How I Killed The Miami Herald’s Tropic Magazine

The Miami Herald building

By Paul Levine

The official story: there just weren’t enough ads for maternity jeans.

I’m talking about the death of Tropic Magazine, which appeared every Sunday in The Miami Herald from October 1967 to December 1998. The magazine won three Pulitzers, published Dave Barry, John Katzenbach, and Carl Hiaasen, among others, and invented Miami’s strangest event, the “Tropic Hunt.”

The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald’s Tropic Magazine invented the world’s most insane scavenger hunt.

Who Really Killed The Miami Herald’s Tropic Magazine?

I wrote a piece in the September 13, 1998 issue and then the cover article on October 25.  Six weeks later, The Miami Herald killed the magazine.  The word around the newsroom was that Tropic wasn’t making money as a stand-alone magazine.  No kidding.  But it certainly added value with some of the best writing (both journalism and fiction)  in the newspaper over those 31 years.

(Full disclosure: I was a Miami Herald reporter who once worked at Tropic in 1970, shortly before going to law school).

For the last 15 years, I’ve been happy to let The Miami Herald take the rap for terminating that wonderful little magazine. But my guilty conscience compels me to cop a plea.  Or at least raise the question: did my two articles lead to Tropic’s surprising demise?

The cover story on September 13, 1998 was titled “On Being Beautiful,”  a series of essays commissioned by Editor Tom Shroder on physical beauty.  A 24-year-old woman wrote the lead article entitled “Don’t Hate Me For Being Beautiful.”  A young male model wrote a piece about putting on unwanted weight when working in Paris.  “What is happening?” his agent  asked.  “You look like a giant croissant.”

Oh, the humanity!

I wrote “In Defense of Wrinkles.”  Yep.  And this was more than 15 years ago!  Miami Herald photographer Charlie Trainor, Jr. took a photo about three inches from my face and then had some fun with it.

Miami Herald Tropic
No plastic surgery for me. I earned my wrinkles.

The Miami Herald: A Plastic Surgeon Ruins My Day

Here’s my little piece, which ran adjacent to an ad for $16.99 maternity jeans:

Just when I was getting used to my looks, when life had bestowed the dubious blessing of crinkly eyes and a furrowed brow, when it might be said that my face had acquired character, a plastic surgeon suggested he could take 10 years off my appearance by drilling holes in my head, slicing some muscles, yanking up my forehead, and fastening it to my skull with metal pins.

I received this heartening offer while standing in the gym near the bench press, having lifted a respectable amount of iron for a lanky fellow whose work requires mere mental gymnastics while seated in a cushioned chair.

“Look at that vertical crevice between your eyes,” the sawbones said with the same awe Spanish conquistadors must have expressed upon seeing the Grand Canyon.

“I know,” I replied. “It looks as if Lizzie Borden hit me with an ax.”

“We can get rid of it,” he promised. “And while we’re at it, we’ll take out some muscles to keep you from frowning or raising your eyebrows.”

“I need to raise my eyebrows to express irony,” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“Wrinkles!” he shouted. “It causes wrinkles.”

Smoothing out my forehead and plucking the fat from beneath my eyes, he promised, would leave me with a youthful demeanor reminiscent of my bar mitzvah photos.

“If you don’t do it,” Doc Hollywood warned me in solemn tones, “with gravity and aging, your forehead will slide even lower and eventually cut down your vision.”

“OK, so I’ll give up my dream of landing an F-14 on the deck of a carrier.”

But his words cut even deeper than his scalpel. I pictured myself as a beady-eyed Chinese Shar-pei, peering out from under a corrugated brow. Rushing to the mirror, I saw that he was right. Just when had my forehead slipped south? Most men aren’t aware of such subtle changes. As a man ages, I once read, his genitalia shrinks. Now, that we would notice.

“If you’re afraid of the surgery,” the surgeon continued, “I could simply inject Botox into your forehead. It’s derived from botulism and will paralyze the muscles and smooth out the wrinkles.”

“So would a ball peen hammer,” I replied.

