Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ron Carey’s successor

A big, burly, bearded Brooklynite UPS worker named Tim Sylvester inherited the late Ron Carey’s prestigious mantle as the rank and file reformer of Teamsters Local 804 in an election triumph on Dec. 3 that can only be described as breathtaking.
Sylvester won the presidency of Local 804 with his Members United Slate ousting the incumbents by a vote of 2,348-1091, a margin of more than two to one. Local 804 has 8,000 members and covers UPS’ crucial New York market.
While his victory was stunning, it came not by chance, but by building a movement in Local 804 to oppose concessionary contracts and to demand the local’s officers keep the membership informed instead of in the dark about negotiations—reflecting the philosophy of rank and file participation espoused by the ever-militant Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Sylvester and Jim Reynolds, his partner in transforming Local 804 are affiliated with TDU. Reynolds was elected Local 804’s secretary-treasurer on the Members United Slate.
Carey’s career can be broken into three shining rank and file reform moments: his election to the presidency of Local 804 in 1967; his election as General President of International Brotherhood of Teamsters with crucial support from TDU in 1991; and the great victory over UPS on the picket lines and at the bargaining table in 1999, again with the backing of TDU in an era when most unions were fearful of striking.
The 52-year-old Sylvester, who has been a Teamster and a UPS worker for 30 years, matched Carey’s 1967 achievement in ousting the current administration from Local 804, now headed by Howie Redmond, a long-time an ally of Carey who transferred his allegiance wholeheartedly to James P. Hoffa when he won the general president’s seat in 1999. Hoffa came to power after Carey was dumped from office on corruption charges—later proven to be untrue. Ousting an incumbent local Teamsters administration is the equivalent of defeating a sitting Member of Congress; it can be done, but not easily.
Whether Sylvester blossoms into a candidate for General President of the Teamsters will depend on luck and his performance as the top officer of Local 804. The next election for General President of the Teamsters will be in 2011—not much time for Sylvester to jell into a star with a national reputation for leadership.
But the next candidate backed by TDU to run against Hoffa and his allies in Washington will have to be someone just like Tim Sylvester, a Teamster leader up from the rank and file with a hunger to craft an activist union.

A suggestion: my novel, THE TRUCKERS, has been described as a fun read. It is serious and tragic too. Try it free on KindleSmashwordsBarnes and Noble, or Apple.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shingles aftermath forever?

Two weeks ago, for the first time in 14 months I felt the aftermath of shingles receding. There was the slightest sensation just above the right corner of my left eye. The shingles aftermath was still there, but barely. In the morning, I awoke to the full fledged, unpleasant presence of the shingles aftermath: swelling, itching, aching, all-around unpleasantness. It hasn't abated since. I wonder how long this will go on? Perhaps for the rest of my life. Along with the day-long and night-long discomfort, there is the exhaustion factor. I get fatigued very easily, sometimes painfully so.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Friday, October 30, 2009


by James Welch
I had to push myself through THE DEATH OF JIM LONEY (Harper & Row/1979). This was Welch's third novel and a pretty shabby work in comparison to what he would produce in the future (meaning FOOL CROWS and THE HEARTSONG OF CHARGING ELK). I consider Welch one of the best writers I have read. The protagonist, Jim Loney, is a loser from the outset, who in the end is shot to death by an Indian policeman for a killing which was accidental. The novel is primarily a character study of the low-lifes around an Indian reservation in Montana. Loney is a half breed, torn between two cultures, and is an uneducated, aimless wino. He has a sister, who wants to rescue him as does his attractive girlfriend, a white school teacher from Texas. He doesn't want to be saved because of the emptiness of his soul. He has never recovered from being abandoned, along with his sister, by his reckless mother and his drunken father. Had this been the first Welch book I read, I would have skipped the others at a great loss to myself since his later books are wonders to be treasured.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Indie-author outlet

