Thursday, December 18, 2014

Robin Redux

The Robin Hudson mysteries have been reissued as proper e-books by Open Road Media.  More information here.

The last Robin Hudson book came out in English in 2000.  Fourteen years later, our paths have met again, in Paris, France.  I'm now editing a sixth episode, Last Girl Standing, with an ETA of the New year, if my beta readers don't come back with too many edit suggestions, that is.  This is the mysterious missing sixth episode, which is listed in my bibiliography on some websites but only came out in French translation.  It was a better book in French, thanks to a great editor and a great translator who pared down the sprawling manuscript.  I didn't even bother to submit the English manuscript to anyone else.

To fill in the blanks on Robin's life, I've rewritten it,  and have two more drafted, an episode set back in New York, and another in Bollywood.

In the meantime, you may want to reread the first five books, and buy many many copies as gifts and stocking stuffers for those loved ones who might feel a little battered, or gloomy about the state of the world, and need a laugh this holiday season.  These books go well with all hot and cold beverages.

Happy Holidays.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Late Great PD James

I once interviewed PD James for a newspaper, back in New York in the 1990s. Two rollicking hours over beverages at her hotel. 

She was great. 

I thought about that interview when I heard she'd died, and about the opportunity I missed with that interview. We spent two hours talking frankly about men and women, much of it controversial at the time. I'd been commissioned for a short interview on a short deadline--and was behind on a book as well--and I wrote a fairly standard praise piece. It should have been a transcribed free-for-all conversation. I wish I still had the audio tapes.

RIP Baroness James. You were a true dame in all the best connotations of the word, a self-made woman who revolutionized crime writing.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Everyone in the future is white."

This is a line from an episodic novella I wrote for USA Today in 2003, originally inspired by going through old pulp magazines when researching The Last Manly Man.  I found the scifi novella hard, having to write so economically, and didn't re-read it for a long time. Now I like it. It's fun.

I've been thinking about Afrofuturism, which I've been fascinated by since I first read Octavia Butler, and even moreso when I read the first new story about demographic projections of a brown majority in the 2050s.  Add to that a national economy and a culture largely built on African-American brains and backs, and it's clear Afrofuturism is the future reality.  Yet, it's pretty much ignored by the mainstream.  Movies set in the future have predominantly white casts.  The MSM shows us predominantly white inventors, scientists, business people, pundits.   (TV drama and comedy does much better, but still.)

Certain white men know it and fear it, and it manifests everywhere from the comments section of blogs to Ferguson.  These are the white men who are insecure and wedded to their racial and gender identities as White Men, because they've been taught to and given nothing else to build their selves around.  They may learn it at home, in school, in their peer group, from the culture, from women, yes, even from some of us who self-identify as feminist. There's a great Louis episode where he's on a date with a very cool woman, someone who would call herself a feminist, when a bunch of teenage bullies hassle them. Louis tries to reason with them, which doesn't work, so he then backs down.  The woman admits that even though she didn't want him to be a brute and fight, she's turned off by his refusal to fight. I've seen and heard this many times.  Men get mixed messages too, just like we do. They're subject to social conditioning like we are.  Their privilege is often countered by the burdens we put on them.

The GOP knows this too.  Their subtext in the past nine elections has been, "Elect us and we will control minorities and give you sovereignty over female sexuality and female economic power."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PBS PREVIEWS: THE WAR | Extended Preview | PBS

When I was a kid, our neighborhoods were full of world war two vets, and some world war one vets too. They're almost all gone now. I wish now we'd understood them better back then, and what they had gone through. It boggles my mind to think of all those young men, and women, plucked from farms, small towns, tenements,  and sent off to strange foreign countries to face unthinkable horror every day. If you haven't seen the Ken Burns' documentary The War, it's one of the best I know of for taking you into the minds of these men.

We still expect this of men today, to give up their lives young in wars, no questions asked. #LestWeForget

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lena Dunham

Here's my wholly amateur armchair analysis of Lena Dunham. While the language in the passages (of her book Not That Kind of Girl) about her sister make me a little uncomfortable, I see it as the typical dark-sick New York humor of young writers. It softens with age. She is not a narcissist. She is a self-reflector. Narcissism leads one to toxic self-love and denial (Jian Ghomeshi). Self-reflection leads one to the conclusion that "I'm a schmuck too sometimes, like everyone else." It leads to self-acceptance. I found the comment by her co-star Allison Williams interesting, that Dunham deliberately makes herself look less attractive on TV than in real life. There's something noble and generous about that.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Even though I'm sure Ghomeshi is guilty, based on the testimony I've heard/read and barring any last minute earth-shattering exculpatory evidence from Ghomeshi, I reserve the right to take every such case on a case-by-case basis in the future and think for myself. I'm disheartened by the smug, self-congratulatory tone of the hardcore anti-Ghomeshi twitter bullies (although pretty sure the pro-Ghomeshi bullies would have been as bad and probably worse).  If these women get justice and the system is reformed to be fairer, that's a very good thing. If we come to a clearer understanding of consent, that's a good thing. If we make men understand the peril we can be in just walking down the street and the damage done to us in sexual assault and any followup police or court action, that's a good thing.  There's not much else to feel happy about in this sad and ugly situation.

It's not true that if you reserve judgment it means you don't believe the accusers, as some suggest, or support the accused. It means you're waiting for enough information to make a wise and prudent judgment about what to believe. In reading and discussing this case, I've seen the phrase, "women don't lie," and been told by someone who actually knew very little about the case, "women just know." Which women? Let's identify them so we can turn to them and them alone whenever things are complicated and murky.  The women in 17th  century Salem? The woman involved in the 1920s Duluth lynchings and those who supported her? Those who supported McCarthyism? Those involved in the coverage and prosecution of the McMartin preschool case? Those who supported Tawana Brawley?  Who thought in 2003 the Iraq war was a good idea, and believed the government when it declared the war won?  Those two bitches in your office who whisper and snicker behind their hands whenever you pass by?

The culture and justice system are geared towards rapists over victims, and we need to be sympathetic and helpful to all alleged victims and try to change things. Statistically speaking, they are probably telling the truth. But that doesn't mean we have to set aside critical thinking and not ask questions, not think for ourselves. We are all human beings, men and women, limited and flawed, and acknowledging that might help us make progress towards a better understanding between all genders and a better system to deal with the conflicts. It won't be perfect, can't be, but it can be better.

Update:   I just heard this from a friend, not the first time I've heard it this week, "I reserve the right to believe the women." They're the kind of people you hope rape victims will have around after an attack, and chances are, they're right. It's a bit of a contradiction after what I just said, but it makes me happy to hear that, because I want women who report assaults to feel believed, comforted, safe, allied. But they didn't say I had to believe, automatically, before I know anything. A few people have, some not so nicely.  It's dangerous in the long run and I think the Ghomeshi public media trial showed it's not necessary. The power of the internet in this case was bringing people forward to offer evidence and testimony, connecting them, and drawing attention to the way sexual assault cases are viewed and prosecuted, not in two sides bullying each other into trying to make the other see it their way, or at least say they do.