Retirement, maybe

My father who was a college dean and author worked into his 70s. Now, I’m doing the same thing even though I haven’t taught a college course for years, opting to rely on money saved during my successful years in the gigolo business to help make ends meet. There are, of course, writers older than I am who don’t have the resources from a shady past to supplement their literary output.

When I was in his school, I looked at the careers of Salinger, Elison, Bradbury, Ginsberg, Rand, and others and told people that’s what I wanted to do after I graduated from college. Most of them laughed. Now, years later, I see why they did even though then and now I don’t see that laugh as very supportive.

I view the notion of retirement as the time in a person’s life when s/he stops doing what s/he was passionate about for most of his/her life. S/he ends up with no salary, few benefits, and ends up moving into a home where everyone eats jello three times a day. There was nothing exciting about that kind of life, so retirement seemed like a silly thing to do unless you had a lot of stolen wealth hidden in offshore accounts to pay for a big-ass RV and a lifetime of driving around from one scenic tourist destination to another.

That doesn’t excite me either, though I think the odds have gotten pretty slim that I’m suddenly going to be the next James Patterson. So, I think about just stopping writing books and spending my days reading. Everyone has to think about this sooner or later unless they’re Tom Clancy who keeps churning out books even though he’s been dead since 2013. Maybe that cap he wears in his author’s picture is magic and allows him to submit manuscripts from “the other side.”

I used to have a cap like that but during the dark days of Vietnam, I traded it for a pack of cigarettes.

Of course, I might still get a call from Oprah’s book club.

My bookshelves have an infinite number of books, so if I want to retire, I’ve got enough stuff to read to last me, well, forever.



So, how’s ‘Run, Rose, Run’ by Patterson and Parton doing?

When the novel was released on March 7, it began its life at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s currently at number five on Amazon with 11,207 ratings with a 4.5 average. The companion album by the same name, Parton’s forty-eighth solo studio album, a mix of bluegrass and country, is described as high energy with a lot to like. Meanwhile, “Variety ” reports that a movie deal is already in the works with Reese Witherspoon’s company. The whole project appears to be doing well.

Amazon Description:

From America’s most beloved superstar and its greatest storyteller—a thriller about a young singer-songwriter on the rise and on the run, and determined to do whatever it takes to survive.
Every song tells a story. 
She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her. 
She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past. 
Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny.  It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her.  And destroy her. 
Run, Rose, Run is a novel glittering with danger and desire—a story that only America’s #1 beloved entertainer and its #1 bestselling author could have created.

Not a lot of detail there, but then I guess when you have Patterson and Parton working together, you really don’t need a lot of detail. Just mention the surprising co-authorship of the book, and sales will follow.

The last line of the book’s Kirkus review is an apt summary of what’s going on here: “The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun you won’t mind the silly plot.”

The Publishers Weekly review ends about the same way, “Never mind that the mystery element runs a distant second to the story of AnnieLee making good in Nashville. Parton fans will relish this timeless fairy tale, which displays the singer’s lively way with words and draws liberally from her experience in the music business.”

All About Romance begins its review this way: “Run, Rose, Run is just as charming as everything else connected to musician/actress/philanthropist Dolly Parton. Though it’s mostly a character study about three different personalities making their way through the Nashville scene than a thriller, the suspense element adds a nice bit of variety to the proceedings. It’s a fun, quick read in spite of its length – a page-turner with brief chapters.”

According to Book Marks, “Parton’s co-authorship of Run, Rose, Run may not suggest literary finesse, but she is able to supply an authenticity in the details of the American music business to match (in her own way) the political insights previously provided by Clinton.” (Bill Clinton and Patterson, another unlikely combination of authors, previously teamed up on The President is Missing and The President’s Daughter.)

I have not read Run, Rose, Run because I’m waiting for the price to come down, but I have read The President is Missing and can see the synchronicity of the thriller details from Patterson and the Presidential details from Clinton. I expected the same combination of skills/backgrounds in the Parton and Patterson collaboration.

I think the book will be easy on the eyes and a run-read if you like country music. That’s my guess because we all love Dolly.


P. S. I sent Jim an idea about a guy with a paper route who’s being targeted by mob enforcers from a competing newspaper but haven’t heard back yet.

AARP Magazine is for a Happening Bunch of People

Apparently, 85 is the new 25. That being the case, AARP readers love seeing a pretty face on the cover, Halle Berry appears in the current issue. If you’re star struck, you’re going to turn to the last page of the magazine which shows stars who have suddenly gotten old–but don’t look old. And usually, there’s a story about somebody older than I am who’s climbing Mt. Everest or ziplining across the Grand Canyon.

I turn to the last page after finding out where Berry found her groove and learn that Carole King is 80 and that at 90, composer John Williams will be scoring “Indiana Jones 5” set for release in 2023. Meanwhile, Garth Brooks is 60. How the hell did that happen?

