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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Former Pro Wrestler Kevin Nash and Son Arrested

     Former WWE star Kevin Nash and his 18-year-old son, Tristen Nash, were arrested on December 24, 2014 after getting into a scuffle at their Florida home. Kevin Nash, known as Diesel in the ring, was arrested after police say he got into a physical altercation with his son after the boy came home drunk. Father and son gave the police different accounts of the incident, each blaming the other.

     Tristen Nash claims he and his father got into an argument about the boy's girlfriend and the fact he came home drunk. The 6-foot-10 former wrestler pinned his son to the ground. Kevin Nash told officers that his son had been the aggressor and that he only pinned him to protect his wife…

     Police arrested the father at the scene, but deputies later returned and arrested Tristen after his mother and uncle said he tried to fight with them as well…The family lawyer told reporters that the son was "out of control."

     Kevin Nash and his son were released from the Volusia County Jail without bond.

"Former Wrestling Star Arrested on Battery Charge," CNN, December 25, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Over-The-Hill Sitcom Actor Stabs Man in Bar

     Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on the 1990s TV show "Saved by the Bell," was charged on Friday December 26, 2014 with stabbing a man during a fight on Christmas day. He faces charges of endangering safety, disorderly conduct, and carrying a concealed weapon…According to the criminal complaint, Diamond told police that he and his fiancee went out to several bars on Thursday night in Port Washington, a town thirty miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The couple got into a tussle with two men and another woman at the Grand Avenue Saloon…

     Port Washington police say they responded at 11:15 PM to a report of a stabbing. When officers caught up with the couple in their SUV down the road from the bar, Diamond said he had held a pen in his hand during the fight. In the vehicle, however, officers found a bloody switchblade knife. At this point Diamond admitted that he had accidentally stabbed the man while trying to defend his fiancee…The victim had been stabbed under the arm and was not seriously injured.

     Diamond appeared in Ozaukee County court where the judge set his bail at $10,000….His fiancee, 27-year-old Amanda Schutz, faces a disorderly conduct charge…

     Since his decade-long run on the TV show, Diamond has been sued several times for delinquent taxes and in foreclosure proceedings for missing mortgage payments. He has appeared on reality TV [the graveyard for career-dead celebrities] and most recently produced a tell-all documentary on Lifetime TV called "The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story."

"Saved by the Bell Star Arrested After Stabbing," Associated Press, December 27, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty in 2014

     The number of law enforcement officers killed by firearms jumped by 56 percent in 2014 and included 15 ambush deaths. But gun-related police deaths still remain far below historic highs and lower that the average annual figures in the past decade, according to a report released Tuesday December 30, 2014.

     The annual report by the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 50 officers were killed by guns this year. That's higher than the 32 such deaths in 2013 but the same as 2012 figures. In 2011, 73 officers were killed in gunfire, the most of any year in the past decade. The average since 2004 is 55 police deaths annually,

     The report found that 126 federal, local, tribal and territorial officers where killed--from all causes--in the line of duty in 2014. That's a 24 percent jump from last year's 102 on-duty deaths and below the average annual figures since 2004 and the all-time high of 156 in 1973. Of the 126 officer deaths this year, shootings were the leading cause, followed by traffic-related fatalities at 49…

     The states that saw the most officer deaths were California, at 14, Texas, at 11, and New York, at nine. Florida followed with six deaths, and Georgia had five, according to the report. The 15 ambush assaults on police officers this year compares to just five in 2013, but matched 2012 for the highest since 1995….

"Report: Police Gun Deaths Up, Still Below Average," Associated Press, December 30, 2014 

Writing Quote: The how-to article

Some kinds of writing are more debilitating than others, and it took me years to learn which, for me, is which. Instructional writing--the pure how-to article--is the worst.

John Jerome, Writing Trade, 1992

Writing Quote: Successful Literary Journalism

To produce successful literary journalism or creative nonfiction, the writer must achieve two goals: journalistic credibility and artistic merit.

Mark Masse, Writer's Digest, March 2002 

Writing Quote: Hunter S.Thompson's Gonzo Journalism

New journalism is a term that Tom Wolfe has been trying to explain, on the lecture stump, for more than five years and the reason he's never been able to properly define "new journalism" is that it never actually existed, except maybe in the minds of people with a vested interest in the "old journalism"--editors, professors and book reviewers who refused to understand that some of the country's best young writers no longer recognized "the line" between fiction and journalism.

Hunter S. Thompson in Hunter S. Thompson: The Gonzo Letters, edited by Douglas Brinkley, 2000

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Flagstaff Man Kills Police Officer

     A police officer in Flagstaff, Arizona was killed Saturday afternoon December 27, 2014 while investigating a domestic violence case…The gunman then fatally shot himself…The officer, Tyler Jacob Stewart, 24, was the first Flagstaff officer to die in the line of duty in 13 years and only the second fatality in the history of the department…

     Officer Stewart was investigating the case on the west side of Flagstaff when a man opened fire. Officer Steward was struck several times…The gunman was identified as Robert W. Smith of Prescott, an Arizona town 90 miles southwest of Flagstaff.

     Officer Stewart was taken to Flagstaff Medical Center where he died shortly upon arrival…Officials reported that the officer had not been able to return fire…Investigators do not know why Mr. Smith killed the police officer. Officer Stewart had been on the force less than a year…

     The last Flagstaff police killing occurred in 2001….

"Man Fatally Shoots Arizona Officer, Then Kills Himself, Police Say," The New York Times, December 27, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Woman Arrested for "Feeding the Pigs"

Police in Massachusetts arrested a woman who smeared uncooked bacon and sausage onto a police station dispatch window offering to "feed the pigs." A Framingham Lieutenant told reporters that Lindsay McNamara entered the station Friday morning December 26, 2014 carrying a Dunkin' Donuts box of raw bacon and sausage. She approached an officer with a "great smile on her face" and said she was there to "feed the pigs." The officer said she took the meat from the box and smeared it on the window. She was arrested and charged with malicious destruction of property. The judge ordered a psychiatric examination of the suspect.

"Woman Smeared Bacon on Police Station Window," The Boston Herald, December 28, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Targeting the Police

     Two Los Angeles police officers were shot at Sunday night December 28, 2014 while they drove their patrol car…The officers returned fire…No one was injured in the exchange. One suspect was arrested in possession of a rifle, the other remained at large…

     That Sunday there was a second incident involving police officers who were fired at. This shooting took place in Pasco County, Florida. Someone fired three shots at two sheriff's deputies as they sat in their patrol car. According to a sheriff's office spokesperson, "Both deputies heard the whizzing sound of each projectile. The officers did not see the shooter or the vehicle from which the shots were fired."…

     These two police targeting incidents occurred after New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were gunned down in their patrol car on December 20, 2014….

"Officers Shot At in Florida and Los Angeles," CNN, December 29, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

     If you want to write or illustrate books for kids, the number one piece of advice you're going to hear is "Join the SCBWI." I'll bet money on it.

     SCBWI stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and is a world-wide organization that links together those who want to create content for kids. There are many regional chapters in the United States, and plenty internationally as well. The group holds meetings, has annual conferences (both regional and national) and provides both a support system as well as a wealth of online resources.

Chuck Sambuchino in Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2013 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing Quote: The Art Book

Today, art-book publishing is blooming in a desert. Despite ever-dwindling nourishment from sales, it is a golden age in terms of both the number of titles available and their impressive quality. No single factor explains this paradox, but if we examine the list, we do see trends. The most important may be the uncoupling of art publishing from trade book-selling. As rising exhibition attendance led to increased in-house book sales, museums and galleries came to regard trade partners as superfluous. Relying on university and specialty book distributors, they began to replace trade houses at the center of art publishing. Relatively inexpensive page-makeup software helped turn books into appealing and versatile vehicles for promotion and marketing as well as creative expression by artists and designers. Traditional forms, like artist monographs and broad art-historical surveys, became rare.

Christopher Finch, Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

Writing Quote: The Scope of Science Fiction

One of the hallmarks of science fiction is its intense originality. Science Fiction has few limits on topics or scope, and has wandered far into speculation about the future, future societies, and technological change. Along the way, science fiction writers have explored fiction's classic themes of life and death, human failure, and challenges intrinsic to any worthwhile story. To catch an editor's eye, you must have something different in your story, something you handle especially well--a vivid character, an intriguing background, a compelling theme.

Paula E. Downing in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Sylvia K. Burack, 1994 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Death Penalty Remains Popular in Oklahoma

     The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April 2014 and other troubling executions in Ohio and Arizona gave capital punishment opponents a flicker of hope that areas of the country that most enthusiastically support the death penalty might have a change of heart. They didn't.

     Although Governor Mary Fallin suspended further executions so that Lockett's death and Oklahoma's methods could be reviewed, the state held what amounted to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its overhauled death chamber only months later and is scheduled to resume killing inmates in mid-January 2015. And rather than causing states to question whether capital punishment is just or worth the risk of subjecting someone to a potentially agonizing death, the prolonged executions and problems states have had securing lethal injection drugs have led them to explore new and more efficient ways of killing, including gassing inmates…

     Lockett's execution did little or nothing to dampen support for the death penalty in deeply conservative Oklahoma which has killed more inmates than any other state except Texas since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty. In October 2014, officials gave media tours of the renovated execution unit at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, which got a $104,000 overhaul after Lockett's death and now stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the shabby, 106-year-old facility.

     Not content with just the upgrades to the prison and lethal injection equipment, though, Oklahoma's House of Representatives conducted a study on the use of nitrogen gas to execute inmates and is expected to consider legislation early next year that would make Oklahoma the first state to adopt hypoxia by gas--the forced deprivation of oxygen--as a legal execution method…

     Tennessee passed a law in 2014 to reinstate the electric chair if it can't get lethal injection drugs and Utah is considering bringing back the firing squad.

     Oklahoma has executed 194 inmates since achieving statehood in 1907, including one by hanging, 82 by electrocution and 111 by lethal injection….

Sean Murphy, "Death Penalty States Unmoved by Botched Execution," Associated Press, December 27, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Immigrant as a Literary Protagonist

During the late 1990s, we saw the rise of a new literary subject: the postcolonial immigrant. In the metropoles of the North Atlantic--in London and New York, Paris and Toronto--the protagonist emerged: a parvenu, an outsider with a sturdy work ethic, a grocer or taxi driver seeking to make it in his or her new home. There were geographical variations, but central to these narratives was the direction of movement. The postcolonial subject moved from the outside in, from the former colony to the metropole, from beyond to the imperial center. Gatsby-like, he or she often tested the outer limits of the American dream--that still regnant myth about capitalist self-making. The narrative arc was that of the arriviste: a story not only of assimilation and the arduous passage toward citizenship but also of accumulation and the trials of "making it."

David Marcus, "Dangling Man," Bookforum, Dec/Jan, 2015 

Writing Quote: Writing a Science Fiction Novel That Includes a Mystery Plot

Science fiction readers are frequently also mystery fans, and books that combine a science fiction setting with a mystery plot range from more or less straightforward detective stores with a future setting to uncompromising science fiction stories that have solving a mystery as a key plot element.

Peter Hack in Science Fiction Writer's Market Place and Sourcebook, edited by David G. Tompkins, 1994 

Writing Quote: John Steinbeck's Journal

Here is the diary of a book [The Grapes of Wrath] and it will be interesting to see how it works out. I have tried to keep diaries before but they don't work out because of the necessity to be honest. In matters where there is no definite truth, I gravitate toward the opposite. Sometimes where there is definite truth, I am revolted by its smugness and do the same. In this however, I shall try simply to keep a record of working days and the amount done in each and the success (as far as I can know it) of the day. Just now the work goes well. It is nearly the first of June [1938].

John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel, 1969 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Shoplifter Fakes Heart Attack While His Accomplice Steals Toys

     Tarus Scott, 30, and Genard Dupree, 27, were arrested Tuesday December 16, 2014 after a surveillance camera in Walmart in Lake Wales, Florida, captured their shoplifting stunt on tape…The video showed the suspects walking through the store together. Suddenly, Dupree laid on the ground near the entrance and clutches his chest, pretending to have a heart attack.

     When other shoppers saw Dupree on the ground, they tried to help him while Scott allegedly helped himself to $369 worth of toys…Once Scott was out of the store, Dupree got up, brushed himself off, and walked out as well. Both men were seen getting into a silver sport utility vehicle…Police picked up the suspects a short time later and charged them each with grand theft…

     Both Scott and Dupree have extensive criminal backgrounds and Scott was recently released after serving 10 years in state prison. [Apparently ten years wasn't enough.]

"Man Fakes Heart Attack So Accomplice Can Steal Toys," huffingtonpost.com, December 17, 2014 

Writing Quote: Science Fiction as Realistic Fiction

Years ago Sir Arthur C. Clarke commented that he preferred reading science fiction because it's the only realistic fiction--by which he meant that it's the only one that incorporates the concept that the world is changing and being changed by human activities.

James Gunn, LJworld.com, 2006 

Writing Quote: Perfect Romance Heroines Are Off-Putting

I feel that a character's flaws are what allows the reader to relate to her. I'm well-known for not being a fan of the "perfect" heroine. Our admiration may be aroused by perfection, but that is a distant emotion. Empathy comes from a shared sense of humanity, and that's what interests me. The flaws that I choose are flaws that interest me; flaws that seem to challenge the character is some way.

Laura Kinsale, likesbooks.com, 2003

Friday, December 26, 2014

Writing Quote: Voltaire's Science Fiction Novel

When it became known that the earth was only one of a family of planets circling the sun, the question arose: was there life on other planets? Many later speculated about this. In his Micromegas (1752), the French writer Voltaire brought to earth an eight-mile-high visitor from Sirus and a slightly smaller native of Saturn. Because of their size, these beings found it hard to decide whether there was intelligent life on earth.

L. Sprague de Camp, 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1972 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Writing Quote: Children's Books Are Not Watered Down Adult Literature

Children's books are not watered down adult books. They demand certain abilities of their authors, not the least of which is that of being able to tap into the minds and souls of young people and to project the voice of those people to the reader. You, as an experienced adult, have to see things objectively and yet have the ability to recall feelings and attitudes and viewpoints of your early years to the point that you can write about children convincingly.

Barbara Seuling, How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published, 1991

Writing Quote: The Mainstream Novel

Authors often believe that if a novel can only be categorized "mainstream" that it will automatically ship to stores in large quantities and sell to customers in big numbers. That belief is naive. So-called mainstream novels can sell in tiny numbers. That is even more true in the category of literary fiction. Authors with such labels face a double struggle in building their audience. For one thing, they cannot tap into the popularity of an existing genre. They must build from the ground up, creating a category where none existed before--their own. It can be a tough job.

Donald Maass, The Career Novelist, 2001 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Writing Quote: Isaac Asimov on Writing Science Fiction

I can write nonfiction science without thinking because it requires no thought. I already know it. Science fiction, however, is far more delicate a job and requires the deeper and most prolonged thought.

Isaac Asimov, I Asimov, 1996 

Writing Quote: Theodore Dreiser on American Literary Criticism

To sit up and criticize me for saying "vest" instead of "waistcoat"; to talk about my splitting the infinitive and using vulgar commonplaces here and there, when the tragedy of a man's life is being displayed, is silly. More, it is ridiculous. It makes me feel that American criticism is the joke that English authorities maintain it to be.

Theodore Dreiser in Theodore Dreiser, by Phillip L. Gerber, 1964 

Writing Quote: Children Like the Sound of Words

Most children enjoy the sound of language for its own sake. They wallow in repetitions and luscious word-sounds and the crunch and slither of onomatopoeia [words that sound like what they mean], they fall in love with impressive words and use them in all the wrong places.

Ursula K. LeGuin, Steering the Craft, 1998 

Writing Quote: Susan Sontag on the Perversity of the Novel

Notoriously, women tolerate qualities in a lover--moodiness, selfishness, unreliability, brutality--that they would never countenance in a husband, in return for excitement, and infusion of intense feeling…Perversity is the muse of modern literature. Today the house of fiction is full of mad lovers, gleeful rapists, castrated sons--but very few husbands.

Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation, 1969 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Boy Drowns in Murky Day Care Pool

     A former Philadelphia day care owner pleaded guilty in the drowning death of a boy who attended her unlicensed center. Tianna Edwards, 32, faces up to 22 years in prison…She pleaded guilty on December 18, 2014 to involuntary manslaughter and lesser charges. Prosecutors say it took police nine hours to find 7-year-old Isear Jeffcoat's body in the murky backyard pool at her mother's house.

     According to the police, Tianna Edwards, in June 2012, dropped off 20 children for a swim then left the house. Before pleading guilty to the criminal homicide charge, Edwards had pleaded guilty to improperly taking $1.4 million in day care payments. The judge sentenced her to five years on that charge.

     With regard to the involuntary manslaughter charge, her lawyer said Edwards had pleaded guilty to take responsibility for what he called a "tragic accident." [Letting children swim unsupervised in a filthy pool was not an "accident."]

     Authorities say Edwards hid her criminal record to open Tianna's Terrific Tots day care center and spent government payments on gambling and personal expenses.

"Day Care Owner Pleads in Boy's Death in Murky Pool," Associated Press, December 19, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Writing Quote: The Semicolon

A semicolon can be called in when a comma is not enough. There are times when a comma is already used too much in one sentence, when it can't do its job effectively anymore. There are also times when multiple thoughts in a sentence need more separation than merely a comma, need more time and space to be digested. But a period is sometimes too strong, provides too much separation. The semicolon can step in and save the day, allow a more substantial pause while not severing thoughts completely.

Noah Lukeman, A Dash of Style, 2006

Writing Quote: Writers of Puffed-Up "Literary" Fiction Get Undeserved Respect

Now it is the unassuming storyteller who is reviled, while mediocrities who puff themselves up to produce gabby "literary" fiction are guaranteed a certain respect, presumably for aiming high.

B.R. Myers, Reader's Manifesto, 2002 

Writing Quote: Stephen King of Good Fiction

Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story.

Stephen King, On Writing, 2000

Writing Quote: Believable Fantasy

I learned years ago from Lester del Ray that the secret to writing good fantasy is to make certain it relates to what we know about our own world. Readers must be able to identify with the material in such a way that they recognize and believe the core truths of the storytelling. It doesn't matter if you are writing epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, dark urban fantasy, comic fantasy, or something else altogether, there has to be truth in the material. Otherwise readers are going to have a tough time suspending disbelief long enough to stay interested.

