So you can read my books

Thursday, April 17, 2014


1813 portrait of Paul Revere (Another Revolutionary Outlaw)
by Gilbert Stewart


Ghost of Mark Twain here, children

Today is what folks call Good Friday

Though it puzzles me some why they call it that,

considering the shameful things done to the one true Christian ever to walk this sorry Earth.

Good Friday is also known by several other names, such as Easter Friday,

Great Friday (in the Russian Orthodox Church),
and Holy Friday.

Another name was even was thought to stem from the German, “Gottes Freitag” or “God’s Friday”.

In 1985, two Oxford University researchers

published a paper naming April 3, 33 AD as the original date of the crucifixion.

They derived that date from astronomical tables, Scriptural documentation, and the years of Pontius Pilate’s term as procurator in Judea – 26-36 AD.

The researchers point out that all four Gospels agree the crucifixion occurred during the Jewish festival, Passover.

The practice of crucifixion as a form of cruel and disgraceful method of execution first began among the Persians, a Mayo clinic study notes.

It is reported that old Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans are reported to have possibly learned it from the Carthaginians.

The study also notes that a human would be unable to support the weight of their body in their hands, but is able to do so in their wrists,

a fact that points to the theory that Jesus was crucified by nails driven into his wrists, and not hands.

As I said earlier: I can see nothing good about what was done on this day --

The ripples of what was done that day, children, went on out through the years to

1394 -- On this day, Geoffrey Chaucer's twenty-nine pilgrims met at the Tabard Inn in Southwark to prepare for their departure to Canterbury.

 Chaucer's intention was to have his pilgrims arrive on Easter morning, after a fifty-five-mile hike through a pleasant English spring; the pilgrims never made it, though the poetry endures

But Man seems intent on crushing his fellow man, forcing them to rebel ...

1775 -- On this date, Paul Revere makes his famous ride from Boston to Lexington.  According to the Central Intelligence Agency,

Paul Revere founded the first patriot intelligence network on record, a Boston-based group known as the “mechanics.”

A borrowed horse served as Paul Revere’s worthy steed on the night of April 18, 1775

According to a Larkin family genealogy published in 1930, the name of the lost mare was Brown Beauty.

1894 --  "Cheer up the worst is yet to come" I wrote to my wife on this date when I had declared bankruptcy. 

My correspondence is full of such attempts to deflect my despair over having lost a fortune

through my fourteen-year investment in a typesetting machine invented by James W. Paige —

“a lineal descendant of Judas Iscariot,” such were his string of broken promises.

{In Roland's alternate history, Nikola Tesla and Samuel McCord saved me from Paine's leeching and set my finances straight.}

1906 -- The Great San Francisco Earthquake rocked the Bay Area, killing hundreds of people and recorded as far away as Cape Town, South Africa.

Heartbreak haunts this day down through the years:

1912 -- The Cunard liner, Carpathia, arrived in New York carrying survivors of the Titanic which sank three days earlier.

Now what author whose name starts with P should I pick?

Beatrix Potter of PETER RABITT fame? I should do it just to see Hemingway's face.

Jerry Pournelle whose THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE Roland liked so much?

Terry Pratchett whose books always make me laugh?

Oh, all right, Poe. Don't look so hanged-dog. I was going to pick you this whole time, don't you know?

Edgar Allan Poe daguerreotype crop.png
1849 "Annie" daguerreotype of Poe

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

1) Poe waged war on Boston, did you know?

Poe picked a lot of literary fights in his career, but none greater then with “the Humanity clique” of New England,

which included Harvard professor Longfellow and Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Lowell.

He despised, as he understood it, the Transcendentalists’ optimism and their belief in social progress. 

Judging from today's headlines, I do think Poe had a point.

2.) Poe inspired Lovecraft, that pilgrim that gives me the willies:

Perhaps his most direct homage to the master is the strange cry of “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!” first heard at the end of Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym,

 the story of a strange expedition to Antarctica. Lovecraft incorporated Tekeli-li into his own Arctic novella, “The Mountains of Madness” making it the call of the Elder Ones.

He also borrowed Poe’s giant penguins, and made them whisper it, too.

3.) For Most of His Life, the Iconic Mustache Was Absent

We can’t image him without it.

But the handsome devil below

 is the same man who wrote about premature burials and orangutans shoving women up chimneys, and it’s how he looked most of his life.

Only in the much darker, desperate, final years did he grow that romantic, brooding facial hair and begin to go mad.

Now, you children, don't start looking at my own mustache and begin making comments that I'll haunt you for!

2002 -- Thor Heyerdahl died on this day. The opening of The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1948), Heyerdahl’s international bestseller, is a classic of understatement:

"Once in a while you find yourself in an odd situation.

You get into it by degrees and in the most natural way but,

when you are right in the midst of it, you are suddenly astonished and ask yourself how in the world it all came about."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Franklin in London, 1767

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
― Benjamin Franklin -- branded Outlaw by the King for aiding the Revolution.
1790 -- On this date, Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at age 84. 
He took his own advice,

making many scientific discoveries, helping draft the Declaration of Independence, securing French economic and military aid during the Revolutionary War.
As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions.  

He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia's fire department and a university.
1894 -- On this date Nikita Khrushchev was born:
"Politicians are the same the world over.  They promise to build a bridge even when there is no river."
1885 -- Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) was born on this day in Rungsted, Denmark.  She had such determined pride that many in Africa addressed her as "Lioness" rather than Baroness.


 The result was one of the most adventurous lives in modern literature --

Here is an excerpt from her writings:
"The family of Finch Hatton, of England, have on their crest the device Je responderay, “I will answer.” …

I liked it so much I asked Denys … if I might have it for my own.
He generously made me a present of it and even had a seal cut for me, with the words carved on it. The device was meaningful and dear to me for many reasons, two in particular.
The first was its high evaluation of the idea of the answer in itself.
For an answer is a rarer thing than is generally imagined.

There are many highly intelligent people who have no answer at all in them.

 Secondly, I liked the Finch Hatton device for its ethical content.

 I will answer for what I say or do; I will answer to the impression I make. I will be responsible."
 {Wolf Howl quotes this passage to his preternatural students in END OF DAYS.}

I pick O to stand for that grand lady, Flannery O'Connor, who wrote:

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

On this day, in 1970 the severely damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft returns safely to Earth 4 days after an explosion aborted its mission to land on the moon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


There are Outlaws that deserve to be hanged.  Ask ...

Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson 1879.jpg
"There are many of us in this old world of ours who hold that things break
about even for all of us.

I have observed, for example, that we all get
about the same amount of ice.

The rich get it in the summer, and the poor
get it in the winter."

                           -- Bat Masterson

1178 B.C.  The eclipse mentioned in Homer's Odyssey occurs on this day.

1746 -- On this day, 5,000 valiant Highlanders fought the Duke of Cumberland in the last battle fought in Great Britain.

A few stanzas from Robert Burns's "Ye Jacobites By Name," a traditional and pro-James ballad which Burns turns into a protest against war:

"What is right and what is wrong
By short sword or by long
A weak arm or a strong for to draw

 What makes heroic strife famed afar
 To whet the assassain's knife
Or haunt a parent's life wi' bloody war….
1881 -- On this date on the streets of Dodge City, lawman Bat Masterson fought the last gun battle of his life.  He turned to newspaper work.  He died at his desk in 1921 in New York City.

{Seeking copy in Gunnison, Colorado, a reporter asked Dr W.S. Cockrell about mankillers.

Dr. Cockrell pointed to a young man nearby and said it was Bat Masterson and that he had killed 26 men.

 Cockrell then regaled the reporter with several lurid tales about Bat's exploits and the reporter wrote them up for the New York Sun.

The story was then widely reprinted in papers all over the country and became the basis for many more exaggerated stories told about Bat over the years.}

1943 --  On this day, Albert Hoffman, accidently ingests LSD-25 in his medical research, becoming the world's first LSD "Tripper."

1947 -- This day, former Auschwitz commandant, Rudolph Hoss, is hanged at Auschwitz. 

In his memoirs was found this written statement: "History will mark me as the greatest mass murderer of all time."

1972 -- This day, Apollo 16 lifts off for the moon.

2009 -- On this day, President Obama ruled out prosecutions against those C.I.A. operatives 

who participated in the torture of terrorists suspects at the Guantánamo Bay and other secret detention centers.

N stands for Friedrich NIETZSCHE:

#1 Nietzsche was a failure during his lifetime

Nietzsche achieved the impressive feat of becoming a professor by the age of 24.

However, he was alienated by his peers and forced to retire by the age of 35.

Nietzsche also wanted to abandon philosophy in favor of gardening.

It wasn’t until after his death that Nietzche’s work began to be read widely.

#2 His mustache frightened women

Nietzsche was sadly incompetent at romance. Apparently, Nietzsche’s epic mustache “scared” women at the time.

 And that’s probably for the better, because Nietzsche also managed to contract syphilis at a brothel while he was still in college.

#3 He had a mental breakdown when he saw a horse being beaten

After seeing a horse being whipped in the streets of Turin, Italy, Nietzsche had a mental breakdown that put him in an asylum for the rest of his life.

Nietzsche is reported to have run over to the horse and held it in his arms to protect it before he collapsed to the ground.

