I have greatly enjoyed over the years Andrew Klavan’s columns and videos, first at PJMedia and now at the Daily Wire. He podcasts Monday-through-Thursday at the Daily Wire, leaving us with “Klavanless weekends,” as he calls them.

Klavan is witty, smart, quick and funny, and great to listen to. I knew he also wrote books, but never got around to reading one.

It is a distinct pleasure, then, to discover Andrew Klavan’s excellent memoir, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, which I decided to read after watching his interview with Ben Shapiro during one of their podcasts.

The book blurb tells you,

Edgar Award-winner and internationally bestselling novelist tells of his improbable conversion from agnostic Jewish-intellectual to baptized Christian and of the books that led him there.

“Had I stumbled on the hallelujah truth, or just gone mad—or, that is, had I gone mad again?”

No one was more surprised than Andrew Klavan when, at the age of fifty, he found himself about to be baptized. Best known for his hard-boiled, white-knuckle thrillers and for the movies made from them—among them True Crime (directed by Clint Eastwood) and Don’t Say a Word (starring Michael Douglas)—Klavan was born in a suburban Jewish enclave outside New York City. He left the faith of his childhood behind to live most of his life as an agnostic in the secular, sophisticated atmosphere of New York, London, and Los Angeles. But his lifelong quest for truth—in his life and in his work—was leading him to a place he never expected.Edgar Award-winner and internationally bestselling novelist tells of his improbable conversion from agnostic Jewish-intellectual to baptized Christian and of the books that led him there. “Had I stumbled on the hallelujah truth, or just gone mad—or, that is, had I gone mad again?” No one was more surprised than Andrew Klavan when, at the age of fifty, he found himself about to be baptized. Best known for his hard-boiled, white-knuckle thrillers and for the movies made from them—among them True Crime (directed by Clint Eastwood) and Don’t Say a Word (starring Michael Douglas)—Klavan was born in a suburban Jewish enclave outside New York City. He left the faith of his childhood behind to live most of his life as an agnostic in the secular, sophisticated atmosphere of New York, London, and Los Angeles. But his lifelong quest for truth—in his life and in his work—was leading him to a place he never expected.

That’s well and good, and interesting, of course, but what it doesn’t tell you is how good a writer Klavan is. Compulsive readers like myself come across dozens of blurbs about well-known good authors every day, only to be disappointed when we pick up the latest book from a writer we have enjoyed before, or a writer who is new to us but highly touted.

This is one of the best written books I have read in years.

The second chapter, Addicted to Dreams, especially stands out. It is insightful, stirring, and every sentence is perfect, conveying a time and a state of mind from the past while making both immediate and present. It achieves that effect as beautifully as John Galsworthy’s masterful Indian Summer of a Forsyte. (The highest praise I can make, since I have re-read the entire Forsyte Saga once every ten years for the last four decades.)

This is one of the few books, out of the thousands I have read in my entire life, that I recommend for the quality of the writing. The fact that his writing evolved along with the spiritual journey makes the book even more fascinating.

A few years ago David Eggers’s immodestly-titled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius came out, and yes, it is a fine book. But Klavan’s Great Good Thing is not only great and good, it is heartbreaking, and truly a work of staggering genius.

Read it, and your weekend will not be Klavanless.

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

Ruberry Black Sox
Ruberry in June with man in 1919 White Sox uniform

By John Ruberry

As this decade winds down you can look for many 100th anniversary articles. They’ll be a huge uptick of them next year to mark the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, followed by more on the armistice that concluded “the war to end all wars” in 1918. The execution of the czar and his family, as well as the fall of the Houses of Hohenzollern and Habsburg also occurred that year, events all directly related to World War I.

In 2019 baseball fans will mark 100 years since the Black Sox Scandal, when eight Chicago White Sox players conspired with gamblers to throw, that is, purposely lose the 1919 World Series.

“It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway remarked about the scandal in The Great Gatsby.

That one man, although given a fictionalized name in Gatbsy, was Arnold Rothstein, the mastermind of the scandal, although one of the few things that historians agree upon is that its genesis came from Charles “Chick” Gandil, the first baseman for the 1919 South Siders.

What does the First World War have to do with Major League Baseball’s most notorious scandal. Plenty. In his book The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball, Charles Fountain looks back at “the war to end all wars” and goes back much further.

Comiskey statue, US Cellular Field
Comiskey statue, US
Cellular Field

The most famous member of the Black Sox of course was the illiterate–but, as Fountain explains, in no way dumb, left fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson. During the Great War Jackson was one of the baseball players who avoided military service by joining a defense industry factory baseball team where he made perhaps the same, if not more money than he did playing for owner Charles Comiskey’s White Sox. In recreating the setting of early 20th-century baseball, Fountain, a Northeastern University journalism professor, shows that there was plenty of money “out there” for players, as a third circuit, the Federal League, proved in 1914 and 1915 by luring players from the established National and American leagues with more lucrative contracts.

Another way to collect extra cash was to throw games, and Fountain spends an entire chapter on the now largely forgotten Hal Chase, a talented first baseman who was the first homegrown star of the New York Yankees, whom he dubs “the Prince of Fixers.”

There was more gambling cash involved in baseball than ever during World War I, as President Woodrow Wilson’s “work or fight” labor policy inadvertently led to the closing of most horse racing tracks for the duration of the conflict. Money for wagering wasn’t just going to idly sit in gamblers’ wallets until the war ended. While some minor baseball leagues suspended play during the war, the big leagues, despite shortened seasons in 1918 and 1919, were still in business. And so were the gamblers. The war, and Wilson, upset the economic balance of the underworld.

After the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, or after the South Siders lost it, and despite an investigation by Comiskey that seemed to suggest some White Sox players weren’t playing, as how it was said back then, on-the-square, it would take an unrelated gambling incident for the scandal to break wide open in the final week of the 1920 season, as the White Sox were in a heated pennant race that they would lose to the Cleveland Indians. The fixers almost got away with it. As the eight Black Sox players were exposed, Fountain details the playing out of a longstanding feud between Comiskey and American League president Ban Johnson, one that nearly put the junior circuit out of business with the creation of a new 12-team National League. Of course the two-league majors survived, ruled by a man seemingly removed from the Old Testament, federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

As White Sox left the ranks of baseball’s elite in 1920, modern baseball, the post-dead ball era, began. No one knew it at the time, but the Golden Age of Sports, led by the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth, had also arrived. Comiskey, who died in 1931, never put another contending team on the field, and the White Sox wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1959–and the South Siders wouldn’t win it all until 2005. But the owner nicknamed “the Old Roman” was still able to cash in on the rollicking Roaring Twenties party; Comiskey Park was expanded in 1927, largely because of Ruth’s transformation of baseball.

Comiskey is treated somewhat sympathetically here, as someone who is more frugal than stingy.

Fountain’s effort succeeds not only as a baseball book but as an historical work. Which means you don’t have to be a fan of the national pastime to enjoy it.

John Ruberry, a lifelong White Sox fan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Yes, I quit doing this again.

by baldilocks

I’m having a bit of trouble concentrating today. Not an unusual state of affairs, but, today, it’s really bad due to the fact that I’m in the process of incorporating new habits into my life. So I leave you with a review of my already-published novel while I work on the new one. Disclaimer: the review was written by my old co-blogger.  As with my own re-posts, it’s slightly edited.


Tale of The Tigers is a story of two college kids who fall in love.  It’s about race and racism.  It’s a time capsule of the early 90s.  It looks at the dynamics of family relationships.  It examines sex and sexuality.  It reassesses sacred cows of the cult of the politically correct.  It makes important statements about friendship, loyalty and trust.

Like her blog writing, Ms. Ochieng’s novel is chock full of subtleties.  Her characters could’ve turned into cardboard cut-outs.  Instead, the folks that inhabit Tale are flesh and blood people, full of admirable traits and painful weaknesses.  The outline of the plot never devolves into a cliché romance.  Thankfully, Baldilocks takes the story in unexpected directions.  Tale studiously avoids telegraphing its punches, which makes for an exciting read.

Beyond these great things, for me the best part of the book is the fact that the story stays with you long after you’ve finished it.  You’ll find yourself replaying sequences from the book in your mind.  Moreover, you’ll catch yourself pondering the book’s themes long after you’ve put it down.

In short, Tale of The Tigers is a damn fine piece of work from a writer with a powerful voice.

(Thanks to James Del Rey)

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism—->>>>>baldilocks

Packard
Packard plant, Detroit

By John Ruberry

Two months after I returned from my urban exploration trip to Detroit David Maraniss’ Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story was published.

For me the timing couldn’t have been better, As I drove west to my home in the Chicago area I mused, “What in the hell went wrong with Detroit?”

Maraniss, who was born in Detroit, is the author of biographies of Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Barack Obama. More on the Obama book later.

After seeing Chrysler’s two-minute long Super Bowl commercial for the 200c that featured the Motor City that aired five years ago, Maraniss wondered the same thing I did and decided to write a Detroit book.

Rather than focusing on the deadly 1967 riots that hastened white flight and the exit of thousands of businesses, Maraniss zooms in on a period where Detroit seemed poised to join New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles as an American Great City: the fall of 1962 through the spring of 1964. Detroit’s Big Three were building cars than ever. The city’s long unfulfilled goal of hosting the Summer Olympics finally seemed within reach. Liberal Democrat Jerome Cavanaugh, Detroit’s version of John F. Kennedy, was forward-thinking on civil rights, as was Michigan’s Republican governor, George Romney. Motown Records was enjoying its first taste of national exposure–with greater glory yet to come. The Reverend C.L. Franklin, father of Aretha Franklin, organized a Civil Rights march led by Martin Luther King; and MLK was warmly greeted at the airport by Cavanaugh’s pick for police commissioner, another liberal, George Clifton Edwards, Jr. The president of the United Auto Workers, Walter Reuther, was a prominent supporter of civil rights too.

Downtown Detroit from inside the abandoned Fisher Body 21 plant
Downtown Detroit from inside the abandoned Fisher Body 21 plant

The foundation seemed solid for what was then American’s fifth-most populous city. But there were noticeable cracks. Shortly before the International Olympic Committee vote on its choice for host city of the 1968 summer games, an open housing bill in the Detroit Common Council was overwhelmingly defeated, which led supporters of that bill to appeal to IOC members to deny Detroit the games. Local black nationalist Albert Cleage was gaining support and Malcom X spoke at a Detroit church where he condemned King’s call for non-violence in his Message to the Grass Roots address, where the few whites in the audience were forced to sit in their own section. Edwards’ push to pivot the Detroit Police Department away from its racist legacy was meeting resistance from rank-and-file cops and the DPD brass.

Interestingly, Maraniss intersperses excerpts from letters from white racists to Cavanaugh and Romney several times in Once in a Great City. He also includes a quote from  Rush Limbaugh II about where he lived “prided itself that it never allowed a Negro to live in it and no Negro lived there permanently.”

What the heck does Rush Limbaugh’s father have to do with Detroit? Nothing. However, in his Obama biography Maraniss points out many inconsistencies–or should I say lies?–within the future president’s Dreams from My Father memoir. Rather than being happy about the unexpected publicity about the book from the conservative radio host and others, Maraniss responded in anger to those attacks on a president that he supports. Which explains the author’s end-around attack on the younger Limbaugh. Such pettiness has no place in a serious book.

Michigan Bungalows in Grixdale Farms
Michigan Bungalows in Grixdale Farms

Something else happened in 1962 in Detroit that would hasten its demise, which Maraniss mentions only twice. Three months before the timeline of this book begins, Detroit’s municipal and commuter income taxes went into effect. Those are good reasons not to live or work in such a place.

Near the end of the book President Lyndon B. Johnson, after departing from Air Force One in Detroit on his way to the University of Michigan to give what became known as his Great Society Speech, offered remarks that seem comical today. “Prosperity in America must begin here in Detroit,” he told cheering crowds brought in for the occasion. “You folks in Detroit put American citizens on wheels, you have the American economy on the move. Unemployment in Detroit is down, profits are up, wages are good, and there is no problem too tough or too challenging for us to solve.”

But for LBJ Big Government was the solution to every problem. The Model Cities program, which Cavanaugh bought into big-time, was perhaps one of the biggest debacles of the Great Society.

Despite its flaws I heartily recommend this book. Because another city–Chicago perhaps, which also recently bid on an Olympics–may be the next Detroit.

Or perhaps your city is next.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — Summer vacation is a great time to catch up on reading and to discover new authors.  I read lots of non-fiction, but every now and then I like to read something fun and light; I often gravitate to mysteries or crime thrillers.  If they have local appeal, or a Louisiana flavor, even better.

I was recently asked to review the first book in a trilogy by New Orleans writer Leo King.  The Bourbon Street Ripper was released in 2012 with the completion of the trilogy released in following years.  The basic plot concerns a copycat killer inspired by a serial killer who eviscerated his victims twenty years ago; he was executed for his crimes but left many secrets behind.  His granddaughter was only ten years old at the time of the killings but because she was witness to her grandfather’s murder of her father, and therefore traumatized, she is a suspect in this series of murders.

We also have the typical two detectives working to solve the case.

The author’s representation of New Orleans is quite accurate; from Café du Monde, Jackson Square, and the Garden District to the occult and the secret krewes, we have it all. There’s even a famous crime boss or two thrown in.

Overall, the characters are interesting and nicely drawn.  Samantha Castille, the granddaughter, is the most complex character of the bunch and whether or not she is actually the killer doesn’t seem to matter; you find yourself pulling for her.  Rodger Bergereon is the cop on the case; he happens to be a sort of pseudo-uncle to Samantha and therefore protective of her.  His detective partner Michael is the bright young outsider cop.  We are also introduced to Richie Fastellos, a mystery writer on a book tour in New Orleans, who gets sucked into the case and into Samantha’s life.

If that’s not enough, we have what I started calling the Yin Yang voodoo sisters: Violet and Tania used to work for the Castille family and helped take care of young Samantha.

The plot is engaging and even though the author has an awkward construction or a forced scene here and there, it is easy to overlook as you read on to discover who is recreating the scenes of the Bourbon Street Ripper.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun mystery for your vacation, The Bourbon Street Ripper is only $0.99 on Kindle right now; even better is that the rest of the trilogy is out and you can move right on through them.

Happy summer reading!

Cottontail, mother of twenty-one little boy and girl bunnies, holds life-long dreams of becoming an Easter Bunny.

Why, you may ask, a children’s book written in 1939 by a proper Charlestonian named DuBose Hayward, matter to us, jaded denizens of the 21st Century?

Because it is a powerful book.

DuBose Heyward (1885-1940) wrote several books, including the acclaimed novel Porgy,

the first major southern novel to portray blacks without condescension. Just a decade later George Gershwin had transformed Heyward’s book into an opera that would become one of the most enduring masterworks of American music.

Undoubtedly, Porgy and Bess is powerful art, but what makes The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes powerful is the strength of its main character: A good mother who stays true to her core values of becoming “wise, kind, and brave!”, for all five Easter Bunnies (did you know there are five?)

must be the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole world.

Little Mother Cottontail works hard and does her best as she takes pride in her work. No false self-esteem here, since she believes in results and achievement. She believes in herself and keeps a positive attitude. She focuses on keeping up with her everyday work (much like her creator, who kept his day job); Duty is foremost for her:

Cottontail stopped thinking about hopping over the world with lovely eggs for little boys and girls, and she took care of her babies.

She values the love of her family. She ignores the jackrabbits, the snobs and the naysayers.

And she rises to the challenge.

Some view it as a feminist fable, but it’s more than that. It’s a book about values.

I only read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes recently, after a friend recommended it. It’s funny, the prose is perfect, and you will cry, and laugh. The illustrations by Marjory Flack are beautiful, charming, memorable and funny. It also comes with a bookplate, “For someone wise, and kind, and brave,” perfect for giving as a gift.

Good literature is when it goes beyond the printed word to exalt the better parts of our human souls. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is great literature.

Order yours now so you’ll have it by Easter.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog. She bought the 70th anniversary edition with the shoe charm.

Not only different from everyday topics, but different because the book does not deal with the horrific Communist Revolution.

The book, La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris, is about the life of a Cuban lady of aristocratic background who was a contemporary of George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and many illustrious writers who in turn wrote about her.

Her name was Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo. Mercedes was raised by her grandmother in Cuba, moved to Spain where her parents were involved with the royal court, married a general almost twenty years her senior, and then things got interesting, in the form of the Napoleonic wars.

The beautiful child whose school education was mostly ignored grew up to be a most resourceful woman who became a writer and hosted some of the brightest authors of her time. One of them, Alexandre Dumas, had Mercedes herself appear as a character in his novel Pauline. Aristocrat, wife, mother, hostess, opera singer, writer, and traveler, she was also one of the celebrities of her time.

Note that the term Créole of the title refers to a person who was born outside of the country holding a kingdom, and is not a racial term; Mercedes was born in Cuba, which belonged to Spain, hence she was a Créole. As her fame increased, she was nicknamed the Beautiful Créole (La Belle Créole).

Author Alina García-Lapuerta brings to life an extraordinary woman. García-Lapuerta’s skills as researcher and writer shine in a book that illuminates a period of history most of us never hear anything about. Silvio Canto and I had the pleasure of talking to her about this most interesting character, whose life reads like a novel. You can listen to the podcast here.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

My reviews of Stephen Budiansky’s soon to be released volume Perilous Fight America’s Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas 1812-1815 are now available both at Lunch.com here and at Amazon.com via the Amazon vine program here.

If you are looking for a book that is a play by play of the cannon balls of the fleet such as Preble’s boys you will likely be disappointed but Budiansky does cover a lot of aspects of the War that have been given short shift by other historians.

Oh and I suspect the William Bainbridge fan club will take Budiansky off their Christmas list.