Terry Brooks, Sometimes The Magic Works, 2003

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: U.S. Secret Service Breaks Counterfeiting Case

     A man residing in Kampala, Uganda was charged in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania of leading an international counterfeit currency operation. The U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Secret Service filed a criminal complaint in Pittsburgh on December 18, 2014 against 27-year-old Ryan Andrew Gustafson, aka Jack Farrel and Willy Clock…

     While living in the U.S., Gustafson resided primarily in Texas and Colorado, but allegedly rented a postal box at the UPS Store on Pittsburgh's South Side for some of his operations. The Secret Service began investigating the passing of counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes believed to have been manufactured in Uganda. The phony bills were passed in retail and businesses in Pittsburgh…

     Agents determined that Gustafson had passed the notes. The federal investigators also learned that on February 19, 2014 the suspect received three packages from Beyond Computers in Kampala, Uganda…Secret Service agents searched the packages and found $7,000 in counterfeit $100, $50 and $20 notes in two hidden compartments inside one of the packaging envelopes. A fingerprint on a document inside one of the packages belonged to Gustafson…

     A search of Gustafson's residence turned up two million Ugandan shillings, $180,420 in counterfeit bills, and counterfeit denominations of several other countries…

     The U.S. Secret Service estimates $1.8 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes have been seized and passed in Uganda. The total amount of counterfeit money made in Uganda was about $270,000…

     United States law provides for a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for counterfeiting….

"Man Charged in Counterfeit Money Scheme," Associated Press, December 19, 2014  

Criminal Justice Quote: Dead Infants Found in Abandoned Storage Unit

     A mother is under investigation after sheriff's deputies found the remains of two infants in a storage locker in Placer County, California. In November 2014, Placer County resident Regina Zimmer purchased the abandoned storage unit in an auction. Inside the locker she detected a foul odor coming from a container. "We opened it up, and the smell that came out was horrible," she said. "It was a little skull. It looked like it was in three pieces with some hair. And you could see a jawbone."

     Investigators said the previous owner of the storage unit had defaulted on the rent, leaving the inventory untouched for several months--including the remains of two babies. "The remains were in very poor condition," said Lieutenant John Poretti with the Placer County Sheriff's Department. "I mean, there was no easy way to tell exactly what we had."

     The container was taken to the Placer County morgue for autopsies on both babies to determine the causes of their deaths….

"Remains of Infants Found in Colfax Storage," kcra.com, December 18, 2014 

Writing Quote: In Writing for Children Don't Put Theme Over Plot

The goal in writing popular books for both adults and children is identical: Fiction is entertainment. Your children's book should not be designed to teach a lesson, send a message, or expound upon a moral theme. A theme, such as honesty is the best policy or perseverance pays, may be implicit in the storyline, but the point should be made subtly by the outcome of the plot.

Sam McCarver in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Alfrieda Abbe, 2004 

Writing Quote: The Demise of Literary Fiction

I think literary fiction has fallen prey to campus navel gazing and has lost touch with ordinary humanity. And it has the audience to prove it.

Jack Hart in Telling the Story by Peter Rubie, 2003

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: TV Star Confesses to Sex Crimes

     "7th Heaven" TV star Stephen Collins has admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors…The actor released a statement amid child molestation accusations that arose in his divorce proceedings.

     Collins was the subject of reports in October 2014 after his wife, Faye Grant, said he admitted to her he molested three underage girls. TMZ posted an audio recording that was alleged to have been made during a November 2012 therapy session involving Collins and his wife during which he made incriminating statements…

     The incidents reportedly happened between 1973 and 1994.

     "Forty years ago, I did something terribly wrong that I deeply regret…I have been working to atone for it ever since. I've decided to address these issues publicly because two months ago, various news organizations published a recording made by my then wife, Faye Grant, during a confidential marriage therapy session in January 2012. This session was recorded without the therapist's or my knowledge or consent," Collins wrote.

     Collins, 67, was known for his clean-cut image in Hollywood and played a pastor and beloved father on the hit show "7th Heaven," He's avoided the limelight since the accusations were made public….

" '7th Heaven' Actor Stephen Collins: 'I Did Something Terribly Wrong,' " CNN, December 17, 2014 

Writing Quote: The Children's Book Writer Must Identify With His Intended Reader

Before you begin to write your children's book, make sure that you are clear in your own mind whether you are writing about children, or for them. Do you have a reader in prospect? If there is any doubt or ambiguity about this, your work will suffer. If you try to write for children, but hope that adults will be reading the book, too, an element of insincerity is almost certain to slip into your style.

Joan Aiken, The Way to Write for Children, 1999

Friday, December 19, 2014

Writing Quote: Young Readers Have Different Tastes Than Adults

Children and adolescents have their own distinctive ideas concerning humor, politics, and prose, and their tastes in these matters may strike older readers as sophomoric, gauche, ill-informed, or just dead wrong. Conversely, the young have a way of noticing that good manners can be oppressive, that the past is often irrelevant, and that emperors are sometimes naked. In short, the young are not lesser beings; they're just different.

Thomas M. Disch, The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, 1998 

Writing Quote: Don't Interview Subjects in Restaurants

When I do interviews, I never take my subjects to a restaurant for lunch. It's one of the worst things a journalist can do. Stay on their turf. Interview them in their world. If they say, "Now I've got to go and pick up my kids from day care and go to the grocery store," you say, "Great. I can write while we're on the bus." I'm not just hearing their stories. I'm watching them live. I find my truth in what they say and how they live.

Katherine Boo in Telling True Stories, edited by Wendy Call, 2007 

Writing Quote: Raymond Carver on the Writer's Voice

The writer's voice is akin to style, but it isn't style alone. It is the writer's particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There's plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to his way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.

Raymond Carver in On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey, 2000

Writing Quote: Punctuation and Style

The benefits of punctuation for the creative writer are limitless, if you know how to tap them. You can, for example, create a stream-of-consciousness effect using periods; indicate a passing of time using commas; add complexity using parentheses; create a certain form of dialogue using dashes; build to a revelation using colons; increase your pace using paragraph breaks; keep readers hooked using section breaks. This--its impact on content--is the holy grail of punctuation, too often buried in long discussions of grammar.

Noah Lukeman, A Dash of Style, 2006 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Is Former NFL Star Darren Sharper a Serial Rapist?

     Former New Orleans Saints football player Darren Sharper has been indicted by an Orleans Parish grand jury on two counts of aggravated rape…Sharper's indictment stems from an alleged incident in September 2013. According to a police report, the rape happened in the Warehouse District on September 23, 2013 at ten in the morning. Later, police said a second victim claimed she was raped by Sharper and another man in the same apartment…

     Sharper, who remains in a Los Angeles jail, is under investigation for eight rapes and 11 druggings in Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona, and California. He is being held without bond in Los Angeles as he awaits two rape charges there. He also has been formally charged in two rapes in Tempe, Arizona.

     The 38-year-old Sharper spent 14 years in the NFL as a safety. He played for the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings and then the Saints. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He retired in 2010.

"Darren Sharper Indicted on Rape Allegations in New Orleans,"  USA Today, December 12, 2014 

Writing Quote: Choosing the Right Vocabulary For a Children's Book

As adults, we often forget that children can comprehend more than they can articulate, and we end up communicating to them below their level, leaving them bored. Or, the opposite can happen: children are growing up faster than we did and act very sophisticated although their vocabulary skills are underdeveloped. Striking the balance between writing below or above their level is tricky.

Alijandra Mogilner, Children's Writer's Word Book, 1999

Writing Quote: Don't Write a Memoir to Preserve Your Memories

My advice to memoir writers is to embark upon a memoir for the same reason that you would embark on any other book: to fashion a text. Don't hope in a memoir to preserve your memories. If you prize your memories as they are, by all means avoid writing a memoir. It is a certain way to lose them. You can't put together a memoir without cannibalizing your own life for parts. The work replaces your memories.

Annie Dillard in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

Writing Quote: The Need for Commas

There are two types of writers who underuse commas: the first is the unsophisticated writer who has not developed an ear for sentence rhythm. He is unable to hear fine distinctions, and thinks writing is solely about conveying information. He will need to spend time reading classic writers and train himself to hear the music of language. The second is the sophisticated writer who has an aversion to commas and underuses them on purpose. There are numerous writers who rebel against the overuse of punctuation, and more often than not they find a target in the poor comma. The danger for these writers is the rare problem of overestimating the reader. Unless a reader is accustomed to reading twelfth-century clerical texts, he will want at least some commas, some pauses laid out for him. There is a need for marks--especially commas--to indicate ebbs and flows, pauses and pitch, division of clauses and meaning. The writer who ignores this is the writer who writes for himself, not with the reader in mind. He will not be a commercial writer, or plot oriented, but prose oriented, interested in nuances of style--but to a fault.

Noah Lukeman, A Dash of Style, 2006

Writing Quote: "Serious" Fiction

The difference between the writer of serious fiction and the writer of escape entertainment is the clear difference between the artist and the craftsman. The one has the privilege and the faculty or original design; the other does not. The man who works from blueprints is a thoroughly respectable character, but he is of another order from the man who makes the blueprints in the first place.

Wallace Stegner, Teaching and Writing Fiction, 2002 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Shoe Thief

     A Memphis man appeared in court on December 7, 2014 nearly a month after stealing a shipment of then unreleased Nike LeBron 12 shoes. The haul included 7,500 pairs of shoes with a total retail value of $1.5 million…The alleged culprit, Charles Jennings of Memphis, Tennessee, used his access as an employee of Intermodal Cartage Group, a trucking company, to gain entry into a company lot and drive off with a truck filled with the shoes.