The scene was also the subject of a movie by Bela Tarr (whom Jacques Ranciere wrote a book about)

called The Turin Horse.

After the horse incident Nietzsche returned to his boarding house.

 In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings—known as the Wahnbriefe ("Madness Letters")—to a number of friends.

Nietzsche commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot

and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.

Nietzsche’s mother, Franziska, first placed in a clinic, and then dissatified with his treatment, brought him to her home in Naumburg.

After the death of Franziska in 1897, Nietzsche lived in Weimar,

where Elisabeth, his sister,  cared for him and allowed visitors to meet her uncommunicative brother.

After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900, he had a stroke during the night of 24–25 August and died at about noon on 25 August.

“I'm not upset that you lied to me.  I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche


RMS Titanic 3.jpg
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912


This is the date when the IRS become Outlaws.  :-)

On this date in 1861 -- Abraham Lincoln, expecting the Civil War to be a short conflict, calls for only 75,000 volunteers to serve for 3 months.

On this date in 1865 -- Abraham Lincoln dies from the bullet wound inflicted by John Wilkes Booth, six days after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

The RMS Titanic went down 102 years ago today.  Though polished by a century of narratives, the tragedy retains its impact in the eyewitness records:

An account dictated to the New York Times by the Titanic’s twenty-two-year-old junior wireless operator, Harold Bride:

Bride’s description begins in humor, he and the senior wireless operator cracking jokes about the mishap.

Then the bow tilts, the “great scramble aft” begins, and Phillips, the senior man, begins hours of urgent messaging:

"He was a brave man. I learned to love him that night, and I suddenly felt for him a great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody was raging about….

…I saw a stoker leaning over Phillips from behind. He was too busy to notice what the stoker was doing. The man was slipping the lifebelt off Phillips’s back. I suddenly felt a passion not to let that man die a decent sailor’s death.

I wished he might have stretched rope or walked a plank. I took a lead pipe and did my duty. I hope I finished him. I don’t know."

Then chaos:
The Captain giving the ‘abandon ship,’
Phillips refusing to leave his post,
Bride jumping, eventually being rescued,
And helping to hand up from the floor of his life-raft the body of a dead sailor — Phillips.

Just last year, 2013 -- those terrible bombings at the Boston Marathon.

2014 -- Total Lunar Eclipse.

1923 -- Insulin became widely available. Insulin had only been proven to work the year before; before that, diabetes was essentially a death sentence, especially for children.

1955 -- Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, on this day.

Within five years, there were over 100 McDonald's in the US, and less than 20 years later the company passed the $1 billion US Dollars (USD) profit mark.

1942 -- The George Cross is the highest civil award given in the United Kingdom, and is rarely awarded.

The island of Malta and all its residents were awarded the George Cross because of their behavior during a long-term siege in World War II,

and the cross is now sewn into the Maltan flag.

M could stand for Christopher Moore:

“If you think anyone is sane you just don't know enough about them.”   

  ― Christopher Moore,
Practical Demonkeeping    

M could stand for John D MacDonald

"The only thing in the world worth a damn is the strange, touching, pathetic, awesome nobility of the individual human spirit."


Monday, April 14, 2014


"But human pride
Is skilful to invent most serious names
To hide its ignorance."
   - Percy Bysshe Shelley (Queen Mab)

This is most certainly an OUTLAW DATE:

On this date in the year 911, Pope Sergius III dies after a turbulent reign

in which he ordered the strangulation of two competing Popes and fathered an illegitimate son, the future Pope John XI.

Abraham Lincoln was shot on this day in 1865, dying the following morning.

Walt Whitman’s diary records his frequent sightings of Lincoln in Washington during the Civil War.

One of Whitman’s entries describes the President passing by with his cavalry guard, dressed “as the commonest man,” his face “with the deep-cut lines,

the eyes, always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression.”

1912 - The Titanic, running at full speed through the icy North Atlantic, struck that infamous iceberg, rupturing its hull.

“Black Sunday,” one of the worst of the Dust Bowl storms, occurred on this day in 1935.

"In the roads where the teams moved, where the wheels milled the ground and the hooves of the horses beat the ground, the dirt crust broke and the dust formed.

Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air: a walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist, and a wagon lifted the dust as high as the fence tops, and an automobile boiled a cloud behind it…."

      - from the opening chapter of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

L for Outlaw Me is for Lovecraft --

Lovecraft became a prolific letter writer and by some accounts wrote 87,500 letters during his lifetime.

He was also in the habit of dating letters 200 years earlier than the current date.

Although now considered one of the greatest early American writers of horror, Lovecraft never received his high school diploma.

Lovecraft was friends with many contemporary writers of his time, including Conan creator Robert Howard, Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber.

