Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chimps Lead the Action in Devolution

Action rules in Peter Clenott's Devolution, the story of a teenage girl raised by chimpanzees. The book is peopled by interesting characters and plays out against a well-described setting, but it depends on a rising crescendo of fist fights, gun battles, and ferocious attacks by wild animals (and humans) to propel the reader through the story.

As entertaining as the mayhem might be (and it is entertaining), it actually serves to underscore the theme of the book, which is how thin the line really is between man and beast. The protagonist, Chiku Flynn, is the sixteen-year-old daughter of two deeply flawed scientists who essentially turned her upbringing over to the chimpanzees they are studying on an island in the Congo. The result is a heroine every bit as compelling as Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

There are a raft of other characters, too, but the most interesting are the chimps. Clenott gave them distinct personalities, the ability to communicate, and individual motivations for their actions. This could have been cringe-inducing and mawkish, but he pulled it off quite well and made the primates fully believable characters.

The Congo itself plays a huge role in the novel. Having visited Central Africa myself and studied the DRC while writing my novel, Heart of Diamonds, I read Clenott's work with a particularly critical eye. My conclusion: his portrayal of the nation's tragic history and its current convoluted conflict is spot on.

Devolution is a fun, compelling read based on a fascinatingly creative premise.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Room of Tears Ends with a Twist

Room of Tears has one of the most creative "hooks" for a novel you'll ever encounter. Author Linda Merlino took what could have been a 9/11 weeper and turned it into an engrossing tale with a fascinating twist to the ending. You'll find no spoiler here; suffice it to say that you'll never see it coming and the concept will set you back on your heels.

The book tells the story of Diane O'Connor, the widow of a fireman who was killed in the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. The narrative takes us into the future when her son, Peter, born nine months after the attack, is elected Pope--the first from America. The links between those two events feed the narrative as it moves back and forth in time. Multiple voices tell the story, too, although most of it comes from the protagonist.

Room of Tears requires some careful reading to keep track of the story, but it's well worth the effort when you come to the thought-provoking conclusion.

Dave Donelson distill the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides and Handbooks, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, and management strategy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Maybe the Richest Deal Ever Made on a Golf Course

It's probably impossible to prove, but it's entirely likely that a deal spawned at St. Andrew's GC in Hastings may have been the largest ever struck on a golf course. I ran across this interesting tidbit in American Colosus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900 by H.W. Brands. The club, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, played an essential role in the sale of member Andrew Carnegie's steel interests to J.P. Morgan and others in 1901.

The deal was a perfect example of the role golf can play in business--not to mention the value of scoring judiciously when playing against your boss.

Andrew Carnegie playing at St. Andrew’s circa 1899. He enjoyed the game so much, he built a home next to the course // Photograph courtesy of Westchester County Historical Society
Carnegie Steel President Charles M. Schwab was the hero of the piece. Morgan had made it known he and his partners wanted to buy out Carnegie so they could monopolize the steel industry. Schwab saw the value of the deal (he subsequently became President of the company it created, U.S. Steel) but the ultimate decision was Carnegie's, who wasn't particularly interested in selling. His wife, Louise, though, wanted him to retire. Here's how Brands described what happened:
"Louise Carnegie conspired with Schwab against her husband. Shortly after Schwab informed her of the merger scheme, she telephoned to say that Carnegie would be playing golf the next morning at St. Andrew's club in Westchester. He was always more cooperative after winning at the Scottish national sport, she suggested. Schwab took the hint, whiffed a few for the cause, and broached the subject of selling. Carnegie didn't reject the plan outright, which Schwab took to be a good sign."
It was. The next morning, Carnegie named his price--$480 million. Morgan accepted it and a few days later closed the deal personally. As he shook Carnegie's hand, he said, "Mr. Carnegie, I want to congratulate you on being the richest man in the world."

At that point in time, it probably wasn't an exaggeration. The deal would be worth about $13 billion in today's dollars. That has to make it one of the biggest ever born on a golf course.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf