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?
According to a science article by Washington Post reporter Ben Guarino, the claw of the mantis shrimp packs a wicked punch in dispatching its prey, and has even been known to split or amputate the thumbs of unlucky fishermen. But for me the most remarkable part of this fascinating article regards the material of the claw, or club, as it’s also described in the story:
This startling book, written by two authors who’ve covered the Pentagon for many years, reveals that in the twenty-first century, while traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become the signature injury suffered by our troops, the defense establishment has failed US fighting men and women by continuing to issue them an antiquated military helmet that fails to mitigate the worst of this tragic harm, even though superior design and technology are available.
This investigation by Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, the first book to examine this most basic item of military equipment, features the stories of two sets of whistleblowers determined to expose the truth about the failures military helmet bureaucracy. Their book braids together the two stories to chronicle the helmet scandal and its human impact.
Readers will learn about retired Navy doctor Robert Meaders, known affectionately as “Doc Bob.” He began helping his grandson obtain protective pads that deterred the blunt force and blast wave impact caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These pads made even the standard issue combat helmet more protective than they were without them. Soon, frustrated by his futile efforts to convince the Marine Corps’ bureaucracy in Washington DC to add these protective pads to the helmets of combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and receiving an avalanche of requests from many Marines for them, he started a nonprofit organization, Operation Helmet, to raise funds so the pads could be provided to the troops free of charge. Despite the improvements his pads offered, Doc Bob was blackballed from the military procurement system
Tammy Elshaug and Jeff Kenner, longtime employees of North Dakota defense contractor Sioux Manufacturing discovered to their dismay that the required density of the Kevlar material woven into netting supplied by Sioux for combat helmets was being shorted in the plant where they worked. Bringing their discovery to the attention of management—believing the boss would surely clean up the illegal practice—they were instead accused of stealing company secrets and having an adulterous affair. Both were fired, leading to a lawsuit and a judgment they won in court that brought the company’s bad faith practices to light.
Doc Bob did not know about Jeff and Tammy and they did not know about him. Yet all three struggled during the same time period to do what was right for the troops. This book chronicles, interwoven to show the courage and dedication of all three, and also, to explain why the Defense Dept, despite news coverage of their revelations, has continued to do the indefensible. The authors use all their years of reporting and investigative experience to explain to readers and policymaker how this could happen. Critically, they also offer information on how the public, press and the military departments can fix the problem and give US troops a better combat helmet that will help them survive their service and continue contributing to the defense of the United States of America.
Upon publication the authors will write op-eds and columns that offer an open challenge to technologists, designers, 3D printers, materials scientists, and high level defense thinkers to finally design the best possible military helmet. Despite the Pentagon’s failure to this point, we also hope to gain their attention to bring new talent and focus to the goal. In the same regard, we are excited about the effort being undertaken by the Head Health Challenge, which also relates to football helmets, an effort that has been covered by Liz Stinson in Wired magazine. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to forge a constructive link between the Defense Dept and the NFL with this initiative to design and build a superior helmet. I recommend you read the marvelous article by Ben Guarino, which also has video from UC Riverside scientist David Kisailus.
I’m pleased that for the second year in a row I’ve been invited to be the professional editor on hand and participating in the summer workshop for writers put on by the Adirondack Center for Writing, in Lake Placid, NY, coming up Saturday, June 11. I really enjoyed the conference last year, when I read and commented on the work of more than a dozen talented nonfiction and fiction writers. The format was an open one that seemed to benefit all the writers: in advance I read submissions from each writer, then on the day of the workshop I spoke in front of the whole group about the work of each writer presented to me. It proved to be a serious but not judgmental forum for all participating writers. If you live and work in upstate NY, and are interested in having me read your work as part of the workshop, you’ll find all the details at this link.
Here is a description of my session:
1:15-2:30pm How to Pitch Your Work with Philip Turner
You will be asked thousands of times, “what is your book about?” and “who is the reader for it?” You need to be able to answer these questions in a compelling way in sentence or two, though it is often hard to do this. Philip will lead a session on ways to answer these questions, and others publishing professionals may ask you. Participants will also be able to pitch their work this session and get feedback on it. This pitch will follow your project from the beginning stages all the way through marketing, so make sure it is a good one.
For the first time this year in NYC, the sunset fell after 8pm last night, a kind of celestial milestone on the way to the Summer Solstice June 20th. I pedaled along the Cherry Walk and took a lot of pictures down there along the Hudson River, as the daylight ebbed away, amid a prolonged symphony of color and light. Here’s a thumbnail of those photos just now added to my Flickr album that’s labeled GGB/Sunsets/Hudson. Please visit there for a full sampling of images.
As I wrote on this blog in 2013, New York City’s High Bridge is a pedestrian walkway that “connected the Bronx and Manhattan beginning in 1842, an interboro link across the Harlem River that was built to bring fresh water via the Croton Aqueduct in to Gotham. The span connects 170th Street in the Bronx to 173rd Street in Manhattan. In a deliciously arcane example of NYC geography, [a reporter] points out, that’s ‘West 173rd Street and not East,’ though this is the east side of Manhattan, ‘Because it is technically west of 5th Avenue,’ the east-west midpoint of the island for street-naming purposes.”
When I wrote that in 2013 a full renovation of the span was underway, and a few months ago it reopened to the public. Last fall I pedaled up to High Bridge for my first look at the restoration of the span. Here are some pictures I took that day when I was fortunate to come upon some children playing on the new walkway.