Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Books by Greg Iles
Sometimes a really good book is sitting in front of you for years
and you don't know it, until one day you are looking for something to read and you find it. That is how I discovered
Greg Iles, a best selling author of 15 novels with one on the way. My wife has read a number of books by Greg Iles
over the years and a few of them were sitting on one of our book cases in my man cave, along with many other books
in our joint collection. I knew they were there but I had never even considered reading them because my wife and I tend
to read very different books. I have reading non-fiction almost exclusively for many years and I have returned
to reading novels only within the past year or so. I assumed these books that she bought wouldn't appeal to me.
I was wrong!
Greg Iles has written six
Penn Cage novels. The first five have been published in hardback and paperback. Iles has finished writing the
sixth book. I believe the hardback publication date for number six is set for 2017. I read
the first four of the Penn Cage novels in the order they were published and my wife and I have number five in backlog
for reading during our travels later this year. The six Penn Cage novels are:
1. The Quiet Game
3. The Devil's Punchbowl
4. Natchez Burning
5. The Bone Tree
6. Mississippi Blood (to be published)
The first three books are independent of each other, but share key characters whose interrelationships build
upon those established in the prior books. The author has created tremendous characters, Penn Cage (lawyer, former prosecutor
and novelist), Caitlin Masters (newspaper publisher and Cage's significant other) and more. The residual racial
issues of the 1960s civil rights era are part of the background of each novel.
Books four to six are described as the Natchez Burning Trilogy,
one continuing story that takes three novels to tell. Penn Cage and his family are from Natchez, Mississippi and these
three books deal with characters that connect the civil rights era to late 2005, the time period set in the three novels, "an epic trilogy that
interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present". The characters established in the first three novels
continue to evolve in the Natchez Burning Trilogy. I have only read Natchez Burning so far but I am
definitely looking forward to reading The Bone Tree later this year and Mississippi Blood in 2017.
In addition to the the Penn Cage novels, Iles
has written ten other books. We have several of them in our library. I have read one so far, The Footprints
of God. It was very good. It is described as "a cutting-edge thriller in which the next phase of human
evolution may not be human at all." If you like science and technology and philosophy mixed with action this book
is for you.
I am not sure what I will
be reading next. However, if you are looking for some summer reading material - check out the books by Greg Iles.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
I was going through some old work papers today when I found a
copy of IBM's "New Principles" which are about 30 years old. I don't remember exactly when I cut them out
of some unknown document, but they are as relevant today as they were then. Hopefully, every company, government and
organization lives by principles such as these.
1. The marketplace is the driving force behind everything we do.
2. At our core, we are a technology company with an overriding commitment to quality.
3. Our primary measures of success are customer satisfaction and shareholder value.
4. We operate as an entrepreneurial organization
with a minimum of bureaucracy and a never-ending focus on productivity.
5. We never lose sight of our strategic vision.
6. We think and act with a sense of urgency.
7. Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team.
8. We are sensitive to the needs of all employees and to the communities in
which we operate.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
The Great Escape
Most of us older folks have seen and remember the outstanding 1963
movie The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborourgh, James Garner and many other well known international
movie stars. The movie is based on the book of the same name by former British POW Paul Brickhill. The movie plot
has some major differences from the actual events described in the book.
The story of the escape of 76 Royal Air Force prisoners from a German POW Camp in March of 1944 is one of
amazing courage and incredible ingenuity. I recently reread Brickhill's book. It is incredible story of what people
can do when they have the desire and ability to make something happen even when they are under control of the enemy.
All but three of the escapees were eventually caught after a massive search throughout Germany. The remaining three
made it to freedom. Hitler was so incensed by the escape that he ordered over half the recaptured POWs shot.
The Gestapo executed 50 of the recaptured escapees as they were rounded up and held in a variety of locations after
their failed attempts to escape the country. The British eventually captured most of the Germans responsible for the
executions, tried and executed them in the first few years after the end of WWII.
The story is timeless. It is an example of the incredible capability of men
to adjust to their environment and take decisive action in what seems to be an impossible situation.
To The Fifty.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Atlas Shrugged, the epic novel by Ayn Rand, has sold
almost 9 million copies since it was originally published in 1957. Her masterpiece was written over 12 years beginning
at the end of World War II. When one of my sons moved out a few years ago, he left behind a copy of Atlas Shrugged.
I finally decided to read it, 59 years after it was originally published. After reading the first 200
hundred pages of the 1100 page book, I decided to go to a used book store and buy a copy with larger print to make it
a bit easier to read. It is truly an amazing book.
Atlas Shrugged is one of the most important books ever written. It is important on two levels.
The first is the story itself. The story is amazing. The main characters are extremely interesting.
The second is the presentation of Ms. Rand's philosophy of rational individualism, called "Objectivism". There
is no question that there are many positive attributes of "Objectivism". There are many resources available
for those that are interested in learning more about "Objectivism".
One of the most important aspects of the book is its repudiation of the Marxist,
socialist and communist principle "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Ms.
Rand explores the ultimate destructive impact of this principle on a modern society as a core element of the story.
She explores its effect in detail as she tells the story of a manufacturing company based in Wisconsin that adopts this
principle as the foundation of its operating philosophy. The company ends up destroying itself, its employees lives
and the town that it supports when it fails to recognize that this philosophy leads to disaster when human beings implement
it. Ms. Rand is a native of Russia and survived the Russian Revolution and its aftermath in her youth. She
fully understood the negative impact of this principle from a young age.
Another core element of the story is the presentation of inventors, engineers, scientists, businesspeople, artists,
skilled workers and those that support them as the creators of the benefits of modern life. These are the people that
lead the rest of society forward. The more freedom they have the more they can create for the entire society.
The more they are limited in their actions the more difficult life becomes.
Many people consider Atlas Shrugged as part of the foundational thinking of the Conservative movement
in the United States. There are many aspects of "Objectivism" that are based on reason and logic and are consistent
with the fundamental principles of the United States Constitution. However, like all sets of principles developed by
any one person or small group, some of the thinking is narrow or incomplete. "Objectivism" should be part
of our tool kit of principles, but not the only tool.
It just so happens that the US presidential campaign is in process at the time I read Atlas Shrugged. The
political battle between socialists, conservatives and those somewhere in-between are fully engaged at this point.
In the book key conservatives (inventors, engineers, businesspeople, artists, skilled workers) are outnumbered by
the socialists who abuse their power in attempting to manage the economy and the conservatives decide to go on
strike. Once the most productive members of society go on strike the society fails to function and the economy
fails. The crooked socialist leadership can't fix it. The strikers win, and the book ends as the strikers
start planning to rebuild the US economy.
Hopefully, we won't need to experience the horror portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. But, one can see us moving
down the road if we aren't careful. Some our citizens would say we are well down that road today. We need to create
an effective balance between the freedoms given all of our citizens in our constitution, and the potential negative impact
that one person's actions can have on another person's life. In her book, Ms. Rand describes the actions of "the
looters", government leaders, bad business people, bad scientists and others, as they destroy the economy bit by bit.
We can never allow our political system to be overwhelmed by "the looters" of our era. We can't allow the best
of our society to be looted by our worst. Unfortunately, our society is filled with many looters today.
We must fight to protect our society from "the looters".
Our society should have learned much from Ayn Rand's masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, over the
past 59 years. I think a lot of people need to read it again or for the first time as I did.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
More Ross Macdonald
In a previous blog I talked about the Lew Archer series of detective
novels written by Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar). After rereading all of the Lew Archer novels in recent months,
I reread all six of Ross Macdonald's other novels, which I bought in paperback form in the 1970s. These novels
The Dark Tunnel - 1944
Trouble Follows Me - 1946
Blue City - 1947
Roads - 1948
Meet Me at the Morgue - 1953
The Ferguson Affair - 1960
All of these novels are terrific reads. Each is a form of detective
One of the most interesting
aspects of reading these novels, most published in the late 1940s, is the economics of the era. Salaries are mentioned
for a few jobs. Meal costs are mentioned in some of the books. Costs for a variety of consumer items are mentioned.
For the same salary today or the cost of the same item available today there is a difference of 10 to 15 times, reflecting
the inflation that has occurred during the past 70 years. The combination of the very long actions of the US government
and the Federal Reserve have destroyed the buying power of the US dollar. When was the last time you purchased breakfast
for less than one dollar.
The early novels
were written during or just after World War II. They reflect impacts of the war on the lives of individuals featured
in the novels. Very few people alive today were adults during the war and collectively we have very little appreciation
for magnitude of the impact of the war on everyday life. This is a very interesting side element of the novels.
Not everyone is interesting in reading old
detective novels. I enjoyed all of Ross Macdonald's work in the 1970s when I first discovered them and today
about 40 years later. Maybe you can find them in your local library, in a used book store, antique store
or on-line. They are worth the effort to find and read.