Like most Indie authors I am always on the outlook to expand the distribution network of my novels, for sale and for free. Recently, I discovered obooko, a year-old free eBook site based in Great Britain. The process of uploading your book onto obooko is very simple indeed. Obooko distributes novels, nonfiction, and poetry worldwide on the PDF platform so that the potential audience needs only a computer rather than an eBook or Kindle-type device.
Adding to the pleasure of finding obooko onto which I loaded my novels, THE DREAM DANCER and THE JYNX, I discovered a link to BookCoverPro, which sells modestly-priced programs to rather easily create your own book covers. I went through some agony in the past trying to figure out a means of designing book covers transferable to the web for full-cover paperbacks and front cover eBooks. I failed to find any that would do the job for a reasonable cost.
BookCoverPro was the answer to my cover-creating crisis. Like most authors, my computer skills are limited. I spent a couple of weeks struggling through the process of the first cover. I did the second cover in half an hour. I bought the program with the intention of doing covers for six novels so the price didn’t put me off: there are two BookCoverPro programs, the standard for $97 and the deluxe for $187.
In a future blog, I will provide my guide for the Indie-author with limited computer skills, like me, to put together a cover with the BookCoverPro program.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


On the eve of fall, Sept. 21, 2009, my wife Rae spotted a Monarch Butterfly on the Buddleia Butterfly Bush in our backyard on Long Island. She immediately called me to share the wonder of seeing the only Monarch we have seen this summer, and this on the last day of summer.
In the past we have always seen Monarchs, plenty of them, in August at our local town park and in our backyard. This year, we saw very few butterflies of any sort in either place—normally we see many. This summer, we spotted a couple of Black Swallowtails and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.
I read that the wet, cold spring of 2009 had damaged the butterfly population. Our experience seems to be proof of that. Or, is Global Warming at play in diminishing the butterfly numbers?

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Year of Shingles

On Sept. 15, 2009, I completed a full year of affliction with shingles centered on my left eye. There have been times just in the past week for very brief spans when I would say my eye and the area around was feeling neutral—usually in the first closing of my eyes to sleep. Then the pressure or the itching or the distant ache return would return.
I am now writing for two hours a day—that is, two one-hour segments. I can read newspapers and books again, but for limited spans. And, I can watch TV, but with my left eye mostly closed.
TV watching with the left eye seems to provoke my shingles.
One affliction that hasn’t abated is fatigue. After a curtailed daily exercise (stretching, 25 sit-ups, walking a mile and three-quarters, a brief tai chi routine), followed by breakfast, and then writing for an hour, I am at the very least tired and sometimes exhausted. So I lay down for an hour to listen to WNYC or a book on CD, often falling asleep.
I get tired quickly even doing any light physical work like cutting a small section of the lawn or raking a few bags of leaves.
My great hope is that the shingles finally is diminishing to a lesser presence. As I type this, I feel a very light pressure on a corner of my left eye. On the scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst, I would say my eye is at a 1, mostly it is a 3.
Friends and relatives ask: Why can’t the doctor do something for you? My answer is: If he could, he would.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Friday, August 28, 2009

