When I was a young, unpublished writer, I wrote to a relatively famous (now deceased) New York author and sent him a chapter from one of my unpublished novels. After many months, the author wrote back and in barely legible handwriting scolded me for bothering him. He said that literary agents were the only people in publishing who could tell me what I needed to know, and why did I write to him seeking guidance when there are dozens of books available about how to publish a book or query a literary agent?

AskHe was right, of course, but I always felt he could have been a little nicer about it. Most published authors simply do not have the time to help aspiring writers. Inquiries come in by phone, mail, or email several times a week, and any attempt to answer each one quickly makes half the writing day vanish. I don’t want to be that grouchy writer, but I do want to be a writer, and that means NOT being an agent, editor, confidante, and all-purpose literary advisor. Most authors compromise by giving the odd lecture, by helping out at writers’ conferences now and again, or by answering some emails and not others.

Then came the Internet and websites, and a little later, blogs. With a blog, it’s possible to answer a popular question ONCE and then make it available to every other aspiring writer with the same question. That’s one of the selfish reasons for this website.

If you have a question about my work or about the craft of writing, first check and see if it has already been answered. Use the SEARCH box or peruse the categories or pages of the site and see if the issue has already come up.

I can’t answer every question. For obvious legal reasons, I cannot and will not read your work (query letters, treatments, unpublished novels, chapters, stories, and so on), but I will answer any question, especially if it’s one that will help others with the same problem.

You don’t have to use your real name, I won’t publish your email, but if I answer your question, I will probably post it pretty much the way you asked it.

To ask a question please use the address: ask@ {my last name} dot com.

For now I’m turning off the comment features of this blog because I do not have time to monitor them.


Richard Dooling

74 thoughts on “Ask

  1. Brian Fleming

    Hi, I am happy I stumbled across your page. I’m a Nebraskan author as well. I don’t think anyone asked the question I’d like to hear your answer on, so here goes:

    Who is your literary agent? Did it take you a while to get your first book published?


    1. Richard Dooling Post author


      My literary agent is Gail Hochman, at Brandt & Hochman. I had a different agent before who represented my first two books. Yes, first publication took many years. I was not particularly well-organized or knowledgeable about how to approach an agent. I sent partial manuscripts in for years. Wrote a first novel. Put it in a drawer. Went to law school, worked as a lawyer. Wrote a second novel, Critical Care, which got me an agent when I first sent portions of it around.

      I spent most of my twenties trying to publish in magazines. Books are a much better way to go, but of course you have to write them first.

      Good luck,


  2. Aiden

    Hi, Richard.

    I’d like to ask -btw love your books- what font did you use for the chapter titles in Rapture for the Geeks? it’s been a question ever since I got fascinated in the look of that font and I’d much like to use it :)

    Thanks, Regards ~Aiden.

  3. Richard Cundy

    Brain Storm, p. 324: I may have missed it, but I’ve gone over related pages 2 times, and I can’t find the real words used by Mary for the transcription “vinegar common anthony.” What did she say?
    Of course, I enjoyed the book.
    Aloha, Richard

    1. Richard Dooling Post author

      Start any dictation software and say, “The n-word is coming after me.” And see what happens.


  4. Omar Dabbagh

    Hi Richard, I would like to obtain a copy of your book ‘Rapture for the Geeks’. I attempted to get a copy through, only to be told that Amazon merchants can’t ship the book to Sydney, Australia which is where I live. Would you be able to point me in the right direction to obain a copy of this book please?

  5. linda dons

    RE your article appearing in the Dallas Morning News, Sun Aug 23 09. You pose the question ” I’m just wondering why the nation continues incurring enormous debt to pay for bypass surgery and titanium knee replacements for octogenarians and nonagenarians, when for just a small fraction of those costs we could provide children with preventitive health care and nutrition.” I have an answer for you. When my Mother was 87 yrs. old, she had to have a stint. Soon afterward she was back to having lunch with her children and grandchildren and participating in all kinds of events. At age 90, she was hospitalized for an unknown illness which was latter diagnosed as a urinary infection. She spent a week in the hospital and another 10 days recuperating at home. She is now back to her usual routine – enjoying her family. Medicare paid for everything, including care givers and physical therapy. Did I mention that she is bent over, almost in half from osteoporosis? Here’s another thing – My Mother calls regularly to check on 2 of her, as she puts it ,”elderly friends”. Ms. B who just celebrated her 101st B-Day and Ms. K who just turned 100. Physically, both of my Mother’s “elderly friends” are in better shape than my Mother. These are just 3 reasons why the nation continues to pay for octogenarins. What a blessing! Would you have preferred that My Mother not have received the stint, or was left to die from a urinary infection? I don’t know you but my guess is that you, especially if you knew my Mother, would be at my side to fight for her right to receive whatever medical care she needed to continue her good life.

  6. Steve J

    on your 8/17/09 NYT Op-Ed piece.
    In general I agree that too much money is spent on end of life care.
    Unfortunately in some cases there is no alternative to dying in a Hospital.
    Both my parents died there. My father at age 57 in 1977 after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor bled internally and he went into a coma and died 3 weeks later.
    My mother died of complications of Alzheimer’s which caused her colon to shut down .

