Friday, October 29, 2021

Books on Food by Pat LaFrieda & Cal Peternell


Glorious Beef: The LaFrieda Family and the Evolution of the American Meat Industry

By Pat LaFrieda

Ecco; hardcover, 320 pages; $28.99

Pat LaFrieda is a fourth-generation butcher, third-generation meat purveyor, and owner of America's premier meatpacking business, Pat LaFrieda  Meat Purveyors, which supplies restaurants in New York City, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Mets fans will also recognize his name because there is a retail location at Citi Field.

In his new book, Glorious Beef, LaFrieda shares his family's legacy and pulls back the curtain to reveal a behind-the-scenes view of each stage of the process involved in bringing beef from pasture to plate and the truths behind the industry's story of survival and constant evolution.

It all began when Anthony LaFrieda, Pat's great-grandfather, decided to move from Italy to New York in search of a better life, and opened his first retail butcher shop in Fratbush, Brooklyn, in 1922. When Pat's father started working with his grandfather, the family business was located in a small spot inside a worn-down building in the Fourteenth Street Meat Market.

The family held onto their business during a tough period in the late 1990s when rents in the Meatpacking District skyrocketed and small businesses were being taken over by large impersonal corporations. The company kept on growing, and now, nearly a century after Anthony LaFrieda arrived in New York, Pat is at the helm of a company that has stood the test of time, providing meat through wars, the Great Depression, the tumultuous years in the 1970s when New York City was dubbed Fear City, 9/11, unprecedented hurricanes, and the pandemic.

In this excerpt, LaFrieda writes about what you will learn in this fascinating book: "Our national meat industry is an intricate yet remarkably efficient system that feeds millions of people across the country. When I joined the business in 1994, no one really cared about where the meat came from - they just cared about the quality. But the quality is directly linked to how those animals were raised, finished, and harvested.

"I first set out to share what I had been learning on the field with my clients many years ago. The more they knew, the better choices they would make for their businesses and patrons. In order to keep them informed on the latest trends and innovations and the industry's ever-evolving new technology and advances, I need to constantly stay up to date on what is happening in our industry as a whole.

"Beyond that, my meat purveyor role often extends into consulting, with chefs reaching out to brainstorm what they could put on the menu of their restaurants or how they could revamp their old menus to attract more customers. That's how many famous dishes came to be, including the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern, the Shake Shack all-natural burger, and our signature Original Filet Mignon Steak Sandwich.

"Most people don't know the amount of time, commitment, and work that goes into the piece of meat on their plate. I'm here to explain it to you. This isn't your average farm-to-table book. It's not for the faint of heart. I want to take you behind the scenes of each stage of the process: the ups and downs, the struggles, the accomplishments, and the misconceptions surrounding beef related to everything from our health and the environment to what you're really buying at the store."

Burnt Toast and Other Disasters: A Books of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces

By Cal Peternell

William Morrow Cookbooks; 272 pages; hardcover, $25.99; eBook, $14.99

Cal Peternell grew up on a small farm in New Jersey, earned a BFA in painting from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and then found the inspiration to pursue a cooking career while living in Italy with his wife, the artist Kathleen Henderson. He went on to work at various restaurants in Boston and San Francisco before he started a twenty-two year stint as the chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, first in the cafe, then the downstairs restaurant. Cal's other books include Almonds, Anchovies, and Pancetta, A Recipe for Cooking, and Twelve Recipes, which was a New York Times bestseller and won an ICAP Award. He launched a culinary-education podcast, Cooking by Ear, in 2018.

In Burnt Toast and Other Disasters, Peternell tackles the problem we all have, where there are some nights you want to make dinner, and it's not an inspiring selection in the refrigerator. Do you waste food, possibly because it might be too close to an expiration date, and time trying to figure out what to make from scratch, or do you just order takeout? He says to step up your game, and transform this cooking conundrum into a great meal. 

Unlike chefs at restaurants, who have a full supply of sustainably sourced, 100 percent grass-fed, organic ingredients, home chefs have to contend with with the limits of what they can get at their local supermarket, as well as third-day leftovers that have lost some of their luster. 

Peternell, who writes in a witty, engaging style, will give you a bag of tricks to level the playing field, with troubleshooting solutions including: making the best of burned food (Burned your toast? Time to make Cheesy Onion Bread Pudding!); hacking packaged food (with five variations on "Hackaroni and Cheese"); things restaurants often do wrong and you can do better (including pesto, queso, bean dip, ranch, and more); spicing up lackluster vegetables (Brocco Tacos dazzle in both name and flavor); and snazzing up dishes with "special sauces for the boring" (including vegetable purees and an infinite variety of savory butter sauces).

There also are recipes for "Old Man Cocktails" to accompany these meals, including the Bitter Old Man (one part bitter, one part part brandy) to the Wise Old Man (8 ounces water and a good night's sleep). 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Books: The Race To A Covid-19 Vaccine In "The First Shots" By Brendan Borrell


The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine

By Brendan Borrell

Mariner Books, an imprint of William Morrow; hardcover, $28.00; Ebook, $15.99; digital audio, $28.00

Brendan Borrell is an Outside magazine correspondent who has written on science, health, and business for The Atlantic, Bloomberg Businessweek, National Geographic, Wired, and the New York Times.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Books: "24" By The Immortal Willie Mays

24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid

By Willie Mays and John Shea; Foreword by Bob Costas

St. Martin's Griffin; paperback, 352 pages; $18.99

"I was always aware that you play baseball for people who paid money to come see you play. You play for those people. You want to make them smile, have a good time. I would make a hard play look easy and an easy play look hard. Sometimes I'd hesitate, count to three, then I'd get there just in time to make the play. You'd hear the crowd. Sometimes you had to do that in order for people to come back the next day."

This is one of the many pearls of wisdom you will read from Willie Mays, arguably the greatest living ballplayer, in 24, his engaging and reflective memoir. Mays shares the inspirations and influences that guided him on and off the field in 24 chapters, which corresponds with his uniform number. There are quotes from Mays that are presented in bold type to act as guideposts through the story. He offers fans of all ages his lifetime of experience and how he has met challenges with positivity, integrity, and triumph.

"My father said the more you can do, the more you can help your team and the longer you can play," Mays writes. "As far back as I remember, I wanted to do all the things in the game. That's why I looked to Joe DiMaggio. I liked Joe because he could do everything. 

Mays is regarded by many as the greatest all-around baseball player due to his superior hitting, defense, and baserunning, dominating all facets of the game as he won two Most Valuable Player Awards, 12 Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year award, and a batting title, on his way to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

"My father said the more you can do, the more you can help your team and the longer you can play," Mays writes. "As far back as I remember, I wanted to do all the things in the game. That's why I looked to Joe DiMaggio. I liked Joe because he could do everything. Hit, play defense, good base runner. I thought that was the way you should play, how I wanted to play. I worked on all parts of the game with my dad, one by one.

A writer would ask about being a five-tool player. I didn't like talking about it. It sounded like bragging. It's not the same as just going out and doing it and letting people see what you can do and let 'em make up their own minds. I felt everything in baseball, I could do. So I set out to be top five in everything. I didn't want to talk about a lot of that stuff as a player. I'll talk about it now."

The 1950s is looked at as the Golden Age of New York baseball, when Mays' New York Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees seemed to meet each other every year in the World Series. Each team had Hall of Fame center fielder, as Mickey Mantle anchored it for the Yankees, Duke Snyder of the Dodgers was so beloved he was known as the Duke of Flatbush, and Mays for the Giants. There are still debates to this day about who was the best of that superb trio.

The Giants lost the 1951 World Series to the Yankees, but won it all in 1954 when the Giants beat the Cleveland Indians, in a series marked by Mays' over-the-shoulder running catch in center field in Game 1. When the Giants moved to San Francisco, he continued his illustrious career out there before returning to New York and finishing his career with the Mets in 1973, on a National League pennant-winning team.

Willie Mays is sixth-all time in home runs with 660, despite playing in two ballparks for most of his career that were anything but hitters' parks, the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan, and Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

In this excerpt, Mays writes about his philosophy of hitting: "Mays doesn't list his favorite ballparks for hitting because he doesn't believe the ballpark was the biggest factor in succeeding at the plate.

It's not the ballpark. It's the pitcher. I don't care how big a ballpark is. If I get the right pitch. I could hit it out of any ballpark. I focused more on the pitcher than the stadium.

There was no bigger stadium than the Polo Grounds, at least when measuring the distance from the plate to center field. As (Bill) Rigney recalled, 'Boy oh boy. To see him play center field in the Polo Grounds with all that space, and then we came out (to San Francisco), he'd go back on balls at Seals Stadium, and the park was just too small for him. He'd come back after someone hit a home run and say, 'Skipper, I was going to catch that one.'

The Polo Grounds was a big ballpark, but if you could pull it, it was a hitters' ballpark. I could pull the ball, but if you're just a one-way hitter, you're hurting yourself. I moved the ball around. I hit a lot of balls to right-center even then.

At the Polo Grounds, you needed a good center fielder. If the ball goes by you, it's a triple. Or inside-the-park homer. Most of the center fielders played way back. This is when Leo (Durocher) told me I had to play line to line. If a ball went up to left field, they looked at me. Right field, they looked at me.

It was so big, the bullpens were in the outfield. If a ball bounced in a bullpen, you had to go get it. They were in play, and those pitchers didn't help you out. The clubhouses were in center field, side by side. When the game was over, everybody walked to center field. I don't recall another clubhouse like that.

I had a little head start with the Polo Grounds because I played there when I was with Birmingham. We played two exhibitions at the Polo Grounds and one in Brooklyn against a semipro team called the Bushwicks. I remember hitting the ball pretty good on that trip.

Mays never homered in a game over the center-field wall at the Polo Grounds, but very few hit that far after the stadium's 1923 remodeling. One was Hank Aaron, who did it off the Mets' Jay Hook on June 18, 1962. As chance would have it, it came one day after rookie Lou Brock did it off the Mets' Al Jackson. Brock was a Cub then, tow years before he was dealt to St. Louis, where he became a stolen-base king.

Aaron's teammate in Milwaukee, Joe Adcock, homered to center off the Giants' Jim Hearn on April 29, 1953, one of the years Mays spent in the Army. The only other was Luke Easter of the Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays in a game against the New York Cubans on July 18, 1948, the year Easter's Grays played Mays' Black Barons in the final Negro League World Series.

I could never get it in the center-field bleachers. People didn't want to see you hit it that way because they wanted to see you hit home runs. People were closer to the plate in left field, and they could get balls hit to them out there.

Mays played 889 of his 2,992 career games at Candlestick - the Polo Grounds were a distant second at 399 - and those who saw him regularly insisted he'd have far more than 660 home runs if the weren't challenged by the ballparks he played in, especially Candlestick."



Books: Entertainment Edition

This is a great season for books on the entertainment industry, ones that will be a great addition to your book collection, perfect to leave on a coffee table and peruse, and yes, perfect for Christmas gifts for people on your list. The books we will look at in this review are: Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies That Made It, by Jason Bailey; Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life, by Alan Cumming; Hip-Hop (And Other Things): A Collection of Questions, Asked, Answered, Illustrated, by Shea Serrano; The Storyteller, by Dave Grohl; The Boys, by Ron Howard and Clint Howard; The Collected Works of Jim Morrison: Poetry, Journals, Transcripts, and Lyrics, by Jim Morrison; and Once Upon a Time In Hollywood: A Novel, by Quentin Tarantino.

Books: New Novels From Tamron Hall, Nicci French, & Annabel Abbs


As The Wicked Watch

By Tamron Hall

William Morrow; hardcover, 384 pages; $27.99; available Tuesday, October 26th

Tamron Hall is one of the most well-respected television journalists. She is the host and executive producer of the self-titled daytime talk show, Tamron Hall, which has won an Emmy Award and a Gracie Award. She also hosts Dateline: Crime With Tamron Hall on Investigation Discovery after her long career on the TODAY show, in which she was the first African American female co-host.

As The Wicked Watch is the first in a thrilling new series, about a reporter who delves into the disturbing mystery around the deaths of two black girls at the hands of a serial killer terrorizing Chicago.

Crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas and moves to Chicago to work at a television station in Chicago. This brings her one step closer to her dream of being a national network anchor. She has star power, is known for her style, is smart and aggressive, and stands out because a lot of times she is the only woman of color in the newsroom.

What also sets Jordan apart, most of all, is that she arrives first on the scene of whatever is happening, where he puts her master's degree in forensic science, as well as superb instincts, to impeccable use. Her background has allowed her to balance her dueling motivations of breaking every big story and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Jordan thought that her experience in Texas would prepare her for Chicago, but it would be a whole new challenge. She is able to navigate a crime scene as well as a newsroom, and is called on to cover the murders of black females, many of them sexually assaulted, brutalized, and most are quickly forgotten.

That all changes when Jordan comes across the story of Masey James, a fifteen-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot. Masey becomes the embodiment of the frustration Jordan has about her her job, how she has to keep a required distance and repress a lot of emotions.

Jordan puts aside her work and her trying personal life to give the story the detailed reporting it deserves, and that a missing black child is unlikely to get. 

Three young boys are eventually charged with Masey's murder, but Jordan remains unconvinced. She believes this is the work of a serial killer, who is hiding in plain sight.

The Unheard

By Nicci French

William Morrow Paperbacks; 464 pages; $16.99; available Tuesday, October 26th

Nicci French is the pseudonym of English wife-and-husband writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. They have written plenty of acclaimed novels of psychological suspense, including Losing You, The Other Side of the Door, and What To Do When Someone Dies; which have sold eight million copies worldwide.

Their newest standalone novel, The Unheard, is about a single mother who suspects her young daughter is witness to a horrible crime when she draws a disturbing picture, and the deadly path to uncover the truth could cost her everything.

Tess could be considered overprotective, but handing her daughter off to her ex and his new young wife gives her a massive sense of dread. She doesn't think that Jason is a bad father, but it still stings to see him enjoying married life with someone else. Despite this, she still owes it to her daughter Poppy to make this arrangement work.

Poppy returns from her weekend with her father tired and withdrawn, and when she shows Tess a crayon drawing that is so simple and violent that Tess can't make sense of it. The only explanation she gets from Poppy is, "He did kill her."

Tess is certain that Poppy saw something, or something happened to her, and she is too young to understand. Jason insists that the weekend went off without a hitch, and doctors advise that Poppy might just be having a reaction to her parents' separation. 

As the days go on, Poppy's disturbing memory seems to fade, but a mother knows her daughter, and Tess is determined to discover the truth. Tess' search will set off an explosive tempest of dark secrets and buried crimes, with possibly more than one life at stake.

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen: A Novel of Victorial Cookery and Friendship

By Annabel Abbs

William Morrow Paperbacks; 400 pages; $16.99; available Tuesday, October 26th

Annabel Abbs grew up in Wales and Sussex, with stops along the way in Dorset, Bristol, and Hereford. She has a degree in English literature from the University of East Anglia and then, at then from the University of Kingston, she earned a Masters in Marketing. She ran a consultancy for fifteen years, and took a career break to raise her four children before returning to her first love of literature. 

The Joyce Girl was Abbs' debut novel, and it won the 2015 Impress Prize for New Writing and the 2015 Spotlight First Novel Award, and was longlisted for the 2015 Caledonia Novel Award and the 2015 Bath Novel Award.

Abbs' new novel, Miss Eliza's English Kitchen, is based on the life of Eliza Acton, who revolutionized British cooking and cookbooks in her time. Her first cookbook sold thousands of copies for decades, even after Mrs. Beeton and other writers of the day lifted material.

Eliza Acton is rated as the most important food writer ever by famous chefs like Elizabeth David and Delia Smith, but she is completely unknown today. Acton's life is documented by lost letters, destroyed wills, and family rumors that have stalked her for generations. 

Abbs looks into the last bits of Acton's life to create this novel full of powerful and dramatic details. This also has plenty of Victorian recipes that Eliza creates during the story, which readers can certainly try out at home. Annabel also includes some of her own recipes that readers can make themselves.

Set in England in 1837, Victorian London is chockful of exciting new ingredients from spices to exotic fruits. Eliza Acton initially has no desire to spend her days cooking, and is determined to be a poet. She is shamed by the suggestion of writing a cookery book, but tragedy strikes her family.

Eliza's father flees the country after he files for bankruptcy and leaves the family in poverty. As a woman, Eliza has few options, so she starts to collect recipes and teaches herself the mysteries of the kitchen. It didn't take her long to see she is talented in the kitchen, and she loves it.

Eliza takes the step of hiring an assistant, seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-injured father and a mother losing her grip on reality. Ann learns about poetry, cooking, and love, while unraveling a mystery in her teacher's past.

Through their mastery of cooking, Eliza and Ann develop an unusual friendship and break the mold of traditional cookbooks by adding elegant descriptions and ingredient lists, which are still used to this day.

Miss Eliza's English Kitchen is told in alternate voices, and it is an inspiring story of female friendship, the joy and creativity of cooking, as well as resurrecting the legacy of Eliza Acton.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Week 8: Georgia On Top, Alabama Back In 2nd In FWW/NFF Super 16 Poll

The Georgia Bulldogs remained on top of the FWAA/NFF Super 16 poll for Week 8 of the college football season. They received all 52 first-place votes after they had a bye week this weekend. 

Books: "Fun City Cinema" On New York City's Rich Movie History


Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies That Made It

By Jason Bailey

Abrams Books; hardcover, 352 pages; $40.00; available Tuesday, October 26th

Jason Bailey is a film critic and historian whose work has appeared in The New York TimesSlate, and The AtlanticFun City Cinema is his fifth book, and while it is a treasure trove of movie history, could also double as a history of New York City.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Another Day, Another Coach Departs Yankees

Reggie Willits.

The Yankees announced, on Thursday morning, that first base coach and outfield coordinator Reggie Willits will be leaving the team to join the University of Oklahoma baseball program as a volunteer assistant coach.

This comes one week after the Yankees dismissed three coaches - third base coach Phil Nevin, hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere - and two days after the Yankees signed Manager Aaron Boone to a fresh three-year contract, with a team option for 2025. 

Wilits, 40, joined the Yankees organization in 2015, and he spent three seasons as their minor league outfield coordinator and baserunning coordinator before joining Boone's staff in 2018 when he took over the club.

"I want to thank Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and the Steinbrenner family for the opportunity to work for such a world-class organization," Willits said in a statement. "I've cherished my time with the Yankees and I've grown professionally and personally because of the bonds that I've formed with so many players, coaches, and staff.

"It's been a challenging personal decision to make. I'm leaving a team and organization I've loved being a part of, but I'm returning home to be closer to my family and to work for a program I have deep ties to and great respect for."

Willits spent his entire Major League career with the Angels, where a switch-hitting outfielder for six seasons. He played two years at the University of Oklahoma in 2002-03, so he is returning to his roots.

Before joining the Yankees, he served as the head coach at Binger-Oney High School in Oklahoma in 2013 and '14, and he led them to two state championships.

Books: The First Family Examined In "The Bidens" By Ben Schreckinger


The Bidens: Inside the First Family's Fifty-Year Rise to Power

By Ben Schreckinger 

Twelve Books; harcover, 320 pages; $30

Ben Schreckinger, a national political correspondent for Politico, has written the definitive account of President Joe Biden's career, and how it certainly became a family business of sorts.

When Biden won the presidency last November, the United States wasn't just getting the former Vice President, they were getting the tight-knit Biden family - his wife Jill, his siblings, children, in-laws, and beyond. They are certain to play a defining role, just as they did in his nearly 40 years as a Senator from Delaware, as well as the second-in-command to President Barack Obama.

The best way to understand what makes Joe Biden tick, his values, fears, and motives, is to understand his family, their place in the Delaware pecking order, their dodgy business deals, and their personal triumphs and struggles.

Schreckinger likens them to another Irish Catholic political dynasty, the Kennedys, because of their good looks, dynastic ambitions, and serious political problems. 

This deeply researched book includes a look at Joe Biden's childhood, which the President references endlessly; his 1972 upset victory when he became the youngest person to enter the Senate, which was engineered by his sister Valerie, and the car accident that killed his wife and infant daughter; Joe's early years in the Senate and his role in creating the "Delaware Way" of conducting politics; and the Biden brothers' business escapades, including the 1970s rock club rivalry that pitted Jim Biden against Jill Biden's first husband and ended in a banking scandal.

There is also a look at recent scandals involving Biden's son Hunter and his business dealings in Ukraine. Schreckinger provides new evidence that sheds light on whether his laptop - known as "the laptop from hell," which Steve Bannon gave the New York Post to report on - is authentic. 

Schreckinger writes of his own reporting on Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign: "In the summer of 2019 I set out a vague notion of profiling Hunter Biden, who was then beginning to attract media attention. My initial research quickly led me instead to a more investigative story for Politico Magazine about Hunter's business ventures, those of his uncle Jim Biden, and the ways in which they intersected with Joe Biden's political career and public office.

There are more fun ways to spend a summer than digging through documents and piecing together old newspaper clippings in order to assemble a story about a sensitive, contentious topic, and I assumed this first piece on the Biden family would also be my last. 

But between the time I started working on that piece and the time it was published, new allegations from Jim's former business partners had emerged in a lawsuit in Tennessee that fit the pattern I had documented. From there, I received a steady trickle of new tips and leads related, primarily, to the business ventures and finances of Biden's relatives. 

Soon, Donald Trump's ham-handed efforts to pressure Ukrainian authorities into investigating the Bidens came to light and the topic of the family's business dealings suddenly became central to a presidential impeachment. Then, Joe staged a dramatic comeback in the Democratic primary and won the presidency, even as Trump sought to make Hunter an issue in the race.

The Bidens, and the efforts of Trump's allies to sully them, became my de facto beat.

We live in an age of distrust and of coordinated campaigns to manipulate public opinion. Readers have every right to wonder whether an extended inquiry into the Biden family, emphasizing its finances, is just some instrument of a broader effort to create a political narrative. After all, as this book covers, there really was a conspiracy against the Bidens, or several loosely aligned conspiracies.

When I started to publish articles about the Bidens, I received a fair number of offers of professional opposition research. Mostly, the research I was offered amounted to compilations of old, unflattering news articles. These could provide useful context but were hardly the stuff of a masterful information campaign.

Instead, almost all my reporting resulted from my own research or tips from regular people. One article did result primarily from a piece of professional opposition research, though even that required weeks' worth of additional reporting.

At times, I struggled to reconcile the folksy image of the Bidens that had become familiar to me as a news consumer and young journalist during the Obama era with the messier portrait that emerged from my recent reporting for Politico.

The book, which grows out of that reporting, represents my attempt to grapple with the Bidens' story - an epic saga of an American political family - in its entirety. To understand any world leader it is helpful to understand their family, but I believe that in Joe Biden's case it is more crucial than in most.

Because both the campaign controversies and my own reporting dealt with the Bidens' finances, this telling of their story includes a special emphasis on that subject and the ethical questions raised by it. Journalists have produced reams of excellent reporting about the ethical problems posed by the Trumps' finances, which in many cases were more direct, more clear-cut, and on a grander scale than the issues raised. This book does not deal with that subject in any depth other than to note it undermined Trump's ability to make a convincing case against his opponent.

At the highest levels, even the appearance of a conflict of interest or of special treatment threatens to undermine public faith in government. Did any of the Bidens' activities go further and create undue influence, allow hostile actors to compromise a member of the first family, or otherwise cross ethical lines? Joe has maintained that he has never discussed his relatives' business dealings with them, and several of those relatives have repeatedly denied allegations that they used their family connections for profit...

The Bidens' story isn't over, but I hope that this early attempt at a holistic telling of that story will help people understand events from a common set of facts, even if it inevitably remains incomplete and open to multiple interpretations."

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

St. John's Slated To Be One of Big East's Best

The fan section at Carnesecca Arena. Photo by Jason Schott.

The St. John's Red Storm men's basketball team were predicted to finish fourth in the coaches' poll of the Big East Conference ahead of media day on Tuesday. 

Books: On Economic Theory

There have been a lot of headlines in the news lately about inflation, the United States debt limit, and the role government should play in the economy. Two books that will deepen your thinking on economics are Samuelson Friedman: The Battle Over the Free Market, by Nicholas Wapshott; and Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy, by Jeffrey E. Garten.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Books: "A Season in the Sun" on Brady & The Bucs Winning The Super Bowl


A Season in the Sun: The Inside Story of Bruce Arians, Tom Brady, and the Making of a Champion

By Lars Anderson; featuring a foreword from Coach Bruce Arians

William Morrow; hardcover, $28.99; available today, Tuesday, October 19th

When legendary quarterback Tom Brady decided to leave the New England Patriots after winning six Super Bowls in twenty years for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2020, it sent shockwaves through the NFL.

This came after the Buccaneers' courtship of Brady, which was so secretive that it was dubbed Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson because the prospect of him joining Tampa Bay was as likely as Jackson emerging from the cornfield in the landmark baseball movie Field of Dreams. The Buccaneers believed that Brady could still be an elite player after a tough finish to the 2019 season, in which the Patriots were bounced in the first round of the playoffs. There is an hour-by-hour account of how the deal went down that is riveting.

The day Brady made it official, March 17, 2020 was admidst the country entering an unprecedented lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, which brought a whole lot of uncertainty as to how the NFL offseason would be conducted and if there would even be a season that fall. How the Buccaneers and the NFL dealt with the pandemic is certainly a major part of this book.

It didn't take long for Brady and Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians to get to work putting together a team that would compete for a championship. Brady was able to lure his old Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, out of retirement, which was the first thing many people thought he would do when he relocated to Tampa Bay. He also convinced running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Antonio Brown, his brief teammate in New England in 2019, to sign on and complete a solid offense to go along with an already-established quality defense.

For Brady, this was a new challenge, as he entered this season at 43 years old, playing long past what is the normal retirement age in the NFL, and he would be going it alone without New England head coach Bill Belichick by his side.

Arians was also on a mission, as he came out of retirement to coach in Tampa Bay in 2018, at the age of 65, in search of the one thing he had not yet achieved, a Super Bowl championship.

The Buccaneers started off slow, as they got run out on opening day by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. It took a while for Brady to get on the same page with Arians, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, as would be expected for a player who was used to one coach and system for his whole career. 

Just as they started to appear to get into a rhythm, they dropped three out of four games - another drubbing by the Saints, 38-3, in Tampa on November 8, and tight 27-24 losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs - to leave them with a 7-5 record in November.

A well-timed bye week was on the horizon, and that was when Leftwich made critical adjustments that completely changed their fortunes, as they never lost again.

Tampa Bay won the final four games of the regular season, and then, in the playoffs, won a hard-fought battle with the Washington Football Team before beating the Saints in New Orleans, avenging the two losses in the regular season, and the Packers in Green Bay to win the NFC Championship. 

The Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their own building, and they made the most of it. They completely dominated the defending champion Chiefs, 31-9, to win Super Bowl LV, giving Brady his record seventh ring.

A Season in the Sun is the definitive account of this improbable championship team, as Anderson was given unprecedented access to Arians, giving the reader rare insight into how an elite NFL coach manages his team and a superstar quarterback, which was achieved by essentially making Brady a part-time coach and a part-time general manager. Brady, who never had a personal relationship with Belichick. views Arians as a cool uncle that he enjoys having a beer with, or over to his home for dinner.

There is also a deep dive into Brady's farewell from New England, including scenes of him saying goodbye to Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Belichick. There are also multiple chapters on how Brady is able to be so successful at 43 years old, and how he acclimated to Tampa, including moving into a house once owned by Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. 

Lars Anderson said of what inspired him to write A Season in the Sun, "In 2016 I co-authored a book with Bruce Arians, The Quarterback Whisperer, and during the writing process we became close. Once the Bucs reached the playoffs last year, Bruce's agent, Mike Fetchko, called me about the possibility of writing a book about Tampa's season if the Bucs won the Super Bowl. I relished the chance to work with Bruce again. Though Bruce didn't help write this book (though he did pen the foreword), he spent hours and hours with me reliving the 2020 season in painstaking detail and paved the way for me to get all the access to coaches and players I needed...

"This is my 12th book, and the reporting for A Season in the Sun was unlike any other project I've worked on. To begin with, I conducted all of my reporting after the Super Bowl - I have to admit, I didn't even think the Bucs would be hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, so this book idea wasn't even on my radar. This meant I had to re-create scenes and conversations through extensive reporting once the Super Bowl was over. And when I did my reporting, I met most of my interview subjects in Tampa at a coffee shop; the facility at One Buc Place was still off-limits to anyone who wasn't a member of the organization."

Anderson said of the Buccaneers' Super Bowl victory, which was unique in many ways, "What made it so extraordinary was that Bruce was the oldest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl and Tom Brady was the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Plus, the Chiefs were favored and not many people outside of the Tampa organization gave the Bucs a chance to pull off the upset. It was a remarkable reminder that age is only a number and an illustration that, even in the winter of a coach's or player's career, they can still enjoy one last moment of summer."

Also by Lars Anderson: The recently released Dabo's World on the rise of Clemson Tigers football head coach Dabo Swinney - click here to read our review.

Also on Tom Brady and the Patriots: It's Better To Be Feared by Seth Wickersham, on the relationship between Brady, Belichick,and owner Robert Kraft, as they put together their dynasty  - click here for our review.

Yankees Decide To Bring Back Boone

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone. Photo by Jason Schott.


After two weeks of speculation, since their season ended in the Wild Card Game loss to the Boston Red Sox, on whether the Yankees would bring back their manager - a time that saw them fire three coaches - they announced that Aaron Boone will be returning on a new three-year contract, with a team option for 2025.

Boone has been the Yankees manager for four seasons, and they have made the playoffs in each of them, including an appearance in the American League Championship Series in 2019. He has a record of 328-218, with an average of 98 wins per season.

Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement, "We have a person and manager in Aaron Boone who possesses the baseball acumen and widespread respect in our clubhouse to continue to guide us forward. As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period. I know Aaron fully embraces our expectations of success, and I look forward to drawing on his intelligence, instincts and leadership in pursuit of our next World Series championship."

The Yankees won 100 games in Boone's first season in 2018, and they came in second in the American League East to the 108-win Red Sox, who they lost to in the Division Series. 

The next season the Yankees ran away with the AL East and made it to the ALCS, where they lost to the Houston Astros. Since then, they have taken definite steps back.

The 2020 pandemic-shortened season saw the Yankees 33-27 and get a playoff spot in the expanded format. They beat the Cleveland Indians in the three-game play-in (unique only to last season) before losing to Tampa Bay in the Division Series.

This season saw the Yankees get off to a very slow start, and not really get going until August, when they worked their way into a playoff spot and won 13 straight games. 

They tailed off in September, with the one highlight being when they went up to Boston and swept the Red Sox in a weekend series in which Giancarlo Stanton hit three massive home runs. 

The Yankees followed that up by going 3-3 over the final six games, and Boston was able to tie them for the top wild card, and since they went 10-9 against the Yankees in the regular season, they got to host the one-game playoff. 

The Red Sox jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and never looked back, winning 6-2.

The Yankees barely put up a fight in that game, as they only threatened in the sixth inning, but third base coach Phil Nevin made the mistake of sending Aaron Judge to the plate on a Green Monster hit by Stanton, and he was thrown out at the plate. Nevin was one of the three coaches the Yankees fired last Thursday, along with hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere.

It was a fitting end to a season in which the Yankees played some of their worst baseball in years, marked by way too many strikeouts, poor defense, and inconsistent play.

The fact that the Yankees rewarded Boone after a season like this speaks volumes about what they think of their team, in that they think they're as good as their 92-70 record, and that they are still one of the top teams in the sport. 

The most revealing comment to this thinking was when Boone said the league has "closed the gap on them" - how is that possible when you haven't won a World Series in 12 years, and just one in 21 years? By comparison, the Red Sox have four championships (and on a path to five) since 2004, and San Francisco won those three in 2010, '12, and '14.

This also closes debate on whether the Yankees will finally move on from General Manager Brian Cashman, whose contract is up after next season. 

Even though he was the GM during the late 1990s dynasty, in recent years, he has put together a poorly-constructed, patchwork team so they can contend every year, as exhibited by sending tons of prospects for outfielder Joey Gallo and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. 

The World Series drought, nearly as long as the 15 years they went between the 1981 and 1996 titles, is on Cashman, as he has failed to ever have enough pitching in the playoffs, and aside from Judge, the "Baby Bombers," as well as supposed stud trade acquisitions like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, have not panned out.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Books: "Mother Of Invention" By Katrine Marcal

Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men 

By Katrine Marcal

Abrams Press; hardcover, 304 pages; $26.00; available Tuesday, October 19th

Katrine Marcal is a Swedish writer, journalist and correspondent for the Swedish daily newspaper Dagwens Nyheter. Her first book was Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?, which was shortlisted for the August Prize and won the Lagercrantzen award. 

Marcal's newest book, Mother of Invention, is an illuminating and maddening examination of how gender bias has skewed business, innovation, technology, and, ultimately, history. It is told through a feminist lens.

The starting off point for this unique look at the world through an economic lens is the rolling suitcase. (It is on the striking cover as well) The wheel was invented five thousand years ago, and the suitcase was created in the nineteenth century, but it wasn't until the 1970s that they were put together. For Marcal, the answer is shocking and simple, because "real men" carried their bags, no matter how heavy they were.

Other examples Marcal examines are electric cars to bra seamstresses to tech billionaires to show how gender bias holds us back and stifles the economy. It can delay innovations by as many as hundreds of years, and distorts our view of history. 

When there is a discussion on the Iron Age or the Bronze Age, people should also talk about the "Ceramic Age" or the "Flax Age," since they were just as important innovations. Mercal contends that because they're inventions associated with women, they are not given the same weight of other technologies.

Marcal's overriding message for the global economy is that, if we upend our biases, we can unleash our full potential.

In this excerpt, Marcal writes about the rolling suitcase and how it was as much about patents than actually creating it: "Historians long considered the world's first wheel to have been made in Mesopotamia. It was a round potter's wheel, which is to say it was not used for transport. But today some scholars believe that miners were carting copper ores through tunnels in the Carpathian Mountains long before the Mesopotamians started throwing pots on circular discs. The world's oldest wheel still in existence is five thousand years old. It was unearthed in Slovenia, about twelve miles south of Ljubljana. In other words, the technology that Bernard Sadow realized he could apply to his suitcase problem was at least five millennia old.

The patent for his invention came two years later, in 1972. In his application, he wrote, 'The luggage actually glides...any person, regardless of size, strength, or age, can easily pull the luggage along without effort or strain.'

Similar patents for suitcases on wheels did in fact already exist, but Bernard Sadow wasn't aware of this when the idea first occurred to him. He was the first person to turn the idea into a commercially successful product, and is therefore considered the father of the wheeled suitcase; but why it took five thousand years to reach this point is more difficult to explain.

The wheeled suitcase has become an archetypal example of how innovation can be a very slow-footed thing. The 'blindingly obvious' can stare us expectantly in the face for an eternity before it actually occurs to us to make something of it.

Robert Shiller, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, has suggested that many inventions take time to catch on precisely because a good idea alone won't cut it. Society at large must also recognize the usefulness of the idea. The market doesn't always know what's best for itself, and in this particular case, people just didn't see the point of wheels on suitcases. Sadow presented his product to buyers from almost all of the United States' major department stores, and initially all of them rejected it.

It wasn't that they thought the idea of a suitcase on wheels was a bad one. They just didn't think anyone would want to buy the product. A suitcase was for carrying, not for trailing around on wheels.

'Everybody I took it to threw me out,' he would later recount. 'They thought I was crazy.'

Eventually the new product came to the attention of Jerry Levy, vice president at department-store chain Macy's. He towed it around in his office, then called in the buyer who had originally rejected it and gave him the order to buy it. This proved a wise move. Soon Macy's was marketing the new suitcase using the very wording from Sadow's patent application: 'The Luggage That Glides.' And nowadays it is of course impossible to imagine a world in which suitcases on wheels are anything but standard.

Robert Shiller argues that this is easy to say in hindsight. He notes that inventor John Allan May had in fact attempted to sell a suitcase on wheels some four decades before Sadow. May had notices that over the course of human history, humanity had put wheels on increasingly diverse objects: cannons, carts, wheelbarrows - essentially anything that could be classed as heavy. A suitcase on wheels was just a natural continuation of that logic. Why not 'make full use of the wheel?' he asked, when he presented his idea to more than one hundred different groups of people. But no one took him seriously. In fact, they laughed in his face. Make full use of the wheel? Why not just fit people with wheels? Then we could roll! Practical, no? 

John Allan May never did sell any suitcases.

Economista tend to work from an assumption that humans act rationally. But in reality we overestimate ourselves, often taking it as given that all the good inventions have already been made. By extension, we tend to reject new ideas that we perceive as being too 'simple' or 'obvious.' We imagine that the technology we have at our fingertips is the best currently possible, which is a reasonable assumption in our everyday lives. If refrigerators open from the front and cars are maneuvered by a steering wheel, there must be a good reason for it, we think. This, however, is the very thinking that makes us miss obvious things like putting wheels on suitcases." 

Books: "Go Home, Ricky!" By Gene Kwak

Go Home, Ricky!

By Gene Kwak

The Overlook Press; hardcover, 272 pages; $26.00; available Tuesday, October 19th 

Gene Kwak is a teacher at the University of Nebraska Omaha who has published fiction and nonfiction in print and online in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Wigleaf, Redivider, Hobart, Electric Literature, and the flash anthology Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction.

This is Kwak's debut, and this satirical novel is set in the author's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and it centers on masculinity and tenderness, fatherhood, and motherhood, as well as racial identiy.

Set in the world of independent wrestling, we encounter Ricky Twohatchet, a.k.a. Richard Powell, who has been on a semi-pro circuit for seven years. He needs one last match before he gets called up to the big leagues.

Most wrestlers play the stereotype, but Ricky believes he comes by his persona honestly, as he is half-white and half-Native American, even though he has never met his father. 

On the night of the match in Omaha, something goes wrong in the intricate choreography and it sets him on a course for disaster. He suffers a neck injury, which leaves him in a restrictive brace and a viral video that shows him shouting profanities at his ex-partner, Johnny America.

Injury aside, he is out of the semi-pro wrestling league, and Ricky spirals downward. He sets off to learn about his father, and what he discovers will explode everything he knows about who he is as a man, a friend, a son, a partner, and a wrestler. 

Go Home, Ricky! is a Rumpus Book Club pick, and it is one of the most complex books you'll encounter, as it's, at times, witty, heart-wrenching, and always delving into identity.

Gene Kwak writes in this excerpt of what it's like for Ricky entering a fight, told in Ricky's voice, as is the whole book: "Listen to those blue collars. All slab bellies and seed-and-feed hats. Screaming my name in their gut-deep, cig-scorched voices. Heard a stat that the most prone to playing sad sax solos are ag hands. Farmers. Laborers. Ranchers. If I can bring them a little Wednesday-night joy to stave off any self-inflicted sad-sack shit well then, watch me hop the ropes and fly.

I'm pacing in the belly of Sokol Auditorium. Slapping the concrete-walled hallways that work underneath and around and eventually lead to the center-set ring. Sokol has a stage and a balcony, and close to fifteen hundred people can cram in, max. Outside the squared circle, lean one way or the other too hard and you'll feel so many fingertips you might as well be the cutest goat the petting zoo. The exterior of Sokol read all church, with its brick facade and high, arching windows. A stone eagle also presents majestic above the entrance, with an actual cloth-and-dignity American flag waving overhead. Backstage is all business. A couple of rusty folding chairs. Banquet tables. A fruit plate. When we get the call, we emerge from behind a set of heavy purple drapes, a cheap programmable electric sign jerry-rigged to sway above us buzzing our names as the announcer calls us forward and the crowd roars. My name doesn't fit within the word limit, so it always reads RICKY2HAT, confusing the newcomers, because I'm not even wearing a hat.

Ricky Twohatchet is my name, although the government recognizes me as Richard Powell. I run half-Apache and half-Euro mutt: a mix of Irish, Scottish, and Polish. While fifty percent of the blood that courses through my veins is Native, I came out looking like I could model Scandinavian activewear. I'm naturally blond-haired, blue-eyed, with a smile so white it could run a Fortune 500 company. To help the sell, I dye my hair black twice a month at a boutique where the stylist can never shore up the sideburns, but she's a good listener and spends extra time on the complimentary shampoo, so I tip well. I also hit the tanning booth weekly, but that's more for muscle definition. Pops the lats. Lines the delts.

Seven years of making the rounds has led to this moment. From backyard wrestling to bar brawling in Seattle on a bunch of scummy mattresses to middling start-up conferences to this: I'm one level away from being one level away from the big leagues. And tonight is supposed to be my big hurrah. Here, in the belly of Sokol, surrounded by loved ones and onlookers ready to bear witness. 

Only I've got to deal with 240 pounds of pissed-off Mexican before the ticker-tape parade. 

Picture a preteen boy, sugar-sick off mainlining Mountain Dew, who spends too many hours on a video game and has amped all his character's stats to max to create this Uncanny Valley-looking cartoon version of a man shredded to the high heavens. That's Bojorquez. All brawn. He looks like he had back-alley surgery in Venezuela to fill all major muscle groups with motor oil. I only wish they were filled with fake fluid and weren't solid slabs forged by testosterone and effort.

I sidle up to the purple curtain, finger the folds. Wait for my cue. Under my breath, I say, 'I am a tender man. I am a tender man. I am a tender man.' My own little prayer cribbed from a quote by Mr. T about toughness. But don't peg me as a Bible thumper; prayer to me is only pleading words on air. Something we all have in common, whether you're Christian, Muslim, wide-eyed child, or wizard. I am a tender man. I am a tender man. I am a tender man."

Week 7: College Football FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll


The Georgia Bulldogs retained the top spot in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll with their dominant 30-13 win over Kentucky, who entered the game ranked 9th in this poll last week.

Georgia received all 52 first-place votes in the poll, and Cincinnati moved up to second, advancing one slot, after their 56-21 romp over UCF.

Iowa was ranked second last week, and they took the biggest plunge in the poll, dropping all the way to 11th after they lost 24-7 loss to Purdue. It was their first defeat of the season, dropping them to 6-1, while Purdue improved to 4-2.

Oklahoma, Alabama, and Ohio State each advanced one spot to occupy the third to fifth slots. Oklahoma (7-0) dominated TCU, 52-31, Alabama ran out Mississippi State, 49-9, to improve to 6-1 after their defeat to Texas A&M last weekend, and Ohio State (5-1) rolled to a 66-17 win over Maryland.

FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll (team-record-points)

1.Georgia - 7-0 - 832

2. Cincinnati - 6-0 - 734

3. Oklahoma - 7-0 - 718

4. Alabama - 6-1 - 686

5. Ohio State - 5-1 - 593 

6. Michigan - 6-0 - 539

7. Michigan State - 7-0 - 435

8. Oklahoma State - 6-0 - 423

9. Penn State - 5-1 - 420

10. Oregon - 5-1 - 380

11. Iowa - 6-1 - 371

12. Ole Miss - 5-1 - 229

13. Notre Dame - 5-1 - 184

14. Kentucky - 6-1 - 158

15. Coastal Carolina - 6-0 - 117

16. Wake Forest - 6-0 - 103

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Books: "The Last Checkmate" by Gabriella Saab

The Last Checkmate: Amid The Horrors of Auschwitz, A Young Woman Plays For Her Life

By Gabriella Saab

William Morrow; paperback, 416 pages; $16.99; available Tuesday, October 19th

This is the debut novel from Gabriella Saab, 25 years old and a graduate of Mississippi State with a Backer of Business Administration in marketing who now works in various jobs, including teaching barre classes. 

This compelling novel is centered on a young Polish resistance worker who is imprisoned in a concentration camp and is challenged to chess by an SS Officer. Winning it would save her life.

Saab traveled to Warsaw and Auschwitz to dig deeper into the experiences and setting of those who lived there to answer the question, "If a woman had been sent to Auschwitz in 1941, how might she have been spared execution and what might she have done to fight for survival?" 

There also was extensive research of the Polish resistance, the prisoner resistance movement, and the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz, and that is all woven into Saab's storytelling.

Maria Florkowska is a a member of the Polish underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, making her ayoung woman wise beyond her years, as well as a daughter and an avid chess player.

When she is captured by the Gestapo, she is imprisoned in Auschwitz, but while her family is sent to their deaths, she is spared. When it is discovered that she plays chess, Karl Fritzch decides to use her as a chess opponent to entertain the camp guards. 

However, once Karl tires of exploiting her skills, he intends to kill her. Maria is befriended by a Catholic priest as she attempts to overcome her grief, vows to avenge the murder of her family, and plays for her life.

For the next four grueling years, her strategy is simple, to Live, Fight, Survive. By clearly provoking Fritzch's volatile nature in front of his superiors, Maria intends to orchestrate his downfall. Only then will she have a chance to evade the fate awaiting her and see him punished for his wickedness. 

As her plan is carried our and the war is nearing its conclusion, she challenges her former nemesis to one final game. It is certain to end in life or death, in failure or justice - if Maria can bear to face Fritzsch one last time.

Here is a look at two other books on strong women during World War II that were released earlier this year that you might be interested in: The Dressmakers of Auschwitz, by Lucy Adlington, and The Note Through The Wire, by Doug Gold.

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive

By Lucy Adlington

Harper; paperback, 400 pages; $17.99

Lucy Adlington is a British novelist and clothes historian with more than twenty years' experience researching social history and writing fiction and nonfiction. 

In this true story, Adlington has written a powerful chronicle of the women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching together beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious World War II death camps. 

With the Holocaust at its peak, twenty-five young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp - comprised mostly of Jewish women and girls - were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers.

This fashion workshop, the Upper Tailoring Studio, was established by Hedwig Hoss, the camp commandant's wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. The dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz, and for ladies from Nazi Berlin's upper crust.

Adlington interviewed the last surviving seamstress, as well as other diverse sources, to follow the fate of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship helped them endure persecution, and it also played their part in camp resistance.

The dressmakers' remarkable experiences are weaved within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation by Adlington to expose the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich and offers a fresh look at a little-known chapter of World War II and the Holocaust.

The Note Through the Wire: The Incredible True Story of a Prisoner of War and a Resistance Heroine

By Doug Gold

William Morrow; paperback, 336 pages; $16.99

Doug Gold is a retired broadcaster who had a passion for historical and fact-based stories. He is the author of Fun Is a Serious Business, a nonfiction account of More FM's David-versus-Goliath success story, and resides in Wellington, New Zealand, with his wife, Anemarie.

The Note Through the Wire is a real-life, unlikely romance between a resistance fighter and prisoner of war set in World War II Europe. 

In the heart of Nazi-occupied Europe, Josephine Lobnik, a Yugoslav partisan heroine, and Bruce Murray, a New Zealand soldier, meet fleetingly in a chance encounter and discover love in the midst of a brutal war.

Josephine is determined to vanquish the enemy, while Bruce is a prisoner of war longing to escape the confines of the camp so he can battle again. There is a crumpled note that passes between these two strangers and is slipped through the wire of the compound, and it sets them on a life-changing course.

Their remarkable love story survived against all odds, and woven into it are tales of great bravery, daring escapes, betrayal, torture, and retaliation.

Doug Gold is their son-in-law, and he decided from the moment he heard it to tell this extraordinary account of two ordinary people who found love during the unimaginable hardships of Hitler's barbaric regime. It is a story of bravery, resilience, and resistance that is sure to inspire.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Books: "Left for Dead" By Sean Parnell

Left for Dead

By Sean Parnell

William Morrow; hardcover, 384 pages; $27.99

Sean Parnell is a retired U.S. Army Infantry captain who served in some of the heaviest combat zones in the Afghan War. He is the cofounder of the American Warrior Initiative, a charity that honors our veterans, and he vividly recalls his battles during his leadership presentations for the nation's most successful corporations. Parnell is a frequent television guest on Fox and CNN, a candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, and he lives with his three children near Pittsburgh.

Parnell is also an author of his memoir Outlaw Platoon and the Eric Steele novels Man of War, All Out War, and One True Patriot.

Sean Parnell.

Left for Dead is the latest Eric Steele novel, and we find the special operative battling a renegade group of bioterrorists armed with a devastating virus.

Doctor Ai Liang is on a remote mountaintop and about to risk everything and defy the Chinese Communist Party. She is part of a team who have created a terrifying new coronavirus called C-62, and it is deadlier than COVID-19, capable of killing a person in twenty minutes. 

Dr. Liang's conscience tells her she must destroy the deadly bioweapon before it devastates millions, but before she can execute the heroic plan, mysterious commandos swarm the lab, kill everyone in sight, and take off with the C-62 virus.

While this is happening, Eric Steele is on a cleanup mission, ready to exact revenge on the group responsible for killing numerous alphas and forcing the Program to disband. After justice is served, Steele can turn his thoughts to other pressing matters, including his long lost father and his estranged girlfriend, Meg Harden. However, when it comes out that the CCP plans to attack United States forces, the President decides to revive the Program to deal with this new threat. 

Steele is back in action, and soon discovers that the supposed CCP attack is related to a much more complex plot involving a fanatical Chinese Imperialist group, plus the stolen C-62 bioweapon. Steele and his team must find out who the real threat is and stop them before they can unleash another pandemic in the form of the deadly C-62 virus on the entire world.

In this excerpt, Parnell writes of the night commandos came to Dr. Liang's lab: "The helicopters arrived at midnight, and the men they carried killed everyone they met.

There were three of the machines, black and hulking but sleek as sharks, all emblazoned with the red stars of the Chinese Communist Party's People Liberation Army. They were Harbin Z-20s, heavily armed, capable of three hundred knots airspeed at treetop level and each hauling a dozen assaulters. They looked much like U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks, but they were not cheap knockoffs. Their rotor systems had been expertly cloned from a crashed American stealth helicopter, gifted to Beijing by the Pakistanis after U.S. Navy SEALs had terminated Osama bin Laden.

The Harbin Z-20s were very quiet. No one heard them coming at Toqui 13, the most secret biological warfare laboratory in all of China.

The lab was a Level V facility drilled into the summit of a wind-scarred butte that resembled Devils Tower in Wyoming. It was located in the absolute nowhere of the north central Chinese badlands, ten kilometers from the Mongolian border. You couldn't just stumble upon it, and if you did you'd be shot on the spot and no one would find your corpse. Toqui 13, whose name meant 'Spearhead' in Mandarin, had been built to harvest only one thing: a genetically enhanced corona virus called Gantu-62 that could kill a Notre Dame linebacker in fifteen minutes.

Dr. Ai Liang, a full colonel in the People's Army, was the laboratory's director, and up until recently she'd been fervently dedicated to the Chinese Communist Party. The daughter of a distinguished couple of the Cultural Revolution, she'd already become a star of the Chinese Communist Youth League at age sixteen and had graduated with honors from Changchun University of Science and Technology while simultaneously pursuing her military career. Mao Zedong was her God.

But three weeks ago something had happened that had flipped a switch in Dr. Liang's head. Her research assistant, Second Lieutenant Chang Wu - a handsome young man with a lovely wife and three precious girls in Shanghai - had slipped on a spill of lubricant from an air conditioner and had smashed the glass of an incubator with his elbow. The shards had sliced open his Military Oriented Protective Posture suit, as well as his flesh.

Lieutenant Wu instantly knew what was going to happen, and so did his mentor. Together, they had tested Gantu-62 on laboratory animals - first mice, then rabbits, and finally rhesus macaque monkeys. The viral storm had swept through Wu's bloodstream in minutes, and his immunological response was explosive. It was like an Ebola reaction in hyper speed. Helpless and horrified, Dr. Liang had watched the poor boy wretch up his own intestines, drown in his own blood, and choke to death on the laboratory floor.

Two days prior to this evening, she had finally emerged from three weeks in quarantine isolation, where she'd examined her life and its purpose and had wept until she had no tears left. She had firmly concluded that there should be no Level V biowarfare laboratories, or anything like Gantu-62, anywhere in the world.

Tonight she was going to shut the whole thing down..."