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Whose Decade Is It, Anyway?

Zork: Should we hijack this plane Snerk?
Snerk: Not this one. We'll get better in-flight meals on a British Airways
Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life converge on Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Rome, Berlin, Copenhagen, Tokyo and Mexico City to protest a war that the White House tries to justify with Newspeak. A pair of snipers goes on a killing spree; a key liberal, anti-war Senator dies unexpectedly under tragic circumstances; and a major retail outlet seeks to pre-censor books that don't meet its notions of propriety.

What decade am I in?

Did a fold in time carry me back thirty years? I don't want to go. I lived through it once. I spent years avoiding the evening news, because I didn't want to hear about the allies who gassed 800 innocents to kill 50 insurgents or the inevitable reprisals. But it seems even those of us who remember the past are doomed to repeat it, courtesy of plutocratic pachyderms who don't.

Oh well, once more into the breach. International terrorism and global conflict may fall outside the scope of Crescent Blues, but censorship does not.

As reported in Holt Uncensored, an electronic newsletter by former San Francisco Chronicle editor and critic Pat Holt, Wal-Mart's book buyer, Anderson Merchandising, recently asked Dorchester Publishing to change the content of Contact, a romance novel by Susan Grant, sight unseen. Or rather, "book unseen."

In Grant's book, the plucky co-pilot of a 747 must find a way to defeat the space aliens who hijack her plane, while finding time to fall in love with the hunky son of the starship's commander. Anderson wanted Dorchester to change the plot to something more "appropriate." Apparently, the buyer never got beyond the word "hijack" in the book blurb and feared the book would cause irreparable mental anguish to thousands of readers inured to hostage romance and Thomas Harris.

At a time when even a minor drop in sales can kill the career of a multi-published writer, Wal-Mart's decision not to carry Contact in its stores carries serious professional consequences for Grant. The fact that Wal-Mart sideswiped Grant's future for a book that conveys a message of hope for airline travelers just makes it worse.

As Holt makes plain, Contact delivers the required happy ending while celebrating those good old, flag-waving virtues of self-reliance, inventiveness, courage and partnership. A pilot and former combat flight instructor, Grant shows the positive effects of 9/11 on the airline industry and the people responsible for passenger safety.

Besides, the hijackers are space aliens, for crying out loud!

Fortunately, this censorship situation lends itself to a quick, non-partisan fix. Vote with your wallet. Buy Contact at Amazon or your local brick and mortar bookstore, and make the book a best-seller in spite of Wal-Mart. Boycott the book racks at your local Wal-Mart and tell the manager why. If you absolutely, positively, can't get enough of those Wal-Mart special book deals, buy them on-line. (The on-line store carries Contact.) Corporate America responds to anything that affects its bottom line.

So do American politicians. Eventually. So vote at your local polling place too.

Jean Marie Ward

Readers Respond

I wanted to send along my appreciation for Jean Marie Ward's editorial "Whose Decade Is It Anyway?" in which she tackled the sticky subject of Anderson News declining to carry my book Contact due to its hijacking content. In a land of skeptics, sissies, and naysayers, it was wonderful to see your support, and to read your opinion that this is indeed a bigger issue than my book. I loved the little cartoon of the aliens, though I'm not sure they'll find better dinners on BA. Perhaps Air Force One. I hear they stock all sorts of gourmet goodies no longer found on commercial airliners. Hmm...an idea for a future book? :)

Again, your support is very much appreciated by this author.

Susan Grant
Contact (Oct. 2002) -- "He was tall, dark, and...alien."
The Only One (May 2003) -- anthology with Christine Feehan & Susan Squires
The Star Princess (Aug. 2003) -- Che' & Ilana heat up Los Angeles!


A friend recently shared this link with me. I'm so glad you reported on it, but it contains if not an error, than an omission. Pat Holt was not the first to write about Susan Grant's Contact and WalMart. Her story came from my reporting about it in mid-October. As a matter of fact, she and I have just finished writing segments for each other's columns. Still, I'm very glad someone else is as bothered about this as I was, and I'll be mentioning your piece in my new column, which will go online tomorrow.

Laurie Gold
All About Romance

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