Tag: books

books

What’s the Story?: True Crime Fraud

Long a popular subject in fiction—The Sting, Paper Moon, The Grifters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Six Degrees of Separation—fraud and con games have become a true crime staple. From early entries like the 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and the 2008 book, The Billionaire’s Vinegar, we now have television series (the Stacy Keach-narrated “American Greed” on CNBC), more films (Sour Grapes in 2016, competing Fyre Festival documentaries in 2019), books (King Con, Bad Blood), and podcasts (Drilled, Swindled, American Greed, The Dropout, Dirty John, The Dream). Podcasts, in particular, have embraced the art of the con as a rich source of material. Some, like the American Greed podcast, a spin-off of the CNBC show, offer a brief report of a specific case, similar to a news brief that might pop up in your Facebook or Google newsfeed. Others, like Swindled, offer a deeper dive into each crime, giving listeners more background on the perpetrators and victims along with some analysis of the case. Still others, like Drilled, The Dream, and The Dropout, devote an entire series to a single con, like climate change denial (Drilled), multi-level marketing schemes (The Dream), and the Theranos scandal (The Dropout). […]

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Reading on a Jet Plane

Alexia Gordon I just had time to unpack from Crime Bake before I hit the road again, this time traveling for my day job. Between waiting to board the plane, waiting for the plane to take off (I think I spent more time taxiing on the runway than I spent airborne), and the actual flight (which I spent crammed into an “upgraded” seat so cramped if I’d puffed out my cheeks I’d have hit my seatmates) I had plenty of time to get some reading and writing done.Pen and paper are my go-to travel writing tools—much easier than a laptop to whip out at a moment’s notice, no danger of equipment failure (I suppose my pen could run out of ink but I can fit a dozen pens into less space than a power cord), no need to search out a power outlet, and no need to stow for take-off and landing. My travel reading varies. It’s almost always paperback, lighter weight than hardback, and no need to power it on or plug it in or put it away when the flight attendant passes down the aisle checking seatbelts and seatback uprightness. Size matters—it has to fit in my personal item. […]

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Oh Christmas Tree?

 A photo of FLOTUS’s White House Christmas decorations—a phalanx of up-lit, bare-branched white trees lining a black-tiled corridor illuminated only by a few pendant lamps and the lights on an equally dark Christmas tree at the corridor’s far end—generated lots of reaction on social media. Responses pretty much evenly split between “love it” and “hate it” (although I know of one person who said, “at least it’s different”). Many assumed that politics informed the reactions because, hey, everything is about politics these days. Right? Wrong, in my case. I voted “hate it” not because of political affiliation but because of—scary trees. I don’t think hip or trendy when I look at the photo of stark branches emitting an icy vibe. I think, “When are the flying monkeys going to attack?” “Where’s the Snow Queen hiding?” Jack Frost? The Abominable Snowman? Snow White’s wicked stepmother? The cast of an M. Night Shyamalan movie? Notice a theme? Forests, the woods, places filled with scary trees are places where evil lurks and bad things happen. They are not locations of holiday merriment. “Little Red Riding Hood”. The Princess Bride. “Hansel and Gretel”. The Blair Witch Project. The Cabin in the Woods. Deliverance. Do any […]

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Bookseller from Hell Sells Up

I read a June 2017 article in The Guardian about a bookstore owner in York, England, selling his bookstore. Sad, at first, to think an independent bookstore had been forced to close due to competition from a chain or the internet, a closer reading changed both the story and my mood. Turns out, the man, dubbed “the bookseller from hell,” had gained notoriety for rudeness to customers and for charging a fifty pence entrance fee (allegedly refundable if you bought a book) to browse his shop. The village was happy to see the back of him because he was driving away tourists. (The article didn’t mention what drew tourists to the village in the first place but did mention it was the “home of Wensleydale cheese” so come to your own conclusion.) The bookstore had been bought by a “very welcoming couple” and would continue operating as a bookstore. I would have filed this under “interesting stories about English villages” if I hadn’t noticed a link to an op-ed piece written in January 2017, commenting on The Guardian’s initial article about the notorious bookstore owner. The author of the opinion declared himself a fan of the unpleasant shopkeeper. He described him […]

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Next Stop: Dysfunction Junction

  One of my favorite TV series is “Midsomer Murders,” the British cozy-cum-police procedural set in small town England, now in its twentieth season. Other, newer favorites include “The Brokenwood Mysteries,” a darker cozy-cum-police procedural set in small town New Zealand, and “Hinterlands,” so dark it’s actually Scandi-noir masquerading as village fare, set in small town Wales. All three shows share commonalities. They focus on police investigation of crimes in rural areas with adjusted per capita murder rates that rival Chicago’s. The biggest difference between the three is the degree of dysfunction in the main characters. Midsomer’s DCI Barnaby is an ordinary guy, a well-adjusted everyman with a well-adjusted wife and daughter. His home life is ordinary, if not outright idyllic. The drama and trauma occur on the job. Brokenwood’s DSS Shepherd, on the other hand, is a man with a complicated past that includes several ex-wives and at least one dead one. You get the sense he’s experienced a lot of unhappiness in a life accented by the show’s country/alt rock soundtrack. Hinterland’s (the darkest of the shows) DCI Mathias makes Kurt Wallander look like the president of the pep club in comparison. Devastated by the death of one of […]

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Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!

