Sunday, October 23, 2016

"A Night Too Dark"/ "The golden age for fictional spies"

Sept. 10, 2016: I was reading the National Post on Jul. 31, 2010 and it had "New and notable fiction" blurbs.  I can only find the big reviews.

Book Review of "A Night Too Dark," by Dana Stabenow


By Patrick Anderson
Monday, March 1, 2010
By Dana Stabenow
Minotaur. 323 pp. $24.99

Dana Stabenow is one of those regional crime novelists who too often don't achieve national attention. She was born in Alaska in 1952 and has lived there ever since, and this is her 17th novel about the Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak. It's an outstanding series and one that has, in fact, won awards and begun to turn up on bestseller lists here in the Lower 48. If you've never visited Alaska, it's also an intriguing introduction to that big, brawling, rather bewildering state. Once you've met the strange characters who inhabit the Shugak novels, Sarah Palin becomes easier to comprehend.

Kate is only 5 feet tall but fears neither man nor beast: Early in this novel she takes down a knife-wielding roustabout and a charging grizzly bear. Her two live-in loves are Sgt. Jim Chopin, a hunky state trooper, and silver-gray Mutt, who's half wolf and half husky and whose ever-changing moods make him somewhat more interesting than the trooper. Kate started her career as an undercover investigator for the DA's office in Anchorage but later moved to the small, isolated town of Niniltna, where she works as a PI and also heads the board of directors of the Niniltna Native Association, the primary governing body in that corner of Alaska.

The plot of "A Night Too Dark" centers on the Suulutaq Mine, where vast gold deposits have been discovered. The gold isn't being mined yet because environmental questions must be answered, but the prospect of a billion-dollar bonanza has various hustlers and corporate vultures circling. (The Suulutaq Mine is fictional, but Stabenow has said it is based on the controversial real-life Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska.) Kate has deeply mixed feelings about the mine; the region needs the jobs but doesn't need the environmental damage and the threat to its way of life. However, she and Sgt. Jim are drawn there after two of the mine's employees mysteriously die and a third goes missing.

This plot unfolds nicely, but what makes the novel outstanding is Stabenow's vivid portrait of the Alaskan culture. In the opening pages we meet an old-timer with a long white beard whose "Carhartt bibs were frayed and stained, the black-and-red plaid Pendleton shirt beneath it patched and faded, and the Xtra Tuffs on his feet looked like they'd been gnawed on by ferrets." We meet the town's four "aunties," Native Alaskan women in their 80s who are the community's social arbiters. We learn that it is unwise to ask an Alaskan "Where are you from?" because so many have pasts they are determined to escape.

We attend a board meeting of the Niniltna Native Association and discover that Native Alaskans are just as angry, stubborn, greedy and duplicitous as anyone else in politics. We learn that in today's Alaska, outsiders sometimes marry indigenous Alaskans for their money -- the Alaska Claims Settlement Act of 1971 having awarded huge amounts of land and nearly a billion dollars to them through regional corporations like the one Kate heads. As a result, at least some Native Alaskans have become prosperous. We see that Sgt. Jim doesn't bother much with dope smokers, bigamists and poachers, if they otherwise behave. We also learn, after a quiet dinner at home, that he and Kate are partial to spontaneous displays of affection: "She laughed harder when he cleared the table with a sweep of one arm and threw her down on it."

Stabenow is blessed with a rich prose style and a fine eye for detail. At one point she devotes two delightful pages to detailing the beauty of Kate's garden ("The deep purple spire of monkshood, its cluster of closed blooms giving off an air of mystery, appeared and disappeared around every bend of trail"), and elsewhere we're treated to a digression on the hunting and cooking of moose ("Old Sam liked his meat crisp on the outside and bloody close to the bone, and this took time and care.").

Stabenow doesn't say much about Alaskan politics, except to have Kate quip, "Anyone in Juneau [the state capital] in their right mind is an oxymoron." However, in an interview with Publishers Weekly, Stabenow said that she'd met then-Gov. Sarah Palin twice, the second time in 2007, when Palin named her Alaska's Artist of the Year. Stabenow added, "She didn't mention the novels either time." This is alarming. It's always wise to greet a novelist with "Loved your book," whether or not you've read the book in question. The writers are invariably grateful, and none has ever been known to demand proof. If Palin can't figure that out, how can she ever hope to lead a great nation?
Anderson reviews mysteries and thrillers regularly for The Post.

