Saturday, January 23, 2010

“Among Thieves” by David Hosp

A BagelBards Book Review

“Among Thieves”
By David Hosp
Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY price $24.99

Reviewed 1/19/10 by Paul Steven Stone

“Among Thieves” is the fourth in a series of attorney-centric thrillers written by David Hosp. Its fictional portrayal of the notorious Isabella Gardner Museum heist of 1990 offers an interesting, if perhaps excessively violent, framework for the still unsolved crime whose purloined booty is reputedly worth billions today.

Fast-paced and interesting in its premise, the novel suffers from characters drawn with little depth, as if the novelist was relying on the reader’s efforts with similar novels and similar characters to round out his offering. The novel’s hero, attorney Scott Finn, works in concert with a former Boston cop turned detective, Tom Koslowski, and a single associate, Lissa Krantz, in a corporate arrangement more suited to detective fiction than commercial reality. The story opens in the past with the chilling murder of a family in Northern Ireland, then quickly spans 35-years and a quarter of the globe to overtake the modern-day murder of a high-ranking member of Boston’s criminal underworld.

Attorney Finn enters the story on Patriots Day on his way to a Red Sox game when he stops by the Nashua Street Jail to visit a client, Devon Malley, a small-time thief who may have been, as the novel later reveals, involved in history’s biggest and most audacious art theft. Malley not only convinces Finn to talk with local gangsters who might be of help, but also gets the lawyer to take charge of his angry, wise-cracking and inevitably hungry-for-love teenage daughter. Before Finn can contact either of Malley’s criminal colleagues, they are tortured to death by a vengeful and relentless IRA terrorist. It soon becomes clear that Malley and his daughter may be the next victims on the list unless Finn and the police can run down the murderer and find the stolen artwork in time.

“Among Thieves” is an interesting tale told by a highly capable writer who perhaps should have spent a little more time on developing his characters. The City of Boston, as well as one of its most notorious sons, Whitey Bulger, play key roles as events and narrative unwind. The story unfolds crisply, with at times excessive violence, and ends with an interesting, if not surprising, conclusion. Readers of crime fiction will enjoy “Among Thieves” even if it doesn’t make the list of top-tier legal/lawyer thrillers.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


By Paul Steven Stone

For any democrats, progressives or dumbstruck Obama supporters wondering “What the hell happened?” in Massachusetts this past Tuesday, let me offer a few thoughts.
As Pogo once said in a famous cartoon strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

After eight years of Bush-Cheney malign neglect, the American presidency was turned over to a man who promised to change the way Washington worked. To take back power for the people. To curtail the power of the lobbyists and their entrenched special interests. To fight Wall Street for Main Street. To bridge partisan divide. And to restore America’s pride, not just as a powerful nation but a moral one as well.
And where do we find ourselves a year later?
With a president who appears to value comity over fighting for what he believes in. With a president who promised to fight for real health care reform but appeared to quickly abandon the very drug cost containment and public option elements that real reform requires.

We voted for a president who would fight drug companies for the right to import drugs from Canada and who would use America’s colossal bargaining power like a club to lower drug prices. Instead we ended up with a president who negotiated away his power in exchange for the pharmaceutical industry’s collusion in a program that would never threaten either their American monopoly or their colossal greed.

We voted for a president who would fight Wall Street but who quickly brought in the usual suspects to run things, some of them clearly tarnished by their inside involvement in the financial crisis or their initial efforts to make whole the bankers and CEOs whose greed and system manipulation caused the crisis.

This last year we have hungered for a President who would worry less about upsetting the apple cart and more about removing the bad apples. It may have been politically expedient to give Bush and Cheney a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, but America’s constitution has been bloodied by their cowboy-up approach to starting wars, torturing prisoners, denying constitutional rights and subverting civil liberties.

To not shine a light on these illegal and destructive behaviors is to allow them to eat away in the dark at the cornerstone of rights that others have died to secure.

We voted for a president who, if he didn’t have the heart or courage to pursue these miscreants, would at least have had the wisdom to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If only to uphold the honor of his office and his somber responsibility to our Constitution.

Over the last year we have watched President Obama repeatedly step back from using the full weight and power of his position to foster policies and programs he was elected to pursue. His willingness to enter into compromise or meaningless negotiation with fanatical Republicans so invested in protecting the wealth and power of entrenched interests they would never meet him halfway on any field, over any issue, will prove to be his—and probably our—undoing.

Mr. President, we elected you to clean up Dodge City, but it appears you’ve settled in far too comfortably, and much more quickly than anyone could have expected.

If your advisors tell you that you are doing a good job, fire them. If you can’t find worthy advisors to replace them, perhaps you’ll have to look beyond the boundaries of Washington, D.C.

That would be change we could believe in.

Paul Steven Stone is a writer/novelist living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Author of the novel “Or So It Seems” and the story collection “How To Train A Rock”, he works as Director of Advertising for W.B. Mason. He can be reached at

The Bones We Carry Poems and Short Prose by the Streetfeet Women.

The Bones We Carry Poems and Short Prose by the Streetfeet Women. Chris Fadala, Beatrice Greene, Elena Harap, Mary Millner McCullough, Li Min Mo, and Aura Sanchexz. (Streetfeet Press 30 Brastow Ave. Somerville, Ma. 02143) $10.

The Streetfeet Women is a group that was founded in Boston in 1982 by Somerville resident Mary McCullough and Elena Harap.

It is a collective formed to create works celebrating the way ordinary women live their lives. In this collection by the Streetfleet women: "The Bones We Carry," there is poetry and prose by Chris Fadala, Beatrice Greene, Elena Harap, Mary McCullough, Li Min Mo, and Aura Sanchez. The arresting cover image titled: "Night Rider" was created by Bagel Bard Li Min Mo, and included is artwork from Veronique Epiter. This is an anthology that has veteran writers who have perfected their craft over the years. Being a poet more than anything else, I chose to focus on a sampling of poems.

Li Min Mo's "Old Woman" captures an artist staring at her own face and wondering about the passage of time--the way it becomes chiseled in one's face:

" staring at the mirror:
what's behind this old face?
lines, discolor of age,
old tree bark, my cheeks;...
hollows, bags, crow's feet,
disappearing eyebrows, lips,
the neck's fold, three or four times,
because old age just can't decide on one idea of a portrait."

Mo points out later that the vessel may be old but : " one arm dances with sunlight and the other still wraps/
around the moon."

Being a fan of Jazz, and an admirer of John Coltrane, I enjoyed Beatrice Greene's: "Jazz: Listening to Dr. Dr. John Coltrane." Greene examines the transforming aspect of the music and the affect it has on the listener:

"You move in suspended time and space

Reconfiguring our electromagnetic essence.

Our minds, bodies, spirits enraptured;

sometimes dancing,

sometimes in meditative stillness.

Transformed, we find ourselves

breathing as if by the ocean

where we birthed."

And in a study of a daughter bemoaning the state of a mother firmly in dotage and decline, Mary McCullough writes a masterful portrait of the matriarchal shadow the mother is now in: "Assurance":

hands that once braided my hair

rest in mother's lap

she sits in a chair

placed against a drab hospital wall,

converses in monotones

with her invisible listeners.

i search for a niche in her flatness,

proof of her former wholeness.

i, a nonbeliever,

address the guardian angels

of mothers and daughters,

pray for a miracle,

let her remember my name.

Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review of VAN GOGH’S EAR, by Pamela L. Laskin

Review of VAN GOGH’S EAR, by Pamela L. Laskin, Cervena Barva Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2010, 75 pages, $15

By Barbara Bialick

To Pamela L. Laskin, a good, thinking poetry teacher/writer, is always teaching, even through her poems, including what she learns from her students and other artists, as she treads through her experiences. “Words continue to persist/fleshless/until they take form in a poem/…New epics are born/out of millions of years/of old thumbs and cortexes;/words, who never knew/there was anywhere to go.” (“Evolution”)

Meanwhile, she leaves you with underlying symbols to identify and figure out,
a gift to the reader, such as in the central concept of Van Gogh’s ear…van goes here, Van Gogh’s she divides the book into the following sections: a left ear a right ear, the ears of the self, the ears of other artists.

In “An Education”, Laskin, as teacher, contemplates an essay from a student whose “father beat her up when she resisted rape”. Coming from a life of “Irish oatmeal/two rings on my fingers…” she exclaims “I am her teacher./I have to grade her paper.”

But she is not just a teacher. She has a clear poet’s eye, as well as ear: “Just the other year/my father said, ‘I’ll love you forever’/then died…You enter/like the cave you first discovered/as a child/…Only there’s no way out…”

She also feels for the poor, sad people she’s observed in New York, where she lives. “Things That Are Beautiful” is about an old “crippled” woman “crouched in her wheelchair on a busy street…selling necklaces…” As you read the poem, you realize it’s a sestina, that’s framed on such telling words as beautiful, naked, hands, streets, and so on. “Like everyday, she is naked to the crowd.”

The cover art for this book is a beautiful drawing by Marc Chagall. But even on the back of the book, her photo demonstrates a mischievous Mona Lisa smile.

Laskin is a lecturer in the English Department at The City College, where she directs The Poetry Outreach Center. She’s published five books of poetry, as well as some poetry chapbooks, five picture books, two young adult novels, and edited a collection of fairy tales. She resides in Brooklyn, New York.

I predict there will be more good books to come.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poems from the Left Bank: Somerville, Doug Holder

To order click on title

Poems from the Left Bank: Somerville,
Doug Holder

Quarter-page-sized, laser-printed, saddle-stapled poetry chapbook of the people and sights of Somerville, MA.

Release Date:
January 2010

Cover artwork: Somerville Yard by Richard Wilhelm.


Interview with Gypsy Scholar Sonia Meyer: An activist and novelist with a dramatic past.

Interview with Gypsy Scholar Sonia Meyer: An activist and novelist with a dramatic past.

Interview by Doug Holder

Sonia Meyer was born in 1938 in Cologne, Germany. Her first memory is not of some beatific childhood scene. It was of her mother dressing her to flee her home after fellow opponents of the Nazis had been strung up by a nearby neighborhood overpass and left dangling for all to see. Mother and daughter vanished into the forests of Germany to escape the Nazis. As a child she learned to throw grenades—she carried messages to Partisan men, who were camped out to fight the Germans.

Meyer has witnessed the Holocaust from two perspectives: the Jews and the Gypsies. During World War 11, in her time in the forests hiding from the Nazis, she witnessed the mysterious Gypsies. They were proud, defiant, and outsiders—perfect targets for the Germans. She remembers a wizened, sage-like Gypsy woman who told her and her mother that they would survive the war. She has drawn on her fascinating experiences in a new novel that she has penned: “Dosha.” It is to be released by the Wilderness House Press in the spring of 2010. I spoke with Meyer on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet Writer to Writer.”

Doug Holder: Sonia—you have told me that you have lived much of your life like a Gypsy, how so?

Sonia Meyer: Well first of all during the War we constantly moved. And afterwords I was rescued from Germany by an Italian uncle. We moved constantly between the States, Italy, and the rest of Europe. When I was first married I lived in Finland. And when I divorced I really travelled all over the world. I had enough knowledge to make a living. I was able to go to one country to another. I had many different professions.

DH: In an article by Susie Davidson in “The Jewish Advocate” you talk about the Gypsies and the Jews during the Nazi era: “Here are two European minorities. They are almost opposite in their culture. But they were both persecuted, albeit for different reasons, and both continued to be viewed as outsiders.”
Describe how the Nazi’s viewed both groups---how are Gypsies and Jews almost opposite in culture?

SM: Jews are a very literate culture. The whole culture revolves around the Torah. Education plays a major role in Jewish life. The Gypsies are an oral culture.—right from the beginning. They never left any traces of their past. They are great poets. But their poetry is for one particular occasion, and then forgotten. There was one famous poet, a Polish Gypsy by the name of: Papuzsa. She was the first Gypsy poet to actually publish her poetry. She became famous but then discarded by the Gypsies. The Gypsies don’t want non-Gypsies to know any part of their lives.

The Nazis viewed the Jews with envy. This is the worst of all hatreds. The Jews were powerful—they were famous in academia—they had famous artists, and frankly I think Hitler needed money for his War. I think this was an excuse to kill the Jews.

The Germans had a romantic view of the Gypsies. They viewed them as free and footloose. They were artistic and their music went straight to the German heart. They especially liked the nomadic Gypsies. The partially integrated Gypsies were persecuted more rigorously. So it was a love/hate relationship with the Gypsies. They lured them—gently-into concentration camps. At first they lured them with call for employment—there was no work.

DH: How many Gypsies were killed?

SM: Estimates vary. Of course many were not registered as citizens. Estimates were everywhere from 250,000 to a million and a half. That was 75% of the whole Gypsy population. There seems to be 12 million Gypsies living in Europe. So they really came back as a population. They have a very high birthrate.

DH: Why is that?

SM: Well, to the Gypsy children are the greatest wealth of all. So they marry very young. The girls used to marry as young as age 12. To the Gypsy, children are everything.

DH: The Russians were liberators—but they were often no better than the Nazis, with rape and pillaging, etc…

SM: The Germans did what they did in a very, cold and calculating way. The Russians had lost 25 million people in World War 11.

DH: You are releasing a novel “Dosha” published by the Wilderness House Press in the Spring of 2010. Can you tell us about it?

SM: Dosha is the story of the Lovara, a nomadic Russian Gypsy tribe of horse dealers. They were considered the aristocrats of the Gypsies, because the horse is holy to the Gypsies. And the Gypsies lived freely in the Soviet Union up to the time of Khrushchev. The book first tells the story when the tribe was roaming freely. Later they were trapped and standardized into the Soviet system by Khrushchev. They planned to escape. This is the story of the tribe. And Dosha is the granddaughter of a powerful Lovara king. By legend she is supposes to be the next leader.