Thursday, April 15, 2021

Etta Place

You stare closely at her face on this night, just as you do every night. Funny how it’s her and not Longabaugh who you find yourself observing. You vaguely remember reading somewhere that the woman in the picture wasn’t even her, but someone else. You don’t know where you read that, though.

Besides, it only makes sense that this is the exact person the Pinkertons claimed was Longabaugh’s companion. They used this very picture on their WANTED signs, after all. Strange how they completely lost interest in her after reports of Longabaugh’s demise surfaced. You could never imagine something like that happening today.

Or could you? You look at the clock and see it’s almost one thirty. In less than seven hours you’ll be at work, taking phone calls and telling patients to sit and relax, that the doctor will be with them in just a few minutes.

You go back to the picture.

What’s so striking is how attractive she was. Women back then weren’t supposed to be as well kept up as that. At least women who hung around men like Parker and Longabaugh weren’t. Who was she, really? Part of you thinks she was simply a figment of some Pinkerton man’s imagination, a composite of various women who ran in Longabaugh’s circle.

Yet if that were the case the picture would surely lose some of its allure. For the person in the photo would then just be a forgotten and largely unrecognized woman, and not the historical enigma whose been keeping you, another forgotten and largely unrecognized woman, up at night.  

Besides, the Pinkerton’s clearly kept quite an eye on her (no pun intended). They may not have known her actual name, where she was from or even what she did before meeting her criminal beau, but they knew what she looked like and where she went. In other words, they knew she was an individual, not a composite. They didn’t get paid to track composites.

They documented her movements with Longabaugh, after all. New York. South America. The Saint Louis World’s Fair and back to South America again before that final trip to San Francisco. It was there that she reportedly parted ways with her famous bad boy forever. He returned south to come to his bloody end while she disappeared into the proverbial ether.   

Who was she, though?

You wonder if you’re insane to continue this ritual night after night, this repeated viewing of a century old photograph, coupled with a compulsive Google search for someone who, no matter which way you look at it, died in obscurity long ago.

Perhaps you really are insane. Or perhaps everyone deserves to be identified, be they divorced receptionists, or the mysterious girlfriends of famous unsavory figures.


*To purchase my latest novel, "American Socialite," simply click on the link below:    

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Ipatiev House


The fact those Latvians want no part of any of it troubles you. Surely they are as solidly grounded in the Revolution as you are. Why, then, does their refusal to involve themselves disturb you so deeply?

Perhaps it's because you've recently caught sight of the Tsar and his family in the garden, easily interacting with one another. Strangely enough, they've reminded you of your own family just outside the city.

Now, though, the royal family is not in the garden. It’s being led into the small room, behind the closed double doors, where the rest of you stand waiting. You can hear them speaking in there. The Tsarina asks for chairs for she and her husband to sit on. You're surprised she didn't ask for one for the boy, who is clearly sick.

Yurovsky enters the room a moment later and tells you all to be ready. You feel the Belgian revolver you’ve been given weigh heavily in your hand. You can still hear the royal family talking. They are unarmed.

You stare at Yurovsky for a moment. He's a man who has truly struggled for the Revolution, a man who has literally sacrificed his freedom for it on numerous occasions. If such a man feels it is just to kill the royal family, then who is someone like you, a lowly soldier from Yekaterinburg, to question it?

Then again, those Latvians certainly struck you as dedicated to the Revolution – and they stepped away. You're uncertain. The Tsar's supporters are said to be closing in. If any member of the family should be rescued, even one of the daughters, the enemies of the Revolution might remain inspired. 

And then what might happen?

Yurovsky opens the double doors and leads all of you out. You find the family, along with their remaining staff, bunched before a wall. The Tsar and Tsarina are seated. The young boy sits on the Tsar's lap. The daughters are gathered among the others.

You wonder what reason there is for the staff members to die. You also note the princesses look about the same age as your own daughters.

The order is given.

“What?” asks the Tsar, clearly stunned.

You wonder whether or not to fire along with the others.

The Tsarina and one of the girls attempt to bless themselves.

The room erupts in thunder.


*To purchase my latest novel, "American Socialite," simply click on the link below:    

Monday, March 8, 2021


Is it the past I miss, or is it some dreamlike perception of the past that I feed on? This is a question I ask myself a bit now that I’m older. At the age of seventy I find myself staying up late, watching old shows on YouTube, shows from my era, or rather, from the era of my prime. 

