Friday, November 30, 2018

On This Day In History American Author And Humorist Mark Twain Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1835 the late, great American author and humorist Mark Twain was born. 

Born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens wrote under the pen name Mark Twain and went on to author several novels, including two major classics of American literature: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut.

You can read about Mark Twain's life and work and watch a video of his life via the below link: 

'Handsome Johnny: The Life And Death Of Johnny Rosselli - Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin'

Larry Getlen at the New York Post offers a piece on a new book about Cosa Nostra mobster Jimmy Rosselli, the CIA and Fidel Castro.

In the summer of 1960, a former FBI and sometime CIA man named Robert Maheu was handed an important mission by the latter agency — engaging the Mafia to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Maheu knew exactly whom to call. The new book “Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli — Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin,” by Lee Server (St. Martin’s Press), provides the most detailed description of the plot against Castro to date, and introduces Rosselli as the link between the mob, Hollywood and the CIA.
Rosselli had been friends and associates with the likes of Al Capone, Charlie Chaplin and Columbia Pictures co-founder and President Harry Cohn.
He was one of the most powerful gangsters in Los Angeles, and the right person for Maheu to enlist.
Still, it was an odd and risky request. Certainly, the mob hated Castro, as it had made Cuba its playground before Castro took over and confiscated its property. But the Mafia wasn’t a fan of the US federal government, either.
According to Server, Maheu offered $150,000, which Rosselli told him to keep. If he did the job, it would be for love of country, although getting the mob’s Cuban properties back was a not-insignificant benefit.
Before he could say yes, though, he had to clear it with the big boss in Chicago, Sam Giancana. (The mob there was known as the Outfit.)
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, And The Battle Of Manila

Thomas W. Schaaf Sr., a retired naval aviator whose aircraft carriers frequently moored in Subic Bay, Philippines, offers a review in the Washington Times of James M. Scott's Rampage: Macarthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila.

 “Rampage” is the story of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines after his escape from Corregidor on April 9, 1942, with this family and a small staff aboard four PT boats. Barely one month later Bataan fell followed by the surrender of Corregidor a little more than three weeks later.

The rugged Philippine peninsula where thousands of MacArthur’s men had fought and died had become an emotional brand burned deep into the general’s conscience. By mid-1944 the Navy and Marine Corps had battled the Japanese across the central Pacific and some senior naval leaders were advocating bypassing the Philippines and saving American lives by avoiding a costly invasion of the Philippines when the imminent fall of Japan would end their occupation.

This proposal had outraged MacArthur and he refused to back down. In a showdown in a beachfront mansion in Hawaii where the Joint Chiefs and the president were meeting, MacArthur fought to bend American strategy in his favor going so far as to threaten Roosevelt.

Before World War II, Manila was known as the “Pearl of the Orient.” In the chapters leading to the deadly and destructive Battle of Manila in February 1945, Mr. Scott describes how our policymakers after the Spanish American War (1898) realized Manila would need a face-lift if it were to be the front door to the markets of China, India and Malaya. Manila had blossomed into a 14-square-mile modern city, one whose population had tripled to 623,000 residents by the eve of the war in the Pacific.

And a brutal war it was. “The stage was now set for the Battle of Manila, a battle distinguished for ferocity and destruction. It is the story of how that beautiful city was sacked by the Japanese Army when General MacArthur returned to Manila. The carnage followed for 29 days.”

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Mystery Writers Of America Announces 2019 Grand Master, Raven & Ellery Queen Award Recipients offers the Mystery Writers of America’s announcement of the Edgar Allan Poe Awards for 2019. 

Linda Fairstein and Martin Cruz Smith (seen in the below photos) have been chosen as the 2019 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). 

MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Ms. Fairstein and Mr. Smith will receive their awards at the 73rd Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on April 25, 2019.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Former New York Times Books Editor Sam Tanenhaus On Journalism And The Art Of The Book Review

I love books. I always have. I have always had a great curiosity about all things and books can satisfy that curiosity. I also love a good story and once again books satisfy that need. 

For many years now, in addition to writing news and features on crime, espionage, terrorism and the military, I've been a book reviewer. I wrote book reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer for a good number of years and these days my book reviews appear in the Washington Times. 

So I was interested in what former New York Times book editor had to say about the art and the journalism of the book review. Sam Tanenhaus was interviewed by Mary Gooderham at the University of Toronto. 

Your talk this week is on “The art of the book review.” What do you look for in a good review?

It’s not simply a matter of thumbs up or thumbs down, of stating your opinion and letting people know whether you like a book. If it’s done well, it can be a really superb form of journalism. Oscar Wilde once said criticism is the highest form of autobiography, and I think really good reviewers are actually writing miniature memoirs that invite readers in to share the experience of reading a particular book or books.

You can read the rest of the interview, which also covers Sam Tanenhaus’ views on journalism in general, teaching and politics, via the below link:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Trained To Protect Foreign Dignitaries, Hunt Fugitives, And Write Tom Clancy Novels: How A US Marshal Inherited An Iconic Spy Fiction Series offers a piece by thriller writer Marc Cameron (seen in the above photo) that looks back on his youth and former career as a police officer and a U.S. Marshall as he continues writing about Tom Clancy’s character Jack Ryan in Oath of Office.
A few years ago, at my thirtieth high school reunion, my wife and I sat beside a friend of mine named Merri—a girl on whom I had a massive crush my freshman year.
“You know what I remember about Marc?” Merri said to my wife in her honeyed Texas accent.
I braced myself.

“He always wanted to be a spy…”
Merri could have made a worse revelation. My wife already knew I was odd in college, so the fact that I was odd in high school was not news.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, writing, or imagining adventure stories. My aunt sent me a box of Hardy Boys mysteries when I was eight, and I burned through those by the time I hit the fourth grade. By middle school, there was usually a Fleming or Forsyth on my nightstand—along with assorted notebooks filled with my attempts to write stories of my own. The Hunt for Red October came out about the time I joined the police department, and I quickly added Tom Clancy to my reading pile.

As a would-be writer, I read with a pencil, noting story structure and interesting turns of phrase. Plot ideas inspired by other books and my own work escapades filled countless legal pads. I felt certain that the fistfights, foot chases, and high-speed pursuits I was involved with would somehow, someday, end up in a novel.
When I was a green detective, a savvy Texas Ranger helping me with my first homicide investigation told me to write down everything I observed, even stuff that didn’t seem important at the time. It was excellent advice for a detective—and a writer. I chased bad guys during work hours and banged away on my Smith Corona typewriter during my off time. I’d piled up a sizable stack of rejection letters by the time I left the PD for a position as a deputy US marshal. Tom Clancy’s The Cardinal of the Kremlin had just come out in paperback and I took a copy with me for my four-month stay at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center near Brunswick, Georgia.

… I’ve always had a vivid imagination, but I never imagined that I’d someday have the opportunity to carry on writing Tom Clancy’s iconic characters. One of the plots of last year’s Power and Empire let me explore what John Clark might do if faced with similar circumstances to those in Without Remorse.

In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Clancy (seen in the below photo) wove plenty of interesting technical information into the story, but Cardinal is at its core, a book about spies, the case officers who handle them, and the counter intelligence operatives who hunt them. My aim was to give Oath of Office that same flavor.

Over the years since high school, I was fortunate to have a job that let me drive fast, carry a gun, and fight a bad guy or two—experiences that were invaluable to my writing. Despite my dreams from back when I had that crush on Merri, I never did get to be spy. But, thanks to this new job writing about Jack Ryan, John Clark, Mary Pat Foley, and countless other Clancy characters, I get to come up with stories for some of the best.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cyber Monday: Tis The Season To Practice Cybersecurity

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers the below computer security tips:
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes celebrations and gift-giving. An increasing number of consumers are conducting their holiday shopping online. You have probably heard of “Cyber Monday,” a marketing term for today, the Monday following Thanksgiving, when online retailers often begin to offer discounts and promotions to shoppers.
While online shopping offers increased convenience, it also provides opportunities for scammers to target consumers through fake websites, phony offers, and malicious apps. Ensure you have a safe and secure holiday shopping experience by following the tips below.
Improve your cyber posture and avoid online shopping scams by:

·         Remembering to hover over hyperlinks and think before you click. A common phishing tactic during the holidays is a phony email saying an order has shipped, with links like “Click here for expected delivery date” or prompts for your login and password to a particular website.

·         Avoiding making purchases over public Wi-Fi. Use your cellular data for financial transactions instead.

·         Using your credit card rather than your debit card for online purchases. Credit cards offer more consumer protections if your card is compromised and will not impact your checking account like a debit card. Continue to monitor your credit card and bank statements regularly to detect any fraudulent activity that might go unnoticed.

·         Choosing encrypted shopping websites for safer transactions. There are two ways to tell if a site uses encryption: a closed padlock icon in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window or at the top of the browser window, or a website address that begins with “https:” rather than just “http:”.

·         Heeding “certificate error” messages. If you receive a notice that says “certificate error,” examine who issued the certificate, ensure the name matches the site you are visiting, and ensure the certificate has not expired.

·         Downloading vetted apps. Never install software outside of your phone’s designated app store, and only use trusted vendor apps when shopping from your phone.

·         Creating strong passwords. Avoid using the same password for your online accounts; otherwise, one compromised account can translate to multiple compromised accounts.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Hollywood Reporter Interview With 'Narcos: Mexico' Showrunner Eric Newman

Having recently watched and enjoyed the fourth season of Narcos, Narcos: Mexico, on Netflix, I was interested in reading The Hollywood Reporter’s Q&A with Narcos’ showrunner Eric Newman.

(Spoiler alert if you’ve not yet watched Narcos: Mexico

Similar to the previous seasons of Narcos, the story of Narcos: Mexico unfolded under the guidance of an English-speaking narrator. This time, however, the narrator was kept secret until the final scene, and the reveal of his identity beckons more of the Narcos: Mexico story to be told.

The reset Narcos: Mexico — the fourth season overall in the Narcos saga — featured a primarily new cast when it traveled back to 1980s Mexico to show the birth of the Guadalajara cartel over the course of 10 episodes (which launched on Netflix on Nov. 16). 

In order to trace the origins of the Mexican drug war, the newest chapter in the cartel drama once again pitted a narco, Guadalajara's Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna), against a DEA agent, Kiki Camarena (Michael Pena). After building his empire — one that included both Pablo Escobar (played by Wagner Moura) and their Colombian rivals in Cali in a surprise crossover episode — Narcos: Mexico arrived to the unhappy ending the narrator had warned about in the season's opening minutes: Camarena was abducted, tortured and killed by Gallardo and his men.

"Kiki Camarena is the first martyr in the drug war," showrunner Eric Newman tells The Hollywood Reporter of the much-documented true story of Camarena, the undercover Mexican-American DEA agent who was abducted in Guadalajara and killed in 1985. "The collision between [Kiki and Felix] became so immediately clear as the best path to get to jumpstarting the Mexican chapter of this story."

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

A Little Night Music: Boney James' Jazz Is Smooth As 'Butter'

You can listen to Boney James' smooth jazz song 'Butter" via the below link:

Friday, November 23, 2018

Terrorism In America

Joshua Sinai offers a good review in the Washington Times of Terrorism in America. 

Several mass casualty attacks have occurred in the United States over the past several years by ideologically extremist domestic terrorists. These include the shooting rampages by ISIS adherent Omar Mateen at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, (49 killed, 53 wounded), and by the virulent anti-Semitic Robert Bowers against congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 27, 2018, (11 killed and six wounded). In another type of domestic terrorist attack, Cesar Sayoc was arrested in Plantation, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2018, for allegedly mailing more than a dozen improvised homemade package bombs to his perceived liberal adversaries, including CNN (no casualties).

What are the factors that motivate such ideologically divergent American-based terrorists to carry out their violent attacks against their adversaries? Are they part of organized terrorist groups or lone actors? What are future trends we can expect in the domestic terrorist threat and what are effective response measures to defeat them?

These questions are addressed in “Terrorism in America.” Although it’s an academic book with lots of academic theories by its eight contributors, its coverage from a criminological perspective of this subject is so insightful and detailed that it will also appeal to a broader audience that seeks to understand the magnitude of the domestic terrorist threats facing America. 

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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving: The Thanks Of And For An Exceptional Nation

Monica Crowley offers her take on Thanksgiving in her column at the Washington Times. 

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

Today is a day of thanksgiving, and a day of reflection.

There are two particularly quintessentially American holidays: Independence Day, when we celebrate our declaration of independence from the British, which began the most successful experiment in human liberty ever conducted. And Thanksgiving Day, when we offer appreciation for the wondrous blessings in our individual lives and in the life of the nation. Thanksgiving and Independence Day, as distinct as they are, have always been sort of inseparable.

Thanksgiving carries with it a special communal joy that is rooted in that most simple but powerful human sentiment: Gratitude.

On this one particular day, millions of people are doing the exact same thing at roughly the same time: Cooking, preparing, sitting down at a shared table, praying together, eating together, watching football or movies together. Not everyone is lucky enough to have these blessings, of course. There is a lot of loneliness, despair, pain, division and violence in the country and the world, so I t’s vital to keep those suffering in your prayers today.

is part of a long weekend for most folks, jammed with leftovers, family, friends, parades, long walks in brisk air, even longer naps under cozy blankets, and the start of the manic holiday season.

Given the exceptional origin of this exceptional nation, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that binds us all together as Americans. It reflects our birthright, our legacy, our home. Thanksgiving is us. And only us.

The fact that it’s rooted in appreciation makes it even more important in an era of self-indulgence and incivility. As Americans, today we stop to give thanks for our families and friends, our faith, our Constitution and the many freedoms it guarantees, our great and good country, and the extraordinary United States military, our bulwark against tyranny, oppression and terror.

We are going through tumultuous times, but we are truly blessed. There is still no other nation like America. Never has been, never will be. God blessed this country from the beginning. And He blesses it still.

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

Equipping James Bond: Guns, Gadgets, And Technological Enthusiasm

John Greenya at the Washington Times offers a review of Andre Millard’s Equipping James Bond: Guns, Gadgets, and Technological Enthusiasm. 

While this highly readable book will not tell you how to make exploding pens, shoes with hidden knives or shoot death rays out the back of the family Buick, it does tell you how and where Ian Fleming, the author of the 12 James Bond novels, came up with these “fiendishly clever” devices. In other words, this book resembles the old bait and switch: The title overpromises, but the subtitle is more accurate.

Along the way, the author (a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who has written books on Beatlemania and Birmingham’s rock ‘n’ roll years) provides one of the best capsulized histories of technology in warfare I’ve ever read. It also traces the development of the Bond character from the books of the 1960s to the movies of the present day, or, to put it differently, from George Lazenby to Daniel Craig.

Andre Millard puts Fleming in historical perspective: “Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming were perfect representatives of two generations of Englishmen — the Victorians and the Edwardians — who saw their world transformed. Churchill (born in 1874) and Fleming (born in 1908) lived through the Second Industrial Revolution, which brought a host of wonderful new inventions that changed life in ways large and small … The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead argued that ‘the greatest invention of the nineteenth century was the invention of inventions.

… While most modernists praised the positive possibilities of this new age, Ian Fleming, a British Navy commander-turned-high-level-bureaucrat-turned-journalist-turned-spy-turned-world-famous-novelist, chose to explore the dark side. Like Churchill, a gentleman born into privilege, Ian Fleming was, also like him, fascinated with inventions, fast planes, cars and boats, and was a known tinkerer. He was also nostalgic for the good old days of Her Majesty’s secret operations branch, which in the books Fleming called M16.

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

Note: A small complaint: Ian Fleming never called British intelligence “MI6.” He called Mr. Bond’s intelligence organization the Secret Service, which he even used in a book title, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.     

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

How To Vanquish Antifa's Continuing Threat

Chadwick Moore at the Washington Times offers a piece on how to combat the continuing threat of the violent protest group Antifa.

On a Saturday morning last month, two dozen masked, black-clad individuals gathered outside the entrance to Boeing’s Museum of Flight in Seattle. Their target was a 28-year-old mechanic at Boeing’s Auburn plant named Nicholas Boling. The communist agitators unfurled a 12-foot banner with Mr. Boling’s name and picture accompanied by the words, “A VIOLENT MISOGYNIST WORKS AT BOEING.”

In the weeks leading up, Antifa groups operating in the Pacific Northwest flooded Boeing’s human resources department with scripted phone calls claiming Mr. Boling was a member of a “hate group” and had assaulted a bartender (Mr. Boling denies both of these accusations). Threatening text messages from anonymous numbers inundated his phone. Parts of Seattle became papered in flyers with his photo, claiming he was a “Nazi.” Then there was the murder attempt, when someone poked holes in the brake lines of his truck and it nearly crashed.

Local law enforcement was no help. “It’s undeniable this is all because of my role as a conservative activist,” Mr. Boling says. “I go to a lot of events, I helped organized a May Day counter-protest and was involved with the Patriot Prayer.” Days after the demonstration outside Boeing, he was fired.

Last week, after an Antifa mob attempted to break into the home of Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host called the actions a concerted effort to silence dissenting opinions. “They weren’t protesting anything […] they weren’t trying to change my mind or advocate a position, they were threatening my family to get me to stop talking,” Mr. Carlson said on Fox News. “This has a chilling effect on people’s ability to speak and think freely. That’s the point. It’s totalitarian in its intent.” 

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

From The CIA With Love: A Look Back At Ian Fleming, The Man Behind The World's Most Famous Spy

While serving as the assistant to the director of British naval intelligence in WWII, Commander Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo) wrote a memo that served as a blueprint for the creation of an American WWII intelligence agency. 

