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Bekasi, Saco-Indonesia.com - Segmen yang selama ini diam, terletak 37 km di selatan Kroya, Jawa Tengah, pada sabtu (25/1/2014) bersuara. Gejolak segmen itu menimbulkan gempa yang mengguncang wilayah hampir seluruh Jawa dengan goncangan terkuat di Kebumen.

Menurut informasi dari United States Geological Survey (USGS), gempa bermagnitud 6,1, terjadi pada pukul 12.14 WIB, pada kedalaman 89,1 km. Gempa tidak menimbulkan tsunami tapi disusul oleh 6 gempa susulan.

Terkait gempa tersebut, pakar tektonik dari Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), Irwan Meilano, sempat mengungkapkan adanya potensi gempa Kebumen untuk tidak hanya mengakibatkan gempa susulan, tetapi juga gempa yang terpicu (triggerred earthquake).

Irwan mengatakan, gempa yang terpicu oleh gempa Kebumen itu "bisa memiliki magnitud yang lebih besar dari gempa sebelumnya." (Baca artikel "Waspada, Gempa Kebumen Bisa Memicu Gempa Lebih Besar").

Peringatan ini mendapatkan respon beragam dalam kotak komentar di Kompas.com maupun media sosial Twitter, salah satunya adalah ketakutan dan tuduhan bahwa informasi tentang potensi gempa yang terpicu adalah upaya menakut-nakuti masyarakat.

"Jangan nakut-nakuti bos!" demikian komentar salah satu pembaca Kompas.com dengan akun bernama Juragan Minyak - kecewa Gubernur DKI abaikan sumber polusi bising di ibu kota, pada Sabtu pukul 20.19 WIB.

Sementara, di Twitter, pengguna bernama Dariel Siregar mengatakan, "Kepo!! Berita buat masyarakat resah aje." Anggi Anggarini punya kicauan hampir sama. "Jangan nakut2in donk :'(," katanya.

Haruskah Panik dan Takut?

Menanggapi komentar pembaca, Irwan memahami bahwa informasi potensi gempa memang bisa membuat publik panik. Tak sepenuhnya salah, sebab Indonesia memang memiliki historis gempa mematikan, seperti gempa Aceh tahun 2004 dan gempa Yogyakarta tahun 2006.

Namun, ia menegaskan bahwa tujuan pemberian informasi bukanlah untuk membuat panik. "Informasi potensi bencana memang harus diberikan untuk meningkatkan kewaspadaan kita," kata Irwan saat dihubungi Kompas.com, Minggu (26/1/2014).

Irwan mengungkapkan, seringkali terjadi, Indonesia menganggap rendah potensi bencana. Informasi yang diberikan kepada masyarakat tidak sesuai dengan potensi yang sebenarnya. "Agar masyarakat tenang," tuturnya.

Menurutnya, bencana-bencana yang merenggut banyak nyawa dan membuat negara merugi sebenarnya adalah akumulasi dari ketidakpedulian kita pada potensi bencana. "Kalau kita meng-underestimate potensi gempa, ini juga salah satu bentuk ignorance," ungkapnya.

Informasi potensi gempa yang sebenarnya memang bisa membuat panik dan takut. Namun, bagaimanapun tetap perlu diberikan dengan cara komunikasi yang pas sehingga tumbuh kesiapsiagaan menghadapi bencana serta perubahan sikap.

Irwan menuturkan, sejarah memang mengharuskan warga yang hidup di selatan Jawa untuk mewaspadai gempa. Aktivitas lempeng lautan terbukti telah memicu gempa dan tsunami di Banyuwangi pada tahun 1994 dan gempa dan tsunami Pangandaran tahun 2006.

Mengapa tak detail?

Akun Andri Jalu menulis dalam kotak komentar di Kompas.com, "Jelaskan dengan lebih detil tentang selang waktu gempa yang terpicu, buat orang awam yg bukan ahli, jadi tidak menimbulkan ketakutan kalo ada yg membaca artikel ini."

Mungkin memang sebuah keharusan bila pemberitahuan ancaman disertai dengan detail selang waktu gempa yang terpicu akan terjadi, wilayah mana yang kemungkinan mengalami, dan berapa besarnya. Sayangnya, detail tersebut sulit didapatkan.

Widjo Kongko, peneliti gempa dan tsunami dari Badan Pengkajian dan Penerapan Teknologi (BPPT), mengatakan bahwa gempa Kebumen terjadi di segmen yang jarang bergejolak. Dalam 4 dekade, cuma ada 10 gempa dengan magnitud lebih dari 5 yang terjadi di segmen itu.

Pada saat yang sama, patahan dan segmen penyebab gempa di selatan Jawa belum banyak terpetakan seperti di Sumatera. Karenanya, Widjo menyebut bahwa pengetahuan tentang wilayah tersebut masih gelap.

Karena belum banyak dipelajari, sulit memerkirakan wilayah yang akan terpicu aktivitasnya akibat gempa Kebumen kemarin, di samping memang sampai saat ini sulit memerkirakan waktu dan lokasi yang akan mengalami gempa.

Widjo hanya bisa memberi petunjuk lokasi yang masih umum. "Lokasi di Jawa selatan, bisa mendekati palung atau sebaliknya, ke daratan," ungkapnya. Berapa lama setelah gempa Kebumen gempa terpicu mungkin terjadi, belum bisa dikatakan.

Irwan mengungkapkan, gempa Kebumen kemarin terjadi dengan mekanisme sesar turun akibat slab pull. Slab pull secara sederhana adalah bergeraknya lempeng samudera karena adanya tarikan lempeng samudera yang berada di zona subduksi.

Menurut Irwan, gerakan turun lempeng akibat gempa Kebumen cukup curam. Ini bisa berarti bahwa bagian atas lempeng tersebut saat ini memiliki akumulasi energi dan berpotensi menimbulkan gempa yang terpicu.

"Jadi yang bisa diberikan, gempa yang terpicu ini mungkin terjadi di wilayah yang lebih dangkal," ungkapnya. Wilayah dangkal berarti berada pada kedalaman palung hingga 50 kilometer.

Gempa dangkal memang hanya akan dirasakan di wilayah yang cakupannya lebih sempit. Namun, goncangannya akan lebih terasa dampaknya jauh lebih merusak. Gempa Yogyakarta pada tahun 2006 dengan kedalaman episentrum hanya 10 km adalah salah satu gempa dangkal.

Gempa dangkal yang terjadi di lautan juga bisa berarti memiliki potensi tsunami bila gerakan sesarnya naik. Dengan goncangan lebih besar dan berpotensi tsunami, maka suatu gempa akan lebih mematikan.

Di luar konteks gempa yang terpicu, gempa Kebumen juga memberi petunjuk bahwa subduksi Jawa aktif. Selama ini, seringkali dianggap bahwa subduksi Jawa aseismik, tidak seaktif subduksi Sumatera.

Ilmuwan membagi subduksi Jawa menjadi tiga bagian, Selat Sunda hingga selatan Jawa Barat, selatan Jawa Tengah, serta selatan Jawa Timur hingga Bali. Masing-masing memang bisa memicu gempa dengan magnitud 8,5.

Apa yang harus dilakukan?

Perkembangan ilmu pengetahuan saat ini belum mampu memberikan kemampuan bagi manusia untuk meramal gempa. Pada saat yang sama, penelitian tentang beragam patahan penyebab gempa serta yang terkait masih terkendala dana. Di tengah situasi itu, apa yang harus dilakukan?

Widjo menuturkan, saat ini masyarakat bisa melakukan penyesuaian setelah mengetahui bahwa dirinya tinggal di lokasi rawan gempa. "Misalnya bangunan rumah dibuat tahan gempa," ungkap Widjo.

Sementara, Irwan mengatakan, informasi adanya ancaman seharusnya sudah cukup bagi pemerintah dan masyarakat untuk memulai perubahan.

"Warga harus lebih waspada, edukasi yang diberikan pemerintah ke masyarakat terus dilakukan, institudi pendidikan juga harus mulai membangun kesadaran tentang gempa," jelas Irwan.

Terkait adaptasi yang bisa dilakukan warga, peneliti dari Pusat Penelitian Geoteknologi LIPI, Eko Yulianto, saat ditemui Desember 2013 lalu menuturkan perlunya warga memiliki ruang aman untuk berlindung saat gempa.

Ruang aman bisa berupa ruang atau sudut mana pun di dalam rumah yang dibangun  tahan gempa. Strategi ini merupakan alternatif ketika membangun rumah tahan gempa masih sulit. Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) perlu mengampanyekannya.

Sumber : Kompas.com

Editor : Maulana Lee

V, Karena Dari Laut Selatan Mengirim Sinyal Ancaman Gempa

 Inilah tips dan Cara Meningkatkan Penjualan Online bisnis anda agar dapat meraih pendapatan yang besar dan berkesinambungan. Saat ini banyak macam cara untuk menjajakan barang dagangan anda mulai dari secara konvensional atau pun menjual secara online, namun beberapa tahun belakangan ini penjualan online memang sangat booming tapi sebagai penjual online tentunya memiliki target pasar untuk meningkatkan bisnis online mereka, karena hal itu memanglah sangat penting untuk menjalankan usaha bisnis online.

CARA MENINGKATKAN PENJUALAN ONLINE

Terdakwa kasus dugaan korupsi Pusat Pendidikan Pelatihan dan Sekolah Olahraga Nasional di Desa Hambalang, Kabupaten Bogor, Jawa Barat, pada 2010 lalu , Deddy Kusdinar, pasrah dalam menghadapi vonis majelis hakim hari ini. Bekas pejabat di Kementerian Pemuda dan Olahraga itu juga mengaku tidak memiliki persiapan khusus menjelang pembacaan putusan atas perkaranya.

"Ya siaplah. Insya Allah. Ya mau tidak mau disiap-siapin saja," kata Deddy kepada awak media di Gedung Pengadilan Tindak Pidana Korupsi, Jakarta, Selasa (11/3).

Menurut kuasa hukum Deddy, Rudy Alfonso, dia juga berharap majelis hakim telah memutus perkara kliennya dengan jernih dan adil. Dia juga mengatakan, seharusnya bukan kliennya yang dihukum berat karena masih ada lagi pihak lain yang harus bertanggung jawab.

"Kami tentunya juga berharap besar kepada majelis hakim untuk menilai secara obyektif fakta-fakta yang terungkap dalam persidangan. Siapa yang sebenarnya mengatur proyek, menggiring anggaran, dan menikmati uang korupsi Hambalang yang seharusnya dihukum seberat-beratnya," tulis Rudi melalui pesan singkat kemarin.

Rudi juga mengatakan, sidang vonis Deddy akan digelar pukul 10.00 pagi WIB. Dia pun juga berharap sidang dilakukan tepat waktu.

Menurut Rudy, Deddy hanyalah pegawai di Kementerian Pemuda dan Olahraga yang telah mengikuti perintah atasan. Menurut dia, jangan sampai Deddy hanya menjadi tumbal di kasus itu, sementara pihak lain yang juga mesti bertanggung jawab malah lolos.

"Orang seperti Pak Deddy yang tidak menikmati uang haram dari Hambalang jangan dijadikan tumbal untuk dapat menyelamatkan orang-orang yang punya hubungan dengan kekuasaan, dan bisa tertawa menyaksikan semua ini," sambung Rudy.

Rudy juga menjelaskan, yang dimaksud orang-orang yang punya hubungan kekuasaan adalah pihak yang berada dalam lingkar inti kasus. Seperti Muhammad Nazaruddin yang menggiring anggaran di DPR. Kemudian juga beberapa pihak lain yang mengupayakan supaya proyek Hambalang dibiayai dengan skema tahun jamak, meski melanggar aturan.

"Ada peran tangan-tangan kuat yang sudah terungkap juga. Kemudian aliran uang ke pihak-pihak tertentu yang menikmati suap," lanjut Rudy.

Meski demikian, Rudy telah meyakini KPK bakal akan menjerat pihak lain dalam kasus Hambalang. Bahkan dia telah meminta KPK untuk melakukan terobosan hukum supaya tidak terpaku pada perorangan saja.

"Kita percaya KPK akan obyektif dalam mengembangkan kasus ini dan menyeret tidak hanya mereka yang turut serta. Tetapi juga harus berani memberi terobosan untuk menghukum korporasi (perusahaan) jika memang ingin penegakan hukum yang tanpa pandang bulu," tandas Rudy.

Dua pekan lalu, jaksa penuntut umum pada Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi menuntut Deddy dengan pidana penjara selama sembilan tahun dikurangi masa tahanan. Dia juga dituntut pidana denda Rp 300 juta subsider enam bulan kurungan.

Deddy juga dituntut dengan pidana tambahan berupa uang pengganti kepada negara sebesar Rp 300 juta, yang mesti dibayar selambat-lambatnya satu tahun setelah mendapat kekuatan hukum tetap. Jika tidak dibayar maka akan dijatuhi hukuman 1 tahun penjara.

Menurut jaksa, hal yang memberatkan Deddy adalah tidak mendukung program yang sedang giat-giatnya dilakukan pemerintah yaitu pemberantasan korupsi dan efisiensi dan efektivitas anggaran, serta melanggar hak ekonomi dan sosial karena tidak bertanggung jawab pada anggaran. Sedangkan hal-hal yang meringankan adalah bersikap sopan selama masa persidangan, menyesali perbuatan, belum pernah dihukum, serta punya tanggungan keluarga yaitu dua anak kandung, dua anak angkat, dan seorang istri yang mengalami sakit lupus selama dua tahun.

Menurut jaksa dalam tuntutannya, Deddy melanggar dakwaan kedua. Yaitu Pasal 3 juncto pasal 18 Undang-Undang No 31 tahun 1999 tentang Pemberantasan Tindak Pidana Korupsi sebagaimana diubah pada UU No 20 tahun 2001 juncto pasal 55 ayat ke (1) ke-1 KUHPidana.

Jelang divonis Deddy Kusdinar pasrah

saco-indonesia.com, Seorang perempuan lanjut usia telah ditemukan tewas bersimbah darah di kamar mandi rumahnya di Jalan Sungai Wera, Kelurahan Ujuna, Kecamatan Palu Barat, Kota Palu, Sulawesi Tengah, Minggu kemarin malam. Korban diduga kuat telah dibunuh oleh keponakannya sendiri yang berinisial Ns.

Setelah diperiksa di Rumah Sakit Anutapura, jenazah perempuan yang bernama Huja itu telah dikembalikan ke keluarganya untuk dapat dimakamkan. Huja tewas akibat dua luka menganga di kepala bagian belakang.

Hasil dari pemeriksaan sementara yang telah dilakukan oleh petugas Polsek Palu Barat dan Polres Palu, Huja diduga telah dihabisi oleh Ns karena pelaku kesal tidak diberi uang. Hingga Senin (10/2/2014) pagi, polisi masih memburu pelaku.

Yusuf Sidding, kerabat almarhumah, juga mengatakan, kejadian ini sangat disesalkan. Pasalnya, semasa hidupnya Huja juga sangat perhatian dan membela Ns. Huja juga kerap memberi uang terhadap pelaku.

Kasus ini juga masih harus ditangai petugas Polsek Palu Barat dan Polres Palu.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

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United’s first-class and business fliers get Rhapsody, its high-minded in-flight magazine, seen here at its office in Brooklyn. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Last summer at a writers’ workshop in Oregon, the novelists Anthony Doerr, Karen Russell and Elissa Schappell were chatting over cocktails when they realized they had all published work in the same magazine. It wasn’t one of the usual literary outlets, like Tin House, The Paris Review or The New Yorker. It was Rhapsody, an in-flight magazine for United Airlines.

It seemed like a weird coincidence. Then again, considering Rhapsody’s growing roster of A-list fiction writers, maybe not. Since its first issue hit plane cabins a year and a half ago, Rhapsody has published original works by literary stars like Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, Amy Bloom, Emma Straub and Mr. Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction two weeks ago.

As airlines try to distinguish their high-end service with luxuries like private sleeping chambers, showers, butler service and meals from five-star chefs, United Airlines is offering a loftier, more cerebral amenity to its first-class and business-class passengers: elegant prose by prominent novelists. There are no airport maps or disheartening lists of in-flight meal and entertainment options in Rhapsody. Instead, the magazine has published ruminative first-person travel accounts, cultural dispatches and probing essays about flight by more than 30 literary fiction writers.

 

Photo
 
Sean Manning, executive editor of Rhapsody, which publishes works by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Bloom and Anthony Doerr, who won a Pulitzer Prize. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

 

An airline might seem like an odd literary patron. But as publishers and writers look for new ways to reach readers in a shaky retail climate, many have formed corporate alliances with transit companies, including American Airlines, JetBlue and Amtrak, that provide a captive audience.

Mark Krolick, United Airlines’ managing director of marketing and product development, said the quality of the writing in Rhapsody brings a patina of sophistication to its first-class service, along with other opulent touches like mood lighting, soft music and a branded scent.

“The high-end leisure or business-class traveler has higher expectations, even in the entertainment we provide,” he said.

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Some of Rhapsody’s contributing writers say they were lured by the promise of free airfare and luxury accommodations provided by United, as well as exposure to an elite audience of some two million first-class and business-class travelers.

“It’s not your normal Park Slope Community Bookstore types who read Rhapsody,” Mr. Moody, author of the 1994 novel “The Ice Storm,” who wrote an introspective, philosophical piece about traveling to the Aran Islands of Ireland for Rhapsody, said in an email. “I’m not sure I myself am in that Rhapsody demographic, but I would like them to buy my books one day.”

In addition to offering travel perks, the magazine pays well and gives writers freedom, within reason, to choose their subject matter and write with style. Certain genres of flight stories are off limits, naturally: no plane crashes or woeful tales of lost luggage or rude flight attendants, and nothing too risqué.

“We’re not going to have someone write about joining the mile-high club,” said Jordan Heller, the editor in chief of Rhapsody. “Despite those restrictions, we’ve managed to come up with a lot of high-minded literary content.”

Guiding writers toward the right idea occasionally requires some gentle prodding. When Rhapsody’s executive editor asked Ms. Russell to contribute an essay about a memorable flight experience, she first pitched a story about the time she was chaperoning a group of teenagers on a trip to Europe, and their delayed plane sat at the airport in New York for several hours while other passengers got progressively drunker.

“He pointed out that disaster flights are not what people want to read about when they’re in transit, and very diplomatically suggested that maybe people want to read something that casts air travel in a more positive light,” said Ms. Russell, whose novel “Swamplandia!” was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.

She turned in a nostalgia-tinged essay about her first flight on a trip to Disney World when she was 6. “The Magic Kingdom was an anticlimax,” she wrote. “What ride could compare to that first flight?”

Ms. Oates also wrote about her first flight, in a tiny yellow propeller plane piloted by her father. The novelist Joyce Maynard told of the constant disappointment of never seeing her books in airport bookstores and the thrill of finally spotting a fellow plane passenger reading her novel “Labor Day.” Emily St. John Mandel, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction last year, wrote about agonizing over which books to bring on a long flight.

“There’s nobody that’s looked down their noses at us as an in-flight magazine,” said Sean Manning, the magazine’s executive editor. “As big as these people are in the literary world, there’s still this untapped audience for them of luxury travelers.”

United is one of a handful of companies showcasing work by literary writers as a way to elevate their brands and engage customers. Chipotle has printed original work from writers like Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenides and Barbara Kingsolver on its disposable cups and paper bags. The eyeglass company Warby Parker hosts parties for authors and sells books from 14 independent publishers in its stores.

JetBlue offers around 40 e-books from HarperCollins and Penguin Random House on its free wireless network, allowing passengers to read free samples and buy and download books. JetBlue will start offering 11 digital titles from Simon & Schuster soon. Amtrak recently forged an alliance with Penguin Random House to provide free digital samples from 28 popular titles, which passengers can buy and download over Amtrak’s admittedly spotty wireless service.

Amtrak is becoming an incubator for literary talent in its own right. Last year, it started a residency program, offering writers a free long-distance train trip and complimentary food. More than 16,000 writers applied and 24 made the cut.

Like Amtrak, Rhapsody has found that writers are eager to get onboard. On a rainy spring afternoon, Rhapsody’s editorial staff sat around a conference table discussing the June issue, which will feature an essay by the novelist Hannah Pittard and an unpublished short story by the late Elmore Leonard.

“Do you have that photo of Elmore Leonard? Can I see it?” Mr. Heller, the editor in chief, asked Rhapsody’s design director, Christos Hannides. Mr. Hannides slid it across the table and noted that they also had a photograph of cowboy spurs. “It’s very simple; it won’t take away from the literature,” he said.

Rhapsody’s office, an open space with exposed pipes and a vaulted brick ceiling, sits in Dumbo at the epicenter of literary Brooklyn, in the same converted tea warehouse as the literary journal N+1 and the digital publisher Atavist. Two of the magazine’s seven staff members hold graduate degrees in creative writing. Mr. Manning, the executive editor, has published a memoir and edited five literary anthologies.

Mr. Manning said Rhapsody was conceived from the start as a place for literary novelists to write with voice and style, and nobody had been put off that their work would live in plane cabins and airport lounges.

Still, some contributors say they wish the magazine were more widely circulated.

“I would love it if I could read it,” said Ms. Schappell, a Brooklyn-based novelist who wrote a feature story for Rhapsody’s inaugural issue. “But I never fly first class.”

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THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.

In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.

One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.

But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.

JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”

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Three of the nearly 50 works of urban fiction published by the Colemans over the last decade, often featuring drug deals, violence, sex and a brash kind of feminism.Credit Marko Metzinger

In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”

That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”

THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.

In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.

“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”

They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.

They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”

Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”

The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.

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The roots of street lit, found in the midcentury detective novels of Chester Himes and the ‘60s and ‘70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.Credit Marko Metzinger

Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”

The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.

Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.

The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”

Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”

Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.

For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”

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The Colemans in their new four-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Detroit.Credit Courtesy of Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman

Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.

The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.

But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:

WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS

“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”

One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple
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