June 2023

Words of the Month

cachinnation (n.): “loud laughter,” 1620s, from Latin cachinnationem (nominative cachinnatio) “violent laughter, excessive laughter,” noun of action from past-participle stem of cachinnare “to laugh immoderately or loudly,” of imitative origin. Compare Sanskrit kakhati “laughs,” Greek kakhazein “to laugh loudly,” Old High German kachazzen, English cackle, Armenian xaxanc‘. [Perhaps this is a way to understand what Chandler meant when he wrote in “The Simple Art of Mureder”: In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, but it may be the raucous laughter of the strongman.]

The Robot Did It ~ The biggest twist in the new mystery story “written” by artificial intelligence? It’s pretty good!

Man Uses AI to Write 97 Terrible Books, Sells $2,000 Worth

Nerding Out at New York’s Antiquarian Book Fair

It’s Okay to Like Good Art by Bad People

What is this summer’s big mystery book?

Flea Market Cons and Other Slippery Shenanigans 

Midway as Menace: On Carnivals, Characters, and the Fear of the Other

With Their Knowledge Combined, Two Scholars Are Deciphering a Long-Lost Native Language

It is long past time to retire the pernicious, anti-historical, dumb search for who “really” wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

*Historian and mystery novelist is first woman to head Archives

*A stolen purse, a thriller writer and a particular set of skills

Live and Let Drive! MI6 spooks are looking for James Bond-loving cabbies to drive cars, minibuses and lorries for the secret service

Man returns overdue library book nearly 100 years after it was checked out

Why a Small-Town Record Store in Rural Pennsylvania Was My First Library

Only in Florida: couple steals rare books, vintage comics, AND endangered tortoises.

Words of the Month

giggle (v.): c. 1500, probably imitative. As a noun from 1570s.

AI Is Tearing Wikipedia Apart

More people are getting away with murder. Unsolved killings reach a record high

Chinese hackers will ‘probably’ breach protected government networks within 5 years, leaked document says

Computer system used to hunt fugitives is still down 10 weeks after hack

Ransomware Gang Hijacks College’s Emergency Broadcast System to Threaten Students

Dallas disrupted by hackers – courts closed, police and fire sites offline

Europol is worried criminals may exploit the powers of ChatGPT. Here’s why

The Last Honest Man: Frank Church and the fight to restrain US power

The Terrifying Secret Weapon The CIA Created To Assassinate World Leaders

MLK’s famous criticism of Malcolm X was a ‘fraud,’ author finds

Criminals are using AI in terrifying ways — and it’s only going to get worse

Abortion Clinics See Triple-Digit Spikes in Stalking, Burglaries, Bomb Threats & Arson

CIA chief announces new steps to address sexual assault, harassment allegations

Your DNA Can Now Be Pulled from Thin Air. Privacy Experts Are Worried.

FBI misused surveillance tool on Jan. 6 suspects, BLM arrestees and others

The Tortured Bond of Alice Sebold and the Man Wrongfully Convicted of Her Rape

He Freed an Innocent Man From Prison. It Ruined His Life

The NAACP says Florida isn’t safe for Black people. Unfortunately, they’re right

Russia calls for Lindsey Graham’s assassination after controversial comments about ‘dying Russians’ (after his comments were edited by the Russians to sound terrible)

AI Deepfakes of True-Crime Victims Are a Waking Nightmare

Words of the Month

groan (v): Old English granian “to utter a deep, low-toned breath expressive of grief or pain; to murmur; to lament,” from Proto-Germanic *grain- (source also of Old Norse grenja “to howl”), of imitative origin, or related to grin (v.). Meaning “complain” is from early 13th C., especially in Middle English phrase grutchen and gronen. As an expression of disapproval, by 1799.

Inside The Battle For North Dakota’s Bookshelves

A Tiny Blog Took on Big Surveillance in China—and Won

Idaho Library Reverses Book Ban After Breaking Open Meetings Law

‘Publishing these books is a risk’: Taiwan’s booksellers stand up for democracy

Illinois set to become first state to end book bans

Hayley Kiyoko Says Cops Warned Her Not to Include Drag Queens in Her Nashville Show

The book battle is escalating, with library funds on the line

So, What Are Agents Seeing in the Era of Book Bans?

Asked to Delete References to Racism From Her Book, an Author Refused

Oklahoma Guv Defends Cutting PBS for ‘Indoctrinating’ Kids

DeSantis calls it a ‘hoax,’ but Florida’s obsession with sanitizing books is real — and scary | Opinion

Lawsuit filed against Twitter, Saudi Arabia; claims acts of transnational repression committed

Are you a doctor who hates treating gay people? Come to Florida, where Ron DeSantis has legalised bigotry

PEN, Random House and parents file lawsuit after rightwing groups seek to ban books that address racism or sexual identity

School librarians face a new penalty in the banned-book wars: Prison

Book bans soared in the ’70s, too. The Supreme Court stepped in.

Book Banners Take Over Idaho Library Board After Disgraceful Campaign

Salman Rushdie warns free expression under threat in rare public address after attack

Hong Kong leader says public libraries must ensure books don’t violate laws

Hong Kong neck-and-neck with Florida in bookbanning competition.

China’s comedy crackdown sparks fears of Cultural Revolution 2.0

Author resigns from PEN America board amid row over Russian writers panel

Target becomes latest company to suffer backlash for LGBTQ+ support, pulls some Pride month clothing

Georgia School District Book Removal Violated Civil Rights

Glasgow Subway Ad Censored for Featuring Michelangelo’s ‘David’

An analysis of book challenges from across the nation shows the majority were filed by just 11 people

In 1933, Helen Keller Wrote a Letter to Book-Burning Nazis About the Power of Ideas

Maryland families sue school district over LGBTQ book policy

China Removes 1.4 Million Posts and 67,000 Accounts in Latest Social Media Purge

Texas Legislature moves to regulate school library content

Words of the Month

cackle (v.): early 13c., imitative of the noise of a hen (see cachinnation); perhaps partly based on Middle Dutch kake “jaw,” with frequentative suffix -el (3). As “to laugh,” 1712. From 1856 as “a short laugh.”

Seattle Public Library to let young people nationwide borrow banned books

Hawaii’s Native language nearly vanished—this is the fight to bring it back

New Capitol Hill bookstore brings fresh perspective to familiar space

Hundreds of Oregon hate crimes go unprosecuted every year. Here’s why

Author Louise Penny on her ‘Gamache’ series and writing with Hillary Clinton

New Idaho law creates crime of ‘abortion trafficking’

*Oregon woman’s 13-year stolen car odyssey uncovers deceit, purged records and state DMV gaps

Novelist James Patterson, journalist Vicky Ward plan book on killing of Idaho college students

Police near Seattle issue warning about AI phone scammers impersonating family members

Man arrested in Seattle mail thefts that halted delivery for hundreds

Idaho college murders strain town financially as investigation expenses mount

A Seattle bookstore named after a cat balances tradition with plans for bold new chapter

Artist who falsely claimed Native American heritage sentenced to 18 months’ probation

What Makes Seattle Such a Good Setting for Thrillers?

Words of the Month

grin (v.): Old English grennian “show the teeth” (in pain or anger), common Germanic (cognates: Old Norse grenja “to howl,” grina “to grin;” Dutch grienen “to whine;” German greinen “to cry”), from PIE root *ghrei– “be open.” Sense of “bare the teeth in a broad smile” is late 15th C., perhaps via the notion of “forced or unnatural smile.”

John Wilkes Booth ‘Wanted Poster’ at auction, rarer than US Constitution

They Hired a P.I. to Find Missing Loved Ones. He Turned Them Into YouTube Content

Did F. Scott Fitzgerald think all women over 35 should be murdered?

The Taylor Swift effect: why a mystery book is rocketing up US charts – despite no one knowing anything about it

What scares master of suspense Dean Koontz? Plenty.

Koontz had the indoor pool removed and installed a custom library of his 20,000 books by other authors, many of them first editions. (Philip Cheung for The Washington Post)

Cops hoping to spot lurking mountain lion set up camera. Something menacing appeared

Connecticut ‘witches’ exonerated by Senate lawmakers

Alabama digital road sign hacked to display white supremacist messages

‘Mad and offensive’ texts shed light on the role played by minstrels in medieval society

How Arthur Conan Doyle Was Duped By Some of the Victorian World’s Most Obvious Hoaxes

Words of the Month

titter (v.): from the1610s, “giggle in a suppressed or nervous way,” probably of imitative origin. Related: Tittered; tittering. The noun is attested by 1728.

AI Spam Is Already Flooding the Internet and It Has an Obvious Tell

OSHA cites Amazon for failing to adequately aid injured workers

A Group of Amazon Drivers Just Joined One of the Biggest Unions in the US

Is Temu the Future of Buying Things? Imagine if Amazon and TikTok had a baby.

To become an Amazon Clinic patient, first you sign away some privacy | Perspective

Coroner says blunt force injury killed worker at Amazon warehouse in Indiana

Amazon pays small-town florists and funeral homes to deliver packages

Oregon cuts Amazon $1B in tax breaks for 5 new data centers

[Oregon lawmakers move to scale back tax break reforms]

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin wins contract to land NASA astronauts on moon years after heated bid process

US regulators launch investigation into worker death at Amazon warehouse

Amazon investors reject proposals on worker safety, climate impact

Words of the Month

guffaw (n.): from the 1720, Scottish, probably imitative of the sound of coarse laughter. Compare gawf (early 16th C.) “loud, noisy laugh.” The verb is from 1721.

MWA Announces the 2023 Edgar Award Winners

Author Fatimah Asghar is the first winner of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

Here are this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners.

Announcing the 2023-2024 Steinbeck Fellows.

International Booker prize announces first ever Bulgarian winner

Haymarket Books is launching a fellowship for writers impacted by the criminal legal system.

Haruki Murakami wins Spain’s Princess of Asturias Award for literature.

Words of the Month

chuckle (v.): from the1590s, “to laugh loudly,” frequentative of Middle English chukken “make a clucking noise” (late 14th C.), of imitative origin. Meaning shifted to “laugh in a suppressed or covert way, express inward satisfaction by subdued laughter” by 1803.

A chapter ends for this historic Asian American bookstore, but its story continues

What Will the Bookstore of the Future Look Like?

Concise Writing: How to Omit Needless Words

James Ellroy, Michael Connelly discuss ‘Widespread Panic,’ a crime novel set in 1950s L.A.

Susan Isaacs: Why It Only Took Me 45 Years to Write a Series

Chinese man builds bookstore on a mountaintop. Yes, he’s a poet.

Charles Reznikoff: The Finest Noir Poet You’ve Never Heard Of

Meet the owners of the newest bookstore in Brooklyn.

Simon & Schuster again up for sale, executives confirm

9 Books Illustrating Agatha Christie’s Enduring Presence in Our Cultural Zeitgeist

Peter Robinson, Remembered

Dennis Lehane on Boston, Busing, and the Summer of ’74 [see JB’s review below]

The State of the Crime Novel, Part 1: A Roundtable Discussion with the Edgar Nominees

The State of the Crime Novel, Part 2: A Roundtable Discussion with the Edgar Nominees

Do Great Actors Make Great Novelists?

Whodunnits With a Killer Twist

Kelly McMasters on Starting a Bookstore to Save Her Marriage

What Journalism Can Teach You About Writing Fiction

7 Fabulous Crime Novels and the Craft Lessons They Drive Home

Not even NYT bestsellers are safe from AI cover art

TikTok Users Report Reading 50% More Because of BookTok

This Black Woman Opened A Free Library In Brooklyn

Nearly 1,000 Years Old, This Text Shows the Ingenuity of Chinese Woodblock Printing

James Comey is trying to master the twist ending. This time, on purpose.

Ron DeSantis’s context-free history book vanished online. We got a copy.

True crime can be an unedifying business, so why am I drawn to writing about it?

How Should We Feel About Barnes & Noble Now?

Good news: there are more bookstores in the US this year than last.

What I Learned About Writing From Reviewing

How Screenwriting Can Help You Write Stronger Fiction

Lost story by ‘poet of the tabloid murder’ James M Cain discovered in Library of Congress

The Origin of the Red Herring and its Place in Literature

Ancient books in northern Italy frozen to salvage them from flood damage

How Not To Get Murdered At a Thriller Conference

Ivy Pochoda on Writing About Violent Women (Without Making Excuses for Them)

Vengeance Becomes Her: 5 Great Thrillers About Women Getting Revenge

Books and Murder: The Perfect Match

Words of the Month

chortle (v.): coined 1871 by Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking Glass,” perhaps from chuckle and snort. Related: Chortled; chortling. As a noun, from 1903.

Author Events

June 8: Brenda Peterson signs Stiletto, Elliot Bay, 7pm

June 9: James Comey signs Central Park West, Third Place/Town Hall, 7:30pm

June 19: S.A. Cosby signs All the Sinners Bleed, Powell’s 7pm

Hallmark’s ‘Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery’ Reunites Alison Sweeney, Cameron Mathison

Hollywood turned spy fiction’s most hard-boiled killer into Austin Powers [the Matt Helm books are great – JB]

Dwayne Johnson is set to reprise Maui in Disney’s live-action remake of Moana, but did you know the character is inspired by The Rock’s grandfather who was a James Bond villain opposite Sean Connery?

Elizabeth Banks On Her New “Book Club” with Canned Wine Brand Archer Roose and Her Favorite Non-Fake Reads Right Now

Neil Jordan on Marlowe, Noir, and a Los Angeles That Doesn’t Exist Anymore

Dorothy B. Hughes at the Movies

‘Vertigo’ is still the best movie ever. Or the worst movie ever. Discuss.

Creating the ‘Buddy Tragedy’ of White House Plumbers

Here’s that Murder on the Orient Express adventure game you wanted

Natalie Portman Now Finds Her Role in ‘Léon’ to Be ‘Cringe’

When ‘Homicide’ Hit Its Stride

Eddie Murphy in Talks to Star in ‘Pink Panther’ Movie

Scorsese’s eagerly awaited ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres at Cannes

>Viggo Mortensen, Shia LaBeouf, Courtney Love, Al Pacino and John Travolta Board David Mamet’s JFK Thriller ‘Assassination’

5 Things The Bourne Franchise Has That James Bond Doesn’t

James Bond Thunderball risked ‘sex and sadism’ X-rating and scared Sean Connery to death

Dario Argento interview: ‘There is a fascination surrounding murder and I try to use my fantasy to explore it’

David Lynch interview: ‘Even in the so-called dark things, there’s beauty’

10 Times James Bond Almost Cast An American Actor As 007

Ian Fleming Nearly Saved The Silliest James Bond Movie

Which Elmore Leonard Adaptation Should You Stream This Weekend?

Why Chris Pine Chose Star Trek Over An L.A. Confidential Sequel

The Best New Crime Shows to Watch This Month

7 Great Espionage Films Set During WWII

White House Plumbers Tells the Whole Story of all the Really Stupid, Very Dirty Stuff That Went Down During Watergate

Words of the Month

yuck (v.): to “laugh,” 1938, yock, probably imitative.

May 6: Sam Gross Was Funny to the End

May 19: Jim Brown, NFL Legend Turned Hollywood Action Hero, Dies at 87

May 20: British novelist Martin Amis has died, according to his agent. Amis was 73

April 28: Looted Monastery Manuscripts Rediscovered During Office Renovation

May 3: Right-Wing Doctors’ Org Accidentally Leaks Massive Trove of Sensitive Documents

May 3: Maryland appeals court denies Adnan Syed request to reconsider murder ruling

May 3: European police arrest more than 100 mafia suspects in drug crackdown

May 4: Victims Say $39M Ponzi Scheme Was a Father-Son Operation

May 8: The Billion-Dollar Ponzi Scheme That Hooked Warren Buffett and the U.S. Treasury

May 10: Utah mom who wrote a children’s book about grief after her husband died is now charged with murdering him

May 10: Met Museum Will Hire Team to Investigate Looted Art

May 12: She Stole $54 Million From Her Town. Then Something Unexpected Happened. The place previously best-known as Ronald Reagan’s childhood home, site of the Petunia Festival and the Catfish Capital of Illinois, was now also the home of the largest municipal fraud in United States history.

May 16: How to raise $89 million in small donations — and make it disappear

May17: Man indicted for stealing Dorothy’s ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz

>May 17: Bobby Kennedy Pinned JFK’s Killing on the CIA: RFK Jr. Says His Dad Saw It as Revenge for President’s Moves to Rein in Agency

May 19: Whistleblower Claims FBI Had The Zodiac Killer Identified, Covered It Up

May 25: $100 Million Gone in 27 Minutes

May 26: Peruvian police seize cocaine bricks wrapped in Nazi insignia

May 26: Investigators Using AI to Help Solve Cold Case of Missing NJ Boy 

May 26: FBI Reveals Alleged Plot to Kill Queen Elizabeth During 1983 Visit

>May 27: Feds hid JFK film that could prove ‘grassy knoll’ conspiracy: lawsuit

May 27: Arby’s Sued After Manager Found Dead in Freezer

May 28: The pope and Emanuela Orlandi: Vatican back in the spotlight over mystery of missing girl

Words of the Month

laugh (v.): from the late 14th C., from Old English (Anglian) hlæhhan, earlier hliehhan, hlihhan “to laugh, laugh at; rejoice; deride,” from Proto-Germanic *klakhjan (source also of Old Norse hlæja, Danish le, Old Frisian hlakkia, Old Saxon hlahhian, Middle Dutch and Dutch lachen, Old High German hlahhan, German lachen, Gothic hlahjan), from PIE *kleg-, of imitative origin (compare Latin cachinnare “to laugh aloud,” Sanskrit kakhati “laughs,” Old Church Slavonic chochotati “laugh,” Lithuanian klagėti “to cackle,” Greek kakhazein).

Originally with a “hard” -gh- sound, as in Scottish loch; the spelling remained after the pronunciation shifted to “-f.” To laugh in one’s sleeve is to laugh inwardly so as not to be observed. “The phrase generally implies some degree of contempt, and is used rather of a state of feeling than of actual laughter” [Century Dictionary].

Deanna Raybourn — A Sinister Revenge

One of the things I love about the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries is how Raybourn seamlessly weaves natural history into her mysteries! In fact, as in A Sinister Revenge, they become critical to the plot! Imparting just enough info, should you like, you can find out more about whatever she’s spliced into the story. 

In A Sinister Revenge, we find ourselves exposed to fossils, or more specifically, one giant fossil. Said fossil is at the heart of this murder in retrospect, where the remaining members of a group of friends come back together to discover who amongst them is a murderer….whilst Veronica and Stoker are on the outs, and Tiberius tries his hand at playing peacemaker.

Honestly, this series is so much fun.

I cannot recommend these books enough. You don’t HAVE to read the first in series to read this one….so long as you recognize several books precede it. However, if you do not, you will miss much of the nuance betwixt the main characters — Veronica, Stoker, Tiberius, and Merryweather. Plus, the books are such a lark; why would you not want to start with the first? 

For the next several months, I’ll be doing something a bit different. You see, I’m re-reading all of Louise Penny’s Gamache books, and I’ve gone on about them before, but this time, I’m approaching them a little differently, so hang with me.

Then I’m reviewing either a movie or TV show that I think you should watch, and of course, I’ll tell you why.

Ready? Okay, here we go:

What brings me back to these books is not Inspector Gamache himself, although he’s an inspiration and an icon. It’s Three Pines, the hidden little Canadian village where so much takes place – and rest assured, it isn’t Cabot Cove – and where so many special and wonderful people live.

At the top of the hill Armand Gamache stopped the car and got out. He looked down at the village and his heart soared. He looked over the rooftops and imagined the good, kind, flawed people inside struggling with their lives. People were walking their dogs, raking the relentless autumn leaves, racing the gently falling snow. They were shopping at M. Beliveau’s general store and buying baguettes from Sarah’s boulangerie. Olivier stood at the Bistro doorway and shook out a tablecloth. Life was far from harried here. But neither was it still.”

It’s the sense of community that brings me back. All the people with their mixture of good and bad, selflessness and selfishness, small kindnesses and petty cruelties, all the very human parts of us call to me, and the quiet, unassuming little village seems like a refuge. You’ll love it here.

Speaking of community, have you seen the movie The Old Guard? It’s written by an author I know I’ve mentioned more than once, since he’s a fantastic author and an all-around great guy, Greg Rucka.

[JB has watched The Old Guard a number of times and was thrilled to hear a sequel is coming!]

I was 14 and just in high school when Boston erupted over forced school busing in 1974. I remember seeing pictures and news footage of outraged white people screaming and throwing things at the buses carrying black students into their world. Adults. That impression is deep. There were only a couple of black students in my high school, which as in a predominantly – if not all – white suburb. But there was no overt objection to those kids, at least that I was aware of then or now. You can bet there was silent objection. Had to be. But I just couldn’t grasp the snarling fury of those parents in Boston. It reminded me of the news coverage of 60s civil rights protests in the South. I knew nothing of South Boston. Then.

South Boston is the setting of probably my favorite series of books, Dennis Lehane‘s Patrick and Angie private eye novels. Wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve read the series a dozen times, and Darkness, Take My Hand more than that. Reread it just a couple of weeks ago, on a trip home. His new novel, Small Mercies, is set in their world, in 1974 as the busing is about to start. As made clear in his books, South Boston was a homogeneous and insular place, and folks don’t like to be told what to do, especially by cops or government – they’ll only accept orders from the Irish gangster who runs the whole shebang: Marty Butler, surely a stand-in for the actual king, Whitey Bulger.

Set against all of this anger and prejudice and mindless hatred of those people, he gives us the story of Mary Pat Fennesey, a lifelong resident who has never questioned anything she’s been told. But then her last child vanishes – she lost a son to drugs after Viet Nam – and her daughter Jules is her heart. The answers she starts to receive to her requests for help, and the fury released by the upcoming busing, cause her look long and hard at her neighborhood and herself.

Hers was childhood of bewilderment, violence, and devoid of reason. “She can’t remember that girl, but she can feel her. She can feel her bafflement and terror. At the noise and the fury. At the storm of rage that swirled around her and spun her in place until she was so fucking dizzy from it, she had to learn to walk in it without falling down for the rest of her life.” To use a phrase from Darkness, Mary Pat is a person of impact. Her actions cause ripples that alter what comes next.

Her relentless search for answers brings her into conflict with those who want the questions to stop. And then there are her friends, her family, who don’t like seeing the the truth that her answers expose. She won’t be swayed or stopped. One fist-fight – at 44, Mary Pat is still the battler everyone remembers from her childhood – leaves her looking “like she was attacked by the live trees in a fairy tale.” But you can be sure those trees don’t look so hot, either.

Lehane had just turned nine when Boston blew up over busing. It obviously left a deep impression on him. Small Mercies is a book of heartbreak and determination, both from the resistance to change and from those who dare to. It is beautifully written, of course, and provocatively challenging. It’s a proud addition to Dennis Lehane’s shelf of literature.

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Visiting Old Haunts

Downtown for a Mariners’ game, we parked “in front of the shop”, like we used to. It isn’t a bad walk to the park and you’re out of the worst of the traffic when heading home.

Granted it was late on a Saturday afternoon, but still it was all dark.

Bakeman’s looks like a fortress – more later…

The hair salon is gone –

Both it and our old space just had chairs and tables, as if used for the meetings of ghosts… No business names present, not filled with customers or workers.

Southwest corner of Second and Cherry – empty as well

But Bakeman’s – – –

Walled off, gated at the sidewalk, probably to keep the campers out and not inviting to a new tenant, and just devoid of life. Hard to believe that space used to be jammed with people, talk, clanking silverware, and the shouting of orders and desires.

~ JB

That old stamp – – –

If you remember back to when we used to stamp our plain, brown bags. We had a skull and crossbones, a Sherlock head, and a few others. One was a hardboiled image of a guy shooting a tommygun. I always wondered what the source for that image was and I just found it.

Seek and ye shall find, even if it takes a few decades….


Beyond Raold Dahl and Ian Fleming

From Grand Master Lawrence Block ~

There’s been a fair amount of media attention paid lately to the decisions of the estates of both Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to make extensive edits to their respective bodies of work with an eye toward improving passages that might strike a contemporary reader as racially insensitive or otherwise offensive. I don’t feel moved to comment on either the original texts or the seemliness of changing them, but wanted to share a comparable move by an overseas publisher; perhaps because the work in question is in a language other than English, the following announcement has been largely overlooked by the linguistically insular American press:

Frankfurt, February 26: Representatives of Mehliger-Mund Verlag, the esteemed publisher, announced today the impending publication of Unsere humanitär Aufgabe, slated for reissue in early 1925, exactly 100 years after its original appearance.

“The book has stood the test of time,” said Mehliger-Mund’s spokesman, Heinrich Labberig. “Written during its author’s forced isolation after his initial emergence as a philosophical and political innovator, it has long since earned a permanent place on the shelf of German classics. But times change, and various textual idiosyncrasies, perfectly acceptable in 1925, have the unfortunate effect of alienating the reader of today.”

The challenge, Labberig explained, lay in judiciously ameliorating the author’s text without diluting its timeless message. “It is undeniable,” he said, “that the original text singled out for disparagement a particular segment of the German population. In the author’s defense, one might point out that he was doing little more than expressing the national consciousness of the time. Our attitudes on matters of race and religion have changed dramatically over the course of the past hundred years, and strict preservation of the author’s original text could make him appear bigoted—even antisemitic—in the eyes of the Twenty-first Century reader.”

In addition, the text itself has been toned down. Consider the following selection, thus in the original: “The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind.”

In the new edition, it’s softened somewhat: “The application of force is by no means the only way to change people’s minds and open them up to new ideas.”

When asked about the book’s new title, Herr Labberig admitted the risk in changing a phrase that had indeed become part of the world’s consciousness. Unsere humanitär Aufgabe—in English, Our Humanitarian Mission—does not readily call the original to mind. “But we felt it was an essential modernization,” he contended. “The author spoke as a lone voice, and so used the first-person singular, but he was in fact speaking on behalf of a whole people, as the plural Unsere affirms. Similarly, Aufgabe stresses that he is writing about a mission, a task, a higher purpose; a hundred years ago, given his personal circumstances, it is more than understandable that he proclaimed this to be a battle—but the word strikes today’s ear as harsher and more confrontational than one would prefer. As for the adjective, humanitär—well, given the book’s history, we felt it important to label the author’s mission as humanitarian.”

Update—Frankfurt, February 27: Heinrich Labberig, speaking on behalf of Mehliger-Mund Verlag, said it was “quite understandable” that the announcement of the impending publication of Unsere humanitär Aufgabe had occasioned a groundswell of outrage. “For many people,” he said, “the original text has taken on the aura of Holy Writ, and amending it has been likened to burning a religious scroll. But all should be assured that the original will continue to be available, and, in fact, simultaneous with the new version, Mehliger-Mund will be bringing out a deluxe leather-bound edition with the original text. And, of course, its original title, Mein Kampf.”

And so it goes.

As does Twitter, apparently. I’m in the habit of tweeting a link to each newsletter, and I know more than a few of you find it through those links rather than bothering to subscribe. That’s always been fine—but now, with Twitter evidently falling apart, I’m no longer able to tweet anything, or even to read what others tweet. I suppose this will sort itself out eventually, but in the meantime I’ll respectively request that some of you with Twitter access tweet the following: ” @LawrenceBlock March Newsletter: https://lawrenceblock.com/beyond-roald-dahl-and-ian-fleming/