In a now famous meme-worthy speech, Steve Ballmer argued that tech-focused Microsoft needed to switch its attention to monetization. Advertisers! Advertisers! Advertisers… Baby! I think of Microsoft’s former CEO now that I have a book coming out in September and must shift focus from writing to promoting. Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book! Baby!The truth is that the skill set required to sell anything is very different from the talents needed to create realistic characters caught in an intriguing set of circumstances. And, to be honest, I lack many of the attributes necessary for the former. You know those folks who could sell ice to an eskimo? I’m not sure I could sell water to a sandhog.  But, promotion is increasingly a requirement for writers. Gone are the days when you wrote it and the publisher sold it (except perhaps for the big names we all know). Now there are blogs to write, email lists to engage, reviewers to court, blurbs to request. This is the writer’s new normal. Write the next book while promoting the current one. Repeat.  I’m not complaining. I’m just mentally adjusting to my reality. Most importantly, I AM LEARNING. Over the weekend, I was on a panel with Eva […]

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Movies or books? What's your fancy?

Hollywood award’s season came to a close this week and I realized how many of this year’s nominated films I had missed in the theaters. Many of them looked so good I need to find a way to rent or stream over the next months (Lion and Moonlight in particular, although I noticed that the winning documentary – The White Helmets – is on Netflix so I may start with that). I love movies, but I’m not an aficionada. I simply enjoy them. Movies let us enter an unfamiliar world, inhabit the space of another person or culture. Arguable books do the same – as writers we create a world expressed through words on a page that readers can inhabit and interpret. The reader sees and tastes and feels and hears. I asked my fellow MissDemeanors if they turn to movies for things not found in a book or vice versa…..and what about move adaptations? Cate Holahan – The movies in my head that play when reading are often better than the adaptations I see, later, on screen. There are exceptions. Harry Potter was pretty great in both forms, IMHO, probably because the filmmakers took such pains to keep everything true to the […]

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Pub Day Jitters

In honor of Tracee de Hahn’s publication day this week for Swiss Vendetta, the MissDemeanors all weighed in on the flurry of feelings they experienced on their first “Pub Day.” (Excuse the snow metaphors. The New York Area, where I live, was just buried beneath a foot of the stuff). For me, I remember a vague feeling of nausea. I was concerned that my first novel, Dark Turns, would be ruthlessly criticized. I was emotional and easily aggravated all day. I am happy to say that those feelings lessened for my second novel, The Widower’s Wife, and I am hoping that I may even approach happiness on the launch day for my third, Lies She Told, next September.  Here’s how the rest of the crew felt:  Susan Breen: I had two book launch days in 2016. On June 14, my first Maggie Dove book was published and I was an absolute wreck because it’s set in a village very much like my own and I worried everyone would hate it. (They didn’t.) On November 8, (Election Day), my second Maggie Dove mystery was published and I was a wreck because I was so worried about the election. So I guess there’s a theme there. C. Michele Dorsey: When No Virgin Island was published, […]

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Give in to the humbug–once in a while

  Peace. Love. Joy. All words we associate with Christmas, a time of year when millions the world over celebrate the birth of Christ or the arrival of Santa. A time when people look forward to gathering with loved ones to share holiday cheer.    But Christmas isn’t so merry for many. A lot of us suffer from the Christmas blues. I don’t mean clinical depression, a medical illness that demands professional medical attention, or the sadness and grief many feel during the holidays as they remember lost loved ones or deal with family estrangement or cope with being alone and lonely during a time of year second only to Valentine’s Day for its emphasis on being with “someone special.” I mean that blah feeling some of us suffer when all the holly-jolly becomes too much to bear. Joy overload. We hit a wall where we don’t want to hang one more ornament on the tree, put up one more string of lights, or stuff one more stocking. We crave home décor that’s not red, green, plaid, or emblazoned with whimsical woodland creatures. If you’ve ever envisioned hiding the Elf on the Shelf in the garbage disposal—head down—with the switch on—you know what I mean. We conceal these […]

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