Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (Plus Giveaway)

Synopsis From First Page:

On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane on a routine flight slammed into the Greenland ice cap.  Four day later, a B-17 assigned to the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed.  Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived.  With the weather worsening, the U.S. military launched a daring rescue mission, sending a Grumman Duck amphibious plane to find the men.  After picking up on member of the B-17 crew, the Duck flew into a severe storm, and the plane and the three men aboard vanished.

In this thrilling, true-life adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing crashes and the fate of the survivors and their would be saviors.  Full of evocative detail, Frozen in Time brings their extraordinary ordeal vividly into focus - a fight to stay alive and sane through 148 days of a brutal Arctic winter.  Zuckoff takes us deep into the most hostile environment on earth and into the snow case and tail section of the broken B-17, where the airmen took refuge from subzero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, and vicious blizzards.  He places us at the center of a group of valiant men kept alive by sporadic military food and supply drops until an expedition headed by the famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen attempts to bring them to safety.

But that is only part of the story that unfold in Frozen in Time.  Moving forward to today, Zuckoff recounts the efforts of the Coast Guard and North South Polar Inc., led by and indefatigable dreamer named Lou Sapienza, who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck's last flight and recover the remains of its crew.

Before I sat down to write my review of Frozen in Time, I went back to read the review I did of Lost in Shangri-La, the last book I read by Mitchell Zuckoff.  Boy, did I like that book.  I'm not sure I've given such a glowing review to another nonfiction book since I've started blogging.  I droned on and on about how masterfully the author was able to not only bring the events alive, but to humanize the the men and women involved, making them feel three dimensional in ways most authors can't do with historical figures. I had paragraph after paragraph lauding the author's narrative voice, his attention to detail, and his ability to make history as easy to read as fiction.  It would be far easier for me to cut/paste my review of Lost in Shangri-La, changes a few names around, and have the review over and done with.  Since that's cheating, I won't do that.

What I do want to say is how much I appreciate books like this.  There is so much of our history, heroic stories that seem to be forgotten in a rather short amount of time.  They may capture the news of day, or even a month or two, but new events slowly force them back in time, into a miasma of obscurity that tends to swallow them whole.  Rarely, and only after an untold amount of dedication brought to the story, do the men and women history forgot, get a chance to be remembered again.  Zuckoff is brilliant at being able to pluck a instance of history and bring it back to life in all it's glory.  He doesn't just tell the story, he makes his readers live the story along side those he is bringing back to life within the pages of his books.

Parts of me, felt every moment these men spent on the ice.  I put myself in their shoes, and I honestly don't know that I'm man enough to fill them.  What they went through, the physical and mental anguish brought forth by the circumstance they found themselves in could easily break most of the men I know.  I gasped out loud as men who survived a plane crash onto a desolate Arctic wasteland, who survived for untold weeks upon the ice, succumbed to the dangers all around them.  Whether they were plunged into the bottomless depths of an icy crevasse, or lost for over 70 years entombed in ice after a plane coming to rescue them, is lost to a storm, I can only imagine the anguish they most of felt, right before they slipped away.  It's a horror I'll never feel, but it's a horror I can now sympathize with.

The way he weaves the three crash stories together, two of which are a direct result of the first, is seamless.  There is a rhythm to the events and to his narrative that carries the reader along, never allowing them to get bogged down in confusion or apathy for what they are reading.  When the narrative switches to the present, where he is not only finding himself personally, but financially as well, invested in the search for the doomed rescue plane,  and it's three passengers, it fits in with the rest of the story.  So often, there is a jarring sense of dislocation when a historical narrative jumps time periods, Zuckoff pulls if off perfectly.

One of his fellow explorers, as they were searching for the plane in Greenland, would ask Zuckoff how the book would end.  I'm not sure this book has a proper ending, and given the circumstances of what he was writing about, I think that's appropriate.  I'm looking forward to discovering the end, when it happens.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

The wonderful group at TLC Book Tours have generously offered my readers the chance to win a copy of this book for themselves.  The giveaway will last until 11:59 pm, CST, on 5/10/13.  You must be a resident of the United States to enter, and all you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Darkness, Tell Us by Richard Laymon

Synopsis From Back Cover:

It started as a game.  Six college kids at a party.  Then someone suggested they try the Ouija board.  The board that Corie had hidden in the back of her closet and sworn never to touch again.  Not after what happened last time.  Not after Jake's death...

