Thursday, November 02, 2006


January, 2007, is shaping up to be a big month for me.

My Bluffton collection, "Just North of Nowhere," is due out from Annihilation Press about then. So, too, I'm now told is my longish short story (do I do anything but?) "At Angels Sixteen" in the Mike Heffernan-edited A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY. (Brownie points for anyone who can identify the source of that title without looking it up! )

You've probably sussed the fact that ADDV is a collection of stories set in and around World War II. My contribution, "At Angels Sixteen," is a story I wrote about 8 years ago (and, typically, never tried to sell). The central character is the tail gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress who encounters more than flak and the Luftwaffe in the skies over Germany!

Mike's put together an incredible line-up of talent for this book and I'm honored to be part of it. Take a look:

"After Dunkirk" by T.M Wright
"The Coventry Boy" by Graham Joyce
"The Honor Guard" by Paul Finch
"In the Dark and the Deep" by Steve Vernon
"Simple Equations" by Jeremy Robert Johnson
"The Night is an Ally" by Scott Nicholson
"Come Unto Me" by Elizabeth Massie
"And the Worm Shall Feed" by Harry Shannon
"At Angels Sixteen" by my own self, Lawrence Santoro
"The Black Wave" by Brian Keene
"And They Will Come in the Hour of Our Greatest Need" by Brian Hodge
"The Devil's Platoon" by John Everson
"Sturm und Drang" by Bev Vincent
"Hiroshima Falling" by Weston Ochse
"Doorway to the Sky" by Cody Goodfellow
"A Judgment Call for Judgment Day" by Scott Edelman
"Blossoms in the Wind" by Rick Hautala
"The Gypsy Camp" by Mort Castle
"Warbirds" by David J. Schow
"But Somewhere I Shall Wake" by Gary A. Braunbeck

Stop by this site: or click on the title above the post and check it out...
I'm told that books like this get snapped up by collectors like/THAT! So order early!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I put this picture up earlier, months ago in fact, back when Alan Clark finished it. This is the cover illustration for my book, JUST NORTH OF NOWHERE.

Needless to say, I love the painting. It's an image from the chapter called "The Ninth Goddamned Kid."

Still not sure of the publication date but we're shooting for early 2007.

For those of you who have read or heard any of the "Bluffton" stories, this is a collection that doesn't quite exhaust the supply -- yes, there are a few more in the trunk -- but these are the ones that currently fit into a comfortable sequence, one with the other! It's damn-near a novel for cripes' sake!

If any of you are only familiar with my "vile tales" such as :"Little Girl Down the Way," or "Catching" (from the SEX CRIMES anthology -- and even I shudder at that one -- the story and the book!) then the Bluffton stories may surprise you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This WILL Make Sense

Soon, sometime soon, I'll explain.

Okay. I'll explain a little of it now: I turned in the ms. for "Just North of Nowhere" last night. Well, okay: ms. is a misnomer. I turned in the file, sent the disc. Except for individual chapters and tales that I've printed out for readings, the book hasn't seen paper YET! But the publisher has the words, the virtual pages! All 499 of them.

This doesn't mean I'm finished. Oh no! Lots left to do, and after that, more! Lots more to sell the thing. Hopefully we'll have the book out, well, soon! In time for NEXT Christmas!!

The picture: it's one of the bluffs of the REAL Bluffton -- the name of which I will not say. Not here. Not yet.

The other picture is another bluff. Bluffton's surrounded by them. See? I wasn't kidding. The Driftless is real!

Okay. More later. I'm exhausted. Back in a bit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Okay. Summer's over. The Cubs won their last game and the team's been disbanded for the season. See you next summer all you suburban yutzes that have pissed in my alley and puked on my stoop and stood around in an alcoholic daze wondering how we city-dwellers could live in such dirty surroundings.

Anyway. IT is nearly finished. That's right: the book's almost done and I'll soon be back to solo blogging. In the's a pitiful story out of Texas from the Dallas Morning News.

I WAS going to post a report on the Religious Nut convention, the "Values Voter Summit" that took place in Washington DC on September 22-23, but I just couldn't. Really...I was so furious, so shakingly terrified for the future of the country, that I couldn't bring myself to post it.

Frisco teacher on leave after museum trip
Art instructor who led museum trip will not have contract renewed

07:23 AM CDT on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

By KAREN AYRES / The Dallas Morning News

FRISCO – An elementary school art teacher who has been publicly at odds with the Frisco school district over a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art is no longer in front of a classroom.

The school district placed Sydney McGee on leave with pay Friday afternoon. After a special school board meeting Monday night about Ms. McGee, Superintendent Rick Reedy said he would recommend that her contract not be renewed when it expires at the end of the school year.

In the meantime, Ms. McGee will be paid her full salary while remaining on leave from Fisher Elementary School.

Ms. McGee's attorney, Rogge Dunn, said the decision was a "crazy use of taxpayers' money."

"She wants to be in there with her kids," Mr. Dunn said.

A Frisco ISD spokeswoman said the district had no further comments on the case.

Ms. McGee, a 28-year veteran teacher, contends she was retaliated against after a parent complained that a student saw a nude statue during a field trip to the museum in April.

District officials have repeatedly pointed to other performance issues and said the trip didn't spark the reprimands.

Ms. McGee became the subject of frequent media reports over the last month after the board rejected her August request to transfer to another Frisco school.

District officials said they didn't want to give Ms. McGee an escape hatch to move elsewhere without addressing other issues, including lesson-plan preparation.

But Ms. McGee said she received a negative review and several directives from Fisher principal Nancy Lawson only after a parent reportedly complained about the trip.

The school board stopped short of terminating Ms. McGee's contract Monday night. But after a closed-door session, Dr. Reedy said he would recommend that her contract not be renewed.

"If they had good reason to fire her, they would have, but they don't," Mr. Dunn said. "It's mind-boggling."

Buddy Minett, school board president, declined to talk about the case.

"This is something where it's really better if we don't comment," he said.

Mr. Dunn said he and Ms. McGee plan to review their legal options.


Friday, September 15, 2006


Still hard a-work on "Just North of Nowhere" but I thought I'd post this little piece of wishful thinking from -- of all places -- Newsweek magazine!

An Alternate 9/11 History
By staying 'humble,' as he promised in 2000, Bush preserved much of the post-9/11 good will abroad.
By Jonathan Alter

Sept. 18, 2006 issue - Five years after 9/11, the world is surprisingly peaceful. President Bush's pragmatic and bipartisan leadership has kept the United States not just strong but unexpectedly popular across the globe. The president himself is poised to enjoy big GOP wins in the midterm elections, a validation of his subtle understanding of the challenges facing the country. A new survey of historians puts him in the first tier of American presidents.

As Bush warned, catching terrorists wasn't easy, but he kept at it. At the battle of Tora Bora, CIA operatives on the ground cabled Washington that Osama bin Laden was cornered, but they desperately needed troop support. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld immediately dispatched fresh forces, and the evildoer was killed. While bin Laden was seen as a martyr in a few isolated areas, the bulk of the Arab world had been in sympathy with the United States after 9/11 and shed no tears. After their capture, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists were transported to the United States, where they were tried and quickly executed.

Today, Al Qaeda remains a threat but its opportunities for recruitment have been scarce, and the involvement of the entire international community has helped dramatically reduce terrorist attacks worldwide. Because Bush believes diplomacy requires talking to adversaries as well as friends, even Syria and Iraq were forced to help. By staying "humble," as he promised in 2000, he preserved much of the post-9/11 good feeling abroad, which paid dividends when it came time to pull together a coalition to handle North Korea and Iran.

