Monday, December 31, 2012

Award Buoys Novelist Elmore Leonard To Write Again

Kurt Anthony King at Reuters offers a piece on one of my favorite writers, the great crime novelist Elmore Leonard.

As he struggled writing his forthcoming book, "Blue Dreams," best-selling American author Elmore Leonard thought his 47th novel would probably be his last.

Then, inspiration came in the form of a medallion.

Leonard won the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in November, joining such U.S. literary luminaries as Toni Morrison, John Updike, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.

Now, the award has given Leonard, 87, the vigor and motivation to write at least two more books, he told Reuters in an interview at his home in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, in suburban Detroit.

"I don't have any reason to quit," he said. "I still enjoy writing."

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Questions For Gun Controllers

Rich Lowry at the National Review asks gun controllers some good questions.

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, a call has gone up for a conversation about our gun laws. To that end, here are questions for advocates of gun control who are pushing for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, among other new restrictions, to address school shootings.
What’s the functional difference between an assault weapon and a semiautomatic rifle? You do understand that the answer is “nothing”? An assault weapon is not an automatic weapon. It is semiautomatic like most guns now sold in the United States, i.e., it fires every time the trigger is pulled. What sets it apart is its scary-looking features.

What’s more powerful, the Bushmaster .223 used by Adam Lanza in his slaughter or the average deer-hunting rifle? If the answer is the average deer-hunting rifle — indeed, many states ban the Bushmaster .223 for deer hunting because it is too weak — will you attempt to ban them, too?
What gun law would have stopped Newtown? Please be specific.

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

Armed Teachers, Guards Bolster School Security In Israel

Although many commentators have scoffed at the NRA's idea of using armed teachers and guards in schools, Greg Tepper at offers a look at how Israel uses this concept in school security.

Americans intent on ensuring a school massacre like the one in Newtown, Conn., never happens again could learn a lot from Israel, where the long menu of precautions includes armed teachers.

The Jewish state, which has long faced threats of terrorist strikes in crowded locations including schools, takes an all-of-the-above approach to safety in the classroom. Fences, metal detectors and armed private guards are part of a strategy overseen by the country’s national police. And the idea of armed teachers in the classroom, which stirred much controversy in the wake of the U.S. attack, has long been in practice in Israel, though a minority of them carry weapons today.

Oren Shemtov, CEO of Israel’s Academy of Security and Investigation, noted that attacks typically happen in a matter of minutes, and said gun-toting teachers could, at the very least, buy time for kids to escape while police race to the scene.

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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

RIP To Cowboy Actor Harry Carey, Jr.

The British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a good piece on the death of actor Harry Carey, Jr.

The Daily Mail also offers some good photos of the old cowboy. 

Harry Carey appeared in several of John Ford's classic Western films, appearing alongside John Wayne, Ward Bond, Pedro Armendariz, Ben Johnson and the other great actors in Ford's so-called stock company.

Carey, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, also appeared in one of my favorite more recent Westerns, Tombstone.

By all accounts, Carey was a fine man as well as a fine actor.

Western character actor Harry Carey, Jr. died on Thursday aged 91. 

His daughter Melinda confirmed that he passed away from natural causes surrounded by family at a hospice facility in Santa Barbara, California. 

She said on Friday: 'He went out as graceful as he came in.' 

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

You can also watch the trailer for 3 Godfathers via the below link:

Note: Harry Carey appears in the center of the above movie poster between John Wayne and Pedro Armendariz.

Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy: What I learned

Cal Fussman at offers an interesting piece on a Wisconsin police officer who was shot 15 times and lived to tell what he learned.

It was the most ordinary of Sunday mornings. That's a word you don't want to use in police language — every cop will tell you that. Don't ever come in and say, "Gee, it's quiet." Then dispatch said there'd been a report of possible shots fired at the Sikh temple. Listening on the radio to where everybody else was coming from, I knew I was going to arrive first.

There's a very long driveway that goes in off the main avenue to the temple. My thought was Shut off your lights and siren just before you get there. Pull in quiet. Park sideways, give yourself some cover just in case. We have AR-15's in the squad car. But there was a malfunction with the switch that releases the AR-15. That's Murphy's Law. If I'd had that semiautomatic rifle...

Anyway, when I pull up, I see two guys lying on the ground. There's a ballistic shield in the back of the car. I should've grabbed the shield. But I wasn't thinking that way. When I came upon the men, I went straight to them to see if I could save them. I got within ten feet. Two male subjects, one lying on top of the other. Top subject, his eyes were open. They were fixed. Both guys looked deceased to me. At that point, I thought, I'm gonna try to get that AR-15 out of the car.

As I started, I caught a movement out of the side of my eye. A guy was running in front of the temple. He wasn't Indian. He wasn't Sikh. He had no headgear. He was a white male, wearing a white shirt. He was all inked up, and he had a holster on his right side. I knew that was the guy. No question.

He's running to his truck, which is in the parking lot. I already had my gun out. I raised up, yelled at him to stop. His hand came up. We probably shot at the same time. The distance was thirty to forty yards. I missed. He hit me right in the chin. It felt like a hell of a punch to the face and it ripped up my larynx.

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

CIA's Global Response Staff Emerging From Shadows After Incidents In Libya And Pakistan

Greg Miller and Julie Tate at the Washington Post Post offer an interesting piece on the CIA's Global Response Staff.