They were only playing around, but the Ouija board worked, all right.  Maybe too well.  A spirit who called himself Butler began to send them messages - and make demands.  Butler promised them a hidden treasure if only they would follow his directions and head off to a secluded spot in the mountains... a wild, isolated spot where anything could be waiting for them. Treasure of death.  Or Butler himself.

Every once in a great while, I get into a mood where I want to delve into the darker side of life.  Normally that requires me to watch a few of my favorite horror movies, but occasionally nothing will scratch that itch quite like a good horror novel.  And I must put the emphasis on good, because sadly, most horror novels suck.  They play with cliches and tend to be the most formulaic of all genre fiction.  There are exceptions to that rule, and when a horror novel is great, it's a treat to get lost in the author's imagination.

When I was at The Dollar Tree a few weeks ago, I happened to run across three paperback horror novels, that had promising synopsises.  So I took them home, and devoured all three within the span of a few days.  For the most part, it was a mixed bag.  I really enjoyed one, feel kind of blah about the second, and really didn't care all that much for the third.  Darkness, Tell Us by Richard Laymon is the book I really didn't care all that much for.

I was a book riddled with one cliche after the other, some of which seemed so out of place, that it felt as if the author put some ideas in a hat, and just drew them out.  And since I suffered through every single cliche and ill conceived plot point, I'm going to let you guys feel my pain.  We have misfit college kids having a rather tame after term party with their professor.  They find a Ouija board and decide to play around with it.  For whatever reason, this college proffesor has kept the board all these years even though it predicted the death of her husband.  So kids start using the board, one girl is humiliated by it, and they are all told of a vast treasure that awaits them in the mountains.  Long lost brother of the dead husband show up out of the blue, breaking up the party.  Kids leave, but not before stealing the board for their own uses.  And at this point in time, I should have stopped reading, but hindsight is always 20/20.

So that same night, kids decide to go on a camping trip to find the treasure.  Meanwhile professor and long lost brother are getting it on, after they both admit to the feelings they have had for each other.  The nerdy kid, and yeah, there is a nerdy kid hero, has had a crush on the professor this entire time.  But now he has a thing for the humiliated girl, cause he saw her bra.  So as the kids are getting ready to leave, the rich girl and the jock, pick them up one by one, and when it's time to get the humiliated girl, nerdy boy volunteers to go in.  Come to find out, humiliated girl has been living with a much older man who while he pays for her education, is sexually assaulting her and forcing her to wear panties with Bengay smeared in them.  Nerdy boys comes to her rescue, locks the pervert in the closet and convinces humiliated girl to leave with him.  Rounding out the crew are the loud obnoxious girl and dumb jock number two.

After a night of sex, the professor and long lost brother figures out what happened, so they decide to chase after the kids into the backwoods of nowhere.  Meanwhile the kids, after a long car trip, arrive at a lake that sits at the base of the mountain that Butler told them to go to.  They start to relax and let their guard down.  Humiliated girl confesses to nerdy boy that she comes from a very abusive background.  Mother died in a "car accident" after a long camping trip, her stepfather and twin stepbrothers then molested her for years and years afterwards.  They would kidnap other girls and do the same thing to them.  She tried to run, they caught her, thought they killed her, and she started her life over again.  She was taken in by a foster family, where the mother molested her, but since it wasn't violent she put up with it.  And oh yeah, the pervert we met earlier, was that foster mother's father.

Then this crazy. pieced together story gets even stranger.  Loud obnoxious girl has gone off on her own, and is summarily attacked by wild crazy guy wearing nothing but a thong and a machete.  She escapes his evil clutches, he escapes into the woods, and the kids start to think something is off.  But do they leave, of course not, that fortune waiting up in the hills is too much for them to resist.  Who cares that there is a machete wielding crazy guy running around, and who attacks them once again later on that night.  Instead this time, he tries to run off with rich girl, and she is saved by the first jock.

In the meantime, it's late at night, and the professor and long lost brother come across an abandoned car near where the need to turn off to find the kids.  There is nobody around, but since it's not the kid's car, and there is no signs up violence, they ignore the car and continue onto the old dirt road they need to take to find the kids.  Once they get to where the kids had to leave the car, the decide to spend the night and hike to the lake in the morning.  Once they get there, they find that the kids have already left camp to go find the magical mine shaft, so they decide to have sex, which they have already done nonstop since the night they were reunited.  While she is skinny dipping, long lost brother is attacked by thong wearing crazy guy.  Crazy guy grabs the professor once she is out of the water, and drags her off into the mountains.

The kids by this time had already found crazy guy's hideout, and discovered who he is, which by the way really doesn't matter because there is no back story on the guy.  He's just there to add extra danger to the mix.  While there, they for whatever reason use the Ouija board to contact Butler, because they want their money.  Then the big reveal happens, Butler is in fact the departed soul of humiliated girl's mother.  She has lured them there in order to collect her remains and bring them back.  It seems that she didn't die in a car accident, but that the crazy stepfather killed her.  So humiliated girl collects the bones, and they start to make their way down the mountain again.

And do you know who they run into, I bet you can guess anyway.  The come across the professor after she has fought off the thong wearing crazy guy, for the second time.  The first time she was rescued by obnoxious girl who didn't feel like going to the mine shaft with them, so she stayed behind and came across the professor fending off the attacker.  She shoots at him, and he falls down into a rushing stream, presumed dead.  Then he comes for her again, this time when the long lost brother has caught up to her, they scuffle and the brother falls down the mountain, getting caught on the ledge.  Wild crazy guy is put out of his, and our, misery once and for all, but the details on that really don't matter, because he never really mattered.

So the kids find them, and decide to leave when the can't help long lost bother get off the ledge.  Professor stays there, patiently waiting for the kids to get back to civilization and reach help.  By this time, the entire day has come and gone, and it's night time again.  At first they were going to wait until morning to hike back to the car, but they then decide to continue through the night.  Once they reach the car, and take off, they spot a bus back in the woods.  Now "Butler" had mentioned a bus the last time they talked, and they were still hungry for this fortune.  So instead of continuing on for help, they decide to head to the bus.  And do you know who those wild and crazy kids find there?  Come on, I know you already know this by now, well I'll tell you anyway.

At first all they see is a woman bound to the seats, the missing woman from that abandoned car.  She reports that they have already killed her husband, and just as they are about to let them woman go, most of them are shot dead.  Guess what people, the stepfather and twin brothers are back and they are still raping and pillaging as they go.  Rich girl, jock one, and dumb jock 2 are killed outright.  Nerdy guy is left for dead, loud obnoxious girl is missing, and humiliated girl is once again left at the mercy of the men she escaped so many years before.  Well nerdy boy isn't dead, he comes to her rescue, kills all three men and escapes with nerdy girl and the found obnoxious girl.

Flash forward a few months and the professor and long lost brother are married, the nerdy guy and humiliated girl are moving in together, the loud and obnoxious girl is still the same, and the fortune has been found.  Come to find out, the pervert the humiliated girl was living with, died the night she escaped him and his life insurance policy was in her name.  So the survivors live happily ever after, the end.

Now if you are pulling your hair out by this point in time, welcome to the club.  This plot was ridiculous, Ouija boards, backwoods hillbillies, and sexual abuse all rolled up into one horrible story.  Way too many coincidences, putting everyone back in the same area it all started in.  The wild thong wearing crazy guy, I still have no frickin clue where he came from.  But the worst part, are the hours I missed out on reading something else.   Something that would have made sense in the end.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Bedlam Detective by Stephen Gallagher (Plus Giveaway)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

From a basement office in London's notorious Bethlehem Hospital, former policeman and Pinkerton agent Sebastian Becker is sent to interview Sir Owain Lancaster at his country estate.  The wealthy industrialist returned alone from a disastrous scientific adventure in the Amazon, claiming that wild beasts killed his family and colleagues.  He tells Becker that the same dark creatures have followed him home and are responsible for the death of two local girls and rumors of beasts on the moor.  But while madmen may see monsters, some monsters hide in plain sight.

I'm not sure I would ever want to put myself into Sebastian Becker's shoes.  He has recently moved back to England, a move that has left his family poorer than they had been in the States.  He no longer does official police work, or even the work he did for the Pinkerton Agency.  Instead he is working for the Masters of Lunacy, who job it is to decide if a peer is sane enough to run his own estate, or have it controlled by the crown.  It doesn't pay near enough to keep his family in the life style they enjoyed in the states, nor does it really feel as if it's something Sebastian really enjoys doing.  Not that I could blame him, not sure deciding if people are crazy or not is really something I would want to do either.

Well his latest assignment sets him down in the middle of a tragedy that seems to repeat itself all too often.  Young girls repeatedly disappear on the moors surrounding the resort town of Arnmouth.  And too often, those young girls are found horrifically mutilated.  On the day Sebastian Becker arrives in town to investigate Sir Owain's sanity, the bodies of two more girls are found, torn to pieces.  Becker can't help but assume that Sir Owain's rambling tales of the slaughtering of his family and expedition by Amazonian monsters may be hiding the truth.  Maybe the troubled peer is acting out in ways unbecoming of someone in his position.

It's up to Becker and the local law to not only figure out the true story of what's been happening to these young women, but to figure out if Sir Owain's Amazonian monsters followed him back home.  On top of that, Becker is dealing with serious family issues that would break many men, especially when it's on top such a draining investigation.

I have not read the book that proceeds this, which I think may have been to my detriment.  It feels as if a lot of the character development was accomplished in the first book, so a lot of the time I felt as if I was playing catchup.  Some of the family dynamics were a bit odd to me, but it's mainly because I didn't see them when they were living a happier life.  I'm not trying to whine about it, but it did hurt my enjoyment of the book.  Hopefully, when I get around to reading the first book, I'll feel as if I have a better understanding of who Sebastian Becker is.

The other thing I just have to mention, though for the life of me I don't have to, but I kept thinking about one of my favorite movies the entire time I was reading the book.  I don't know how many of you have seen a French film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, which plays on the Beast of Gevaudan, but the nature of the attacks kept reminding me of the movie.  I wish I could tell you that the rest of the book had anything to do with the movie, but it doesn't.  It's one of those odd connections that our brains make without us really understanding them.

The wonderful group at Crown Publishers have generously offered my readers the chance to win a hardcover copy of this book for themselves.  The giveaway will last until 11:59 pm, CST, on 5/6/13.  You must be a resident of the United States to enter, and all you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.  

Challenges: A-Z

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Still Life by Louise Penny

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec and his team of investigators are called to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal and yet a world away.  Jane Neal, a longtime resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods.  The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season... and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter....

When I first started blogging back in 2009, I saw The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny all over the place.  Every blogger I knew was reviewing it, and it was all over the bookstores.  For whatever reason, the cover turned me off and I never even picked it up to see what it was about.  I'm not sure I even read a review of it all the way through.  At this point in time, I'm kicking myself in the ass for those horrific decisions on my part.  If the rest of the series is anything like Still Life, I have some great reading ahead of me, despite the look of the individual covers.

To tell you the truth, I'm still not overly fond of this cover either.  There is nothing about it that would have got me to pick this book up in a store.  I probably would have assumed it was chick lit and walked right on by.  What's inside, living and breathing on the page, is this wonderful community of characters that has me wanting to move.  If Three Pines was a real place, I would quit my job and get to packing.  I'm not even sure what I would be doing once I got there, but I'm always willing to figure things out on the fly.  I totally understand why Armand Gamache fell in love with the town and it's citizens.

 I'm not going to drone on and on about the eclectic mix of characters, or the pastoral locale that makes me miss Minnesota even more than I do.  I'm not even going to talk too much about the mystery, though the way it's structured makes me have faith in modern mystery writers again.  And I don't want you to think that my silence means I have nothing to say, because if I allowed myself to, I would take up another 25 paragraphs trying to convince you to read this book.  It's that unending urge to never shut up, that is keeping me from even starting.

So the only other thing I'm going to say is this, if you are a mystery fan or think you could be given the right book, please pick up Still Life, and discover my dream community for yourself.

Challenges: A-Z

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Newly returned from Afghanistan. a war injured Dr. John Watson, is trying to find his way in a London he is no longer familiar with.  Through a casual conversation with an acquaintance, Dr. Watson learns of a possible roommate to share expenses with.  It's that chance meeting that Dr. Watson first enters into the life of Sherlock Holmes, a young man trying to make it as an independent detective.

At first, while Dr. Watson seems to be impressed with Holmes' abilities, he not completely taken in with the idea.  When Holmes is asked to consult on his very first murder case, Dr. Watson is about to find out how wrong he was in doubting his friend and his keen observation skills.

Little do they know that the murder is really the ending of a story that started thirty-four years ago, in a country separated from them by the Atlantic Ocean.  It will take all of Holmes' observation and reasoning skills to piece the puzzle together.  If he can't, he may not get a second chance.

It's been a little over two years since I first dipped my toes into the waters of Sherlock Holmes.  I reviewed The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes back in March of 2011, and for whatever reason I never bothered to look and see if those short stories were the beginning of the tale.  For all of you fans out there, you already know the answer to that, A Study in Scarlet is where Sherlock and Watson first hook up.  And it was here that I decided would be the best place to continue on my journey.  I'm actually going to try and read the rest of the Holmes canon in order.

I really enjoyed getting to know Holmes and Watson as they are getting to know each other.  A lot of the mysteries I have read start with a pairing already together, so you never get to see how it all started.  You have to catch clues given throughout a series in order to understand the dynamics of the relationship as it progresses through the years.  With Holmes and Watson, you get to see it from the beginning, something I really enjoyed reading about.

The mystery itself was a classic example of a vintage mystery.  A dead man is found in a vacant house, no marks upon his body, and a strange message written upon a wall.  Two of Scotland Yard's best detectives are assigned to the case, and they decide to call Holmes in almost at once.  From the beginning, there seems to be no leads and no real direction to take the investigation in.  Holmes being Holmes, he acts strangely and asks the oddest questions, questions that everyone else seems to not get the point of.  Once they leave the location of the crime, his behavior just gets stranger.

What nobody really knows, including the audience, is all the work he is doing behind the scenes in order to solve the case.  I do wish there would have been a little more insight given to the audience, instead of having a solution sprung on us.  Granted, the explanation is long and complex, and doesn't really leave any questions unanswered.  Though the Mormon aspect of it, takes a little stretching of the imagination.  I'm not sure how much of the Mormon history expressed in the book is accurate, but the attitude the book takes is the only aspect that really does date the story.

Now that I have the opening gambit out of the way, I'm really looking forward to the rest of the Holmes/Watson partnership.

Challenges:  A-Z, VM (Colorful Crime)

Monday, April 22, 2013

TV Guide Picks TV's 60 Nastiest Villains

The last list from TV Guide that I shared with you guys, showcased their picks for the 60 sexiest couples to ever grace a TV screen.  For the most part, I thought that list was okay.  I had some quibbles with it, and I know some of you guys did as well, but sexiness is subjective, so no big deal.  However, I find myself having issues with the list I'm about to share with you.

Back in the March 25-April 7, 2013 issue, TV Guide shared it's list of the 60 nastiest villains of all time.  So when I get the magazine home, I open up to page 14, and expect to be in awe of who they pick.  Instead, I'm left feeling a bit cold.  I'm not sure what happened, but despite picking some awesome characters, the list seems to be bogged down by "reality" stars and characters, that while they may not be nice, I'm not sure qualify as the worst of the worst.  Let me shut up, show you the list, and I'll have more to say on the other side.

1.  J.R. Ewing from Dallas

2.  Mr. Burns from The Simpsons
3.  Gus Fring from Breaking Bad
4.  The Borg form Star Trek: The Next Generation
5.  The One-Armed Man from The Fugitive
6.  Al Sweargengen from Deadwood
7.  Alexis Colby from Dynasty
8.  Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows
9.  Nina Myers from 24
10.  Simon Cowell from American Idol, The X Factor
11.  Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

12.  Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell from Prison Break
13.  Baltar from Battlestar Galactica
14.  Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones
15.  Mags Bennet from Justified
16.  Bob/Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks
17.  Frank Burns from M*A*S*H
18.  Al Capone from The Untouchables
19.  Cartman from Southpark
20.  Ben Chang from Community
21.  The Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files
22.  Wile E. Coyote from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show
23.  The Daleks from Doctor Who
24.  Louie De Palma from Taxi
25.  Russell Edginton from True Blood
26.  The Evil Queen/Regina from Once Upon a Time

27.  Teresa Giudice from The Real Housewives of New Jersey
28.  The Governor from The Walking Dead
29.  Roman Grant from Big Love
30.  Victoria Grayson from Revenge
31.  Richard Hatch from Survivor
32.  Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard
33.  The Joker from Batman

34.  Erica Kane from All My Children
35.  Klaus from The Vampire Diaries
36.  Constance Langdon from American Horror Story
37.  Lucifer from Supernatural
38.  Lex Luthor from Smallville
39.  The Miniature Killer from CSI
40.  Clay Morrow from Sons of Anarchy
41.  Abu Nazir from Homeland
42.  Newman from Seinfeld
43.  Number Two from The Prisoner
44.  Mrs. O'Brien from Downton Abbey
45.  Omarosa from The Apprentice
46.  Plankton from Spongebob SquarePants
47.  Spencer Pratt from The Hills
48.  Puck from The Real World: San Francisco
49.  Gordon Ramsay from Hell's Kitchen
50.  Red John from The Mentalist
51.  Syp Rosetti from Boardwalk Empire
52.  Vern Schillinger from Oz
53.  Arvin Sloane from Alias
54.  The Smoke Monster from Lost
55.  Alan Spaulding from Guiding Light
56.  Sylar from Heroes

57.  Sue Sylvester from Glee
58.  The Trinity Killer from Dexter
59.  Mona Vanderwaal from Pretty Little Liars
60.  Amanda Woodward from Melrose Place  

The first time I looked over the list, a few things jumped out at me.  First of all, I can't believe they put 7 reality "stars" on the list, including Simon Cowell in the top 10.  They aren't villains, at least not what I would consider a villain to be.  They are assholes, I grant you that, but J.R. Ewing, who took the number one place on this list, makes all of them look like pussycats.  Secondly, I think the list includes way too many current characters, leaving a huge chuck of television history out of the loop.  Thirdly, I don't get the inclusion of sitcom villains.  You can't tell me that Frank Burns, Ben Chang, Louie De Palma, and Newman, are the baddest of the bad.  I don't buy it.  And lastly, at least for this paragraph, does Barnabas Collins and other villains, who really turned into the heroes of their shows, really belong on the list of the nastiest of all time?

I like the fact that they included cartoon characters, but these three guys, give me a break.  You can't tell me that Cartman, Plankton, and Wile E. Coyote are dripping with evil and nastiness.  I like Wile E. Coyote, but if he is on the list, it should also include Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil, and Marvin the Martian.  None of them are true villains.  How about Megatron from Transformers, Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe, Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Skeletor from He-Man, or even Gargamel from The Smurfs; they would all make better additions to this list.

Angelus is a bad ass villain, so I was super excited to see him on the list.  They could have easily taken a dozen different villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or from Angel, and they would have been deserving.  Lilah Morgan, Caleb, the Mayor, and Drusilla are just a few that come to mind within a few seconds.  I'm brining this up, because it leads me to another point.  The list includes two races of creatures, The Borg and The Daleks.  Now I'm not that familiar with The Daleks, since I don't watch Doctor Who, but as far as evilness goes, I'm not sure The Borg fit the bill.  Yeah I know they are bad ass and like to assimilate people, but they just feel like a generic, scifi construct.  The Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the other hand, frighten the crap out of me.  When they come to town, they steal the voices away from everyone, so they can't scream.  They hover a few inches above the ground and when you hear a knock on your door, don't open it.  If you do, they will rip out your heart and nobody will be able to hear you.

I'm also failing to understand how these guys didn't make the list:

If any villain from Lost belongs on the list, it's Ben Linus, not the Smoke Monster.  He is a master manipulation and is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone, including his daughter, to make sure he gets what he wants.

I think it's interesting that the list includes some serial killers from different shows; CSI, Dexter, and The Mentalist all have villains on this list.  But what about Christopher Pelant from Bones.  He has brutally murdered untold people, framed Dr. Brennan for murder, hung a dead body over the bed of Hodgins and Angela before wiping out their fortune, and is just an all around sociopath.

There are a lot of characters that did make the list that have a thousand shades of grey between the the two opposite extremes.  Which is why I'm still not sure characters like Barnabas Collins and Erica Kane belong on the list, they were both good and evil, but mainly they were in between those two paradigms.  But if they are on the list, so should Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale from The Wire.  They were two very complex characters, who despite doing some horrific things, had those morally complex shades of grey swirling around them.

And of all the scifi villains to ever grace a TV screen, how could they leave off Diana, the ultimate bitch queen from V.  She was ruthless on her climb to the top of her species ladder, and was willing to slaughter as many humans or visitors it took to cement her upward trajectory.

So those are my thoughts on the list that TV Guide put together, now I'm curious to see what you guys have to say.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Puzzle for Players by Patrick Quentin

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Reformed alcoholic Peter Duluth is trying to make a comeback on Broadway as the producer-director of a sock script by a newly-discovered playwright.  But a deadly drama is being enacted in the reportedly-jinxed and long-uninhabited Dagonet Theater.  Apparitions are seen in dressing-room mirrors; rats are set free beneath the boards; and the celebrated coffin scene is played with unfortunate and unwanted realism.

Offstage an all-star cast has been assembled.  Behind the scenes, a beautiful ghost, a man without a face, and a phantom saboteur are vying for the lead.

One of the best byproducts of my starting this blog, is my falling in love with a wider gamut of vintage mysteries.  I've always adored Agatha Christie, she was my first exposure to grownup mysteries, but it sorta stopped there.  I don't have a ton of excuses for why that happened, so I'll just chalk it up to laziness on my part.  And it's not just falling in love with a broader swath of Golden Age mysteries, it's my realization that men wrote great mysteries back then.  The few times I did venture away from Dame Agatha, it was always towards other female writers.  It's sounds like an obvious thing, but for whatever reason, it never dawned on me that men wrote mysteries, I always assumed the books would be more like the typical thriller that are pumped out today.

I read the first book in the Peter Duluth series, A Puzzle for Fools, last year and I loved it.  I fell in love with Peter and his quest to redeem himself after falling into an alcoholic stupor after the horrific death of his wife.  In the first book he has checked himself into an asylum to recover, and there he gets dragged into investigating a series of horrific murders.  Through that process he meets the woman who he will fall in love with and decide to make a star on Broadway.  He also becomes friends with the doctor who runs the asylum and helps him get over his alcohol dependency.

In Puzzle for Players, Peter is tyring to make his big Broadway comeback and trying to hold his fragile recovery together.  He has found what he believes to be a new show that has the potential of stating once and for all that he is back.  He has cast his girl in the show and has gathered a group of actors together that almost guarantee the shows success.  So when he is moved to a rundown, dilapidated theater and thing start to go wrong that very night, he is hung on tenterhooks for the rest of the book.  Between the horrific faces appearing in mirrors, ghostly women hanging in wardrobes, blackmail, a female lead who's ex husband is doing whatever it takes to be in the show, and the asylum bound brother of the male lead, Peter is facing an uphill battle just to stay sane, let alone making sure the show is a success.  So when a real body appears, it drives Peter even further down in the dumps.

Luckily for him, the financial backer of the show is the same doctor who saved his sanity in the asylum, and he appears to be doing it once again.  If I were to have a quibble with this book, it would be with the the fact I wanted Peter to do most of the sleuthing.  Instead it's the doctor who does most of the legwork.  I'm still pretty content with the book overall though.  Peter is a great character to get to know, and even if he didn't do a lot of the sleuthing, watching him try to deal with everything that was going on was worth the read.  Now I just need to get the third book in the series.

Challenges: A-Z, VM (Staging the Crime)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell (Giveaway Included)

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Did you know that ants teach, earthworms make decisions, rats love to be tickled, and chimps grieve?  Did you know that some dogs have thousand-word vocabularies and that birds practice songs in their sleep? That crows improvise tools, blue jays plan ahead, and moths remember living as caterpillars?

Animal Wise takes us on a dazzling odyssey into the inner world of animals, from ants, elephants, and wolves to sharp-shooting archerfish and pods of dolphins that rumble like rival street gangs.  With thirty years of experience covering the sciences, Morell uses her formidable gifts as a storyteller to transport us to field sites and laboratories around the world, introducing us to pioneering animal-cognition researchers and their surprisingly intelligent and sensitive subjects.  She explores how this rapidly evolving, controversial field has only recently overturned old notions about why animals behave as they do.  She probes the moral and ethical dilemmas of recognizing that even "lesser animals" have cognitive abilities such as memory, feelings, and self-awareness - traits that many in the twentieth century felt were unique to humans.

By standing behaviorism on its head, Morell brings the world of nature brilliantly alive in a nuanced, deeply felt appreciation of the human-animal bond, and shares her admiration for the men and women who have simultaneously chipped away at what we think makes us distinctive while offering a glimpse of where our own abilities come from.

I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade when I was first introduced to Koko, the "talking" gorilla, and forever more the idea that all animals where more intelligent than they were being given credit for, capable of feeling emotions, and worthy of respect was firmly cemented into my brain.  And though this has nothing to do with what this book tries to answer, I'm one of those that has always believed animals posses a "soul" as well.  To this day, I can not go hunting, and after reading this book, I'm not sure I can go fishing ever again either.

But even before my falling in love with Koko, everyone made fun of my sensitivity when it came to animals.  I could not watch a movie in which an animal was hurt or killed, without crying my eyes out.  Even during an episode of Silver Spoons, I cried when they shot a deer they were hunting.  Even though the screen said no animal has been hurt in the filming of this episode, I balled.  And don't get my started on Old Yeller, Bambi, Marley & Me, and even the Planet of the Apes movie where they are back in our time and are shot going onto a ship.  I cried so hard when those baby apes fell into the water.  Even the old fashioned, caged zoos where off limits to me as a kid.  I could not look at the animals, housed in cages smaller than my living room, without getting so upset that we would have to leave.  Even as an adult, I will have the occasional nightmare of being kept in one of those zoos.

With all of that, it could have been conceivable for me to dedicate my life to proving that animals have minds and emotions of their own, and for a while I did think of becoming an oceanographer.  But life took me in another direction, but my love for creatures around us never went away.  Sadly, I'm not even one of those that has followed animal research with any real consistency.  I would, like most of us, be fascinated by a new paper being published about the way a certain animal is able to create and use tools, how another has enough self awareness to recognize themselves in a mirror, or how another uses sex for relaxation; all of which we humans do as well.  And while those instances would stick in my mind as important, I was always too busy to look into the subject further.  So when the opportunity to review Animal Wise by Virginia Morell came up, I took it and couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

It's not an overly long book, from introduction to epilogue, it's around 268 pages.  But the information the author brings to her readers makes the book feel like it should have been denser and harder to read.  She has done a wonderful job in keeping the chapters short and informative.  She knows how to edit her words and has a wonderful ability to give her reader the information in such a way, that casual readers of science or general nonfiction won't feel as if they are being lectured too in a college biology class.

Each chapter introduces us to a animal or group of animals; ants, fish (mainly archerfish), birds (mainly parrots), rats, elephants, dolphins, chimps, dogs, and wolves.  She then introduces us to the scientists and researches who have dedicated their lives to figuring out what animals know, how they learn, what they mentally process, and even how they feel about each other, and in some cases how they feel about us.

Some of the information was surprising to me, especially the idea that fish not only feel pain, but may be mentally processing it, the same way we do.  Hence the reason I'm not sure fishing will be in my future anytime soon.  And some of the information, especially concerning how certain animals are self aware enough to understand what they are looking at in a mirror, or that they can pick out individual humans, was old information to me but I learned so much more about it.  It was fascinating to be given behind the scenes information on how the researchers set up the experiments, and how those experiments produce information that twenty years ago would have been scoffed at.

While Animal Wise didn't fundamentally change my views on the animal kingdom, it did give me the affirmation and knowledge to know that the way I have felt when I look into the eyes of any animal, is based on hard science, even if I didn't know it at the time.

The wonderful group at Crown Publishers have generously offered my readers the chance to win a hardcover copy of this book for themselves.  The giveaway will last until 11:59 pm, CST, on 4/27/13.  You must be a resident of the United States to enter, and all you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

50th Anniversary of "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

In the spring of 1963, at the invitation of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and acting as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the Birmingham Campaign of protests, boycotts, and demonstrations against racial discrimination in Birmingham, AL.  On April 12, 1963, after they had been denied a parade permit, Rev. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth led a march of fifty-two people down the sidewalks of Birmingham.  Both Rev. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth were arrested, and after refusing to post bail, Rev. King remained in a Birmingham jail until April 20.

While in jail, Rev. King read a critique of his actions and tactics by a group of eight religious leaders in Alabama.  Despite the fact that they were willing to admit that racial tensions and problems existed in the state, they felt that Rev. King  was radical and unwise in how he tried to achieve positive change.  They felt that patience and slow court actions where the way to achieve the ends that they claimed they wanted, and what they knew Rev. King was fighting for.  The lauded the Birmingham police department in how they handled the situation and wished for nothing more than for the troublesome outsiders to go back home.

Rev. King read that statement, and while in solitary confinement wrote a response, in the margins of a newspaper, on April 16, 1963.  Smarter men and women have analyzed and commented upon what the Rev. King had to say and how the letter summoned up the entirety of Rev. King's philosophy and religious understanding of the issues facing those who strive for civil rights, rights that already belonged to them by virtue of citizenship, but rights they were denied based upon skin color.  So I'm not going to be giving an exegesis on what Rev. King was trying to get across to those eight clergyman, and in a way, to a much broader audience.

What I will do is explain the simplest lesson I get from the letter.  For me, the letter is a reminder that patience doesn't belong in a discussion concerning a government recognizing that all of us deserve to be treated equally under the law; despite skin color, ethnic background, gender, religious affiliation, sexuality, gender, disability, or in any other way may be different from those who hold power.  Nor should those being denied those rights be forced to wait for those with that power, to recognize that there is a problem.  Urging patience is, in my opinion, a cowards response. It's especially horrendous when it's coming from those who already posses the power being denied to others.  I think Rev. King had it right when he used civil disobedience, non violent protests, and engaged in actual discussion with those who could nor, or would not, understand where he, and those he fought on behalf of, were coming from.  It's through action, not patiently waiting around, that change happens.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rev. King writing what has become known as the "Letter from Birmingham Jail."  In celebration of this, the Birmingham Public Library is sponsoring a celebration of Rev. King's writing.  Readings and discussions are taking place, not only all over the country, but all over the world.  I did not find out about the celebration until Sunday, and since there are no registered events happening in Wichita, I decided I wanted to celebrate by sharing the text of Rev. King's letter with all of you.  I hope you all take the time to read the letter, and for a few moments allow yourself to truly internalize what he has to say.  I would love for you to leave a comment sharing your thoughts or reactions.

April 16, 1963


While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants --- for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides--and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some---such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative .critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious. irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.