I asked you to kill Dan Malmon and you delivered. The interwebs are covered in his blood spatter. OK, I’m a couple days late getting this up, but the final results of the Kill Dan Malmon Flash Fiction Challenge are in.

Following are Dan’s dozen dirty demises – shot, stabbed, running with scissors, doesn’t matter. The important thing is he’s good and dead. And dead. And dead.

I’m missing a couple of entries. A few folks (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are) didn’t follow the rules and did silly things like posted links to their stories on my Facebook timeline. Trying to dig those up, but I’ve got no idea how to find anything on there. So if that was you, and you’re reading this, then stick your story in the comments section here and I’ll add it to the list.

I’m forwarding the whole pile to Crimespree world headquarters in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. They’ll be running their favorite in a future issue of their illustrious magazine – and I’ll be sending that author a fit-for-framing check for $50.00 (and hey, if you decide to frame it instead of cash it, I’ll understand). The top two entries will receive free subscriptions. If you’re lucky, the Crimespree staff will get that done before the Reed Farrel Coleman swimsuit edition hits the news stands.


Killing Dan Malmon…For Fun and Profit

Dan Undone

How You Do It


Everything’s Coming Up Malmon

Tru Detective

Well Dead

Killing Dan Malmon

The Last Issue

Practice Run

Dan Malmon Must Die

Oderint Dum Metuant

Love that Dirty Water




More than 80 people were shot in Chicago over the July 4th weekend. Nine died. The following week, I was in Texas. And almost every time somebody heard I was from the Chicago area, the shootings were the first thing they asked about. Guess they made kind of a splash on the national news. Everybody wanted to know how I could feel safe in the city. Understandable question. Eighty-two shootings in four days in a city of 2.7 million, pretty soon you don’t like your odds.

I don’t live in the city now, wasn’t down there that weekend, but had I gone in for a concert or the fireworks or to a museum or to take in a Cubs game, I would have been fine. No one would have been shot anywhere near me. For the year and change I lived in the city, up in Rogers Park, I felt perfectly safe. See, I’m upper-middle-class and I’m white.

Take a look at this map, which marks the location of every single shooting over the 4th of July weekend.

You’ll notice one conspicuously empty space – north of 55 and east of 90 and 94. That’s about a third of the city’s area. There were four shootings there. One of those was a guy being hit by a falling bullet fired into the air by some idiot who can’t tell the difference between a 9mm and fireworks. A good guy with a gun, no doubt. (By the way, in Illinois, the fireworks are illegal, the 9mm isn’t.) Another incident involved a couple of African American men being confronted and asked about their gang affiliation in one of the few slivers in that north side swath that could even be called sketchy. I’m pretty sure that, if they’d been white and upper-middle class, nobody would have asked.

So, in one-third of the city’s geographical footprint, you had less than 5 percent of the city’s shootings. If you’re white and you have any money, that’s where you live. If you’re a tourist, almost any place you’d go to see falls in that north-side chunk.

Now look at the map again. You’ll see a cluster of shootings on the west side smack dab in the middle just above an uninterrupted wishbone stretching south and southeast. If you start clicking on those incidents, you’ll see the same neighborhoods mentioned over and over again. Englewood, Garfield Park, Humbolt Park, Austin, Chatham, South Chicago. 76 of the 82 shootings are in that unbroken line, in an area with a population of maybe 250,000 – less than 10 percent of Chicago’s total. Those neighborhoods? All poor, mostly African American. Eighty-two shootings in a city of 2.7 million? That’s scary. 76 in an area with a quarter million people? That’s positively terrifying.

Whites still comprise the largest single ethnic group in Chicago – better than 42 percent. African Americans account for about 35 percent. Yet, in 2013, only 7 percent of the city’s murder victims were white; 76 percent were African American.

Next time somebody tells you that there’s no such thing as white privilege, ask them about the privilege of not getting shot.



