A detective in puce, mentoring, massive parallel processing, and two books on writing. What more could you want?

In this review: Lawrence Sanders McNally’s Chance, Mentoring, Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams, Bugs in Writing, and One Continuous Mistake.


Lawrence Sanders McNally's Chance

Vincent LardoLawrence Sanders' protagonist, Archy McNally, is the fallen scion of a prominent Palm Beach lawyer. Expelled in disgrace from Yale, Archy is his father's "Discreet Investigations" department. Archy's taste in clothes is -- curious, his taste in women, food, and liquor is quite good. His adventures are witty and interesting. Sanders, in my opinion, is an excellent writer in any genre. This latest book in the series, written after Sanders' death, is a worthy follow-on to the master's work. Not quite perfect, but an enjoyable read. Start at the beginning of the series, and work your way up to this one.


Chungliang Al Huang and Jerry LynchSubtitled "The TAO of Giving and Receiving Wisdom", this thoughtful and poetic little book gives excellent guidance for those of us who would guide others and be guided by them. This is the same book as "Tau Mentoring" by these authors. This one is the nicer physical package, suitable for a gift or for a book you'll browse again and again with open mind.

Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams

Mitchell ResnickSubtitled "Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds". Resnick introduces StarLogo, a massively parallel implementation of the famous Logo language, home of turtle graphics. StarLogo lets you program an arbitrary number of turtles all at once, with some really interesting effects. To draw a circle in Logo, you have one turtle put his pen down, go a little ways, turn a little left, go a little ways, and so on. You can get as close as you wish to a circle. In StarLogo, create a very large number of turtles with random locations and orientations. Set all the turtles to (0,0) and command them to walk N steps forward. Voila, all your turtles are standing in a circle. Very interesting and fun.

Bugs in Writing

Lyn DupréThis one is subtitled "A Guide to Debugging Your Prose". (Why are all books subtitled these days? This one has eight other subtitles, including "Writing for Nerds". Well, anyway, Lyn Dupré has written a delightful and useful book covering all the things you need to know, from Em dashes to the use of "who" vs "that". I find it fun to read the short chapters in this thick book, and to think about what she says. I almost always agree, and when I don't, she's probably right. And you have to admire someone who knows that "data" is the plural of "datum".


One Continuous Mistake

Gail Sher

Subtitled “Four Noble Truths for Writers”, this little book by Gail Sher isn’t practical so much as inspirational. Very thoughtful. I loved it.

The truths? They are: Writers write; writing is a process; you don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process; if writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.

Very Zen, very poetic. If writing is your practice, or part of it, read this book. Then write.