Ages 18+.

Michael Gilbert, creator of Patrick Petrella mysteries, has died

Michael Gilbert

Michael Gilbert, universally regarded as the master of the classic English murder mystery", died Friday, February 8, in England.

A fantastically prolific writer who penned his mysteries on his commute to and from his full-time job as an English solicitor, Gilbert reveled in intricate plots, meticulous detail, and a web of red herrings. His first novel, Close Quarters (1947), launched him firmly into the golden age of the British mystery.

Gilbert's beloved character, Patrick Petrella, was a Sergeant when he first appeared in the 1950s in short stories in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Petrella worked his way through the ranks to Detective Superintendent in a series of titles, including Young Petrella, Petrella at Q, and Roller-Coaster.

Mr. Gilbert, who was 93 when he died, had served at one point as legal adviser to Raymond Chandler.

Salman Rushdie sentenced to death 17 years ago

On this day, in 1989, the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini called on Muslims to execute Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. The book was banned by many countries at its release because its contents were seen as “blasphemous against Islam”. Upon the issuance of the ‘fatwa’ (an Islamic religious law, in this case calling for the execution of Rushdie), Rushdie went into hiding where he remained until the death sentence was rescinded in 1998 by the Iranian government.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (2/12/06)

Literary works are rare sightings on the List. Just barely making it this week at #16* is one that was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize. It joins three other new titles.

At #1 is Cell by Stephen King: all your worst nightmares about cell phones and what they are doing to our brains.

At #2 is Memory in Death by J.D. Robb: Eve Dallas investigates murder and blackmail in this latest futuristic thriller from the author aka Nora Roberts.

Sweetness in the Belly

In alternating chapters, Lilly, a nurse in a London hospital, recounted evocatively life among the immigrant Muslim families and her unimaginable hardship growing up as a “farenji”(foreigner) in Africa. Orphaned at 8, Lilly was left in care of a learned scholar in Morocco by her hippie parents and was brought up a devout Muslim. Civil war forced her to flee to Harar, Ethiopia where she courageously built a life among abject poverty and famine, and eventually fell in love with an idealistic young doctor.

Written with great warmth, clarity and grace, Camilla Gibb examines the concept of home and what it means to be “foreign”. This novel also celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the redemptive ability of Sweetness in the belly (love). A remarkable novel from a young writer on the Orange Futures List.

Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, has died

Peter Benchley

Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, one of the scariest shark-infested thrillers ever written, has died.

A freelance writer since the age of 16, Benchley finally published his long-imagined novel in 1974. When it was snapped up by Hollywood a year later by Steven Spielberg, the electrifying iconic music by John Williams won an Oscar in 1976 for in the Best Music: Original Score category.

Benchley went on to write nearly a dozen more novels as well as several non-fiction titles.

Benchley, who was 64, died of pulmonary fibrosis.

Michael Crichton won the WHAT?!?!?!? Award

In a move that has already raised the ire of more than a few scientists and is sure to raise a whole bunch of eyebrows in the publishing world, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists has just named Michael Crichton its Journalist of the Year for his poo-pooing of global warming in his 2004 eco-terror thriller State of Fear.

Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment said this award is "a total embarrassment." Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford, was more blunt -- "demonstrably garbage." (New York Times, Feb.9, 2006)

Crichton, who was called as a key witness in a Senate Hearing on Science in Environmental Policy-Making on September 28, 2005, uses as the heart of State of Fear, the belief that global warming has no basis in reality and is merely the product of the imagination of evil scientists.

Tobias Wolff and Adam Haslett share the 2006 PEN/Malamud prize

The 2006 PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction is being shared this year by Tobias Wolff and Adam Haslett.

The PEN/Malamud Award, established in 1988 by the family of the late Bernard Malamud, recognizes established short story writers as well as emerging talent.

Wolff, author of memoirs and novels, has written three short story collections -- In the Garden of the North American Martyrs: A Collection of Short Stories, Back in the World (will be ordered next week), and The Night in Question: Stories.

Lincoln scholarship continues to flourish

Abraham Lincoln's birthday anniversary (Sunday, February 12) is an appropriate occasion to note the ongoing contributions to the historical appraisals and biographical investigations which are continuously amplifying the huge literature on the 16th president. Richard Carwardine's soon to be released Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power will probably be one of the most important Lincoln books of the next few years. Written by a British scholar, the book is a judicious, generally laudatory, portrait of Lincoln as man and president. Joshua Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled his Greatness claims that Lincoln was a lifelong sufferer of depression, but that he used it to strenthen his resolve and commitment to the causes he fought for. A more controversial analysis of Lincoln's personality is C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by a well-known therapist and former Kinsey sex researcher, which argues that Lincoln was bisexual, and exhibited many homosexual traits.

Older and Wiser?

Do you wonder what's ahead in life? Did you enjoy Tuesdays With Morrie? More moving and unexpected treasures lie in Am I Old Yet? and the documentary film Sunset Story. Think on!

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (2/5/06)

It was so exciting to see the lastest novel by Bernard Cornwell on the List last Sunday. I love historical fiction and for my money, there is no better writer than the creator of the terrific Sharpe series. For a blast from the past, give him a try.

At #4 is Death Dance by Linda Fairstein: the former Manhattan district attorney has her fictional alter ego investigating a ballerina's disappearance.

At #10 is The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury: a grand adventure involving the notorious Knights Templars, the Vatican, a secret coding device and hidden treasures.

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