Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day Weekend Good Reads

Memorial Day Weekend. Do you HAVE to watch TV? No, you don't. There are other options. Stick a lime wedge in it (whatever IT is) and enjoy. Speaking of Stephen King, his horror audiobook CUJO is narrated by a sweet lady who was also in a horror film. See THIS. Interested in technology and drones? A new audiobook ARMY OF NONE is written by former Army Ranger and Pentagon defense expert Paul Scharre, narrator Roger Waynze talking about future military tech from drones to jets to AI directed smart weapons. Romance? How about Prince Harry and the new Duchess? Island Survivor/Romance? HERE. Comedy? New ROBIN biography. Robin Williams, that is. Well, that escalated quickly! That's a title too, by Franchesca Ramsey. She narrates. And it's not fiction. Happy? Beats watching the news. Smart move.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Postmarked for Death (Political Thriller with Shooter & Bomber)

A USPS van is used in the climax of READY PLAYER ONE.

POSTMARKED FOR DEATH. The plot could be taken from today's headlines. A Unabomber type clerk in the Tucson, Arizona post office attacks illegal immigration offices (and his own post office, to slow processing of food stamp credit cards.) Calvin's patsy is chained in a deserted Titan missile base in the desert while he continues to work and mail letter bombs. While the police search for the wrong man,  a rookie postal inspector begins to suspect something. Both points of view given, making it a psychological thriller, more of a “why-dunnit” than a “who-dunnit.” John Lutz (Single White Female): "A real page turner. Read this one, and dropping a letter in the mailbox will never be the same." Clive Cussler: "A class performance, powerful and accomplished...mystery at its best." In real life, one postal killer used a Ninja sword to kill. Postal shootings include Edmond, Oklahoma (15 dead; a .45 cal. semi-automatic), Royal Oak, Michigan (5 dead), Goleta, California (6 dead), and in 2017 two postal shootings: San Francisco (3 dead), and Columbus, Ohio (2 dead.)  Given our divided and extreme culture, it is important to understand the twisted thought processes of killers in order to be more effective in preventing violence. In most postal shootings, a grievance against high stress management was cited.  


