About Me

My photo
When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Sometimes the best vacation is one where you don't go anywhere at all. For the last three years Ray and I have been spending a week in Palm Springs just like the other tourists going to the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Sonny Bono started the film festival 23 years ago and it keeps getting better every year.

The weather was warm and sunny, the relatives flew in from Florida to join us, and we got to do my two favorite things, go to the movies and eat out. As if that wasn't enough we got to see George Clooney. But this year he was just one of the stars who turned up. Brad and Angelina, Charilize Theron, Adrian Brody, Glen Close and Olivia Wilde to name a few all walked the red carpet. We even gawked as the limos pulled up depositing the stars at the convention center.

The picture my cousin Robert took of George Clooney

This is a great film festival because it features the best foreign films from across the globe and if you can't visit a country the best way to travel there is by watching a movie or reading a book. This blog is about great movies based on great novels.

All I had to do was go into the theatre, wait for the lights to dim and I was sitting in a cafe on a square in 1930' Belgrade. Montevideo, the Taste of a Dream is based on a novel by Vladimir Stankovic. This is a beautiful film, filmed with beautiful actors, which tells the story of a Belgrade soccer team trying to reach Montevideo to participate in the first World Soccer Cup. Some movies are so evocative of a time and a place. Slick and sexy the scene in a jazz club is one of the best I have ever seen.

We wrote our novel Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships after working aboard a luxury cruise ship. I loved the cruise to Scandinavia and Russia, so when I saw how many movies from that area of the world were showing, I bought tickets to many of them.

A great movie out of Norway is Headhunters. This movie is a thriller in every sense of the word. It is slick and sleek just what you would expect from a Scandinavian movie and the best thing is that the thrills and chills are created without the special effects of most Hollywood blockbusters. Even if you can't see the movie you can read the book. The movie is based on Jo Neb's novel, Headhunters.

The next movie on my list is Generation P out of Russia. There is a chapter in our novel devoted to Moscow; Ray worked there after the fall of communism, when it was just becoming the wild and wicked city featured in the film. This movie is a mixed bag. The first hour is one of the best examples of Russia's transition to capitalism through the eyes of a writer who gets a job in advertising. The second hour however is a bit of a mess. But maybe you just have to be Russian to get all the inside jokes and references, because this movie was a game changer in Russia. This book is based on the novel Generation P written by Victor Pelevin.

I much preferred My Father Baryshnikov which was centered on the school where the Bolshoi dancers are trained. It is a charming tale of a young man who doesn't know who his father is and so he pretends he is Baryshnikov. It was written about a time when all Russians lived in the same type of apartments, ate the same food and wore the same clothes. This movie is an uplifting tale that will make you see 1980's Russia in a new light. A Russian friend of mine agreed that the movie got it just right. Although it was based on the writers life there is no book.

A movie, like a book has the power to change your heart. I defy anyone to go see A Separation, and not come out of the theater with a new understanding of Iranian society. This is just a simple tale of two people going through a divorce, both with faults and problems, but the insights it gives us into modern day Iranian society are priceless.

I love my city and I hope all of you will one day have a chance to travel here during the festival. Where else in one week can you get the chance to see over 200 films from over 70 countries, and only have to pack your bags once?

Below is the links to our novel.
Click the link to find at Amazon.com
Click the link to find at Amazon United Kingdom
Click the link to find at Amazon Germany  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Ray attending a lifeboat drill

Last Sunday night the Costa Concordia sank off the coast of the island of Giglio, enroute to Civitavecchia, a port I had visited many times working for Princess Cruises. I would like to say that in all my years at sea I never encountered a captain like Francesco Schettino. I considered all the captains kings of their ship, they were all very professional, attentive and if I have to admit it, a little bit scary.

While normally I am not one to comment on ship safety the lack of knowledge of some of the announcers made me feel I had to write this post. A newscaster was interviewing some passengers after they had made it back to safety in the US. They told him that when they realized that the ship was in trouble they were dressed in formal wear, an evening gown and high heels. Reasoning that this was not the proper attire for lifeboat travel, they returned to their cabins and changed their clothes.

The commentator congratulated them, "What clear thinking,"

NO, NO, NO, it was not clear thinking returning to their cabin. It was a horrible idea. It is never a good idea to return to your cabin when a ship is possibly sinking. There are just too many things that can go wrong, What if the ship is on fire? What if the electricity goes off? What if the ship tilts and you can't open the door to your cabin? When you hear any kind of alarm you should proceed to your muster station and if you don't know where it is then proceed to the highest open deck.

Even though international law states that a lifeboat drill has to be held at least 24 hours after a boat leaves port, every ship I ever worked on held an emergency drill as soon as the ship sailed. As a crew member I also attended many drills over the course of my career at sea. If you read my book Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships, I talk about the 'how to board a lifeboat drills', 'how to locate a bomb drills', 'how to crawl out of your cabin in case of a fire drills', and even a drill about the proper way to jump off the side of a ship without breaking your neck!

The following story perfectly illustrates my point.
Ray had been working on a Greek ship for three months and was very familiar with his surroundings. One day while the ship was docked in Patras he went out to lunch with a friend. When they returned to the ship they discovered the engine room was on fire and the ship had been evacuated. After a few hours the fire had been put out but the ship was declared out of service for repairs. They allowed the crew to board so that they could collect their belongings.

There was no power or lights working on the ship. When Ray left the ships entrance and headed to his cabin, he became disoriented walking down the pitch black corridor. He found his cabin by counting the doors. Once inside he relied on the light from the porthole as he gathered his belongings, but leaving the his cabin he found it very difficult to find his way back to the gangway. His walk was further complicated by the debris that had been dropped in the hallway, by the other crew in their scramble to get off the ship.

Our main point is that even in this situation when the ship was stable and upright and there was no immediate danger or rush and no crowd of panicking passengers, finding his way around the bowels of the ship was no easy task - and he was a crew member. So imagine the problems a passenger would have in the middle of an emergency situation.

Although ships are very safe and safety is taken very seriously on a cruise ship accidents can still happen.
We hope this helps you if you ever find yourself on a sinking ship.

As an update to this article we are sorry to report that Sandor Feher the violinist on the Costa ship, helped children into their lifejackets and then left to return to his cabin to retrieve his violin and was never seen again.

Below is the links to our novel.
Click the link to find at Amazon.com
Click the link to find at Amazon United Kingdom
Click the link to find at Amazon Germany 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


If you are reading this blog post right now it is probably a good guess that your are interested in Casinos and Cruise Ships. So to keep our readers up to date and current with what is happening in both industries we have created a new online paper Casinos and Cruise Ships, and the best part is that the subscription is absolutely FREE. So keep yourself informed about the latest developments in the casino and cruise ship industry across the globe. You don't have to subscribe to check it out.