Homebody

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

~Maya Angelou

For fifty years I worked. Meaningful work, for the most part, with the exception of a few months when I was just marking time, but basically fifty years of my life, from 17 to 67, were spent in service to America. I’m proud of those years, and proud of what I accomplished both personally and for the good of others, but here’s a thing about jobs: They suck.

We all, well, everyone in the social circles I frequent at least, have to have jobs in order to live under roof and have a table with food on it, and a job is a cruel mistress. When you have a job, it can seem like your life doesn’t belong to you, that all the moments you enjoy, look forward to, and form memories around are stolen, like they’re something you’ve sneaked off with, because you aren’t entitled to them. It seems like every time you get interested in something, you have to put it aside and get ready to go back to work the next day. Weekends? Sure, those two days (if that) when you race around like a runaway pack horse trying to get next week’s groceries in, clean up house and yard, and maybe pop in a DVD if you’re very lucky this week. Slavery may have been abolished over 150 years ago, but not so that anyone would notice.

Well, twenty-seven months ago, in early May 2016, I was put into a Hobson’s choice situation in which the only attractive alternative was to retire. I never planned to, I didn’t want to, but the choice was to stay on at a job that I would have to re-learn from scratch to do something that I didn’t feel was correct, so I pulled the plug. I’ve often suspected that the whole thing was arranged to push me out and bring in some new blood. If it was, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart; that was the day my life began!

 

The pictures here are of my boss, Bo Cadiz, and his boss, Commander Troy Brunhart, wishing me farewell, the after party at Corvette Diner, and the elegant gift they got me to commemorate my service. I’ll never truly know whether this was all engineered to force me out or not, but I can tell you without the slightest duplicity that I harbor no hard feelings.

Since the Big Day, I hardly go out at all. I hardly need to; this here interweb thingie brings the world to me, after all. An occasional doctor’s appointment, or a trip to the DMV makes me put on clothes, put in my teeth, and drag myself down the road, but I’m happy as a clam right here. Our adult children bring our groceries, the web allows us to order everything from clothes to entertainment, and there is no need for me to be out there butting heads and bending fenders with the rest of humanity. I’ve been out there. It isn’t fun.

See, I’ve spent the last half a century making my house, my home, a haven of peace, and now I get to enjoy it. The thing that kills me is that, had I only known, I could have retired twelve years earlier. I was eligible for the full ride. I was just too ignorant to see it. But that’s all water under the fantail. All I have left to do now is enjoy whatever’s left, and dragging myself to a job that wants as its due my whole adult life has no part in it. I have time to do whatever I like, and lot of that has been playing Xbox games without one eye on the clock so I could stop in time to commence the rituals of worship to my job. Reading, similarly, required estimating the time it would take to read a chapter, and waiting for that block of time to become available. Friends and family had to be shoehorned in there somewhere, and all took a back seat to the Earning of the Paycheck. No more.

After a whole life spent one way, I now have all the time I need for everything I need and want to do, and that should include writing. I can spend an hour or a day poring over an outline, reading a how-to book, or watching a video lecture by a famous author. For fifty years I dreamed of this, and now that it’s here, it is incumbent on me to take full advantage of it. I’m trying, honestly I am, and if you don’t see the corresponding new material being added to the tabs above, all I can say is bear with me. I’ve been out of practice for a long time, and I’m trying to get back into it. I wrapped up Chameleon yesterday, and will begin transcribing Broken English later today. Stingaree, my steampunk opus to San Diego, will be finished, even should it take a while, and ramping up in the background is my borrowed story of a detective agency specializing in the . . . unusual. I have a feeling that writing is about to move front and center in my life, and this is certainly good news for me, as I hope it is for my readers.

So the time has come, the walrus said, to wrap this sucker up, to determine what it is I’m trying to say, and say it. I guess it’s this: I have all the time in the world. What’s needed is to manage it. There are things I have to do, yardwork, housework, that kind of stuff;  bummers. Those I can’t touch. There are also necessities that I enjoy, chief among them time spent with family. That I won’t touch. That still leaves several hours in the day that I can spend any way I wish. I haven’t been writing for a long time, over a year since I created any new material, and that’s what I need to address. It’s so easy to watch TV, to flop down and read, to turn on the Xbox, to jam on my blues harp, and beyond being easy, it’s downright enjoyable. Writing is mostly hard work, which makes it easy to blow off.

