Saturday, September 24, 2016

Job Opening In Denver

This could be you
Do you enjoy skiing and other outdoor activities associated with mountains? Fond of hiking and camping in the back country, watching the elk graze, that sort of thing?

And are you a literary agent looking to enjoy those hobbies while keeping your job?

Kristin Nelson is looking for you.

The Colorado-based agent is looking to expand, or at least replace Sara Megibow, who went on to a different agency after she'd learned the ropes from Ms. Nelson. There's a limit to how many clients one agent can manage, and the time has come for Ms. Nelson to bring in someone to carry some of the weight, and bring in a few more clients to grow the agency.

You have to have some knowledge of the publishing business, according to the job posting. Just because you think it would be interesting, or just because you could get your manuscript published more easily if you were an agent and developed connections, doesn't mean you'll get hired.

Ms. Nelson needs someone ready to jump into the game straight off, with a minimal amount of training. Maybe you've been interning in New York and are ready to live in the pristine wilderness, where canyons are real canyons and not just streets lined by skyscrapers. Perhaps you've been bored in your position as a minor acquisitions editor, disappointed with the offerings and thinking that if you were an agent you'd find some decent books for publication.

This is your chance, to combine your love of books with your love of the outdoors.

But you aren't too keen on bears and snakes, you say?

Not to worry. If your heart is set on moving up in the agenting business, Ms. Nelson is open to telecommuting. After all, it would be to her advantage to have a partner in New York City, in the heart of the beast. An occasional trip to Denver would be manageable, wouldn't it? The elevation would leave you breathless.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Handled In House

Another pedophile priest, another failure to follow secular law
They just don't get, do they.

The Chicago Archdiocese, in line with dictates from the Vatican, instituted all sorts of safeguards after the child sex abuse scandal exposed the inner workings that were designed to protect the Church. It was the practice, before public outcry stopped it, to shift a pedophile priest from one parish to another, after exacting his promise to stop being a pervert. And when the priest reverted to form, it was off to yet another parish, to destroy the lives of other children while the Church busily swept the dirt under the rug.

Zero tolerance was supposed to become the rule, or at least that was what was put out there for public consumption. We won't tolerate un-priestly behavior, have no fear, so come on back to church and don't worry about leaving your young sons in the company of the priest. There's no more of that other funny business going on.

Okay, so the Chicago Archdiocese didn't take Octavio Munoz from his parish and assign him elsewhere after someone found child pornography on his computer. No indeed, they did what they were supposed to do and turned him over to the authorities.

And miracles happen every day, right. Father Munoz wasn't turned over to the police, along with his porn-riddled computer. Hell no. This is the Catholic Church. They can handle these problems in house. No need to seek outside assistance. Move along. And don't forget to drop your donation in the basket.

It isn't such a crime that the Archdiocese conducted an investigation after the initial complaint was lodged. No employer would act in haste without first gathering some evidence that an employee had committed a crime. Just because someone says they saw something isn't positive proof, and any boss would first call in the employee to have a talk about the accusation.

After all, confession is good for the soul.

So the Archdiocese launched a little investigation and couldn't find the offending laptop, but they did manage to find plenty of other items of interest. The investigators contacted the Chicago police. The Archdiocese sent Father Munoz to Maryland for treatment.

And forgot to tell the Chicago police who were conducting their own crime investigation that the perp was out of state.

It's Church business. The Church can handle it.

Except it isn't just Church business, it's everyone's business. It isn't up to the Archdiocese to send a priest for counseling after he has been found to have a serious problem with pedophilia, even if that priest is a star in the recruiting arm of the Church. Good for Father Munoz, that he was so skilled at attracting Hispanic men to the priesthood. But did he attract more pedophiles like himself? Anyone investigating that?

All the Archdiocese had to do was ask the Chicago P.D. if Father Munoz could be sent to a secure facility in Maryland where priests are routinely sent when they have mental health issues. It wasn't enough that the Church authorities followed the letter of the law and notified the police that they had uncovered a pedophile in the ranks. The Church couldn't just do what it wanted, as if there was no secular law governing treatment of suspected pedophiles currently under investigation.

The cops like to know where the perps are, and the Archdiocese was wrong to not follow the spirit of the law and cooperate fully with the police.

They just don't get it. The Church is so insular, so isolated from the rest of the world that changing its ways to conform to modern society isn't happening fast enough to keep the Church from killing itself in an atmosphere of detachment and irrelevance.

You know what they say about that which was hidden being revealed? Hypocrisy was the leaven of the Pharisees, and it's deadly when it infects an institution.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Let No Man Write My Epitaph

Published on the anniversary of Robert Emmet's esecution
With those words, Robert Emmet closed out his life and a rebellion that failed as soon as it began. On this day in 1803, he went to the gallows even though he had ample opportunity to escape Ireland and flee to America. Why did he stay when he knew he was doomed?

He would not leave Ireland without his beloved Sarah Curran, who could not elope. Back in those days, it would have spelled social doom for her family, her sisters in particular. Anyone who has read Jane Austen is aware of the black stigma that such behavior left on those who were quite innocent of any crime.

