Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald – a review

Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam by Frances FitzGerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grew up in this era and have spent the majority of my life studying this event in U.S. history. And even with my broad spectrum of knowledge on this topic, I’m still occasionally amazed at what a horrendous cluster-screw this whole situation was. As a child of the 60s with an older brother (b.1950) in the house, this event was always present in my home; at the dinner table, while watching the evening news, or reading the paper. We talked about it in school, also.

Frances Fitzgerald’s book is a tough slog, for two reasons: the writing is a bit heavy and the story isn’t a happy one. However, it’s worth the read because this lady covers this era in a way that I had never really encountered in all my studies. Most Vietnam War books are told from the military viewpoint or from the political viewpoint or combinations thereof. This book, however, looks at the situation from ground level. Ms. Fitzgerald goes back centuries in the histories of the Vietnamese people to explain why the U.S. failed so grievously in this situation.

Firstly, the motivations of the U.S. were NOT noble or heroic. Secondly, there was absolutely NO understanding of the Vietnamese people or their culture. This isn’t a military issue. Those in the military just felt they were doing a job that they were sent there to do by the civilian leadership of the U.S. And that’s true, to a point. The most amazing thing to me, though, is how naive, misinformed, idiotic, and often dishonest the civilian leadership (President, advisors, technicians, diplomats, etc.) were during this entire era; three or four different administrations, going all the way back to Eisenhower.

Another unique thing about this book is that it was written in 1971. This lady was there. She was observing in real time, not researching her book from documents 25 years old. The U.S., in an attempt to carry on their “foreign policies” ended up completely destroying the people that they were professing to protect. I didn’t run across any real surprises in this book. I’ve known this history for many years. What was astounding to me while reading it was the same thing that has always astonished me about this event… the utter stupidity with which it was carried out.

Sadly, lessons were not learned. The U.S.’s current involvement in Afghanistan has serious parallels to the Vietnam endeavors of the past.

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I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft by S. T. Joshi – a review

I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. LovecraftI Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

S. T. Joshi has created what I find to be the definitive biography of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It must have been a true labor of love for Joshi.

There are two things, unfortunately, that will deter many people from picking this book up and giving it a read:

  • its size alone will be the first detriment (nearly 1200 pages)
  • preconceived, and often false, notions that people have regarding the subject of this book will also be a deterrent, I believe.

This is sad. H. P. Lovecraft was an extremely interesting man. Sure, he had his faults, as we all do. He is definitely on my list of authors with whom I would love to spend an evening by a fire in some cozy den discussing many things.

This book has truly increased my knowledge of Lovecraft, but it has also brought me closer to the man. You cannot absorb this much about a person without beginning to feel that you actually knew them. My esteem for H. P. Lovecraft has most definitely surged.

I’m also extremely impressed with S. T. Joshi, the author of this work. I cannot even begin to imagine the years of toil that were involved in researching for this project. It was worth it, though. Joshi has managed to humanize Lovecraft. He doesn’t hide the ugliness, but attempts to explain it a bit; understanding assists in developing a less biased opinion of a subject.

I would most assuredly recommend a reading of Joshi’s book for anyone with the slightest interest or curiosity regarding its subject.. Howard Phillips Lovecraft, his philosophies, his struggles, his likes and dislikes, his life. If life had thrown just a few less curve balls at Howard, one may wonder just how far and how successful he may have been; particularly if he had kept his health and lasted into his 70s or 80s. Instead, he was lost to us way too soon (46 years old), just as one of his inspirational mentors, E. A. Poe. (died at 40).

Howard never attained any commercial success in his lifetime. He never had a published book of any of his works while still living. His stories were mostly disseminated via amateur presses or magazines, such as Weird Tales.

There is a decent biographical article in Wikipedia regarding Lovecraft that may stir your interest toward the full story found in Joshi’s biography on Lovecraft. I hope you give it a go someday.

An addendum…

Shortly after posting the above review of S. T. Joshi’s biography of H. P. Lovecraft, I began to receive negative comments stating that I was complicit in Lovecraft’s racist proclivities by not mentioning them in my review. I did not mention them because I was not reviewing that aspect of the man’s life. I was focusing on his talents and his struggles throughout his short life. I was also reviewing S. T. Joshi’s outstanding work in researching and writing this exhaustive study of Lovecraft.

I was having trouble defending myself against these aforementioned negative comments. My only reply was that Mr. Joshi’s book should be read in order to educate and aid in understanding Lovecraft a bit more before slamming him… and by association, myself.

With that in mind, via email correspondence with Mr. Joshi, I asked if he has experienced this himself during the many years that he has written about Lovecraft. His reply to me was outstanding. It made all the points that my poor command of the English language could not. With the author’s kind permission, I’m going to post the document that he sent me in reply to my query.

H. P. Lovecraft’s Racism and Recognition

S. T. Joshi

The posthumous career of H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) is as bizarre as any of the horror tales he ever wrote. Utterly unknown in his own day except to readers of cheap “pulp magazines” such as Weird Tales and Astounding Stories, and unable to secure the publication of even a single book of his stories in his lifetime, he has experienced a renaissance of interest virtually unprecedented in literary history. As a result, almost everything he wrote—not only his acclaimed “weird tales,” but his essays, poetry, and especially his thousands of surviving letters—have been published. The smallest facets of his life, work, and thought have been pored over by fans, critics, and scholars, and his work has appeared in more than thirty languages around the world.

Although Lovecraft officially entered the canon of American literature with the publication of a volume of his Tales in the prestigious Library of America (2005), his presence in popular culture is even more pervasive. Hundreds of films and television shows have been made from his tales, most notably Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) and Dagon (2001) and, more recently, Richard Stanley’s Color out of Space (2019) and Jordan Peele’s Lovecraft Country (an HBO miniseries based on a Lovecraft-inspired novel by Matt Ruff). Guillermo del Toro has been a particularly ardent devotee of Lovecraft’s work, and his film The Shape of Water (2017) is unmistakably influenced by Lovecraft’s masterful tale of hybrid human/fish entities, “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” His presence in comic books, role-playing games, video games, and even merchandising is extensive.

One of the more curious results of this posthumous fame is Lovecraft’s emergence as a kind of patron saint of atheism.1 Born in Providence, R.I., and spending most of his life there, he shed his Baptist faith as a teenager, and in many bracing letters he vigorously heaped abuse upon the truth-claims of religion, scorned mysticism, and condemned the criminal brainwashing of the young into religious dogma.

But an unfortunate side-effect of the wide dissemination of his work—especially his private correspondence—was the revelation that Lovecraft occasionally expressed prejudicial views on African Americans, Jews, and other minorities. These views have been known since the 1950s, but over the past decade a number of commentators have seized upon them to condemn Lovecraft as a “vicious racist.” And now, he has in a small way become embroiled in the otherwise legitimate protests of recent months against the ongoing racism of American society. Some activists in Providence have objected to the display of a bust of Lovecraft, fashioned by the artist Bryan Moore and set up in 2013 in the Providence Athenaeum, a private library.2

As a person of color (a native of India) who has spent most of his life studying Lovecraft’s life and work, I believe I have some authority to speak on this subject. I believe there is considerable reason to withhold our outrage—transiently satisfying as it may be—and present a more balanced perspective.

There is abundant evidence that Lovecraft’s racial views were initially shaped by the influence of his family and of the general culture of New England, which was extremely conservative (both socially and politically) in his day. What is more, Lovecraft—a devotee of the sciences, especially chemistry, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and others—believed that the findings of nineteenth-century biology and anthropology (as found in the work of, say, Thomas Henry Huxley, whom Lovecraft cited as early as 1915) endorsed the view that some human races were superior to others. It took generations of scholars, beginning in the 1920s and led by Franz Boas (1858–1942), a professor of anthropology at Columbia University, to overturn this bogus science, and the work was not completed until long after Lovecraft’s death.

What Lovecraft desired, in essence, was the preservation of culture—and not only his own (Anglo-Saxon) culture, but all cultures. It should not be forgotten that during his day the United States was experiencing an unprecedented influx of immigrants. Between the years 1890 and 1920, more than 15 million immigrants came to America—and not just from places like England or Germany, but from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Lovecraft was far from alone in believing that his own culture was being threatened by these new arrivals. The public press thundered with fulminations on the subject. One of the best-selling books of 1920 was Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color against White World-Supremacy.3 As a result, Congress passed three highly restrictive immigration bills—in 1917, 1921, and 1924—by overwhelming majorities. These laws were not amended until 1965.

In 1924 Lovecraft made the somewhat precipitate decision to marry Sonia Greene, a dynamic businesswoman in New York, and move into her apartment in Brooklyn. Sonia was a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine. Many have wondered why Lovecraft, with his anti-Semitic tendencies, married a Jewish woman; but Lovecraft maintained that Sonia had become, through her long residence in England and America, thoroughly westernized (Nietzsche’s “good European”), as he believed himself to be. But over the next two years he suffered extreme misery by an inability to find work in the teeming, heterogeneous metropolis. And yet, even in the depths of his despair, he expressed admiration for the Hasidic Jews of the Lower East Side, who clung to their heritage while surrounded by an alien culture.

Returning to Providence in 1926, he began writing the great tales—“The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour out of Space,” At the Mountains of Madness, “The Shadow out of Time”—that we now admire. He also traveled widely. In 1930 he ventured up to Quebec and found much to praise in the way the French-Canadians there—even after their military defeat at the hands of the English in 1759—tenaciously preserved their culture. Then, as now, Quebec is thoroughly French. In 1931 Lovecraft visited Florida and was impressed by the remnants of the old Spanish culture in St. Augustine and other cities.

Lovecraft did express prejudice in two or three poems (out of the 350 he wrote in his lifetime) and in a small number of letters.4 But to what extent do racial elements enter into his highly acclaimed fiction? Some critics believe these elements are pervasive; others, such as the philosopher John Gray, have concluded that “the core of his work has nothing to do with his social and racial resentments.” I am inclined to agree with Gray, for a number of reasons.

It is easy to point to a story such as “The Horror at Red Hook” (1925), written during his New York “exile” and exhibiting distaste for minorities. Another story written at the same time, “He,” is also assumed to be racist, but a very different interpretation can be made. Here, the narrator, on his lonely walks around lower Manhattan, meets a preternaturally aged individual (clearly an Anglo-Saxon of aristocratic lineage) who, two centuries earlier, had built a lavish mansion in the area. It is then revealed that this person obtained the land by poisoning the Native Americans who were living there; but the spirits of those Native Americans emerge from the dead and destroy the man, and the narrative takes great satisfaction in this action.

Other stories present white people in a highly dubious light. “The Rats in the Walls” (1923) depicts an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon family in England that has descended to the level of cannibals. “The Lurking Fear” (1922) portrays a well-bred Dutch family in upstate New York that has degenerated into mole-like monsters through inbreeding. “The Dunwich Horror” (1928) is the story of decadent white rustics in central Massachusetts who attempt to commune with monsters from another dimension. On the basis of these three stories, one would be justified in believing that Lovecraft was prejudiced against white people.

Many commentators today seem unaware that around 1930 Lovecraft converted from political and economic conservatism to moderate (non-Marxist) socialism. He did so after witnessing the devastation caused by the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, and came to a reasoned belief that unsupervised capitalism was causing untold misery to the population at large. Initially his socialism was inspired by a fear of a revolution of the “have-nots” that might overthrow civilization; but he later contended that the distribution of economic wealth among the many was a simply a matter of (shall we say it?) social justice:

I agree that most of the motive force behind any contemplated change in the economic order will necessarily come from the persons who have benefited least by the existing order; but I do not see why that fact makes it necessary to wage the struggle otherwise than as a fight to guarantee a place for everybody in the social fabric. The just demand of the citizen is that society assign him a place in its complex mechanism whereby he will have equal chances for education at the start, and a guarantee of just rewards for such services as he is able to render (or a proper pension if his services cannot be used) later on.5

If Lovecraft were alive today, he’d probably be a Bernie Sanders supporter—and wouldn’t have the slightest concern that Sanders is Jewish.

Lovecraft has taken a lot of heat for his conflicted support of Hitler, as expressed in some letters of 1933–34, when Hitler first came to power. But he was by no means alone in this, and persons of far greater renown and influence—including Charles Lindbergh and King Edward VIII of England—were much more full-throated in their admiration of Hitler. Moreover, one of Lovecraft’s friends reports that in 1936 he spoke to a neighbor who had visited Germany and was appalled at her account of the cruelties the German government was inflicting upon Jews and other disfavored minorities.

What is more, his late conversion to socialism caused him to be strongly opposed to various right-wing extremists—ranging from fat-cat capitalists to unabashed bigots—whom he believed to be hindering the cause of economic justice. This makes it abundantly clear that at this time Lovecraft in no sense a supported anything that could remotely be called white nationalism:

Granting the scant possibility of a Franco-like revolt of the Hoovers and Mellons and polite bankers, and conceding that—despite Coughlinism, the Black Legion, the Silver Shirts, and the K.K.K.—the soil of America is hardly very fertile for any variant of Nazism, it seems likely that the day of free and easy plutocracy in the United States is over.6

It is perhaps an exaggeration to say that Lovecraft renounced his racial views toward the end of his life, but evidence suggests that he was indeed rethinking his beliefs in the wake of what he believed to be the desperate need for political and economic reform.

It is also worth noting that Lovecraft was one of the most universally beloved figures of his day. He was tremendously generous (not with money, for he had little, but with his time and expertise) in helping fellow writers perfect their craft. One friend, Ernest A. Edkins, said of Lovecraft that “he remains enshrined in my memory as a great gentleman, in the truest sense of that much abused term.”7 And not one of Lovecraft’s friends and colleagues has reported that he ever expressed a racist sentiment in their presence. His assistance and support extended to a number of Jewish colleagues, among them the poet Samuel Loveman and the young Robert Bloch, later the author of Psycho (1959). Bloch’s four-year correspondence with Lovecraft (1933–37) was so meaningful to him that he has declared that, had he known that Lovecraft was dying, he would have crawled on his hands and knees from Milwaukee to Providence to be at his bedside.

It is curious that Lovecraft is so widely condemned for his views when many other figures are given a pass for their deviations of current sociopolitical orthodoxy. Edgar Allan Poe was an unabashed supporter of slavery. H. G. Wells spoke disparagingly of “primitive” cultures. Jack London revealed strong anti-Asian prejudice, writing the article “The Yellow Peril” (1904), in which he heaped scorn on the Chinese immigrants in California. Lovecraft’s Robert E. Howard, the inventor of Conan the Barbarian, wrote the story “Black Canaan” (1936), a far more egregiously racist story than anything Lovecraft wrote, as it expresses sympathy with white slaveowners suppressing a revolt by African American slaves in Texas before the Civil War.

T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were unequivocal anti-Semites; Pound was so virulent on the subject, as exhibited in radio talks he gave during World War II, that he was locked up for a few years in an insane asylum. Roald Dahl was a ferocious racist and anti-Semite—and had far less excuse for it, since he was aware of the effects of the Holocaust, as Lovecraft was not. Even the sainted George Orwell has now been revealed to have been a homophobe. The list could go on and on.

