Neal Griffin’s debut novel, “The Benefit of the Doubt” is a page-turner of a thriller by an author with clear expertise in both police procedure and police culture, unflinching in its presentation of violence, racism, and vice. Set in small-town Wisconsin, the book explores the reality of small-town policing and the way crime and corruption go unchecked; think Fargo meets Copland. The book does not turn around a twist or reveal but relies on solid pacing and storytelling to hold the reader.
The story follows two men on intersecting paths. Ben Sawyer is a former big-city cop, used to dealing with gangs and violence but banished to rustic Wisconsin after his temper gets the better of him and he nearly kills a suspect. Harlan Lee is a felon on parole with a laundry list of scores to settle. As their lives gradually entangle (unbeknownst to either man), other characters are pulled in: The precinct’s dirtiest cop and corrupt new chief, a young lady cop fresh out of black-ops in Iraq, and Ben’s own wife and stroke-disabled father. Continue Reading
Shortly before heading into Manhattan for Erika’s book launch, I got to watch from my apartment window as a heavy storm rolled in over Manhattan. The photos below were taken over a period of less than three minutes; afterward we had maybe 1-5 minutes of very heavy rain (which fell mostly sideways) then a few minutes of drizzle, and then the rest of the night was calm.
Yesterday I posted about The Book of Speculation, the debut novel from my friend and author Erika Swyler. Then I hopped on a train to Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side for her book launch, where she read an excerpt and answered questions from the audience and from host Maris Kriezman. Continue Reading
At left is the cover of a new book, but not just any book. It’s The Book of Speculation by my friend Erika Swyler, who I have known since we were larval writers, maybe 11 or 12 years old, attending summer nerd camp together in upstate New York.
I couldn’t be more excited for Erika, and I think everyone should buy and read this book. It’s available anywhere books are sold, and you can even read the first chapter at Medium.
The summary, from the publisher:
One day in June a mysterious old book arrives on Simon Watson’s doorstep. Filled with elaborate script, sketches, and whimsical flourishes, it tells of doomed lovers and generations of circus “mermaids” who have drowned—just like Simon’s mother, on the same day: July 24. Could there be a curse on his family?
The book has been favorably compared to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. Personally I haven’t read any of those, but I really like their titles, and isn’t that the most important thing?
I know an awful lot about how this book came to be, but I don’t know what parts of the story Erika would want me telling. I know she’s willing to share her experience hand-binding books as part of the publication process. As for the rest, maybe I’ll get her to sit down with me one of these days and see what she’ll share. Maybe I can even squeeze out a few stories from when we were mung-blasting [sounds way dirtier than it is] pre-teens dreaming of someday being writers.
In the meantime, run out and pick up your own copy of The Book of Speculation, or pull it down from the invisible magic air network, where all things are immediately accessible, and read it on your electronic device of choice.
As for me, I haven’t read it yet; I’ve been waiting for publication day. I’ll be at the book launch party tonight, so I expect to be digging in for Chapter Two around 10 or 11 PM.
When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a sociopath, white supremacists online took pains to find photos of the victim looking “thuggish” and threatening, even circulating fake photos via email and social networks. They pulled the same trick when Mike Brown was gunned down by a police officer, circulating fake photos of Brown in an effort to make him appear violent, to fit the white supremacist stereotype of the scary black man.
These were conscious efforts to control the narrative, to distort reality until it resembled the manufactured and false narrative white supremacists require to support their beliefs. Such efforts are often successful, too, because white supremacists are not some fringe cult, isolated and easily identified by their Klan hoods and swastika tattoos. White supremacists are all around us, in our police stations and our schools and our legislatures, and their ideas infect the mainstream like a virus.
Those fake photos of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin made their way into mainstream news outlets that were sloppy in their fact checking, and into the inboxes and news feeds of millions of Americans who would never call themselves racists, but didn’t have the time or the inclination to check their veracity. They succeeded in distorting and confusing the narrative, not only for the white supremacists themselves but for millions of otherwise well-meaning individuals.
This is the ugly truth that makes so many white Americans uncomfortable, the one most white people refuse to believe: White supremacy and racism are pervasive aspects of American culture. Continue Reading
Another housekeeping post. Feel free to skip this unless you’re really interested in my blog policies.
In April I posted about my comment policy. For years before that date, my policy was that I didn’t edit or remove anything but spam. In response to a barrage of nasty posts, and some suggestions from friendly readers, I rethought that policy and decided that, in the present environment of the Internet, with abundant resources for people to make their voices heard, there was no need for me to be so permissive on my own private blog. After a brief period of reflection, I put that new policy into effect, and it has stood for a couple of months.
However, in those couple of months I have once again reconsidered. The nasty comments have continued, particularly following Caitlyn Jenner’s public debut, and as I dutifully removed or edited them, I realized why I don’t like my new policy: Continue Reading