The other night for instance I watched a made for television movie from the early 70s called “Hijack.” It starred David Jansen and Kennan Wynn and was pretty much a chase flick. It wasn’t “Duel”, but I liked it. Or rather, I liked the images and feelings it conjured up within me. For the era brought back memories of my life during that time.

The vehicles, the hairstyles, the worldviews, it was all very much of the past, a past I myself reveled in. How could I not have? I was on a hit show myself back in the 70s, albeit for only one episode and in brief flashes, at that. Still, if you look carefully at the specific episode in question, you can actually spot me standing near the stern shirtless. You can also see me underwater, though I’m armored up in scuba gear.

Indeed, the times have changed. Cousteau isn’t seen as the hero he was back then. Truth be told, I didn’t speak to him much during that filmed exploration. He was a legend. That red hat atop his head said it all. Now, though, he’s remembered, if he’s remembered, as a phony, a racist, and as someone who may have been as cold as the bottomless depths he explored (whether he was any of these things I can neither confirm nor deny). Even more than all that, however, he’s known as a philanderer, a cheat (a fact no one can argue against).

I only met his original wife, Simone, once or twice. She was an impressive person, though. Lissy and I were engaged at the time and she was completely won over by Simone’s acumen and ability. Sure enough, Lissy got irked upon learning of Cousteau’s secret family years later. She got even more irked when she found out Cousteau had granted the keys to the kingdom to his lover-turned-second wife, Francine, after his death.

“Disgusting,” she snapped. “What about his son…the one he had while he was married?”

I can’t lie. I was a bit put off by the whole thing, too. Here’s this famous, esteemed guy who whores around on his wife, then leaves his legacy in the hands of the woman he carried on a long time affair with. “Distasteful” was the word that came to mind and for years I used it frequently whenever I was asked about Cousteau in conversation.

That being said, I haven’t talked a whole lot about Cousteau in some time. The seasons change, after all, and people end up forgetting about even the most relevant of individuals. Besides, there was more to my life than a single expedition aboard the Calypso.

For instance, aside of my work at the university there was the exploration of submarine canyons, a full two years spent with the Foundation, a search for living stromatolites in the western Atlantic, underwater mapping off the California coast for the oil companies, and a variety of other adventures that have compiled what I like to think of as a blessed and full life.

Still, people forget. And that’s troublesome. It shouldn’t be troublesome, but it is. Everyone knows the wheel but no one knows who first created it, what that inventor’s name was or whether or not that particular pioneer was of good character. There was no such thing as television when the wheel was invented, after all, and no such thing as YouTube to keep an old man up all night.

Indeed I didn’t get to bed until after three a.m. one day last week. For, after years of successfully battling the temptation, I finally buckled and decided to once again watch that episode which I was somewhat a part of (one can only relate to old made for T.V. movies up to a certain point, after all). Needless to say, watching the episode again was a jarring experience. Then again, it’s always unsettling to see a far younger version of yourself behaving with the passion of youth.

Still, I was intrigued. I was able to catch a clear shot of my young face as I stood next to Jean Paul on board the Calypso. Then, after another quick flash of my profile as Dr. Bob gave instructions, the camera followed all of us as we entered the eighty two degree water in our shorts and yellow and black scuba suits.

I felt a shiver of excitement as we were shown going down to one hundred and twenty feet. I remembered how it was eerie down there, really eerie. Aside from the sharks, we were inundated with pieces of debris which fell down from the reef up above. What’s more, the arches of the caves looked almost manmade. I even remembered the thrill I felt when I suddenly realized the structures hadn’t always been under water, but that the ice age was responsible for their current condition (a discovery I was later to write about at length for the Foundation).

It was hard distinguishing myself from the other divers, but I was still engrossed as the camera followed us under endless hanging, phallic shaped reefs, our bubbles of exhaled carbon dioxide bright to the point of blinding. We were shown taking small samples, measuring stalactites, even exploring the lifeless bottom.

Before making our way back up to the boat, the camera captured us connecting an enormous piece of broken stalactite to a cable. Up and up we went with our treasure, the camera catching it all: the lines, we shadowy divers, the climbing ladder, the rippling waves upon the surface and light, high up above it all, shining down atop the Calypso and diving into the water itself, illuminating all that it encountered until the darkness finally became too strong to penetrate.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Pharisee


It’s said the man is not as popular or powerful among his peers as those individuals named James and Peter are. He is, however, a citizen of Rome, born in the province of Cilicia. He is also Jewish, a Pharisee, no less, which means it should be a surprise to no one he’s become a member of an upstart Jewish sect. The problem, of course, lies within the fact this citizen of Rome, this Pharisee called Paul, now stands accused of evangelizing outside accepted law. That sort of development is problematic for Rome, if not outright dangerous.

