Saturday, September 8, 2007

Murder in Scotland, Spain, Portugal, West Africa and Berlin

We have to add key books and people to the discussion right away, so I'm publishing without all the links that should be added (I'll edit them in later):

  1. Ian Rankin, whose Inspector Rebus novels like Fleshmarket Alley (Fleshmarket Close in Britain) are truly excellent. I can't say the same about the Jack Harvey novel Blood Hunt- I found it to be pedestrian. But, nobody is perfect, and we should be thankful that Rebus is on the prowl in Scotland. I also know too much about the chemical and agricultural issues that formed the foundation of the crimes in Blood Hunt to find their treatment very satisfying in the book. But, hey, this just shows the danger of too much learnin'. Read it and enjoy! Perhaps enjoyment, or at least suspension of disbelief, will be easier if your aren't an industry insider.

  2. The Blind Man of Seville, A Small Death in Lisbon, The Company of Strangers and The Vanished Hands represent one type of Robert Wilson's work, the intricately plotted, remarkably dark stories of murder, family, betrayal, pride, patriotism, spying, manipulation, secrets, weakness, love and pain. Pretty good territory for a rainy day, eh? These are works of literature,* though I wouldn't lend them to my kids. The Vanished Hands seemed to me a little weaker than the others, but it was married to political and social messages about repression in South America (by South Americans and the US) that needed to be published, so I give it some leeway. The first three I listed here are strong stuff, and are nothing short of brilliant. Rarely do I react as viscerally to the printed page, and rarely am I so engaged in the puzzle, as when I read this side of Wilson's writing.

    The other part of Wilson's work that I am aware of is the series of Bruce Medway novels, including The Big Killing, A Darkening Stain, Blood is Dirt, and Instruments of Darkness, all of which should be read. Soon. These books are less ambitious than the first set is some ways, and somewhat less satisfying, but still excellent. Although frequently violent and filled with betrayals and much sadness, there is a bit of optimism in these books, if seen through the boozy haze. The brotherhood of mankind has not completely broken down. Also, with the books being shorter, the characters are less fully developed (we don't know about three generations or more for each person's family, including all lateral genealogy, nor all GPS waypoints in everyone's lives for the past 85 years- just teasing a bit, here!), and the depths of depravity are somehow slightly less horrifying than in, say, The Blind Man of Seville.

    I'm not complaining about the characters at all: Medway and Co. form a terrific ensemble cast that sometimes stays a step ahead of crooks, sometimes a few steps behind, but mostly survives, to drink too much, another day. They ply their trade in West Africa, which is fully as foreign to me as any distant locale.

    Actually, it is a difficult to decide why the violence is less horrifying here, in Medway's world, than say in Inspector Falcón's world, because it really isn't. I hope the different affect is because somehow everything is less personal, life being painted with a broader brush in the Medway books, making events easier to accept and move on (to one's own life). However, it must be difficult to craft a great read in one third the number of words of the other books, so I'm not trying to be a jerk here, because they are great reads, and we should all know more about West Africa (at least where I live). It's not that I don't respect the Medway books in the morning, it's that I don't think about them as much in the morning, or find myself haunted as much by them at night, as I do with Seville, Lisbon, et al.

    I strongly recommend reading each subset of Wilson's books in the order of their publication, given that aspects of character development can carry over from one story to another. I believe that the books are written by the same person, but the two have really nothing in common. That both sets of novels are very successful is impressive.

    *Did I just break a Nick Hornby rule? Or am I about to? See here.

  3. Philip Kerr is a cypher to me, or perhaps not, maybe I grok his fullness. What I can say is that he has written some of the best murder mysteries ever (see Berlin Noir), but he seemed to "go commercial" a while back and I don't connect too well with him any more in a consistent manner, though I don't deny the man his right to make a living. So where do I draw the line and why? I guess on another day.

    Question: is Philip Kerr coming back into the fold?

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 7, 2007

Queen of the South, Club Dumas, Fencing Master, Seville Communion, Nautical Chart

Let's step away from Tibet and China for a moment to discover and briefly discuss Arturo Perez-Reverte, Spain, Mexico and a wild ride across the continent of Europe. This selection of books spans the very broad range of this master storyteller from Spain.

