Hunt Sunday

If you are able to come out to the Post Hunt that starts noon Sunday in downtown DC, when things die down from the zany and (for us) terrifying kickoff, around 1 pm, stop me and say hi. I’ll be wandering with an expression of dazed anxiety. Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and I chatted about it on the Post site today for an hour, without giving out a single bit of useful info.

Bad Blogger!

I keep neglecting this blog because “blogging” turns out to involve “writing.” But I hereby apologize to my legions of fan for being such a poor correspondent. Lots of stuff going on with various Story Surgeons projects, so maybe I’ll just update here so this space can maintain its well-deserved reputation as “blog of record.”

* T.M. Shine’s hilarious picaresque novel, Nothing Happens Until It Happens to You didn’t become a bestseller, as I’d hoped and it deserved, but months after publication it was chosen for a Florida Book Award, where it was in some pretty distinguished company. Now the paperback will be brought out in September — go out and buy it. Or just stay in and click it.

* Scott Higham’s and Sari Horwitz’s book Finding Chandra, which was nominated for a Poe award, was the basis of a TLC documentary, starring . . . Scott and Sari, who both demonstrated excellent TV talking head chops.

* Snigdha Prakash’s fabulous book All the Justice Money Can Buy — a kind of Civil Action narrative about the battle between Big Pharma (Merck, makers of VIOXX) and Big Personal Injury Lawyers, a titanic struggle  that leaves the victims as mere footnotes — will be published in June. Snigdha will be at Politics and Prose on June 18.

* I’ll be talking about Fire on the Horizon at the Gaithersburg Book Festival at 11 a.m. on May 21. I was so tickled to discover that FOH made it into one of my favorite venues, Hank Stuever’s One-Man Book Club, and if you follow Hank on Twitter you’ll get noticed everytime he uncorks one of these perfect and perfectly solipsistic reflections on reading on his website, Tinsel.

Guess I need to go and face my intimidating to-do list, including depositing cash money in my son’s bank account, which also necessitates doing the kind of writing that actually provides said money.

Fire on the Horizon on NPR

NPR’s Weekend Edition interview with my co-author about Fire on the Horizon:

Fire on the Horizon reviews in Daily Beast and Miami Herald

The Daily Beast

The Miami Herald

New Editor’s Roundtable

I’ve been participating in a monthly gig for the Nieman Foundation’s website devoted to narrative journalism. Each month, a group of editors discuss, tweeze, slam, praise, or whatever a notable piece of long-form journalism. The first month (February) was on David von Drehle’s Time piece on the Tucson shootings. This month’s discussion is about Mac McClelland’s  Mother Jones piece on rampant rape in Haiti’s displaced person camps. It’s worth taking a look.

Early Reveiws for Fire on the Horizon

Doing Twitter searches for “Fire on the Horizon” enables me to instantly find any early reviews, however obscure, and in the age of the Blog, they can pop up in some pretty obscure places indeed. “Enable” is the key word. As any recently published author can tell you, the addiction to hunting down any and all info about “how the book is doing” can become severe. In the old days, beside doing general web searches and checking the Amazon number every hour, you were pretty much at the mercy of your publicist to learn of far-flung reviews. Now, since anyone who writes ANYTHING will Tweet about it, I think I am pretty much All Seeing.

Click below for some examples of what’s popped up this week:

Roanoke Times-Dispatch

Coast Guard Blog

Old Salt Blog

Shameless Authorial Self-Promotion

My book on the Deepwater Horizon blowout, Fire on the Horizon, is finally “out there.” It’s been a humbling, fascinating, deeply involving eight month sprint discovering and trying to capture the world of offshore drilling, and the almost unimaginably dramatic events of April 20, 2010. Fortunately I had the help and guidance of my co-author, John Konrad, who was an oil rig captain himself, and had close friends on the Horizon when it blew out and burned that night.

Highlight of the publication ritual so far: Sebastian Junger blurbed it: ““One of the best disaster books I’ve ever read…I tore through it like a novel. A phenomenal feat of journalism.”
Low point: Publisher’s Weekly reviewer called prose “clunky”, which is only my worst fear every time I write anything.

The official release date is tomorrow, and Sunday at 5 I’ll be talking about the book at Politics and Prose in Northwest DC. I hope you all can come. Only you can save me from the author’s nightmare: more bookstore employees than audience. I promise to try not to be clunky.

Seven Heaven

This is weird: I woke up one morning and I realized that I was Mickey Mantle. I knew I wasn’t really him, but through some fluke (dream logic), I was getting to experience being Mickey — who happened to be in the middle of his best year ever. I (he) could hit ANYTHING.  It was so cool. I kept thinking how great it was and how much fun I was having getting to be the Mick for a while. It was a very vivid dream, I even dreamed a batting average, .352. When I woke up, that figure was so strong, I immediately wondered if it might actually correspond to reality. Thanks to Google, I could find out before I brushed my teeth. Turns out that in 1956, his Triple Crown Year and consensus “best year ever”, he hit .353.  The brain is a strange place.

Editors’ Roundtable

Interesting dissection of David Von Drehle’s piece in Time on the Arizona shooting. I’ll be doing these roundtables every few weeks.

One of Those Days

It started off poorly. I got pasted in my 6 a.m. tennis match. The Big Russian was nuking me with his laser forehand, had me pinned on the baseline and I couldn’t fight him off. Then it got better. Fire on the Horizon got it’s first review, from Kirkus, and it was a good one (even if the reviewed somehow concluded I had merely “assisted” in writing the thing, which trust me, isn’t the way I remember it). I’ll append the review below, but that wasn’t even the best news of the day. This evening Scott Higham messaged me to say that Finding Chandra, my first Story Surgeons editing project, had been nominated for an Edgar award for best nonfiction crime book.

When I hit the red carpet, I’ll be the one wearing “Tar-jay.”

Here’s the Kirkus review:

The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster
Author: Konrad, John
Author: Shroder, Tom

Review Date: February 1, 2011
Pages: 256
Price ( Hardcover ): $27.99
Price ( Large Print ): $27.99
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-06-206300-7
ISBN ( Large Print ): 978-0-06-206654-1
Category: Nonfiction
Classification: Ecology

With the assistance of former Washington Post contributor Shroder (Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives, 1999), veteran oil-rig captain Konrad guides readers through the culture and daily life of offshore drilling on the Deepwater Horizon.

Konrad worked seven years for Transocean, the owner of Horizon, which exploded into flames in April 2010, taking 11 lives and leaking more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. He comes at the story from the perspective of the people who do the work to get the oil. In so doing, he provides a complementary angle on the event to Carl Safina’s A Sea in Flames (2011), with its emphasis on corporate malfeasance and the blowout’s social and environmental impacts. First, Konrad introduces the Horizon, which, even in its outdated state, was an awesome construction, a floating drilling platform the size of an office park, with computer-controlled dynamic positioning that could keep it over a 20-square-foot target a mile under the surface of the ocean. Konrad writes of the rig with easy familiarity, while comfortably populating it with its maritime and drilling crews and warmly conveying the camaraderie that suffused the platform. Though the author comes from a maritime background, he turns the drilling process into a fine choreography, offering an effective critique of the corporate edicts that jeopardized the safety of the rig’s people and the integrity of the exploratory well. The corporate atmosphere was complex, however—one moment finds Transocean working hard to avoid common-hazard injuries, then cutting back on crew just when the aging rig needed them most for preventative maintenance. Konrad’s gavel comes down on corporate irresponsibility, and the consequences of the poor, indeed criminal, decision making is palpably, gruesomely expressed as the author screws down his focus to the last few days of the Horizon, concentrating on a few individuals in an absorbing re-creation of the disaster’s brewing, mayhem and horror.

A lucid investigation into the fatally risky business that caused the blowout, which, by putting human faces on many players, amplifies the ache.