     Mark Dunbar, assistant chief of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said Jennings knew what he was doing when he made off with the truck…"He had a pretty good idea of what he had," Dunbar said. "They were Nikes, and they were more valuable in that they hadn't been released yet." [Books are "released," movies are released. Now shoes?]

     Jennings was arrested shortly after he sold 700 pairs of the shoes….

"Man Allegedly Steals $1.5 Million of Nike LeBron 12 Shoes," bleacherreport.com, December 9, 2014

Writing Quote: The Rhyming Picture Book

Rhyming! So many writers think children's picture books need to rhyme. There are some editors who won't even look at books in rhyme, and a lot more who are extremely wary of them, so it limits a literary agent on where the manuscript can go and the likelihood of it selling. These books are also particularly hard to execute perfectly.

Kelly Sonnack in 2013 Children's and Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2012 

Writing Quote: A Question of Journalistic Ethics

     An Ohio media outlet sparked outrange after it published a report on the criminal past of the father of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy fatally shot by police in November 2014 at a Cleveland recreation center. Rice died holding an Airsoft pellet gun. Police were responding to a 911 call about someone pointing a handgun. The caller said the gun was "probably fake" and "I don't know if it's real or not."…

     The article, "Tamir Rice's Father Has History of Domestic Violence," was written by Northeast Ohio Media Groups's Brandon Blackwell and published on the website for the Cleveland Plain Dealer on November 26, 2014. The relevance of the criminal past of Rice's father is not explained in the reporting nor does it appear to have anything to do with the shooting….

"Why Was Tamir Rice's Dad's Criminal History Reported?" mediaethics.com, December 4, 2014 

Writing Quote: Types of Literary Criticism

A "mere book reviewer" writes for newspapers, magazines [and websites and blogs] and is content to treat books as news. He announces their publication, identifies their authors, briefly describes their contents and sometimes renders a verdict. Journalistic critics, who also write for the above media outlets, try whenever possible to climb out of the valley of "mere reviewing" onto the plateau of genuine criticism. The academic critics contribute to popular publications when the chance offers, but most of their work appears in learned journals and in book form. They are usually professors and usually they write for other professors, for serious students and for literary intellectuals. They are enormously influential because they are read in colleges and universities.

Orville Prescott in Writer's Roundtable, edited by Helen Hull and Michael Drury, 1959 

Writing Quote: Why Harry Potter Is So Endearing a Character

Harry Potter, like many heros of fantasy, is endearing because he is rather ordinary. Surrounded by magic, he is the quintessential young, insecure schoolboy, seeking friendship from peers and respect from adults, learning to trust others, trying to stand up for what he thinks is right. While engaging in ongoing struggles with evil creatures of darkness, he is also fond of sports, wizard trading cards, and jelly beans. In the best of fantasy, the world is infused with magic--but victory comes in the end, after all is said and done, from very human values of faith, courage and perseverance.

Philip Martin in The Writer's Guide to Fantasy and Literature, edited by Philip Martin, 2002 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Writing Quote: Nonfiction is Usually About Public Figures

The short story writer, playwright, and novelist deal with private life. They deal with ordinary people and elevate these people into our consciousness. The nonfiction writer has traditionally dealt with people in public life, names that are known to us. [This is not always the case. For example, four of my nonfiction books are about ordinary, nonpublic people.]

Gay Talese in Telling True Stories, edited by Wendy Call, 2007 

Writing Quote: What Editors Don't Like in Children's Books

I hate to see [in a children's book] a whiny character who's in the middle of a fight with one of his parents, slamming doors, rolling eyes and displaying all sorts of stereotypical behavior. I hate seeing character "stats" ("Hi, I'm Brian. I'm 10 years and 35 days old with brown hair and green eyes.") I also tend to have a hard time bonding with characters who talk to the reader ("Let me tell you about the summer when I…")

Kelly Sonnack in 2013 Children's and Illustrator's Market, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, 2012 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Toddler Seriously Injured in Pre-Dawn SWAT Raid

     After their house in Wisconsin burned down in August 2014, Alecia Phonesavanh, her husband, and their four children, ages one to seven, moved into a dwelling outside of Cornelia, Georgia occupied by two of Alecia's relatives. The family took up residence with 30-year-old Wanis Thonetheva and his mother. They had knowingly moved into a a place where drugs were sold by Wanis who had a long arrest record.

     Since 2002, Wanis Thonetheva had been convicted of various weapons and drug related offenses. In October 2013, a Habersham County prosecutor charged him with possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The felony in question involved selling methamphetamine. In May 2014, Thoretheva was out on bail awaiting trial in that case.

     Shortly after midnight on Wednesday May 28, 2014, a confidential drug informant purchased a quantity of meth from Thonetheva at his house. Once he made the sale, Thonetheva left the premises for the night. Had narcotics officers been surveilling him, they would have known that.

     Based on the informant's drug purchase, a magistrate issued a "no-knock" warrant to search the Thonetheva residence. Just before three in the morning, just a couple of hours after the meth buy, a 7-man SWAT team made up of officers with the Cornelia Police Department and the Habersham County Sheriff's Office, approached the Thonetheva dwelling. A family sticker displayed on a minivan parked close to the suspected drug house indicated the presence of children. If a member of the raiding party had looked inside that vehicle he would have seen several children's car seats. A used playpen in the front yard provided further evidence that children were in the house about to be forcibly entered without notice.

     According to the drug informant, men were inside the house standing guard over the drugs. Against the force of the battering ram, the front door didn't fly open. SWAT officers interpreted this to mean that drug dealers were inside barricading the entrance. A SWAT officer broke a window near the door and tossed in a percussion grenade. The flash bang device landed in a playpen next to 19-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh. It exploded on his pillow, ripping open his face, lacerating his chest, and burning him badly. The explosion also set the playpen on fire.

     There were no drug dealers or armed men in the house. The place was occupied by two women, the husband of one of them, and four children.

     At a nearby hospital, emergency room personnel wanted to fly the seriously injured toddler to Atlanta's Brady Memorial Hospital. But due to weather conditions, Bounkham had to be driven by ambulance 75 miles to the Atlanta hospital. In the burn unit doctors placed the child into an induced coma.

     Shortly after the SWAT raid, police officers arrested Wanis Thonetheva at another area residence. Officers booked him into the Habersham County Detention Center on charges related to the sale of meth to the police snitch. The judge denied him bail.

     Many local citizens criticized the police for tossing a flash bang grenade into the house without first making certain children were not inside. Critics wanted to know why the narcotic detectives hadn't asked the informant about the presence of children. He had been inside the dwelling just a couple of hours before the raid.

     Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told reporters that SWAT officers would not have used a "distraction device" if they had known that children were in the house. Cornelia Chief of Police Rick Darby said, "We might have gone in through a side door. We would not have used a flash bang. But according to the sheriff, members of the SWAT team had done everything correctly. As a result, he could see no reason for an investigation into the operation.

     As far as Sheriff Terrell was concerned, Wanis Thronetheva was responsible for what happened to Bounkham Phonesavanh. He said prosecutors might charge the suspected meth dealer in connection with the child's flash bang injuries.

     In September 2014, due to public criticism of the raid, a state grand jury began hearing testimony regarding the incident. A month later the grand jurors voted not to bring any criminal charges against the officers involved in the drug raid. 

Writing Quote: Ann Rule on True Crime Writing

True crime writing is a very delicate and difficult genre and not to be taken lightly. Done well, the books can be near classic. Done sloppily or carelessly, they serve only to hurt the innocent even more than they have already been hurt.

Ann Rule, writersreview.com, 2000

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Lambert Corpse in the Refrigerator Murder Case

     In June 2014, Patrick Lambert, his wife Anastacia, and their 6-month-old son moved into the Braeswood Oaks apartment complex in southwest Houston, Texas. Anastacia had been born and raised in West Africa and Patrick had lived in New York City, Clearwater, Florida, and Hawaii.

     On September 2, 2014, Anastacia Lambert called 911 to report a domestic disturbance at the second-story Braeswood Oaks apartment. To the responding officers with the Houston Police Department, she accused her husband with threatening her with a knife. The police did not take Patrick Lambert into custody and no criminal charges were filed against him.

     On November 20, 2014, the utility company turned off the power to the Lambert apartment for lack of payment. Because neighbors hadn't seen Anastacia, her husband, or their 11-month-old son since the end of November, they thought the family had moved out. Because Anastacia didn't have family in the country and didn't work outside the home, there were no relatives or fellow employees to report her missing.

     At two in the afternoon of December 8, 2014, maintenance workers at the Braeswood Oaks complex detected a strong odor of death coming from unit 822, the Lambert apartment. The workers called 911.

     Upon entering the apartment, police officers discovered a large quantity of dried blood on the kitchen floor. They also found 27-year-old Anastacia Lambert's corpse stuffed inside the refrigerator. She had been stabbed to death and her son was not in the apartment.

     On the day police found the body in the refrigerator, the authorities issued an Amber Alert for the Lambert child and his 38-year-old father. Police described the missing murder suspect as a five-foot-elven inch black male. The police did not have a description of Lambert's vehicle and had no idea regarding his whereabouts or the whereabouts of his son.

     Police officers had the crime scene refrigerator transported to the Houston Crime Lab for forensic examination.   

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Arrest Brazilian Serial Killer

     A Brazilian man has confessed to killing 39 women in the Rio de Janeiro region… If his claim is confirmed, he will be one of the most prolific serial killers in the country's history.