We know that Emmet went to his death, but what became of Sarah Curran?

Her story is told in a new novel, MERCY FIRST AND LAST, a well-crafted work of historical fiction that describes a woman from a privileged background who faced incredible adversity yet survived. Not unscathed, to say the least, but she found the courage to create a new life after her world was shattered.

With lyrical prose, the story of Sarah's tumultuous life is told with remarkable historical detail, putting the reader in Georgian Ireland during a time of rebellion and insurrection, the Age of Enlightenment after the success of the American revolution. Readers will be transfixed by the narrative, as Sarah witnesses and then becomes embroiled in a plot to overthrow the government and set Ireland on a path of freedom.

Now available, pick up a copy or download the digital edition.

Let no man write my epitaph, Robert Emmet said. He died a hero of Ireland, a man who would not abandon the woman he loved. What a burden it was for that woman to carry.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When Your Source Documents Are Classified

Chicago Tribune journalists exposed military secrets in 1942 but we can't read about it now
Historians churn through old documents to create the story for us, the students of history. All the information is out there and they do the heavy lifting, putting all the little details together to form a cohesive picture.

For Elliot Carlson, some of the documents he needs to finish up his history of a World War II incident are sitting in the National Archives under lock and key, the dusty old artifacts not to be viewed by his curious eyes.

World War II was a long time ago, you might say, and don't we all know that the vets are dying off so rapidly that soon there'll be no one alive who witnessed the fighting. Surely there is some kind of time frame that would allow for the release of documents that have been sequestered for the past seventy-five years.

Not in today's modern bureaucracy there isn't.

Mr. Carlson, an octogenarian himself, has written a book about an intriguing case that involved the Chicago Tribune and the Federal Government during the war. It seems that the newspaper published some interesting facts surrounding the Battle of Midway, facts that pretty much told the world that the U.S. had cracked the Japanese code and knew everything the enemy was going to do.

That sort of thing falls under the "loose lips sink ships" rule, and the U.S. Government decided that the journalists were essentially guilty of espionage. The case was more political than factual, a product of the hatred that President Franklin Roosevelt felt for the ardent Republican publisher Col. Robert McCormick. Roosevelt saw a chance to strike at his nemesis, using the power of the Justice Department. Hadn't McCormick used the power of the press to lambaste Roosevelt? Tit for tat, and so a prosecution was put into motion.

A grand jury was convened to discuss the matter, and because the documents Mr. Carlson seeks are transcripts of that same grand jury hearing, he's been told that he can't have them. Grand jury transcripts are sealed, to preserve the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, and so the Justice Department said no, go away. And take your historical interest with you. It's all about preserving the sanctity of grand jury secrecy, even if it's been 75 years.

True bureaucrats never look at the broad picture, of course, because they're all about following the rules to the letter. Even to the point of being ridiculous.

If the point of secrecy is to protect the safety of witnesses, well, you can be sure that they are all either a) dead, or b) not in any danger. It's not like some Japanese double agent is lurking in the shadows, ready to exact revenge.

Thus far, a federal district judge has scoffed at the arguments made by the Justice Department to have the records kept sealed, and a subsequent appeal was also denied by the 7th U.S. Circuit. So that's Justice Department 0, Elliot Carlson 2.

He hasn't won yet, and he's got his eye on the clock as the Justice Department considers its option to ask for a full hearing before the Court of Appeals, or possibly bumping the case up to the Supreme Court. There are rules, after all, and rules are there to be followed no matter what because what would a bureaucrat do at work if not be sure that all rules are being followed?

There's just no place for common sense or a nod to the public good when a bloated bureaucracy is looking out for itself.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Avenue of Spies: A Book Review

To read of ordinary people exhibiting extraordinary courage in wartime is to delve into the heart of genuine wartime experience. AVENUE OF SPIES takes the reader into Nazi-occupied Paris, into a home that was surrounded by SS agents and Gestapo headquarters. The ordinary people in this case were an American doctor, his wife and only child, all of whom were involved in the French Resistance.

Author Alex Kershaw does a good job of setting the scene, providing enough background to give historical context. He presents a piece of the resistance movement through the activities of Dr. Sumner Jackson, surgeon at the American Hospital, along with his Swiss-born wife and son. The family could have escaped as the Germans bore down on Paris, but the doctor chose to stay and his wife refused to leave her home.

What sort of person joined the French underground, hiding downed Allied fliers and helping them esape? People like the Jacksons, who lived in the midst of the Gestapo yet refused to yield when cooperation would have made life easier. Instead, they risked their lives, and ultimately were sent to concentration camps in Germany as the Allies landed in Normandy and the German overlords grew increasingly brutal.

The book is a definite page-turner, with just enough cliff-hanging to keep you reading, wondering how the Jacksons are going to escape one close call after another. When the end does finally come, you are pulled through their time in concentration camps, struggling to survive, and again you fly through the book to find out what happens.