At home, some aides suggested that Bush simply tell the nation to "go shopping." But the president knew he had a precious opportunity to ask Americans for real sacrifice. He took John McCain's suggestion and pushed through Congress an ambitious national-service program that bolstered communities and helped train citizens as first responders.

Soon Bush put the country on a Manhattan Project crash course to get off oil. He bluntly told Detroit that it was embarrassing that Chinese automakers had better fuel efficiency, he classified SUVs as cars, and he imposed a stiff gas tax with a rebate for the working poor. To pay for it, he abandoned his tax cuts for the wealthy, reminding the country that no president in history had ever cut taxes in the middle of a war. This president would be damned if he was going to put more oil money into the pockets of Middle Eastern hatemongers who had killed nearly 3,000 of our people. To dramatize the point, he drove to his 2002 State of the Union address in a hybrid car. Sales soared.

When Karl Rove suggested that the war on terror would make a perfect wedge issue against Democrats in the 2002 midterms, Bush brought him up short. Didn't Rove understand that bipartisanship is good politics? Lincoln and FDR had both gone bipartisan during wartime, he reminded his aide. So when evidence of torture at the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay surfaced and Rumsfeld was forced to resign, former Democratic senator Sam Nunn got the job. With post-9/11 unity still at least partially intact in 2004, Bush was re-elected in a landslide.

Taking a cue from Lincoln's impatience with his generals, Bush was merciless about poor performance on homeland security. When the head of the FBI couldn't fix the bureau's computers in a year's time to "connect the dots," he was out. And Bush had no patience for excuse-making about leaky port security, unsecured chemical plants and first responders whose radios didn't communicate. If someone had told him that five years after 9/11 these problems would still be unsolved, Bush would have laughed him out of the office.

In 2003, Vice President Cheney advised the president to take out Iraq's Saddam Hussein militarily. But Bush was beginning to understand that his veep, while sounding full of gravitas, was in fact reckless. When it became clear that Saddam posed no imminent threat, Bush resolved to neuter him, Kaddafi style. When the president found, after a little asking around, that the 10-year cost of invading Iraq would be a crushing $1.2 trillion, he opted out of this war of choice.

Five years after that awful September day, even Bush's fiercest critics have learned an important lesson: leadership counts. Imagine if we'd done the opposite of these things. This country—and the world—would be in a heap of trouble.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Of course I Google myself! And NO that doesn't mean THAT! Having done so recently -- just for curiosity, you understand -- I noted a site that linked to the podcast of "Little Girl Down the Way."

I'm trying to post it here. I have no idea if this will work -- if my previous history with this kind of stuff is any indication of the future, it won't -- but there we are. Go here:

IF you can get there...have a listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Control Alt Delete Democracy

Still working on JUST NORTH OF NOWHERE so I'm still having my blog guest-written. This is from the Long Island Press:

Control Alt Delete Democracy
Lazlow 08/03/2006 11:46 am

I am terribly unimpressed with the future. I don’t have a jet pack or a space car. I have to wait in line and be felt up for minimum wage before sitting on the tarmac for hours and then riding in an airborne cattle car with sweaty fat people and $5- snack boxes. Teleportation was supposed to be here. My car was supposed to fit in my suitcase. Robot maids stink. I’ve been through several robot maids, Roombas and Aibos alike. The future to me seems a lot like the past, except I can’t smoke at concerts, all the girls you think are real are fake, and there’s still nothing on TV.

I can, if I want, go online and vote against Bill Gates as CEO of Microsoft. If you own shares of any company, a proxy vote notification arrives via e-mail, and you log in, vote, and you’re done. It’s democracy that takes minutes. Why then is e-voting in this country the equivalent of a 50-car pileup with a gas tanker?

After the election mess of 2000, where tens of thousands of people in Florida were (oops) accidentally dropped off the voting rolls, 2004 saw a colossal failure of e-voting machines. And this next election will be no different.

American taxpayers have paid for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of computerized voting machines that are screaming for fraud and vote manipulation.
Diebold, the manufacturer of most of the e-voting machines in the country, even had a CEO in 2004 who promised to deliver Ohio to Bush. Ohio is still having issues.
According to CNN, in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, an election held on May 2 was an absolute failure, as Diebold e-voting machines dropped or displaced several hundred registered voters, froze up, or crashed.

Now some hacker activists have exposed a horrifying flaw with Diebold machines. After examining one of the most popular (and paperless) touch-screen voting machines used in public elections in the United States, Open Voting Foundation President Alan Dechert says the group found that by flipping a single switch inside, an election can be altered. “If you have access to these machines and you want to rig an election, anything is possible with the Diebold TS — and it could be done without leaving a trace. All you need is a screwdriver.”

Diebold has fought efforts for mandatory paper trails. I mean, it’s the future! Why double check? Diebold has also fought efforts to publish their code so democracy can be open source, published for the record and analyzed for flaws. Computer professor Avi Rubin at Johns Hopkins University studied the code and told CBS, “We found all kinds of problems in the code,” he said. “A computer scientist can look at a program and immediately tell you if it was written by professional programmers who know how to do software engineering or if it was just put together by a bunch of hacks. And, upon looking at the source code for Diebold, it was pretty clear that this was a real amateur job.”

Counting the votes is a core component of democracy. If e-voting is the future of elections, I’m not impressed.


Lazlow hosts the nationally syndicated radio program "Technofile" and wrote and produced audio for "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
Contact him at

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Custodians of Chaos

Still to the eyeballs in bits and pieces of "Bluffton" trying to get JUST NORTH OF NOWHERE ready for publication this November, I'm letting others do my talking for me.

Look, I never intended this space to be a political platform but too much of the country I was born into is slipping away right now, being gobbled up by the 'PPs' today's 'guest' writer speaks of.

This is an extract from Kurt Vonnegut's forthcoming memoirs. The image is from IN THESE TIMES:

06/17/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.

The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show

But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana.

Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.

"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.

"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'état imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".

George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.

The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.

While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme
Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I
loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.

I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.

In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.

In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.

And with good reason.

In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O'Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.

Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.

Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.

My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler. What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?

© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: : A Memoir of
Life in George W Bush's America.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More of the Toxic Ms...

I knew there was a reason I was secretly drawn to "The Man Show" -- years ago, of course! It wasn't the guy who could down a gallon of beer in about 3 seconds flat and it wasn't the boobs. It really wasn't! I knew that one day Adam Carolla would make me proud to be a man! Recently -- July 7, I believe it was -- he was expecting Ann Coulter to be a phone-in guest on his radio talk show. Ms. Toxic Shock was late and...well, listen is a transcript:

ADAM CAROLLA: Ann Coulter, who was suppose to be on the show about an hour and a half ago, is now on the phone, as well. Ann?


CAROLLA: Hi Ann. You’re late, babydoll.

COULTER: Uh, somebody gave me the wrong number.

CAROLLA: Mmm… how did you get the right number? Just dialed randomly — eventually got to our show? (Laughter in background)

COULTER: Um, no. My publicist e-mailed it to me, I guess, after checking with you.

CAROLLA: Ahh, I see.

COULTER: But I am really tight on time right now because I already had a —

CAROLLA: Alright, well, get lost. [Click]

Brings a tear to my eye. Stand up, fellow Men!

Ann Coulter is a Clown...

Alas, too many people take her seriously. I forthwith quote from Editor & Publisher on the subject of the 'toxic' Ms. Coulter.

