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Friday, December 29, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Writing Sex Scenes

There are no sex scenes in my novels. I'm not a prude, nor against sex, I just don't know how to write them. There's nothing more pathetic than badly written sex. For me, it's a lot easier to have good sex than make it come alive on paper. I suspect that some writers who compose good sex are better on the page than in bed. Would I rather have good sex or write it? That's a tough one.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On His Dreams

I don't know any of the people in my dreams. They are all perfect strangers to me. So, I not only write fiction, I dream it as well. Does that make me a bit crazy? Probably, but what the hell, if I were sane I wouldn't be writing novels.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Why Novelists Write

Writing fiction is a form of escape from the mundane realities of life. The same is true for those who read fiction.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Being Armed With A Stun-Gun

If I were a cop, I couldn't be trusted with a stun-gun. I'd zap every jerk I encountered. Give me lip? Zap. Give me the finger? Zap. Walk away when I'm questioning you? Zap. I'd be a real Thomas Edison out there.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thornton P. Knowles On Why Johnny Can't Write

Johnny can't write because Johnny can't think. Half of his brain has been sucked out of his head into his television set.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, December 22, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Ben Hecht

While 1940s and 50s screenwriter Ben Hecht is largely forgotten, few writers today can hold a candle to his gift for expressing himself in such a colorful and memorable way. For example, in describing the writer in Hollywood, he wrote: "I knew her name--Madam Hollywood. I rose and said good-bye to this strumpet in her bespangled red gown; good-bye to her lavender-painted cheeks, her coarsened laugh, her straw-dyed hair, her wrinkled fingers bulging with gems. A wench with flaccid tits and sandpaper skin under her silks, shined up and whistling like a whore in a park; covered with the stink like a railroad station pissery and swinging a dead ass in the moonlight." In today's stifling culture of political correctness, even writers born with Ben Hecht's gift aren't allowed to write like this.

Thornton P. Knowles


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Death As The Writer's Nightmare

You wait all your life to die. And when you do, you can't write about it. This is the writer's nightmare.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Children Die From Abuse and Neglect as Child Protection Services Look On

     According to the Associated Press, at least 786 children died of abuse and neglect in the U.S. in a six-year span in plain view of child protection authorities. Many of them were beaten, starved or left alone to drown while these agencies had good reason to know these children were in danger…

     To determine that number, the AP canvassed the 50 states, the District of Columbia and branches of the military…Many states struggled to provide numbers. Secrecy often prevailed. Most of the 786 children whose cases were compiled by the AP were under the age of 4. They lost their lives even as authorities were investigating their families or providing some form of protective services because of previous instances of neglect or violence or other troubles in the home…

     Many factors contribute to the child abuse problem nationwide: The child protective services system is plagued with worker shortages and a serious overload of cases. Budgets are tight, and nearly 40 percent of the 3 million child abuse and neglect complaints made annually to child protection services hotlines are "screened out" and never investigated. [This sounds a lot like our VA Hospital situation.]

     Also, insufficient training for those who answer child abuse hotlines leads to reports being misclassified, sometimes with deadly consequences; a lack of a comprehensive national child welfare database allows some abusers to avoid detection by moving to different states; and a policy that promotes keeping families intact can play a major role in the number of deaths.

     Because no single, complete set of data exists for the deaths of children who already were being overseen by child welfare caseworkers, the information compiled over the course of the AP's eight-month investigation represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available….

"AP Impact: Abused Kids Die as Officials Fail to Protect," Associated Press, December 30, 2014
    

Thornton P. Knowles On Judging a Book By Its Author

A chain-smoking reporter once asked me if I could enjoy a book written by a bigot. I asked the reporter if he could enjoy a cigarette made by a company that knew it was killing people.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Living Before Writing

It's against the law to drive a car before you're sixteen. There is a reason for that, so how about this: You should not publish a novel until you're thirty-five. Although this rule won't save lives, it would improve the quality of book-length fiction. One of my favorite crime novelists, Ross H. Spencer, a blue collar guy who, like me, was born in Nitro, West Virginia, didn't start writing until he was 58. That's why his books are so full of life and so funny. He lived before he wrote.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More Fun and Games in Whackademia

The Phantom Professor

     Venetia Orcutt, an assistant professor in George Washington University's department of Physician Assistant Studies, went AWOL from class in two of her courses. She just didn't show up. Students who signed up for these teacherless courses, however, all received As. This went on for two semesters. After someone finally came forward, the dean of the medical school fired Orcutt and announced that the students who had not attended her classes would still get credit for the teacherless courses.

     In college, grades are a form of currency. Being a professor is a lot like being able to print money. Like money, grades can be used by academic slackers to buy the silence of  students in a conspiracy of fruad against parents, taxpayers, and alumni contributors. Professor Orcutt, had she not reached for the moon, might have gotten away with her scam indefinately. I'm sure many professors have.

