Sunday, December 19, 2010

Discount Coupon Codes for Last-Minute Ebook Gifting

From now until mid-January, go to and use the codes below to get three bucks credit toward one of Rollo Hemphill's zany adventures. That's $3.99 a copy for a gift that says, despite everything that's happened, you still have a "unique" sense of humor. These little books are about an airplane-read long, and you can read a chapter while you take a coffee break, wait your turn at the dentist (!), or would otherwise fret because your food order is still in the kitchen.

Smashwords links:

My Inflatable Friend code BY75K

Rubber Babes code AS78F

Many ebook formats available, including B&N Nook and Apple (EPUB), Sony (LRF), Palm (PDB), HTML, and several online formats you can simply read on a computer, SmartPhone, or tablet.

Kindle format is available on Amazon, but I don't control that price. Available here.

Same with Diesel PDF available here.

So if you're not yet a fan of Rollo or simply want to spread the itch, here's an inexpensive gift that says you care enough to mess with his mind.

Enjoy your holiday and why don't you stop back after your shopping's done to post on the blog?

P.S. Paperback editions also available on Amazon (ads below) if you're hopelessly stuck in the 20th century and still have some bookshelf space left.

 Paperback  edition
 Paperback edition

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Review: Our Kind of Traitor

The master breaks all the rules. Main character Perry is not a spy but a wannabe patriot, an amateur screw-up with a good heart. Contrary to conventional story-structure rules, he is not the driver of the plot and he is absent for big chunks of the narrative. At those times, pro spy Luke steps in, but he doesn't drive the story either. Perry and his lawyer girlfriend Gail are mirrored by Luke and his spook sidekick Yvonne, but even as a group they are not a main character. (At best, Perry is a sympathetic character because he mirrors the reader in his fascination with the undercover world.)

Master-spy, case-officer Hector holds the strings, but he is never in control, a dismal fact of geopolitical reality that becomes increasingly obvious as the plot devolves. (Almost) everyone is trying to protect wannabe defector Dima, king of the Russian mob's money launderers (think Otto Preminger). Dima is the biggest personality on the stage, and ultimately the only one who is unabashedly brave.

The author holds true to his oft-used theme that personal betrayal is the ultimate sin, which the career spy can't help but do and for which he deserves to die.

(Sigh) The master breaks all the rules and still hits it out of the park. The Hollywood script consultants-for-hire will say don't try this at home.

(Photo credit: Bain News Service)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: For the King by Catherine Delors

All historical fiction is about today. That goes for works old and new. The old works are being experienced by contemporary readers, and the material filters through a modern mindset. Conversely, and  more to the point here, a contemporary work such as For the King by Catherine Delors was conceived in her unarguably modern mind. (Ignore the fact that this charming author is so steeped in French history she can blog about little else.) The modern writer's preoccupations and prejudices seep through. Yes, it is possible to imitate the writing style, the attitude, the point of view of a Balzac or a Stendhal (who both lived around the time of this story). But it is not possible, nor would it be desirable, for the writer to somehow unhook her intimate connections to the collective unconscious of the present day.

Delors' second novel is about a plot to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte on Christmas Eve, 1800. But in many ways it is very much about today. For one thing, its narrative structure is as familiar as a network TV series — it's a police procedural. (How about CSI: Île de la Cité?)

The reader knows who the perpetrators are from the start — so it's not a whodunnit. Most of the story is about how chief investigator Roch Miquel discovers for himself who they are and how he tracks them down. Herein lies another influence of contemporary genre fiction. In the film noir detective story, the main character's inquiry leads him progressively deeper into the corruption that pervades the big city. And in the most intensely psychological (and arguably the best) of those stories, the detective eventually discovers that he's been betrayed by "the girl" and — in the most chilling variants — he finds out to his everlasting regret that he is personally somewhat to blame for the crime itself.

I won't stretch this parallel further for fear of spilling spoilers. Roch is modern in another important sense — politically and morally he is a citizen of today's EU. His sympathies lie with the Revolution, with the same idealistic egalitarianism that shaped the American Constitution. Roch's father is a sheep herder turned tavern owner, a self-made entrepreneur, a small-business capitalist. The heavies of the story, Miquel's adversaries, are reactionary royalists (called Chouans). Although some of them profess admiration for the deposed king (who is nowhere to be found in the book), the majority of them simply hanker for their lost swaggering privileges and aristo status. They resent the new centralized government control Bonaparte is imposing on every aspect of their lives.

And then there's the practice of torturing witnesses and suspects, as problematic an interrogation technique then as it is now. Delors can't help editorializing: "Roch reported [the torture] to the Prefect, who had dismissed his concerns on the grounds that the search for information of vital importance to the safety of the Nation justified such means. Roch disagreed. Most of what could be obtained in this manner was false confessions or information that reflected what the suspect thought [the torturer] wanted to hear. Roch had argued in vain that a skillful interrogator could obtain better information without disgracing himself and the entire police."

The most compelling aspect of this story is psychological and emotional and has only the barest relationship to the facts of the criminal investigation. For reasons hinted at above, Roch the man must reexamine how he regards and treats women. He must challenge his notions of trust in and loyalty to mistresses, ladies, beggars, prostitutes, and — the girl next door.

So, as you might expect from his appearance here, tyro Roch Miquel fits the essential definition of the boychik  — a young man who has a lot to learn, especially about women.

The French have a saying: As much as things change, they remain the same.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: The Man Who Would Not Die

My friend and colleague Tom Page wrote The Man Who Would Not Die - twice. No, I'm not referring to the multitude of drafts, experimental and otherwise, that any writer generates when producing a book. Back in 1981, Tom first wrote, and then Seaview Books published, what has now become a cult sci-fi classic about a handsome rake on inconveniently non-terminal life support. Then came a Signet edition, then one from Hamlyn.

Fast forward through intevening years, when predicably but unaccountably, the movie almost got made several times (it's still trying to climb out of the Hollywood ooze).

Then came a phenomenon that sounds a like a writer's fantasy - well into the twenty-first century, a mainstream publisher decided to resurrect the works of the venerable Thomas Page. First with The Hephaestus Plague, and now with The Man Who Would Not Die, the virtuous, fan-centric Trashface Books of Dublin, Ireland has come out with high-quality trade paper editions of these creepy cult faves.

Which brings us to the second writing. As Tom discussed the new release with Trashface (which itself sounds like the name of some misunderstood Marvel hero), he resolved to "freshen" it. After all, a futurist novel set in the early 1980s might not seem so bleeding-edge without a few zombie-pancake touch-ups.

So the rejuvenated book is replete with cell phones, laptops, slick interactive displays, microciruitry, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering. None of this was absolutely necessary to keep this sci-fi story alive - but it keeps it from smelling old. Without this infusion of new blood, a new generation of iPad readers might think the technology of thirty years ago quaint, if not downright odd.

As he did in The Hephaestus Plague, Tom spins a central metaphor that goes to the heart of social pathology. With the bugs that spewed fire, he concocted a race of beings better equipped than humans to survive the end times on a resource-depleted planet. With the Stendahl Holmes Life Support (LS) capsule, he's mocking a healthcare system that goes to heroic lengths to prolong life, with less regard for the quality of the result than for the seeming miracle of the achievement.

Congratulations to Tom Page on yet more proof of his literary agelessness. He's a bit of a contrarian, too. Why else would protagonist Kate make sure she had plenty of film for her camera?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Der Ring Roundup - Everything You Need to Know About Siegfried and His Friends

If you think Achim Freyer's character design for the evil dwarf Alberich looks like a Nazi cartoon stereotype of a Jewish banker, you are a student of history.

Now that Los Angeles Opera is in the midst of three consecutive cyles of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, here's a recap of all four operas:

Wagner's Ring Cycle at LA Opera - Recap for Late Deciders

Photo by Monika Rittershaus courtesy LA Opera

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's a One-Man Show

No, I'm not talking about the story of my life. Last night Georja and I took in the opening night of Palomino, David Cale's storyteller performance about a New York gigolo. More than thoroughly in touch with his feminine side, Cale also plays the fellow's lady clients, as well as a gay book publisher who (wait for this surprise) rejects his memoirs. May 13 - June 6 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

It's about casual intimacy and loneliness. If you're not sure how one is inevitably entwined with the other, you are one green boychik.

Read our review for LA Palomino Review - Rake and Pony Show at the Kirk Douglas

Photo by Craig Schwartz courtesy Center Theatre Group  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alas, Poor Ubermensch Boychik

As Wagner fans all over the world know by now, the Los Angeles Opera is engaged in an audacious two-year project to stage Achim Freyer's postmodern version of the Ring Cycle. Having attended the first three operas in sequence, Georja Umano and I just sat through Gotterdamerung, the last installment, which shows the destruction of the gods, in five hours and twenty minutes and two intermissions. Read our review for LASplash here: Gotterdamerung Review - A Thrilling End to the Ring.

I've commented previously in this blog about Wagner's superhero character Siegfried, a demigod in whom the hope of the world seemed to depend. He is a brash, impetuous fellow, very much the boychik, the putz with more chutzpah than brains. He has it all with goddess-babe Brunnhilde, and he blows it. (Her stereotyped character used to be portrayed onstage as a bellowing cow wearing breastplate and horned Viking helmet. In LA Opera's production, Linda Watson softens her considerably, with no loss of vocal amps.)

But back to Siegfried. Why does the hope of the world run onto his own sword?

I don't know. I'm asking.

(That's not a spoiler. He doesn't literally run onto his sword. You have to invest the five plus hours to find out, or find yourself a used copy of Grove's.)

P.S. Los Angeles Opera will present three more cycles of the Ring, starting in late May and running through the month of June.

(Photo by Monica Rittershaus courtesy LA Opera)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Read an eBook Week March 7 - 13

In this new promotion, you'll find Rollo Hemphill's misadventures My Inflatable Friend and Rubber Babes in popular formats, including EPUB (Nook), HTML, and Sony Reader.

(Also available in Kindle from Amazon, and PDF at Diesel eBooks.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vicious Cross-Posting!

Photo by Jeff Kubina
A writer friend and colleague of mine recently complained in the IWOSC forum that his press release had mysteriously appeared on a strange website. Here's my (cross-posted) reply:

"The situation you find about your press releases being posted on other blogs has happened to me quite a few times.

I'm not an expert in these matters, but my interpretation is this. Your PR release is essentially a public document because you've put it on the Web with the express purpose of inducing anyone who is interested to spread the news. It's certainly not unheard of in the news industry for a publication to simply run a lot if not most of the text of a release as an article. It's lazy journalism, but the original poster hardly complains because you're getting what you want -- your story out to the world.

But what's happening here is that these blogs are content whores. They surround themselves with click-thru ads and promotional URLs. They know that search engines seek out pages that change frequently. So they seek out content they can lift, any content, even it it's dated. For example, my release that I'd be reading from my novel Rubber Babes at Dutton's keeps getting reposted, even though Dutton's is long closed.

If you find that the other website has links to objectionable material, I'd say you're within your rights complaining to the webmaster and asking for the post to be removed. Some of these sites appear to be offshore so I wouldn't bet on them taking any action, but it's worth a try.

If the item did not originate as a press release -- say, it were a post on your own blog -- then this "cross-posting" without your permission would be a copyright violation, I believe. But when you're putting it out there as a release, its getting recycled is not necessarily a bad thing from the standpoint of your exposure. You just don't want to get into a situation where links to your own site get blocked because somehow the search engines have "associated" you with inappropriate content. For example, if you try to post an article on, they might block it if they think your links back to your own site lead, in turn, to nasty places."

Gerald Everett Jones

Author of the Rollo Hemphill novels
- in paperback and ebook -

Monday, February 1, 2010

Book Review: Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

In the virtual scheme of things, my comic-novel hero Rollo Hemphill is now twentysomething. So it might at first seem odd that I'd review a book about a curmudgeon. Perhaps Anne Tyler's sixty-one-year-old Liam Pennywell is simply Rollo in flash forward, a boychik who wakes up one morning to find out his youth is so yesterday.

Here's some brief background, no more than you'll read in publicity blurbs: Liam is teacher in a private school in Baltimore. He was trained in philosophy and his academic credentials far exceed the mundane requirements of his job. Then he loses his job. Soon afterward, he has a traumatic experience that requires healing and readjustment. In the process (the length of the book), he regains his bearings. Hence the title's allusion to the Biblical captain and his navigation device.

Much of life is ordinary, or so Anne Tyler seems to say. And that's the wondrous part of it, she apparently believes. She writes that way and always has, as far as I know. Her sentences are straightforward, spare, honest. The events she describes seem not at all unusual. Her characters are people you know, and they usually don't dare to be the least bit different.

Much of the time, when their lives are proceeding in ordinary ways, they don't surprise you. Tyler is careful to give lots of detail, including ingredients of their lackluster meals and frequent mention of their clothing choices, moods, and physical complaints.

But then the character does something unexpected. In an Anne Tyler novel, it usually doesn't involve picking up a gun or taking an overdose or punching out the most powerful man in town. No, sometimes it's nothing more than a look, an odd comment, or a gesture. But it's the result of a momentous decision, typically something remarkably brave or generous.

Her characters surprise you this way only a few times in each book. In Noah's Compass, you can count those times on the fingers of one hand. But they're stunners. In reading her other books, I have often wondered how as a writer she achieves this effect. When I reread those passages, I can usually find the sentence that marks the revelation or the turning point. But the words are, in themselves, unremarkable. The trick, I believe, is in the meticulous layering of narrative and detail that went before. Some critics have called hers an "angel's eye view" of her characters. Because she loves them so much, even the outwardly nasty ones.

I won't give you any spoilers from the book, because I don't want to deprive you of those surprises. I'll give you an example from my own (ordinary) life. When I was Rollo's age, a young female coworker dropped by my place on a Saturday morning and asked me if I would help her look for an apartment in the neighborhood. I did so gladly. She was a looker, and I welcomed any excuse to get to know her better. After we pounded the pavement all afternoon, as the dinner hour approached, I suggested dropping into the local grocery to get some things we could cook for dinner. It was an Anne Tyler moment when she picked up a carton of eggs and asked:

"Won't we need these for breakfast?"

Learn from Anne Tyler, and stay alert. The ordinary could become wonderful in the blink of an eye.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rollo Scores in India!

I was pleased to learn that the adventures of Rollo Hemphill are selling at, an active online bookstore site in India.