Friday, February 27, 2009

Disputed Elections: Before Bush-Gore there was Hayes-Tilden

AS A HISTORY BUFF I have always enjoyed teaching those parts of my political science classes that deal with the historical development of certain aspects of the government. Until the Bush-Gore election in 2000, most of my students had never paid much attention to the Electoral College. Thus, they were always surprised by how it worked and why it was created.

Even more interesting was the student reaction to those elections where the Electoral College “misfired” and elected the popular vote loser. We would spend a bit of time discussing those elections and the one that always stood out was the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election where disputed and conflicting sets of Electoral Votes were submitted by several states causing Congress to create an Electoral Commission to determine which votes should be counted. The result was a commission that gave every disputed Electoral Vote to the popular vote loser, Rutherford B. Hays, who then won the presidency by only one Electoral Vote.

The story of that election is told in surprising detail in William Rehnquist’s Centennial Crisis; The Disputed Election of 1876. Rehnquist, of course, is the late chief justice of the United States and had a ring-side seat for the legal maneuverings of the Bush and Gore teams in 2000. The book has been out for a couple of years, but it is a good read and recommended to any history buff, like myself, especially those interested in the post Civil War era.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can you give these dogs a home?

THIS IS A BIT OUT OF CHARACTER for this blog but a friend of my wife’s is looking for a home for two Cocker Spaniels. So if you are in the Central Iowa area, take a look at this.

The dogs were placed in “foster home” because the owner had to go to a nursing home unexpectedly. The dogs' names are Daisy Mae and Buddy. Daisy is the smaller one of the two and is five years old. Buddy is a male and is four years old. They have always been together so the foster parents would like to find a home where they can stay together. They are very lovable, cuddly dogs and they love to go for walks and to play fetch with tennis balls. Both dogs and are very good with the foster parents’ kids and their friends.

If you are interested, you can contact the foster parents (Jim Kent) at

Remember, there is a special place in heaven for those who care for animals!

Some writers' sites of interest

A COUPLE OF RESOURCE LINKS for those wanting to get published:

First is Preditors and Editors. All too often newbie authors seeking publication fall victim to unscrupulous editors, publishers or agents, whose only talent is taking money from wanta-be writers. Before you submit your work, or sign a contract, check out this site to see if there are any recommendations or cautions about the person with whom you are planning to deal.

The second is for mystery writers. My friend Jerry Hooten hosts a resource site for mystery writers. He also publishes a monthly newsletter which is free via e-mail specifically for mystery writers which covers topics such as guns and legal news. Jerry has advised several well-known mystery authors, including Max Allan Collins and Michael Connelly, and a few minor writers like me.

These and other helpful links are included at my website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So Long, LIM, until we meet again

THE BOMBSHELL that was dropped at Saturday’s Love Is Murder Banquet by the LIM board was that there will be no conference in 2010, but it will return in 2011.

Love Is Murder is unique among mystery conferences: readers could meet their favorite authors, authors could meet new readers, and writers could meet and pitch publishers and agents. I have been a regular attendee for many years and became one of LIM’s biggest fans when I sold my first mystery, Murder Most Holy, to Five Star through the 2005 conference. Last week’s conference had over 300 attendees.

But the success of LIM was apparently a bit too much for an overworked, understaffed volunteer board. Members wanted to take a year breather to re-tool and come back better than ever. How they can make this outstanding conference better than it currently is, is, to quote our new president, “above my pay grade.” Suffice it to say, LIM was a top-notch product and Luisa Buehler, Hanley Kanar and the rest of the board deserve kudos for all they have done.

This year’s LIM was held at a new location, the Westin Chicago Northshore in Wheeling. A wonderful facility that gave us an added treat: a re-enactor’s convention was being held at the same time. We were able to mingle with Generals Grant, Washington, Custer along with Field Marshall Rommel and scores of soldiers representing armies from ancient Rome to World War II and beyond. Renaissance minstrels, jesters, Red Coats and warriors from Napoleon’s army all mingled with us over drinks Saturday evening. It felt like we were on the back lot of a Hollywood studio where there were several historical epics being filmed!

Anyway, the weekend was great, but we all left with a little sadness knowing that we’ll miss our old friend next year.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Love Is Murder

THE LOVE IS MURDER mystery conference is being held this weekend (February 6-8) at the Westin Chicago in Wheeling, Illinois. If you are within driving distance of Chicago and are writing a mystery – or would like to write one – check the link (picture) and see if you can attend. I’ll meet you in the bar!