(a) The Fencing Master is a period-piece swashbuckler, with a twist or two or ten- a joy to read, a thrilling ride, and offering a secret fencing move. I read it a while ago. Having fenced on foil for a short while in college, and on epee in graduate school, betrays a lifelong fascination with the sport and the art that makes me readily susceptible to such stories: as a youngster I read The Scarlet Pimpernel and other books, like the Prisoner of Zenda, that hark back to days when evil men left scars on the faces of their antagonists, and Royalty was going in and out of favor throughout Europe. The Perez-Reverte book is more detailed about life, politics, history and its characters than Pimpernel or Zenda were, and is written with much richer language, though the latter two books remain a good summer reading (and the Scarlet Pimpernel will show you a thing or two about the French revolution). Perez-Reverte's book was apparently made into a feature film in Europe, but that doesn't seem readily available. A pity, perhaps, because little goes together as well as a good sword, a beautiful and mysterious woman who fences brilliantly, and an old master with all the moves.

(b) The Club Dumas is a contemporary supernatural thriller with antiquarian leanings, also brought to the silver screen, with temptation lurking around every corner and salvation perhaps nowhere to be found. It rushes through Europe faster than a middle school class on Spring Break: I used an Atlas a few times (and I've lived in Europe). It was made into a film starring Johnny Depp and directed by Roman Polanski (a favorite director of mine). The movie is entertaining. The book is intriguing- it pulled me into its riddles and mysteries, and a very good read.

(c) The Nautical Chart, a contemporary story of greed intertwined with sunken treasure from the Spanish empire, a ne'er do well sailor cut from the same cloth as Philip Marlowe, and museum curators: it contains some of the most brutal and tragic betrayal imaginable, along with wonderful seafaring, diving, that ever-elusive Jesuit treasure, and navigational mysteries and histories around the treacherous waters off Spain and Gibraltar.

(d) The Seville Communion, a story where where Vatican enforcers battle (apparently) a small parish church in Seville. Defending the church may be a set of miracles along with those parishioners who would like to prevent it from being sold off knocked down in the name of progress. Is the church really protecting itself? Are the results of miracles being witnessed? Who is the brilliant computer hacker who has penetrated Vatican accounts, and what prices must be paid when you do get want you want? How many bodies will be sacrificed? To what lengths will the church, the enforcer and the ladies of of the church go? Read it and find out!

e) The Queen of the South, is my pick for book of your book of the year (it already was mine a while back). The story starts with drug running from Mexico to the US, in a world where dying well enough to earn a personal folk song (corrido, or narco-corrido) is the highest ambition of many of the foot soldiers. Things move abruptly to North Africa and Spain, and eventually return to the scene of the first page, back in Mexico. The story does not have a linear timeline, it begins at the end, or just before the end, and then backtracks through the long journey from home, abroad, and back again. We follow the rise of a remarkable woman from naive drug moll, running scared with good reason, to the greatest heights of the international drug trade. Much of her education comes from a stay in Spanish prison after yet another of her men has died on the job (running drugs around treacherous coastlines while dealing with fast pursuit from naval ships and helicopters). Being her friend is exhilarating until it ends your life, one way or another, but there may be no greater glory than do die in the service of the Queen. Your song will be forever sung.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Murder in China and Tibet, and London; Peter Rozovsky!

OK, so I read Qiu Xiaolong's books a while ago and gave an impressionistic synopsis of the first one, Death of a Red Heroine that was probably influenced by the second (A Loyal Character Dancer). If you want to read a more more detailed series of analysis, complete with references to major newspaper articles, and insight, go to Detectives Beyond Borders, which the author Peter Rozovsky kindly referred me to, and search for Qiu Xiaolong. Sorry, I can't get the link to work to take you to exactly the right place yet. But, so much for my "no objective standards" comment- now I feel pressure! Added later: here is the link to Qiu Xiaolong I was missing.

So, on to The Skull Mantra (TSM) by Eliot Pattison and The Murder Room (TMR) by P.D. James. I read both of these in August, with rather different results. I won't repeat my comments about the Pattison book already made to Peter Rozovky's blog, so here is where to search for them (my answer to the question in the Sept 1, 2007 post). Again, sorry about my poor HTML skills- I have to sort out why the links I had were not working.

I did struggle a little at the beginning of TSM, and had started it before but not gotten far. This time I had the good sense to read on. Contrast this with TMR, which starts with a beloved T. S. Eliot quote (from Burnt Norton)* and moves quickly to that area outside of London much loved by fictional characters, being approximately three miles north from 221B Baker Street, and by real people, including authors: Hampstead Heath. The Heath is crisscrossed by roads but is really quite large, with open grassy areas, wooded regions and walking or running paths to tempt lovers, criminals and healthy English people of a certain age. The reader is immediately put in the care of a perfect host, the urbane Commander Adam Dalgliesh, a published poet* whose day job happens to be at New Scotland Yard. TMR was easy to start, like candy or a bottle of single malt.

*see Qiu Xiaolong's inspector Chen!

Now, before I go on, I should dispense with some psychological baggage. Until this August, I had boycotted P. D. James for about 30 years. Why? Because the books were bad? No, rather the opposite. I found the writing to be so good, the characters to be so engaging and the story to be so gripping that when I finally learned who the villain was the last time I read James, I was too depressed to want to go through that experience again- the fellow was too likable (ignoring the crime, anyway). Oddly enough, looking over the back catalog online today, I haven't been able to figure out which book caused this reaction- I'll have to go to the library and read the last chapters of all of them, because I remember that chapter vividly (given the way my 49-year old memory works, I might well find out I was boycotting the wrong author, but I will get to the bottom of it).

So where are we? TSM has us spending time inside a prison work-camp and building roads by hand, high on a Tibetan mountain. While doing so, we start to learn about Tibetan prayers and religion through the eyes of a true outcast, a hated Chinese prisoner embedded within the Tibetan prisoners. However, in a spirit that may be relatively unique to Tibet, some of the imprisoned monks welcome their Chinese "comrade", if over time, so that he is much more at home with the prisoners than with the abusive Chinese guards, Warden, or any other ethnic Chinese he is likely to meet in Tibet.

Everything, and I mean eventually EVERYTHING, is turned upside down by the discovery of a headless body by the prison work crew, right where they are supposed to build the rode. The only experienced detective in the region is the mysterious Chinese prisoner whose file contains no information because he committed no crime, except to attempt to expose corruption by a Party official too powerful to fight. It is a bit like the world of the Chateaux d'If from Alexandre' Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo or The Man in the Iron Mask, where a note from royalty could imprison a man for life without due process. Oh, it sounds a bit like imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, too, though I hope that will come to an end before long. So is the mystery going to be placed in the hands of the lowest of the low, a former inspector reviled and made to disappear by his fellow Chinese and reviled by many of the Tibetans he will meet? (Tibet has been colonized violently by China in an ongoing process that started on October 1, 1949)

As I read deeper into TSM, the memories of his institutionalized mistreatment and cherished, but deeply hidden, memories of time with his father show us a man who has learned to survive by fighting his instincts, keeping his head buried, and now, against his will, that head is plucked out of the sand, its eyes are forced open, and he is given the choice of solving the crime or watching the massacre of his fellow prisoners. Why such drama? Because the Tibetan respect for the dead and fear of evil spirits means that the road building will not restart unless and until the murder can be cleared up in a way that mitigates all superstition. So, solve this crime for me and make sure I like the answer, is essentially what the local military commander orders the prisoner, who is given some freedom of movement, a driver and a translator.

Much tension in the book comes from mixed allegiances amongst Chinese military, political and policing institutions and amongst Tibetan factions, tribes or monasteries, some of whom may be dealing illegally with drugs, antiquities or both. Some witnesses and other participants in the events belong to these various factions. However, the slow re-emergence of the inspector's pride, which seemed to have been beaten and starved out of existence, provides a forward motion to the story, as the inspector struggles less and less with himself and more with the mystery at hand. The inspector is not the only person who finds his pride re-awakened by the circumstances: his assigned army chauffeur/guard/watch-dog is forced to face the humanity of the Tibetan people he is oppressing, and forced to recognize that his "work" is a sad, shameful and unsuitable end to a proud military career.

One of the best parts of the book is the development of our relationship with the military commander (not the same person as the prison camp warden). This man is not shown as a caricature, and ultimately he needs the truth as badly as the inspector, creating a situation that could prove fatal for all.

The nearby presence of a Western mining operation and the first bus-load of tourists for the season place spatial and temporal bounds on the investigation, yet long journeys across high desert and through dangerous mountain passes must be negotiated in attempts to track down a witness before he can be killed by the as-yet unidentified murderer(s).

