No Stone Unturned and Styx & Stone – An entertaining, engrossing mystery series – #bookreview

No Stone_cover

No Stone Unturned

An Ellie Stone Mystery

James W. Ziskin

(Seventh Street Books – paperback, Kindle)


 Styx & Stone

An Ellie Stone Mystery

James W. Ziskin

(Seventh Street Books – paperback, Kindle)


 Looking for a new mystery series and investigator to follow? Check out these two engrossing, entertaining novels from James W. Ziskin and Seventh Street Books.

Set in 1960, Styx & Stone, the series debut, and the recently published No Stone Unturned focus on Ellie Stone, a young reporter and photographer working for a small-town newspaper in Upstate New York. She’s struggling to hang onto her first professional job after graduating from the prestigious Columbia Journalism School.

It is a time well before women’s liberation, so Ellie is fighting both to stay afloat and advance  in a career that is still “a man’s world.” Yet, despite the nerve-wracking challenges and the men who fall over themselves as they try to get her into bed, she is glad to have work that doesn’t simply involve “shorthand and fetching coffee.”

Still, Ellie is tired of writing filler copy. She wants to get her hands on some real stories for a change. But she is competing in a male-dominated business and in a male-dominated town where everyone essentially knows everyone else. Thus, everything she does or says is scrutinized and subject to criticism by someone. And she sometimes has a tough time figuring out who really wants to help her and who is just trying to score enough points to make out with her.

Intrepidly, she pushes ahead. And she has a trait born of bravado and curiosity, as well as desperation to keep her job. She is not afraid to confront people and ask questions that others, including the police, have not thought of–or, more dangerously, have not wished to ask.

In Styx & Stone, Ellie leaves Upstate New York long enough to go back home to New York City after her estranged father, a famous Dante scholar and professor, is savagely beaten. The police think he was attacked by burglars, but Ellie is convinced it was a murder attempt and starts asking questions. Soon, another professor is killed, and a second attempt is made on Ellie’s father’s life. Later, he dies of his injuries.

Ellie is so thorough, demanding and even brazen in her probings that, at one point, Detective-Sergeant Jimmo McKeever of the NYPD, complains:  “Are you planning to solve every crime in New York during your stay?” Yet later, while helping her solve the murders,  he concedes a bit awkwardly: “If you were a man, you’d make a good detective.”

Meanwhile, in No Stone Unturned, Ellie is back in Upstate New York, at her newspaper job in the community of New Holland. She is wanting to prove to her boss and her fellow employes that she is a good journalist.

She intends to write  the main, front-page story about a newly discovered murder. But to beat the newspaper’s veteran (and male) crime reporter to the task, she must also solve the murder–quickly.

That means taking dangerous risks and hurriedly confronting powerful people in the community with sharp questions that create more enemies than friends. Along the way, she also must defend herself from being fired from her job. And she must find the inner courage to stick with her fledgling–though currently floundering–newspaper career.

James W. Ziskin’s Ellie Stone is an engaging, intelligent and ambitious young woman who knows both how to fight crime and how to fight her way through many of the historical, social and economic barriers that again restricted American women’s freedoms after World War II.

Si Dunn

Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference – #bookreview #software #techsupport

Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference
By Mark Russinovich and Aaron Margosis
(Microsoft Press, $49.99, paperback; $39.99, Kindle)

To the uninitiated, the title may sound a bit ultra-geeky and scary. Particularly the “Huh?” word “Sysinternals.”

But this book may benefit you “whether you manage the systems of a large enterprise, a small business, or the PCs of your family and friends,” Mark Russinovich and Aaron Margosis contend.

The Sysinternals Suite, it turns out, “is a set of over 70 advanced diagnostic and troubleshooting utilities for the Microsoft Windows platform” written by one of the book’s authors, Mark Russinovich, plus Bryce Cogswell.

The 70+  Sysinternals tools can be downloaded free from Microsoft TechNet at

The book’s goals are to make you more familiar with the Sysinternals Suite and learn how to use the Sysinternals to “solve real problems on Windows systems.”

Russinovich’s and Margosis’s Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference is well written and has a good number of illustrations that provide amplifying “how-to” information. The book has a hefty 25-page index, as well, to  help you find your way through the Sysinternals’ maze of available features, capabilities, verifications, files, drivers, states, fixes and more.

The Sysinternal tools work with the following versions of Windows:  Windows XP (with Service Pack 3); Windows Vista; Windows 7; Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2); Windows Server 2003 R2; Windows Server 2008; and Windows Server 2008 R2. The authors note: “Some tools require administrative rights to run, and others implement specific features that require administrative rights.”

Following its introduction, the book is divided into three parts, containing a total of 18 chapters:

Part I: Getting Started

  • 1. Getting Started with the Sysinternals Utilities
  • 2. Windows Core Concepts

Part II: Usage Guide

  • 3. Process Explorer
  • 4. Process Monitor
  • 5. Autoruns
  • 6. PsTools
  • 7. Process and Diagnostic Utilities
  • 8. Security Utilities
  • 9. Active Directory Utilities
  • 10. Desktop Utilities
  • 11. File Utilities
  • 12. Disk Utilities
  • 13. Network and Communications Utilities
  • 14. System Information Utilities
  • 15. Miscellaneous Utilities

Part III: Troubleshooting – “The Case of the Unexplained”

  • 16. Error Messages
  • 17. Hangs and Sluggish Performance
  • 18. Malware

The book is aimed mainly at “Windows IT professionals and power users who want to make the most of the Sysinternals tools.” And it includes real-world case studies to illustrate several tough problems.

If you are not yet a power user, but wrestle with Windows on a frequent basis (as many of us do) and are ready to tear into it, the Windows Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference can help you learn how to diagnose and troubleshoot your system and also optimize it.

If you work in a small business where there is little or no tech support, or if you are tech support in your small business, add this book to your library. You’ll likely put it to good use.

Si Dunn

Introducing Microsoft WebMatrix – #bookreview

Introducing Microsoft WebMatrix
By Laurence Moroney
(Microsoft Press, $39.99, paperback)

Introducing Microsoft WebMatrix is aimed (1) at readers who may be first-time web developers and (2) at readers who want to learn how to build active web pages or learn how to customize open source web applications to their own needs.

WebMatrix is a free, downloadable web development “solution” from Microsoft that promises to prove “all the tools you need for server-side programming.”

Lawrence Moroney’s book illustrates the use of templates, cascading style sheets (CSS), helper libraries and other tools in WebMatrix. His goal is to help show you how to build and customize data-driven websites using Microsoft’s new web development product.

He provides steps and illustrations that show how to add email, video, web forms and other features to a site, using WebMatrix.  He includes tips and steps for using the product’s helper libraries to expand a site’s reach via social media such as Twitter, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn, as well as Xbox Gamercards.  

The book, written during WebMatrix’s beta,  is a good, compact and convenient introductory tutorial.

However, to keep up with the newest WebMatrix changes and to fill in some knowledge gaps, you will also need to refer to online sources such as Microsoft’s ASP.NET site, the WebMatrix site and the “Web Development 101” pages for WebMatrix, while following the processes in this book.

Certain requirements must be met to use Microsoft WebMatrix.

1.  The supported operating systems are: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Vista SP1, Sindows XP SP2+, Windows Server 2003 SP1+, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2.

2. An Internet connection is needed to install WebMatrix  via the Web Platform Installer.

3. To run the Web Platform Installer on your computer, you must have administrator privileges.

Code samples can be downloaded for all of the projects in the book.

The book’s chapter lineup gives a good view of its coverage range.

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Introducing WebMatrix
  • Chapter 2: A Tour of WebMatrix
  • Chapter 3: Programming with WebMatrix
  • Chapter 4: Using Images in WebMatrix
  • Chapter 5: Using Video in WebMatrix
  • Chapter 6: Forms and Controls
  • Chapter 7: Databases in WebMatrix
  • Chapter 8: Exposing Your Site Through Social Networking
  • Chapter 9: Adding Email to Your Site
  • Chapter 10: Building a Simple Web Application: Styles, Layout, and Templates
  • Chapter 11: Building a Simple Web Application: Using Data
  • Chapter 12: WebMatrix and Facebook
  • Chapter 13: WebMatrix and PayPal
  • Chapter 14: Building Your Own Web Helpers
  • Chapter 15: Deploying Your Site
  • Chapter 16: WordPress, WebMatrix, and PHP
  • Appendix A:  WebMatrix Programming Basics
  • Index (11 pages)

The author, Laurence Moroney, is a “Senior Technology Evangelist” at Microsoft. He has more than 10 years of experience in software development and implementation, and has written numerous articles and books.

Moroney’s new book is written in clear, straightforward style and contains ample steps, code samples and screenshots to help simplify the process of learning how to get comfortable with Microsoft WebMatrix.

But keep in mind that it is truly an “Introduction,” a good how-guidebook to get you started, not a comprehensive handbook containing everything you will need to know.

Si Dunn

The Walter Cronkite You Never Knew

One day about 40 years ago, I almost met Walter Cronkite. I was supposed to receive a news photography award from a state journalism organization. The famous broadcaster was supposed to hand the plaque and check to me and shake my hand. Then he would have dinner with me and the other winners of coveted journalism awards.

But, a few months earlier, I had quit the newspaper where I had taken the award-winning photo. I was now a graduate student, and I was too broke to rent a tuxedo for the presentation ceremony and too broke also to risk driving my wornout car 250 miles to shake Cronkite’s hand. Furthermore, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to quit being a photographer and focus exclusively on writing.

So, I didn’t go. Someone from the newspaper accepted the award on my behalf, added the plaque to an awards wall intended to impress the newspaper’s visitors, and mailed me the check, along with a matching bonus.

For  years afterward, I felt bad that I missed getting to meet Walter Cronkite. But a new book, Conversations with Cronkite by Walter Cronkite and Don Carleton, adds up to much more than a quick handshake and a brief dinner chat. It is like getting to sit and listen to dozens of enjoyable, spirited chats.

It isn’t likely anytime soon that another journalist will be hailed as “the most trusted man in America.”

Before his death in 2009, Walter Cronkite wore that weighty mantle “exceedingly lightly,” writes his friend and CBS News colleague Morley Safer , in the foreword to this revealing and entertaining collection of conversations between the famed broadcaster and Don Carleton, director of the University of Texas at Austin‘s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

Out of the media spotlight, Cronkite “could be as ornery and petty and vain as the rest of us,” Safer adds, “but also a man by nature who could be relied upon to always do the right thing.”

In conversations initially recorded for his 1996 memoir, A Reporter’s Life, Cronkite said he studied journalism at UT in the 1930s, but missed many classes and was “a terrible student.” He finally dropped out, he said, so he could make money doing small jobs for Texas newspapers and radio stations.

Later, he was hired to broadcast Oklahoma college football games. Then he worked for Braniff Airlines and United Press, covering the 1937 New London school explosion in East Texas.

During World War II, his youthful bravado as a war correspondent took him all over, from ship convoys in the treacherous North Atlantic to advancing with ground troops under fire in Europe. He also flew aboard B-17 bombers during raids over Germany. The four-engine planes had no room for passengers, so Cronkite sometimes manned a .50-caliber machine gun and fired at attacking enemy fighters.

After covering the Nuremberg trials and working in Moscow for United Press, Cronkite moved to CBS News and wanted to cover the Korean War but was kept in Washington to do doing news reports in a new medium, television.

Cronkite’s discussions with Carleton provide fascinating looks into the evolution of TV news and how coverage of the 1952 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions helped fuel a national wave of television set purchases.

As Cronkite became a trusted broadcaster and documentary producer, he gained greater access to famous and powerful figures. In the wide-ranging conversations recorded over three years, he reflected on his interviews with several U.S. presidents and world leaders, plus his dramatic coverage of the JFK assassination and the U.S. space program.

Carleton has called the book a “companion” to Cronkite’s memoir. Yet it stands on its own as engrossing reading. And it includes considerable information left out of, or truncated in, A Reporter’s Life.

Proceeds from sales of Conversations with Cronkite will help support the Briscoe Center’s Walter Cronkite Papers and News Media History Archive.


Si Dunn

A True (and Truly Good) Tale of Newsprint and Murder


WAR OF WORDS: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder
By Simon Read
(Union Square Press, $24.95)

You think the newspaper business is tough now? Competing newspapers in mid-19th century San Francisco sometimes fought each other—literally—for circulation and advertising supremacy in a rough-and-tumble city fueled by Gold Rush money, whiskey and gambling and ruled by corruption, vigilantes, violence and scandal. Publishers were beaten or murdered. Editors sometimes faced off with dueling pistols. Mobs angry at articles or editorials surged into newspaper offices and destroyed everything in sight. And, notes author Simon Read in War of Words, “Reporters roamed the streets like rival gang members, many with the reassuring weight of a sidearm against the hip.”

At times, a half dozen or more newspapers battled each other for readers, and there was plenty to write about—or gossip about—in mid-19th-century San Francisco.

“Murder was the news industry’s bread and butter in those early days,” the author writes. “A tale of killing always received priority coverage and was seldom cut or held to make room for copy of a less dramatic nature….In the 1800s, much like today, sex and violence sold newspapers.”

Right in the middle of this newsprint melee, the famed (and recently financially imperiled) San Francisco Chronicle was born “as a throwaway vehicle for theater advertisements and drama critiques” known as the Daily Dramatic Chronicle. It was founded by two brothers, Charles and Michael de Young, members of “a family with an obscure history draped in sordid rumor.”

The de Youngs, however, proved to be adept and lucky businessmen, Simon Read points out in this engaging, entertaining and enlightening historical portrait of San Francisco journalism and the controversial personalities behind it. The de Young brothers paid back their publication’s startup loan just one week after their debut issue on Jan. 16, 1865. They also kept costs low by doing all of the newsgathering, typesetting and publishing themselves. They even gathered up and recycled old issues in clever ways that brought in a little extra money and helped build up their publication’s reputation.

The Daily Dramatic Chronicle soon became a magnet for writers such as Mark Twain, Bret Harte and other Bohemians who later would become famous. It also got an unexpected circulation boost from a tragic event in Washington, D.C., when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The brothers’ newspaper normally went to press after the city’s morning papers had published and long before the afternoon papers appeared. The Daily Dramatic Chronicle was able to hit the streets with fresh headlines and quickly follow up with extra editions as stunned people scrambled to get the latest news about Lincoln’s death. Meanwhile, mobs attacked and destroyed some of San Francisco’s newspapers that had taken pro-Southern or anti-Lincoln stances.

After these dramatic events, and now with fewer competitors, the newspaper kept growing and later was renamed the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 16, 1869.

But new troubles and controversies were just beginning for what would become San Francisco’s premiere daily newspaper. Simon Read’s new book takes the reader deep inside the turmoil of the San Francisco Chronicle’s early history as a war of words spirals out of control between Charles de Young and Isaac Kalloch, a mayoral candidate and well-known “hellfire preacher” with a scandalous reputation. One man soon would shoot and almost kill the other, and a son of the survivor later would retaliate by shooting and killing his father’s assailant.

The author, a former Bay Area reporter who has written three other books, has done an excellent job of mining colorful quotes and details from newspaper articles, periodicals, magazine articles, and court transcripts from “the time in question.”

WAR OF WORDS: A True Tale of Newsprint and Murder definitely lives up to its title and subtitle.

Si Dunn