THE RUINS by Scott Smith

X THE RUINS by Scott Smith
Read by Patrick Wilson, who has a nice, clear voice.
(Simon & Schuster Audio)July 2006
Scott Smith goes far beyond the usual horror story in THE RUINS. The book came across to me as a metaphor for global warming as six tourists on a day trip to an archeological site in a Mexican jungle stumble into the jaws of a pitiless adversary.
Smith presents us with six clearly defined characters including a flighty woman, a serious woman, a male weakling, two very strong, resourceful men, and a happy Greek, who doesn’t speak English so he can’t communicate with his companions. In addition there is a language gap between the day trippers and Mayan villagers who try, but fail to warn them of the awful danger awaiting them.
I found myself saying: “This is what I would do” to escape the tangle in which the characters have fallen. That is the mark of a worthwhile author, who draw the reader (or in this case the listener)that far into the story.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS by Donna Leon, a Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery (BBC Audio) narrated by David Colacci (8 cds)
Written from the perspective of Commissario Brunetti, the novel’s protagonist who is a Venetian police detective, we only see what he sees, knows, and does—so there are some issues left hanging, as there are in real life. Brunetti is what we would like every police officer to be, especially those who wander into our lives. He is thoughtful, considerate, wise, caring, self-aware, and a first-class investigator.
What I find amazing about this novel is that it is Donna Leon’s 17th about Commissario Brunetti, but it reads (or I should say speaks) with an originality that is breathtaking. I have found in my decades of reading that an author’s first or second book in the mystery, police procedure or thriller genres are usually the best with a steep slide downhill thereafter as the main character and the writer become worn by repetition.
Of course, THE GIRLS OF HIS DREAMS, was the first Leon novel to which I have been exposed. I plan to go back to read the first and then a more current one. For birthday gifts, I have ordered her first novel, DEATH AT LA FENICE (1992), for my wife, Rae, and her 18th novel, ABOUT FACE (2009), for my sister, Miriam.
David Colacci, the narrator, has a wonderfully clear and interesting voice, which is so important in a CD-Book. I find that most readers with accents, Italian, British or otherwise, are impossible to hear comfortably—so I dump those CDs immediately.
Police departments around the world would do well to ask their detectives and front line police officers to read Donna Leon to a find model in Commissario Brunetti for behavior and investigative procedure.
If Cambridge (MA) Police Sgt. James Crowley had followed the Brunetti approach, he would have asked Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. not only for his ID, but for his phone number in their famous meeting in the doorway of Gates’ home. In the Brunetti mode, Crowley would have called his dispatcher to double check and call the number. After the phone rang in the house or the professor’s pocket as they stood facing one another, he could have said, ‘I guess that clears up this case. Have a nice day Professor Gates.’
I am really looking forward to reading DEATH AT LA FENICE—after my wife finishes it, of course.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Friday, July 17, 2009


After more than ten months of shingles (the affliction started on Sept. 15, 2008), I continue to have pressure, itching and aching in the area above my left eye (the eyelid, the skin between the lid and brow, the eyebrow, and the forehead).
In rating the nastiness from a one to 10 (worst), I would say that my continuing problem is generally a 3 moving up to a 4 once in while. Every morning, I get up to itchiness, relieved somewhat by eye drops (Systane Ultra) which I apply twice day, per my ophthalmologist’s recommendation. Several times a day, I splash cold water on my eye for momentary relief and I find that taking a hot bath or shower relieves the symptoms somewhat.
Fatigue still hits me whenever I do any substantial work or exercise. I continue on a reduced exercise routine: stretches and 25 sit-ups in the morning, followed by a mile-and-a-half walk and tai chi. A few months ago, I tried to return to my full exercise program, which is much extensive than the one cited—and I became so exhausted barely made it home in the half-mile walk from my local park. I don’t do push-ups because of the discomfort I feel in the area around the eye.
Recently, my wife, Rae, got the anti-shingles vaccine (Zostavax) which was approved only three years ago by the FDA. With the vaccine, one has about 50-50 chance of avoiding shingles. For someone who has endured it for ten months—and faces months or years more, the 50-50 odds of escaping shingles seems like a worthwhile choice.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

THE DANCER UPSTAIRS by Nicholas Shakespeare

Nicholas Shakespeare wrote THE DANCER UPSTAIRS twice—as an intriguing novel in 1995 and a screenplay that became a riveting film in 2002. I wish I could have read the screenplay, but I was unable to find a copy either for sale or free on the internet.
An aspiring screenwriter would do well to read the novel and then to watch the film. As good as the novel was, the film, directed by John Malkovich, was even better. In the transition from novel to film, Shakespeare trimmed away a few characters and did very little reshaping of the story. This is a study in how to translate a novel onto the screen without damaging the plot or central characters.
The seed of the story, of course, is the capture of Abimael Guzmán who led the brutal Shining Path revolutionaries in Peru. In the novel, the narrator is Dyer, an enterprising journalist, who stumbles across Agustín Rejas, the detective who tracked down President Ezequiel (based on Guzman), the mysterious leader of the murderous revolutionaries. Rejas’ story unfolds in a series of interviews with Dyer in a restaurant. Dyer and a few other minor characters are excised in the transition from novel to screenplay.
I have seen the film four times and read the novel only after my entrancement with THE DREAM DANCER in its movie form. I gave the novel and the film as a birthday present to my son, Ken, who is an aspiring screenwriter.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST, is now available as a free download on, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.
Try it, enjoy it, and if you are in the mood, review it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

I was going through the ecstasy of eating half a Krainerwurst on a hot dog roll along with a nicely-chilled Stella Artois when I realized that I was the winner of the real sausage-eating contest: the one in my backyard, eating a single serving for pleasure (and lunch).
Every July 4th Nathan’s Famous holds a hot dog eating race in Cony Island in which the goal is to jam as many sausages and buns into the mouth and down the gullet as possible in 10 minutes. Just considering this display of gluttony has always made my stomach churn.
This year after hearing that Joey Chestnut, last year’s champion, topped his 2008 record of 59 hot dogs by downing 68 (note I say downing not eating or enjoying), I watched part of a video of the competition, I gagged and turned it off.
I have to admit I prefer Krainerwurst to hot dogs and I’m super-lucky to be able to shop for those delightful sausages at the Forest Pork Store in Huntington Station, NY. A Krainerwurst, for the uninitiated, is smoked bratwurst. Forest Pork makes its own Krainerwurst.
My approach to Krainerwurst is to slice it in half, the long way, to grill or fry for five minutes, and to eat each half on a hot dog roll without any other embellishments: no mustard, no sauerkraut, no onions, no relish, no ketchup. The reason: the Krainerwurst has a taste alone that brings joy to the palate.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


by Ron McLarty
12.5 hours (Recorded Books)
While in the midst of the torture of shingles, I have found real pleasure in listening to books on CDs, in particular THE MEMORY OF RUNNING by Ron McLarty. This novel fits into the hero’s journey category, almost.
The protagonist is Smithson Ide, a simple, almost simple-minded 43-year-old man whose parents were killed in a car accident and who thereafter discovers his missing schizophrenic sister, Bethany, has died as a homeless person in LA. The girl next door, Norma, has loved Smithson from the age of 4 or 5. She was a cheery, wonderful kid, but four years younger than Smithson. As a result, he has never responded to her adoration and love.
In the opening of the novel, Smithson has become a drunk, an overeater of junk food, is 279 pounds, is unmarried, and is floating unhappily through life as a supervisor in a factory that makes GI Joe figures.
At the age of 10, Norma, the happy girl next door was hit by a truck or car and is doomed to spend the rest of her life in a wheel chair. Although she is bitter about her circumstances, she has created a career for herself as a draftsman working at home on architectural and artistic projects. Norma never relents in her pursuit of Smithson, loving him even though he has grown into a grossly-overweight loser and despite his continued indifference towards her.
Smithson sets out on a cross-country journey, a quest to collect his beloved sister’s body from a morgue/funeral home in Venice Beach, Calif. The trip, made possible in part by Norma, transforms Smithson from a slob into a real person.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

THE JYNX sales

Over the course of a full year my novel, THE JYNX, has sold 13 copies in paperbacks and E-books. Certainly not a glorious sales report. Why hasn’t the book sold? Obscurity. Any book promoted widely, reviewed in magazines and newspapers, and distributed through local bookstores would sell thousands of copies. I know that from my experience with two nonfiction books sold through an agent and printed and distributed by two major publishers.
Let me whine for a moment. I had plans to promote THE JYNX, which is a well-written novel with a logical plot and interesting characters. What intervened was a devastating case of the shingles centered around my left eye. That plague began Sept. 15, 2008 when I was unable to use my left eye and totally fatigued for months. Nine months later, I still have lingering problems involving eye strain and fatigue, which prevent me from reading and writing with the intensity of my pre-shingles life. I am hoping that the shingles problem will fade in upcoming months.
I estimate from the available stats that my free online novel, THE DREAM DANCER, has been read by more than 1,000 persons over the past 21 months. THE DREAM DANCER is the best novel I have written. While that feeds into the substantially larger readership being free is probably the key factor. We all enjoy the freebies online.
I am planning to make THE JYNX a free online read with the hope that a larger audience could result in larger sales numbers. And, I am going to offer THE DREAM DANCER for sale as a paperback and E-book hoping to tap into the pool of those who have read it. Whenever I read a book I love, invariably I buy copies for friends and relatives.
So, we’ll see.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


by Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan

The Naiad Press 1993 edition of THE PRICE OF SALT is worth reading just for the postscript by author Patricia Highsmith. The book was first published in 1951 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan.
In the postscript, Highsmith give us a rare insight into the seed that an author can grow into a marvelous novel. She was working during the Christmas rush in 1948 in the doll section of a New York department store when she was attracted to a sophisticated, elegantly-dressed female shopper. THE PRICE OF SALT was spun from that moment.
The book describes how Therese, the department store temp was drawn into a love affair with that chic woman, Carol. The difficulties of being lesbian lovers in 1940s America in an era when most men were appalled at the concept are filtered into the story. Carol comes out on the wrong side of a divorce as a result of her relationship with Therese. And, Therese discovers her own sexual preferences and an explanation of why she hasn’t been drawn to feel anything more than friendship for the men who are attracted to her.
Highsmith, who used a pen name on THE PRICE OF SALT to avoid being categorized as a lesbian writer, can be placed in a box labeled ‘crime novelist’ for good reason. Her first novel was STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, which Alfred Hitchcock made into the notable film of the same name. Another of the readily-recognized films made from her work is THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.
Obviously, Highsmith met a deep-seated need among readers with THE PRICE OF SALT since the 1952 paperback version of the book sold almost a million copies.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


WE SHALL REMAIN, the title of the PBS American Experience five-part series on Native Americans, prompted in me the false assumption that the programs would deal with the survival of their cultures, languages and religions. I should have paid more careful attention to the words of the title: “shall” of course implies the future.
While so many Native Americans were pushed ever-westward onto dreary reservations, a number of nations, bands, or tribes—whatever they want to be called—somehow managed to remain as islands in the flood of white Europeans along the East Coast. If the American Experience had been about them, it would have been entitled WE DID REMAIN.
My best novel, THE DREAM DANCER, flows from the federal government’s decision to tear up a treaty between the United States and the Seneca Nation protecting their little piece of Northwestern Pennsylvania for the usual terms along the lines of “for as long as the grass grows and the water flows. That treaty was supposedly signed by George Washington in 1794.
Well, the grass must have stopped growing and the water flowing since the Army Corps of Engineers built a dam early in the 1960s that flooded the Seneca’s Allegany Reservation.
I became fascinated by the survival of the Iroquois culture and language and religion around 1960 when I wrote a series on the Onondaga Nation for the SYRACUSE HERALD-JOURNAL. The Onondaga and the Seneca are part of the Iroquois Confederation.
In the course of writing the series, I discovered the Queen Anne of England had sent three Silver communion sets early in the Eighteenth Century to the Onondaga, the Seneca, and the Mohawk, another Iroquois nation. The Mohawk and the Onondaga got their sets. No one was crazy enough to venture into the western wilderness to deliver the silver set to the Seneca. That set only got as far as Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan, where I believe it remains.
Around 1970, I ventured to the Kinzua Dam and had lunch with the then president of the Seneca Nation. I told him about Queen Anne’s undelivered gift, which was on display at Trinity Church. He said he would have the Seneca lawyers look into the situation. I heard from the lawyers. They were considering a law suit. A few months later, I went Trinity Church and the silver set was no longer on public view.
In 1971, I wrote a novel, KINZUA, which recounted a curse on the dam and centered on an Iroquois false face society, whose incantations cause the Kinzua Dam to crack. The rush of water swept away the remains of this great betrayal of a comparatively helpless band of Native Americans by the powerful United States government. KINZUA got me an agent, who spent a couple of years trying to pedal the novel. She never found a buyer, but I never forgot the novel.
Almost 35 years later, I decided to rewrite KINZUA. In the interim, I had developed as a writer. I discovered to my dismay that I didn’t care for the original story, concept or characters. Only the name Kinzua remained as the title for my computer folder as I set out to write what became THE DREAM DANCER. I created a new band of Native Americans called the Okwe, set them in a fictional valley in Pennsylvania, and created a special relationship between the Okwe and the Great Spirit.
My agent refused to represent me on the latest version of the novel so I spent months looking for another agent to no avail. Several said they liked the book, but didn’t think it would fly in today’s market. So I put it on the internet as a free novel. You can read it at
To give you an idea of what the book is about, I said in my letter to my agent in 2005: “THE DREAM DANCER is a Twentieth Century Native American fable. Coop Rever, the protagonist, is a reluctant messenger of God. He is a Native American, a war hero, a lover, a foreign correspondent, an author, a prophet, a murderer and a convict.”
And I said in a summary telling potential readers about THE DREAM DANCER:
“The story opens in Paris in the dwindling days of the summer of 1956. Coop Rever, a Native American expatriate who is the protagonist of THE DREAM DANCER, is getting ready to travel to Algeria to gather material for his third book on the French Foreign Legion. Coop is a war correspondent and author, educated at the Sorbonne under the World War II GI Bill.
“Coop is a member of the Okwe, a tiny band of Indians who have been left in relative peace in their narrow river valley in Pennsylvania for almost 200 years because of a treaty signed by George Washington that shielded their land from white predators for as long as the water flowed over the Green River Falls. The Okwe assumed that would be forever.
“One hot August day in 1956, the water stopped falling, an incident seized upon by the local congressman, Arthur Kings, to declare the treaty moot. Kings has devised a plan for the construction of a dam that would flood the valley—fulfilling a long-held dream of his family to drive the Okwe from their land.”

The next novel I will review is THE PRICE OF SALT by Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


by Joseph Damrell
Damrell has an easy writing style that is a pleasure to read; somewhat like a guy on the next barstool recounting his interesting life. His novel, THE ROOT CELLAR, takes you on a trip into Finlander shamanism and the forest spirit world.
THE ROOT CELLAR, set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is very much an attack on a life lived just for position and acquisition absent from nature. The parallels to Carlos Castaneda are evident, although in radically different settings and ethnological backgrounds. Castaneda was an anthropologist supposedly writing nonfiction about his esoteric experiences under the guidance of Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian shaman.
Ray Karhu, the first person narrator of THE ROOT CELLAR, has found a career as a low-level functionary on archeological digs. A reluctant Ray is dragged into his experience as a Finnish-American healer/shaman by his aunt Viena, a woman from the old country steeped in the ancient knowledge of the Karelian people. Even after she dies, Viena continues to guide Ray on his trip into a more spiritual life.
The writer carries you along with some interesting twists and turns and minor conflicts. While Castaneda takes his readers to the edge of the abyss, Rays finds his way into the forest and a relationship with the animals who live there.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


By Ethan Canin
Let me say at the outset that AMERICA AMERICA is a great American novel. The book spans the nation’s economic history from the late 19th Century into the earliest 21st Century ranging from the exploitation of workers by a robber baron to the exploitation of the land by a developer.
At first I said to myself, ‘what an appropriate title, reflecting the two states of the United States: the ruling class and the aspiring class.’ But AMERICA, AMERICA is much more complicated than that: dealing with greed, presidential ambitions, economic power, personal aspirations, and most of all the concept of a fulfilled life.
The novel is set in a mythical space, mostly in the last days of a company town in upstate New York south of Buffalo and east of Lake Erie. The grandson of the robber baron still runs the town but the exploitive spirit has thinned. The scion is generous and understands the value of skilled work, while at the same time is grasping in another way--for political power. AMERICA AMERICA affirms the truism that behind every great fortune is a great crime while adding another that a great crime can undo a presidential race.
Corey Sifter, the protagonist, is from a working class family with a father whose central values are family, loyalty to friends and a deep pride in the product of his skills.
The scion of the local ruling industrial family who loves to work with own hands while at the same hungering for political position so admires Corey’s father that he provides the funds for Corey to attend a classy prep school and college. That education enables Corey to rise from the working class and even to marry the daughter of Corey’s sponsor.
But the real teacher, the shaper of Corey’s character, whether he realizes it or not, is his father who is a plumber, a union man and at the end of the trail has lived a fulfilled life.
Ethan Canin has written four novels, Blue River (1992), For Kings and Planets (1999), Carry Me Across the Water (2001), and America America (2008). I plan to read them all.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


In 1998, Ron Carey was exiled from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters of which he was an exalted leader, first as a local union president and then as president of the international union. In ancient times, among the worst penalties imposed upon a Roman citizen was exile. Sadly, the Teamsters Independent Review Board visited the same form of suffering on Carey--ruling he could not associate with his lifetime Teamster friends or participate in any way in the union--after finding him guilty in a scheme to use the union treasury to help finance his campaign for reelection the presidency of the Teamsters.
Because the FBI could not find any real evidence to pin him directly to the funding scheme and because he repeatedly insisted in sworn testimony before federal grand juries and the Independent Review Board that he was innocent, Carey was charged with perjury.
AND THEN three years later in the fall of 2001, Carey was cleared of the perjury charge at a trial in the New York U.S. District Court.
The testimony of a single witness, who claimed that Carey okayed the rip off of the funds during a 15-second-long phone conversation, was the basis of both the Independent Review Board decision and the criminal charges.
Fortunately for Carey, he went into the trial with two of the nation’s foremost white-collar criminal defense lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Mark Hulkower of the Washington, DC firm of Steptoe & Johnson representing him. In addition, Bob Hauptman, Carey’s former Special Assistant for Management and Budget, served as the defense team’s researcher and analyst of the documents used in evidence.
The defense team proved that the crucial 15-second phone conversation never happened. Weingarten in his summation said without challenge from the federal prosecutors that their witness had been proven to be “a completely dishonest, untrustworthy, little thief.” My detailed account of the trial, The Exoneration of Ron Carey, can be accessed at the Teamsters for a Democratic Union website.
Right after Carey—still in exile--died at age 72 in December 2008,a member of his home local, Queens-based Teamsters Local 804, asked me for my thoughts on how this great union leader could be honored. After mulling the possibilities, including a statue in Union Square in Manhattan or a scholarship, I have reached the conclusion that perhaps the best way to keep the memory of Carey’s reputation and achievements alive might be to create an annual Carey Teamster Award to be given to a Teamster official or member whose activities best reflect what he tried to do for union members in his lifetime of service. The organization best suited to confer the award—whether it be a simple piece of paper or a medallion—would be Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which has been struggling for more than three decades to make the Teamsters into a better union.
One side effect of an annual Carey Teamster Award could be to provide a stage for which a potential reform candidate for international president of the union.

A suggestion: my novel, THE TRUCKERS, has been described as a fun read. It is serious and tragic too. Try it free on Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, or Apple.