'NY Post' Cites Evidence That Ann Coulter Plagiarized Parts of Book, Columns

By E&P Staff

Published: July 02, 2006 7:35 PM ET

NEW YORK Well, Ann Coulter may be "liberal" in one respect, anyway. The New York Post reported Sunday that author/columnist Coulter "cribbed liberally in her latest book" and also in several of her syndicated columns, according to a plagiarism expert.

John Barrie, creator of the iThenticate plagiarism-probing system, claimed he found at least three examples of what he called "textbook plagiarism" in the new Coulter book "Godless" after he ran its text through the program.

He also discovered verbatim copying in Coulter's weekly column, which is syndicated to more than 100 newspapers by Universal.

The headline in classic Post fashion: COPYCATTY COULTER PILFERS PROSE: PRO

Bloggers had been citing examples of alleged Coulter cribbing for months.

After detailing some of the alleged plagiarism in the book, the Post article related that Barrie also ran Coulter's columns from the past year through iThenticate "and found similar patterns of cribbing.

"Her Aug. 3, 2005, column, 'Read My Lips: No New Liberals,' about U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in an L.A. Times article, headlined 'Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views.' But nowhere in that column does she mention the L.A. Times or the story's writer, David G. Savage.

"Her June 29, 2005, column, 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Religion,' incorporates 10 facts on National Endowment for the Arts-funded work that originally appeared in the same order in a 1991 Heritage Foundation report, 'The National Endowment for the Arts: Misusing Taxpayers' Money.' But again, the Heritage Foundation isn't credited."

Barrie said, "Just as Coulter plays free and loose with her citations in 'Godless,' she obviously does the same in her columns."

Meanwhile, many of the 344 citations Coulter includes in "Godless" "are very misleading," said Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition.

"They're used purely to try and give the book a higher level of credibility - as if it's an academic work. But her sloppiness in failing to properly attribute many other passages strips it of nearly all its academic merits," he told The Post.

Coulter did not respond to requests for comment.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Word Eater

I'm a word-omnivore. I'll read about anything I can put eyes to-- cereal boxes, toilet paper wrappers, the backs of old CTA transfers left in a pocket years earlier. I have a sneaking suspicion that I sometimes write a specifice something just to have an excuse to pore over books quaint and curious. Fact is, over the last few decades, research reading has become an obsession with me.

I write from the inside out...maybe I just postpone having to write for as long as possible or maybe I'm just a lazy sod who tells himself that reading is work. BUT...every time I write I butt into my own ignorance and find I've got to research something or another just to get my head and gut into the same place and get that place next to my characters.

For example: I recently, I shipped a novella for an upcoming anthology. The setting for the story, "Wind Shadows" is in the British trenches in Belgium during WW I. I knew what I wanted to say about the people in the tale. I knew roughly what the plot would ask them to do and what would happen to them, but the only clue I had to what their world was like from kidhood reads of "All Quiet on the Western Front" and seeing movies like "Paths of Glory."

By the time I finished "Wind Shadows," I had at least an academic understanding not only of how the whole debacle of trench warfare evolved during that conflict, but I came away with a gut appreciation of what a trench smelled like three days after a big push, I knew what sort of shit the troops got into when they rotated to the rear, I had some sense of the lives and routines of these men.

I'd have to go look at my "Wind Shadows" shelf, but I'd estimate that I read all or significant parts of about a dozen books in getting 15,000 or so words of story onto the screen. I cut a lot in subsequent and final passes, but the research reading had informed the shape and feel of the story. Hell, it's still there in subtext.

Research reading has become a staple of my morning and evening commutes. Even when I'm not working on a story, I find I'm drawn to books that most people have passed by. I love the dump-bins at bookstores, the last chance for some poor old things, nobody wants... Sometimes, passing by, something just pops. During the build for "Wind Shadows" for instance, a long skinny thing called "Harry's War: Experiences in the Suicide Club in World War One" caught my attention in a bin at Powell's in Hyde Park, Chicago. Filled with crude, hand colored sketches and trench-time jottings by a guy named Harry Stinton...just a bloke who was stuck out there figuring each day would probably be his last... "Harry's War," was a heady read -- I went through it twice for "Wind Shadows" and have since spent time with the pictures. There's more to this...but I have to run. Off to work, reading "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hazel's Dunes Shack

This is the interior of Hazel's shack -- I found it on another person's site and have no idea how to credit him/her. This is not where Hazel lived when we knew her, but it is typical of a P'town dunes shack... The places give comfort, in that way that a supra-simplified life snuggles and strokes artists and writers in need of isolation. When I was 30, I would loved one. I might have when I was 40. Now...I need a nearby bathroom and a place to plug the computer!

The Salon-Keeper of P'Town, Mass.

Hazel Hawthorne Werner...was the literary hostess, doyenne salon-keeper of Provincetown, Massachusetts, during the town's gathering years as America’s beaux-arts colony extra ordinaire.

During the 20s, 30s, 40s Hazel also kept a salon in Greenwich Village.

Edmund Wilson, E.E. Cummings, (before he lost his upper case), Eugene O'Neill -- the literary mob we kids of the 40s were raised on -- all hung out with her and her husband, Morrie Werner (editor, writer, drunk and P.T. Barnum biographer), in the Village then followed them up to P'Town on the Cape to hang with them on the dunesey sand. Hazel rented O'Neill the shack on the dunes in which he lived when he was writing his early plays. She rented, then gave it to him, kept him up and working, didn't let him slip into the booze and end-of-life drama he was writing himself into at the time. Hell, the "Sea Plays" were all written in Hazel and Morrie's shack on the beach and were first performed in a little potting shed down off Commonwealth Street (I think it was off Commonwealth -- it 's been a while since I've been there) before the plays went to New York and that city's "Provincetown Playhouse."

I knew Hazel when I lived in P'Town, 1970-71. She was lean, straight, and palsied, her voice, thin, reedy, and cut-glass proper. But despite seeming infirmity, Hazel, using no authority but strength of character, kept the Northeastern American literary establishment proper...not on-track artistically (she didn't seem to care about that), but she kept it, at least, minding its table manners through the 70s. She did, indeed. I watched.

I was married to a woman named Ernestine Worrall at the time. She and I attended a political meeting on behalf of George McGovern and a local candidate for the House of Representatives, Gerry Studds, in a church basement in P'Town.

Before coming up to P’town to work on a few projects, I had spoken passionately back home in Philadelphia on behalf of McGovern and of my ongoing dedication to that race. And at the meeting in Massachusetts, I committed my wife, talents and sacred hours to working not only for the McGovern presidency but for Mr. Studds election. It was the right thing to do...

A chum of ours, the just-down-from-Harvard editor of the Provincetown weekly paper (whenever you find yourself suddenly in a small town -- get to know the local editor!), rose, too, in personal defense of the Democratic Party and of George McGovern; he spoke of Richard Nixon’s perfidy and the ineffectiveness of the incumbent House Member from the Cape. We all filled with the rightness of our cause, the new rising of the young. Yada, yada.

Though it all, Norman Mailer bullied, railed, raged, threatened and called down the wrath of celebrity upon any who disagreed...

Without standing, with barely a look, a whip-thin, horsey, elegant old woman spoke. Pale, in a flowered dress, white socks rolled over sneakers, her voice ululating like a 78 Victrola on a bad road, her head quivering when she spoke. She froze Norman, all of us...

"Oh Norman, do sit down, for heaven's sake! You're behaving like a very bad boy!"

He did. Such was her authority.

That cut through the crap, the blowhardery. In 3 minutes, she'd focused the chatter and formed the kernel of a group to support Studds’ candidacy and, almost incidentally, to help McGovern.

