Monday, August 22, 2016

Noteworthy Reads: TORN AND FRAYED by David Cranmer




This seventh installment of the Drifter Detective series is penned by series creator David Cranmer, coming out from behind the Edward A. Grainger byline that he uses for his popular hardboiled Western stories featuring Cash Laramie, the Outlaw Marshal. 

In addition to his fine writing skills, Mr. Cranmer, as most everybody knows, is the head honcho behind the Beat To A Pulp webzine and books --- a publishing concern that has provided an outlet to a wide range of talented writers telling a wide range of entertaining tales.

The Cash Laramie tales are at the core of it all (although the BTAP features are branching wider and wider all the time) and the Drifter Detective series – featuring one Jack Laramie, by name - is a direct extension of that; Jack, you see, is the grandson of Cash. As a mobile PI operating out of a DeSoto-drawn horse trailer in post-WWII Texas, he seeks to dish out the same kind of justice his grandfather did in the 1880s Old West.
It’s a creative concept done well throughout the series to date. A variety of fresh settings and problems handled with the distinct flair of a slightly modernized “town tamer”. When Jack Laramie gets involved, things are gonna get shaken up and they might not be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, but they’re likely to be better than they were.
TORN AND FRAYED is a somewhat moodier, more nourish entry than much of what has come before - with some interesting Ross Macdonald/Lew Archer touches. The writing and the twists make it all go down as smooth as a belt of good bourbon at the close of a hard day.
Strongly recommended.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mission Statement: LEGISLTIVE DRAFTING INSTITUTE for CHILD PROTECTION

LEGISLATIVE DRAFTING INSTITUTE for CHILD PROTECTION











 This new and unique organization has come to the fore in the ongoing fight against the predators who prey upon our young and vulnerable. The Mission Statement below --- from none other than Andrew Vachss, who has been on the front line of this battle for many years --- explains things better than I can. After you've read through it, please click on the LDICP link to learn still more and to hopefully support them any way you can.
Link: http://www.LDICP.org 




