Shuriks Picks, March 2010


Fiction

Even Money by Dick Francis and Felix Francis, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.95


This mystery/thriller explores the world of horse racing and gambling. The hero, Ned Talbot, is an honest bookmaker who faces threats to his life while he struggles to deal with his wife’s mental illness. A better than average mystery with Talbot as a likable and memorable protagonist. One need not be interested in horse racing to enjoy his engrossing novels.


Dick Francis died on February 14 at age 89, the cause of death not reported. After he retired as a top jockey, he turned to writing. He won numerous honors for his novels, among them the Diamond Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, three times the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America for best novel, and in 1996 MWA’s Grand Master. Those who knew him described him as a kind and honorable person. He will be missed. His final novel, Crossfire, will be released on August 17.


Nonfiction

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer, Doubleday, $27,95


The death of Patrick Daniel Tillman in a desolate area of Afghanistan brought tears to many Americans. Pat was a unique and heroic individual who gave up a lucrative NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in U.S. Army’s elite Ranger unit, feeling a moral duty to fight against al-Qaeda. Unlike celebrities who publicize their support for disaster victims or the adoption of a poor child, Pat eschewed publicity, and his family requested privacy. This by itself is a remarkable trait in our narcissistic era.


Krakauer used Pat’s journals and letters, interviews with his wife Marie Ugenti, and other sources to draw a portrait of the man. He also presents a critique of the Bush administration. He tells of Pat’s first date with Marie; his objections to the Iraq war; his death from friendly fire; and the attempted coverup. We wish there had been more on Pat and photos of family & friends and less about George W. Bush.


Where Men Win Glory (the title take from The Iliad) concludes that Pat possessed many of the traits of Nietzsche’s Übermench and paralleled the classic tragic hero but without the tragic flaw. Instead, Pat was brought down by a tragic virtue: “his stubborn idealism - his insistence of trying to do the right thing.” His life befits an epic poem.


Children’s/YA Books

Easter in Harwick (Thomas & Friends), based on The Railway Series by The Reverend W. Awdry, illustrated by Richard Courtney, Random House, $5.99, ages 4-8


The children of Harwick, on the island of Sodor, are awaiting the Easter egg hunt. When Terrence has an accident and loses the eggs, Thomas gets an idea on how to save the hunt. Although Rev. Awdry died in 1997, this beloved series continues to delight children. 


Specialty/Small Press

Wharton School Publishing (WSP), a division of the Wharton School and Pearson Education, publishes books in 11 languages (they were unable to tell us the number of titles per year). It specializes in business, economics, accounting, corporate real estate, and leadership.


Its titles include From Lemon to Lemonade: Squeeze Every Last Drop of Success Out of Your Mistakes by Dean A. Shepard and Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times (New and Expanded Edition) by Jon A. Huntsman.


Author submission guidelines are posted at whartonsp.com


Around 1900, millions of Russians traveled to Siberia in

cattle or boxcars. For toilet, there was a hole in the floor.

Commentary

Top Ten Tearjerker News: Stories in the Media That Made You Cry (nonscientific poll, chronological order):

  1. The Wichita Massacre. aka the Wichita Horror, the torture and murder spree of Jonathan & Reginald Carr (2000). “The details were so horrific, I could not finish reading the articles, and I cried for the victims. I just cannot forget this horror story. The Carr brothers are not human.”

  2. Terrorist attacks on Oklahoma City (1995) & 9/11 (2001). “Both times I cried. The image of the fireman at Oklahoma City carrying the little girl is still vivid - and the people jumping from the Twin Towers, and the children on those airplanes.”

  3. Pat Tillman’s death (2004). “He was a true American hero. We lost a great role model at a time when we desperately need them.”

  4. The killing of Terri Schiavo (2005). “I read two books to get the real story of what was done to her. Imagine not allowing her parents to put water on the lips of their dying child. And the horrible way she was killed and how the parents were mistreated. I’m outraged.”

  5. The Groen case - four family members murdered and brave Shasta, 8, held captive by pervert Joseph Duncan (2005). “I cried in anger at what Duncan did. He should’ve been in prison. The judge who went easy on him and those who later supported him should be made to pay.”

  6. Neil Entwistle’s murder of his wife Rachel, 27, and their nine-month-old daughter (2006). “No other story of a wife killer has engrossed me as much as this one. Maybe it was the photos of Lillian Rose hugging him. Why kill his own baby?”

  7. The five girls killed by Charles Carl Roberts, 32, in the Amish school shooting (2006). One of the victims, Marian Fisher, tried to save the children and told the milk truck driver to shoot her first and let the others go. “The killings stunned me. Marian Fisher is a hero.”

  8. Richard McCroskey III (aka Syko Sam), 20, horrorcore rapper, accused of the Farmville, Virginia homicides of his girlfriend Emma Niederbrock, 16, a friend of hers, her mother Professor Debra Kelley of Longwood University, and Rev. Mark Niederbrook (2009). “Mark was a good man. What a shock to see on the front pages the murder of somebody I know.”

  9. Military deaths. “Every time I hear of yet another of our soldiers dying in Iraq or Afghanistan, it brings tears to my eyes. Nancy Grace, God bless her, remembers them at the end of every show.”

  10. Child victims of the worst of the worst. “Precious Melissa Brannen was kidnapped and killed two decades ago in my neighborhood, and it still hurts. And then the horrific deaths of Samantha Runnion, Evelyn Miller, Jessica Lunsford and other innocent children. Something has to be done.”

***

Winners and Losers

Winners:

  1. Businessman Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., second on the list of top U.S. philanthropists in 2007. One of the many causes he has supported is the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He is the author of Winners Never Cheat and makes a compelling case for succeeding without compromising ones principles.

  2. Glass worker and Iraq war veteran Robin De Haven, 28. After Andrew Joseph Stack rammed his plane into an Austin office building, De Haven used a company ladder and his ingenuity to save six people from the burning building.

  3. Survivor Dr. Debra Moriarity of University of Alabama-Huntsville. When Amy Bishop pointed a gun at her friend Moriarity and pulled the trigger, the gun jammed or was out of bullets. “That’s just God looking out for you,” Moriarity said of her escape. Her actions got Bishop out of the meeting room, stopping the killing spree.

  4. David Benk, math teacher in Littleton, Colorado. He tackled gunman Bruco Eastwood, 32, at his middle school and prevented another Columbine.

  5. The late Julia Child. The 40th anniversary edition of her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, made the bestseller list.


Losers:

  1. Fremont County Judge Timothy O’Grady and the Iowa Court of Appeals. No joke, he declared a drunken minor taking off her clothes is “art.” According to his ruling, if a ten year old girl strips in front of men it is okay as long as it is done in a theater, and he labeled a strip club “theater.”

  2. Ex-stripper Crystal Mangum. Last year some might have listed her as a winner. Mike Nifong sacrificed his career for her, Rev. Jesse Jackson promised her a college scholarship, the people of Durham marched beating pots and pans in support of her, and she received a pass for her false accusations and other crimes. Now she is held on $1 million bond on numerous charges, including attempted murder and arson, having committed several acts in the presence of the police.

  3. Donna Louise Greenwell, 53. She pled guilty to selling two children for a cockatoo and $175. For this horrific crime she received 15 months at hard labor.

  4. Dutch coach Gerard Kemkers. During long track speed skating at the Olympics, Kempkers yelled for Sven Kramer to switch lanes in the middle of the 10,000-meter race. This bizarre call cost the skater a gold medal and world record because he crossed into the wrong lane.

  5. Mainstream media for stopping everything to broadcast a golfer’s staged mea culpa to his sponsors.

Easter egg from the Pühtitsa Convent in Estonia.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea Hill in Tallinn. It was built on orders of Tsar Alexander III and completed in 1900.

Russian wooden Easter egg.

Photo: tasuja.com

Voskresenskaya Russian Orthodox church in Tomsk.* In 1915 there were 23 Orthodox churches, 3 synagogues, 2 mosques, 1 Lutheran church, and 1 Roman Catholic church.

(*photo by jeanneester on flickr.com)

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