A dose of reality jumps off the page

dejah and newspaper

Every so often a character in a book will make an observation that you have to believe is coming from the author. And so it was as I was reading The Burning Room by Michael Connelly, in a scene where detective Harry Bosch is researching a horrific fire at a child care center that he is now discovering was a homicide.

Harry is reading an extensive report in the Los Angeles Times that covered several pages the day after the 1993 homicide. On one page is a box listing all of the journalists who worked on the story.

Bosch counted 22 names, and it made him miss the old Los Angeles Times. In 1993 it was big and strong, its editions fat with ads and stories produced by a staff of some of the best and brightest journalists in their field. Now the paper looked like someone who had been through chemo – thin, unsteady, and knowing the inevitable could only be held off for so long.

While Connelly was writing about Harry Bosch’s hometown paper, the description fits almost every publication in the U.S. news business – and, frankly, not only those outlets that still employ a conventional press. Ever since some bean counter somewhere decided that newsrooms must turn a profit, it’s been heading downhill.

My first boss said the news department was a public service, not a profit center, and he expected the other parts of the radio station to raise the money to support the newsroom’s expenses. You don’t hear that in the boardrooms that control most journalism enterprises these days.

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From book to screen and back again

vintage TV

I have been keeping track of the books I’ve read for more than 20 years. It’s interesting to review what has tripped my trigger over the years. This year, with a 45-50 minute commute three days a week, the audiobook has taken greater prominence in my “reading.”

This is the first year that I’ve averaged more than one book a week. I’ve already absorbed 61 books this year, which is more than I read the previous two years combined.

And book series that have made the transition to the small screen have had a lot to do with that burst. Almost one-third of the books have been by Michael Connelly, creator of detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Schaller. I was drawn to the books by the brilliant Amazon TV series “Bosch” with Titus Welliver.

Recently I’ve been entertained by the Longmire books by Craig Johnson, as read by the wonderful George Guidall. I thought Robert Taylor did a marvelous job of bringing Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire to life, but Guidall is a great reader, and I may see Taylor’s face when I envision the sheriff, but it’s Guidall’s voice I will hear from now on.

“Longmire” recently completed its six-year run on Netflix, and its series finale was one of the most satisfying I can recall. In a different way, the series finale of “Inspector George Gently,” available in the U.S. (so far) only on Acorn TV, is an absolute gem and honest to the great story it has told for eight seasons.

Once upon a time when you missed a TV show, you missed it. In today’s world of on-demand viewing and streaming and all that, we can make TV series recommendations with the same casual air that we recommend books or good music. And so I recommend “Bosch” and “Longmire” and “Inspector George Gently” to anyone who enjoys mystery stories and police procedurals, a little wistfully because two of those shows have run their course now. But there’s still season 4 of “Bosch” to look forward to …

The Incredible Shrinking Blue Book

incredible shrinking blue book

The venerated Wisconsin Blue Book is the latest victim of downsizing print products, be they newspapers, magazines or reference books.

Iconic Wisconsin Blue Book sheds 300 pages, blue cover

“Compared with its predecessors, the tome is much slimmer – 677 pages compared with 973 pages in the 2015-16 version – has noticeably larger type and poorly cropped photos of legislators.”

So, significantly less content – partially disguised with larger type so that the reduction seems to be a mere 300 pages when the word count cut is much deeper – and less attention to detail. Where have we seen that before? Continue reading

What are the odds

After inhaling All Around the Town, a novel by Mary Higgins Clark, in one weekend, I decided to try another of her mystery-suspense stories and pulled the only available audiobook out of the local library: No Place Like Home.

I was immediately put off by the book’s outlandish premise: A woman who killed her mother accidentally at age 10 while protecting her from her brutal stepfather has pledged to her dying first husband not to reveal her past to anyone again – and her second husband just happens to buy her a new house for her birthday that just happens to be the childhood home where her mother died.

The monstrous coincidence – which I presumed would turn out not to be a coincidence – and the character’s reticence to tell her husband the truth (her husband!!!), almost put me off to continuing the story.

But then the narrator explained where the story is set: It all comes down in Mendham, New Jersey, less than five miles from where I spent the second half of my childhood. What are the odds, of all the books in the world, I would randomly pick up one that was set in my hometown?

If that kind of coincidence is possible in the real world, why not the crazy coincidence Clark asks me to accept in hers? So off we went …

Dandelions again

4df62-img_35182bcrop

I am “reading” Dandelion Wine again, this time while flying down the highway, with tears in my eyes loving the images and the words and the turns of phrase of my yes-I-have-a-favorite favorite book.

I realize I don’t want exactly to share the book with you – although I do – as much as I want you to experience the feeling this book gives me. I hope, if not this book – and probably not because the effect Dandelion Wine has on me is as much a product of my life I have lived and the words can never strike you quite the way they struck me – I hope that somewhere in your experience you find a book that touches you to the core the way Dandelion Wine touches me, because oh, what a joy it is, and I would be a callous and selfish man indeed to hold this feeling close to my heart and never share it.

I hope there is a book somewhere that will bring you to joyous tears as this book does so often to me.

The rebirth of Myke Phoenix

Myke Phoenix Novelettes

The “director’s cut” is done. And here’s a new freebie for you.

For the past four months or so, I have been (for the most part) quietly repackaging and rebooting the Myke Phoenix Novelettes into what I am aribitrarily declaring their final form. Let’s face it, from now until my last breath I could constantly tinker around the edges, add deleted scenes, and update the special effects ad nauseum, but at some point you move on. Continue reading