Thursday, July 11, 2019

On greater and lesser prejudices - the ones we mask, excuse or deny, or blame on our superior breeding.

In 1957, I left my home in suburban San Diego to attend college. Then, as now, my choice was on the list of the top five liberal arts colleges in the United States.  It is currently
ranked behind Williams and Amherst.  Last year, it was number one. 

San Diego was a much smaller town in 1957 than in 2019. Long before September, most local admittees to the class of 1961 knew one another.  Five of us were Convair Management Club Scholars and many of us were in the California Scholarship Federation. Those of us in journalism competed for the same awards and vied for the same scholarship money. I went to college on a Union-Tribune scholarship and a State of California stipend. The rest was a gift from my grandfather who was a gardener. 

 The Fall Semester did not begin until the last week in September, but Orientation began two weeks earlier. The Freshman class was divided into groups of less than twenty, and each was assigned an advisor. During one of the weekends before classes began, our advisor hosted a party at Newport Beach. After the hotdogs and potato salad, and before the toasting of the marshmallows, we sat in a circle and each of us introduced ourselves with a short speech about our aspirations, interests, and family history. 

 I was surprised when one of the male students indicated he lived in San Diego County because I had not seen him at any of the events staged during the application process. In the course of his self-introduction, he revealed he had been raised on the East Coast and had been educated in private schools. He had been living with his mother since his parents separated, but his father practiced law in San Diego. In a group of young people who were for the most part rather full of ourselves, he was even less humble than the rest of us as he spoke. Nevertheless, he was good-looking with a touch of what I considered to be East Coast charm and his pretensions were not that much worse than mine.  He was doing fine until his dialog focused on social attitudes. His family politics were Conservative but open-minded, he declared, and to illustrate the point, he offered the following anecdote: 'On Christmas, my mother invites our servants and their families to the house to collect their presents, and she even lets them enter through the front door.'
I sat in the sand with my mouth open, and so did our advisor. He had been born in China and spent WWII  in Shanghai, in hiding in the house of his mother's servants.  If they had been discovered they would have been executed.  His father was a United States Marine who believed his wife and children were dead. They began life in the US without their mother who was not yet vetted and they lived in public housing. His mother was Manchu and the children looked less Asian than my Chinese granddaughters, but the family was sensitive to issues of prejudice and knew it when they heard it. 
 I am not certain our classmate didn't use the word negroes instead of servants, but his subsequent remarks made it very clear that was what he meant. I decided then he was not someone I wished to know. I suspect he felt likewise. I confess to having obviously plebian attitudes.I do not think I ever spoke to him, not then and not at reunions. Picture Justice Kavanaugh conversing with AOC.
We are both retired members of the State Bar of California and both of us are admitted to SCOTUS. He had a highly successful career in his chosen civil specialty and takes pride in his reputation as a trial lawyer.  I wear my 122 jury verdicts and successes in high profile cases as a badge. However, prevailing in child sexual assault and homicide cases does not get me on anybody's A-list. 
 Perhaps I stored the memory of the Beach Party for 52 years because it was a portent for what I am observing in American today.  I did not expect to find bigotry at my college in 1957, and I likewise did not expect to read hatred in the rhetoric of my friends and neighbors in the United States of America of 2019.  What is especially scary is these are not radicals shouting. These are coworkers, colleagues, relatives, and friends. Nevertheless, attractive, educated, widely respected people whose company the rest of us seek and whose opinions we let shape our nation, are walking on floors scrubbed by those who are barred from entering the house through the front door and no one is calling them to account. And I speak metaphorically as well as literally. 
I had a friend named Rev. Wiley Burton who is now deceased. He and I co-chaired a Hate Crime Task Force in the Morongo Basin in the ’90s. In addition to his ministry, he was best known as the spouse of blues singer Nancy Wilson who also passed this year. He wrote a book called Divided we Stand years before small-house and independent publishing became competitive.  The photos alone make it a valuable addition to my library, but the message it delivers was personal for me because we were soldiers in a campaign against a new rash of hate crimes uncommon to our area, and while we were given lip-service from several quarters, it came with a caveat to be careful of our area’s good name. In other words, there were property values to consider and elections incumbents hoped to win.  We economized our efforts and got rid of the swastikas but not the hate.  Eventually,  we disbanded. We prosecuted one major hate crime and the Feds took credit for it. As compensation, I did get to hear some of Rev. Burton's best stories. And even they had racial undertones.
When Wiley was a young man seeking to make a living in tinsel town, he almost became Rock Hudson’s body double. It was a set-up, a practical joke arranged by Alfred Hitchcock, but no one told Wiley it was a prank. He thought it was a genuine job offer. One look and Hudson approved him. They shared the same good looks, size and formidable presence. Which of them was the better looking American Idol is debatable. But when they told Hudson the model he had selected as his double was black, he was fired on the spot. Wiley never worked in a Hollywood studio again. He spoke good-naturedly about the incident, but I was dumbstruck by its cruelty. Hudson was the butt of it, but Wiley was the Whipping Boy.
 I have a book on my shelf given to me by its African American author,  retired New York Times journalist Lena Williams in which she thanks me for 'Fighting the same fight against Hate, Bias & Ignorance.' The title is It's the Little Things.'   Williams speaks to habits and gestures that annoy, offend, and separate the races, yet appear trivial to the casual examiner and are thus easy to rationalize.  As an armchair historian and historical novelist, I look at vestiges of a culture based on exploitation and conquest as the culprit. The blond news anchor who flips her long straight hair almost in the face of her African American guest and the grand lady who sends a woman of color to answer a door she is forbidden to otherwise use do not consider themselves racists. The same holds true of Alfred Hitchcock, and just about every American politician who can muster a soundbite to explain actions in his or her past.  Hell yes, we have to do better.

