Saturday, April 4, 2020

James Lee Burke On A Boy’s Memory Of America Amid The Coronavirus Epidemic: The Author Recalls How The Nation Rallied When World War II And The Polio Epidemic Threatened.

The Tampa Bay Times offers an essay by James Lee Burke on how America weathered earlier crises: 

Author James Lee Burke is best known for his bestselling books about Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, crime novels that delve into some of humanity’s darkest impulses. In this essay, Burke, who at age 83 has vivid memories of his childhood during World War II and the polio epidemic, writes about our better angels. 

The essay first appeared on Burke’s Facebook page and is printed with permission. Burke’s 40th book, and his latest about Robicheaux, A Private Cathedral, will be published by Simon & Schuster on May 26. — Colette Bancroft, Times book editor.

Hello, everyone. These are depressing times, but I would like to share with you some memories and lessons I always found helpful in dealing with what Gram Parsons called In My Darkest Hour.

I remember how frightened I was when, on December 7, 1941, at 1:15 p.m., a radio music program was interrupted in the little cafe where I was eating Sunday dinner with my parents. A news broadcaster informed everyone the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. No one moved or spoke, as though they were inside a motion picture film and the projector had frozen the image on the screen. When a child sees fear in the faces of adults, the fear transfers to him like a contagion, magnified many times.

But I learned a quick lesson about the country I was born in. Men and women all over the nation stood in long lines to volunteer for the armed services. Every week President Franklin Roosevelt had one of his Fireside Chats with over 100 million people, assuring us that the only fear we needed to fear was fear itself. Food and gasoline were immediately rationed, but no one complained. My family’s ration book allowed us one small chicken and one small roast a week. It was impossible to buy sugar or butter. In four years I saw only one instance of hoarding. A man down the street was caught with a garage full of canned goods and fined heavily. He also lived the rest of his life in disgrace.

We had other problems as well. My family lived in the polio capital of America. Nobody knew what caused it or the origins of the virus. At age 8 I spent almost one year in bed with perhaps a case of polio or perhaps rheumatic fever or perhaps both. Diagnostic medicine was often based on speculation and was nothing like it is today. But I felt very sick and lived in fear of diseases that had control of my body, but could not be confronted or medicated or even adequately defined.

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

You can also read my Washington Times On Crime column on James Lee Burke via the below link:

And you can read my post on the Polio epidemic via the below link: 

'Head 'Em Up And Move 'Em Out': How The TV Western Series 'Rawhide' Launched Clint Eastwood's Career

This Saturday morning, I watch a rebroadcast of Rawhide on the ME channel.

I loved the Western show when I was a kid, loved Frankie Lane's opening song, and I enjoy watching the shows again as an adult. It was on Rawhide that I first saw Clint Eastwood, who went on to e a major film actor. 

Courtney Campbell at offers a piece on how Rawhide launched Clint Eastwood’s career.  

The '50s and '60s were a glorious time for TV westerns. Has there been any other time in American television where we had such strong cowboy characters to watch every week? We had Bonanza, the Lone Ranger, Wagon Train, and Gunsmoke. But we also had the TV show that kicked off Clint Eastwood's western career: Rawhide

The show is set during the 1860s, capturing the cattle drive lifestyle. Eric Fleming stars as trail boss Gil Favor. Eastwood stars opposite him as Rowdy Yates, the young and feisty accomplice, who Favor continually keeps in check. Sheb Wooley played scout Pete Nolan, Paul Brinegar played the cook Wishbone, James Murdock played Wishbone's assistant "Mushy," Rocky Shahan, played drover Joe Scarlet, and Steve Raines played drover Jim Quince. It was a great group of characters to follow season after season.

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

Friday, April 3, 2020

Department Of Justice And Department Of Health And Human Services Partner To Distribute More Than Half A Million Medical Supplies Confiscated From Price Gougers

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the distribution of hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE), including approximately 192,000 N95 respirator masks, to those on the frontline of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response in New York and New Jersey.
The FBI discovered the supplies during an enforcement operation by the Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force on March 30 and alerted HHS which used its authority under Defense Production Act (DPA) to order that the supplies be immediately furnished to the United States.  In addition to the N95 respirator masks, the supplies found included 598,000 medical grade gloves and 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer, and bottles of spray disinfectant.
"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," said Attorney General William P. Barr.  "The Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation."
"Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.  "Thanks to the quick work of the White House, the Department of Justice, and HHS, the seized resources were distributed in days to the doctors, nurses and first responders who need them.  President Trump's all-of-America approach to combating the coronavirus involves an aggressive approach to stopping hoarding, and the American public can play a role by being on the lookout for this behavior."
HHS will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment pre-COVID-19 fair market value for the supplies and has begun distributing to meet the critical need for the supplies among healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey.
Specifically, after inspecting the supplies, HHS arranged for the delivery of the PPE to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"This is the first of many such investigations that are underway," said Peter Navarro, DPA Policy Coordinator and Assistant to the President.  "Our FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies are tracking down every tip and lead they get, and are devoting massive federal resources to this effort.  All individuals and companies hoarding any of these critical supplies, or selling them at well above market prices, are hereby warned they should turn them over to local authorities or the federal government now or risk prompt seizure by the federal government."
Vendors interested in selling PPE to the federal government should contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at  Anyone who learns of hoarding or price gouging of PPE should report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by dialing 1-866-720-5721 or emailing
HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to collaborate with private industry to overcome the shortage of PPE across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defense Production Act and Presidential Executive Order are intended to prevent accumulation in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption, or for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of prevailing market prices, also known as hoarding and price gouging, of medical supplies critical to the COVID-19 response.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Raymond Chandler Wanted Cary Grant to Play Philip Marlowe

Olivia Rutigliano offers a piece at on the late, great crime novelist Raymond Chandler wanting actor Cary Grant to portray his iconic private eye character Philip Marlowe.
Humphrey Bogart will go down in history as the actor most associated with the detective character Phillip Marlowe, but he wasn’t the first actor to play him, and he wasn’t author Raymond Chandler’s first preference.
In 1944, the washed-up musical star Dick Powell played the sleuth in the first film adaptation of a Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely (retitled to Murder, My Sweet, lest it seem like another musical). The movie relaunched Powell’s career, and Chandler was not disappointed with the casting decision. Powell bought an air of refinement that Chandler had initially envisioned for his P.I. But actually, he said later, the actor he most wanted to play his detective was Cary Grant.

What a movie that would have been. But anyway.
“I like people with manners, grace, some social intuition, an education slightly above the Reader’s Digest fan,” he mentioned in a letter to his colleague, the writer George Harmon Coxe. When writing to movie producer John Houseman, he stressed that Marlowe was an “honorable man” above all, and this quality needed to shine through.

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

Note: Think of Cary Grant portraying Marlowe as he portrayed a tough guy gambler in Mr. Lucky (seen in the top and above photos), as I noted in my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler.

You can read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler via the below link:  

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux Crime Series

The Washington Times published my On Crime column about James Lee Burke and his popular fictional character Dave Robicheaux.

I was pleased to learn that James Lee Burke has a new crime novel coming out in May.

According to his publisher Simon & Schuster, James Lee Burke’s “A Private Cathedral” is his most powerful story. The novel mixes crime, romance, mythology, horror and science fiction, as well as the all-consuming and all-conquering power of love.

“A Private Cathedral” is his 40th book and his 23rd novel featuring Dave Robicheaux, a rugged and principled Cajun and New Iberia, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department detective.

I’ve reviewed several of his novels in these pages, including his last novel, “The New Iberia Blues.” The novel was a sequel to his previous novel, “Robicheaux,” and the upcoming “A Private Cathedral” is the third novel in his trilogy.

In “The New Iberia Blues” Dave Robicheaux visits a Hollywood director who returns to Louisiana to direct a film. Robicheaux knew the director when he was a New Orleans detective and the director, Desmond Cormier, was a street artist. When Robicheaux looked through Cormier’s telescope he sees the horrific sight of a young woman floating in the bay while nailed to a wooden cross. The novel, like all of James Lee Burke’s novels, offers violent conflict, sinister criminals and sad victims. I suspect “A Private Cathedral” will continue in the same vein.  

Although I disagree somewhat with his worldview, I believe the 83-year-old author is one of the best modern crime novelists and his character Dave Robicheaux (pronounced “Row-bih-show”) is one of the best detective characters in crime fiction today. His novels are superbly well-written, and they offer gritty realism with a strong moral tone. The popular series has been translated into nearly every language on the planet.

James Lee Burke is a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and a two-time recipient of its Edgar Award. He’s also the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Fiction. Born in Houston in 1936, James Lee Burke grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute for two years and graduated with honors from the University of Missouri.

He’s worked a good number of different jobs prior to becoming a full-time novelist. He’s worked as a social worker, an oil man, a newspaper reporter and a teacher, which gives him a wide breadth of knowledge of the human condition, which is evident in his work.

Mr. Burke is passionate about the environment, especially in Louisiana, and the blight of the oppressed. In his novels, he has Dave Robicheaux attempt to right wrongs, defend the innocent and punish the greedy, the crooked and the predators who prey on the innocent. 

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

You can also read my Washington Times review of The New Iberia Blues via the below link:

And you can read my Washington Times review of Robicheaux via the below link: 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Washington Times Review Of 'Mengele: Unmasking The Angel of Death'

The Washington Times published my review of Mengele; Unmasking the Angel of Death.

Josef Mengele was one of the most notorious war criminals in history. During World War II the Nazi doctor performed medical experiments in a concentration camp on unwilling children and adults, and with a jerk of his thumb he sent many unlucky men, women and children to their immediate deaths.

He escaped justice after the Third Reich fell by fleeing the country and although his death was later confirmed, and his body uncovered in a cemetery in Brazil, his victims’ demand for justice has not been fulfilled, nor has it satisfied an abundant interest in his life and crimes.

David Marwell’s “Mengele: Unmasking the Angel of Death” is a fine addition to other biographies of the evil doctor, as it is partly a biography and partly a memoir, as historian David Marwell was the U.S. Justice Department’s chief of investigative research in the Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s.

Mr. Marwell was involved in the Mengele investigation and he performed numerous interviews of victims and other parties, examined documents and visited Germany and other countries around the world gathering evidence. He also coordinated the investigation with partners in Israel, Germany and other governments and private organizations. He even held Mengele’s bones in his hands.

“While this book is based on both primary sources from archives throughout the world and the careful research of a host of brilliant scholars, it also relies on the writings of Mengele himself,” Mr. Marwell writes. “I read his correspondence and diaries from his later life and was exposed to the intimate details of his health complaints, frustrations, and private reflections, and to the style and rhythm of his thoughts. In addition, I had access to Mengele’s own attempt at the very enterprise in which I was engaged.”

Mr. Marwell notes that late in Mengele’s life, he wrote but never published an autobiographical novel, which was about a man shaped in a very special way by his time, as Mengele put it.

You can read the rest o the review via the below link:  

China Researchers Isolated Deadly Bat Coronaviruses Near Wuhan Animal Market

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece in the Washington Times on how Chinese government researchers performed scientific work on bat coronaviruses three miles from the "wet markets" identified as ground zero in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese government researchers isolated more than 2,000 animal viruses, including deadly bat coronaviruses, and carried out scientific work on them just three miles from a wild animal market identified as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Chinese state media outlets in recent months touted the virus research and lionized in particular a key researcher in Wuhan, Tian Junhua, as a leader in bat virus work.

The coronavirus strain now infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally mutated from bats believed to have infected animals and people at a wild animal market in Wuhan. The exact origin of the virus, however, remains a mystery.

Reports of the extensive Chinese research on bat viruses likely will fuel more calls for Beijing to make public what it knows about such work.

“This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic,” Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. Mr. McCaul has said China should be held accountable for the pandemic.

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