South African Anti-Apartheid Activist Stephen Biko Died in Police Custody Forty Years Ago Today

After Stephen Biko’s death following a brutal police interrogation in 1977, an atrocity that the South African government tried covering up, the anti-apartheid newspaper editor Donald Woods, who’d known Biko, quickly wrote and smuggled out of the country a manuscript* that was his combined biography of Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) he’d been a key leader of, and an exposé on the case. The book added fuel to the controversy in Western countries about the conduct of the corrupt regime. It was an amazingly timely and powerful book, and instilled in me a love for ripped-from-the-headlines books, the sort that I’ve been partial to ever since. Biko was published in 1978 around the time my siblings and parents and I were getting ready to open our bookstore, Undercover Books, and it was among the first books I ordered for our opening stock. With the scandal that ensued from Biko’s death, ownership of Woods’s book became a crime in South Africa. I was very proud we sold many copies in Cleveland. Woods lived many years in Britain, and was still on the scene when Nelson Mandela finally became free.

*When I said above that Donald Woods smuggled his manuscript for Biko out of South Africa, I could’ve added that he carried it out himself, in clandestine fashion, so it could be published in the West. He and his family fled the country in a land cruiser sort of vehicle, in back country, crossing a frontier to a neighboring country where there was no guard post. A brave man with nerves of steel.

 

Strike Back at the Trump Administration’s Cruelty—Donate to Solar Cookers International!

Cooking with wood and other combustible fuels causes many health problems for children and adults in developing countries. As this story in Think Progress chronicles, going back to the George W. Bush administration, the US government has participated in and contributed to a UN program that provides clean cookstoves, either cookers that burn combustible fuels more cleanly by venting them adequately, or solar cookers as pictured here. However, the Trump administration recently pulled out of this clean cookstove program because it mentions climate change, and the very mention of that phrase is now forbidden by Trump officials. Learning about this, I got angry. But my anger quickly turned to inspiration, as I thought of the example of a friend, Jim Hanas, who’d recently done a fundraiser to mark his birthday. He inspired me to ask friends and contacts to help me mark my birthday on Sept 22 by donating to support the efforts of Solar Cookers International. Solar cookers, which cost less than $40, can help people live much more economically and healthfully. The campaign goal is $500 and fundraising on my Facebook page will continue through Sept 29. Please consider donating to this effort. No contribution is too small to help make a difference. Thanks a lot! 

Trump’s BLM Wants to Let Wild Horses in the West Die So Cattle, and Cattlemen, Can Flourish

Publishers Weekly says Amy Knight’s ORDERS TO KILL is ‘A Vital Work for Understanding Modern-day Russia’

September update: Kirkus gave a starred review to ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder

Gratified by this first review of my literary agency client Amy Knight’s ORDERS TO KILL: The Putin Regime and Political Murder. Publishers Weekly says “This is a vital work for understanding modern-day Russia.” Linked to here at the PW site and in the screenshot below (r.).


Last month I shared all the blurbs at an earlier post, including this one from Bill Browder: “Amy Knight’s [new book] builds a compelling case against the Putin regime for its complicity in the violent deaths of many of its critics—political opponents, muckraking journalists, and reform advocates. It also destroys the myth that we in the West can appease Putin to get him to behave himself.”—Bill Browder, author of Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

Remembrance Rock, a Veritable Time Capsule at City College, Upper Manhattan

On a recent bike ride I happened upon Remembrance Rock on the upper Manhattan campus of City College, commemorating students who died in American wars. A lugubrious history respectfully memorialized in public space. A sadly fitting homage, to bring soil from the places where service members died to this spot on the island New Yorkers call home, and mingle it with soil from historic places in the city. A kind of time capsule committed to the ground in 1959, , among the things I’d never known about my own city.

 

 

The full text of the Whitmanesque message can be read easily by clicking here:

#RemembranceRock

Lawrence Ellsworth, Ushering in a New Heyday for Classic Adventure Fiction

Readers of this blog may recall that one of the authors I represent on the literary agency side of my business is Lawrence Schick, who under the pen name Lawrence Ellsworth has served as anthologist and editor of The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, and translator of Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Red Sphinx, an all but forgotten sequel to The Three Musketeers.

The two books were published by Pegasus Books in 2014 and 2017, respectively. The long-lost novel—which was praised by Washington Post critic Michael Dirda as an “Excellent, compulsively readable translation”—has been so successful that Pegasus later acquired from us the rights to Ellsworth’s new translation of The Three Musketeers, a sparkling, modern translation of Dumas’s classic adventure novel, which they will publish on January 2, 2018. 

With all the praise and interest that Ellsworth’s enterprise of reviving adventure fiction has attracted, Literary Hub assigned journalist Dwyer Murphy to do a profile of him for its readers. The result is a fascinating profile that touches on swords, fencing (author and interviewer visited a fencing academy in Harlem), knights errant, role-playing games (Schick was an original team member of the outfit that created Dungeons & Dragons), and other matters. Linked to here, you can also read the first few paragraphs in the screenshot below. I am delighted to be representing such a talented client as Lawrence. If you or someone you know enjoys adventure fiction, I recommend you check out his outstanding work.

Vicki Huddleston, former top US diplomat on Cuba, on the Letters Page of the NY Times

Very proud of my author client Vicki Huddleston—former head of the United States Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, 1999-2002—who has this letter to the editor running in the NY Times today on the Trump administration’s reversal of President Obama’s Cuba policy. Her book, Our Woman in Havana: A US Diplomat’s Inside Account of America’s Long Struggle With Fidel Castro’s Cuba, will be published by Overlook Press in 2018. Here’s the letter, and you can also find it via this link

Some Social Sharing I Did on Canada Day

In May 2014, soon after I began to publish and write my second website/blog, Honourary Canadian: Seeing Canada From Away, I wrote and assembled a personal essay titled “Why I Started this Blog and Call it Honourary Canadian.” It chronicles more than forty years of trips to Canada, first as a 12-year old traveling from Cleveland to Expo ’67 in Montreal, to many solo vacations when I was single and first working in NYC, to many trips with my wife and son, and since 2011, annual visits to Toronto for the NXNE music festival and for publishing activities, especially with author Elaine Dewar. The essay is longish, with almost 8,000 words of narrative text and more than 200 captioned photos, many taken on film back in the day, and scanned for the web.I’ll some day hope to fashion it as part of a book about Canada, seen from away. Having the chance to publish the essay is, in a sense, probably why I started the second site—to conjure up the experiences and landscapes I encountered in the nation to the north.

Canada Day 2017 was observed this past Saturday, on July 1 (sometime, I have to find out why US Independence Day, and Canada’s day, happen to be so close on the calendar). It was sort of a special one, as the 150th since Canada’s confederation. Many Indigenous groups weren’t keen to celebrate it, but it engendered widespread coverage, and debate about Canada’s colonialist past, a good thing. With the special anniversary in mind, I re-shared the link to the 2014 post on my  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn page, the first time I’ve done that on a Canada Day. There’s been a gratifying response, so I’m posting it here, too. Before I started the second site—no surprise—I published a lot of Canadian reflections here on The Great Gray Bridge.