And as we all know, Ian Fleming went on to write the James Bond thrillers.

In gratitude for his contribution to American intelligence, the CIA website offers a piece on Ian Fleming’s life, work and that certain memo.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Ian Fleming’s intelligence gathering commando unit via the below link   

Saturday, November 17, 2018

From Rolex With Love: Extremely Rare 1954 Stainless Steel Watch Made Famous By Sean Connery In Dr No Is Set To Fetch £250,000 At Auction

I’ve wanted a Rolex Submariner diver’s watch since I first saw Sean Connery portray Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond in Dr No when I was 12-years-old in 1963. My dream came true when a beautiful young woman gave me a Rolex Submariner for my 30th birthday. 

I married her a month later.

Joel Adams at the Daily Mail offers a piece on the Rolex Submariner 6538 model, which has cult status since Dr No and its now known as 'the James Bond.'

An extremely rare Rolex watch made famous by the first James Bond film has emerged for sale for £250,000.

The 1954 Rolex Submariner 6538 acquired cult status after one was worn by Sean Connery in the 1962 classic film Dr No.

Bond subsequently wore the same model in several follow-up films, leading it to become one of the most sought-after Rolexes. 

The 55-year-old Rolex, valued at a quarter of a million pounds, has a black dial and a crystal reverse so the owner can see the finely-engineered Swiss movement.

The timepiece is generating furious interest under the hammer at auctioneers William George & Co, of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.The auction house has estimated the watch will go for around £200,000 to £250,000.

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

Happy Birthday To Martin Scorsese, Director Of Classic Crime Films 'Goodfellas,' 'Casino,' 'Raging Bull,' And 'Mean Streets'

As notes, today is Martin Scorsese's 76th birthday. 

Although he has directed fine films in other genres, he is most known for his classic crime films, such as Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull and Mean Streets. I'm looking forward to watching his upcoming crime film, The Irishman, on Netflix.

You can read about the director's life and work and watch a video clip via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Martin Scorsese via the below link:

Friday, November 16, 2018

My Washington Times Review of Michael Connelly's 'Dark Sacred Night'

The Washington Times published my review of Michael Connelly’s crime thriller, Dark Sacred Night.

In Michael Connelly’s crime thriller “The Late Show,” he introduced us to a new character, Renee Ballard, an attractive, 30-ish dedicated and smart Los Angeles detective who was working the night shift.

Renee Ballad was transferred to the night shift from the more prestigious Robbery-Homicide Division after she filed a complaint against her lieutenant for making a crude, physical pass at her. The complaint went nowhere, as her partner did not back her up, so she was sent to the night shift, an undesirable job called the “late show” by the cops.

In my review of “The Late Show” here, I noted that although I found Renee Ballard to be engaging and interesting, I missed his other, better known character, Harry Bosch.

So I was pleased that in his following crime novel, “Two Kinds of Truth,” Harry Bosch was once again front and center. Now, in Mr. Connelly’s current and 32nd crime novel, “Dark Sacred Night,” we see Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard team up.

The books are written in actual time, so Harry Bosch has retired from the LAPD and in “Dark Sacred Night” he volunteers as a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, tackling cold cases.

One 9-year-old cold case is personal, as he helped Elizabeth Clayton recover from drug addiction while pursuing the case of her 15-year-old runaway daughter who was brutally murdered and tossed in a dumpster. When he seeks information at his old LAPD station, he runs into Detective Ballard, who becomes interested in the case as well. She considers the murder a “hobby case,” something she can pursue when things are quiet on the late show.

As Detectives Ballard and Bosch look through files from the time of the girl’s murder, they discover the possibility of other murders. Many of the murdered girls were runaways and/or prostitutes. Was there, is there, a serial killer?

Harry Bosch is also working on the cold case of a murdered gang leader in San Fernando. The victim, a Latino San Fers gang leader, was shot while walking his dog. Although not as well known as MS-13, the San Fers are one of San Fernando’s oldest and most violent street gangs. Harry Bosch’s investigation leads to a clash with the gangbangers.

I interviewed Mr. Connelly for my online Crime Beat column a while back and he told me that fiction goes down its own path from reality.

“My job here is to write a thriller — to be entertaining and keep the pages turning — but you always have an opportunity to say something or open up a window on something happening in the world,” Mr. Connelly said. 

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

You can also read my Crime Beat interview with Michael Connelly via the below link: