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My Books

This is the post excerpt.

I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have six novels and seventeen stories in print.

My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the thirteen years I trundled between the U.S. and Vietnam to provide signals intelligence support to U.S. Army and Marine combat units fighting in South Vietnam. The first half of the book is a series of short stories in which characters from one story reappear in another. The second half is a novella that draws together all the preceding tales. Originally published as an ebook, Adelaide will be publishing a hard copy version in June 2022.

No-Accounts came from my years of caring for AIDS patients. It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS. I got into helping men with AIDS to help me cope with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. When I was with my patients, men suffering more than I was, my unbearable memories went dormant.

Next came The Trion Syndrome. It begins with the Greek Trion legend about a demigod so brutal to the vanquished that the gods sent the Eucharides, three female monsters, to drown him. The protagonist, Dave Bell, is haunted by half-remembered visions of the war in Vietnam. At his lowest point, he recalls that he killed a child. Dave considers suicide, but a young man appears and helps him. It is his illegitimate son, a child he had tried to kill through abortion, who now helps him find his way home.

Last of the Annamese was published in March 2017. I used this novel to confront my memories of the fall of Saigon from which I escaped under fire. Once again, the image of the boy-child recurs, as the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine, grieves over the loss of his son, killed in combat in Vietnam. He returns to Vietnam as a civilian intelligence analyst after the withdrawal of U.S. troops and encounters Vietnamese boys whom he tries to save during the conflagration.

Secretocracy, published in March 2020, tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the Trump administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation. Coming to Terms, out in August 2020, is a new collection of short stories about people trying to work through the downturns in their lives.

Obese Americans

Saturday, May 21, I spent the day at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, hawking and autographing my books. I sat at a table with my six books displayed, talked to readers (including some who have read my work), and happily signed books for buyers.

So I spent the entire day observing the crowd. Two trends stood out to me: dyed hair and obesity.

Something like half a dozen women I observed had dyed their hair colors that hair never achieves naturally: green, blue, purple, and crimson. The result was bizarre. I couldn’t imagine why any woman would want to attract attention by looking peculiar.

Far more common was the number of people who were overweight—well over half, probably somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters.

Why are the majority of Americans obese? I don’t have a clue. I could speculate, without evidence, that few of us exercise regularly, control our diet, or are aware of the dangers to health that obesity poses. Being overweight increases the likelihood of diseases that can prove fatal: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. I suspect that our willingness to overeat springs from our general lack of discipline as a people. In the long life of our Pax Americana, during which no enemy has been able to attack us on our own territory, laziness has spread to the point of becoming a national characteristic.

I remember reading in my youth that the Roman Empire collapsed primarily because of the degeneration of its citizenry. Are we headed in the same direction?

Conservative: Meaning

“Conservative,” according to Oxford Languages, is defined as averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values. To me, a conservative is a person who wants to preserve the past. Put differently, he or she wants ideas, concepts, and ways of living from bygone times to thrive in the present and the future. The implication is that the conservative is opposed to neoteric or “newfangled” ways of thinking and wants to reinforce what some would consider outmoded models of procedure.

But political conservatives active these days, especially those who support Trump, look to me like those who want to preserve the benefits of the well-to-do and the power, especially political power, of the wealthy. That means that they are actively working to making it more difficult for the rank-and-file to vote. According to Aljazeera, “This year, at least 27 states have introduced or enacted 250 pieces of legislation designed to restrict voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. This comes after a record year in which 19 US states enacted 34 restrictive voting laws in 2021.”

These efforts are driven by the Republicans. They know they are outnumbered by Democrats and can’t win elections by the free vote count, so they seek to suppress Democratic votes. Whether we like to admit it or not, that is a direct attack on American democracy.

So the meaning of “conservative” has changed. One result to make me more progressive than ever.

Beethoven and Me: Deaf (2)

My deafness has become more pronounced as I grow older. More than half of my adult life, I’ve worn hearing aids. Every year or so, the aids have to be adjusted to make up for further failings in my ability to hear. My guess is that if I live long enough, I’ll go completely deaf.

So my days as a musician are numbered. I listen to music and play the piano as often as I can, but these days writing takes up more and more of my time. I suspect that eventually my hearing will fail to the point that I can no longer listen to music. Then I’ll find out the degree to which I can depend on my inner ear (my mind) to play music that only I can hear. Will I be able to read a score and hear a piece internally?

My guess is that the answer’s yes. If Beethoven could go on composing after he lost his hearing, then, if I go completely deaf, I should be able to listen internally.

I hope I don’t find that answer to that question soon.

Beethoven and Me: Deaf

A while back, I blogged here about my irritation with Beethoven for his emotionalism and his egotism in expecting listeners to sit through needless variations and repeats in his later works such as his ninth symphony. I compared him unfavorably with my two favorite composers, Bach and Mozart, both highly rational and concise.

As noted here in earlier blogs, I knew when I was six years old that I was born to write, but I tried to escape my fate. My most serious effort was my devotion to music. As a child, I taught myself to read music and to play the piano and devoted much of my leisure time to listening to classical music and, eventually, trying my hand at composing. I went on to take a BA in music at the University of California, Berkeley.

Over time, I came to understand that there was no escape: my purpose as a human being was to write. But with an education in music and so much experience in the art, music has remained a key element in my life.

So my feelings about Beethoven are firmly grounded in education and knowledge. But Beethoven and I both suffered from near-fatal failing for a musician: deafness. I don’t know the source of Beethoven’s affliction, but mine is obvious: combat. For much of my career as a spy (music and writing don’t pay well, but spying does, and I had a family to support), I operated on the battlefield, providing signals intelligence support (the intercept and exploitation of the enemy’s radio communications) to U.S. and friendly forces. And I escaped under fire when Saigon fell in April, 1975. That meant that I was repeatedly exposed to gunfire and shelling. My hearing was severely damaged.

More next time.

Vote!

Regular readers of this blog know that I urge all Americans to vote in all elections, local, county, state, and national. We live in the world’s greatest democracy, and unlike the people in much of the rest of the world, we have the right to choose who will govern us. Because of our good fortune, we have a moral duty to vote in every election.

I am more fortunate than most Americans. During my working years, I traveled extensively all around the world. I was able to observe firsthand people who were subjects of autocrats who decided their fate, even whether they were to go on living.

And my readers know that I am sharply critical of the U.S. for what I consider its flaws—the number of gun deaths we suffer, our failure to address global warming, and the number of our citizens who are overweight, for example. But it is also obvious to me that the U.S., for all its faults, is the greatest nation on earth.

It is out duty as citizens to keep it that way. Now more than at any other time in my long life, democracy is at risk in the U.S. because of forces who would turn us into a fascist country. Now, more than ever before, it is our duty to get out and vote.

So be a patriot and a defender of American freedom. Vote!

Abortion

I feel that to be honest with my readers I must explain my position on abortion, an issue that is now in the headlines thanks to a leaked document from the Supreme Court that suggests that the court will rule against legalized abortion.

I must admit that the prospect of abortion chills me. To me, a fetus, no matter how young, is still a human being. I find killing it hard to justify or defend. So I end up with a personal choice to oppose abortion.

But I know that progressive liberals, with whom I agree on every other issue, are all but united in supporting a woman’s choice to end her pregnancy. Nor would I give more weight to my moral stance than I would to that of a woman choosing to end an unwanted gestation.

So I’ll keep my moral choice to myself. I won’t challenge the moral stance of fellow progressives or try to impose my values on women who choose to abort. I have too much respect and appreciation for others to challenge their ethical decisions.

I’ll keep my peace.

Must Be Spring (2)

As of a few days ago, the new ducks on the pond were gone. In their place are the Mallards I’ve seen before. And now the deer are back. Two adults without antlers (presumably both doe rather than bucks) were wandering through the open space to the east of my house. Meanwhile, I’ve spotted a fox and several rabbits.

So I assume that sometime soon I’ll be seeing a great variety of land animals in that open space and around the pond. In previous years, I’ve seen everything from rabbits and deer to possums and foxes, along with some creatures I couldn’t identify.

It must be spring. And I glory once again in the beauty of the place I live.

Must Be Spring

Over the years, I have written several times here about the wild animals I see in the open space to the east of my house and in the pond to the north, both approximately a hundred feet in diameter. But this year is remarkable for the appearance of waterbird families.

A pair of geese showed up something like a month ago. Then, for a week or so, I saw only one goose. Then, all of a sudden, there were two geese and six tiny goslings. When they frolic on land in the open space, the goslings go wherever the parents go, pecking at the ground. But when they are in the water, the goslings line up in a row between the two adults and swim the length of the pond.

In previous years, ducks did not appear in the pond when geese were there. But this year, a family of ducks is here sharing the water. Earlier, ducks showing up on the pond have been Mallards. But this year, it’s a different variety which I was able to tentatively identify only after checking out pictures on the internet. The ducks traversing the pond are either Mandarin or Quora. The female is a quiet color of brown, but the male is a shameless mix of brilliant colors—the only one missing is green. The ducklings are small enough that I can’t tell for sure how many of them there are.

More next time.