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Looking Backward

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The fourth novel in the Johnny Denovo series has proven a little elusive. The main idea is here, and the climactic scene has been envisioned. The main characters, the setting, and the central conflict are all well-understood — yet, the novel remains elusive.

Finding time to write has proven to be the main barrier — life is just too busy these days, a relentless procession of appointments, obligations, and events. But soon, there may be time. And I have made a pledge to write.

So there may be a fourth book yet in 2012. We shall see. We. Shall. See.

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"Spam & Eggs"

Another article, this time in the Guardian, discusses the recent disclosure by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) that they will be analyzing the metaphors discovered in communications in order to detect potential terrorist activities and discern their plans. As the author of the article writes:

The spooks’ conjecture is that understanding how humans use metaphors might provide an efficient way of extracting meanings from messages. So the project’s goal, says its programme manager, Heather McCallum-Bayliss, is to “exploit the use of metaphorical language to gain insights into underlying cultural beliefs by developing and applying a methodology that automates the analysis of metaphorical language”. Dr McCallum-Bayliss’s presentation explaining the project makes fascinating reading. “Understanding the shared concepts and patterned behaviours of a culture is a significant challenge,” she writes, “because cultural norms tend to be hidden. Even cultural natives have difficulty defining them. Having a system that could discover and structure cultural beliefs and perspectives would be valuable to novice and seasoned analysts alike.”

As noted in a previous post on this topic, metaphors are the bread and butter of the Denovo detective methodology, especially conceptual metaphors, those that function around basic discoveries of the world made during infancy, such as over/under, in/out, before/behind, and so forth.

It’s nice to see research that has been used to discern commercial viability for new products and analyze customer belief systems for years finally find its way into the intelligence community.

Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

Three years ago when I got the idea for the Johnny Denovo mysteries, imagining a detective who used underlying metaphors to detect, anticipate, and thwart crimes, I thought I was onto something useful. After all, we are dominated by our brains, so why wouldn’t language and action reveal thought?

Now, it seems others have caught onto this wave, as this recent article shows:

Intelligence officials at the Office of Incisive Analysis . . . have determined that metaphors could be of vital significance to national security. By, well, incisively analyzing the way people use metaphors in everyday conversations, they believe they can reveal “underlying beliefs and world views” — such as negative feelings towards a particular country. Now they’re calling on civilian scientists and academics to help them do this automatically using pattern recognition and supercomputers.

Of course, this makes perfect sense. After all, that’s what Johnny Denovo has been doing for years!

(Hat tip to CC for the link.)

 

In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) passed a rule requiring bloggers to disclose any tangible benefits they receive from their blogging. For new media book review sites, this rule has made it so that reviews in which the reviewer received a copy of the book, a token payment for doing the review, or anything similar were subject to disclosure and fines if they didn’t cooperate. Because of this rule, Amazon is now deleting reviews generated by sites that charge authors to do reviews.

As an independent author, this bothers me. I see the FTC’s point, but overall, it’s misguided and inhibits innovation.

For instance, my books have received many reviews from mainstream media, review sites, and bloggers. They are nearly unanimous in their praise and approbation. Some of these sites charged a fee for doing the review. This is their economic model. They don’t charge more for a good book or a bad book — everyone is charged the same small amount so that reviewers remain available.

The FTC argues that in traditional media, the reviewer is paid by the newspaper, for instance, and the newspaper ostensibly owns the free review copies, so there is no conflict of interest. Having worked as a reviewer for a newspaper before, for print media, film, music, and theater, I can tell you that most reviewers keep what they’re sent if it’s tangible and deserves a good review. That’s how the FTC gets it backwards. Reviewers only want to keep those things that are good, those things they like. Bad books, lousy albums, and terrible magazines are thrown away or disposed of by shelving them and letting them die by dust.

And let’s not dismiss the “ego” part of reviewing. Reviewers have their egos stroked by lavish launch parties, red carpet events, “exclusive” interviews, and all sorts of other perks that aren’t tangible in the FTC sense, but which are nonetheless geared to positively influence a review.

The upshot of the FTC rule against bloggers is that Amazon is now stripping certain reviews from books on their site, so that they aren’t liable to the FTC down the road. This has caused at least three reviews of my books to disappear. Because I think the FTC rule is somewhat misinformed and naive, and because if disclosure is all that’s required, Amazon has taken the lazy way out here instead of flagging reviews as “paid” or “review copy retained by reviewer,” here are the reviews Amazon deleted. They all come from ReaderViews.com.

Spam & Eggs: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

"Spam & Eggs"

Cryptic e-mail messages set in motion Johnny Denovo’s newest case, “Spam & Eggs.” Already world famous and known for his technological wizardry Denovo is challenged by these “spam” messages with, riddles, secret codes, perplexing phrases, suggestive metaphors and rhyming couplets with a double-substitution scheme. Phrases like “Faberge eggs,” which allude to the theft of rare and priceless objects, and the heist of defense secrets. Johnny soon detects that something even more ominous and threatening is gathering force in a geopolitical plot which is ready to blow up.

As an expert neuroscientist, Johnny mastered a theory of the mind that now underlies his crime-solving processes. Johnny is determined to break the code and put a stop to the yet-to-be committed crime, determine the underlying motive, and expose the puzzling perpetrator.

In a dangerous attempt to solve the case, Johnny with Mona, his auburn haired agent, leave their home turf in Boston to explore a horse farm in Virginia to stopover in Paris before the final destination, the bustling city of Montpellier, France, on the Mediterranean. Their goal is to find a resolution to the mysterious crime of “Spam & Eggs” and to expose a team of power-mad weirdoes.

Andrew Kent has created a cast of colorful characters including: John A. Novarro, the genius behind the newly created Denovo persona, mystique, and his detective motif; Tucker the Techno-geek; Wei Chou, the Chinese Cook; FBI Agent Ross, with his standard issue countenance; Mona Landau, the sultry serpent queen, his agent; and defense contractor Jim Winthrop.

Kent develops background material to introduce his intriguing and sinister plot. He is as comfortable and credibly knowledgeable when describing background on a horse ranch in Virginia, as when detailing technical and communications infra-structure, or affirming the amenities of Montpellier, France.

I enjoyed Andrew’s word artistry. He uses phrases like: “an atmosphere that cultivated thoughtfulness,” and lengthy sentences describing metaphors, such as: “Johnny turned over the metaphors of the case – spam, eggs, horses, inside, outside, chicken, center and the like.  Metaphors were how the limbic brain expressed itself, synthesizing complex, even unrecognized inputs and feelings into a representative package sufficiently distinctive and rich in form to be emblematic.”

Andrew Kent has a brilliant command of language and is a clever word-weaver. He incorporates sophisticated vocabulary, clever word play, tongue-in-cheek realism, and soliloquies with brisk dialog to create a masterpiece of deductive challenge, engrossing reading, and engaging entertainment in “Spam & Eggs: A Johnny Denovo Mystery.”

The Green Monster: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

"The Green Monster"

This latest addition to the Johnny Denovo series of mysteries has got to be the best one yet. Hired by a CEO of a bio-tech corporation, Johnny’s assignment is just to find out who was blackmailing the man. What Johnny gets into and what he finds goes much deeper and more sinister than just a simple blackmail scheme.

From the start, Johnny finds that the blackmail is a cover for a much greater threat, a threat to national security and possibly the world. In the course of his investigation, he is led down multiple roads, one of which is a threat to agriculture. This leads to a web of covert operations and government involvement to the highest scale. Entwined in all this is a terrorist group that leads Johnny on a multi-faceted journey into corporate espionage, murder and biological warfare. Narrowing the playing field, Johnny finds a key element of all this has to do with the ball park and a section of seats known as “The Green Monster.” A fan sitting in this section is the one that is a part of the conspiracy and signals the blackmail victim by holding up signs to let him know how much money to drop off to them.

Following up on lead after lead, Johnny is introduced to the world of Bio Technology.  He begins a parallel investigation into the destruction of the research fields that Mr. McNaught (the one being blackmailed) owns. McNaught’s company is plagued with destructive acts played upon their research fields and they can’t seem to find out by whom or why. Johnny begins to tie all the loose ends together and finds the one common element that links all these events. Going after that single element brings Johnny close to death when he encounters it and the suspenseful events unfold.

From a simple blackmail scheme to a matter of national security, “The Green Monster” by Andrew Kent has it all.  It is an intricate read with many branches and lots of action and required me to read it all in one sitting. It is not the kind of book you can put down and pick up later. It is definitely a multi-layered book and will require your undivided attention. The quality of the book is top notch. It is a fast-paced read and the 263 pages go by before you know it. I gave it a B and see nothing wrong with it being on the General Audience shelf. Complex and at times a bit involved but definitely a mystery that keeps you guessing till the end.

Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

Andrew Kent’s “Entanglement” is a rarely intriguing, fast-paced and extremely eloquent mystery. With most books in this genre I tend to have a pretty clear idea of what is going to happen as soon as I finish reading the first couple of chapters. This time I had no idea where the story was going until the very end. Granted, the technical aspects of the device used by the villains for their dastardly deeds far surpassed my understanding of such matters, but even without that I would have found the story refreshingly unpredictable, genuinely intriguing and vastly entertaining.

There is no rest for the weary. Johnny Denovo, still recovering from some lingering effects of his latest case, receives a strange message delivered in an even stranger way. In fact, it looks like there were several messages, slightly masqueraded as mysterious fires and deaths. When Johnny finally pieces them together, he realizes that it was a former colleague of his who was intensely trying to get in touch. The story he tells sounds rather fishy to Johnny, but he also realizes the pressing need to investigate. Aided by his agent and lover, Mona, and a charming cast of supporting characters, Johnny faces two seriously deranged and genuinely dangerous adversaries. To make matters worse, his usual side-kick and invaluable ally, Tucker, is mysteriously missing, seemingly vanished, but still keeping in touch via occasional cryptic messages.  Johnny and Mona, aided by their friends Ivan and Izzy, as well as the enigmatic Wei and his family, have to find and disarm the bad guys. But do they even know what exactly are they hunting?

“Entanglement” was a finely crafted, highly entertaining and very satisfying book. The dialogue was sizzling, the characters wonderfully intricate, the storyline compelling. Andrew Kent’s writing style is fresh, rich and unique, a cut above most of the self-published books I have seen in the past years. I could not help but wonder how would this story translate into a movie? While the fast pace and imaginative twists certainly seem ideal for the silver screen, I am doubtful that the entire mastery of Mr. Kent’s writing could be successfully transferred that way. Having said that, I still think “Entanglement” would make a terrific movie, and I can only hope that if this were to happen, Mr. Kent would not stop writing.

I highly recommend Andrew Kent’s “Entanglement” to anybody who enjoys a well crafted and nicely challenging story, one that keeps you guessing until the very last page and definitely leaves you wanting more.

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Guard plate of escalator

Image via Wikipedia

One of Johnny Denovo’s main tools in understanding and thwarting criminals is the fact that people think in metaphors, and express these metaphors in actions. It’s a subtle insight that isn’t much appreciated outside neurolinguists, qualitative researchers, and neuroscientists, to name a few. But it’s becoming more widely appreciated.

A recent study underscored this fact. It was a study of escalators,  stairs, and relative positioning. The basic question hit at one of those primal metaphors: up-down.

In short, people headed up an escalator were more generous when they reached the top, while people headed down were stingy. People who walked up a short flight of stairs were more likely to volunteer than people who walked down a short flight of stairs. And people who were up above others were more considerate of others than people who were below others by relative position.

“Up” is a metaphor for happiness (upbeat, things are looking up, on the upside) while “down” is a metaphor for disappointment (he’s looking down, there was a downturn, she’s down about her job). Here’s more proof that we think in metaphors, and reveal the basic metaphor set through our behaviors.

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Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

Another review of “Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery,” is in, and this one is as glowing as the first. This new review is especially nice because the reviewer in question — someone I’ve never met, unfortunately — has reviewed all three novels, so provides both a nice review of the current novel but also an implicit review of the series to-date:

Whenever I open a new Johnny Denovo mystery I know that I am in for an intellectually stimulating ride, and “Entanglement” was no exception. Filled with word plays and metaphors, Andrew Kent writes in such a unique manner that I really can’t even think of any other author’s style to compare him to. Kent’s novels really make you think and solving the mystery on your own before all of the information is revealed is really a difficult task. If you enjoy an intelligently written mystery, then I definitely recommend “Entanglement” along with Kent’s prior Denovo mysteries “Spam and Eggs” and “The Green Monster.”

Customer reviews are also coming in via email. One receive this morning calls it “the best yet” as well.

I’m especially pleased to see a consistent theme to many of the reviews across the three novels — writing that’s unique, mysteries that are truly non-obvious, and characters who are multi-layered, and dialogue that crackles.

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Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery

A reviewer portrayed by ReaderViews as “one of the toughest” has given “Entanglement: A Johnny Denovo Mystery,” a strong, positive review, praising the writing, plot, suspense, and intrigue of the story:

. . . a finely crafted, highly entertaining and very satisfying book. The dialogue was sizzling, the characters wonderfully intricate, the storyline compelling. Andrew Kent’s writing style is fresh, rich and unique, a cut above. . . . I highly recommend Andrew Kent’s “Entanglement” to anybody who enjoys a well crafted and nicely challenging story, one that keeps you guessing until the very last page and definitely leaves you wanting more.

After many fans returned to get the new book at a recent signing, I was hoping that the third novel would strike readers as a worthy addition to the growing body of Denovo cases. Reading this new review bolstered my confidence.

I hope you enjoy the read!

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