Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Impending Book about Rick Perry

Blogging will be light for the next two weeks. I have a self-imposed deadline of completing a Kindle book by the end of the month. Not only am I willing to share the proposed title with you, I'm going to give you an opportunity to chime in with improvements.

I guess I should begin by describing the nature of the book. I intend to write seven chapters. Chapter 1 will be an introduction to Rick Perry and his stewardship of the death penalty in Texas. The next six (possibly seven) chapters will each deal with a specific case of someone who was certainly / probably / possibly innocent, but who was nonetheless executed (or came within a day of being executed) while Rick Perry did nothing.

I guess I should then have a thought provoking closing chapter as well.

The Skeptical Spouse and I have been wrestling with a title. For a while now, the working title has been:

America's Executioner

She thought of it, and I liked it, and that's what I've been assuming as the title for a month now. We just finished speaking of the subject again. I think Rick Perry's name needs to be in the title, so I proposed:

Rick Perry: America's Executioner
America's Executioner: Rick Perry.

She grimmaced.

One of us (it's frightening that I already can't remember which one of us) suggested we put his name in the subtitle. A bunch of poorly formulated ideas came forth, such as

America's Executioner
Six Cases of Wrongful Execution under Rick Perry's Watch

She cringed.

Neither of us could come up with anything we liked. Suddenly she suggested, as a subtitle

Rick Perry's Grave Mistakes

I don't think she consciously realized the brilliance of using the adjective "grave." Now I really, really like the sub-title, and I really, really like the title, but I don't think they work together as Title / Subtitle. So let's give it a try.

America's Executioner
Rick Perry's Grave Mistakes

See what I mean? What we have here is two good titles and no good sub-title. The title should catch your eye and the sub-title should explain what's in the book. We have two eye-catchers and no explainer.

So now I wonder about this:

Rick Perry's Grave Mistakes
Six Cases of Innocents Executed

No grimace. No cringe. No Skeptical Spouse. She left the room a bit ago. Still, I think it's the best so far. The problem is I'm not writing of six (possibly seven) executions. I'm writing of four (possibly five) executions and two people who came within one day of being executed.

But I'm getting closer, no particular thanks to me. So I now solicit input from you, my clever and insightful readership. Which of the options seem to work? How might they be improved? Should we start over?

Do you have a brilliant idea for a book title, but no book to use it on? If you do, I have a book without a title.

I understand this is how Reese's Peanut Butter Cups got started.


The Airborne Juror said...

Grave Mistakes
A (blah blah blah) of Rick Perry, America's Executioner.

Greetings from Abu Dhabi

Anonymous said...

How about:

Rick Perry's Grave Mistakes
Six Cases of Innocence Denied


Rick Perry: The Grave Governor
Six Cases of Innocence Denied


David Arbitman said...

I like America's Executioner. It is concise, to the point and entirely descriptive of how, I think, he sees himself in regard to the death penalty and the American Justice System in general. Is putting his name in the title really necessary?

alli said...

I also like America's Executioner. I think it really catches people's attention. How about:

America's Executioner
Six cases of Innocence Denied in Texas

tsj said...

How about:

America's Executioner
A Review of Six Rick Perry Cases

The Skeptical Spouse said...

A) I did not grimace (one "m", please)
B) I like alli's suggestion, and David has a point
C) I did so realize what I was saying with "grave mistakes" Neener, neener
D) "A review of Six Rick Perry Cases" makes me ask, "cases of what? Scabies?"
E) Get back to work! ;)

Anonymous said...

Since alli added Texas, how about this:

The Texas Terminator

Six Cases of Innocence Denied


Anonymous said...

As an aspiring writer, and a book reviewer, my first comment on "Grave Mistakes" would be, "The author is being cute in a book about executions?". Save cuteness for your intro or acknowledgements.

I prefer America's Executioner without reference to RP in the title, except the grammatically inclined would argue that it is vague (i.e. he belongs to America, or is he putting America on death row?).

On a legal footing, it is arguable that he is not the executioner -- he did not decide the cases nor did he pass the original sentence. Failing to intervene or pardon doesn't make him the executioner, more criminally negligent perhaps?

Finally, and this is more to the heart of your storyline in the cases, is it an indictment (no pun intended) of the death penalty or is it an indictment of the justice system or an indictment of Perry's failure to act?

If the death penalty is focus, then I think you're in the realm of using execution(er) in the title.

