Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Thirteen years ago Stephanie, then five, got a little bundle of fur for Christmas she named Brandy. Brandy was a chocolate Lab mix and as adorable as any puppy can be. A few years later Steff sent a photo and short essay about the dog to our local paper, which has a "My Pet" feature each day. By then Brandy was a big dog that went wild with happy excitement whenever anyone would visit.
Alas, Brandy had to be put down a week ago due to a serious medical condition. She was a good dog and is missed.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Five Months Later...

When last we saw our hero he was back from Summer Tankon in July 2007. In 18 days Winter Tankon beckons, which means I'm one heck of a slacker when it comes to doing this blog. People like Bill Crider, Mark Evanier, and Ken Levine manage to blog daily even if they're miles from home or feeling poorly. Ah, to have their fortitude. Ah, to have a life worth blogging about in the first place. But to catch you up a bit:

AUGUST: My cousin, Dennis Weaver, died. Not Chester from GUNSMOKE, a different Dennis Weaver. He was five months younger than me and apparently had a heart attack. Ironically, his father died two months before, almost to the day.

SEPTEMBER: My cousin George, born about 19 months before me, had triple bypass surgery. A real shock, since he was always active and in good physical condition. He did smoke, however. The good news is that he's recovering quickly and ought to be fine eventually. Dennis, George, and I were very close as teens and usually hung out together. The dynamic of the relationship could very well be likened to that of the three Texas Rangers on the TV show LAREDO. George was Neville Brand, the older and tougher one, while Dennis and I were Peter Brown and William Smith, always making Brand the butt of our jokes. Sometimes we got punched for our efforts, but that didn't keep us from doing it. To think that I am, by default, the healthiest man of that trio scares me.

OCTOBER: My older girl, Steff, turned 18 and finally got her driver's license. She's also back in school and doing well.

NOVEMBER: I became an official old geezer. I'm already thinking about whittling and spitting off the porch during my next summer vacation.

DECEMBER: Which is where we are now. I spent a weekend in Portland where I did some Xmas shopping (no sales tax) and joined fellow Moops Dave Lewis and Tough Jim Gaston for fun, music, and Chinese food.
My baby, Kristine, turned 17. She now has a boyfriend and is doing very well in school.

I'm also taking guitar lessons, working on my second book (will have it ready for submission after Winter Tankon), and telling anyone who will listen that Hitlery would be the worse thing for this country since The Civil War, The Great Depression, Prohibition, The Electoral College, and Scientology combined.

I've read about 60 books so far this year, far fewer than I'd hoped. One was SHE, by H. Rider Haggard. What a chore. There was a good idea under all those layers of repetitive exposition, but I felt like I was hacking my way through a word jungle with every page. I don't know why I bothered finishing unless it was to compare it to the movie. I could only find the 1935 version on Netflix, and it wasn't bad. Helen Mack (who was far lovlier than the actress who played She) was enchanting, and the plot was distilled down to a decent adventure flick, though why they changed the setting to a polar region and not the African desert is beyond me. Anyway, I could have polished off 6-10 westerns in the time it took me to wade through SHE, and I kind of resent the delay. But, it was my call and at least I can say I finished the dang thing.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Some Guys Shouldn't Ad Lib

The TV was on as I worked today, so I wasn't watching it carefully, but I know that golf was on and an interview featured some golfer talking about his game. He said, "I'm aware of my weaknesses and I'm trying to make them stronger." Wouldn't we all like stronger weaknesses?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Stooged Again

Yesterday I felt the urge to visit the same Three Stooges slot machine I'd dreamed about (and won on) some months ago. To make a long story short, I hit four bonuses in about 20 spins and walked out after five minutes with $135.85 in my pocket.

Last night I finished AMERICAN DETECTIVE, by Loren Estleman. This is his 19th Amos Walker book and involves a retired Hall-of-Fame Tigers pitcher who wants Walker to offer his daughter's prospctive husband a bribe to take a hike. The young woman is about to come into a trust fund and her father thinks the fiance is ony interested in the money.
Before long there's a murder and Walker is bumping heads with powerful crime lords and gruff cops. Estleman's side-of-the-mouth dialogue is a joy to read, even if the plot has more twists than a Chubby Checker album. Although a private eye in the classic sense, Walker tries to make a concession to modern times by carrying a cell phone. The experience proves more trouble than it's worth. Back to deskbound blowers and shadowy tails.
I've always thought of the Amos Walker books as the closest heir to Chandler around, and this does nothing to change that idea.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quick Quip

It occurs to me that many days I don't have a lot to say, but I have a stray thought or two that might be grist for the blog mill.

So today I'm watching a commercial for L.A. Weight Loss. A rather attractive blonde, standing in that "after" pose, is offering a testimonial about the efficacy of this system. She continues that since she is now so attractive and energetic she and her husband can step out and do things--like go to dinner.

Hey, isn't it all that dining out that chunked you up in the first place, Mimsy?


In a commercial for one of those godawful schools that teach young innocents to be dental assistants or fashion designers, a cute little airhead is listing her reasons for not attending a regular college. Among them: she wouldn't know anybody and would feel intimidated about speaking up.

What? Is she planning to attend Matchbook University with a coterie of friends? Is she anticipating asking foolish questions in a real college?

Just a thought. Okay, two thoughts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


On my previous post I typoed the word "cavalry." The irony of this is that I've corrected scores of people on eBay for misspelling that word. Usually they spell it calvary, which is a legitimate word, but has nothing to do with mounted soldiers. I saw so many different misspellings of cavalry on eBay I started keeping a list. To date I have 17 variants, all incorrect. One or two might be typos, as mine was, but usually they're just the products of people who can't spell the word and don't want to look it up.

Also, I'm a terrible typist. I never learned to touch type, and my two-finger method is quick but sloppy. I have a feeling it'll only get worse as I achieve my dotage. Sorry.

Monday, June 25, 2007


June 25, 1876, is the day Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer perished along with some 210 men of Companies C, E, F, I, and L on the hills above the Little Big Horn River. Another 50 to 60 men died with Major Reno and Captain Benteen on Reno Hill, about four miles away. That battle has generated more debate, books, movies, and emotions than any other in U.S. history--perhaps world history, as well. Exactly what happened, and when, and for how long has fed speculations from armchair generals young and old, pro and con, and at all points of the compass. Was Custer an heroic figure who perished trying to enforce a policy set forward by greedy, unscrupulous politicians? If so, he wouldn't be the first. Or was he a glory-seeker trying to recapture some of the fame he'd enjoyed as a Civil War hero? Everyone has his own opinion and it's not my desire to either change or reinforce what you think. I do want to pay my respects to thoe who fought and died that day, on both sides. And so I do. "Garryowen in Glory!" "Hoka hey!"

There a couple of myths about that day I'd like to clear up. First off, it wasn't a massacre. The soldiers died in battle. Second, the 7th Cavalry wasn't destroyed. Of the 1250 officers and men authorized to fill the ranks of the 7th, about 260 died. The regiment was brought up to strength and has lasted in one form or another until this day. Custer did not kill himself. Nor was he killed by Rain-In-The-Face and have his heart cut out (RITF probably mutilated Tom Custer, George's brother). Sitting Bull did not participate in the fight. No white man survived the battle who fought with Custer's five troops. A recent article in WILD WEST says there was one, but it's buncombe.

Speaking of those who fought and died, my Uncle Gene passed away yesterday after a long bout of Parkinson's Disease. He was a WWII vet and worked for Uncle Sam for many years. This marks the end of an era in many ways. While my mother and her sisters are still alive, all the men from that generation (my father and uncles) are gone. A daunting prospect, to be sure, and the realization that one day I'll be one of the oldest family members bums me out a bit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Catching Up is Hard to Do

Since my last visit here I've spent three weeks in Charleston, South Carolina, bought my younger daughter a car, and got the local paper to agree to do a story on my book.

Charleston was hot, the school I attended fairly easy, and the tourist attractions interesting. I didn't know, for example, that rice was a major cash crop in the Charleston area before the Civil War. However, it was such a rotten job to keep the paddies up that they couldn't get anyone to work them once the slaves were freed, so the industry died.

As a result of the school I'm qualified (pending a certification review) to be a ground loadmaster. That means I can do most of the jobs a regular Air Force loadmaster does. I was already qualified for some of them, but this class expands the envelope. What it doesn't expand is my paycheck. A letter to my congressman will address this issue forthwith. When some of us mentioned to the guy that started this APEX (Aerial Port Expeditor) program his response was, "Just be glad you've got a job." Hell, I was glad to have a job before they added more responsibility to it. And who the hell does he think he is, some coal mine owner in 1890? What an arrogant ass.

