Mystery

Bannier, Pierre. Pleins feux sur… Columbo. Paris: Horizon illimité, 2005. ISBN 2-84787-141-1.
It seems like the most implausible formula for a successful television series: no violence, no sex, no car chases, a one-eyed hero who is the antithesis of glamorous, detests guns, and drives a beat-up Peugeot 403. In almost every episode the viewer knows “whodunit” before the detective appears on the screen, and in most cases the story doesn't revolve around his discovery of the perpetrator, but rather obtaining evidence to prove their guilt, the latter done without derring-do or scientific wizardry, but rather endless, often seemingly aimless dialogue between the killer and the tenacious inspector. Yet “Columbo”, which rarely deviated from this formula, worked so well it ran (including pilot episodes) for thirty-five years in two separate series (1968–1978 and 1989–1994) and subsequent telefilm specials through 2003 (a complete episode guide is available online).

Columbo, as much a morality play about persistence and cunning triumphing over the wealthy, powerful, and famous as it is a mystery (creators of the series Richard Levinson and William Link said the character was inspired by Porfiry Petrovich in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries), translates well into almost any language and culture. This book provides the French perspective on the phénomène Columbo. In addition to a comprehensive history of the character and series (did you know that the character which became Columbo first appeared in a story in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1960, or that Peter Falk was neither the first nor the second, but the third actor to portray Columbo?), details specific to l'Hexagone abound: a profile of Serge Sauvion, the actor who does the uncanny French doublage of Peter Falk's voice in the series, Marc Gallier, the “French Columbo”, and the stage adaptation in 2005 of Une femme de trop (based on the original stage play by Levinson and Link which became the pilot of the television series) starring Pascal Brunner. This being a French take on popular culture, there is even a chapter (pp. 74–77) providing a Marxish analysis of class conflict in Columbo! A complete episode guide with both original English and French titles and profiles of prominent guest villains rounds out the book.

For a hardcover, glossy paper, coffee table book, many of the colour pictures are hideously reproduced; they look like they were blown up from thumbnail images found on the Internet with pixel artefacts so prominent that in some cases you can barely make out what the picture is supposed to be. Other illustrations desperately need the hue, saturation, and contrast adjustment you'd expect to be routine pre-press steps for a publication of this type and price range. There are also a number of errors in transcribing English words in the text—sadly, this is not uncommon in French publications; even Jules Verne did it.

April 2006 Permalink

Hamilton, Steve. Misery Bay. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-312-38043-4.
I haven't been reading many mysteries recently, but when I happened to listen to a podcast interview with the author of this book set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, less than twelve hours before departing on a trip to precisely that destination, I could only conclude that the Cosmic Coincidence Control Centre was telling me to read this book, so I promptly downloaded the Kindle edition and read it after arrival. I'm glad I did.

This is the eighth novel in the author's Alex McKnight series, but it is perfectly accessible to readers (like myself) who start here. The story is recounted in the first person by McKnight, a former Detroit cop who escaped the cruel streets of that failed metropolis after a tragic episode, relocating to the town of Paradise in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he intends to make a living renting cabins, but finds himself reluctantly involved as a private investigator in crimes which cross his path.

In the present book, McKnight agrees to look into the circumstances of the apparent suicide of the son of a friend and former colleague of McKnight's nemesis, police chief Roy Maven. This errand, undertaken on behalf of a distraught father who cannot imagine any motive for his son's taking his life, spirals into what appears to be a baffling cluster of suicides and murders involving current and former police officers and their children. McKnight seeks to find the thread which might tie these seemingly unrelated events together, along with a pair of FBI agents who, being feds, seem more concerned with protecting their turf than catching crooks.

Along with many twists and turns as the story develops and gripping action scenes, Hamilton does a superb job evoking the feel of the Upper Peninsula, where the long distances, sparse population, and extreme winters provide a background more like Montana than something you'd expect east of the Mississippi. In the end, the enigma is satisfyingly resolved and McKnight, somewhat the worse for wear, is motivated to turn the next corner in his life where, to be sure, other mysteries await.

June 2011 Permalink

Lileks, James. Graveyard Special. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2012. ASIN B00962GFES.
This novel, set in the Dinkytown neighbourhood of Minneapolis, adjacent to the University of Minnesota campus, in 1980, is narrated in the first person by Robert (not Bob) Thompson, an art history major at the university, experiencing the metropolis after having grown up in a small town in the north of the state. Robert is supporting his lavish lifestyle (a second floor room in a rooming house in Dinkytown with the U of M hockey team living downstairs) by working nights at Mama B's Trattoria, an Italian/American restaurant with a light beer and wine bar, the Grotto, downstairs. His life and career at the “Trat” and “Grot” are an immersion in the culture of 1980, and a memoir typical of millions in university at the epoch until a cook at the Trat is shot dead by a bullet which came through the window from outside, with no apparent motive or clue as to the shooter's identity.

Then Robert begins to notice things: curious connections between people, suggestions of drug deals, ambiguous evidence of wire taps, radical politics, suspicions of people being informants, and a strange propensity for people he encounters meeting with apparently random violence. As he tries to make sense of all of this, he encounters hard-boiled cops, an immigrant teacher from the Soviet Union who speaks crystalline wisdom in fractured English, and a reporter for the student newspaper with whom he is instantly smitten. The complexity and ambiguity spiral ever upward until you begin to suspect, as Robert does in chapter 30, “You never get all the answers. I suppose that's the lesson.”

Do you get all the answers? Well, read the novel and find out for yourself—I doubt you'll regret doing so. Heck, how many mystery novels have an action scene involving a Zamboni? As you'd expect from the author's work, the writing is artful and evocative, even when describing something as peripheral to the plot as turning off an Asteroids video game after closing time in the Grot.

I yanked the cord and the world of triangular spaceships and monochromatic death-rocks collapsed to a single white point. The universe was supposed to end like that, if there was enough mass and matter or something. It expands until gravity hauls everything back in; the collapse accelerates until everything that was once scattered higgily-jiggity over eternity is now summed up in a tiny white infinitely dense dot, which explodes anew into another Big Bang, another universe, another iteration of existence with its own rules, a place where perhaps Carter got a second term and Rod Stewart did not decide to embrace disco.

I would read this novel straight through, cover-to-cover. There are many characters who interact in complicated ways, and if you set it aside due to other distractions and pick it up later, you may have to do some backtracking to get back into things. There are a few copy editing errors (I noted 7), but they don't distract from the story.

At this writing, this book is available only as a Kindle e-book; a paperback edition is expected in the near future. Here are the author's comments on the occasion of the book's publication. This is the first in what James Lileks intends to be a series of between three and five novels, all set in Minneapolis in different eras, with common threads tying them together. I eagerly await the next.

October 2012 Permalink

Osborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2013. ASIN B00FOR5LJ4.
This book, available only for the Kindle, collects the first four novels of the author's Displaced Detective series. The individual books included here are The Arrival, At Speed, The Rendlesham Incident, and Endings and Beginnings. Each pair of books, in turn, comprises a single story, the first two The Case of the Displaced Detective and the latter two The Case of the Cosmological Killer. If you read only the first of either pair, it will be obvious that the story has been left in the middle with little resolved. In the trade paperback edition, the four books total more than 1100 pages, so this omnibus edition will keep you busy for a while.

Dr. Skye Chadwick is a hyperspatial physicist and chief scientist of Project Tesseract. Research into the multiverse and brane world solutions of string theory has revealed that our continuum—all of the spacetime we inhabit—is just one of an unknown number adjacent to one another in a higher dimensional membrane (“brane”), and that while every continuum is different, those close to one another in the hyperdimensional space tend to be similar. Project Tesseract, a highly classified military project operating from an underground laboratory in Colorado, is developing hardware based on advanced particle physics which allows passively observing or even interacting with these other continua (or parallel universes).

The researchers are amazed to discover that in some continua characters which are fictional in our world actually exist, much as they were described in literature. Perhaps Heinlein and Borges were right in speculating that fiction exists in parallel universes, and maybe that's where some of authors' ideas come from. In any case, exploration of Continuum 114 has revealed it to be one of those in which Sherlock Holmes is a living, breathing man. Chadwick and her team decide to investigate one of the pivotal and enigmatic episodes in the Holmes literature, the fight at Reichenbach Falls. As Holmes and Moriarty battle, it is apparent that both will fall to their death. Chadwick acts impulsively and pulls Holmes from the brink of the cliff, back through the Tesseract, into our continuum. In an instant, Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective of 1891 London, finds himself in twenty-first century Colorado, where he previously existed only in the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Holmes finds much to adapt to in this often bewildering world, but then he was always a shrewd observer and master of disguise, so few people would be as well equipped. At the same time, the Tesseract project faces a crisis, as a disaster and subsequent investigation reveals the possibility of sabotage and an espionage ring operating within the project. A trusted, outside investigator with no ties to the project is needed, and who better than Holmes, who owes his life to it? With Chadwick at his side, they dig into the mystery surrounding the project.

As they work together, they find themselves increasingly attracted to one another, and Holmes must confront his fear that emotional involvement will impair the logical functioning of his mind upon which his career is founded. Chadwick, learning to become a talented investigator in her own right, fears that a deeper than professional involvement with Holmes will harm her own emerging talents.

I found that this long story started out just fine, and indeed I recommended it to several people after finishing the first of the four novels collected here. To me, it began to run off the rails in the second book and didn't get any better in the remaining two (which begin with Holmes and Chadwick an established detective team, summoned to help with a perplexing mystery in Britain which may have consequences for all of the myriad contunua in the multiverse). The fundamental problem is that these books are trying to do too much all at the same time. They can't decide whether they're science fiction, mystery, detective procedural, or romance, and as they jump back and forth among the genres, so little happens in the ones being neglected at the moment that the parallel story lines develop at a glacial pace. My estimation is that an editor with a sharp red pencil could cut this material by 50–60% and end up with a better book, omitting nothing central to the story and transforming what often seemed a tedious slog into a page-turner.

Sherlock Holmes is truly one of the great timeless characters in literature. He can be dropped into any epoch, any location, and, in this case, anywhere in the multiverse, and rapidly start to get to the bottom of the situation while entertaining the reader looking over his shoulder. There is nothing wrong with the premise of these books and there are interesting ideas and characters in them, but the execution just isn't up to the potential of the concept. The science fiction part sometimes sinks to the techno-babble level of Star Trek (“Higgs boson injection beginning…”). I am no prude, but I found the repeated and explicit sex scenes a bit much (tedious, actually), and they make the books unsuitable for younger readers for whom the original Sherlock Holmes stories are a pure delight. If you're interested in the idea, I'd suggest buying just the first book separately and see how you like it before deciding to proceed, bearing in mind that I found it the best of the four.

January 2015 Permalink

Osborn, Stephanie. Burnout. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-606192-00-9.
At the conclusion of its STS-281 mission, during re-entry across the southern U.S. toward a landing at Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle orbiter Atlantis breaks up. Debris falls in the Gulf of Mexico. There are no survivors. Prior to the disaster Mission Control received no telemetry or communications from the crew indicating any kind of problem. Determination of the probable cause will have to await reconstruction of the orbiter from the recovered debris and analysis of the on-board flight operations recorder if and when it is recovered. Astronaut Emmett “Crash” Murphy, whose friend “Jet” Jackson was commander of the mission, is appointed a member of the investigation, focusing on the entry phase.

Hardly has the investigation begun when Murphy begins to discover that something is seriously amiss. Unexplained damage to the orbiter's structure is discovered and then the person who pointed it out to him is killed in a freak accident and the component disappears from the reconstruction hangar. The autopsies of the crew reveal unexplained discrepancies with their medical records. The recorder's tape of cockpit conversation inexplicably goes blank at the moment the re-entry begins, before any anomaly occurred. As he begins to dig deeper, he becomes the target of forces unknown who appear willing to murder anybody who looks too closely into the details of the tragedy.

This is the starting point for an adventure and mystery which sometimes seems not just like an episode of “The X-Files”, but two or more seasons packed into one novel. We have a radio astronomer tracking down a mysterious signal from the heavens; a shadowy group of fixers pursuing those who ask too many questions or learn too much; Area 51; a vast underground base and tunnel system which has been kept entirely secret; strange goings-on in the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1947; a cabal of senior military officers from around the world, including putative adversaries; Native American and Australian aborigine legends; hot sex scenes; a near-omniscient and -omnipotent Australian spook agency; reverse-engineering captured technologies; secret aerospace craft with “impossible” propulsion technology; and—wait for it— …but you can guess, can't you?

The author is a veteran of more than twenty years in civilian and military space programs, including working as a payload flight controller in Mission Control on shuttle missions. Characters associated with NASA speak in the acronym-laden jargon of their clan, which is explained in a glossary at the end. This was the author's first novel. It was essentially complete when the space shuttle orbiter Columbia was lost in a re-entry accident in 2003 which superficially resembles that which befalls Atlantis here. In the aftermath of the disaster, she decided to put the manuscript aside for a while, eventually finishing it in 2006, with almost no changes due to what had been learned from the Columbia accident investigation. It was finally published in 2009.

Since then she has retired from the space business and published almost two dozen novels, works of nonfiction, and contributions to other works. Her Displaced Detective (January 2015) series is a masterful and highly entertaining addition to the Sherlock Holmes literature. She has become known as a prolific and talented writer, working in multiple genres. Everybody has to start somewhere, and it's not unusual for authors' first outings not to come up to the standard of those written after they hit their stride. That is the case here. Veteran editors, reading a manuscript by a first time author, often counsel, “There's way too much going on here. Focus on one or two central themes and stretch the rest out over your next five or six books.” That was my reaction to this novel. It's not awful, by any means, but it lacks the polish and compelling narrative of her subsequent work.

I read the Kindle edition which, at this writing, is a bargain at less than US$ 1. The production values of the book are mediocre. It looks like a typewritten manuscript turned directly into a book. Body copy is set ragged right, and typewriter conventions are used throughout: straight quote marks instead of opening and closing quotes, two adjacent hyphens instead of em dashes, and four adjacent centred asterisks used as section breaks. I don't know if the typography is improved in the paperback version; I'm not about to spend twenty bucks to find out.

November 2016 Permalink

Smith, L. Neil. Sweeter than Wine. Rockville, MD: Phoenix Pick, 2011. ISBN 978-1-60450-483-5.
A couple of weeks after D-Day, Second Lieutenant J Gifford found himself separated from his unit and alone in a small French village which, minutes later, was overrun by Germans. Not wishing to spend the rest of the war as a POW, he took refuge in an abandoned house, hiding out in the wine cellar to escape capture until the Allies took the village. There, in the dark, dank cellar, he encounters Surica, a young woman also hiding from the Germans—and the most attractive woman he has ever seen. Nature takes its course, repeatedly.

By the time the Germans are driven out by the Allied advance, Gifford has begun to notice changes in himself. He can see in the dark. His hearing is preternaturally sensitive. His canine teeth are growing. He cannot tolerate sunlight. And he has a thirst for blood.

By the second decade of the twenty-first century, Gifford has established himself as a private investigator in the town of New Prospect, Colorado, near Denver. He is talented in his profession, considered rigorously ethical, and has a good working relationship with the local police. Apart from the whole business about not going out in daytime without extensive precautions, being a vampire has its advantages in the gumshoe game: he never falls ill, recovers quickly even from severe injuries, doesn't age, has extraordinary vision and hearing, and has a Jedi-like power of suggestion over the minds of people which extends to causing them to selectively forget things.

But how can a vampire, who requires human blood to survive, be ethical? That is the conundrum Gifford has had to face ever since that day in the wine cellar in France and, given the prospect of immortality, will have to cope with for all eternity. As the novel develops, we learn how he has met this challenge.

Meanwhile, Gifford's friends and business associates, some of whom know or suspect his nature, have been receiving queries which seem to indicate someone is on to him and trying to dig up evidence against him. At the same time, a series of vicious murders, all seemingly unrelated except for their victims having all been drained of blood, are being committed, starting in Charleston, South Carolina and proceeding westward across the U.S. These threads converge into a tense conflict pitting Gifford's ethics against the amoral ferocity of an Old One (and you will learn just how Old in chapter 26, in one of the scariest lines I've encountered in any vampire tale).

I'm not usually much interested in vampire or zombie stories because they are just so implausible, except as a metaphor for something else. Here, however, the author develops a believable explanation of the vampire phenomenon which invokes nothing supernatural. Sure, there aren't really vampires, but if there were this is probably how it would work. As with all of the author's fiction, there are many funny passages and turns of phrase. For a novel about a vampire detective and a serial killer, the tone is light and the characters engaging, with a romance interwoven with the mystery and action. L. Neil Smith wrote this book in one month: November, 2009, as part of the National Novel Writing Month, but other than being relatively short (150 pages), there's nothing about it which seems rushed; the plotting is intricate, the characters well-developed, and detail is abundant.

October 2015 Permalink

Suprynowicz, Vin. The Testament of James. Pahrump, NV: Mountain Media, 2014. ISBN 978-0-9670259-4-0.
The author is a veteran newspaperman and was arguably the most libertarian writer in the mainstream media during his long career with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He earlier turned his hand to fiction in 2005's The Black Arrow (May 2005), a delightful libertarian superhero fantasy. In the present volume he tells an engaging tale which weaves together mystery, the origins of Christianity, and the curious subculture of rare book collectors and dealers.

Matthew Hunter is the proprietor of a used book shop in Providence, Rhode Island, dealing both in routine merchandise but also rare volumes obtained from around the world and sold to a network of collectors who trust Hunter's judgement and fair pricing. While Hunter is on a trip to Britain, an employee of the store is found dead under suspicious circumstances, while waiting after hours to receive a visitor from Egypt with a manuscript to be evaluated and sold.

Before long, a series of curious, shady, and downright intimidating people start arriving at the bookshop, all seeking to buy the manuscript which, it appears, was never delivered. The person who was supposed to bring it to the shop has vanished, and his brothers have come to try to find him. Hunter and his friend Chantal Stevens, ex-military who has agreed to help out in the shop, find themselves in the middle of the quest for one of the most legendary, and considered mythical, rare books of all time, The Testament of James, reputed to have been written by James the Just, the (half-)brother of Jesus Christ. (His precise relationship to Jesus is a matter of dispute among Christian sects and scholars.) This Testament (not to be confused with the Epistle of James in the New Testament, also sometimes attributed to James the Just), would have been the most contemporary record of the life of Jesus, well predating the Gospels.

Matthew and Chantal seek to find the book, rescue the seller, and get to the bottom of a mystery dating from the origin of Christianity. Initially dubious such a book might exist, Matthew concludes that so many people would not be trying so hard to lay their hands on it if there weren't something there.

A good part of the book is a charming and often humorous look inside the world of rare books, one with which the author is clearly well-acquainted. There is intrigue, a bit of mysticism, and the occasional libertarian zinger aimed at a deserving target. As the story unfolds, an alternative interpretation of the life and work of Jesus and the history of the early Church emerges, which explains why so many players are so desperately seeking the lost book.

As a mystery, this book works superbly. Its view of “bookmen” (hunters, sellers, and collectors) is a delight. Orthodox Christians (by which I mean those adhering to the main Christian denominations, not just those called “Orthodox”) may find some of the content blasphemous, but before they explode in red-faced sputtering, recall that one can never be sure about the provenance and authenticity of any ancient manuscript. Some of the language and situations are not suitable for young readers, but by the standards of contemporary mass-market fiction, the book is pretty tame. There are essentially no spelling or grammatical errors. To be clear, this is entirely a work of fiction: there is no Testament of James apart from this book, in which it's an invention of the author. A bibliography of works providing alternative (which some will consider heretical) interpretations of the origins of Christianity is provided. You can read an excerpt from the novel at the author's Web log; continue to follow the links in the excerpts to read the first third—20,000 words—of the book for free.

