December 21, 2015

A hero makes mistakes in 'The Crossing' by Michael Connelly

POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - Michael Connelly's popular detective series featuring Detective Harry Bosch keeps up the tradition of suspense and fast action in Connelly's latest novel, The Crossing.

In this best-seller,  (Little, Brown and Company, 2015) Detective Bosch is retired and in a dilemma over whether to work as investigator to help clear a man wrongly accused of murder. He's in a dilemma because he has spent his entire career fighting against slimey defense attorneys.

In this case, however, he's related to the attorney (who doesn't seem slimey at all).

The story is fast-paced with plenty of the action you want to see in a detective novel.

In this book however, the mistakes made by the detective seem more glaring than in most such novels. And these mistakes actually make the Bosch character much more believable.

Harry Bosch is kind of a prickly character, too, but still lovable. An Amazon TV show is worth watching if you need to put a video image to the book.

The TV Harry Bosch
The Crossing is recommended reading.

If you are out west, the book is available at the Point Richmond Public Library. But I suspect my home library in Watkins Glen, NY has a copy (or two!) also.

December 13, 2015

Latest 'Jack Reacher' novel is another big winner

POINT RICHMOND, Calif. - My friend John Miles in New York is a huge Jack Reacher novel fan.

I believe he has read all the novels in the Reacher series.

If you are not a follower of author Lee Child's work, the character Jack Reacher has been dishing out justice for 20 books. Twenty! And my amigo John has read every one of them.

And so when I got done reading Reacher Novel No. 20 - titled Make Me - I emailed him right away to tell him how impressed I was with the book. He congratulated me on finally getting around to reading a Reacher novel, then told me to go back to the very first Jack Reacher tome, Killing Floor.

If the Jack Reacher name seems familiar, it could be because of the 2012 movie by the same name or the movie about to come out this month, titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Both star veteran actor Tom Cruise, who actually bears a slight resemblance to novel author Lee Childs.

Author Lee Childs
The Reacher character is complex with a military police background. He's a drifter. He's dangerous. And he has a strong sense of right and wrong.

At one point in Make Me, after a blazing gunfight, a gangster-murderer who has tried to kill Reacher is gurgling in his own blood, dying on the floor. If he lives, he will put Reacher, a former female FBI agent and a family in danger. When Reacher goes to finish off the bad guy on the floor, the FBI agent stops him.

"You can't do that," the former FBI agent says.
"What," Reacher says. "It was ok to murder him the first time, but not the second time?"
"It's wrong," the former FBI agent said again.
"It was right the first time, when he was a piece of shit who was about to rape you at gunpoint. Did he change? Did he suddenly become some kind of saintly martyr we should rush straight to the hospital. When did that part happen?"

You might think you can imagine what happened. You would be wrong.

This most recent Jack Reacher novel comes highly recommended. In the coming weeks, I'll be reading more of them (provided the Point Richmond library cooperates).

I will let you know if they measure up - or are even better than Make Me.
Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the 2012 film, 'Jack Reacher' Yes, a fight is breaking out...

October 24, 2015

'The Heart Goes Last' - a winner of a novel by Margaret Atwood

WATKINS GLEN, New York - All of Margaret Atwood's books have a certain weirdness about them.

The Heart Goes Last is no exception.

Set in a near semi-dystopian future, it starts out calmly, with a couple living in their car. It's almost pedestrian in the way the tale unfolds. But like all of Atwood's works, you get hooked into the lives of the characters quickly.

A handful pages later, there is no way to put this book down.

The Heart Goes Last critiques how we deal with problems - personal and cultural - in society, today and maybe tomorrow. If there is a tomorrow.

And like most Atwood tomes, the good people and the bad people shift roles back and forth, sometimes several times. It's not hard to follow, or swallow. But when the shifts come, they are unexpected.

The novel takes a dim view of our computerized lives, how easily we can be manipulated by authority, and how in the end, most people opt for safety and security over freedom.

Margaret Atwood
But in the process readers get to meet Marilyn Monroe and Elvis impersonators, criminals, oversexed couples and a charismatic leader named Ed.

Really, his name is Ed. Not grand wizard, just plain old Ed.

The Heart Goes Last is a good read, fast-paced, and offers lots of interesting life lessons/observations and cultural critiques.

It's on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

October 5, 2015

'The Martian' - a movie for the 21st Century

ACIDALIA PLANITIA, Mars - Okay, a dateline is supposed to be indicative of where the author wrote the story (or in this case blog). But, admittedly, I did not visit this off-planet location, where most of the action in the movie, The Martian takes place.