In a peculiar way it is a tribute to Lovecraft that he is singled out for his racism when other writers are not: there is an inherent power in his work that many find compelling, and as a result they seem to take personal offense at his lapse on the issue of race. Lovecraft is now pervasive in popular culture in a way that highbrow poets like Eliot and Pound could never be. But it is also interesting to note that this obsession with Lovecraft’s racial views is largely a product of Anglo-American culture. I am in nearly daily touch with editors, publishers, and devotees of Lovecraft from around the world, and very few of them exhibit any interest in his racism. These are the very people you would think would be most disturbed by his attitudes, but in fact they simply don’t care. What they do care about is disseminating Lovecraft’s work as widely as they can in their own societies.

At this fraught moment in our own society, it would appear that many of us are not very tolerant of nuance. It is more emotionally satisfying to see things in black and white. But I trust that cooler heads will at some point prevail and that H. P. Lovecraft, whose immensely powerful weird tales have inspired generations of readers, writers, and scholars, will not be lumped with Confederate generals and others whose racism actively harmed persons of color, and who justly deserve to be dethroned from their positions of respect and authority. It is horribly reductive to see Lovecraft as just a “vicious racist” and nothing more. He was a racist, but hardly “vicious”; he was unfailingly courteous to everyone he met, including people of other races. And his views on this and the myriad other subjects that engaged his mind are complex and not easily pigeonholed.

There is always a danger in casting moral judgments on figures of the past—and the greatest danger is that we ourselves will be subject to similar censure fifty or a hundred years from now for all manner of derelictions of which we are unaware or which we blandly accept as an immutable part of present-day society. So a certain humility may be in order. The continual harping on this one aspect of Lovecraft’s thought may itself constitute a kind of bias or prejudice that ought to be deprecated.

1 See my article “H. P. Lovecraft: Denier of God—Creator of Gods,” Truth Seeker (May–August 2020).

2 The bust makes a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s film Irrational Man (2014), set in a fictitious Rhode Island college.

3 Excerpts of this book, along with many other material of the same sort, can be found in my compilation Racism in America: A Documentary History (Sarnath Press, 2020).

4 And I mean a small number. Out of the 4.5 million words of his surviving correspondence, I would be surprised of racial matters are discussed in more than 5% of that total wordage; the true figure may be as little as 2%. Lovecraft had many other things on his mind.

5 Letter to Kenneth Sterling (October 18, 1936); in Letters to Robert Bloch and Others, ed. David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2015), 285–86.

6 Letter to C. L. Moore (7 February 1937); in Letters to C. L. Moore and Others, ed. David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2017), 213.

7 Ernest A. Edkins, “Idiosyncrasies of H.P.L.” (1940); in Ave atque Vale: Reminiscences of H. P. Lovecraft, ed. S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz (West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 2018), 363.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers – a Review

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though, I had read this book thirty years ago, I was just amazed at how much of it I had forgotten. Also, at the time I originally read this book, it was only the second book of Powers’ that I had read; the first being Drawing of the Dark.

Since that time, I’ve read nearly everything that Powers has published. I believe that because of this I had a much broader perspective of Powers’ talents to allow me much more appreciation of The Anubis Gates this time around.

When it comes to writers, or any human endeavors, there are categories: bad, mediocre, good, and superlative. Powers most definitely falls into the superlative group, which is not heavily populated. I think that writers of prose or poetry who have truly astounding talents definitely display a touch of genius approaching Einstein (Physics) or Beethoven (Music).

I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of time, effort, frustration, and huge piles of scribbled notes Powers endured while researching and writing this book. Sadly, many who read Powers’ works will miss 50% or more of the interesting tidbits he twists and twines into the tapestry he’s creating while writing. Powers loves to use actual historical persona, Classic Literature, Physics, and historical events in his stories. Most folks will enjoy the stories even without the background education required to catch all of Powers’ references. However, if you do catch and understand them, it just adds to the joy and amazement of this talented man’s writings .

As with most readers, I have a short list of favorite authors:

– Lovecraft
– Stephen King
– Mark Helprin
– Vonnegut
– Jane Austin
– Charlotte Bronte
– Loren Eiseley
– E.A. Poe
– Steinbeck
– Ambrose Bierce
– Washington Irving
– et cetera

Powers is most definitely on this list!

I’m guessing Tim and his ol’ pal, James Blaylock, experimented a bit with certain substances and ethanol-based liquids back in their college days. I cannot believe that some of the things Powers dreams up could have happened without some outside assistance. 😉

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Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers – a review

Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For many years, my favorite Powers book was The Drawing of the Dark. However, since reading many of his more current books, I’m hard-pressed to decide on a favorite. It seems that each of the last few I’ve read are just so outstanding; getting hard to choose, for sure.

This current one here, I had to give a 5-Star review. I don’t toss out 5-Star reviews that easily. but… well… this book was definitely better than 4-Stars, and there are no fractional star options.

As I’ve said in previous Powers reviews here, if you’re a fan of Tim, you don’t need an explanation. If you’re not familiar with him, but are a fan of strange, weird, yet tantalizingly possible Fantasy/Sci-fi, I think you’ll like this book… and all his others, too.

Go ahead, you know you wanna’… grab yourself a twisted Tim Powers book and sit in your comfortable reading chair by the fire with some hot cocoa sometime in this last few weeks of winter. You won’t regret the time spent, I don’t think.

Tim Powers’ complete bibliography from Wikipedia (read the novels in publication order, if you can manage it)

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The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers – a review

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t lightly give books five star ratings, but this one is well deserved. This book was absolutely stupendous! I’ve read quite a lot of Powers over the years, but had never read this one. I’ll tell you this… it may be my all time favorite Tim Powers book. I cannot see him surpassing this in the few books of his that I still have left to read.

His mastery shows in this story. His mixture of true history, Literature, legend, Philosophy, Religion, and even Physics makes the story almost… so close… nearly believable. For fiction works, particularly fantasy type fiction, it’s necessary for the author to get the reader to suspend his disbelief for a while. Powers weaves a story here that will have you saying to yourself, as you progress through the book; “Hmm…”, “Ahh…”, “I can see that”, and “That makes sense”.

If you’ve read some of Powers books, but not this one yet… you’re missing out. You must read this book.

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Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music by John Fogerty – a Review

Fortunate Son: My Life, My MusicFortunate Son: My Life, My Music by John Fogerty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting read. I’ve been a John Fogerty/CCR fan since I was a kid in the 60s. Unfortunately, or maybe that’s not the right word… maybe consequently would be better. As a consequence of reading this book, my image/opinion of John may have been adjusted or realigned a bit. That’s OK, though… I much appreciated being allowed into his head. The book is written in a way that makes you feel that John is sitting with you in some comfortable den by the fireplace and telling you his life story.

It’s an interesting story. The man went through a bit of Hell in his journey through life, but he seems to have come out OK; thanks to some helpful people in his life, particularly his wife Julie. The book is a bit of a love story, too, in regards to Julie. That’s OK, too. Fans of John should be very grateful to Julie. She may have been the one thing the kept him here in this world. He definitely was going through some bad times when he met her.

I hope John and Julie and their family continue to thrive and live the dream. Creedance Clearwater Revival will ALWAYS be a large chunk of my life. I’ve loved that music since first hearing it on the radio in the late 60s while riding around in mom’s ’59 Chevy with my older brother and his pals. John’s music is part of my soul now… and forever.

If you’re a fan of CCR and John… you need to read this book.

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A Philosophical Interlude Provided by Author John D. MacDonald

Well, it seems it’s been a while since my last entry here. I went dark for a few months there (no Internet access) due to COVID-19 financial stress. I’m sure many of you can relate. Anyway, I’m back for now…

For you more mature folks (read as “old farts”) out there, you may remember and have read some of the legendary mystery writer John D. MacDonald‘s books. If so, you’re probably familiar with is style of writing and how he ofttimes veers slightly off topic to rant on about something or to state some deep philosophical tidbit. That’s what I’m going to post here in a moment or two.

MacDonald wrote many excellent mystery novels in his time. He was very prolific and extremely talented at twisting up a seriously intricate plot in just a little over 200 pages. If you’ve never read any of John D.’s work, I cannot recommend him enough to you. Grab one of his books. It’s a ride. You’ll get hooked.

MacDonald is semi-famous in many a mystery aficionado’s reminiscences due to a series of books (21, I think) that he wrote about a laid-back beach bum type named Travis McGee. Trav was a man’s man, in the macho sense of that phrase… and a helluva lady’s man, too. He was buena gente (good people), as they say in my neck o’ the woods.

Anyway, many years ago, my uncle Aaron (mother’s brother) gave me the entire set of Travis McGee books. I read them back then… one after another till I finished them; all too soon, sadly. They are stupendous. I’m currently re-reading them. Hell, nothing else much to do during COVID isolation, right?

I was inspired to read the McGee books again by another modern author’s works that I had recently finished reading. His name is Craig Johnson and he writes the Longmire series of mystery books. I definitely DO recommend these, by the way. I liked them so much, I actually wrote Johnson a fan mail letter. I’ve only done that twice in my life; the other author I wrote to was Nelson DeMille. The reply from DeMille was classic, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I had told Craig Johnson in that letter that the very first Longmire book made a deep impression on me because it was so well-plotted and carried out in just the short 200+ pages of that little paperback. It impressed me because it reminded me of John D. MacDonald’s talent for tight plotting.

To the point, though…

I’m currently reading Pale Gray for Guilt, the 9th in the McGee series. In that book earlier this evening John D. did one of his patented digressions into philosophical speculation. I’m going to type that passage in here for you right now. I hope the owners of the copyright will forgive me this little slip.


…and too many others were gone, and I sought chill comfort in an analogy of death that has been with me for years. It doesn’t explain or justify. It just seems to remind me how things are.

Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and you have to sand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end and building up downstream.

Your time, the time of all your contemporaries, schoolmates, your loves and your adversaries, is that part of the shifting bar on which you stand. And it is crowded at first. You can see the way it thins out, upstream from you. The old ones are washed away and their bodies go swiftly by, like logs in the current. Downstream where the younger ones stand thick, you can see them flounder, lose footing, wash away. Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry and you reach to catch their hand, but the fingertips slide away and they are gone. There are the sounds in the rocky gorge, the roar of the water, the shifting, gritty sound of sand and gravel underfoot, the forlorn cries of despair as the nearby ones, and the ones upstream, are taken by the current. Some old ones who stand on a good place, well braced, understanding currents and balance, last a long time. A Churchill, fat cigar atilt, sourly amused at his own endurance and, in the end, indifferent to rivers and the rage of waters. Far downstream from you are the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent.*


There it is, folks. This passage had an effect on me as I was reading it. Bourbon may have had a little to do with that… Heh! Nah. 😉 It was just so beautiful, yet sad. I had to post it here for others to see and think about. I hope you liked it and I hope you’ll pick up a John D. MacDonald book next time you’re at the library. I tend to doubt you will ever regret it; except for its addictive qualities.

All for now. Please keep yourselves safe and HEALTHY!

*©1968 by John D. MacDonald1

  1. I was not able to determine current copyright ownership now that MacDonald is deceased. I always try to give credit where credit is due in my blogs. ~vtel

Glimpses by Lewis Shiner – a Review

GlimpsesGlimpses by Lewis Shiner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book can’t be described; it NEEDS to be read. It touched on all my emotions. It brought back so many memories of my youth in the 60s and later memories. It reinforced my belief that music is a universal language. Those who don’t appreciate music or understand its importance, will probably not understand this book. That’s sad because there’s much in this story that will touch many of you deeply, particularly if you lived through the turbulent times of the late 60s and beyond.