February 2015 Permalink

Verne, Jules. Le Château des Carpathes. Paris: Poche, [1892] 1976. ISBN 978-2-253-01329-7.
This is one of Jules Verne's later novels, originally published in 1892, and is considered “minor Verne”, which is to say it's superior to about 95% of science and adventure fiction by other authors. Five years before Bram Stoker penned Dracula, Verne takes us to a looming, gloomy, and abandoned (or is it?) castle on a Carpathian peak in Transylvania, to which the superstitious residents of nearby villages attribute all kinds of supernatural goings on. Verne is clearly having fun with the reader in this book, which reads like a mystery, but what is mysterious is not whodunit, but rather what genre of book you're reading: is it a ghost story, tale of the supernatural, love triangle, mad scientist yarn, or something else? Verne manages to keep all of these balls in the air until the last thirty pages or so, when all is revealed and resolved. It's plenty of fun getting there, as the narrative is rich with the lush descriptive prose and expansive vocabulary for which Verne is renowned. It wouldn't be a Jules Verne novel without at least one stunning throwaway prediction of future technology; here it's the video telephone, to which he gives the delightful name “téléphote”.

A public domain electronic text edition is available from Project Gutenberg in a variety of formats. A (pricey) English translation is available. I have not read it and cannot vouch for its faithfulness to Verne's text.

June 2009 Permalink

Walsh, Jill Paton and Dorothy L. Sayers. A Presumption of Death. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. ISBN 0-312-29100-0.
This is an entirely new Lord Peter Wimsey mystery written by Jill Paton Walsh, based upon the “Wimsey Papers”—mock wartime letters among members of the Wimsey family by Dorothy L. Sayers, published in the London Spectator in 1939 and 1940. Although the hardcover edition is 378 pages long, the type is so large that this is almost a novella in length, and the plot is less intricate, it seems to me, than the genuine article. Walsh, who was three years old at the period in which the story is set, did her research well: I thought I'd found half a dozen anachronisms, but on each occasion investigation revealed the error to be mine. But please, RAF pilots do not “bale” out of their Spitfires—they bail out!

April 2004 Permalink

Walsh, Jill Paton and Dorothy L. Sayers. Thrones, Dominations. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. ISBN 0-312-96830-2.
This is the first of the Sayers/Walsh posthumous collaborations extending the Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane mysteries beyond Busman's Honeymoon. (The second is A Presumption of Death, April 2004.) A Wimsey insider informs me the splice between Sayers and Walsh occurs at the end of chapter 6. It was undetectable to this Wimsey fan, who found this whodunit delightful.

June 2004 Permalink

Walton, Jo. Farthing. New York: Tor, 2006. ISBN 0-7653-5280-X.
This is an English country house murder mystery in the classic mould, but set in an alternative history timeline in which the European war of 1939 ended in the “Peace with Honour”, when Britain responded to Rudolf Hess's flight to Scotland in May 1941 with a diplomatic mission which ended the war, with Hitler ceding the French colonies in Africa to Britain in return for a free hand to turn east and attack the Soviet Union. In 1949, when the story takes place, the Reich and the Soviets are still at war, in a seemingly endless and bloody stalemate. The United States, never drawn into the war, remains at peace, adopting an isolationist stance under President Charles Lindbergh; continental Europe has been consolidated into the Greater Reich.

When the architect of the peace between Britain and the Reich is found murdered with a yellow star of David fixed to his chest with a dagger, deep currents: political, family, financial, racial, and sexual, converge to muddle the situation which a stolid although atypical Scotland Yard inspector must sort through under political pressure and a looming deadline.

The story is told in alternating chapters, the odd numbered being the first-person narrative of one of the people in the house at the time of the murder and the even numbered in the voice of an omniscient narrator following the inspector. We can place the story precisely in (alternative) time: on p. 185 the year is given as 1949, and on p. 182 we receive information which places the murder as on the night of 7–8 May of that year. I'm always impressed when an author makes the effort to get the days of the week right in an historical novel, and that's the case here. There is, however, a little bit of bad astronomy. On p. 160, as the inspector is calling it a day, we read, “It was dusk; the sky was purple and the air was cool. … Venus was just visible in the east.” Now, I'm impressed, because at dusk on that day Venus was visible near the horizon—that is admirable atmosphere and attention to detail! But Venus can never be visible in the East at dusk: it's an inner planet and never gets further than 48° from the Sun, so in the evening sky it's always in the West; on that night, near Winchester England, it would be near the west-northwest horizon, with Mercury higher in the sky.

The dénouement is surprising and chilling at the same time. The story illustrates how making peace with tyranny can lead to successive, seemingly well-justified, compromises which can inoculate the totalitarian contagion within even the freest and and most civil of societies.

November 2007 Permalink