Thursday, June 30, 2011

Family Update Time

After getting several e-mails the last couple of days asking, I thought it was time for a family update. In no particular order of things.....

I have heard nothing from the wonderful ALLEN ADKINS & ASSOCIATES folks or CITIBANK folks since they filed and asked for the trial to be pushed back from May 16 to September. The court reset the date for September 13 and all of you are invited to come if we get to that point. The last I heard from them was early May when they filed their paperwork and sent me a copy of their filing. Considering Citibank's recent deals in the news including one where one of their Vice Presidents managed to steal nineteen million dollars from them over the course of multiple months and then head to Asia where he was arrested, maybe they have bigger things on their mind. I know I do.

Sandi is still home on unpaid medical leave awaiting her knee surgery. The latest estimate from the surgery center who called to update her yesterday morning was $1900 up front.  That was four hundred more than we had been told three weeks ago. They said it was the final revised figure based on what the insurance folks had ruled. Sandi called the doctor's office and they told her the same thing and basically said they were done working the insurance part of the case until she was ready for surgery.

Sandi has been ready for surgery since the doctor put her out on May 5. Everybody else wasn't and the numbers keep changing. So, Sandi called and called and finally got ahold of somebody at the insurance company who was competent and able to work their system to research her account. Sandi had to sit on the phone for nearly four hours going back through every claim starting from the first of the year, but it was worth it. Insurance and Sandi agree that two claims involving CT Scans and other expensive testing were not properly processed at any point. Another four claims are wrong in Sandi's opinion and insurance agrees--though for different reasons and will reevaluate. All that reprocessing of six claims and the ripple effects from that as other claims may have to be recalculated will take a week to ten days to do at the very least. Hopefully by the time that is over, her deductible will have been met and we can schedule her surgery.

As to food stamps and all that, we had to update our situation which led to a reapplication. The caseworker called this morning and verified some stuff. It can take up to thirty days to process before we know if we have been approved for Medicaid. Hopefully we will be as that would clearly help her. It also might be a way for me to be seen for everything going on with me.

Having fallen hard earlier this week while on the outside porch much to the amusement of partying neighbors across the way, I consider myself very lucky I have not broken anything. I know I can't keep falling and stay lucky. I am trying to do what I can when I can but things are definitely getting harder and harder. Whatever is wrong is clearly continuing to spread and that means, I would think, it has to be some sort of nerve disorder. Whether a doctor can find it now and treat it, I don't know. But, I am hoping we will get the chance to find out.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reviewing: "TABLOID CITY: A NOVEL" by Pete Hamill

A lot can happen in 24 hours anywhere. Certainly it can in the city of New York where strangers and friends can intersect in many different ways.  Life can begin and end, both metaphorically and literally, in this complex interlocking tale created by Pete Hamill.

There are several major players in this 278 page novel. One is Sam Briscoe, age 71, editor in chief of the tabloid newspaper New York World. It is midnight as the book opens and Briscoe’s focus is on the still to be finished edition. Newspapers are a dying industry as he knows well, but he adheres to the old standards and delivers a quality product. Other folks can worry about what to put on the paper’s website as he simply does not care. He worries about the newspaper itself while surrounded primarily by youngsters who have no idea of the past and what they are missing from the literary world. 

Wealthy socialite and old friend Cynthia Harding knows full well what the world is missing these days. She also knows libraries are an integral part of the future. She has always loved books and reading and has done her part at a personal level as well as by raising funds to support the New York Public Library System.  Much like Sam’s newspaper, the library system as well as the concept of libraries in general, might be a dying institution thanks to the rise of the internet and home computers. Her latest effort in support of the local libraries was a dinner party fundraiser held this night and it did well all things considered. Sam Briscoe was supposed to be there but he didn’t make it because of work.

The rise of the internet has not only murdered libraries and newspapers; it has given rise to terrorism on a global scale. Malik Shadid, an American born child with no ties to the Middle East, heard the call of Islamic Jihad in his teen years and responded. He abandoned his police officer father and his mother who works for that slave owner (as he sees her) Cynthia Harding, and hit the streets hanging out with other teens who also heard the call. While some have fallen away as the years have passed, he remains true to what he believes is the real Muslim faith. A faith that promises to purge the world of the non-believers. One of those unbelievers is his girlfriend, Glorious Burress, hiding in some abandoned building and very pregnant with their child. She is too young to know better but he will teach her the faith and the truth of the world.