Students or Guinea Pigs?

     Oklahoma University placed assistant professor Chad Kerksick on leave of absence following accusations from his Health and Exercise Students that, as a part of his research, he injected them with substances that caused pain and bruising. The university removed Kerksick from his duties. After the professor challenged the school's right to remove his tenure-track position, the university agreed to pay Kerksick $75,000 and give him one year of unpaid leave during which time he could look for a teaching position elsewhere.

     The above story made me think of my own career as a criminal justice professor, I who worked at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for thirty years, and actually showed up for class and didn't taser my students for a paper on nonlethal force. I now realize I was working at the wrong university. I should have been in Oklahoma.

Publish or Perish

     Emory University Professor Mark Bauerlein, in a recent paper, argues that professors who teach English Literature spend far too much time writing books, essays, reviews, and dissertations, stuff that nobody reads. According to the Modern Language Association, the number of these scholarly works published every year in the fields of English and foreign languages and literature has climbed from 13,757 in 1959 to 70,000 a  year. This glut of dense, arcane babble is not only killing innocent trees, it's keeping the writers of this unreadable stuff from teaching classes and interacting with students. Unless academic administrators eliminate publication as a prerequisite of academic advancement and tenure, trees will continue to fall and students will be taught by graduate assistants. (And English departments will continue to be called "Anguish" departments.)

No Snacks, No Class

     At California State University at Sacramento, students in professor George Parrott's Psychology 101 lab class, were required to bring homemade snacks each week to the laboratory. If the professor didn't get his snacks, a policy he established in the early 1970s, he canceled the class. Over the years, the professor's students went along with the joke without complaint. But a few weeks ago, when students in the professor's morning section of Foundations of Behavorial Research failed to bring muffins, professor Parrott walked out of the lab.

     Members of the Psychology Department ruled that professor Parrott's decision to walk out of class because his students had violated his homemade snack rule, was unacceptable. So, the dean told professor Parrott, who is retiring at the end of the year, to teach without snacks. (It's hard to image all of this was news to Parrott's teaching colleagues.) Since I didn't major in psychology, I am not equipped to figure out what in the hell was going on with this teacher, or his department.      

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On Do-Gooders In Crime Novels

In the crime novel, the do-gooder rarely makes it past page 50. In my novels, there are no do-gooders. They don't even make it into the book.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Wrong-Way Driver

     Two separate wrong-way wrecks killed 11 people on Sunday morning, February 9, 2014 in Florida and California….Five people died in a crash on Interstate 275 in Tampa when a Ford Expedition, traveling south in the northbound lanes, collided head-on with a Hyundai….The Expedition caught fire, and the driver was killed. The other four people killed, all men between the ages 20 and 21, were occupants in the Hyundai….

     In Pomona, California, a wrong-way driver crashed into two other vehicles on State Route 60, known locally as 60 Freeway, leaving six dead…The first driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI and manslaughter….The driver was hospitalized in critical condition….Four other people at the scene and two others died at the hospital.

Ralph Ellis, "11 Killed in Wrong-Way Wrecks in Florida, California," CNN, February 9, 2014

Thornton P. Knowles On "The Catcher In The Rye"

Over the years I've read J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in The Rye several times. I must say that the greatness of this 1951 classic escapes me. In my opinion, the book is nothing more than a coming of age novel narrated by a dimwit.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rounding up Pedophiles in the United Kingdom

     Police in the United Kingdom arrested 660 alleged pedophiles following a six-month investigation. The suspects included doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers, and former police officers. On July 16, 2014, the United Kingdom's Crime Agency reported that the operation occurred across the UK and included 45 police forces…

     The operation, kept secret until the arrests, involved targeting those accessing online images of pedophilia. Thirty-nine of those arrested were registered sex offenders. The rest of the suspects had been unknown to the police. The charges ranged from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual abuse…

     These arrests followed a series of pedophilia scandals that have dogged the UK. In July 2014, the authorities revealed that in the 1980s, politicians in the UK routinely abused vulnerable children….

Mirren Gidda, "UK Police Arrest 660 Suspected Pedophiles," time.com, July 17, 2014

     

Thornton P. Knowles On Ignorance As Bliss

My mother, bless her soul, had a high regard for authority. She believed, for example, that all physicians were highly competent and well meaning. Men of the cloth were as pure as the driven snow. Local politicians had her best interests in mind, and the president of the United States would never lie to the American people. And, if she read something in the newspaper, it had to be true. It must have been nice.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On a Compliment From Another Writer

The West Virginia poet, Fannie Pingpong, once called me a "mildly talented nutcase." That was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. I liked the "mildly talented" part.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thornton P. Knowles On The Politician

The mere act of talking voters into putting you into a position of privilege and power that enables you to take money from them is inherently an act of deceit and corruption. No wonder we hate the politician.

Thornton P. Knowles