What's more, although Paul’s sect is frankly less menacing than other sects within Judaism, much less the Empire as a whole, its adherents now appear determined to grow their numbers beyond what Rome would deem its natural boundaries. These particular Jews, it seems, wish to spread their teachings well past the area in and around Judea. Again, such things are problematic. Their original leader, a messianic Nazarene, was executed by order of the Empire. Rome raises an eyebrow when an execution is unable to stop a potentially disruptive movement. 

And so you, Porcius Festus, are left to deal with this Paul now that your predecessor, Antonius Felix, has been recalled to Rome. Becoming Judea’s procurator is not an enviable task to begin with. Resentment for the Empire is starting to rise above a slow burn among the Jews, plus Agrippa and the priests are at odds with one another. Now you have the matter of this Paul before you. Wiping some sweat off the back of your neck – and you thought Rome could be sweltering – you stare out the window out at the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

A merchant vessel is struggling to sail out of the elaborate port Herod had built several years ago. The wind is pushing its vast, square shaped mast into an extraordinary curve. You turn back around to the sound of voices coming from somewhere nearby inside the palace. This Paul, you realize, is being led your way. You nervously fidget with the gold ring on your finger, then polish the amethyst it holds with your robe. The formality of the imminent hearing aside, your orders are simple – convince Paul to quietly go to Jerusalem in order to stand trial. Do not, under any circumstances, encourage him to appeal to Caesar himself, which is his right to do as a citizen of the Empire.

You take a deep, nervous breath, then glance once more out the window. The sailors down in the port beyond the palace are leaving the merchant vessel. They will try another day – when the wind is more favorable. The ship is no doubt filled with goods. The sailors know cargo can’t be kept here in Judea indefinitely. There are simply things that need to get to Rome. Such, you conclude, is the way of things.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

When Modern America Begins To Look Like The America Of The Chaotic Past

Violence is generally a bad thing. Although it's acceptable at times - such as in the boxing ring, MMA octagon, or the battlefields of World War II, violence in general should be avoided. Sadly, it seems there ain't many people who feel that way these days. 

Is that true, though?

I've been working on my next novel, which culminates with the dawn of the American Revolutionary War, and the similarities I see between 1770s America and modern day America are frightening. There are also frightening similarities between today's America and the America that brought about Shay's Rebellion, which my first novel was set against the backdrop of. 

The first thing I've noticed is that each side in the cultural wars of then and now vilifies the other. In the leadup to the American Revolution, for instance, the British were considered arrogant, oppressive evildoers while the Americans were considered unruly, bloodthirsty and indecent. Sound familiar? The second thing I noticed is that each side in these scenarios tends to cover for it's own villains.

As an American author, I find I sympathize with the American cause when I study its Revolution. The truth, though, is that the more I research, the more I see some Americans, particularly the Sons of Liberty, could be cruel and gleefully violent. You can agree with a cause without agreeing with the psychotic behavior of radicals. That was true in the 1770s, it was true during the riots that rocked America last summer, and it's true today, immediately after an unprecedented assault on our nation's Capital.  

The third, and most frightening, thing I've noticed is that, in heated moments, people stop being reasonable, opting instead for oversimplified thinking. England's King George III, for instance, seems to have been a genuinely decent human being. Yet I've read he felt that, since he only wanted good for people, those who opposed him had to be bad. The kind of stubborn outlook - which argues we're on the side of good and therefore those who oppose us are villains - leads to some bad stuff. 

Sam Adams, to use another example, was a true patriot...but he wasn't into fairness, as he felt fairness would weaken the strength of his patriotic ideology. That kind of belief is dangerous. And nuts. If you read history, you'll see that once the American Revolutionary War began, Adams became less and less of a prominent voice, as cooler heads started to take the lead on the American side. 

Which leads to two more quick things:

First, and most importantly, modern America differs from America in the past in that we are nowhere NEAR the point right now where violence is morally excusable. 

Watching the assault on the Capital last week, I was truly stunned. No matter how bad people may have thought the situation was in America, how could they have possibly concluded such behavior was warranted? We've got to get it through our heads that killing, rioting, and any other source of collective violence is absolutely, positively indefensible in the America of January, 2021. 

The last thing I think worth touching upon is that today, just like during the American Revolution, leaders have flaws. I've brought up George III and Samuel Adams, but I also feel compelled to bring up George Washington, as well. For Washington was truly a great man...but he also believed some of his fellow human beings were his personal property. It's hard to excuse that kind of thinking from any person of any era. The point? That those who feel certain elected officials are going to become messianic figures are sadly mistaken.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Introducing "Lexington"

And we think America is divided now.

Back in 1775 - which really wasn't that long ago when we look at the big picture - shots were fired in a relatively obscure community near Boston, shots that would literally change the course of history. For colonists in America were turning on their leader, the King of England, essentially in order to decide for themselves how they should lead their lives. Needless to say, the fighting in Lexington that day would ring in the bloody American Revolutionary War, which would last eight years and cost untold thousands of lives. In the end, however, America would end up being a free nation no longer burdened by European imperialism.

Still, things are rarely as black and white as they first appear to be. This is particularly true in the case of major historic events, and the American Revolutionary War was no exception. For many, a great many, colonists wanted to remain under British rule. And, in truth, it must be noted that the English government was far from a bloodthirsty authority, at least as far as the colonies were concerned. What's more, many of those in the Boston area who protested British governance before the fighting started did so in unfair, and at times remarkably cruel ways.

Perhaps that's why I've chosen such a tumultuous backdrop for my next novel, Lexington. I'm fascinated not only by historic events, but by the often complex and motivational issues that lead to those events. The fighting in Lexington can be traced back, as all such shocking moments can, to individuals. And the actions of individuals can be traced back to a variety of familial, psychological, and biographical factors. 

Thomas Crawford and William Prentiss will be the main characters in Lexington. Having gone from friends to enemies, they will find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that is about to erupt into violence. Each of these Boston natives will have his reasons for his actions, and perhaps not all of them will be honorable. Such is the stuff of life. They will, however, be decent enough souls, men with families who are navigating through an exceedingly dangerous time. 

One thing I can promise, however, is that their story will not be predictable. The reader knows what will ultimately happen in the town of Lexington, but won't know how each man will or won't be involved in the events of that morning. In other words, don't expect a final "battlefield confrontation." Don't expect cardboard characters, either. Thomas and William are strong men trying to do right by their families...and by their equally strong wives, who may or may not disagree with their decisions.

They say there was a "shot heard round the world" that morning in Lexington. There were, however, many factors, personal as well as social and political, that led to that simple, explosive moment. 

With all that being said, it takes a good amount of time to pen a novel worth publishing, and I'm just far enough along on Lexington to comfortably announce its presence. I'll be sure make regular posts throughout the creative process, however, in order to keep everyone abreast on the book's progress. In the meantime, be sure to pick up one of my published novels by clicking on the links below.

Happy New Year!

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Click here for The Regulator:

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Heading Towards Christmas - Some Thoughts On Jesus


And so we're at the time of year where many celebrate the birth of Jesus. Fewer and fewer of us believe in the divinity of Christ around here these days. Those of us who do are a shrinking and unfashionable demographic. Still, I think there's some things about Jesus worth considering. You don't have to believe Jesus is God in order to give the matter some thought, either. This a documented historical figure we're talking about, after all.

At any rate, it's occurred to me that if Jesus were walking the earth today, he would rub a lot of people the wrong way, just like he did during his own lifetime. Back then, Jesus offended those in power. Today he would offend occupants of social media. For Jesus told people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. And that just doesn't wash here in the 21st century. 

For we in the here and now are into hating our neighbors. What's more, we like hating our neighbors. We think it's good to hate our neighbors. We're proud of hating our neighbors. We're convinced our neighbors engage in fear mongering, hatred, and oppression. We want these people cancelled - if not as thoroughly as Jesus was, then as thoroughly and conveniently as possible (we're really into convenience these days). So no, we have no interest in that love your neighbor thing Jesus was all about. 

We also don't like that whole forgiveness business Jesus taught, either. As far as we're concerned, our neighbors don't deserve forgiveness. What's more, we deserve to enjoy their comeuppance. The more degrading and thorough the comeuppance, the better. To us, it's only fair. Jesus just wasn't into that way of thinking, so frankly we're not all that into Jesus.  

It's not like we're exactly happy in the here and now, though. Truth be told, we're completely miserable. Maybe, just maybe, it's possible someone who walked the earth thousands of years before the age of Google might have actually made some valid points. 

Merry Christmas.