Book Review – The Globe by R. Doug Wicker

The most underrated book I read in 2012 is The Globe by R. Doug Wicker. It’s underrated because it’s not selling particularly well, but should be. It’s a great read. You know when you read a certain book, you just know the author is extremely smart and you would like to have a beer with him? I feel that way about R. Doug Wicker, whom I’ve never met or communicated with, but would like to.

The Globe is a cruise ship, but not any ordinary one. It’s actually a floating condominium, and each cabin has a wealthy owner. Murders take place, and Reynard Chevalier, the erudite security officer must solve them. I love those murder mysteries that take place in a closed environment (the locked room conundrum popularized by Agatha Christie – think Ten Little Indians – and others). There’s a finite number of potential victims and suspects. Reynard is inexperienced as a murder investigator, and the number of plot twists tests his abilities.

Wicker handles all this cleverly with great deftness and an elegant writing style. You’ll be glad you discovered this delightful gem of a book. Find it here. Five out of five stars. Catch up with the author at his site here.

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Character du jour – Joseph (Big Chief) Huff

The Chief forgets his new Buffalo Head tattoos

Absolutely, one of my favorite characters in my new book, Suicide Squeeze, is Joseph (Big Chief) Huff. I think I had more fun creating him than any other character including my main character, Mercury Mercer. The Chief is a pitcher, the ace of the Red Sox’ staff. He’s huge, 6’ 5” and 260 pounds, and 90% covered with tattoos. He claims to be the only Native American in the majors, but he (like a certain Massachusetts senator) likely exaggerates his tribal heritage.

I lifted The Chief’s name from my good friend, Joe Huff of Denver. Joe and his wife, Cheri Kay (a takeoff of Cherokee), are my oldest friends in Denver. In fact, my wife Barbara and I met at their home for a Monday night Bible study some 33 years ago. Cheri Kay does have some Native American blood in her and her father was once head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Chief and my friend have one thing in common: they are both uncommonly intelligent. The Chief is the smartest guy on the team, and the most irreverent. You’ll get a kick out of him. I plan a future book in the series where Big Chief Huff is a central character. You’d enjoy my friend Joe, too, but for different reasons. Joe is selfless and incredibly wise – a good friend to have in your corner.

Posted in Baseball, Boston, Boston Marathon, Red Sox, Relationships, Suicide Squeeze, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life

What happens to your heart when you encounter human need so intense your soul can no longer ignore it? When you find yourself absolutely compelled to respond to the second Great Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself?” The answer is your life becomes wrecked, but in a way that is both pleasing to God, profoundly blesses others, and gives your own life newfound meaning.

Wrecked is author Jeff Goins’ (he helpfully assists us in the pronunciation of his unusual surname – ‘Goins rhymes with coins’, he says) personal account of a wrecked life. First he lives it, then he writes about it. The result is a story which will encourage and challenge the reader. I can hardly imagine a person who completes this book without resolving to live and act in a more compassionate way.

Goins is an uncommonly wise young man, and a very fine writer. His account lags a bit when he reaches the point in his story when he is also called to be a husband and father, and those demands impinge on his inclination to live Mark 16:17 (preach the Word, make disciples, drive out demons, heal the sick.) Yet one gets the sense that the reason is the story of his wrecked life is not fully told – that he has a stirring sequel on its way. By the way, for middle-aged men and women of my generation, I recommend Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, a wonderful book by Bob P. Buford, but I digress.

I give Wrecked five stars out of five. Goins deserves to be discovered by many and read widely.

As a side note, this book has encouraged me to undertake my own non-fiction project, my first. I am writing a book about Jesus entitled: The Superman Syndrome – the Blessings We Miss from Our Misunderstanding of the Humanity of Jesus, due out in the first half of 2013.

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Romney saves baby, economy

Yesterday, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney caught a baby which fell twenty-four miles from space. The baby, Felix Baumgartner, fell out of a capsule, and broke the sound barrier before Romney made a clean catch.

Supporters say Romney will also catch and save the economy, also in free-fall.

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Did the first debate change enough minds?

It’s probably not a good idea for a writer to comment too publicly about politics or religion. However, since I am passionate about both subjects I am going to violate the conventional wisdom. After all, one of my favorite fiction authors, Brad Thor, is an unabashed conservative. I’d say he’s doing alright.

Mitt Romney clearly won last night’s debate. He was forceful, energetic and in command – of both facts and ideas. President Obama, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy defending his record as much as undergoing a root canal. I almost felt sorry for him. Worst. Anniversary. Ever.

The question remains, though – despite the challenger’s win – did Governor Romney change enough minds? Consider this, President Obama beat John McCain by 7.2% in 2008. So Romney, all other things being equal, must win the votes of all the McCain voters plus almost eight voters out of a hundred who voted for Obama last time. Now, other things of course are not equal; respective enthusiasm for the candidates is different as is the makeup of the electorate.

Changing minds is hard. Voters don’t like to admit they made a mistake when they voted for the President four years ago, especially this incumbent. I think a substantial number of voters supported the President because he is black, and took pride that America has evolved to the point that it can elect a black president. Will those voters now admit not only a mistake but fire the first black president for incompetence?

I was fascinated by the Frank Luntz focus group of undecided voters held last night at Colorado Christian University. The group was comprised of twenty-four likely voters who were self-identified as undecided. They overwhelmingly agreed Romney won the debate. At the 3:05 mark, Luntz asked, “How many of you who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 now plan to vote for Mitt Romney?” I counted seven. We weren’t told how many of the participants voted for Obama in 2008, but likely not all 24. Even if all 24 voted for Obama last time, 29% of the group now planned to change their vote. Sounds promising for Romney, doesn’t it?

Not so fast. A majority of the voters who voted for Obama last time are ossified, hard-core Democrats who would vote for him again no matter what. So only the independents and a few Democrats are flexible enough to change votes.

Back to the focus group and why I find it so interesting. I think when you watch an event like the debate in a group setting is different than watching it alone on the couch. The focus group members are more engaged, knowing they may be put on the spot for an opinion. There are also powerful group dynamics in play. When members of the group make it clear they are changing their vote, it gives permission for other group members to do the same. It’s similar to the dynamics in play for members of a jury. Undecided voters who voted for the President last time who watched the debate alone (or with an Obama supporter) may not have yet received permission to change their vote. Certainly the mainstream media will not give that permission. It’s up to family and friends to give permission to an on-the-fence voter.

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New Cover – What do you think?

I have decided on the title for my new release, “Suicide Squeeze.” For those of you who don’t follow the nuances of baseball, a suicide squeeze is a risky baseball play.

Here is my graphic artist’s first attempt:

Yes, we caught the mispelling. Here is the second attempt:


What do you think of this bomb?

How about this (other than the two baseball images)? Leave me a message. Your input is greatly appreciated!


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The Face of Compassion

I have been thinking a lot about compassion recently, or rather my lack of it. We live in a broken world, and many people are hurting, yet I find myself almost coasting, doing little to ease the suffering of my fellow man. Speaking of suffering, that’s what the word compassion literally means, ‘suffering with’. ‘Com’ is Latin for ‘with’, and one definition of ‘passion’ means ‘suffering’. Think Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Now there was some suffering, in graphic form, and painful to watch.

Not long ago, I worked as a volunteer once a week for a soup kitchen serving the homeless in downtown Denver. It was hard work, but I could put my considerable cooking skills to good use to help feed the needy. Someone said to me at the time, “Well, at least you probably feel better about yourself.” I’m sure I nodded yes, but I actually always felt worse. You see, feeding a homeless person may alleviate a temporary hunger, but it does little for the greater needs of the individual. I did nothing to help with the larger, underlying problems of mental illness, addiction, lack of skills, or lack of relationship with the living God. Volunteering was good, but it was never enough, never sufficient.

Many of you probably feel the same way. We become aware of a sick friend with an acute need. We’re moved to pray. We might send an encouraging card, or maybe even prepare a meal. That’s good, but probably not sufficient. What our sick friend might need is for her house to be cleaned, or her bills sorted and paid. We return from delivering the meal, having done a good thing, but feeling bad because there was so much more we could have done.

Let me tell you about a person whose compassion is fully developed. My sister, Bev Hansen, became aware of an acute need. Our cousin, Brad Pyles, developed serious kidney disease and would die without a transplant. I, too, was aware of the need, but did nothing more than pray for Brad and his family. Bev prayed too, but didn’t stop there. I don’t know if she sent a card and I doubt if she prepared a meal (Brad and his wife Tina live in California, Bev’s in Phoenix). So despite her tremendous responsibilities as a mother with three sons of junior high and high school age, she submitted to tests to determine if she would be a good match as a donor. It turns out she was. So a few weeks ago, after months of sacrifice and preparation, Bev gave Brad the gift of life, in the form of her kidney. It was a perfect gift, wholly sufficient. Compassion incarnate.

Kind of reminds me of another perfect, sacrificial gift given some two thousand years ago… If you haven’t accepted that gift, it may be time to do so.

Bev and Pat Hansen (No greater love than this)

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Uh-oh; I’m starting over!

I’m pretty decent with technology. Okay, I’m lousy at texting and haven’t figured out how to stream video from the computer to the TV. What chapped my lips recently is that I lost my entire website: all my cool blog posts, all my adoring fans (both of you).

So I’m starting over. Blank slate, tabula rasa. Let’s start this new adventure with a fresh start and a new release, coming very soon!

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