Brad Taylor on No Fortunate Son

Categories: Books

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Photo by Talor Brady
Bestselling novelist Brad Taylor
The real-life rescue of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who was held in Afghanistan by Taliban-aligned forces for five years, eventually sparked the plot of Brad Taylor's latest Pike Logan thriller, No Fortunate Son.

"I was looking for story ideas and started thinking about Bowe Bergdahl," the best-selling Taylor tells us. "We spent a long time looking for that guy." Taylor mused about the even more extreme efforts that would go into searching for a kidnapped soldier who was related to an important politician. The situation, he says, isn't that unthinkable. "We've got Vice President Biden, who has kids in the military. Senator McCain has kids in the military. The governor of South Carolina, her husband is in the military."

In No Fortunate Son, several soldiers, all relatives of high-profile politicians, are kidnapped and counterterrorism expert Pike Logan is sent to rescue them. The hostages are constantly being moved, which makes Logan's task especially difficult. Add to that the fact that Logan's mission isn't officially recognized (actually, he just got fired), so he has no support and authorization, and the situation seems impossible. Along with trying to find the hostages (who include the vice president's son), he has to battle the politicos who sit in conference rooms making decisions about what actions on-the-ground personnel (Logan included) should take."

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6 Strange Things I Learned Working in a Bookstore

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Photo by Kenny Louie
My idea of Heaven.

I love books. I always have and always will. I have, at last count, something in the neighborhood of 7,000 of them, and a whole room in my house set aside for them. So when I got a job at a large chain bookstore several years ago, I thought I was in heaven. The pay was almost embarrassingly low, but at least I would be around books and the types of people who enjoy reading, I told myself. It'd be fun!

But as with every retail job I've ever had, I learned quite a few things working at that place. Some fairly surprising stuff, too.

6. People Steal a Lot of Books.

I was initially put in the Receiving Room, which, at that store, was the area where trucks delivered merchandise, and those items were sorted and stored until they could be put out on the store shelves. It was my duty to do all of that sorting and storing, as well as a few other things, and one of my jobs was to randomly place little magnetic anti-theft tags into some books. This policy was in place for a good reason. Something like 15 percent of the books that came into the store would eventually be stolen. With such a shocking amount of "shrink," it's no wonder that the store had me putting little alarm tags in every tenth book that I sorted. It also made me start looking at customers with a slightly cynical "Is he a book thief?" level of scrutiny.

5. People Steal a Lot of the Same Kinds of Books.

There were a few guidelines on which books got the anti-theft tags. Anything over $50 got one, for the most part, but I was also told to distribute them more liberally in certain kinds of books.

The most often stolen books were in the religious section, something I found sadly hilarious. Bibles and religious books of all types were the most heavily pilfered items in the store, and not just that store, but chain-wide.

Following that category were travel guides. Turns out a lot of people don't plan on using them more than once and don't really want to pay for them. Or maybe they funded their world travel by stealing books, I don't know. Next were college prep materials and reference books. More on college kids shortly.

And then there were the pricey art books, followed by erotica, both of which were stolen frequently. I assume that most of the thieves stole books to get reading material without paying, but occasionally another store would call us to warn us that a small group of thieves had just left their store, and usually that same group would make their way to us later in the day. They'd basically fill up backpacks, so maybe there's more money in reselling them than I previously thought.

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An Embattled President, Immigration Reform, Religious Fervor and New Technology Marks America of...1844

Categories: Books

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Chicago Review Press/American Antiquarian Society/The Bridgeman Art Library
"Catholic Priests Burning Bibles," an illustration from an anti-Catholic pamphlet, 1842.

America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation
By John Bicknell
320 pp.
Chicago Review Press
$26.95

It was a tumultuous year for the United States. An embattled President whose public approval was dropping fast waged legislative war against an unfriendly Congress.

Immigration was a hot topic as natural born citizens and those new to these shores clashed in riots and demonstrations. Religious leaders were prepping for Christ's return, and a new communication method was linking people and messages at faster than ever speed.

Welcome to America in...1844.

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Author John Connolly: Living With Small Evils

Categories: Books

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Courtesy of John Connolly
Novelist John Connolly, the Irish writer behind the Charlie Parker thriller series and several other books, is coming in for a signing session of his latest release, The Wolf in Winter. This won't be his first time in Houston; he's been here before and taken away, can we say, vivid memories of his visit.

"I remember spending some time in Cairo and thinking that the only people who drive worse that the people in Cairo are the people in Houston," he tells us, laughing.

Ouch.

In spite of his low opinion of Houston's drivers, Connolly seems like an awfully nice guy, much too nice to spend all his time writing about hit men, serial killers, perverts and deviants. But he does. With the release of Wolf, the 12th novel in his bestselling series, Connolly continues the story of the investigator and his friends (among them a pair of gay hit men and two serial killers) as they search for their own versions of justice. Each of the characters, from victims to heroes, major characters to minor ones, is a complicated mixture of good, bad and indifference.

Oh wait, Connolly doesn't believe in minor characters.

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Five Fashion Books to Read Now

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Photo via penguin.com
Betty. Is. EVERYTHING.
Whether you're bored stiff with your current reading list, or getting a jump on your Christmas shopping, fashion fans will find a lot of delicious new literature at their local bookseller. We talk a lot about fashion, we watch a lot about fashion, and--according to celebrity stylist and Project Runway alum Nick Verreos--we should be reading a lot about fashion, too. After all, the history of fashion is a fascinating (and lovely) lens through which to view our world, past and present.

Although 2014 brought us dozens of new fashion and beauty titles, the following five each bring something special--a hidden backstory, a cautionary tale, an insider's peek--and deserve examination, and a place on your home bookshelf or coffee table.

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Pop Quiz: Are These Violent Verses From the Bible or the Koran?

Categories: Books

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Almost against my will I have been following the tale of Jan Morgan, a proud gun range owner and public speaker on run rights who set the internet ablaze with her blog post, Why I Want My Range to be a Muslim Free Zone. In it she claimed that she'd repeatedly received death threats from Muslims over her views on their religion and that she felt arming them and allowing them to practice with firearms was detrimental to the safety of Americans.

I'm not really here to point out the endless parade of fallacies and flaws in Morgan's "argument". That it is bigoted drivel is pretty much a given, not to mention that her proposal to ban members of a federally recognized religion is blatantly illegal. I was surprised to see that she'd doubled down and returned to her favorite topic; that Muslims were inherently violent and dangerous because of certain passages in the Koran, which of course all 1.6 billion Muslims in their more than 20,000 denominations all follow absolutely literally and without any disparity in interpretation.

"I understand that not all muslims [sic] are terrorists," said Morgan in her initial post. "I also believe there are as many Muslims who do not know what is in their Koran as there are Christians who do not know what is in their Bible."

I thought it would be fun to test Morgan's theory.

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Women Who Kill: Kathy Reichs Balances the Science and the Story in Bones Never Lie

Categories: Books

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Photo by Marie-Reine Mattera
Kathy Reichs
Novelist Kathy Reichs and Temperance Brennan, the lead character in Reichs' series of best-selling thrillers and spin-off television series Bones, are a lot alike. Both lead fascinating lives working as forensic anthropologists and novelists; both travel the world working on high-profile cases (Reichs helped identify victims of 9/11), training FBI agents and teaching at universities. Both, however, will not be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science lecture, discussing and signing her latest book, Bones Never Lie. That will be just Kathy Reich.

In the just-released Bones Never Lie, Temperance Brennan is chasing down Anique Pomerleau, a female serial killer. Brennan has faced Pomerleau before. Years ago, she helped track her down but the sadistic psychopath responsible for the a string of abductions and murders of young women, escaped capture. Now she's back and taunting Brennan, leaving a trail of dead bodies in a twisted version of hide-and-seek.

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10 Tips on Getting Your Indie Book Reviewed

Categories: Books

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Jessica Fitzgerald
me at my first book signing with Christian Kidd
As part of a small publishing house that is constantly releasing books, I'll be seeing my own first standalone short story come out next month from there, actually, but one of the things I constantly see posted in my house's super-secret Facebook group is that they're having trouble getting their books reviewed in major outlets.

Having worked both sides of the fence as a reviewer of indie books and an indie artist in literature and music, I thought I'd offer up a few suggestions on how to maximize the attention you'll get from the media.

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Is Freud Trolling Conservatives From Beyond the Grave?

Categories: Books

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A scene from God's Not Dead
Names are important in works of fiction. Whether or not you realize the significance of what you call your characters, deep within our subconscious mind the etymology is painting in the background to fill in the gaps. And the conclusion that I've come to about some recent conservative pieces of art is that Sigmund Freud is taking the piss out of these people.

Let's look at good name in a story; Luke Skywalker. What do you think of when you read or hear it? The Bible, sure. Luke was one of Jesus' closest buds and a doctor to boot, and I don't really need to explain Skywalker except that it conjures up images of magic and flying. There's a reason it was changed from Annikin Starkiller because that's a stupid name for hayseed turned paladin.

Or look at Darth Vader. Darth is a made-up word, but it's a great portmanteau of "death" and "dark". With Vader you've got the whole "invader" connection, plus it's coincidentally close to the German word for "father" which worked out nicely once George Lucas thought about it. These are great examples of how to name a character.

Now for some terrible examples, let's look at the recent film God's Not Dead and the children's book My Parents Open Carry by Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephews.

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A Banned Books Week Celebration at Brazos Bookstore, and Thanks, Highland Park High!

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Read deeply, read dangerously -- celebrate Banned Books Week!
What banned book are you reading this week? Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is always a favorite, along with Things Fall Apart, The Grapes of Wrath and Brave New World. You know, the classics. NBD. If you're fresh out of banned titles, a high school in Dallas helped us all out this week by offering up seven more options by pulling the following books from any classroom: Siddhartha, Song of Solomon, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, The Glass Castle, An Abundance of Katherines, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Thanks, Highland Park High!

For those of us with Very Dangerous Taste in Books, the celebration is going on all week long over at Brazos Bookstore, where they will cap off the week with their annual "Read Dangerously" party on Saturday, September 27 -- and you're invited.

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