If it's the system or Perry himself, I think a better title is something like "Ignorance is no Defence" (arguing that he should have known they weren't guilty) or "Appeal Denied - Rick Perry's Failure to Act" or some riff on his interview question about the Texas process being thoughtful -- "Think Again -- Rick Perry's Less than Thoughtful Justice System"? Or even something along the lines of "wilfully blind"? Not as punchy, I know.

Just some random incoherent thoughts.

tsj said...

I appreciate the random, not so incoherent thoughts.

I had already quietly rejected the "Grave Mistakes" option, for the same reason you did: too close to a pun.

I now wrestle with your input that "America's Executioner" is not strictly correct. I wrestle with that at the same time I wrestle with the thought that the title should have some punch, as you acknowledge.

I'm converging on Alli's suggestion.

America's Executioner
Six Cases of Innocence Denied in Texas

The subtitle is just a bit long. It does leave out Perry's name (as David suggested), and that leaves the title punchy but vague. Rick Perry is no longer directly identified as the executioner.

The good news is, I guess, that I'm at the point in my (still early) writing career where I nearly finish the book before I fret over the title. Budding writers frequently start with the title (and even the dedication) before proving to themselves they can actually complete a book.

My next goal in my (still early) writing career is to make a profit so that I can continue doing this work.

My ultimate goals are to reduce the number of wrongful convictions and to help at least a few walk free.

Unknown said...

Short-time reader, first-time poster.

I think that the value of putting Rick Perry in the title of the book is in direct proportion to how much responsibility the book's argument places at his feet. Is the book focusing on RP's review of these cases?

Like another poster said, while RP is the last link in the chain from initial arrest to final administration of pancurium bromide, and one should not neglect to assign him proportionally greater responsibility, there are a whole series of links closer to the beginning of the process (police fabrication of evidence, DA deciding to indict because someone has to pay, unskeptical jurors...) that are more critical.

By the time a case for clemency crosses the governor's desk, it assumes somewhat of a political nature. It is because every barrier between an innocent prisoner and the death chamber has now been surmounted, bar one, and so I would imagine that the pressure on the governor to allow the execution to proceed would be enormous.

Not to say that the governor is blameless or merely negligent...

Unknown said...

And if your argument is that he bears a special responsibility and the book focuses on that, perhaps a title like:

Greasing the Machinery of Death
Rick Perry's Failure to Protect the Innocent

tsj said...

I intentionally selected executions that took place (or nearly took place) under Rick Perry's administration. I do fault him for declining to intervene in any fashion. The U.S. Supreme Court has left the final actual innocence determination to the Governors. Also, the governor of each state is the chief executive. While some states, such as Texas, may deprive / relieve the governor of the final say, Perry had affirmative actions open to him to prevent or delay the executions. He chose to stand mute.

We, the Skeptical Spouse and I, like your suggested title / subtitle. It's completely different than the others. It made us each smile. I think it's a viable candidate.

Anonymous said...

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt:
The failure of Executive Clemency in Texas

The Last Gatekeeper:
Rick Perry and the failure of executive clemency in Texas

subtitle2:Govenor Rick Perry and the death penalty

Executing Innocents:
The failure of executive clemency in Texas

The Chronic Speeder said...

Rick Perry' Texas

"Wanted, Dead or Alive, preferably Dead!"

alli said...

Another thought:

Too fast to execute:
Rick Perry's indifference to innocence

Anonymous said...

Cases for clemency do not land on the governor's desk unless the board of parole and pardons votes to send it to him. I can think of only two cases that were sent to Perry: One he reduced the sentence to life the other he did not (and rightfully so).

Perry has the power to grant a one time only 30 day stay. However, there has to be a legitimate reason to do so.

tsj said...

Thanks for the caution. I'm aware of the arrangement in Texas. I'll explain in the first chapter what Rick Perry can and cannot do as Governor. He can do more than your summary suggests.

Anonymous said...

No, he can't.

Alli said...

That wasn't my summary. I believe that was by Anonymous. I was just suggesting another title.

Anonymous said...

"Six innocent, Six Executed"
The failings of Rick Perry


Anonymous said...

After reading some of the comments here, I am not sure if Rick Perry should even be in the title. It appears that the Texas Pardon Board decides what gets passed on to the Governor.

How about making the Texas death penalty review system as the subject?

Texas: Innocence Denied
The Flawed Execution Process


Anonymous said...

How about capitalizing the i in Rick?
RIck Perry?

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