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


Saturday, May 14, 2016

A review a week - and this one is terrific: The Newest in the Roma Nova Series and a very 2016 theme

I fervently hope that Alison Morton is busy writing the next book in her Roma Nova series. I have just finished Insurrectio, but Insurrectio is not finished with me. While it is the most recent of the five books to date in Ms. Morton’s Roma Nova series, it is second in the chronological order of the series. When I opened it, it was the first Alternative History I have read in recent memory. I no sooner put it down before I moved on to the boxed set Inceptio, Perfiditas, and Successio, and ordered Aurelia.  In five days, I had read them all.
The concept of Roma Nova differs from most alternative histories.  Many begin at a definitive moment in the past, but proceed with a different outcome: What if the Russians had been colonizers instead of fur traders, or if NapolĂ©on had won? What would Europe look like if Hitler’s nuclear programs had progressed a tad faster?  Morton’s alternative histories begin in the1960’s (Aurelia), in a small country about the size of Luxembourg, crowded in between what we call Austria and modern Italy, but which happens to be the remnant of Roman civilization, hence, Roma Nova, the New Rome. In a sense, the book is a time slip in reverse.  In the first five books of the series, the reader is not troubled by the roughly fifteen hundred year history of civilization since the Fall of Rome and the Rise of Donald Trump. Hopefully, Morton is saving that for later. What we experience in Insurrectio is a small nation with a vestige of Roman society and values occupying a small corner of a modern 1980’s world complete, with late Twentieth Century technology and institutions including, for example, the CIA.
This is not a book for those who are addicted to the history of the Dark Ages.  The citizens of Roma Nova are moderns, but with a twist. Nevertheless, Morton, who is a student of Roman history, gives her novels and authentically Roman flavor that edifies and entertains.  Her Roma Nova is an oligarchy ruled by The Twelve Families, each headed by women, under the titular governance of an Imperatrix.  In Insurrectio, the female figurehead is gullible and weak. Our protagonist, Aurelia Mitela, is the leader of the most powerful of the families. The antagonist is a handsome and utterly amoral Cauis Tellus, scion of another of the ancient families, who has been serving prison terms for a variety of crimes against the state and Aurelia in particular. 
The stage is set when the hesitant imperatrix, who is unable or unwilling to address the corruption and injustices in the society she rules, welcomes him back into the fold. .As Aurelia fears, Count Tellus has an entirely different view of how and by whom Roma Nova should be governed. While his early goals are achieved through charm and manipulation, Aurelia is not fooled. He is setting up a power play. Eliminating or incapacitating Aurelia is part of his agenda. He first strikes out at her fragile daughter, but he also moves against others who oppose him including his brother Quintus and his newly acquired stepson, child of the Imperatrix. But Aurelia is more than a skilled stateswoman. She is a former member of the Praetorian Guard and a combat veteran, and she has already experienced Tellus at most ruthless. Nevertheless, her enemy has spent well more than a decade in prison plotting the overthrow of his country’s government and the personal destruction of the woman he has loathed since childhood. His initial successes leave her spearheading a faltering resistance. When she cannot prevail against Tellus’s meticulously planned insurrection, she concentrates her efforts on survival. Morton has framed the final chapters of Insurrection in a manner assuring her readers that regardless of the fate of Aurelia Mitela and Cauis Tellus, the struggles of Roma Nova are not over yet. 
From a purely analytical point of view, this is an intelligently conceived and meticulously researched and written action book that will not disappoint the most discriminating of readers. While others disagree with me, I am happy to have read the series in the order in which they have been written.,


Sunday, January 3, 2016

CONFESSIONS OF A SPOILER

I have not been updating this blog for several reasons, the major one because my husband Chris, my constant lover and best friend, was approaching the last chapter in our love story. Also, I have been spending a great deal of time and effort reading and posting reviews on the excellent blog entitled  The Review and reading entries in the 2015 M.m.Bennetts Award competition, with the winner to be announced at the Historical Novel Society annual convention in Oxford in September.  The long list comes out in February, which is fast approaching.

However, as 2016 dawns, I have resolved to begin posting reviews I would not publish elsewhere because they may contain an occasional spoiler and almost always will be a rant. I consider them an intellectual exercise in polemics not unlike the reviews I wrote of that silly television spectacular called Reign.  But be assured, I do not waste my time or yours on a rant without a reason.

What follows in a Four Star Review I wrote of 14th Protocol by Nathan Goodman and posted on Goodreads.The reason for its inclusion here is simple. Mr. Goodman debuts as a novelist with a remarkable Five-Star spy novel with a One-Star ending.  He stops his narrative as the protagonist Special Agent JanaBaker is either dying or already dead. To discover which, a reader must access another of his works, which with incredible chutzpah, Goodman calls a Post-Quel.
Because the first ninety-five percent of the book is compelling, I rated Fourteenth Protocol a four-star, but if I were grading Mr.Goodman's approach to promotion and marketing, he wouldn't even rate a single star.  So, do you want to read an outstanding book from a promising author but find yourself compelled to download another publication to discovered how it ends,  or should you just stop at the last five pages and supply an ending of your own?  I admit I am a sucker. In a weak moment, I downloaded the Post-Quel.  But do you want to bother? Read my review, and then, you decide.

This is a better than average, fast paced international techno-thriller that would be totally implausible if we did not live in such an implausible world. How far would a clandestine service go to win the prize? Perhaps father than any of us wants to believe until someone lets slip a dirty secret or starts asking forbidden questions. A past paced, well-written novel with undertones of the king of principles our society is lacking, such as self-sacrificing friendship and integrity that defies all logic. Far-fetched unless you read the news. The protagonist S.A. Jana Baker is a strong character, and her infatuated nerdy counterpart is believable and charmingly naive. If there is an antagonist, it is the unbridled forces of government spy agencies and the executive branch. As to the quality of the overall reading experience, a reader would be wise to stop a couple of pages before you reach the end or be frustrated by a five-star novel with a one-star ending. Being a novelist myself, I rewrote the last four pages in my mind and decided not to bother with another of Mr. Goodman's books unless I can read the last four pages before I read the first three hundred and hope he has reformed.

When I checked the reviews on Amazon, I discovered many other readers had the same reaction I did to what one reviewer called 'cheesy'.  Notwithstanding the fact that Goodman's book is being cleverly marketed by his publisher and hyped by his agent and thus, will probably outsell all seven of mine, shame on you, Nathan Goodman,  for alienating your audience.

Friday, October 30, 2015

In case you wonder I have been doing with what's left of my life....

There is a debate among historical novelists as to what is too much history and what is not enough. To a large degree, it depends upon the marriage of the reader and the writer.  If I read a historical novel in which the entire story could just as easily occur in modern San Bernardino, for example, perhaps that's where it belongs.  There needs to be a purpose for placing a story in another time slot. Sometimes the incentive to do so is the simple truth that some historical periods are more compelling than others. Setting a story in the 16th century, for example, requires the author to visit there and carry its magic to the reader.  To do so with panache requires more research than a quick visit to Wikipedia, although at least some excursion there would help. It is a reasonable place to start.

One issue a historical novelist needs to address is whether the protagonist or the history drives the plot. One example of how this tricky issue can be handled is Light in the Labyrinth by Wendy Dunn.  Doctor Dunn has a wealth of knowledge of Tudor history tucked into her head, and her depiction of the last days of Anne Boleyn is stunning, but the story remains very much about Catherine Carey and her acceptance of her step-father's love. As heart-rending as Queen Anne's beheading is portrayed, while the story centers around Anne Boleyn, it is not Anne's story. It is Catherine's. . Dr.Dunn's ability to master the distinction sets her book apart from other novels about the execution of the queen.

Applying my observations as a critic and reviewer to my published works, I have revisited each of them and asked the same question.  Even my debut novel The First Marie and the Queen of Scots is not a fictionalized biography of Marie Stuart's life.  It is about Marie Flemyng, aka 'Mally,' and her struggle to seize control of her own story. Doing so requires her to resolve her relationship with her cousin the Queen of Scots, without rejecting her entirely or becoming her apologist.  To that end, the novel is successful.  Does it have a tad too much history for some readers? Yes, indeed.  I did away with some of it in the second edition, which reads better than the first.



  I am going to do something drastic to my second book, perhaps making it into a trilogy. If it has too much history, it is because the protagonist William Kirkcaldy did too much living to cover in anything but a tome, and tomes are out of style.




 The Legacy of the Queen of Scots


 When I began writing the books in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series, I was ready to write genuine historical novels. Viola!  While reviewers have not been forgiving of my editing errors, I am no longer being told to stop calling my work historical fiction and start labeling it fictionalized history.  At the risk of too much hype and not enough blog, here is a brief synopsis of each of the four novels to date in the series.

The Midwife's Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess:  


During the latter half of the sixteenth century, rumors persisted claiming the Queen of Scots gave birth to a live daughter just before she escaped from Loch Leven in 1568.  According to the queen's secretary Claud Nau, the child was smuggled to a convent in France. Sometime between 1568 -1573, the Abbess Renee d' Guise, the Queen of Scot's aunt, brought a child named Marguerite d' Kircaldie to Saint Pierre les Dames du Rheims.  When visitors came to the Abbey, the child was hidden in the cellars. Most residents in the convent believed she was the child of Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, the Scottish knight executed in 1573 for holding Edinburgh Castle in the name of the Queen.  But Kirkcaldy's only child, Janet, Lady Ferniehirst, died mysteriously in London in 1570-72.  Madame Renee's risks her position as abbess and the pressures of her powerful family to thwart those who either seek to destroy or exploit the sequestered child while the resolute young postulate known as La Belle Ecossaise struggles to pursue her destiny, regardless of her origin.

The Other Daughter: Midwife's Secret II:

  

There is another Marguerite Kirkcaldy. She is indeed the daughter of the Knight of Grange, born posthumously to a laundress in Edinburgh Castle who is a relative of Mariel Fraser, the midwife in the first of the legacy series.  Her family and friends know her as Daisy, the Scottish version of the French name  Marguerite.  Her mother chose it because Kirkcaldy loved the blue variety of the Daisy popular in France, les Marguerites   Daisy is a precocious child who ends up well-placed in the entourage of the Countess of Argyll, who takes the laundress Violet Frasier and her bastard infant under her wing. In her adolescence, she hears the tales of the other Marguerite and her curiosity is aroused.  Ambitious and adventurous, Kirkcaldy's daughter grows into a young woman who defies convention and makes a name for herself as her step-father Will Cockie's apprentice in the jeweler's trade.  On a person note, she struggles between her infatuation with reiver warlord Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst, who happens to be her nephew,  and the king's browdinstair Will Hepburn,  the bastard son of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, to  Norwegian heiress Anna Tronds.  
The two men in Daisy's life have more in common than their pursuit of Daisy. When Andrew was a child, he was taught to think of the wee lass his mother escorted to France in 1572 was a member of his family, the Knight Kirkcaldy's child.  But Will Hepburn is convinced the nun La Belle Ecossaise is the fabled daughter of his father James Hepburn and the Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, there are others in Scotland who have heard the rumors of the birth at Loch Leven.  One is King James VI, and another is Will Hepburn's first cousin, the present Earl of Bothwell, Wild Frank Stewart, who plans to locate the king's half sister and use her as a pawn, no matter what price La Belle Ecossaiseis forced to pay.

1603: The Queen's Revenge

Elizabeth Tudor is dying, and the King of Scots is tapped to inherit her throne.  But Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, once the king's favorite and a darling of the Protestant Kirk, has become the champion of the Catholic earls of the Scottish North. He brokers a wild plot to the King of Spain and the Pope, seeking support for a plan to capture the nun Marguerite d'Kircaldie and carry her off to Scotland in an evasion force he and the Duke of Alva will command.  

But he has not counted on the return from the dead of Will Hepburn of Hailes, who is believed to have been lost at sea, or the ingenuity of his cousin Will's guidwife Daisy Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh's notorious wad wife. In an adventure culminating in the Spanish Netherlands, exiled James Maitland, Madame Renee and La Belle Ecossaise's beloved champion Charles de Guise, Duke of Mayenne, join the little band of Scots to save the Stuart monarchy and protect La Belle Ecossaise from becoming a pawn in a struggle likely to destroy her life.

In The Shadow of the Gallows:     

And now, hopefully in time for November 5, best known as Guy Fawkes Day, comes the latest in the Legacy series, as Will and Daisy ride south to rescue their son Wee Peter, who has been kidnapped to force Hepburn's silence concerning a plot brewing in England aimed at killing the royal family. Is this a plot of aristocratic zealots, or does the Gunpowder Treason have deeper roots, some of which implicate persons in high places, some of whom are Scots?
Join Will and Daisy, the Kers and Trotters, and James Maitland of Lethington as they balance their determination to rescue six-year-old Peter Hepburn against their commitment to the King and Queen of Scotland and England and their children.  All of my books except In the Shadow of the Gallows are available on Amazon and as Kindle books.  The Shadow of the Gallows will be joining them next month.