I don’t want to not be a writer, but that’s one thing I haven’t been for the past fourteen months or so. I enjoy creating and developing new plots, worlds, and concepts. What I have to finalize over the next few weeks is whether I want to do it enough to turn off the Xbox, turn off the TV, close the book, and write. It will be necessary to set aside at least two hours each day to make a story advance. The new project has me excited, and that’s good, but the question that needs to be answered is whether I’m willing to set all the fluff aside and do it on a regular basis. If I am, you’ll start seeing new material here. If not, then I’ll need to quit fooling around, close this blog, and get on with whatever I’ve decided is more important. All I can say at this point is, hide and watch. And while you’re watching, you can pass the time reading Chameleon. I finished transcribing it yesterday, and it is ready to read in all its thrill-packed glory. Anyone with a sweet tooth for dangerous ladies should have a ball with young Colleen O’Reilly. And now, with the last whine-fest in the books, I take you to some less conflicted people and their many words of wisdom.

Other Voices . . .

I’ll begin this week by welcoming back a pair of voices that have been out of circulation for almost three months while they have been transferring their entire multi-feature blog to their new provider. I speak, of course, of Writers After Dark, the delightful work of Raymond Esposito and S.K. Anthony. The several features there include blogs and podcasts, and run the range from serious to humorous, from sincere to sarcastic. If you’re a writer, or merely take an interest in the lives, techniques, or problems of writers, this site is definitely worth some exploration.

I keep coming back to Richie Billing’s blog here, and there is a very good reason for that. He is wonderfully knowledgeable about the basic components of literature, and this week’s post on the quintessential conflict he calls The Crucible is no exception. His explanations and discussions are of a quality that will enable even seasoned authors to pick up new points they may not have thought of, but young and novice writers trying to find their voices are sure to find his among the most valuable and instructive of the many out there. Take a look, and you’ll immediately see what I mean.

The Unorthodox Society for the Elucidation of Retro-Futurism [don’t shoot the messenger!] runs a regular feature called Meet Your Maker in which they interview contributors to the steam- and other-punk diaspora, and this issue goes into considerable depth with one of our regular visitors, Karen J. Carlisle of southern Australia. Much worth a read, and she has a personal appearance in a major con coming up, so if you’re one of my down-under readers, consider making a day of it!

Amy is a twelve-year old artist who makes jewelry of a quality usually found in works from artisans far beyond her years. She sells her work, and  much of the proceeds go toward purchasing plush toys and craft sets for hospitalized children. Her company is Little Dragonite. A huge thank you goes out to Richard Schulte for putting me onto this wonderful young lady and her most worthy cause. Christmas is coming, and it would be just super if everyone could find need of a gift or two from her site; the benefits would be widespread. If you can’t buy, please share; kids like this are the hope for the future, and they can’t be supported enough.

Finally, for a spectacular read, visit Idle Muser, the site of my good friend for some time now, Aditi Sharma, as she ponders coming of age, a process she happens to be moving through at this particular moment. She has a gift for poetry, and an immediacy brought about by living what she’s writing. Swing by if you have five minutes, and see how it’s done.

And that’s 30 for this weekend. Join me Thursday for the weekly roundup of interesting reading, and next Sunday I’ll be back here to entertain you with more rousing tales of the Writing Life. Until then, read well, and write better!

The Edge of the Map – No. 3

Welcome back to my Thursday roundup of edgy reading, carefully timed to enable my followers to queue up their Kindles with a selection of intriguing journeys through time, space, and corridors of the mind!  First let me express my gratitude to my growing audience.  On the heels of Sunday’s post, The Firefly Connection, the blog passed 2,000 visits.  This is over six months, which puts me on track to reach 4,000+ in my first year.  That’s an average of about 11 per day, which is very satisfying, given what I’m doing here.

Now, before I offer you a list of books you can buy, I’m going to bring you a story you can read for free, and a link to a lot more of them.  Richard Schulte gets a lot of air time on my Sunday blogs due to his Cool San Diego Sights blog, and his generosity with the material he posts there.  But his other, perhaps first love is the crafting of elegant slice-of-life short stories which he shares on his other blog, Short Stories by Richard.  His latest offering is Here We Go, a story about a child embarking on his first train ride . . . and maybe a great deal more, if you listen just right.  Here we go:

“Maybe I love trains because they’re a lot like life,” explained a father to his young son. The two sat together on the City Park Railroad, waiting for the short ride around the duck pond to begin. “You’re always moving forward, seeing something new–”

The small boy looked excitedly out the window.

He wondered what he would see.

He knew he’d see a whole lot of ducks floating out on the calm green water, and fishermen on the muddy banks casting their lines hoping to catch a prize bass.

He knew he’d see the short wooden pier jutting into the pond, and the bench near the end where he and his father had fished last summer.

He knew the train would eventually go over a bridge. His father had promised there was a bridge. It spanned a small creek that bubbled down into the pond through a patch of cattails.

And then the train might turn to follow the creek.

Looking out of the train’s window, waiting for his short journey to begin, the boy imagined the branches of willow trees fluttering over the sparkling creek. And dappled sunlight on long leaves. And a flock of blackbirds rising. And, as the creek wound upward into the nearby hills, a curtain of pine trees ahead.

Then the train might enter the pine forest.

And black towering trees would close all around, like a place in a dream, wind-whispering, wind-whispering.

The boy thought of stories he’d been told.

His father had been a young man hiking alone in the forest. Miles from home. He had heard the faraway sound of a wild turkey. He had turned to follow the call. It is rare thing to see a wild turkey. A very magical and lucky thing. His father had plunged forward through the deep forest, over slippery autumn leaves, pushing aside tangled branches, always turning, because that wild call kept shifting, from direction to direction, distance to distance. No, he never found what he sought. But he had found his way home.

And the story of how his very old grandfather, for one instant, had glimpsed a rare white deer in the forest. Nobody else in that forest ever had. It was a chance encounter. Pure white. Like new snow. And then the vision had melted into shadow.

That magical deer was said to have vanished into the same dark trees where the boy’s great grandfather had faced a raging grizzly bear.

Perhaps, thought the young boy, he might also see a grizzly bear.

Then the train might emerge from the forest, climbing, winding, chugging over slopes of naked rock to high levels beyond the wildest turkeys, deer, bears. The cloudless sun, now so close, would shine brightly as the boy stared out the train’s window down upon a small patch of green forest and an endless world of hills, lakes and ponds scattered like shining pebbles below.

And then he would reach the highest mountain’s summit.

Suddenly the train rumbled and lurched.

“Here we go!”

© 2018, Richard Schulte

I didn’t seek permission to repost it, and if Richard asks, I will of course take it down at once, but the purpose of putting it here is to help a very deserving, and too-modest author gain some readership.  There are a lot more like this on his web page, deep, subtle, layered with nuance, and riveting on multiple levels.  Most of you read and follow my blog because you’re interested in the art of literature.  Richard is a master painter on a rather small canvas, and he deserves to be read.  Treat yourself, then, to some fine reading, and get to know an old-school gentleman of the first order.

~~~

Indigo

Indigo by D.C. Belga.  What do time travel, invisibility, ruthless assassins, mind-control, insanity, witches, artificial intelligence, drones, a plague, and a blue dog have in common?  Indigo – this seventh juggernaut in the Pseudoverse Series – is one-third science fiction, one-third horror, one-third fantasy, and one-hundred percent astounding historical fiction.  During the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and some suggest even today, several million people have been unwillingly snatched up off the streets, drugged, and tortured at the hands of the American CIA, the Canadian government, and the Russian KGB for the purposes of producing an actual “Manchurian Candidate.”  Inside Indigo, we introduce you to Harmony Gemma Wells, Granddaughter of the infamous science fiction writer H.G. Wells, kidnapped for programs initially devised by DARPA and called by the CIA Bluebird, Artichoke, MKUltra, MKDelta, and MKNaomi.  These mind-control experiments go horribly wrong very quickly for the victims of these heinous experiments deep inside their satellite lab in Moscow.  Will Harmony escape and finally find peace of mind and possible retribution as ruthless assassins are sent to track her down using her own invention, MOTT?  The Russians unleash a monster upon themselves as Harmony’s genius, Steampunk attitude, DMT, invisibility, her dog Chronos, and her own broken psyche in the aftermath of these experiments all help guide her towards her ultimate goals, vengeance, and sanity.  Take a wild ride with us as we introduce a brand new cast of colorful characters, her dog Chronos always at her side who likes to “take a bite” out of evil, and a government agency who might or might not be who they claim to be.  This is the incredible, raw, gritty, and enthralling mind-ripper, Indigo.  99¢ on Kindle.

WarriorsFools

Warriors and Fools by Harry Rothmann.  Warriors and Fools is not just another book about the Vietnam War.  It is different from most.  Unlike some others, the author is a veteran of that conflict, and a retired military officer with nearly thirty years’ service.  He has spent much of the last three decades studying the war and taught a course on Vietnam at a prestigious senior military war college.  This book is also different from others because it is a story not just of the American decisions and actions during the war.  This Vietnam War story uses the latest, ground breaking research and released documentation of the war from the Communist Vietnamese side of the conflict.  Consequently, the book delves deeply into the decision making, strategies, motives, and goals of the North Vietnam leaders as they waged their war for unification, first against the French and then against the Americans.  The book also uses memoirs, interviews, and oral histories of former South Vietnamese leaders and combatants to discover their views on their struggle to form a new nation free from communist aggression.  Warriors and Fools is both broad and deep in scope in its narration of the Vietnam War story.  It takes the reader from the White House’s oval office and Hanoi’s Politburo room, to the Pentagon’s and North Vietnam Army’s command centers, to Vietnam’s mountain and rice patty battlefields to show the determination, deceit, foolhardiness, mistakes, courage, and horrors of war from the views of both sides.  While it examines multiple participant views, overall the book seeks to answer one specific question – why did the US fail to achieve its principal objective to defend South Vietnam from communist aggression?  The story’s findings and conclusions are neither orthodox nor revisionist.  Those trying to gain insights on how American civilian leaders lost the war that its military could have won, or how the US Congress, Press, or Antiwar activists convinced the Public to stop its support will be disappointed.  None of these traditional ‘answers’ on why the US lost are really valid.  Rather, as this story explains, the answer is much more linked to human factors, interactions, and relationships.  In this case, the interrelationship between American civilian and military leaders and advisors was extraordinarily divisive and dysfunctional.  So much so that it resulted in flawed, timid policies and foolish strategies that led to defeat.  Moreover, that troublesome interrelationship was primarily a result of mistrusts, misunderstandings, and misperceptions on their roles, responsibilities, and what they thought would lead to a positive end to the war.  In addition, primarily because they were either ignorant of the nature of war or overconfident from their past experiences, civilian and military policymakers ignored or misunderstood their enemy.  Warriors and Fools should be of interest to those who served in the war, and serious students and teachers of this event and period.  It is not intended as light reading, or for someone trying to get just a brief understanding of what happened there and in America at the time.  $9.99 on Kindle.

SeventhGuard

The Seventh Guard by Francis Halpin.  A severely sarcastic and disgruntled Best Buy employee, Robert Lowden, unravels a new fate, far beyond his frustrating existence as a repair agent.  After discovering a mysterious message hidden in the underpinnings of our everyday world he feels compelled to follow it . . . wherever it may lead.  Robert embarks on a dangerous and fast-paced adventure that tests the strength of his relationships and his physical and mental fortitude, while a menacing opponent works to end his journey and his life.  99¢ on Kindle.

OutTime

Out of Time by Ernesto H. Lee.  “When your past calls, don’t answer.  It has nothing to say.”  Unless your name is Sean McMillan – in which case you had better answer and listen carefully.  Out of Time is the first in a series of books that introduce the reader to Sean McMillan, “The Dream Traveler.”  McMillan is a detective assigned to a cold-case squad, but he is no ordinary detective.  With a unique ability to travel back in time through the medium of his dreams, finding evidence and solving a long forgotten murder should be a foregone conclusion.  However, Sean soon discovers that changes to the past to influence the future can have unexpected and deadly consequences.  The past is not the past, the future is not set and nothing in life is certain.  Open your mind and join the “Dream Traveler” on his journey back to the past.  $2.99 on Kindle.

Gargoyle

Gargoyle by Christopher Slayton.  By day Victor Fortune, heir to his family’s wealth and assets, was an industrious businessman.  But by night he was the Gargoyle, a masked vigilante who spent his nights protecting his home city of Chicago.  One night while off duty Victor and his brother Elijah find themselves opposed by a dangerous group of people led by a man known as the Judge.  Together Victor and Elijah fight off the ambush, but at the cost of Victor’s life.  With Victor dead, Elijah finds himself taking on his brother’s responsibilities as the Gargoyle, and discovers the harsh learning curve of what it takes to be the vigilante.  But in the midst of adjusting to his second life Eli must rise to the occasion of being more than a man in a mask, but a hero, or die trying.  Free on Kindle [reg 99¢].

Bishop12thAve

The Bishop of 12th Avenue by Ray Lucit.  When you grow up on the violent streets of a dying world, the first thing you learn is to mind your own business.  So when eighteen-year-old Jacob Walker stumbles across three federal agents torturing an old man by a church, Jake can’t explain why he bothers to rescue the old guy.  As he lay dying, the old man makes a strange sign with his hand, and after mumbling something in an ancient language, he slides a ring on Jake’s finger.  What Jake doesn’t know is that he is now the last hope for a group of believers, or Churchers, living outside the dying city.  Even now forces are massing to destroy the strangely naïve Churchers, and although Jake knows nothing of bishops, gods or churches, any chance that this remnant can survive will depend on The Bishop of 12th Avenue.  Set in a post-apocalyptic world suggested by centuries of Christian prophesy and legend, The Bishop of 12th Avenue tells of a desperate fight for survival, an epic battle between good and evil, and a young leader’s struggle to understand the difference.  99¢ on Kindle [reg $3.99].

Entangled

Entangled by J. Evan Stuart.  Sometimes things can happen that alter your life forever.  For eighteen year old Connor Evans it was being framed for the murder of his parents.  Being on the run and evading the local authorities who are convinced he is guilty, Connor knows it’s only a matter of time before he is caught.  His only hope lies with a young detective brought in to look over the case.  For twenty-four year old Detective Sonya Reisler, an unexpected visit from Connor leads her to open her own investigation into the murders.  As Sonya tracks down the evidence she needs, she finds the real danger may not be from getting too close to the actual killer, but getting too close to Connor.  As the lines between what she should do and what she wants to do become blurred, Sonya puts her career at risk to prove Connor is innocent and finds their fates have now become hopelessly entangled.  With time running out, Sonya and Connor learn the killer is planning to strike again and the price needed to pay to stop him may be more than careers and freedom.  It may cost them their lives.  $2.99 on Kindle.

Read the review that put me onto this here.

Cult

The Cult by Grant Griffin.  Before the cult, John Stevenson lived a life full of girls, parties, and friends; something many high-schoolers can only dream of.  However, that was before the cult.  The cult took everything from John in a single night; they killed his parents, kidnapped his sister, and most important of all, stole from him his own identity.  Now, robbed of his treasured youthfulness, John holds the capacity for one thing, and one thing alone… revenge.  The police might of let the cult get away unscathed, but John has no intentions of doing the same.  However, when the time comes for such a bloody war of revenge to be waged, John meets Amy… causing John’s desperate situation to be flipped on its head completely.  This leaves him with a single choice; give in to his overwhelming desire to find the people who wronged him, and avenge his family’s death, even if that means jeopardizing Amy’s life; or find comfort in his new-found love, and turn away from his almost certain demise if he stays on the path of vengeance.  99¢ on Kindle until Sunday [reg $2.99].

CantBuyMeLove

Can’t Buy Me Love by Martin Humphries.  It’s the sixties, and London might be swinging, but not for our girl, Edith.  Raised in a miserable home full of anger and hate, life for poor Edith seems to hold little hope.  But she finds plenty when she teams up with her older gay cousin, Ronnie, who makes her his mission with a plan to re-shape her into the fabulous young woman he knows she deserves to be.  Once free of her father and her weak, defenseless mother, her transformation is swift and dramatic.  Suddenly, life is an exciting adventure, full of twists and turns, as Edith’s coming of age becomes a roller-coaster ride of glorious highs and frightening lows, including a father who comes back to haunt her.  But where will it take her, and how will it end?  Who will win, and who will lose?  This special Can’t Buy Me Love bonus edition offers the first two of six volumes in the The Cost of Loving Series.  If you like stories of success over adversity, family dramas and sexual diversity, then you will love Martin Humphries’ bitter-sweet voyage of discovery through some of the most exciting years in living memory.  Years chock full of changes of every kind, when being gay usually spelt trouble with a capital T.  Free on Kindle [reg 99¢].

And that’s 30 for today.  Join me Sunday when I’ll be talking about my life post-retirement, and the options available to me going forward.  See you then!

 

The Firefly Connection

BeyondTheRailsI

As I may have mentioned at some point before (actually I never tire of mentioning it), one of my first major reviewers summarized my first book, Beyond the Rails, as “Jules Verne meets Firefly.”  I was at first put off by this, as it felt a bit like I was being accused of something close to plagiarism.  But I have come to realize that there are a lot worse things to have your work compared to than a Joss Whedon masterpiece.  The similarities to the world’s favorite cancelled space western are unavoidable, but I have come to realize that I wasn’t trying to copy anything (well, I never set out to copy someone else’s work), I was trying to create something, and it wasn’t Firefly.  Allow me instead to present for your consideration its resemblance to 1962’s Hatari!

Hatari

Hatari! was a sprawling Howard Hawks vehicle starring John Wayne, Red Buttons, and an international cast as a band of expats in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), catching wild animals for zoos and circuses.  The film was made in 1962, before Intellectual Fascism Political Correctness and Animal Rights* arrived on the scene; it couldn’t happen today.  It offers danger (which is the meaning of the title in Swahili), excitement, romance, comedy, intrigue; it’s the total package.

It entered my universe in the summer of 1963, when I was sent to Monterey, California to live with my mom for a few weeks while school was out.  Monterey was not the never-sleeping hotbed of entertainment that it is today; far from it.  It was a dying fishing village, a tough town with a tougher economy.  Adults found their escape in the bars and card rooms; for my 14 year old self, there were two movie houses that both changed their features once a week.  Hatari arrived that summer, and I bought a ticket each day and stayed for two showings.  That means I watched and enjoyed this movie fourteen times in the first week, and probably a dozen or more since.  I refuse to apologize for saying it was a great film.

The movie begins with a tight view of the whole cast waiting in a ravine for some undisclosed event to unfold as Henry Mancini’s masterful action theme begins with a few quiet, suspenseful notes presaging the Jaws theme.  The view and music quickly explode into irresistible action as most of the cast attempt to chase down and capture a rhinoceros using a truck and a Jeep, as about ten miles of the magnificent Serengeti flow under the wheels.  The attempt has to be broken off when the rhino gores the Jeep’s passenger, “the Indian” (Bruce Cabot), their safety gunner, who holds his fire because he doesn’t want to cost them their animal.  By the end of that chase, anybody with two cells in their brain that crave adventure is aboard for the ride.

hataricast
Hardy Kruger, Elsa Martinelli, John Wayne, Red Buttons, Valentine de Vargas, and Michelle Girardon.

The cast has some familiar John Wayne “groupies,” but also a good number of European stars whose very unfamiliarity to American audiences of the time brought a freshness that amplified the huge and spectacular African scenery.  Wayne’s character makes the initial move in the captures, lassoing animals from a seat welded to the fender of a beat-up old Chevrolet pickup.  His driver is a former New York cabbie nicknamed Pockets (Red Buttons).  GT Circuit race driver Kurt Müller (Hardy Kruger) drives the herd car, a Jeep used to force the fleeing animals into the range of John Wayne’s lasso.  His passenger is their safety gunner, first Bruce Cabot’s “Indian,” and after his injury, “Chips” Maurey (Gerard Blain).  Mexican bullfighter Luis Francisco Garcia Lopez (Valentin de Vargas) leads the handling team, while Brandy de la Court (Michele Girardon) keeps headquarters running smoothly.  Anna Maria D’Allesandro (Elsa Martinelli) is a wildlife photographer foisted on them by the zoo that is going to buy most of their animals; they come to like her later.

The action comes largely from interactions with the animals, which are not all captured in car chases.  Seeing Red Buttons use a rocket to throw a net over a tree full of angry, panicked monkeys, and the rest of the crew collecting them while kitted up in homemade armor is worth the price of admission.  Comedic intrigue is provided by the competition between Buttons, Kruger, and Blain for Girardon’s affection, while straight comedy is the only way to describe Martinelli’s ever-growing baby elephant collection (which in itself leads to a scene in which Red Buttons tries to milk a ram!).  The serious romance is between John Wayne and Elsa Martinelli, which at 14 didn’t bother me, as they were both quite a bit older than I was.  But now, as an adult, it falls a little flat; seeing 27 year old Martinelli fall head over heels for 55 year old Wayne leaves me with a problem suspending disbelief.  Sure, he’s the Duke, but in the movie, he’s just some old guy catching animals.

There are some colorful characters in this cast.  Elsa Martinelli was an Italian runway model whose elfin beauty and “cute” accent (not to mention her undeniable similarity to a young Sophia Loren) opened the door to movies for her.  By the time of Hatari, she had starred opposite Kirk Douglas in The Indian Fighter, and had won a prestigious European award for actors while playing the lead in Mario Monicelli’s Donatella.  Hardy Kruger, who owned the ranch in Tanganyika where the movie was filmed, had been conscripted into the Hitler Youth as a young teenager, and fought briefly against American forces in the closing weeks of World War II.  It took him years to overcome that stigma, but he went on to have an illustrious career, including playing a senior German officer in A Bridge Too Far, while simultaneously serving as a technical advisor.  He was the first postwar German actor to be accepted as a protagonist by Western audiences.  Tragedy stalked Michele Girardon.  Twenty-four and full of promise when Hatari was released, her career was basically over within a decade.  She became involved with a married Spanish nobleman and notorious cad, who strung her along until he obtained a divorce, at which time he married another woman.  She committed suicide with sleeping pills at the age of 36.

Henry Mancini’s score has never received the critical acclaim it deserved.  Mention Mancini, and people respond with The Pink Panther, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Days of Wine and Roses, and Peter Gunn.  All of these are justifiably great scores, but Hatari had a scope, range, and power that wasn’t present in the other works, simply because it wouldn’t have fit.  An individual song, Baby Elephant Walk, remains well-known and popular fifty years after the movie, but it deserved so much more.

The film is readily available in bargain bins from video stores to game shops, and is well worth the peanuts that they charge for a movie this old.  The plot, the action, the old-fashioned way the characters treat each other are all charming and refreshing, reminders of how life was before we all decided to embrace snatchin’ and grabbin’ as a national culture.  The scenery is so majestic, clear, and just big, that you can almost smell the fresh air.  If it looks like John Wayne and company are wrestling with the animals, and if they look stressed and worried, it’s because they are.  You couldn’t Photoshop a star’s face onto a stuntman’s body in those days, and Howard Hawks’ cornerstone was believability.  If the camera told you that John Wayne was standing between two trucks shoving on a rhino’s ass, that’s because he was.  I cannot tell you strongly enough how enjoyable this movie is on so many levels.  I cannot tell you strongly enough how glad you will be if you do get this movie, set aside the two-and-a-half hours that it runs, and immerse yourself in it.

But that isn’t why I’m doing this.  I’m here to make the case that my subconscious purpose for writing Beyond the Rails was to recreate the family that those expats created, working and playing together, looking out for one another even as their friendly rivalries played out, and always knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that if you got yourself into dire difficulty, the others would be there to have your back.  I didn’t experience much love during childhood, and these people represented the loving family I always wanted.  So the critics can cite the obvious similarities to the newer work, and those opinions may have merit, but if I was subconsciously channeling anything, I rise to make the case that it was Hatari!  What do you think?

*I do not believe in the abuse of any living thing, human or animal, and I firmly believe that the right of animals to decent treatment is a valuable concept, but the simple fact is that if this movie were made today, it would be a hopeless mashup of CGI, green-screen, and studio work, and in all likelihood, not worth watching.

Other Voices . . .

David Lee Summers, the “Steampunk Astronomer,” attended a gathering of like-minded folks in Bisbee, Arizona last weekend, and if his report and photographs are any indication, an excellent time was had by all!  The after-action report may be viewed in all its glory on his Web Journal.

Cool San Diego Sights, Richard Schulte’s photo-blog of the southwest corner of the Lower 48, turned five on Friday, and as you might imagine, he took a retrospective look at the journey.  But there’s another aspect I want mention to the cash-strapped indie authors that I cater to:  He’s getting close to 20,000 photos on that blog, and while there are a fair number of famous San Diego landmarks, many more are of an unusual building, a fountain, a garden, a ship or boat, seashores, mountains, forests, and Richard, in his unmatched generosity, has declared that anyone may use any of his photographs for an illustration, a book cover, or any legitimate purpose, for no more than a credit to him as the photographer.  The article detailing his terms and suggestions for use is linked here.

Phoebe Darqueling, another of my steampunk-writing friends, deals with the difficult proposition of adding a subplot to an already finished novel.  I’m a believer that subplots enrich novels and make them more believable.  We all have problems, right?  And how many times do you get to focus all your attention on one thing and see it through to the end with no distractions or other problems demanding your attention?  Subplots bring these elements to an otherwise simple story, and need to be in place for the reader to really feel the stress.  Phoebe presents an excellent discussion of this oft-neglected aspect.

Karen Carlisle was recently involved in a photo shoot at Adelaide’s Largs Pier Hotel, a preserved Victorian structure of grand elegance.  She has shared her photos on her blog, and if anyone is looking for period-accurate material from that era, or just a collection of beautiful photos, look no further.

Michael May, whose Hellbent for Letterbox series on classic western movies was featured here last week, is also a big Tarzan fan, and another series, Greystoked, looks in depth at the ape-man in all his incarnations.  A big treat for fans of Burroughs’ classic creation.

I know I have some Australian readers, and if you’re a steampunk fan who will be on the south coast in two weeks, be sure to look into the Adelaide Steampunk Festival being held September 15th and 16th at the National Railways Museum.  The full lowdown is up on Facebook, so grab your goggles and book your seat on the blimp!

AdelaideSteampunk

And speaking of Australia, this just in:  What do you know about liptember  If you’re like me, the answer is “Not much.”  Knowledge was imparted to me just this evening by long-time writing friend, Karen Carlisle, who suffers from PTSD, which afflicts women at a rate of 3 to 1 over men.  Liptember is an Aussie-based awareness event to serve and support women suffering from this debilitating malady among others.  Visit the site, expand your knowledge, and if at all possible support this most worthy cause.  The woman you save might be yourself!

Last, and almost certainly least, for anyone following along, I posted Chapter 12 of Chameleon yesterday.  Only two to go!  One of my older tales, that of a reformed IRA soldier using the skills she has acquired to serve as a paladin for the downtrodden.  If you like your adventure with an extra helping of attitude, this could be for you.  Just click Chameleon in the row of tabs above.

And that’s 30 for today, friends.  Join me Thursday for the latest roundup of interesting reads from the edge, and until we meet again, get out there and live life like you mean it!