Sunday, January 10, 2016

Splash of Colors, The Self-destruction of Braniff International

John J. Nance, former pilot with Braniff and author of this compelling historical documentary, Splash of Colors, expertly tells the story about the failure of a long standing, multi-billion dollar airline. 

He takes the reader on a journey back in time to when founder and President, Tom Braniff's vision and work ethic piloted this from a regional carrier into international territory as a major passenger airline. He details the success and failures of its subsequent Presidents, whose maneuverings and corporate decisions sealed its fate.

The story covers the effects unions have on business, demands that drove the push for higher salaries of pilots, ground crews and in-flight personnel adding to the pressure of funds already stretched to the maximum. He explains the sequence of events falling into place that caused this airline to fail after fifty-four years.

Paint scheme designed by Alexander Calder
The inner workings of corporate America could be extrapolated from this story. It serves as example and warning of what can happen when power and greed take the reins along with the importance of hiring and keeping qualified management with aptitude and training to match the skill level needed.

Despite the best efforts of its dedicated employees and workaholic leaders, the company spiraled out of control into a fatal tailspin on March 2, 1982. Those of us who worked during the seventies and eighties can relate to the issues that prevailed during that era.

The deregulation of the airlines caused fierce competition for the same routes spreading the passenger count between different carriers. Planes operating below capacity lowered profitability. Fuel costs rose exponentially with fares failing to keep up with the costs of operation. The bottom line suffered the red ink of diminishing revenue paired with increased cost.

Nance explains the inner workings of a corporate board of directors and their role in debt restructuring of capital equipment, the expansion of Braniff into new unproven routes, the purchase of multi-million dollar jets, employee demands for competitive salaries and other factors that led to the eventual demise of this well-established business.

At a time when air travel was still glamorous, Braniff excelled at providing extraordinary meals and flight service in the air. Extravagant paint schemes, designer uniforms, two-for one fares, non-profitable routes, overhead and service contracts in foreign countries that extended beyond the terminations of those destinations, interest on collateral loans and lack of communication, all played a role in the demise of the airline.

Three Braniff Flight Attendants in 1977, Photo - © Peg Cole
The extravagant multi-million dollar expansion of its worldwide headquarters added to the burden of debt and steep overhead, along with the successors in the role of President and CEO, whose guaranteed hiring packages and golden parachute deals thwarted any return to profitability.
Nance’s compelling account of conversations in board rooms, at interviews, and in management circles convincingly explains the pitfalls of corporate decisions that lead to diminished job enthusiasm; how managers whose fierce competition for recognition, combined with their lack of training and disregard for employee initiative sent this established company into the ground. He shares insight into the deadly Jericho memorandums that dramatically tainted employee morale and inspired internal uprisings.

The Great Pumpkin, Braniff's  one of 747 Jumbo Jets
Traveling deep beyond the newspaper headlines into the realms of corporate sabotage, fierce competition with other airlines, dirty tricks and politics, of multi-million dollar deals gone sour, the story takes the reader on a voyage into the minds and workings of the people who both loved and hated the airline. This true story, in four-hundred plus pages travels into oxygen-thin altitudes, shares white knuckle take-offs and landings, and conveys the devastation that thousands of workers felt when learning their jobs and income vanished overnight.

This story is a page turner that kept me up late into the night wanting to find out more. My first edition copy of this book came from eBay and is also available on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Michael Friedman - The Quinn Moosebroker Mysteries | A Book Review

The Quinn Moosebroker Mysteries - A Book Review

Six mysteries reside within this volume, each filled with twists and turns, danger and a splash of romance. The appeal of the main characters grows with each story to where they become like one of the family sharing adventures and good times. This is the adult version of The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Mysteries we enjoyed as children. The PG rated story is engaging without being profane or ghastly. 

An odd name for an odd man, Quinn Moosebroker is a faithful, observant, former cop who explores not only the mysteries of murder and intrigue, but that of understanding women. Years after his career as a police officer ends abruptly, hijacked by a shootout, he unravels the details of the long unsolved mystery surrounding the death of his partner.

Betty, his sidekick, is a plucky widow, who discovers a way to overcome the loss of her mate and fall in love again. Together, the unlikely duo solves a variety of mysteries that range from blackmail and murder to stolen artwork and precious gems.

Uncovering clues in an age-old heist sends them across the Pond traveling through rustic scenery and partying in ancient castles. The descriptive narrative is endearing as the relationship between the pair evolves and heats up with each mystery solved.

Captured within the text a selection of the author’s illustrations provide a glimpse into the story writing process and the varied talents of their creator who adds his own touch of prose, poetry and screen play along with a radio broadcast. The author's previous series, Emerald Wells CafĂ©, drew a steady stream of faithful readers who welcomed a new set of stories to follow.

Combining the tales into printed format is a treat to readers who enjoy holding a paper copy, and is also available electronically in Kindle format.

Clowns, vagrants, gangsters, artists, thieves, murderers, actors, playwrights and book store owners number among the unique and memorable characters who play their part in bringing these stories to life. Peppered with engaging plots, they incorporate life lessons intricately woven between the lines as the protagonist and his woman delve into solving crime and deepen their budding relationship. As a bonus, there’s even a stray dog rescue.

The reader travels into foreign countries where they mingle with castle dwellers, Lords and Ladies. While attending a costume party, the couple narrowly escapes the hidden agenda of select guests at the castle whose motives are nefarious. Their journey takes them down scenic country roads and into the hands of gangsters who attempt to thwart the investigation with kidnapping and thievery. An encounter with the owner of a country school and her dedicated students provides a glimpse into European culture and the ideal venue for a wedding.

A mixture of reality and fantasy, the reader will be captivated by the down-to-earth nature of characters who make this book enjoyable and memorable.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Stephen King | On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King | On Writing - A Book Review

Writing fifty books is a major accomplishment. To write that many bestsellers defies the odds. That this book was finished after a death-defying accident is beyond the imagination. Many like me, who hope one day to release our literary masterpiece, have a profound admiration for the author, Stephen King. His descriptive and engaging books captivated us early, perhaps lending to our hopes that ordinary people can and do succeed in publishing a novel.

This book, On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, is a combination writing guide and auto-biography penned by the master of macabre, the teller of Science Fiction tales, stories of high school romance gone bad, of cars that live and breathe, about dogs who defy their masters, and tales on a myriad of other topics. Where a reader might think the subject matter in a book of this sort might be dry and tedious, Mr. King spins a web of intrigue and mystery within, combining the elements of style with his memories of childhood along with his early experiences at trying to become a published writer.


The tale gives the reader hope that, despite ongoing rejection, if we persist, improve our results and properly tweak our words, we will accomplish that which the aspiring writer seeks. The book answers the questions that some may have wondered: how did Stephen King start out; what inspired him to write his tales; how did he survive the horrific and disabling injuries he sustained when he was broadsided by a van on a highway?

Stephen King's House in Bangor, Maine

Photo By Julia Ess (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


The novel answers those questions and gives a great deal more that can be helpful in writing our great American novel. He gives the reader clues about composing, practicing the art, using our worldly experiences in creating fiction, capturing the moment, creating characters, editing our work without remorse and much more in these 291 pages jam packed with good advice, humor and even some cringe worthy stories.

In his usual style, employing descriptive prose, he shares the struggles of growing up poor, of working in dead-end factory type jobs, of sibling rivalry and competition, of mistreatment from caregivers, family members and peers. He describes about learning the perils of plagiarism, of creative buffoonery gone sour, of teacher retaliation, of being the outcast. He shares common experiences and those beyond the everyday variety: recuperation from devastating, bone crushing injury, during which he maintained the work ethic that led to his ultimate success.