Sept. 12, 2016 "The golden age for fictional spies": I cut out this article by Joe Wiebe in the Edmonton Journal on Sept. 18, 2015:

My not-so-guilty pleasure is to dive into a thick spy novel, preferably one set in Europe during the Second World War or the Cold War decades that followed. This low-tech era before the advent of computers and satellites and cellphones is when the cloak-and-dagger genre works best. Here are three recent spy novels by some of my favourite writers:

Leaving Berlin Joseph Kanon Atria Books

Kanon has written several spy novels, including The Good German, which is set in Berlin during the Second World War and, most recently, Istanbul Passage.

He returns to Berlin in this novel, but it’s now 1949, and the city is divided into sectors by the occupying powers: France, England, the United States and the Soviet Union. Once allies during the war, the Soviets are now trying to force the western nations out of Berlin by blockading the city.

Jewish writer Alex Meier grew up in Berlin, but escaped to the United States as the Nazis came to power in the 1930s. A foray into communism in his youth earns him a subpoena from the McCarthy witch-hunt trials, where his refusal to name names results in deportation.

The East German communists welcome their prodigal son back, but little do they know that he has actually been recruited by the CIA, which has promised to allow him to return to the U.S. But almost immediately upon his arrival, his situation worsens when he kills a Russian agent in self-defence.
Not only that, but he learns that his true assignment is to spy on his own old friends, including Irene, his first and only true love.
Leaving Berlin is both a page turning thriller and a thought-provoking study of a remarkable place and time in our history.

The Lady from Zagreb Phillip Kerr Penguin Putnam

Fans of Philip Kerr’s nine Bernie Gunther novels rejoiced when this book came out because we all thought Kerr had ended the series when A Man Without Breath was published in 2013. But Bernie is back in The Lady From Zagreb and will apparently return next year in The Other Side of Silence.
If you haven’t encountered Gunther before, he’s a tough, honourable and outspoken Berlin homicide detective who drinks and smokes too much, has an eye for women that often leads to trouble, and a mouth that almost always does. He’s the quintessential hard- boiled, noir hero who won’t hesitate to use his fists or gun when the situation calls for it, but ultimately succeeds because he uses his brain. What makes him endearing to the reader is the moral compass that guides him through the horrific events caused by the Nazi regime.

Kerr provides his trademark combination of pulp fiction action set against realistically depicted historical events, with an assortment of moral dilemmas for the reader to think about along the way.

All The Old Knives Olen Steinhauer Minotaur Books

Olen Steinhauer started his writing career with a series of five well-crafted novels set in a fictional eastern European country running from 1948 through the days of the Cold War to the end of the Communist regime in 1989. He followed those up with a trilogy of contemporary spy thrillers. His two stand-alone spy novels are The Cairo Affair and All the Old Knives.

The core of the story features two ex-lovers meeting for dinner at a fine restaurant. Henry Pelham and Celia Favreau once worked together in the CIA’s Vienna station.

He’s still a CIA operative, but she left the game several years ago.
Although the story begins innocuously enough, it quickly becomes apparent that Pelham has an ulterior motive.

"The Nobodies Album"/ "Father of the Rain"

Sept. 10, 2016: I was reading the National Post on Jul. 31, 2010 and it had "New and notable fiction" blurbs.  I can only find the big reviews:

Toward the end of May, a freshly roasted chestnut of the mystery genre appeared on Masterpiece Theater: “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side” by Agatha Christie. Audiences of contemporary television detective drama have grown used to stylish, clinical programs in which unshockable cops and coroners scan the evidence of grisly slayings. The chief suspense derived from each episode lies in which state-of-the-art device will reveal the “how” of the killing. But the personable, low-tech concerns of “The Mirror Crack’d” remind us of an empathetic era, not long vanished, when the question mark that hovered over any crime scene wasn’t so much “How did it happen?” as “Why?”

In this jaded age, the idea of intentionally setting out to construct a whodunit — however unerodable its appeal — strikes many writers as embarrassingly old-fashioned. So when the proud, private, much-published author Octavia Frost, the protagonist of Carolyn Parkhurst’s new novel, stumbles into an old-fashioned real-life murder mystery, her initial impulse is to resist even attempting to solve it. “I’m not a detective or a lawyer,” she demurs. “Like everyone else, I’ve read a few mystery novels and seen a few crime shows, and I think it qualifies me to form an opinion.” As Parkhurst’s story begins, Octavia has traveled, uninvited, to San Francisco not to sleuth but to visit her son, Milo, who broke off contact with her when he was 23.

