Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blatant Self Promo — My Latest Books Made Available For your Ears

Five of my most recent books are going audio, including the stand-alone thriller Good to the Last Kiss.  UK publisher Severn House has reached an agreement with Amazon’s Audible Books for two mysteries in the Indianapolis-based Deets Shanahan series and the first two books in the Paladino and Lang series, set in San Francisco.

The first to be released by Audible is Good to the last Kiss — San Francisco Inspector Vincent Gratelli is charged with finding the killer of young women – all murdered in the same way, all left with the with a mysterious mark. The most recent victim is beaten and raped in her weekend cabin. There appears to be only one difference – she is still alive. There are two questions. How can these murders be stopped and how does the killer feel about unfinished business? Available February, 11, 2014. Available now in hardback and e-book
“Tierney serves up a dark, twisty little gem…. Every year the genre has its Goliaths, bigger and better ballyhooed than this modest entry. Come Edgar time, however, Tierney’s well-written, tidily plotted, character-driven David of a book deserves to be remembered.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Opinion — Indiana Ad Leaves Out Important Facts

A big and no doubt expensive ad in The New York Times tries to convince NY businesses to move to Indiana without telling them Indiana is anti-gay and is a place where the marriages of many of their employees would be invalidated. The state’s legislature is in the midst of passing an amendment to the state constitution to outlaw same sex marriage as well as civil unions. Why would New Yorkers want to move there?  Is it because the Indiana Governor wants creationism taught as a science?

I’m a Hoosier to the bone; but it’s hard to stay proud when my birth state acts like Alabama and Mississippi in the ‘60s. Shame on Pence and Bosma.  It’s pretty clear that in the future the International Olympic Committee will disqualify potential sites if they discriminate against minorities.  I suspect the NFL and other such groups will soon do the same.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bonfire Of The Inanities, Or Rich Men Behaving Badly

In the democratic Presidential primaries that eventually lead to Obama’s first term, I could not convince myself to consider Edwards (too unctuous) even though his ’”two Americas” theme showed a critical understanding off America’s greatest dilemma — and increasingly, the world’s.  Lots of good stuff comes from the competitive spirit.  The desire to get rich is not in anyway immoral in my mind.  Generally speaking, if someone works hard enough and smart enough, risks his or her own capital, solves problems and assumes responsibility for the product or service, then that someone deserves more return on that investment than those who don’t.

But what happens is that, like any good plan, things can get out of kilter. In the 1980s, Tom Wolfe chronicled the “masters of the universe” and the two Americas in his great book Bonfire of the Vanities. It’s a worthwhile read and a fine piece of crime fiction. (The movie version, which seemed more like a Mel Brooks-directed film than one by Brian De Palma, is worthless).  As movies go, Wall Street captures the times and should have served as warning for the “too big to fail” bank and Wall Street corruption that would punctuate the end of Bush Junior’s’ term and throw our economy into its greatest turmoil since the Great Depression.  Let me throw some names out there — Goldman Sachs, Bernie Madoff, the Koch Brothers — masters or former masters of the universe.  Follow the money. Look at those who have benefited most from this egregious wealth disparity.

Books and movies have told us about this. We have been warned.  If nothing else the cold, harsh numbers should how us how skewered our economy is in favor the wealthy, who buy the people who make the laws.  According to Oxfam, the world’s 85 wealthiest people have as much money as the 3.5 billion poorest people on the planet – half the Earth’s population.  In the U.S., despite increased productivity, worker wages have decreased. The middle class is shrinking while corporate profits are setting records. Profits for hedge fund investors (who must already be among the wealthiest of our citizens, are taxed at half the rate of the workers who pick up our trash. Current U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 an hour or roughly $290 for a 40-hour week, hence the phrase, working poor.”
The Wolf of Wall Street

Corporations, like Wal-Mart who regularly benefit from government subsidies fight any increase in minimum wage.  In the case of Wal-Mart, members of the Walton family occupy five positions in Americas’s top ten billionaires, according to Forbes. The Koch Brothers, each a billionaire 36 times over, also fight against increasing the minimum wage even to catch up with inflation.  Then again, they fund organizations seeking to undo social security.

