One-Minute Book Reviews

January 30, 2007

The Delete Key Awards Are Coming … Beware the Ides of March!

Filed under: Books,Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:40 pm

Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15. The Delete Key Awards recognize authors are trying to assassinate the English language.

One-Minute Book Reviews is the home of the Delete Key Awards, which recognize the worst writing published in books in the preceding year.

In February Janice Harayda will announce the short list for the 2007 Delete Key Awards, which will go to authors who have written some of the worst lines of 2006. Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will have an opportunity to comment on the finalists, and the winner will be announced on March 15.

Please bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing announcements about these awards. To nominate your candidates for a Delete Key award, leave a comment on this site.

This is the first year that the Delete Key Awards are being given out, and many people don’t know about them. Please help to spread the word, if you can, by commenting on them on your blog or by forwarding this post or a link to this site to others, especially to literary bloggers and people in the media and publishing. Thank you!

(c) Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Stanley Alpert’s 25 Hours in Hell With a Turkey Sandwich

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:52 am

You think your last birthday was a bad?

The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival. By Stanley N. Alpert. Putnam’s, 306 pp., $24.95.

By Janice Harayda

January used to be the low season in publishing, a time when firms released titles that weren’t sexy enough to compete with gift or beach books. No more, and anybody who wants proof needs only to pick up The Birthday Party. To say that this terrific book tells the true story of a New York stick-up gone haywire is like saying that Psycho is about a motel with an eccentric owner.

On the night before his 38th birthday, Stanley Alpert was abducted on a Manhattan street by thugs who expected to release him after using his ATM card at a nearby machine. The kidnappers changed their plans after learning that Alpert, then a federal prosecutor, had $110,000 in a savings account. With a gang-that-couldn’t- shoot-straight ineptitude, they kept him blindfolded for 25 hours in their car and a Brooklyn tenement as they tried to figure out how to grab more of his cash.

Alpert tried to humanize himself with his captors by tactics such as joking and giving them legal advice. He told the ringleader, who couldn’t fathom why he was single: “You should talk to my parents. They’re wondering, too.” But he had his limits. He turned down marijuana, sex with a hooker who helped keep an eye on him, and food (which he was afraid was drugged) except for a turkey sandwich, Peach Snapple, an Welch’s grape juice. Alpert kept his cool partly by memorizing clues to his captors’ identities that he hoped would help to put them away if he survived. And his strategies brought savory rewards when law-enforcement officials began hunting for the crew after his release.

We have to take Alpert’s word for much of this. But most of the story rings true, although his captors at times use oddly formal expressions such as “cellular phone” and his account of his legal career makes him sound like the Batman of environmental law. Alpert has no answer for his own question: “So why did God decide to keep me alive?” But on the evidence of this book, you might conclude that God just likes good writers.

Best line: When Alpert was missing and feared dead, a friend theorized that his disappearance might involve his investigation of a polluter with possible mob ties. An FBI agent dismissed the idea, believing the Mafia wouldn’t get worked up over an environmental issue: “Technically, dumping the guy in concrete shoes in the East River was a Clean Water Act violation, but who cared?”

Worst line: Alpert uses the redundant “PIN number” at least three times. He also writes of an “ATM cash machine.”

Recommended if … you’re hungry for manna for true crime fans or liked Boss of Bosses: The FBI and Paul Castellano, the true story of the government’s effort to bring down the Gambino crime family.

Editor: Neil Nyren

Published: January 2007

Furthermore: A reading group guide to The Birthday Party was posted on Feb. 4 and is archived with the February posts and in the “Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides” category on this blog.

Links: Alpert has a good blog on that includes dates of his future appearances

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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