Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Twenty-seven-year-old Brian Skulnik, who has been the best Managing Editor we’ve ever had during his four-year term, is off to new challenges after October 14 to work with Rosetta Books in Manhattan. Succeeding him is a younger woman, twenty-six-year-old Emily Montaglione, who lives 10 minutes away from us. There’s a lot for her to get used to, but there is no question that she will be up for this new task. Emily also brings her own literary talents, as she has been reading four books a week for over a decade.  One couldn’t ask for a better replacement. You can reach her directly by email at emily@thepermanentpress.com or at our office weekdays from10 in the morning until 5 P.M. at 631-725-1101.

With that, as co-publisher along with Judy and Chris Knopf, it’s my pleasure to introduce her, for this is her blog.
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This past September I had the wonderful occasion to become acquainted with Martin and Judith Shepard and The Permanent Press here in Sag Harbor. It was amazing to see the publishing process and how many wonderfully exciting books were being created. I was inspired by their love of literature as well as their dedication to all types of authors. I knew at once that I wanted to work with them.

I had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by books and with parents who read to me every day. This early love of literature developed quickly.  Soon I was trying to read whatever I could get my hands on.  Once I could write my name, I got my library card which let me explore the local library to my heart’s content. I consider myself lucky to have been able to spend such large parts of my formative years between the pages of a book.

The love of literature didn’t stop there; my first job was at my local library. At fourteen years old I got the assignment of shelving books in the children’s department. Looking back I probably read more than I put away, but I got to spend every weekend surrounded by my favorite stories. In my teens, books were my best friends. I would finish class assignments quickly because I would often find that I had already read the material some time ago. One very kind English teacher introduced me to the classics. I discovered a love for Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Dickens and Chaucer.

By the time I graduated high school, most of my English degree was finished and I went on to declare a major in English literature. Once again my literary world was opened up further. More classics were discovered as well an even deeper love for medieval and Victorian literature. At that point, despite my degree being completed, my advisor insisted I stay and take another major. I decided the most compatible choice would be a psychology degree. This choice gave life to my other passion, child psychology. I went on to graduate school soon after for psychology and as they say, the rest is history.

Despite my choice in graduate study, my love for a good story never waned. I continue to read everything I can, and my taste for fiction has only grown. If there has been one constant throughout my life, it’s been books—a continuing source of comfort, Joining The Permanent Press has allowed me to continue this endeavor as I now work in a place where a good book is never more than an arm’s length away.

I’ve found, with all the new books that are coming out next year, hard to pick a favorite.  There’s something for every type of book lover from comedy, to romance, and mystery. Whether it’s a soul searching coming of age story like Play House due out in April, or a chilling tale of psychopathy, The Mask of Sanity due in March, The Permanent Press has something for everyone. While it may be difficult to choose only one favorite, it’s not difficult at all to find something you will want to read.

I think one of the joys of working for an independent publisher is the opportunity to experience the creation of stories. We get to work hands on with an author from start to finish, seeing the growth of a novel from a few submitted pages to a beautiful hardcover that we can share with the world.  At The Permanent Press it doesn’t matter what a writer’s background or status is. All that matters is the story they’ve entrusted us with and we look forward to sharing their stories with you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Doran Larson, an author we published some years ago, is the Walcott-Bartlett Professor of Literature & Creative Writing at Hamilton College, and has also served as editor of Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America and Director of  The American Prison Writing Archive. Working as well with prisoners in maximum security institutions, he recommend we publish Danner Darcleight‘s Concrete Carnival, citing Darcleight’s “verbal dexterity and streetwise insights, his honesty, humor, his narrative skills and an unyielding search for the humanity in all of his subjects announce a writer who deserves a place upon the broad literary landscape.” He also felt that Danner was one of the most exceptional writers he’d ever come across, adding that “Darcleight shows once again that any distinction between American literature and American prison literature perverts our understanding of what America is as a literary enterprise.”

We signed a contract with Danner’s agent a year ago and will be publishing Concrete Carnival at the end of this month. What we hadn’t realized is that we had two remarkable people for the price of one, for Lily Darcleight, the woman he met while in prison and wrote about in his memoir, also had remarkable writing skills. What follows is her blog:

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With an arm slung over my shoulder in an almost conspiratorial fashion, he leaned in and said, “Things will get better from here on out.”  These are the words that the head of my Board of Directors said to me on the evening that I was fired from my job.  The evening that he and the organization’s attorney sat me down and let me know that the high profile position that I had worked at over the past 30 years, and had performed in a highly competent manner, had come to an end.  Just one week before they delivered this surprising news, I had sat in that exact same room with the exact same people being given a 5-year extension on my contract.  What could have possibly prompted this turn of events?

You may be thinking I did something illegal.  Or unethical.  Or immoral.  Or that I had engaged in such an egregious act of insubordination that I left the “powers that be” with no alternative but to terminate my employment.  You would be wrong on all counts.    My crime?  I was corresponding with, had visited (on my own time) and had fallen in love with a man who was incarcerated.  And apparently that violated some type of morals clause that was hidden in the fine print of my employment contract.  You read that correctly – forging a personal relationship with someone who others apparently found “unfavorable” was considered a morals violation. 

To say that I was in shock would be an understatement.  If you knew me you would know that rendering me speechless is almost impossible, but there I was.  Speechless.  It was true that over the preceding several months I had been getting to know a man whose address happened to be at the nearby maximum security prison.  How I met him was not through some lonely hearts prisoner website, as most people assume.  I had visited the prison in an official capacity, met this man and several others as they told their stories of crime, redemption, rehabilitation, and renewal.  Long story short, I followed up that official visit with a letter of thanks to one of the men in particular because his history and resulting tragic circumstances mirrored an issue I was experiencing with my own son.  I wrote to express gratitude for his willingness to revisit the worst moment of the worst day of his entire life and requested advice as to how I might prevent my son from realizing a similar fate.  He wrote back.  Through the mail, I got to know a sensitive, intelligent, insightful, and humorous man who was so much more than the sum of his rap sheet.  That man was Danner Darcleight.  We corresponded in this manner for approximately 6 months before I summoned up the courage for a first in-person visit.  It was on my third visit that all hell broke loose.

Because of my professional position, I was a recognized person in the community.  Although the prison was a distance from where I worked, I live in rural America and everyone knows everyone else and their business, or they think they do, and they fictionalize what they don’t really know. A corrections officer working the visit room recognized me and took it upon himself to decide that someone in my position should NOT be visiting someone in Danner’s position.  A letter that I had written was seized from Danner’s cell, mailed to the head of my Board of Directors and that brings me back to where this story began. 

“Things will get better from here on out.”  Those fateful words spoken by my boss on one of the most stressful evenings of my life.  What neither he nor I knew at the time this was said to me is that he was right.  Things DID get better from that point forward, but not in the way that he (or other small-minded, judgmental community members) expected.  Not only did Danner and I persevere in the face of incredible odds and stress, I found my way professionally as well.  Did I have to reinvent myself?  You bet.  In small towns, “scandals” such as this are not forgotten easily and nobody is interested in facts – there was an odd salacious aspect to this story that the gossip mongers interjected (and invented) which significantly affected my ability to get a job, despite having two Masters Degrees and a successful 30-year track record as the administrator of a large public school system.  My family was subjected to sideways glances and whispers.  To this day, 6 years after the fact, I can walk into a public establishment and it’s like the clock has been turned back for some community members.  The judgmental looks, or the direct judgmental commentary directed at me, continue.  But, I’ve grown from this experience in ways that I couldn’t have predicted.

Currently, I speak nationally on topics such as working with marginalized youth and providing effective support to children and adolescents with various learning disorders.  I have had the privilege of speaking in all 50 states over the past three years and this is a path that I never would have investigated if not for the circumstances of my personal situation and resulting job loss.  I have found my “niche,” so to speak, and although I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my career as a high-level administrator, I now realize it was only another stepping stone to success.  A success that would not have been realized without Danner Darcleight in my life. 

My relationship with Danner was not built on sex as most relationships are, if we are all honest.  That was not possible due to our circumstances.  So, we talked.  A lot.  About everything.  And we still do.  We support one another and have built an intimacy grounded in trust and compassion.  He became, and continues to be, my very best friend as well as my husband.  I have given up on trying to justify how I can love “someone like him.”  Actually, how can I NOT love “someone like him?”  Did he make a tragic, horrific decision 17 years ago?  Yes.  Has he turned his life around from being a heroin addicted, pleasure-seeking, selfish person who committed murder as a result of drug-fueled behavior?  Yes.  Has his family forgiven him and continued to keep him in their lives?  Yes.  Danner has become the person that he always was, before heroin seized his very soul.  In writing, he has found solace, healing, and redemption.  And he’s worthy of respect, love, and compassion just as anyone else is. 

I am proud to call Danner Darcleight my husband, my best friend, my soul mate.  Loving an inmate is not for the faint of heart.  It is wrought with numerous challenges.  Our commitment to one another is tested regularly.  But, we always pass the test and we always will.  I have been an “outmate” for almost 7 years.  And I will continue to be for as long as the system deems necessary that he remain incarcerated.  Even the stringent bureaucracy of the Department of Corrections can’t dampen our spirits.  We keep on keeping on and I can’t think of anyone else I would travel through this world with. 

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I’M HOPING THAT that you will not only read this blog and place your comments on it, but also feel free to contact Lily at lily.darcleight@gmail.com to ask questions, pose opinions, and get responses.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016


On August 9, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Amy Ellis Nutt who covers Health and Science for the Washington Post wrote a brief article that I found well worth passing on. For one thing she is not in the business of books, but is in the newspaper business. And in a time of decreasing book sales, her short piece might provide another incentive for people to read more books. Surely, anything that promotes book reading books is worthwhile. But to read for one’s health? Well, why not? 

Amy has a great turn of phrase when it comes to newspapers as well.  I hope you take the time to read this posting, pass it on to anyone in failing health, and respond to us and to Amy directly at Amy.Nutt@washpost.com.

With that, I turn you over to Amy:

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Good news on National Book Lovers Day: A chapter a day might keep the Grim Reaper away  — at least a little longer.

A recent study by Yale University researchers, published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine, concluded that “book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.”

The data was obtained from a longitudinal Health and Retirement Study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. The study looked at 3,635 subjects, all older than 50, whom the researchers divided into three groups: those who didn’t read books, those who read up to 3.5 hours a week and those who read more than 3.5 hours a week.

The findings were remarkable: Book readers survived almost two years longer than those who didn’t crack open a book.

Accounting for variables such as education level, income, and health status, the study found that those who read more than 3.5 hours weekly were 23 percent less likely to die during that 12-year period. Those who read up to 3.5 hours — an average of a half-hour a day — were 17 percent less likely.

In other words, just like a healthy diet and exercise, books appear to promote a “significant survival advantage,” the authors concluded.

Why or how that’s the case remains unclear; the research showed only an association between book reading and longevity, not a causal relationship. But the findings are not so surprising. Other recent research showed that reading novels appears to boost both brain connectivity and empathy.

Book buying has increased annually during the past few years. At least 652 million print and electronic books were sold in the United States in 2015, according to Nielsen BookScan, the main data collector for the book publishing industry.

The bad news: Americans barely crack the top 25 when it comes to which countries read the most books. India, Thailand, and China are ranked one, two and three by the World Culture Index, while the United States comes in 23rd, behind countries such as Egypt, Australia, Turkey and Germany.

The better news is that 80 percent of young adults in America read a book last year, compared with 68 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Unfortunately, the Yale researchers said longevity was not increased by reading newspapers.

Originally posted on:

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NEXT UP?  Unclear at this moment. There are several things to write about and lots of exciting things to report. I can promise you a new posting no later than two weeks from now and remain open to any potential blogs any of you, dear readers, wish to submit.


Monday, August 22, 2016


This past February, we were informed by the prestigious Chautauqua Prize, that out of 165 nominations, thirty-five titles were still in play, Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen being among them. From this list, five would be chosen as finalists. While her novel was not among the shortlisted final five, this in itself was a remarkable achievement. But on August 18, at Mid-Americon II, part of the international science fiction convention, Worldcon held at the Kansas City Convention Center, Radiomen hit paydirt when she received the coveted 2016 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. However, she was not able to attend the ceremony since two months earlier she was stricken with a mysterious infection that placed her at death’s door, as both lungs were completely infected.

But Eleanor did manage to get through this and sent an acceptance speech taped while still at the hospital and read at the award ceremony. It’s a remarkable journey and a remarkable speech for this sixty-four-year-old writer, which is also the stuff of science fiction, except that it is real. I’m happy to report that she will be discharged on Friday. She told me today she was so detached from her life in the earlier stages that she thought of the person in the bed as “Juanita.” and I joked that Juanita might be the start of her next book. Great science fiction is like that, blurring the lines between reality and fiction and leaving the reader to ponder some of the mysteries of the universe. And Eleanor is surely one of the great ones writing in this genre,

With that, I say welcome back to the living, Eleanor. And here is her speech.

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Dear Friends:

Let me begin by apologizing for not being with you in order to accept this extraordinary, unexpected, and deeply appreciated award. As some of you must know, I am unable to attend because I am recovering (at least, I hope that’s the path I’m on) from a long illness—almost two months now. I would be more specific about this “illness” except that no one seems to know what it was. I have had dozens of doctors peering down at my bedside saying “Well, dear, we know you got hit with a massive infection and have tested you for everything we know but we can’t figure out what it is.” I suggested that they test for alien spores, and you can imagine the reaction: the doctors’ faces sort of move around, trying to settle into some appropriate expression, then they snort a fake laugh and say, “Of course, you’re a sci-fi writer, what a lovely idea!” And then they go away. But we know better, don’t we? That’s the first thing they should have looked for.

Aliens. Not only have they been on my mind during this mystery illness, but of course they were the focus of Radiomen—specifically, the idea that I hope infused the story, which was, and is, that if God exists, the aliens are probably as confused about Him, Her, or It as we are. I know that as I moved through the strange and struggling stages of this illness—which included a stay in the Intensive Care Unit that I don’t remember, though I am told I bit my brother’s finger and my wife’s, and threatened to have everyone arrested—I was sending out my own radio signals to God, in whatever universe such a force or kind, loving consciousness exists, asking for help. I believe I have been helped. I have indeed been blessed by a devoted companion, my wife, Robin, and devoted care. I hope I deserve all this attention, just as I hope to be able to go back to work someday soon and continue to prove myself worthy of the honor you have given me with the John W. Campbell Award.

I want to tell you something else about my idea of radio waves, in all their forms—spiritual, emotional, or real broadcasts from universes up and down the great unknown dimensions of time and space. One night, in the middle of a terrible fever, I had the kind of dream that people have in movies, except this wasn’t a movie, it was my 3 a.m. confrontation with life and death. In my dream, someone, some being from somewhere else, took me to the Annapurna Museum. If you Google the word Annapurna you’ll find it’s part of the Himalayan range, but in the dream, I know it had something to do with my teenage obsession with Herman Hesse and Siddhartha and the concept of eternity. In any case, the Annapurna Museum was a room full of smallish but human-sized statues covered in gold. The statues were of people who were dying: I remember a boy on fire and a woman who had deep gashes on her body. I was told by my alien guide, who was just a voice, that I could become an exhibit in the Annapurna Museum if I wanted. “They,” whoever they were, would pour gold on me and I would be out of pain, I would be no longer ill. Of course, I would be dead, but I would be free from my mystery disease. I actually thought about it for a moment—it seemed like maybe a way to escape all the terrible things that were happening to me—but I finally said no. I said I would keep trying to find my way back to some kind of life again. I would keep trying to send out my radio signals. With this award, you have helped me to understand that was the only decision to make, so if I haven’t said thank you enough, let me say thank you over and over again, now.

Let me add one more thing. In Radiomen, a special dog is an important character. A few months before I got sick, my beloved dog, who had been with me for many years, passed away. I remember looking for her in the Annapurna Museum and was glad she wasn’t there because it meant that she was somewhere else, somewhere kinder and better, and that I would see her again. I do believe that, just as I deeply believe that somewhere in the distant, savage past, some kind of proto-dog walked out of the darkness, sat down next to our ancestors by their fire, and decided to stay. They have stayed with us since. I am sure they will stay with us as the millennia roll by. I have always been touched by a story I read about how some of the oldest fossil footprints ever found were a child’s footsteps and walking right beside that child were the footprints of a dog-like animal. That is where we see the roots of love, of devotion, of our shared longing, human and animal, to be together, to help each other, to walk through the great darkness together and find whatever light there is, for there must be some. There must be. That, I guess, is really what the radio waves are aiming for: the light that will illuminate our lives. The light that is not in the Annapurna Museum but outside in the great beyond, in the stars and the spinning planets and the eternal hope we all have for peace and love and the light in our beloved companions’ eyes.

So thank you again for the Campbell Award, and thank you for understanding why I can’t be there to accept it. I hope these few brief words have conveyed my deep appreciation for your recognition, which could not have come at a more important time to help me feel that I am coming back to myself. So once more, thank you for sending your loving radio waves my way. I hear them. I appreciate them. I will never forget them. They have reached deep into my heart.
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PLEASE POST YOU COMMENTS below, and also feel free to contact Eleanor directly at elerman1@optonline.net

Tune in next time


Monday, August 8, 2016


Looking forward to my 82nd birthday in September, I confess to being a newspaper junkie since I was a teenager growing up in Queens, New York. Later, I worked at the New York Times as a night “intern” after I graduated from medical school. Thirty-six years ago my wife and I started The Permanent Press and we’ve published a fair share of award-winning mysteries, and I’m continually absorbed by thrillers by artful writers that deal not only with the dying newspaper industry, but with protagonists who dare to do battle with editors and publishers who want to avoid controversy. Bruce DeSilva is such a writer, and though we’ve not had the privilege of publishing his Liam Mulligan series, we have published Howard Owen’s Willie Black series that features the same types of issues, while the similarity between Bruce and Howard is uncanny. Both have been newspapermen for over forty years. Bruce won the Edgar Award, Howard won the Hammett Prize. In Bruce’s books, Providence, Rhode Island became a “character”; in Howard’s case it’s been Richmond.
But enough of this rhapsodizing and my affinity for both these very artful writers, and with that I turn this blog over to Bruce, his background and his blog:

Bruce DeSilva grew up in a tiny Massachusetts mill town where the mill closed when he was ten. He had an austere childhood bereft of iPods, X-Boxes, and all the other cool stuff that hadn’t been invented yet. In this parochial little town, metaphors and alliteration were also in short supply. Nevertheless, his crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. His short stories have appeared in Akashic Press's award-winning noir anthologies, and his book reviews for The Associated Press appear in hundreds of publications. Previously, he was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for the AP, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer.

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Six years ago, when I took early retirement from my journalism career to write hard-boiled crime novels, I decided to make my protagonist a newspaper reporter instead of a cop or a private investigator. I had four good reasons.

1) They say you should write what you know, and I’d spent 40 years working as a journalist for The Providence Journal, The Hartford Courant, and the Associated Press, much of it reporting and editing local, national, and international investigative reporting.

2) I love reading private detective novels, but after all those years writing about real life, I couldn’t suspend my own disbelief enough to write one. Real private eyes are nothing like fictional ones. The real ones spend most of their time hunting down child-support delinquents, investigating pilfering from warehouses, checking the validity of insurance claims, delivering summonses in civil cases, and doing background checks on job applicants. Most go their entire careers without ever investigating a major crime. 

3) Unlike cops, investigative reporters can’t subpoena records or drag someone into the station house for questioning, so in some respects, that makes their work more challenging. But they also have an advantage. A lot of people who talk to reporters would never spill anything to a cop. 

4) While I wanted to write suspenseful novels that would be fun to read, I also wanted them to address a serious social issue in an entertaining way. American newspapers are circling the drain. In recent years, some have shut down, and economic changes brought on by the internet have forced virtually all of them to slash the size of their news staffs. Soon, many more will be gone. This is a slow-motion disaster for American democracy because there is nothing on the horizon to replace newspapers as honest brokers of news and information.

The old broadcast TV Networks, undercut by competition from cable, have cut way back on their reporting staffs too—and they never were all that great begin with. Cable TV news has degenerated into a swamp of celebrity news, shrieking talking heads, and, in the cases of FOX and MSNBC, warring propaganda machines for the right and left.

And the handful of online news organizations that actually strive to do an honest job draw much of their news from TV reports and dying newspapers and do not report anywhere near enough original material to make up for what is being lost.

Sure, a few traditional news organizations like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press continue to do a solid job of covering national and international news, although even they aren’t as comprehensive as they were 20 years ago. But the decline has taken a big toll on both the quantity and quality of investigative reporting. All reporting is expensive, and great investigative reporting, which can tie up a news organization’s best reporters for months—or even a year—is much more so. So far, no one outside of the AP and the fast-disappearing newspapers has demonstrated the willingness or the resources to pay for much of it.

And that’s not all. As local and state-wide newspapers shrivel and die, who is reporting the news from our town halls, police stations and state houses? When I started my career at The Providence Journal in 1968, that then-great metropolitan newspaper had local news bureaus scattered all over the state to cover the political, police, business, and community news in every one of its 39 cities and towns. Today, those local bureaus are long gone, and the only community the paper covers regularly now is Providence. Who is covering the school committee in Warren or the zoning board in Coventry now? Nobody.

For my fictional investigative reporter, Liam Mulligan, being stuck in a dead-end job at the dying Providence Dispatch, offered a wealth of dramatic possibilities. Every day, he had to fight with his editors to carve out time from the daily routine of getting a newspaper out in order to pursue the investigative stories that he lived for. And in each of the first four novels, as layoffs continued to shrink the size of the fictional Dispatch, he felt compelled to do more and more investigative work on his own time.

For the most part, journalists are portrayed as vultures in the popular culture. Why? Because too many writers—especially those who write for the big and small screens—are quick to grab hold of the nearest cliché. The truth is that the vast majority of journalists are hard-working, low-paid professionals dedicated to the difficult task of reporting the truth in a world full of powerful people who lie like you and I breathe.

So it was my hope that as my readers watched the skill and dedication with which Mulligan worked, they would gain a greater appreciation of what is being lost as newspapers fade into history. I strove to make the first four novels in this series both compelling crime stories and a lyrical epitaph for the business that Mulligan and I love. 

But as I was completing A Scourge of Vipers, the fourth novel in the series, it became evident that Mulligan’s newspaper career was coming to an end. The Dispatch had been sold off to a predatory conglomerate that had no interest in investigative stories and saw news as nothing more than something to fill the spaces between the ads. And Mulligan’s squabbles with his editors were making life untenable for both of them.
By the time that novel ended, Mulligan had been fired in spectacular fashion, accused of a journalism ethics violation that he had not committed. 

So the beginning of The Dread Line, the new novel in the series, finds Mulligan (like so many newspaper journalists who have been fired or laid off in recent years) piecing together a new life for himself. In Mulligan’s case, it’s a life that straddles both sides of the law. He’s getting a little part-time work from his friend McCracken’s private detective agency. He’s picking up beer and cigar money by freelancing for a local news website. And he’s earning some illegal cash looking after his semi-retired mobster friend’s bookmaking business. 

And, as usual, he still manages to find trouble. He’s feuding with a feral cat that keeps dropping its kills on his porch. He’s obsessed with a baffling jewelry heist. And he’s enraged that someone in town is torturing animals. All this keeps distracting him from a big case that needs his full attention. The New England Patriots, still shaken by a series of murder charges against one of their star players (true story), hire McCracken and Mulligan (not a true story) to check the background of a college star they are considering drafting. By all accounts, the player is a choir boy, so at first the job seems routine. But as soon as they start asking questions, they get payback. The player, it seems, has something to hide—and someone is willing to kill to make sure it stays secret.

It is worth noting, however, that Mulligan doesn’t think the death of newspapers was inevitable. “Newspapers see themselves as victims of the digital age. They are so full of shit,” he said in an earlier book in the series. “The internet isn’t killing newspapers; they are committing suicide.”

“When the internet first got rolling, newspapers were the experts on reporting the news and selling classified advertising,” he continued. “They were ideally positioned to dominate the new medium. Instead, they sat around with their thumbs up their asses while upstarts like Google, the Drudge Report, and ESPN.com lured away their audience and newcomers like Craigslist, eBay, and AutoTrader.com stole their advertising business. By the time newspapers finally figured out what was going on and tried to make a go of it online, it was too late. This all happened because newspapers didn’t understand what business they were in,” Mulligan said. “They thought they were in the newspaper business, but they were really in the news and advertising business. It’s a classic mistake—the same one the railroads made in the 1950s when the interstate highway system was being built. If Penn Central had understood it was in the freight business instead of the railroad business, it would be the biggest trucking company in the country today.”

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I see things the same way.

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I originally emailed Brue suggesting he call this blog DOWN THE CRAPPER, but he wisely turned down this suggestion for something more specific.

May you feel free to post comments here, and/or email Bruce directly concerning his blog about the dying newspaper business at brucedesilva@optimum.net. As always, you can reach me at shepard@thepermanentpress.com

Stay tuned for another blog before two weeks expire.


Monday, July 18, 2016


Joan Baum, who lives in East Hampton New York,  has worked as an  Arts Critic for over four decades, posting reviews covering art, music, and books for countless diverse publications, among them The Christian Science Monitor,  Dan’s Papers (distributed in the Hamptons and New York City), Hadassah Magazine, and on various blogs.  Her widest audience, however, comes from her National Public Radio book reviews that originate on WSHU-FM, Fairfield, Connecticut. And here is her latest review, for the cockeyed pessimist website, for a novel that will be published by us in October, and which will likely appear elsewhere at the time of publication.

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“With Grace, veteran Richmond, VA newspaper editor, reporter and feature writer Howard Owen, still sticking with investigative journalist Willie Black who continues to bite the hand that feeds him, has arguably created the best book so far in the Willie Black murder mystery series. Where the earlier four books garnered well-deserved critical acclaim and awards, Grace exhibits a tighter, more confident craftsmanship, as Owen shows that he knows how to work exposition into an engaging plot while training a jaundiced eye on his protagonist, keeping Willie the same but not quite the same. Willie, now 54, whose black father disappeared at birth and who still delights in being the good bad boy of print journalism at his paper (his nasty, venal publisher has pushed him into the late-night crime beat), has evolved into an even more sardonic chaser of the justice and truth. Hilarious at times and always cynical and selectively foul mouthed, he seems aware of time’s winged chariot—the press of time and his history of being a fuck-up. But he’s not afraid to use the L word for his lady love, whom he just might make number four, if he can rout or, more realistically, diminish his demons.  He loves to drink, fight, stand pat when the dam breaks and, go where angels fear to tread. A half bro, he can mix and mix it up with whites and blacks, people of all classes, professions and vocations and relationships to the law, earning the admiration of the innocent and the criminal.

“Like some others in the hard-boiled detective genre, Willie attracts because he is flawed and heroic, but he has limits about what he will do and not do to get the story, the bad guy, the girl. His honesty, integrity and ethics endear him to the various oddball men and women he interacted with in the earlier books who are back again.  These include Peggy, his reefer smoking mom, Awesome Dude a former homeless derelict, his ex-wife Kate, a lawyer who is his landlord, an Indian he has befriended, his admiring colleagues both at the paper and in the police department, and his slightly estranged but beloved daughter, Andi, now an unmarried mom herself.  Not to mention all those bartenders who know him well. Willie also knows himself. Of his ability to judge others, which he thinks he usually does well, he adds, “I’m my biggest fan, so maybe I’m a tad biased.” Unlike many modern day protagonists, Willie believes in “social justice, the Golden Rule, cold Millers, and forgiving women, in no particular order.” In other words, Owen is not in the downer camp of contemporary noir. But he does know how to read literary tea leaves. These say that the hot topics today that inform best sellers include racial tension, class divisions, pederasty in the church, failed marriage and alcohol and drug abuse.

“As with all the Willie Black books, Owen lets Willie speak for his creator’s values, which are admirable, especially at a time when good old-fashioned print journalism is dying, if not already dead, and when so-called reporting, especially in social media and on certain channels makes no pretense at accuracy, fairness or intelligence.  As Willie says, “First-person stories by reporters give me the heebie-jeebies. They smack too much of the kind of `look-at-me’ journalism that some of my compatriots seem to prefer to actually digging and sticking to the facts.” As for the state of the world, it’s easy to take a nihilist line, but Willie is more nuanced than that. He sees that the world is divided “into two equally reprehensible groups, both earnestly involved in their life’s work:  judging and affixing blame while assiduously eschewing spell check.” If there is a God, he finds himself thinking, he wonders “ why the hell are we still here? Isn’t it about time for another flood?” But he knows why he is here, and that is to make things right. He has for all his agnosticism a good smattering of  . .  . grace.”  

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IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that while people continue to read books in the summertime, and pre-publication reviews still appear, incredible numbers of  editors in the publishing industry (both here and abroad,) are unavailable. Given that Howard Owen is a Hammett Award-winner for his Willie Black mystery series, and that this is his 14th novel, and that both Howard and Chris Knopf  (a Nero Award winner whose 14th mystery Back Lash was recently release), are the most widely applauded  mystery writers I know of, HERE IS A FREE OFFER for the rest of this month and the first week of August: an electronic "Preview Edition" of Grace. All you need do is contact Brian Skulnik at brian@thepermanentpress.com and ask for your copy.


Monday, June 27, 2016


Ray Merritt has enjoyed a successful writing career for over thirty years. His A Thousand Hounds (Taschen) was selected Best Book of the Year, 2000, by New York Magazine. The New York Times called it a “goody pack.” Entertainment Today awarded it “most creative book of the season” and Animal Fair dubbed it “a masterpiece.” Full of Grace (Damiani) was named PDN Magazine’s Best Book of the Year in 2007. Oprah Magazine called it “dazzlingly elegant, elegiac and exhilarating.” Kirkus dubbed it “gripping” and Publishers Weekly “captivating.”

Clamour of Crows, represents Ray’s entry into the world of fiction and similar accolades followed. Kirkus calling it “A tightly plotted debut mystery that mixes foul play, wordplay, and humor that will appeal to mystery buffs who don't require sex and gore—and to those harboring fond memories of reading J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll.” Library Journal hailed it, reporting that “Merritt's fiction debut is a sparkling blend of wit, puzzles, and suspense.” A National Public Radio broadcast said that “As revelations about money laundering, contested wills and all manner of financial crimes and misdemeanors continue to make the news, Clamour of Crows could not be a more timely tale.” And Blackstone Audio produced an unabridged audiobook version.

Ray, his wife, Carol, and their shelter dogs, live in Sag Harbor and New York City. With that, I introduce Ray’s blog
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“The question has been posed:  Why do so many lawyers write fiction?  For some the answer is simple:  Because they can.  Eric Gardner gave us Perry Mason, John Grisham created Jake Brigance, while Scott Turow, Meg Gardiner, Richard North Patterson and Louis Auchincloss all have created riveting stories told with engaging narratives.  Most of these writers were litigators who honed their writing skill by authoring briefs and arguing cases and in doing so they often had to use their imagination to craft the defense of clients or forge the prosecution of defendants.
I envied their opportunity and experience, for corporate lawyers rarely create scintillating prose.  They write contracts, not briefs.  They have no eloquence, no flourish . . . just the facts, so to speak.  No one has ever been enthralled by a merger agreement, an indenture or an acquisition contract.

“So why after many decades of numbing my imagination with turgid dry text would I—a lifelong corporate lawyer—attempt to cross over and write fiction?  The answer lies in the challenge and also in the opportunity to educate, elucidate and entertain.  Fiction writing involves creativity and as such is an art form, permitting one to set the facts and circumstances in such an order that they create a new, albeit imagined, reality.  It is the written embodiment of one’s own imagination.  Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Goethe called it the process of 'becoming.'  For a writer moving from the frozen prose of the law, it is indeed that.  Writing fiction releases your inner Cliffy as you go beyond the simple recitation of facts and reposition them into an alternate reality that informs, educates and entertains—and hopefully enlightens.

“I find writing fiction a challenge.  It tests your mettle as a dreamer.  Perhaps the difference between composing fiction and writing facts is the same as the difference between the photojournalist and the art photographer.  The first is fact-limited and fact-driven; the second has no limits other than the size of the paper.  In a sense, that is what I find in fiction writing—the page is blank.  There are no restrictions.  You are not limited to reality.  You can test your mettle as an artist... and a dreamer.  Chesterton said that fairytales are more than truth, 'not because they tell us dragons exists; but they tell us dragons can be beaten.'  Clamour of Crows is in large part a modern-day fairytale.

“I must confess I’m not adept at public speaking.  I would have made a terrible preacher.  Perhaps that is why I never wanted to be a litigator.  For me, fiction writing is an outlet for creativity—a seductive pulpit.  I find it therapeutic and pleasurable.  The act of creating a story is a special kind of high.  As a storyteller, fiction permits me to tell stories without breaking professional confidences.  It allows me to explore new challenges instead of dwelling on old ones and in the process to raise questions without giving answers.  Put under oath, I would have to confess that I do it because I like it.  Telling a good story puts me in a better place.  For me, fiction is not an escape from reality but a way to revisit it.  I like life’s ambiguities.  I respect man’s imperfection.  In the preamble to Clamour of Crows, I wrote:  'Most men die forgotten.  Heroes and villains live on.  The best and the worst and a few who were both.'  Humanity’s best trait is its imperfection and that is what I like to write about.”

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WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS below. If you wish to get in touch with Ray directly you can reach him at rmerritt@willkie.com. Clamour of Crows is readily available from Amazon and other online retailers as a hardcover or ebook, through your local bookstore, or directly from us at a 50% discount if you mention reading about it on this blog by emailing brian@thepermanentpress.com and placing your order, or by phone, Monday through Friday, between 11AM and 5 PM (EST) at 631-725-1101. 

Anyone else out there who is interested in writing a blog for The Cockeyed Pessimist can also contact me at that same phone number or by sending me an email (shepard@thepermanentpress.com).