Monday, May 4, 2015

A Nation of Gladys Kravitz's

So a tragic, but interesting thing happened over the weekend. David Goldberg, a 47-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur (and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) died “suddenly” while on vacation with his family. When I saw the news, I clicked on a few articles, and was struck immediately that no mention was made in any of them of exactly how he died. And the reason it struck me was because in this day and age, it seems there is no escaping the lurid details of how any of us die.

Yes, I understand we live in a celebrity culture, and people’s appetites are insatiable when it comes to the deaths of famous people. For example, it wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that Robin Williams killed himself, we needed to know HOW he killed himself (hanging). Then, it wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that he hung himself, we needed to know also that he wrapped a plastic bag around his head, just to make sure.

I do recognize this sort of thing has been going on since forever. Indeed, the words of Elton John’s tribute to Marilyn Monroe come to mind: “All the papers had to say . . . was that Marilyn . . . was found in the nude . . .”

And hey, so wasn’t Whitney Houston!

When the brilliant New York Times media guru David Carr died recently, dropping dead in the Times newsroom, it was sad and tragic news. But most everyone who knew of David Carr also knew he had battled plenty of demons in his time, most especially, years of drug abuse. He had written a very well acclaimed memoir about it. Those closest to him also knew he was a cigarette smoker (ironically, perhaps one of the more benign substances Mr. Carr had ever put into his body.) And when the news came (because of course it did) that Mr. Carr’s sudden death was due to lung cancer, the moralists and finger waggers of our day had lots of fun with it.

Perhaps the most egregious recent example of wallowing in the manner of someone’s death also comes from the Times, when fashion designer L’Wren Scott took her own life. It wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that she killed herself. We had to know HOW she killed herself. And if the Times obituary for her wasn’t a veritable “how to kill yourself with a scarf” primer, then I don’t know what would be.

Now, I do acknowledge that celebrities and so-called “public figures” are fair game when it comes to this, however unseemly it may be. But what about the rest of us? Because it seems whether famous or not, public figure or not, the manner or cause of our deaths – what specific cancer kills us, for example – is going to end up in our obituary, whether we want it to or not, whether it’s anyone’s business or not.

Maybe I misremember, but I don’t recall years ago, every obituary containing a cause of death, particularly the obituaries of older people. “Natural causes” was often used as a catch-all for any of the hundreds of things that can (and will) kill us as we get older. Do we need to know that an eighty-year-old man dies of prostate cancer? That a ninety-two-year old had colon cancer? Or, in the case of eighty-two-year old Joseph Lechleider, a Father of DSL Internet Technology, that it was esophageal cancer that finally did him in?

When I opined about some of this on twitter yesterday, someone responded that in most cases, cause of death is a public record, and that gathering causes of death is important for public health. Yes, it is. Then, someone else chimed in that Mr. Goldberg and his wife LIVED online. They OWE us an accounting of how Mr. Goldberg died! No, they don’t (setting aside even that Mr. Goldberg’s 400+ twitter posts is hardly “living your life online.”)

No, I contend that people’s insatiable appetite to know the cause and manner of someone’s death is akin to prurience, plain and simple, an insatiable prurience to know other people’s business. Exactly when did we become a nation of Gladys Kravitz’s?

At any rate, rest in peace, Mr. Goldberg. You died too young, and you leave behind a loving wife and two young children. That’s all I need to know.

UPDATE: The family wished to keep the details private.

It's a shame they couldn't.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing THE MOUND

Very excited to report today is the official release date for my book, the fairy horror mystery romance THE MOUND. As offbeat as it might sound, I'm oddly proud of this one and think it might be pretty good. I'd be grateful if you gave it a shot (and would marry you and have your children if you left a review.)

Plot goes like this:

"The new police chief in Bixbie, Massachusetts, is trying to stay off the booze and start a new life. Bixbie doesn't have much in the way of crime anyway, that is until people start disappearing. 

While investigating, he learns Bixbie is also home to a mysterious mound thousands of years old. Though its purpose is unknown, it becomes clearer when his runaway daughter Dani comes to town. 

Because what Hogan doesn't know is Dani believes she is to become queen, and local skateboarder Ian Sinclair is to become king, of a fairy tale kingdom populated by elves and pixies and helpful brownies. And you know what? She may just be right."

THE MOUND . . . where faeries are real, boys can fly, and true love will always win in the end. Available NOW at AmazonAppleBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, and in paperback.

As always, thanks for taking a chance on my stuff.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

And all the ships at sea . . .

(Yesterday's excellent Charlie Pierce piece, coupled with today's Boston Herald and Politico embarrassments, inspired me to republish this short, first published here in 2010.)

America's number one talk show host was already in a foul mood that morning. He had noticed a small scrape on the door of his Hummer after the valet brought it around. Adding to his trauma, traffic to the studio was a real bitch.

Maybe that was why on this day (as opposed to any other) he was particularly sharp-tongued, inspiring some of his thirty million or so listeners to action.

During the first hour, he said he believed Muslims in America were a fifth-column bent on our destruction. When a caller suggested we try to befriend them, the host countered, “I have a different idea. You want to befriend them. I want to kill them.”

In a sweaty apartment outside Newark, listener Joe Sikes thought that was a splendid idea. There was a Muslim temple just down the street. It was almost time for afternoon prayers. The place would be crowded.

Returning from a break, the host warned it would soon be impossible to buy guns. “They're going to take our guns away, just like the Nazis did!” He went on to remind his listeners that German citizens who refused to surrender their guns were murdered in their homes by jack-booted thugs.