I sometimes think that every crease and crevice can be attached to a specific trauma, so now I chart my face as a botanist might the rings of a giant Redwood. Aha, there’s the year of my career change, my divorce, my father’s death.

My past is littered with youthful humiliations, including being dateless for the junior prom. Adolescence began with huge black eyeglasses and a four-inch-high dirty blond flat-top that resembled an Iowa wheat field.

I did, however, have a sparkling personality and a deadly wit that I mistakenly believed could convince a girl — once sprawled across the front seat of my ’56 Ford at the drive-in theater — to shed her blouse. This strategy failed, notwithstanding soaking my turquoise vinyl upholstery with English Leather, which I understood to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

Later, with anti-war rebellion in the late ’60s, I let my hair grow long and bushy until it must have appeared that a muskrat was sleeping on my head. But now, three decades later, with a decent haircut and having grown accustomed to my face, I do not want to be reminded that the downhill slide may be even more painful than my awkward adolescence.

Aging means more than sagging jowls and a wrinkled brow, of course. In the past three years, I have had knee surgery, two hernia operations, and my first colonoscopy . . . clean as a whistle, thank you very much. I have bone spurs in both thumbs; I have trouble with the small-print on menus in darkened restaurants; and I get whipped in wind sprints by my 17-year-old son.

When I turned 50 earlier this year, I began receiving mail from the American Association of Retired Persons and a men’s health magazine that promises sturdy erections into my 90s if I would only buy a variety of food supplements favored by ancient Indian tribes from Peru.

I Am the Sum of My Aging Parts

Oh, Botox, schmotox! No plastic surgery. I don’t want an eye job, a chin implant, or penile enlargement. Keep your liposuction, collagen injections, and endoscopic forehead lifts. I know men are doing these things, but it’s all too trendy for me, a guy as up-to-date as a Ban-Lon shirt. I don’t carry a pager or a purse or wear suspenders, cuff links, or even a watch.

I don’t have an earring or a tattoo, and I don’t smoke cigars or wax melodic over the smoky essence of single-malt Scotch. I’m not in touch with either my feminine side or my inner child. I’m not a man of the ’90s, much less the millennium. OK, OK, I’m a throwback. So sue me . . . but don’t slice me.

It’s not that I am unconcerned about my appearance. I will swim my laps and hoist my weights in vain efforts to stave off gravity and the passage of time. I will eat low-fat foods with an occasional timeout for an oversize steak at Morton’s. I will drink gallons of water, hide from the sun, and imbibe martinis only in moderation. I will be the sum of my aging parts, and the wrinkles will bother me not a whit. After all, I earned them.

Paul Levine
Formerly of The Miami Herald

(Much has been written about the agonizing death of newspapers. Locally, the Miami News died in 1988, Tropic in 1998. The Miami Herald building, pictured above, is being demolished, and the newspaper now resides in the Everglades. Well, actually the burg of Doral, FL. Nonetheless, the newspaper’s staff, stretched thin, continues to l produce excellent journalism. I still read the newspaper and always will).

Mystery Writers Find Truth in Fiction

Jake Lassiter in his study?

By Paul Levine

Mystery writers are hit with this question all the time. “Where do you get your ideas?”

“I steal them,” I usually reply.

Sounds flippant, but it’s true. I’ve often stolen – or borrowed – real people and events for my fictional legal thrillers. My first novel, “To Speak for the Dead,” involved a physician charged with killing a patient with an injection of succinylcholine, a drug that paralyzes the lungs. Pretty inventive…except a Florida doctor had been convicted of killing his wife just that way 25 years earlier.

In real life, the doctor was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled after serving 12 years. So, in Florida, it seems, a horrific premeditated spousal homicide will get you a neat dozen years.

My path to joining the ranks of mystery writers started with covering the courts, then practicing law for 17 years. After a first stint writing legal thrillers, I spent several years working in television (“JAG,” “First Monday”) where one of my great pleasures was writing dialogue for James Garner and Charles Durning, the Chief Justice and Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in our fictional world).

mystery writers on the Air
Charles Durning and James Garner in “First Monday”

As for my fictional justice system, it’s a place teeming with incompetence, corruption, and wackiness. That stems from real life, too. Mine.

A week after graduating from Penn State, I started work as a criminal court reporter with The Miami Herald. Unfortunately, having never been in a courtroom, I didn’t know habeas corpus from an bottlenose porpoise. A prosecutor took pity, showed me around, and taught me a few Latin expressions. (“Mero Motu,” it turns out, is not a greeting in Tokyo, but rather an act undertaken on the court’s own motion).

While covering the courts, I began having lunch with the prosecutor and two of his colleagues. They wowed me with their war stories, singing paeans to the majesty of the law and the high calling of public service. So sure enough, I went to law school, and my three prosecutor pals became judges. Now, flash forward 20 years. Those judges must be deans of the profession, right? Nope. All three are in federal prison, convicted of bribery, one of them for “selling” the name of a confidential informant so the defendant could arrange his murder.

Is It Any Wonder Mystery Writers Get Cynical?

So is it any wonder that I’m cynical about the halls of justice, where as Lenny Bruce once complained, the only justice is in the halls? Is it a surprise that judges in my books tend to be myopic, forgetful, and occasionally crooked? (One judge, in a lame-brained attempt to be fair, simply alternates rulings on objections. “Sustained.” “Overruled.” “Sustained.” “Overruled.”)

But back to the Miami courthouse in 1970 where, as a fledgling reporter, I also made friends with the Courthouse Gang, a multi-ethnic posse of retirees who showed up every day for the free entertainment. My buddies all knew a good story and invariably guided me to the right courtroom and filled me in on testimony I missed. The Gang lives on in fiction, as mystery writers love colorful characters.
Myron (The Maven) Mendelsohn, Teresa Toraño, and Cadillac Johnson use their unique skills to help the squabbling lawyers in my “Solomon vs. Lord” novels.

Another fascinating real trial found me interviewing aging mobster Meyer Lansky, who was charged with bringing through Customs personal ulcer medication for which he didn’t have a current prescription. In the law, the technical name for that charge is “chicken-shit harassment.”

mystery writers love lansky
Meyer Lansky was always pleasant to me but told me virtually nothing.

My interviews of Lansky basically consisted of me asking him questions and him asking if I wasn’t too young to be a reporter. He seemed to be a courtly old gentleman, and I stole (“borrowed”) that part of his personality to create Max Perlow, the aging Miami gangster in “Lassiter.”

As a young man, Perlow worked in a pre-Castro Havana casino for…Meyer Lansky. (Mystery writers also make things up).

mystery writers love gangsters
Aging gangster Max Perlow, in “Lassiter,” is loosely based on Meyer Lansky

The last trial I covered as a reporter was a doozy. Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, was charged with indecent exposure for exposing himself at a Miami concert. One of the prosecutors was a mini-skirted former beauty queen named Ellen Morphonios, renowned for her ribald sense of humor. Just before opening statements, Ellen told me her trial strategy: “I’m gonna have the clerk stamp that dirtbag’s equipment and call it ‘State’s Exhibit One.’” Hey, you don’t hear that on CNN.

Morrison was convicted, then died at age 27 in Paris while the case was on appeal. While no autopsy was performed, speculation has long been that Morrison died of a heroin overdose. (Wikipedia relates several conflicting accounts of the singer’s death).

Mystery Writers love courtrooms
Singer Jim Morrison of The Doors leaving the courtroom where he was convicted.

Courtrooms may look like churches, trimmed with mahogany and exuding an air of solemnity. And sure, some proceedings are deadly dull, but there’s a surprising amount of humor between bench and bar.

In my first year practicing law, I tried a case before a colorful old judge named Frederick Barad. I thought I was doing great, but in closing argument, I noticed that a juror was sound asleep.

“Your Honor,” I whispered, gesturing toward juror number three, who was snoring loudly.

“What do you want from me?” the judge replied. “You put him to sleep. You wake him up.”

The courtroom has been keeping me awake – and entertained – for nearly four decades. These days, my job is to pass that along to readers.

For more information about my “Jake Lassiter” and “Solomon vs. Lord series, please visit my Amazon Author Page.

Finally, I’ve been tossing around the term “mystery writers” interchangeably with “thriller writers.” Technically there are differences, but that’s a subject for another day. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia lists me as a “major author” (hooboy!) of legal thrillers and a mystery novelist.

Atticus Finch: Where Are You Now?

Atticus Finch

By Paul Levine

Hotshot New York City lawyers frequently defend white-collar criminals, and once in a while, the tables are turned.

So it was this week when the bigwigs of a mammoth deep-carpet law firm were indicted for “cooking the books.” No, that’s not the precise charge; it’s what the lawyers themselves called it in emails!

No Atticus Finch here
Silk-suited defendants march into court this week.

Officially, the leaders of now-bankrupt Dewey & LeBouef, were charged with grand larceny, securities fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying business records. In a nutshell, they lied to lenders and auditors in order to obtain a stream of loans to pay themselves and their partners millions while the firm was hemorrhaging money.

“Fraud is not an acceptable accounting practice,” said New York D.A. Cyrus Vance, in what might be called an understatement.

The SEC weighed in, too. “So pervasive was the culture of financial chicanery at Dewey’s top levels that its highest ranking officials — including the defendants — had no qualms about referring among themselves in various e-mails to ‘fake income,’ ‘accounting tricks,’ ‘cooking the books,’ and deceiving what they described as a ‘clueless auditor.'”

Which brings us to the question:

Where Have You Gone Atticus Finch?

I think we yearn for the lawyer-gladiator who battles for justice against overwhelming odds. Witness Atticus Finch, standing tall before a bigoted jury and pleading for justice for a black man wrongfully accused of rape in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch in court
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) stands tall, seeking justice.

Of course, that was fiction. Harper Lee’s iconic novel was also published 54 years ago. In the intervening time, the image of lawyers in popular culture has changed, and some lawyers are unhappy about it.

When “To Speak for the Dead,” the first of my series of legal thrillers, was published in 1990, a lawyer friend chided me: “You tarnish the profession with your so-called hero.”

Well, true, Jake Lassiter is no Atticus Finch.

“They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.”-Jake Lassiter

Lassiter is an “ex-football player, ex-public defender, ex-a-lot-of-things” who unravels a murder mystery in the novel. As a Miami Dolphins linebacker, he was a step too slow, and he’s not that swift as a trial lawyer either. On cross-examination, he asks an expert witness one question too many and is buried in an avalanche of rhetoric. He robs a grave to get evidence, then lands in jail after taunting a witness into a fistfight.

No Atticus Finch here
The first of the Jake Lassiter series.

In “Mortal Sin,” Lassiter has an affair with a client’s wife and in “Flesh & Bones,” he’s sleeping with his client, a young model accused of killing her father. I haven’t checked the Ethical Rules in a while, but I suspect that both affairs are frowned upon by the elders of the Bar. In the current book, “State vs. Lassiter” our hero isn’t sleeping around; he’s charged with murder.

But I hardly invented this shift in focus from earnest, virtuous lawyers like Perry Mason and Atticus Finch to the modern shyster. In Scott Turow’s sizzling “Presumed Innocent,” prosecutor Rusty Sabich is obsessed with his mistress, not the law, while his lawyer Sandy Stern uses “subterranean pressures” on a judge instead of evidence to win his case. The same year “Presumed Innocent” was published (1987), Tom Wolfe entertained us with “Bonfire of the Vanities,” in which a D.A. builds his career with press conferences instead of jury trials. Four years later, readers had no trouble buying the premise that a successful law firm was a front for the mob in John Grisham’s spectacularly successful “The Firm.”

No Atticus Finch here either
You won’t find Atticus Finch in this corrupt firm.

Fiction mirrors reality, so these modern portrayals are hardly surprising. The irony is that many lawyers today picture themselves as Gregory Pecks fighting heroic courtroom battles, even as they churn out endless paperwork in mind-numbing construction litigation or put jurors to sleep with year-long antitrust trials involving the dogfood industry. But dare to criticize the profession, and you’ll incur their lawyerly wrath, wimpy as it may be. (I practiced law for 17 years in both trial and appellate courts, so I feel entitled to take some liberties with my former brethren).

In a sense, it’s not these more modern lawyers who break the norm. It’s Atticus Finch who is the outlier. You want proof? Incompetent lawyers and sleazy judges are hardly new to readers. Works as diverse as Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” and John Barth’s “The Floating Opera” portray justice perverted. In the 1982 film, “The Verdict,” (script by David Mamet, adapted from Barry Reed’s book), Paul Newman plays a bedraggled lawyer reduced to scavenging for clients at funerals.

Newman becomes Atticus Finch
From alcoholic bumbler to…well, almost a modern day Atticus Finch.

He is the classic loner pitted against a corrupt judge and a shady defense lawyer, the minions of an evil establishment. When Newman is offered a handsome settlement to drop his malpractice case for a comatose young woman, he can no more accept the money than Gary Cooper can leave town before High Noon:

“This girl’s screaming out for someone to stand up. And it’s me, Mick. It’s me. And I can win it. I can win this case.”

You Can’t Find Atticus Finch in the Bronx

There aren’t many stand-up guys in the “vast and bilious gloom” of the Bronx County Courthouse, the setting for “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Wolfe paints a portrait of Sherman McCoy, a vain but innocent man who falls “into the maw of the criminal justice system.” The Bronx courthouse is a hellish place where smalltime lawyers hustle for clients, and fierce old Judge Kovitsky spits on prisoners who sass him. Then there’s prosecutor Abe Weiss, who schedules McCoy’s arrest on the best news day of the week, hoping to garner headlines after reporters stopped covering his drug indictments as too routine.

In modern courtroom fiction, cynicism is the order of the day. In “To Speak for the Dead,” retired medical examiner Doc Charlie Riggs asks Jake Lassiter to rob a grave to find evidence At first, Lassiter refuses:

“I try not to break more than two or three of the canons each week.”

Charlie Riggs downed his drink in one gulp, gave me his teacher-to-student look, and said, “Just a little private investigation to answer some questions, settle your conscience. Maybe your young lady friend will appreciate you searching for the truth, kind of set you apart from most members of your profession.”

He knew how to push all the right buttons. “C’mon, Jake. To hell with your canons.”
“Come to think of it, I said, “they’re not mine.”

Why I Dedicated My Book to an Illegal Alien

Illegal Alien Crossing

“To the woman carrying a rucksack, clutching her child’s hand, and kicking up dust as she scrambled along a desert trail near Calexico, California.” —Dedication of “Illegal” by Paul Levine
 

The following is true…with some dialogue editing.

“Let me get this straight,” the Hollywood producer said. “You dedicated your book to an illegal alien?”

“An undocumented immigrant,” I said. “A Mexican woman who floated up the New River on an inner tube with her little boy.”

“I didn’t know rivers ran north.”

Odd, I thought. Focusing on the flow of water rather than the flow of people. “Some rivers do,” I told him. “The Nile. The Monongahela. The New River between Mexicali and the Salton Sea.”

The producer licked his thumb and turned to the dedication page. We were sitting in his bungalow on the Warner lot. Outside the window, I had a fine view of the water tower. He read aloud: “‘To the woman carrying a rucksack, clutching her child’s hand, and kicking up dust as she scrambled along a desert trail near Calexico, California.’”

He looked puzzled. That happens to people who don’t know rivers can run north. “I still don’t get it.”

Illegal Alien and her son go missing
In “Illegal,” a down-and-out lawyer risks everything to help a little boy find his missing mother, an illegal alien.

“The boy and his mother. They’re the heart and soul of ‘Illegal.’

Then I told him the story behind the story.

Several years ago, the news was filled with horror tales of border crossings gone bad. The life of an illegal alien often ended tragically.

Families heading north were attacked by Mexican bandits or robbed by their own ‘coyotes.’ People locked inside truck trailers literally baked to death. Women were beaten, kidnapped, and forced into sexual slavery. The hellish desert took its own toll, leaving the Border Patrol to rescue illegals as well as arrest them.

I wanted to write a novel set against the backdrop of illegal immigration and human trafficking, but what story would I tell? With me, the characters come first. When their lives are etched in my mind like petroglyphs on a cave wall, they tell me the story. I already had the protagonist. Jimmy (Royal) Payne, a down-and-out Los Angeles lawyer, would cross borders of his own while encountering immigrants, coyotes, corrupt cops, and human traffickers. But what was the spine of the story? I didn’t know.

An Illegal Alien Warning Sets the Dangerous Tone

On a day of blast furnace heat, I drove south through the desert, roadkill armadillos roasting on the pavement. To the east was the polluted Salton Sea. To the west, the Borrego Badlands. As I neared Calexico, the yellow “Caution” signs started popping up. Silhouettes of a father, mother, and daughter scampering across the road. The message: Be on the lookout for “pollos.” Cooked chickens in border slang. Coyotes are “polleros,” or chicken wranglers. Many of the signs were peppered were gunshots.

Illegal Alien Crossing
A California road sign: “Illegal Alien Crossing.”

Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos. Yes, welcome indeed.

I thought of Freddy Fender singing “Across the Borderline,” an achingly sad tale about the “broken promised land.” (You might remember the song — written by Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, and James Dickinson — from the Jack Nicholson film, “The Border.”

“And when it’s time to take your turn
Here’s one lesson that you must learn
You could lose more than you’ll ever hope to find.”

Near the border, I took a wrong turn onto a side road that dead-ended at the New River, a steaming current of raw sewage and toxic runoff that carries hepatitis, typhoid, polio, and cholera. Tree limbs bleached the color of skeletons floated in the water, which bubbled with a poisonous foam. Knowing of the Border Patrol’s reluctance to dive in, some hardy – or foolhardy – illegals swim with the current, white garbage bags over their heads to blend in with the noxious foam.

Getting out of the car, I saw no swimmers this day. But a large inner tube was grounded in the shallows. A striking, dark-haired woman in her early 30’s and a boy of 10 or so were picking their way across the rocks to shore. Backpacks, sneakers, and a gallon jug of water. Judging from the ease with which the woman hefted the jug, it was nearly empty.

I shouted out a friendly “Hola.” The mother froze. The boy stepped in front of her, a gesture of protection, the child on the verge of becoming a man. I ducked into my car, came out with a Thermos filled with iced tea. I held it up, a universal offer of friendship to travelers. They stood motionless. I walked toward them, but they started backing up…toward the river. I stopped short, placed the Thermos on the ground, dug into my wallet and placed several twenties under the Thermos. A puny gesture, given the enormity of their task.

Illegal Alien Number One thriller
Number One Legal Thriller

I returned to my air-conditioned car and headed for the main highway. Through my rear view mirror, I saw mother and son walking north along the dusty road. The boy carried the Thermos.

I didn’t know their names, so I gave them new ones. Marisol and Tino Perez. I imagined them wrenched apart in a border crossing gone-to-hell. They completed my trio of main characters. A shady lawyer. A missing woman. A lost boy. Their antagonist would be a wealthy California mega-farmer with a twisted vision of his own power.

“Illegal” is about choices. Will Jimmy Payne risk his life for two strangers or retreat into his own solitary world? The book is also about greed and corruption, revenge and redemption, all set in the dark world of human trafficking.

Story of illegal alien makes it to Times Square
“Illegal” in Times Square

When I was finished, the producer said, “Why’d you help those illegals instead of calling the Border Patrol?”

“The Bible says, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this, some have entertained angels.’”

“Don’t go biblical on me. Biblical doesn’t sell, except for Mel Gibson, and he’s so yesterday, he’s last year.” (This conversation took place before 2014’s spate of religion-themed movies).

The producer looked out the window where a motorized cart was hauling two-by-fours to a set under construction. “This book got some blood and guts? Like ‘No Country for Old Men.’”

“The hero gets horsewhipped.”

“That’s good. Like Marlon Brando in ‘One-Eyed Jacks.’”

“But it’s more like ‘Chinatown,’” I said, figuring movie analogies kept the producer in his comfort zone. “The abuse of power. Corruption of the flesh.”

He seemed to think it over a moment. “Can we lose that polluted river?”

“Why? Because it flows north?”

“Because no one will believe those illegals would risk it. Just why the hell would someone do that?”

“You nailed it,” I said. “The reason for the book. The reason for the dedication. It makes you ask, ‘Why the hell would someone do that?’”

You can read an excerpt of “Illegal” here and purchase the new ebook version here.

And no…the producer didn’t buy the book.

Kindle Matchbook…and Other Bargains

Jake Lassiter in his study?

By Paul Levine

Amazon keeps amazing me.

On July 22, 2000, I purchased “Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War” by Bob Greene in hardcover from Amazon.

On March 4, 2002, I purchased “The Wise Women of Havana” by Jose Raul Bernardo in hardcover, also from Amazon.

Kindle Matchbook: Oh, Those Insanely Clever Computers

No, I don’t remember buying either one. Amazon’s smart computers just reminded me under the Kindle Matchbook program, in which many titles which you previously bought in hardcover or paperback are now available as Kindle downloads at $2.99 or less.

At first I was puzzled. Why would you want another copy, albeit electronic, of a book you already read? I don’t know! But you do want the ebook if it is priced right, according to Amazon’s flawless research. Yes, I know. It’s a little scary. Amazon probably knows what you ate for dinner last night and what movie you’re going to buy next week. Love Amazon or hate Amazon, can we agree that founder Jeff Bezos is pretty much always the smartest guy in the room?  (He was the valedictorian of Palmetto High School’s Class of 1982 in Miami, then added a Princeton degree in computer science (duh!) and engineering).

For more info on all the bargains available, and to find out if books you’ve bought over the years from Amazon are available for bargain e-book prices, take a look at the Kindle Matchbook homepage. (The publisher has to agree for its products to be in the Kindle Matchbook program).

Disclosure: Several of my works are available for 99 cents each under Kindle Matchbook, if you now buy (or previously bought) the books in print form. The list includes “State vs. Lassiter”, “Lassiter,”, “Ballistic,”, and “Habeas Porpoise,” among others.

Kindle Matchbook logo

Which brings me to all the other bargains available on Kindle. Here, I’m talking about the Monthly Deals ($3.99 or less), the Daily Deals, the Countdown Deals, and Kindle Exclusives. Take a look at the Kindle eBooks homepage, and you’ll see what I mean.

Kindle Matchbooks bargains
Lots of Bargains on the Kindle Ebooks Homepage.

As this is written, in Monthly Deals, you can buy Faye Kellerman’s “The Ritual Bath” for $1.99.  Likewise, in Daily Deals, you can get Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Hillbilly Heart” for $1.99. Earlier this week, it was James Lee Burke’s “Light of the World” for $2.99. The Monthly Deals are extensive, broken down into categories including “Mystery and Suspense,” “Romance,” Literary Fiction, “Science Fiction,” “Biographies and Memoirs,” and “Children’s Books.”

Other Deals: Countdowns and Exclusives

The Countdown Deal is a new and intriguing feature. Ebooks go into bargain “countdown” for a week, starting at a huge discount (often for 99 cents) then usually go up in price gradually through the week until they resume the original price. Here’s the Countdown Deals homepage, which of course, changes every day as new books are added and others drop out of the deal.

Today, you’ll find Elle Lothlorien’s “Alice in Wonderland” for $2.99, Julie Smith’s “Jazz Funeral” for $1.99 and my “Solomon vs. Lord” for 99 cents.

Kindle Matchbook bargain
99 Cents…What a Bargain!

Then, there’s the Kindle Ebooks Exclusives, books you can only find on Amazon. Here’s the Exclusives homepage. My books have historically done very well on the Exclusives Best Seller list.

Bottom line, whether it’s the Kindle Matchbook program or one of the “Deals,” there are ebook bargains to be had every day.

Paul Levine

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