     In an interview with Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo, the alleged killer, Sailson Jose das Gracas, said he carried out his first slaying when he was 17 and continued to kill over the next decade. "I started robbing purses and small things like that," he told TV Globo. "And as I got older, I started having different thoughts. My thoughts started changing. From stealing, I started thinking about killing."

     The 26-years-old said he didn't kill impulsively but stalked his victims. Rio police said they arrested Sailson on Wednesday December 10, 2014 on suspicion of killing a woman in the suburb of Nova Iquacu. He confessed to that homicide and then told police about the other killings. Sailson described his need to kill as pathological.

     "When I didn't kill, I would get nervous," he told TV Globo. "I would pace around the house, and then when I killed, it calmed me."…The self-declared killer said he had no regrets about his actions and would kill again if set free. "What is done is done," he told the TV reporter. "If I leave prison in 10, 15, 20 years, I'll go back to doing the same thing."

"Brazilian Man Says He Killed Dozens of Women," CNN, December 12, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Kills Himself and His Two Children Amid Custody Battle

     A man who was in a custody battle with his ex-wife deliberately crashed his car into a tractor-trailor on a southern California freeway, killing himself and his two children…Alan Dean Edwards, 46, of Lancaster, his 9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter all died in the crash on Interstate 5 around one in the morning on Monday December 8, 2014.

     The truck was parked in a brake-check area in Castiac, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles when it was struck from behind by Edward's fast-moving Honda Accord…The driver didn't make any attempts to stop…The front half of the car was crushed and wedged under the truck.

     Edwards and his former wife were in a custody battle and he had picked up the children on Friday December 5, 2014 for a scheduled visit. She filed a missing persons report when they failed to return on Sunday December 7.

"Man in Custody Battle Deliberately Crashes Into Truck, Killing Himself and His Two Children," Associated Press, December 9, 2014 

Writing Quote: Crime Novels are Popular Because They Tell a Story

Most readers come to a mystery novel because the genre promises an actual story, a characteristic that many find lacking in so-called mainstream fiction.

Jeremiah Healy in Writing Mysteries by Sue Grafton, 1992

Writing Quote: Creating a Good Villain

     Providing a strong, fully dimensional villain who can give your hero a real run for his money will make the hero's triumph all the more satisfying to readers.

     Max Brand (pen name for the late Frederick Faust) nearly always created truly impressive villains for his western novels. In the series of Silvertip novels, the outlaw Barry Christian was equally as potent and powerful as Brand's hero, and in Brand's Montana Kid series, the Mexican bandit, Meteo Rubriz, was a full match for the quick-shooting protagonist. And when they meet in climactic battle, the reader witnesses a clash of titans.

     The greater the villain, the greater the hero.

William E. Nolan, How to Write Horror Fiction, 1990 

Writing Quote: What Pre-Teens Read

Children of both sexes in the 10 to 12 year age group predominantly read fiction, with the most popular genre amongst both boys and girls being adventure stories. Girls choose more romances, horror/ghost stories and poetry books. Boys choose more science fiction, comedy, sports and war/spy books.

Lyn Pritchard, penguin.com, 1999

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: One Lucky Pervert

     A convicted sexual predator is now a rich man after winning $3 million on a Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket. Timothy Poole purchased the ticket Saturday night December 5, 2014 at a convenience store in Mount Dora near Orlando…

     Poole was arrested in 1999 on a charge of sexually battering a 9-year-old boy. The victim was a member of a family whose home he once lived in…Poole denied the charges but eventually pleaded guilty to attempted sexual battery and was sentenced to the 13 months he had already served in jail.

     A judge revoked Poole's probation in 2003 after he failed to show up for counseling sessions. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in 2006…

"Sexual Predator Wins $3 million in Lottery," USA Today, December 11, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Two Atlanta Homeless Men Murdered

     Atlanta police are calling the shootings "sinister" because whoever pulled the trigger wasn't expecting to gain monetarily from the homicides. The victims were homeless men, shot to death as they slept. And police aren't convinced that the threat is over. "A lot of our shootings involve robbery. A lot of our shootings involve someone making good on an old debt or some kind of revenge factor," Atlanta police detective David Quinn told reporters on December 10, 2014. "I don't know why someone would shoot two defenseless men."

     The shootings happened over the Thanksgiving week within three days of each other. The killer hasn't struck since, but police are asking the city's homeless to remain vigilant…

     Dorian Jenkins was fatally shot five times as he slept, wrapped in a blanket, on a sidewalk in downtown Atlanta. Less than three days later, Tommy Mims didn't show up as normal at a recycling center where he took cans and other scrap metals to sell. Mims, known locally at "Can Man" was found dead under a bridge where he usually slept. His body, also wrapped in a blanket, was riddled with seven bullets. He was killed less than three miles from Jenkins…

     Detectives believe the killings are related because the rounds used in both shootings are fairly distinctive: .45-caliber bullets that haven't been manufactured since 2010. They were fired from revolvers, either a Taurus "Judge" or a Smith & Wesson "Governor." Since Mims had been shot seven times, the killer had to reload the gun. [Revolvers only hold five or six rounds in the cylinder.]

     The police have no motive or suspects in the murders.

"Atlanta Police Looking For Suspect, Motive in Killings of Homeless Men," CNN, December 11, 2014 

Writing Quote: When to Blow a Bad Book Out of the Water

Is a reviewer ever justified in attempting to blow a bad book out of the water? I think the answer is yes, but the reviewer must choose his targets with the greatest of care. It's not enough for the book to be bad; other elements must be present: smugness; pretentiousness; and over inflated reputation; clear evidence that a book's badness is not the result of incompetence, but of deliberate design. Such books represent an assault on the republic of letters and should not be ignored.

Peter Prescott, Never in Doubt, 1986

Writing Quote: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential man of the British Empire--self-confident and self-reliant, athletic and active, intelligent and moral, a Tory in values but free of snobbery and political cant. And he likes to solve puzzles. And he is discreet, important, and famous. He ought to get tedious and even ridiculous, but he doesn't.

Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, 2005

Writing Quote: No More Harry Potter Imitations

For writers, the Harry Potter effect has been twofold. On the one hand, it has been encouraging. The increased sales of children's books have been good for them, and there's more of a sense of value for children's books. But the downside to this has been that a lot of people have thought, I could write Harry Potter. They must be looking for another Harry Potter. It is so untrue. I will go on record as saying we won't see another Harry Potter for fifty years.

David Levithan in Agents, Editors, and You edited by Michelle Howry, 2002 

Writing Quote: Illustrating Your Own Children's Book

The most successful children's book authors are author-illustrators who illustrate their own books. Almost invariably, though, these people are primarily artists, their art is stronger than their writing, and all of them have enormous talent and experience as professional illustrators. These are some of the best artists in the nation. They are the people you'll be competing with if you choose to illustrate your own books.

Staton Rabin in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Alfrieda Abbe, 2005 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Wearing Down Your Fingerprints

People who do manual labor, such as construction work, have long been known for wearing down their fingerprints…Many other occupations also have a similar effect, although for different reasons. Musicians such as guitarists can abrade their prints into oblivion; typists may wear them down from so much keyboarding. Even surgeons sometimes rub off their prints from washing their hands repeatedly. The fingerprints don't disappear permanently, but they may not be recognized by biometric access control devices based on fingerprint identification. [Criminals with worn down finger ridges may also leave behind less defined latent prints at crime scenes.]

Marilyn Savant, Parade, December 7, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: A Motorist in a Hurry

     New Hampshire State Police say an airborne patrol unit clocked a man driving 127 mph on Interstate 93 in the town of Northfield. The State Police Special Enforcement Unit was using an airplane to monitor traffic Saturday morning November 29, 2014 when the trooper in the aircraft saw a northbound vehicle traveling fast.

     Police said the tactical flight officer twice clocked the vehicle traveling in excess of 100 mph with the top speed at 127. The driver, stopped by troopers on the ground, was 19-year-old Ryan Quinn of Newport, Rhode Island. A prosecutor charged Quinn with reckless driving and two counts of possession of a controlled drug.

"Man clocked at 127 MPH on Highway," Associated Press, November 30, 2014 

Writing Quote: Bernard Shaw on Literary Critics

I have never been able to see how the duties of a critic, which consists largely in making painful remarks in public about the most sensitive of his fellow creatures, can be reconciled with the manners of a gentleman. But gentleman or no, a critic is most certainly not bound to perjure himself to shield the reputation of the profession he criticizes.

Bernard Shaw in Never in Doubt by Peter S. Prescott, 1986 

Writing Quote: British Versus American Detective Fiction

Most critics date the emergence of the classical detective story with the publication of Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841. British versions by such writers as Arthur Conan Doyle tend to place emphasis on style, a few specific locales, and logic. American versions, which flourished from the twenties onward, carry with them a pulpier prose, a larger scope, and a heavy charge of sensationalism.

Lance Olsen, Rebell Yell, 1998 

Writing Quote: Russian Literature

The one genre I absolutely cannot stand is Russian literature. You need genealogy charts to just figure out the characters, every novel is a thousand pages and pretty much everyone dies.

Jodi Picoult, The New York Times Book Review, October 12, 2014 

Writing Quote: Benjamin Franklin's Self-Help Book

My favorite self-help book may be The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, for Franklin's unrelenting, very American optimism that the effort will make him happy. I have the same delusion.