Dear guy on the skateboard on the Gilman trail,

Not a lot of skateboarders on the trail, but just to be clear I mean you, in the baggy black shorts that hang way past your knees, the faded black t-shirt with the red anarchy sign on it, the black wool cap even though it’s July, that beard you’ve been trying to grow half your life that still looks like the seed didn’t quite take.

Oh, and now the scrape on your left elbow. Yeah, you.

Where to start? How about with this. Lesson one. The trail? It’s like a road. You get to use one side of it. This being America and it almost being the 4th, just to clarify, the right side. Now, maybe you’ve got spatial recognition issues, or maybe you haven’t learned right from left yet, but that’s why they painted that big yellow stripe down the middle of it. You’re supposed to stay on one side of it.

So here’s what I saw. I’d just hauled my ass to the top of the bridge over 88. I was looking forward to the downhill. Evidently, you’d just finished that, ‘cause you were maybe 15 yards off of the bridge moving pretty good. And slaloming back and forth across both lanes of the trail like you thought this was the Super G in the Winter Olympics. I wasn’t too worried yet. I was still a couple hundred yards behind you.

But that guy on the road bike that was headed toward you? The guy maybe 30 yards out? He was worried. See, you kept cutting back and forth across the lane he was supposed to use. That’s why he slowed down and held his left hand out in the questioning manner. He was asking you to pick a lane. But you kept right on with your serpentine pattern. He had to go around you, pass you in your lane while you went past him in his. That “Watch it asshole” he yelled back over his shoulder? You had that coming. Maybe not the asshole part. I wouldn’t have gone with that. But then, I hadn’t met you yet.

Thing is, now I was getting close. I had to decide where I was going to pass you. And you wouldn’t see me coming. Fortunately, trail etiquette offers a solution. As you overtake the other party, you call out “On your left” so they know they are being passed. And I did. But you kept cutting back and forth over the center line. So I couldn’t be sure if you’d be left the same time I was left. I’d already slowed down, which was a little irritating because that’s the only descent on the trail – nice to pick up a little speed there. But I slowed down a little more. Then, when I was closer, I yelled “On your left” again. Louder. And you straightened out in your lane, put your foot down, did that scooting thing you guys do to pick up speed. Fine. I dropped down a gear and pulled out to pass.

Which was when I guess you decided you were going fast enough to start the slalom again, because you turned left. Right in front of me. I yelled again. Just “Hey!” this time, and I jerked as far left as I could, which almost put me down the gravel embankment and into the trees. I don’t know if it was the “Hey!” or if you finally saw me out of the corner of your eye, but you tried for a panicked right and you went down pretty hard.

Your own damn fault. I’d followed all the rules, didn’t hit you, and for my trouble almost took what would have been a real nasty spill off the side of the trail. But I stopped. I figure someone goes down on the trail and you see it, you at least make sure they’re OK. I hopped of my bike, walked back to you, asked if you were alright.

That’s when you looked up and said “You better not have fucked up my board, Grandpa.”

Fine, I’m 54. I’ve got three kids in their twenties. I could be a grandpa. I’m not as it happens, but I’m pretty sure you weren’t concerned with the fact of your statement. Pretty sure you were going for pejorative. You’d gotten up. You had a scrape on your arm, but otherwise you looked OK. Still had an earbud in your right ear, but the one in your left was hanging down, and I could hear it real clear from several feet away, some heavy metal crap. Guess that explains your deafness issue.

Pretty clear you weren’t hurt bad, and if you were going to be a dick, then I felt like my social obligation was relieved. So I said “Guess you’re OK, Sonny. Try staying on your side of the trail.” Might have been a little edge in my voice, but I didn’t even say asshole.

Which is when you called me a fat-ass and took a run at me.

