Friday, December 07, 2007

When Conversation Lags In the Bar...

Tired of arguing over whether Mary Ann or Ginger was hotter on Gilligan's Island or who'd prevail in a battle between Star Trek's Star Wars Federation and the Empire of ? Jaime Weinman opens a whole new can of worms over The Fonz vs. Captain Kirk.

And if you're not reading Jaime's excellent blog every day, you should definitely check it out.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

LISTEN UP! The Face That Was Made For Radio....Returns

The fabulous River Jordan hosts yours truly, as well as author Tito Perdue, on her radio show Backstory, carried live this Saturday from 4 to 6 CST on 98.9 WRFN-LPFM Radio (aka Radio Free Nashville) . For you folks not lucky enough to live in Nashville, I understand that Internet streaming is available here and here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tess Gerritsen, THE BONE GARDEN

Every now and then, a writer whose books I really like comes out with a book that kicks their work up to a whole new level. I'm talking about the kind of book where, instead of finishing it and going, "hey that was really good", I put it down and go "Whoa. THAT was freaking AMAZING." Robert Crais hit that kind of turning point with L.A. REQUIEM. Laura Lippman did it with EVERY SECRET THING. And now Tess Gerritsen's done it with THE BONE GARDEN.

It's a bit of a departure from Gerritsen's previous work, in that it's a least partly a historical mystery, set in 1830's Boston. I say "partly," because there's a modern-day investigation in which Gerritsen's Maura Isles character makes a cameo appearance. The main action, however, takes place in a past that Gerritsen renders in such perfect detail that you can almost see (and smell) it. There are some great characters, including a strong supporting role by Oliver Wendell Holmes--not the Supreme Court Justice, but his father, who later became the greatest physician of his day. Among the period touches are some truly harrowing descriptions of 19th century medicine, which Gerritsen (herself a physician) describes with the sort of chilling matter-of-factness that makes them all the more squirm-inducing. The plot, which revolves around a Jack the Ripper-esque character stalking the foggy Boston streets, moves along compellingly, with reversals, surprises, and heartbreaking sacrifices that keep you turning the pages right to the end. I couldn't put it down.

THE BONE GARDEN is Tess Gerritsen's best book so far. Check it out.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Slog, Slog, Slog

Latest Newspaper Column:

A little over four years ago, on Oct. 16, 2003, to be exact, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated in a memo to his staff: "It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog."

So how's that slog going since then? Let's look at some highlights -- the Slog Report, if you will:

Nov. 6, 2003: President Bush signed a supplemental spending bill to spend $87 billion more on the Iraq War.

Dec. 14, 2003: American troops captured Saddam Hussein.

Jan. 17, 2004: U.S. troop deaths hit 500 since the invasion.

April 2004: American and Iraqi troops staged an all-out attack on Fallujah.

April 28, 2004: Released photographs revealed American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

June 28, 2004: The U.S. transferred sovereignty to Iraq.

Sept. 7, 2004: The 1,000th U.S. soldier was killed.

Sept. 15, 2004: $3.4 billion of an $18.4 billion Iraqi aid package had to be shifted from reconstruction work to improving security measures because of a worsening security situation.

Jan. 30, 2005: Iraqis formed a Transitional National Assembly.

March 3, 2005: The 1,500th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq.

May 11, 2005: President Bush signed a bill for $76 billion more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

May 30, 2005: Dick Cheney insisted that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes."

Oct. 26, 2005: The American military death toll reached 2,000.

Nov. 30, 2005: The White House unveiled a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It wouldn't be the last.

Feb. 3, 2006: President Bush requested another $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, for a 2006 total of $120 billion.

April 21, 2006: Iraq gets a new prime minister, Jawad al-Maliki, who formed a new government on May 20.

May 1, 2006: President Bush said Iraq had reached another "turning point."

June 15, 2006: The 2,500th U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq.

July 12, 2006: A White House budget document revealed that the administration needed another $110 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sept. 26, 2006: The Pentagon extended the combat tours of 3,800 U.S. soldiers by six weeks.

Oct. 6, 2006: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice visited Iraq and said it was "making progress."

Nov. 5, 2006: Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, was sentenced to death by hanging, with the sentence being carried out by jeering Shi'ites on Dec. 30. Sunnis reacted with outrage and an upsurge of sectarian violence.

Jan. 3, 2007: The death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq reached 3,000.

Jan. 10, 2007: Bush announced another strategy for victory in Iraq: the "surge," in which he sent 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.

Jan. 19, 2007: The cost of the Iraq war reached $8.4 billion - per month.

Feb. 2, 2007: Bush requested another $100 billion appropriation for Iraq.

April 5, 2007: A total of 12,000 more National Guard troops were ordered to deploy to Iraq.

April 11, 2007: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced 12-15 month extensions for Army troops.

June 7, 2007: American troop deaths hit 3,500.

June 14, 2007: The Washington Post quoted a Pentagon report saying that despite the "surge," overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased. "Attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces," the paper reported.

July through November 2007: Violence has slowly decreased. However, the Iraqi government has failed to take advantage of the increased security and enact the political reforms necessary to govern. No progress is being made on sharing oil revenues or holding regional elections. New tensions have arisen between the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the Turks over Kurdish separatists attacking Turkey. American officials now see an alarming increase in Iranian influence in Iraq. Iraq still cannot support or defend itself.

So after all that slogging, all those deaths, all that money, what words do our leaders have to offer?

Well, on Nov. 24, 2007, Ryan Crocker, American ambassador to Baghdad, stated: "We are seeing encouraging signs of movement, but this is going to be a long, hard slog."

It's like déjà vu all over again. Or one of those nightmares where you run as fast as you can, only to end up in the same place. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to wake up now.