Worth Reading (Fiction)

  • Mamet, David: Chicago: A Novel
    In Roaring 20's Chicago, a Great War veteran turned hard-boiled reporter falls in love with the wrong woman and then seeks to find her killer.
  • Nelson DeMille: The Cuban Affair: A Novel
    Two million dollars to charter a boat for a fishing tournament? A great way for the owner to pay off the boat's mortgage, but it turns out to include slipping into Castro's prison island in search of a lost (and perhaps imaginary) treasure.
  • Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel
    Ursula Todd has the opportunity to relive her life, over and over and over, moving steadily through the Great War and its sequels and accumulating shards of memory.
  • Connie Willis: Crosstalk: A Novel
    An empathy app leads to complications involving telepathy, Irish women and a true love that runs most unsmoothly. Classic Willis comedy.
  • Mark Steyn: The Prisoner of Windsor
    In a 21st Century sequel to Anthony Hope, the heir to the Ruritanian throne must fill in for the kidnaped Prime Minister of Great Britain.
  • Tim Powers: My Brother's Keeper
    Werewolves, the Brontë sisters, their wayward brother, their heroic dog and a conspiracy to unleash an almost dead deity.
  • Tim Powers: Declare: A Novel
    An intricate Cold War fantasy that seems so plausible that one wonders whether it is the true story of why the Soviet Union rose and collapsed.
  • H.F.M. Prescott: The Man on a Donkey
    Set during the Pilgrimage of Grace, this is the rare historical novel that captures the mindset of the actors. The hero, Robert Aske, was martyred in a way that makes burning at the stake look merciful.
  • Theodore Odrach: Wave of Terror
    Based on the author's experiences when the Soviet Union occupied his homeland after the Stalin-Hitler Pact, this book melds Chekov and Solzhenitsyn. By stages, the isolated folk of the Pripyet Marshes learn that there are worse masters than their former Polish overlords.
  • Simon Montefiore: Sashenka: A Novel
    Both grim and funny, this historical novel peers into the inner world of an upper class Russian girl turned loyal Bolshevik, highlighting her youthful fling at revolution-making in Petrograd, her fall from grace under Stalin, and an historian's effort, after the end of communism, to ascertain her fate.
  • Harry Turtledove: The Man with the Iron Heart
    Can the U.S. maintain its resolve against a defeated enemy's terrorist campaign? Imagining a post-World War II Nazi insurgency, Harry Turtledove puts this question into a new context. As Reinhard von Heydrich's "werewolves" devastate Germany, war-weary Americans call for withdrawal, regardless of the consequences.
  • Neal Stephenson: Anathem
    If you have not a smidgen of interest in how Platonic philosophy relates to the "many worlds" version of quantum mechanics, you still may like this novel, though you'll probably wish that the characters talked less. Persevere. After a slow start, the story grows compelling, and the intellectual dialogues turn out not to be digressions.
  • Alfred Duggan: Lord Geoffrey's Fancy
    Perhaps the finest book of one of England's finest historical novelists. The setting is 13th Century Greece, where Crusaders fought each other and the shattered Byzantine Empire. The history is accurate, the writing graceful and the characters not merely modern people in fancy dress.
  • Rodney Bolt: History Play : The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe
    A pseudo-history springing from the premise that Shakespeare's flashy predecessor survived the famous Deptford brawl and fled to the continent, where he secretly wrote almost all of the Bard's works. A clever, tongue-in-cheek reworking of literary history that also recreates the milieu shared by many real Elizabethan exiles.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays (Library of America, 131)
    Fiction and essays by a black American writer who deserves a wider audience.
  • Harry Turtledove: Gunpowder Empire
    Debut of a juvenile series set in parallel worlds. 22nd century teen siblings, trapped without adult aid in a besieged city, must cope with the bizarre (to them) customs and prejudices of a never-fallen Roman Empire.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009


Mr. Veal’s covert racism is, increasingly, his own problem. Its origin is irrelevant. As for his original question, he has yet to explain why his friend’s one time observation led him to conclude that “whites” are “underrepresented” in the Auburn General ER at midnight. He is, however, consistent in the display of his prejudice. Substituting “blacks” for all individuals of non-European ancestry could not be more myopically self defeating.

Mr. Hodges’ misplaced emotionalism is his own problem. I shan’t speculate about its origin. As for his empirical research, it still doesn’t explain why whites are so underrepresented in the Auburn General ER at midnight. He does, however, seem to have solved half the puzzle: There are few blacks in the ER at noon, because not many blacks live in the area.

“White bigot” and “black shift” were your phrases, not mine. Your use of “scare quotes” does not “qualify” your choice of “subject” or your “lack” of “comprehension”.

With regard to the original question:

According to the 2000 census, Auburn is a community of 31,000 with about 7,500 (25%) with “ancestries which are equivalent to specific race & Hispanic/Latino groups, such as Cree, Thai, Samoan & Cuban.” African Americans are not a large part of the demographic (about 300).

Of the surrounding communities, nearby Federal Way City, two and a half miles west of Auburn, with a population 68,500, including many of German, Norwegian, English and other European groups' descent, also includes 23,000 (33%) with the “ancestries” mentioned above. There are only about 1,000 African Americans in this area.

Kent City, barely six miles north of Auburn, is a community of 64,000, with a similar population of European groups which also includes 23,000 with other “ancestries”, only 1,000 of which are African American.

Milton and Pacific are small communities to the south and south east, with populations of about 4,500 each. About a quarter of these are of minority “ancestries”.

Major 24 hour ERs in the area include: 1., Valley Medical Center Emergency in Kent, 2., St Francis Hospital in Federal Way City, and 3., Auburn General.

So, there are basically three 24 hour ER facilities in the immediate area. One for Kent, one for Federal City and one for Auburn. Auburn has one half the population of either Kent or Federal Way. The minority population of Kent and Federal Way combined is 150% of Auburn’s total population, but these two communities have only two 24 hour ERs to serve more than four and a half times the population of Auburn.

The Auburn ER is closer to Kent and Federal Way City than either of those two are to each other.

I would therefore account for the (one time observed) disparity in the Auburn ER daytime vs. evening distribution as nothing more than spillover from the nearby communities. And spillover (in accordance with travel time) tends to occur after working hours. This effect has probably become more pronounced since 2000 as a result of the BUSH DEPRESSION.

Certainly not a reason to imagine "white bigot[s]" or “Black Shift[s]” by way of explanation.

My suggestion to you is to reset your “default” mode to something less pejorative.


Seeing Mr. Hodges hyperventilate is so much fun that I really must think of other ways to upset him. We retired old codgers need our hobbies, after all.

It is also refreshing to discover that there is at least one person in the world who has no concept of the use of scare quotes.

More research is obviously needed, IF this is a subject worthy of exploration.

I find Mr. Veal's interest unfortunate. For instance, there is no suggestion that there was a "black shift", yet Mr. Veal creates one, as if people of color are only permitted or able to work the late shift.

Perhaps the Auburn facility sees more working commuters on their way to or from work after hours. Perhaps the ERs in other nearby communities close after hours. Perhaps, DUE TO THE BUSH DEPRESSION AND THE SUDDENLY DECLINING TAX BASE, neighboring communities have had to limit, or even discontinue, ER facilities. Or perhaps Mr. Veal's friend observed a random after hours event and drew the false conclusion that it meant something.

Why should anyone care? Only because Mr. Veal chose to draw attention to his own mindset by discussing it in his typical, small-minded way.

If it is really all that important, why not send someone out to the hospital to ask? I have no doubt that the staff could explain. Would that not be better than indulging in armchair racial profiling?

A possibility, except that the population of Auburn is overwhelmingly white. In the 2000 census, blacks were only about 2½ percent.

I propose that the hospital your friend visited is located in an area which is home to predominantly "white" industry but predominantly "black" housing. There are industries even today that are not fully integrated thanks less to official racism and more to cultural directives. At midnight, the white commuters had gone home, and the black inhabitants had returned from their work in some other neighborhood.

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Books by Tom Veal

Worth Reading (Non-Fiction)