Further complicating things is the discovery of a cave, in between the prisoner's work camp and the Western-leased mine, filled with skulls dating back to the beginning of Tibet's recorded time. This introduces a possible motive for murder, in that some group, Chinese or Western, is looting the artifacts, a highly illegal act.

Ultimately, an unwavering attention to detail in the face of the many feints and misdirections carried out by the murder(s) allows the inspector to track certain key artifacts that may or may not be missing, and to tease out the web of people connected with them so that the crimes begin to unravel. However, even with many of the basics of the case seemingly within our grasp, a series of absolutely shocking, yet immediately credible, revelations awaits us.

The end of TSM is a typical race against time in some ways, but there is nothing typical about the setting or the motivations of its key people, let alone the brilliant manipulations that have been carried out to insulate the puppet master(s) from the actions that caused so much destruction of life. After the slow start lasting maybe 12 pages, I read the book pretty much straight through, trying not to rush or miss anything, trying to keep separate and distinct the different temples and tribes and their roles, but increasingly anxious about the fates of all concerned.

So wither The Murder Room? TMR has plenty of its own misdirection, with contemporary murders in a museum apparently copying a set of murders from long ago, memorialized in that very museum (which is dedicated to the period between WWI and WWII). There are sympathetic characters, there are unpleasant characters, there are characters about whom one is ambivalent. After the first crime, there is more murder and attempted murder, and more lives may seemingly yet be lost at any point. So we have urgency. We also have the parallel story of Dalgleish's love interest, who is inconveniently located at Cambridge, and some internal police politics that are trumped by "larger" concerns, a catch-phrase for so much now, as it probably always has been (sorry Caesar, the seating plan for today's committee meeting is "need to know, only").

The problem is that the larger forces at play (i.e. National Security) really aren't at play. Instead we have a bunch of government ministers, judicial appointees, and wealthy people trying to protect each other, regardless of whether the case is solved or not (and with blatant disregard for potential additional victims). This may have resonated strongly in the U.K. after the revelations about how false confessions were obtained by torturing suspected IRA members, but in today's world, in the USA, this seems like an old story, a story that is probably being acted out now in real life, but one that has no more hook than last year's headlines. It is expected behavior, and why should we care how some other member of the privileged classes justifies his or her self-serving behavior? Fine, throw them in jail (or pardon them if you are President Bush), but don't expect me to be shocked that somebody in authority lied, or even compromised National Security for personal or political gain. I've been living with a Vice President who outed a covert CIA operative during wartime. Didn't we formerly execute people for treason? Now they go on the lecture circuit. So, for me, this book started out like gangbusters and ended up a bust. It is an OK read- the language is good (which is not so common these days), the minor characters are well drawn, and the workings of Dalgleish's mind are a pleasure, but the final third of the book is a major disappointment that left me feeling completely disconnected from the fate of the criminal(s).

Sphere: Related Content

Great Technorati crime blog, updated book list and a link to Employment law

I'm looking to use my Technorati Profile as a way of getting help from others. Thanks in advance for any suggestions. As an immediate bonus, I can recommend the following blog, found via, called detectives beyond borders, where the point of view (as to what is international) is from the USA, as is mine.

Don't forget to see fiction, mystery/crime fiction and chemistry recommendations in the updated recommended book list! Many more books are to be added, and obviously I've barely started my reviews/commentaries.

Check out the Labor Day 2007 special from George Lenard (found at this link) if you are interested in employment law. This is an amazing retrospective of the subject (and it is just one entry!). OK, this blog is getting rather eclectic. I'm sure I'll re-organize things according to subject at some point. Having worked for some large companies, I know how to reorganize! I just don't know much about blogging details yet, but every day gets me closer, and the lack of objective standards is a rare comfort in this life.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

Sphere: Related Content

Books: Perez-Reverte; Guitar commentaries; chemistry

Literature: For those of you who arrived hoping to read about novels, I'll sneak in a mention of one of my favorite authors, Arturo Perez-Reverte. Click the link to see what Powell's has to offer by him. Reviews of individual books to appear later.

Music and guitars: for those waiting on guitar and equipment reviews, they are still under construction. zZounds offers the widest selection of name-brand instruments at guaranteed lowest prices. You can purchase over 125,000 different products from their website 24 hours a day. Click here to look!

