Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Philadelphia Quartermaster Revisited

A couple of months ago I drove past the "Quartermaster" on 21st and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia and I was saddened by the dilapidated look of the closed Defense Department compound.

As a South Philadelphia neighbor of the compound, as well as a former employee there, I recall vividly when the Quartermaster, an 11-square block compound composed of buff-colored buildings centered by a tall clock tower, was a local South Philly mainstay and major employer.

So like many other former employees, area residents and business people, I was pleased to read that the City of Philadelphia plans to establish a homeland security "fusion center" on the Quartermaster compound.

Last week I interviewed Everett Gillison, Philadelphia's Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, for an article on the Quartermaster fusion center. The piece will appear in an upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine and I'll post the piece here when it comes out.

Gillison made the plan for the fusion center, to be called the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, sound encouraging. It will truly be good to see the old Quartermaster once again used for public service.

The Quartermaster compound, in operation since 1918, was the site of the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) until 1999 when the command collocated with the Navy’s procurement center in Northeast Philadelphia.

From the 1960s throughout the 1990s, the South Philadelphia military colossus purchased billions of dollars of food, clothing, textiles, medicines and medical equipment annually at the wholesale level for the men and women of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force worldwide.

The Quartermaster also had a number of Defense Department tenants who shared the compound, the largest being the Defense Contract Administration Services Region (DCASR), later reorganized into the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).

DCASR oversaw defense contractors in the state of Delaware, Southern New Jersey, and Southeastern Pennsylvania. These defense contractors supplied the armed forces with everything from DSCP’s clothing, medical and textile products to major electronic weapons systems. From boots to cruise missiles, DCASR provided contract administration, quality assurance, engineering and program oversight of the contractors for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and NASA.

Prior to moving to the Quartermaster site in 1918, the organization that later became DSCP was called the Schuylkill Arsenal. According to DSCP's official history, the Arsenal began as a warehouse for ammunition and other military supplies. Local seamstresses were contracted to make uniforms by hand in their own homes. In 1803 the Arsenal outfitted the Lewis And Clark Expedition to the Northwest at a cost of $2000.

The Arsenal supplied guns and ammunition, as well as clothing and textile materials, to the American military during the War of 1812. In 1818 the Schuylkill Arsenal gave up its ammunition and arms mission to fully dedicate itself to manufacturing, storing and distributing clothing and textile materials.

During the Civil War, more than 10,000 seamstresses and tailors were hired to make uniforms and clothing for Union troops. The facility provided the same service during World War I. Due to the enormous requirements of the world war the organization moved to the newly constructed buildings in South Philadelphia.

The new facility was called the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. During the 1930s, the Quartermaster outfitted 600,000 members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The Quartermaster later supported the Army in World War II, which saw the troops swell to more than eight million soldiers. The depot also continued to support the troops during the Korean War.

In 1965, the Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) was officially established and its mission was expanded to provide food, medicines and medical supplies, in addition to its already essential clothing and textile supply responsibilities. The Defense Subsistence Supply Center of Chicago and the Defense Medical Supply Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. moved to the South Philadelphia location. DPSC went on to provide support to the troops fighting in the Vietnam War.

DPSC continued their support of the troops during the Gulf War, as well as a number of humanitarian relief efforts and peacekeeping missions related to Hurricane Andrew, Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti. DPSC was renamed the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) on January 13, 1998, although local residents and employees continued to call the compound the Quartermaster.

As a result of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision, the Quartermaster compound was closed in 1999 and DSCP and the tenant commands moved to the naval depot in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Quartermaster compound is important to me as I worked there for more than 25 years.

After serving two years on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, I went to work as a clerk at the Quartermaster in 1972. 

I quit later that year to attend Penn State and study journalism, as I have always wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, I later discovered that I could not afford to be a full-time student, so I reluctantly returned to the Quartermaster with a plan to attend college at night.

I was hired by the tenant command DCASR and I worked there as a clerk for another year. I went back on active duty in 1974 and served two years on a Navy harbor tugboat at the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland. I was discharged in 1976, and as the economy and unemployment was as bad then as it is today, I reclaimed my old DCASR clerk job as a returning veteran.

Although I hated the boring and seemingly senseless clerical work I did during my early years there, I loved the social atmosphere.

There were office parties, extended lunches at neighborhood bars like JR's and The Loft, celebratory luncheons, fabulous Christmas parties, picnics, dances, and drinking at the Officer's Club after working hours. The Quartermaster also had a bowling league, a dart league, a men's softball league, and a mixed men and women softball league. The softball games were played at the nearby "Lakes" (Roosevelt Park) and the Philadelphia Navy Yard in South Philly.  

There were old friends from my South Philly neighborhood working at the Quartermaster and there were many, many beautiful girls working there as well. The pretty girls alone were an inducement to go to work each day.