It's a whopper of an action-packed science fiction tale. But unlike Star Trek or Star Wars, this is based on real NASA-style science with enough special effects and drama to keep you in your seat for the more than 2 hours of running time for this film. 


The basic story and plot is simple enough. If you watch the movie trailer, you will get the drift. Unfortunately, the trailer gives away way too much. But I won't do that here.
Jeff Daniels

What I will say is that this movie is full of humor with the drama. And just when you think it is going to be predictable, it surprises.

The acting by Matt Damon and the balance of cast is superb. You should recognize most of the faces - even Jeff Daniels, who, I swear, is wearing the same suit he did as TV Anchor Will McAvoy on HBO's The Newsroom.

Matt Damon
The timing of the release of the movie at almost the same moment as scientists discovered water on Mars is as creepy as it is uncanny. As teenager I was steeped in novels by Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.  I dreamed of being an astronaut and going to Mars. I missed that spaceship a long time ago. 

But perhaps The Martian will help reignite space exploration by the U.S. Certainly the Chinese and other nations are passing us by. Or already have.

Interestingly, the Chinese space program plays a big role in this movie.

Recommended without reservation - a good movie and worth seeing on the big screen.

August 28, 2015

'Where All Light Tends to Go' - a novel about the dark side

WATKINS GLEN, New York - David Joy's first novel, Where All Light Tends to Go, races along at times like a detective potboiler, at others it's as descriptive as a novel by veteran novelist James Lee Burke.

Joy has a talent for keeping the reader's pulse pounding while creating vivid scenes that stick in the mind - sometimes in very uncomfortable ways.

His description of country thugs using acid on the face of a tied-up victim comes to mind.

The book takes place in North Carolina, following a high school dropout who is traveling in his father's crime-ridden footsteps. There are fights, drugs, fights over drugs, more drugs, guns and drugs, and enough petty criminality to make many readers turn away from the tale.

But the story was so compelling, turning away was never option for me.

Author David Joy, sporting a North Carolina look

As the final chapters unfold, there are two relatively clear plot lines for the balance of the book. I would not describe either as being potentially happy endings. But it does end (of course) with several twists that kept me on edge right through the final scene.

Don't give up on this book as you read it.

Where All Light Tends to Go is a powerful book that might give you some troubling dreams. But it's worth the read.

And it's on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

August 25, 2015

Biblio TECH argues how important libraries still are

WATKINS GLEN, New York - John Palfrey's 2015 book, Biblio TECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google is not a page turner in the usual sense.

But Palfrey forcefully refutes the notion that libraries - and librarians - are dinosaurs in the face of Google and Internet search engines.

That point might be obvious to anyone reading a book review like this. But he talks at length about that it's not so obvious, particularly to young people who view libraries as anachronisms and see the libraries they have access to falling apart.

The downsizing and de-funding of libraries has been one of the great tragedies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the U.S., largely because libraries are sooooo bloody important to democracy. But Palfrey makes a persuasive case on behalf of libraries and explains their changing role well.

Palfrey runs through the history of public libraries, cloud computing, the importance of copyright, and the human networking of librarians - among many other topics.

It's the kind of book in which you can cherry pick sections to study and still get a good overall sense of what he is trying to get across.
John Palfrey

In his concluding chapter, he struck a deep chord with me about the importance of serendipity in the library experience. I picked up his book, along with two others, from a shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library a few days ago. I would never have picked his book out of some Amazon catalog or stumbled on it while doing some bit of Internet searching.

"For some people, it is impossible to come out of the stacks without armfuls of books, even if they went 
into the stacks seeking just one." (Page 208)

Amen to that, John Palfrey. Amen.

 Biblio TECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google is on the new book/browsing shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

Right where it belongs, unless you check it out to read it.

July 31, 2015

Back to summertime and Seneca Lake living at the VPYC

VALOIS - Adm. Fox and I moved back into the Valois Point Yacht Club clubhouse this morning, greeted by arguably the nicest weather of the summer.

Crimson Tide on her mooring at the VPYC
Not hot, not cold. Clear and sunny.

Even the sailboat Crimson Tide was smiling down on her mooring in front of the dock. I couldn't see the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat. But I know the petrol tank and the beer locker are both ready for a cruise.

Our hiatus living in Watkins Glen and going back and forth to the VPYC while sons Dustin and Dylan - and nephew Alex - were visiting was a nice blend of living arrangements.

It was sad to see them leave, even though there are plans afoot for a late September trip to California.

But for the moment, I am watching to see if the weather forecast holds.

If it does, this weekend and the next two weeks will include a lot of on-the-water time.

July 29, 2015

'The Sixth Extinction' - and guess who is causing it?

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The Sixth Extinction (2014) is about an in-process event on a our planet that likely eventually spells the end of civilization as we know it.

Nice thought for a summer day, right?


It's also attempts to explain earlier mass extinctions, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, perhaps the most familiar of all such events taught in schools.

For the record, what we learned in sixth grade science about that extinction is probably dead-ass wrong.

Amazingly, by the time you are done reading New Yorker magazine writer Elizabeth Kolbert's work, it's  not so frightening. Species - all life - comes and goes in waves on our planet just as it has for the last, oh, half a billion years. And that ebb and flow likely will continue.

This time around, of course, humans are using ever-clever brains to hurry the extinction process along. But if humans are a natural part of earth (and not dropped here via some intergalactic space shuttle), then what's going on - will go on - is really just natural. Right?


The book looks closely at science, some politics, and specific instances in the world, present and past where species have died out. Kolbert explains why frogs are important bellwethers and why big mammals with slow reproductive rates go extinct so fast.

It's a complicated book, but still an easy read for the most part.

And it also has some revelations that are pretty startling. For example, you almost surely have some Neanderthal genes lurking in you. Really.

The Sixth Extinction is well-worth reading and is on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

July 26, 2015

"The Daylight Marriage" - a troubling family potboiler

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Heidi Pitlor's novel The Daylight Marriage chronicles a troubled marriage that explodes in the early chapters.

But the novel is only partly about the relationship between the wife and husband. It also looks at a teenage daughter, a young son and a community.

The Daylight Marriage is the second book of its type I've picked up recently from the shelf at the Watkins Glen library's browsing section. I'm not sure if there are more of these - or if the writing is so good I can't pass them up.

Maybe both.

Pitlor's book uses the familiar technique of chapters bouncing back and forth between the major characters as they go about their way through the novel. It works well and builds the tension quickly.

The novel becomes a page turner when the wife leaves home one morning after going through a bruising psychological battle with her husband the night before.

Heidi Pitlor
And she stays gone.

The missing wife - and she is missing as in call-the-police missing - sets up a family-community drama that is impossible to look away from. Like a car wreck.

The Daylight Marriage has a surprise ending, too. It seems obvious in hindsight, but not so much as the final chapters unfolded.

The novel on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen library.

July 8, 2015

Town of Reading Chair shuts down Crestwood comments

TOWN OF READING, New York - What started as a demonstration of citizen civility and democracy in the parking lot of the Town of Reading Town Hall Wednesday devolved inside when the Town Board chair declared no comments about a controversial project to store 88 million gallons of propane in salt caverns would be allowed.

Press conference outside Reading Town Hall
A crowd of about 40 people,  most of whom were there to comment and/or support the notion that the proposal by Crestwood Midstream of Houston is lunacy, were stunned by the chairman's comments.

Just prior to the meeting, a press conference was held at which citizens outlined their concerns and mentioned two earlier, very civil conversations with the Town Board.

But Wednesday night the balance of the town board members were mute while chairman Marvin Switzer became visibly angry when a member of the Concerned Reading Residents tried to update the board on their activities.

Later in the meeting he read a note handed to him from a resident who asked for him to publicly state his reasons for shutting down public comments. He never said why and stalked out of the room after the meeting. He declined to answer questions from reporters, also.

By the way, the limiting of the comments is illegal... Click here for the LINK that explains why...

And here's a short video with some meeting highlights:

Jill Essbaum's 'Hausfrau' is as fascinating as it is unsettling.

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Jill Alexander's Essbaum's Hausfrau is a book as fascinating as it is unsettling.

Set in Switzerland (Who doesn't love the Swiss?) it details the life of a housewife (thus the title) named Anna who seems to sleepwalk through life with her husband, Bruno Benz.

If he's any relation to the automobile Benz's, it's not apparent. And the primary mode of transportation in the book are trains. Pay attention to the trains. They begin and end the book like, well, bookends.

The Benz family is well off with three children and should, by most measures, be happy. Or at least content. But the family, the friends, the social fabric is harboring a major problem, most of it related to hausfrau Anna.

The book has received mixed reviews, perhaps because of its dreamlike quality. It might also be getting some thumbs-down assessments because Anna has a weakness for men - other than her husband.

A New York Times review by Janet Maslin was particularly savage:

"Here’s a sampling of Ms. Essbaum’s prose, which can have all 
the charm of a sink full of dishwater: “Anna examined herself in the mirror. 
She was neither too tall nor too short, neither too fat nor too thin. Her hair fell in easy but shaggy shoulder-length waves. It was the color of top dirt and it was graying around her forehead (she dyed it). What do they see in me, men? 
She wasn’t being modest. She truly didn’t know.”

The charm of a sink full of dishwater? Kee-rist, Janet Maslin, I would use the paragraph you hate in a creative writing seminar as an example of excellent prose. Perhaps it's because Ms. Essbaum is best known as an award-winning poet, that has Maslin's knickers so twisted.

The unraveling of Anna's life is difficult to watch, but irresistible. Yes, it's exactly like watching a slow-motion train wreck, if I can be allowed to drag out the train metaphor one more time.
Jill Alexander Essbaum

There are also plenty of sometimes unnerving cross-cultural, social, psychological and language-based threads scattered through the book. They keep the plot moving briskly while the reader is lulled into thinking things are not really changing all that much. They are.

An intriguing book worth reading. But if a few sex scenes or issues of adulterous behavior bother you, don't dive into it.

On the bookshelves of the Watkins Glen Public Library. Hausfrau is also available online and in audiobook format.

July 4, 2015

First phase of the VPYC rebuild done - next the bar!

VALOIS, New York - The first bit of rebuilding the Valois Point Yacht Club was completed this afternoon, just ahead of a thunderstorm, if I am reading the weather radar correctly. (Santo Crappo!)

We will have shade
It was just such a thunderstorm last summer that cleaned the VPYC "clubhouse" right off the end of the dock - bar, bar stools, chairs, shade structure - even the owl that was supposed to keep the seagulls from landing on the dock.

He didn't do a very good job. Half the time I looked down from the overlook, a seagull would be sitting on its head.

Tomorrow some barstools, chairs and various summer equipment will be put out for members and guests.

The rebuilding of the bar will take a bit, but hopefully in place by Tuesday afternoon when cousin Kathleen McAvoy arrives for a visit.

Let the summer begin! (Finally...)

June 30, 2015

'Doing the Devil's Work' - a novel with good and bad cops

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana - Female characters sometimes suffer badly at the hands of male authors. It's something I am struggling with right now, drafting a novel called Jack's Boat. The first half of the book centers around a female character, the second half a male lead.

It's complicated.

But in Bill Loehfelm's Doing the Devil's Work, he pulls it off nicely with a female police officer in New Orleans who is tough, human, and above all honest. It's hard to imagine Maureen Coughlin involved in any of the wildly awful incidents we see posted on YouTube too often of police going rogue.

The character of Maureen Coughlin made her first appearance in Loehflem's earlier book, The Devil She Knows, a novel on my list to read soon.

But in Doing the Devil's Work the author has Coughlin fight against police corruption, racism, militants, cop haters and ultra-wealthy socialites of post Katrina New Orleans who believe they can do no wrong. There's drugs, money, danger, and definitely some violence.

It is a mystery cop book.

What makes the main character so intriguing is that she is flawed but recognizes it. Her struggles become the reader's as you make your way through the chapters.

Bill Loehflem

I wish she smoked fewer cigarettes, but that's part of that flaw thing.

Several times in Doing the Devil's Work, I thought that the author might be making his female cop just a little too tough - too male. But just as I thought that, the scene would shift and it would become obvious that any cop - male or female - would have to be that tough to survive.

Recommended reading. And on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

June 24, 2015

'This Changes Everything' changes, well, everything

VALOIS, New York - This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is a fascinating book to read from a journalist's standpoint, full of amazing details about what we can expect - and not expect - in future years as humans grapple (and don't grapple) with the fallout of man-made changes from climate change.

From the standpoint of a citizen of earth, it's the kind of book that makes a person want to throw up their hands and give up.

Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein's book isn't without hope for humankind. But her descriptions of the obstacles we face to slowing down the warming of the earth from excess CO2 emissions nearly defy description.

But I will try, of course.

Right out of the publishing blocks, Klein jumps into her central thesis. Capitalism, with its madcap drive for growth (and increasingly voracious appetite for energy) is largely to blame for our current overhearing environmental predicament. Most of all, she blames the world's faith in the market to save the planet. The free market, she argues, is what got us into this mess - and continues to keep us from implementing solutions.

There are solutions to provide alternative energy and stop the aggressive expansion of fossil fuel extraction (and use). But she cites examples of how anytime these solutions get close to touching any kind of negative impact on corporate profits they disappear as quickly as trees and animals in the tar sands area of Alberta, Canada.

Klein also takes a solid whack at many of the supposedly green organizations which, it turns out, are heavily invested in oil and gas company stocks as part of their portfolios. And in most cases they defend the investments because of what they tout as the overall good service they are performing.

But Klein's most frightening - and depressing - section is about the potential use of geoengineering to solve the climate change crisis. Rather than try to lower emissions and use less heat-inducing technologies (like solar panels or wind turbines), many governments (and scientists) are exploring incredibly wild technological schemes that would make probably Gene Roddenberry (creator of the original Star Trek TV series) blush with disbelief.

These schemes are being considered seriously and quietly. But if I read Klein correctly, when we start experiencing even more severe weather events and climate-related catastrophes, expect to hear, for example, about shooting particles into the atmosphere to block the sun's rays and slow down warming.

What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

Klein's book is detailed, footnoted and written in a clever enough style that even though it sometimes can cause the reader to gasp with disbelief, it's never dull. Depression-inducing, absolutely. But never dull.

I liked the book enough that I ordered a copy to have in my library. Which means I will reread it so I can mark it up with a highlighter. I think some parts of it are likely to become part of my talk, "Fracking Fiction: You Can't Make This Stuff Up."

The book is on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

June 23, 2015

Jon Krakauer's 'Missoula' - powerful and disturbing

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Jon Krakauer's latest book, Missoula, is a disturbing tale about justice and injustice in the Montana town from which the title of the book is taken.

Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, Into the Wild and my personal favorite, Under the Banner of Heaven, has done a stellar job of capturing the events and emotions surrounding a rash of rapes of young women - and the fallout for the community and everyone involved.

In telling the story, the author takes no prisoners and uses documents, news accounts and interviews to weave his narrative. But he includes plenty of his own observations demonstrating how most of these cases were badly bungled.

It's a stinging indictment of Missoula, the University of Montana, and the football culture that seems to dominate the town.

Jon Krakauer
It's a sad tale, too, as Krakauer relates many of the horrible outcomes and repercussions - for the female victims - even those cases where, in theory, justice has been done.

Missoula is a disturbing book - but important. It should be required reading for every university administrator on the planet.

Missoula is on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen, NY public library and available through at this link: MISSOULA.

June 16, 2015

The thrill of victory, the agony of da feet

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The Green Festival in Washington D.C. had an amazing array of weird gadgets and paraphernalia, all environmentally friendly, of course.

And in our wanderings around the festival after I gave my talk, "Fracking Fiction: You Can't Make This Stuff Up," Admiral Sylvia Fox and I discovered a shoe product that turned out to be also feet-friendly.

They are called massaging insoles, made by a Florida company (where else?) called Best Sole.

And damn! They work.

For years, no matter how good my shoes were, 15 minutes of standing relatively still on concrete floors guaranteed my lower back would start to hurt. Really hurt.

And so I would find a chair or barstool (I am partial barstools, but that's another issue) to keep my back from getting out of control.

Now, 10 days into wearing these shoe inserts I can report that I can stand  on a concrete floor for, well, I haven't timed it, exactly. But I haven't felt the need to grab a chair or barstool when we are out socializing.

So there it is for folks who don't like to stand on concrete. Massaging insoles.

Oh, one more thing.

When you first put these things in your shoes, you think there might be rocks in your socks. Give it a minute and walk a little. It feels weird, but good.

June 11, 2015

Town of Reading meeting - and attorney - overheats

TOWN OF READING, Reading Center, NY - Going to meetings as a journalist is a lot more fun than going as a participant.

I knew this before I went to the Town of Reading Board meeting Wednesday night. But I never envisioned getting into a verbal altercation with the board's attorney - actually telling him that he was "out of order" when he interrupted my comments to the board. (More details on that imbroglio later including an audio file.)

My participation at the meeting as a citizen - as opposed to a newspaper columnist for the Finger Lakes Times - was because a friend asked me to personally deliver 10 copies of my newly released novel Fracking Justice to the members of the board.

Some people seeing this have already finished reading the novel - or are closing in on the explosive ending. Those folks understand the significance of book and relevance to the proposed storage of liquid propane gas in unlined salt caverns adjacent to beautiful Seneca Lake.

At the meeting I submitted a two-page letter of concern to the Town Board members and spoke briefly. I urged them to write a letter to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, reserving the Town's right to ultimately say no to the Texas-based company (Crestwood Midstream of Houston) that wants to cram (under great pressure) 88 million gallons of explosive propane in the salt caverns.

Presenting Fracking Justice to the Reading Town Board
After I spoke, many others opposed to the LPG storage spoke, too.

And the evening wore on. (I've been waiting to write that line forever... So there it is.)

After the last of the public comments, the attorney for the Town of Reading (Thomas Bowes of Painted Post, formerly with NY Congressman Tom Reed's law office) spoke. He started out slowly, sort-of even-handedly explaining the situation legally to the town board. He reminded me of an algebra tutor I had in high school, patient, but losing patience with every word.

Then he went off the rails by referring to Crestwood as if it was a person (a la Mitt Romney's famous quote that "corporations are people, my friend"). He essentially told the Town Board letters to the DEC and the things suggested by the audience were for all intent and purposes, probably moot.

That got a rise out of the audience, prompting me to walk up to the front of the meeting, where I asked the chair to recognize me again, even though the official public comment period was over.

I had barely begun when the Town of Reading's attorney launched into a diatribe cutting me off cold. And so, I told him he was "out of order."

Thomas Bowes
I quickly added that the chair of the Town Board really should be the one to rule the Bowes out of order. My blurting out "out of order" was a complete reflex after God-only-knows how many meetings at my university as a department chair and chair of the faculty.

I ruled a lot of people out of order at meetings in my university career. And they usually deserved it.

But my offhand, out-of-order comment lit the rocket of attorney Bowes. He blew up faster and hotter than I have ever seen an attorney do in a public meeting. Usually when attorneys are sitting as a paid legal consultant to a municipality, they seem so calm, you wonder if they might be on tranquilizers.

Bowes wasn't. Particularly when he barked this at me:
"You can sit down."

I think I might have said "Ooooooooo." Not all that professional of me, either, I suppose. But it just kind of slipped out. I heard a couple of "Oooooooooo" remarks from the audience, too.

I started speaking again, quickly made my point (even as Bowes made grumbling remarks in the background). Then I thanked the chair for allowing me the time to speak.

Outside the meeting, the folks who had spoken - and who were hopeful the board would take a position against the LPG storage last night - were disappointed. The board said it needed more time to ponder the situation before members would make a decision.

That pondering might have included the long, closed-door session with attorney Bowes that occurred right after the regular meeting ended.

I just hope none of the Town Board members stood up without permission.

Standing room only at the Town of Reading board meeting Wednesday night

June 7, 2015

'The Stranger' - a chilling novel by Harlan Coben

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Harlan Coben's latest novel, The Stranger, is frostbite of a chiller, combining family dynamics, Internet crime, the small mindedness of a small-town and the politics of youth sports.

Oh, and there is enough deception and deliberate author-induced misdirection to make Arthur Conan Doyle smile.

The basic premise - having a stranger whisper something to you that makes you begin to doubt, well, everything - makes this book impossible to put down.

And as the story unfolds, the main protagonist finds himself swept up in a search for his wife - and the truth about both his relationship to her and his own culpability in his (and other people's) troubles.

Harlan Coben
The books moves along rapidly like all of Coben's novels. This one has some double twist somersaults in the plot that will force you to smile, even as your gasp at their meaning.

The Stranger is highly recommended, though it's no beach novel.

And it's on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen library.

June 3, 2015

'Fracking Justice' launch party was fracking awesome

HECTOR, New York, USA - The launch party Tuesday at the Hector Wine Company for the novel Fracking Justice was nothing short of fracking awesome.

And I really hate to use the word awesome. But dammit, it was awesome. I was overwhelmed at the support people offered and their encouragement to start writing the third book in the trilogy.

Signing copies of Fracking Justice

Adm. Sylvia Fox and her amigos put on one great party that ran from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It could have gone on and on.

Cousin Brett Beardslee provided fine music and Hector Wine Company wine flowed while I tried to keep up with signing copies of Fracking Justice and last year's The Fracking War. I even signed one of the Fracking Justice t-shirts, designed by Amy Colburn of Canandaigua.

Editor, proofreader and official Fracking Justice photographer Darlene Bordwell shot photos all evening. A sample of those can be seen here:  Launch Party photos.

There was one personal glitch.

My mind kept going blank on people's names. And these were people I see all the time in Watkins Glen, Hector, - even at church! They would come up with their books to sign and I would have to ask them their names.
Thanking Sylvia for, well, everything...


But except for that gaffe it went great with lively conversations. And my brief speech got sufficient laughs that I am not worried about giving a long-form version of the same talk at The Green Festival in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

At one point, Sylvia rallied the crowd to get people to write a review on Amazon of the book which will boost it through some weird Amazon algorithm to make the novel pop up more often for readers interested in a eco-thriller.

I won't pretend to understand how that all works.

Thank you to everyone who came out for the launch party - and all the other folks who have been sooooooo supportive of this novel and our efforts to get it published.

In the real world, it's past time for some real fracking justice. I hope the book can help with that. Somehow.

With Joseph Campbell and Yvonne Taylor, founders of Gas Free Seneca.
Fracking Justice is dedicated to them.

June 1, 2015

'Endangered' a suspenseful modern-day western

CHEYENNE WYOMING - The novel Endangered by Wyoming writer C.J. Box is a cleverly written book, full of suspense and as many twists as the winding roads of the mountains and plains in which the book is set.

It's another installment in Box's "Joe Pickett" series.

Normally, I shy away from such series novels. The characters often get really tired or turn into stereotypes. (The works of James Lee Burke are notable exceptions.) But this novel is a great standalone - and good enough that I am going to break my rule and look at some earlier "Joe Pickett" novels.

Endangered is that good.

This novel involves murders, abductions, an amazing family of evil miscreants that wreak havoc - and more than a few heroic actions on the part of not only Pickett, but other characters around him.

The law enforcement portrayals are realistic and gritty. And the final, climatic scenes are as good as any mystery detective novel.
Author C. J. Box

Recommended reading.

And if you live in Watkins Glen, it's on the new book bookshelf.

May 28, 2015

Launching 'Fracking Justice, Tuesday night in New York

HECTOR, New York, USA - When I completed The Fracking War in the fall of 2013, I remember  feeling a huge sense of relief - and being exhausted. The launch party for that book was a wild crescendo at the Hector Wine Company.

Two weeks later, I had my energy back and started writing the first draft of the novel Fracking Justice which will have its first public unveiling Tuesday at the Hector Wine Company, starting at 5 p.m. and going until 8 p.m.

If you live anywhere near the Hector zip code, I hope to see you there. It should be a lot of fun.

Fracking Justice has many of the same characters, is similarly set in Upstate New York and in the nearby fictional town of Rockwell Valley, Pennsylvania. But Fracking Justice has a new geographic character, Rockwell Valley Lake. And yes, the lake and community are facing an awful industrial threat, from, well, the same villainous corporation that appeared in The Fracking War. 

I won't spoil the plot. But it's a pretty wild ride, right to the end.

One of the pre-publication reviewers - who got an early peek at Fracking Justice - asked me a few days ago if I was still planning on doing a third book, completing a trilogy.

The short answer is yes. And a rough outline, ideas for that novel - tentatively titled Fracking Evil -  and even a cover concept have been bouncing around in my mind since last fall.

But I won't start stacking paragraphs on it until Fracking Justice gets properly launched Tuesday!

May 8, 2015

One week, three novels and all three excellent reads

WATKINS GLEN, New York - In quick succession this past week I read Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates, World Gone By by Dennis Lehane and The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle.

For me, that's something of a reading record.

It's not that unusual for me to read three books in a single week. But normally it's one novel and two quick-read non-fiction books.

Novels have to be really good to grab my attention. Most of the time I come home with an armload of books, taking most of them back within a day.

And so it is that I am still stunned that all three of these books, grabbed quickly off the shelves of the Watkins Glen Public Library, were all amazingly good reads. I burned through them. And they will be back in the library this afternoon.


Jack of Spades takes the reader on a wild ride through the eyes of a best-selling author. Right there you know what hooked me at the outset. (Oh! To hit the best-seller list!) But you don't have to dip very far into this psychological thriller before you realize what you see on the surface isn't what's really going on.

It's a little like looking at a quiet mill pond where the surface of the water seems ever-so-peaceful. But down below there is a boiling turmoil of the aquatic animal kingdom competing, fighting - and perhaps even munching on each other.

Joyce Carol Oates does an amazing job of pulling the reader deeper and deeper beneath the surface of the author's life pond until you are almost gasping for air in the final pages. Like other work by Oates, the characters aren't what they seem to be at first. And who they turn out to be is as unpredictable at weather in suburban New Jersey where the book takes place.

Highly recommended reading. But read with extreme caution if you are a writer going through some kind of psychological doldrums or distress.  (And what writer isn't most of the time?)

World Gone By in its opening lines seems like it will be a simple, almost pedestrian crime novel, further stereotyped by its setting in World War II Tampa, Florida. Then four paragraphs into it, without warning, the characters emerge so strongly they jump off the page before you even get through the prologue.

Books filled with psychotic gangsters can be fascinating - or a complete turnoff. In World Gone By Lehane humanizes some, dehumanizes others but always, always make them so interesting you can't look away even when guns blaze or knives flash. Kind of like trying to avert your eyes from a slow-motion, car-wreck video.

What becomes abundantly clear is that every character in the book is complicated. Very complicated. And those complications, set against the backdrop of criminal activity (and sometimes violence) make for very readable book.

There is even a bow to race relations - a la 1940s - using the rough underworld of that era in Florida.

Lehane is a veteran novelist with many best sellers to his credit including the highly acclaimed Mystic River. I'm not sure World Gone By will get that same traction. But it should.

Recommended reading, especially if fast-paced novels are what you like.


The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle is as quirky as much of the rest of Boyle's work. And equally captivating.

It leads with a 70-year-old, retired high school principal going through an identity crisis of sorts as he faces a life of, well, boredom. Boyle sucks the reader in with early pages making the book sound like a Paul Theroux travelogue as the principal and his wife bounce along on a pothole-strewn Costa Rica road uncomfortable on a smelly, third-world bus, part of cruise ship tour.

Then the principal violently thwarts a robbery attempt.

Paul Theroux disappears and T.C. Boyle emerges.

Like most of Boyle's work, his characters are incredibly complicated. And The Harder They Come take the reader on a nearly 400-page wild ride through the marijuana patches of Northern California's coast, the twisted anti-government minds of a middle-aged woman and eventually to the principal's son. Law enforcement gets hit a few whacks in the book, too.

It's painful to read in spots, but never dull. And just when you think you can predict what the characters will do next, you get surprised.

Especially by the principal's adult son - every parent's nightmare.

The Harder They Come is an artful book that is well worth taking a day or two to be immersed in.

I couldn't put it down.

April 26, 2015

'Fracking Justice' Kickstarter - 13 days to go now

WATKINS GLEN, New York - The Kickstarter campaign for Fracking Justice is past the midway point, with 13 days left to run.

That leaves 13 days to preorder a print book, e-book, audiobook or a T-shirt. Or maybe some combination of all four.

LINK to Kickstarter campaign.

After yesterday's blog post (and email) a number of folks jumped on the Fracking Justice Kickstarter bandwagon.

Thank you all!

So far, 31 folks have contributed $1,200, preordering their print books, e-books, audiobooks and T-shirts.

The T-shirts - designed by Canandaigua artist Amy Colburn who also did the book cover - are being printed and will be ready in the next few weeks.

And this  week - provided my cold goes away - I will be in Scott Adams' Hector, NY studio to record the soundtrack for the audiobook of Fracking Justice.

If you have any questions about the Kickstarter or how the rewards/purchase/preorder works shoot me an email by clicking this link:

Thanks for your support.

April 17, 2015

'Fracking Justice' final proofs done - now it's all Kickstarter

ALAMEDA, Calif. - The final-final-final page proofs of Fracking Justice are done! I found the last out-of-place commas, formatting errors and (OK, OK!) spelling goofs today.

Now the book will be put into its final form by Mill City Press, still on track for a June 1 public release. Kickstarter backers will see their copies earlier.

This week Adm. Fox and I launched a Kickstarter campaign for the book, similar to what we did for The Fracking War. This time  Kickstarter backers can pre-order a print edition, e-book, audio book, a specially designed T-shirt - or a combination of any of these.

The audio book has proven to be the most complicated part of all this.

With the encouragement of Canandaigua, NY artist Amy Colburn, (who did the cover art for Fracking Justice),  I went into the recording studio of Hector musician Scott Adams where I recorded an audio book of The Fracking War. And when I return to the Finger Lakes in a week, I'll be recording the sound for production of the audio book of Fracking Justice.

Ever try reading aloud for hours without making a single mistake? 
Or stifle a cough mid-sentence? 
Or stop your your stomach from gurgling so loud the sound gets picked up by a microphone?

Kee-rist it's hard.

This week we also finalized the back-cover endorsements for Fracking Justice, too.

Here they are, also listed on the Kickstarter page (LINK: to Kickstarter):

Josh Fox - Director of Gasland and Gasland 2:
"At a time when fracking and other forms of extreme fossil fuel development threaten to destroy everything we hold dear, Fracking Justice is there to remind us of the true cost of fracking. It may be fiction but it shows how the fossil fuel industry is fracturing not only our land but our communities. Read this page-turner, then pass it on. "

Will Potter - author of the compelling book Green is the New Red:
"This isn't just a good read—it's grounded in a very real ecological crisis, and a backlash against those who dare to speak up. Fracking Justice captures exactly what is at stake, both for the planet and for our freedoms."

Mystery fiction writer Elle Ashe - author of Chasing the Dollar:
"A smart, powerful page-turner." In the new genre of environmental thriller, she says, "It’s exciting, edge-of-your-seat writing, and is all the more scary because it’s so timely."

Executive editor of the daily Finger Lakes Times newspaper, Mike Cutillo:
 "Fitzgerald has the uncanny ability to write in the meaty, fact-filled manner of a veteran hardscrabble journalist while also weaving a deft and enjoyable storyline befitting a seasoned novelist. In Fracking Justice — just like in The Fracking War — he puts his knowledge about the environmental and social issues associated with hydraulic fracturing to use in crafting a real page-turner with characters you feel for and care about. This is a must-read -- whether you want to learn more about fracking or are simply a fan of good writing."

With praise like that, they have set the bar pretty damn high for Fracking Evil, the third book I plan to write in this fracking series.

Did I say damn high? The evil is creeping up on me already...