Lately I haven’t been writing on this blog as much as I used to. So here are a few older pieces to fill the gap. Not the best posts, necessarily, just a few I happen to like.

The Whitey Bulger book I’d like to read

Wishing for a book that tells the real story of the Bulger brothers.

Why are we attracted to crime stories?

What does our attraction to crime stories tell us about ourselves?

Copyright Run Amok

A futile effort to secure reprint rights for an epigram from H.G. Wells has me steaming about the excesses of copyright law.

“Madame Bovary” translated by Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis’s wonderful new translation of Flaubert’s masterpiece feels quite modern.


James Hynes’s *Next* is the best novel I’ve read in a very long time.

Drawing Circles

Lessons for creatives from two famous circles, Giotto’s O and the enso of Japanese calligraphy.

Man Out of Time: “The Disenchanted” by Budd Schulberg

In “The Disenchanted,” Budd Schulberg wrote the final act in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tragedy.

Will e-novels be shorter?

Will e-novels be shorter than p-novels — you know, books, the things made with paper and ink?

“Wolf Hall”

Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning “Wolf Hall” re-imagines Henry VIII’s chief minister and henchman Thomas Cromwell as the true modern man and the sainted Thomas More as a mad, hair-shirted religious zealot.

Baseball’s Yankee Problem

In baseball, the deck is stacked. It’s worse than unfair; it’s boring.


My new novel, Defending Jacob, explores our eternal fascination with crime and crime stories.

The Street Photography of Jules Aarons

An under-appreciated photographer of Boston street life has an exhibit at the Boston Public Library

“Little Dorrit”: Dickens’ Teeming World

Why modern realism just doesn’t feel like reality.

The View from Below: A midlist author watches the ebook wars

The publishing industry is a futures market – a Silicon Valley for books, with every publisher a venture capitalist searching for the Next Big Thing.

Dickens vs. the Snarks

To a reader, Dickens absorbs, the web distracts.

“Tamburlaine Must Die”

Louise Welsh’s “Tamburlaine Must Die” recounts the final days of the Elizabethan poet Christopher Marlowe, whose murder in 1593 is one of the great unsolved historical mysteries beloved by conspiracy theorists.

How to Make a Movie About a Writer

Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” isn’t simply about the poet John Keats; it is about the poetry itself.

Angiulo, Barboza and fictionalizing the Boston Mob

Two notorious Boston crime figures, Gerry Angiulo and Joe Barboza, are reanimated in “The Strangler.”


A burgeoning science suggests that crime is caused in part by biological factors, that is, by traits inherited through DNA or by the brain malfunctioning in very specific ways.

“Free” and the Future of Publishing

An internet entrepreneur suggests book publishers take a lesson from web start-ups.

Best Boston Movie Ever: “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”

A forgotten classic from 1973 is the best movie about Boston ever.

Writers as Performers

Malcolm Gladwell, like Dickens and Twain before him, knows that while his books can easily be reproduced, the author’s genuine presence cannot.