This interview dates from 2004, years after the time Postmarked for Death was endorsed by Cussler in hardcover in 1996. The book has a new ebook/audiobook production in 2018, narrated by Atlanta actor Len Cassamas, and Cussler is still the #1 adventure writer in the world. His RAISE THE TITANIC was made into a movie, along with SAHARA. But the ocean has always fascinated him. New novels, some written with his son Dirk and others, have come on a regular basis ever since.
JONATHAN LOWE: You have a degree in maritime history, yet you worked in advertising, then in a dive shop on a lark, where you started writing. This was what, the mid-60s?
CLIVE CUSSLER: Yes, that would have been the mid-60s. But I got the degree, though, in 1999 or 2000. Sometime around then.
JL: How long had you been diving before NUMA?
CC: Started diving when I was in the Air Force. We were in Hickam Field in Hawaii for a while in 1951, and my friend Don Spencer and I sent for a dive tank and regulator from Cousteau in France, who’d started manufacturing them. I think we might have had the first tank in Hawaii, and I remember we went into the hanger and filled it up with a couple hundred pounds of stale air out of a compressor, and just ran into the water. So I would have started diving in 51.
JL: Finding lost shipwrecks isn’t easy, is it?
CC: Oh, no. Sometimes you get lucky, but I would say most of the time it’s difficult. The ghost ship Marie Celeste, we found that in the first hour. The Civil War submarine Hunley took me fifteen years.
JL: Is it the location that makes it difficult? Do the wrecks shift or drift?
CC: No, it’s just that the records aren’t good. I always give the example that, say, a plane crashed in your neighborhood. . . you could come back in two hundred years to find that site, but of course everything has changed, and you don’t know where to begin. Maybe they gave you a street, but maybe the streets not there. And they didn’t say it crashed two hundred yards from the old rock, you know? So you can see how difficult it is to find the exact spot. That’s the same way it is with shipwrecks. Nobody puts a big marker up and says here it is. So when you come by later, there’s no GPS coordinates.
JL: Like in the story The Gold Bug by Poe, where they drop the line through the skull to find the treasure.
CC: Yes, but even then they had a ball park.
JL: How many expeditions have you mounted by now?
CC: Oh my, there must be a hundred or more.
JL: The two Sea Hunters books outline some amazing successes, like the Hunley, Carpathia, Marie Celeste. Is there a ship still out there that beckons you, though, or still nags at you?
CC: For sure. John Paul Jones, the Bon Homme Richard. I tried for that four times, haven’t found it yet.
JL: Where did that sink?
CC: In the North Sea off Yorkshire.
JL: How goes SEA HUNTERS TV series? Will it air here?
CC: I don’t know. It’s under National Geographic, and airs internationally. What’s so funny with Geographic, I narrate the program overseas, but here they run a few of them under Mysteries of the Sea or something, and I’m cut out of it. (laughs)
JL: So you don’t know what’s going on?
CC: Well, somebody told me, and I don’t know how true it is, but they didn’t want to upset Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic.
JL: Your novels have been wildly successful, I think, due as much to the research behind them as the pacing and characters. Are you doing research for some lost shipwreck when it occurs to you that Dirk Pitt might wade in?
CC: Not really. I haven’t really combined the two. I had Pitt looking for a Pharaohs barge in the Nile one time, but we really haven’t crossed paths. I don’t know why. I think it’s just because the storyline doesn’t work as far as following anything I’ve done.
JL: Are there any more Pitt adventures in the works?
CC: Yes, I’m about two thirds through the next one.
JL: Really? I thought you were just continuing with Kurt Austin.
CC: No, those are just spinoff series. I come up with most of the plotting and they’ll start the writing, and I’ll edit, that sort of thing.
JL: So you switch off with Craig Dirgo and others.
CC: Right. Together we just finished a fiction book which has nothing to do with NUMA or Pitt or anything. In one book, Flood Tide, I had this ship that looked like an old beat up tramp steamer, had all the exotic gear, and people who ran it were like corporate mercenaries, they go around the world, like a Mission Impossible plot.
JL: Where did the name Dirk Pitt come from?
CC: My son’s name. He was six months old when I started writing. His name is Dirk, and I used it for fun, really. I was looking through an encyclopedia about the British prime ministers during the Revolutionary war, Pitt the younger and Pitt the elder. So I thought, well, that works, because I wanted a one syllable name.
JL: I was thinking, you know, like one letter less than James Bond, and easier to type than Brandon Tartikoff or something.
CC: (laughs) Well, that’s it. It’s easier to say Pitt jumped over the wall than that. I think that’s why Fleming wanted a simple name. James Bond. There was an ornithologist by that name too.
JL: What does your writing schedule look like these days? Do you work nonstop on a project?
CC: Pretty much, but I get so many interruptions. I mean, an expedition, or I have to go out to L.A. to fight over the screenplay or the movie. Or I have to speak here. There’s always something. But I try to work nine to six. Some nights now too.
JL: You know what would be great is a full cast and sound audiobook of a Pitt or Austin book.
CC: Yes, it would.
JL: Do you ever get fan mail from people about your audiobooks?
CC: Yes, I do.
JL: Have you ever been on the Tonight Show? Leno’s a car buff.
CC: No, I never have, but I remember I talked to him at Pebble Beach one time and I asked him: “How come you don’t have more cars on the show?” And he said he had Carroll Shelby on one time, and the audience just had no connection with him. So producers got after him, and other than a brief bit with him in a car now and then, that’s about it.
JL: Who are your own favorite authors?
CC: When I started out the one I leaned on the most was Alister McLean. And then Hammond Innes, in his eighties now and still writing. I like Nelson DeMille. But I don’t have time to read. I had lunch one time with James Michener, and just for fun I said, “Have you read any good books lately, Jim?” And he laughed and said “I don’t read,” then clarified it by saying he doesn’t read fiction because he’s always working. I gave a quote endorsement for The Hunt for Red October for Clancy.
JL: Really? Tom Clancy? That’s amazing.
CC: If you ever find an original, those things sell for about a thousand bucks. And then there’s Stephen Coonts, for Flight of the Intruder. Tells you how long I’ve been around, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sports Books for Fan Addicts

Imagine for a moment not being a sports fanatic. Wait, this might be a real stretch, so instead imagine not being a Belieber. Okay, now imagine you are inundated with calls to prayer, not just a couple times a day by Justin Bieber, but constantly...sirens and wails reverberating around you. Announcements and sermon hymns every time you turn on a radio or TV. Billboards with concert messages everywhere. Ads in your mail, in newspapers, in magazines for Justin, Justin, Justin. And everywhere you go, there are worshipers in proper ceremonial inside every bar you visit, offering up sacrifices of lamb, steer, and chicken seasoned with Justin-approved plastic surgeries, condiments and holy spices...
Welcome to America, circa now.

We talk about others living in the Dark Ages, so why do we act like it's Ancient Greece or Sparta? (Yes, there are over 50 teams in America called "The Spartans.") Nevermind the Olympics, if you don't get with the program, accepting all the NFL/NBA Dioceses hype as gospel...well, you're an infidel. Aren't you. (Yes, it's okay to admit your addiction. It's a first step to recovery. Not just yours, but the country and the planet.) Begin by calling your obsession for what it is: not a mere addiction, (like for junk food), but an actual RELIGION. And a radical one, to boot. Stop blindly believing (due to decades of indoctrination) that the meaning of life is watching mostly men propel various air-filled bladders toward nonsensical "goals." Just Do It with the help of a laughsphemous (albeit blasphemous) 2 1/2 hour comedy album (audiobook and ebook) titled THE UMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: Diary of a Sports Atheist. You will laugh. Or you may cry. But you will know that the medicine went down easier than if you'd been awakened by calls to prayer...and then lectured on concussions by the Supreme High Commissioner of Wiffleball. (Or Roger Goodell.) More important: more states can now bet on games, too! 

Skin in the Game by Nicholas Taleb, about the statistics behind gambling, sports, food, etc. Kobo ebook. Downpour audiobook. Kindle.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


A mother goes on a hike, disappears. Murder? Bear? Only a hiking boot is left. Told from two viewpoints, memories and letters, WATCH ME DISAPPEAR by Janelle Brown is a gripping thriller about how love distorts our reality. (Bringing to mind the phrase “perception is reality.” Which it isn’t. As the ending to the Stephen Spielberg movie and Ernest Cline book Ready Player One, “Only reality is reality.” The rest is VR.) Narrated by the always engaging Tavia Gilbert, with Kaleo Griffith.) In THE GIRL WHO TAKES AN EYE FOR AN EYE by David Lagercantz, narrator Simon Vance voices a continuation of the Steig Larsson series with a Lisbeth Salander novel. Lisbeth is, of course, a once traumatized hacker with secrets. She gets help again from the editor of the Millennium newspaper to uncover what’s behind the Registry, a science experiment gone horrifically wrong for its victims. For non-fiction, try PLUTOPIA by Kate Brown, read by Susan Ericksen. Subtitle is “Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters.” First published in 2013, winner of an American Historical Association award, it is new to audio. It’s a great addition to “Atomic Accidents” by James Mahaffey. The Cold War race for the atomic bomb and the Manhattan Project are examined, and there were American casualties due to ignorance and coverup. “Tens of thousands” were exposed to radiation by companies who wouldn’t tell the workers in places like Richland, Washington that they should wear gloves or masks “because dexterity was lost with gloves on,” and so time was lost. Chemists would hand supplies and instructions to workers, but wouldn’t enter their factories to do it. They handed them through a door or window, and ran. Cancer rates were as high as CTE among NFL players became, with companies like Dupont in denial of knowledge. Fascinating and chilling. AMERICAN PRINCESS is the new biography about the romance of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, written by Leslie Carroll. And, of course, Bill Clinton and James Patterson have penned a suspense novel THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING, narrated by Dennis Quaid. Picked up for a TV series, due in June, preorder. JACKPOT ISLAND is an ebook to come on audio in June too. It's about a Powerball winner who disappears right after picking up his $552M check.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Audible Places Third in Kentucky Derby

