Ethics Quiz: The Image-Shattering Werewolf Novel

werewolf transformation

I was going to include this in the Morning Warm-Up, which was already weird, but then realized that I wasn’t sure what the ethics verdict should be. Thus it became an ethics quiz.

Which American novelist would seem like the most unlikely to author a werewolf story? I wouldn’t put him at the top of my list, but John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate known for somber Depression-era literary classics, would certainly be in the top ten. Yet the lionized author of “Of Mice and Men,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and “Travels With Charley” did write a werewolf novel, in 1930, when he was a struggling writer. Completed under the pseudonym of Peter Pym, “Murder at Full Moon” was never published. A single copy sits in an archive in Texas, including drawings by Steinbeck himself.

Gavin Jones, scholar of American literature at Stanford University, has read the book, and pronounced it fascinating, complete and publishable. The agents for Steinbeck’s estate, however, have so far rejected his entreaties. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” Jones insists, and argues that the public should be able to read it. The author’s literary agents, the guardians of Steinbeck’s legacy, demur, saying,

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Comment Of The Day: The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills”

The smartest –and most ethical—thing John and Paul ever did: agreeing to share credit for every song, no matter who wrote it.

On the topic of authors being reluctant or resistant to sharing authorship credits,I wrote in a replay in a comment to the post,

I have shared the authorship credits of several stage shows where I was the initiator and the creator of 75-95% or more. There are two shows, a drama and a musical, that have made substantial money without my sharing in any of it—one because I added co-authors out of respect for their non-authorship contributions, the other for which I got no credit at all despite making the alterations that made the difference between the show being a hit and a flop. My wife thinks I’m a sap and a patsy. No, I think sharing credit liberally is the right thing to do, and that generosity should be the rule, not the exception. And I will continue to do unto others what they should have done unto me, even if the others usually don’t.

Here is a different personal perspective on the issue, in mermaidmary99’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills”:

I was a record producer in the early 1980’s. (Still am.)

In ones early 20’s it was unheard of to be a producer unless one was in the group. To be a woman in their early 20’s was shocking to most every man who would arrive to the studio to see me in charge. They often assumed my boss was coming.

The men were always respectful and helpful as I cut my teeth in those early days.

How did I get a job like that?

The label owner, who was a studio musician and had played with The Righteous Brothers and other acts, had heard 3 songs I wrote on an album (my boss chose them and was the producer) and loved them. He asked my boss who wrote them, and he said I had. (And that I assisted on production on those too) so the owner said. “have her write and produced the next record, this stuff is amazing!”

So along with my then boyfriend, I did.

Yes, later I was a mom and asked to produce for another label. (Women producers were still unheard of) and I accepted. I asked my husband to help.

I’ll never forget his reply.

He kindly declined saying. If he did, I’d not get the credit, They’d think, “Oh, she helped her husband and probably nagged for credit.”

I was hurt because I wanted him to share in it. He explained nicely again how it wouldn’t support my Dream. And he LOVED producing too .

I’ve often felt lucky he was so supportive, and reading this I realize how very fortunate I am to have had him by my side.

I’m glad this story is being told. This woman deserves credit and I can see why men would both want her to, and not. Continue reading

The Betrayal And Ultimate Triumph Of Dorothy Seymour Wills

There was an upsetting ethics story in the obituaries last week. It told the tale of the rank injustice perpetrated by a famous and much-honored researcher, historian and author on his collaborator, from whom he withheld  credit and recognition—because she was his wife.

Dorothy Seymour Mills collaborated for more than 30 years on a landmark three-volume history of baseball with her first husband, Harold Seymour. Their work, originally attributed only to him,  is regarded as the first significant scholarly account of baseball’s past.  (“No one may call himself a student of baseball history without having read these indispensable works.” John Thorn in 2010, then Major League Baseball’s official historian.)

“Baseball: The Early Years” (1960), “Baseball: The Golden Age” (1971) and “Baseball: The People’s Game” (1990) all were completed with substantial and indispensable contributions by Dorothy, who, unlike her husband, was not a baseball fan. (“You write a lot more objectively about a subject you’re not in love with,” she once observed.) She was the primary researcher, organized the projects, typed the manuscripts, prepared the indexes (ugh) and edited each book before it went to the publisher. Because of her husband’s failing health, she wrote a substantial portion of “Baseball: The People’s Game.” Yet her husband adamantly refused to give her an author’s credit. Each book bore only Harold Seymour’s name, and hers was relegated to the acknowledgments.  The first book in the trilogy, “Baseball: The Early Years,” received rave reviews.  Sports Illustrated compared Seymour to Edward Gibbon, the iconic historian who wrote “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Dorothy was invisible, and her husband wanted it that way. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Esquire’s Ridiculous Book List Smear”

rowling

My position on British celebrities who attack our elected officials via snotty tweets and interviews is simple: I’ll give a damn what you think  when your own country gets rid of the hereditary monarchy and stops sinking ever deeper into socialism, economic decay and international irrelevance. Spout off after the number of artists and performers moving to the U.S. is offset significantly by U.S. artists moving in the other direction.  Great Britain has become the Beach Boys of nations; still croaking the same old tunes, but a depressing shadow of what it once was.

Besides that, it is rude. If there is one nation that deserves Great Britain’s lasting respect, it is this one.

Steve-O-in-NJ scored another Comment of the Day with his discussion of one of the British anti-U.S. tweeters most loved by the Angry Left, “Harry Potter” creator J.K. Rowling. Here it is, in reaction to “Esquire’s Ridiculous Book List Smear”:

Fantasy author J.K. Rowling took it upon herself to troll Vice President Pence and criticize the President, sneering at those fans who have chosen to make contrary opinions known, even condescendingly saying you can lead someone to books about the rise and fall of an autocrat, but not make them understand.

I have to say I am particularly unimpressed by that latter statement, and the attitude it conveys – an attitude that this author is smarter than anyone who disagrees with her, and, more to the point, that she had some profound lesson about human nature to teach the world in the lengthy prose of seven books that were, while they were fun, popular, and very profitable, ultimately only fantasy novels. Their primary purpose, like all novels, is and was to entertain.

Oh, Ms. Rowling drops a profound-sounding thought here and there between the fantastic creatures, faux-Latin spells, potboiler plots, and hairbreadth escapes: that those who seek power often seek it to abuse it, that what you do is more important than who your father was, that being powerful is less important than how you use what power you have, and of course, that racism is bad.

However, none of these are particularly original thoughts. JKR didn’t come up with any of these herself. She might have packaged them up nicely, but no one changes their approach to life because some principle came from the mouth of a plucky young hero or a wise, traditional- looking wizard. Continue reading

The Strange and Telling Case of the Illiterate Novelist

True, it was a lousy book, but at least the sentences were grammatical.

I have noticed of late a disturbing trend, the literary equivalent of those who play their car radios and sound systems at ear-splitting volume with the windows down, or youths who converse in shouts in public places. The trend is proliferation of the proud and unapologetic illiterates,  authors of e-mails, blog posts or even published material who regard the basics of punctuation, grammar, spelling and rhetoric as an annoying inconvenience, and who not only pay little heed to these archaic matters, but also display no regret about the barely readable products that result.

At this point, I am less concerned with why so many of those who communicate in writing are so shamelessly sloppy, and more interested in what the trend signifies for our society. Perhaps some insight can be gained by examining a recent exchange between a grammar and spelling-challenged novelist and a reviewer of her work on a book review blog called “Books and Pals.” Continue reading

Mike Haridopolos’s Book: Whatever Was Going On, It Had To be Unethical

Four years and $152,000 for THIS??

What was going on here?

It has been revealed that new Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos was paid  $152,000 in taxpayer money to write a book on politics for Brevard Community College four years ago.
All 175 pages of the resulting tome, “Florida Legislative History and Processes,” were published exactly once. The only copy of the 175-page, double-spaced manuscript can only be found, and read, at the school. The book Haridopolos produced didn’t satisfy the original contract’s requirement for a publishable, textbook-quality look at the development of the Florida Legislature, state constitution, the governor’s office and judiciary from pre-statehood until present. But heck..what do you expect? He was only paid a lousy $152,000! What do you want, “Doctor Zhivago?” Continue reading