Harlan Coben Inadvertently Offends Poland

Best-selling author Harlan Coben has accidentally ended up in hot water with…. Poland:

Screen capture of author Harlan Coben's Facebook page.
Screen capture of author Harlan Coben’s Facebook page.

The power, and danger, of words. An English e-book version of one of his novels had the phrase “Polish concentration camp,” which in English could easily be read as implying it was a concentration camp run by Poles or by the government of Poland. Coben writes in that Facebook post above that the error has been “corrected” to “concentration camp located in Poland,” but the old e-book version is still floating around out there and he’s trying to get it stamped out.

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“Why am I crying?”

Twenty years ago, seeing this in person for the first time….

A view of graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. [Photo by me, 1995.]
A view of graves at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. [Photo by me, 1995.]

….I was overwhelmed emotionally and I’ve never forgotten it.

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Stonehenge

Although it’s only 45 minutes away from where we live now in Wiltshire, and had been about an hour from where we’d lived previously in Dorset for a decade, we had never been to Stonehenge.

Saturday night, on impulse, we thought, “Well, why not on Sunday?”

Rule 1: Try to get there as early as you can. It opens at 9:30. The web site encourages pre-booking, which we did. Early arrivals have no trouble parking (finding parking can be exciting in Britain) and the magnificent attraction is pleasantly “serene.”

That doesn’t last long. By the time we left about 1 PM, the car park was much fuller. At least two dozen coachloads of visitors had appeared as well.

Welcome to Stonehenge. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Welcome to Stonehenge. [Photo by me, 2015.]

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Spinning Out Of Control

I’m sure some of you reading this were born in the late 1980s and 1990s. The era of which I write about in the novels is therefore in a real sense “history” to you. It pre-dates either your consciousness of the wider world…. or even your birth itself! ;-)

Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]
Strasbourg, France. Home of the European Parliament. [Photo by me, 1996.]

It’s trite to point out that one can’t hope to begin to understand the present without understanding the past; yet it’s absolutely true. And trying to appreciate the human outlook of any “past” is a vital aspect of that effort. This article in Die Zeit about Germany’s attitude and approach to the world since 1989 could in large measure apply elsewhere in Europe as well as to the U.S.A.:

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall … we’ve woken up and it feels like a bad dream….

….Crisis has become the new normal. The years between 1990 and now were the exception.

The psychological repercussions of this fundamentally new situation on Europe’s political elites are both brutal and curious at the same time. Those aged 45 to 65 currently in positions of power have only known growing prosperity, freedom and cultural sophistication. They were, and to a large extent still are, predisposed to exert themselves only modestly, act responsibly and expect that they could enjoy the fruits of their labor. And suddenly history has unceremoniously grabbed them by the scruff of the neck. Do we really need to fight now? More than ever? And what does our cardiologist have to say?

I’m sharing that article and writing this post because that piece hit me hard. I fall into the “early part” of that age group; but I was certainly not “powerful” in 1989. (Nor am I now!) Speaking here only for myself, of course, I also vividly recall the post-fall of the Berlin Wall atmosphere: it fills my novels and is meant to do so.

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The Duke

No, not *that* “Duke”. Sorry. I mean this one:

"Wellington," by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]
“Wellington,” by Richard Holmes. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I’ve had it since Christmas. I thought I’d finally give it a read. Uh, it’s not War and Remembrance, of course. (Thank God!)

To French followers, please do not be offended. I have already read lots about Napoleon. ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend, wherever you are in the world. :-)

UK General Election 2015: No One Saw This Coming

Well, if this holds this is a HUGE surprise. And it looks like it will. BBC News:

After weeks of chatter about an election too close to call, it wasn’t that close at all.

David Cameron will be continuing as our prime minister.

A few points that non-British might be interested to read. As you know, this is not a politics blog. However, given what it is about, naturally a bit of the political is inescapable now and then; and a general election result like this one would perhaps reasonably constitute a “now and then.”

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Lunchtime Impromptu Book Club

I’ve gotten into War and Remembrance a bit now. It being lunchtime (and after I’d spent much of the morning with “Mark” and “James” and struggling with two – that’s right, two – pages), as I eat my sandwich here at my desk I thought I’d share some initial thoughts on Herman Wouk’s incredible tome.

War and Remembrance, sitting on my desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]
War and Remembrance, sitting on my desk. [Photo by me, 2015.]

Allowing for its age (it’s worth always bearing in mind it’s 40 to 50 year old writing), it’s an excellent book overall so far. However, aspects of Remembrance are not anything I would want to emulate. Even more so than with The Winds of War, I’m seeing certain things style-wise in Remembrance that no novelist should really want even accidentally to replicate.

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Politically Speaking…. Let’s Not

As you may know, there will be a British general (meaning United Kingdom wide) election on May 7. We will shortly find out if Prime Minister David Cameron (who heads a coalition government led by his Conservatives allied with a smaller “centrist” party called the Liberal Democrats), will run the British government for another five years, or if there will be a new prime minister (who would most likely be Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband). Currently, polls seem to indicate that it’s “too close to call.”

View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]
View of the Wiltshire countryside, taken next to the Westbury White Horse last Sunday. [Photo by me, 2015]

I don’t vote here in the United Kingdom, although I hope to someday after I become a British citizen. However, as a taxpayer, I feel I’ve got a right at least to a modest opinion. But I’m not sharing that here, and you probably don’t want to hear it anyway.

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A Home Run: 28 April 1935

I can’t believe the timing. I happened to glance up at this yesterday afternoon and noticed the date the artist wrote on it. It’s hanging over my writing desk:

My grandfather, the baseball player, in a 1935 sports pages cartoon.
My grandfather, the baseball player, in a 1935 sports pages cartoon.

It’s in a good sized picture frame. I photographed it “artistically” to post here – blurring it deliberately and cropping it because his name is on it. Drawn on April 28, 1935 and shortly thereafter published in a now long-defunct New York City local newspaper, it’s a sports page cartoon of my baseball-playing grandfather after he had smashed a “home run.”

80 years ago, yesterday.

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More “Distances” Cover Fun

I know this post appears much later in the morning than usual. However, when you have an unexpected light bulb go off over your head you have to drop almost everything and get the idea into your manuscript as quickly as possible. If you don’t, it may vanish forever….

Having done that, on to this post. Yesterday saw me pass 40,000 words. So with Distances looking daily more and more like an actual book, rather than just bits and pieces, I took a break and decided to have another mess around with a potential cover. That’s always fun:

“Distances” draft cover, April 28, 2015.

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