If Senator McGovern can’t take Massachusetts without our help, she thought aloud, we can forget him, period.

Simple. That was that.

Hazel was the great-great-something-granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The which did not impress her, in particular (she wasn't easily impressed). Her fetchin’s did, however, impart to her an impeccable authority as a New Englander. At least to other New Englanders. That sort of thing is important there. If you arrived at 15 and lived to be 85, you were still referred to as "the new fellah," to the natives.

Maybe that's true everywhere...

Hazel and Morrie had split up years before. I have no idea why. Why do those things happen anywhere?

She lived in the converted garage near where their house once stood. Fire, I believe, had removed the place. That was out on Shankpainter Road. My memory wants it to have been there...such a grand name for a forested trail along the dunes.

(Edit: While my memory might have wanted her place to be on Shankpainter Road, it was actually on Howland Street. Ah well...)

Morrie kept their apartment in New York.

She stayed in P'Town until each year became too cold to have her, until the winds threatened to stop her in her tracks or rush her off her feet. Then she'd go spend a few months to the South, in brick, with Morrie on the Upper East Side.

In Spring, she'd be back on the dunes.

For whatever reason, Hazel adopted Ernie, me; took us under her wing for the year we lived there.

I had come, commissioned by the Annenberg Center in Philly, to write a play -- a musical comedy about the Black Death.


For this endeavor I was reasonably well-accepted into the Confraternity of P'Town artists. Most of the people Ernie and I hung with were Pulitzer winners, National Book awardees, such and the like. A good part of our social life consisted of going to readings, openings, showings, presentations, lectures, events... Like that.

Hazel was not part of it but seemed to hover, invisibly around it; a mentioned absence, a spoken-of non-presence, a noted vacancy.

When our laureate chums found that, in addition to the serious -- and understandable -- work of writing a funny play about the Bubonic Plague, I was also interested in -- and actually DID write -- science fiction and fantasy, there was much side-glancing, wide-eyeing, and staring... Uncomprehending squints, stares and slow turns of heads.

Norman and Beverly Mailer, whose children we used to babysit from time to time, seemed to get it, seemed to be okay with it.

Others, simply passed us by.

Hazel, it seems, came to our rescue. By inviting us to dinner, by attending a few events with us, with her as our "guest", she turned the questioning stares of the entire arts community.

I don't doubt that it was a conscious choice on her part, this small intervention. She never did like pomposity, disdained arrogance.

Maybe she liked that I didn't care if this group accepted me. I actually didn't. Not too much, anyway.

Perhaps she liked Ernie's bread or the fact that we used to sit and chat with her at her place Saturday mornings, coffee and oatmeal, steamy windows and foggy skies and rolling ocean beyond her trees and dunes. Maybe she liked our talk of city streets, of Philadelphia, of chums and villains. Maybe she liked that we had time to talk about things other than bookish things.

Maybe she liked science fiction and fantasy.

Whatever it was, I liked her and so did Ernie. I got over her being the great great-grand-something-daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Hazel seemed, at once, fragile and razor strong. As I mentioned, she was palsied. Her hands ran a constant round-and-round circle of tremors and quivers. Her head bobbed, her voice quavered. To watch her eat, pour a cup, water a plant, was painful. Once, early, I made the beginning of a move to help her pour from her coffee pot.

She looked.

That was enough. I relaxed, so did she.

Despite multi-planar shakes Hazel didn't spill a drop; each move of each hand somehow found its correspondent move on the other.




Not important, her acceptance of me, her by-her-acts defense of me, not important at all in the long run of anything, but it was typical of her. She placed her person and the tradition which she seemed, unconsciously, to represent, at the service of a person whom, for whatever reasons, she liked.

After her "acceptance," Stanley Kunitz and his lady-woman embraced us; Alan Duggan, almost always drunk but still writing god-wonderful poetry, seemed to forget that in addition to doing a comic play about the Black Death, I also wrote pulpy things. He began publicly sharing the16oz cans of Blatz he always carried in his parka pockets with me up on Commonwealth by the coffee shop. Jack and Wally Tworkov had us in and that was that...

That was then, the McGovern year in Provincetown. By accident, in April, 2000, I found that Hazel, doubtless edging toward a hundred, was still alive. Standing possibly, probably, with one foot in the shadow of the 19th century, another in the 21st. She was then the oldest resident of Cape Cod.

How amazing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

One of the Sights at WHC 2006

The Boy George of Genre

This isn't what I meant when I mentioned the hyper-testosteroned lads of WHC, below, but it is another reason to think about World Horror in the way that one might consider bungie-jumping without a cord. This fellow's name is Wilum H. Pugmire the working partner of Jessica Amanda Salmonson. He writes pretty decent Lovecraftian stories. Has the Lovecraft patois down pat.

World Horror Convention - 2006

Thank you for wondering! I’m back.

I’ve mentioned somewhere in here that I sometimes write horror and not just contemporary fantasy. When I become pissed at something or someone, when an event or person really grabs and twists my Forevers, when the world just starts crowding me, I sometimes crank out one of my “vile tales” – literally as fast as it takes to type them.

“Little Girl Down the Way” is one -- you can hear that podcast on the Twilight Tales website ( “Catching” is another (available in the anthology, SEX CRIMES, at disreputable booksellers, everywhere)...stories that arose, fully vented, out of pique, disgust, anger and all those more noble urges we human critters experience from time to time. Some people get drunk or beat their cats. I write. I’m too old to drink without severe next-day agony and my cat’s too old to take a thrumping. Besides, I like him.

So, here I am: just returned from the 2006 World Horror Convention in San Francisco. Typically, World Horror (WHC) is not my favorite genre con – that would be NECon (more on that anon), held yearly in Rhode Island. Fact is, I generally feel about an upcoming WHC the same way I do, say, about a root canal: necessary but a lousy way to spend a few days.

It’s required because ‘business’ gets done.

It’s lousy because the field is filled with over-testosteroned macho-posturing swaggerers who all seem to come, cookie-cuttered, one like another, all from the same t-shirt store, all from the same barber college... All of whom seem to have confused the ability to describe gore-fests and ass-kicking with horror writing. Basically a squall of post-frat, pre-angst middle aged boys sniffing for each other like those little black and white plastic dogs with magnets in their noses.

And that’s just the women!

Okay? Not really.


But this one -- WHC 2006 -- this one left me hopeful. Maybe I mingled more than usual (holy hell, maybe I really AM a self-important asshole?) and actually talked to people outside of the panels I was on or hung out with some after my reading or had grub with strangers, but I looked into some eyes and actually listened to some voices.

I found quite a few remarkably literate people, a whole coterie of writers who were saying something within their work, who seemed concerned with craft and style.

There always were a few, of course, people I tended to hang with: P.D. Cacek, Wayne Allen Sallee, David Thomas Lord, Gene Wolfe (of course! but who, alas, wasn’t in San Francisco), Peter Straub (who, thankfully, was) and others. Good writers, good people all! I also made the acquaintance of one Adam Golaski, an exceptional writer whom I had met briefly at an earlier WHC. I recommend that people search him out and read him. Adam also publishes an annual anthology-magazine, “New Genre” that contains some of the best material – both essay and fiction – from the field that I’ve read in quite a while.

That picture, by the way, is P.D. (Trish) Cacek. She's an old chum and a truly wonderful writer. And NOT one of the boys.