I play a bunch of things: a Taylor Leo Kottke 12-string (great guitar, from Eddie's Guitars in Maplewood, MO), a bunch of Godins (love them), a Strat Plus (from Silver Strings, St. Louis- I have the most confidence soloing on this), two 1972 Tele Custom reissues (One nice Squire w/5 strings a la Keef, one gem made in Japan "not for export" w/brass bridge), a Fly deluxe (funny guitar- the volume knob placement and body resonances can drive me nuts, but the neck and frets are great) and Midi-fly (without the midi working yet, but this is a great guitar), a low end Brian Moore w/13-pin, and some nice, but not amazing, acoustics (Alvarez dreadnought, Ibanez larger body style, baby Taylor). I have to share all these with my son Jacob, who also has some Jacksons and classical instruments, and who plays rings around me at age 14. He doesn't share his guitars with me.

Just a quick note on Science: I referred briefly to Green Chemistry in my first post. Here are a few resources for the scientifically-inclined (click on the links to go to the resource pages):

A synopsis of work I was involved in

and the home page for the

Green Chemistry Resource Exchange

See also page 2 of my bookshelf at Powell's for related books. The theme is either "books on Green Chemistry" or books written by Green or Greene, plus one huge and comprehensive encyclopedia of catalysis put together by a friend. The books by Green and Greene were too good to keep off the list, though they are for transition metal organometallic chemistry and protecting group chemistry, respectively, which are just peripherally related to "Green Chemistry".

For more on Green Chemistry, don't forget to check out my links to the EPA's program from my earlier post!

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mystery Novels 2

Some of the books recently added to the living list at Powell's bookstore, my own list, are given here with initial comments. The first two are by expatriate Chinese author Qiu Xiaolong:

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong

These two books are remarkable. Written by a scholar who moved from China to St. Louis, they gave me the first detailed pictures of many previously opaque aspects of the newest economy and the tragic Cultural Revolution, including its effect on families, villages, cities and individuals. The Cultural Revolution is shown through reminiscences of various characters in the stories. The police protagonist, Inspector Chen, is cultured, clever, principled, sometimes naive, and has the small worries and insecurities that help him come to life as a great character. He isn't the only detective who writes poetry or likes books, but his academic and artistic abilities are not forced into the stories, and his quotes from Chinese poetry or literature are infrequent enough that they add to the depth rather than detract from the flow of the story. The sideline of translating American fiction into Chinese gives the inspector some extra income- it also adds to his human qualities, but perhaps more important is how examples like this create a complex and believable Chinese world. We are given a range of insights into current and recently-past society, in a wide range of Chinese settings from rural to urban to aristocratic. Never did I feel that any of this information was forced- everything is wrapped up organically into exciting and suspenseful mysteries that accelerate toward the finish. There are political perils at local and National levels to deal with, and department politics to negotiate, all forming additional barriers to solving the crimes. The ancillary characters add much to the enjoyment of these books- their concerns may be about pay, career advancement or Party status, but they all ring true. I could not put these books down. The writer lives in St. Louis, as do I, and we have taught at the same University, but I do not know him.

More on the rest later, but these are all highly recommended:

Death of an Englishman (Soho Crime) by Magdalen Nabb ISBN: 9781569472545

Murder in the Sentier by Cara Black ISBN: 9781569473313

Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black ISBN: 9781569472125

Murder in the Bastille (Aimee Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black ISBN: 9781569473641

Beat Not the Bones by Charlotte Jay ISBN: 9781299768628 or 9781299768628 or 9781569470473

The Woman Who Married a Bear (Soho Crime) by John Straley ISBN: 9781569474013

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

For excellent fiction: SOHO Press and Powell's Bookstore

1. SOHO press and SOHO crime. This publisher has a remarkable ability to find brilliant writers, including crime writers, from around the world. With settings in Australia, New Zealand, Paris, Italy, Alaska, China, Japan and other places, the books can step far out of the standard police procedural or mystery patterns, but even if they don't, they step far out of most people's comfort zones both culturally and geographically (no matter where you live). This adds much to enjoy. Many bookstores don't carry SOHO, or only have a few volumes available. Hence, the importance of the next point:

2. Powell's Books is acknowledged by many as one of the best bookstores in the world, if not THE best. Check out their top 10 lists in Crime Fiction and Featured Books.

Here is my own list of recommended crime and mystery novels available at Powell's. I have read, and endorse, them all. This is just a start- there will be many more books added. I put in several links to Charlotte Jay's "Beat Not the Bones", winner of the very first Edgar Award, because it is a bit scarce, and I didn't want to send you to a sold-out version. I'll be writing reviews of all of the books on my list when I can. I strongly recommend reading Cara Black's books in order they were published. I'm still reading "The Woman Who married a Bear" by John Straley, but the early reviews are strong.

Powell's supports the Green Press Initiative (see here for the organization's main site). Having worked in Green Chemistry, I know first hand that publishing and the paper industry are certainly areas that can benefit from environmentally-aware innovation.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my brother John and my good friend John F. of St. Louis for introducing me to most of the authors and books on my current crime fiction list. They have also introduced me to many books that will make their way into the other fiction lists I will be putting together. I had thought that this acknowledgment would show up on the list itself, but I must have misunderstood, so here it is.

Here you can search Powell's Bookstore for anything:

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 3, 2007

I'm a Believer: what books and magazines to read and TV to watch, Sept. 1, 2007

Over the past year I read two excellent collections of essays by Nick Hornby (more on these another time; I'll just say now that they often made me laugh out loud, and often didn't, and generally at the right places). The essays were taken from his (nearly?) regular articles in the magazine Believer, leading me to an increasing frenzy to hunt down a copy, and I just bought my first (8/07)- a very good use of about $8. This first blog of mine is as much an open letter to Mr. Hornby as it is an attempt to widen the audience for his great work, for Believer, and for some very tangentially-related music.

You can find individual issues of the magazine at the links above and subscribe there or via

Nick Hornby's interview of journalist-turned TV writer/producer David Simon in the latest Believer is simply great. If you don't know who Simon is, I didn't think I did, either. He wrote Homicide (later the television show Homicide-Life on the Street) and created The Wire, which he produces and co-writes with other great writers of Baltimore, Maryland (no, Edgar Allan Poe was not available- I think he is under exclusive contract with Modern Library).

The rationale behind The Wire as described in the interview is brilliant. I mean brilliant in the American sense, perhaps defined as "truly intelligent and impressive without necessarily showing off", not the British sense of brilliant, which in my experience roughly translates to the Californian "Dude!". Just reading Simon's comments, as elicited by Nick Hornby, renewed my faith in something. I'm still deciding what, ... perhaps that intelligent writers of today are self-aware and consciously bucking the schlock-machines in a manner that is viscerally and intellectually thrilling, while being financially successful, without a lowest common denominator in sight.

I only saw a few episodes of The Wire, during an early season when I happened to be travelling and found it in hotel rooms on HBO. I have no access at home, but I felt hooked immediately and definitely suffered separation anxiety that nearly "pierced me to the heart" when my somewhat random exposure to the show stopped (this was made up for by ending the anxiety of random separation from my family).

So, here are my recommendations for the day: The Wire on HBO, Believer magazine, David Simon's writing and other TV work, and of course, that occasionally-censored but always compelling contributor to The Believer, Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity and Fever Pitch (both below), the two books of essays (The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt) mentioned above, and numerous other "things"- hint, he is great on books and music, sometimes simultaneously, as well as on certain obsessions (fictional and nonfictional).

Yes, Nick, your fans are legion, tell your editors I said so (all 168 of them)! Also, Mr. Hornby, before you feel put out that I have not fleshed out your work in any detail today, and am defining you largely by a couple of your most popular books, I feel your pain, and I'll relate the following anecdote that you, if nobody else, might find relevant: I heard Taj Mahal say, approximately, in response to early 1980's concert requests for Corrina and She Caught the Katy,

"I made 22 albums between the years of 1968 and 1981, and I refuse to be stuck in the first three, though I appreciate the sentiment."

Anyway, Mr. H., I hope you'll forgive me for primarily, if temporarily, defining you by a fraction of your work, but, more on you in a later post (and no, your writing never caused me to receive a bad grade in a course, though it has kept me up on more than one night, probably making me late for work, or in this case, late for Labor Day, of all things).

P.S. This just scratches the surface of the August, 2007 Believer.

Sphere: Related Content