OJ skated, Bobby Blake may have skated, and Christian Brando got off easy, but Paris Hilton is doing hard time in the Crossbar Hilton and I can't help feel a sense of satisfaction. If I'd never heard of this vapid, self-centered, no-talent brat I wouldn't have cared about her at all, but the way she and the media have conspired to shove her useless life down our throats has made me wish she would simply dry up and bust. That goes for all those other celebrity media whores out there. Who needs them?

And remember my 2008 Presidential Slogan: ANYONE BUT HITLERY!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Another Thumb Up

Noted critic Jon Breen has this to say about LOVE, DEATH AND THE TOYMAN in the May 2007 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine:

"Jack Lorentz, a Tacoma-based collectible toy dealer, is asked by an old lover to look into a mysterious death on the property of her husband's wealthy and influential family. The first novel from the longtime fanzine editor known as Cap'n Bob is a commendable job, including surprising variations on familiar hardboiled elements: the rocky romance, the dysfunctional rich, and the hero's loyal but somewhat unstable sidekick."

Now, if just 1% of EQMM's readers buy the book, I'll be happy as a clam.

I wonder when that element Jon refers to as the sidekick actually started. I'm guessing Robert B. Parker's Hawk was the first of any consequence, although I'm just pulling this off the top of my head. But Mike Hammer, Mike Shayne, Dan Turner, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, etc. were loners. Nowadays it's more common (think Coben's, Burke's, and Lehane's books for starters) for the hero to have an ally/friend who's basically a homicidal maniac. Waldo, the sidekick in my novel, isn't like that, and I should point out that I started this book a long time ago, before any of the others I mentioned hit the scene.

On another note, I have my first signing lined up. I hope everyone who can be in Seattle on St. Paddy's Day, March 17, will drop by the Seattle Mystery Bookshop (117 Cherry St.) and say hey.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Honest, Or Just Plain Stupid?

A little earlier I went to get some cash from an ATM. A woman was already there ahead of me. She suddenly turned and walked off; as I stepped up to the machine I saw it was still in use. The screen asked if I wanted another transaction. I hit NO, grabbed the receipt and card as they ejected and yelled for the lady to come back and get them.

Then it hit me. The card was in, the pin number activated, and the account there for the robbing. Not that I'm a thief, but I'd like to have had a chance to mull it over before I take the high road. Maybe I could have pinched, say, $100, taken it to the casino, and shared the winnings with her if I had any. Nah. It has been my curse in life to be pretty honest about such things. Were I not so I might be rich.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Great Anti-Cult Video

Don't hesitate, check out this great slam on the Scientology Organized Crime Family. Here's the address: //

Thursday, February 01, 2007

And You Thought MLK Could Dream

Last night I had a dream. In it I went to the Emerald Queen casino, sat at the middle slot machine in the row of Three Stooges machines, and made a high bet.

So today, since I was out and about and passing the casino on my way home, I dropped in. At first I played a Lobsterfest machine, which didn't do well at all. I moved to the one next to it and won some of my money back. I then decided to follow my dream and hit the Three Stooges slots. The row has an even number of slots so there's no real middle one, and there was a lady at one of the middle ones, so I played the one on the end. I broke even for a while, and then started to lose, so I went over and sat beside the lady, at what would count as a middle machine. About six spins into it, and playing 36 nickels a pop, I hit sevens all the way across and won $100. After three or four more spins to see if there was any magic left in the machine I cashed out and went home. Grubstake: $60. Cashout: $116.65. Not a fortune, but it bought me some gas and lunch and left me with a few bucks to play with.

I hope I have a dream like that again.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rebecca Bunny, R.I.P.

About ten years ago I bought Kristine a bunny for Easter. She named it Rebecca. For a number of years I kept the bunny in my office, but there was a sanitation problem that caused me to finally put her hutch outside. I was afraid the winter weather might do her in, but she did fine. In the summer we'd put her in a pen in the yard on sunny days, and sometimes we'd let her in the house, as we did during a recent spate of cold weather. If you want to know what it's like to stroke a heavenly cloud, pet a bunny some day.

Yesterday the bunny was listless, and today when I came home I found her dead. Not really a surprise, but a sad thing to bear nevertheless. I hope she was happy here, just as we were happy to have her as part of our family for so many years.

Two smaller disappointments rounded the day off. I learned that I won't get my new, sportier glasses in time for Left Coast Crime, and the library on the Air Force base where I work has no funds and can't buy any new books, including mine.

The good news is that I wasn't nominated for Civilian of the Quarter for our squadron. Every single nominee from the old six-two lost, including the military people.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Free At Last, Free At Last...

On this day in 1969 I walked out of the gate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with my Army discharge papers in hand. What a glorious day for me. I didn't mind the Army for most of my hitch, but the last few months were terrible and fraught with trouble. When I applied for a hardship discharge in September of 1968 it was approved in two weeks. It took almost four months for the actual discharge to happen.

Oddly enough, I recently made contact with a guy who was the company clerk of my outfit in Nam, the 595th Engineers. To backtrack a bit, I was in Nam when I was notified there had been a death in the family. I went back to the states, applied for a hardship discharge, and was attached to the HQ COmpany at West Point. The people in that unit did a lot of idiot jobs on the post: worked the rifle range, drove brass around, and clerked in various offices. Not exactly a front line fighting outfit. I was there with about five other strays and we were given a series of lowly jobs which we screwed up as often as possible. Eventually we were called The Outlaws. None of us gave a damn about the Army by then.
Now, 38 years later, I discover that the reason my discharge took so long was that the people in charge of our 201 files--without which nothing administrative can be done--lost them. Not just mine, but the files for a whole battalion. Guys whose rotations were up were held over in Nam because their files were lost. There was a huge dust up, the Inspector General started an investigation, and when the files were eventually found in a mismarked conex the personnel officer was court martialed. None of which made my life any easier during that long, long time I waited to return to civilianhood and get my life going again. And of coutse Uncle Sam can't compensate me for messing up my plans and putting me through a couple or three months of agony, but after all this time I know the reason for that unconscionable delay.
I hope they shot that damn personnel officer.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back From the Forest

Back from Tankon. I returned to civilization on the 31st, as indifferent to New Year's Eve as possible. I've always thought it was a pretty stupid holiday. Anyway, Tankon was mostly good. The isolation, the fellowship, even the friendly arguments are fun. This year I was put off by a non-regular who showed up for two days, talked non-stop about how wonderful he is, and left. Never again, I vowed.
That aside, it was fun to see the dusting of snow on the first morning, to plunk at cans with my Daisy BB gun (I'm a hell of a shot, BTW), watch 10 movies and two cartoon series, read two books, eat, sleep, write, and leave the world behind. While we were there two ex-leaders died--Saddam and Gerry Ford--and because one of them died I got the day off today. A nice perk if you're a federal employee.
Thanks again, fellows, and especially to our gracious host, Frank Denton.

Earlier today I had the idea of doing a Net search for my old Army outfit (at least the one I was with the longest), the 595th Engineer Company (LE). I found an old e-mail from a Joseph Short. Hmmm, Joe Short. That name rang a bell. Later on the bell clanged loudly. A picture of Joe Short came into my head and then I remembered him well. Not that we hung around a lot, but we worked close by when he was company clerk at one end of a tent and I was operations clerk at the other end. He was coming in a few months before I faded out or we would have spent more time together, I'm sure. For one thing, all of us support guys were in one hooch.
Anyway, I e-mailed Joe and he e-mailed back saying he remembered me plus a few others I named. He also told me about LE (pronounced Lee--the LE in our outfit's name stands for Light Equipment, even though we had heavy equipment like dozers, scrapers, graders, dump trucks, etc). LE was a mule and our outfit's mascot. He lived on a patch of earth across the road from our tent and was tethered to a stake by a 50-foot rope so he could graze. He was the meanest jackass you could ask for. I have some 8mm movie footage of him chasing the sergeant who fed him. I also recall that LE was promoted to E-4 ahead of me. In '68 he was shipped back to the US. Joe told me LE died last year at Fort Riley, Kansas. He must have been about 40 years old. I hope his transition to stateside duty improved his disposition.

Tomorrow I return to work after nine days off. Luckily it's my normal Friday so I only have to work one day before my weekend rolls around again. Then it's time to settle down and get some real work done.