The clock marches on and these people and many others will play a major role in the events to come during the next 24 hours. At its heart, Tabloid City contains a double murder and an attempt to solve it while also preventing another terrorist attack on the city of New York. The shock waves of those events will touch people directly and indirectly involved in many unexpected ways.

At the same time Tabloid City is about change, the price of progress, and supreme loneliness. In a time where technology is changing every aspect of our lives in so many ways and often with unintended consequences, many of these characters feel supremely alone and abandoned. Each one feels isolated in his or her narrow world regardless of how much social contact they have with others around them. Beyond occasionally sharing the same gender as another, these characters come from all walks in life with vastly different ages and life experiences resulting in vastly different ways of seeing the surrounding world. Links of commonality are tenuous at best. Some are alone because of deaths. Others, though surrounded by other people at work and socializing, feel totally and unescapably alone.

The river of loneness is wide and deep in Tabloid City and runs through every character no matter his or her circumstances. Many characters see their time ending, physically and metaphorically, and lament the passing of their youth. In so doing, Pete Hamill salutes those great literary newspaper writers and novelists of the past while also creating a story that tells the tale of loneliness and terrorism in the here and now.

He leaves it up to readers to wonder who will take the place of past literary greats. His compelling novel never answers that question in this time of bloggers, citizen journalists, twenty-four hour news cycles, etc. Instead, he poses the question for readers in many different ways over this 278 page novel while engaging in an intense character study set in the city he has written about many times before. For a short period of a night, following day and into that night, you know these people in every detail and can only watch as they blindly careen into and occasionally miss each other in this homage to a great literary time and a warning of a far more uncertain future.

Tabloid City: A Novel
Pete Hamill
Little, Brown and Company
May 2011
ISBN# 978-0-316-02075-6
278 Pages

Material supplied by the folks at the WOMEN OF MYSTERY blog  Back in early May they offered five copies to anyone who entered by making a comment on the blog. I was one of five whose entry was selected. No expectation of a review or any inducement of any type was offered, given, or accepted regarding this objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting the word out: Lorie Ham's Booksale

Sandi and I know way too well what can happen when there is no money and there are medial issues and expenses. We also know very well that we are not alone with this. So, I offer the below message from Lorie Ham who has books for sale. Please help her if you can.....

Subject: July 4th mystery book sale

To help with some unexpected medical expenses a few weeks ago I put together a list of books that I'm selling. Some of you have already purchased some and I'm so grateful, and another friend posted the list on her site. Well the remaining books are not selling as quickly a I need them to so I'm offering a special Fourth of July Sale-until July 5 you can order any 4 hardback books for $20 plus shipping or any 5 paperback books for $10 plus shipping. U.S. residents only please.

You can find the list at

Thanks again,

Lorie Ham

-- THE FINAL NOTE, available at Amazon/now $2.99 in ebook form ** Mystery section in Kings River Life Mysteryrat's Closet Twitter @mysteryrat

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reviewing: "Buried Prey: A Novel" by John Sandford

Years ago, Lucas Davenport was a young patrol officer who wanted off the streets. He was bored and not sure what he was going to do if he could not get out of patrol. The case that became known as “The Jones Case” was his way off the streets and into working homicides. Theoretically, it was sort of solved back in 1985 with the death of the main suspect but the bodies of the two missing girls were never found.

The discovery of the skeletonized remains of the two girls on a site being cleared for redevelopment brings the past to life for Lucas Davenport. He never totally accepted the idea of who did it back then and the discovery brings a wave of self-doubt. Lucas feels tremendous guilt for not fighting harder at the time and has a horrifying theory. If the dead man accused of the crime did not do it all those years ago that means that the child killer probably struck again and again over the intervening years and Lucas is at least partially responsible for those murders.

The past has always been a major issue in this series and certainly is here both in terms of the case as well as writer technique. Breaking the mold of the last several books where readers knew who the bad guys were in the first few pages, John Sandford instead gives readers the discovery of the bodies followed by an extensive flashback sequence. Titled “Then” the flashback sequence lasts for nearly 170 pages and details the case, the manhunt, and the mindset of Lucas Davenport all those years ago.  A mindset that continues to present day where he will still cut corners and manipulate others while working to solve a case. For Lucas Davenport the ends usually do justify the means and occasionally have unintended and devasting consequences.

This latest in the series is a good one and provides readers an interesting tale of suspense and mystery. The clues are many and varied and the identity of the killer is not suggested to late in Buried Prey creating a puzzle for readers to solve right along with Lucas. Author John Sandford breaks the formulaic mode he had fallen into over the last several books of this series and the result is a refreshing change of pace that breathes life into the series.

John Sandford
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Group)
ISBN# 978-0-399-15738-7
390 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

FFB Review: "SWAN DIVE" by Jeremiah Healy

SWAN DIVE (1988)
by Jeremiah Healy

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Roy Marsh is well-off, big, mean, and abusive. His wife Hanna, mother of their five-year-old daughter Vickie, is divorcing him. Her attorney is the not-very-well-to-do Chris Christides, P.I. John Cuddy’s college chum. Because Chris has been paid a menacing visit by Roy Marsh the day before he and Hanna have a meeting with Marsh and his attorney, he asks Cuddy to partcipate in a body-guarding role.

Cuddy soon discerns that Chris, though a tough offensive guard on their college football team, isn’t a very tough negotiator. He’s much too willing to accept Marsh’s settlement offer, tendered by Felicia Arnold, an expensive lawyer who, Cuddy later learns, offers more than legal services to some of her clients. Hanna Marsh refuses the solely monetary offer—and a relatively meager one, at that—wanting as well the house her daughter has grown up in. The meeting ends with no resolution but lots of flaring tempers.

Chris has another appointment, so Cuddy drives Hanna and Vickie to their shabby temporary residence. The little girl can’t wait to show Cuddy the pet cat on which she dotes—the cat that sets off her screams when she discovers it skinned, mewing pathetically and bleeding profusely. Cuddy is certain Roy Marsh is responsible.

As events unfold further, Cuddy is mugged and his gun stolen. It later turns up in a seedy twelfth floor hotel room from which Marsh has plummeted to his death. A prostitute has been shot to death in the same room.

The Boston police don’t believe Cuddy is innocent of the murders, but they don’t jail him, either. He’s soon confronted by J.J. Braxley, a Caribbean drug distributor, and his noxiously odoriferous bonebreaker Terdell. It seems that a quarter million dollars worth of J.J.’s cocaine is missing, cocaine Roy Marsh had in his possession before he died. J.J. demands that Cuddy recover and return it, or he’ll take out his revenge on the innocent Hanna and Vickie. Thus, Cuddy has to play footsie with the police, who have an agenda of their own, while trying to clear himself by solving two murders and preventing two more. How he finally does guarantees some surprises, perhaps even shocks, for the reader.

Swan Dive is the first of his novels I’ve read, and Jeremiah Healy is a writer impressive in his economy. He tells a rapid-paced, strongly plotted story in prose free of pyrotechnical flourishes, providing descriptions of people and places spare enough to allow the reader to exercise his imagination but still get the picture. The story is long on dialogue (sometimes laden with raw language—a warning to the prudish) that individualizes characters, eliminating the need for narrational analyses of their psyches. Cuddy himself, while able to dish out and take batterings when he has to, is also fairly cerebral. He reaches the solution by examining the information he’s shared with the reader along the way.
Some of the review blurbs on the Pocket Books paperback edition I have compare Healy with Robert B. Parker. This was probably inevitable because both Cuddy and Parker’s Spenser work out of Boston. As far as I’m concerned there is no comparison; Healy has it all over Parker. Then again, I have to concede a long-standing bias against Parker, whom I gave up on after reading the first dozen or so Spenser novels, the insulting-to-Raymond Chandler Poodle Springs, and the godawful Perchance to Dream. I’ve never understood why reviewers and critics, let alone readers, find him so appealing. Spenser is frequently childish. Parker is pretentious: he once told an interviewer that although he knew he couldn‘t write The Sound and the Fury, he could write The Big Sleep.

        I can’t be the only one to notice he never came close.

