Minority views: Good job on the "Dirty Pool" article (Aug. 8, on the financial and construction problems in building a city swimming pool in Bayview-Hunters Point). You exposed and documented what many of us suspected. Of course the political wheeling-dealing of the mayor is business as usual. However, one thing you did that I believed was impossible was to expose someone more outrageous than Willie Brown, and that is City Engineer [Harlan] Kelly.
His racist remark about schedules being set back because they had to hire minorities comes straight from the anti- affirmative action KKK handbook. There are plenty of capable women- and minority-owned firms if he and others would just take the time to find them rather than do the mayor's bidding and give money away blindly (something Mr. Kelly approved of) to cronies.
R. Cragge LoFriere
Who do we search for at Amazon.com?: Great piece, well and fairly written by a fine journalist ("The Making of Stephen Elliott," Bay View, Aug. 8, by Mark Athitakis). I loved it. Steve Elliott is Maxim Gorky, Dostoevski, Irwin Shaw, François Villon, Victor Hugo, and Charles Bukowski all rolled up together. Future ages will marvel that such a man lived in our times.
Neil Elliott [father of Stephen]
We hope things go downhill from here: All of us here at Wild Fro Racing wish to thank you for capturing the essence of the sport ("Darwin Award Qualifying Trials," Night Crawler, Aug. 1, on street-luge racing), from the extreme street events to the 9-year-old on the luge having fun. Generally all that gets printed is the body count. For the sport to grow, it is extremely important to have all sides shown.
If you're talking private college, we might consider a career change: I enjoyed your article on the romance genre ("That Secret Shame," July 25). It's refreshing to see someone willing to examine some of the clichés about the genre that so many people swallow without blinking -- or without reading a romance to see if their preconceptions are true. I did want to point out, however, that you were slightly off in a few of your facts. You reported that "Writing category romance has its humiliating aspects: The advances are minuscule, royalties nil, and the shelf lives of books short -- they are removed after a month or less to make room for the next batch."
You're absolutely right about the abysmal shelf life; books are only available for a month. However, advances aren't as tiny as you were apparently led to believe. The average advance for a new author is only $3,500, true, but the advance increases with every book sold. And they certainly pay royalties -- quite decent royalties, in fact. I support myself and my daughter (who's in college) writing category romance for Silhouette. Print runs and royalties are better than what some midlist authors receive, which is why some of them have started writing for Harlequin/Silhouette. And why others want to.
But that's a small quibble, of interest mainly to those of us who write category romance and hate to see it misrepresented. Overall I appreciated both the tone and the content of your article. Thanks for taking a fresh look at romance fiction.
Attention, patrons, San Francisco will be closing in 10 minutes: If people would rather "preserve" our beautiful city, perhaps they should consider moving to a museum, with its rarefied quietude, because that's exactly what this town's gonna feel like without some dense, high-impact housing development ("Out With the New, In With the Old," Mecklin, July 25, on opposition to high-density housing in the Transbay/Rincon area).
You've done your part by highlight-ing the issue and providing a balanced and entertaining perspective. I hope to see more.