I've often joked that the Defense Department didn't have to pay me during those years, as I had so much fun I would have gladly paid admission at the Quartermaster's gate.

That is not to say that good work was not accomplished there. We were a combat support agency and our mission was to support the armed forces worldwide during war and peace, but we had a relaxed working atmosphere . 

I would later be promoted into better jobs and I discovered that the work there could be interesting and rewarding.

In 1986 I became the chief of installation services for the Defense Contract Administration Services Management Area (DCASMA) Philadelphia, which later, like DCASR, was renamed the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).

I was responsible for security, safety, public affairs and other support services for the command. I served as an investigating officer and investigated security violations, theft, and other crimes. I also investigated Inspector General complaints of misconduct, waste, fraud and abuse.    

I was also a contributing writer for Defense Department magazines.

I received the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board's 1990 Public Affairs Award for my magazine pieces. Writing military journalism and covering stories for the Defense Department's magazines helped me become a freelance writer in 1993.

I expanded my public affairs role in 1991 by becoming a producer and on-air host of a public affairs radio program called Inside Government. I worked with the radio program from its 1991 debut to the closing program in 2005.

Sponsored by the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board and its executive director Jack Radcliff, the radio program aired Sunday mornings on WPEN 950 AM and WMGK 102.5 FM. The half-hour interview program dealt with crime, espionage, terrorism, taxes, health, the military and other issues of concern to Philadelphia area residents.

Along with the other members of the production team, I received the Vice President's National Performance Review "Hammer" Award in 1995.

My installation services chief job would be upgraded several times over the years with increasing responsibility and pay, and I went on to become the command's administrative officer.

Although I did a good bit traveling during those years to defense contractor plants and military bases in the tri-state area, as well as to Washington D.C., Boston, Memphis and St. Petersburg, Florida, to name a few places, on a normal work day I walked to work at the Quartermaster. Walking to work most days for more than 25 years was truly a job benefit.

Like many of the Quartermaster's employees, I was devastated to learn that the Quartermaster compound would close under a base realignment and we were to be relocated to the Naval Support Activity in Northeast Philadelphia in 1999.

Although we were glad that we retained our jobs with the move to the Navy depot, and the Navy depot was a good place to work, the new base was clearly not the old Quartermaster.

Below are photos of the Quartermaster closing ceremony:

I retired from the Defense Department in 2007 to become a full-time writer, but I still think about my time at the Quartermaster when I drive or walk past the compound gates, or when I bump into another old employee.

I made many good friends while working there. I met my beautiful wife there. I witnessed many triumphs and tragedies there. And I like to think that I did some good and purposeful work there.

I lament the passing of the Quartermaster era, but I'm hopeful about the planned homeland security fusion center on the old compound.

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the multi-million dollar contract fraud and bribery case at the Philadelphia Quartermaster via the below link:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Janet Evanovich's 'Sizzling Sixteen'

The Philadelphia Inquirer published my review of Janet Evanovich's Sizzling Sixteen today.

Sizzling Sixteen is the latest in Evanovich's popular Stephanie Plum chick-lit comic crime fiction series.

Although I prefer darker, more complex crime fiction, I found the book to be amusing and entertaining, and I'm sure Janet Evanovich's many fans will find this book amusing and entertaining as well.

Since the review came out I've been taken to task by Janet Evanovich's hard-core fans. I've received several e-mail messages from fans that complain that I gave away too much of the story in my piece.

I attempted to offer some of the highlights, antics and action to illustrate what the book was about (especially to people who have not read previous books in the Plum series). But I didn't write about everything that happened in the story and I didn't give away the ending.

You can read my review via the below link:


Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Crime Beat Column: Dead Man's Hand, Crime Fiction at the Poker Table

 In My Little Chickadee, the late great comedian W.C. Fields played a wily card sharp.

In this classic comedy film an eager sucker sees Fields spreading cards across a table and asks excitedly, “Is this a game of chance?”

“Not the way I play it, no,” was Fields’ classic answer.

I grew up on movies and TV shows that revolved around poker games and I read crime fiction and thrillers that also featured poker in the stories.

I also grew up playing poker. I began at an early age, playing poker for nickels, dimes and quarters in the Francis Scott Key elementary school yard in South Philadelphia.
As a kid I watched high-stake gamblers and racket guys play poker at a club in South Philly long before there were casinos in nearby Atlantic City. I used to run to a nearby luncheonette and bring back sandwiches and coffee to the players. The game’s big winner always gave me a huge tip.

I joined the U.S. Navy when I was 17 and I continued to play poker on an aircraft carrier on our down time off the coast of Vietnam. Many of the sailors never played poker prior to joining the Navy, so I and a few other more experienced players always did well.

