Arkady Renko: From Gorky Park to Tatiana

Martin Cruz Smith brings back Arkady Renko for an eighth book in Tatiana.

Is there a glimmer of hope for Renko?

Arkady Renko is a literary detective who takes us on tumultuous journey through modern Russian political history – the intrigue and the frightening pathos – from a gruesome triple murder in Gorky Park to the death of the fearless investigative reporter, Tatiana, the newest installment in the series and the title character.

Martin Cruz Smith introduced Chief Inspector of the Soviet Militsya, Arkady Renko, in the dark, brooding thriller, Gorky Park, way back in 1981. Renko was a textbook lesson in the long tradition of police procedurals, but more so for the use of forensic science in crime investigation – who can forget the scene with the professor, the maggots, and the human skull – long before CSI was a household acronym and a staple of television and novels.

In 1983 a movie adaption of Gorky Park hit theaters, with William Hurt playing Renko and a memorable and magnificent performance by Lee Marvin as a charming, chilling, predatory American businessman. I watched it again last year and it has held up better than most 80s movies. That’s why it took me by surprise that I had missed the release of Tatiana by a year. I’m a longtime fan after all. I know Smith has sold a boatload of Renko novels, but reading him still feels a little like discovering a hidden artistic gem before the rest of the world discovers such a superb talent. [Read more...]

Will Samsung Save the Nook?

The new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook comes with $250 in free downloads.

The new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook comes with $250 in free downloads.

Will Samsung save the Nook?

The good news from Barnes & Noble for the first quarter of Fiscal 2015 that ended August 2, 2014, was that book retailer cut losses from $87m to $28m compared to the same period a year ago. The bad news was that overall revenues had dropped 7% from $1.33b to $1.22b. Worse yet, Nook sales were off a staggering 54%.

Does that signal the end of Nook?

Barnes & Noble launched its first Nook reader in November 2009 to compete with the Kindle. A year later B&N released a color tablet called the Nook HD+. In both releases, sales and performance exceeded all expectations. Consensus was the Nook device would allow B&N to finally challenge Amazon in the digital book distribution world. A few tech journalists were impressed enough to predict the Nook HD+ could compete with the iPad. But that was way back in the day when the tablet was still in its infancy. [Read more...]

10 Reasons NOT to Write a Book

10 reasons not to write a book

Before you start on chapter one …

So you want to be a writer? Most people you tell that to are going to say something to you like, “very cool” and “you can do it.” But I’m here today to dispense reality. Before you start on chapter one let me give you 10 reasons NOT to write a book!

1.  Everything there is to say has already been said. Leave it to no less of an expert on writing books that have sold well than King Solomon, who said: “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.  Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, NLT). If that’s not enough to discourage you, keep reading.

2.  There are already more books published than people will read. Bowker, the company that dispenses ISBN numbers, reports that more than 1 million new titles are being released in the US alone each year. That doesn’t count the number of independent books being PUBLISHED without an official ISBN number. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) estimates there will be 1,761,280 books published worldwide this year. (See my infographic on the top book-producing countries.)

3.  The average number of units each new book published will sell is 250. As low as that number is, it is still inflated by books that sell hundreds of thousands and millions of copies. For most authors, writing will not pay the bills and will be a labor of love. (Do you want to know how much authors make?) [Read more...]

You Don’t Always Know What You Need Until You Get It

what do you need in your life right now?

I got invited to a men’s Bible study about four months ago. I didn’t know what I was missing.

You don’t always know what you need until you experience what you’re missing from your life. This point hit me straight in the heart recently.

Four months ago I got invited to start attending a men’s small group Bible Study on Wednesday mornings. How long is it, I asked. About 90 minutes, sometimes two hours. Hmmm. I’m a working man. Do I have that much time?

I’ve gone to church every week for my entire life. I taught teen and then young adult Sunday School for more than 20 years. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I do have a seminary degree, and what with working in Christian publishing most of my adult life … how do I say this without sounding like a jerk … I’ll just say it … I feel like I know the Bible pretty well without adding another study. I always have something to learn, but I often get that through reading or sermons. It’s always felt like enough. [Read more...]

Work and the Rhythm of Life

Sometimes life feels like work, work, work.

Sometimes life feels like work, work, work!

So what is the deal on our attitudes toward work? Work is a wonderful blessing? A necessary evil? Why all the ambiguity?

Most of us assume it’s a good thing to have a job.  After topping 9% most of 2009-11, unemployment has dropped to 6.2% as of this month. That’s good, right?”

But “according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace: 2010-2012 report, employee engagement levels remain stagnant among U.S. workers. By the end of 2012, as the U.S. inched toward a modest economic recovery, only 30% of American workers were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.” (Gallup Business Journal, June 11, 2013.)

So jobs are a good thing – just not 70% of them – or 70% of us are mismatched in some way.

Not everyone is sold on joining the workforce in the first place. Katie Morison of MSN News points out, “For those on welfare and other aid from the government in many U.S. states, getting back into the work force doesn’t always make much sense financially. In fact, welfare and other government benefits pay more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states and in 13 states, the payout is more than $15 an hour, according to a new study from libertarian think tank The Cato Institute. The study found that the assistance — defined in the study as including government benefits such as food stamps, housing assistance and other programs — pays more than a first-year teacher’s salary in 11 states, the starting salary for a secretary in 39 states and an entry-level job as a computer programmer in three states.”

So if you can make more money not working than working, isn’t not working a smart decision or should we work for work’s sake?

[Read more...]