In Beijing earlier this month, I went into a shop quietly selling bootleg DVDs and complimented myself on not buying any. But then I saw one I really wanted.
This temptation came to mind as I read a letter from one reader who stated that I haven't gabbed in my columns about any of the 17 non-fiction books I've written. He wrote, "I would encourage you to reconsider your policy regarding publicizing your own stuff. As a journalist, you owe it to your readers to keep them informed of timely, relevant books, even if they happen to be written by you."
Hmm. Here's a letter from another reader: "In your recent column on compassionate conservatism, you never mention your book on the subject. I completely understand and respect your aversion to self-promotion, but by the same token I'd hate to see anyone miss out."
I quote the testimony of these two witnesses in a very self-interested way. I've prided myself on a lack of pridefulness regarding lots of my books, but now I've written an action novel with a bit of romance that I think lots of folks will enjoy, and I'm worried that few people will read it. So, OK, you've pulled it out of me, I can't resist any longer, the novel's name is "Scimitar's Edge."
Oh, I'm so embarrassed. (But I want you to read it.) How can I disguise this self-promotion and make it seem altruistic? I could recommend some fine books on practical applications of theology that I've just read: Miroslav Volf's "Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace," Stephen J. Nichols's "Heaven on Earth," and Mike Bechtle's "Evangelism for the Rest of Us" (which should be called "Evangelism for Introverts").
That's it -- if I praise other books, it won't seem like I'm just promoting my own. So here are four excellent books with subtitles so descriptive that I need say nothing more about them: Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer's "AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How it Hurts our Country," Joshua London's "Victory in Tripoli: How America's War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation," Phillip Jenkins's "Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America," and Ramesh Ponnuru's "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life."
How else can I cover up? Ah, Melanie Phillips's new book, "Londonistan," warns that appeasers of Islam are paving the way for an eventual Cairo-on-the-Thames. And that theme inevitably gets me thinking about the war on terrorism that has grabbed American attention over the past five years and is likely to seize it for at least the next 25.
It seems my duty to note that novelists as well as journalists need to pay attention to this war and to do so in a way that shows the need for individuals and not just nations to make commitments. I'd like to see a thrilling, romantic realist tale in which civilians refuse to hide -- for example, think of a plot in which four Americans go on what they think will be a carefree trip through Turkey, only to be kidnapped by a terrorist band intent on beheading one, enslaving a second, and letting a third go free to carry the news about the fourth: ransom or death! How do the Americans fight back?
The novel could be fun to write and fun to read one with suspense and the possibility of cheering at the end. What, you say that it's already written? It's called "Scimitar's Edge"? A TownHall.com reviewer this month called it "the most informative and educational novel ever read by this reader"? Who wrote such a book? No one I've ever heard of.