So, have YOU been challenged yet?
Wait! Wait! Don’t click off. I realize that between summer and shoulders I’ve not been that active recently, and I missed the initial rosy glow of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now, when I want to write something supporting it, I look around and see the Backlash. Money being raised will take away from other charities. Less funding will be available to use for developing cures for diseases with more victims. Why are we pouring ice on our heads when there are water shortages? When ALS uses genomes? When scientists test on animals? When we should be thinking about ISIS and Gaza and Ferguson and Ukraine and Ebola and…
Stop it. Pull back for a minute.
A few weeks ago, ALS—Lou Gehrig’s Disease—was mostly known about by friends and relatives and colleagues of people who have, or more likely died, of the disease. My wife’s aunt, the incorrigible, powerful Carol Kaufman, was my link. She died several years ago after a terrible, painful illness where the humiliation was only lessened by the incredible love and dedication of her family. But beside Carol, I have never been affected by ALS directly, as opposed to cancer or Parkinson’s or MS or many other illnesses. There are only (only…) a few thousand people suffering from ALS at any time. There is no cure, and researchers are not overly well-funded. Last year, at this time, the ALS Association had raised somewhere around $2.5 million.
And then someone dumped a bucket of ice over his head, made a donation, posted it on Facebook, and challenged some friends to do the same. And all of a sudden the game had changed. It was 50 Shades of Grey or Gangnam Style, but trying to help eradicate a disease. And it’s all done by taking a video, talking for a minute, dumping some cold liquid on your head, and paying it forward. And what is wrong with that? It’s been absolutely rejuvenating for my Facebook surfing (and by the way, it’s been fascinating to see, as in the article here (http://digiday.com/platforms/facbeook-twitter-ferguson/), how users are staying of Facebook for this, while tweeting the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown.) And it’s raised more than $80 MILLION in real money for ALS. And what’s wrong with THAT?
Well, folks are saying that it’s taking away discretionary charitable donation money away from other charities, and this is going to be a giant money suck away from other places that need it. Here’s the thing, though. The Challenge isn’t necessarily forcing anyone to give, or even suggest an amount. People are giving because they feel like doing good. It has felt to me (non-scientifically, so you can roll your eyes if you wish—but I suspect if you’ve read this far you likely aren’t going to do so) that this is the charity version of the impulse buy—the pack of gum or Us magazine at the checkout counter, where you aren’t going to stop buying bread (or, I suppose, the New Yorker, so stretch a metaphor until it screams) because one day you saw Oprah or Benedict Cumberbatch being shown doing something and feel like getting involved. I’m not going to give less to the American Cancer Society or my synagogue or my animal rights charities or my alma mater because I made a small donation to fight ALS because everyone else is doing it and it feels good.
Finally, another thing that’s happening is that people are starting to read about and understand ALS; and whether they are directly impacted by it or not in the future, they might have a little more understanding the next time they read about it or see a tv news story about it.
So that’s it. The ALS Challenge was a great, simple idea that took off unexpectedly. It has done good for the world. And it almost singlehandedly justified Facebook’s existence. There’s enough tragedy and despair in the world; let’s enjoy something good. OK?
For the uninitiated, the Hector Lassiter novels usually incorporate historical events and figures, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, and myriad other 20th-century luminaries who interact with the main character.
The series returns this month, though not with just a single new novel, or with a re-launch of the previously printed four entries centered on crime novelist and screenwriter Lassiter, “the man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.” Instead, European publisher Betimes Books will unveil the entire series of Lassiter novels, released in an aggressively accelerated combination of “old” and new titles. Within a matter of just a few months, the whole of the Lassiter saga will be available for the first time.
I’m fairly certain we’re headed into uncharted publishing territory here, strategically speaking. But then the Hector Lassiter series has always been a genre maverick.
In a kind of premonition of this unusual publishing schedule, the Lassiter series was written in rapid-fire fashion, one book after another, long before the original second novel in the series, Toros & Torsos, was even contracted for publication. I had written the books with an eye to an overarching storyline that would bind the series into a larger tale focused on Hector’s life journey and climaxing with the mystery of whatever became of Hector, the author and the man.
After all the first drafts were completed, I went back over them en masse, polishing and pulling the series together in meticulous detail. To be clear, while other authors carry a series forward one book at a time, I plotted and wove the Lassiter novels together to form that larger story, from the jump.
Several of the individual Lassiter installments sprawl across decades. So a novel here may at points intersect or overlap with a novel or even two over there. Most series treat life as a chain of compartmentalized episodes, each book standing more or less alone. Real life more closely resembles an oil spill, of course. Events and episodes bleed together. I aimed to come closer to that mixing of mile-markers in shaping the Lassiter series.
At conception, it seemed this strategy allowed readers to tackle the novels in any order they chose. In their original publication sequence, the “first” Lassiter novel, the Edgar Award-nominated Head Games, opened in 1957. Its sequel took flight in 1935. The third novel, Print the Legend, explored the death of Ernest Hemingway and was largely set in 1965. The fourth, One True Sentence, was a Lassiter/Hemingway origin story, of sorts, set in 1924 Paris.
But as the series extended to four published novels, increasing numbers of new readers reached out, craving a recommended reading sequence. A striking number told me they wanted to read the novels in something approaching chronological order. I came to see readers’ attitudes toward Hector were dramatically affected by which Lassiter novel they read first.
When Betimes proposed publishing the entire series in a concentrated burst, and it was suggested we present the books in something like chronological order, I immediately embraced the notion.
Strictly speaking, the fact that some of the novels cover three or more decades makes truly chronological presentation of this series an impossibility. We’ll therefore be offering the novels in order of when each book opens.
In this new publishing sequence, One True Sentence--a story encompassing one week during February 1924--is now novel No. 1. OTS was released last week, followed by its never-before-published sequel, Forever’s Just Pretend, which is set across successive holidays in Key West, Florida, circa 1925.
Those two installments will appear simultaneously with a re-release of Toros & Torsos, which opens in 1935. A few weeks later, two more previously unpublished, World War II-era Lassiter novels will debut: The Great Pretender (1938) and Roll the Credits (1942). The remaining novels, a similar mix of old and new installments, will quickly follow.
I wrote an essay for The Rap Sheet about One True Sentence when the novel debuted in February 2011. That tale traces aspiring novelists Lassiter and Hemingway as they confront a cult of nihilist artists.
One True Sentence also introduced the character of Brinke Devlin, a fetching female mystery author who resembles sultry screen siren Louise Brooks but writes like Craig Rice. Brinke was established in OTS as the woman who shaped or even “created” the Hector Lassiter we come to know.
The previously unseen Forever’s Just Pretend delivers on the promised Hector-Brinke reunion teased in the final pages of One True Sentence.
Forever’s Just Pretend breaks the Lassiter template in significant ways. Most notably, for the first time, there are no historical figures; the focus is kept squarely on Hector and Brinke. Also, for the first time, we meet a Lassiter blood-relative.
This new novel introduces Hector’s paternal grandfather, a thinly veiled homage to a beloved, recently passed actor who helped inspire the meta-fictional, sometimes irreverent tone of the Lassiter series.
While no overt historical personages haunt the pages of Forever’s Just Pretend, the crimes that drive the plot are based on a real cycle of murders and arsons that rocked 1920s America.
Now, here’s a challenge to all you Lassiter series readers: the first three people who can correctly identify the inspiration for the “Key West Clubber” killings in Forever’s Just Pretend will be rewarded with signed and numbered copies of the now über-rare, limited-edition hardcover version of Toros & Torsos, complete with the “booking sheet” for yours truly and a personalized fingerprint. Submit your answer in an e-mail note to firstname.lastname@example.org. And please be sure to write “Key West Clubber Contest” in the subject line. We’ll let you know when we have our three winners.
David Trevor here. For far too long I’ve been promising to dig out some of LB’s rarities, pry his hands off them, and put them up for sale. Well, I’ve finally been able to make that happen. Here are the eleven items that went live on eBay an hour or so ago. They’ll be listed more elaborately in a newsletter tomorrow or Thursday, but meanwhile you can have an early look.
RANDOM WALK. A special limited edition, from the UK’s PS Publishing, with an amazing introduction by Spider Robinson.
And now for something completely different. Vol. 11 of the CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS AUTOBIOGRAPHY series, with a 10,000-word autobiographical essay by LB including seven rare family photos.
All these lots are offered without reserve and start at 99¢. Where they’ll stop, nobody knows. You can click on the individual links, or click here to get to a page with all eleven lots.
—David Trevor for LB’s eBay Bookstore
TV Shows on DVD reports that Warner Archive Collection recently offered a novel spin on the widely publicized ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in order to announce the coming debut of Spenser: For Hire--The Complete First Season (22 episodes). “The title isn’t up for pre-order yet, so we don’t have a date or a cost for you right now,” the site explains. However, the cover art can be seen in a video here.
UPDATE: There’s now a link to Spenser: For Hire--The Complete First Season on the Warner Archive site. The set is priced at $39.95.
We received several copies of this book at work last week. The cover alone caught my gaze, the blurb on the back sold the deal. The company files it under the genre “fiction: mystery” which is a section that I rarely read from (although Jo Nesbo and P.D. James are on my to-read list). I love the elements of a book that hold your attention rapt, so eager to find out what the hell happened or is going to happen. Everything about this book made it the easiest answer to the question “what do I read next?!” that I’ve had in a long time.
I’m on page 93 of 234 and already I’ve felt sick to my stomach once, and shocked by a turn or revelation several times. The style of writing has been unique and fluid during the first two sections. The content is captivating but heavy enough to leave your brain spinning with questions of humanity’s reaction to trauma and those who commit violent acts, and tensions in the relationship between age and the law.
There was a time, oh young ones, when she was the gold standard for moving into adulthood. Or so I thought in 1965.
The third and final installment of Janice Law's Francis Bacon mysteries is available now—Moon Over Tangier, the follow-up to Fires of London and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Prisoner of the Riviera.