Now 27, Milo is the lead singer in a rock band called Pareidolia, whose angry hit songs have titles like “Devastate Me” and “Plutonium Kiss” and lyrics like “I could have beat you to the ground.” Protectively, Octavia tells herself that Milo’s songs aren’t “particularly revelatory.” “How much can you tell about a person from what he writes anyway?” she asks. Octavia would like to think her son’s secrets, like her own, can’t be divined from the words he’s published. And she has persuaded herself that even when her own writing taps their shared experience, once she has “set my own rules for pri­vacy,” her tracks are covered. So when she finds a scrap of paper in a sugar bowl that reads, “Someone is lying,” she reacts with annoyance. “What kind of a B-movie is this?” she scoffs. “If this were a mystery novel, the note in the sugar bowl would spur me to take some action.”

But this isn’t a mystery novel. Or is it? Whether Octavia wishes to think about it or not, there has been a murder, and her son is the prime suspect. His girlfriend, Bettina, has been bludgeoned to death, and he’s been arrested for the crime. Pondering the sugar bowl, Octavia resents the clichéd notion that with her “child’s life in the balance,” she ought to make a Miss Marple of herself and get case-cracking. But with the risk of cliché outweighed by the threat of death row for Milo, her ironic detachment crumbles.

Octavia’s mind-set is up-to-the-minute: quick, adaptable and wired — in the sense of being plugged in to electronic media and technology. She uses Facebook and e-mail, and has kept track of Milo throughout their rupture with a “digital clipping service” like Google Alerts. To salve her ego, she tells herself that he surely does the same thing for her. Nonetheless, even a technologically with-it modern writer can’t always keep her cool. Octavia is in her early 50s, and her history reaches back long before WiFi, news feeds and Web surfing, into the marrow of her bones, the pit of her stomach. Eighteen years earlier, when she was in her 30s and Milo was 9, her husband and daughter (Milo’s father and little sister) died in an accident. Her career as a novelist began after the deaths; her relationship with Milo ended after the novels. Octavia has never seen Milo’s girlfriend, except in photographs in celebrity magazines. What kind of man has her son become in the four years since their rift? Did Milo kill Bettina? And if so, why? What does it say about Octavia, as his mother, that she doesn’t know?

Although Octavia doesn’t want to turn gumshoe, she can’t help believing in her estranged son’s innocence, and hoping some clue might save him. Like Milo, his mother mistrusts facile associations, and she dismisses early media accounts that point to Milo’s guilt — less out of maternal partiality (not that she, in her stoicism, would suggest such a thing) than because “in this strange age of technology and information, in which news is practically injected straight into our veins, replaced with a fresh drip each quarter-hour, nothing is ever final.” By the time she gets off the plane in California, Octavia reflects, “the story will have already changed.” She could construct any number of plausible explanations that would suit her purposes: after all, that’s the trade of a novelist. But that’s also why Milo stopped speaking to her. And it’s the crux of the larger mystery Parkhurst braids into this affecting, intricate novel. What has estranged this son from this mother? And how can a woman who’s able to manage fictional lives so adroitly manage her own so ham-handedly?

My opinion: Yeah, writing fiction is easier than dealing with real life situations for some people. 

“The Nobodies Album” doubles as the title of Octavia’s latest manuscript, which she’s about to hand over to her editor when she learns of Milo’s calamity. Octavia has published seven previous novels, each with a distinct subject and voice. Among them are a story about the guilt-plagued survivor of a shipwreck; a historical novel narrated by a woman tried for witchcraft in Elizabethan England; an account of the life of an infant in a violent home; and a fable of memory loss in which an epidemic leaves all but a handful of people incapable of remembering painful past experiences. She assumes her books have little in common until a fan points out that “so many children die” in them.

Lately, she has resolved to fix that flaw. “There’s no statute of limitations on changing your mind,” she reasons. “You don’t ever have to be done.” Her new manuscript reprints the seven final chapters of her previous books, accompanying each with an alternate conclusion. “Can you imagine what happens when you rewrite the ending of a book?” she asks, almost gloatingly. “It changes everything. Meaning shifts; certainties are called into question. Write seven new last chapters and all at once, you have seven different books.” But can you rewrite a book once it’s published, any more than you can retract an e-mail message once it’s sent or a blog post once it’s online? Can you relive a life? Octavia’s manuscript chapters, new and old, pop up throughout the novel like milestones, marking her journey to cover the distance that has separated her from her son. She had wanted to solve her life by rewriting her books. Instead she must do something harder: start to write her life again.

In “The Nobodies Album,” with a light but sure hand, Carolyn Parkhurst joins together four disparate literary forms: the family drama, the short story, the philosophical essay on language and, yes, the whodunit. Her weave is smooth, a vigorous hybrid of the old-fashioned, the modern and the postmodern. She reminds us what an act of will and imagination it has always taken for a writer to convert nobodies into somebodies in any genre, whether at the desk or in the world.

My opinion: This is kind of a deep article. 

"Father of the Rain" by Lily King: 

If you could return as an adult to the staging ground of your youth — showing people you’d turned out all right after all; taking that Ferris wheel ride with the middle-school crush who’d ignored you; reassuring your parents about how wise, how capable, how worthwhile you were — would you? Would it be the grown-up thing to do? Daley Amory, the protagonist of Lily King’s third novel, “Father of the Rain,” confronts this question as she revisits the wealthy Boston suburb where she grew up in the 1970s, summoned to tend to her narcissistic father, a man who lives by the WASP code, circa 1952, in which martinis, filet mignon and brick-red pants are what matter and “to take something seriously is to be a fool.” At 29, Daley, an earnest Berkeley-bound anthropologist, yearns to fix her father’s life, so as to mend her own. But was his life broken, just because it broke hers?

King is a beautiful writer, with equally strong gifts for dialogue and internal monologue. Silently or aloud, her characters betray the inner tumult they conceal as they try to keep themselves together, wanting others to see them as whole. Whether they’re children, teenagers or adults in their 40s, 50s and older, they demonstrate through their confusions that what we like to call coming-of-age is a process that doesn’t always end. Like people in real life, King’s characters alter their behavior each time they interact with someone different — parent, sibling, friend, lover, student, boss — exposing the protean nature of personality. Context controls character.

My opinion: The last sentence was deep.

King’s masterly first novel, “The Pleasing Hour,” follows an under-parented 19-year-old American au pair through a year in France as she negotiates her rapport with the members of a French family. They have secrets; so does she. In King’s second novel, “The English Teacher,” an emotionally numb single mother in her 30s (the teacher of the title) tries to impose a conventional life on herself by marrying a widower with three children. She thinks of his marriage proposal as “rehearsing, hypothesizing,” unable to regard her choices as anything but rough drafts.

In “Father of the Rain,” King reverses her practice of backing into past causes from the present. Instead, she begins amid the welter of Daley Amory’s childhood at its most painful moment, deep in her “child mind, which senses only the visceral — the smells of my father, low tide, wet dog, and the sounds of sea gulls and church bells and station wagons.” It’s early in the Watergate summer of 1974, the day after Daley’s 11th birthday, the day before her mother will leave Gardiner Amory for good, fed up with his drinking and his zestful bigotry. While her mother plays Lady Bountiful in the family’s backyard, holding a pool party for underprivileged African-American children, Daley goes to the pet shop with her father to choose a puppy for her birthday present.

“I’m not saying you’s not ugly because you is ugly,” her father croons to the new pet. “But you’s a keeper.” Back home, he mixes himself a martini, jeers at his do-gooder wife, then invites Daley to join him in streaking nude around the pool to taunt the guests. The next day, mother and daughter will drive off, leaving him behind. Daley agonizes: When they come back, will her father still consider her a keeper? Her fear is justified. Returning at the end of the summer, Daley finds another mother swimming in her pool, another child sleeping in her room. While she was gone, her father replaced his family.

The advantage of following Daley’s story chronologically — from her chaotic, insecure adolescence to her orderly, insecure adulthood — is that it helps explain the disproportionately large space that childhood miseries occupy in the adult psyche. Ours is an age fluent in ­“therapy-speak,” and close friends habitually discuss their parents’ scarring misbehavior, trading tales of family woe like ghost stories. When, at a graduation, a wedding or a funeral, those friends at last meet the groused-about malefactors — a mild lady with a snow-white bob and a hopeful expression, a courtly father who jokes amiably with his children’s peers — they ask themselves, wonderingly, These nice people, these were monsters? Decades past the age of the night light, it’s hard to understand the terror of old shadows.