Lesson two. If you’re gonna take a run at somebody, you better be sure you can take them. Maybe you think there’s some universal law that says all twenty-something punks can take all fifty-something bald guys. You’d be wrong. Fat ass? Yeah, a little, I guess. I go about 225, which is thirty more than I should. Maybe forty. But you’re what? 150? Somebody duct-taped you to a bar, I could bench press you, and I’d do a lot of reps. And you know don’t anything about me. For instance, you don’t know I used to box.

Boxing was my first impulse. I was sorely tempted to put a good, hard right into your gut, let you run right into it. You’re lucky I didn’t. Instead, I just twisted a touch, gave you a little hip and let you throw yourself off the edge of the trail. You had a lot to say after that, most of it profanity. By the way, you seem to have a real problem with subject-verb agreement. But you didn’t seem to be in any hurry to come at me again. Didn’t even seem to be in any hurry to get up off your ass. So I told you to have a nice day and went on my way.

The first guy? Yeah, the asshole was called for. Oh, and the stuff you were sitting in? Hard to say for sure from where I was, but it might have been poison ivy. Hey. a boy can dream.

Yesterday, I announced the Kill Dan Malmon Flash Fiction Challenge. It would be unfair to enter my own contest, especially since I’m the one handing out the dough, but I just couldn’t resist killing Malmon one more time. Besides, he always wanted to be the Jewish James Bond. And you might just recognize a couple other people, too.

So consider this an hors d’oeuvres before the main course, an aperitif, a little something to ready the palate for more Malmon blood.


Oderint Dum Metuant

The man stood at the bar and watched Holm cross the room. The idiot was trying to get by in off-the-rack Armani, wearing a no-vent jacket, so it bunched over the gun just behind his left hip. Didn’t bunch a lot, so Holm was packing something slim, something small caliber, giving up some stopping power so he could hide it in an inside-the-pants rig.

The man smiled. His tux was bespoke, H. Huntsman and Sons, Savile Row. Cut perfectly to hide the Walther in the shoulder holster. He wasn’t giving up anything, and no one would ever see it until it was the last thing they saw.

“Sir?” the bartender asked.

“Martini, dry, made with gin as God intended. Junipero if you have it. If you don’t, then just rinse the glass with whatever swill your serving and set it out to dry somewhere,” but with a wry smile. They served Junipero. It was that kind of place. Besides, he could see the bottle.

A wry smile in return. “Very good, sir.”

“Very good indeed.” A woman’s voice. He turned

Short, just over five feet without the heels, five three with them. A slim, tight body, a gymnast’s body. Platinum hair cut close. Pert breasts, and he could see most of them. A dress like body paint, at least down through the hips. Flared out a little there or she wouldn’t have been able to walk. Blood red. Something couture. She wasn’t packing anything, not unless it was strapped to the inside of her thigh, and if it was, she’d have a hell of a time getting to it.

She raised her arm, catching the bartender’s eye, said “Two, please.”

He saw the tattoo, script along the inside of her left forearm. Oderint Dum Metuant. Let them hate so long as they fear. Lucius Accuis, the Roman poet.

“But why would anyone, my dear?” he said.

She raised her eyebrows in question.

“Hate or fear.” he said. “You hardly inspire either.”

“So you’re a fan of the classics?”

“More so now.” A sly smile.

“Do you always judge a book by its cover?”

He smiled. “I prefer to read the entire work. Very carefully. Sometimes my lips even move.”

The bartender returned with their drinks. They each took a sip.

“Perhaps we should arrange a study session,” she said. “Mister?”

“Malmon. Dan Malmon.”

“I’m Kat. Just Kat.”

“More of a dog man myself,” Malmon said, “but you’re certainly no dog. I suppose a gentleman makes exceptions.”

Holm was across the room trying to work the oil people from Nigeria. Just past Holm, Malmon saw Chang. MSS. So Beijing had an interest too.

The woman stroked his arm. “Shall we?” she asked.

He nodded and they turned for the elevators. He’d deal with Holm later. Or maybe Chang would save him the trouble.

