Read All About It

(Instead of getting it from TikTok!)

Read All About It

This will be an unusual column, and not because I submitted it early. It’s unusual because I’ll be discussing reading rather than writing. Mostly.

As many of you know from my previous scribblings, I don’t think a writer can be good at his/her craft without also being a reader. Notice I use the term “good” rather than “great.” I wouldn’t want anyone (excluding myself and some of my family) to think my own writing is “great.”

But I do read a lot. And not just in my thriller/mystery genre. (I’ve often thought of myself as a Renaissance man, probably because I’m a hypochondriac who suspects every sniffle is a prelude to the plague.)

I review books and, truth be told, prefer nonfiction history to novels. I’m devoted to Wikipedia, Quora, and many other sites that heavily feature the written word. (Yes, I used to read Playboy for the articles, but like the internet, some of its photos were nice, too.)

Anyway, here are some interesting tidbits I’ve recently discovered while reading:

The deadliest battle in American history had nothing to do with the Civil War’s Gettysburg (7,863 dead) or Antietam (3,600 dead). Nor was it World War II’s tragic D-Day/Battle of Normandy (15,877 dead). It was the First World War’s Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which cost America 26,277 killed in action, more than double the combined total of the aforementioned 19th-century battles we usually fixate on.

I wish more people knew about World War I. Most Americans have never heard of Belleau Woods unless they were in the Marines (as I was) and had that famous WWI battle, part of USMC lore, drummed into their brain pan. “The War to End All Wars” was quickly followed by WWII, “The War to Make It Safe for Democracy.” You don’t need to be especially literate to see how that worked out. (Of course, World War III will one day blow those previous conflicts’ casualty figures out of the water.)

Another example: Black Sunday, a 1975 thriller by Thomas Harris about Palestinian terrorists plotting to commit mass murder during the Super Bowl. The novel was only moderately successful, but Hollywood turned it into a terrific film. (Harris went on to write The Silence of the Lambs and made Hannibal Lecter and fava beans into household words.)

What struck me about Black Sunday was how far we’ve come since its publication. After 49 tumultuous years, the Palestinians and the Israelis live in peace. No one is dying in the Middle East anymore. Everything is hunky-dory in that garden spot.


Nothing has changed. Palestinians have been killing Israelis, and vice versa, since 1948. Bloody Sunday, with its talk of Palestinian grievances, Jewish memories, and American politics, could’ve been written yesterday.

I also just read in my local paper (yes, Virginia, they still exist) a column by a woman who thinks Social Security’s looming funding crisis can be cured by privatization. She wants to take the government out of it because, well, people should be responsible for their own futures. Workers would do better by taking the money they contribute in payroll taxes and instead investing it in stocks and bonds themselves.

What could go wrong?

She’s right about the coming shortfall: When Social Security was set up in the 1930s, there were 44 workers for every retiree. Now there are three. But her argument is flawed. Yes, the government she wants out of our retirement lives is the same one that caused many of the problems retirees face. But does she really think people will invest wisely and sufficiently? They’re more likely to blow their money on Amazon. (Maybe they should be forced to invest. Oh, wait. Here comes the government again.)

My point (and I do have one): I never would’ve known any of this had I not read it somewhere, and that newfound knowledge will undoubtedly affect my own writing. I primarily write fiction, but I like to read a lot and form opinions after taking time to reflect. Too many people today get their information from Twitter (or whatever it’s called) and TikTok. What they should do is read books, newspapers, magazines, and such.

I know: I sound like a Luddite — which is a word I learned from reading.

Lawrence De Maria has just written his 31st thriller, Sandy Ground, about the hijacking of the Staten Island Ferry during a U.N. General Assembly meeting. He got the idea from two novels, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Nothing Lasts Forever (the movie “Die Hard” is based on the latter). During the writing of this column, he sneezed. Undoubtedly, he’s coming down with the plague.

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