Friday, June 7, 2019

On the passing today, June 7, 2019, of David William Wilkin, author, friend and patriot.

In memory of my colleague David William Wilkins, who passed today, I am borrowing a review I wrote of his excellent regency novel, Beggars Can't be Choosier.  David was a life long Republican whose last years of life were churned by the political turmoil in our Country.  He may not have had the audience of a Colin Powell or a Barbara Bush, but he had the courage to speak out against tyranny.  I profoundly feel the loss not just of a friend, or a colleague, but of a true American Patriot.

Beggars Can't be Choosier by D.W Wilkin - A Review by Linda Root.





It has been less than five minutes since I finished the first Regency romance I have read since I was in college, and my smile has yet to fade. I am still not certain whether I am in my desert lair or in a drawing room in London waiting for the sweetcakes and 

champagne promised to the guests assembled there. It seems that I have been away too long. What a miracle that a gentleman who lives in nearby Hemet by the the name of David William Wilkin could so magically transport a colleague on the far side of Mount San Jacinto all the way to London and into a society where elegance and grace were the talismans, but title and wealth were everything.

It would be dishonest to say I was captured in the first paragraph, or even in the first few pages. But I did get the message that a main character in the story was an earl whose pedigree was more impressive than his bank balance, and who was striving to live within a very limited income while still fulfilling the social obligations of a peer. He is living in what we would call a rooming house and having his shoes resoled, but he still dines with a group of men appropriate to his station. And each and every one of them is hunting for an heiress. That revelation was not especially provocative or new. 



I can site a long list of famous men who were fortune hunters from France’s Henri II who married Catherine de Medici for her fortune, not her looks, and Scotland’s famous roué, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who seemed to handfast or actually wed women he did not love whenever he was faced with mounting debt. At least in our group of drawing room bachelors, our protagonist Brian, Earl of Alfleck, is the least inspired of his friends when it comes to grabbing the first heiress who crosses his path. In fact, he is rather waiting in the wings for his childhood best friend Lady Sally to grow mature enough to appreciate him in a less platonic light than that of confidante and soul mate.

Enter Katherine.


Katherine is everything any man in Brian’s tightknit circle of fortune hunters could want. She is beautiful, unencumbered, intelligent, mysterious and incredibly rich—some have said as rich as the royals. But there is more to Katherine than meets the eye—she too has a craving. She is the daughter of a bastard, a self-made man who made a fortune in India and left it to his only daughter, but who never knew or at least did not acknowledge who his father was— Katherine is committed to solve the puzzle. To do so, she needs to be accepted at the higher tiers of police society, the notorious well born, well bred and wealthy social clique know in Regency Romance as the Ton, a term which was as strange to me as the term Sgian Duhb would be to someone who does not read Scottish historicals. Hence, the incredibly wealthy Katherine has come to London shopping for a man of title, and she has done her homework and settled on the earl of Alfleck, our thrifty, reasonably honorable Brian. And here is where the story deviates from the norm. She neither seduces him nor entices him. She invited him to dinner and propositions him. The deal is simple. They marry, she clears his debts so they can regain possession of his family estate which is leased to some who can afford its upkeep, she provides a reasonable allowance and he provides her with his title and a public illusion of wedded bliss until a year after she had whelped a male heir and which time her position in society will be guaranteed and his finances will be substantially repaired. At first our noble peer is aghast at so blunt a  proposal, but then a quick trip to Lady Sally’s estates outside of London to test the waters there and he realizes that he is a valued friend, and nothing more. So Brian excepts the proposition and the real story is launched.

Regency Interior Design

Like most things written in the manner of Regency Goddess Jane Austen, the story suffers because so much of the action occurs in the somewhat stilted environment of the drawing room and club, but that is what the Regency Romance is made of. We glimpse behind the propriety projected by the polite society of the day into some of the more forbidden topics such as childbirth and the female body. We also see some underlying vices exposed, and discourses on the proper role of a woman, and the fine art of gambling sneaks into the story. In Katherine’s almost pathological need to be accepted in a society that without her title would shun her in spite of her wealth, we see some of the same hypocrisy we see in the vestiges of drawing room society surviving in the present day.
The language Wilkin employs in his dialogue, although not stilted, is as appropriate to the early 18th Century setting as is the references to the phenomena of sex. Wilkin lets us know it is happening, but it is happening beneath the sheets, and we can only judge its quality by the fatigue it produces in the actors. This is not a Highland Romance novel. There may be a hint of the forbidden, as in an open dressing gown, but as in an original Austen novel, not a single bodice will be ripped. And yet, Wilkin produces a sexual tension and release that arouses but does not offend the tender sensibilities of the drawing room crowd in the milieu in which he writes.
Once immersed in the story, it moved quite well for me, and I pronounce myself cured of my aversion to this genre. I will indeed visit the drawing rooms of the darlings of the Regency Romance again, and soon. It left me with a nice glow. And yes, a thirst for champagne and a taste for sweet cakes. And a day later, my smile remains.
Mr.Wilkin’s delightful novel is available at :Amazon.uk and Amazon.usReviewers applaud Mr.Wilkin’s high degree of expertise in dealing with the Regency Romance genre.
Reading and reviewing Beggars Can’t be Choosier has been a delight. 
Linda Root

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My laptop computer just bought me curtains on Amazon one-Click.