Atul Gawande, The New York Times Book Review, October 26, 2014 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Writing Quote: Not All True Crimes Are Book-Worthy

Why are some true crimes turned into books, while others barely make the national papers? It will hardly come as a staggering surprise to find that publishers choose only those cases that are out of the ordinary: so, while murder is a favorite topic for books, "domestic" murders are not, unless several people in the family are killed. The sort of case that attracts a book publisher is likely to involve a large-scale crime, a mass or serial murder or a murderer who has been freed and has killed again or perhaps a murderer who almost got away with it.

Philip Rawlings, britsoccrim.org, 1995 

Writing Quote: Science Fiction Began in Magazines

From its earliest days, when Hugo Gernsback first inserted stories in the monthly Electrical Experimenter, the primary outlet and market for science fiction was magazines. The Experimenter was the size of Life. So was Amazing Stories, the all-fiction magazine Gersback launched in 1926. In the thirties, the pulp magazines shrank to standard quarto, but doubled in thickness as publishers used the cheapest paper around.

John Baxter, A Pound of Paper, 2003

Writing Quote: Paul Theroux on the Function of Book Reviewing

Most people read books and think them interesting. They don't really reach an intellectual conclusion. They just have an opinion about it, not a judgment. But to reach a judgment about a book is really useful. To have to puzzle it out and then to write out the judgment. So I think that is a function book reviewing performs when it's done well.

Paul Theroux in Story Story Story, edited by Jim Schumock, 1999

Writing Quote: Children's Picture Books Must Feature Familiar Things

Babies recognize faces and other babies and all the little things they have around them--the dish that they eat out of and their highchair. It would be silly to do a board [picture] book with atmosphere and landscapes for a tiny child who has no experience of that.

Helen Oxenbury in Ways of Telling, edited by Leonard S. Marcus, 2002 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Stabber in Brooklyn Synagogue Killed by Cop

A man stabbed a person inside a Brooklyn synagogue Tuesday morning December 9, 2014 before he was shot and killed when he lunged at a police officer…The suspect entered the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters where he stabbed another man sometime after one in the morning. A responding officer ordered the suspect to drop the knife. The stabber lunged at the officer who shot him in the torso. The stabbing victim was treated at a nearby hospital. [According to reports, the armed intruder said he wanted to kill a Jew.]

"Man Stabs Another Inside Brooklyn Synagoge, Then Lunges at Officer," CNN, December 9,  2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Rapper Murders His Wife, Kills Self on FaceTime

     Rapper Earl Hayes murdered his wife Stephanie Moseley early Monday morning December 8, 2014 in Los Angeles. Moseley, a dancer who toured with Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Usher, and Chris Brown, starred in VH 1's dramatic series "Hit the Floor."

     An angry Hayes, a member of Floyd Mayweather's Team Money, talked to the undefeated boxer on FaceTime prior to the murder-suicide. The call continued through the event. The rapper, in the midst of a break-up, accused his wife of infidelity with a famous singer…The welterweight boxing champion attempted to talk his friend down from his rage to no avail.

   A Los Angeles SWAT team discovered the bodies in a high-end Los Angeles apartment. Neighbors reported hearing an argument before hearing the gunfire.

     Hayes once belonged to Mayweather's music label and frequently partied with the boxer…

"Floyd Mayweather Witnesses Murder-Suicide on FaceTime," breitbart.com, December 9, 2014 

Writing Quote: The First Gothic Horror Novel

A source of modern fantasy was the Gothic novel, invented in Germany and introduced to England by Horace Walpol's The Castle of Otranto (1764). This novel of medieval murder and spookery has all the elements that became standard props of the Gothic horror story: a wicked tyrant, an imperiled virgin, an impoverished young hero of noble blood, a monk, a castle with trapdoors and secret passages, a ruined monastery, and two ghosts. Who could ask for more?

L. Sprague de Camp, 3000 Years of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1972 

Writing Quote: Sword-and-Socery Fantasy

Sword-and-socery fiction is to fantasy what the western is to the historical novel, or perhaps more precisely, what the hardboiled private-eye story is to mystery fiction. It is a subgenre based on a prefabricated image, without which it cannot be identified at all: the cowboy in the middle of the dusty street, ready to draw; the private-eye in the trench coat; the brawny scantily-clad swordsman, glaring defiantly at menaces supernatural and otherwise, with an even less-clad shapely wench cowering somewhere in the background.

Darrell Schweitzer in How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by J.N. Williamson, 1991 

Writing Quote: The Demands of Writing for Young People

Writing for young people is a great responsibility, because their minds are impressionable and what they read can effect not only their current lives but their future ones as well. Writing for them should be approached with a serious regard for the possible influence of your words. Do not plan to write for children because you think it easy, or the writing does not need to be as good as that in books for adults. Requirements for good juvenile writing are far more strict than they are for adult fiction.

Lee Wyndham, Writing for Children & Teenagers, 1988

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Hiring Ex-Felons For Government Work

     Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has joined the growing number of state, county and local governments that will no longer have job applications that require people to check a box if they've been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. A county official said the measure will make it easier for people with criminal records to get a second chance at turning their lives around.

     Because of state and federal laws, applicants will still be asked about their criminal record if they want jobs at the county jail or juvenile detention center, the county police or with the departments of Human Services, or to work at a county-run nursing home.

"County Bans Criminal History Box," Associated Press, November 26, 2014 

Writing Quote: If You Want to Read a Novel About Society, Pick Up a Crime Novel

The crime novel is where the social novel went. If you want to write about the underbelly of America, if you want to write about the America nobody wants to look at, you turn to the crime novel. I don't bristle at the "you're a mystery writer" or "you're a crime writer" thing. I don't have an issue with that. But I do think that personally, when I sit down to write I'm writing an urban novel, writing about urban realities.

Dennis Lehane, powells.com, 2003 

Writing Quote: Writing Fantasy is Not Easy

So many writers think fantasy is easy. All you have to do is rip off some elves, goblins, and a few other things from Tolkien and spend about 10 minutes making up imaginary words and another 10 minutes working up a rough idea of the country and a little local history and bingo, you're in business. You're a fantasist. It's not like that. What made Tolkien unique is that he spent 50 years building his world, and he built it from the inside out.

Peter S. Beagle in The Writer's Handbook, edited by Alfrieda Abbe, 2004 

Writing Quote: The Depressed Writer

Depression can cause block in any field of creativity. But some psychiatrists think that depression is especially intertwined with and harmful to language because of the way depression drains away meaning. The French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva described this process: "For those who are racked by melancholia, writing about it would have meaning only if it sprang out of that very melancholia. I am trying to address an abyss of sorrow, a noncommunicable grief that at times, and often on a long-term basis, lays claim upon us to the extent of losing all interest in words."

Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease, 2004 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Michael Brown Effect: The Vicious Cycle of Police Militarism

     The Michael Brown police-involved shooting case, like the O.J. Simpson double murder verdict, has exposed a disturbing reality in American society. In general, blacks and whites have a different attitude toward the police, policing, and the criminal justice system. The Michael Brown case, for all the wrong reasons, has also focused public attention on another problem that has been developing over the past thirty years: the increasing militarization of American law enforcement.

     Today's heavily armed police officers in their flak-jackets, combat boots, and helmets are indistinguishable from military troops at war. Most police departments now have massive SWAT tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military type vehicles. Modern police officers no longer see themselves as armed public servants but as crime-fighting warriors who view criminal suspects as enemies of the state. This militaristic mindset does not lend itself to any form of community policing.

     Police militarism has risen during an era when rates of violent crime are at a 35 year low. This begs the question: If American society has become less violent, why are the police becoming more militaristic? And why are the police shooting so many people every year? (According to my own study conducted in 2011, police officers that year shot about 1,200 people, killing slightly more than half of them.) And why are so many young black males being shot by the police?

     Some politicians and black activists like Al Sharpton would have us believe that the police are targeting black men. Under this theory, the police-involved shooting problem is fueled by police racism.

     Having looked at thousands of police-involved shootings, I don't see race as a major factor in these cases. Moreover, while some police shootings are legally justified but unnecessary, a vast majority of these cases involve excellent police work. There are the cases, however, of trigger-happy officers who  commit criminal homicide in the line of duty. Many of these officers are not brought to justice. But again, that is not a matter of race.

     While violent crime rates overall have been dropping, violent crime in inner city black neighborhoods remains high. This is particularly true in places like Chicago, Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. This, along with the fact that many young black men hate the police and are eager to exhibit this hatred, explains why so many black subjects are shot. Citizens should be taught that resisting arrest is unacceptable and dangerous behavior. This is true for all people.

     Police shootings in rural, small town and suburban America are also too frequent. That is because of the never-ending and escalating war on drugs. Every year there are more than 80,000 pre-dawn, no-knock drug raids. These forced entries into homes are usually not necessary. Subjects of these home invasions are traumatized, manhandled and injured. Pets are killed. Subjects of these SWAT raids are shot thinking they are protecting their families from criminal invasion. Ending this facet of the drug war won't solve the drug problem, but it would reduce, in every community, the number of police involved shootings. It would also help improve police-community relations.

     More citizens are being shot because more Americans are drunk or under the influence of meth, PCP, bath salts, molly, and synthetic marijuana, substances that alter behavior in an anti-social way. Another problem in our society that lends itself to police violence is mental illness. It seems that an increasing number of Americans are becoming seriously mentally ill. Many of these people are also suicidal and use the police to end their lives. Decades ago the insane among us were housed in institutions. Today they are out on the street attacking citizens with knives and guns, taking hostages, and pushing people off subway platforms. These paranoid schizophrenics are extremely difficult to deal with. When they threaten others with immediate serious bodily injury or death, police officers have little choice but to shot them. While it's true they are not criminals per se, they can be dangerous.

