New Year’s Eve

Ah, once again I stand on the eve of a New Year. I’ll likely spend the evening in thought and celebration and reading Olen Steinhauer’s second novel entitled, The Confession. I am greatly enjoying it. The Washington Post Book World says of this novel, “A wonderfully taut tale that is part police procedural, part political thriller, part love story . . . Steinhauer has created a vivid world in a lost time. His Eastern Europe has the ring of truth.” This is quite an endorsement!

Book Signing News:

Today, I finished editing Jeffrey Webber’s fine book on technology and retirement. Last Saturday, my signing at the Sherman Books-A-Million went very well. Once again I was filmed and interviewed by Channel 12 News there. Here is a photo of Randi, a 6th grade student from Honey Grove, Texas. I had presented a program at her middle school earlier in the year and she and her mother remembered me. Her mother was gracious enough to take our photo. Randi said she enjoyed my book and that because of me she decided to learn to play guitar. I believe she received one for Christmas. She is a bright and talented young scholar.

randi&BAM

The Last Detective by Robert Crais

I just returned from Oklahoma, from working and from visiting my parents. I have many notes on my trip that I want to post, but they’ll have to wait for another post. Today, while driving back from Oklahoma, I cut my phone off and listened to the last half of a wonderful novel by Robert Crais, entitled, The Last Detective.

A Short Story: “Clean Nets”

Book News:

In just a few minutes, I’m leaving my motel in Grapevine to drive to my signing at the Books-A-Million in Sherman, Texas. Other than its name, Sherman is a really cool city. It’s growing too. I’ll spend the night with my parents in their cellphone-dead and Internet void zone and be home in Monroe sometime Sunday. This nomad writing life is giving me tons of ideas for stories. The driving time is giving me time to think, to plan, to listen to music or books on CD. For today’s post, since I’m near the Red River, I thought I’d post a short story I wrote. It’s still a work in progress.

CLEAN NETS

Ever since Indian Territory days, my family has fished this Red River. Mama says there ain’t no call for us to be ashamed of it neither. She says the first apostles were fishermen, and that if fishermen are good enough for Jesus, then the rest of the world will just have to accept us too.

When they finished the Lake Texoma dam in 1944, the river changed, and our family had to change with it. Now, most of our fishing time is spent on the lake. We also started guiding some, helping those tourists with more money than sense to catch sandbass or stripers, or get them to some ducks and geese in hunting season. They’re surprised we ain

Twas the Day After Christmas . . .

Well, the pre-holiday frenzy of activity and preparation will now be replaced by the post-holiday frenzy of recovery from the holiday. My parents have enjoyed their trip with me, but are eager to return to their home in Kemp, Oklahoma. My 80-year-0ld father is coughing, and I hope he is not coming down with something. We will load up in just a few minutes and once again I’ll be traveling. I’ll spend a couple of days with them in Oklahoma, likely without Internet, so another blog post, though possible, is unlikely until Friday or Saturday.

Holiday Lesson Plan for Gifted or Honors Students

As I reflected on what I did with students in years past during the holidays, I came up with this. It’s a little sketchy, but it will give you an idea of what I do, and I hope it helps you with your own classes for next year. Be sure and email me (rickeyp@bayou.com) if you have any questions. I’ve enjoyed presenting my little Christmas programs to schools. It’s helped me personally to appreciate the holiday season better.

 

Holiday Lesson Plan for Gifted or Honors Students:

Lesson Objective: TLW experience the holiday season in a unique, thoughtful, and unforgettable way.

Texts and Topics:

The Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer

I’ve long had a fascination with the Slavic peoples and nations. I have read everything that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has written. (This is a whole shelf of books. Remember the joke about the “short” Russian novel?) I remember my first read (it was in winter in Pennsylvania) of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, and the three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago. I was so traumatized that I could only eat soup and weak hot tea for weeks. After reading Solzhenitsyn, I concluded that most Americans have no idea of how much bad politics can cause people to suffer. In Volume I, he dedicates his book (which he memorized while in prison!):

“I dedicate this to all those who did not live to tell it. And may they please forgive me for not having seen it all nor remembered it all, for not having divined all of it.”

I was truly surprised and impressed by Olen’s Steinhauer’s The Bridge of Sighs (St. Martin’s Press) which I completed reading tonight. I’m sorry that I just now discovered Steinhauer, a writer who not only has a solid grip on the writing craft, but truly has insights into life that cut the heart or touch the soul. Recommended by my close friend Bonnie Barnes in Fort Worth, the title of the novel caught my attention first. I knew about the Bridge of Sighs from my research of Venice and from Lord Byron’s poem, Don Juan. Wickipedia adds this on the Bridge of Sighs:

“The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built, and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals[1].
A local legend says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge. This legend played a key part in the 1979 film A Little Romance.”

The Bridge of Sighs is a novel that effectively takes the reader into the mind, heart, and body of the protagonist detective, Emil Brod. The novel’s setting is post WWII Eastern Europe. With ruthless honesty, Steinhauer, an award winning author, paints the canvass of this world, and the depth of his research (and I believe personal interviews) are obvious. If you have read, thought, or wondered about Eastern Europe in the years after World War II, you are sure to enjoy this read. Here are a few (of the many I underlined) quotes from the novel that caught my eye:

Others make the rules, he had said. We only try to live by them (p. 221)

Yes, he would admit to anything in the end [after torture] in the end, because that’s how human beings were. (p. 239)

“In both these events he head been close enough to smell the dead, but too late to make a difference” (61).

“The life of a refugee was not photogenic” (253).

“One man only has so much loyalty. Figure out where yours lies” (17).

Return from Alexandria, Louisiana

Yesterday, my signing at the Waldenbooks at the mall in Alexandria went very well. I sold many copies of my three books–Red River Fever, Stories of the Confederate South, and Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. I also set up programs with at least three schools. Alexandria seems like a prosperous area–at least in comparison with Monroe, Louisiana, where I live. Banks and his Yankee invaders had ravaged and burned Alexandria when they came through there during the Civil War, but the area seems to have regained its prosperity. Pam and the other managers of Waldenbooks are super people. Today, I’m off to the Sam’s Club in Monroe for a signing there, and then driving to Oklahoma to pick up my parents for the Christmas holidays. Here is a photo of myself with two of the Waldenbooks workers. Nicole is on my right and Mallory on my left.

waldenbooks07