        Enough harangue. Whether or not Parker suits your tastes, if you like modern private eye fiction, you’re apt to enjoy Jeremiah Healy.

Barry Ergang © 2011

Winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available, see  Barry’s Smashwords offerings

For the complete list of Friday's Forgotten Books, see 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: "The Fifth Witness: A Lincoln Lawyer Novel" by Michael Connelly

In what is arguably the weakest book in a series that began with The Lincoln Lawyer criminal defense attorney Michael Haller takes on the murder case of Lisa Trammel.

Lisa Trammel was already a client for Haller’s exploding business of stopping foreclosure. It is not work Haller likes but the criminal stuff was in short supply due to the bad economy. That same hideous economy created a huge foreclosure business caseload and that has kept things goings for his law practice. Abandoned by her husband and with a nine year old son, Lisa had come to him desperate to save her three bedroom house from being taken in foreclosure by Westland Financial. Lisa has not been the best client Haller could have wanted. Instead of quietly sitting back and letting Haller do the work in court, Lisa has become a publicity hound. She started a grass root internet campaign against those involved in the foreclosure crisis, led demonstrations outside the bank, and in general has refused to take direction from Haller while annoying him with constant questions involving the strategy of her case and other issues.  Among many of her targets is Mitchell Bondurant senior vice president at Westland Financial.

In charge of the mortgage loan mess at Westland Financial, his name is on all of Haller’s court paperwork. As far as Haller knew, Lisa Trammel did not know Bondurant and was obeying the restraining order the bank had gotten by staying away from their property. Now the man is dead in a parking garage and Trammel has been arrested for murder. As in earlier books in the series, Haller continues to preach his philosophy that in his role as defense attorney he does not care if his client is innocent or guilty and does not want to know. He does not want anyone involved on his legal team to “grow a conscience.”  The job of the defense is to plant enough seeds of doubt with the jury during trial, if it gets that far, that the jury will not find his client guilty. Innocence or not has nothing to do with the case or his actions.

In between defending Lisa Trammel and discovering dirt on others involved, Haller spends a large portion of the book lecturing on the foreclosure crisis currently still gripping the nation. One sided at best, such ranting lectures will no doubt polarize readers as well as pad the word count while stopping the story dead in its tracks. These information dump rants are numerous and repeatedly kill any movement of the story forward while also greatly over simplifying the situation. Story momentum is also frequently stopped dead by Haller’s constant self-references as well as public statements to others on his team that as a defense attorney he does not care if his clients are guilty or innocent. A theme that has been hammered to death for several books now.

A theme that is also blasted apart in the last dozen or so pages of The Fifth Witness when Haller does something so unbelievable it creates a laugh out loud moment for many long time readers of this series. The result is a read that is average at best and one that is far below the good quality novel readers expect from the very talented Michael Connelly. While an average read created by Michael Connelly is far better than a lot of what is out there these days, this book is a real disappointment as the author can and has done so much better in the past.

One hopes this is not a sign of things to come where this author is weakened by the current state of publishing today that demands major name authors to crank out multiple books in multiple series faster and faster. That short sighted publishing philosophy weakens the quality of books in general and harms readers in the long run. 

The Fifth Witness: A Lincoln Lawyer Novel
Michael Connelly
Little Brown and Company
ISBN# 978-0-316-06936-6
Hardback—Large Print Version
664 Pages

Material supplied by the good people of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The last several days.....

have been just physically brutal.  I have been in utter agony and have been unable to do much of anything. It is incredibly frustrating and yet, after 15 months and counting of this nightmare, I should expect it. One of the wierd deals with whatever is wrong with me is it seems to ebb and flow.  Now and then I can have three or four days where I am enough better that I can do a few things. Then there are the other times where for several days it is all I can do to sit up and eat something before laying back out on the living room floor. I seem to be locked into one of those bad times right now.

At this point, there is no news to report on the various fronts regarding various things. We are still awaiting other folks to catchup on their paperwork or process things and until that sort of thing happens, I don't think we will be hearing anything soon.

 This is a long way of saying I am still here and thank you to all who have donated funds to keep us going. We also very much appreciate the thoughts and prayers as well as expressions of support from all. Please know you have helped us tremendously and all of us are very grateful.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day ---2011

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there....I hope yours was a good one.

Other than spending some time on the phone with my Dad and my Mom earlier today, this one was not so good around here.  I think the stress of everything is really setting in on everybody here. The constant threat of being homeless and having to beg and plead for money to pay the rent, utilities and all the rest of it is taking a huge toll. It has been a constant drumbeat of problems for months now and just seems to be getting worse. I think we all have had it. This has been a day of very short fuses, lots of angry words, and lots of chaos and commotion.

I have very little of a positive nature to share, but there is one thing. Last Friday I met with the mental health person Texas DRS sent me to because of my Social Security Disability Case.

After taking a very detailed medical history of myself going back to when I was teen 30 years ago as well as the history of my family up and down the family tree, she did some various cognitive tests. Fortunately,  I knew what day of the week it was, the date as well, who the President was and all that sort of thing so I passed. Being able to think was never my problem--if anything I think and worry way too much.

So, after an hour later she finished things off and told me it was very clear to her that I had something major physically wrong with me and that I urgently needed to be evaluated by a doctor who could review everything. She promised several times to stress in her report that I needed "real help" and that the patient is barely ambulatory and in extreme pain.  After discussing it, she agreed with the idea suggested by the neurologist last October that I probably have several different physical problems going on at the same time that create the overall deal and not just one thing. She also agreed with my assessment that whatever is wrong just might be not be findable in time.  One hopes though, since I continue to get worse, that new tests now might show something if I were to be seen by a doctor.

It was fantastic to have somebody outside of the docs I saw last summer  validate the fact that there is something seriously wrong with me. It is not a mental problem or lack of willpower, etc. but a real physical issue. She agreed with my assessment that whatever this is, it is progressive and worsening. Hopefully her report will convince somebody at the state to get me some medical evaluation and assistance.

How long that will take or if it will even happen I have no idea at this point. But, it is a little something to hope for.  I don't know if it can be treated or even slowed down. But, I sure would like to be able to hang a name on my enemy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I want my FFB and am way too old for MTV

It is Friday and normally that means a segment for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. But, she took today off and with what I have to do later today it seemed like a good idea and well timed. As part of the review of my appeal for social security disability, the Texas disability review folks have decided I need a "mental status exam" to check for "depression, anxiety, stress" around noon today. Instead of sending me to a doctor that could review my x-rays and tests and maybe do something about my back/leg issues and how whatever is wrong is spreading through my body into my arms and hands, they are sending me to a mental health person to see if I have "depression, anxiety, stress."

Well, duh! I have it. Can I just check a box or something? Press something on a touch tone phone?

I have no money in the bank, no job, a wife who needs surgery and the insurance folks can't get things straightened out, we are past due on every damn utility bill known to mankind, can’t afford to refill the meds, worried about being evicted at the end of the month for non-payment of rent, and a host of other problems. If that is not enough to cause "depression, anxiety, stress" by the way, I hurt all the damn time, can barely walk, and fall down a lot and they think I need a "mental status exam."

Must not rant...must not rant...must not rant.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Anniversaries and Such

15 full months. That is how long it has now been since everything went sideways for me health wise. 15 months since March 15, 2010 when I woke up with my left leg horribly swollen and with what I thought at the time was an excruciating muscle cramp. It foretold something far more serious that would change my life radically and still causes major life impacts now. It is an anniversary I could do without.

There is one anniversary that I could not do without.

26 Years. 26 years ago on a day that was almost hot in Boston as it will be here today, I married my wife Sandi in a small church in the Boston area. The same church her parents had been married in many years earlier. After she made sure one last time that the pesky  “obey” clause was stricken from the service, we were married.

I still think it should have been kept as it would have made things a lot simpler. And quieter.

In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer.

Unfortunately, there has been a whole lot of sickness and poorer. 26 years later finds us on foodstamps and both of us can barely walk. We still don’t know when her surgery is as the doctor folks and insurance company are still working on it. Our sons are 23 and 17 and the youngest starts his Senior Year in about 10 weeks. While those we know of are on their second and in some cases third marriages, we are still together despite everything.

The vows meant the world back then and they still do today. While I would change some things that happened over the last 26 years, I’d still marry her in a heartbeat.

Even if she won’t obey.

That is what they make stun guns for.