New York Times Bestselling Author

Book Review: Nonfiction

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 | 0 comments

I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi



I found this nonfiction book hard to put down. It’s about Eric Garner and his death at the hands of overzealous police, but it’s also about all the lawyers and judges and policies in place to protect police officers and encourage the harassment of black and brown people.

Garner comes off as a sympathetic though flawed individual. The police officers and other members of law enforcement do not come off looking good at all. This is not about good cops; it’s about the bad ones who go unpunished.

I’ve been a fan of Matt Taibbi’s journalism for years, and this book cemented my admiration for his work. He criticizes liberals and conservatives alike for allowing this sort of discriminatory policing to be encouraged. Garner was a large man and an easy bust, and because of various quotas police officers were given, he was often arrested for his petty crimes. He didn’t get worked up when he was arrested for actually committing a crime, but they harassed him when he’d just be doing his laundry at the laundry mat or something, too.

The man who took the famous video of Garner was also harassed endlessly after the video went viral the world over. Some of the minor crimes he did commit, but many of the busts were entirely fabricated to get him to cop to a plea.

The descriptions of police brutality are hard to read. What this book is more concerned about, though, are things like why the prosecuting attorney Dan Donovan brought in 50 witnesses and yet failed to bring an indictment against the officer who did the illegal chokehold. (Daniel Pantaleo is still a police officer despite numerous abuse allegations, including completely unfounded strip searches conducted on the street in broad daylight.) Moreover, countless lawyers tried to get the grand jury information unsealed, to no avail. What did they have to hide? Donovan successfully ran as a Republican to fill the seat by congressman Michael Grimm, who’d been indicted on twenty federal counts. You may remember him as the lovely man who told a reporter (while a TV crew was filming) that he’d throw him over the balcony.

The reason the Garner case made so much news is because it was all caught on video. “Absent the cellphone videos, in other words, nobody would like have heard how Eric Garner really died.” But in this way his case was the exception.

I was shocked to hear all the obstacles a person has to go through to get a substantiated abuse charge against a police officer. All we, the public, ever hear about are the families who get million-dollar settlements. They represent virtually none of the cases actually alleged.

This is an important book about race and policing—not just individual police officers but the system as a whole. I could quote huge passages from this book. Highly recommend.

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Book Review: Mystery

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 | 0 comments

Dead Stop by Barbara Nickless



I was excited to get my hands on an advanced copy of Dead Stop because I loved Nickless’s first novel, Blood on the Tracks. A couple of the elements from the first novel are also what I enjoyed about Dead Stop. First, in addition to having a complex character in railroad cop and former marine, Sydney Parnell, her partner and dog, also a former marine, is an important character in the book. Second, Nickless really does her research, and I learned a lot about the dangers of railroad crossings and the complicated world of the railroad industry.

Sydney is called to the scene of what at first appears to be a suicide: A woman on the tracks who doesn’t move and of course the train can’t stop fast enough not to kill her brutally. But upon further investigation, it becomes obvious that this case is much more complicated than suicide. Much, much more complicated.

This is a complex story of a tenacious cop and other officers who help track down both a murderer and a kidnapped little girl. Especially when I got to the end I could easily see this as Hollywood movie. It’s not a breezy read, but if you like imperfect characters untangling a web of deceit of greed and resentment, it’s great fun.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas and Mercer for an advanced copy of this novel.


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