There is something very wrong with the computer industry--not just hardware but software as well. I have been using computers even before they were a household item. In the past two weeks I have purchased two-- a desktop and a laptop--one a Dell Inspiron Touchscreen which cost slightly over a grand, and the other a bare bones Lenova. Both have the same problem of a random shifting of the zoom on the display. Visiting the community groups and the tech support convinces me the issue 1) is common, and 2) no techs at Microsoft, Lenova or Dell know what causes it or how to fix it, unless the computer has the wrong driver, which is their universal solution, which does not work if you number among the many who have the driver designed to come with the machine. Then the solution changes to a casual, Gee Whizz, or a Go Figure, I had myriad other problems with the Dell which kept losing its hard drive, and it has been returned. That leaves me with a three year old Lenova I resurrected from the dead computer bin, wiped it clean and tediously loaded enough software to allow me to use my bill pay program on payday. The other one-- an inexpensive Lenova which I bought last week and dedicated exclusively to my fiction writing, zooms even when my hands are not making contact with the keyboard. It just ordered a pair of curtains on Amazon One Click without clicking anything. Apparently I hovered. I really wish I had my long dead Toshiba with Windows 7, or a legal pad and a box of pens. Maybe I will splurge and try a Mac, since I do not have the problem on my iPhone 6.5. 😝😡 But have you ever tried to write a 90,000- word novel on an iPhone?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

BEYOND MY LATEST NOVEL, DELIVERANCE OF THE LAMB ~~A LOOK AT LIFE, LOVE AND DEATH by Linda Fetterly Root





This was a tough book to write.   In the autumn of 2015, I finished my novel dealing with the Gunpowder Treason, In the Shadow of the Gallows, and within days, I began its sequel.  For 'Gallows', there would be no book launch, no parties, no weekend getaway to celebrate the completion, no hiatus in my writing, because my husband was confined to the other half of the mechanical bed in our house in the Morongo Basin, and he was dying. And if at all possible, he wanted to pass on with me beside him.  A commitment to togetherness was part of the deal we made when we married, and for us, it worked.  He was my fourth husband, and I was his sixth wife, and when he died, we had been married thirty-five years. Obviously, we had learned some poignant lessons from our failures.  Their implementation was not always easy., but it had been worthwhile.  Even during the last weeks, we shared an enviable romance.

I remember finalizing the cover of 'Gallows'.  Chris had a very critical eye.  I was the one with artistic talent, but he was the one with taste.   So we cranked his side of the bed up so he could see the screen on my laptop, and with the aid of Picasso 3, we took the photo I had selected and ran it through numerous edits and enhancements until he asked me if he could play with my laptop and I passed it to him.


He took the photo I wanted to use and cropped it and edited the image, Next, he changed the lighting and the colors to a two-tone red and black that conveyed the feeling of the novel.  'I like it when I can be of some help,' he said, and he lowered his side of the bed and went to sleep.   At first, I wasn't sure I like what he had done to my creation, but I was determined not to tell him, and by morning I could see how much better it was than the one I had struggled to perfect. That is the way things were with us. And that is why I immediately began working on 'Deliverance.'  Both of us needed me to be near his side of the bed. Two months later, Chris died peacefully in his sleep.  His last words were to our aging malamute:  'You'll always be Daddy's good puppy, Maxx.'

There are always chores and duties associated with a death in the immediate family, but I was not new to them.  I had buried my third husband and my first-born son within six months of one another during my third year of law school.  Both of my parents passed in the next decade, and my baby sister died of a brain tumor in 2008 while I was beginning my first and favorite novel, The First Marie and the Queen of Scots.  She did not sleep well at the end and would email me at all hours, and if I was awake and writing, I would send her what I had produced that day. In many ways, her passing was more difficult than Chris's, because he was ready, and she was not.  She missed the birth of the last six of her eight grandchildren. Hers was a short and unforeseen illness, but, Chris's last illness was not his first illness and, in spite of brief periods of reprieve, it lasted for ten years. By 2013, he was entirely bed bound, and from there, he proofed my second novel, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, from his side of the bed as I wrote it. When he passed, my enthusiasm for writing also passed. Those who have read the novels in my Legacy series know they have a large romantic component beginning with The Last Knight's Daughter when I introduced bastards Daisy Kirkcaldy to Will Hepburn and let them fall tumultuously in love.  Perhaps I abandoned them because with Chris gone from my daily life, I was jealous.

