Hope I don’t break my arm…..

My grandmom Murphy started it. Said she hoped I didn’t break my arm patting myself on the back. Here goes anyway, Mom….
First, the book received an award: “Lion’s Gate Literary Award for Fiction by North Carolina Authors,” June 2, 2010. It’s the first, and I am truly honored by the Lions Gate Inn (Wake Forest, NC) and the Waterfall Book Club.
Second (and last), saw my book in the Wake Forest Library the other day, on the shelf containing new fiction on the right just as you enter. Stood there a few minutes pointing to it and letting passersby know it was there. Just kidding. Thought about it though…..

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Review: “The Last Town On Earth”

The Last Town on Earth, by Thomas Mullen, Random House, 2006

The prize-winning novel that is the subject of this review was discovered on a table at the Friends of the Wake Forest (North Carolina) Library annual book sale in May of 2010. It is historical fiction, a tale about a town called Commonwealth, whose citizens voted to keep outsiders from coming in and insiders from going out during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.

What happens when a cold and hungry soldier appears on the town’s only road in and pleads with rifle-toting town guards to let him come in for food and rest begins the story and proceeds to test the town’s values. Patriotism, loyalty, family – all these and more are on display and up for discussion as the citizens of Commonwealth struggle to maintain their quarantine.

Two main purposes spring to mind by way of explaining why this novel has had an effect on me that goes beyond entertainment from a good read.

First, there is so little written about the great flu pandemic. Mr. Mullen surmises that because it took place while World War I was raging the war was more interesting to writers of the time; the deadly flu could not compete for their talented minds. There is also the argument that the war presented the world with a complete set of villains to conquer, whereas the flu chose its victims randomly and quickly and there was no explanation for it, no one to blame.

Second, there are memories to unearth. Mention the flu pandemic to most anyone over the age of fifty and you are just as likely to run into what the author calls a “wall of silence” as you are to hear about a lost grandfather or uncle or cousin. In the 1910’s, he observes, people were inclined to greet great tragedy with a stoic reaction as opposed to today’s daily confessions to television and radio talk show hosts.

Miscellaneous information from the novel and various sources on the Internet:

– Many more Americans died of this flu than in combat in World War I.
– The pandemic lasted over two years, from March of 1918 to June of 1920,
– 50 million people died of the flu and 500 million were infected (world population at the time was 1.6 billion, so almost a third of the world population was infected).
– Flu patients were mostly young, healthy adults, as opposed to most influenza outbreaks that affect juveniles, the elderly, and patients who are weak to begin with.
– A Wikipedia article has a list of “notable” victims of the 1918 flu, including Frederick Trump, Grandfather of Donald Trump.

If you love a good story that both entertains and educates, this book is for you!

Trust, but Verify

Reading about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico this morning, I was struck by TIME magazine’s “Dirty Dozen” to get the blame. Number one on the list is John Browne, BP’s former CEO. The note by his photo indicates “…his cost-cutting may have contributed to the company’s checkered safety record.”

Really? The article notes BP’s “…string of toxic safety problems in recent years,” including the explosion at the BP Texas City refinery in 2005 that killed 15 and wounded more than 170, and investigators’ reports of “…generally sloppy practices, including the use of old equipment, overworked and unsupervised employees and contractors, and management’s inattention to safety.”

Gee. I’m no oil exploration expert, but it sure is apparent that it would have been a great idea to do something about what the investigators reported about BP.

Brings to mind President Reagan’s famous quote about nuclear disarmament and how to make sure the USSR lived up to its end of the bargain. Reagan’s response was: “Trust, but verify.” I propose when it comes to big business, especially the oil drilling business, the drill should be: “Trust, but regulate – and verify that the regulation is working.”