I expect to spend New Year’s Eve at home, either reading or watching TV. New Year’s Day … I’ll probably do more of the same. Or drop by the office to get a jump on things. I don’t like parties, I hate going out, I detest crowds and noise—and I don’t drink. All in all, I’m a crashing bore and I’ve learned to accept that about myself.

As for my reading plans, I’m torn between an old Agatha Christie novel, an old Mickey Spillane novel, a new book by a living writer or “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.

The police will be holding DUI checkpoints tonight, Dec. 28, and tomorrow, Dec. 29. Please try to avoid them. More importantly, have a fun and safe weekend. I don’t want to start 2013 writing about an arrest or an injury or a death. I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to be positive and that sort of thing would really not help.

By the way, OCTA will be offering free bus rides after 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. A small service from the county to keep us all safe at the start of the new year.

Happy New Year’s, Seal Beach. Let’s hope the 13th year of the century is a lucky one.

I’m offer the following last-minute gift suggestions for mystery fans because I have some small knowledge of the subject of detective fiction. I started reading and collecting detective stories when I was 14. (My life plan was to be the world’s greatest mystery writer.)

A certified collectibles appraiser, I used to lecture annual at the (now defunct) Collector’s Conference on the history of detective fiction as a literary form and collecting obsession. Twentieth century detective fiction is my specialty and every suggestion below comes from that epoch.

Warning: your favorite mystery fan may have actually read some of these stories. Some of these stories are out of print, but should be available at online used bookstores or through interlibrary loan.

“Last Seen Wearing” by Hillary Waugh—A young woman vanishes from a small town college. The police force is so small, the detective bureau consists of one man. A perfect snap shot of New England in the 1950s, this classic police procedural is consistently ranked among the 100 best crime novels of the 20th Century. Many crime novels claim to portray police work realistically. Frankly, this is the only police procedural I would dare recommend to a law enforcement officer.

“Eight Million Ways to Die” by Lawrence Block—Matt Scudder used to be a policeman. Now he’s battling alcoholism and hunting a serial killer.

“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie—Ten people who allegedly got away with murder are invited to an island. One by one, they die. Who is the killer?

“Dance Hall of the Dead” by Tony Hillerman—Two 14-year-old Native American boys, one a Navajo, disappear on the big Four Corners Reservation in the Southwest. The Navajo boy went looking for God in a part of the reservation populated by anthropologists, drug smugglers, antiquity thieves and DEA agents. Lt. Joe Leaphorn, of the Navajo Tribal Police, goes looking for the missing Navajo boy—and finds murder, blasphemy and an ambitious college professor.

“Friday the Rabbi Slept Late” by Harry Kemmelman— David Small, a rabbi in a small town, has a few problems. His contract is up for renewal. Some members of the temple board of directors don’t like him. And he has no alibi for the murder of a young woman whose corpse found in the temple parking lot. The only person in town who seems to genuinely respect Rabbi Small is the Catholic police chief who considers him a prime suspect.

“The Burglar in The Closet” by Lawrence Block—Bernie, the best burglar in Manhattan, can pick almost any lock. Alas, that talent does not prevent him from accidentally locking himself in a bedroom closet in an apartment he is burgling. Then the tenant arrives. Bernie waits for her to leave or go to bed. Unfortunately, she’s murdered by another visitor. Just as Bernie gets out of the closet, the police pound on the apartment door. A comic whodunit—one of the most difficult to write.

“The Caves of Steel” by Isaac Asimov—A human police detective is forced to work with a robot police detective who replaced a fellow human investigator. Today, science fiction and fantasy mysteries are common, but this book challenged the assumptions of two genres.

“The Chinese Bell Murders” by Robert van Gulik—In 7th century China, there were no police detectives or lawyers.
There was only a judge and he could only pronounce sentence if the accused confessed. In theory, Judge Dee could use torture to extract confessions—but if the accused died without confessing, Judge Dee could be prosecuted for murder. Judge Dee, in his first adventure, tackles three cases at once and tries to stay on the safe side of both the law and imperial politics.

Rest in peace, Millicent.

I wrote those words in a February 2010 sunnews.org blog, following the news that Seal Beach resident Millicent Wilborn, 23 months, had apparently been murdered by her own mother.

On Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Linda Wilborn was sentenced to 25 to life for the crime, just 10 days shy of the third anniversary of Millicent’s murder.

It is a kind of justice, inadequate justice, for Millicent. Her three siblings survived and so far as I know, her mother won’t have access to them again during their childhoods. Not good enough, but the best that our existing laws will allow.

Millcent’s father got a 90-day sentence from the US Army for failing to protect his children, particularly Millicent. He was also demoted and his military career is essentially ruined. Not good enough, but the best the Uniform Code of Military Justice will apparently allow. (Me, I would’ve called for the firing squad, but I’ve never been in the service so perhaps I’m out of line for thinking so.)

Millicent’s surviving family is safe from their mom. I’ve no idea if they were or will be returned to the custody of their father.

As I said in 2010, Millicent will never get to play in our parks or on our beach. She and Seal Beach were both cheated. Nothing can change that.

There was no candlelight vigil for Millicent Wilborn. Nothing can change that.

The City Council never dedicated a meeting in Millicent’s memory, much less observed a moment of silence for her.

There will be no memorial park built in Millicent Wilborn’s memory. It’s not even up for discussion.

Soon, Millicent will be forgotten by all but those few who had the privilege of knowing that small life lost so sickeningly soon in a small town. (I never heard of her before so died, so I’m as guilty as everyone else on this score.) It seems to me Seal Beach is better than that, or ought to be, but I haven’t the power to change that.

I hope Linda Wilborn’s parole board remembers Millicent when Linda Wilborn asks for early release from prison 25 years from now. I’m sure the Orange County District Attorney, whoever that will be 25 years from now, will remind them. Perhaps the parole board will listen to the prosecutor’s office. Perhaps the board will listen to the mother who murdered her child. Only the parole board will have the power to make that choice.

Rest in peace, Millicent. Your mother’s prison sentence is a lousy Christmas present to offer a little girl who will never celebrate her second birthday, but it was the best the people of Orange County and the state of California could do.