The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA’s ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency’s defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

But a series of deadly scrapes over the past four years has illuminated the GRS’s expanding role, as well as its emerging status as one of the CIA’s most dangerous assignments.

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

President, Defense Leaders Praise General Schwarzkopf's Service, Legacy

Below is an American Forces Press Service release:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2012 - President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen, Martin E. Dempsey praised the service and legacy of retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who passed away yesterday at age 78.

Schwarzkopf was a Vietnam veteran and one of the architects of the western flanking movement that helped to defeat the Iraqi army during the Gulf War in early 1991. As the commander of U.S. Central Command, Schwarzkopf led the international coalition assembled by then-President George H.W. Bush that expelled Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
The four-star general and West Point graduate retired in August 1991 after 35 years of Army service. Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Fla., of complications from pneumonia, according to press reports.

Obama saluted Schwarzkopf's service in a statement issued yesterday.

"With the passing of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, we've lost an American original," Obama stated. "From his decorated service in Vietnam to the historic liberation of Kuwait and his leadership of United States Central Command, Gen. Schwarzkopf stood tall for the country and Army he loved. Our prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family, who tonight can know that his legacy will endure in a nation that is more secure because of his patriotic service."

Panetta also honored the general.

"The men and women of the Department of Defense join me in mourning the loss of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, whose 35 years of service in uniform left an indelible imprint on the United States military and on the country," Panetta said in a statement released yesterday. "The son of a decorated Army officer, Gen. Schwarzkopf followed his father's legacy of service by enrolling in West Point in the 1950s."

"His bravery during two tours in Vietnam earned him three silver stars, and set him on the path to lead our troops into battle in Grenada, and then to take charge of the overall allied effort in the first Gulf War as Commander of United States Central Command," Panetta continued. "Gen. Schwarzkopf's skilled leadership of that campaign liberated the Kuwaiti people and produced a decisive victory for the allied coalition. In the aftermath of that war, Gen. Schwarzkopf was justly recognized as a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader."

"Today, we recall that enduring legacy and remember him as one of the great military giants of the 20th century. My thoughts and prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family in this time of sadness and grief," Panetta concluded.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said in a statement released yesterday that he "was saddened to learn today of the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, a fellow West Point graduate, former Centcom commander and one of the 20th century's finest soldiers and leaders. I join the civilian and military leaders of our country, and servicemen and women, past and present, in mourning his death."

"Gen. Schwarzkopf embodied the warrior spirit, serving with distinction in three conflicts over his 35 years of dedicated service," Dempsey said. "The hallmark of his remarkable career was the swift and decisive victory over Saddam Hussein's forces after they invaded Kuwait."

"The thoughts and prayers of the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Force are with Gen. Schwarzkopf's family and friends," he concluded.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno released a joint statement on Schwarzkopf's passing:

"Our nation has lost a soldier and statesman with the passing of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. Our prayers are with his family as we honor the memories of a man dedicated to family, his country and the many soldiers he led in war and peace. His life story touches on much of the fabric of our nation's story, ensuring his memory will remain with us for generations. Our nation owes a great debt of gratitude to Gen. Schwarzkopf and our soldiers will hold a special place in their hearts for this great leader. While much will be written in coming days of his many accomplishments, his most lasting and important legacies are the tremendous soldiers he trained and led."

Schwarzkopf is survived by his wife, Brenda, and children Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.

Note: Retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf gives an acceptance speech after receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Patriot Award during a ceremony in Shreveport, La., Sept. 12, 2002. The Patriot Award is the society's highest award, presented to a distinguished American who exemplifies the ideals that make the United States strong. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael A. Kaplan 

My Crime Beat Column: My Q & A With Sharpe Creator Bernard Cornwell

I was introduced to Bernard Cornwell’s Napoleonic-era, fictional British soldier Richard Sharpe when PBS aired the British TV series Sharpe's Rifles in America many years ago. I watched the series again a few years ago on BBC America, and I went out and bought one of the books and read it. I was hooked. I’ve now read the entire series and a few of Cornwell’s other books as well.

As a student of espionage, I enjoyed the books because espionage plays a significant part in the series with Sharpe often playing the role of spy and counter-spy.

I contacted the author and spoke to him. Below is my Q &A with Bernard Cornwell:

Davis: Richard Sharpe is a rogue, but he is also honorable and heroic. Can you describe Sharpe?

Cornwell: Basically, Sharpe is a villain, but he’s on our side. Obviously, the genesis of Sharpe was Hornblower (C.S. Forester’s fictional naval hero). I’ve always loved the Hornblower stories. I was looking for an interesting name like Hornblower but I couldn’t find one, so I named him after my rugby hero. The name stuck. I wanted him to come up from the ranks because that would give him problems, although many officers came up through the ranks. The idea that British officers were aristocrats is complete rubbish. You had to buy your commission and most were what we would call middle class.

Davis: Was Sharpe based on a real person in history?

Cornwell: Not at all, though his promotions are based on a real guy - Trooper Ellery, a cavalryman, obviously, who rose from trooper to lieutenant colonel in the same time span as Sharpe.

Davis: What compelled you to write a series about the Napoleonic Wars, the Duke of Wellington and a fictional light infantry officer up from the ranks?

Cornwell: The need to make money! I was a producer in television and I'd immigrated to the States because of a blond - I'm still married to her - and the U.S. Government in it's wisdom refused me a green card, so I airily told Judy "I'll write a book." I always knew that i wanted to write a "Hornblower-on-land" series. It struck me as strange back in 1979 that a couple of writers were doing really well with Napoleonic naval series in C.S. Forester's wake, but no one was writing about the army. It struck me as a gap on the bookshelf. I'd long had a fascination with Wellington and his army, so the fit was natural.

Davis: Do you feel that espionage and intelligence is a vital aspect of warfare and does espionage play a significant role in your other series of books as well?

Cornwell: Yes, maybe the most important. Espionage is an integral part of warfare, so, yes, it plays a significant role in my other books.

Davis: Espionage plays an important part in your series, as you have Sharpe undertake intelligence and espionage missions for Major Michael Hogan, an exploring officer. What was an exploring officer and what role did Hogan play for Wellington in your novels?

Cornwell: The exploring officers were just that - officers who, mounted on very good horses, rode behind enemy lines to explore their dispositions. They wore uniforms so that, if captured, they could not be considered spies. Colquhoun Grant was the most famous, of course, but Wellington had several. Hogan really is not an exploring officer; he's based more on George Scovell. Read The Man Who Broke Napoleon's Codes by Mark Urban. Hogan probably had more responsibility than Scovell. If Wellington didn't have a Hogan, he should have, so I invented him. My favorite tale of Colquhoun Grant is that after his capture, the French refused to parole him. He escaped their custody and fled to Paris where he lived for three months, openly wearing his uniform! When asked what uniform it was, he replied that it was the United States Army! He got away with it too.

Davis: Why do you often pull Sharpe from the battlefield and send him on intelligence missions?

Cornwell: I tell adventure stories and espionage offers plenty of scope for betrayal, murder and mayhem.

Davis: Your books have so many vivid characters in addition to Sharpe. I particularly like your villain Sgt. Hakeswill. He was a great character.

Cornwell: It was stupid to kill him off.

Davis: During the Napoleonic era the British were very good at spying, were they not?

Cornwell: The British ran a very sophisticated secret service that stretched right across Europe, quite apart from Wellington's military intelligence.

Davis: Did it help Wellington that the French were hated by the Spanish and the Portuguese who provided him intelligence?

Cornwell: Definitely, the entire population was on his side. If anything, there was simply too much intelligence coming in.

Davis: How important was intelligence to Wellington and his successes?

Cornwell: Huge! He had spies throughout occupied Spain. The partisans brought him captured dispatches, often still blood-stained, and he had sources inside France. The intelligence network was amazing, and it has never been adequately described. There was a tailor who worked at Irun, the town through which all French troops passed on their way to the war. The tailor worked on his doorstep, counted every man, horse and gun that passed his house, which was on the main road, and within days his reports were in Wellington's hands. Wellington probably knew more about the French than they did themselves.

Davis: What was the Duke of Wellington truly like, and how significant were his accomplishments?

Cornwell: He's brilliant. He's intelligent. He's a snob. He's too cold to his men and he had no small talk, but they were extremely loyal to him because they knew he did best to preserve their lives, unlike Napoleon. Wellington had an uncanny ability to spot ground, and he had a feel for what was on the other side of the hill. He stays calm in battle. He's cautious, but capable of sudden flamboyant movements, such as the attack at Salamanca. In the end, he's the only general who was capable of defeating Napoleon, albeit a close run thing. So, with Admiral Nelson, he's the begetter of Europe in the 19th Century.

Davis: You admire Wellington, clearly, and you offer a fine portrait of him in the Sharpe series, but what do you think of Napoleon?

Cornwell: I don't like the man. He was so careless with his men's lives. he said scornfully "What are a million men to me?" Napoleon was one of those generals, a bit like Patton, who really didn't care how many of his men got killed as long as he got his victory. He was a very ruthless man. He wanted to be the next Alexander the Great. He also had extraordinary charm and he was a fascinating man. He was a dangerous man because he was in love with war. Wellington was never in love with war. He didn't like war. Wars had to be fought, you had to do it well, you had to win, but it was not by itself a good thing. For Napoleon, war was a good thing, an exciting thing. I think that was the difference between them.

Davis: Are you fond of the Sharpe TV series and how do you feel about Sean Bean's portrayal of Richard Sharpe?

Cornwell: I love both.

Davis: You've said that you're not an historian, you're a storyteller, a novelist, but how accurate are the major historical events in your novels?

Cornwell: I try to make them as accurate as possible, but the story takes precedence, so I do change things, but I confess my sins in the Historical Note at the book's end. The obvious example is in Sharpe's Company. No British soldier got through the breaches at Badajoz - the feint excalade on the castle worked, against all odds - but the drama of that awful night was in the breaches. And so Sharpe had to be there, and if Sharpe is there he will get through the breach. So I changed reality for fiction, but I confessed afterwards.

Davis: Lastly, do you plan to write more about Sharpe?

Cornwell: Definitely.

Note: The above column originally appeared in in 2009.

My Crime Beat Column: My Q & A With Ben Macintyre, Author of "For Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming & James Bond"

This is truly Ian Fleming’s year. Fleming, who was born 100 years ago on May 28, 1908, is being given the royal treatment in the United Kingdom, the U.S., and around the world. For some months I’ve been reading a good number of newspaper, magazine and Internet articles on Fleming and his iconic character, James Bond.

As regular readers of this column know, I’m a true Fleming aficionado, so I’m pleased that Fleming is getting the attention and respect I believe he truly deserves.

To celebrate the Fleming centenary Penguin is releasing a new collection of his short stories as well as his novels. His children’s story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is also being released in a new hardback edition. Ian Fleming Publications, which is run by the Fleming family, has authorized two series of peripheral Bond stories. Charlie Higson has written a series of Young Bond novels, and Samantha Weinberg has written The Moneypenny Diaries. The family has also hired a "literary" author, Sebastian Faulks, to write a Bond continuation novel called Devil May Care. I’m set to review the continuation novel for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I’ve always been interested in Fleming’s wartime experience, so I’m looking forward to the publication Ian Fleming’s Secret War in August. According to the publisher, Pen & Sword Military, little is known about Fleming’s contribution during WWII. Fleming joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of WWII and he served as "the right hand man" to the Director of Naval Intelligence for six years. From the outset, the publisher notes, Fleming was at the center of events, meeting key political and military figures as well as those of exceptional intelligence, experience and courage. This experience gave him invaluable background when he came to write the Bond novels.

According to the publisher, the book’s author, Craig Caber, has uncovered through official documentation, private papers and contacts the depth of Fleming’s work in wartime naval intelligence.

There is also talk of a film based on Fleming’s life. Leonardo Dicaprio’s film production company has the rights, but I can only hope that he doesn’t choose to portray Fleming.

This October we’ll see the 22nd film in the Bond series, Quantum of Solace. Although Daniel Craig does not fit Fleming’s physical description of Bond (I believe that Clive Owen would have been a better choice), his first outing as Bond in Casino Royale was well received by both critics and the public.

The film producers wisely returned to Fleming’s original material and made a thriller rather than a cartoon, which many of the later films were in my view. The producers claim the next film will also be an exciting thriller.

The new editions of Fleming’s work, the continuation novel, and the film Quantum of Solace will no doubt create new James Bond fans and remind his many older fans that Fleming was a first rate thriller writer.

The British are honoring Fleming with Royal Mail stamps and the Imperial War Museum in London is marking the Fleming centenary with a major exhibition that explores his life and influences that guided him in his creation of his famous character James Bond. Fleming’s father died in combat in WWI and his younger brother died in combat in WWII. Considering his family’s sacrifices and his own military experience, Fleming, I think, would be proud of the exhibition honoring him at the Imperial War Museum.

Ben Macintyre (seen in the below photo), a writer at large for The Times of London, and author of Agent Zigzag and The Napoleon of Crime (two outstanding books in my view) has written a companion book to the Imperial War Museum exhibition called For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming & James Bond (Bloomsbury, USA).

As Macintyre wrote in his introduction, the book was published to coincide with the exhibition. The book is homage to Ian Fleming on the centenary of the author’s birth, and a celebration of James Bond, his greatest creation.

"It is not a biography –others, notably John Pearson and Andrew Lycett, have already performed that task admirably – nor is it a biography of James Bond, for that, too, has been written," Macintyre states in the introduction.

"It does not purport to be a comprehensive guide to the James Bond phenomenon (for this, I recommend Henry Chancellor’s official companion). Rather, it is a personal investigation into the intersection of two lives, one real and one fictional."

Macintyre went on to state that as a journalist and writer of non-fiction, he had always been intrigued by the factual origins of fiction. His previous books were in search of the nineteenth-century criminal Adam Worth, the model for Professor Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes tales, and Josiah Harlan, an adventurer who would win literary immortality in Rudyard Kipling’s short story The Man Who Would Be King.

"All novelists find inspiration in reality, but Ian Fleming, more than any writer I know, anchored the imagined world of James Bond to the people, things and places he knew," Macintyre wrote.

Espionage is itself a shadow trade between truth and untruth and is a complex interweaving of imagination, deception and reality, Macintyre noted.

"As a former officer in naval intelligence, Fleming thought like a spy, and wrote like one. This book is an attempt to explore a remarkable double life and to establish, as nearly as possible, where the real world of Ian Fleming ended and the fictional world of James Bond begins."

I contacted Ben Macintyre and arranged an interview. Below is my Q &A with him:

DAVIS: To begin with, why did the Imperial War Museum offer a tribute to Ian Fleming?

MACINTYRE: The IWM exhibition is to mark the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth; more broadly I think the Fleming family and the museum felt there was mileage in drawing more attention to Fleming’s wartime past and its role in the development of the Bond books.

DAVIS: What drew you to write the companion book? Where you a fan of the novels and/or the films?

MACINTYRE: I have always been a fan, but was asked by the family, partly because of Agent Zigzag and partly because of articles I have written in the past about Bond and Fleming.

DAVIS: Did you find Fleming to be as interesting a subject as Adam Worth or Eddie Chapman?

MACINTYRE: In truth, though Fleming is a complex and interesting character, I got great pleasure in exploring characters who are less well known, and finding out about them or the first time, as it were.

DAVIS: Can you describe how Fleming was inspired by his late father who died in WWI and his own military service in WWII?

MACINTYRE: Val Fleming is a large part of the Bond myth. His early tragic death and gallantry provide, I think, the template for the Bond character. Fleming’s wartime service is critical: plots, characters, events, gadgets, places and politics all flow directly from that war. Bond is very much a World War II personality, fighting a Cold War.

DAVIS: How did his work in journalism play a role in his novels?

MACINTYRE: His ability to write to deadline, to get the facts right, and ensure a pacey narrative can all be traced directly to his early journalistic training.

DAVIS: I've read critics who state that Bond is a cardboard character with no motivation, but I see Ian Fleming as a patriot and believe Bond's main motivation is patriotism (as well as a love of adventure). Do you agree?

MACINTYRE: I do agree, although the somewhat veiled motives of Bond are part of appeal in the books: he is supposed to be a blunt instrument, and we are not really intended to be privy to his personal feelings about anything.

DAVIS: Many people find his novels and the films to be utterly fantastic, but you've noted that his plots, as well as his characters, were in fact based on reality. Can you explain this?

MACINTYRE: Fleming always based his books firmly in reality. "Everything I write has a basis in truth". True, Bond is able to carry out exploits that would be hard to believe in fact, yet the world of spying quite often beggars belief: Agent Zigzag being a good example.

DAVIS: What do you think of Fleming's attitude towards women?

MACINTYRE: Fleming’s attitude to women was odd: he never really understood them, and was, I think, very slightly afraid of them; he was a fantastic womaniser, but the women he really loved were not in the cocktail party poppet mould, but grown up, bossy, independent, often older (and married).

DAVIS: What do you think of "Bond Girls?"

MACINTYRE: I think the Bond girls in the books can be traced pretty directly to his wartime girlfriend, Muriel Wright, who was killed: Bond Girls tend to be beautiful, flawed, a little vulnerable, athletic, independent, biddable… and doomed.

DAVIS: Do you see a difference between the movie Bond and the novel Bond?

MACINTYRE: The film Bond is more violent, sexually promiscuous, and far wittier than the Bond of the books.

DAVIS: I was glad to see The Times rate Fleming as Number 14 in their list of the 50 greatest post-war writers. Why do you think he was rated so highly?

MACINTYRE: Because the books really do warrant re-reading.

DAVIS: Raymond Chandler was a friend and a fan of Fleming's novels. Can you describe their friendship and mutual admiration?

MACINTYRE: They had a huge amount in common, and Chandler felt that Fleming had broken out of a particularly hidebound tradition of English thriller writing.

DAVIS: Why do you think Fleming's James Bond character has endured and probably will endure for some time?

MACINTYRE: I think it will last forever, because the Bond character is endlessly malleable.

DAVIS: Lastly, has the Imperial War Museum's Fleming exhibition been successful?

MACINTYRE: Yes, very, so far, but it has another year to run.

DAVIS: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us.

For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming & James Bond is a well-written, well-researched and smart-looking book. The book also offers great photos.

I truly liked the book and I highly recommend it to Fleming aficionados who wish to celebrate the Ian Fleming centenary.

Note: The above column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Horror: Woman Kidnapped, Raped And Robbed By 3 Teens On Christmas

The Philadelphia Daily News offers a horrific story about a poor woman who assaulted by three violent - and stupid - criminals on Christmas.

A young woman's Christmas - and her life - was shattered Tuesday when she was kidnapped, raped, robbed and beaten in her own car by three teenagers over the course of five hours, according to police.

"You'll get sick in the stomach," said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, before reciting the facts of the case.

... All three men were charged as adults with kidnapping, rape, robbery and related offenses and are being held on $500,000 bail each. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on New Year's Eve day.

"These guys are truly, truly animals," Chitwood said. "This is the kind of crime that shocks the public consciousness."

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Look Back At The FBI's Hunt For Roger 'The Terrible' Touhy And His Gang

The FBI offers a look back at the hunt for the notorious criminal Roger 'The Terrible' Touhy.

In the early morning hours of December 29, 1942—70 years ago this month—FBI agents surrounded an apartment building on Kenmore Avenue in Chicago filled with a dangerous band of escaped convicts. With searchlights illuminating the building and nearby neighbors evacuated, an agent with a loudspeaker called for the men to surrender. Even Director J. Edgar Hoover was on hand.

... The prison break had taken place nearly three months earlier, on October 9. A group that included Roger “The Terrible” Touhy, Basil “The Owl” Banghart, Edward Darlak, and several other violent criminals escaped from the Stateville Penitentiary at Joliet, Illinois. They had guns smuggled in, cased the prison from all angles, and executed a well-planned break out.

Stealing a guard’s car, they sped away. Hours later, they abandoned the car openly in the middle of a small suburb east of Chicago. It was their signal to the FBI that they didn’t want to take the car across state lines and trigger Bureau jurisdiction. But they didn’t realize that they would soon run afoul of the Selective Service Act. On October 16, one week after the no longer imprisoned criminals failed to register for the draft, the FBI entered the case.

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

Killing People Is What I Like Best: Remains Found In Home Of Gunman Who Killed Two Firefighters reports that the police found a disturbing note and the remains of another victim inside the home of the crazed gunman who killed two firefighters.

Investigators made a gruesome discovery when combing the scene of a Christmas Eve ambush in Webster, New York. Authorities believe William H. Spengler Jr. set a deadly trap for first responders by lighting fire to his home. When they arrived, Spengler went on a shooting spree, killing two of the firefighters. Now, authorities have discovered another victim dead inside the home. The body is believed to be that of Spengler’s missing sister.

Police say Spengler detailed his plan in a chilling note that he left behind. There was no clear motive, other than that Spengler wanted to kill as many people as possible.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch the news video via the below link: 

A Look Back At 'A Christmas Carol' With The Late Great George C. Scott As Scrooge

One of my favorite Christmas films is A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge. I watch it every year during the holiday season.

I believe Scott's portrayal of the Dicken's character Scrooge is the most powerful on film.

Lee Pfeiffer at offers his view of the 1984 film.

At the risk of being drawn and quartered, I have to say that, with all due respect to the magnificent Alastair Sim, my favorite version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the wonderful 1984 TV production starring George C. Scott in a magnificent, Emmy-nominated performance as Scrooge.

You can read the rest of his comments and link to a full showing of the film via the below link:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

RIP To Veteran Actors Jack Klugman And Charles Durning

The world lost two fine character actors with the passing of Jack Klugman (a South Philly native) and Charles Durning.

You can read about Jack Klugman via the below link:

And you can read about Charles Durning via the below link:

A Reading Of Frederick Forsyth's Christmas Story 'The Shepherd'

James Fallows at the Atlantic offers a link to a reading of thriller writer and former RAF pilot Frederick Forsyth's Christmas Story The Shepherd.

You can read Fallows' piece and listen to the Forsyth story via the below link:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Frank Wilson's Review Of Thomas Nagel's 'Mind & Cosmos'

My friend and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer Frank Wilson wrote a good review of Thomas Nagel's Mind & Cosmos.

You can read the review via the below link:

After his retirement from the Inquirer Frank Wilson went on to publish a popular literary blog called  Books, Inq.

You can visit Books, Inq via th below link: 

My Christmas Crime Story

A Christmas Crime Story, my short story that originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2003, can be read via the below link:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Philadelphia Mayor Tours Fusion Intelligence Center In South Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Police blog reports on Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's tour of the future Delaware Valley Intelligence Center. The center will is located at the former Defense Department's Quartermaster depot in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, December 19, 2012 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter visited the future site of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC) in South Philadelphia for a tour and briefing on the progress of construction of the new facilities and the capabilities of the DVIC once the site is fully operational. The briefing was led by Everett Gillison, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Chief of Staff.
“The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center will provide tangible security benefits for our region,” said Mayor Nutter. “At the most basic level, any first responder in the field with a radio will have ability to connect with the DVIC and share real-time information with a host of agencies. This is a key step for our City and region, the sixth largest metro region in the Nation, in preparing to respond to emergency situations.”
The primary mission of the DVIC is to collect, integrate, evaluate, analyze and disseminate intelligence about all types of hazards including terrorist threats, criminal activity and weather events. The DVIC site will bring together federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort to provide resources, expertise and information with the goal of maximizing every agency’s ability to detect, prevent, investigate and respond to suspicious or hazardous activity.   
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also watch a video of the tour via the below link:
And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine article on the fusion intelligence center via the below links:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Only Thing That Stops A Bad Guy With A Gun Is A Good Guy With A Gun: NRA Chief Urges Armed Guards In Every Single School reported on a speech given by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on Friday dismissed calls for increased gun control in response to the Connecticut school shooting, calling instead for Congress to support a plan putting armed police officers in "every single school" in America.

In an impassioned speech, marking the NRA's first in-depth public comments since the Newtown tragedy, LaPierre pointed the finger not at gun proliferation but violent video games, the media and the absence of armed guards at schools.

He argued that if banks and members of Congress can have protection, schools across America should be afforded the same security.

"It's now time for us to assume responsibly for our schools," he said. "The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be permanently involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection."

He added: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

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

Mark Twain's Charming Letter From Santa To His Young Daughter

The web site Letter of Note offers a letter Mark Twain wrote to his daughter as Santa Claus.

You can read the letter via the below link:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NORAD Prepares To Track Santa's Worldwide Christmas Eve Flight

Donna Miles at the American Forces Press Service offers the below report:

Aerospace Defense Command has stood sentry for more than a half century, defending the United States and Canada against attack. But in the coming days, the command here will move into full throttle to conduct its most celebrated mission: tracking Santa Claus on his yuletide journey.

In a YouTube video posted on the NORAD website, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, places a call to the North Pole to describe the "NORAD Tracks Santa" mission to the big man himself.
Jacoby assures Saint Nick that he and Canadian Air Force Lt. Gen. J. A. J. Parent, the NORAD deputy commander, "want to make sure you have everything you need to deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls."

"We at NORAD are ready to make sure that you are tracked and safe when traveling around the world and when you enter North American airspace," Jacoby said. "From the time you leave the North Pole until the time you get back, we are going to keep an eye on you to make sure you are safe."

Parent explained how NORAD will rally its detection and monitoring capabilities to track Santa's worldwide journey. Arctic experts will monitor ice floes and shipping lanes near the North Pole, and weather teams will stay on top of weather patterns to help his navigation. Tracing the infrared signature from Rudolph's nose, satellite operators will follow the sleigh's flight. Radars stretching across Canada and Alaska and on Aegis cruisers at sea will signal when Santa leaves the North Pole and approaches North America.

"We are going to make sure you get to every house. Don't worry about the journey," Jacoby tells Santa. Evoking the NORAD and Northcom motto, he adds, "We've got the watch."

Based on past years' response, the public will be captivated.

During December 2011, the NORAD Tracks Santa website registered 18.9 million visitors from 220 countries and territories. More than 1 million Facebook followers became "fans" of NORAD Tracks Santa. On Dec. 24 alone, volunteers took 102,000 phone calls and responded to 8,000 emails, reporting on Santa's whereabouts.

Not bad for a program started on a lark in 1955 when a local newspaper ad misprinted the phone number for children to call Santa.

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, a father himself, was on duty when the calls started coming in to what was then the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Rather than turning the children away, Shoup played along, offering assurance that Santa was on track to make his scheduled deliveries.

The tradition continued, even as the command merged with its Canadian counterpart in 1958 to form NORAD, and has enthralled the young -- and the young at heart -- around the globe ever since.

Technology and social media have expanded the program's reach exponentially, offering updates on Santa's whereabouts by phone, online and through mobile apps.

The website offers reports in eight languages and volunteer translators at the call center take calls in several languages.

This year, Marisa Novobilski, lead coordinator, is expecting the highest participation ever. "In the past few years, the growth has been amazing," she said. "We want to take that to the next level, reaching even more people."

She credited the army of volunteers that makes it possible -- so many that she finds herself having to turn many away -- and 52 different companies and organizations that contribute technology and know-how to support the project.

"The outpouring is immense," Novobilski said. "It's unbelievable, the way people contact us to ask what they can do to help."

Early indications show 2012 will be a banner year. The NORAD Tracks Santa website has already registered almost 2.1 million visitors since it launched Dec. 1. The Facebook page has registered more than 1 million "likes," and the new NORAD Tracks Santa apps have been downloaded by more than 1.6 million users. The project also has almost 95,500 Twitter followers.

With Santa still at the North Pole, visitors are discovering a plethora of other treats, from holiday music by military bands to activities and games in addition to information about the NORAD mission.

But beginning at 6 a.m. EST on Christmas Eve, NORAD Tracks Santa will move into high gear. The first of about 1,200 volunteers from the base and community will begin cramming into the Leadership Development Center on Peterson Air Force Base, which will temporarily be transformed into the NORAD Tracks Santa operations center. The center expanded into a third room last year, with 30 additional phones and computers added to the effort.

Armed with telephones and laptops, volunteers will pull shifts through the night, answering phone calls and emails from children around the world as they check on Santa's globe-circling sleigh ride. They'll send Tweets reporting Santa's location and upload images gathered by webcams to the website to pinpoint the sleigh's location.

Some of the callers and web visitors, Novobilski knows, will be young military children, wanting to make sure that Santa will pay a visit to their deployed parents. "You get a lot of heartbreaking calls," she said. "But we tell them that Santa visits everyone who believes."

Novobilski said she's been overwhelmed by the program's impact, and how it has made NORAD a household name among people who might never have heard of the command or its mission when it's not tracking Santa.

"This is a goodwill program that reaches so many people across the globe," she said. "You are educating people about our missions and you are having fun while doing it. At the end of the day, everyone is smiling. So as busy as everybody is, and as crazy as things can get, we all know that this is making a difference."

Note: The photo above shows volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado are gearing up to answer phone calls and emails fromm children around the world checking on Santa's whereabouts during the "NORAD Tracks Santa" event in 2011. The U.S. Air Force photo was taken by Tech Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher.

Photo Of Five Aircraft Carriers In Port At Naval Station Norfolk

Having served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63)
during the Vietnam War, I found the above photo of five mighty
aircraft carriers in port to be interesting.

The photo shows the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
(CVN 69), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), USS Enterprise
(CVN 65), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and USS Abraham
Lincoln (CVN 72) in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
Norfolk is the world's largest naval station.

The above U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication
Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott.

Note: You can click on the photo to enlarge. 


Texas Town Allows Teachers To Carry Concealed Guns, Superintendent Defends Policy In Wake of Sandy Hook Shooting

A Texas School Superintendent defended his policy to allow teachers to carry concealed guns on Fox and Friends.

In 2007, the Harrold, Texas school district made the decision to allow teachers to carry concealed guns at school to protect their students against potential violence. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, and amid new calls for gun control, that district’s methods are getting a closer look.

David Thweatt, Superintendent of Harrold district schools, joined Fox and Friends to defend the gun policy. He noted the “passive” security precautions taken, including cameras and magnetic locked doors, but stressed that a plan was needed to really protect the children.

“What seemed to me to be a problem … is that we basically left our schools open to attack — This is like putting a sign in front of your house that says ‘I really think that it’s a good idea to come and attack me because I don’t believe in guns’ — and that’s exactly what we were trying to avoid,” he said.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch the video via the below link:

Is Heaven Real? A Neurosurgeon Shares His Story About the Afterlife

Jaimie La Bella wrote an interesting piece on Dr Eben Alexander's afterlife experience.

As a practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander knew everything there was to know about the human brain. With an extensive background in neuroscience, he would use his scientific knowledge to refute claims by those who said they visited heaven during a near death experience.
He believed those occurrences were simply fantasies produced by the brain under extreme strain. But that all changed when Dr. Alexander had a near-death experience himself, which he outlines in his book, "Proof of Heaven."

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

Juror Dismissed As Defense Rests In Philadelphia Mob Case

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for
A juror who apparently was leaning toward a guilty verdict was dismissed Wednesday shortly before the defense rested in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants.

Following a closed-door session before U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno, defense attorneys and prosecutors returned to the 15th floor courtroom where Robreno told the other members of the jury panel that "juror number five will not longer be sitting with us."

Robreno offered no other explanation, but told the jury it had nothing to do with an impropriety and that the trial would continue.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Privileged And Confidential: The Secret History Of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board

Joseph C. Goulden, a veteran journalist and the author of several books on intelligence matters, wrote a good review of Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board for the Washington Times.

Since the Eisenhower administration, every president with the exception of Jimmy Carter has made varying use of an outside advisory panel that authors Kenneth Michael Absher, Michael C. Desch and Roman Popadiuk term “one of the smallest, most secretive, least well-known, but potentially influential parts of the U.S. intelligence community.”

During most of its existence, the body was known as the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, or PFIAB. In 2008, during the post-Sept. 11 restructuring of the intelligence establishment, the name was changed to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, which continues to be used under President Obama.

Because of the highly classified material with which it deals, the board is by nature secretive. It also operates under a blanket of executive privilege that President Eisenhower articulated in a 1958 letter to Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson in denying a request to access to PFIAB materials: “From time to time the President invites groups of specially qualified citizens to advise him on complex problems. These groups give the advice after intensive study, with the understanding that their advice will be kept confidential. Only by preserving the confidential nature of such advice is it possible to assemble such groups or for the President to avail himself of such advice.”

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


Defense Scores Points At Philadelphia Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

It was a good day for the defense Tuesday in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants.

So good, in fact, that mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, a co-defendant, joked about going home. One of five defendants being held without bail, Massimino, during a break in the trial, asked Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han, "Can you give me a ride John?"

Massimino, Ligambi and the three other defendants held without bail will have to wait at least until January to find out if they walk out of the Federal Detention Center next door to the U.S. Courthouse. Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Jan. 7 following a recess later this week for the holidays.

But the defense camp was decidedly upbeat after Tuesday's court session which included testimony from one witness who blistered key government informant Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and another witness who raised serious questions about whether a mob meeting at a North Jersey restaurant back in May 2010 was anything other than a bunch of guys getting together for lunch.

"I think we had a really good day," said one defense attorney.

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


Two Chinese Individuals Charged In Scheme To Obtain Controlled Dual-Use American Technology

The U.S. Justice Department released the below yesterday:

PORTLAND, OR—U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall, FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Fowler, and Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Julie L. Salcido announced today the unsealing of a 12-count indictment charging Wan Li Yuan and another unknown Chinese resident with conspiracy to violate the Export Administration Regulations and smuggle goods, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 10 counts of money laundering in connection with an attempt to obtain dual-use programmable logic devices (PLDs), which are manufactured by Lattice Semiconductor Corporation of Hillsboro, Oregon, to perform at extended temperature ranges and tested to military specifications.

According to the indictment, while operating from the People’s Republic of China, Yuan used the alias “Nicholas Bush,” and a second Chinese resident used the alias “Jason Jiang” as they created a sophisticated scheme to conceal their true identity and location in order to mislead U.S. companies into believing they were dealing with American customers so that the defendants could procure and send sensitive technologies to China without the required export licenses.

Specifically, Yuan and Jiang sought to procure Lattice Semiconductor PLDs designed to operate at extreme temperature ranges and which can have military applications such as in missiles and radar systems. To further his efforts, the indictment alleges that Yuan created a fake website and e-mail addresses using the name of a legitimate New York-based company. Yuan requested U.S. companies to ship the desired parts to the address of a freight forwarder in New York, which he also falsely represented as being associated with the New York company whose business name Yuan had stolen.

Through the investigation and use of an undercover operation, the FBI and Department of Commerce were able to seize approximately $414,000 in funds sent by Yuan as down payments for the Lattice PLDs.

“The Department of Justice is committed to finding, charging, and prosecuting anyone who attempts to illegally procure American technology,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “Even if we cannot arrest them overseas, we will seek to forfeit any assets we find in the United States.”

“Oregon is rich with high-tech innovators and companies that power the U.S. economy,” said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “These companies can become targets for foreign nationals and governments who want to take advantage of American research and production while taking aim at American national security interests. The FBI works closely with our industry partners to prevent the illegal acquisition of export-controlled sensitive U.S. technologies.”

“This indictment tells illicit traders that violating the U.S. export regulations threatens our national security and will be dealt with accordingly,” said Julie Salcido, the Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement.

Lattice Semiconductor cooperated with the government in this investigation. “As a global technology company, Lattice is committed to strict compliance with United States and other applicable export controls,” stated Byron Milstead, Lattice’s General Counsel. “We appreciate the support provided by U.S. enforcement authorities in assisting us in our compliance efforts.”

A criminal indictment is only an allegation and not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement, San Jose Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles F. Gorder, Jr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two Women CIA Officers Who Brought Down The Traitor Aldrich Ames

Susan Reimer at the Baltimore Sun wrote an interesting column about an interesting book called  Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed (Naval Institute Press)

Jeanne Vertefeuille and Sandra Grimes could be George Smiley's people.

They were recruited on their college campuses by the Central Intelligence Agency during the height of the Cold War. Jeanne wanted travel and adventure. Sandy didn't know much about the CIA; she just needed a job.

Jeanne and Sandy. That's how they refer to themselves in the book they co-authored, "Circle of Treason."

It tells the story of these two women — Jeanne worked her way up from the equivalent of the steno pool, while Sandy was immediately in the Soviet division (and over her head) because she could speak Russian — and how they brought down the most devastating traitor in the history of the agency: Aldrich Ames.

Their meticulous investigation and combing of records also revealed losses that could not have come from Mr. Ames. They pointed more to the FBI and eventually led to a traitor in its midst, Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Soviets for 22 years, doing damage that more than rivaled that done by Mr. Ames. Both men are serving life terms for espionage. Those they betrayed were executed.
"Circle of Treason" is the first book about the decade-long mole hunt not written by academics or journalists but by members of the team that uncovered the spying of Messrs. Ames and Hanssen.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:,0,3484978.column