After leaving the Navy I began to play poker for somewhat higher stakes and I played cards often during my 20s. I also bet on sporting events heavily and if there were two bugs on the ground, I would put twenty bucks on the one of the right.

I was a relatively good poker player at my level and I won more often than I lost, but I didn’t care much about money in my youth. I spent it as fast as I made it. When I won I went out with girl friends or the guys and I promptly blew all of my winnings at stores, bars, clubs and restaurants.
When I lost I borrowed money from the local loan sharks. These guys circle poker games like a shark circles his prey in the ocean.

I liked the active “sporting life” and I truly loved playing poker in my younger days. Although I gave up serious gambling when I married at the age of 30, I still play an occasional “friendly” game of poker with friends.

So with my life-long interest in poker, as well as my life-long interest in crime, I was eager to read Dead Man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table (Harcourt).

Otto Penzler, the editor of Dead Man's Hand, wrote in the forward that he was surprised that no one had put together a collection of stories combining poker and crime before this.

“If ever a subject begged to be associated with crime it is gambling,” noted Penzler. “And if you think poker doesn’t involve gambling, you are seven years old and think it’s fun to play for matchsticks.”

Penzler, the founder of the Mysterious Press and owner of the Mysterious Bookstore in New York, collected 15 short stories that feature poker and crime. The stories were written by some of today’s top crime and thriller writers.

“For well over 150 years, poker has been America’s game of choice,” Howard Lederer wrote in his introduction to the stories. “The mere mention of the game would conjure images of Mississippi riverboat gamblers, cowboys willing to a man if he thought his opponent had an ace up his sleeve, and brazen Vegas hustlers drinking whiskey and smoking cigars while using marked cards to take the unsuspecting.”

Lederer, a professional poker player known as the “poker professor,” added that for the last 150 years poker has become inextricably woven into the fabric of the American experience. He noted that the game is played by American presidents, Supreme Court justices and friends who use the game as an excuse to get together each week.

“Otto Penzler assembled a staggering array of crime novelists and asked each of them to weave the great game of poker into an original short story,” Lederer explained. “John Lescroart writes a story about how the memories of a father’s home poker game still haunt the son many years after his death. Rubert Holmes tells a tale of a poker game that is more than it appears. Eric Van Lustbader shows how the game can form the basis for a unique father/daughter relationship. Walter Mosley examines how the game of poker can provide a unique platform for nonverbal communication. And Sam Hill examines a poker pro coming to grips with his own mortality, both physically and professionally.”

In my view, one of the better stories in the book is called Bump. The story was written by Jeffery Deaver, the author of a series of thrillers that feature a quadriplegic detective named Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs. One of Deaver’s novels, The Bone Collector, was made into a film with Denzel Washington.

Deaver was also recently chosen by the family of the late Ian Fleming to write the next James Bond continuation novel.

Bump is about an actor who once starred in a successful TV crime show, but is now reduced to sheepishly pitching an idea for a new show to a TV producer. The producer was not interested in the idea, but he offers the older actor a chance to appear on a reality show called Go For Broke.
The live program will film a high stake poker game between “celebrities.”
The celebrities will use their own money at the game and they will use cash, not chips. If the actor wins the poker game, the producer tells him, he would receive a “bump,” which is a buzzword in the entertainment world that means a “leg-up,” or getting recognized on the media radar. Bump also means a raise in poker.

As the reality show uses cash instead of chips, the criminal element becomes interested and two hoodlums plan to take the game down. Deaver’s story is clever and interesting and he packs a lot of character, plot and details into a short story.

I also liked One-Dollar Jackpot by noted crime novelist Michael Connelly. In Connelly’s short story a professional poker player is murdered in her parked car in front of her home. Connelly’s popular character LAPD Homicide-Robbery Detective Harry Bosch catches the case.

The woman won a considerable amount of money at a casino and Bosch wonders if she were followed from the casino by a thief and killed for her winnings. He also suspects her husband, a less successful poker player. This is a well-written, suspenseful story.

Otto Penzler offers a very good collection of stories, so if you’re interested in crime, poker, crime fiction, or all of the above, I recommend you read Dead Man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hellfire Justice: Notorious Terrorist Who Murdered U.S. Sailor in 1985 Killed by U.S. Missile

Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North has written a good column about the recent killing of the notorious terrorist Mohammed Ali Hamadi. Hamadi murdered U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Dean Stethem in 1985.

North sent a stern notice to terrorists in his column: we will never forget.

You can read North's column via the below link:


Below is a link to the FBI page on Hamadi and below that are photos of Hamadi and Stethem:


My On Crime & Security Column: Stripped in Under Five Minutes - Demonstration Illustrates How Car Thieves Can Strip a Car of Parts in Minutes

The online small business magazine Businessknowhow.com published my On Crime & Security column today.

My column covers car theft and the Allstate demonstrations going on around the country. A trio of Allstate technicians show how they can strip a car of its parts in under five minutes.

My column also links to a video of the demonstration.

You can read my column via the below link:


Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Crime Beat Column: The Ian Fleming and James Bond Phenomenon

The below column originally appeared in The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2006.

A British Royal Navy Commander visited Jamaica in 1944 for a conference on the threat of Nazi U-boats in the Caribbean. He fell in love with the island.

Commander Ian Fleming was a slim and athletic 6'2", with black hair and blue eyes. Many of his women friends described him as having cruel good looks, his broken nose adding a touch of ruggedness.

Fleming returned to Jamaica after the war and purchased an old donkey race track in Oracabessa on the North Coast. His built his villa – called Goldeneye - on a bluff overlooking a private beach and the Caribbean. He would spend every January and February there until his death in 1964.

To get over the shock of getting married at the age of 44, he often said, he sat down at his typewriter at Goldeneye in 1952 and wrote his first novel Casino Royale. The novel, published in 1953, introduced the world to a debonair and deadly British secret agent named Bond, James Bond.

Casino Royale, the 21st installment in the world’s most successful film series featuring Fleming’s Bond, opened on November 17th. The thriller features a new actor in the role of Bond, Daniel Craig.

“It has been a long time ambition for us to film the first book in the series, Casino Royale, which defined the complex character of James Bond,” said the producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. “Daniel is a superb actor who has all the qualities needed to bring a contemporary edge to the role. Casino Royale will have all of the action, suspense and espionage that our audiences have come to expect from us, but nevertheless takes the franchise in a new and exciting direction.”

The film was directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond in GoldenEye in 1995. Casino Royale was filmed in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The film has opened to rave reviews and box office success and the film has fueled a renewed interest and respect for Ian Fleming, who died in 1964 at the age of 56.

Since first viewing Dr No in a South Philadelphia movie theater in 1963 when I was eleven years old, I’ve been a serious Bond fan. I went on to read the Fleming novels as a pre-teen and teenager and I was amazed that they were darker, more complex, and far more intriguing than the films. I’ve been a Fleming aficionado ever since.

Born on May 28th 1908 and educated at Eton and Sandhurst , Fleming worked as a journalist at Reuters prior to WWII, reporting from London , Berlin and Moscow. He was a special correspondent for The Times of London in Moscow in 1939 and entered British Naval Intelligence later that year.

He served as the assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. After the war, he became The Sunday Times' foreign manager. His experience as a naval intelligence officer and a journalist enabled him to write knowledgeably about espionage, crime and terrorism.

The character of James Bond found in the novels was based in part on the WWII commandos, secret agents and intelligence officers Fleming met during his service. He conceived of Bond as merely a cipher, a blunt instrument for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But Fleming said he also infused Bond with his own personal quirks and characteristics.

The Bond character in the films had become exaggerated to the point of self-parody, so I was pleased that the producers were returning to the first novel as source material and made Casino Royale as a true thriller.

The choice of actor to portray this back-to-basics Bond set off a heated debate in work places, bars, cafes and on the Internet. The selection of the blond and not particularly handsome Craig enraged many fans that preferred Brosnan, the previous actor to portray Bond in four films. But for many of the older fans, like me, there is only one actor who is the ideal Bond - Sean Connery.

Beginning in 1962 with Dr No, the Bond films attracted a world-wide audience that loved the suave, yet rugged Connery as Bond. From Russia With Love and Goldfinger followed and the James Bond craze ignited, creating imitators in film, TV, novels, advertisements and launching a huge business in merchandising and collectibles. To date, the Bond film series has earned more than $4 billion, according to the-numbers.com.

Prior to the release of the new film, I set out to talk to a number of other Fleming aficionados about the film, the new actor and the cultural influence of Ian Fleming and his blunt instrument, James Bond.

“Bond had a tremendous influence on film, television, style and the political spectrum,” said Steven Watt, an English Professor at Indiana University and the author of Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007.

“Fleming was way ahead of his time when he invented SPECTRE, a mobile, multi-national group, headed by a mad genius, mostly made up of cells of hardened criminals, loyal to no nation, only to each other, and that one of their principle objectives is to produce terror. They would be a lot more difficult to beat than a clunky Soviet machine – and he was right!”

“Who else in the 1960s was talking about nuclear blackmail and chemical and biological warfare?” Watt added.

Watt noted that there was much to be learned from Fleming in terms of the evolution of the enemies of the West and on the level of sexuality, ethnicity, global politics, and popular culture.

Watt was one of the organizers of a conference on Ian Fleming at Indiana University in 2003. The University’s Lilly Rare Library purchased Ian Fleming’s entire library in the 1970s, including his papers, the literature he owned, naval and military histories and unpublished and little-known works.

“For people interested in Fleming, the Lilly Library has become a depository of great interest,” Watt said. “Fleming was an extremely literate man, a collector of high modernist work. I think he was an excellent writer. He was a great craftsman and his prose style, though be it fairly direct and simple, is interesting. And certainly he was writing from a pretty intense knowledge of some exotic cities.”

“I think he holds up pretty well in the context of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler,” Watt said.

Watt explained that the English Department and the Lilly Library sponsored the conference, which attracted academics, historians, scholars and writers. Watt explained that one group took the position that if you don’t know anything about Britain during the Cold War, you don’t know anything about Fleming and the audience for whom he wrote these novels, and there was a second group, a series of younger scholars, who said they were not interested in the novels, they were only interested in the way the characters evolved on film.

Watt, a scholar of Anglo-Irish culture, whose major interests are 19th and 20th Century Irish culture, has published books on James Joyce and Sean O’Casey and a book on Samuel Beckett. He also considers himself a scholar on Fleming and he teaches a course on Cold War culture that includes Fleming in the 1950s and 60s.

Watt said that as the Connery era grew, the films became less and less reliant on the novels and by the time Connery came back for Diamonds Are Forever and Roger Moore assumed the role, they left the novels behind. Watt said he was glad the producers were returning to the novels as a source for the newest film. 

“The novel Casino Royale is extremely interesting, extraordinarily sinister and very dark,” Watt said. “Casino Royale has never been given its proper due. As the first Bond novel and one of the darker Bond novels, it never received anything resembling an adequate film treatment.”

“I think Craig will turn out to be an excellent choice. Terrorism is a huge, serious, important issue - much more important than 25 years ago when Roger Moore was cavorting around – and the James Bond of today has to be a tough guy, a serious guy.”

He saw Dr No and From Russia With Love on their original theatrical release in the United Kingdom , but Graham Rye said it wasn’t until he saw Goldfinger in 1964 that he was inspired to read the Fleming novels. He was so hooked, he said, that his interest in Bond has been his career for more than 25 years.

“I think the success of both the books and the films are down to both appearing at just the right time in a historical sense,” said Rye , who is the editor and publisher of 007 MAGAZINE OnLine (http://www.007magazine.co.uk/) and the author of The James Bond Girls.

“In 1953 when Jonathan Cape published Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale, Great Britain was still going through post-war doldrums; it was a very grey time,” Rye explained. “Fleming’s books achieved just the right strength cocktail of exotic sex, violence and adventure to lift the reader out of the harsh realities of everyday life and into the pages with his hero secret agent James Bond.”

Rye went on to say that after all the kitchen-sink/social dramas and neo-realism of British cinema of the Forties and Fifties, film producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman came together at exactly the right time to form a partnership in cinema that remains unequaled to this day.

“Their partnership developed a series of films that have brought untold happiness to billions of people around the world, and still do, and wealth to many of the creative participants in the most enduring film franchise of all time,” Rye said. “I think the world has a lot to be thankful for from Messrs Fleming, Broccoli and Saltzman. Not to mention a certain Scottish knight – Sean Connery!”

 “There has only ever really been one actor for me who was and will forever remain James Bond – Sean Connery,” Rye said. “Other actors have put in some good performances as Bond, but the gap between them and Sean as Bond is the Grand Canyon.”

Rye said that George Lazenby could have grown into a Bond who would have given Connery competition, judging by his first and only outing in 1969’s On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Rye believes the film is the best overall depiction of Fleming’s Bond in the film series, due mostly the film’s director Peter Hunt, and it’s his favorite Bond film and book.

“Roger Moore could never take playing Bond seriously, which was fine by me because I could never take Roger Moore playing Bond seriously, and for the following seven films over the next 12 years I’m afraid my interest in the Bond film series reached an all-time low,” Rye said.

Rye said that Timothy Dalton’s fresh new approach to the Bond role in 1987’s The Living Daylights won him and the series many new fans in a debut that Rye felt was as exciting as it was impressive. Unfortunately, Rye said this all fell apart in his second Bond picture, 1989’s Licence To Kill. Rye explained that the six-year delay between Bond pictures caused by legal wrangles between EON Productions and the financing studio MGM, made it clear that EON should search for a new Bond actor for their 17th film.

Pierce Brosnan, who ironically lost out to Dalton in the role for The Living Daylights, took over as Bond in the 1995 GoldenEye. Rye said the film made significantly more than its predecessor, but was far less impressive.

“Brosnan became christened MGM’s ‘Billion Dollar Bond’ in all the trade ads, before eventually being unceremoniously dumped by the producers after the huge financial success, but almost universal panning, of 2002’s Die Another Day,” Rye said.