She picked up a very small silver bag. No room for a piece in there. Nothing to hate or fear.


They kissed in the elevator. Not savagely, he didn’t paw her. A gentleman didn’t, not in public. But a long kiss, a gentle kiss. The kiss tasted of Junipero. All kisses ought to. As the elevator slowed at her floor, they parted.

“Did you enjoy the title page?” she asked.

“Very much so. Amazed it’s not a best seller.”

“Limited edition,” she said. “For cultured readers only.”

They reached her door. She unclapsed the small bag for her key. Malmon heard the stairwell door open at the end of the hall and turned. Holm, his hand going to his waistband, fishing under the jacket for his weapon.

Malmon stepped forward, sweeping Kat behind him, the Walther already in his hand as if by some practiced legerdemain, already raised, already trained on Holm just as Holm’s pistol began to appear.

Malmon squeezed the trigger. Or tried to. Nothing. His arm dropped, the Walther thudding to the carpet. He felt himself falling. No, didn’t feel. Couldn’t feel anything. Saw himself falling, crumpling, his entire body not just unresponsive, but gone, dead, disconnected, no longer a part of him. Now he was on the carpet, too, the Walther in front of him, inches away, a million miles away. Down the hall, Holm slid the slim automatic back under his jacket.

Kat stepped over Malmon, walking down the hall toward Holm. As she did, she pulled a handkerchief from the small bag and wiped the blood from a thin knife, then folded the blade back into the handle, slid the knife and the handkerchief into the bag and closed it.

“Chang?” she asked.

“Done,” Holm answered.

Holm put a hand to Kate’s cheek, leaned down and kissed her.

“Junipero,” Holm said.

“And on Malmon’s tab,” Kat answered.

Holm smiled then opened the door to the stairs, holding it as she passed through. He took a last look down the hall at Malmon, raised two fingers to the corner of his eye in salute and left.

Malmon realized he should breathe, realized he couldn’t, that he wouldn’t, not ever again. Between the first and second vertebrae, he guessed. He’d never even felt the blade go in.

Hate and fear, now he felt both.


Maybe you heard about the whole Exhibit A thing. They were my publisher, but they’ve gone belly up. Since they published three of my books (would have been four if they had held on a few more months) I guess I’m as responsible as anyone. To the half-dozen or so of you who actually bought my books, thank you. To the rest of you, I hope you feel just awful.

Anyway, that throws me back into the pool with everybody else, scrambling for a deal, trying to draw some attention to myself. So I guess I should get back to blogging. That and being a shameless whore on social media.  But how to restart the blog with a bang? By killing Dan Malmon, that’s how.

Jon Jordan wants YOU to kill Dan Malmon

Jon Jordan wants YOU to kill Dan Malmon

You see, I accepted a contract on the little bastard. Last November Jon Jordan was kind enough to invite me up to Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. Which, if you’re a writer, is just about the most fun you can have with your pants on (or, at my age, with them off). Anyway, they had this deal where folks could bid on the opportunity to name a character in your next book, with all the money going to charity. I had one book out at the time that pretty much no one had read, but I was still narcissistic enough to throw my hat in the ring. People were tripping all over themselves be characters in the other authors’ books, but my poor sheet sat there all empty and lonely. So Jon, being the gracious host he is, ponied up, saying I had to put Malmon in my next book, but with a codicil. I had to kill him.And I did. I had a two-book deal with Exhibit A for a series featuring William Shakespeare as an unwilling Elizabethan private dick. I was just starting the second book, so I wrote Malmon into that. Killed the hell out of him, real gruesome Elizabethan torture stuff. But Exhibit A went the way of all flesh before Malmon’s inglorious demise went public, so now that novel’s unlikely to see the light of day unless I self publish it or something. But that’s not what Jon paid for. Jon paid for Malmon to die in the full, published sight of my entire devoted readership of, eh, dozens.

Tropes are bad, I know. But there are certain tropes you shouldn’t mess with. Like the implacable hit man – they guy who, once he takes the dough, is gonna kill his target no matter what. Think Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.

So I’m gonna kill Malmon again in the book I’m writing now. And I’m gonna keep killing him in whatever I write until he dies in a book on a shelf at a store near you. ‘Cause that’s what a good hit man does.

But a good hit man doesn’t miss his deadlines, and I told Jon that Malmon would die a gruesome public death by the end of the year. Now I’m counting on all of you to help make that happen.

So here’s the deal. A good ol’ flash fiction contest. You know the rules – 1,000 words or less. But you gotta kill Malmon.

Not enough? As they say in all the good infomercials, wait, there’s more!

If you’re a crime fiction fan, then you’ve heard the sad news of Murder in Muskego’s demise. You may also have heard that the Jordans (Jon and his lovely wife Ruth) are working to rebuild it, to make it better than it was. To help that effort in some small way, I’ll be sending the Jordans $10 for the every story I receive. (Well, for the first 25 anyway. Gotta cap it somewhere. I don’t have those big Exhibit A bucks anymore.)

And there’s even more! The Jordans get to pick their favorite Kill Malmon story to run in Crimespree Magazine. I’ll send the lucky bastard (or bastardess) who authors that tale a shiny new check for $50. And Crimespree corporate headquarters will toss in a one-year supscription to CRIMEESPREE for their two favorite stories!

So fire up your keyboards, word monkeys, and kill Malmon. Kill him good.

You got two weeks. Shoot me a link to your blog or wherever else on the web you put the sucker up. On July 15, I’ll post all the links right here.

And the Interwebs will run with Malmon blood.

Wouldn’t be right to enter my own contest, but just for shits and giggles, I kill Malmon here. Little sumpin’ sumpin’ to get things rolling.



Paying the gas bill

Haven’t posted in forever. Funny what pushes my buttons.

I’m paying the bills. For a few years now, I’ve paid any bill that allows it online through my bank’s bill payment system. But my old bank got rapacious enough with its fees that I switched to a new one, even though switching banks is a huge pain in the ass. Gotta set up your automatic deposit again. Gotta remember what accounts you had on auto-pay and get them all switched over. Gotta set up every account you want to pay online on the new bank’s bill payment system. It’s a nuisance.

I thought I’d set up all the accounts when I made the switch a few weeks back, but I just opened my gas bill and remembered that I couldn’t find that one at the time, so I didn’t have the info to get it in the system. Suppose I could just do that now, but I’m kinda busy, don’t really feel like it. So I’m getting ready to just write them a check when I see there’s an 800 number I can call to make a payment. Saves me a stamp, so I ring it up.

Ah, but there’s a catch.

So let me get this straight, Nicor Gas (an AGL resources company). If I call up to pay my bill by phone through your automated system, you get the money sooner because it is immediately transferred from my checking account and you save the expense of having to process a hard-copy mailed payment. For this, you charge me a $3.50 “convenience fee.” If I write a check and mail it to you, it costs me less than $0.50 in postage, you have to process the mail and the paper check, and you don’t get use of the money for the couple of days it takes the mail to reach you, for however long it takes you to process the payment, and for however long it takes the check to clear.

In other words, I can pay you more money to get my payment to you sooner and in a way that is less expensive for you to process, or I can save money by sending it to you in a way that costs you use of that money for at least a few days and that is more expensive for you to process. *Ponders this.* No brainer for me. My bill payment ain’t gonna be late either way, so I’ll save the $3.50 and mail the check. I suppose I could take the time right now to set you up in my online bill payment thingee, but I don’t feel like it right now. I feel like mailing you the check. In fact, I might feel like mailing you the check for a while. I’ve got plenty of stamps.

*Ponders again* This seems stupid to me. Why would a major corporation incent its customers to cost it money? I have to assume Nicor has the usual cadre of bright, over-paid MBAs sitting around thinking of ways the company can rack up profits big enough to pay its C-level execs their obscene salaries while still keeping its shareholders in Gucci loafers, so I have to wonder if maybe there’s some other motivation for this system. So I thought about the business model, about what circumstances might push someone to choose to pay $3.50. Gee, could it be this? There are some people who have a hard time affording their utility bills and so they have to pay them at the last minute, maybe after they’ve gotten a disconnection notice, just the sorts of people who maybe don’t have access to online banking options. Therefore, they have no choice but to pay the “convenience fee” as just one more of the myriad insults that the poor suffer at the hands of the rich?

Couldn’t be that, could it?

Lucky bastard

Woke up before 5am today. Too much to do, too much on my mind, so going back to sleep was out of the question. Figured I might was well get up, get a jump on things, maybe back my to-do list far enough into its corner that I’ll sleep better tonight.

Hungry, though, and it’s one of those cold, almost-winter mornings that had me aching for something more than just the usual bowel of Cheerios. So I pawed through the pantry and saw the box of Malt-O-Meal. Made me smile. What my mom used to make sometimes on cold mornings like this. So I whipped up a bowl of that, put the brown sugar in it like she used to, maybe a little more than mom would have approved of.

Mom’s been dead since just before the millennium turned over. Yet in that weird Billy Pilgrim way life sometimes has, she was with me for breakfast. Dad’s been gone five years now, too. But that sense of him being here, too.

And I guess he was, I guess they were. My mind often ain’t right. Tends toward melancholy, always has, and I can’t really say why. I grew up with every advantage. Material, sure. Nice houses, nice clothes, good schools. But also always knowing I was loved. Always. There was nothing complicated about that, nothing conflicted, no sense of sacrifice being lorded over me. Just loved. Not in that dutiful parental way that sometimes implies, but like they were honestly glad I was around. Like they didn’t just love me, they liked me.

Been a rough few years for me. Not going to get into that. There’s stuff that just ain’t your business. Stuff some of you know, some of you don’t. But the last month or so, also the sense that maybe there are second chances.

So the melancholy thing, I’ll live with it. We all have our natures. But it wouldn’t resonate the way it does if it didn’t have this deep well of contentment to play off of, the memories I have of my childhood, the memories of being loved in an uncomplicated way that wanted nothing from me but my company, nothing for me but my happiness.

Saw on Facebook today where a guy I barely know lost his father yesterday. From his posts, my guess is he felt about his dad more of less the way I felt about mine. My first impulse was to say I’m sorry – it’s what we say. But sorry for what? Fathers die, mothers die. Or at least they do if life works out the way it should. If we’re lucky it’s hard to lose them. If we’re really lucky, then it’s really hard.

Takes a little distance, I guess, before you realize what a lucky bastard you are. Maybe I’ve finally got enough.

GREED is good

Greed-300dpiIt’s official peeps, book number two has a cover. And it’s another beauty. I thought the Exhibit A folk had caught lightning in a bottle with PENANCE, but the cover for GREED is even better. Seriously, if there is a publisher out there consistently coming up with better cover art than the Angry Robot family, I’d like to know who they are. Have you seen the cover of Chuck Wendig’s BLACKBIRDS? Or Chris Holm’s Collector series? Or any of the titles by my fellow Exhibit A authors?

For my devoted followers (yes, all three of you, and we’ll be having the annual appreciation dinner in the corner booth at Denny’s soon, watch for your invites), GREED may throw you. You saw the book go through its first draft live on the blog as THE GRAVITY OF MAMMON, which was actually a shorter version of my first working title, THE INEXORABLE GRAVITY OF MAMMON. After we’d settled on PENANCE as the title of my debut, though, the title was cut down to MAMMON – the thinking being we’d brand the series with one-word, biblical sounding titles. Ran into some concern that too many readers may be unfamiliar with the word mammon, though, so we’ve settled on GREED. And those who raised that concern may have a point. When I ran this post through spell check, it kept lighting up mammon. For the record, Matthew 6:24 from the King James Bible:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Be that as it may, GREED works just fine. Still one word, still biblical – one of the seven deadlies, after all. After you’ve read the book, I’m betting you’ll agree.

You may recall my excitement at the PENANCE cover because of its connection to Chicago’s history. And that was fitting because the city’s history played a major role in that novel. I’m excited about the cover of GREED for another reason. When I saw Marina Towers (the round building for you non-Chicagoans) I couldn’t help but think of the climatic scene from Steve McQueen’s last movie, The Hunter. If it’s good enough for Steve McQueen, it’s good enough for me.

Watch for GREED right after Christmas, when you’re looking to cash out all those bookstore gift cards you asked for.

To celebrate my new cover, I’m giving away an autographed copy of PENANCE. Just leave a comment on this post. In a week or so, I’ll drop all the names in an empty highball glass and pick a winner.

So I don’t blog for a couple of months, then, when I finally decide to break radio silence, it’s about Obamacare? Sure, why not. Go ahead and alienate at least half the population no matter what I say.

Anyway, here’s the thing. The premium numbers are in – first year numbers anyway. All along, a big part of the Republican narrative has been that premiums under Obamacare would be far too expensive. But the national average comes in at $328 a month. I’ve got pretty good health insurance through my employer, and I pay $314.28 a month – and that’s after what my employer chips in. Not to mention that, under Obamacare, health insurers are required to cover a wide range of preventative care items that insurers are not required to cover currently and they also can’t disqualify people because of pre-existing conditions. All in, it looks like a fair deal.

Here’s another thing. With Obamacare in place, I don’t have to base my employment decisions on health insurance anymore. And I’ve had to do that for the last twenty-some years. I’ve got kids, two of whom have disabilities. You add up drugs, therapy, doctor’s visits, those disabilities get real damn expensive. Drop out of an employer plan, and those disabilities turn into pre-existing conditions. That happens, not only would I end up paying at least twice what I pay now in premiums just to have coverage, the coverage I get wouldn’t include the bulk of the medical expenses I rack up.

The employment thing is a two-way street. Another scare tactic that the right has been throwing around is that employers are going to stop offering coverage (never mind that the legislation actually will force more of them to offer coverage or else pay a penalty). But suppose they do? If you can buy coverage on your own for more or less what you’d pay if you were buying it through your employer, then what difference does it make?

Let me make one thing real clear here. I’m not bashing employers. The way the healthcare system has evolved in this country has put too many of them in a real trick bag. For a variety of very complex reasons, health care in the US costs way more than it does in other countries, and that cost keeps going up faster than the rate of inflation. So the cost of providing insurance as an employee benefit keeps going up, too. To stay competitive in the talent market, employers have to figure out a way to afford that. I don’t blame them for wondering how your health care became their problem. If, eventually, Obamacare ends up weaning employees off the employer tit, if it ends up making your health care decisions independent of your employment decisions, I say that’s a good thing. Good for you and good for your employer.

And here’s another thing. If, in the long run, Obamacare ends up defragmenting the heath care market in the US, if it ends up providing an overarching structure that will finally allow market forces to force some rationality and consistency on to health care pricing, then our ridiculously expensive and Byzantine health care industry might get less expensive simply because it will get less Byzantine.

Yet another thing – the name. See, it’s really called The Affordable Care Act. The Tea Party types dubbed it Obamacare in the mistaken belief that their reflexive antipathy to every action taken by the black guy with the funny name was universally held and that, by tying the plan directly to the man they could insure its defeat. Didn’t work out that way. Ironic, really. The basic design of Obamacare was the product of the Heritage Foundation – a right-wing think tank. It was famously instituted in a very similar form in Massachusetts by a republican governor, Mitt Romney. And why not? The inexorably intertwined issues of health care coverage for all Americans and our irrationally expensive health care system have been begging for an effective policy response for decades. If Obamacare works, and the early signs are that it just might, it will go down in history as one of the most important public policy initiatives in the post-war era. It could have been a policy that the right claimed as its own, or at least one of bipartisan lineage. Instead, the far right has given full credit to the man they hate the most.

One final thing. Like it or not, Obamacare is the law. It was passed by the house and the senate. It was signed by the president. It was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. The right doesn’t like it. Everybody understands that. The Tea Party wing that has hijacked the Republican party has attempted over and over to repeal the law without success. They did their best to make the last presidential election a referendum on Obamacare. They lost. Unable to scuttle Obamacare through the democratic process, they are now threatening to shut down the government and even default on our nation’s obligations – every penny of which Congress had to vote to incur – in an effort to try to stop Obamacare. They are willing to risk tipping a still-fragile economic recovery back into recession because they can’t get their way at the ballot box. They are holding an economic gun to your head.

We have a name for people who try to frighten populations into complying with the will of the minority by threatening their well being.

We used to call them terrorists. Now, I guess, we can start calling them republicans.

Reading to the Book Mouse crowd in my tough-guy pink shirt

Reading to the Book Mouse crowd in my tough-guy pink shirt

One of the first things I remember crime uber agent Stacia Decker telling me was to make friends with indie book stores – how they were the ones who were going to hand-sell your books and could really make a difference in attracting new readers. Last night was a perfect example of that.

Just before my book launched, I got an email from The Book Mouse, an indie in Ottawa, IL. Ottawa’s a town of 18,000 or so about a hundred miles southwest of Chicago, located on the banks of the Illinois River (the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate for you history fans out there). They asked if I’d be willing to come down for one of their author dinners. For these, they sell tickets. The ticket gets you a copy of the book and dinner with the author at a local restaurant. You eat, socialize, and after dinner do a reading and answer questions. I said I’d love to, but I was wondering how much luck they’d have selling tickets for a debut author nobody’s heard of.

The dinner was last night. Turns out they do pretty well.

The dinner was at a place called Hank’s Farm, a charming, rustic joint in a converted barn on Illinois 71. I was a little unsure on travel times and erred on the side of caution, so I got there a little early, just as Greg, the host from the bookshop, was setting up in a private dining room. The u-shaped table looked like it was set for about 30. I had visions of sitting in this expanse of plates and glasses with maybe four or five people.

But, by 5:00, the place had filled up. I had a delightful dinner talking with the people seated near me. I wish I’d been able to visit more with some of the other guests. Some of them had already read PENANCE, some of them were just picking up their copy that night. I learned a lot about Ottawa and environs – and now I really need to read up on these murdered nurses at the local state park. After the meal and a gracious introduction from Greg, I got up to do my reading.

I was a little worried. The chapter I usually use at my readings is pretty raw. The first sentence reads “Jesus Stosh, I knew you’d stick your dick in a light socket if you thought you’d get away with it, but this is fucking nuts.” The thing is, the crowd tended a little older and a little female. I warned them that I was going to use some bad language and that there would be blood. I had visions of a mass exodus of disgusted solid citizens filing out after stopping to see Greg to demand refunds.

But they were great. They seemed to enjoy the reading and they asked some pretty insightful questions for probably half an hour. I had a wonderful time and, unless they were just exceedingly polite, it seems the folks who turned out did, too.

Talked with Greg a little before I left. The Book Mouse had sold 30 copies of PENANCE as part of the dinner and, he thought at least 15 or 20 copies independent of that. Sold them largely, I think, because Greg liked the book and had been pushing it. He had a pile of stock for me to sign before I left, so it looks like he’s planning on selling more. But, so far, maybe 50 copies out of a small indie in a town of 18,000 in rural Illinois.

Forget pimps, it’s tough out there for a writer these days. We need all the friends we can get. I have to count The Book Mouse as a very good friend indeed.