AVENUE OF SPIES is a story of courage and a refusal to surrender, a willingness to give up one's life for the good of a nation. For anyone seeking some insight into the life of common people during the occupation of France, this book is well worth reading.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Clancys Of Queens: A Book Review

Time flows in a single direction, always moving forward at a steady pace.

Writers have the luxury of moving through time in their narrative, going forward or back, sideways and into the future. If an author chooses to skip the linear form, however, they should let their readers know.

Too often in THE CLANCYS OF QUEENS, Tara Clancy loses her readers as she tells about her childhood in Queens, New York. It can be maddening at times, those abrupt halts when you think she's five but suddenly she's eighteen and you never saw the transition coming.

Ms. Clancy has a strong platform built of short stories previously published, along with a web presence. She learned how to write along the way, and the lesson about ending a chapter with a cliff-hanger ending took hold. How does a child running loose in a working class part of New York end up riding somewhere else in a private limousine? You'll turn the page to find out.

Her memoir is well told from a prose standpoint, her ability to tell stories evident as she describes what is an incredibly dysfunctional childhood. Her parents divorce when she is but a toddler, and she divided her time between her father who lives in a single room and her maternal grandmother (along with her grandmother's geriatric neighbors) and her mother. Her father, an alcoholic, drags her along to the bar when she's in residence, while her mother takes her to her lover's luxury home in the Hamptons for the weekend.

How does the other half live? Ms. Clancy found out firsthand, by living in both the poor and the rich spheres. That is the major theme of the memoir, her experiences rotating through two worlds, although she only brushes up against wealth and is formed more by common hardships and the sort of schools that can only be found in a hardscrabble environment, a more violent world than the average reader knows.

The book is readable, except for the disjointed style that has you thumbing back to earlier pages to figure out how the time jumped and did you miss something along the way. There is something very sad flowing beneath the witty stories of a wild child acting up continuously, getting expelled from high school for misbehavior and generally spending much of her teen years in an alcoholic, marijuana infused haze. There is a moment of redemption, however, when Ms. Clancy discovers literature and gets her life in order.

It's the end of summer and this one is more of a beach read, something short to breeze through on a warm weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fagin Is Alive And Living In Chicago

Fagin of the Dickens era
Oliver Twist ran with a rough crowd during his abandoned orphan days. You remember the classic Dickens tale, about the waif who had to survive the mean streets of London during the Victorian era. He was taken in by a man named Fagin, a master of young thieves who taught such skills as pocket picking.

Fagin might be a fictional character, but he's come to life in Chicago.

Fagin earned a living by sending his army of boys out into the better areas, the places where Londoners had money, and the gang dutifully committed their robberies and brought the goods back to Fagin. In return, they gained a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and isn't that what survival is all about?

A group of six boys is thought to be responsible for a string of strong-arm robberies that took place in Chicago on Monday. The teens worked in unison to get their intended victim into a headlock, hold a knife to the victim's throat, and demand cell phones and credit cards. They went off on their spree during after school hours, and even went so far as to target a thirteen-year-old who was watching a track meet.

They worked an area of the city that is home to the more well-to-do of Chicago, the upper middle class who can afford to buy restored Victorian rowhouses. This being Chicago, those denizens of the comfortable enclaves aren't carrying weapons, either, making them that much more vulnerable. The attacks were quick, get in and get out, and once the criminals had the goods they jumped into a nearby car where the modern day Fagin was waiting.

Pretty brazen, but not unlike Fagin's crew doing their dirty work in crowded places. Of course, Fagin's boys were more about the quiet crime, the stealth of a wallet from a pocket without the victim any the wiser.

Part of their strategy is the sudden attack, leaving the victim too shocked and frightened to really get a good look at the perpetrators. It's no easy thing to tell the police what the boys looked like after that kind of assault, and about all that is known is that the thieves are teen-aged and their getaway driver is a man in his early twenties.

Probably not Jewish, like Dickens' Fagin, but of more modern stereotype. The police are looking for a black man.

And six boys who were taught how to pull off robberies and take small things that can be fenced at the less ethical cell phones stores that dot the poor neighborhoods of Chicago. As for the credit card thefts, they might be able to fill up the getaway car with gas, assuming they figured out that the zip code needed to unlock the gas pump was most likely the zip code for the area from which they stole the card. Even someone stunned by a crime would think to call the credit card company and cancel their account immediately, rendering the card useless for any kind of major purchase.

Like Fagin's crew, the riches are paltry and stealing five or six cell phones isn't going to put a lot of money in anyone's pockets.

But it's a start.

What's next? Six boys running into high-end shops, grabbing what expensive merchandise they can carry, and then making a dash for Fagin's little Nissan car?

Maybe. If today's Fagin is creative enough. Otherwise, his army of thieves might get a little restless with the paltry rewards after a hard day's toil. The business model may need some tweaking. Like adding in a little breaking and entering, swiping of expensive silver or jewelry. So many possibilities for a clever mastermind.