[HILLARY:  She would make a spectacularly qualified president and world leader if she were elected — I am neutral until we have a nominee — and, yes, it does look as though she will be the nominee, and, yes, I did like the launch video.  But we have 575 days until the election — you think that 19-inning Yankees Red Sox game dragged on! — so no rush to say more now.]

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My friend John had in mind a book of local color and characters set in a history-steeped, moss-draped Southern town.  He had no idea where it would go, but kept working on it, year after year — I even visited him for a tour — and finally it was finished . . . but his big-time agent politely suggested he find a different agent (which he did) . . . and you can actually buy his book right now.  I think it took him seven years to write.  But I won’t plug it because he’s way past needing any help — it was called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, longer on the New York Times bestseller list, at 216 weeks, than any other book book, ever.

My friend Cyrus has been talking to me for seven years about the book he wanted to write . . . and then was writing . . . and writing . . . and writing.  And guess what!  He did it!  And guess what!  He sold it!  And guess what!  Library Journal just published this review:

“Copeland’s book traces a personal, emotional, and ultimately satisfying journey of a son trying to discover who his father really was. Using journals, interviews with his father’s friends and former coworkers, and frank discussions with his mother, the author here puts the pieces together to find out if his father was a CIA agent in Iran during the revolution in the late 1970s. Born in Oklahoma, Max Copeland toured the world at a young age, married Shahin, an Iranian woman, converted to Islam, and moved the family to Iran to eventually become an employee of Westinghouse. Things turn as Max is accused of being a CIA spy and is put on trial for his life. The author weaves a tale full of uncertainty, tension, and drama. The character that shines the most is Shahin, who fights with all of her strength, intelligence, and will as she tries to save her husband and family, not knowing for sure if he is truly a spy or not. VERDICT: This brilliant, touching tale of espionage, discovering family, and balancing cultures is recommended for fans of memoirs, spy stories, and Iranian culture.

If you are one of those fans, you can buy it right now: Off the Radar: A Father’s Secret, a Mother’s Heroism, and a Son’s Quest.

Meanwhile, my friend Janet (Tavakoli, financial genius) married an Iranian and moved to Teheran in 1978 — the year before the hostage crisis — and recently published Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Fundamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism.  Short, powerful, informative, and — like any account of radical Islam, let alone its treatment of women — deeply troubling.

(By coincidence, as I was writing this, a letter came from my friend Dave . . . “I was cleaning out some old files recently and came across the enclosed” . . . the original invitation to attend our college Commencement in June of 1968, principal speaker at which was “HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY MOHAMMAD REZA PAHLAVI SHAHANSHAH OF IRAN.”  I remember clearly not going, not out of protest — although we now know that, as bad as he was and as bad as we were to install him, he was not remotely as bad as his Ayatollah successors — but because it was too embarrassing not to have a girlfriend when everyone else did, and not to be able to explain why.)

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And now — on a note so different it could give you whiplash — wanna have dinner this Thursday as my friend Seth entertains at New York’s 54 Below?  HuffPo tells his story (“After Years Behind The Scenes, Seth Sikes Brings His Love Of Judy Garland To The Spotlight”).  I just read that “Judy Garland Put JFK to Bed at Night By Singing ‘Over the Rainbow'” — an interesting story in its own right — suggesting that (to shorthand it) you don’t have to be gay to love Judy Garland.  Though it seems to help.  If there are tickets left, get them here.

 

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