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Books, authors and all things bookish
Michael Connelly sends Harry Bosch into 'The Burning Room'

Twenty-two years ago, Michael Connelly introduced the world to Harry Bosch, a determined cop with a haunted past and a heart of gold. Bosch was an old soul at the start of "Black Echo," a homicide detective in his early 40s with an infamous, colorful career and two tours in Vietnam to boot. In "The Burning Room," Bosch is in his mid-60s, reluctantly nearing the end of his career after 18 novels' worth of action and mystery. He's the oldest detective in the Open-Unsolved Unit, entering his final year on his Deferred Retirement Option Plan. "To him, every day he had left on the job was golden."

As part of a new departmental initiative, Bosch is paired with the youngest officer in his unit, a 28-year-old "slick sleeve" and rising star named Lucia Soto. The two form an amiable, productive partnership — not only is Soto smart, she's as hardworking and dogged as Bosch, driven in part by a formative tragedy in her childhood.

The novel centers on two cold cases with real reverberations in the...

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A gripping 'One Million Steps' examines Marines in Afghanistan

In the preface to "One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War," Bing West announces that "this is my sixth and final book about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." If so, West has clearly left the best for last: a gripping, boot-level account of Marines in Afghanistan during the bloody struggle with Taliban fighters for control of an obscure village called Sangin.

When the longest war in U.S. history is finished (or at least U.S. involvement in it), "One Million Steps" may well stand as a classic account of what it was like to be a grunt in that war, assigned each day to find the elusive enemy and kill him.

West knows the Marine Corps. A Marine officer in Vietnam, he was an assistant secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration. His style is narrative, almost novelistic, capturing the personalities of individual Marines and their roles in the platoon. His reporting comes from walking with the Marines during perilous patrols in an area infested with buried bombs and "murder...

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J.K. Rowling explains Dolores Umbridge in new post on Pottermore

For a Halloween gift, J.K. Rowling has explained the origins of her frightening witch, Dolores Umbridge.

In a long post on Pottermore, the official online community for Harry Potter fans, Rowling explains that Umbridge was based on a teacher of her own, "whom I disliked intensely on sight."

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For the record

Oct. 31, 8:54 a.m.: An earlier version of this post quoted J.K. Rowling as saying Dolores Umbridge was a character "whom I liked intensely on sight." The correct quote is "whom I disliked intensely on sight."

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Rowling writes about the connection she'd observed in the real world between cute and cold. "I have noticed more than once in life that a taste for the ineffably twee can go hand-in-hand with a distinctly uncharitable outlook on the world," she writes.

This is true for Umbridge, who dresses in pink but can be quite cruel. During "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," she forces him to carve "I will not tell lies" into the back of his hand, leaving...

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George Clinton's funk chronicle, 'Brothas Be, Yo Like George'

George Clinton's memoir features aliens, spaceships, George W. Bush, grown men wearing diapers and platform shoes, and a wealth of stories about some of the seminal music Clinton and his collaborators in the Parliament-Funkadelic collective have made during the past 30 years. It also features thieving lawyers, shifty managers and crack cocaine. In short, this entertaining book is about the party, then the come-down.

Taking his cue from James Brown's rhythmic innovations but also Jimi Hendrix and British bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin, Clinton forged an entirely new, ecumenical funk. Screaming guitars, intricate horn arrangements, call-and-response vocals and Clinton's savagely witty wordplay all summoned up a utopian Chocolate City, where race is erased, and all are united under the "the one," the emphatic pulse of funk.

"We were too white for black folks and too black for white folks," Clinton writes. "And that's exactly how we wanted it."

It was among the most innovative music of...

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'Elsa Schiaparelli': Fashion designer too elusive for words

Among the many remarkable aspects of designer Elsa Schiaparelli's remarkable life — she became a world-famous couturier without knowing how to sew, collaborated on sartorial projects with Surrealists like Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau, raised her daughter alone at a time when this was far from the norm — the most remarkable may be that, except to fashion insiders, she is largely unknown.

Schiaparelli was born in Rome in 1890 into a conservative, intellectual, well-to-do Italian family. She shot to fame with a collection of sweaters in 1927 and remained ascendant until the Second World War, occupying a position as the Thomas Edison of the fashion world. She originated numerous ideas that were astonishingly novel at the time: Schiaparelli was the first to design a backless swimsuit with its own built-bra, pair drafty evening gowns with matching formal jackets and straddle the dressy-casual divide with knitwear and mix-and-match separates. She introduced split skirts, or "bloomers," as...

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Joyce Carol Oates sets Twitter ablaze with street harassment tweets

Joyce Carol Oates, bestselling novelist, massively prolific writer and Princeton professor, has an official Twitter account with more than 100,000 followers. On Thursday, she shared with them her thoughts on street harassment, part of a conversation started by a viral video.

In 10 hours of walking the streets of New York, a woman got more than 100 catcalls; the experience was edited down to a two-minute video. Noting that she is wearing a modest outfit of jeans and a crew-neck T-shirt (to counter the argument that women are harassed on the street because they are dressed provocatively), the video shows the woman walking, wearing headphones and not engaging with the men who approach her. Some are complimentary from a distance; others, when they get no response, amp up their overtures. Twice they fall in step next to her.

The video has been criticized for what appear to be two underlying issues: almost all the men doing the catcalling appear to be working class and African American or...

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