     The rioting and civil disorder in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City will justify increased police militarization across the country. Law obeying citizens demand that the police maintain order. The increased militarization, to a point where officers are essentially occupying our cities, will result in more civil unrest and create more police militarism that in turn will lead to more police-involved shootings.

     We are in a vicious cycle fueled by false assumptions and racial politics. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Man Leaves Scene of a Minor Accident to Get Away From His Angry Girlfriend

     Police in Vineland, New Jersey say a man told officers he fled the scene of an automobile accident because he "didn't want to deal with his girlfriend yelling at him." They say David Scarpa was having an argument with his girlfriend when he backed into a utility pole in Cumberland County. The caller who reported the hit-and-run on November 29, 2014 said he heard people "yelling" and then heard a bang and saw debris on the ground by the pole.

     Police say the 21-year-old Scarpa then took off and didn't report the accident immediately. He went to police headquarters to turn himself in a day later…A prosecutor charged Scarpa with leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving.

"Man Flees Crash to Avoid Girlfriend," Associated Press, November 30, 2014 

Criminal Justice Quote: Catching Drivers on Pot

     Researchers at Washington State University are working on a breath test to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana…Law enforcement officers have a test for alcohol, but they don't have a tool to test for marijuana impairment. Right now, officers use blood tests to determine if THC is present in a driver's blood.

     But WSU chemistry professor Herbert Hill said existing technologies like those used by airport security agents to detect drugs and explosives can be altered to test breath for THC. Hill said he hopes to start testing on humans in early 2015. The Washington State Patrol says it welcomes anything that gets impaired drivers off the road.

"Researchers Developing Pot Breath Test," Associated Press, November 29, 2014 

Writing Quote: Biography As A Prism of History

As a prism of history, biography attracts and holds the reader's interest in the larger subject. People are interested in other people, in the fortunes of the individual.

Barbara W. Tuchman in Biography as High Adventure, edited by Stephen B. Oates, 1986

Writing Quote: Science Fiction Writers Are Rarely Recognized Outside the Genre

Some writers whose careers have been largely based on science fiction writing have never been categorized that way. Kurt Vonnegut and John Hershey were never within the science fiction ghetto. One surprising result of the ghettoizing of speculative fiction, however, is that writers have enormous freedom within its walls. It's as if, having once been confined within our cage, the keepers of the zoo of literature don't much care what we do as long as we stay behind bars.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1990 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Teen Pimp Arrested For High School Prostitution Ring

     In the summer of 2014, 17-year-old Alexa Nicole De Armas, a Venice High School student in Sarasota, Florida, came up with a scheme to recruit other high school girls to offer sex for money and alcohol. De Armas and an accomplice planned to charge $50 to $70 for oral sex and $100 for intercourse with a virgin. The prostitutes, under the plan, would keep 40 percent of what they earned. De Armas wanted the money for narcotics.

     In a Facebook exchange between De Armas and the accomplice, De Armas wrote: Why pimp out old hoes when I have fresh young hoes I can give up for money? As long as I'm getting paid I'm trafficking all these bitches."

     In August 2014, the high school pimp allegedly arranged for John Michael Mosher, a 21-year-old restaurant dishwasher from Nokomis, Florida, to have paid sex with a 15-year-old girl. The encounter allegedly took place in a community pool shed in a Nokomis park. When the girl told Mosher that she did not want to have sex with him, he allegedly forced himself on her. The John gave De Armas $40 and a bottle of booze for the sexual act.

     In October 2014, four female students at Venice High School reported to school officials that Alexa Nicole De Armas had tried to recruit them as sex workers.

     Vice detectives, on Friday November 21, 2014, arrested De Armas on the felony charge of human trafficking of a person younger than 18. That day police officers also took John Michael Mosher into custody in Nokomis, Florida. Mosher is faced the felony charge of sexual battery of a juvenile.

     De Armas and Mosher were placed into the Sarasota County Jail without bond. Police told local reporters that other arrests in this case were forthcoming. 

Kansas Preacher Shoots Man Breaking Into His House

     At eight-forty on Sunday morning November 30, 2014, a minister (not identified in the media) living with his wife and three young children on a rural road near Valley Center, Kansas, was forced to make a life and death decision.

     Alerted to an intrusion by his activated  home burglary alarm, the pastor ran into his kitchen to find a window shattered and a man about to enter the house. The minister, to protect  himself and his family, grabbed his handgun and opened fire.

     The intruder immediately retreated and ran off. Deputies with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, in responding to the home burglary call, came upon a man lying on the side of the road not far from the break-in. Officers rushed the bleeding man to the nearest emergency room.

     Police identified the burglar who was shot while breaking into the pastor's house as Cory Landon. Lucky for him, he had been struck by a single bullet that grazed his forehead. After being treated at the hospital and released, deputies booked Landon into the Sedgwick County Jail on the charge of aggravated burglary. (In Kansas and most states, intruding into a dwelling is a more serious offense than breaking into a commercial building.)

     Landon told the arresting officers that he and a few of his friends had been camping out in the area of the break-in.

     Neighbors praised the pastor for his bold anti-intrusion action. Faced with the same situation, they all  said they would have used deadly force. The neighbors did not believe the pastor's decision, given his position in the community, was immoral. He had reacted as a father and a husband, not as a man of the cloth. "That's an armed citizen taking care of business," one of the neighbors told a local report.

     Breaking into an alarmed dwelling in rural Kansas in broad daylight is dangerously stupid. This home intruder was either under the influence of drugs or is profoundly unintelligent. Neither one of these reasons, however, amounts to a legal defense. 

Writing Quote: Seasoning Your Work With Humor

Most writers aren't relentlessly funny from beginning to end, and they don't have to be. A pinch of humor that works is better than a potful that doesn't. For most of us humor is merely seasoning; it's not the whole dish.

Patricia O'Conner, Words Fail Me, 1999

Writing Quote: True Crime Readers Like Murder Cases

I define a true crime book as one involving murder. It's not about art theft, it's not about government cover-up. It's really a case involving murder in which there's an investigation and usually a trial. The best true crime books give you some insight into the characters, usually the character of the killer, and the situation that produced the crime.

Charles Spicer in Mystery Writer's Market Place and Sourcebook, edited by Donna Collingwood, 1993

Writing Quote: The First English Story of Space Flight

Bishop Francis Godwin wrote the first story in English of flight into space. His The Man in the Moon, 1638 had birds pull a raft through space to the moon. He anticipated Newton's theory of gravity and had the pull of the moon much lighter than that of the earth.

Lester del Ray, The World of Science Fiction, 1979

Saturday, December 6, 2014

White Phoenix Police Officer Shoots Unarmed Black Man

     At six in the evening of Tuesday December 2, 2014, officers with the Phoenix Police Department were investigating a burglary in the city's north side when a resident of an apartment complex nearby reported that black men inside a Cadillac SUV were selling drugs near the apartment building.

     When one of the officers approached the suspect vehicle, the driver, 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon, jumped out of the SUV and ran toward the apartment complex. (Brisbon had a burglary conviction conviction and was currently on probation. He was married and had four children.)

     The white, 30-year-old police officer with seven years on the force, chased Brisbon and caught up to him outside the apartment building. The subject, who had a hand stuffed into his waistband, refused to comply with the officer's commands to drop to the ground.

     Brisbon's refusal to obey the officers orders led to a scuffle. During the struggle, Brisbon stuck his left hand into his pant pocket. The officer grabbed for that hand and felt what he thought was a concealed handgun. As the officer tried to gain control of the situation, an apartment door opened and the two men tumbled inside.

     Inside the apartment, when the police officer lost his grip on Brisbon's left hand, he feared that the man he was struggling with would produce a gun and shoot him. It was at that point the officer pulled his pistol and shot Brisbon twice in the torso, killing him.

     As it turned out, Brisbon had not been armed. The object in his left pocket that concerned the officer was a bottle of oxycodone pills. (Brisbon had apparently been selling these pills out of his SUV and did not want to return to prison on a probation violation.)

     If this police account of the confrontation and shooting is accurate, the officer's use of deadly force in this case will undoubtedly be ruled justified. It's doubtful a local prosecutor would present this case to a grand jury.

     Marci Kratter, the Phoenix attorney who represented Brisbon in a 2009 DUI case, and is now representing the Brisbon family, told reporters she doesn't believe the police version of the shooting is complete. "There are numerous witnesses," she said, "that will challenge the police officer's account of what happened." (There were witnesses in the Michael Brown case, too, and many of them were discredited.)

     Phoenix police spokesperson Trent Crump, in addressing the media, said, "The officer was doing what we expect him to do, which is investigate crimes that neighbors are telling them are occurring."
   

     

Writing Quotes: Tiresome Political Memoirs

The memoir genre isn't helped by all the mandatory books that politicians turn out. These first-person tales of coming to the capital, of being made a better man by victory then defeat and a forced return home, have a standard narrative arc. These books also contain an agreed upon measure of falsification and their steady consumption may wipe out the market for serious political nonfiction.

Thomas Mallon, In Fact, 2001 

Writing Quote: Jack Olsen on Writing About Rapists and Serial Killers

I start every book with the idea that I want to explain how this seven or eight pounds of protoplasm went from his mommy's arms to become a serial rapist or serial killer. I think that a crime book that doesn't do this is pure pornography.

Jack Olsen, Seattle Post-Intelligence, July 19, 2002 

Writing Quote: Don't Write a Biography of a Person Whose Life Is Not a Good Story

How to begin? I had always shuddered at biographies that began, "It was a clear, cold morning in mid-December 1830, when the cry of a newborn baby broke the winter stillness." And once you begin, how to tell the story of a life that had no story?

Richard B. Sewall in Extra Ordinary Lives, edited by William Zinsser, 1986

Writing Quote: Exaggeration in Writing Humor

Be careful with exaggeration, one of the main tools of humor writing. Exaggeration, generally speaking, should be outside the realm of possibility, but somehow within the realm of visual imagination.

Patrick McManus, The Deer on a Bicycle, 2000

Criminal Justice Quote: Suspects Armed With Knives

Studies have shown that, on average, if you [a police officer] are twenty-one feet away from a suspect armed with a knife, that person can run up and stab you before you can draw your gun, aim, and fire. Even if the suspect is more than twenty-one feet away, he can still throw that knife at you and embed it in your chest. You don't really think about this scenario until you've actually had a knife thrown at you. Then it becomes all you think about.

Adam Plantinga, 400 Things Cops Know, 2014 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Brooke Baures' Strange If Not Suspicious Death

     Brooke Baures, a 21-year-old social work major at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, worked part time across the Mississippi River at WingDam Saloon & Grill in Fountain City, Wisconsin.  From 2011 to 2014, the native of Chetek, Wisconsin excelled as a member of the university's gymnastics team. As a bar and beam gymnast, the senior competed three times at national gymnastic events and was named an All-American gymnastics three years in a row.

     At the restaurant and bar in Fountain City, one of Baures' jobs involving taking food and drinks from the dumbwaiter that ran between the first floor kitchen and the second floor eating and drinking area. The opening to the food elevator measured three feet wide and three feet tall. This opening was not designed for human access.

     At eight in the evening of Monday December 1, 2014, the Buffalo County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call regarding a young woman stuck or trapped in the shaft of a restaurant food elevator. The victim turned out to be Brooke Baures. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.

     Law enforcement authorities quickly ruled out foul play in the strange death case. (Since 2003, only two people in the U.S. have died in food elevator accidents.) The no-foul-play announcement, before autopsy and toxicological results, seemed premature.

     After questioning half of the customers and all of the restaurant employees, investigators did not find an eyewitness to the incident. Apparently nobody saw Baures enter the food elevator shaft. Fountain City Police Chief Jason Mark told reporters that, "I highly doubt that Baures was using the dumbwaiter to move herself." He said she was probably using the elevator to shuttle food and drink.

     Eliminating the possibility of foul play before a thorough death investigation is self-defeating and amateurish. Moreover, it produces a lot of questions and raises suspicion of a cover-up. For example, who discovered Baures and how long had she been dead? What was the position of her body and exactly how did she die? How could this have happened? Are dumbwaiters that dangerous?

     On December 6, 2014, Buffalo County Sheriff Mike Schmidtknecht told reporters that Baures' death was probably a freak accident. He said investigators believe she possibly pushed the down button then noticed something and reached in and got caught and dragged down into the shaft by the elevator. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Thief On a Get-A-Way Skateboard

     A suspect wanted for stealing a BMW sedan led police on a chase in Van Nuys, California, bailed out on foot and attempted to get away on a skateboard before he was blocked by a Good Samaritan in a pickup truck. The suspect exited the 405 Freeway at Victory Boulevard at three-forty in the afternoon of December 1, 2014 and drove the stolen vehicle on the surface streets in Van Nuys at high speeds, at times reaching 90 mph.

     On eastbound Sherman Way, the suspect crashed into the back of another vehicle in stopped traffic. The suspect then jumped out of the BMW and ran into oncoming traffic with a skateboard under his arm. He ran north on Valjean Avenue, jumped on his skateboard and rode the sidewalk for less than half a block before running into traffic again. A pickup truck driver blocked him in traffic, then accelerated and turned right on Cantlay Street where he blocked the suspect at a gate. Police officers took the car thief into custody.

"Car Theft Suspect Jumps on Skateboard to Evade Cops," ABC News, December 1, 2014 

Writing Quote: Crime Novelist James Ellroy

James Ellroy [The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, American Tabloid, and others] is a cult. For many, he's a you're-in-or-you're out cult, because he's intense and absolute and violent in every respect--emotionally, linguistically, and physically. He's a brash writer who spins marvelously complicated, suspenseful plots. He is fluent in local period dialect that captures everything dirty, transient, prejudiced, profane, and provincial about the way cops and robbers, movie stars, and politicians talk. His thick, relentless dialogue (fully peppered with all the nasty racist and sexist things you might imagine that hard-boiled cops would say) combines with a compressed, impressionistic aesthetic that puts the language somewhere between A Clockwork Orange and Ulysses. 

Minna Procter, Bookforum, Oct./Nov./Dec., 2014 

Writing Quote: "Frankenstein" Doesn't Work as a Modern Horror Novel

     For the modern reader, Frankenstein fails in its intention to depict and evoke horror. In part this is a failure of style, and in part is a failure of technique--the author dwells too little on grisly details. We have to take the horror too much secondhand. Though the events of the novel are horrifying--three murders, a wrongful conviction, another death--the author, for whatever reason of sensibility or youth, chooses not to make a spectacle of them.

   While Frankenstein worked in its day, it has since become a model of what not to do if you really want to frighten the reader.

Jane Smiley, 13 Ways of Looking at The Novel, 2005

     

Writing Quote: S.J. Perelman on Humor

If people expect me to be funny, they are in for a rude shock. I figure my job ends when I leave the typewriter and get out of the swivel chair. People make a mistake when they confuse a writer with a performer.

S.J. Perelman, in People, Books & Book People, edited by David W. McCullough, 1981 

Writing Quote: Anguish in the English Department

The ability to craft beautiful sentences is useless without something interesting to write about. This is why most university English departments are essentially mental wards staffed by angry, depressed, and sometimes delusional professors who have contempt for their students, their fellow teachers, and themselves.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No Indictment in the Eric Garner Chokehold Death Case

     In 1983, following a decade of arrestee and inmate deaths in New York City caused by the use of police chokeholds, the commissioner banned this restraining technique in the city's lockups and station houses. Ten years later, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly prohibited the use of police chokeholds all together.

     On Friday, July 18, 2014, four police officers working in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, New York, confronted 43-year-old Eric Garner as he stood on the sidewalk in front of a store. The officers accused the father of four and grandfather of six of selling so-called "loosies," individual untaxed cigarettes. Several bystanders video-recorded the exchange between the officers and the 350-pound asthmatic.

     Addressing the officers, Garner said, "Every time you see me, you're messing with me. I'm tired of it. I'm minding my own business. Please leave me alone."

     When one of the officers reached out to place the suspect into custody, Garner said, "Don't touch me." At that moment a second officer, from behind, wrapped his arm around the arrestee's neck. Garner collapsed to the pavement. The second Garner hit the ground, the other three officer piled on. With his head pressed hard against the sidewalk, Garner, at least eight times, yelled, "I can't breathe!" He then slipped into unconsciousness.

     Two paramedics and a pair of EMTs from Staten Island's Richmond University Medical Center, in response to the police call for medical assistance, rolled up to the scene. A few minutes later bystanders pleaded with the medical crew to do more for the unresponsive man than just check his vital signs. Ten minutes passed before the ambulance crew lifted Garner onto a gurney and slid him into the emergency vehicle. At the hospital, an hour after the police encounter, Garner died of cardiac arrest.

     A police supervisor placed Daniel Pantaleo, the officer seen grabbing Garner from behind, on desk duty pending an internal affairs inquiry into Garner's death. The district attorney of Staten Island announced that investigators in his office would conduct an investigation into the matter.

     The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled Garner's death a homicide caused by "compression of neck, chest, and positioning during physical restraint by police." (Death by homicide is not the same thing as death by criminal homicide. Death by homicide means the decedent didn't die accidentally, naturally, or by suicide.)

     Officer Pantaleo was not a stranger to such incidents. Two people, in separate cases, had sued him for excessive force in the past few years. Because Garner was black and the arresting officers were white, the fatality immediately triggered accusations of police racism.

     On July 19, 2014, the day after Mr. Garner's death, Richmond University Medical Center officials suspended the four-member ambulance crew without pay. A hospital spokesperson said an internal investigation was underway.

     Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, told reporters that the union stood behind officer Pantaleo. "This was a police officer that wanted to place this person [Garner] under arrest and bring him to the sidewalk. This was not a chokehold."

     On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Pantaleo for Eric Garner's death. This meant there would be no criminal charges in this case. The officer could still be charged in federal court with a civil rights violation and the city can expect a wrongful death suit.

     The grand jury in this case was made up of 23 residents of Staten Island and led by a foreperson. A true bill requires that at least 13 of the panelists vote for a criminal charge. Fifteen members of this grand jury were white.

     This grand jury no bill involving a white police officer and the death of a a black subject, coming in the wake of the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, provoked condemnation from legal analysts and triggered a wave of demonstrations in New York City.

     Police officers are trained and equipped to deal with uncooperative people. Eric Garner, while not cooperative, was unarmed and committing a petty crime that could have been dealt with by a summons rather than arrest. Taking him to the ground involved acceptable law enforcement force, but the chokehold and not letting him up when he repeatedly said he couldn't breathe was, in the opinion of most legal analysts, excessive force.