‘Swindler & Son’ is only 99 cents for pre-order on Amazon this week!
The laugh-out-loud comedy about fraud, dementia, kidnapping, the looting of ancient relics, nuclear terrorism and love (after marriage)!
Get your copy now and tell your friends! You can even tell the friends you don’t speak to anymore! We all need a laugh! Oh, do we need a laugh…
Click here to pre-order on Amazon!
Finally, the truth is revealed!
Netgalley is a site that makes advance e-proofs of books available to reviewers and bloggers ahead of publication–we writers hopefully get well-thought-out and well-written reviews in advance and bloggers get access ahead of deadline.
‘Swindler & Son’ is now available on Netgalley for a limited time! Click here for the Netgalley page. Jump on it, reviewers!
Not sure yet? Click here for an excerpt!
I can be reached here for any questions or interview requests – just click on the email link on the sidebar.
I’m thrilled to announce my next book, Swindler & Son, will be published in December!
What happens to a confidence man once he’s lost his confidence? Nothing good.
The very first Birkin Bag, gifted by Hermes to Jane Birkin in exchange for the use of her name. The fabled first Porsche to win the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. The Mona Lisa— not the one in the Louvre, the real one, stolen from that museum in 1911.
These are the types of items Nicky Sandler and his partner and mentor Harry provide to well-heeled customers from their base in Paris. Unique, legendary and—sometimes—even genuine. In such rarified territory, the line between fact and fiction gets very thin indeed.
But now, everything is going spectacularly wrong. Nicky’s new wife demands a divorce, citing a lack of transparency on his part. Harry is showing alarming signs of dementia, a fatal flaw in a con artist. And then, one night, Nicky discovers the French anti-terrorism task force camped out across the street from his apartment, eyeing his kitchen window, and has to go on the run to find out why.
A funny, romantic heist thriller in the tradition of Oceans 11 and the Thomas Crowne Affair, Swindler & Son is the story of a man with a gift for larceny, forced against his will to try to do the right thing.
Coming up between now and then: Lots more information about the book, print and audio excerpts, special low-price deals in pre-publication and an opportunity to read the book for FREE! in advance, in exchange for a review.
Don’t miss a detail! Fill out the handy subscription box that pops up when you visit this site (I know, I hate pop-ups to0. I also hate insurance companies and the new enhanced emoticons but they aren’t going anywhere either…) The subscription link will make sure you find out about all the details.
If nothing else, you’ll learn how to scam rich people when you hit retirement. Think of it as a self-help book for those who are just fed up with yoga…
Website cover page photo credits from www.deviantart.com:
Eiffel Tower: james2048, www.deviantart.com/james2048
Doha skyline: isac goulart, www.deviantart.com/isacgoulart
Porsche 917: Giacomo Bacchini, www.deviantart.com/ff40
Riva Aquarama speedboat: Henricus75, www.deviantart.com/henricus75
We went to a very small film festival the other night in Tribeca – an evening of independent short films, a real variety of style and subject matter. But this story stood out and I couldn’t miss passing it on.
‘Edge of Daybreak’ was a prison band, inmates (mostly) of the Powhatan Correctional Facility near Richmond, Virginia in 1979. They convinced the owner of a local recording studio to record their music. Only hitch was, the prison took one look at the studio (particularly, its multiple escape routes) and nixed any possibility of letting the boys loose there. They agreed to one five-hour recording session in the prison rec room, with armed guards standing a foot or two away from the band as they were playing. By this time, one of the band members had been transferred to another facility and had to be trucked back in on short notice for the session. Half the band members didn’t know there was to be a session until they were called down to play.
So, eight original tracks, no real time to rehearse, no time for second takes, no overdubs, the last song (‘Our Love’) performed after they’d been told to wind up the session. And the results are remarkable. The band is tight, several lead singers, tight harmonies, well-performed Seventies soul music. If you polished up a few rough edges and told me this was a forgotten Isley Brothers record or other recently-rediscovered Motown classic, I couldn’t argue with you. Considering the conditions under which it was made, it’s astounding.
Here’s the short documentary by Alix Lambert that was played the other night. All rights to her and the band, none to me. The music is available on Amazon and, I’m sure, iTunes and other vendors. Please buy the music, don’t just stream it (stream it first if you want, to see if you’re interested, but understand that musicians make virtually nothing from streaming). Lambert said she’s working on a full-length documentary on the album and the band, all of whom are apparently alive, out of prison and doing well.
Pass it on; this is one of those feel-good stories like Searching for Sugarman.
‘Saving Brinton’ is one of those magical gems that comes along every once in a while, a slow-burning delight that starts with an individual, the kind of guy we might have been lucky enough to encounter in our travels – a genuine, decent guy who often goes unnoticed in the let’s-make-a-deal cities – and then opens out to show how he tweaks the orbit of the planets, just a tiny glorious bit.
Michael Zahs is working his farm when we first see him, in Ainseworth Iowa. In his friendly, leisurely way, he establishes how he came by the Brinton films. William and Indiana Brinton had traveled around Iowa running projection shows (magic lantern slides, early movies and even a prototype flying machine that neglected to fly) in the 1890’s through 1911. When they died, their films went from their executor, who stowed them in the basement, to his executor to Zahs, who put them in a shed alongside his home and showed some of them every year in local shows around the area for thirty years, vainly trying to get someone to pay attention, until finally the University of Iowa recognized what he had.
What he had (film-lovers, prepare to gasp) were at least two Georges Melies films that were thought lost, several hand-tinted early color films in better shape than any the Library of Congress had previously seen, early footage of a train crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, Teddy Roosevelt riding in a parade and a Middle East market. Amazing stuff. Here’s a link to the film page, which will be updated as more films are digitized.
There’s a scene where the Library of Congress’s french film expert watches one of the Melies and exclaims ‘You want to see me faint?’
In the meantime, Michael plants his fields, buries his mother, gives history demonstrations that aren’t boring (!) to Iowa schoolchildren and a humorous presentation on cemeteries (!) to an assemblage of Iowa Amish, who trusted him enough to agree to be filmed. By the time you see it, that he’s earned their trust is not a surprise–as wonderful as the films he’s saved are, much of the film’s joy and grace comes from the opportunity it gives us to know the man.
Here’s the website again. But just go see this movie–you’ll leave with a really stupid smile plastered across your face, which is something we all need these days.
And if you live in Manhattan and can make it, go TODAY (May 18th 2018) to Cinema Village on 12th Street – the filmmakers and Michael are there all day to answer questions in their very gracious and charming way. Support good people doing good things – how many chances do you get?
It’s on Netflix, which is where I’m spending a lot of time now. It’s in German with subtitles -if you don’t like reading on film, get over it. This is worth the effort.
‘Babylon Berlin’ is the most expensive non-English-language production ever filmed and it looks it. It’s a mystery series set in 1929 Weimar Berlin and it does a really good job of suggesting the feel of that wild era. The streets looks impossibly glamorous and filthy at once, the cars and streets and clothes and cars look spot-on, at least to my eye.
It starts out as an extortion mystery, really, with detective Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) coming to Berlin from Cologne to cover up a blackmail plot against a local politician friend of his family (Konrad Adenauer, who later becomes the first Chancellor of West Germany, though that’s never mentioned in the script). As in any good story, things don’t turn out any of the ways you’d expect.
There’s several deaths and lots of conspiracies – Communists against the police, Czarist sympathizers against the Soviets, the old-aristocracy German military hierarchy against the Government, which must at least attempt to adhere to the Treaty of Versailles. Lots of shooting, wild dancing and drug-taking (opium figures prominently), a very real sense of the way people move through a crazy world just trying to survive – and a couple of items that really separate ‘Babylon Berlin’ from anything similar I’ve ever seen (though, in honesty, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything else quite like it).
First of all, there’s a real awareness of class, something American films generally ignore. Rath is clearly not rich but well-off, in contact with the power structure in Cologne. His partner in Berlin, Bruno Wolter (Peter Kurth, who’s terrific), is a corrupt cop on the make, arranging roomers in his home and affairs for himself on the side (and more). Rath’s typist and eventually partner sleuth Charlotte (Liv Lisa Fries, the standout center of the story) lives in a tiny barely-heated apartment with her mother, enfeebled father, a sister, creepy brother and creepier brother-in-law and a younger sister she’s determined to get into school and out of that place with her body and soul intact. The Berlin police chief (Matthias Brandt) is a Jew, not yet threatened by the Nazis who may have pockets of support in the countryside but not in cosmopolitan Berlin. He lives in a lovely house full of Art Deco and Bauhaus furniture, with a driver-driven car for his wife when she takes the kids away for the weekend – the place has the hushed dignity only money and privilege can buy. Charlotte’s friend (Leonie Benesch) becomes their maid. The relationships between characters are not just personal – there’s a universe of tradition and custom in the deference some are paid and the casual indifference with which others are used and sometimes disposed of. And you get a sense of both the lure and the apprehension that this jazzed-up new world inspired in the people who got to live it.
The other thing that’s wonderful is how this story begins as one animal and becomes another. Netflix has two seasons up so far and the first one ends by tying up the supposed mystery Rath arrived trying to solve but you’re so far beyond that mystery by the time it’s tied up, it would have been maddening if that first season had appeared on its own. It takes the full two seasons to really resolve the main storyline, which balloons into territory so much bigger. It’s like the horizons open as you move into the story, as though the filmmakers got into this world and discovered a much bigger world they fit right into – while naturally, saving a really wrenching surprise for the last few minutes.
The show has three showrunners who work in tandem – shooting different scenes with the cast and joining them in editing. It’s amazing the thing holds together but the result is fascinating and lurid, moving in twenty unexpected ways, kaleidoscopic in scope and way too relevant to our own world.
Series Three is being written now and I have the same anticipation, waiting for it, I used to reserve for ‘Sherlock’. That’s high praise in my book. Don’t miss it.
So the FBI opens a probe into Anthony Weiner and discovers a bunch of Hillary Clinton campaign emails on his laptop.
FBI Director James Comey, a Republican heading an agency stocked mostly with Republicans, is terrified that his own staff will think he’s playing politics (and therefore leak the story) if he doesn’t openly pursue these ‘new leads’. So he announces a new Hillary probe, just a month from Election Day.
Meanwhile, the CIA and FBI have already been watching Trump aides Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and Carter Page for several years, due to their long-standing Russia ties. When GCHQ, the British signals intelligence agency, gets tapes of conversations between them, other members of the Trump campaign and members of the Russian inner circle (let’s remember here that no one ever owns or controls anything sizeable, powerful or successful in Russia without Vladimir Putin’s active sponsorship), they bring this information to a White House briefing. That was the briefing where the Christopher Steele dossier was also discussed and where Joe Biden was quoted as saying, “If it’s true, it’s treason.”
But nobody says anything publicly about Trump being compromised except Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader at the time, who comes off like an alarmist partisan.
So, in total contrast to the whining from Trump’s White House, the FBI, CIA and Obama White House all acted in ways that benefited Trump’s campaign and harmed Hillary’s. Why on Earth would they do that?
Insert your favorite conspiracy theory here, if you wish. I think the answer is simple and damning:
They were all convinced Hillary would win.
And nobody wanted to give the blustering Trump–who was already complaining loudly that the election was rigged against him–any more reason to martyr himself. Nobody wanted to bolster the pseudo-Fox News everyone knew he was planning after the election. Nobody wanted to hobble Hillary’s administration by giving his claims credibility.
The other problem, I suspect, is that some of the most damning and reliable intelligence against Trump’s people came from intel sources in the Russian hierarchy, people we’ve worked very hard to cultivate and didn’t want to compromise or expose–particularly not to hurt a candidate who wasn’t going to win anyway.
It’s important to remember how things really happen in the world–in this case, America’s history turned on people making false assumptions and on the impossibility, until the moment it happened, to take Donald Trump seriously as President of the United States.
More proof, as though more was needed, that History has a sense of humor, but it’s a black one.
‘Icarus’, on Netflix, is a slow-burning fuse of a film.
It’s sold as a sports documentary and that’s how it starts out, but the thing morphs completely along the way. Bryan Fogel, the filmmaker and a serious amateur cyclist, disillusioned by Lance Armstrong’s admission that he’d cheated on his drug tests for years, decides to see if he can replicate Armstrong’s doping success in amateur cycling. The head of drug testing at UCLA initally agrees to help him (asked ‘Were the other contenders at the Tour de France doping’, he cheerfully says ‘All of them’) and then decides it would be bad for his reputation, so he introduces Fogel to Grigory Rodchenkov, who, in the through-the-looking-glass world of Putin’s Russia, was simultaneously the manager of the Olympic-federation accredited anti-doping lab in Moscow and the head of the Russian state-supported athletic doping program.
Rodchenkov is an absurdly charming fellow who immediately starts showing Fogel how to cheat the authorities and hide his doping during a series of Skype calls, which are absolutely hilarious. Rodchenkov’s little dog keeps trying to hump him on camera and when WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, starts asking questions, Rodchenkov offers without a blink to fly to LA to smuggle the urine sample’s he’s had Fogel keep in his freezer back to Moscow for doctoring.
Up to this point, the story is light and absurd. Fogel shoots himself with testosterone for months, does a grueling bike race and ends up slower than the year before but Rodchenkov says, “You’re just in the lobby. We have second and third and fourth floor, once you come to Moscow.”
But once he gets to Moscow, the scrutiny from WADA gets tighter and eventually, Rodchenkov decides to defect, leave his wife and family in Russia and come to the United States. His intuition proves prescient when one of his counterparts in the doping program drops dead of a sudden and unexpected heart attack (?) at the age of 52.
And suddenly, it’s not such a funny film anymore.
The scandal becomes a worldwide story, Rodchenkov documenting doping protocols for several Olympics to the NY Times and then an independent investigating committee. You see the Russians lying to the camera, from Rodchenkov’s bosses all the way (three steps up the chain) to Putin himself. You see Rodchenkov explaining to Fogel (the explanation aided for us by haunting animations) exactly how the Russians substituted the blood samples of 30 athletes at the Sochi Games. You see the disbelief and the unwillingness to hear on the part of the Olympic officials when they are forced into investigating (Fogel actually presents the evidence when Rodchenkov’s lawyers suggest it’s not safe for him to meet them). You see the findings of the independent investigators and you see Rodchenkov tell his wife via Skype that he has to go into witness protection.
You see the corruption and cravenness of both the Russians and the Olympic leaders when they give lip service–the Olympic committee just yesterday absolved the Russians and welcomed them back into the Olympics, despite the fact that Rodchenkov testified that the Russians haven’t competed without doping since 1968.
So many questions: Does that mean that nobody’s competed without doping since then? The Russians haven’t swamped the Olympics every time out. They’ve done very well but so have we. So have others. When you see the hypocrisy looking you in the face, it’s impossible not to wonder, impossible to dismiss. Because what we see on the faces of the Russians looks so familiar, so close to home.
And that’s what a great documentary does. This one sucks you in and doesn’t let go. Don’t miss it. On Netflix now.