Books are subjective things, as I’ve stated often in reviews or descriptions to friends. One-book-fits-all is just as impractical as one-music-fits-all. You may or may not like this book. It’s up to YOU! I do recommend it highly, though.

When the Music’s Over – The Doors (1967)

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A Short Rant…

Episode Eight | The Vietnam War

I was channel surfing earlier this afternoon and stumbled across Ken Burns’ Ep 8 of his Vietnam War series on a local PBS channel.

And while I have seen the series through a couple times and have spent 45+ years studying and researching this era, the scenes in this documentary and the sounds and the music never fail to bring me to tears.

I remember this era well, even though I was a bit too young to participate fully. I remember my older brother and his friends being nervous and worried about these events (’68-’69). I remember watching Cronkite on the evening news with my parents and my brother. I remember the scenes of the fighting (America’s 1st televised war). I remember the fear, anger, sorrow.

I remember it all. Do you? Those of you who were the members of this truly fucked (and maybe a bit blessed) generation (b. ’45 – ’55 or so)…


I’m pretty sure you do. It’s a difficult thing to forget. I’ve studied this era so deeply over the decades because it has always amazed me how it came about, what transpired, how poorly the U.S. dealt with this. Even after all this time, it still completely astounds me how this happened.

And sadly, I continue to see these same mistakes being made by my country over the years since this time. I still see young men and women going to places thousands of miles from home to fight and kill and die… for what? For noble causes? To protect our allies? Because we were attacked in our own country? I don’t think so.

Look around you today… right this minute and ask yourself:

Is it any different now? Have we made any progress? Or is it just same shit – different day/era? When are we going to finally wake up and realize that this is all such BULLSHIT? Of course, being a student of military history, which basically means human history, I can’t see any improvements other than those which have provided the means to bullshit the masses with more ease and kill the “enemies” with more precision and effect.

It’s a sad fuckin’ state of affairs, folks. It really is.

/rant off

Four dead in Ohio ~Neil Young – Ohio

Greed KILLS!

On tonight’s 60 Minutes (12 April 2020) they interviewed a doctor and a nurse working up close and personal in an NYC hospital right now. The fact that the U.S. cannot supply its own healthcare workers and citizens with necessary medical supplies and medications is the fault of GREED, plain and simple.

BIG CORP aided by greasing the palms of Senators and Representatives of the U.S. Congress and others in high places, have managed over the last 25-35 years or so to move nearly ALL production of consumer goods to overseas manufacturers who use slave labor and tyrannical oversight to provide the U.S. with cheap, low-quality goods.

This country needs to learn a lesson from this. The U.S. needs to bring manufacturing back to this country; particularly for necessary items for our health, safety, and security. The citizens of this once-great country need to RISE UP and DEMAND that this trend is reversed and corrected. However, we’ve all become addicted to cheap shit in our stores, so what’s the solution here? I wish I knew…

I’m ANGRY! YOU damned well ought to be, too.


… while enriching beyond their wildest dreams those 1% motherfuckers who control 99% of this country’s wealth. Think about this. Think about it well the next time you support these companies (and the men who control them) that stock their shelves with cheap imported garbage. We are part of the problem. Sadly, when you work your asses off for chicken shit wages, the cheap imported shit is all you can afford. It’s a vicious cycle. There was a reason unions became popular. Unfortunately, many of those unions also became corrupt and forgot their prime directive: helping the workers to not be abused and misused.

And it’s NOT a Republican/Democrat thing. They’re all thieving, lying bastards. It’s OUR fault ultimately; the people governed by these toadies of the oligarchs and plutocrats in control of this country.

I find myself saying this more and more often: