Irritatingly superficial and discursive evangelism from a pair of lay preachers touting the quality gospel of W. Edwards Deming as the salvation of a backsliding US. Deming (who died at 93 in December) was a consequential prophet largely without honor in his own country until Dobyns and Crawford-Mason featured him in a 1980 NBC-TV documentary on the emphasis on quality in Japanese business management (Deming was considered a national treasure in Japan). At any rate, the authors became apostles, eventually writing a book about the master's teachings (Quality or Else, not reviewed). In April, moreover, the PBS television network is slated to air a program on Deming, which will be narrated by Dobyns and produced by Crawford-Mason. Viewers and others seeking profounder detail on the Deming canon (which is rooted in statistical-sampling theory) won't find it in the reverential text at hand. After opening with a paean to the all- encompassing virtues of quality assurance, the authors offer a once-over-lightly interpretation of the deceptively simple Deming credo, which sets a demanding 14-point agenda for corporate executives and other managers sincerely committed to renewing and transforming, not simply changing, their organizations. Using past competitions for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award as a reference point, they go on to cite as object lessons the variant fates of two commercial enterprises that embraced Deming's precepts (constancy of purpose, continuous improvement, elimination of numerical quotes, etc.). These true believers close with a hit-or- miss survey of the socioeconomic benefits that can accrue from adoption of Deming's principles in business, education, government, health care, and even the media. Paradoxically, perhaps, if the authors had adhered to Deming's philosophy in their own work, it might well have been worth a look.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)