An unemployed laborer outside Philadelphia named Scott Foster wasn't going to let that happen. In fact, he'd seen a motorcycle cop just the other day whose boots were polished to a fine sheen. Would he be the one who tried to take his guns? From my cold dead hands, he thought.

Gathering his guns and ammunition, he overturned the dining room table and made himself a hidey-hole. He then put on his bulletproof vest and killed his mother before calling 911.

In the second hour, the subject of abortion came up. The host railed against “baby killers” and not for the first time mentioned one doctor by name and the place where he worked

That was all listener Phil Hastings needed to hear. The doctor was just a few towns away.

In the third hour, the host questioned the president's eligibility for office.

“He's not even a citizen! He has no right to be president!”

In a long hallway outside the kitchen of a D.C. ballroom, police officer James Casey was listening too. One of the cooks had the radio playing softly.

In between the applause and laughter and the din of clinking glasses, he caught himself nodding when the host said he no longer recognized the country that he loved.

“This country is being taken away from us! Right before our eyes! And this president is responsible!”

A roar of applause came from the ballroom. Even before it crested there was movement down the hallway. Men with earpieces and bulges prepared for the VIP to exit the ballroom.

As the talk show host continued assailing the president, the cop realized there was nothing he could do about him. But the woman he loved had just come out the door.

(All quotes are verbatim. All incidents but the last are true.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More from THE MOUND

(I'm pleased to report my fairy horror mystery romance novel THE MOUND will be available October 23, and is available for pre-order NOW. Details on how to reserve your copy below. Meanwhile, here's another taste. Enjoy!)

Oddly, Hogan saw one of those who stayed behind was the boy, Ian Sinclair. He stood alone in the middle of the gym, at about the same place he’d made such a splash earlier in the evening. Staring up at the stage in his (now that all the lights were up) almost silly looking lion tunic, tartan kilt, and green leggings, there was what appeared to be an amalgam of anger and determination on his face.

Hogan turned away when he heard the garage door at the rear of the stage open, through which earlier the car had made its grand entrance. Through the door this time came gurney-bearing Bixbie Fire EMTs along with a pipe smoking man who Campbell introduced as Doc Sullivan. Doc waited for Dunn to finish before taking possession of the bodies.

Meanwhile, Hogan’s eyes fell upon a distraught looking Miskovic standing apart from the scene. Seemingly in a daze, the young cop stared blankly out at the now garishly lit gymnasium. Walking over, Hogan put his arm around his shoulder and patted him on the back.

“I’m sorry,” he said. It was all he could think of.

Miskovic didn’t respond, keeping his gaze riveted toward the gym. Hogan turned that way too, seeing then that a man wearing a hood and a long brown robe in the nature of a monk’s habit approached Ian Sinclair from behind. As he moved closer, Miskovic and Hogan watched the hooded man reach inside his robe to remove a long and scary looking knife.

“Ian!” Miskovic yelled. The two watched the boy cock his head questioningly. Miskovic shouted again. “Behind you!”

Ian turned just as the unknown man charged. Hogan and Miskovic and no doubt everyone on that stage could only watch in mute horror as the man plunged the knife into Ian’s chest.

“No . . . no . . . no . . .” Miskovic uttered in a horrified whisper to witness for the third time that evening the gruesome ending of a young life.

In what seemed slow motion, Hogan winced to see Sinclair hang impaled on the knife a long while, his body bowed in the classic curved C he had seen the gut stab victim take so often. The stabbing man twisted the knife further before pulling it out. While Sinclair still hung awkwardly, the man backed away and looked at his hand, letting out a shriek to discover that at that moment, in his hand was a snake. A long, black, angry looking snake.

The man began bounding about almost comically, shaking and waving his hand trying to dislodge the creature, but the movement only assisted in coiling it further up his arm. Still jumping manically, he used his other hand to finally rid himself of the thing, flinging it to the floor, where it promptly disappeared. Still leaping and bounding, making unintelligible anguished croaks, the cloaked man then turned tail and ran for the nearest exit.

Sinclair stood in the curled C another few seconds before straightening his legs and drawing full height. He took a moment to inspect himself, making sure he was none the worse for wear, before turning his face toward the stage. Hogan saw then that what had earlier struck him as anger and determination had been replaced with . . . something else. It was hard to explain. There was a new certainty, to be sure, as if this incident had taught him something. There seemed also a new maturity, that he was no longer the gawky youth who had marched into the gym that evening to make a point of some kind. And yes, dammit, Hogan had to admit there was something . . . unearthly on his face. In his eyes. Those green orbs that were now his eyes, that had seemed to glow earlier in the evening, now pulsed with newborn energy. There was something beatific and angelic there too, as if he thought he might have been, but now knew that he was, immortal. From where Hogan was standing, he couldn’t argue.

With all that and more revealed on his face, Sinclair sent one last glance to the stage as if to snapshot a remembrance of what had been done there, before he smartly straightened his tunic, spun on his heels with the polished assurance of a military man, and strode toward the doorway.

Hogan and Miskovic stared a long while after he left. Eventually, Hogan turned to the other men on stage and saw them all gaping too. Doc Sullivan’s pipe had fallen from his mouth.

“What the . . .” was all Hogan managed to say.

Turning to Miskovic, he was surprised to see the officer already turned his way. The young cop was smiling, maybe even tearing up a little, letting out some of the pent-up emotion of this long night. That was okay with Hogan. It was a very human response. Eventually, Miskovic was able to speak.

“Told you he was special,” he choked. It earned him Hogan’s last smile of the evening.

(THE MOUND, coming October 23, 2014, and available for pre-order NOW from Amazon.Com and iTunes. Reserve your copy today! And as always, thanks for reading.)