Rye believes that Daniel Craig will make an excellent Bond. Noting that the world has changed almost beyond recognition in his lifetime, and since Dr. No in 1962, the 44-year life cycle of the series of films has reflected the changing world in which they are made, so it seems sensible to Rye to “reboot” the character for the 21st century-style of film making.

“While not all of this new turn of affairs is to my own personal taste, Bond is bigger than anyone and will no doubt continue to live on beyond many lifetimes,” Rye said. “I certainly hope so because it has given me a great deal of fun and excitement and I’d like to think kids of the future will have the same chance to see and enjoy this wonderful series of films and read Ian Fleming’s novels.”

I agree with Rye, but differ on his assessment of License To Kill, which I very much liked. I liked that the film took material from Fleming's novels, such as the bait warehouse scene in Florida. I especially liked Robert Davi as the drug kingpin villain. And I also liked Dalton's portrayal of Bond. In my view, he offers the second best Bond portrayal in the series, with Connery, of course, being the best.

Now a new generation will be reading the Fleming novels in part due to the new film and in part to the re-issue of the novels by Penguin Press’s Modern Classics.

“Ian Fleming has shaped British sensibilities now for over half a century and by almost any standard the Bond novels have to be viewed as modern classics,” said Simon Winder, the publishing director of Penguin Press and the author of The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond, a humorous look at the Bond phenomenon.

“At a time when many of his contemporaries from the 1950s have dropped from view, Ian Fleming's invention, thanks to the overwhelming success of the films, continues to resonate in a world fantastically different from the one in which Bond was invented.”

Winder ran Penguin Modern Classics and was involved in buying the rights for Penguin to publish the Bond novels. He said it struck him as both provocative and correct to put the Fleming novels in the series.

“Fleming is one of the three great 1950s visionaries in British literature--together with Arthur C. Clarke and J R R Tolkien - all despised at the time as 'genre' writers, but who have between them had an incalculable effect on world literature, while their notionally more serious contemporaries have almost faded from sight,” Winder said.

Winder said he wrote his book on Fleming and Bond as he was trying to make sense of his own experience – that of a fan in the early 1970s, who at age ten, first watched Live and Let Die.

“I thought it was the pinnacle of sophistication, only to realize as an adult that it was rubbish,” Winder said. “The book takes this point to go back over Ian Fleming's life, the books and the early films to pick apart, in a jokey way, what made them tick.”

“Bond sprung into being in the 1950s because Britain was in a sort of horrible free-fall - the empire falling to bits, the economy in tatters, no real friends, and run by a gang of weird gentlemen with no real vision of how to get out of the mess.”

Bond was invented by Fleming, Winder explained, to reassure the British that while the day-to-day reality was a humiliating fiasco, in secret they were still saving the world. This struck him as an amusing, though admittedly not entirely original, perception and the book plays with this idea through Fleming's life, through the books and the films.

Winder said that he would like to see the producers remake Live and Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, and the other poor Bond films, with the second try being more faithful to the Fleming novels in the way Casino Royale has promised to be. I agree.

“Daniel Craig seems to be really good - he was terrifically nasty in Munich and has a sort of fish-eyed menace which certainly gives him the potential,” Winder said.

I was initially displeased with the choice of Craig, thinking that Clive Owen was the only young actor to fit Fleming’s physical description and who could deliver a Bond comparable to Connery’s Bond. Having now seen the film, I still think Owen would have been the better choice, but I was pleased with Craig’s portrayal and the film.

Although I would have preferred the film to be a period piece set in Bond’s true time – the 1950s and early 60s – and I truly miss John Barry’s music, the producers did a fine job of updating the plot from the threat of post-WWII communism to the threat of modern terrorism. The film is fast-paced, gripping and intelligent. The introduction of Bond, pre-00 status, was very clever, as was the ending of the film, which made one anxious for the next film.

The producers believe that Craig has the right stuff to play Bond truer to Fleming’s character and have enough faith in him that even before the film’s release, they announced that he will reprise the role in the 22nd Bond film, which will released on May 2, 2008, the year of the centenary of Fleming’s birth.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, which is run by Fleming’s family, has commissioned a well-known author to write a new James Bond novel, marking the centenary. The author will be kept a secret until the publication.

“There will be a broad range of events and publications designed to celebrate the life of this literary legend and to examine his legacy,” Corinne Turner of Ian Fleming Publications said. “The program includes a major exhibition featuring never-before-seen material and events will reflect Fleming’s passions and experiences in the worlds of art, literature, journalism, sport, motoring and travel.”

