Monday, June 27, 2016


Ray Merritt has enjoyed a successful writing career for over thirty years. His A Thousand Hounds (Taschen) was selected Best Book of the Year, 2000, by New York Magazine. The New York Times called it a “goody pack.” Entertainment Today awarded it “most creative book of the season” and Animal Fair dubbed it “a masterpiece.” Full of Grace (Damiani) was named PDN Magazine’s Best Book of the Year in 2007. Oprah Magazine called it “dazzlingly elegant, elegiac and exhilarating.” Kirkus dubbed it “gripping” and Publishers Weekly “captivating.”

Clamour of Crows, represents Ray’s entry into the world of fiction and similar accolades followed. Kirkus calling it “A tightly plotted debut mystery that mixes foul play, wordplay, and humor that will appeal to mystery buffs who don't require sex and gore—and to those harboring fond memories of reading J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, and Lewis Carroll.” Library Journal hailed it, reporting that “Merritt's fiction debut is a sparkling blend of wit, puzzles, and suspense.” A National Public Radio broadcast said that “As revelations about money laundering, contested wills and all manner of financial crimes and misdemeanors continue to make the news, Clamour of Crows could not be a more timely tale.” And Blackstone Audio produced an unabridged audiobook version.

Ray, his wife, Carol, and their shelter dogs, live in Sag Harbor and New York City. With that, I introduce Ray’s blog
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“The question has been posed:  Why do so many lawyers write fiction?  For some the answer is simple:  Because they can.  Eric Gardner gave us Perry Mason, John Grisham created Jake Brigance, while Scott Turow, Meg Gardiner, Richard North Patterson and Louis Auchincloss all have created riveting stories told with engaging narratives.  Most of these writers were litigators who honed their writing skill by authoring briefs and arguing cases and in doing so they often had to use their imagination to craft the defense of clients or forge the prosecution of defendants.
I envied their opportunity and experience, for corporate lawyers rarely create scintillating prose.  They write contracts, not briefs.  They have no eloquence, no flourish . . . just the facts, so to speak.  No one has ever been enthralled by a merger agreement, an indenture or an acquisition contract.

“So why after many decades of numbing my imagination with turgid dry text would I—a lifelong corporate lawyer—attempt to cross over and write fiction?  The answer lies in the challenge and also in the opportunity to educate, elucidate and entertain.  Fiction writing involves creativity and as such is an art form, permitting one to set the facts and circumstances in such an order that they create a new, albeit imagined, reality.  It is the written embodiment of one’s own imagination.  Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Goethe called it the process of 'becoming.'  For a writer moving from the frozen prose of the law, it is indeed that.  Writing fiction releases your inner Cliffy as you go beyond the simple recitation of facts and reposition them into an alternate reality that informs, educates and entertains—and hopefully enlightens.

“I find writing fiction a challenge.  It tests your mettle as a dreamer.  Perhaps the difference between composing fiction and writing facts is the same as the difference between the photojournalist and the art photographer.  The first is fact-limited and fact-driven; the second has no limits other than the size of the paper.  In a sense, that is what I find in fiction writing—the page is blank.  There are no restrictions.  You are not limited to reality.  You can test your mettle as an artist... and a dreamer.  Chesterton said that fairytales are more than truth, 'not because they tell us dragons exists; but they tell us dragons can be beaten.'  Clamour of Crows is in large part a modern-day fairytale.

“I must confess I’m not adept at public speaking.  I would have made a terrible preacher.  Perhaps that is why I never wanted to be a litigator.  For me, fiction writing is an outlet for creativity—a seductive pulpit.  I find it therapeutic and pleasurable.  The act of creating a story is a special kind of high.  As a storyteller, fiction permits me to tell stories without breaking professional confidences.  It allows me to explore new challenges instead of dwelling on old ones and in the process to raise questions without giving answers.  Put under oath, I would have to confess that I do it because I like it.  Telling a good story puts me in a better place.  For me, fiction is not an escape from reality but a way to revisit it.  I like life’s ambiguities.  I respect man’s imperfection.  In the preamble to Clamour of Crows, I wrote:  'Most men die forgotten.  Heroes and villains live on.  The best and the worst and a few who were both.'  Humanity’s best trait is its imperfection and that is what I like to write about.”

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WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS below. If you wish to get in touch with Ray directly you can reach him at Clamour of Crows is readily available from Amazon and other online retailers as a hardcover or ebook, through your local bookstore, or directly from us at a 50% discount if you mention reading about it on this blog by emailing and placing your order, or by phone, Monday through Friday, between 11AM and 5 PM (EST) at 631-725-1101. 

Anyone else out there who is interested in writing a blog for The Cockeyed Pessimist can also contact me at that same phone number or by sending me an email ( 


Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Now that that the Democratic Party’s Super-delegates, not democratically chosen by voters at all, but consisting of office holders, the majority of  whom have been part of the problem that has failed to produce the real economic and social changes this county needs, I dedicate this final, and very short, follow-up to last week’s blog.

Firstly, Donald Trump is a megalomaniac who should not be elected president and, surely will not be. He is the reason Hillary will surely win the coming presidential election despite being part of the problem herself.

Secondly, it is heartening to know that a woman can be elected president—though I would have picked a more trustworthy woman.

Jill Stein
And lastly, there are four parties that are likely to be on the ballots in every state of the Union. The Libertarian Party might have been a good protest vote, but Jill Stein, running for president on the Green Party line is a candidate I can wholeheartedly vote for as their concerns mirror my own. I shall pull their lever this November down the line; for all those seeking seats in Congress and in local elections as well.  

One responder to last week’s blog talked about what we can do to bring about a future of peace here at home or in the rest of the world. Not likely to happen, I replied. Why? Because conflict and differences of opinion and the accumulation of wealth at the expense of others seems to be the  opposite of the "Golden Rule," which is a fairy tale, but the "The Glutton Rule,” throughout  the world is, by and large, a more accurate description of how the vast majority of societies work.

Friday, June 3, 2016


As someone who has supported concepts that are standard in Canada, Cuba, England and most all the democracies in Western Europe, this year’s presidential politics is mind-boggling. 

Free health care is available in all these countries. Their life expectancy is higher than ours. Higher education is available for free to all if they qualify academically, and the gap between income levels, for the richest and the poorest are far less significant than it is in America, and these are issues that are important to me.

At the same time the leading presidential contenders in both parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, do not propose any of these changes at all. Theirs is a race between two candidates whose trustworthiness levels, according to all polls, is far less than 50% among all eligible voters. 

Both candidates can fire away at each other, making it seem as if this is the most important election in the history of our nation. If you are fed up with conventional politics and like to listen to an egotist with no governmental experience, who won’t release his tax returns, Trump, is surely your man, even if he changes his opinions constantly so one doesn’t know what he really stands for, other than being an “outsider.”

On the other hand if you want to vote for an “insider,” a canny politician, who also does not support these issues that I value, who is a hawk, and refuses to share what she said when giving a speech to Goldman Sachs that netted her a quarter of a million dollars as a speaking fee from this Wall Street investment firm, who supports fracking, has continuously supported U.S. military intervention throughout the world, and who plays racial politics, courting Latinos and African-American voters (usually older) instead of economic issues, then Hillary is your woman.

Each, of course, contends that the other would radically change the course of America. Somehow I find I have difficulty believing this. Do any of you share this feeling? 

While Bernie Sanders articulates these programs, I vote not for the man, but for his ideas that mirror mine. Yet the vast majority of the democratic Super-delegates, establishment politicians all, who have not been elected by voters but have, by and large, allowed our country to deteriorate, will cast the deciding votes that will put Hillary (and Bill, her husband)  over the top at the Democratic Convention. All the more surprising because all polls show that Sanders has a much bigger lead over Trump than does Mrs. Clinton.

Being born in 1934, I do know that in this election I don’t want to support the lesser of two evils. As I’ve said before, if one had to choose between Hitler and Mussolini, who would you take before the Second World War began? (I asked this in an earlier blog and most people preferred Mussolini for whatever that’s worth). But I’m not playing that game again.

This past weekend I saw an old friend, Karl Grossman, a Polk Award winning investigative reporter at a large gathering here in Sag Harbor at the home of David Alpern and his wife Sylvia. We published two of Karl’s books that had a major impact: Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to know About Nuclear Power in 1981 and The Poison Conspiracy in 1982, which were both acclaimed, and led to his becoming a widely booked lecturer around this country and abroad. Both of us, as political junkies, discussed  these very same issues while nourishing ourselves with good food and drink, and it turned out that Karl and I have decided to vote, as a protest, for the Libertarian party candidate, because of the absence of trust we had for the two major party choices.

I welcome your responses.