Marketing Report: Week 22

No books sold.

This despite my netting two five-star reviews for “Cheesesteak” at Amazon. (Confession: Having finally mastered getting listed, I solicited 40 friends, so a five-percent return rate is not that great. Another fellow says he would have reviewed me, but he couldn’t master the technology.)

And this despite my having made a capitol investment, acquiring two handsome wood stands to display examples of my wares vertically, alongside my “Buy Bob’s Books!” sign while I sit in the café. So far they have not drawn a fleeting glance.

The process has not been without reward however. “Csteak” has drawn me into correspondence with a fellow formed at Fels Junior High, who matured in and around the South Street Renaissance. Our topics of memory land-discussions to date have included Howie (“One tough jewboy”) Turnoff, an All-Public guard from Northeast with whom I shared one semester at Brandx, and Ira Einhorn, the Powelton Village hippie guru/trunk murderer, whom, my correspondent suggest, was an informer for COINTELPRO. As I said, interesting.

In other news, my “review” of “Falcon & Snowman” led the publisher to ask if I wanted to review anything else of theirs. (I passed for the moment.) And “The Schiz”‘s impending release has led me to approach management of the Sens Bistro (formerly The French Hotel Café) about holding a launch party there. If the price is stomachable, it should be the evening of Nov. 10. No Host (Coffee) Bar. Free cake.

CHEESESTEAK ($20) is available from POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.
See also:

The Falcon and the Pardon-Seeker

My latest piece is up at

It begins: Maybe it is a good time to revisit the story of Christopher Boyce. Certainly Open Road Media, which just re-issued an E-book of Robert Lindsey’s “The Falcon and the Snowman” (1979), thinks so. I had not read the original, but I’d seen the movie – Timothy Hutton as Boyce (The Falcon) and Sean Penn as Daulton Lee (The Snowman). Now, having mastered Adele’s Kindle, I’m down with ORM’s decision.

Marketing Report: Week 21

Sold one “Cheesesteak.”

I was sitting outside the French, waiting for a visit from B, when H walked by. I had been counting on him for a sale since we had discussed self-publishing when it was just a gleam in the eye. But he had disappeared about the time my book appeared. I thought he’d moved, but he had only been boycotting the café because the new owners had instituted a mini-dress code on the barristas. (It’s Berkeley, after all.) Anyway, I had a copy in the trunk of the Honda and he bought it.

By then B had arrived, but before we could begin catching up, who should appear but S. She had been a friend of ours (mainly Adele’s) before moving to Marin 20 years ago. We had recently re-connected when I’d joined Facebook. She had her won book out, and we’d agreed to swap. She had hers with her, but I’d sold H mine, so I bought hers and she agreed to buy mine. In fact, she liked the idea of selling books at the café so much, she said she’d bring a stack, tell all her East Bay friends, and we could sell our books together.

I made progress at Amazon (See last week’s report) and now have ONE copy listed there. If it moves, I guess I now know how to list another, so I’ll be able to proceed one-at-a-time.

And while my POB has remained a dry hole, book-wise, it did land coupons from Andonico’s, which could save us $40 on groceries, which is more than paying for itself.

In other news, I’ve paid the printer for “The Schiz,” stocked up on bubble mailers and stamps (I’m going Wonder Woman), and sent a feeler to the cafe’s management about holding a Book Launch party there. Next project: on-line book reviews.

CHEESESTEAK: $20. Spruce Hill Press. POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.
Other Books:

The Only Sensible Response

My latest has gone up at

It begins: When I was asked to review Robusto!!! (Lovecraft House. 2016) by its editor /translator/publisher Dragana Drobjnak, you could pretty much sum-up all I knew about Serbia in two words: “Novak Djokovic.”
This turned out not to be strictly true. Thinking further, I came up with a war (against Bosnia), a massacre (Srebrenika), NATO bombing, and a head-of-state (Milosevic) tried for war crimes. Also Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. (My wife is a huge tennis fan.)
And I’d read Rebecca West’s pre-World War II classic, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.” Of which I remembered nothing.
So I did not appear the most qualified reviewer.
But I agreed to take a look.

I just read (almost)…

…Edna O’Brien’s memoir, “Country Girl.” I had never read any of O’Brien’s novels, but I had a recollection this was good, and it was on the “Free” shelf in the café, so… (I cashed in Tom Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem” for it.)

Adele says the best part of bio- and auto-bios are childhoods, and that was certainly the case here. Actually the book was good through the custody fight following O’
Brien’s divorce, but once, after winning, she shipped her two sons off to boarding school, things disintegrated into a great deal of name-dropping. Some of was worthy of a raised eyebrow, like her one-night stand with Robert Mitchum, and her visit from Samuel Beckett while in a flash-back from an acid trip she had taken with R.D. Lange. I got as far as her us-gals friendship with Jackie Kennedy Onassis, when I decided I’d had enough. The flashes of fine writing were there but not the substance.

But it was worth every cent.


As I was leaving the post office I ran into L. When I had spent the week here in June 1968 which cemented our futures together (See p. 95 of “Cheesesteak,” available for $25, from Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley 94709), we had out poignant parting dinner before I returned to Chicago at the Chinese restaurant L owned on Shattuck Avenue. When I had my office in Berkeley, I ate chicken chow fun there, usually once a week.
Following her divorce, L sold the restaurant. I’d seen her a few time since but not in several years. We kissed cheeks, discussed arthritis (hers), cardio problems (mine), dry rot (mutual), and six grandchildren (also hers). Then we parted, having, I suspect, making each of us feel better that here we both still were.
I had barely resumed my seat at the café when a woman entered whom I also thought I recognized. For a brief time, in the late nineties or early oughts, I saw her as another customer in the back room or, even more briefly, working the register of what-I-call-in-my-writings (See, for instance, “Fully Armed,” available from “Café Frenzy.” She was Mexican, maybe a Berkeley City College student, and strikingly attractive, with thick, below-shoulder-length black hair. She never acknowledged my stares. I never spoke to her beyond, when she was at the register, “Short double espresso” and “Thank you.”
She was putting a top on her to-go cup when I said, “Excuse me, but…”
She was surprised – and pleased – to be remembered. “How are you?” she said, even though she could not have remembered me. “I have a 10-year-old son.”
I recalled her hair. “And then you cut it.”
“Oh,” she said, “I cut it so short.”
“Bob,” I said, extending my hand.
“R,” she said.
Her grip was firm.

Later I thought about her mention of her son. I thought who she may have been at 20, being stared at by men in back rooms, not knowing where her future would lead. This son, I thought, signified a pride and self-assurance and attainment she could not have been sure would ever be hers.
I was glad I had spoken

Marketing Report: Week 20

Sold one “Cheesesteak” and swapped one.

The sale went to a middle-aged woman walking by the café. It was a warm day, so I had moved outside for the extra foot traffic. I almost lost her to a “No-cash-with-me” but I dazzled her with my IPhone’s ability to accept credit cards (plus a “money-back-if-not-satisfied” guarantee. What I would do with a book signed for “M—e” I hadn’t considered.)

The swap was to a fellow who recognized me from Facebook as a kindred spirit and wanted to connect. A former commix creator, he became a collector of/dealer in kinescopes of old TV shows when the need to make a living over took him. He brought me several of his books. We had a good conversation at the café, despite the jackhammers that had started outside the door 15 minutes before he arrived.

In other news, the hic-cups with the illustrations to “The Schiz” seem to have been resolved at the printer’s, so if shipment doesn’t occur on October 17 as initially estimated, it shouldn’t be more than a week later. In anticipation, I stocked up on bubble mailers from Uline — and have been over-taken with anxiety wondering if I will come close to filling them with orders.

If didn’t help when my latest attempt to market “Cheesesteak” with Amazon failed. I ran into a snag with their form completion I couldn’t untangle, and their customer service rep’s (“Selva” by name) Live Chat produced a lot of garbled syntax, given and withdrawn instructions, and utilazation of terms foreign to me (What the hell’s a “screenshot”?)on his end, and much stifled rage on mine. (I admit I am an ignoramus when it comes to any matters more technical than opening a sealed carton.) Finally he (or she) told me someone from an “internal team” would need to assist me. Having spent 20 minutes with Selva, I spent five more waiting and then disconnected.

CHEESESTEAK is available from Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley, CA 94709, for $20.

Allumni News

[Jan: This one’s for you.]

An e-mail from our class representative informed us that, following the passing of our senior year class president, who turned out to be an avid duck hunter, his family had enclosed his ashes in a decoy and set it bobbing on his favorite lake with a brass plaque affixed requesting anyone who found it to use it for a season and then set it back adrift. I thought this a lovely idea by the family, though it seemed to me that, between global warming, toxins in the air and water, and feral cats, our feathered migratory planetary co-habitants had enough to worry about without our senior class president being used to kill more of them.

Our rep also informed us that she had seen the recent documentary about the celebrated film director who had been two years ahead of us. My only concrete memory of him is when he stood in Quaker meeting and confessed his sincere disturbance at no longer being able to believe in God. (A member of the English department, a conscientious objector during WW II, then stood to comfort him.) A friend who later followed the director to Columbia reported back that he had fallen in with an to-be-utterly-scorned crowd of those who wore black turtlenecks.

None of this could have been foreseen by a reasonable man in 1960.

Just Sayin’

In today’s New York Times, Michiko Kakutani reviewed volume one of Volker Ullrich’s new biography of Adolph Hitler, which focuses on his “Ascent.” In analyzing how this “self-obsessed ‘clown'” amassed power, Kakutani (and perhaps Ullrich) notes in order his “‘bottomless mendacity,'” his skills as an “orator and actor” to play to the “fears and resentments” of his “lower middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist” audience and offer “himself as he visionary leader who could restore law and order,” and to present the preset in terms of “decline and decay” and himself as the one person capable of leading it to “greatness.”

Sound familiar?

Two Joes and a Jill

Here’s the link to my latest article:

It begins: On December 12, 1942, “The New Yorker” published a 7000-word profile, entitled “Professor Seagull,” by Joseph Mitchell. The subject was Joe Gould, a 53-year-old Greenwich Village eccentric, who was said to be writing an “Oral History of Our Times,” consisting of a record of conversations he had overheard over the last decades and essays related to these conversations. It was, Gould claimed, several times the length of the Bible and, most likely, the longest book ever written. However, having learned that the Metropolitan Museum had stored its most valuable holdings into a bombproof shelter for the duration of the war, Gould had placed his history in the stone cellar of a chicken and duck farm on Long Island, owned by a woman who was out of the state, making it unavailable for Mitchell to read.