Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Valentine's Day Apology


I know, Valentine's Day was two days ago, but instead of dedicating myself at that time to those I love, I was caught up refereeing a heated exchange on my Facebook page over a WWII era poster I innocently put up along with the comment: "This WWII poster about Greece could just as well be speaking to us today."

I thought the poster a great example of period art, offering a consoling message to greatly troubled Greece, but it set off a vigorous political debate--largely erudite and civil--over who's responsible for what Greece faces at this time and what might be done.

As interesting as those comments were, they didn't represent the sort of cozy Valentine's Day message I was aiming for.  So, as my penance to those I love who felt I let them down on the big day, here's a post I did several years back on the history of Valentine's Day.

For those of you now screaming at me to show you the poster that stimulated all this, you've not been forgotten.  It's at the foot of this post...just beyond the chocolates, flowers, and my upcoming events schedule. But first, a bit of history.

Perhaps the most famous Valentine’s Day ever was February 14, 1929.  That’s when members of Al Capone’s South Side Gang—some dressed as cops—lined up seven men affiliated with Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang inside a garage and shot them dead as part of a war for control of organized crime in Prohibition-era Chicago. 

But this piece is about hearts and flowers.  No, ye cynics, not bullets through the heart and flowers for a funeral, but those bouquets you give to your beloved on the 14th of February—or risk consequences unmentionable in civilized society.

Yes, chocolates (a rumored aphrodisiac) and cards (did you know the first card was written in the form of a poem from a royal prisoner in the Tower of London to his wife?—even he knew forgetting was not an option) are also big Valentine’s Day favorites, too, but this is about flowers.

Charles, Duke of Orleans and first Valentine's Day card sender

But first a bit of history on how lovers became so obsessed with VD—hmm, any wonder why that acronym never caught on?

One legend says it began during a time of religious persecution in third century Rome, when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for soldier-age young men.  Single men fought better, he thought. [Ed. Note: With great will power I resisted inserting a joke here.] 

A young priest thought that unfair, and kept performing marriages in secret.  When Claudius discovered the priest’s violation of his edict, the Emperor sentenced him to death.  While in prison, the priest befriended and healed his jailer’s blind daughter, and before being put to death—on February 14, 270—sent a letter to her signing it “From Your Valentine.”

Yep, Valentine was his name, and the legend goes on to say that in 496, after Valentine had been sainted, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as a day to honor his memory as the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people.

That’s disputed though, for some claim the date corresponds to the Roman fertility celebration of Lupercalia held between February 13th and 15th, and others claim it relates more to the period on the ancient Athenian calendar dedicated to the marriage of Zeus and Hera.   You knew I’d work the Greeks in here somewhere.

Lupercalia by Beccafumi

But it’s undisputed that the romantic love connotation to Valentine’s Day began in the 14th Century with this simple line by one rather influential writer:

Translation available via Glasgow

Still, it wasn’t until the early 1700s that flowers became a tradition on Valentine’s Day. That’s generally attributed to Charles II of Sweden’s introduction to Europe of the Persian custom of the “language of flowers.”  Each flower had its own meaning, a sort of secret code between the sender and recipient.

And with the rose symbolizing passion and love, it’s no wonder roses are the number one best seller every Valentine’s Day (257 million in the US in 2014).  But there are other flowers finding their way to Valentines, and for those of you wondering just what your beloved may have meant by those flowers that arrived at your doorstep today, here’s a list of meanings.

Just don’t shoot the messenger.

By the way, Valentine’s Day isn’t a big deal in Greece.  No reason to be, Greece gave Eros to the world.  Now it’s only looking to get some love back in return.

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day, Barbara, Karen, Jennifer, Gavi, and Rachel. Okay, Jon, Terry, and Azi, too. And of course to….


My Upcoming Events

March 2, 4:00 PM
Tucson, AZ
TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS – Student Union, Tucson Room
Panelist “Masters of the Police Procedural,” with Tim Johnston and Peter Leonard, moderated by Anne Segal.

March 3, 10:00 AM
Tucson, AZ
TUCSON FESTIVAL OF BOOKS – Integrated Learning Center, Room 120
Panelist “CSI Publishers Row,” with Michael McGarrity and Martin Walker, moderated by Cara Black.

March 3, 1:00 PM
Tucson, AZ
Moderating “A Legal Thriller Conversation” with Phillip Margolin and Harriet Tyce

March 3, 2:15 PM
Tucson, AZ
Author Signing at CLUES UNLIMITED exhibition venue

March 29, 4:00 PM
Vancouver BC, Canada
LEFT COAST CRIME –Hyatt Regency Vancouver
Moderating “International Settings” with Alice K. Boatwright, G.M. Malliet, Sujata Massey, and S.J. Rozan

THE MYKONOS MOB book tour begins:

April 2, 7:00 PM
Seattle, WA
THIRD PLACE BOOKS (Lake Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

April 6, 3:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
BOOK PASSAGE (Ferry Building-Embarcadero)
Author Speaking and Signing

April 7, 3:00 PM
Orange, CA
BOOK CARNIVAL              
Author Speaking and Signing

April 10, 7 PM
Pasadena, CA
VROMAN’S (East Colorado)
Author Speaking and Signing

April 12, 7 PM
Dallas, TX
Interabang (Preston Oaks)
Author Speaking and Signing

April 16, 7:00 PM
Scottsdale, AZ
Author Speaking and Signing

April 24, 6:30 PM
Houston, TX
Author Speaking and Signing

April 26, 7:00 PM
Denver, CO
Author Speaking and Signing

April 29, 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh, PA
Author Speaking and Signing

May 1, 6:30 PM
New York, NY
Author Speaking and Signing

May 2, 7:00 PM
Naperville, IL
Author Speaking and Signing

May 3, 7:00 PM
Chicago, IL (Forest Park)
Author Speaking and Signing

May 4, 2 PM
Milwaukee, WI
Author Speaking and Signing

May 9, 5:00 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Nobody Would Believe it if You Wrote it: Fake News, Post-Truth and Changing Words,” with Fiona Erskine, William Shaw, Gilly Macmillan, moderated by Paul E. Hardisty

May 10, 5:10 PM
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panelist on “Sunshine Noir,” with Paul Hardisty,  Barbara Nadel, Robert Wilson, moderated by Michael Stanley

October 31-November 3
BOUCHERCON 2019---Hyatt Regency Dallas
Panel Schedule Yet to be Announced


  1. I think you need to add Kardamyli, Stoupa or Ag. Nik to your book tour schedule. . .

  2. Good grief! THAT caused an internet storm? I think people should take a hard look around...

    Loved the Valentine's day post, though!

  3. Believe it or not, Michael, the storm continues! Imagine what would have happened had I put up a poster of POTUS. On second thought, let's not.

  4. Why did that poster cause an Internet storm? It's art, not a slogan, a party or a revolt.