But it’s a long time before Daley, haunted by her adolescent turmoil, can muster the courage to assemble a family of her own. When, in college and after, she makes wary steps toward that goal, she avoids the men who are most drawn to her, “overgrown prep school” kids with “long bangs, athletic achievements, loose-limbed walk, cow eyes and quick sardonic responses.” Such boys, she tells herself, “turn into men like my father.” Instead, she falls in love with an academic named Jonathan Fleury, a black man who grew up in the projects in Philadelphia, far from beaches and lobster traps, someone who, unlike her, has “the ability to articulate emotions that most people simply feel as a clump in the belly.” “I’ve never crossed the color line before. It just never seemed worth it,” Jonathan tells her before their long-deferred first kiss. Nonetheless, they make plans to live together in California — until a crisis pulls Daley back to her father in Massachusetts.

Daley doesn’t tell her father she has a boyfriend, much less that she has “crossed the color line.” Persuading him to join A.A. to secure her companionship, she transforms herself into the dutiful daughter she thinks he wants, cooking him steaks (though she’s a vegetarian), donning a tennis skirt to wear at the club (though she’s a feminist). But Gardiner remains defiantly himself — minus the vodka. When he spews racist remarks before dinner, Daley thinks, “Would Jonathan be horrified at my cowardice?” Eventually, Jonathan confronts her: “Everything is at stake for you. Don’t you get that?” But Daley is in the thrall of her 11-year-old self. “I want a father who doesn’t get drunk. He wants a daughter to take to the club,” she tells herself. “You want him to make your whole childhood O.K.,” Jonathan protests. “This isn’t about me,” she retorts. “It’s about him.” But is it?

Gardiner Amory, whatever his failings, has a permanent address. He knows how to marry and remarry, how to hold his liquor and keep up his tennis game. His daughter thinks he’s a mess, but to himself and his peers, he seems “perfect the way he is.” Some of his friends think Daley’s the one with the problem. “I wish you wouldn’t focus on your father’s flaws,” a neighbor chides. King shows the truths of their conflicting perceptions. Certainly, at 60, Gardiner doesn’t want to be reformed. “I know exactly what I want,” he blurts out at last, sick of his daughter’s interference. What he wants is for her to “butt the hell out.”

In “Father of the Rain,” King knowingly, forgivingly, shows both why Daley can’t butt out and why she must. Daley knows she’s guilty of being “bad at trusting the future,” but she can’t admit that this weakness is a crime against herself. Her father, with his unreflective gusto, and her lover, with his pragmatic idealism, have more in common than first appears: both engage with the future, however complicated, however uncertain. In their different ways, these two must steer her forward, teaching her about the duty she owes herself.

"A girl accused her dad of rape (Fifty Shades of Grey)"/ "Social media and celebs"

Aug. 18, 2016 A girl accused her dad of rape. Then, his attorney noticed echoes of Fifty Shades of Grey in her testimony:
The girl's favourite book is British writer E.L. James's best-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.
WILL OLIVER/AFP/Getty ImagesThe girl's favourite book is British writer E.L. James's best-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

    A father from the United Kingdom had only one defence against his daughter’s accusation that he had raped her for six years: He didn’t do it.

    Cathy McCulloch, who became the man’s attorney a week before his trial, noticed something odd about the girl’s statements to police: She used words and phrases that seemed too mature for her age. She described not only what her father did, but also how she felt.

    The barrister also found out, after talking to her client for the first time on the first day of the trial, that his daughter’s favourite book is British writer E.L. James’s best-selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

    So McCulloch got a copy of the book, read it quickly and noticed many similarities between it and the daughter’s statement to police. After the second day of the trial, which ended early, McCulloch spent several hours analyzing the similarities to prepare for her cross-examination of the accuser.

    McCulloch identified 17 incidents from the girl’s story that appeared to have been lifted from the book, according to the barrister’s website.

    The next day, after seven minutes of cross-examination, the accuser, according to McCulloch, wavered.