“The Ian Fleming Centenary presents an exciting opportunity to celebrate an extraordinary life,” Turner said. “The Bond novels are, however, just one aspect of a fascinating life that combined the flamboyant elements of 007 with a unique creativity. Fleming was not only a novelist, but also a journalist, sportsman, naval commander, traveler, intelligence officer and bon-viveur.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dead Man Floating: World War II's oddest espionage and deception operation

I just heard an NPR All Things Considered interview with Ben Macintyre (seen in the below photo), the author of Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.

The plan, which originated from an idea by Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming (before he wrote the James Bond thrillers) and his boss, the Director of British Naval Intelligence, Admiral John Godfrey (the model for M in the James Bond stories), was to plant a corpse with an invented personal history as a Royal Marine officer on the Nazis during World War II.

The corpse, which had bogus classified papers on him indicating that the allies were about to attack Greece, rather than the true target, Sicily. The Nazis took the bait and reinforced Greece, taking vital defensive troops from Sicily.

This deception saved countless allied lives in the invasion of Sicily.

You can listen to the interview via the below link:


The below photos are of the planted corpse, "Major Martin," Commander Ian Fleming, Royal Air Force Major Charles Cholmondeley & Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu.

You can read an earlier post on Operation Mincemeat via the below link:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Crime Beat Column: Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Crime-Fighting In Three Cities By America's Top Cop, John Timoney

John Timoney, the man Esquire magazine called “America’s Top Cop,’ has written a book about his experiences commanding police forces in New York City, Philadelphia and Miami.

The book is called Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities (University of Penn Press).

Although Timoney rose from a patrolman to become the youngest four-star chief in the history of the New York Police Department, he was not asked to be the police commissioner. In 1998 Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell asked Timoney to come 90 miles south to become Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, making him the city’s top cop.

So speaking before an audience of about 100 people on April 11th at the Philadelphia Free Library in Center City, Timoney said it was appropriate that he was kicking off his national book tour in Philadelphia.

I was in the audience that night as Timoney said that unlike many cops who say they always wanted to be a police officer, he didn’t want to be a policeman. He said he didn’t much like cops as a child growing up in Dublin, Ireland or later in Washington Heights, New York City.

“Like parents and teachers, they told you all the things you couldn’t do, and they arbitrarily took stickball bats from you on 175th Street just because Mrs. Randolph was complaining we were hitting her window,” Timoney told the amused audience at the library.

Timoney went on to say that he followed a group of friends who all took the police exam in 1967 and entered the NYPD. While he initially didn’t like being a police officer, he said that after some weeks he began what was up to now a 40-year love affair with the police profession.

Timoney added that he was also fortunate to live through some tumultuous times and he saw the process of much social change over those 40 years.

I first met Timoney outside his office at Philadelphia Police Headquarters - the place old-time cops, crooks and Philly residents called the "Roundhouse" due to its circular structure.

On assignment for Counterterrorism magazine, I was on my way to interview then-First Deputy Commissioner Sylvester Johnson about “Operation Sunrise,” a major Philly police, DEA and FBI counter-drug operation in “the Badlands” of North Philadelphia.

Timoney was talking in the hall to then-Chief Inspector Patricia Giorgio-Fox, the commander of the South Police Division. I knew the South Philly chief inspector, as I wrote a column for a South Philly weekly newspaper at the time.

She said hello and introduced me to Timoney. Although Timoney is critical of the press and he has had some difficulty with the press over the years, he is very smooth and personable with reporters.

I would later see Timoney at South Philly and Center City community meetings, at crime scenes, and at CompStat meetings held at the Philadelphia Police Academy. I also witnessed him dealing with rioting street protesters during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000.

Many hard-core protest groups came to the city with the intent to disrupt the convention and to cause general mayhem. Timoney decided not to deploy officers in full riot gear as he believed the look was provocative. Instead, he opted to use the city’s bike cops, who wore their standard bike helmets and rode Raleigh Mountain bikes.

The protesters knew that the city’s convention center in South Philadelphia was heavily protected, so they opted to take their disruptive demonstrations to the Center City restaurants and hotels were the delegates were staying.

On Tuesday night of the week of the convention, nearly 300 protesters were arrested as they overturned trash dumpsters, defaced buildings and police cars and assaulted police officers. Chemicals and urine were also tossed on some of the officers. Timoney was out on the street on a bike and he and another officer scuffled with a group of protesters.

I was there, covering the protests for Counterterorism magazine, and I witnessed how Timoney led the police response to the violence organized by the protesters.

I saw how the police effectively used their bikes to move quickly in and out of crowds. The bikes were also used as barriers when the officers turned them sideways and held them waist-high.

The mountain bikes were also a useful tool to ram, prod and herd the unruly and violent protesters. The bikes were used much like earlier police and military forces used a more deadly tool - bayonets.
I was impressed with Timoney’s leadership of the police that week.

That is not to say that I subscribe to all of Timoney’s views. I disagree with his view on gun control. Timoney believes that strict gun control can control crime. Strict gun control in Chicago has hardly curbed violence, as the government’s ban on drugs has hardly curbed illegal drug sales and use.

Although initially I wanted a commissioner promoted from within the Philadelphia Police Department, as did the police rank-and-file, I came to believe Timoney was a very good police commissioner. I was sorry to see him leave Philadelphia.

“Ecce facies! Behold the face!” author Tom Wolfe wrote in his introduction to Timoney’s book.

“That face, belonging to John Timoney, now chief of the Miami Police Department, has become a legend in its own time.”

“According to the legend, Timoney never had to draw a weapon to arrest a felon and take him in. He just gave him a good look at…that face…and even the most obtuse and poisonous viper became a mewling little pussy… and that face became a legend in its own time.”

Wolfe went on to write that he meet Timoney when he had risen to Inspector, the third highest rank in the NYPD. Four years later, Wolfe writes, Timoney would become, at age forty-five, the youngest four-star chief in the department’s history.

“Even someone in the grandstand, like me, could read the lines incised in that face, punctuated by a blunt nose, and immediately make out the words “tough Irish cop,” Wolfe wrote.

Wolfe, a great journalist and novelist, wrote a fine introduction to Timoney’s book.

In the book Timoney writes of his early days as a patrolman and his steady rise to high rank in the department. The 1970s were a tough time to be a cop and perhaps it was even tougher to be a police supervisor and commander. I especially enjoyed the account of his time as the captain of the Chinatown precinct.

Timoney’s observations and insights into crime fighting and police management are thoughtful and serious, but he also adds a dash of good humor. Serving under Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, Timoney and the rest of the command staff instituted radical means of fighting crime, including CompStat and other initiatives that drastically reduced crime in New York.

His account of his time as the Philadelphia Police Commissioner interested me the most. I know some of the people he writes about and I was interested in his impressions of them and of Philadelphia. He writes about quickly identifying the department’s problems and making sweeping personnel and policy changes. He also writes about the cases, issues, events and his missteps of his time here.
Timoney left Philadelphia in early 2002 to take a job in private security, but a year later he was back in uniform as Miami’s Police Chief.

Miami held a new set of issues and problems, including the accusation that his used his position to receive a favorable lease of a Lexus SUV from a local car dealer. Timoney explains the situation and how it was resolved.

When a new mayor was elected in 2009, Timoney resigned as the chief of police. He is now working for a private security firm.

“I have learned more from my mistakes than I have from my successes,” Timoney wrote in the book. “That doesn’t mean mistakes are good. Mistakes are bad, but they do teach.”

Timoney’s book outlines both his successes and mistakes in policing three cities. Timoney has led an interesting life and he has written an interesting book.

Note: You can read my interview with John Timoney in Counterterrorism magazine via the below link:


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of All Who Threaten It: How The Navy Protects America

It's Navy Week in Milwaukee, an unusual notion in a city nearly a thousand miles from the nearest coastal Navy base, writes Rear Admiral Gerard Beaman in The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Beaman (seen in the above photo) went on to write about how the U.S. Navy is important to our security today and lists how the Navy protects us.
You can read Beaman's piece via the below link:
Below are photos illustrating some of the ways the U.S. Navy protects America: aircraft carriers, submarines, Navy SEALs, guided missile cruisers and Navy aircraft.


Before I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War and a Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland after the war, I went to Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Illinois in 1970.
I visited Milwaukee on liberty from Boot Camp and I recall that I had a fine time there.
I'm proud of my service in the U.S. Navy and I'm proud of the young men and women who are serving in the U.S. Navy today. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My On Crime & Security Column: How To Guard Against Professionals Burglars

The online small business magazine Businessknowhow.com published my On Crime & Security column today.

The column covers the recent federal conviction of a professional burglar and offered some tips on how to guard against burglars like him.

You can read my column via the below link:


Monday, June 7, 2010

Two South Philly vets from the famed Band of Brothers are fighting for Normandy momument to Major Dick Winters and D-Day leadership

Two South Philly World War II veterans, William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron, of Band of Brothers fame, are now fighting to have a monument built for their former commander, Major Dick Winters (seen in the below photo), and the leadership of the American troops at Normandy on D-Day.

You can read Edward Colimore's piece on Wild Bill and Babe at The Philadelphia Inquirer via the below link:


Guarnere and Heffron tell their story of war and friendship in a book called Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt admitted "I should have been Shot"

Duncan Gardham in the British newspaper The Telegraph reports that British spy Anthony Blunt, one of the infamous Cambridge communist spies, admitted that he should have been shot for what he did.
I quite agree.
You can read Gardham's piece via the below link: