Friday, February 17, 2017

Review of Janet Dawson's Cold Trail

Cold Trail

In Cold Trail by Janet Dawson, her Northern California detective, Jeri Howard, takes on a personal case: her brother is missing. His medical bracelet is found at a murder scene. The opening line is gripping:

I felt cold and it wasn't only because of the morgue's temperature.

As Howard tracks down her brother, Dawson takes us on a tour of Northern California where wineries are overrunning apple farms and marijuana growers scar the land by razing trees for their operations. Having grown up on an apple farm, I found it pleasant to have apple folk as the underdog heroes and to read praise of how delicious a Red Delicious is, when it's fresh off the tree.

Okay, a side rant: kids won't eat their fruits and vegetables these days because the food is six-months old and selected for types that can be picked early and survive international shipping. I find it unlikely that GMO is health-hazardous, but its use has resulted in profits over taste (and perhaps has added to diabetes).

So, back on the Cold Trail. One of the questions posited early on: why would an adult disappear? Answer number one: he wanted to. He ran off. Answer number two: he is lost and injured or else dead. Answer number three: he is being held against his will.

Through methodical sleuthing Howard comes to accept that third, albeit unlikely, scenario. Then she must still find and rescue him.

The writing is understated; the investigation and details believable, adding to the suspense. Although not a "gotcha" thrilling book, it burns at a steady pace and makes for a fine read.

Janet Dawson's website.


 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Did The Apprentice Kill NBC?

He's plague, he's smallpox, he's typhoid. I don't want to follow his goddamn show. I want out of that 8 o'clock spot. I've got enough troubles without Howard Beale as a lead-in. You guys scheduled me up against "Tony Orlando and Dawn," NBC's got "Little House on the Prairie," ABC's got "The Bionic Woman". You've gotta do something. You've gotta do something about Howard Beale. [Maureen Warfield as Laureen Hobbes, the reality show terrorist in Network, Paddy Chayefsky, 1976]

Peter Finch as Howard Beale, Network, 1976.

Sometimes I get myself involved in stupid projects. Recently I mused—and it must have been musing because I certainly wasn't thinking—why not look at the ratings of the television show, The Apprentice, to see what they really were. Trump makes up numbers about everything else, why not the foundation of his recent popularity?

The undertaking proved to be brutal. The problem I ran into: there are so many episodes. And the puns used as episode titles, the awful puns, not just for The Apprentice, but for the competition and lead-ins. I may have permanent brain damage.

I put together an Excel file of the ratings, the share and the viewer statistics as reported at TV Tango for each episode of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, for the competition in the time slot, and for the shows leading into The Apprentice and following. 

Along the way, I came to the conclusion that not only was The Apprentice often terrible in ratings, but that it may well have destroyed NBC. Perhaps this is why Trump wants to cut back on the EPA. The toxic waste sludge of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice should have been declared a Superfund site.

So, why do I say that The Apprentice killed NBC?  My evidence for this comes in four parts.

  1. NBC took a steep and ongoing nosedive beginning the year The Apprentice debuted.
  2. Although it had the illusion of popularity at the beginning, The Apprentice was never popular. 
  3. The Apprentice gobbled up the best time spots and was the low moment in ratings between those who filled the lead-in and those which came after.
  4. Popular shows which were used as lead-ins and those which followed The Apprentice suffered.

NBC, Before and After.

Once upon a time, NBC dominated Thursday nights with its generation-defining sitcoms. Starting in the mid-eighties with The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Cheers and continuing with Seinfeld, Frasier, and Friends, NBC kicked ass with its ratings. Then in 2004, Friends came to end and the cowbird, The Apprentice, came to nest.

From the television years 1984-1985 to 2003-2004, NBC averaged 3.55 top ten TV shows on Thursday evening alone. Every year, for twenty years they had at least one.

NBC, Thursday nights. (Years on Thursday nights)
List of NBC Thursday night programs with multiple years in the top 10 Nielsen ratings, 1984-2004.
  • Cheers: (1982-1993) 7 years, top 5. 1 year, #1.
  • Family Ties: (1984-1987) 3 years, top 5.
  • The Cosby Show: (1984-1992) 7 years, top 5. 5 years, #1.
  • A Different World: (1987-1993) 4 years, top 5.
  • Seinfeld: (1989-1998) 5 years, top 5, 2 years, #1.
  • Frasier: (1993-2000) 4 years, top 10.
  • ER: (1994-2009) First 10 years, top 10, 3 years #1.
  • Friends: (1994-2004) All 10 years, top 10, 1 year #1.
  • Veronica's Closet (1997-1999) 2 years, top 5.
Others had a single year in the top 10.

Beginning with the year 2004-2005 and through 2015-2016, NBC has never had a top ten TV show on Thursday, in fact, it has only had three top ten shows period: Sunday Night Football, The Voice and The Blacklist.

How did NBC fall so hard, so fast? The Apprentice debuted on a Thursday in 2004.

Top Ranked TV show, NBC. (Beginning with the year after the advent of The Apprentice, 2004)
  • 2004-2005 ER #12
  • 2005-2006 Deal or No Deal #15 (Monday)
  • 2006-2007 Deal or No Deal #13 (Monday)
  • 2007-2008 Sunday Night Football #10. Otherwise: Heroes, #22.
  • 2008-2009 Sunday Night Football #8. Otherwise: ER #26 (tied with Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.)
  • 2009-2010 Sunday Night Football #5. Otherwise: The Biggest Loser #30.
  • 2010-2011: Sunday Night Football # 4. Otherwise: The Voice, #17.
  • 2011-2012: Sunday Night Football #1. Otherwise: The Voice, #10.
  • 2012-2013: Sunday Night Football #2. Otherwise: The Voice, #10.
  • 2013-2014: Sunday Night Football #1. Otherwise: The Blacklist, #6; The Voice #8, The Voice, Tuesday #10.
    • Four top 10 shows! Note: in 2013-2014, for the first time in ten years, there was not an incarnation of The Apprentice on TV.
  • 2014-2015: Sunday Night Football #1. Otherwise: The Blacklist, #12. 
  • 2015-2016: Sunday Night Football #2. Otherwise: The Voice, Monday, #9.

Intermission: A Brief Note on Ratings.

Different sources give what are usually slightly different rankings to television shows. In part this is based on whether they are citing ratings, total viewers, viewers in specific categories, whether they include or exclude reruns, etc. I will mainly focus on total viewers.

Sunday Night Football, although a bona fide hit, was only in the fall season and provided no lead-in or support for other shows the same night.

The above rankings are for the year. Time-slot rankings, which I will discuss below, are how well a program does compared to its competition during the time in which it is scheduled. In general, this ranking will be between 1 and 4 (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox) from 8 until 10 pm at which time Fox signs off and the ranking becomes 1 to 3. The minor networks such as CW never competed with the above four. On rare occasions, although more frequently recently, cable TV has competed. Sometimes The Apprentice was scheduled at a time in which it came in behind historically high-rated cable shows including the final season of The Sopranos and two seasons of The Walking Dead. On one occasion, The Celebrity Apprentice ranked 6th in a portion of its time slot. Most cable programs even those widely talked about such as Mad Men, ranked below the network offerings.

The Apprentice Was Never That Popular - The Debut.

The Apprentice debuted at the tail end of NBC's dominance. It was given a primo debut spot, between Friends, the #4 show and ER the #6 show of the 2003-2004 season. Not only were both of these shows popular in 2004 both were on a ten-year run of consecutive years in the top ten. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present maintains a ranking of the most popular TV shows of all time. ER ranks #6 and Friends #14.

That spot in the Thursday line-up was golden. It could launch successful series and it could make forgettable series look successful. Do people even remember Boston Commons, The Single Guy, or Union Square (The #8-rated shows, of 1995, 1996, and 1997, respectively)? How about Fired Up, the 6th-rated show in 1997? All of these achieved a nova-burst moment of popularity because they were sandwiched in the NBC Thursday night line-up. They succeeded because of position, position, position. And this happened with The Apprentice in its first outing. It came in #5 in ratings for its first season, but as I describe below, it hardly ever won its time slot. And, in following seasons, in spite of throwing good shows in to prop it up, it dog-paddled along, barely peeking above the waterline.

The Apprentice was Fired Up and Boston Commons. It was a show propped up to look good in the ratings, but no more.

Let's look at how the debut episode of The Apprentice did.
The Apprentice debuted with a 90-minute episode. The # indicates ranking in time slot.

Seven million viewers tuned out when the episode of Friends finished and The Apprentice began. Fortunately for NBC, four million viewers returned when ER started. The Apprentice did win the first thirty minutes of its time slot when its primary competition was in reruns. Even winning part of a time slot rarely occurred in its long history (more on that below)

A brief counter-argument in favor of the popularity of its first season. The Apprentice was supported by a lead-in of Friends on four more occasions during its first season and by a lead-in of Will & Grace nine times. Will & Grace was not the same powerhouse (ranked #11 in the year before The Apprentice) as Friends, and on two occasions, the lead-in program was in reruns. On three occasions the following show was in reruns and twice they were specials. Factoring in this, we get this overall picture of ratings for the first season. Lead-in, average viewers: 18.79 million; Following total: 17.83; The Apprentice: 20.3 million. Reruns are a two-edged sword. The Apprentice had a higher audience because it never ran reruns. On the other side of the blade, The Apprentice could never provide reruns to fill out the program schedule.

The Apprentice was never that popular: a global perspective.

During Trump's tenure there were 102 episodes of The Apprentice and 83 episodes of Celebrity Apprentice. These were spread out over 14 roughly four-month-long seasons. So, how often did The Apprentice and Celebrity win their complete time spots? On six occasions, four times in its first season.

The Apprentice winning its time slot.

  • March 18, 2004. Reason: Main competitor pre-empted by NCAA Basketball.
  • March 25, 2004. Reason: Main competitor pre-empted by NCAA Basketball.
  • April 8, 2004. Reason: Main competitor in re-runs.
  • April 15, 2004. Finale first season wins against all competitors. (no reruns, strong showing)
  • March 17, 2005. Reason: Main competitor pre-empted by NCAA Basketball.
  • March 27, 2006. Reason: Main competitor pre-empted by NCAA Basketball.

As for winning even a slice of its time slot, that occurred on seven more occasions. And that's it. Over 14 seasons The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, even against its reruns and sometimes weak-ass competition, managed only 13 wins or partial wins out of 185 episodes and most of those came in the first season. Even against two or three competitors, it managed to lose.

The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice compared to its lead-in, follow-up program and leader of the time slot.

The Apprentice continued on Thursday night for three more seasons through December of 2005. Its viewership declined from 16.1 million in its second season to 11 million in its fourth season. In its fourth season it averaged about 40% of the number of viewers of the program leading its time slot.

After having destroyed NBC on Thursday nights, in season five, The Apprentice moved to Mondays.


Disaster struck. Not only could Jack Bauer not rescue Trump, he was part of the competition. The Apprentice regularly scored fourth place out of the four major network shows, falling below Two and Half Men, 24 (in its 5th season), and for half of its episodes, Supernanny.

The lead-in to The Apprentice, Deal or No Deal, was popular, #15 rated overall and the #1 show for the week of its finale which preceded The Apprentice finale. Deal or No Deal, was in fact, NBC's top-rated show and in a maniacal effort to prop up its overall lagging ratings, Deal or No Deal was extended to three episodes on three different weeknights. On Monday, unfortunately for NBC, the network lost a third of its Deal or No Deal viewers when The Apprentice came on. This season The Apprentice ended in June and its final competition were reruns. In spite of this, The Apprentice had fallen to 51st place.

Yada, yada, in its 7th season The Apprentice became Celebrity Apprentice and returned to Thursday nights where it revived its ratings up from pitiful to pitiable and finished the season ranked #48.

I wrote and then edited out a season-by-season description of its downfall realizing, really, who wants to go through 14 of these? One noteworthy moment came in September 2010, when the program returned in its tenth season to its non-celebrity format and came to roost on and crap in the now deceased ER's Thursday 10 p.m. time slot. That year The Apprentice finished ranked #113.

The Decline in Viewership of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice.

The Apprentice Killed NBC.

Okay, I've now shown how NBC's downfall concurred with the arrival of The Apprentice and how The Apprentice was never very popular. Now to demonstrate that The Apprentice killed NBC.

The death of NBC was more than coincidental. Over and over again, NBC sent in its most popular programs to prop up The Apprentice. The ratings of these programs took a nosedive or else the programs disappeared altogether.

First Year Sacrificial Lambs.

ER. Second highest rated show on NBC. One of the highest rated programs ever.
Role: Followed The Apprentice.
Ranking, year before the debut of The Apprentice: #4.
Ranking, year after: #12.

Will and Grace. Third highest rated show on NBC.
Role: Lead-in for The Apprentice
Ranking, year before the debut of The Apprentice: #11
Ranking, year after: #44

Friends. Top-rated NBC show, one of the highest rated programs ever.
Role: Lead-in for The Apprentice.
Ranking, year before the debut of The Apprentice: #2.
Year after: Program ended.

Wait! Surely you can't blame the scheduled finish of Friends on The Apprentice?

In 2002-2003, the salaries of the six major characters on Friends had ballooned to $1 million dollars. Per episode. That worked out to be $132 million dollars in salaries for just the principal characters. At the same time, producer Mark Burnett had rocked television with Survivor. Survivor had debuted in 2000 and proved that you didn't need star names (or salaries) to get killer ratings. In 2002-2003, the CBS program was the seventh highest rated show and, perhaps as significantly, it had come to roost on Thursday nights.

NBC recognized Burnett's revolution and decided to gamble on his latest creation, The Apprentice. Goodbye to $100-plus million salaries. NBC gave their baby what was possibly the cushiest time slot in television history after Friends and before ER. The Apprentice would spearhead their Friend-less future.

In spite of The Apprentice never being a great success after its first propped-up season, it continued on Thursday nights until ER was ranked #28 (and even then, the second best rated program on NBC). The best rated program on NBC? Deal or No Deal, which was sacrificed to prop up The Apprentice on its move to Mondays.

By the end of the decade, NBC had moved from having the top-rated scripted shows to reality shows, game shows and Sunday Night Football. For years, Sunday Night Football acted as NBC's only hit. To complete the symmetry of the devastation, The Apprentice moved to the Sundays after the football season ended.

Trump as Carnival Barker.

While performing this analysis, I realized one aspect of Donald Trump's character that I didn't quite get before. He is P.T. Barnum. He is a carnival shill. Even when The Apprentice was doing poorly, he was out there promoting the hell out of it. (I kind of admire this.) Of course, he didn't say the ratings stunk. He used euphemisms for stunk, like wonderful. From his tweets:

 Feb 22, 2012 12:35:31 PM @CelebApprentice is having wonderful ratings once again. @IvankaTrump & @DonaldJTrumpJr. I am very proud of this season.

The above tweet came shortly after Celebrity Apprentice debuted at third place in its time slot (second place for the final thirty minutes of its two hours). It finished the season ranked #73.

Trump made a lot of tweets about The Apprentice and ratings. He was also obsessed about the ratings of others.

Jan 26, 2012 02:54:17 PM @BarackObama's SOTU [State of the Union address] ratings were down 12% from 2011.

Being Trump, the claims of his ratings were often lies.

Nov 5, 2012 02:35:32 PM .@mcuban When Apprentice became the #1 show on tv you tried copying me with The Benefactor- a complete and total ratings disaster for @ABC.

The Apprentice was nothing like the #1 show on TV.

Feb 16, 2015 03:11:43 PM "@Bravolebrity1 LeezaGibbons @BrandiGlanville @kevinjonas @GeraldoRivera Ratings for #CelebrityApprentice have been at an all time high! #1"

For the February 16, 2015 episode Celebrity Apprentice was beaten by 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly, Stevie Wonder Special, The Bachelor, and Gotham. At 11:43 pm February 16, the time of the tweet, the ratings would not have been in.

Final Note: In the past year, with Donald Trump having headed off to work on other projects, NBC has been making a comeback and will likely end the year with several top ten hits.

Other Donald Trump posts:


 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Ballad of Oliver Crump

About 10 years ago, I embarked on a kid's book project about a tyrant and bully who announces people's secrets, a commentary on the growing lack of privacy. The character was Oliver Crump and he came to mind just today when I realized his name had the rhyme and cadence of Twitter-mad cyber-bully, Donald J. Trump. Metrically, the names are interchangeable.

My wife put together some lovely illustrations and we shopped the project around without success. Here is the set-up and premise and some of the artwork.

Oliver Crump, artwork Ana Fajardo

Oliver Crump

On a peak above Goodsville, on top of a stump,
In a hat lived a grump named Oliver Crump.
From the roof of his home with his thing-a-ma-probe
He would peep in on people all over the globe.

Then, from out his loudspeaker, he squeakily squawked.
To all those down below, he said, "Frankly, I'm shocked."
"My good people of Goodsville," exclaimed the news bearer.
"I've the tallest of truths!" The whole crowd shook in terror.

"Your beloved Queen Minnie has food in her teeth!
And King Vinnie's right shoe has no sole underneath!"
Crump then snickered while adding, "No need for applause,
I have readied a list full of everyone's flaws.

"I observe and I scribble and say what I please.
I see Kenny Keyes knees have fleas on their fleas!"
A few townspeople gasped while still others just hushed–
And in back of some bricks little Kenny hid, crushed.

With her brother boohooing alone among bricks,
That's when Mary Beth Keyes, who was merely but six,
Felt such anger, she shivered and uttered a vow,
"I will raise up my voice and fight back." Only... how?

With a map in one hand, the young Mary Beth Keyes
Made her way to the palace. She hollered out, "Please!
We must stand up to Crump, we must show him we're brave."
But the king and the queen merely gave a brief wave.

All their cows acted sheepish, their sheep were all cowed.
Only Mary Beth Keyes dared to speak to the crowd,
"First we jump when Crump jumps then we sneeze when he sneezes.
We allow him to spout out whatever he pleases."

Did this cheeky child mock him? Crump spoke with a huff,
"I see Mary Keyes' nose grows a purple nose stuff!
And more shocking than that, do you want to know what?"
"Me? I really don't care," Mary answered, "umm. . . so what?"

"You don't care!" exclaimed Crump with a lump in his throat.
"No one's said that before." First he wrote down a note,
Then he sealed up his hat so the lights all went black,
And he hung out a sign that read, "Wait! I'll be back."

"He'll be back," said King Vinnie, "but what can we do?
I'm still short of the money to buy a new shoe."
"He'll be back," said Queen Minnie, it truly upset her.
"We have hidden before. We'll just need to hide better."

"He'll be back," said a man to the royals in charge.
"I am Doctor Jack Pott, expert genius at large."
His pants were all baggy, his collar too snug
And Mary considered his smile much too smug.

"Worry not!" said Doc Pott, "I've you're answer right here.
The best way to fight fear is with even more fear!
With my whatchama-scope I'll give Crump a big fright."
Mary shivered and muttered, "That doesn't seem right."

Past the top of all up, on a peak above that,
Doctor Pott found a spot in an empty wine vat.
Where he crowed to the crowd from his telema-caller,
"One and all, listen up! I have truths so much taller!

"I reside in a vat with a whatchama-scope.
Crump, he hides in a hat. Just to think! What a dope!
His mind's stuck in a fog that got lost in a mist
And his brain's blown a fuse. He's got wires crossed and crissed."

Crump grumbled and cried out, "You're wronger than wrongest!
My thing-a-ma-probe is by ten times the strongest.
I have everyone's flaws on a twenty-foot list!"
"I can double your list," is what Doctor Pott hissed.

"I see failings and ailings, all blemishes, boils
And some plump juicy lumps that are oozing out oils.
I see all Crump can see, even more in reverse."
By now Mary was sure this had gotten much worse.

I feel I should cut it off here. It seems wrong to dump the entire piece on-line. Anyone interested in the finish can drop me a line and I'll send it your way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review of Disturbing the Dark, by Wendy Hornsby

Disturbing the Dark is a dangerous book: I almost died of collateral cholesterol. The menu of the Normandy coast countryside is so lushly and deliciously detailed, I had to finish each chapter with a burp. One of this mystery's best features is the immersion in modern rural France with its family ties, its cheese wars, and its painful past.

Maggie MacGowan, the heroine of author Wendy Hornsby's series, is making a documentary set in her family's ancestral farm ruled over by her willful grandmother, a place where everyone is either her cousin or the cousin of a cousin.

A bucolic cover for a mystery

The title "Disturbing the Dark" can be thought of as a metaphor for a film shown in a darkened theater or for uncovering a gloomy history. Local construction digs up a mass grave: Nazi soldiers who were slaughtered by the townspeople during World War II. As Maggie shifts the focus of her documentary to the sensational findings, this discovery leads to the unearthing of family secrets–and soon a murder.

Normandy has been the site of waves of invasions including the occupation by the Nazis, the blitz of the Allies subsequent to D-Day, and more recently, marauding tourists. Within the story appears further intruders: those lured by the lurid exhumations, creepy Nazi souvenir hunters, and those who are convinced the occupiers had buried a stash of stolen gold.

Hornsby has crafted a meticulous thriller, romance, travel guide and diet-destroyer. You can not help but want to escape among its pages.

Author's website.

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Monday, January 16, 2017

From Russia With Books

After an iconic image of Michael Caine in The Ipcress File.
"I never intended my leading character, James Bond, to be a hero. I intended him to be a sort of blunt instrument wielded by a government department who would get into bizarre and fantastic situations and more or less shoot his way out of them, or get out of them one way or another. ... On the whole I think he's a rather unattractive man . . ." Ian Fleming in Conversation with Raymond Chandler, 1958. Transcript in Five Dials Magazine, Issue 7.

So far in my series looking at the top mystery novels, I've been moving my way through the top five on the Crime Writers Association (CWA) and Mystery Writers of America (MWA) lists and looking at related novels.


1. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
2. Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep [in Chandler versus Hammett]
3. John le Carré: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold [below]
4. Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night
5. Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd


1. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes
2. Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon [or should I say Hammett versus Chandler]
3. Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery & Imagination
4. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
5. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent [and legal mysteries in general].

In this post, I will look at CWA #3, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and other Cold War mysteries.

The Turkish book cover for From Russia, With Love

By the time of the 1950s, Eric Ambler and Graham Greene helped set the tone of the mature spy novel, but it was up to Ian Fleming to mix in the Cold War and mine the genre for pulpy fun. His fifth James Bond book, From Russia, With Love, sits at #35 on the CWA list and #78 on the MWA list.

At the time of its writing Ian Fleming expected it to be his last Bond novel and 007 appears to die in the end. "I am getting fed up with Bond and it has been very difficult to make him go through his tawdry tricks" [Wikipedia, citing Matthew Parker's Goldeneye]. But every Reichenbach Falls has a trampoline at the bottom and the next year Fleming started on Dr. No.

How well does the book hold up? For me, not very well. It is pleasant to see Bond not as a superhero, but as a vulnerable man who is fooled by the plot against him. And Bond doesn't even appear until one-third of the way through the book.

Author: Ian Fleming
Novel: From Russia, With Love
Published: 1957
Rank: #35 on the CWA list; #78 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 71687
Age of author at time of publication: 48
Previous novels published by this author: 4
Opening  line:  The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead.
Significance: On a list of the top ten favorite books of John F. Kennedy. Generally agreed to be the best of the Bond series. Gadget-free entry to a series with a thousand gadgets.

Len Deighton in The IPCRESS File took on the spy world and made it in to a wince-inducing bureaucracy. He added in a tinge of black comedy and real world fears (nuclear testing) and sensationalism (brainwashing and kidnapped scientists). Published in 1962, it presaged le Carré's wildly successful, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Both authors went on to productive spy-writing careers.

Author: Len Deighton
Novel: The IPCRESS File
Publication: 1962
Rank: #9 on the CWA list; #43 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 79889
Age of author at time of publication: 33.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: They came through on the hot-line about half past two in the afternoon.
Significance: One year before The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The IPCRESS File set a tone for a new type of spy novel: one of bureaucracies and heroes who stumble along.
Most recent novel: Charity, 1996.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was a phenomenon as much as a novel. A great novel: talent. A phenomenon: timing. The Spy... certainly wasn't the first literary spy novel (The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad). Instead it made its mark by tapping into the dissonance of international politics where peace was war.

By the time 1963 rolled around, a goodly number of people were questioning the Cold War. Linus Pauling won the 1962 Nobel Prize for his efforts to ban atmospheric nuclear testing. In 1963, the USSR and the US signed a treaty to do just that. The Missile Crisis of October, 1962 raised fears of a civilization-ending nuclear exchange. In 1963, Kubrick filmed Dr. Strangelove with a screening date set for November 22, 1963 (delayed due to a Steven King novel).

In this atmosphere, le Carré released, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, a work that declared both the Russians and the Western world were morally compromised. The novel worked as suspense, as a world critique, and as literature. It achieved the "total effect" which Poe talked about, we might as well have been invited to the house of Usher. A gloomy chill surrounded the Cold War. Middle-aged men who clung to remnants of patriotism made the decisions and humanity was the collateral damage. Le Carré's thriller spent 34 weeks in the number one position on the New York Times fiction bestseller list.

My favorite sort of suspense comes about when, due to well-established constraints, protagonists are forced to escape with an excruciating slowness. Rick and Ilsa and Laszlo waiting for the plane to take off; Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains passing through a nest of Nazis where even a word of suspicion will bring their doom. At both the beginning and end of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, characters must make a slow transit across the East Berlin / West Berlin No Man's Zone, while fingers rested on the triggers of the rifles aimed at their backs. I'm envious. I hope someday to construct something so breathtakingly thrilling.

Le Carré has continued his spy-writing into his mid-eighties.

Author: John le Carré  (pen name of David John Moore Cornwell)
Novel: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Publication: 1963
Rank: #3 on the CWA list; #6 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 63790
Age of author at time of publication: 31.
Previous novels published by this author: two.
Opening line: The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, "Why don't you go back and sleep?"
Significance: A monumental shift in the tone of the spy novel. The game was morally ambiguous and spies were broken people. Essential reading.
Most recent novel: A Delicate Truth, 2013.

Gorky Park. Am I Martin Cruz Smith's doppelgänger? The evidence: I am Martin Hill Ortiz, same first name, Hill corresponds with Smith as a common family name, as does Ortiz with Cruz as Latino names. He writes ambitious well-crafted thrillers. I have ambition and some sort of craftsmanship and shouldn't his doppelgänger be a ne'er-do-well? 

In the 1970s Martin Cruz Smith wrote Westerns (I have one), gypsy novels, espionage thrillers starring the Pope's own spy, and more. He had written 17 novels in the ten years before Gorky Park got published. And wow. It's a great book. It vividly recreates a human Moscow. It provides with characters who are flawed but strong, weather-worn, beaten down by life but full of life. The central conceit of someone trying to undermine the Russian sable trade makes for a great McGuffin.

In high school while playing the Russian in a reading of You Can't Take It With You, I was surprised to discover that I could do a great Boris Badanov impersonation. Bad Cold War novels make all of their Russian protagonists sound like high school actors: they are all growling bears. The above novels do much better at creating real personalities. In The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the East Germans are the West Germans reflected in a distorting mirror. In Gorky Park, there is some of the staccato speech, but it is surrounded by a sense of self-awareness and the pained humor that comes from being under the heavy thumb of a bureaucracy.

Author: Martin Cruz Smith
Novel: Gorky Park
Published: 1981
Rank: #82 on the CWA list; #35 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 135629
Age of author at time of publication: 38
Previous novels published by this author: 17
Opening line: All nights should be so dark, all winters so warm, all headlights so dazzling.
Significance: As Time magazine declared: "The U.S. at last has a domestic le Carré."


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

Monday, January 9, 2017

Looking for Apologies in Trump's Tweets

(This is my last planned post about Trump's tweets.)

With Donald Trump using so many of his 30,000 plus tweets to insult people, I decided to look into how often he apologized. I searched his Twitter archive for the instances when he used a variant of apology, e.g., apology, apologies, apologize, etc.

Donald Trump's favorite insults.

Insult [# tweets]

  • Crooked [283]
  • Loser [243]
  • Stupid [182]
  • Dumb [147]
  • Bad (TV or radio) ratings [92]
  • Dummy [77]
  • Moron [52]

So what does Trump have to say regarding apologies? Variations of the word appear in 108 tweets.

Three tweets were about his philosophy of apologizing.

  • Never apologize for fake controversies.
  • Fully believe in apologies but you have to be wrong.
  • If someone knows they made a mistake and they apologize, forgive them and move on, but never trust them again.

Apologies of others.

About half of the "apology" tweets mention those who should, who should not and who did apologize.

23 posts state X should apologize. Apologize in general or apologize to someone specifically.
  e.g., CNN for their bias toward Hillary Clinton.
8 posts state X did apologize.
  e.g., Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson for fraud and dirty tricks.
13 posts advising others to not apologize.
  e.g. General Petraeus - stop apologizing.
4 complaints that Obama apologizing.
  e.g. How many times has Obama apologized for our country on foreign soil?!
Trump and Apologies.

Although Trump does not apologize, about half of the tweets are about people who should or who did apologize to him, declarations that he would not apologize or passing along apologies from his staff. 

28 posts state X should apologize to Trump.
  e.g. [CNN's] Chuck Todd should apologize for attacking Trump and Jack Welch when they said Obama cooked job report.
12 posts state X did apologize to Trump.
  e.g. Vicente Fox, President of Mexico.
5 posts stating Trump will not apologize.
  e.g. Still waiting for the apology on the birth certificate thing. You must be kidding joker!
2 My staff screwed up. (These were not phrased as Trump apologizing for his staff. They were his staff apologizing.)
  e.g. Young intern who accidentally retweeted.


Trump used the word "sorry" in 68 tweets. Did any of these represent apologies from him?

This is harder to sort out. Trump most often wields the word sorry with sarcasm. I highlighted sorry because it is easy to miss it among the general venom. These three tweets are directed at his obsessions (in order): Rosie O'Donnell, Danny Zukor, and Mark Cuban.

  • Dec 8, 2014 9:53:59 PM Sorry, @Rosie is a mentally sick woman, a bully, a dummy and, above all, a loser. Other than that she is just wonderful!
  • Jun 12, 2013 9:46:43 PM Just tried watching Modern Family - written by a moron, really boring. Writer has the mind of a very dumb and backward child. Sorry Danny!
  • Mar 19, 2013 2:08:25 PM Sorry folks, but Donald Trump is far richer and much better looking than dopey @mcuban!

In some instances, he is sorry that others have gotten it wrong, in these two examples, about his intelligence and athleticism:

  • May 8, 2013 9:37:06 PM Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault
  • Apr 3, 2013 8:51:59 AM I played football and baseball, sorry, but said to be the best bball player in N.Y. State-ask coach Ted Dobias-said best he ever coached.

Trump did make 13 apologies using the word "sorry" on thirteen occasions. Two were related to Twitter and eleven were related to not appearing somewhere.

  • Dec 11, 2012 1:10:51 PM Some dope tweeted my message to my friend Bill Belichick incorrectly--they called him Bob. Sorry Bill! @Patriots
  • May 17, 2014 2:02:45 AM Sorry, for all of the millions of people who long to hear my brilliant words of wisdom on Fox & Friends on Monday A.M., no go - in Dubai.


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Coming of Age of the Legal Mystery

 Having put together an epic Hammett versus Chandler smackdown, I thought I might do the same for Grisham versus Turow. Then I realized that, while I have read nearly all of Hammett and Chandler, I've only sampled a few of the works from the modern masters of the legal thriller – and Grisham continues to crank out novels at a pace faster than the human eye can read.

So, here instead, is a brief look at the coming of age of the legal mystery and thriller with a special focus on two of the top legal mysteries: Anatomy of a Murder and Presumed Innocent.

"Who you stealing from, Chandler or Hammett or Gardner?" the detective to his mystery writer friend in Dorothy B. Hughes, In A Lonely Place (1947).

Along with Encyclopedia Brown and Doc Savage, I read Erle Stanley Gardner as a kid. The Perry Mason novels series ran to over 80 novels and they were each as chewy as bubble gum.

The first novel I fell in love with was a legal mystery: Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird (1960). I first read it to get a star pasted above my reading rocket ship in its trip to the moon and then immediately read it again, space flight be damned.

Mockingbird made me feel like I was peeking at the secrets of the adult world: the boogieman wasn't the bad guy and the good knight sometimes lost the jousts. Instinct told me these accounts spoke the truth: life was not what it seemed; life could be unfair.

In this same time period, the legal mystery was growing up. Published three years before Mockingbird, attorney Robert Traver's 1957 novel Anatomy of a Murder stood pivotal in the change between the fantasy courtroom mysteries wherein the killer confessed during cross-examination and the real-life dramas of the intricacies of the legal gaming between prosecutor and lawyer wherein innocence and guilt were the prizes and the client was of secondary importance.

Traver was acutely aware of this. His main character, attorney Paul Biegler, bemoans his secretary burying her nose in a mystery novel. "Mystery thriller indeed, I thought. Here she was working on a case that had more real mystery about it than a dozen contrived thrillers. . ." Whodunnit was known. The suspense lay in whether the lawyer would win the perpetrator his innocence.

The author described the mission of his book in his introduction to the 25th anniversary edition. "For a long time I had seen too many movies and read too many books and plays about trials that were almost comically phony and overdone, mostly in their extravagant efforts to overdramatize an already inherently dramatic human situation."

Readers responded. Anatomy of a Murder spent 29 weeks in the number one position on the New York Fiction Bestseller list.

Saul Bass's ingenious poster/opening sequence design for Anatomy of a Murder (film).
Jimmy Stewart starred in the 1959 Otto Preminger film version and for my part it was hard to read the book without thinking of Jimmy Stewart voicing the main character (I saw the movie first). The film is excellent, in fact, one of the key pleasures of the book is getting to spend more hours with the characters.

Has any actor ever had a greater first and second act to his career? Perhaps Stewart's success was due in part to following the coming of age of America. First he was the naive Boy Scout leader turned Senator, then the underdog Savings and Loan banker fighting the encroachment of Pottersville. In the 1950s and turning fifty, he could no longer play the gosh-shucks kid and he became the hero of films that took apart the conventions of various genres: Anatomy of a Murder (the courtroom drama), Vertigo (the detective fiction), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (the western).

Otto Preminger (left), Batman (right) Batman also came of age. :(

Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent has many of the trappings of a real-world courtroom mystery, but perhaps it is closer in spirit to that of a stinging satire, along the lines of Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital. Political intrigue is more important than justice, evidence is misplaced, experts aren't expert, and no one is presumed innocent – and no one is innocent.

Rusty Sabich is a prosecutor accused of murder and all of the tricks used by prosecutors (including those he used) are now played against him.

Anatomy of a Murder also had a cynical view of prosecutors. In his novel, Traver quoted John Mason Brown: "The prosecutor's by obligation is a special mind, mongoose quick, bullying, devious, unrelenting, forever baited to ensnare and by instinct dotes on confusing and flourishes on weakness."

Bonnie Bedelia (left) and Harrison Ford (right) and that might be Raul Julia lurking back there.
Again, it is hard for me to separate Rusty Sabich in the novel from the image provided me by Harrison Ford in the 1990 Alan Pakula adaptation of the book. I believe the novel works better on several levels, in part because of the cumulative intricacies of the broken judicial system, in part because of Turow's moving descriptions of Sabich's despair. "Every life, like every snowflake, seemed to me then unique in the shape of its miseries, and in the rarity and mildness of its pleasures." The book's ending is more satisfying. The final summation of the crime as Rusty imagines it comes from the pain of his character and the formality of having spent so many years propounding law and order. In the film, the twist ending is revealed with the killer confessing, which is a better cinematic choice.

Author: Robert Traver (pen name of John D. Voelker)
Novel: Anatomy of a Murder
Publication: 1957
Rank: #11 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 164030
Age of author at time of publication: 54.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: After serving for fourteen years as district attorney of the northern Michigan county where I was born, one chilly fall election day I found myself abruptly paroled from my job by the unappealable verdict of the electorate.
Significance: Changed the drama of the legal mystery from the fantastic whodunnit into that of a real life struggle for justice.

Author: Scott Turow
Novel: Presumed Innocent
Publication: 1987
Rank: #48 on the CWA list, #5 on the MWA list.
Word Count: 141704
Age of author at time of publication: 38.
Previous novels published by this author: none.
Opening line: This is how I always start: "I am the prosecutor."
Significance: Helped initiate the recent wave of legal thrillers.

Final note: Erle Stanley Gardner, Robert Traver, Scott Turow and John Grisham have each practiced law. This is a hard field to break into without a specialized background.


Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review of Ann Parker's What Gold Buys

Like the previous novels in this mystery series, Ann Parker sets What Gold Buys high up in Leadville, Colorado where, in 1880, all of the townsfolk were prospectors of a sort. Some made their wealth from the silver mines while others shook coins loose in gambling parlors and saloons, or in hotels and brothels. Even the poor and those who lived in the hovels of alleyways scratched for bits of wealth. The protagonist and sleuth of this series, Inez Stannert is on the brink of a divorce in a time when a woman divorcing is a losing hand. A saloon keeper, she stays strong because she has to and pulls through because she knows how to play the long odds.

Like the tones and tans and grit of this story, the romance and suspense feel natural. The murders are a horror happened upon. Young Antonia lives in a shack in an alleyway with her mother, a fortuneteller. She practices her quick draw for the day when her mother's mysterious benefactor will return. When her mother is murdered she, along with a ghoulish cast, become suspects.

The suspense builds as we are taken into an undertaker's parlor reminiscent of the Bates Motel. Inez and Antonia function as equals to unravel the mystery which climaxes at a séance.

A fun read, especially for those who like to be transported to another place and time.

What Gold Buys: Author's site.

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Those Whom Donald Trump Called Racist

Someday there may be an source in which all of Donald Trump's speeches and media appearances can be researched. Until then, we have his Twitter archive.

Since joining Twitter on May 4, 2009, up through the end of 2016, Donald Trump has posted over 34,000 times [source] or 12.1 tweets per day. Some of these are photo-only, however, over 31,000 of these tweets are available for text searching at TrumpTwitterArchive. This is a sufficient amount of material to find out what he has to say about many topics.

Since I have been exploring issues of race, I looked to see what Trump has said about it. Fifty of Trump's tweets include the words "racist" or "racists."

  • 24 were directed towards individuals Trump whom called racist.
  • 13 were directed at groups/entities which Trump whom called racist.
  • 2 mentioned people being called racist, but did not seem to agree with the accusation.
  • 6 referred to people calling Trump racist which overlapped with:
  • 3 referenced apologies from persons who called Trump racist.
  • 3 said a person was not racist.

Whom did Trump call racist?

  • 19 tweets directed at 4 black men.
  • 4 tweets directed at 3 Jewish men.
  • 1 tweet directed at a white woman.

A gallery of those Trump declared racist.

From right to left: Bryant Gumbel, Touré Neblett, Barack Obama, Tavis Smiley
Bryant Gumbel. (6x [six tweets calling him racist])

TV Personality. His television career beginning in 1971, he is currently host of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, in its 22nd season on HBO. He has won 4 Emmys. Graduated Bates College with a degree in Russian history.

Trump made 12 tweets altogether regarding Bryant Gumbel. Six called him racist.

Along with calling Gumbel a racist, Trump called him: dumb, really dumb (x2), and I mean dumb, dumbest, dope, arrogant dope, really jealous, condescending no talent jerk, no talent, long and deep record of failure.

Touré Neblett. (10x)

Writer, journalist, TV Commentator. In the 90s, he contributed to national magazines such as the Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and Time. He began his television career in the 2000s and from 2012 to 2015 was co-featured in MSNBCs commetary show, The Cycle.

Trump made 17 tweets altogether regarding Touré. Ten included the term racist.

Along with calling Touré a racist, Trump called him: dumb, very dumb, dumb racist moron, dummy, simpleton, stupid, bad speller, angry, doesn't have a clue about money.

Barack Obama (2x).

Former U.S. Senator, Illinois. Two terms U.S. President. Nobel Prize Winner. Graduated Harvard Law School, 1991.

Trump has made over 2400 tweets regarding Barack Obama.

One tweet questioned whether Obama was a racist. Four hours later, a second tweet stated he was a racist.

Trump often referred to Obama's policies and decisions as stupid. On two occasions he called Obama stupid and once a dope. On six more occasions, he asked whether Obama was stupid, most aggressively in this form:  "How totally stupid is this guy?"

Tavis Smiley (1x).

Talk Show Host, Commentator.

Beginning in the 1990s Smiley has been a radio commentator. He graduated Indiana University in 2003 with a degree in Public Affairs.

Only one tweet referred to Tavis Smiley, calling him a hater and racist.

The Other Four.

Trump has also called these four other individuals racists: Jon Stewart, Anthony Weiner, Danny Zuker, and Elizabeth Warren.

Jon Stewart (2x).

Talk Show Host, Comedian. Headed The Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. During his tenure, The Daily Show won 22 Primetime Emmys. Graduated from College of William & Mary in 1984.

Trump made two tweets questioning whether Stewart was racist, both of which linked to a YouTube video where Trump hosted evidence.

Trump has made 33 tweets regarding Jon Stewart. Most often he refers to Stewart as overrated, but also has called him: dummy, dopey, a joke, not smart, a pussy, phoney [sic], asshole, loud and obnoxious and a very little man.

Anthony Weiner (1x).

Six term Congressman, representing New York's 9th Congressional District. Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from The College of William & Mary. During his tenure, Weiner became involved in a "sexting" scandal and resigned.

Trump delivered a dig at Weiner's Twitter alias, "Carlos Danger," declaring him a racist. A ready target for ridicule, Trump directed 80 tweets at Weiner, calling him, among other things, a pervert in 25 tweets.

Danny Zuker (1x).

Television writer and producer since the late 80s. Best known for "Modern Family." He has won five Primetime Emmys.

Trump has had a long-standing feud with Zuker. In 77 tweets, along with calling Zuker's remarks racist, he has called Zuker a loser (12x), stupid (4x), and dummy (3x).

Elizabeth Warren (1x).

U.S. Senator. She received a law degree from Rutgers University in 1976.

Along with referring to Warren as a racist, he directed 25 tweets her way, calling her goofy in 23 cases and Pocahontas on 8 occasions.

Left to right: Jon Stewart, Anthony Weiner, Danny Zuker, Elizabeth Warren

Calling Trump Racist.

Trump made several tweets about others calling him racist, including three cases where he stated apologies were made by those he said called him racist.

From Trump's Twitter account, these are those who called him racist.

  • David Letterman.
  • Donny Deutsch.
  • Al Sharpton.
  • Joe Scarborough.
  • Mitt Romney.
  • Maryland Democrat flyer.

Those whom he said apologized:

  • Donny Deutsch.
  • Al Sharpton.
  • David Letterman.

This is an excerpt of David Letterman's apology. [Full text below]

Letterman: This is my apology, yes. So I'm saying it's possible that I was wrong that he's [Trump is] not a racist because we don't want to think that of anyone. But he's just a dope, how about that? [Kisses hand and places hand over heart.] From the heart.

Oct 10, 2012 9:28:35 AM .@DavidLetterman @Late_Show fully apologized last night for calling me a racist. Thank you David--we are again friends.

"I'd called him out and said he's too smart to be a racist. Well, I was wrong." David Letterman interview at the New Yorker festival, October 6, 2016.

Not a Racist.

On three occasions, Trump has gone out of his way to declare one person "not a racist:" Donald Trump.

Donald Trump. Heir to the Fred Trump real estate fortune. President-elect. Bachelor's in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. No Emmys.

Jun 11, 2016 7:18:19 AM Mitt Romney had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog. Now he calls me racist-but I am least racist person there is.

Full text of David Letterman apology, October 9, 2012. [YouTube]

Letterman: I have been struggling with something and I talked to close friends on my staff. That's right I have friends. Um, you know, Donald Trump. Remember when Donald Trump used to be on the show? And it was fabulous. Donald Trump would come out and we would make fun of him and he'd laugh. And we could say things about his hair and about being a slumlord and about how he evicted old ladies and we'd laugh. Donald would have quips and I would have quips and he'd always be in this dopey-looking tie and I'd say, "What is that Donald a tie or your tongue?"

Well, um, one thing leads to another and Donald starts, as he is wont to do, starts shooting his mouth off, and he was saying things about President Obama and I said on the air about I think Donald if you are saying these things I think that means you might be a racist. If you keep on saying these things, are you in fact a racist? Is Donald Trump a racist? I flat out called him a racist. Well, he didn't think that was funny.

And so he said, "I'm never coming back on this show unless you apologize to me and tell people you are sorry you called me a racist. And so I've been thinking about this and thinking about this and ruminating about this and ruminating about this and so, you know, I always want to believe the best in people. I don't want to believe that in 2012 a guy in his position could be a racist. We don't need that. That goes away. We don't need that. There's no room for that anywhere. So, I am, um, thinking, well maybe it's that he's not just a racist. Maybe it's just... well, I don't mean in addition to being a racist. Oh, believe me, he's a racist but he's so much more. Ha, ha. That's not.

Listen, good thing, good thing I'm not in Congress because right away I'd be on Rachel making a deal with Chicago. [Uncertain meaning, but Rachel Maddow was the guest that night.]

So maybe it's that he's not a racist, maybe he's just a guy who pulls out who says stupid things to get people's attention. I can live with that. We have that in common.

Paul Shaffer: Okay. Yeah. So we'll go with that [uncertain: as the aspersion] So the bottom line is that he doesn't do the show anymore.

Letterman: But I'm saying, I'm saying I would like him to be on the show. Because it's an element that we miss, especially now with the [2012] campaign nearing its fruition to have the dopey [pokey?] Donald Trump here, you know, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah, waah-waah [makes hand gestures suggesting Trump's hair is flapping].

Paul Shaffer: So this is your way of saying to him.

Letterman: This is my apology, yes. So I'm saying it's possible that I was wrong that he's not a racist because we don't want to think that of anyone. But he's just a dope, how about that? [Kisses hand and places hand over heart.] From the heart. That would be great if he comes back on.


 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Final part.

How Can I Tell If My Behavior Was Racist?

  • No! It wasn't me! It was the One-Armed Man! (pause, switches voice to that of a gangster) All right, I confess! I did it, ya hear? And I'm glad! Glad, I tell ya! [Jim Carrey cycling through characters as The Mask. The Mask, 1994]

One of the great confounders of justice is that an innocent person claims innocence and a guilty person claims innocence. In cases of murder, those accused most likely know the truth. In the case of an accused racist, does the perpetrator know?

Do We Recognize When We Are Racist?

I've put together several posts  [1], [2], [3], [4] to bring the reader to this juncture. Essentially, the proposition is this:

#1. Most people have a negative opinion of racism.
#2. Most people who are racist don't see themselves as being racist.
#3. Therefore, if people recognized their racist behavior, they would strive to change their behavior.

Along the way, I've made several essential points.

First, race and racism is not only about black and white and Asian. By its definition, race includes nationality and ethnicity among other divisions.

Second, rather than focus on whether a person is a racist (noun), I believe it is best to focus on whether an action or behavior is racist (adjective). This allows consideration of an individual's actions without necessarily having to focus on motive. A sufficient number of racist actions allows you to determine whether a person is racist.

Third, there are identifiable behaviors that are racist. Some of these might seem non-racist to the perpetrator.

From the 1970s television show, HOT L Baltimore:

A cranky old white man is playing checkers with a young black man.

  • The old man: You cheated.
  • The young man: What?
  • The old man: You cheated because you're black.
  • The young man (angrily): Say what?
  • The old guy: I said you're black. I'm red. You moved the wrong checker!

Was What I Did Racist? 

These Behaviors Are Racist.

#1. Judging a person based on their race rather than as an individual.

Or: Judging people using their race as a negative factor.
Or: Stereotyping a group of people saying they have a flaw in common.

How this expresses itself.

This gets back to the example in the previous post where the store owner declared he would not allow young black men into his shop. There are a lot of stereotypes out there for matching everyone to something bad. When it happens to you, you know it's wrong. When we do it to others, it is equally wrong.

How to fight back against this personality flaw. When encountering a group to whom you may feel prejudice, perform a quick mental check-up to determine the reasons for your emotions and decisions. Recognize the inherent problem in any statement that lumps people together. Treat people as individuals. Don't judge a person until you walk a mile in his shoes.

#1a. Racism by proxy.

Most times, racism is expressed more subtly than: "I'm disgusted by black people." Instead, traits are substituted for people. Between ethnic groups, there are many cultural differences. Quite often, over time, what was seen as bad in another culture becomes widely accepted. Jazz music was once demonized almost as much as hip-hop was twenty years ago.

How this gets expressed.

"I'm disgusted by the thugs who turned the urban landscape into hell." "It's their culture." Inane editorials about clothes, the word "urban" replacing black, condescending concern about black on black violence.

How to fight back against this type of racism. Recognize that your culture is not perfect. Try to distinguish between "not my preference" and that which is truly wrong. Tolerance.

#1b. When insulting someone you insert a racial characteristic or stereotype. 

In response to a questionnaire for a weekly arts newspaper, Carl Paladino, co-chair, New York State Trump for President, provided these responses.

  • 1. What would you most like to happen in 2017? Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. [snip]
  • 2. What would you like to see go away in 2017? Michelle Obama. I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.
"I'm certainly not a racist." [Concluding line of Paladino's defense regarding the above remarks.]

#2. Seeing the same things as flaws when they are done by another race.

This is an extension of a basic human fault. When someone else does the same thing I do, they are wrong. I know my motives that drive me to a particular action. In others, I see only the action.

How this expresses itself:

"All those blacks on welfare. Sure I take ridiculous tax breaks, but they're legal."
"I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No." Actor Craig Nelson.

Years back, an article written by a white person decried a black poet talking about a white conspiracy to destroy black lives. I'm not going to argue whether the black poet's claim has validity. The writer could easily have picked on a thousand delusions in his own culture's view of history and there are conspiracy theories all over. (And some conspiracies are true!)

How to fight back against this type of racism. Keep your side of the aisle clean: if you think someone has a racist view of history, make sure your view of history isn't racist. The statement "Why don't they take responsibility" inherently points away from where responsibility begins.

#3. Whether I like it or not, I have a fear of certain people.

This is difficult to get around. Some people have been hurt or damaged by a member of another race. This can be a white person mugged by a black person. Similarly, those YouTube videos of a black person being mistreated (or worse) by a white police officer bring out a visceral reaction in many who can imagine themselves in the same situation.

I've been mugged three times. Or, rather, it is a little more complicated than that. One was a traditional mugging, one was an attempted mugging (I told them to back off, I didn't have my wallet, and they backed off), and one was a cold-cock, one member of a passing group surprised me with a punch and ran.

For years, when I passed a group of strangers in the night, my adrenaline raced. Even in those instances where I could see fear was ludicrous I still had the urge to run.

How to fight back against this type of racism. Try your best to separate fear from judgment. Treat each situation as an individual. Keep in mind the individual caused the offense and other members of the same race are not to blame. To the extent that there is institutional racism, fight that.

#4. I'm not racist. I have black friends. But. . .

In a previous post, I pointed out that this narrative is a not a dismissal of racism, but is a feature of a certain type of racism.

How to fight back against this type of racism. The bad people are not "over there." Assume that other people of a certain group are similar to the ones you know: we each have lives, hopes and dreams.

#5. I've read this statistic that says. . .

Or: This awful crime was committed by Willie Horton.

The internet now recognizes who you are and will try to feed you articles that agree with sites where you have previously visited and the searches you have made. Websites will cater to your opinions and your prejudices and reinforce them

How to fight back against this type of racism. Recognize when anecdotes and statistics are feeding into your prejudices. If a website passes along phony data or exaggerated anecdotes, avoid that site. Treat each person as individuals. Do not pass along negativity. If you think you know an anecdote, read up on the full story. Sometimes it is as bad as it looked at first glance, most of the time it was exaggerated for effect.

The Lack of Need for Judgment.

Woody Allen has been accused of some awful things. And you know what? I don't need to judge him. If he was on trial and I was on a jury, yes, I would need to. If he was offering to babysit my son, yes. To be clear: I'm not saying he is guilty or innocent, or that he even that he should live under a cloud of maybe, I'm saying judging him would be wasting my time: he is related to me only as someone who makes films I have seen. Judging celebrities does not need to take up a sizeable part of my brain.

But, aren't there those who are definitely guilty? Lots of them. I can judge them and file it away.

We live in a culture of a pecking order. Someone looks down on me, I need to look down on someone. When the mighty fall, we celebrate. Don't play into it.

An exception to the above is for those who do affect our lives, for example, politicians and authorities. Changing the world for the better is the place to direct our energies.

I began this series with an ambition: to identify types of racism and prescribe ways in which to counteract them in ourselves. Within ourselves is a necessary part to affecting change.

These posts became longer that I thought they would and still I feel as though I've only broached the subject. Nevertheless, I've learned a few things along the way. Thanks to all of you who have taken time to read these posts.

Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

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