We have been warned.  I’ve not yet seen The Wolf of Wall Street, but having read much about it, Martin Scorsese tell us again how unchecked capitalism creates two Americas, one of them a thief, the other a victim.

Koch Brothers, martin Scorsese, Wolf of Wall Street, Wall Street, Bonfire of the Vanities, minimum wage, wealth disparity,

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Opinion — The Appropriate Tools To Carry out Judicially Approved Homicide

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility

I’m not an expert on death; but as a mystery writer I am not only interested in how it occurs but it’s use as a punishment, usually reserved for people who commit murder.  And while I have  wished death or worse on people who have done unspeakable things to others, for as long as I can remember I have been anti-death penalty. My views have only been strengthened by the science of DNA and the eye-opening work of the Innocence Project.  Many innocent people have landed on Death Row. 

But let’s assume executions are based on infallible court decisions, which they cannot be and that they are a legitimate crime deterrent, which they aren’t or that they are at least cost-effective, which isn’t true, is it necessary to carry it out in such a gruesome manner?  The evolution of executions in the U.S. has tended toward the more civilized. No more stoning. The guillotine is gone. Public hangings have disappeared.  The electric chair and gas chamber have been rendered obsolete. Yet, despite our advanced technology, we cannot develop a quick, painless, means to an end.

“As the lethal drugs flowed into his veins in the Ohio death chamber, Dennis B. McGuire at first “went unconscious” and his body was still, his daughter, Amber McGuire, said Friday.
“’But a few minutes later,’ she said, ‘she was horrified to see her father struggling, his stomach heaving, a fist clenching.’’’
“’He started making all these horrible, horrible noises, and at that point, that’s when I covered my eyes and my ears,’” said Ms. McGuire, who watched the execution on Thursday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, near Lucasville. Mr. McGuire’s execution, conducted with a new and untested combination of drugs, took about 25 minutes from the time the drugs were started to the time death was declared. The process, several witnesses said, was accompanied by movement and gasping, snorting and choking sounds. “ — New York Times, January 17, 2014.
Unless the death penalty is supposed to exact vengeance against both the criminal and his or her family, shouldn’t we simply put the intended on a slow drip of increasing doses of morphine or abolish the death penalty altogether?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Brand Names In Fiction?

A few days ago, I read a blog post from a writer who, in an attempt to provide writerly advice, passionately opposed the use of brand names in works of fiction. Among the arguments is that such mentions take away from the universality of the story. While I think it is perfectly fine to create a work without brands — Scott Turow created an entire city — pronouncing such a “thou shalt not” is like an artist removing a color from the palette. You can, but why would you? Here is a short post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Reposted From Monday, May 30, 2011

Before you write that first crime fiction novel consider a few things. What follows is the ninth in a series of short articles about what you might want to consider as you put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard.   Click here for the On Writing Section.

Product placement is unethical. Using brand names isn't.
From time to time, I’ve been chastised for using brand names in my writing. I often identify the brand of beer, the make of car and, where I can make positive or at least neutral observations about the place, the name of the restaurant where the characters dine. For me, what a person chooses in his or her life helps define the character of the person I’m describing. For example, one of my characters in the San Francisco series, Noah Lang, drives a beat-up, old Mercedes. Here is a man who likes quality but can’t afford it. His specific choice — it’s kind of ratty looking — suggests that he really doesn’t care what other people think about him. He is comfortable with who he is. I could have said that he drives a “beat-up, old luxury car.” But I want to help the reader come to terms quickly. What if I used the generic “luxury car,” the reader rightfully thinks, “Could be an old Cadillac.” Well, no, that wouldn’t do what I want the description to do. I like old Cadillacs, but they are big and showy. Old Mercedes aren’t, and neither is the character.
I can tell you I’ve never received a penny for naming a product, never so much as a free cup of coffee for mentioning a restaurant. Most writers pass through life anonymously — especially those of us who live well below the New York Times bestseller list. No one knows who I am. However, in an era of paid product placement, I can’t blame a reader for being suspicious of brand names appearing in the story. And it is possible to write by saying “she lit a cigarette,” or “he jumped in his convertible,” and get the job done. But truthfully, did anyone else wince when it showed James Bond driving a BMW? Could Rockford have driven a Chevette? A woman wearing a Hermes scarf or a man driving a Dodge Ram provides more telling glimpses of those characters’ lives than using either the simple “scarf” or “pickup truck” or a dozen adjectives. Using a brand name can be an effective shortcut and make it real to the reader.
Again, there are no rules, only choices. A reader might have a greater sense of the timelessness of the story if those kinds of specifics are spared. Twenty years from now there may be no such thing as a Blackberry. Culturally, though, might it not be particularly rich for the writer to reflect the times with greater specificity? And would the potentially banned brand name require writers to replace Blackberry with “a versatile communications device?"

On writing, brand names in fiction, product placement

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Observations —Are Bisexuals As Rare As Unicorns?

Times are changing. Seventeen states have made same-sex marriage legal. A–list actors take on gay or lesbian roles as they might any other. Sport figures are beginning to out themselves, understanding how this will help teens deal with prejudice in the locker room. Straights in all professions are showing their support for the LGBT community as that community seeks acceptance for its members.

Unfortunately, though, not all members of that community support each other. When Olympic diver Tom Daley came out publicly, some felt it wasn’t a cause for celebration because he said that he still found girls attractive.  Oops.  Oops. Could it be that this handsome, young athlete was… dare I say it?… a bisexual?

I’ve been around a few years — most of it as a gay man. Sadly I have observed that the BT part of LGBT have been given short shrift by the L&G parts. Even some of the pioneers in the fight for gay and lesbian rights — author and blogger Andrew Sullivan and sex advice columnist Dan Savage come to mind — seem to buy into the notion that people must be one or the other, and that those claiming to like both boys and girls are trying to hide something from the world or themselves or both. Similarly, for many, it seems transgender people who do not opt for sexual reassignment surgery should “simply make up their minds.’”

At times, it must appear to bisexuals that they are without a country. And for those dealing with transgender issues, it must appear that the rest of the world does its best to ignore the meaning of sexual orientation and gender identity and the rights of  individuals to live their lives as they see fit. The either-or LGBT people do no good. Giving credence to these prejudices is doubly bad because they are easily turned back on all of us.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Observations — 2013, Good Riddance

I’m not a fan of 2013. Health issues have kept me relatively homebound for the last couple of years, particularly 2013.  A good part of that time I’ve been on steroids.  These aren’t the body-building, home-run-hitting, bicycle-racing ‘roids, but the kind that makes you bigger, meaner and generally unpleasant to be around. Thank goodness, I live alone and I’m not seeking a mate.

"Bigger, meaner and generally unpleasant to be around."
The upside.  There are chunks of time when the drug provides excess energy. During the first steroid treatment period, I started a small publishing company and brought the first Shanahans back into print, as well as publishing a lovely, strange, little mystery novella that never would have seen the light of day had I not done it myself. I also started the blog you are reading now.  During the current steroid treatment, a different type this time, my face bloated and neck thickened, but my nasty behavior toward others subsided, I’ve been told.  As I did before, I am having periodic surges of mental energy, enough that I wrote three more novellas, a new full-length novel in the Shanahan series and the first draft of a memoir of sorts.  I’m not sure this was more than a curious exercise.  I’m not sure it matters, except that all that has preceded this moment is material, color and knowledge for any writing that follows. In that sense, the lousy 2013 gains value.  The decrepitude that came with two brain surgeries, one not particularly successful,  (as well as the debilitating drugs), has certainly allowed me greater empathy for others, but ironically also provides greater insight into the mind of the major character in my fiction as I seemed to age exponentially, more than catching up with my elderly protagonist.. Grist for the mill.  My afflictions played into the character and  plot of my new book. The level of understanding of what the character experiences and the reality I’m able to convey to the reader are far greater than if this information had been gleaned from research on Google.  Without this horrible year, I’m sure I would have defaulted on some valuable life lessons and written a lesser book.  Do I want to do it again?  No.

What’s ahead is uncertain.  Then again, isn’t it always?

So I wish myself a much better 2014 – Year of The Horse for half the world's population.  And I wish all my friends a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.