As soon as the wake was over and the cloisonne urn was on its shelf, I embarked upon other things.  I traveled to places on my Bucket List: the Ferniehirst in my novels; Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh where my hero Kirkcaldy worshipped and his sometimes friend Knox preached;  the Brandenburg Gate which I had wanted to visit since 1958 when it entered a conversation I was having with the distinguished architect Richard Neutra at the Claremont Inn when his son and I were classmates at Pomona College; a trip to Philadelphia to attend my first Jewish wedding and to meet my special friend Jan Abraham, who I had met at the Marie Stuart Society. Chat group on Yahoo--all fulfilling experiences that assuaged my grief.  But I did not write.  I remodeled the interior of my house, installed over 500 feet of interior base moldings, installed ten interior door casings, repainted cabinets, patched drywall, but still, I did not write.  My family dynamic changed as others moved on with their lives, and suddenly I was alone.

Chris and I had closed out much of the world around us, and our own relationship was so intense and compelling that I hadn't noticed.  Then came a family rift, the shock of the 2016 election, stagnant book sales and a minor financial reversal, and I was forced to face them without a soul mate, or a hero or a fellow traveler on the shortening road of my life.  And then, I remembered my co-protagonists Will and Daisy whom I had left stranded in London in the midst of a rescue mission of a cleric whose beliefs were inapposite to all they stood for.  During my nearly two year hiatus in my writing, I had forgotten why they'd bothered.

Late this winter I reviewed what I had written in a single setting, knowing I either had to scrap my manuscript and stop fooling myself into thinking I was a writer, or I had to bring Will and Daisy home.  I had no idea which. but it was too cold to paint ceilings or repair damaged walls.  For want of a better alternative,  I began to write myself out of my dilemma, and in doing so, I interjected hints of the romance missing from life into the story.   I am not a romance writer,  If I were, I would have been thrilled with my creation, but the orthodox historian that is my alter ego had trouble dealing with it. After all. my fugitive was a well-known Jesuit, and in the words of one of my principal characters, 'the Church cannot tolerate another Luther.'  Who was I, a lapsed Episcopalian turned agnostic, to even consider the Jesuit John Gerard might have had more than a desire to follow his colleagues into martyrdom keeping him in England?

Out of frustration, I closed my Word processor and went back to Google's scholarly sub-site and my personal research library. The Jesuit's own work, The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, skirted the tensions in his personal life with finesse, but then, his ultimate sponsor was the Vatican. Other sources suggested I may have uncovered a historical truth. Perhaps John Gerard did not wish to be rescued.  I relaxed and let Daisy and Will solve the mystery, and they engaged Will Shakespeare and the notable Vaux family of Harrowden to help.

My own life is neither better nor worse than it was six months ago.  I still struggle with the American political climate.  I still have walls to paint, flooring to repair, cabinets to resurface.  I am working on a new Bucket List:  I want to travel wherever I need to go to hear Yevgeny Sudbin play Rachmaninoff and I want to sit on the beach at Monterey one last time. I would like to visit the Opera House in Manaus and pretend I am Clarice Starling with emerald studs in my ears and  Dr. Lechter at my side (a romance less likely that the one I shared with Chris, but not by much); but none of those are essential.

This is the week of the Solstice.  Tomorrow the sun will rise beyond a certain notch in the hills above the Combat Center at 29 Palms, and in November, behind a house on a ridge to the Southeast.   At the end of the last millennium, while our son still lived with us, Chris had taken to getting us out of bed early and marching up a dirt trail that leads to the BLM land just beyond the ridge on the border of Joshua Tree National Park.   One of the homeowners had set out a water trough on the wild side of his property and we could see the footprints of the goats and occasional Bighorn sheep that watered there.  While it would be nice to walk that way again, it is an excursion best left to someone with a Jeep.  A knee transplant is not on my Bucket List. More frequent visits from friends and family would be nice but I am neither housebound nor alone. From my patio at sunset, I can look beyond the hills where wild things roam and see all the way to the Borders of Early Modern Scotland.

Friday, April 20, 2018

'A Higher Loyalty' by James Comey ~ a review with commentary from the point of view of Linda Fetterly-Root


 In his controversial book 'Higher Loyalty,' former FBI Director James Comey identifies ego as his fatal flaw: in attempting to write an apolitical review of Comey's book,  I share his curse. It is hard to take a neutral stand on a report of the political events of 2015-2018 without interjecting a piece of oneself.  When JFK was assassinated, I wrote a poem which was read into the Congressional Record and was republished in numerous metropolitan dailies.  Those who commented on it, and there were many, did not address the literary merit of the piece, and I am likewise reviewing Comey's best seller with a similar omission.  I do not seek to judge his prose.  I did detect some head-hopping back and forth from one James Comey --the public servant who functioned as Director of the F.B. I., and another--The James Comey who is suddenly a private citizen with an ox to gore.  I do, however, admit to viewing both from the viewpoint of an aging  woman who lived through most of the events discussed in Comey's book, some of which at first glance seem to have a very tenuous nexus to the political upheavals of 2015-2018, but which make the back story interesting.

However, when I stepped back for a second look at the items I had considered window dressing, their relevance became apparent, for they contained the key to the  making of a man not always wise, sometimes arrogant, and utterly driven, and as miscast as the Good Cop to Donald Trump's Bad Cop, as Luke would have been against Darth Vader, had he not possessed a Light Saber. Comey seems to realize as much and thus invents a weapon forged of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  It does not always work, and therein lies the tragedy.

The Young James Comey:

 I was 21 years old when James Comey was born.  John F. Kennedy was President-elect of the United States. J. Edgar Hoover had been the Director of what became the FBI, since 1924, and remained its Director until his death in 1972. Robert F. Kennedy was soon to become Attorney General and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was, with his father, co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and leader of the Civil Rights Movement.  The timeline cited here is relevant, because all of the men named above were influential in shaping James Comey's character, but none of them were living by the time he reached adolescence.  Thus, in the middle pages of Comey's book when he speaks of his reverence or his reservations about these icons and other men and women of similar fame or infamy, he is speaking as a youthful historian, rather than a spectator.  These were heroes of his childhood, just as FDR was one of mine.  And even the most precocious child's perception of the make-up of a hero is inherited from those who influence us.  Perhaps this is why we look around at today's American and see ourselves locked in battles belonging to our ancestors. 


Comey and the Bullies:

When James Comey's father moved the family from Yonkers, where James had been a popular elementary school student, to Allendale, New Jersey, where he was the unimpressive new kid,  Comey was ridiculed and bullied for his home-done haircuts and unfashionable clothes, and because he spoke with a New York accent.  The bullying ranged from humiliation to physical assault. and because of his past popularity, he was unequipped to meet it.  He he had not yet enjoyed the growth spurt that topped him out at 6'8".  He endured three painful years holding his tongue and avoiding the bullies as much as he could, but they left their imprint on him. And they brought with it an enduring guilt, when he discovered one defense to bullying was to take part in it, and another was to cut and run. It is no surprise that he devotes pages in the later chapters of his book discussing the bully mentality of men like Dick Cheney's henchman David Attington, Cheney himself, and at times, Presidents George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, and why he had an intense reaction to issues regarding torture and water boarding. When the scandals of Guantanamo and secret rendering of suspected terrorists made the headlines and he was struggling to do the right thing without losing his influence on the administration, his wife brought him back to earth with a comment, 'Don't be the torture guy.'  He followed her advice, which did not endear him to Bush and Cheney and eventually  drove him to return to the private sector.

The Years with Rudi Giuliani and Martha Stewart:

When Comey moves his dialog  to his years as a  Deputy United States Attorney he speaks perhaps a bit too idealistically about the pursuit of justice.  Working under Rudi Giuliani was a challenge. There was a saying in the US Attorney's office that the most dangerous place in federal prosecution was standing between Giuliani and a microphone. I was intrigued by Comey's  recap of the prosecution of Martha Stewart, in which he played a principal role. Comer does not dodge the issue of the relative triviality of the crime in comparison with most occurrences involving inside trading violations. A woman with a net worth of hundreds of millions of dollars had bailed out of a stock in which she sought to loose  somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000, not because she had inside information of an adverse decision about licensing a wonder drug, but because she and the CEO who was about to bail were not only personal friends but had the same broker, and there had been a series of communications between the broker and her offices just prior to her stock sale.  Even if she had learned something alarming in those communications,  under those circumstances, the likely outcome would have been a fine. But then Martha Stewart lied about it when her name appeared on a list of persons who had sold their stock in haste. She claimed she had left a short sell order with her broker that pre-authorized the sale, and laughed to a friend about getting away with it.  In any event, the prosecution was unpopular, and her imprisonment did little to enhance the reputation of Comey. Ironically, while she was incarcerated, her net worth grew like Jack's beanstalk.  Was the prosecution cost productive?  Not at all. But if Comey's goal was as stated in his book, it sent a message that no matter who you are, you cannot ignore the law and lie about it to the FBI.

The Martha Stewart's
prosecution tells us something important  if we wish to understand the case of Hillary Clinton's emails.  I have always considered the matter poorly handled at best, an unforgivable misuse of the federal police power at its worst, and to prove a point, just look  at where it got us. But after reading Comey's book and reflecting on my own life experience, I am no longer  sure my wrath is justified.  I have no doubt whatsoever that the email crisis was exploited  to the fullest by Hilary Clinton's enemies and especially, by the Trump Camp. But not all of the fault is Comey's.


The Incredible Story of the Emails :

When I was a student at Pomona College in 1958, I was a finalist in the General Dynamics-Convair Management Club Scholarship competition, in which a significant prize included summertime employment in a high paying air-frame industry. Most of the winners were science, math and engineering standouts, but I had no such claim to fame. I became the department clerk for the Administrator of the Physics Section, and one of my duties was security.  I was charged with erasing equations on chalkboards,  making certain no documents were left on desktops at the end of the day, and testing to make certain the padlocked on each scientist's file were actually closed.  To do my job, I needed a Secret (and later, a Top Secret) clearance, and to get it, I took a couple of hours of training and a simple test. I knew penalties attached to leaving the premises with raw data and memos in a briefcase in order to work at home on nights and weekends. I kept tally of the violations, which became job-threatening at number three.  There were way to get around the rules for a Ph. D. with two violations, and the most popular method was to pass the fatal third off to someone expendable, very often, a clerk or a lab. tech.   From the lowly college kid like me to the Chief of Physics, we all knew taking paperwork home or discussing work product over cocktails were verboten.  Arguably, we thought the penalties would be work related and potentially severe: there isn't much demand for a theoretical physicist without a security clearance.  In retrospect, I suppose some of us knew criminal penalties might attach.  I know I did. because of an incident involving my father, whose paperwork revealed an arrival date in California that was two days different than mine. I was the kid with the journal, and Dad had filled out the DOD form from memory.  No one went to jail, but it was scary.

Thus, even before reading Comey's book,  I was utterly convinced  Hillary Clinton violated the Securities Act by dealing with classified materials on her personal email server, just as I knew my favorite physicist at Convair violated the Securities act by taking his rough drafts home at night.  This is no longer a disputed fact, and in the case of Secretary Clinton, once that threshold had been breached, the question facing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and its Director,  became whether or not it was done with criminal intent.  I am a lawyer, and I have a good understanding of the law o circumstantial evidence.  It is  an elusive concept sometimes easiest proved by a course of conduct.  And in the case of the emails on HRC's server, there was much to look at.  But, in July 2016 when Comey's first 'final' decision was announced, there was no proof at a reasonable doubt standard that Mrs Clinton knew what she was doing was criminal--in other words, after isolating the memos that were either rightfully or wrongfully still classified, none had been shared with anyone who was not cleared to deal with them.  The G.O.P.'s mammoth  security breach of Rosenbergian proportions was a political red herring.  Mrs. Clinton was reprimanded for implementing a sloppy practice fraught with danger, and was put in a similar position as Martha Stewart Stewart would have been had she sold her stock because other people in her circle who might know something were selling.  Clinton supporters, myself among them, were outraged at Comey for going public in the manner in which he did, Trump supporters were outraged because Clinton was not indicted for something, but the election was still several month's away, and life went on.


Then, 12 days before the election, Comey learned that hundreds of thousands of Clinton's emails had been discovered on the laptop of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, estranged and disgraced husband of Clinton's close aid and personal friend Huma Abedin. In any event, Weiner had used his computed as a repository for dirty pictures.  Comey's book is vague as to how this horror was detected, and at first, it was not clear to him how this impacted the initial determination closing the agency's file.  But when it was disclosed that emails from Mrs Clinton had made their way to Weiner's server, the initial closure could not stand. Weiner's file turned the findings upside-down.  At this point, there was no evidence the Trump camp knew what was happening, but  little reason to believe the information would not leak.  At this point, Comey could have dumped the dilemma in the lap of President Obama's Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, but he did not do so.

There were high level discussions within the agency of what would happen if criminally actionable activity was  uncovered involving a president-elect.  Only one person interjected the possibility of a Trump victory into the equation.  Once the facts were on the table, only one option was discussed, and that was reopening the investigation. The integrity of the F.B.I was at stake. Justice was still in the dark. No one in the Obama administration was apt to applaud Comey or the F.B.I. The next step was  the tricky one: should they conceal or disclose the decision to reopen the investigation. Since Comey had been advised there was no way the investigation could be concluded before the election, Comey decided concealment would be a fraud against the American people. At that time, according to his book, Comey conceded whatever the outcome, he was 'screwed'.  While I accept Comey's assertions regarding protocols that disfavor interviewing a person of interest in an investigation until the fact-finding is essentially complete,  in a situation involving a presidential candidate in an election year, it might have served the Bureau and the American people to have made an exception to the rule and interviewed Mrs. Clinton earlier in the game.  And as the new phase of the investigation played out, thanks to new technology, the huge number of Clinton emails was culled to a few thousand, and no criminal conduct was disclosed.  An announcement was made, but by then, it was too late to unring the bell. The email controversy was a major issue.

And then came Donald J. Trump:





The last portion of the book, the pages dealing with the Trump Presidency, are sparse, through no fault of the author's. His dealing with Trump as told in the book were few and strange, and document the President's  unwarranted and inappropriate rather medieval demands for a pledge of loyalty which Comey never gave.

At the onset of the Trump presidency, Comey was viewed by many White House staffers  as the man who delivered the election to their candidate.  It was a label he abhorred. His objective had been to insure an enduring, independent  Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Trump's objective was to assure the F.B.I. Director's unwavering and absolute fealty.

Some critics of Comey's book accuse him of getting down and dirty with Donald Trump, disrespectfully remarking on the length of his ties, the size of his hands, the tanning booth white circles around his eyes. It has been mentioned he should have followed Michelle Obama's advice, that when 'they go low, we go high.' It is true at times Comey's childish, petulant remarks creep into his narrative to detract from the seriousness of his message.. Considering how he was treated, how he learned he had been fired in a streamer on a muted television left running while he conducted a recruitment seminar in California,  small wonder he let his stoicism slide. The letter firing him had not been delivered and he was blindsided.  I have read the letter, and it is a one paragraph self-serving letter oddly worded. It might as well have been a Tweet.



Conclusion:

Even if there were no Russian Investigation, the bizarre events surrounding Hillary Clinton's emails alone make this an important book.  Although James Comey fails as his own apologist, his story is one that must be told.  However, I also believe it should not be taken in a vacuum. I suspect there will be a large body of literature dealing with the 2016 election and all that has followed. As for Comey's role, I cast him as a honest man of great integrity who has difficulty confronting evil, a tragic character whose fatal flaw may not be his ego as much as it is his desire to be liked and understood.  He wanted his agents to have fun.  He made a point of never wearing his suit jacket when he was not in a formal setting.  He ate in the cafeteria and never 'took cuts in line.'  He told his agents to never put their loved ones on the back burner, to eat well and get lots of sleep--advice commendable in a friend, but perhaps not enough from a leader at a time when extraordinary leadership skills were required.   But the question remains unresolved as to whether in spite of 6'8" frame, his shoulders were broad enough to carry the weight of the job. When the boss is Donald Trump, the job description and requirements change.

Thus, whether you like Comey or not, Trump or not, Hilary or not, consider if you will, how the means of Comey's dismissal may have affected his audience of would be recruits and sworn agents who watched their leader sacrificed on national television.  I wonder how many in the audience signed on to follow in his footsteps. This is not the only story of its kind likely to emerge to tell the tale of a nation being culled of its best and brightest by men and women whose goals are wealth and power, in whatever branch of government, whichever side of the aisle, or from the shadows.  That is the message I draw from A Higher Loyalty.  I suspect many readers will find similar or opposing messages, all of which make this a compelling reading experience for those of us who care how the story ends. I recommend this to anyone curious as to where and why our government disappoints us.  

April 20. 2018, from Yucca Valley, California

                                                                         Linda A. Fettterly-Root, J.D.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

MARCH 24, 2018 - WHY I AM NOT MARCHING: A Personal Manifesto of an Aging American Woman with Cheek.

I did not sleep well last night.  And then, the epiphany.  I cannot march today least someone of my friends or neighbors might mistake my presence as a statement against ownership of firearms.  While I abhor the indifference of a government I no longer consider mine to the unfettered spread of methods of mass murder, I abstain today, for my own personal and emphatic reasons. Consider this my Manifesto.

March 24, 2018 - The day the student marched on the Capitol of what until recently was the United States of America.:

 I SUPPORT THE STUDENTS MARCHING TODAY. I URGE SENSIBLE GUN CONTROL. I BELIEVE THE DEMONSTRATIONS ARE HONEST STATEMENTS OF SINCERE AND TENACIOUS YOUNG AMERICANS AND THOSE WHO SHARE THEIR FRUSTRATION AND THEIR GRIEF.  I HOPE THERE ARE A FEW SOULS IN WASHINGTON WITH THE SENSE TO LISTEN.

SO, WHY AM I NOT MARCHING? PERHAPS, BECAUSE MY DAY HAS COME AND GONE, AND DAVID HOGG IS RIGHT:  THE ADULTS OF AMERICA HAVE ABANDONED THE DREAM, AND THUS,  WE HAVE LOST OUR VOICE. APPARENTLY, HOWEVER, I HAVE NOT ABDICATED THE POWER OF THE PEN.

 AS A FORMER AWARD- WINNING CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR AND A SWORN MEMBER OF SCOTUS, I SPENT MOST OF YESTERDAY REVIEWING THE SECOND AMENDMENT AND THE CONSTITUTION AS A WHOLE.  IT IS NOT TOO CHALLENGING A READ AND I COMMEND IT TO THOSE OF US WHO PRETEND TO LEAD US TO GIVE IT AN OCCASIONAL GLANCE.  HOWEVER, I DOUBT THEY WILL BOTHER.  PERHAPS BECAUSE WHILE THEY DO NOT KNOW ITS WORDS, THEY ARE AWARE OF ITS NATURE: 

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION WHICH HAS GUIDED US THROUGH MANY DIFFICULT TIMES, IS NOT A DOCUMENT OF EMPOWERMENT BUT A DOCUMENT OF LIMITATION ON THE POWER OF GOVERNMENT. 

THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AS RATIFIED IN 1787 AND ENHANCED BY INCORPORATION OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS IN 1791 WAS NEEDED THEN AND  IS  IS SORELY NEED NOW. IT IS A DEFENSE AGAINST EXCESSES OF GOVERNMENT BY SYCOPHANTS AND TYRANTS AND IS AT THE CORE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.

MY WORLD AND THE SECOND AMENDMENT:

I AM AN OLD WOMAN. AS A SMALL CHILD, I WALKED THROUGH THE PARK WITH MY PARENTS AMONG YOUNG AMERICANS WHO COULD NO LONGER WALK, OR SALUTE,  BUT THEY COULD SIT ON A PARK BENCH OR LEAN AGAINST A WALL OF BRICK AND SMILE AT THEIR OWN SURVIVAL AND RETURN TO THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE, ALBEIT MANY WITHOUT ARMS OR LEGS. I HAVE MARCHED NOT SO MUCH AGAINST THE WAR IN VIETNAM AS THE MANNER IN WHICH ARE SERVICEMEN WERE TORTURED AND VILIFIED THERE AND SCORNED  WHEN THEY CAME HOME, AND I HAVE CRIED AND I HAVE HELD HANDS WITH THOSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR AND PUBLICLY SUNG 'WE SHALL OVERCOME.'  I BELIEVE THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF AMERICAN WILL HELP US OVERCOME THE OBSTACLES FACING US NOW. I MAY NOT HAVE MUCH OF A FUTURE, BUT I PLACE IT THE HANDS OF DAVID HOGG AND OTHERS LIKE HIM.  MOST OF THEM WILL BE OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE IN THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. MANY WILL BE OLD ENOUGH TO RUN FOR CONGRESS IN 2025.

BUT I  CANNOT SUPPORT ANY EFFORT THAT MIGHT BE MISCONSTRUED BY FACTIONS I ABHOR AS DENYING STABLE AND LOYAL  AMERICAN CITIZENS THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS, BECAUSE LIKE THE FRAMERS, I NO LONGER TRUST A GRANT OF UNBRIDLED POWER TO MY GOVERNMENT.  WE DO NOT NEED TO TRASH THE SECOND AMENDMENT OR ERODE IT UNTIL ONLY SOLDIERS AND POLICE HAVE GUNS, BUT A RESPONSIBLE COALITION COULD  LEGISLATE RESTRICTIONS THAT WOULD LIMIT IT AS AN EXCUSE FOR THE PERVASIVE SPREAD OF WEAPONS OF MASS HOMICIDE. UNFORTUNATELY, A RATIONAL, BI-PARTISAN APPROACH TO GOVERNING SEEMS TO HAVE BECOME A RELIC OF BETTER TIMES. WE ARE LET WITH A LEADERSHIP INCLINED TO ABANDON PRINCIPLE AND FOLLOW THE MONEY.

I CAN LIVE WITHOUT THE RIGHT TO MOUNT AN UZI ON MY ROOF.  I ALSO SUSPECT THERE ARE A FEW POLITICIANS IN THE  COMEDY OF OUR CONGRESS WHO ARE CAPABLE OF DRAFTING PROPOSALS MAKING OUR SCHOOL SAFE WITHOUT CONVERTING OUR EDUCATORS INTO AN ARMED MILITIA. INTERPRETING THE  SECOND AMENDMENT IN A MANNER SUITABLE FOR OUR TIMES IS NOT A PERVERSION, BUT A CELEBRATION OF THE LIVING NATURE OF OUR CONSTITUTION. BUT THAT REQUIRES A RATIONAL SUPREME COURT WE ARE UNLIKELY TO RETAIN IN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE.

ON THE OTHER HAND, EMASCULATING THE SECOND AMENDMENT LEAVES THE OTHERS OPEN TO ATTACK, AND IF WE SERIOUSLY STUDY WHY THE AMENDMENT WAS INCLUDED IN THE BILL OF RIGHTS IN THE FIRST PLACE, WE WILL SEE WHY IT IS NEEDED NOW. THE CONSTITUTION AS A WHOLE IS OUR DEFENSE AGAINST TYRANNY. AFTER TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS FROM THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS, ONE MIGHT THINK ITS PROVISIONS ARE ANACHRONISMS UNTIL THEY LOOKED AROUND.

WHEN WE RETURN NOBLE MEN AND WOMEN TO LEADERSHIP ROLES IN A TRULY UNITED UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AS I FERVENTLY HOPE WE WILL, I MAY RETHINK THIS STATEMENT OF MY CORE BELIEFS, SHOULD I LIVE SO LONG. AT PRESENT, I  DO NOT TRUST MY GOVERNMENT.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cary Allen Stone Wins the Bet - A review of After the Evil

A Review by Linda Root



A few months ago author  Cary Allen Stone's publicist sent me a challenge.  She attached a copy of the second book in his mystery series with a bet I would want to review it.  Then I heard from Stone, who thought it might be my kind of mystery. He was right. I ended up reading each of the four books in the series. This is the first one in the chronology and the second one I read.

Those who know me personally are aware of my professional history as a prosecutor. The men and women I worked with on the Homicide Detail knew I made a practice of visiting crime scenes. There was a reason for this.When I became a supervisor, I urged others to do so.  In essence, crime scenes speak. Every scene I ever visited had a message. Some screamed.

I am absolutely candid in saying I never once visited a scene that made me physically sick. Maybe I was just lucky. The most startling of my observations from the first scene to the last one --a triple shortly before I retired--was always the same: the absence of life. Stone captures it in his writing. The surprise came in discovering Stone was not a veteran detective, but a retired pilot flying corporate jets, another career which cultivates an awareness of issues of life and death and a unique glimpse of the dynamics of power. Applying the adage 'write what  you know', Stone picks his serial killer from his experience with the airline industry.  Nothing else about her is Orthodox.

Obviously, the profilers' classic definition of a serial killer is not set in granite: if it were, they would be easier to spot.  The one word that seems to fit them all is 'driven.'  Stone's killer is not a thrill seeker or megalomaniac.   A federal agent trained at Quantico might poke holes in Stone portrayal, claiming the character is not a true serial killer, just a twisted soul who kills a lot of people. The profile at issue in Stone's novel is the killer's profile of her victim. In her eyes, she is an Avenger.  On the other side of the battle, we have hard-boiled Homicide Detective Jake Roberts and FBI Profiler Mika Scott, and a host of characters, most of them exceptionally well-drawn. The combination of a sympathetic serial killer and a flawed law enforcement professional, each obsessed by demons of their own construction,  provides a satisfying reading experience for anyone who sees the line between Good and Evil as having a jagged edge.

Stone writes with a touch of Spillane but in a contemporary style hinting of Nelson Demille. Jake Roberts reminds me of DeMille's John Corey, but with a touch more pathos. At times, I was turned off by what I considered unlikely homespun dialog from Lori, but overall it fits the plotline, especially after we realize she is not the only killer in the mix. If the copy has a few rough spots, my advice is to forgive them.  This not a book to read while holding a red pencil. The novel earns the label 'mystery thriller.' And the series gets better as Stone's style evolves.



Author's Note:

Stone's JakeRoberts books are senstibly princed and can be seen on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_16?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=cary+allen+stone&sprefix=cary+allen+stone%2Cstripbooks%2C219&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Acary+allen+stone