WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL HOME OF BRONSON L. PARKER. A native of Tennessee, "Bo" is a former journalist and writer of historical non-fiction. His creative writing career began after retirement from his day job as an appointed public servant in his adopted town of Hampton, VA. "It isn't a gipe site," he says. "If I enjoy something I read, or learn something about the writing game that I think is worthwhile, I'll have a few comments to make. His goal is to make it a fun site, both to write and, hopfully, to read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is the Internet a Secular Bible, Supporting Invidiousness Over Civility?

“Invidious.” This word is the adjective form of the noun, invidiousness, which means “actions tending to cause discontent and animosity.” It is a word that has all but disappeared in modern day discourse.

This lack of current usage probably explains why former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in a recent speech, used what strict linguists might call a redundant phrase, “invidious prejudice.”

Further proof that the word is losing its meaning came from some of those who elected to comment on his speech. They focused on his larger subject, one on which they disagreed, and preceded to prove the very point he was making.

The antithesis of invidiousness lies at the heart of what once was a part of public education, required courses in what was then called “Civics,” a subject no longer found in school curriculums.

Citizens have a constitutional right to freedom of speech. But with this right comes responsibility. It was this principle that led the US Supreme Court to rule that freedom of speech did not give a person the right to yell, “Fire” in a crowded theater.

Civics courses applied this principle to everyday life. In a nutshell, students were taught guidelines for living peacefully and politely within, and in harmony with, a collective society.

One of those guidelines was the practice of tolerance, “the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.” That principle also appears to be fading from our society.

Disagree with another person’s opinion or action these days? That makes it open season apparently, for not just an assault on the opinion or action, but also an assault on the other individual’s character.

Justice Stevens concluded his speech by saying, ““Ignorance — that is to say, fear of the unknown — is the source of most invidious prejudice.”This statement may be at the heart of what is a growing trend in our modern world of electronic communication.

It’s hard to find a public forum on the Internet where, when an opinion is expressed, no matter how invidious it might be, there will not be others who jump into the fray, say, “I agree.”

Is it that these people truly disagree with a stated opinion, or are they merely ignorant of the tenets of the opposing opinion, and are reacting out of a fear for this unknown? Or is there something else involved?

It’s been said that the best thing about the bible is that no matter what one’s interest might be, commentary on the subject can be found within the scriptures. The worst thing about the bible, it also has been said, is that no matter how invidious an opinion might be, scripture can be found that supports it.

Could it be that the Internet has become a secular bible? Do we now feel unbound by the principles of civility? Do we feel free to express whatever opinion we want, no matter how invidious or inane it might be, believing that in the Google, or Yahoo, or whatever version, there will be voices that support our opinion?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"MAKE IT MATTER."

It's a statement that can be found on numerous sites on the Internet⎯sites devoted primarily to efficiency in the workplace, self-improvement, the title of a recurring section in Reader’s Digest on community giving, and even the title of a song. But applied to creative writing? No.

Nor is the statement remembered from the many books that have been read since turning away from writing local historical non-fiction to venture into the world of creative writing.

The statement came from my son. If five paragraphs are written to describe an insignificant event, he said, or if one sentence is written to describe a major world-changing event, “make it matter.”

He manages a firm that produces software for a highly specialized use in the field of medicine. In that capacity, he reviews computer code written by others.

He is very much like editors who review manuscripts, looking from the big picture of content down to the details of sentence structure, and grammar.

The biggest problem he finds? Verbosity: too many lines of code that are not needed, that do not “make it matter” in relation to the intended use of the program.

Compare a book to a movie, he suggested. How much of a book would never make it to the screen if it were made into a movie? The time constraints of a movie dictate anything that does not “make it matter” will never make it into the movie script.

This may be such a basic concept that it’s a given among those who turn their hand to creative writing, something not necessary to be stated in publications on the subject, or to be written about on blogs.

But a personal belief that no purpose was served by having plaques or notes posted about the desk, with bits of advice thereon, has changed. There is now one taped to the top frame of the computer screen, with a simple, three-word message.

“MAKE IT MATTER.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"YOU'VE BEEN PRE-APPROVED!" "OFFICIAL NOTICE OF ACCEPTANCE"

Mail with one of the above phrases boldly printed on the envelope. We see them almost every week, and glance at them without thought before tossing unopened into the round file. But sometimes—don’t know why—a memory is triggered.

This one took me back some four decades to the days when the worthlessness of such “good news” was first realized. It started with a gift subscription to a magazine shortly after my wife and I got married.

The magazine, when it began to arrive, was addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Ronson Parker.” For the lack of a “B,” we began to share a name with a brand of cigarette lighter.

And it grew from there. As time passed, catalogs began to arrive in our mailbox with the same mistake in the address. We were ignorant in those days about the selling, buying, and swapping of mailing address lists.

But we became curious about how this was happening, started asking questions, learned a bit about the process, and began our amateurish process of “tracking” where our names would go next.

Since the address was the important item, we began to use different variations of first names when a mail order was placed. This was during the days before the Internet and on-line shopping took over.

We reached the point that orders were being placed, using one of the names of our two Siamese cats, Samantha and Pyewacket. It was after this that the fun really started.

We never had the nerve to respond to any of the requests, “simply sign and return,” but got a lot of laughs from knowing we had two cats that had been “pre-approved” for credit cards and life insurance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unusual Architecture, Creative Lighting Makes Hampton Coliseum a Landmark for More Than Four Decades

Since its official opening in January 1970, the building has left visitors passing by on near-by Interstate 64, or those flying over the area, asking, “What’s that?”

The Hampton Coliseum has become one of the most photographed structures in eastern Virginia, both for its unusual construction and the creative use of lighting, according to the season. The following are a few examples.









Two Brookins Book Reviews

ON DEADLY GROUND
by Michael Norman
ISBN 978-59058-692-1
Pub. By Poisoned Pen Press
270 pages, Hard Cover, 2010

Michael Norman writes in a straight-forward kind of abrupt style that can be off-putting. An almost endless march of short declarative sentences doesn't allow for much rhythm or flexibility in approach. Nevertheless, the author has constructed a novel with an excellent foundation, logical development, interesting characters and a long-running, intense disagreement at the core of the story, a disagreement which is a real.

To the small southern Utah community of Kanab comes a former Denver detective after the destruction of his marriage and his career. J.D. Books is hurting. He needs a job and he needs to recover. Through the probable intervention of his father, Kanab being the town of his youth, Books lands a job with the Bureau of Land management as the local representative of law enforcement. The town is divided among those who favor environmental concerns for preserving the natural wonders of the area, and others, who see the vast expanses of land as development potential.

David Greenbriar leads an environmental alliance which, in spite of internal disagreements as to strategy, seems to be winning the local fight to protect the millions of acres of relatively unspoiled land against the desires of developers. Books is hardly settled into his doublewide mobile home when Greenbriar is murdered, shot once while camping in the wilderness. With some reluctance, Books BLM boss agrees to let him run the murder investigation, his experience being far broader than anyone in the small community. This decision puts Brooks into conflict with his family's friends and his efforts to balance impartiality with finding the killer makes an interesting story.

In the end, Norman's straight ahead style, serves the story well and while twists and turns are not part of the picture, "On Dangerous Ground," is a solid detective story with comfortable characters many readers will want to see again.

THE FOURTH SACRIFICE
by Peter May
Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover, 405 pages,
ISBN: 0312364644

Scotsman Peter May is a fine writer and a good journalist. He has experience, a good memory and he knows how to do research. For several months he was afforded unprecedented access to Chinese law enforcement behind the curtains. His books ring with authenticity. Sometimes all this expertise and research gets in the way of a really good story. If readers are fascinated by Chinese history the excavation of the terracotta warriors at X'ian, the capital of the Middle Kingdom, and interested in the rise and fall of the Red Guards during the cultural revolution, here's a novel that opens wide a window on those parts of Chinese history. For the rest of us, there's a little too much detail.

While the mystery is carefully rooted in those subjects, the principal plot concerns the main characters in May's first novel in this series. American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell is a smart, irascible expert, widely recognized in her field. After a disastrous affair with a Bejing detective who had abruptly disappeared from her life, Margaret is determined to return to the U.S. although she has little to look forward to. Then an American citizen of Chinese descent who worked at the American Embassy in Bejing is murdered-decapitated. It is intriguing to the authorities because this killing is similar to three other recent deaths of native Chinese.

Higher authority assigns top detective Li Yan, Margaret's former lover, to the case. Then the Embassy insists that Margaret be present at the autopsy of the dead American. Once again Margaret and Le Yan are forced together in a conflicted and tempestuous joint effort to find a killer or killers.

The author's high-level skills in characterization and his excellent descriptions of exotic and unusual locations are on display. The novel is replete with insider looks at legal procedures and locations most will never experience. The novel is a wonderful excursion into police procedures and the passions of two individuals from very different cultures who find themselves almost inextricably linked. An excellent novel.


Carl Brookins
www.carlbrookins.com, www.agora2.blogspot.com
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Brief Scare Last Monday Night Leads to Conclusion About Fictional Characters and the Authors Who Create Them

It’s all good news regarding Margaret Maron. There were no serious injuries from her auto accident. She’s out of the hospital, and her appearance at Quail Ridge Books has been rescheduled for Saturday, the 13th.

Among those who had traveled to Raleigh for Margaret’s scheduled appearance last Monday night, I was one who thought, “Oh, no. Not another one,” when rumors about her accident were trampling facts.

As I went to bed Monday night, the title of Margaret’s latest book, CHRISTMAS MOURNING, the one she was to have been signing, was rattling around in my head, producing some rather ominous thoughts.

I do not know what a psychologist would say about a reader who calls fictional characters “friends,” but for me, some have taken on the characteristics of friendship. And it seems I’ve lost quite a few in recent years.

It started with William Tapply, who created Brady Coyne and Stoney Calhoun. Then it was Philip Craig, from whose creative mind sprang J. W. Jackson, his wife, Zee, and their two toddlers. Then Robert B. Parker, creator of Spenser, Susan Silverman, Sunny Randal, Jesse Stone, and Hawk.

It was a relief to learn on Tuesday while still in Raleigh that I would not be saying good-bye to Judge Deborah Knott, her extensive family, including husband, Dwight Bryant, and his son, Cal.

I was thinking about why I developed this feeling of friendship while driving home today. It’s been written that characters in novels reflect to some extent the personality of their creators. That, I realized, was the common quality among these fictional characters. And their creators.

Everything that I know and have read has led me to the conclusion that Tapply, Craig, Parker, and Maron shared the quality of being delightful, enjoyable-to-be-with people, just like the fictional characters they created.

It is comforting to know that Deborah and her passel of kinfolks and friends down in Colleton County, North Carolina, will be around past the Christmas holidays and then some.

And if rumors are true, by this time next year, Deborah will be in New York where she will meet up with another delightful fictional character, one that readers have not heard from in some fifteen years, Sigrid Harald.