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October 11, 2013


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Screw Gannett and the billboards they rode in on.

In related news, Cox Newspapers cutting photo staff, notably at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where there will be five photo staffers for a major metropolitan newspapers. A real shame.
Photographers were the first mobile journalists - they were reporting with laptops, cell phones, satellite phones and digital cameras over ten years ago.


Valley of the Clan still has FAUX NEWS to watch. What 's the big deal?

Jon, I am one of your readers that would just as soon if you never mentioned the Arizona Republic. The Russians have better news as does Al Jazeera.


ROUGE news

See what happens when we let Dennis Rodman be an ambassador to North Korea!
Wanta go AZREB? I buy the coffee.

I learned to read the paper because my dad,an 8 yr. WWII vet and GED grad,read the paper every day.Unfortunately,my kids didn't pick up the gene and get their news from the corporate media on TV and the web,where the idea of news is to have 2 partisans duke it out while the reporter acts as M.C.Subsequently,everything is pre-determined by whichever news bubble they listen or watch

.I guess the fact that I am writing this while I watch a recorded TV show(so I can skip the commercials) foretells the future of newspapers.

miked85284, Put the tv in the alley and the kindle. U can check onto your puter a couple of times a week at the library to read Rogue and see if the world ended. Get a book and read it or go climb a mountain. Take a small book made out of cloth or paper, U can read it on the mountain and use it to start a fire with if U get lost. Its almost Saturday and I think I can see Mexico from here as the moon is really bright, tonite.

...I think I can see Mexico from here as the moon is really bright, tonite.
cal, you anglin' for VP on the GOP ticket?

Newspapers have been going gently into that dark night for many years now. Like Miked85284, I learned to love the press through my father. He put himself through school with the GI bill he earned as a marine in the South Pacific, became a commercial artist for the Plain Dealer and Beacon Journal in Ohio, then continued as a freelancer for the Republic and Gazette when we moved to Phoenix in the early 1950s.

The decline of newspapers is, in many ways, very like Dad's slow stumble through Alzheimers to his death seven years ago -- at least it feels that way to me. Bits keep falling away -- lost forever -- and the patient hardly seems aware: a comic strip here, community news there, that second edition which was so critical for correcting the paper's course through the day's events. For Dad, the most heartbreaking aspect of the progression of his disease was the loss of his sense of utility to his family and friends. He knew it was gone, but couldn't figure out why or where it went.

Undeniably, news dailies fulfilled a vital function in our communities until recent decades. We see their illness at work, know its inevitable course, but as yet, we have no name for the vital spark they provided, nor are we able to quantify why the spark is lacking in our electronic infotainment and social media.

Petro, Naw Im just enjoying the green tamales at the Jardines De Mexico and bantering with Chapo and the boys.

Chapo he dont fear nutting except the US leaglizing Cheva. But he says he has the top dude greased so, whats to fear?

I could not get Los hombres to talk about an old aquaintance of theirs,

about the murder of Kiki Carmena a DEA agent,28 years ago in Mexico. Mexican wisdom is that the CIA had the DEA Agent tortured by the Mexican version of the CIA and he died.

Nice writing Phoenixhomesteads. I delivered the Republic from 1950 to 1968. Lots of good memories. Like delivering to Don Dedera's house on top of the hill on 16th Street. And Republic employee Mr. Winter down the hill.And delivering to John Jacobs on top of Moon Mountain and the Biltmore estates, and Deer Valley Airport among many. Maybe more later go to run.

Cheva? Cal, that's old school junkie talk. Mexican mud.

You nailed it, phoenixhomesteads. I am sorry that your family suffered through your father's decline, and I am sorry the newspaper business lost its way. I left after 30 years. It was just too hard to bear anymore.

My Dad worked for the R&G (as a linotype operator) when we first moved to Phoenix in 1950. I threw the paper at homes from '57 to '62.
Got the "read it every day " habit from then and it still remains; though I have to make do with the WaPo now. Looking at the "news" on a screen just isn't the same.
Every time I visit AZ, I'm amazed how far the "Republic" has sunk.

After a year of traveling, Dutch writer Niels Gerson Lohman wanted to visit New Orleans, the city that his father – who died a year ago – had a great love for. The U.S. customs officials thought different.

Reading the newspaper used tobe taught in school. You learned how articles were placed togher and how they were chosen. Papers are much more interesting than our electronic devices. On the other hand, the paper is not instant. The Republic has always had thereputation of being cheap to the reporters and getting rid of them when they have theexperience and chops to ask questions. Part of thereason Rogue is no longer here. Reporting, and getting paid for it, is transforming. It will be a bumpy road, but it will work out eventually.

JSNO, I am 73 plus. I was a Narc twice 30 plus years ago. In 59 I was a plaster and Rudy my hod carrier was murdered by a couple of Phoenix brothers in the Heroin business, that he was transporting Cheva for on the weekends.
Rudy was a six foot four inch tall handsome Mexican in really good shape. He was identified by the Virgin Mary Tattoo that covered his entire back when they dug him out of his shallow desert grave.

The trucks I hauled newspapers in U could wash the inside of the cab with a garden hose to clean out the newsprint ink away. The smell still lingers in my memory. and talking about the long haul. Hurley is still hauling the Republic.

Mike: I believe the Republic did not go all out for Don Bolles after he was murdered by idiot thugs. And they ran my pal Al Sitter into early retirement and then let the kooks shape their thinking about Talton.

So I dont read the Repulsive.

Re JSNO and "Mexican Mud and old junkie" and drug talk. In the plastering trade hod carriers made "mud"to be trowled into walls. A coincidence probably.

Speaking of mysteries... Reviewing Mr. Talton's first David Mapstone Mystery, "Concrete Desert":

I'm always on the lookout for your books but seldom come across them at the bargain basement prices I prefer when book hunting. So when I walked up to a particularly affordable second-hand collection and saw your name on the spine of a book I hadn't read, I yanked it off the shelf like someone who'd spotted a First Folio at the local garage sale.

It's an absolutely beautiful ("very fine", as a collector would say) hardcover first edition of Concrete Desert published by Thomas Dunne Books. It's even signed by the author, "To Joyce, with warm regards". Well, Joyce's loss is my gain.

I just started it this morning but already I like it. The first two paragraphs are the quintessence of Southwestern Urban Noir.

I like the details: the 1956 Newport (Ellington) concert on the CD player...a glass of Bombay Sapphire...a Marlborough Light -- not "jazz", "a martini", and "a cigarette"; somehow the specifics make the scenes more real than generic category descriptions.

The character descriptions (both narrative and dialogue emergent) are very good, particularly Chief Deputy Peralta, whose mannerisms, body language, dress, sour and salty observations, priorities and values are so crisply and believably limned in the space of one short chapter that I found myself able to visualize him. Dead on.

The procedural realism that emerges naturally in the course of that same second chapter earns you very high marks from me, and I'm a tough critic. Most detective novels fall into two categories, both inferior: most of them rely on style but lack substance; a small number are realistic but lack style and are dry as dust; it's rare to find one with both virtues, and Concrete Desert, at least through Chapter Three (where I stopped to write this) manages to combine them: congratulations!

A related weakness of most detective novels featuring an amateur (or in this case, semi-amateur) sleuth is how he could realistically become involved to begin with, much less succeed where professional police failed. Concrete Desert does an excellent job setting up a believable premise while tantalizing the reader with two major mysteries within the first three chapters.

Missing persons cases involving adults and lacking indications of foul play do indeed tend to receive short-shrift from the police. David Mapstone's former active-duty sheriff's deputy experience combined with strong, continuing departmental ties, as well as close personal ties to the sister of the missing person, gives ample reason why she should contact Mapstone after the police lose interest, believing that he has pull within the department.

Decades old cold-cases are also a low priority for the police. Mapstone's research skills as a professional historian with strong local knowledge, his (decades old) procedural training and experience as a sheriff's deputy, and his relationship with Peralta, a highly placed former mentor and trainer who is eager to solve a cold-case with possible political dividends for the department and for his boss the sheriff, make it believable that the busy Chief Deputy might toss a cold-case bone into Mapstone's lap as a way to play a long-shot.

As for Mapstone's chances of success where the police failed, they've blown off the missing person case after establishing the background facts; and regarding the cold-case, Mapstone notes that despite "some of the finest evidence technicians and detectives in the country" in a "state of the art homicide investigation", the forensic techniques of 1957 were fairly primitive; and Mapstone's time in law enforcement taught him that "every case contains threads that nobody has the time or inclination to pull" and that he would be satisfied to pull just one of them.

Mission accomplished in setting up the premises of a believable and compelling story (it just doesn't get any better than this in detective novels), and there are more details fleshing it out than I have room for here (the visit to the building where very old, non-computerized police records are kept is plausible and a logical first step in Mapstone's investigation).

I don't want to overpraise a book I haven't even finished, and it's possible that later chapters will revert to the lack of basic realism and common sense so typical of the genre of detective fiction; but kudos for a great start.

Moving on to the author, it was ironic to find Mapstone living in a house in the Willo district -- a house that he needed to sell and find a new job. I'm not sure about the timing of your exodus from Phoenix, though the dust jacket does say (July 2001) that you "currently" work as a columnist for the Arizona Republic.

I really like the dust jacket photo of the author: a vigorous, joyful man in the prime of life, clearly pleased as punch about the publication of his first novel and much else as well, including the new marriage mentioned in the book's acknowledgments. Though the book pulls no punches in expressing the author's dissatisfaction with the changing environs of Phoenix, it is also less embittered and takes time to stop and appreciate the "big-sky beautiful days in Phoenix, when the bare desert mountains in every direction were sharply defined by the intense light of the unencumbered sun". (Alas, "were" is now the operative term: as the author and others have since noted, the accumulation of pollutant haze in the intervening dozen years has not been kind to the Phoenix skyline, though sunny skies are still the norm.)

The author's struggle with cigarette addiction (I infer a recently kicked habit) comes through both in the wistful response to Julie's lighting up (p. 3) and in the cautionary example of the tracheostomy patient with the vocorder (p. 17).

Concrete Desert (Review, Part II)

For nearly the first half of the book, the author was way ahead of his competition. The reader is drawn in by an intriguing pair of parallel mysteries, cleverly presented using fine, reflective writing shaped with verve and style, that makes the characters (including the unusual protagonist) seem compelling and true. Along the way, local history is brought to life and seamlessly integrated, adding layers of richness to the plot.

Unfortunately, the author ultimately succumbs to the nearly universal failing of writers in the detective novel genre, where realism and common sense are seldom sustained for the length of a work and often jettisoned in the service of melodrama.

Of course, "realism" in fiction is a relative term and detective novels must be seasoned to taste with it, lest they become dry procedurals sacrificing entertainment on the altar of truth; and Talton does an excellent job balancing these elements nearly through the first half of the book. What I object to are plot elements so jarringly at odds with good sense that they disrupt my "suspension of disbelief", taking me right out of the book.

The first real problem I noticed -- not a deal-breaker but a disturbing foretaste of what was to come -- was in Chapter 14 where, very early in a high-profile murder investigation of a crime that took place in another county's jurisdiction, and apparently without consulting with police or prosecutors who had jurisdiction, MCSO Deputy Chief Peralta applies to a judge for an arrest warrant, with zero evidence, merely because an acquaintance of the victim informs Deputy Mapstone that she is going into hiding because she feels that her life is also in danger. I can see a "want for questioning" as a "person of interest" given the relationships and circumstances involved, but someone with Peralta's experience and position shouldn't be acting like Barney Fife.

Where the novel actually went off the rails for me was Chapter 17, where the book's (overall) credible and intriguing plotting is blown away in a spasm of careless melodrama.

First, the spectacle of a professional hit-man walking into the food court of a crowded indoor mall with a submachinegun in his hands (no coat since his tank-top and musculature were in evidence and no dufflebag reported). A submachinegun equipped with a silencer (yeah, that'll make it discrete). To kill a cop. A cop that the gunman has to look for or wait for while holding the submachinegun in the mall's central atrium. A submachinegun that he fires from within a crowd. At close range. Twice. And misses both times (absolutely nobody hit, much less the target). And when it jams a third time the gunman runs, not into a waiting getaway car outside the nearby mall entrance, but deeper into the mall.

What really made the scene inexplicable is that earlier in the book the author (and seemingly the hired killer) shows how it would actually be done by a pro: By surprise, at a location where the presence of the target can be predicted ahead of time, staked out, and an ambush laid; with no fanfare and, at most, only accidental witnesses; possibly at night when most are asleep or otherwise occupied behind residential walls; perhaps even with a bomb in or under the target's car. But not this way.

In the aftermath, a Phoenix PD deputy chief appearing on scene offers the ridiculous suggestion that the shooter with a silencer equipped fully-automatic weapon might have been "a disgruntled employee" at the mall "or maybe he was pissed because his wife was out at one of those nightspots with another man". Mapstone follows up with a wisecrack about the IQs of city cops. This kind of dialogue transforms a police drama into a Punch & Judy show. Mr. Talton is obviously too smart for this, and so is the reader.

And yet, this is followed, late in the same chapter, with some of the most interesting, introspective writing in the book. It's not the last gem of good writing in the novel.

Nor the last instance of weak plotting. Why, in Chapter 25, does a successful political survivor, who is slated to become the state's next governor, confess all to a working sheriff's deputy when confronted with the ambiguous fact that he was observed meeting with someone known to work as hired muscle, instead of clamming up faster than a tetanus victim with lockjaw, or even suavely explaining it away? A few drinks at lunch can only go so far where a successful and savvy politician's personal and career instincts are involved. Some of the dialogue is very good as social commentary but is rather unbelievable as a personal confession. Yet I LOVE the way this chapter ends.

Just to show I'm not a spoilsport when it comes to "romantic" action scenes, I thought the gunplay in Chapter 26 was better than Zane Grey, as the magnificent and mysterious Harrison Wolfe appears for a second time to "draw against the drop" before disappearing into the night.

The resolution of the Stokes case made me feel that the author hadn't played fair with his red-herrings. Why the body had all the M.O.s that appeared in unpublished police reports of the period (but which never appeared in media accounts of the period), including vaginal bruising consistent with rape, is never satisfactorily explained. (I don't want to give away too much here, so a detailed discussion is out of the question.) Why, for that matter, were no vehicle tracks nearby? Were they washed away by rains? Did the killer carry the body on foot over long distances? Were there railway lines passing nearby?

Anyway, lots of great writing, including some noir-isms that might have flowed from the pens of the masters ("About five feet separated me from Townsend and the small black automatic he was holding. And that became my world, a small, hard place to live."), along with some fine and convinving characterizations and a plot whose initial development benefitted from impressive creative realism, garners this book a B+ despite the flaws.

Incidentally, here's a great noir-song, perfect for a Mapstone novel. (Natalie Cole singing lyrics by Billy Strayhorn and an arrangement by Johnny Mandel): Lush Life.


Sorry for the 15 second ad and the brief lull before the music starts, but the audio quality of this one seems reasonably good and I don't have the online time to search further today.

The apple.
Gee whiz, Emil what a generously (B plus) well documented critique of “Concrete Desert.” Since I don’t know who U R or what your qualifications might be to make such endearing comment I must assume that in your development you have acquired sufficient data input to qualify you to make professional observations of many things. Science reports that the current David 8 program has included sensitivity and that the download to older models has gone well.
I have read all of Mr. Jon Talton's novels and I must admit I failed to evaluate the author skills and the only thing I disagree with while enjoying his stories is his dependence on a large revolver as opposed to a Glock. Although I have acquired this new knowledge you provided I will try not and let it interfere in my enjoyment of Mr. Jon Talton’s future novels.
Locked and Loaded.

Thanks for having my back, Cal, but I think Emil's review is fair, perceptive, and interesting. It's always welcome when a reader/critic really attempts to engage with the book you tried to write. Please, hold me to high standards. And do so with erudite writing. Thank you. (See a one-star review of one of my books on Amazon as a soul-killing alternative).

I wrote "Concrete Desert" in 1995. As an author, in so many ways, I didn't know what I didn't know. To be sure, it was well-reviewed in many places ("A stunning debut," said Kirkus). But today I would write the book very differently. I have become a better cabinet-maker.

Now I have laid down the first couple of thousand words of what, god willing, will be the eighth Mapstone...and I am more aware of my limitations than ever. Probably more so. But an author has to stand and deliver.

My favorite Mapstone, I think, is "South Phoenix Rules." It is the most accomplished. But readers are advised to have read at least one of the first five in the series first. I also have a soft spot for "Cactus Heart," and, outside the Mapstone series, "Deadline Man."

Jon, I found Emil's critique to be extremely well done and informative. I don't really have a way to compare how "fair" it is. I have been reading for 70 years and have not given much thought to do analytical critiques of author’s works. I did once re-write the last chapter of a Joseph Wambaugh novel.
I either like it and read more or don't like it and move on to something else.
I just finished “Once upon a time a Great Notion, ” by Ken Kesey. I found it to be a moving, rhythmic and a very absorbing story.
While waiting for your eighth novel I am planning on re-reading from Here to Eternity by James Jones. Also currently I am re- exploring American Black writers and have plans to read Alice Munro, George Sands and Anne Desclos .
Keep Scribbling.

Ever heard of Eric von Lustbader?

I had no idea we were supposed to be doing book reports on Jon's books.


Reb,U think U and I live in a different universe. with e e cummings

I get that feeling.

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