He states that “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation,” of “writing to the best of our abilities” and choosing the right tools for the job. He challenges the writer to create a toolbox of talent from which we can draw when needed; when our task becomes difficult, our road veers into wilderness and fog impairs our vision. He suggests that if we wish to become a great writer that we must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. He says, “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”

Stephen King’s memoir is memorable, provides useful examples, cautionary admonitions and is pure fun reading. It’s a good story, which he explains is what book buyers are looking to “take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.” He has successfully used every tool in his toolbox in writing this novel.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

J. K. Rowling's Book - The Casual Vacancy, A Review

Geared toward a mature audience, this release by the renown author of the Harry Potter series, takes her audience by surprise with the subject matter, strong language and adult themes in her book, The Casual Vacancy.
The book opens with the death of Barry Fairbrother, Town Council leader and prime advocate for The Fields, an outlying cluster of run-down homes. Barry spent his early life in the Fields, an impoverished environment populated by the underemployed and squatters. Perhaps this inspired him to take an interest in Krystal Weedon, an outspoken and difficult teenager who lives there.


Krystal takes care of her younger brother, a toddler who suffers neglect from their drug addicted mother, Terri, who is about to lose custody of her children. Her life style exposes Krystal to a world of harm and nefarious contacts who store illicit substances in their home.
Barry's untimely death created an opening on the Town Council, a position of importance and respect. The story develops around the intense competition between candidates who've put their name into the ring as potential replacements. Contenders struggle with sudden family issues once they decide to run for the vacancy.
Photo by Daniel Ogren [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some citizens want to separate the Fields out of their community parameters. If the motion carries, the Pagford district would lose the fiscal burden of supporting the addiction clinic on the borders between communities.The effect of this motion would remove Krystal's mother from the program and take away the only thing keeping their struggling family together in light of her addiction.
In a much different sense than in the Harry Potter books, the characters in The Casual Vacancy appear rather unremarkable at first glance until their personal struggles and issues emerge.
When several hopefuls put their name in the hat for the council vacancy, mysterious messages begin to appear on its website. The source of these revealing and embarrassing posts becomes a topic which sets town members into a frenzy of accusations and cover-up.
This release is, without a doubt, directed toward adults. She describes the story as "comic drama" but it may seem to be of a much darker nature to those familiar with her Harry Potter characters. In this novel, she continues to provide characterizations intertwined with intrigue, mystery and a heavy dose of reality woven cleverly into the story.
Her characters demonstrate Ms. Rowling's superb talent of the written word to reveal both the inner strength and common foibles of everyday people. None possess any magic wands in this too-close for comfort realistic story set in a small town in the United Kingdom.
Rich characterization and no-nonsense reality thrive in this story which deals with the difficult issues of teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug abuse, self mutilation, spousal cruelty, marital infidelity and budding relationships and spares no ears from the harsh language that rises to these occasions.
It took me longer to relate to the characters that populate the town of Pagford, keeping track of their complicated web of sibling rivalry, friendships, teen angst and adult behavior, than it did with the Potter books. Yet once I passed that invisible line of concern for their outcome, the story became an engrossing tale that pushed me forward page by page to its ultimate climax.
The most surprising element of this novel was the adult nature of the interactions of her characters, including strong use of language and adult situations that involve teen drug use, drinking and sex, Internet hacking, child neglect, infidelity and abject poverty. Their ongoing squabbles between family members, schoolmates and citizens culminates into a disaster which unifies them in a bizarre and unexpected fashion.
A bit like the seventh book of Ms. Rowling's Harry Potter series, the end of the book brought a small bereavement for the loss of certain characters, through whose struggles and inner conflicts the story is made real, representing a slice of life through which the reader can choose to empathize or in some way relate to their difficult journey.
Although I admit to being taken aback by the nature of the bookadult fans of J.K. Rowling's intuitive writing style will not be disappointed with The Casual Vacancy.

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