Archive for the ‘news’ Category

What I Found at BEA! Part III

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Libertarian Nation: The Call for a New Agenda by James Walsh, Silver Lake Publishing, $19.95

I’m really looking forward to reading this.  I like this extract from the book featured on the front flap:

The current political debate that you see on TV and online is not a real exchange of ideas. [Emphasis mine]  It’s bread and circuses.  They say that generals are always fighting the last war…   well, the same is true for TV producers and newspapers editors.  This nation has spent and borrowed its way to a crisis point.  We’re losing our position as a world leader.  And we need to get back to the philosophical roots on which the nation was founded.  This won’t be good news for the smirking neo-cons… or self-righteous liberals.  They’re both yesterday’s partisans.”

Six years ago I organized a talk co-sponsored by the New York alumni clubs of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.  It was entitled “Monotone Media and Voices on the Margins,” and it examined the lack of true diversity and vigorous political discourse in the mass news media.  Rather than bringing the usual talking heads, I invited journalists from “fringe” backgrounds: a neo-pagan, a conspiracy researcher, and a Marxist.  There was also a business reporter and an analyst from the media watch group FAIR.  I wish I knew Jim back then so he could’ve sat on the panel. 

It’s interesting that Jim mentions “bread and circuses”:  Mencken repeatedly uses that phrase throughout Notes on Democracy.  According to HLM, the masses don’t want real freedom: they want a safe, secure prison, with regular servings of Wonder Bread and “Gilligan’s Island.”  Or Sour Dough and “Lost,” if you prefer.  Jim also talks about the “philosophical roots” upon which America was founded.  I don’t know his position, but Mencken argues that the founders were not at all in favor of universal suffrage, and had a real fear of the mob.  I’ll be curious to know what Libertarian Nation says on this. 

One last thing…  Why should it be surprising that the people Jim condemns as “yesterday’s partisans” be TV producers and newspaper editors?  They’re men and women knee-deep in technology and modes of communication from the last century, indeed, in the case of newspapers, the 19th century.  If the media is the message, then what else could their message be except for yesterday’s news? 


What I Found at BEA! Part II

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Fugue State by Brain Evenson, art by Zak Sally, US/CAN $14.95, Coffee House Press 

Oh, now this looks good.  From the back cover:

Hallucinatory and darkly comic, these tales of paranoia, pursuit, sensory deprivation, amnesia and retribution [sounds like my life, says Dissident Books editor Nicholas Towasser] rattle the cages of the psyche.  And through the illustrations of graphic novelist Zak Sally, this unsettling world is brought to life.

From sadistic bosses with secret fears to a woman trapped in a mime’s imaginary box, and from a post-apocalyptic misidentified messiah to unwitting portraitits of the dead, Brian Evenson’s mind-bending fiction peers fearlessly into the shadows.

You better believe I’m looking foward to reading this!   Sounds like this generation’s H.  P.  Lovecraft!  And Sally’s illustrations are excellent.  See and

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout, $30, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Terry Teachout is one cool guy.  He wrote a The Skeptic, great bio of Mencken, and was kind enough to pen some words of praise for the back cover of Notes on Democracy:  A New Edition.  I caught him at his autograph signing and gave him three copies of Notes plus a copy of Don’t Call Me a Crook!  Did I ask him to sign a Pops ARC?  You better believe I did.  And I’m looking forward to reading it.  See and

Undone by Karin Slaughter, US$26/CAN$30, Delacorte Press

The opening caught my attention:

They had been married forty years to the day and Judith still felt like she didn’t know everything about her husband.  Forty years of cooking Henry’s dinner, forty years of ironing his shirts, forty years of sleeping in his bed, and he was still a mystery.  Maybe that was why she kept doing all these things for him with little or no complaint.  There was a lot to be said for a man who, after forty years, still managed to hold your attention.

I’m reminded a line from from Henry Hill’s wife in Goodfellas:  “All the other girls would’ve gotten outta there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn’t. I have to admit, it turned me on.”  This is a sequel to Slaughter’s Faithless and Fractured.  See and

What I Found at BEA!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

In the spirit of going to press (or to pixels) while the story is still hot, for the next week or two I’ll be telling you about interesting books and programs I learned of at BEA this past week.  (Yes, yes, I know could’ve begun writing of them sooner, like the very minute was told of their names!  But you have to understand, BEA was frantic!  But more to the point, I need to get into a Web 2.0 frame of mind.  That was my take-away from BEA.  Soon we’ll be speaking of Web 3.0, and even of a post-Web world.  Yikes!)  I’ve not read any of these books yet: I’m simply telling you about them because from what I’ve read on their covers (forget the proverb) and flipping through their pages they look compelling.

The Official Heavy Metal Book of Listsby Eric Danville, illustrations by Cliff Mott, and foreward by Lemmy, US$19.95, BackBeat Books, release date September 2009.  I met Eric at the booth of his publisher, Backbeat Books.  He was wearing a “Venom/Welcome to Hell” tee-shirt and I immediately exclaimed “Great band!  Great album!”  Eric is a wonderful conversationalist about all things metallic.  And his book?  It’s fantastic!  Who can resist a tome with entries like “Rock Bottom: Metalheads Arrested for Being Drunk in Public,” “The Song Retains The Name: 15 Unusual Metal Cover Bands” (I especially like “Cookie Mongoloid,” a band that plays speed metal versions of Sesame Street songs), and “Phil Campbell of Motorhead’s List of Six Things You’ll Never See in a Motorhead Dressing Room” (No. 1:  “A coffee machine.”)  See and

Torture at the Back Forty: The Gang Rape and Slaying of Margaret Anderson, by Mike Dauplaise, $12.95, TitletTown Publishing LLC, released dated August 7, 2009 and Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle by Lynda Drews, $15.95, TitleTown Publishing LLC  I met Tracy C. Ertl, publisher of true-crime house TitleTown, at the booth of our mutual distributor, Midpoint Trade Books.  She and I immediatley hit it off.  We agreed that readers of Don’t Call Me a Crook! A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime should know about TitleTown’s offerings and vice versa.  I gave Tracy a copy of Don’t Call Me a Crook! and she passed to me a Torture at the Back Forty sampler and a finished copy of Run at Destruction.  They both look like very intense books.  Torture in particular looks harrowing:

The true story of the murder of Margaret Anderson, raped on a pool table and left for dead on a manure pile.  Though nearly beheaded, the single mother fought hard for her life, but in the end Margaret died….  Author Mike Dauplaise practically makes the reader feel Margaret’s breath as he recreates the night she was killed….  Dauplaise even interviewed Margaret Anderson’s convicted killer, and exposes the motorcycle-gang culture of the 1980s to reveal what was done to Margaret….

Run at Destruction seems to offer a similarly intimate, horrifying read.  Pam and Bob Bulik were teachers and long-distance runners.  Bob began an affair.   Pam ended up dead.   The book is penned by her best friend.  See and

Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mobby Jeff Coen, US24.95/CAN27.95  I was so jazzed Chicago Review Press gave me a copy of this Sunday afternoon.  As someone who loves Chicago and is fascinated by crooks, this book beckoned to me like a painted woman to a sailor on leave after a two-month voyage.  Or something like that.  From the front flap:

Even in Chicago, a city steeped in mob history and legend, the Family Secrets case was a true spectacle when it made it to court in 2007.  A top mob boss, a reputed consigliere, and other high-profile members of the Chicago Outfit were accused in a total of eighteen gangland killings, revealing organized crime’s ruthless grip on the city throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Painting a vivid picture of murder, courtroom drama, and family loyalties and disloyalties, journalist Jeff Coen accurately portrays the Chicago Outfit’s cold-blooded–and sometimes incompetent–killers and their crimes in the case that brought them down.

Sounds fascinating.  As some of you might know, Bob Moore, author of Don’t Call Me a Crook!, spent a lot of time in Chicago in the 1920s, and speaks about gangsters and the city’s rampant crime.  He even spots Al Capone’s car escorted by two “speed cops” to clear the way for the great man! 

See: and

Great feedback on “Don’t Call Me a Crook!”

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I know, I know!  I blog far too infrequently!  I don’t know what it is, but I can’t seem to make it a habit…  But I swear upon all that I hold dear, I will write more often! 

As some of you may know, Don’t Call Me a Crook!  A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime is out this month.  There’s already been some great reviews among bloggers, and I’ll share those soon.  But right now I thought I’d post some of an email from someone I gave the book to not long ago:

Hey Nick,


I just wanted to shoot you a note and say that I just finished don’t call me a crook, and it is outstanding!!….I mean, if half the stories in there are true, what a life!!….and your editing and footnotes you added really brought something to the story, filled in a little background….I think you said it officially comes out in may, I’m hoping it does outstanding…I’m def going to recommend it to friends as just a fun read….but don’t worry, I won’t loan my copy, I’ll make them go buy it!! Haha

Yep, another satisfied customer…  We aim to please here at Dissident Books!

“Notes on Democracy” hits!

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

It’s been far too long since I posted, I know.  I’m truly, truly sorry.  There’s been a lot going on here, most of it very good.  I will make a concerned effort to post more regularly and frequently.  But never mind all that, I’ve some wonderful news:  Notes on Democracy has hit!  Yep!  Check out and!


Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

We were pretty jazzed to find that the Los Angeles Times featured a brief review of Notes on Democracy: A New Edition on October 5.  Susan Salter Reynolds writes that Mencken’s tone “is beyond satire, almost caustic, like the guy at the bar who sidles up to you with bad news — the guy you can’t help thinking has a point.” We found her critique fair and positive. What more could one want? Check it out here.


Friday, September 19th, 2008

On October 15, Notes on Democracy: A New Edition will be available through our website,,, and at major bookstores!