My schedule for Left Coast Crime

leftcoastcrime-2016-blog-headerGetting excited about the upcoming Left Coast Crime gathering in Phoenix. I will be in attendance. Here’s my schedule thus far:

Thursday, 2/25: Author’s Speed Dating  from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. In which mystery fans move from table to table to hear what authors have to say for themselves. I’ll be talking about HANGMAN’S GAME, and I may also be looking for people to go to the Nets-Suns game that evening.

Friday, 2/26: New Author’s Breakfast, 7:30 a.m. For fans who want to hear from the new kids on the block. (Even if the kids are, say, 47 years old). With the early start time, I am hoping that my body being on East Coast time will provide a crucial advantage.

Saturday, 2/27  The Game of Murder: Sports in Mysteries, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m..  A panel discussion on sports mysteries. I’ll be letting it rip with moderator Robert Rosenwald and authors John Billheimer, Tammy Kaehler, and W. L. Ripley.

When I’m not at these events I’ll be in the audience at as many panels as I can get to, hoping to learn from my fellow authors. Such a great opportunity. Hope to see you there!


Bruce Springsteen, The River Tour


bruce-springsteen-albany-performance-2016-billboard-650In the late 2000s I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert, at the Meadowlands, and one of the guys I was with remarked “I’ve seen Springsteen 34 times and that was by far the worst show I’ve ever seen him do.” Even without that basis for comparison, I knew what he meant. The show started late and was strangely flat, with a set list that was uninspiring across its wide middle. Bad Springsteen shows were not supposed to exist, and yet here I had found one—in New Jersey, no less. (Sports aside: For a while I had a similar problem with Steph Curry, I would go out of my way to watch him and somehow always catch him on an off night). I had been a big Springsteen fan in the 80s without ever making it to a concert. By the 2000s he was fading out of my musical rotation already, and after that show he dropped out completely.
A couple months ago, as a surprise, my fiance bought us tickets to see Springsteen on his current tour, featuring songs of The River. It turned out to be a perfect gift. The performance at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday was the Springsteen show I’d always hoped to see. It was big and fun, and featuring an all-world performer at the controls.
My observations from the show:
—Both Springsteen and his fans have aged a bunch since he first sang, “I had a wife and kids and Baltimore, jack/I went out for a ride and I never went back.” Which didn’t stop a room full of couples in their 40s, 50s, and 60s from belting those lines with Bruce, who was on stage with a band that includes the wife. That moment was the night in a nutshell: the meaning of the songs is what they used to mean. Also, it’s fun to sing along to the oldies.
—I had been a Springsteen fan long enough to have counted many different songs as my “favorite” over the years. The last “favorite,” before I stopped tracking, was Drive All Night. The song is on The River, so I knew I would hear it, but he went big on it, and that was good.
—After Springsteen had played all the songs on The River he went, without intermission, into a general concert, and the second song in that section was Prove it All Night, and Nils Lofgren ripped off a massive guitar solo, the only one of the night. It was great, and I found myself imagining an alternate universe in which the various keyboard and saxophone solos in Springsteen compositions were replaced by guitar solos like this one. I have to say, that alternate universe felt pretty good.
—Random aside: our seats were in the  upper level at Wells Fargo, to the side of the stage, and during those I could look across the arena and see silhouetted figures standing the entry halls to the seating. In one of those halls a larger man stood alone. I became fixated on the idea that it was, or should be, Chris Christie.
—The show ended with a ridiculous barrage of hits, each of which could have closed the show on their own. The sequence went Jungleland-The Rising—Thunder Road—Born to Run—Dancing in the Dark—Rosalita. And then, for good measure, Springsteen covered Shout, introduced the band, and goofed around some. If you didn’t enjoy yourself, it wasn’t because he didn’t try. The show was the longest of this tour, at three hours and twenty-seven minutes.  I appreciated the effort.

My Book Pick for Election Season

41RtytNpsfL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Just about every candidate in the race for president has a book they would like you to read—namely, theirs.

My suggestion for one book for people to read during this presidential election season was written by a professor, not a politician. It is called Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics. This book, which came out in 2011, is guiding, either directly or indirectly, every campaign out there.

The book is about the science of how people make decisions. When I read it, so much of the logic and rhetoric of political campaigns seemed so much more obvious. There are many examples I could give, but here is one.

Testing has shown that if a person hears something said enough times, it begins to feel like the truth. This happens because of an evolutionary process that harkens back to the hunter-gatherer years. Humans hunted and gathered in areas they knew, because you were less likely to encounter strange animals/people and be killed. In a strange place, who knows what can happen. So familiar = yay! Tests by scientists have shown how quickly people begin to agree with statements they’ve heard repeated multiple times, with no supporting evidence or even evidence to the contrary. The baldest example of this is Donald Trump with repeated promises that his health plan/tax plan/border wall will be fantastic, but every candidate does this in some form. Remember this when you watch the debates and hear the phrases candidates roll out over and over again, in support of themselves or in attacks on opponents.

Read Thinking, Fast and Slow. In so many ways, it will alert you to the games that campaigns play with language.