The horse AUDIBLE placed third in the Kentucky Derby! JUSTIFY your love by ordering AMERICAN PHAROAH. History was made at the 2015 Belmont Stakes when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, the first since Affirmed in 1978. As magnificent as the champion is, the team behind him has been all too human while on the road to immortality. Written by an award-winning New York Times sportswriter, American Pharoah is the definitive account not only of how the ethereal colt won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, but how he changed lives. Through extensive interviews, Drape explores the making of an exceptional racehorse, chronicling key events en route to history. Covering everything from the flamboyant owner’s successful track record, the jockey’s earlier heartbreaking losses, and the Hall of Fame trainer’s intensity, Drape paints a stirring portrait of a horse for the ages and the people around him.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

THE YEAR OF LESS by Cait Flanders

We live in a world of MORE. Everything is predicated on growth, earning potential, world domination, and “crushing the competition,” as Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank puts it. (He spends $120 on a pair of underwear.) Consumption is “bragging rights” these days, with condos rising on cleared land or near the ocean in an unsustainable model (given rising oceans, as in Norfolk, VA or Miami FL.) Hurricane seasons get worse each year, amid melting glaciers, while population growth means more pollution and plastics in air and water. So here comes Cait Flanders to join the few not buying the lies of advertising. In THE YEAR OF LESS, which she also narrates on audio, this binge shopper decided to not buy anything for a year, except groceries and gas and toiletries. Joining the zero waste movement, she discarded 70% of her “stuff,” as George Carlin once said it in a funny monologue. “When in doubt, throw it out” is the motto of the anti-hoarder. Getting rid of the television freed up immense time, as well. Cait reports that she feels more fulfilled, more in tune with herself and nature. A year of less means less stress, too. This is a book mainly for women shopaholics, it being doubtful that “good old boys” who “love their toys” would relate. Add mindfulness to the mix, and the author’s appeal goes to Oprah, Forbes, and the CBC. Related books on this subject are Minimalist Living, Soulful Simplicity, Destination Simple, and The Power of Now. People fight and die for more. They value themselves and others by how much they “own.” In a Silicon Valley book with the odd title LIVE WORK WORK WORK DIE, which men would appreciate, author Corey Pein offers “a scathing, sardonic exploration of tech culture, laying bare the greed, hubris, and retrograde politics of an industry that aspires to radically transform society for its own benefit. This enlightening audiobook is a must-listen for anyone interested or involved in the tech industry.” Corey narrates a no-filter look at the perils of approaching investors (as on Shark Tank), who often require payment upfront just to pitch them, at least in California. It’s like AGT, with just about the same hope. Subtitle, after all, is “A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley.” VR and gaming plays into it. GamerGate. Die on screen and in real life before you find “success.” Fascinating, as Spock would put it. The author wonders why startup founders must pay venture capitalists to hear them, and not the other way around. Perhaps there are just too many bad ideas out there, and too many pitches going on, that the public never sees good ideas passed over for ones that make big bucks…and get all the press in our “winner take all” TrumpIt culture. I was in a grocery store recently and overheard a bagger/cashier talking to someone about books. When my turn came, I asked him his story. He said he’d written 15 books, and gave up “because people like James Patterson own the industry now, and he mostly just puts his name on the books.” Opinion? (Patterson, whom I interviewed for this blog, owned a mansion in Palm Beach, near Maralago.) I plan to review the best one of the bag man books here at a later date. 
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov