Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bouquets & Brickbats

By Paul Levine

We all get fan mail. These days it's mostly e-mail and fairly predictable. Fragrant bouquets of praise as the writer has touched something in the reader. Why else go to the trouble to pen a note when you could be watching pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting?

Authors never get tired of the compliments. My favorite mail, however, is the offbeat and the unusual. Give me the whiny complainer or the galoot swinging the brickbat, and you've made my day.

Herewith, some actual excerpts, pro and con, from recent e-mail, along with my replies.
I believe the books are getting thinner? What’s up with that?
Publishers stopped paying by the word.
I'm now an ex-fan of your books. I liked your Jake Lassiter series, but don't know why you see the need to turn to vulgarity, poor language, bad spelling, and ridiculous dialogue. No woman can stand a man whose every phrase tries to be a joke, like your Mr. Solomon does.

No wonder Renee gives me grief. Wait! There's more.
Keep on laughing all the way to the bank, Mr. Levine, and on your way there, stop at the post office and mail me the $9.00 that I threw away on your “Deep Blue Alibi” trash, that I put in the garbage pail after the first pages I suffered.
It was only $6.99, but I’ll send you a check if you give me your address. This offer not valid in Alaska.
Enjoyed “The Deep Blue Alibi” so much and will look for others you have written. BUT...I do have one question about something that really caught my attention! Where in Florida can we find a coral snake that is as "thick as her wrist"?

In back of my old house, on a canal, Tagus Avenue, Coral Gables, FL.
I've read all four of the "Solomon vs. Lord" novels and now you've resurrected my long ago Bar Mitzvah association with Hebrew and Yiddish expressions. Your use of ethnic humor, sayings, have brought your characters to life for me.
--Stuart (Marietta, GA)

A sheynem dank, Stuart.
My husband is recovering from some serious brain injury, due in part to your books. He reads every night, and I love to hear him laugh out loud (uncharacteristically) as he enjoys the characters and their misadventures.

Janet (Angel Fire, NM)

I see a lawsuit brewing here.
Re: "Trial & Error." I wonder why you thought it appropriate to insult a portion of your customers by calling people that buy Rush Limbaugh's book a derogatory name? It seemed so out of place since no where else do you take a shot at anyone else's political beliefs. Do you hate Rush so much that you're willing to insult a portion of your customers just for the satisfaction of taking a shot at him?
--Don (Virginia Beach, VA)

Can't you write any faster????? :-)

No. :-)
I started “Solomon vs. Lord” on a flight to Paris Tuesday evening. Finished it Thursday.
--Jeff (Bethesda, MD)

That’s how you spent Wednesday in Paris?
How come Solomon and Lord don't have a TV series?
--Eric (Los Angeles)

I will forward your question to Les Moonves and ask for a speedy reply.
Will there be any more Jake Lassiter novels?
--Liz (Houston, TX)

I'm not sure, but if I had a nickel for every person who asked this question, I’d have...oh...maybe sixty-five cents.
Is it because I am a woman who loves men with balls and character that I so miss Jake Lassiter's stories? Or is it because I love writers who are tremendously creative, brilliant and have an amazing sense of humour, that again I do miss Jake Lassiter? “Solomon vs Lord” brings disappointment in me. Too much "copy and paste" of Moonlighting. Reading “Kill All the Lawyers” took me few hours and when I put the book aside, the lady was still on her appetite.
--Danielle (Montreal)

Okay, make that seventy cents. Daniele, I have several single male friends with balls, but alas no character, who are dying to meet you.
"Solomon vs. Lord" is the funniest South Florida novel since Carl Hiaasen's “Tourist Season.”
--Andrew (Dallas, TX)

So...you're saying there's a funnier Central Florida novel?
I enjoyed “Kill All the Lawyers.” However, in the final scene on the boat, I couldn't understand how Steve Solomon could swing a gaff with his hands tied behind his back.

Because....uh....well...he....sort of...when we weren’t looking...got one hand out...and.... Oh shit!!!!

Thanks, folks. Keep those cards and letters and e-mail coming. Feel free to send along a box of pretzels or chocolates, too.

The sassy and classy bestselling thriller writer Gayle Lynds ("The Last Spymaster") had this to say at last weekend's meeting of the Mystery Writers of America, Southern California chapter. "I can't imagine a good writer having had a happy childhood."

Agree or disagree, folks?



  1. Paul,
    Sorry for asking for a refund. You're right, I didn't pay nine bucks.


  2. Sorry no chocolates or pretzels; but where can I send you and all those in Happy Valley, a years supply of verjuice? What happened to that "fierce" defense? The Buckeyes never punted. The only bright spot was that late 4th quarter kickoff return for a touchdown. The Lions didn't roar, heck the kittens didn't even meow....what they did get was a "slap back into reality."
    "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."


  3. Re Gayle Lynds's quote, I agree to some extent. I had a happy childhood and still find myself drawn to write, and to cut as much BS from my writing as I can.

    Even the most positive people wish they'd handled one thing or another differently, wish they had more talent in some area. These are the gaps imagination almost subconsciously fills, and where writing in particular begins.

  4. So tell us, Bloggers, did you have a happy childhood?
    Paul, how does Solomon & Lord play in Iowa with your Yiddish expressions?

    The Queen

  5. I don't see how anyone can have a happy childhood, making Gayle's question moot.

  6. I was an adult before I discovered that a completely happy childhood was a myth. Who knew?

  7. I live in hope that I will someday prove the truth of Tom Robbins' assertion that "it's never too late to have a happy childhood."

    My parents have had several apiece. How hard can it be?

    If there's some sort of familial quota system, however, I am totally screwed.

  8. Jon,
    I wasn't surprised Penn State lost. (I had advised a heavy bettor friend to give the 3 points, which seemed awfully low). I was surprised, however, that the defense played so poorly.

    My opinion is this. Penn State's lousy record against Michigan and (to a lesser degree) Ohio State all boils down to recruiting. I reach this conclusion from the tail end of the equation.

    I ask: how many of your players are drafted by the NFL? Generally, it's the big-name recruits who, 4 or 5 years later, become the star players who then are drafted by the NFL.

    (Don't tell me about the exceptions. I know. I know. And they're still the exceptions).

    So here is the most significant recruiting fact you need to know about Buckeyes, the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions:

    NFL draft choices in the last decade: OSU 67, Michigan 47, Penn State 36.

  9. Your Royal Highness, the Queen...

    Would it surprise you to learn that there are many Balebatisheh yiden in Iowa?

  10. Are we talking first or second childhood?

    Oh, and how can you pick the Wolverines in the NFL.....they are the ones reading the playbook without moving their lips.


  11. Not sure what your point is....It would follow that the best teams have the best players who then, in tern, have the best chance of being drafted in the NFL.

    Notre Dame, allegedly, has an "excellent recruiting class," year in and year out......But do I want their record this year?
    Low and behold, according to http://drafthistory.com/n_college/college_n.html

    Colleges With Most Draft Picks
    College Number
    Notre Dame 457
    USC 439
    Ohio State 380
    Oklahoma 330
    Nebraska 325
    Michigan 324
    Tennessee 317
    Penn State 310
    Texas 307
    Miami (FL) 290
    Florida 284
    Michigan State 282
    UCLA 282

    Of course this isn't just in the last decade......if the numbers were for only that time bracket, perhaps there are proportionately Fighting Irish, Trojans,Bruins,Canes or Gators.

    So what?
    It often comes down to how you play, on the field, on a given day.


  12. So, Yoda's reading your books in Montreal?

    "Paul Levine's books, I am, in Montreal, reading, yes."

    As for that classy and sassy lady, Gayle, I've often wondered about this statement. My feeling is, all things being relative, childhoods probably aren't all that happy.

  13. Jon,
    I'm not claiming that draft picks are anything more than one indicator of a team's prowess.

    And you're right. Those "lifetime" picks lose some of their meaning in 2007. Latecomer Florida State isn't listed. Notre Dame is a "puzzlement," as the King of Siam might say. They're still getting 4 and 5 stars, as you suggest, but falling apart and even in good years, unable to win a bowl game.

    Miami started cleaning up in the 80's, hence the lower total numbers in the lifetime picks.

    Without crunching the numbers, I believe if you went back 5 or 6 years to make the picks relevant to today's programs, you'd find USC, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida at the top, though perhaps not in that order.

    And there will ALWAYS be some, albeit fewer, big surprises. Penn State's Paul Pozluzney, two-time Butkus winner, now with the Buffalo Bills, was relatively unheralded coming out of high school. Examples abound, though becoming rarer.

    Jeez, I love the smell of college football in the morning!

  14. Paul Pozluzney certainly was "the man" in college....he's got a hard road to hoe with the Bills.

    My point essentially, all those programs spend a boat load of $$ on their respective programs. So, I couldn't understand your "recruiting" argument. It always come down to who's gonna bring it and come to play.....Look at those PSU conference wins that came three in a row.
    The Badgers shot themselves in the foot on the first play and never recovered. Iowa, a game which I didn't see, waited until two weeks later to show their "talent." Indiana's game with PSU was entertaining and certainly could have gone the other way.OSU wanted it and "needed" it more....they brought their game and as I said, "smacked PSU back into reality" and out of the top 25.

    This year we've seen a number of "upsets" of top 25 teams. There is a litany of reasons why those "upsets" happen......sometimes, simply because the favoured team [ranked] never deserved the rank to begin with. In my opinion, it general comes down to the individual mentality [make the big play or at least execute properly] and the team mentality [handling the adversities that happen throughout the game----turnovers .."bad calls"]. Throw the stats out, because it will always come down to how a team performs on that given day in that given day.


  15. Correction: "on that given day,in that given game"