Sunday’s mixed bag

  • Don’t let the smile fool you

    Author Pat Bertram posted an interesting piece on her blog today called “Pain Management,” in which she talked about the problem of doctors prescribing lower than needed doses of opioids so that patients have to live in pain and/or the issue of pharmacies’ refusing to fill prescriptions because they think they have a right to second guess what’s on the script. I know the problem in spades. My wife and I have both been yelled at by doctors who didn’t like the meds other doctors were prescribing. (We yelled back.) We’ve fought medication-related battles with doctors and pharmacies many times, so I was tempted to write a post about it. Turns out, the subject makes me too angry to write about coherently.

  • Aw, China is ticked off about our shooting down its weather balloon.
  • I’m enjoying another Kathy Reichs novel, Grave Secrets. It’s been fun, but I think the novel suffers from too many plots. Here’s the blurb on the novel’s Amazon page: “They are ‘the disappeared,’ twenty-three massacre victims buried in a well in the Guatemalan village of Chupan Ya two decades ago. Leading a team of experts on a meticulous, heartbreaking dig, Tempe Brennan pieces together the violence of the past. But a fresh wave of terror begins when the horrific sounds of a fatal attack on two colleagues come in on a blood-chilling satellite call. Teaming up with Special Crimes Investigator Bartolome Galiano and Montreal detective Andrew Ryan, Tempe quickly becomes enmeshed in the cases of four privileged young women who have vanished from Guatemala City—and finds herself caught in deadly territory where power, money, greed, and science converge.”
  • I don’t understand how one political party says “there is no border crisis,” in spite of news reports like this one from the Associated Press, “A surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in September brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” And. the opposition party says it has no solution. This is why I don’t trust the two major parties.
  • The photo at the top of my blog is a stand of sea oats, a protected plant in Florida. I’m very fond of them because I saw them so often while more or less living at the Gulf coast while growing up.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels primarily set in Montana and Florida.

Sunday’s mixed bag of stuff

  • Rainy and wet today here in Northwest Georgia. Robbie, our indoor/outdoor kitty is inside. He must know that heavier rain is coming. All in all, a good day to stay inside and work on the next novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series set in Tallahassee and a fictional town near the Apalachicola River. Perhaps there’ll even be something fun to watch on TV tonight like, hmm, another episode of “Swamp People” on the History Channel.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel The Passenger. It’s different from such classics as Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses, but just as powerful and well-written. I agree with Ron Charles’ assessment in The Washington Post that, “McCarthy has assembled all the chilling ingredients of a locked-room mystery. But he leaps outside the boundaries of that antique form, just as he reworked the apocalypse in The Road… Western knows he’s suspected of something, but he’s not told what. The two men who repeatedly question him never drop their formal politeness—never flash a bolt gun like Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men—but Western knows that his life is in danger and that he must run… The style—a mingling of profound contemplation and rapid-fire dialogue, always without quotation marks and often without attribution—is pure McCarthy.” I haven’t bought Stella Maris, the companion novel yet, but I will.
  • The Guardian story about the police murder in Memphis is headlined: “Tyre Nichols’s death after police encounter was ‘failing of basic humanity’, says Memphis chief.” The newspaper notes that there were 1,176 “police-involved” killings in 2022. The daily news routinely includes a police atrocity like this or a mass shooting by some thug from the community. Many newspapers and commentators say that inflation or possibly problems at the U.S./Mexico border are the country’s top news stories. They’re wrong, I think. Violence ought to be at the top of the list.
  • No, I don’t plan to watch the upcoming Super Bowl Game. I haven’t cared for years, though if the Atlanta Falcons were playing, I might watch. I tend to watch college football, especially if the Florida State University Seminoles are playing. They had a decent season, though not as good as the University of Georgia’s Dawgs, a team I only root for when they’re playing the University of Florida Gators.
  • Okay, I’m still addicted to Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books and have three on order to read before getting to Stella Maris. I hope all of you are reading quality books these days.

–Malcolm

All four novels in the Florida Folk Magic Series are available in one Kindle volume, a nice savings.

Limping through Christmas

  1. We both have the flu. (This is a fact and not a request for pity.)
  2. The temperature is 16° up from 13°. The wind chill is -2°, though it was lower during the night when the winds were brisker than necessary.
  3. Dear keyboard manufacturers. Why did you take the ° symbol off the keyboard so that I now have to type a COBOL routine to use it?
  4. I finally re-ordered three missing gifts for Lesa since the original shipper kept sending the items to Rangoon. They won’t get here in time, but maybe an IOU under the tree will suffice.
  5. Since nobody volunteered to send me any gumbo, we’re having chili. When I make it, it’s better than Wendy’s chili and that has to count for something.
  6. I read in the news that Putin wants to end the war with Ukraine. Okay, just withdraw your troops and stop shelling civilians and you’ll get your wish. I’m sure you recognize your spent rockets. Just don’t fire any more of them and the war will be over. It’s not rocket science.
  7. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson over at “Fox News” claims that our representatives “clapped like seals” during Zelensky’s speech. So what? Many of them are seals.
  8. My publisher Thomas-Jacob sent out a cool end-of-the-year newsletter to subscribers with news and deals. You can get in on the action by subscribing. Click on the graphic for the subscription form.
  9. Robbie, our indoor/outdoor cat has spent most of the day outdoors. What the hell is he thinking?
  10. I hope you have a great Christmas–and stay warm.

–Malcolm

Pre-Christmas Gumbo

  • I’m sitting here sipping three fingers of wonderful single malt, thinking it must be 3:20 p .m. somewhere.
  • Téa Obreht’s Inland reminds me of the prose style of Cormac McCarthy. She uses two overlapping timelines and that makes reading a challenge. As you read, you may well wonder how so many well-meaning people come to ruin.
  • I may have to put some IOUs under the Christmas tree since several gifts I ordered for Lesa haven’t shown up even though I got at least four e-mails that said, “Your orders arrive today.” Nothing on the porch. Nothing in the mailbox. Nothing leaning against the garage door (it has happened). I finally sent a response back: “No they didn’t.” They said “OMG, we’ll get right on it.” I got to more “your order arrived today” e-mails today. If they don’t show up in today’s mail, I think it’s about time to say this store and those gifts are a lost cause.
  • As look at today’s national weather stories about the possibility of a bomb cyclone, I’m really happy I no longer live on the Illinois/Wisconsin border. You’ll notice that the graphic shows a few flakes drifting across the state line into Georgia. We’re promised little to no accumulation.
  • Our tree is up, but undecorated. No worries. There’s plenty of time. Last year, our tree stayed up until February. We have our own schedule here, having just mailed out the out-of-town gifts a few days ago. They’ll probably arrive late. People expect that of us. If they were to arrive on time, we’d get phone calls from folks saying, “Are you guys okay?”
  • Our nearby horse/dog/cat rescue and retirement farm is fighting higher and higher prices this year from maintenance to bales of hay. If you’re looking for a great organization to support, directly or via Amazon’s smile program, please consider Sun Kissed Acres. From their home page: Hundreds of horses have come to the farm, most have endured unspeakable cruelty and neglect. They come to us unable to stand, unable to trust, and they are given careful attention and veterinary care, a soft place to land.

–Malcolm

If you shop for Christmas gifts as late as I do, you can find some great books in my publisher’s catalogue.

Sunday’s slush pile

  • “I thought the piles of unsolicited manuscripts it was my job to sift through would contain undiscovered gems. Reader, I was very wrong.” – Jean Hannah Edelstein in “The Shocking Truth about the slush pile.”
  • I enjoyed reading Kathy Reich’s first book in her Temperance Brennan series Déjà Dead. I doubt it ever saw a slush pile because it’s filled with enough chopped-up bones, high-quality forensic anthropologist work, unco-operative policework, and real scares at Brennan’s house to satisfy any reader of crime novels. Readers will learn a lot about saws, cutting bones, Montreal, and possibly a little québécois. I started the series with the last book, then the second-to-last book, and now the first book. I might have gotten hooked. something I never thought would happen (and am a little embarrassed to admit) with a police procedural. Perhaps this is better called an autopsy procedural.
  • I’m now reading Inland by Téa Obreht to atone for flirting with a crime book. So far, Obreht’s book moves at a more-lyrical pace, not counting the exploits of “The Mattie Gang.”
  • Cold weather has come to Georgia prompting us to remember at 1:00 a.m last night that we’d forgotten to move the more delicate potted plants inside. So, we went out and froze our asses off while making sure the plants didn’t.
  • Facebook has been filled lately with photographs of weird stuff in cooking pans that people are looking forward to eating (the stuff, not the pans). I think most of the “food” in the photographs looks trashcan ready even though these posts get lots of likes and recipe requests. I’m tempted to say that these culinary catastrophes look like stuff swept off the kitchen floor and dumped into a Dutch oven with a quart of water. But I don’t: (a) because I’m a polite person, and (b) because I don’t want people to come back and say that my books look like something vacuumed (or Hoovered if you’re English) out of a slush pile.
  • PW graphic

    I was happy to see this November 8th Publishers Weekly story: “In Written Opinion, Judge Florence Pan Delivers Knockout Blow to PRH, S&S Merger.” According to the judge, “The government has presented a compelling case that predicts substantial harm to competition as a result of the proposed merger of PRH and S&S,” Many well-known authors have been saying this ever since the proposed merger was announced. I agree with them–and the judge. There’s already too little competition due to earlier mergers. You can read the order here in PDF format.

  • Based on my glowing recommendation, a close friend of mine just began reading Wolf Hall, the 2009 historical novel by the late Hilary Mantel. I worry a little when I recommend novels and hope the friend is still speaking to me when they finish the book (assuming they finish the book). I have high hopes, especially when I see experts’ reactions like this one in Wikipedia: In The Guardian, Christopher Tayler wrote, “Wolf Hall succeeds on its own terms and then some, both as a non-frothy historical novel and as a display of Mantel’s extraordinary talent. Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it’s not like much else in contemporary British fiction. A sequel is apparently in the works, and it’s not the least of Mantel’s achievements that the reader finishes this 650-page book wanting more.”

–Malcolm

Campbell

Sunday’s goodness knows what

  • Florida State University in Tallahassee, where I received my BA, hasn’t been the powerhouse football team for some years it once was, so I’m happy with every win, especially against in-state rivals Miami and the University of Florida. Last night, the Seminoles beat the Miami Hurricanes  45-3. Meanwhile, Houston won the World Series. I should mention that the term “Seminole” is not a mascot but the name of the team with the written permission of the never-conquered Seminole Nation. FSU and the Seminole Nation have been working together for decades on cultural and educational programs.
  • Many southerners won’t use fifty-dollar bills because they don’t like Grant’s picture on them. If I could, I would avoid using the twenty-dollar bill because Jackson’s picture is on them. He killed Indians in Florida with a vengeance and is the architect of and the force behind the inexcusable Trail of Tears. Fortunately, his picture is scheduled to be removed by 2030. That’s not soon enough for me. However, time is needed to design the anti-counterfeit system for the currency.
  • The next book on my reading list now that I’ve finished rereading The Tiger’s Wife is Inland, also by Téa Obreht. The novel was released two years ago which shows how far behind I am in my reading. In its review, “Entertainment Weekly” wrote, “What Obreht pulls off here is pure poetry. It doesn’t feel written so much as extracted from the mind in its purest, clearest, truest form.” I hope that turns out to be the way I feel about it. None of you should be surprised when I say that I’m always attracted by good novels written in the magical realism genre.
  • NPR’s interview with author Richard V. Reeves Men are struggling. A new book explores why and what to do about it caught my attention because there’s not much of a focus on men these days because men are (rightfully, I think) considered to be part of the problem. Any problem. I think some people go too far with that point of view, but that’s the current climate. According to NPR, “Titled Of Boys and Men, the book explores the economic, social and cultural shifts that have forced men to the sidelines of the economy, including the loss of jobs in male-dominated fields such as manufacturing and the influx of women into the workforce, diminishing the need for men to serve as providers for their families.” This book should be the basis for some interesting conversations. Reeves believes that “The danger with even raising the specific challenges of boys and men is that it will be seen as a distraction from ongoing efforts to help women and girls. I think that’s a false choice. Partly as a result of the changes of recent decades, we both can and should now pay attention to both sides of gender inequality.”
  • I see Yahoo “news” because one of my e-mail accounts in on their system. Every day, I see headlines like these: “Salma Hayek Took Everyone’s Breath Away in This Daring & Curve-Hugging Ombre Gown at the LACMA Gala” and “Kendall Jenner’s Skirt Slung So Low, It Showed off the Hem of Her Sheer Bodysuit Underneath.” My first response is “Who cares.” My second is, “Why does Yahoo have a daily feature story (or two or ten) about celebrities wearing revealing outfits?” I have no answers for such things.

–Malcolm

Sunday’s mixed bag

  • The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy has been the perfect book for re-reading on this dour Sunday afternoon. In the novel, we read of the terror of attendance at the “Carolina Military Institute.” So many people–including the Citadel’s top brass, I suppose–saw the 1980 novel as a veiled and not very flattering account of education at the Citadel. So, they banned him from the campus for two decades. Conroy is my favorite author and I much prefer South of Broad and The Prince of Tides to this novel.
  • I can’t remember what online vendor it was, but when they delivered a package at about 7:30 p.m., they sent my wife a picture of the box sitting on the welcome mat. That’s a first. Too bad the photo didn’t include Robbie (cat) standing by the box while glaring at the camera and hissing at the interloper who dared to step up on our front porch.
  • I see this free and downloadable magazine “Learning Justice” from the Southern Poverty Law Center as an excellent chance to consider how teaching should be happening in our schools. According to the center, “Current censorship efforts and attacks on inclusive schools show that education is indeed the battlefield for justice, and the new issue of Learning for Justice magazine highlights the fact that the fight for democracy is built on intersecting struggles for justice.” (Download your copy of Issue 3, Fall 2022 Learning for Justice magazine: https://bit.ly/3gEXeBg ) I’ve been a supporter of the SPLC since its 1971 founding with Julian Bond as its first president.”
  • If you’re a constant visitor on Facebook, you’ll remember seeing photographs people took years ago under the designation of FBT (Fall Back Thursday.) One of my favorite FBT pictures shows what happened a lot when we first moved here since the fence around the adjoining pasture was always falling down.  The most fun comes when the cows get out at night and we all go out to round them up in the dark when we can hardly see them. Seriously, you don’t want these heavy critters in the yard because they create mini-potholes wherever they go. Those play havoc with the riding mower for weeks.
  • In a recent post called A character is alive or dead or both until the scene is written I said that I was avoiding writing a scene because I didn’t want to character to die. I reasoned–as in the famous Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment–that the character wasn’t really dead until I wrote the scene. Okay, I wrote the scene with only three fingers of Scotch to help me make it through the night. Okay, now I can mow I can move on. If my publisher is reading this post, she now knows why I don’t turn out books like hashbrowns at a Waffle House.
  • We recently purchased a 2019 Honda HRV because our 2006 Focus wouldn’t start. So, what happened the first time we wanted to go somewhere in the car? Right, it wouldn’t start. The dealer said to jump-start it and bring it in. They figure it just needs a new battery. We figure: (a) that they should have checked the battery before we drove it off the lot, and (b) that they should have driven over to our house to fix the problem rather than saying, “hey, just dump the sonofabitch off and bring it back to the dealership.” I think my wife told them on the phone that that wasn’t the image of customer service they presented to us when we were buying the car. I think the vibes coming from all those cows damage the electrical systems of cars that have sensitive computer systems.

–Malcolm

I got potpourri, so it must be Sunday

  • If you like the artist Edward Hopper as much as I do, you might enjoy this article in The Guardian about an upcoming documentary film, “Artist of ‘loneliness’ Edward Hopper depended on his wife, says film-maker.” “Hopper: An American Love Story” will be in theaters on October 18th. According to the article, “Hopper himself relished solitude, preferring a hermit-like existence – albeit with his wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, also an artist – to social gatherings. The volatile relationship between the laconic Ed and the spirited but resentful Jo is at the heart of a new documentary film made by the British director Phil Grabsky, opening in cinemas this month.”
  • If you subscribe to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, you’ll find the concept running front and center through Matt Haig’s novel The Midnight Library which I’ve been re-reading this week. Imagine that, instead of dying, you end up in a library with an infinite number of books about your probable lives. These books will lead you to samples of other lives you could be living, mainly when you give up the regrets you’ve accumulated in your current life. Interesting premise for a novel. I think there’s a bit of a flaw in the library’s system, but pointing it out here might be a bit of a spoiler. Read. and hope for the best.
  • My wife is now in that limbo period between her cataract surgery (on Wednesday) and the time when the eye has healed up enough for her to get a new prescription. Right now, she has a plain glass lens in her glasses since her previous prescription wouldn’t work with her “new eye.” She says her vision is much better out of that eye even though seeing things clearly has a bit of weirdness to it. I know what she means since I went through all this several years ago.
  • As a pacifist, I really shouldn’t say this, but I think the world would be a whole lot safer if Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin met with an unfortunate “accident.” Maybe Abby and Martha, the aunts in “Arsenic and Old Lace” can invite him over for spiked “elderberry wine.”

–Malcolm

Random Stuff for Saturday

  • Sometimes I look at the latest books on Amazon and don’t feel like reading any of them. That means returning once again to the comfort zone of books on my shelves where there’s always something to re-read. This week it’s Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara’s prequel to his father’s book about Gettysburg, The Killer Angels. Gods and Generals follows the Union and Confederate principals at the point when secession occurs as a knee-jerk response to Lincoln’s election.
  • Finally, after months of trying to get a company to commit to the job and then actually schedule it, we have plumbers working to redo all of the major pipes at the other house on our property, the one that was occupied by my wife’s late parents. I hope we’re making real progress with this necessary part of the process of getting the house to the point where we can lease it or sell it.
  • Grist ran a strong article called “Hurricane Ian was a powerful storm. Real estate developers made it a catastrophe.”  It points out that the so-called dredge and fill process of preparing the land for new housing development is environmentally unsound and creates an unsafe (vulnerable to storm surge) location for the homeowners who flock to new homes near the coast. I posted a link on my Facebook profile and so far nobody has looked at it. The article points out that “These vulnerable cities only exist thanks to the audacious maneuvers of real estate developers, who manipulated coastal and riverine ecosystems to create valuable land over the course of the 20th century. These attempts to tame the forces of nature by tearing out mangroves and draining swamps had disastrous environmental consequences, but they also allowed for the construction of tens of thousands of homes, right in the water’s path.”
  • I know your eyes will glaze over, but we’ve been making a squash casserole for years that fits our comfort food addiction. It’s easy to make and lasts for three dinners with only two of us in the house–not counting the cats. Years ago, we used it as a side dish. But as we’ve aged, we have less room for big meals.

–Malcolm

Sunday’s this and that, often called hash

  • I just finished Carly Shabowski’s The Watchmaker of Dachau. For my taste, the book wasn’t as strong as The Rainbow, but I wasn’t disappointed. The story differs from most concentration camp novels in that the principal characters work at the commandant’s house rather than in work details. Coming up next is her novel The Note as soon as I finish Kathy Reichs’ Cold Cold Bones (my change of pace novel and a first look at a story from the Temperance Brennan series that inspired the TV show “Bones”).
  • In my 1950s-era novel in progress, my main character, and secret agent Pollyanna Hoskins is changing her disguise from a grey-haired, elderly bag lady to a young woman with strawberry blonde hair. Back to the research biz: what kind of make-up and clothes would she wear? This takes a while to figure out, especially for a man, because Internet searches for vintage products often lead to retro sites featuring takeoffs on the originals.
  • I was intrigued by Charles Passy’s article “Why Americans should think twice about watching Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.”  The subhead reads: “Yes, it’s an occasion to mourn a respected global leader, but let’s not forget why the U.S. fought to free itself from Great Britain.” Apparently, half of the world’s population will be watching. Passy points out that Americans live in a country that doesn’t need kings and queens, even figureheads with limited power, so why do we love the Brit’s monarchy?  I wonder about this, too. Even the BBC was a bit puzzled over our fixation on the Monarchy. (I have no plans to watch it.)
  • My wife’s birthday is today. Her age is, of course, classified. She has told me to stop referring to her as my trophy wife. The photograph, with my granddaughter Freya, was taken at Disney World several years ago. We’re kind of low-key about our birthdays. We exchange cards but stopped buying birthday gifts some years ago because both of us order the stuff we need/want Online and don’t need a separate birthday list. So, we’ll have some comfort food for supper and find something interesting on TV to watch other than anything about the monarchy. Our next “road trip” is scheduled for Thanksgiving when we visit my daughter, her husband, and my two granddaughters in Maryland.
  • I’m looking forward to Stephen King’s latest novel Fairy Tale in which “King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.” His books are well written, though I usually avoid the industrial-strength horror stuff. I haven’t read a King novel for several years since I got ticked off at the third book in his “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy because he changed genres from police procedural to fantasy, something I considered out of line and probably illegal.

–Malcolm