About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

10. – 569.) Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin – Mortenson personifies the dedicated, near obsessive, power of the individual to do good. Barely escaping with his life from an climbing expedition on K2 in the 1990’s Mortenson, appreciating the hospitality of the small Balti village of Korphe “the last village before the land of eternal ice”, decides to build them a school after seeing children practising lessons, without a teacher or supplies beyond sticks, in an open field. The depth of his commitment is only matched by his naivete. For a man raised in Africa by parents on a Lutheran mission and working in big city hospitals he has a striking disregard for organizations.
            Returning to America he manages to raise the money on his own. No sophisticated fund raising schemes are involved. Sheer persistence is blessed by a mountaineering relationship.
            When he returns to Pakistan Mortenson learns the real importance of local support in Third World projects. Gradually he develops a Balti team and the school is built. As the project proceeds Mortenson gains greater insight into the educational needs of rural Pakistan and refines his focus to building schools concentrating on the education of girls.
Mortenson’s personal network reminded me how Rotarians use local Rotary clubs to work with on Community World Service projects. As Mortenson, through the Central Asia Institute, built schools in Baltistan, so our Rotary district 5550 has been building schools in an area of Guatemala in the Ripple Effect project. The best aid projects proceed through the local people.
            I was struck the lack of government regulation. There were neither permits nor licences nor approvals nor studies nor reviews needed by Mortenson before the schools are built.
            When he included Afghanistan in his efforts I thought of the school our Rotary zone is building to educate Afghani women.
            Mortenson describes the challenges of Afghani women seeking to resume education after the fall of the Taliban. Sharon and I met a young woman doctor in Saskatoon on a speaking tour who only completed her medical education after the Taliban were driven from power. She had been forced to stay home during the Taliban regime.
            Mortenson, as with Wiesenthal, an individual totally committed to his work does not adapt well to organization. They would just like money to be given to them for their projects and have the sponsors stay out of the way.
            I admire Mortenson’s courage and dedication. Having experienced Rotary I wonder if he could do more had he brought his dreams into a large service organization or whether his stubborn independence produced greater results.
            The Canadian military has been trying to win hearts in Afghanistan for a decade. Who will achieve more – Mortenson without a single gun or the projects supported by the powerful guns of Canada?
            The local support Mortenson received from Moslems across the region for the education of women gives me hope that the Taliban will not be allowed to regain power and stifle women. Excellent. (Feb. 15/11)

Mission to Chara by Lynn M. Boughey

12. – 571.) Mission to Chara by Lynn M. Boughey – Three weeks ago while in North Dakota a casual restaurant conversation with the author, Lynn, and a subsequent vehicle breakdown led to further contacts. Prior to our departure Lynn provided me with a copy of his thriller.
            A long embedded American spy in Russia gets a message to the U.S. that he needs to be extracted because he has vital information he cannot deliver except in person. America’s military, security and intelligence agencies decide an intrusion into Russia is justified. Colonel Jack Phinney is chosen to fly to Chara in Siberia, the long ago pre-arranged location, to pick up the spy. American’s fastest long range military aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird, is returned to the Air Force for the mission.
            The planning of the mission, the preparations for the mission, the planes to be used on the mission, the logistics of the mission and the equipment to be employed on the mission are set out and described in great detail. Lynn has gone to extraordinary lengths to be factually accurate. I learned a tremendous amount about the incredible technologies and equipment developed by America’s armed forces. I had no knowledge that over 10 years ago American warplanes did much of their flying by computer. I would have appreciated the book better if I had military experience and if I was a pilot.
            Much of the book was like reading a work of non-fiction precisely setting out the events before, during and after the mission. The story comes alive during the actual mission. The action sequences drew me forward anxious to know what would happen next.
            It was intriguing to see a selection of photos in the book showing locations from the novel and the planes set out in the book. The presence of the photos made the story more real.
            I regret that I learned more about the Blackbird than I did about the major characters in the book. Their personalities and lives were just touched upon by Lynn.
            The technical jargon, undoubtedly correct, and the depth of technological information overwhelmed the story at times.
            It is an interesting book. It is not a Hollywood thriller. There is no individual hero off to save the world from destruction as in Rules of Betrayal. Instead, it is a thriller of the dedicated teamwork required of hundreds to thousands of people for special operations missions. (Mar. 1/11)

Questions and Answers with Lynn M. Boughey

After reading Mission to Chara I contacted the author, Bismarck lawyer Lynn M. Boughey, with five questions. I appreciate his prompt response. The Questions and Answers are:

1.)   What inspired you to write a technological military thriller?

I had been to all the bases described and thought of the plot many years earlier, at a time when Tom Clancy was quite popular, and thought, why not give it a try?  I played around with it for about six years, getting about half done, and finally in one six-month period decided that if I was ever going to finish it I had to do it now.  I note that all the characters are based on real people that I know quite well, or in one case a composite of two or three good friends.  The female protagonist has the beauty and grace of my Moscow translator and the nerve of my Siberian translator.   The base commander is a combination of two military friends, one who was the commander and the other his vice commander.

2.)   Why did you include photos in the book? It is unique in my reading experience to see photos in a work of fiction;

I was well aware that few people had any real knowledge of the planes or locations and thought this would help the reader immensely.  But I should not have included the final picture of me in flight in the right-hand seat of a B-52 – that was pure ego and a mistake.  I have noted since my book came out that other authors, as a second version of his or her novel, have printed “annotated” versions with pictures and further information (the best example is The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, both by Dan Brown).

3.)   Have you flown in a Blackbird? If you have and if you can tell me, what was the reason and where were you flying?

I have not.  I watched it fly out of Beale AFB, California when it was operational.  By the time the novel was being completed the Blackbird was retired and the remaining Blackbirds were owned and operated by NASA at Edwards Air Force Base.  By this time the plane was used only rarely and for scientific experiments.  NASA did, however, train me to fly the Blackbird on the simulator, and I acquired a copy of the Dash-1, the manual used by the pilots to learn how to fly the plane.  Also, although I have been allowed to fly some planes over the years, I am not a pilot and the real pilot has always had hands on or very near the controls while I “flew.”

4.)   The book involves a military intrusion into another country. I have been reading about the important role lawyers are playing in missions by providing advice especially on the legality of decisions. You and I are both lawyers. In the book I do not recall lawyers being involved in the decisions to proceed with the mission. Would American military lawyers normally have to approve such a mission?

Yes.  All political and legal ramifications are taken into account, and all operational commanders have lawyers at their disposal well versed in all the nuances of such activities.  In the novel, the planning was correctly placed under the US military operations commander, the J-3.  I have sat in his office and have been briefed by him as to how the planning would occur for “Mission to Chara.”  Although we did not specifically discuss the lawyers role, there is no doubt that both Joint Staff lawyers and their counterparts in the State Department would be involved.

5.)   Does America have a plane with the speed and range of the Blackbird at this time?

If so, it has not been made public.  And given the advances in surface-to-air missiles and the advent of other platforms (everything from slow moving drones with amazing cameras to reconnaissance satellites that can “see” through clouds, one must wonder if speed and range are as necessary – or al least as necessary.  Hypersonic planes exist and are being used for experiments – I assume that the US has its own versions, but again it is not public and frankly I wouldn’t be told about it!  I note that the CIA had its own fleet of several Blackbirds or the slightly smaller version, the A-12, and could very well still be flying them.

Lynn supplemented the final answer with information on the United States Air Force’s X-37 space plane. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_X-37 and

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

“M” is for Mystery Bookstore

“M” is for Mystery bookstore at 86 East 3rd Avenue in San Mateo, California is a lovely store just off the Bayshore Freeway, Highway 101, about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. Owner, Ed Kaufman, loves to talk about mysteries. The store has an extensive collection of all kinds of mysteries. There is a tremendous assembly of British crime fiction. The store is as bright and uncluttered as 3rd Avenue. The store is amidst an attractive collection of little shops and restaurants.
            My wife, Sharon, older son, Jonathan, and I visited “M” in August of 2009 while on vacation in northern California. We went over to the store for an author evening with Steven Hockensmith, Jilliane Hoffman and Sophie Littlefield talking about their books and the writing of mysteries. Steven was a likeable M.C. There was a nice group of mystery lovers present for the evening. After listening to the authors we chatted further with each of them.
            As we were getting ready to leave Sophie invited us to join her and friends across the street for a beer. While there we met several other authors including Keith Raffel who gave me a business card featuring his first mystery, dot.dead. Conversation flowed easily. The Bay area has an amazing collection of mystery authors.
            Later in the week I returned again to go through more books and chat some more with Ed who turned out to be a former lawyer.
            What could be better – a neighbourhood bookstore that is a mystery bookstore