    As a senior on Medicare (Wikpedia says you are 54-55) I can tell you that we pay full bore prices for ED drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis.
    or Google “ed drugs removed from medicare”

    I am surprised that the NYT editors didn’t catch your error.
    PS: reply directly to my e-mail, TIA

  7. Emily Dye

    Mr. Dooling, Thank you for going public in discussing health care. You are addressing a complex and misunderstood topic: Excessive, misdirected, wasteful health care, particularly for the terminally ill, disabled and elderly. My mother was a victim of excessive orthopedic care. A painful external fixator was used to repair a broken ankle when we knew that neuropathy, arthritis, brain deterioration and spinal damage were going to prevent her from ever being ambulatory again anyway. She was also the victim of a “death panel” (a neurologist decided to tell us that her brain lesions were harmless and her condition was a combination of vascular dementia and alzheimer’s. My siblings and I could not see the correlation between the signs and symptoms of those conditions and Mom’s. Eventually, a concerned radiology oncologist alerted us to the aggressiveness of one of the “harmless lesions” but his information was too late. As a result of the 4-year delay in the truth, her palliative care was poorly targeted. If her caregivers and PCP’s had known she was suffering from a ventricle brain tumor, not dementia, they would have dealt with her pains and symptoms differently — and with better results. There are many other ways in which our Mom’s medical care was poor in the last four years of her life — even and maybe because she had very good insurance. Finally, 6 wks before she died, I managed to score a geriatric specialist, after trying to get one involved for four years, but by this time, all he could do was explain the dying process to us, provide her with a kind beside manner, and stand up for us against other physicians who wanted to continue painfully treating her when it was obviously pointless. My brother and sister and I have a great deal of rue and hurt as a result of the inconvenient, poorly directed, painful and harmful medical care Mom received. However, I must clarify that she experienced that alongside good quality, well-chosen, help and healing care. We saw both the best and the worst of the American Health Care System and are well-educated voters and advocates, as a result. Physician honesty and patient education are essential, as is hospice education and intervention, because we need to have the knowledge to know when the truth is being withheld, when mistakes might be being made, when to make inquiries, who to go to, what questions to ask and how to maneuver through an extremely complex and intimidating system. The best patient advocate is the educated patient, loved one or caregiver.

  8. Lynn Mary

    Really appreciated your thought-provoking Op-Ed in the NY Times today, a far overdue discussion of how the healthcare system has turned what is inevitable into a disease to be somehow “cured”. You and your readers might want to check out a new novel, The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian, which deals with some of the issues you raise. In this instance, the octogenarian married couple opts out of the relentless end-of-life medical treatments (she has terminal cancer), and instead take a road trip along the remnants of the Route 66, sharing their last days together on an adventure, rather than hooked up to a chemo machine. Were it not for the layers of guilt that doctors (and family members) are apt to apply in great doses (see The Bucket List) most of us would really prefer to end our last days with some semblance of freedom to rest in peace.

  9. Mary D

    Just read the NY Times Op/Ed/ 8/17/09
    In many ways you are so correct. I agree w/ you on many levels…especially where an individual is in the CCU w/o any hope of recovery. Such happend in our well-educated, progressive family in 1992 when my father fell and was in a coma after brain surgery. Mother and Dad simply never discussed this possibility. It was a horrible 30 days b/t Thanksgiving and Christmas, the day Mom let Dad go. Being one of four adult siblings, I, the priest and Mom’s best friend, a CCU nurse had counseled Mom that Dad would not recover, and that she should let him die in peace. Mom was dealing with this until the other three siblings flew in and advised Mom that Dad could get better if only they prayed harder. [ No matter if an advanced directive is in is still hard for a loved one to let another go] Well, for a few days, I was the evil child ……but then the others flew home and it was just mom and me. I sat by his bed with her for 5 days as his body contracted sepis/ pumps in and out of every place pumps could go/ on Christmas Eve, his fever spiked to 105, and Mom let him go on Christmes morning. LESSON LEARNED: Mom got her attorney on the phone/ got her advanced directive/ will/ power of atty, etc. Mom made the decision last year at 88 not to have the aortic replacement that Mrs. Bush had. She decided that she has a good life living w/ me/ has lived a full life/and refuses to ever be in a CCU hooked to pumps and plugs, etc. She discussed w/ her doctor who was in full accord with her. I do disagree w/ you on some level…..if a man is cabable of sexual activity at 80/ he should get his Viagra…ok…b/c if the commercials are correct 35 yr old men are in need as well. As for scooters etc. if such equipment keeps a senior indpendent….why not? The point is… person should ever languish in a bed either at the rest home or in a CCU. Funny how my mother chose to spend her remaining yrs w/ me rather than any of her other children! Death is comming for us all. Think about how you believe you would want your life to end…be honest, and if you are, you, any of us will do the best for a loved one. p.s. This fear of elder abuse is BS. Elder abuse is permitting an elder loved one to languish in some filthy rest home/ or keeping a loved one alive w/ pumps and plugs.

  10. Betty Morgan

    I read an op-ed in the NYT you wrote. All I can say is I wish you could be a much louder voice. I am a fit health nut 0f age 60. I have many relatives that lived and worked into there 80s and 90s. As long as I can contribute I want to, but when I can’t I don’t want any of those stupid IT measures taken. But there does not seem to be a choice in this. Would my kids get in trouble with the law for elder abuse if everything is not done? We have so much fear of this elder abuse thing that we do spend anything for their care. Until we get ride of the fear of jail for not doing it nothing will change.

  11. Dr Douglas Watt

    Hi Richard – Thought you might find this of interest. Best, DW

    Rethinking Our Losing Battle Against the Diseases of Aging:
    Why We Are Losing the Battle – What We Can Do Differently

    What is aging, and why does it often lead to the diseases of aging? What can we do about this? These are central biological questions for all the healthcare disciplines, and questions around which there is now a great deal of fundamental science. Unfortunately, very little of that fundamental science has trickled down into the healthcare system and into the awareness of most healthcare professionals. And almost none of it seems to inform the way our healthcare system currently works.

    Although the Bible refers to aging as “the wages of sin” this is at best a colorful metaphor, and of course completely scientifically inadequate. Instead, the evidence is that aging is more related to the “wages of metabolism” (oxidative stress) and the “wages of organism defense and repair” (AKA inflammation).

    This talk looks at the impending failure of the national healthcare system in the United States (we are headed within the next several years into a situation in which roughly 20% of the national GNP is going to be spent on healthcare expenses) while overall health and quality of life is declining (currently the United States ranks between 30th and 45th in life expectancy). As the baby boomers (almost a 60,000,000 person demographic) hit the decades of greatest risk for cancers, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and increasing diabetes, the evidence is that the healthcare system (as it is currently structured) would undergo a catastrophic collapse. Obviously, this collapse will not happen all at once, (and instead the evidence is that it will be slowly swamped over time with subsequent progressive and stark rationing of care). If we continue on our current course, we will see an increasing fraction of our national wealth going to healthcare, but with every indication that our quality of life will not be improved correspondingly at all. Currently, we spend at most 5% of our health care dollar on prevention in any meaningful sense, while somewhere between 75 to 85% goes into the treatment of an established disease of aging, often times emphasizing high-tech tertiary care of an advanced disease of aging, including spending roughly $100,000 or more in the last year or so of life. These figures of course are completely unsustainable within the context of the aging of the baby boomer demographic. Given the explosion of obesity in this country (a risk factor for all the diseases of aging and not simply diabetes), the incidence of the diseases of aging may actually be on the rise, suggesting that the American culture as a whole may be headed for a catastrophic failure of prevention in relationship to the diseases of aging on a national and unprecedented scale.

    This talk examines evidence that the classic lifestyle factors of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress all impinge on three fundamental mechanisms that drive all the diseases of aging: 1) oxidative stress which damages numerous cellular compartments including the mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (a potential nexus of aging change, leading to age-related change and apoptosis), nuclear DNA (potentially leading into cancers), and many other membranes and protein structures; 2) chronic auto-inflammation which contributes to oxidative stress (our immune system kills invaders in part by overloading their antioxidant defenses) and which also causes damage to multiple systems and tissues; 3) glycation of proteins, and the creation of increasing amounts of so-called ‘advanced glycation end products’, which potentiate inflammation. These processes also jointly contribute to the over selection of apoptosis and drive tissues eventually into having increasing populations of senescent cells that are unable to do their assigned physiologic tasks.

    Four lifestyle factors are critical. Sleep, exercise, a healthy diet (which is more than just reducing calories and must include critical phytochemicals), and not too much chronic stress (acute stress once resolved appears benign) combined with a healthy emotional outlook directly impact these fundamental cellular processes of age-related damage. All of these lifestyle factors contribute to the reduction of inflammation in aging, the optimal management of oxidative stress, and the minimizing of glycation of proteins. Indeed these four components of a healthy lifestyle probably have synergistic effects, just as a bad diet (too much calories, too few protective phytochemicals, poor Omega 3/Omega 6 ratios) synergizes with the effects of sleep deprivation, sedentary lifestyle, and excessive stress in promoting inflammation, oxidative stress, and glycation. Jointly, these classic lifestyle factors determine what aging trajectories our systems enter as we get older, and how much our fundamental cellular defenses against cellular damage are supported and enhanced as much as possible, versus overtaxed and overwhelmed. Mechanisms of aging lead invariably into the diseases of aging if given enough time and enough room to work. At this point there is no cure for virtually any disease of aging, so prevention, instead of being put in the trunk of the car where it sits currently in our healthcare system, needs to be in the driver’s seat. Making this critical change in priorities and approach is likely to be both painful in many ways as well as politically contentious.

    The talk also summarizes work on calorie reduction, which is clearly the gold standard in relationship to both aging and the diseases of aging. Calorie restriction, which functions as a kind of global metabolic reprogramming for virtually all organisms, extends lifespan and reduces penetration of the diseases of aging significantly if not dramatically in every species in which it has been studied. The talk briefly examines what we know about calorie restriction mimetics (substances that mimic the effects of calorie restriction without the ‘pain’ of substantially reduced calories), particularly resveratrol, which is the most popular and best researched calorie restriction mimetic that is relatively available. It also briefly examines effects of other common polyphenols, widely regarded as “antioxidants” such as turmeric and catechins (found in green tea), summarizing evidence for a very multifactorial pattern of effects from polyphenols, far beyond their simplistic designation as “antioxidants”. While the antioxidant vitamins (A., C., and E) are a complete bust in relationship to the diseases of aging, and this has led to enormous skepticism about the value of anything labeled as an ‘antioxidant’, polyphenols affect cell signaling and cell physiology in a wide variety of ways, in the direction of enhancing antioxidant defenses, modulating excessive inflammation, regulating growth versus apoptosis pathways, and reducing glycation of proteins. As a class, they are looking like the most protective dietary compounds in relationship to aging and the diseases of aging yet discovered, and their effects extend far beyond the reduction of oxidative stress. Large-scale trials are now underway of resveratrol and other polyphenols in relationship to several diseases of aging.

    The talk concludes by emphasizing how far Western technological societies have moved from an original evolutionary environment (a great deal of exercise and sleep, low-calorie, high phytochemical diets, within socially intimate groups), and suggests that the diseases of aging come from our living longer (we have conquered infection for the most part) but while living in an environment which is fundamentally alien from the one in which we evolved. Two long-term solutions (to both avoid the long-term financial collapse of the healthcare system and enhance quality of life) might emphasize: 1) finding and using effective calorie restriction mimetics; 2) major lifestyle changes, so that we exercise and sleep more, eat less, eat better, and aim more for quality of social connection than quantity of consumption.

    Healthcare professionals of virtually all disciplinary persuasions need to take responsibility for educating both patients and the general public about these issues, as a critical part of the reprioritizing of prevention.

  12. Richard Dooling Post author

    @Sabine Rousan

    Dear Sabine:

    Sorry I neglected this. Traveling lots this summer for work. I hope you found both the Bush Pigs and the White Man’s Grave pages.

    Also the comments. At the end of the Bush Pigs story (also available as a free download) you’ll find a description of what led me to Sierra Leone.

    If you still have questions, please post them here!



  13. Sabine Rousan

    Kushe oooo….

    How di bodi ?
    Ah dae lek di book too much ! LOL.
    I found a copy of White Man’s Grave and can hardly put it down. I would love to see this novel made into a movie.
    I have been to S/L and can relate to the many accurate things you describe. I was married to a Mende. It delivers a well rounded insight.
    What inspired you to focus on S/L and the Mende in particular ?
    Please reply,

    Thank you,
    S. R.

  14. Richard Dooling Post author


    If you stop back, I tried to write you via the e-mail you left, but it said your inbox was full? E-mail me from an address I can reply to. Use rpdooling at gmail dot com. Otherwise I’ll send a signed book to the address you sent.


  15. Jason

    i think because early on we made(or will make) strides to give AI emotion and tried to make them like us….when they take over and we are basically gone(along with most plant and animal life) they will still have that early directive inside and in their own way continue try to create a program that mimics us, that can love and feels, is “human”, is “real” and(they will come very close) but that will lead them to the conclusion that the only way is, to restart life on this earth. to make a program to restart the life cycle by causing a “big bang”, even if that meant a “big bang” to the universe to start it all again just to “make” the human…or however they compute the act to start it all agian to complete the initial drive to feel and create “human”…..almost like we strive to be angels in heaven, they will imortalize us in a way, give praise in their work to try and make us, even though they were the reason we are gone. we will be thier gods….my question is…at this point can we go away from this or are we too late to resist. your quote from coast to coast “it is bewitching but…………”

  16. Kenny

    Dear Mr. Dooling, I’m writing to you in regard to my son who has gone threw surgery. My son is a very big fan of yours. I would like to ask if you could please send him an autographed photo. If you could I know my son would be thrilled and his Mom and I would be very greatful to you. Thank you very much.

  17. Richard Dooling Post author


    Weird. I run Linux these days, but I still have an older XP machine. I installed Python following the tutorial and ran the print statement using double quotes. Works fine on my machine. Hmmm.

    I thought that maybe Python 2.6 had already changed the print statement to the print function (that’s coming in Python 3.0). But that is not the case. I don’t know if it’s an oddity with your keyboard or machine but I have had no other complaints and can’t duplicate your results.


    Do let me know if you solve this mystery.


  18. Smita

    Can we use python for GUI testing like QTP? If yes, then how and where can I find related information ?

  19. Jin


    I am using Python Win Editor and having trouble. I created a file named corpus.txt and put it in the Python25 directory. But Python Win behaves funny with this file. When I type in

    >>> f=open(‘corpus.txt’)

    sometimes it says there is no such a thing as ‘corpus.txt’ and sometimes prints its contents. But when I do this with Python interactive shell I have no problem.

    Why is it that Python Win is so unstable?

  20. David Andrews

    Loved the book (“Rapture…”), but how could you not include at least a passing reference to Norbert Wiener (whom I used to see ambling aimlessly through the halls at MIT), and Bert Dreyfus (who thinks AI is a total crock)?

  21. Phil Henshaw

    Responding to your Oct 12 op-ed in the NY Times on “The Rise of Machines” and complexity. You may not be surprised that an unintelligent machine that generates unmanageable complexity for people has actually already taken over people’s decision making, and making our world impossible to run. So it appears your prediction has already been fulfilled, a long time ago!! It’s a system driven by an regular mechanical choice for solving problems, a true machine.

    Discovering what does actually constitute a thoughtless procedural mechanism for multiplying the complexity of our problems doesn’t take too long to find, once you start looking. My first paper on the subject is crude by some standards, but still quite solid, and written 30 years ago. Why we have not questioned it, our automatic use of profits to multiply profits as if there were no tomorrow… is also unfortunately a little too obvious too, we just don’t want to question that.

    We can and should question it, of course, and there are wonderful answers if you do. My best and latest piece on the real roots of the confusion, why we look for machines to run a living world… is in Cosmos & History’s new special issue on “What is Life”.
    Special issue table of contents –
    pfh abstract –

    Best, Phil

  22. R.W. Walker

    Dear Mr. Dooling: I have wondered, is the great Skip Spence song, “Omaha,” of over 40 years venerability now, on every juke in your city?

    Hope you’ll bring forth a new novel soon. Sincerely, R.W. Walker

  23. mark

    Congratulations on a brilliant and entertaining essay, “The Rise of the Machines.” You are wrong. We will know the “somehow” of $1 trillion – - poof – - $62 trillion. It is refreshing to see blame laid at the feet of the machines and their geek enablers rather than the poor. Much of the cause is criminal conduct, including “willful blindness,” by those at the top of the financial food chain. Once we open the lids on the hedge funds’ black boxes we’ll see more clearly its not machines, but very clever humans who’ve brought our financial system to its knees. In the quest to understand, can you share the source of your information that $1trillion of subprime mortgages was the base for $62 trillion in imaginary wealth?

  24. Barkley Pollock

    What was your “Rise..Machines” NY Times article really about? Who gives you your information?
    There was no trillion dollar gold house, that was your problem. Reality conspiracy articles are driving me….Anyway the news can only be censored when most humans are gutless. (Not you personally but I thought I’d throw that on your wall.)

  25. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Aaron:

    Legitimate gripes, one and all. But let’s begin where we agree. We both believe that “at every step, human greed, hubris, and mismanagement/regulatory failure were clearly evident.” Yes, I agree. My point is that, in the olden days, a human, or even some humans, plus human greed were pretty manageable. Now you take human greed and give it tools that enable it to exponentially multiply human greed until it becomes so complicated no one can explain or understand it, until suddenly somebody somewhere is missing $62 trillion.

    Get Rapture For The Geeks from the library. It’s not about financial instruments, it’s about how we are wielding technologies that are too powerful for us to understand or control. As E.B. White once explained it: We built nuclear bombs and sent men to the moon, but we still couldn’t put the number 13 in our elevators.

    In my own half superstitious lay-person way, I know that computers don’t “understand” CDOs, and I also know that some humans do understand them, but without the fancy algorithms, an entire Wall Street culture could not have deceived itself into partaking of this cyber delusional system.

    Begin with something like simple greed, or the lust to win a war, both emotions mankind is quite
    familiar with, but then you add these near magical technologies (see, e.g., Arthur Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”) and suddenly what began as simple greed, is now multiplied exponentially because of our ability to offload it onto machines that replicate and multiply (think of Mickey Mouse and the brooms in Fantasia).

    And Mickey Mouse makes a great stopping point for the likes of me. Thank you for your thoughts.


  26. Aaron Krowne

    Also regarding “Rise of the Machines” -

    I think you come to the wrong conclusion in this article. You correctly note that a system which originated as literal wooden “stocks” to represent obligations — payable in gold — has broken down.

    Except instead of blaming the fact that financial obligations are no longer payable in a real money/commodity, you blame the fact that the transactions have been digitized!

    This error is then hypothecated to the overarching conclusion of the article, suggesting that technology itself is to blame for the credit crunch and market collapse, because it has taken over control from us!

    There is no evidence that there is anything approaching “intrinsic” intelligence of the financial system in what happened. At every step, human greed, hubris, and mismanagement/regulatory failure were clearly evident. To suggest that it is not these, but some hypothesized “machine intelligence” responsible, seems baseless to me.

    And of course, all of the human errors were enabled by leaving behind that old vestige of discipline, sound money.

    I don’t think a machine would be so dumb!

    The essay seems to imply that’d we’d be better off going back to physical sticks, efficiency be damned. That strikes me as a non-sequitur.

    I guess this section is technically for questions, so, how about the following as my question: did you examine the possibility, but not consider the abandonment of gold or any other sound money as a major contributor to the financial crisis?

    Further, do you think “technology” in the abstract deserves more blame than, say, human culprits and political/economic managers? If so, then what is to be done about the problem?

  27. Suhail Manzoor

    Re: “The Rise of the Machines” NYT 11 October 2008

    Dear Richard,

    It was a good article. Though I wish somewhere in it you had mentioned the fact that derivatives were invented as generalized instruments designed to manage risk. Please do not advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water as it now seems to be the case. And I expect the chorus to grow. By all means, regulate these instruments but banning them would be equivalent to setting back the markets to the stone ages.

    Warm regards

  28. Mike O'Connor

    Re: “The Rise of the Machines” in today’s NYT.

    When I applied for my first mortgage loan, the bank put me in front of it’s smartest person, the loan officer. Today the loan officer is an entry-level job, because the loan criteria was put in the bank’s computer. Good article.

  29. Richard Dooling Post author


    Blue Streak is an acquired taste. I let first amendment fans find it rather than pushing it on readers who are looking for one of my novels. In fact, much of the research for Blue Streak was later dramatized and brought to life in my third novel: Brain Storm. Also, Blue Streak is out-of-print and therefore harder to find. Here’s a link to a good review:

    Libraries do tend to carry it because of its ardent defense of free speech.

    Thanks for your interest,


  30. Brian K. Mitchell

    Listening to Coast To Coast AM yesterday, my ears pricked up when I heard mention of sexual harassment and free speech. Based on a personal experience that took place during the height of the Judge Thomas confirmation hearings, this is my number one hot button topic. Sensing a kindred spirit, I’m curious to get your take on it. I see from Wikipedia that the title I seek is called “Blue Streak.” I see no mention of it here, and I’ve looked plenty. I’m curious about why that is.

    I’ll touch base with you after I’ve tracked it down and digested it.

    Your advice for aspiring writers was refreshing.


    Brian K. Mitchell, Santa Fe, NM

  31. Nick Jainschigg

    Hi, Richard–
    I’ve been a fan since Critical Care, and each book you write seems to hit just at a point when I’m also fascinated by the subject you’re writing about, so I’m guessing you’re about three years ahead of me in terms of the actual functioning of the bees in your bonnet. I’ve pre-ordered Geeks and can’t wait until I’ve read it to ask–do you or have you considered the economic result of true Turing machines? Particularly in light of the current meltdown, I find myself fascinated that no one seems to be taking into account the not-too-distant effect of the practical redundancy of a majority of humankind. Somehow I doubt it will resolve into all-bon-bons-all-the-time for everybody, but Iain M. Banks’ hypothesis of “Money equals poverty” seems like a somewhat more derived attitude. I have a feeling that you would think so as well and I can’t imagine someone more artistically suited to describe the intervening chaos.
    Nick J.

  32. Richard Dooling Post author


    This property was optioned for a time at the end of the 1990s. I hold the rights now, as the option expired. Sorry for delay in answering.

    Richard Dooling

  33. dan McGuire

    I read WMG many years ago, and thought it would make a great film. Did you ever option it to hollywood? Who holds movie rights now?


  34. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Francis:

    This is a PERFECT question for the python google group. Actually it’s a kind of “mirror” of the Usenet Python Group. But if you go to the google group and sign up, you can post your question exactly as above and I’ll bet you have four authoritative answers within two hours.

    Visit the Python Google Group at:

    Have fun and good luck,


  35. Francis Charters

    Hi Richard,

    I have programmed in VB and Flex to a simple level. I need to write a small program that will offer to bluetooth a file to any enabled bluetooth receiver in the area. Someone said this would be simplist to do in Python. Would you agree? Is this going to be a skill stage in Python that I can get to quite quickly? Any helpful hints?

    Many thanks.

    Francis Charters
    A teacher from the UK

  36. Dan Lavin, RPCV Sierra Leone


    Your obvious appreciation for the Sierra Leonean culture is something few can understand, unless you’ve been there. Thank you.

    I served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1988-1990 in an isolated village at the base of the Kangari Hills. I returned during the war in 1993, again after the war in 2007, and am returning in ten days to introduce the culture to my ten year old son. The more I learn about their ways of life, the more I question our own. Their constant battle with the elements makes them stronger. Their family ties makes them cohesive. They are the ultimate survivors. I invite you to see some of the work I’m doing in country. Without religion or politics, I am working from within the community, assisting in a small way to help them rebuild as they see fit. To hear the sounds of a village waking in the morning, to sit under some shade and enjoy poyo as you escape the heat, to share sweet plassas poured over red rice, to see the honest smiles from those with so little (yet so much), to be part of a family simply because you care… all this awaits me as I leave behind my own culture which has so little in comparison.

    Maybe some day Sierra Leoneans will travel to America as volunteers, teaching our children how to survive, how to live and how to enjoy life.

  37. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Larry:

    I don’t think authors and writers should overhaul their manuscripts for anybody, unless it’s on the recommendation of an editor who actually bought your book and intends to publish it. Sometimes a trusted agent, preferably one who has sold at least one other book for you, will have helpful suggestions that may help sell a problem manuscript. But look at the possibilities: You can easily end up doing total rewrites for one person after another. “Take out all of the sex scenes and cut back on the lurid violence.” You do it. The next “book doctor” comes along: “Nothing happens. Like it or not, Shakespeare is mostly sex and violence tricked out in awesome prose. We need some of that here.” You can end up going in circles. Often in Hollywood, by the time you implement notes and script changes, the person who gave them to you has been fired.

    It sounds like your “book doctor” is in tune with this year’s preference for shorter novels, but what about next year? Some thousand-pager first novel will surely come out and we’ll be back in another big-book era.

    That said, shorter often IS better. Consider Evelyn Waugh’s dedication in one of his novels: “If the author had been less industrious, this book would be twice as long.” Or Pascal’s, “If I had more time I would write a shorter letter.” Elmore Leonard likes to say that he owes his success to taking out the parts that people skip over. Is your book doctor trying to nicely say that your manuscript has patches that could be removed? Then, he or she should flag them.

    Otherwise, I wouldn’t take such big picture advice unless it came from an editor who had bought my book.

    Good luck,


  38. Larry R.


    I’ve just read CRITICAL CARE and WHITE MAN’S GRAVE, both great books! Like you, I spent seven months in Africa in the early eighties, and like you, I felt compelled to write a novel about the experience. A book doctor reviewed my unpublished manuscript and said the only major problem is the length. At 137,000 words, he said it’s too long for a first novel by an unknown writer. He recommended that I either cut it back to 100,000 words (which I refuse to do) or shelve the manuscript and write a shorter novel for publication first.
    I’m curious if you had a similar experience. Did you write WHITE MAN’S GRAVE first, find out it was too long for a first novel, and then write CRITICAL CARE?
    Is this a hard-and-fast rule (nothing over 100,000 words for a first novel), or is it possible to get longer works published? When I did a rough word count on CRITICAL CARE, your first novel, it appeared to be about 120,000 words. Did the publisher have any problems with the length?
    Should I shelve my manuscript and start something new, or are there publishers out there who might give me a chance at 137,000 words?

    Larry R.

  39. mike

    i keep trying to download pythin version and it keeps saying it is invalid and to check the distributor to see of it is valid of windoes

  40. ann adams

    I got on this website to see your next book. I was surprised to see I have missed two of them. The last one I read was You Bet Your Life. Now I have play catch up and get the Brain Storm and Eleanor Druse. You have been busy. I am so excited to see you doing so well.


  41. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Maria:

    Thanks for your sense of humor and kind remarks. Two different producers have tried with Brain Storm. It still could happen. White Man’s Grave is problematic. I think it would have to be done in a completely new way. Structural problems abound. Try the movie version of Critical Care. I did not write the screenplay. It’s basically true to the tone of the book. Funny in parts, and Albert Brooks does a terrific job with Dr. Butz. The hospital’s lawyers are also great.

    Thanks again,


  42. maria carofano

    Why haven’t your novels been made into films? I listen to them on audio cassettes, and they are marvelously funny, insightful and visual. I want to see them on the screen. I find myself laughing out loud alone in my car, or pulling over to side of the road to take down something you have written. Your characters are wonderful and colorful.

  43. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear rmr:

    You may already know H.L. Mencken’s “There are no dull subjects, there are only dull writers.” Most in publishing would heartily second this. They don’t care if your novel is about the Peace Corps or grains of sand, as long as it is a good novel. My time was spent with the Mende tribe in Sierra Leone. I learned the names for many things while I was there and figured it would be impossible to research upon return. The opposite was true. In big university libraries, like Wash U. in St. Louis or even the Univ of Nebraska at Lincoln I found plenty of resources on the Mende tribe, including obscure topics like witchcraft and so on.

    RPCVs are great readers! Lots of fun at readings and such. You may wish to google John Coyne who keeps a list of Peace Corps novels. Don’t worry about things like “There are already enough of those.” Make your novel compelling and surprising and it won’t matter. How many crime novels are there? Doesn’t matter.

    Good luck!


  44. rmr

    Dear Mr. Dooling,

    I’m trying to sell a novel that is based on my time in the Peace Corps, and I’m wondering what obstacles you faced in writing and then trying to market White Man’s Grave. How did you go about researching it? What was the reaction from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers? Were people in the publishing industry receptive to a novel that discussed the Peace Corps, or did you a hear a lot of “There are already enough of those”?

    Thanks for your time,


  45. Greg Iles

    Dear Mr. Dooling,

    I just read “Brain Storm,” the first Dooling novel I ever came across. It’s been a while since I enjoyed such an assured display of wit, intellect, and just damn good writing. Looking forward to the rest of them.

    Greg Iles

  46. Marian Drake

    Hi, Richard,

    Thanks for your detailed answer — our messages keep crossing, I think. Yes, I found the Acknowledgements a little while ago when I finished **What Man’s Grave.** Your answer here is quite a bit more detailed than it was there, though. Thank you!

    I noticed in another place here on your site that you wrote about your trip, and your visit with your friend Michael O’Neill, too.

    You wrote above: “So called ‘defensive medicines’ are everywhere: amulets, potions, juju worn on the person or placed over the doors and windows.”

    It sounds like these must be more obvious than what we see h ere in USA. Maybe we tend to have them more on the West Coast — or in Portland? — than some other places in the US. Although I’d suspect there are other places like maybe Louisiana and Florida? where you’d see them. But anyway, we see crosses on chains around people’s necks. Here in Portland we see them on women and men, a LOT. And here, a lot of people carry crystals. Plus, a lot of people carry or wear Native American medicine pouches (I think that is what they are?) around their necks. Native Americans do, and so do a lot of people who either have Native American friends or else they just wear them anyway. Latinos have traditions similar, and Catholics have their own things like these, although I don’t know what they are, necessarility.

    When I was growing up in Texas, I remember several amulet type things: Girls used to wear a little glass ball with what was said to be a “mustard seed” inside. I guess this must have been in reference to the Bible verse about the mustard seed. Also, there were keychains to be purchased EVERYWHERE that had a rabbit’s foot on them.

  47. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Marian:

    (1) I visited Sierra Leone to visit my good friend Michael O’Neill who was in the Peace Corps. The particulars roughly follow what happened in the book. We were supposed to meet in Paris. He could not come. So I went to Sierra Leone and ended up staying in West Africa for seven months.

    (2) When you reach the Acknowledgments at the end of the novel, you will see that the magic and witchcraft portrayed in White Man’s Grave are authentic. I was careful to check for external sources (usually the accounts of either missionaries or anthropologists) before including anything in the novel. For instance “bofima,” which I heard about when I was there, is easily found in several good text books, and I’m sure just by googling these days.

    (3) Firsthand, I saw “looking around men,” which are a type of soothsayer or seer, often hired to find out who stole something or who is committing adultery, and such. So called “defensive medicines” are everywhere: amulets, potions, juju worn on the person or placed over the doors and windows. I did not see a true witchfinder, but if you check the acknowledgments, I read a great eyewitness account of such a ceremony by Anthony Gittins in MENDE RELIGION.

    Thanks for your interest.


  48. Marian Drake

    Dear Richard Dooling,

    I’m about 50 pages from the end of **What Man’s Grave.**

    In the early 1970s I lived a few months (which seemed like a lifetime of heaven and hell) in Tanzania, on a resident visa. I’ve been interested in African traditions (if you will), practical culture, mysticism, religions, etc etc and political practices, since then. (Any English words given make them seem English, and remove their essential character — for me anyway.)

    I read **Tropical Gangsters** by Robert Klitgaard, and own a copy of the movie **Point Djema.**

    **White Man’s Grave** is the fourth such piece I’m familiar with — the third being an African-made movie I once saw, which I do not remember the title or origin of.

    The cover of WMG says you lived in Sierra Leone in the early 1980s. It does not say “why,” under what circumstances, or for how long you lived there. Is this something you do not wish to reveal or discuss?

    If you are willing to explain, I have three basic questions for you —

    First Question: Why, under what circumstances, and for how long did you live in Sierra Leone?

    Second Question: How accurate are your descriptions of the magical or witchcraft practices and events your characters see and experience first-hand, in WMG? You didn’t just make all this up, I presume.

    Third Question: Did you see and/or experience any of these things first hand while you were in Sierra Leone?

    I look forward to finished the book, and reading more of your work.


    Marian Drake

  49. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Bo:

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    1) Well, we were hired to write an overview of sorts, which is not unusual, but it would be tacky to traffic in what-ifs, don’t you think?

    2) I don’t think a season two novel would work, but some other novel might.

    3) Another Sally Druse book! There’s an idea. I’ll have to look into that. I bet it’s complicated, because it would be a character who already “belongs” to Stephen King and Lars Von Trier. But I’ll ponder it. I loved Sally Druse, obviously. I could write about her for a good long time.

    Thanks again,


  50. Bo

    Hi Richard,

    I just discovered Kingdom Hospital thanks to Sci-fi Channel and DVD and have gotten my wife and friends hooked on it. Once I found the book, I read it in about 4 hours. I just can’t get enough.

    Internet rumor says that you and Stephen pitched ideas for season 2 to ABC. So..

    1) If the rumors are true, will you ever reveal what those plans were?
    2) Any plans to write a novelized form of the season 2 plots?
    3) Any plans for any more Sally Druse books? It would make a great book series..

  51. Robert Bott

    Enjoyed your Times piece about Omaha. I recently cycled past Omaha (i.e., rode through Council Bluffs and looked across the river) on a 4,000-mile exploration of “flyover country” and made some similar observations. One lovely amenity you omitted mentioning is the Wabash Trace Nature Trail from Blanchard to Council Bluffs, a 65-mile former rail line that has been made into one of the most lovely trails I have seen. Even more impressive, it was built entirely by volunteer labor and donations. I encountered many Nebraskans on the trail and noticed their organizations among the supporters, so obviously it is considered a regional amenity.

    For a visitor at the height of fall colors, the midwest was a delight, and I too wondered why more people don’t flock there. After all, South Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, and Sioux Falls in particular is a fine little city. “Winter” was the one-word answer I usually got. Apparently the winters are quite long and bleak, not much snow but lots of cold wind and gray skies. For younger people, there’s also the feeling of being “out of it” and receiving all their culture second-hand from the coasts. And for professionals, whether in arts or sciences or commerce, only a big metropolis can provide the peers and competitors necessary to know whether you’ve truly succeeded.

    I live in Calgary, Alberta, and am familiar with all these anxieties. One saving grace here is proximity to the Rockies with all the opportunities for hiking, biking, climbing and skiing. Another is the warm Chinook winds that bring a temporary spring at frequent intervals throughout the winter. The biggest one is probably just that it’s Canada, with public health care and without the “culture wars.”

    Anyway, I’ve lived in some fine cities — New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal (not sure if Ottawa counts) — and have no regrets about settling in flyover country 32 years ago. So thanks for the article. But next time you might give a little more weight to climate and outdoor recreation.


    p.s. There’s a bit more about my travels in the “Green Bike in the Red States” blog at and there may eventually be a book.

  52. David


    Just read your latest op ed in the NYT, October 29th. I was speechless! Living in Omaha, I saw more murders and crime on TV than in Seattle. It is the most segregated city I experienced, so much so, it decided to break the school district into 3 ethnic parts. People are nice, yes. Genuine? No. Openminded? no.

    You did not mention food. the options and quality was atrocious, and it alway baffled me that a citey surrounded by corn, the corn in the supermarket was good onlyfor cattle.

    Take care,

  53. Richard Dooling Post author

    Dear Renee:

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    If you are in Omaha in mid-September, the LitFest is back after a great success last year. I think they have me on two panels. It was a lot of fun and well-attended last year.



  54. Renee

    I just finally decided to post, after years of being a fan. Are you planning any personal appearances in the near future? I live in South Sioux City, and am a frequent visitor to Omaha, especially the Old Market Area.

    I loved Bet Your Life, as I was able to envision the areas the characters were discussing, having seen it in person. The story seemed to come alive for me.

  55. Richard Dooling Post author

    Thank you, Heimo. No plans to travel to Yugoslavia, though I would love to, as I hear it’s even prettier than Greece.

    Best wishes, and thank you for your careful reading.


  56. Heimo Heringa

    Dear Mr. Dooling,

    I just finished your novel “Brain Strom”. It may – or not, as the case may be – interest you to know that it’s been quite a while since my legal and literary tastebuds have been tickled to provide me with the same amount of pleasure.

    In the unlikely case you consider a trip to The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia within the next year, I’ll be happy to treat you to some local beer, absinth, or other alcoholic beverage as a token of my appreciation.

    For your information: I’m a non-lawyer, now involved in the intricacies of European Social Security Law, in an attempt to guide the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and some neighbouring countries & territories towards EU membership. I am, thank God, not a USA citizen, but my children are all studying, or have finished, what would be Law School in the USA, so I’m probably on God’s blacklist and the Devil’s white list, anyway.

    Any book of yours I’ll find in any bookshop I’ll buy, if it is with my last euro.

    Best regards, thank you for tickling my legal & other tastebuds, keep up the Good Works!

    Heimo Heringa

  57. John

    Thanks, and I will seek out White Man’s Grave. I know that you have to do what is most artistically pleasing and economically advantageous to you, but for my own selfish reasons, I hope you give your next novel top priority. I love film and television, but the printed word is still king in my book (pun absolutely intended).

    By the way, I really enjoyed the movie Critical Care. I thought the cast was great, and the story clever and fun. I haven’t read the book yet (I will shortly), so I don’t know how closely it followed the story. Since you’re still working in the industry I’m sure you wouldn’t say if you didn’t care for it, so no need to comment, but I hope you were satisfied with the results.

    I just wanted to add an additional tw0-cents worth.

    Keep up the good work!


  58. Richard Dooling Post author


    Sorry for the delay in answering. You might like White Man’s Grave, which is my personal favorite. I am working on a TV pilot very loosely based on BET YOUR LIFE, at least the subject matter of fraud, especially as it relates to insurance.

    Movie adaptations seem unlikely, though Brain Storm is still optioned. I am working on a new book and dabbling in Hollywood stuff.

    Thanks so much for your interest.

    Look for Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story – his best ever, in my humble opinion.


  59. John

    Dear Mr. Dooling,

    Through Stepehn King’s recommendation I discovered BRAIN STORM, then moved on to BET YOUR LIFE, and loved them both. (I purchased both as brand new hardbacks, by the way; I understand that the artist has to eat too.) I anxiously await your next book. Is it in the works, or have you found other outlets for your considerable artistic talents? Any movie adaptation news?


  60. Richard Dooling Post author


    Yes, Python 2.4.3 is compatible with Windows XP. The instructions I provide are specific to the ActiveState Python version, not the version. The ActiveState version is easier to install, with a “prettier” IDE, and the Win32 extensions for Windows bundled right in.


  61. Lee Strickland

    Is python-2.4.3 compatible with Windows XP? The download is listed on the python Website for Windws (unspecified version)

  62. Lou Boxer

    David Loeb Goodis Convention (Goodiscon)

    Deen and Jay Kogan Award for Writers of Importance and Distinction

    Who? – DLG was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 2nd, 1917 (90th Birthday). He died in Philadelphia on January 7th, 1967 (40th Anniversary of his death). David Goodis is best known for his major contribution to American hard-boiled crime fiction via pulp fiction writing (Dark Passages [1946]), hardback novels and paperback originals (Cassidy’s Girl [1951]).

    What? – A seminal meeting celebrating Philly Noir, featuring David Goodis and those influenced by his work.

    Why? – This conference is the first planned yearly symposium to spotlight writers of significance and importance. It will be a unique opportunity for writers, fans, collectors and friends to get together and discuss fine writing in a collegial setting. The intention is to allow all attendees to meet, revel, discuss and experience the Philadelphia Noir in a brand new way.

    Where? – Philadelphia is the setting for GoodisCon 2007. Several different venues will be utilized to capture the “spirit(s)” of David L. Goodis and his wonderfully dark writing. These include, but are not limited to Temple University, The Legendary Blue Horizon Boxing (#1 Boxing Venue in the World), Yards Brewery and the Port Richmond Bookstore (PRBS).

    When? – January 5th, 6th and 7th 2007. Hotel, registration fee and schedule of events TBA .The intention is to have three fun-filled days to celebrate the life and writing of David L. Goodis in the spirit with which he would have enjoyed it.

    Humans only, contact: Lou Boxer (lboxer1 at comcast dot net) or Deen Kogan (shp at erols dot com) for more information.


    Thought you might be interested in this. Let me know.



  63. Richard Dooling Post author


    You speak of which we published for a few years at It was local satire in the time-honored tradition of the Omaha Press Club gridiron show, or Omaha’s own version of The Onion. Some day we hope to resurrect weirdharold at its own address and republish the classics. It’s a matter of finding the time to rebuild the site.

    If you know any web programmers or investors who would like to participate, do let me know.

    Otherwise, I shall explore the options on my own at the first opportunity.

    Thank you for your interest.

    Richard Dooling

  64. Bob Young

    I’ve been out of touch with Omaha in general the last year or so, and seem to remember this web domain as being the highlight of my day from time to time.

    While the site is certainly nice, I was wondering if this site has replaced an earlier site that had such classic articles such as: “Columnist Attacked By Flying Kamikaze Squirrels…”

    I miss that! Is an archive of this site available?

Comments are closed.