The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Wonder of a Conditioned Fan Base

I’ve been reading Faye Kellerman’s Murder 101. Shortly before that, I read the latest novels from Michael Connelly and Daniel Silva. I’ve enjoyed reading all three novelists for many years. In fact, I’ve written books about Connelly and Silva. That takes a lot of devotion because it means I read around twenty novels by each of them in order to survey their entire work.

What surprises me is that all three novelists have chosen to age their main characters in real time. The result is a distinct lack of energy. Take Faye Keller’s Peter Decker as an example. Now he’s RETIRED and working in a small-town police department to keep busy. Connelly’s Harry Bosch is out the door into forced retirement and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon is being kicked upstairs to run the Israeli intelligence agency because he is just too old to be playing James Bond.

Yet, readers who have come to love these characters over the years eagerly await the latest new chapter and give effusive praise in their Amazon reviews. I love the characters as well, but you do need to take off your blinders and look at the current book and not be blinded by previously brilliant books. Kellerman’s book DRAGS. It really does. Not only that, but it grows increasingly tiresome to have a young snotty college grad keep calling Peter “Old Man” repeatedly. Silva’s book drags as well. The most interesting character in Silva’s book is not Gabriel Allon but a much younger Christopher Keller, the heir apparent to the violent scenes in the future. I actually believe that Connelly will grow tired of having Bosch help his half brother and will begin to have him help his daughter. I predict she will join the LAPD and turn repeatedly to Dad for help.

To read the over 600 positive reviews on Amazon for Kellerman’s book is enough to have me scratch my head in wonder. Did they read the same book I did? One reader who routinely gives all Kellerman books four to five stars gave it four stars and commented that he really didn’t understand a lot of the art talk. Still, if Kellerman wrote it, the book automatically deserves four to five stars.

I’m reminded of teachers in high school who often start with assumption they are reading an A student’s work when they pick up a paper from one of their favorites. Starting with that perspective caused them to overlook flaws and gloss over lapses. When I taught college English, I sometimes would have the students put numbers rather than names on their papers just to make sure everyone had an even break.

As a relatively unknown writer, I feel that I’m pushing a heavy load uphill in order to garner good reviews. I found one Goodreads reader, for example, who wrote that she automatically assigns one star to every book on her bookshelf. She changes the number of stars if she likes the book. So, damned to start with and only hopeful for a reprieve if you’re a novelist.

I cannot honestly say that the latest work by all three is of the quality of their earlier work, but you’d never know it from the reviews. Meanwhile, I’ve been writing hundreds of bloggers in an effort to find a group that will review my upcoming release of A Bullet for a Ghost Whisperer. If you’re interested in a free copy in exchange for an honest review, let me know and we’ll talk.

My Take on Last Night’s Republican Debate

Great theater last night watching the Republican debate on Fox. Trump was worth the price of admission. When all is said and done, though, little changed. Trump’s followers will see their hero as a man who stood up to that nasty Megan when she asked the “unfair” question about women.

So, what are the take-a-ways? Kasich is a real threat to Jeb Bush. He comes across as very self-assured while Bush seems disinterested. Marco Rubio came across as articulate while Cruz displayed his customary angry expression. Rand Paul failed to win much traction.

What is deeply disturbing is that we now have one political party so far to the right that they are advocating killing the mother to save the child. Huckabee’s assertion that an unborn child has full Constitutional rights is very disturbing indeed.

There was no discussion of the disparity between the rich and the poor or the power of Wall Street, although Trump did bring up the unholy alliance between Wall Street and politicians. There was no discussion of the environment, of course, except for the baying for a pipeline that won’t solve anything or bring jobs.

The most frightening aspect of the debate is the push for war. Listen to the amateurs like Cruz and Walker talk about how they would talk tough to Iran and “lead” is frightening indeed. They ignore the fact that American sanctions were not what brought Iran around; it was sanctions by our allies. We won’t get them to keep those sanctions in place.

The Republicans would like to believe that the U.S. has a God-given right to tell the rest of the world what to do. We don’t. I would argue that it is the concept of American Exceptionalism that has caused us so much trouble. Remember how we would bring democracy to the rest of the world, including Iraq?

I like Bernie Sanders a lot, but polls show that he has not excited the blacks or Hispanics. His basic support is from the progressive wing; that’s not enough to be elected even if he carries San Francisco, New York City, and Austin, Texas.

Hillary just keeps digging a hole for herself; the Republicans will keep forcing her to appear before committees up until the election. Her disapproval ratings will continue to climb because the oligarchs in this country will spend billions in advertising to cast doubt about her “character.” It’s Hillary’s nomination to lose, and that’s a real dilemma because imagine a world where the clowns run everything, including Supreme Court appointments.

Forget voting rights, women’s rights, higher educational standards, the environment, and health care. Also, because budget hawks will be in power, imagine our country cutting social services, Social Security, and Medicare while pumping still more money into the military industrial complex. Imagine also a push for a national right to work law that will destroy unions.

So, from my perspective, we need Trump to stay in or become so upset with the Republican party that he runs as a third-party candidate. Rubio or Kasich probably could defeat a severely wounded Hillary. Remember the importance of both Florida and Ohio when it comes to determining who will be elected President.

I don’t see Hillary getting stronger once all the Koch brother ads start running. I do see Democratic ads cutting into whatever favorability ratings the Republican candidate has.

So, this is likely to be an election where it will be difficult to get people to the polls (particularly if it’s a Bush/Clinton dynasty race). Hillary is likely to pick up some women voters, but she is not likely to get the same number of black voters who streamed to the polls to vote for the first black president. She also might lose some very right-wing Jewish voters.

I think the only way for Hillary to win is make this coming election a referendum on the growing disparity in this country between the very rich and the poor. I think Elizabeth Warren could make a better case for this disparity, but I’m not convinced she really is ready to run for President or that she could attract independent voters.

If the election becomes a choice between help for the middle class and the poor versus the Koch brothers and if women and minorities can be enticed to vote in huge numbers, there is a chance the Democrats can win despite a severely wounded Hillary.

I also think that the Democratic party needs to emphasize what the future would hold if the Republicans hold all three parts of the government. That might include detailed lists of all the crazy bills they proposed that failed to become laws. Let’s also make this an election about the tax breaks for hedge fund managers. We probably also need to look at all the wars the Republicans have advocated including boots on the ground in Syria, more boots back into Iraq, boots on the ground in the Ukraine, etc. It might be nice to show a graph that compares this country’s military spending with that of the rest of the world. Last night the Republican candidates outdid themselves in demanding we build up the Army, Navy, and Airforce to their numbers during the peak of the cold war.

So, let’s see more Republican debates with more emphasis on who God is talking to and how mothers need to be killed. Let’s have more emphasis on cutting the taxes for the very wealthy and for eliminating Obamacare for a non-specific alternative. Let’s have more talk of war and saber rattling by the group of amateurs. Maybe, God willing, they’ll sabotage the best chance they’ve had in years to seize the reins of power.