The magazine is excited about Dolly Parton and her novel, the cover headline being “Dolly Parton Novelist? We love it.” And there on page 13 is a gushing interview (with photo) about how Dolly (76) and James Patterson (74) ended up collaborating on a novel.

Patterson is quoted as saying, “I’ve always admired Dolly, and I had this germ of an idea for a novel. I contacted her and she said, ‘Well, come on down and let’s talk.'”

I had to kick myself (figuratively speaking) that I didn’t call her first. We probably wouldn’t have called our book Run, Rose, Run. Maybe something like, Rose, My Pickup Done Left Me. So far, I’ve seen one blogger/reviewer who hated it.  But I’ll probably read it anyway when the price comes down a bit.

AARP’s “pitch” in general seems to be, “you might be old and sick, but you’re not washed up yet.” I don’t know whether that’s fake news or wishful thinking.

Either way, it’s good to know.


another guilty pleasure: Patterson and Parton

Little, Brown and Company has announced that internationally beloved entertainer Dolly Parton has teamed up with the world’s bestselling author, James Patterson, to write a new book. “Run, Rose, Run,” Dolly’s first-ever novel, will be published March 7, 2022. An album of the same name, consisting of twelve original songs by Dolly, will be released in conjunction with the book. The novel also includes lyrics to the songs, which are essential to the story. This dual release will mark the first time a #1 bestselling author and an entertainment icon who has sold well over 100 million albums worldwide have collaborated on a book and an album. – Dolly’s Website

Of course I’m going to read this. Then I’ll put it on my guilty pleasures bookshelf.

Shocked? Listen, I know you think I spend my days reading James Joyce, Virgina Woolf, Proust, and Baudelaire. I do, but never on Sunday.

I’m a fan of James Patteron’s Alex Cross series that began in 1993 with Along Came a Spider and continues with Patterson as the sole author for 29 books to Fear No Evil released in November of last year. According to Wikipedia, Alex Cross is an African American detective and psychologist based out of the Southeast quadrant of Washington, D.C. He started in the homicide division of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC), but eventually becomes a Senior Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Cross returns to private psychology practice, but continues to work with the police as needed, ultimately rejoining the MPDC as a special consultant to the Major Case Squad.

If I were going to join the FBI, I would love a resume like that. And if I did join the FBI or the CIA, I would tell you that I didn’t.

There are some other guilty pleasure books hidden in my closet that I generically refer to as “grocery store books.” The angst of the plots and characters pulls me away from the angst of daily life and makes it much easier to do my own work without a lot of Xanax.

As for Run, Rose, Run, it will be fun because–up until my hearing disappeared, I was a Dolly Parton fan. Great voice and the nerve to say, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”


Today’s Depot Cafe Blog talks about my work in progress:

Sunday’s medley

  • Coming Soon: Poetry collection from Scott Zeidel to be released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing. “These poems are peaceful celebrations of the Southern California desert, Scott Zeidel’s home. He writes about the desert’s profound beauty found in simple, unassuming plants and critters like desert dandelions, blue agaves, monarch butterflies, mockingbirds, kestrels, verdins, and doves.”
  • Finding the Mother Tree: As I read and re-read this book about Suzanne Simard’s ground-breaking forest research about the communication and nutrient sharing between trees, I continue to be amazed at the arduous field work involved in the experiments. Imagine planting dozens of acres of seedlings in various combinations in mountain forest settings. The hiking in to the sites and the digging alone would discourage most of us from this kind of work.
  • Kiss Me Stupid: While writing about double entendres in my Depot Cafe blog, I mentioned this 1964 Billy Wilder comedy because I liked a line in it by Ray Walston; I wondered how many movie-goers in today’s generation have heard of the film–or Ray Walston. The movie made a splash when it came out. I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t had a crush on Kim Novak. I suppose most people remembering Ray Walson will think of the TV series “My Favorite Martian.” Not bad, but the film was much better even though I think that among Wilder’s films, it’s more or less forgotten.
  • "Run, Rose, Run" Dolly Parton's First Novel with Coauthor James PattersonRun, Rose, Run: Call me surprised when James Patterson wrote two books with Bill Clinton. Now it’s Dolly Parton’s turn. The novel is scheduled for release in March with an accompanying album of twelve original songs.  According to the advance PR, “Set in Nashville, “Run, Rose, Run” is a novel about a young woman who comes to country music’s capital city to pursue her music-making dreams. The source of her heart-wrenching songs is a brutal secret she has tried desperately to hide, but the past she has fled is reaching out to control her future—even if it means destroying everything she has worked for. Pairing James Patterson’s brilliant character-building and dramatic skills with Dolly’s unparalleled insight into the music world’s star-making machinery, ‘Run, Rose, Run’ will be the blockbuster novel of 2022.” Yeah, I’ll probably read it once the mass market paperback version comes out.

Stay warm, and don’t come south; Here’s why:


If you know James Patterson, tell him that my conjure woman needs to team up with Alex Cross in a riveting crime caper.

Endless curiosity kills a lot of time

In general, curiosity seems to be a good thing. It demonstrates an interest in the world, in new things, generates ideas for stories, and keeps the mind sharp. It can also be an excuse for avoiding what you should be doing by looking up something on the Internet. On the other hand, some of the most absurd searches sometimes lead to the best ideas while the most promising searches sometimes lead no where.

One never knows whether to fish or cut bait when it comes to deciding: “Am I goofing off or am I doing something that will turn me into an author who outsells James Patterson?” Perhaps a book called The Four-in-Hand Murders.

Speaking of Patterson, I was re-reading Criss Cross when the detectives went to a tie store while trying to identify a tie found at the scene of a crime. Now I wear flannel shirts in the winter and Tee shirts in the summer, and haven’t tied a tie in ten years. So, a tie store? You’ve got to be kidding.

I can’t imagine paying $500 for a tie or being so addicted to my tie collection that I know eighty-five ways to tie a tie. A character told detective Cross that he usually used a Pratt knot. Since I’d never heard of that, I went on an Internet search and found a site that told me how to tie a tie in ways most people have never heard of–including a Pratt knot.

My eyes glazed over as I looked at the knot-tying diagrams. They reminded me of either SAT or GRE tests where you’re presented with an unfolded cardboard something-or-other and have to pick what it turned into when folded back up. I never could figure those out. So I can safely say that if I ever tie a tie again it will be with a half Windsor knot because I grew up with that and that I will never use a Pratt or an Oriental or a Hanover.

So, was this online time worth it? Hmm, probably not. I really don’t care about ties, but the idea that there were prestigious ways of tying them caught my attention. Some day, somewhere, a character in one of my stories use a Pratt knot and wish he hadn’t.

Or, perhaps I’ll be in a bar and some drunk willshout, “I’ll give a hundred dollars to anyone who can tie a Pratt knot.” Well, there it is: curiostity paying off.


Book Bits: Harlan Ellison, The Essay, Booker Prize, James Patterson

As “Poets & Writers” reports, this is a busy week in books news:  “Barack Obama’s highly anticipated memoir released today, the National Book Awards will be announced on Wednesday, the Booker Prize ceremony is on Thursday, and the Times will release its “100 Notable Books of 2020” list on Friday.” Seemed like a good day to post my first Book Bits in a while. 

  • NewsAn Epic Week for the Books Desk – “We talked to Pamela Paul, the editor of The Book Review, and Andrew LaVallee, a deputy editor on the Books desk, about how they’ve been preparing for the big week, the impact of the pandemic on the publishing world and what titles they’re keeping on their own night stands.” (The New York Times)
  • Wikipedia Photo
    Feature. Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions may finally be published by Alison Flood- “It is the great white whale of science fiction: an anthology of stories by some of the genre’s greatest names, collected in the early 1970s by Harlan Ellison yet mysteriously never published. But almost 50 years after it was first announced, The Last Dangerous Visions is finally set to see the light of day.” (The Guardian)
  • Interview. What Makes a Great American Essay? by Phillip Lopate – “Talking to Phillip Lopate About Thwarted Expectations, Emerson, and the 21st-Century Essay Boom.” (Literary Hub)
  • Upcoming Title: New Fiction from Robert Hays – “When faced with the end, how does one reconcile the pieces of an ordinary life? Does a man have the right to wish for wings to carry him to a summit he believes he doesn’t deserve to reach?” (Thomas-Jacob Publishing)
  • News: “The New York Times reports on the ongoing bidding over Simon & Schuster, which was put up for sale by its parent company, ViacomCBS, early this year. Penguin Random House and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns HarperCollins, are considered leading bidders.” (Poets & Writers)
  • Point of View: Wikipedia, “Jeopardy!,” and the Fate of the Fact by Louis Menand – “Is it still cool to memorize a lot of stuff? Is there even a reason to memorize anything? Having a lot of information in your head was maybe never cool in the sexy-cool sense, more in the geeky-cool or class-brainiac sense. But people respected the ability to rattle off the names of all the state capitals, or to recite the periodic table. It was like the ability to dunk, or to play the piano by ear—something the average person can’t do. It was a harmless show of superiority, and it gave people a kind of species pride.” (New Yorker)
  • Wikipedia Photo
    News: Patterson Was Decade’s Bestselling Author by Jim Milliot – “From 2010 to 2019, James Patterson sold 84 million units across print and e-book formats, making him the past decade’s bestselling author at outlets that report to NPD BookScan. Patterson’s sales total was double that of Dr. Seuss, and more than those of Stephen King, David Baldacci, and John Grisham combined, BookScan said.” (Publishers Weekly)
  • Book Bits used to be compiled randomly but now appears to be compiled sporadically by author Malcolm R. Campbell