Voices

Treadmill books

Summertime, when self-promotion is easy

Issue: "Books and Movies 2006," July 1, 2006

In Beijing last month I went into a shop quietly selling bootleg DVDs and complimented myself on not buying any. But then I saw one I really wanted . . .

This temptation came to mind as I read a letter from one reader who stated that the 17 nonfiction books I've written have gone unmentioned on this page: He wrote, "I would encourage you to reconsider your policy regarding publicizing your own stuff. . . . As a journalist, you owe it to your readers to keep them informed of timely, relevant books, even if they happen to be written by you."

Hmm. Here's a letter from another subscriber: "In your recent column on compassionate conservatism, you never mention your book on the subject. . . . As a Christian, I completely understand and respect your aversion to self-promotion, but by the same token I'd hate to see anyone miss out."

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I quote the testimony of these two witnesses in a very self-interested way. I've prided myself on a lack of pridefulness regarding lots of my books, but now I've written an action novel with a bit of romance that I think lots of people will enjoy, and I'm worried that no one will read it. So, OK, you've pulled it out of me, I can't resist any longer, the novel's name is Scimitar's Edge, published by Broadman & Holman.

Oh, I'm so embarrassed. (But I want you to read it.) How can I disguise this self-promotion and make it seem altruistic? Ah, I'll recommend features editor Lynn Vincent's first forays into the book publishing world, as co-author of two new books put out by Thomas Nelson: Donkey Cons, a thorough history of Democratic Party corruption, and Same Kind of Different as Me, a warm story about the bonds that developed between a compassionate couple and a poor man who had been stuck in virtual slavery.

I can also seem altruistic by noting occasional columnist Janie Cheaney's novel My Friend the Enemy (Knopf), a story of children growing up amid World War II anti-Japanese fervor. John Piper's new book, Contending for Our All: Defending the Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen (Crossway) is also good.

Here's another idea: The more books I recommend, the less I'm just recommending my own. So, here are four excellent books with subtitles so descriptive that I need say nothing more about them: Kathy Roth-Fouquet and Frank Schaeffer's AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service-and How It Hurts Our Country (HarperCollins), Joshua London's Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation (Wiley), Phillip Jenkins' Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America (Oxford), and Ramesh Ponnuru's The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life (Regnery).

How else can I cover up? Ah, I'll do what I should do anyway and be kind to a London journalist, Melanie Phillips, who was not kind to me in a profile she wrote: Her new book, Londonistan (Encounter), warns that appeasers of Islam are paving the way for an eventual Cairo-on-the-Thames. And that theme inevitably gets me thinking about the war on terrorism that has grabbed American attention over the past five years and is likely to seize it for at least the next 25.

It seems my duty to note that novelists as well as journalists need to pay attention to this war, and do so in a way that shows the need for individuals and not just nations to make commitments. I'd like to see a thrilling, romantic, realist tale in which civilians refuse to hide. For example, think of a plot in which four Americans go on what they think will be a carefree trip through Turkey, only to be kidnapped by a terrorist band intent on beheading one, enslaving a second, and letting a third go free to carry the news about the fourth: ransom or death! How do the Americans fight back?

The novel could be fun to write and fun to read-one with suspense, and the possibility of cheering at the end. What, you say that it's already written? It's called Scimitar's Edge? Who wrote it? No one I've ever heard of.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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