June 2012

On this day in 1976, the world watched as a drama unfolded at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda.  Two days before, on 27 June 1976, an Air France airbus took off from Tel Aviv for a regularly scheduled stop in Athens while en route to Paris.  Among the passengers boarding the plane in Athens were four people whose plan was not to arrive in Paris and go about their business, but rather to skyjack Flight 139 once the plane was in the air, force the pilot to change the flight destination, and to use the passengers as bargaining chips.

The plane landed in Benghazi, Libya and then went on to Entebbe, Uganda.  On today’s date, Flight 139 sat on the tarmac in Entebbe.

Two of the four thugs who hijacked the plane were post-war middle-class Germans, “Hitler’s Children — angry young people of university student age lashing out at their parents’ generation.  When the ignominious ‘end’ of American participation in the war in Vietnam left these angry ’60s rebels without a reason to kidnap and bomb those whom they blamed for their anger, they claimed solidarity with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  Two PFLP members participated in the skyjacking as well.

This skyjacking was the fourth one of 1976, and four more planes would be attacked before the year was out.  It was a harrowing time to fly*.  On this day, though, the world watched as thugs demanded that governments  free specific prisoners in Israel, Kenya, France, Switzerland and West Germany.

In Entebbe, the hijackers released the non-Jewish passengers, but, with the cooperation of the Ugandan military, continued to hold the passengers carrying Israeli passports.  Some of the older Israeli passengers were survivors of Nazi concentration camps and were now forced to relive that nightmare, complete with German voices.

After being freed, the non-Israeli passengers were flown to Paris where they were debriefed.  An Israeli strike force used this information to create a rescue plan.  A long week after the skyjacking, the world found out that Israeli commandos, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of the current Israeli Prime Minister, had stormed the plane and rescued most of the hostages in a shootout with the now-dead thugs. Tragically, Col. Netanyahu and three of the hostages were shot and killed during the rescue.

The last victim of the skyjacking was Mrs. Dora Bloch, a British citizen who lived in Tel Aviv and was traveling to her son’s wedding in New York.  While she was a hostage, Mrs. Bloch had been allowed to leave the kidnap scene to go to a hospital.  After the Israeli rescue of the hostages, infuriated Ugandan soldiers apparently took revenge on her.

The Entebbe skyjacking was almost immediately memorialized by the movies Raid on Entebbe (movie at the link), Victory at Entebbe, and Operation Thunderbolt.  A later production was Six Days in June and the book Israel’s Lightning Strike.


* The skyjacking was personally affecting as it happened while I was waiting, with our young son, to join my husband who was in West Germany with the U.S. Army. Military families are often separated, usually because of the scarcity of housing, when the service member is reassigned. The family waits somewhere — either at the place they’re leaving, or perhaps with family — until living quarters become available or until the service member finds a rental home.

The personal part of this event only comes in because the news increased my nervous anticipation about the journey. Even if you were taking a domestic flight, you never knew if you’d make it to your destination, or wind up in Cuba. Between the time of the Entebbe skyjacking and our flight to West Germany, three more planes were skyjacked, to include a TWA flight leaving from New York, six days before our flight from JFK.

  • 25 January 1976:  El Al Boeing 707 (missile attack)
  • 7 April 1976: Philippine Airlines (PAL),BAC One -Eleven
  • 21 May 1976:  Philippine Airlines (PAL),BAC One -Eleven
  • 23 August 1976:  Egypt Air, Boeing 737
  • 5 September 1976:  KLM flight 366
  • 10 September 1976:  TWA flight 355
  • 6 October 1976:  Cubana Airlines flight 45

Although we weren’t hijacked, our journey that September was fraught with tension. TWA’s employees went on strike the night before our scheduled flight and I was on the phone until about one in the morning rescheduling connections. The shuffling of TWA passengers onto other carriers made for crowded and delayed flights and our cat (yes, our cat) and our suitcases missed flight after flight that day, to include the helicopter hop from LaGuardia.

Because of these delays, we missed our flight to Frankfurt and were stranded at JFK.  One of the Army liaisons took pity on us and drove us to Ft. Hamilton to stay in the transient facility.  He kept our cat overnight.  The next morning he drove us back to JFK and we camped out in a hallway, waiting for standby seats to become available.

Eventually, we arrived safely in Frankfurt, just at the moment my husband returned to work after sitting at the airport with no news of us. I had asked someone, anyone, at Pan Am to notify their desk in Frankfurt, but, yeah, that didn’t happen.  After driving two hours to Frankfurt, waiting for six hours, and driving two hours back, my husband had to drive to Frankfurt again.  Let’s just say he wasn’t in a good mood when we met.

In my defense, calling West Germany from a civilian pay phone in New York and connecting to a military phone number wasn’t an easy task. The phone systems were almost incompatible — you had to use human operators — and pay phones took only coins. People answering military phones aren’t allowed to accept the charges on collect calls. I wasn’t traveling with sacks of quarters, and large amounts of change weren’t easy to come by.

Our family was lucky in that in our 30 years of military travel no flight we were on was skyjacked or blown up.  God rest the souls of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing and Korean Air Lines flight 007.  I’m thankful that my worst adventure involved only my mad dashings that day through Chicago’s O’Hare terminal, and our stranding at JFK.

NBC recently cancelled Harry’s Law.  Why did the network do this?  Was it because the show was unpopular?  Did it have no sponsors?  Had its writers run out of steam and couldn’t come up with another reason for Tommy Jefferson to toot his own horn? Could they find no case on which Cassie could practice her passionate reasoning?  Were there no pretty girls for Adam to desire?

No.  NBC cancelled the show because the audience is too old.

Harry’s Law: Stars and NBC Chair on Cancellation

NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said, “It was a difficult decision. Everyone here respects Harry’s Law a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old. It’s hard to monetize that.”

Very old?  Ouch.  Rub that salt in.


Harry’s Law’s old fans have decided that if NBC wants to make them unhappy, the fans might show NBC the depth of their old feelings, all the way down to the old ground.

Harry’s Law protest: Save Our Soles

“Harry’s Law” fans are being asked to send a pair of shoes to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt Thursday to protest his decision last month to cancel the drama.


It may be too late for the protest to convince the people at NBC, the people who ration out programs that keep us in our seats until the commercials drive onto the screen, that old people have money to spend, too, but I don’t think the move endeared the network to the audience of legal-beagle-drama fogeys.

Is it too much to hope that CBS will develop a quality world for Ms. Bates to charm us from?

I was just reading an update from another blog in which the author mentions one of his long-time series characters.  I read the character’s name but what popped into my mind wasn’t a character but the face of a pug.  The character’s name reminded me too much of the so-stupid-it’s-funny “ermahgerd” meme.

“Ermahgerd” (oh my god) recently popped up on the LOLcats site, and then spread.  I don’t think it’s got quite the “legs” of most LOLcat-speak such as “can haz” or “teh internets,” but it made enough of an impression so that when I saw a long word beginning with E and having the same number of syllables as ermahgerd, my brain skipped from book-character to silly-pug-face.  I thought my guilty LOLcat addiction was under control.

I suppose it’s a lesson in being careful what you let into your brain.  Eradicating silly memes is as hard as getting rid of poison ivy.

It’s easier than noveling.

I’m missing Germany again.  Not only did a former neighbor and Facebook friend upload photos of her recent trip to Munich, but I “found” poison ivy in the backyard.  I thought we’d eliminated the plant from the yard last year, but I was wrong.  The poison ivy merely moved from snuggling under the peonies to crouching in the sedum, violets and daylilies under the crabapple.

In our decades in Europe, and while either wandering through the Continental woodlands or Volksmarching, I never once had an allergic reaction to plants.  Not once.  Here in the U.S., it’s a yearly occurrence, despite my vigilance.  Nettles grow in Europe, but they “merely” sting for a while.  They don’t produce this weeks-long weeping rash of hard bumps that, between showers, collect bits of calamine lotion between them because you can’t really scrub the area because it not only itches, it hurts.  Ugh. Ick. Gross.

In looking for any benefit from this yearly happening, I guess it could mean that I shouldn’t weed the parts of the garden with taller plants.  I suppose that could be an up-side to this allergy since no one in the household seems affected but me.  Now to convince the rest of them that I’m “special”  — and get them to care about weeds.

Norway Has Noir; Just Ask Jo Nesbo,  by CHARLES McGRATH,  June 15, 2012

“At first I was pretty sure [detective Harry Hole] didn’t have anything to do with me, but then I realized that wasn’t true. All writers write about themselves — that’s inevitable. You put in your basic values, your views on politics and popular culture, the way you think about other people. It’s really hard to have a main character with whom you don’t share these things. But then there are things we don’t share at all. He has an addictive personality, and I guess I can relate to that, but I’m not an alcoholic.” He smiled. “And for some reason he’s not a big fan of my band.”

One question circulating on an email list is which fictional detectives are the list-members’ favorites.  As a long-time reader of mystery/suspense stories, I do have my preferences, but it surprised me to see so many detectives whose names are new to me.   If I jot them down, I’ll have an entirely new section for my Word.doc reading list.  (I like keeping the list there as I can add things in alphabetical order, something that is difficult to do with a pen & paper list.)

Back to the inciting question for this entry (since the name of the blog game is frequently-added novel content), who are my favorite detectives, limiting them to 10 in number?  I think I have two sets of favorites, one from my childhood and teen years, and one adult group.  I don’t know if that’s ‘cheating’ on limiting the number to 10, but I find it difficult to exclude some favorite characters, and also hard to look at a  list containing both Freddie the Pig and Andy Dalziel, although some people might see a similarity.

Without further nattering and fwiw, here are, in no particular order, my two top-10 lists.

  1. Rupert the Bear (for the preschool set; Rupert was always tracking down some mystery or other)
  2. Freddy the Detective
  3. Nancy Drew
  4. Beverly Gray
  5. Miss Pickerell
  6. Lewis Barnavelt
  7. Matthew Looney
  8. Judge Dee
  9. Gideon of Scotland Yard
  10. James Bond

Edgar-worthy juvenile mysteries are listed here.

My list of detectives from my adult years is:

  1. Anne Beddingfeld (the main character in my favorite Christie story, The Man in the Brown Suit)
  2. Amelia Peabody
  3. Inspector Clouseau (the Peter Sellers Clouseau)
  4. Dalziel and Pascoe (can’t have one without the other)
  5. Morse and Lewis (not cheating very much)
  6. Spencer and Hawk (still not cheating much)
  7. Cordelia Gray
  8. Kurt Wallender
  9. Harry Hole
  10. Recently rediscovered Honey West (if only because she was a pretty pioneering PI)

Ask me next month about my favorite detectives-for-grownups and I’ll probably have a different list.


Update:  Runners-up

From my DVD collection: Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle with his sidekicks, Samantha “Sam” Stewart and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner.

From Mysteristas:

  • Lady Georgiana
  • Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
  • from the comments section: Brother Cadfael

From DorothyL:

  • Perry Mason
  • Adam Dalgliesh
  • Hamish Macbeth
  • John Rebus
  • Christie: Tommy and Tuppence
  • Sayers: Wimsey, but only with Harriet Vane-they complete each other
  • Dorothy Gilman: Mrs. Pollifax
  • Elizabeth Peters: Jacqueline Kirby
  • RALPH McInerny’s Father Dowling is a parish priest
  • Jim Qwilleran.
  • Marcus Didius Falco
  • Napoleon Bonaparte (Upfield)
  • Guido Brunetti
  • Sister Fidelma (Tremayne)
  • Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee
  • Walter Mosley! He’s probably best known for the Easy Rawlins
  • Charlotte Macleod’s Peter Shandy
  • Michael Bond’s M. Pamplemousse
  • Peter Lovesey’s Bertie Prince of Wales

On the Sisters in Crime Guppy email list (Guppy standing for the “Great UnPublished”) the weekly topic question was where you’d choose to be writing.  My reply was that I’d like to be in the Rhön area of the German states of  Hesse, Thuringia and Bavaria doing story research.  The cost to do this being what it is, I’m making do with bratwurst, Google maps and a webcam.

Kreuzberg monastery beer garden at quarter to seven in the morning.

The list of nominees for the 2012 Anthony awards is up.

Now to set aside time for reading the books and stories I haven’t yet spent time with. I need to vote intelligently.

In 1952, my parents rented a television so we could watch the BBC coverage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II from our London-suburb home in North Harrow. Sixty years later, I’m sitting here in my home near Kansas City watching  on a laptop the BBC’s live-streaming of the river pageant portion of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Amazing.

I don’t have any momentous observations, or ‘closing of circles’ comments. I’m merely gaping a bit at the sixty years (!!) and the simultaneity of me watching and blogging.

I’d blog something more, but I keep watching the live-streaming (10am, Central American time, 3 June,  if you’re reading here)

I do miss not being able to go down to Tower Bridge to watch, but I’ll just make do with another cup of tea — English breakfast tea, with milk of course.


Update:  Make that 59 years.  Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne sixty years ago on the death of her father, George VI, but the coronation was held the next year (and that’s when my parents rented the television set).   May you pardon the slightly inaccurate memories of a young child.