MISSION STATEMENT
The Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection (LDICP) is the natural evolution of a collective anger, frustration, and disappointment. I believe all of us involved share those feelings, but here I speak only for myself.
      After decades on the front lines of what I regard as the only “Holy War” worthy of the name, I accepted that I could fight individual child abusers ... sometimes with a success that shocked the cynical ... but I wasn’t laying a glove on child abuse itself. I could change individual lives, but I wasn’t making change.
      So I tried drafting legislation, only to see those bills “tweaked” into less powerful versions, versions demanded by the truly powerful. Some were so larded with “earmarks” that their original intent was buried under heavy layers of patronage and payoffs. I tried to form a child-protective lobby, but watched it become nothing I wanted to be part of. I once taught Continuing Legal Education courses, but eventually realized I was revealing strategies and tactics to those I had spent my life opposing.
      I learned that the overwhelming majority of American voters want children to be protected. But I also learned that this isn’t a high enough priority to impact politics. No one can run for office in America without taking a position (even if that position is to adroitly straddle fences) on hot-button topics such as abortion, gun control, capital punishment. The voting public demands no less. But when it comes to child protection, a vapid blanket statement that the candidate “loves children and supports the American family,” is all that is ever required.
      So what’s left? At their core, all courts are courts of equity. Simply speaking, that means courts exist to produce justice. This result is to be achieved by interpretation and enforcement of existing law. But when the neutrality that justice requires is hamstrung by fundamentally unfair laws, this result is at best elusive, and at worst unobtainable.
      What is needed are laws that actually accomplish their intent. Laws which are clear on their face, with no vacuous “open to interpretation” language, no handicapping earmarks, and no loopholes through which perpetrators can slither. Laws so clearly written that the public can demand their passage. And demand that in such a way that politicians – who are as reactive as amoebae to harsh light – do the right thing. Laws that allow grassroots organizations not only to create their vision of child protection, but to fight for that vision. Laws which clearly reveal who is serious about this “issue,” and who is serious only about seeking grants.
      Why this emphasis on specific legislation? Because virtually all “child advocacy” is just that: flabby adjectives, devoid of actual content. There is no value to being “pro child,” because that label can fit virtually anyone or anything. That which allows for endless interpretation is, by definition, an empty vessel. Instead of being “pro child,” what if people could be “pro” a specific piece of legislation? What if, instead of demanding our politicians “care,” we could demand they pass such specific legislation? What if we could force the legislature to act?
      Confronted with an actual piece of legislation, there’s no place to hide. The reality is that no answer is a “no” answer. Confronted with an actual bill ready to be enacted, no action is action ... the action of being against that very bill. Instead of the welcoming shade of rhetoric, we could put all legislators in a single bright spotlight:
Behavior is the Truth. 
      After a long period of planning and the sacrifices of many too modest to be named here, the Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection is now a reality. The LDICP has partnered with Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which has contributed its own funds to internships and its own resources to drafting courses. However, the LDICP is free-standing in all respects, meaning its budget will not become part of the law school’s coffers, and will be administrated separately and independently at all times.
     The LDICP is not a lobby – it exists solely as a resource.
      The purpose of the LDICP is to create, upon request, highly specific legislation to accomplish the goals of self-organized, grassroots organizations which intend to achieve a child protective objective. The passage of each piece of legislation is the goal, each time. So: no legislation to “form explanatory groups,” or “fight child abuse” or “raise public awareness.” Examples of what legislation might be requested include: Closing the loophole in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that allows non-lawyer volunteers to “represent” children in abuse/neglect cases. Raising the stakes for “circle of trust” crimes. Requiring victim reparations in child pornography cases. Extending the statute of limitations in “vulnerable victims” cases. Establishing a Secure Treatment Unit for “the worst kids in the state” – any state, as the plan would be to construct and operate such an institution as a model, and to allow for independent monitoring and evaluation of its effectiveness. But these are illustrative examples, not suggestions.
      The technique is straightforward and simple: the LDICP will draft research reports and ready-to enact legislation. All the research will be done prior to release, including constitutionality, statistical analysis of need/benefit, and conflicts with existing laws. The legislation will target an impact area that may range from the federal level down to the municipal, depending on the requesting group. The LDICP will then make the drafted legislation public. Publication ensures that there would be no “tinkering” with the bill. An example of such tinkering occurred in the passage of the National Child Protection Act of 1993. In its final form, legislators had deleted a provision that had been in the original draft, which would have held an organization that allowed access to children strictly liable if it had failed to check its employees or volunteers against any criminal registries and the employee or volunteer was later found to have been registered. Publication of LDICP legislative drafts will deter tinkering, by making it clear if anyone attempts to alter, add, or delete provisions from the legislation as originally drafted.
      So the test is not just for politicians, it is for all of us. When the right tools are provided, how those tools are used reveals the truth.
      Any group requesting LDICP work products will have to commit its own resources to passage. This doesn’t mean a mere Facebook page (although one would not be barred); it means actual bodies-on-the-line, volunteer commitment. It means lobbying behind a “my vote depends on your support for this bill” campaign. The LDICP is not a think tank, and will respond only to requests that outline a specifically-defined child protective goal.
      We have a working group established, and have already sketched out fund-raising goals. At this time, we believe two million dollars ($2,000,000) is necessary to bedrock-establish the LDICP. That amount will allow it to run for a 2-3 year trial period beyond the initial “proof of concept” phase, in which we are now engaged. If you want to contribute, you are welcome. And we need money, sure enough. But there are many other ways to participate, including, but not limited to, putting together your own grassroots group and requesting the legislation you believe will make a difference in the protection of our children ... all our children.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Noteworthy Reads: SEX CRIMES - THEN & NOW by Alice Vachss



In an updated volume that features the first SEX CRIMES book published over twenty years ago --- the “then” from this current title --- plus updates and several thousand words of all new material --- the “now” --- this is a fascinating, disturbing, eye-opening book.
If you think you know how the criminal justice system works for prosecuting rape and other sexual abuse crimes from news reports and TV shows … you don’t. This important work by Alice Vachss will set you straight. You won’t like what you learn. It will make you angry, as it should. It also should make you pay closer attention in your area and do everything you can to demand more from your local authorities and prosecutors. The corruption and deal-making that goes on in political systems – large or small – ought not come as any surprise. But when it comes at the expense of justice for those who’ve already suffered unspeakable crimes --- as documented here by case file accounts --- it is appalling and disgusting.
Unfortunately, too few communities and/or cities have anyone like Alice Vachss at work for them.

From the cover blurb:
In an even better than the original spellbinding sequel, Sex Crimes NOW finds Alice Vachss returning to prosecution – this time in a remote rural county. Still the same, she insists to a jury: “I don’t have to prove motive. The motive for rape is rape,” and battles a system hell-bent on freeing a monster.

Highly recommended!

Noteworthy Reads: BLAZE! BLOODY WYOMING by John Hegenberger





Prolific author John Hegenberger, known prior to this for entertaining mystery thrillers and science fiction, has now entered into the Western genre and his first title is a corker.


This twelfth title in the exciting BLAZE! Adult Western series from creator Stephen Mertz and Rough Edges Press, BLOODY WYOMING is a full-tilt action yarn that throws the husband-wife gunslinger team of Kate and J.D. Blaze into one of their most harrowing adventures.

The cover blurb reads as follows:
All J.D. Blaze wanted to do was celebrate his wife Kate’s birthday, but when you’re the Old West’s only pair of husband-and-wife gunfighters, trouble is never far away. A savage attack and a dangerous injury not only threaten Kate Blaze’s life, she also finds herself a captive of twisted killers and unsure of her own identity. But J.D. will battle with his wits, a pair of rock-hard fists, and a blazing .45 to find Kate and free her before it’s too late!

Without giving too much much away, that sums it up pretty good.
If you like your Westerns fast-paced and chock full of gun-blazing action, you don’t want to miss this one!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

LUCAS HALLAM RIDES (AND SLEUTHS) !



Lucas Hallam has long been one of my favorite fictional characters. Not only that, but he ranks as a favorite in TWO separate genres --- PI mysteries and Westerns. Hallam, you see, is a man of two worlds and two eras: A gunslinger, Pinkerton agent, and lawman in the closing years of the 1800s who has gone on to become a licensed PI and part-time stunt man in the silent movies of 1920s Hollywood.

The very distinct creation of L.J. Washburn (who most folks know as Livia Reasoner, the wife of prolific writer James Reasoner), Hallam first appeared in short stories, starting with an appearance in THE EYES HAVE IT, the first anthology from the Private Eye Writers of America. He has since appeared in numerous other short stories and also in three (to date) novels --- WILD NIGHT, DOG HEAVIES, and DEAD STICK.

WILD NIGHT won a Shamus Award from PWA and subsequent Hallam works have racked up numerous other awards and nominations.

Livia has been writing about Hallam for over thirty years and her latest, PANHANDLE FREIGHT (recently released as a stand-alone eBook novella but originally appearing in 2012 as part of an anthology and earning a Western Fictioneers’ Peacemaker nomination in the short fiction category) shows she has lost neither her love for the character nor her skill at presenting him in another memorable tale. This yarn fits firmly in the Western mold and takes place in an isolated train station in the middle of the blizzard. A number of people, including Hallam, are gathered there to get out of bad weather, waiting in hopes that the train will make it through. One of them is a notorious killer and it’s up to Hallam to figure out which one and prevent him or her from striking again.

Told in clean, tight prose with a good sense of time and setting and an intriguing blend of characters, this is a little gem you don’t want to miss. And if you’re not familiar with the Hallam character, then it’s a good place to start correcting that by using it as a launching pad for seeking out all of the other titles you can get your hands on. Most of them are available on Kindle and very reasonably priced.

Strongly recommended!