Another guy is William Jones, editor and publisher of the excellent magazine, “Book of Dark Wisdom.” William is another who seems to give a damn about good writing in addition to the usual! His Lovecraftian anthology, “Horrors Beyond,” has some elegant and subtle work in a sub-genre that’s usually rife with faux sensitivity and epic pretention.

There were others. The artist, Alan Clark was there. He's the one who did the cover illustration for my book, "Just North of Nowhere.

I met Joe Medina and Jamie Lawson who are producing horror-themed audio drama...good people!

I’ll be back to this matter in a few days. Right now, I’ve got a book to finish writing and a field to re-think!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ann Sather's

Ann Sather's. A lovely Swedish restaurant, that began life in the 1940s as a coffee shop owned by, well, an old Swedish woman. The first location was in a space that eventually became a pet store that specialized in rats, snakes, bugs and spiders.

Sather's moved two doors west just after I moved to Chicago. It's now in classy digs -- a former funeral home with a polished black granite exterior.

And the spider shop? The owners, drug dealers on the side, vanished one weekend after opening their cages and setting free the creepy, crawly and squirmy.

But Sathers...Sathers is where Tycelia and I had our reception. Great Scandanavian grub -- Tycelia's half Swedish -- and world-class sweet rolls!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Old Ghosts

A few posts ago I noted that my wife's father, William White, was an artist. I also hung up a few photos of his paintings and pretty much left it at that. This one has always intrigued me. I've called it "Old Ghosts" ever since I saw it...I have no idea what Bill called it, but some day I’ll do a story that resonates within this thing. Bill was not a fan of fantasy or horror, yet his private work – the work he did for himself and not for hire – invariably posed dark questions and frequently offered no answers. Of course he was a southerner.

Sad. I barely knew him and what I did know was based on the understandings of a very, very young man who was courting his daughter with no hope of winning her.

Friday, May 05, 2006

...the Wedding

...the reception at least
Being old enough to be our own parents, this was a do-it-yourself -do from invitations to vows. Well, okay, we didn't make the grub. We invited a few close friends to come have a meal with us at a local restaurant we both like. We loved it and I believe everyone had a grand time. DVDs are available! There will be more anon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Romance

My wife, Tycelia, and I have known each other for more than 40 years. We married just three years ago. When they hear the story, people typically say, “Oh, that’s the most romantic thing!” It is. It’s also sad. Here, let me strip away some of the romance in the telling:

I met Tycelia in September of 1963 in an empty apartment above a shoe store in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It was my 21st birthday and I was transferring into Kutztown State College from -- well, from several other places which are not important here. I was looking at the walls of the apartment I was about to move into and share with one friend and several strangers. A noise, I turned and there she was. She had come in behind me and was looking for someone. Not me.

Of course I fell in love.

She, apparently, did not.

We went out a few times. Enough, I guess, for both of us to confirm our initial feelings about each other. As college relationships will, ours drifted apart. She started dating one of my roommates who shared that now-filled apartment where we’d met on my birthday.

She graduated.

I went into the Air Force shy of my degree. It was 1965.

By 1969 I was out of the service, recently married, living in Philadelphia and majoring in Theater at Temple University. I was happy.

I’d heard from mutual friends that Tycelia had married and was going to graduate school in Montreal.

She called sometime in the mid-70s, left a message on the machine. She was divorced and back in the States. By then I was working toward my Master’s in theater at Villanova University. I was still married, still more or less happy. I never returned the message. I knew what would happen -- at least from where I was standing.

A few years later, I divorced, moved to Minneapolis and, eventually, came to Chicago.

In 1999 or so an old friend from the Kutztown era interviewed me for an article he was writing for the alumni magazine. The article was about people who had been writers while at school and who continued to write and publish into their adult years.

He mentioned that he’d interviewed Tycelia for the story, that he’d found her through the alumni association. She was still divorced, teaching and living in a small town in Maine.

Would I like her phone number?

Yes. Sure. Okay.

I didn’t call.

Eventually, I did.

We began with letters, email, visits. I was still in love and, now, miraculously, she was too.
Several years later we married. We just celebrated our 3rd anniversary.

We love each other very much. We’re very happy together. While part of me laments the loss of 40 years of being together, I also know that at the time we met I (at least, I) was not ready for a serious relationship. Had we gotten together then, had we married... Well, I know enough now to know that while we seem perfect for each other, that perfection of fit took a good chunk of a lifetime to create. Had the two of us gotten together in 1963, I think Tycelia and I would be a distant memory. As I say, I miss those 40 years, but I am as happy as a human can be that we’re together today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CinematicUnderground and Us

Tycelia and I saw "Brick" on Sunday evening. More in a bit. This is Nathan Johnson and the members of Cinematic Underground. Nathan did the score for the film. His cousin, Rian Johnson wrote and directed.

This is one of the most satisfying films I've seen in a long time and I can't recommend it too highly. To say it's a 40s film noir detective classic along the lines of "The Maltese Falcon" set in a modern-day So-Cal high school environment, is both accurate and misleading as hell. It is dead serious and incredibly quirky and fun to be with! Go see it. That's all. Then we'll talk.

Who would have thought that San Clemente would be famous for more than Richard Nixon's home away from home?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ms. Smith Is a Fan of Mine

A long, long time ago, when there were wolves in Wales, and I was very, very young, I took a foolish, foolish job. I was in theater at the time and working in Philadelphia. I acted, directed, did any gig I could get. Philly is close to New York. So close -- a hundred-plus miles -- so that those with bright hope and talent eventually went from Market or South Streets north to Broadway or the Village. Those who stayed behind -- or came back -- were either sad failures or the passionate but utterly uninitiated of us. That was the assumption.

...Okay, Andre Gregory was in Philly, but that's another story...

The well-heeled theater-going public of Philly pretty much ignored local efforts and hopped onto the Jersey Turnpike or Amtrak'd their way up to NYC to ease their showgoing Joneses.

I had just graduated from the theater school of Temple University and was considering my next step. Steps. I was married and had commitments to family, city and friends. That's what we told ourselves, Ernestine and I. Excuses, I fear, for not doing things.

Directing was the only thing I really wanted to do. If not that, then, nothing! Problem was, as an unknown in Philly, you were an actor. That was it. When people got to know you, then you got to direct. An ancillary problem was that anybody who had theater gigs to hand out and who didn't know you assumed you were either one or other of the abovementioned -- sad failure or hopeless naïf.

One could always start a company of course. That meant devoting yourself to fundraising, handshaking, butt-kissing, record keeping, the thankless pointlessness of audience building, and its sister shame, press relations/marketing...all that and more.

I had no urge to start a company. No, no. I was a director, not a businessdude.

Understand: I was not kid. I was young, but was not a child; I was just out of school, but had knocked around in professional and were-professional theater for more than a dozen years on three continents. I had some underdeveloped and largely unrecognized talents and some talents that had already been recognized -- just not so anybody in Philly had recognized.

An old chum from Temple HAD started a company. Fritz was his name, Etage was the company. That’s French for "stage" -- that was Fritz. Fritz was producing and directing a play from a new script by another Temple chum, a guy named Ivan. I was asked by both producer and writer to play the lead in what was to be Etage's first effort, "Terminal."

Fritz lived and worked in a vast, dark, ratty warehouse. The building was probably from the tail end of the 19th century and butted, literally, to the docks and lay in the shadow of the Ben Franklin bridge. The show would be rehearsed, built and performed in what amounted to Fritz's living room, said room being some 150 feet long, about 40 wide and 20 or so tall. It was big, dirty, echoic and open. Not bad, actually, as rough theater spaces went in those days. Brick, nitre and hoarfrost; tiny little feet when the lights went out. All the stuff to keep you honest and not let you get too far above yourself.

Ivan, our writer/money guy, had been around. He had just graduated from Temple, and, like I, he was older and more experienced than most of the students in the department. Ivan, in fact, had quite a few chops as a record producer and rock'n'roll promoter. At this time in his life, however, Ivan was seeking “respectability.” He somehow assumed the mantle of "playwright" would bestow that upon him. Silly fellow.

Toward that end, he had written "Terminal" and was using rock and roll bucks to finance the effort.

Trouble was, "Terminal" sucked. Cavernously.

The first read-through showed the script needed an act III gut rehab, a new act II, and an actual act I -- just to get it all rolling. That was it. Not re-writes. Needed were Acts I, II, and III.

It also needed reason to exist. It was the worst sort of absurdist masturbation: seemingly intellectual and passionate while being neither intelligent nor heartfelt – and it didn’t even give a good tingle at the end!

It did provide opportunities for boy and girl actors to scream, cry, fight, cuss, agonize, head-bash, breast beat (on one’s self and others), it allowed for perversion -- real and imagined -- and offered a full range of options for face-making, funny-walking and gutteralizing the English language.

The cast featured mostly kids, kids just starting at Temple or elsewhere, or street kids who'd learned a few garage band rock and roll licks or had done a couple community theater gigs before becoming disillusioned because their parents actually LIKED the shows they’d been in. Most of us had drifted down to the docks under the big suspension bridge to Camden, to do something real, something meaningful, something that reeked of sweat and tasted of gut, something that explored meaninglessness and showed how tough they were, alone, and in the face of it all.

Like I said: Kids. Like we all were, once.

I was assured. The script would be fixed. This was a starting point. This was a framework. Ivan was there. Fritz and Ivan, with the cast, would take it apart and put it all together. We’d be okay. Really.

Never happened.

I rode through five weeks of rehearsal, sometimes enduring the passion, the sweat, the committed anger of the young and needy actors, sometimes not. All the while I worked against my growing and deeply dismal realization that this play had begun life as a piece of shit, it remained a piece of shit, and would for all time and forever be a reminder -- imbedded in my recollection and in the memories of all who would gauge my work from this monument from this time forth -- that I, too, had shit potential.

To my credit I walked out once.

To my discredit, I came back.

About the play: “Terminal” was set in a deserted and devastated air terminal. Was the devastation because of a war, social upheaval, some apocalyptic event?

I didn't know. Fritz didn't know. Ivan didn't know but was certain it didn't matter.

I was playing "The General." The guy who ran things, the guy who had to keep it all going. I had at my command a sexy blonde babe and her pal, a hunchbacked circus dwarf/baggage handler. The actor playing the dwarf, while short, stood well within "normal" height range. He didn't believe in "faking" anything on stage so his dwarfishness and the huched-back part of his performance would have to come out of his intense "search" for his character in the rehearsal process.

A few other human oddities worked for me in this place. I've forgotten them, now.

As with a lot of Hollywood movies from the 30s, 40s and some early live television that had been cribbed from Hollywood movies of the 30s and 40s, there were also a few travelers that showed up at this strange facility. These were people who suddenly found themselves in this terminal. “They’re waiting, see...?”

“Waiting for what?”

“Well! I don't know...for a plane...a journey someplace, someplace, I don't know where..."

Like that.

“Are they dead...”

“Maybe they're dead!” Ivan told us. “Maybe they're not. Great, huh?”

“Is this sort of...well... Existential?”


“Like, say, ‘No Exit’ or somthing...?”


Anyway. I had a lot of speeches. Long speeches. I got to roam the playing area -- I climbed to the rafters on scaffolding, chasing my dwarf, I crawled the floors like an agonized serpent, or a uniformed Caliban sans-fins. I oozed up through trapdoors -- which were real -- rats and bugs at my heels -- also real. I wandered among the imagined audience-to-be no doubt making people nervous that I was going to make them do something silly (assaulting the audience was big in those days).

I got to deliver one very gentle, very soft speech while standing over our sleek blonde flight attendant, Lisa (heroin-chic before there was a Calvin Klein) -- while slowly slipping both hands down the front of her dress, finishing the thing while kneading her exceptionally chic-to-imaginary breasts...

You had to have been there.

All right? I was embarrassed by almost everything I had to do in this show. I had, however, committed to doing it. Ah well.

Opening night. Of all things, we had a full house. It was packed. Mostly paper, but it was full of Fritz's family, chums, the cast's pals, guys from Temple, former teachers. The range.

I told my wife to wait...wait until it settles in...

Uniquely, I was not nervous. I usually have stage fright that pushes the edge of cardiac infarction. That’s when I care, of course.

About this... Well, I wasn’t nervous. The rest of the cast went through the usual backstage verbal, physical and psychological hoop-jumps, the stuff that makes being backstage early a the run feel like you’re in the waiting room at a vet's office.

Ivan had pulled strings. He'd gotten a whole mob of his rock'n'roll pals and associates to Philly and to this thing. Most disturbing of all, the press was there -- the Daily News, Inquirer, Daily Planet, all the local and out of town papers were covering this little event!

Shit. I was finished.

I did the show stops pulled. Balls out. Hannibal Lector on a buzz trip, bennies, downers, uppers, screamers. Shameless. Shameless.

Somewhere in there, I lost myself. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I dropped off the face of friggin' Philadelphia and into some other place. I don't know if it was Ivan's Terminal, but it wasn't Etage under the Ben Franklin bridge.

Then the thing was over. We took our bows and got ready to party.

I came up for air, changed out of the costume -- my old Air Force officer's uniform (I say it was my old "officer's uniform" because, while I was but a Sergeant in the USAF in Europe, my officially designated work uniform was that of an Air Force Captain. I'll explain that another time) -- shoved my hair back, slipped upstairs from the basement green room and joined the party. Maybe nobody'd notice.

Live band. Lotsa booze. Catered. Good grub. Well-dressed audients and class-act dishes. Mainline slinks and uptown slipperies.

I avoided my fellow Terminalites. By this time, I didn't much like them, and they were, mostly, afraid of me.

I grabbed a dozen 7-oz Rolling Rock ponies, and slipped into the front lobby where it was quiet and dark.


The party was a muffled headache away. I snuggled over by the window that looked over the street, the dirty street by the River, and sucked down a couple Rocks.

Ahhh. Good.

I had no idea she had arrived. I turned and there she was. She was funny looking, bony, angular. She was in a kind of combination hip-hop, shimmy shammy, snuggle-up twitchy state. It seemed focused on me. She stood inches from my face and gushed. Her head wig-wagged back and forth as she oozed about foot, the other foot. I was really, oh man you gotta know but probably don't know because you were so far in it there, but you really gotta know what you did there and I want to tell you you were just mind-blowing, man, fucking great. Like fucking THAT great.

Her eyes gripped mine, held through all her twitchings, rockings and bobbings. Somehow her eyes...her eyes locked onto mine...her eyes never moved, lidded, sexy, sensual...despite it all...they hung on...she eyes were quiet, waiting...that was it...then she waited with...waited with...waited...with her eyes.

"Thank you," I said. I thought that was appropriate. Thought that was about right. "Uh-huh... thanks. Glad you enjoyed."

No. I didn't think, "enjoyed" was the word, not the kind of thing "Terminal" was about... Enjoyment. No.

Then she slipped away.

I was flattered.

A bit confused. I was taken by this funny person's ability to flow in and out, go with the mood and be gone with the music beating at the walls from inside the theater.

"Well, okay," I said to myself, "how bad could I have been?"

How bad could I have been?
Fluffed with myself, I went back to the party.

When I got back, my dwarf and chic Lisa (who, since the first week of rehearsals seemed to have become joined at the groin), snatched me into a corner. Asked what she had said, what had she said...?


“Patti for Christ-sake.”

“Who Patti? Patti who?”

“Patti Smith, Christ! What had she said?”

“Oh. Uh...she liked it.”

I had no idea. At the time (and to this day deep inside my soul of souls) I consider any music written after1850 to be the spiritual precursor to the fall of civilization, Armageddon's marching tunes.

At this time, Patti Smith was only a step beyond being a proto-punk poet and crypto-neuve-wavo journalist cum Sam Shepard fuckee from deepest New Jork City.

She had, however, just cut a first record. She was a growing legend. Noted and known. And (best of all) known in only the hippest circles. Which, of course, most certainly did not include me.

My "Terminal" colleagues -- in the hippest of circles -- could scarcely believe that I didn't know who she was. Some proclaimed me to be feigning a greater ignorance than that which I possessed.

Terminal got lousy reviews.

I got a few good ones -- of the "one bright-spot-in-this-dark-and-dismal-night" variety.

...and that was that.

I watched Patti Smith with some interest after that. Then I forgot her.

In recent years, I've listened. I've come to appreciate her. I like her work. I like thinking about her. I've seen her, since. Actually gotten her autograph -- been that close. I never said what I wanted to say: "Hi. I'm Larry Santoro. You're a big fan of mine." I'm glad I didn't.

But! I wish her enthusiasm at the time had given me an appreciation of me at the time.

It did not do that.

All images of Patti Smith are by Robert Maplethorpe

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I suppose it's because I'm still in awe of Alan Clark's wonderful painting for "...North of Nowhere" but I've been thinking about illustration lately.

My wife's father, William White, was a wonderful painter and illustrator. We're lucky to have quite a few of his pieces on our walls--what's left of our walls, that is, after book- and dvd-shelves have had their way with our vertical surfaces. One of my favorites is this...

If you look carefully at the bottom of the mirror -- just to the right of the center bulb -- you'll see a man's face staring at you. That's Bill White painting the picture.

Some day this painting will be a story. I'll get it right...I really will!

For obvious reasons, I love this one as well...

See? Every year, Bill painted a portrait of his little girl. This is one from her late 20s. She'd just returned home from Canada and was an unhappy woman... But I love her face in this. I love her hair. I love her...well of course.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Middle American Debris

Middle American Debris by Alan M. Clark
Alan Clark's cover illustration for my first novel, "Just North of Nowhere," due out in late '06 from Annihilation Press.

"Just North of Nowhere" will be Bluffton in print -- finally!

Alan is one of the best in the business and I'm pleased as hell to have his work fronting this book. This is the second piece of mine that Alan has illustrated. Take a look below...the image on top of the entry "Where Did It Come From?" That's his illustration for "So Many Tiny Mouths."

As this place is called "At Home in Bluffton," I suppose you realize that Bluffton has been in my head and heart for a decade or so. Middle American Debris -- Alan's job title for the painting -- is a central image of "The Ninth Goddamned Kid," a key chapter of the book. So there it is! I can see it at last and I can't wait for you to read it!

Hell, I can't wait to read it!

Take a look at Alan's website: ...he's got a lot of incredible work there.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Me Descending

Wayne Allen Sallee took this...returning the favor, I guess.

This is me going down the spiral stairway into my back yard. My writer pal Wayne Allen Sallee seems to love taking pictures from above or below, looking up people's noses and the like. By request, I took one of him on this same stairway a few years ago. It looks as though he's descending into a sewer or down a steel rabbit hole. He uses it as the image on his business cards.

The planter and trellis are no longer there. Instead we have fountains and faux inlaid stone. I didn't do it. I don't own the place I just live here. I've lived here, in fact, longer than I've lived anywhere in my life. This is about 100 feet from the spot where the little girl's body was found during the razing of an old three-floor wood frame building. She became "Little Girl Down the Way."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

For No Particular Reason

Wayne at his art!

This is my favorite picture of Wayne Allen Sallee. He's reading at Twilight Tales.

Having posted this one of him, It is my hope that he'll return the favor and post one of me reading at the same place.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Too good to not post!

Too good to pass up...thanks Wayne.

This is m'self and a dude who calls himself "the Ed Wood of the 90s"

The photo was taken at a little film festival in Chicago in 2004 and Mr. Wood-be was still calling himself that. Ah well.

Wayne Allen Sallee took the picture. Later that evening, Wayne found himself in a hot tub with two Hollywood stars!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Little Girl Down the Way, or Maybe you don't want to know this!

My experience has been that when people ask, “Where do your ideas come from?” they really don’t want to know.

For instance: Eight years ago I wrote a story called "Little Girl Down the Way." I submitted it once and it came back. I wasn't surprised or disappointed. "Little Girl..." is a brutal story about the murder of a 7 year old who lived and died -- 40-plus years ago -- just down the way from my apartment in Chicago.

Her passion and death happened decades before I moved into the neighborhood but the Little Girl’s remains weren't unearthed until 9 years ago. The facts of the matter stirred me to write a story in which an unwanted child is hidden in a basement by her mother and, ultimately, is killed by her. The story is seen from the point of view of the little girl who, every day, awakens into the hell of an afterlife and re-lives the nightmare of her life and death. Day after day the years of torment are revisited but never does she give up on the notion that her mother loves her. The story, finally, is a view of how hell and heaven can be the same place in the same time depending on your point of view.

Unpublished, un-circulated, “Little Girl…” was content to live in my trunk. It had lots of company.

A few months ago, "Twilight Tales" asked if I had something they could produce as a podcast for their online magazine. I gave them a choice of one thing or another thing.

They chose the other thing: "Little Girl..." The producer, David Munger, did a great job with a difficult piece. Here's the url...go listen to it, I'll wait for you:


A short time after it was 'cast, I got a letter. A listener who wrote to say that the story disturbed him -- in the good way that horror should disturb you -- and that, as a father, he’d listened to it several times and found himself both moved and trembling each time.

I thanked him for his kindness and for taking time to write. In return, I gave him a few paragraphs on the background to the story -- just a bit more than I gave you above.

A return email said, in essence: Well! I'm sorry I know that, I thought this came out of your head!

He included a little electric *sigh* somewhere in there -- vexation I guess at finding my murdered Little Girl to be a child of the world not entirely of my imagination. The father in him didn’t want to know that such things happen.

Okay, his disappointment was my fault: I volunteered the information. I guess I understand but see, I think people really don't want to know where the ideas come from.

So, if you've listened to "Little Girl..." would you want to know how close to reality that piece was?

Let me know.

Tycelia at Christmas

This is my wife, Tycelia...there's a long, long story about how we finally got together. I'll actually write it sometime!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An evolving novel set in the LOST universe

Four of the LOST: FAITH authors in Chicago: L-R Wayne Allen Sallee, Lawrence Santoro, Roger Dale Trexler, Martin Mundt. Below, the late John Eveson, an author in life, a character in death...killed in the second episode, remembered in the sixth.

This is an unashamed pitch for attention.

During the December/January hiatus of ABC TV's monster hit, LOST, one of the show's websites, "The Tailsection," began posting an evolving novel, LOST: FAITH.

Set on the island, the events of LOST: FAITH take place before the crash of Oceanic 815. According to the creators of the storyline, "The idea was to craft a mythology connected to the show's locale but outside the events of the ABC program."

Here's the kicker:

It is September 11th, 2001. News of the terrorist attacks in the United States reaches the passengers aboard Pacific Blue flight 442 en-route to the US from Thailand. The flight continues as a fissure of fear, rage, and paranoia opens. Soon, the unthinkable happens...

LOST: FAITH is a collaborative project among several writers. Each author is crafting a character and an 'episode' of varying lengths.

I am pleased to be one of those writers.

My character, Maxwell Peter Donnithorne, is a world-class concert flutist who was returning to the United States from a cross-cultural seminar in Bali. Recovering gradually from the shock of the crash and his injuries, Max believes himself to have been a person apart from the mass hysteria onboard flight 442 which precipitated the crash. Gradually, he comes to realize that the island will not let him be alone here -- not even in his own skin.

Veteran horror author Wayne Allen Sallee is one of the creators of the series, a contributor and is acting as story supervisor. Other writers include Roger Trexler, Sidney Williams and Jon Lachonis.

"The Tailsection" is at:

I hope you'll stop by LOST: FAITH and have a read. It's at:

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Some fetchin's

Alan M. Clark's illustration for "So Many Tiny Mouths" Alan's an incredible artist who will be doing the cover illustration for my first novel, "Just North of Nowhere," due out in late 2006 from Annihilation Press. Check out Alan's website at:

The post below was an afterword to my damn-near-Stoker-nominated story, "So Many Tiny Mouths" when it was published in Feral Fiction. Here it is:

"So Many Tiny Mouths," has fetchings.

Pennsylvania, 1950-something.

Summers, the parents and I would hop into the old man’s green-over-cream ‘53 Belle-Air and head for pre-Trump Atlantic City. We’d make the Delaware crossing into Jersey on the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry and two hours later our first half-dozen layers of winter skin would be bubbling off as we yanked fillings out of our head with Steel Pier salt water taffy.

Whoa, whoa, whoa... Slow down. Before the shore, we had to get there. After that ferry crossing? Most of my kidhood, I spent those 70 non-air conditioned miles stuck in the back seat meditating on being ground under by Atlantic Ocean rollers or being impaled, barefooted, by my first horseshoe crab tail of summer?

It was only later I noticed that most of the trip was through trees; a corridor of trees.

Later still, I learned the whole of central Jersey was a damn geo-political entity: The Pine Barrens. The Barrens, so-called, was a land of trackless forest inhabited by strange six-fingered native folk who lived in caves in the wild wood, prayed to odd and grubby gods, who made their own gas from pig shit and sometimes ate lost travelers. Pineys, they called themselves.

Much later, I made a now long-gone documentary film about the region called “...Where the Sun Never Shines.” Sadly, while shooting the film I found Pineys to be normal, garden-variety Americans. Use your own personal demons to inform what image that conjures.

The people stay to themselves, they are independent-minded and don’t care to be fussed over. They do a lot for themselves that most of us gave up doing a generation or so ago and they have curious and spooky tales to tell.

The Piney’s world is deep evergreen forest and sand trails no wider than a small sedan; it is small streams and cedar swamps, it smells of sphagnum moss, decay and other forest things. Moving through this world, a stranger navigates by compass, odometer and a U.S. Geodetic Survey map. Chatsworth is real, the ‘Capital of the Pines.’ Ghost and Forgotten towns dot the maps. Places like Ong’s Hat and Hog Wallow do – did -- exist and someday I’ll do justice to the quiet, the sense of the old, the past, the never will-be that stands behind one who stands at one of those five-point crossings in the woods.

There are economic, political and social reasons why this area, despite being at the beating steel- and concrete-heart of the Megalopolis, has remained relatively green, human-free and “unimproved.” These reasons are not part of the tale of this tale’s fetchin’s, however.

Point is, I liked the Pines. I enjoyed meeting the people and managed, actually, to learn a little about them. I set one science fiction story, “Veterans,” there and, later -- on a roll of having sold two original screenplays, bing/bing, like that -- adapted it for film. “Veterans: the Movie” remains unproduced, unsold. Oh well.

The Pines is a hard area to get right. One truly GOOD writer I know of set a story there and I thought he missed it. One of the best episodes of HBO’s “The Sopranos” was called “The Barrens.” Their Jersey Wiseguys were money-on as strangers in a strange land, but not only did they not shoot it in the Pines, they set it in generic woodlands, a place without even a passing similarity to the Pines.

When I was asked to submit to an anthology of tales on a theme of fang and talon, somehow the Pines entered my head -- still bristling about that unproduced film, I guess. I kept thinking I wanted to do another story there. Okay. Two salient features of the Barrens are: pine trees and sand. Trees with talons might be interesting, but I opted to give the sand some teeth.

The anthology didn’t take the story. They were right not to. On the first pass, I focused the tale on the tourists from Philly. I was more comfortable, I guess, writing from the backseat of that ‘53 Chevy.

So, here’s my second Pine Barrens story, re-thought. I pulled off the road and listened to some of the people I half-way knew when I was making that documentary.

By the way, Earl Sooey, the coot through whose eye we watch the world end? He’s based on no one; just a fiction; a coincidence, really.

One Year and a Little More...

One year and a little more since my last post.

Several things: I almost got another Stoker nomination. I didn’t get the nomination but the story, “So Many Tiny Mouths,” did get an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s YEAR’S BEST HORROR AND FANTASY anthology. A pretty good little tale, if I do say so: a pleasant little end-of-the-world tale set in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey – one of my favorite places. I spent months there back in the late 60s doing a documentary film. More about that, anon.

The near-Stoker thing got me an invitation to submit a story to an anthology-to-be of zombie stories.

Now, I can’t recall having actually read, much less written, a zombie story. I did have a few friends back in Pennsylvania who’d been living-dead extras in George Romero’s low-budget, albeit groundbreaking original “Night of the Living Dead.” I had actually seen the film -- and, with help, was to pick out some of my pals lurking under the prosthetics and makeup.

Point being: Zombie is a genre I neither know nor embrace.

Oh...right...I’d also seen the re-do of “Night...” which co-starred another friend, Tom Towles, from my Organic Theater days...and, now that I’m on the subject, I do remember having seen “I Walked with a Zombie,” but that hardly counts...

Back on track: I said, “yes.” Of course I did! How often does a previous and near-miss Stoker nominee get asked?

At first I thought I’d set it in Bluffton. I didn’t – more about that at another time!

I didn’t because something buzzed in me. I was on a Sunday afternoon skim of Powell’s Bookstore on 57th, by the University of Chicago, and found an intriguingly titled and arrestingly laid-out book, “Harry's War, Experiences In The 'Suicide Club' In World War One.” “Harry’s War...” was an oblong thing, a facsimile of a diary, with color sketches by the diarist, about life in the trenches. It tweaked something. I flashed on Mr. Boyer’s world history classes at Reading Senior High. The memories prodded research. I dove into World War I history, tunneling and mining strategy, walking tours of the front, pre-Second World War German mysticism. It went on. Norman Boyer would have been proud! A dozen books later, I wrote “Wind Shadows,” a zombie tale utterly without mention of the word!

I’m looking forward to AIM FOR THE HEAD -- should be out in late 2006. Hope you’ll look for it too.

Another thing: One of my vile stories, a trunk tale called “Little Girl Down the Way,” has become a Twilight Tales podcast. It’s at That’s not me reading it, but the TT podcast host, David Munger, does a pretty good job with a damn difficult piece. Hope you’ll listen.

This is getting to be too long and meandering but it has been over a year.

I’ll try to do better in 2006.