    “She suddenly broke and said I was absolutely right. She had made the whole thing up because she was angry with her father and wanted to teach him a lesson,” McCulloch said.

    McCulloch summarized the case in a blog post posted on her office’s website last week.

    She said the accuser said her father is strict and was “ruining her life,” according to the blog, so she leveled false allegations based on Fifty Shades of Grey and other books.

    The jury acquitted McCulloch’s client of all charges. The judge, according to the barrister’s account of what happened, said the case was unlike anything he had seen in his entire legal career.

    McCulloch, citing privacy issues, declined to share more details about the case, including her client’s name, the court where the case originated or when her client went to trial.

    In an email to The Washington Post, McCulloch said she did not release those pieces of information because “the complainant should be subject to an order against the press publishing anything which may identify her.” The barrister also said that the order prohibits her from releasing the accuser’s age.

    McCulloch said criminal cases can be reported in the national press unless a court order bans releasing any information about the case or if an alleged victim of a sex crime is under 18.  She added that it’s unlikely for members of the foreign press to be able to get more details about a criminal case unless they know someone in the U.K. who’s willing to share them.

    A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service, which is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in England and Wales, said in a statement that in the rape case, “as with all cases brought to us by the police, the CPS made a charging decision in accordance to the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

    “Such decisions are made after an objective assessment of the evidence which is presented to us. As a matter of course, unsuccessful prosecutions for sexual offences are looked at in order to establish whether lessons can be learned,” according to the statement.

    McCulloch, whose practice is mainly focused on fraud and sex and violent crimes, was a police officer before she pursued a law degree. She attended the Inns Court School of Law in London, according to her LinkedIn page. Her office, St. Edmund Chambers, is located in Bury St. Edmunds, about 128 kilometres northeast of London.

    McCulloch said she tries to give her all in every case she handles, whether as a defense attorney or a prosecutor. In the U.K., she said, most independent members of the bar both defend and prosecute.

    In another sexual assault case in which her client maintained his innocence, McCulloch said, she instructed her solicitors — legal professionals who provide advice and support to clients — to track down a girl whom police did not pursue for her statement. The girl’s testimony later helped clear McCulloch’s client of charges.

    Fifty Shades of Grey, which became a blockbuster Universal Pictures movie last year, is the first in James’s Fifty Shades trilogy about a sensual affair between a college senior and Christian Grey, a young and rich entrepreneur with controlling tendencies.

    The erotica series sold more than 100 million copies worldwide in 2014, 45 million of them in the United States. The book, originally published in 2011, was on The Washington Post’s bestseller list for 50 weeks.

    McCulloch’s client thought the book was about a millionaire who took a young woman under his wing and taught her about art, she wrote in her blog.

    Oct. 13, 2016 "Social media fuel attacks on celebrities": Today I found this article by Michael S. Rosenwald in the Edmonton Journal:

    Social media have altered the motives and targets of those who set out to kill public figures, spreading the threat beyond politicians to music stars, athletes and other pop-culture icons, according to a new study by a senior FBI official and a prominent forensic psychologist.

    The study, published online Wednesday in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, aims to update a landmark U.S. Secret Service report that examined attacks on public figures between 1949 and 1995, ending with “Unabomber” Ted Kaczysnki.

    That report, which looked at 83 attackers, found that 68 per cent of targets were government or judicial figures, while 19 per cent were celebrities. The new study is narrower — 58 attackers from 1995 to 2015 — but it found that 38 per cent targeted government or judicial figures while 34 per cent focused on movie, sports and media celebrities.

    The authors attribute that shift to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, which have fuelled a culture of celebrity and created an illusion of intimacy with stars.

    For some attackers, especially the one-third who are delusional, this digital relationship feels like a personal connection, with a seemingly two-way conversation that amplifies infatuation.

    At the same time, the public figures traditionally stalked by assassins — politicians and other government officials — have lost some of their appeal, the study found. They aren’t seen as powerful symbols whose deaths will provide eternal infamy. Rather, attackers blame them for their troubled lives and are seeking retribution — a motive that puts pop-culture figures at risk as well.

    “These attacks are now angry and personal,” said Reid Meloy, the lead author of the new paper and a professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego. “They don’t want fame. They want revenge for some perceived wrong.”

    Meloy and co-author Molly Amman, program manager in the FBI behavioural analysis unit that studies targeted attacks, coined a term for this new breed of targets: publicly intimate figures. And social media doesn’t just offer attackers this faux connection. It can also tip them off to where a target might soon be.

    In the paper, the authors describe dozens of victims who are public figures: Paris Hilton, attacked outside a courthouse by a stalker; Tom Brokaw, targeted with anthrax, allegedly by a disgruntled researcher wanting more money; and Roanoke, Va., television reporter Alison Parker, killed on live TV by an angry former co-worker.

    Given the timeline of the study, the authors could not include this summer’s fatal shooting of Christina Grimmie, a former singer on The Voice, by a man obsessed with her social-media posts. He lost weight and became a vegan to try to win her heart. But that attack, Meloy said, is an important example of his study’s findings.

    Reaction to the study in threat-assessment and criminology circles was mixed.
    “To those of us involved in threat assessment, this is data that confirms what we have been observing,” said Mario Scalora, who directs the Targeted Violence Research Team at the University of Nebraska.

    Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist at the Secret Service and now managing partner at Sigma Threat Management, said, “The reason why this is such an important study is that it provides a comprehensive view of the wide range of people who have become targets because of their public-figure status.”

    But other experts raised questions about the study’s methodology, arguing that the data wasn’t an apples to-apples comparison with the earlier study and that the tally of attacks could be incomplete because they were identified by Google searches. Also, those arrested weren’t interviewed, limiting insight into motive.

    The authors acknowledged these potential shortcomings in the paper. (The authors of the previous study did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminal justice professor who studies suicide bombers and mass shooters, questioned some of the methodology but said the trends described seemed plausible, given obvious changes in society. Like the authors, he is curious about the evolution of people seeking fame through violence.

    He pointed to the rise of mass shootings, noting that those attackers are often disturbed fame-seekers, emulating and even competing against previous shooters. “It makes sense that people who grew up in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s who wanted fame were more likely to attempt political assassinations,” Lankford said. “Today they are more apt to commit mass shootings.”

    The authors argue that fame has become a lesser motive in attacks on public figures because social media provides the opportunity for anyone to become a star. “One could observe that it may be less necessary than in the past to engage in assassination in order to become famous,” they write. “The Internet and social media make it possible for anyone with access to technology to achieve fame with little effort.”

    Instead, attackers target public figures out of anger for some slight, real or perceived.

    The study did find numerous aspects of attacks on public figures that have remained constant. The attackers are almost always male. They are often mentally disturbed. They don’t make direct threats before taking action.

    A spokeswoman for the Secret Service said the agency has reviewed attack trends, releasing a report last year. That report looked only at attacks on federal buildings or employees. The primary motive: “Retaliation for a perceived personal slight or wrong.” Fourth on the list: “Seeking fame or attention.”

    My opinion: I follow this actor David Anders (Alias) on Twitter and I feel this kind of connection.  I have never met him.  I tweeted to him once.  He has never tweeted me.

    I follow and tweet back and forth to the Edmonton actor Kyle Mac (Between) and I feel a connection.  There is a connection because we tweet to each other.  However, we never met. 

    Bad 911 operator:

    A former 911 operator faces misdemeanor charges in Texas for hanging up on callers who phoned in during an emergency, according to local news reports.

    Authorities charged Crenshanda Williams, 43, with two counts of interfering with an emergency call. Williams could face a year in jail for each conviction, according to a KPRC 2 report.

    The two charges stem from two incidents when Williams hung up on callers facing life-threatening situations. In one case, she hung up on Buster Pendley after his wife had lost consciousness as a blood clot moved to her lungs, KPRC 2 reported. His wife recovered after Pendley placed another call and an ambulance arrived on the scene. In another case in the report, Hua Li called over an armed robbery in progress at a convenience store. The call was disconnected shortly after it began and one person was shot and killed on the scene.

    “Nobody, nobody is going to help you,” Li told KPRC 2 of the 911 phone line. “You’re on your own.”

    Williams could be heard making her most callous remarks in another incident not included in the charges. “Ain’t nobody got time for this,” she said in one of the tapes, according to KPRC 2. “For real.”

    How did this 'woman' even get hired in the first place as a 911 operator???? Smells like a bad case of affirmative action by the state of Texas. That's so sad and unfortunate about the armed robbery call. Some of you ignorant people shrug it off as 'fate' (especially since it had nothing to do with you, but imagine if that person was someone you knew and loved!), but it is possible that a life could've been saved if this incompetent b*tch did her job properly.
    But I believe in karma, and I've got a pretty funny feeling that this Crenshanda Williams person will also be told "Nobody, nobody is going to help you. You're on your own." one 'fateful' day :)
    • Trevor
      Go ahead and look up the piece John Oliver did on the rampant and unknown problems of 911, most of them have been privatized, this is the result.

    • My opinion: This is so bad.  I know people can be bad at their jobs, but if no one died or got hurt, then it's not that big of a deal.  If it was like a retail job and a sales person is coming in late, not meeting the sales goals, giving poor customer service, that's nothing compared to being a 911 operator. 

    This comment stood out to me:
    • Nikki
      I detest fashion. The idea that one piece of clothing "looks" better than another just leads to a never-ending arms race between petty people ceaselessly trying to one-up each other by fielding garments arbitrarily perceived to be of superior make or design. Coincidentally, it also makes clothing designers rich, who get to slap their names on Walmart clothes and (somehow) successfully charge five times Walmart's price for essentially the same thing. A bigger waste of time, money and energy it's hard to imagine.

    • I wish accepted cultural practice had it that bride and groom be fully nude for weddings. Get your mind out of the gutter; that's not a prurient suggestion. It's just practical, as it would do away with the ridiculous custom of deciding which of a sea of virtually identical dresses (and tuxedos) you're going to spend thousands of dollars on, wear once in your life, and then stow in your closet until the Earth is dust.
      Give me a break.

    My week:

    Oct. 17, 2016 Happiness:

    Winter: I can't avoid shoveling snow, unless I move out of Canada.  I will see shoveling snow as good exercise.

    News: I have said this before about not sending me news about teen pregnancy.  I will say you can send me good news like celebrities donating time and money to charity.

    Rogers Place: They have finally opened.  I am indifferent about this place.  I would like it more if there was money spent on homes for homeless people, a hospital or school.   Rogers Place is more of a want than a need.

    There is a low chance I will be going there because I'm not a hockey fan and I don't go to concerts.  I'm sure a lot of people will go there.

    Edmonton Master Blog: I must have read this in the newspaper, because I wrote it down to look it up.  Instead I found this blog:

    Summer TV shows: I found a list of TV shows I watched during the summer of 2015:

    1. Wayward Pines
    2. Between
    3. Rookie Blue
    4. Pretty Little Liars (I watched on M3)
    5. Humans
    6. Zoo
    7. Played (a 2013 TV show I got to watch on M3)

    In summer 2016:

    1. Wayward Pines
    2. Between
    3. Zoo
    4. Containment
    5. Played (I watched the 3 episodes I missed on CTV)

    Rookie Blue ended in 2015.  I only got to watch one episode of Pretty Little Liars because it was on Bravo free preview.

    Oct. 18, 2016 How many people die a day?: I was watching Zoo.

    Logan: People die all the time.  250,000 people die a day.

    I had to look it up.

    World Birth and Death Rates

    Estimated 2011
    Birth RateDeath Rate
    • 19 births/1,000 population• 8 deaths/1,000 population
    • 131.4 million births per year• 55.3 million people die each year
    • 360,000 births per day• 151,600 people die each day
    • 15,000 births each hour• 6,316 people die each hour
    • 250 births each minute• 105 people die each minute
    • Four births each second of every day• Nearly two people die each second
    Average life expectancy at birth is approximately 67 years. Sources: Population Reference Bureau & The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency)    

    It says 150,000 people die a day.  Then how come there is still like overpopulation?  I look at the birth rate and death rate, and there is more births than deaths.

    This also reminds me of a Heroes episode in season 1.  New York City could be destroyed and it's still millions of people die. 07% of the world's population.

    I don't mean to make light of 9/11 where 3000 people died in one day, but 150,000 people die a day.

    Oct. 22, 2016 "The biggest obstacle I faced in learning to dance?  My brain": I found this article by Corey Mintz in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 21, 2016.  He learned how to dance from Phil Villeneuve who is a YouTube star.  He dances with his headphones in public and only he can hear the music.  The tips were to find your rhythm, and a playlist of music you like and dance to that.

    Oct. 23, 2016 Autumn: Now it's autumn again.