Friday, September 28, 2007

More Good Things Happen to Good People

Congratulations to all the winners of the The 2007 Barry Awards,
but most particularly to good friends Ken Bruen and Sean Doolittle, Ken won for Best British Crime novel for PRIEST (yeah, I know, Ken's Irish. Whaddya gonna do?) Sean's THE CLEANUP won best Paperback Original. Well deserved awards in both cases.

And I guess now it can be told, since JT Ellison done told it. My buddy Tasha Alexander is joining the ranks of the St. Martians in a two book pre-empt deal with St. Martin's Minotaur. One of us, one of us, one of us....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kiss of Death

Lover to die for kiss-and-kill pill::

A Chinese woman who killed her lover with a rat poison-laced kiss when she suspected him of being unfaithful has been sentenced to death, a newspaper said Thursday.

Xia Xinfeng, from Maolou in the central province of Henan, passed a capsule with rat poison from her mouth to her long-time lover, Mao Ansheng, during a kiss, the Shanghai Daily said.

Mao swallowed the capsule and died soon afterwards.

"The couple had said that if either one of them cheated on the other, he or she would have to die," the paper said in explaining the mouth-to-mouth assault.

Xia found Mao had been "talking" with another woman and deemed that he had broken their promise.

If I read this in a thriller, I'd probably toss it against the wall, going "Oh, PLEASE...."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now, On a Happier Note...

My last dinner party was completely like this.


Crossposted from Murderati:

Well, I had a fun and funny column planned for today, with my usual wit and jollity. But I find myself unable to write anything like that right now.

This past Friday morning, Emily Elizabeth Haddock was home alone, sick with a case of strep throat. Three young men, not realizing that there was someone in the house, broke into the mobile home where she lived. Apparently, when Emily surprised them, one of them shot her to death with a stolen .22 caliber pistol. Emily's grandfather found her body on the floor when he stopped by the house to check on her and saw the door forced open.

Emily Haddock was 12 years old. She went to my daughter’s school. She lived on the same road as one of my daughter’s close friends.

The three charged in the murder were apprehended and jailed Monday night. They’re 16, 18, and 19 years old. They’re being held without bond and two are most likely looking at the death penalty. The time and place of their next bond hearing is being kept secret because of “security reasons.”

The news vans are all over the courthouse square, and the reporters are all there, with names like Sloane and Greg and with their perfect hair perfectly in place, droning away with that look of fake concern on their faces, and I’m sorry, but I just want to punch them. They were outside the Sheriff’s office as they were taking one of the defendants to the jail, and they were asking “why did you do it?” I mean, do they really expect an answer? Is there one?

Where do you begin to process something like this? How do I make sense of the utter stupidity and futility of it all when someone who’s nearly the same age as my son is involved in the killing of a bright, happy, pretty girl who’s only a little younger than my daughter ?

I’m sure there will be those who see this as an indictment of the availability of guns, even though the gun wasn’t bought from a dealer, it was stolen in another B & E. Comments are already up on the news stations’ websites blaming the parents for leaving the girl alone, even though we really know nothing about the economic circumstances that might have led to that. At some point, since the accused are black and the victim was white, the race issue is sure to raise its ugly head. The pontificating and chest beating has just begun, and the whole prospect just makes me sick. These people, victims and perpetrators, aren’t symbols or symptoms. They’re a sweet, sunny-natured little girl and a trio of young dimwits like the ones I see every day. Except now one of them’s dead, and at least one of the three others are probably going to be dead in a few years at the hands of the State. Because if someone dies while you’re committing a felony like B & E, it’s first degree murder, baby. Class A, top of the sentencing charts, even if you didn’t plan the death. Unless you’re under 17, in which case you’re "only" looking at life without parole. At age 16.

As crime writers, I think we sometimes lose sight of what murder’s really like. Most often, it’s not a puzzle for the brilliant detective to solve. It’s not the plot device that causes the plucky heroine and her true love to get together so they can be happy and just too cute for words forever. It’s not the dangling thread of a giant tapestry of international conspiracy to be unraveled.

More often than not, a murder is just a stupid and pointless fuckup by someone who didn’t start the day out thinking “I’m gonna kill me someone today,” but who started that day with one bad choice that cascaded inevitably into another, then another, like a snowflake that turns into a snowball that turns into an avalanche. In this case, the avalanche leaves an innocent girl dead and not just one, but four families devastated.

I’ve been looking at the words above for the last fifteen minutes, trying to draw some conclusion from all this, some point. And I can’t find one. But maybe that is the point. This story’s not going to have a happy ending, or a moral, or a compelling or even a coherent plot. It’s just some really shitty stuff that happened this past weekend. All I can do to try and make sense of it is to write about it.

And it’s not enough.

I'm sorry.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Attacking the Wrong Enemy--Again

Latest Newspaper Column:

A recent ad in The New York Times, taken out by the activist organization, was harshly critical of the recently delivered Petraeus Report on the Iraq war -- and, indeed, of Petraeus himself.

"General Petraeus or General Betray-Us?" blared the headline. The article itself accused the general of "cooking the books" when it came to the statistics he cited that said the so-called "surge" was working.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that that headline was a cheap shot. After all, as I've pointed out before, when you grow up with a name like Dusty Rhoades, you get to be something of a connoisseur of bad name jokes.

Enter Rudy "Mr. 9/11" Giuliani, staunch defender of Republican values! By golly, he wasn't going to let anyone impugn the integrity of a general who, if Rudy's to be believed, is so above criticism that he really ought to be nominated for sainthood now while he's still alive to enjoy it. So, in his battle with the evil forces of, who did Mr. 9/11 choose to go after?

Hillary Clinton.

This may seem curious, because Hillary Clinton isn't a MoveOn member, isn't on their board, and in fact has about as much power over what MoveOn does as I had in picking Pope Benedict.

In fact, Hillary doesn't even enjoy much support from MoveOn's membership. In a recent straw poll, the Democratic frontrunner came in a distant fifth. If, as some Republicans claim, "MoveOn has bought the Democratic Party," they may want to look at who's leading the Democratic pack and ask for a refund.

But never letting pesky facts stand in your way is, after all, one of those core Republican values that Giuliani has sworn to defend. In his own full-page ad taken out in The Times, he huffed that "these times call for statesmanship, not politicians spewing political venom," before proceeding to spew a little venom of his own.

"Just when our troops need all our support to finish the job, Hillary Clinton is turning her back on them," sputtered a Giuliani online ad that follows up The Times full-pager. "General Petraeus and the brave men and women now serving under him deserve an apology. And our nation deserves better."

It wasn't enough that Clinton pointed out that she wasn't behind the ad; Giuliani demanded that she distance herself further from an organization she's not even part of. But, again, responding to an attack by spending a ton of dough to declare war on someone who had nothing to do with it is apparently another core Republican value. I guess Giuliani really DOES want to follow in the footsteps of George W. Bush.

Funny, though, Giuliani didn't seem to have many harsh words for the Republicans who expressed skepticism of the testimony of St. David of Petraeus. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel told talk show host Bill Maher that the whole thing, including Bush's hiding behind Petraeus, was "not only a dirty trick, but it's dishonest, it's hypocritical, it's dangerous and irresponsible. The fact is, this is not Petraeus' policy, it's Bush's policy."

And he said this, I might add, in a much harsher tone than Hillary Clinton could muster if she had a briar in her foot.

The venerable John Warner was also deeply skeptical of Petraeus' "keep on keepin' on" strategy. "I hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, the stress on our forces, the stress on military families, the stress on all Americans," Warner said.

If indeed, skepticism of St. David's assertions constitutes a form of heresy, then perhaps the most egregious heretics are within the Army itself. "Ten days ago," reports The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, "commanders in Baghdad began advertising for private contractors to work in combat-supply warehouses on U.S. bases throughout Iraq because half the soldiers who had been working in the warehouses were needed for patrols, combat and protection of U.S. forces.' The story goes on to quote the want ad: "With the increased insurgent activity, unit supply personnel must continue to pull force protection along with convoy escort and patrol duties."

What! Increased insurgent activity? That's not what Gen. Petraeus said! Call for Rudy Giuliani! Get some wood and some stakes! Roll out the full-page ads! And pay no attention to the body bags and maimed soldiers coming back from Iraq.

Because it seems the main Republican value is this: It doesn't really matter what you do -- cherry-pick your intelligence, fail to properly equip your troops, fail to plan for the aftermath of the war, and kill thousands of Americans, to say nothing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -- the only thing really worth getting outraged over when it comes to this war is what someone said in the newspaper.