”

I never knew my parents; I was found abandoned on the steps of a cut-rate Filipino tax preparation service in Slidell, La. As a child, I was bounced around between a series of orphanages, reformatories and opium dens. My first brush with the law came when I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. I was seven years old at the time.

I first turned to drugs at the age of five, when I discovered you could get high by snorting Nestle’s Quik through a rolled up copy of Highlights magazine. Since then, I’ve ingested marijuana, peyote, heroin, psilocybin, uppers, downers, screamers, laughers, dried banana peels, glue, paste, mucilage, LSD, DMT, STP, ABC, CNN, TLC, Sterno, Drano, Bondo, Ketamine, Dopamine, glucosamine, Ovaltine, and Krispy Kreme.

And I once did all of them in the same night. I woke up two weeks later, hanging upside down by my knees from a tree limb in Duluth, Minn., and singing the Aria from “Die Fledermaus.” In German. And I don’t even speak German. That’s how I rolled.

I once killed a stripper with a fondue fork and disposed of the body using an electric pencil sharpener. It took 14 hours.

I kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby. I was the shooter on the grassy knoll when Kennedy was shot. The only reason I missed is because I was completely plastered on cheap tequila and absinthe.

I know Tom DeLay personally.

There. That should just about do it. And hey, who cares if it’s true or not? Certainly not the American reading public. After Frey’s book was exposed, it didn’t budge from its #1 position on the New York Times’ Nonfiction Paperback Bestseller list.

The equally truth-challenged sequel, “My Friend Leonard,” perches at #1 on the Hardcover Nonfiction List. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, but apparently, if you can erase the lines between the two, it’s like minting money. And it makes Oprah cry, which is just icing on the cake.

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. Or so he says.