Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy 83rd Birthday To John le Carre

Happy 83rd birthday to British spy novelist John le Carre.

John le Carre is the author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

You can learn more about John le Carre via a link to

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor via the below link:  

It's Elementary – Of Course Sherlock Holmes Was Real

Allan Massie offers an interesting piece in the Telegraph on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional (or perhaps not) iconic character.

The Museum of London has a new exhibition honouring the most famous Englishman of the 19th century. In his lifetime he had rivals for that title – Mr Gladstone, and WG Grace, for instance. But their memory has faded, and Sherlock Holmes stands supreme. It is quite right that the museum should be hosting this exhibition – the first in the capital since 1951 – for Holmes’s London is, even more than Dickens’s, the London of our historical imagination, the London of hansom cabs, horse-dung, flickering gas-light and pea-soup fogs, the London of sinister opium dens in Wapping.

Some still say that there was no real Holmes, that he was only the creation of an Edinburgh-born doctor, Arthur Conan Doyle. For these sceptics, he exists only in four novels and 56 short stories, almost all recounted by his friend, housemate and collaborator, Dr Watson. Yes, they admit, there is indeed a plaque on 221b Baker Street, proclaiming that Sherlock Holmes lived there; but, they add triumphantly, there was no such address when Conan Doyle wrote. It’s all a work of fiction.
Tell that to the Marines, but not to the Sherlock Holmes Society, or indeed to its New York brother, the Baker Street Irregulars. Tell it not to the Sherlock Holmes Society of Japan, which has more than 1,000 devoted members; there is a statue of Holmes in Karuizawa. The Japanese, it seems, are devoted to him because, in recounting his struggle with the Napoleon of crime and distinguished mathematician, Professor Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, he ascribed his victory to his knowledge of “baritsu”, the Japanese art of wrestling. (This should correctly be “bartitsu”, we are told; which only goes to prove that Holmes was human and capable of making a mistake.)

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The above DVD cover shows actor Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. He's my favorite Sherlock Holmes actor. 

Gary Webb Was No Journalism Hero, Despite What The Film "Kill The Messenger" Says

Jeff Lean debunks the true story behind the film Kill the Messenger in a piece in the Washington Post.

An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof. That old dictum ought to hang on the walls of every journalism school in America. It is the salient lesson of the Gary Webb affair. It might have saved his journalism career, though it would have precluded his canonization in the new film “Kill the Messenger.”

The Hollywood version of his story — a truth-teller persecuted by the cowardly and craven mainstream media — is pure fiction. But Webb was a real person who wrote a real story, a three-part series called “Dark Alliance,” in August 1996 for the San Jose Mercury News, one of the flagship newspapers of the then-mighty Knight Ridder chain. Webb’s story made the extraordinary claim that the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic in America. What he lacked was the extraordinary proof. But at first, the claim was enough. Webb’s story became notable as the first major journalism cause celebre on the newly emerging Internet. The black community roiled in anger at the supposed CIA perfidy.

Then it all began to come apart. The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in a rare show of unanimity, all wrote major pieces knocking the story down for its overblown claims and undernourished reporting.

Gradually, the Mercury News backed away from Webb’s scoop. The paper transferred him to its Cupertino bureau and did an internal review of his facts and his methods. Jerry Ceppos, the Mercury News’s executive editor, wrote a piece concluding that the story did not meet the newspaper’s standards — a courageous stance, I thought. “We oversimplified the complex issue of how the crack epidemic in America grew,” Ceppos wrote. “Through imprecise language and graphics, we created impressions that were open to misinterpretation.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier piece on Kill the Messenger via the below link:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Former U.S. Navy Shipmates Who Served Together During The Vietnam War Reunite After 40 Years Of Searching For Each Other

The below story in the Daily Mail about shipmates reuniting many years after serving together on the USS White Plains during the Vietnam War interested me, as I too reunited with two of my former shipmates.

Via social media I contacted a good friend and shipmate who served with me in 1971 during the Vietnam War on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA63). We shared good times ashore in the wild city of Olongapo in the Philippines and other ports-of-call during our WESTPAC cruise.

Through a Navy veteran's web site I later contacted another good friend who served with me in 1974 and 1975 on the Navy Tugboat USS Saugus (YTB780) at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland. We shared some good times in the Scottish pubs.

I'm glad that after all these years I'm able to email and talk on the phone with these two old friends who shared some great and not so great times. There are a couple of other old shipmates that I'd like to get in touch with as well.

Sophie Ann Evans at the Daily Mail wrote a good piece on the two Navy veterans reuniting. You can read the piece via the below link:

Note: Above is a photo of the White Plains.

Below are photos of the Kitty Hawk and the Saugus and you can link to posts about the carrier and the tugboat via the below links:

The Napoleon Of Crime: Sherlock Holmes And Professor James Moriarty Are Perfect Foes

Anthony Horowitz, author the Sherlock Holmes continuation novel Moriarty, offers a piece in the British newspaper the Telegraph on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great fictional villian.

“He is the Napoleon of Crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows every quiver of each of them.”

Who else could it be but Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls and quite simply the greatest villain in literature ever created? Thanks to the artist, Sidney Paget, we know exactly what he looked like although Conan Doyle certainly helped with a memorable description: “…extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and his two eyes are deeply sunken in his head.” A great many master criminals have caught the public imagination – Hannibal Lecter, Fu Manchu and any one of the James Bond villains spring to mind – but none have done so quite so successful as Professor James Moriarty.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Crime Fiction Dictionary: From Cozies To Hick Lit And Everything In Between

From Ian Fleming to Elmore Leonard, Jack Batten at the Totonto Star defines the crime novel sub-genres.

Every year, in every form and venue — in bookstores, in Amazon warehouses, on ebooks — thousands of new books listed in the “crime fiction” category come to the market. Authors well known in the genre compete for sales — Lee Child, P.D. James and Kathy Reichs, for example — among readers of crime fiction. And yet, these three are fundamentally different writers. Child produces physical thrillers calling for violence and quick wits from his hero, Jack Reacher. P.D. James’s genteel whodunits depend on intellectual finesse and good sleuthing manners. And Kathy Reichs’s blood-soaked volumes are all about forensics and meticulously detailed autopsies.
The genre known as crime fiction doesn’t make up a single continuum. Crime novels in their diversity may share elements in common; almost always someone gets murdered and someone else solves the murder. But the books that tell the stories of death and sleuthing fall into different categories, reflecting crime fiction’s enormous heterogeneity. Some categories are obvious, some subtle — and all of them, as the following sampling indicates, qualify as the genre’s legitimate sub-genres. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Scarfo, Pelullo, Maxwells Seek New Trial In FirstPlus Fraud Case

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia is covering crime trials for

They want a do over.

And if they're granted a new trial, they don't want any mention of the mob.

That's the essence of a 72-page motion filed by lawyers for Salvatore Pelullo and joined by lawyers for Nicodemo Scarfo and brothers John and William Maxwell asking Judge Robert Kugler to overturn their convictions and order a retrial in the FirstPlus financial fraud case.

A hearing on the motion and the government's response is set for Monday. Sentencings, which were originally scheduled for Oct. 21, 22 and 23, have been moved to January for all four defendants.

The defense motion is built around the argument that organized crime involvement was improperly and inaccurately introduced into the fraud case and created undue prejudice for the defendants. Lawyers for the Maxwell brothers have also filed separate motions raising issues specific to their clients. John Maxwell, for example, argued again that he was only following the advice of professionals hired by the company and had no direct knowledge of the scam.

Kugler rejected similar arguments that were filed by the defense both before and during the lengthy six-month trial.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: