“Our Woman in Havana,” New Cuba Book I’m Excited to be Agenting

It’s very good to see my literary agency client Vicki Huddleston is quoted in Jon Lee Anderson’s first look at Cuba since the death of Fidel Castro. Ms. Huddleston, whose background includes service as US Ambassador in Mali and Madagascar, worked in US-Cuba relations for almost fifteen years, serving as U.S. charge d’affaires in Cuba during the Clinton Administration, and three years as Chief of the US Interests Section in Havana under George W. Bush, our ambassador there in all but name. Vicki and I were just putting the final touches on the proposal for her book, to be titled Our Woman in Havana, when word came last week of Castro’s death. We’re finalizing it now, and I will begin presenting the book to publishers very soon. Here’s a screenshot of Anderson’s New Yorker article and a link to the whole story, plus a picture of Vicki from her Twitter, where her handle is @vickihuddleston. Watch this space for more info on her book. 

Grieving the 2016 Election, and Looking Ahead to What’s Next

healthcareIn the heat of the just-concluded presidential campaign, I took some time away from this blog to focus on volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and trying to help her win the presidency. Alas, it didn’t happen. I am saddened and angry at the outcome, but am starting to feel reinvigorated, largely by fear at the prospect of a President Trump. I will be using The Great Gray Bridge to help me push back against him and his administration. I’ve begun today by starting a petition on Change.org, urging my two senators from NY State, Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, to protect the healthcare coverage for millions of Americans, including the expansion for access to Medicaid that we’ve enjoyed the past few years. If you support this view, please sign the petition which you’ll find at this link. Onward, friends.

Keeping Up with Editorial Work & the News, or Trying To

I believe today is the most I’ve ever felt that I have far, far more on my plate than I can read for work—which is reading and editing book proposals and manuscripts— plus what I feel compelled to read and follow of current events, politics, and news. “What’s going on,” indeed, as the Marvin Gaye song goes. Also, I work on a lot of current affairs and topical nonfiction material, and blog here about the news—if less than usual of late—so all those paths meet and cross in me.

I just finished reading Jane Mayer’s impressive New Yorker article out today, “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All,” the inside story of Tony Schwartz, who was hired to write Trump: The Art of the Deal, Trump’s first book, which was published by Random House in 1992. Schwartz massively regrets doing his job too well, by making the putative author much more appealing than he really is. It’s possibly the single most devastating indictment of Trump I’ve read. Period. That’s why I’m sharing it here.

Now back to reading and editing the introduction to a new anthology of horror literature from America’s Colonial times that I’m going to be representing as literary agent. It will feature great authors from the 17th and 18th centuries who wrote then in an emerging horror genre. The subject seems pretty apt for the moment, right?

The Weakness of Sanders’ Candidacy is Typified by His Failure to Boost John Fetterman, or Even Know Who He Was

As you can see from my tweets, I followed the fate of PA Democrat Senate contender John Fetterman, the Mayor of Braddock, PA, a down-on-its-luck former steel town near Pittsburgh, whom I liked a lot and to whom I sent contributions. He came in third Tuesday night with 20% of the vote (nearly 300,000 votes), where Katie McGinty (43%) and Joe Sestak (33%) came in #1 and #2, but the rest of the story is what I found most telling. Fetterman had endorsed Sanders in January, staking his longshot run on what I’m sure he hoped might be Bernie’s rise in PA, and I don’t doubt, a genuine enthusiasm for Sanders’ candidacy. In turn, I imagine he hoped for an endorsement, shared fundraising, invitations to share the stage at rallies, etc. Instead, he never got so much as a nod or an acknowledgment from Sanders, and in this town hall interview with Chris Hayes the day before the primary it became evident that Sanders didn’t even know who Fetterman was:

HAYES: So there’s — there’s other folks, um, who have been running — talking about some of those same things. Um, you’ve — you’ve endorsed a few of them, raised money for a few of them.
There’s a guy here in — in Pennsylvania named John Fetterman. He’s the mayor of a town named Braddock.
HAYES: I had him on the show, an interesting guy. The town has had a really hard time because of trade, because of the steel industry essentially dying.
He endorsed you. He says he feels basically like he’s a — sitting there without a — with a corsage, waiting for the — (INAUDIBLE) the Sanders mutual endorsement.
SANDERS: Well, I — I honestly don’t know John and I’ve heard just a little bit about him. Um, what we are trying to do now, we have endorsed and gotten some money to some candidates and I hope they win. I just don’t know enough about, uh, John, to be honest with you.
Bernie never lifted a finger for a candidate who would’ve been precisely the sort of peoples’ representative he would need in office were he to actually be elected president. Instead, Fetterman was plainly never on the radar of Sanders or his staff. This is unsurprising, given the narrow focus of the Sanders campaign, but a pity nonetheless.
John Fetterman

Three New Books I’ve Agented, Each Coming out in 2017

Very pleased to share the announcement of three forthcoming books that as literary agent I’ve placed with major publishers in recent weeks. See info pasted in below as text and screenshot from my Publishersmarketplace.com page.


Editor of The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure*, Dungeons & Dragons early team member and noted RPG designer Lawrence Schick, aka Lawrence Ellsworth, with The Red Sphinx, a new translation of the forgotten sequel to Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, continuing the heroic tale of Cardinal Richelieu and his implacable enemies, in a nice deal for World Rights to Claiborne Hancock of Pegasus Books as a lead title for them in Winter 2017, by Philip Turner, Philip Turner Book Productions.*

Gathered from decades drawing and writing about our greatest athletes and sports figures, sports cartoonist Murray Olderman, a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, with The Draw of Sports, a full career retrospective with 160 portraits and profiles, with Muhammad Ali, Yogi Berra, Kobe Bryant, Billie Jean King, Vince Lombardi, Jackie Robinson, etc., in a nice deal for World Rights to Eric Reynolds at Fantagraphics, for publication in 2017, by Philip Turner, Philip Turner Book Productions.

Nonfiction/History/Politics/Current Affairs
Author of How the Cold War Began**, longtime Russian security services specialist and fluent Russian speaker Amy Knight’s ORDERS FROM ABOVE: The Putin Regime and Political Murder, a true-crime political thriller examining the role of targeted violence in contemporary Russia, in a nice deal for World Rights to Thomas Dunne at Thomas Dunne Books, St Martin’s Press, for publication in 2017, by Philip Turner, Philip Turner Book Productions.

* In 2014, I blogged about The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, Lawrence Ellsworth’s earlier book.

** Earlier this year, I blogged about Amy Knight’s new project, and on a previous book of hers, How the Cold War Began, which I published with her at Carroll & Graf Publishers in 2006.

60 Minutes Presented a Sobering View of the Limited Access to Healthcare in Appalachia

Tonight 60 Minutes did a wrenching story on the staggering numbers of people in Appalachia with little access to doctors and healthcare, beyond resorting to emergency rooms once their health has often become a veritable “train wreck.” They profiled The Health Wagon, a team of good-hearted but overmatched nurse practitioners and doctors who drive medically-equipped RVs all over Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, etc. Due to stubbornly resistant Republican governors, none of the states in question has opted to expand Medicaid for its indigent residents, even though the Affordable Care Act provides for it. Even where there is a Democratic governor, in VA with Terry McAuliffe who replaced a Republican in 2014, the state legislature has continued blocking the expansion, despite the fact the federal government would be on the hook for the costs the first three years, and sharing costs thereafter. Here’s an informative Web site (with screenshot below) that tracks the Medicaid expansion across the country, with 31 states having accepted some form of it, and 19 refusing it. As CBS showed, with so many people dying from treatable illnesses that were long overlooked, this is an avoidable tragedy, a social choice that has huge consequences for people’s health, especially in this region where diabetes, hypertension, and respiratory illnesses are particularly prevalent. This is another election year. I fervently hope that Americans will vote to replace lawmakers and representatives who don’t believe that healthcare should be widely available to all people, and that that number 19 will be reduced to zero in the years ahead. Meantime, you can donate to The Health Wagon. They are worthy of your support.

Righteous Words from Shakespeare, So Pertinent to Today’s Refugee Crisis—Read by Sir Ian McKellen

%22Mountainish Inhumanity%22
In what appears to have been November 2010, at the Savannah Film Festival, Sir Ian McKellen had occasion to read lines of Shakespeare from a play called “The Book of Sir Thomas More,” words set in the voice of More, a councillor to King Henry VIII. Shakespeare didn’t write the original, but contributed to rewriting portions of the drama with other contributors some 400 years ago. It is not a well-known work, and McKellen says here that it may have never been performed for an audience until 1964. This 5-minute youtube clip is linchpin of a good Washington Post article published today by reporter Karla Adam, the headline for which opens this post, pretty well summing up the message of the words read by Sir Ian.

Adam also reports that the text of the passage, in Shakespeare’s own handwriting, has recently been digitized by the British Museum, and is featured in a new exhibit at the Folger Library in Washington, DC. McKellen explains that earlier, a year before his appearance at the Savannah Film Festival, in London at Trafalgar Square, or St Martin-in-the-Fields, as it would’ve been known in Shakespeare’s time, a man and his gay partner were set up on three hooligans, who killed him. The location is also where in the play More gives this speech. Below is a still from the very powerful video, and click here for the video itself. You may want to first read the Washington Post article for full context as I had done before I watched it.

I’ll add a New York City note to this post, about “a celebrity sighting.” Though they don’t occur all that often here, that’s what I dub them. On two occasions my wife and son and I have had occasion to meet and speak with Sir Ian McKellen. He is approachable, down-to-earth, and charming. The first time was in 2003, soon after “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies, had premiered. The three of us had just seen the movie a few days before, and we bumped in to him at the old Weber’s Odd-Lot discount store near W 72nd St and Broadway. He was in town doing a Strindberg play on Broadway with Dame Helen Mirren. With my son Ewan, then about seven years old, we found ourselves behind him in line, while my wife was elsewhere in the store for a moment. The wait in line was long enough for me to spot him, nudge my son, and whisper who was in front of us. I leaned in a bit toward the gentleman and without invading his space, said something like, “Sir Ian, congratulations on all the great roles you have this season.” Turning toward us with a warm smile we began conversing. I mentioned we’d only a couple days earlier seen the movie and had found it breathtaking. I added, “We miss Gandalf,” thinking of the fall in to the abyss he’d suffered fighting the Balrog. Sir Ian adopted the deep voice of the Grey Wizard, and addressing Ewan especially, he intoned reassuringly, “He’ll be changed, but he’ll be back. He’ll be changed, but he’ll be back.”

The other time was a few years later, at BAM where the three of us had just seen him perform as King Lear. We waited afterward at the stage door and came out to greet the handful of fans clustered there. He spoke to each group for a few minutes, for a warm and friendly chat. He is a good and decent man, and his humanity shines through in this remarkably fluent rendering of Shakespeare words about refugees, or “strangers” as they’re called here.
Sir Ian McKellen