Lovecraft was once "killed" by fellow writer Bloch in the short story "Shambler from the Stars" and later killed Bloch in turn in a story called "The Haunter of the Dark."

Lovecraft ghost wrote a story called "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" for Harry Houdini, who later commissioned Lovecraft to write a book debunking superstition (which was never finished due to Houdini's death).

Although Lovecraft is most famous for creating the Cthulhu Mythos,

he himself never used that term. Lovecraft referred to his own series of interconnected mythos stories as the "Arkham Cycle."

Lovecraft's favorite author was Edgar Allan Poe, of whom he said "Poe was my God of fiction."

Lovecraft in turn influenced numerous writers that came after him, including Stephen King, Cliver Barker and Neil Gaiman.

King called Lovecraft one of his biggest influences and "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."

Lovecraft only truly became popular after his death, when friend and fellow writer August Derleth founded Arkham House publishing to help keep Lovecraft's work alive.

Lovecraft isn't buried under his headstone, even though hundreds of people visit it each year to pay homage to him.

(His body is buried nearby.)

Although dead, Lovecraft has a Facebook page with more than 122,000 fans.
“From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.”

“The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.”
― H.P. Lovecraft

Sunday, April 13, 2014


"As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  
For all serious daring starts from within."
 (The concluding sentences of One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty, born on this day in 1909.)

Eudora Welty would find it amusing that the first elephant arrived in America on this date in 1796.

 She would not find its fate amusing at all:

The elephant, named Old Bet, was brought back from India to America by a sea captain who hoped to sell her.

Old Bet was eventually bought by Hackaliah Bailey, one of the founders of Barnum and Bailey, and stayed with the circus

 until she was shot and killed by a boy who had heard that her hide was bulletproof, and wanted to see if it was true.

Mankind is often not very kind, but it can be sparked to do the right thing for the wrong reason:

On this day in 1360 a massive hail killed British troops in France.  

A massive hailstorm killed over 1,000 British troops fighting in the Hundred Year's War in France.

The hailstorm was seen as a divine sign, and the King of England negotiated with peace for France.

Was Eudora Welty an Outlaw?

Consider the following images of the woman generally deemed to be the finest Southern short-story writer of the 20th century:

Eudora Welty nightclub-hopping until all hours in Paris and New York.

Or paying visits to her "feather-boa-ed bootlegger" in her hometown, Jackson, Miss.

Or enjoying nighttime skinny-dipping in a friend's swimming pool.

Eudora Welty, decades later, venturing off to see "A Hard Day's Night."

Or writing to a friend to complain, "Oh, God! I had to meet Pres. Nixon!"

Eudora Welty, at age 70, visiting friends with whom she "danced and cavorted."

None of this quite tallies with the image the reading public had of Welty in her later years as "the Benign and Beamish Maiden Aunt of American Letters"

(as her friend Reynolds Price tartly put it).

It underscores the adventurous nature of Welty's life and notes the frustration she felt when her independent spirit was constrained by family duty.

It draws plausible links between the dramas of her life and the vigor of her fiction.

It also makes clear that Welty's decision to stay in Jackson, Miss., even during its tensest racial conflicts,

wasn't an act of complacency but one of endurance,

during which she did what she could — while caring for her ailing mother — to help create a multi-racial, liberal oasis in Jackson.

And there was Kenneth Millar (the real name of thriller-writer Ross Macdonald),

with whom Welty had an intense long-distance affair punctuated with occasional visits in the flesh.

Whether it was a sexual affair or not remains uncertain — but it was enough to trigger jealous reactions from Millar's wife.

Her father had died when she was 21; the rest of her immediate family — mother, two brothers — were gone by the time she was 56.

The life-loving Welty cherished her friends and used lecture opportunities and fellowships to see as much of them as she could. Hence all the travel.

Still there is mystery to Eudora since all her correspondence with her mother is sealed until 2021

“We are the breakers of our own hearts”
― Eudora Welty


Saturday, April 12, 2014


"I would rather be right than president."
- Henry Clay -- who was born on this date in 1777.

In the theme that to be an outlaw is not always to be rich:

On this day in 1857, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary was published.

The serialization of the novel in the Revue de Paris the previous winter earned Flaubert almost nothing

and generated one of the most famous literary trials in French history.

It also made the author's reputation and vindicated a new style of writing based on the attempt to portray "ignoble reality."

The impish author, Chrys Fey, was born on this day.  What year you ask?  Silly rabbit, you never ask what year a fae was born!

The ghost of Ogden Nash has written a birthday verse for Chrys:

"As through the calendar I delve
I pause to rejoice in April twelve.
Yea, be I in sickness or be I in health
My favorite date is April twealth.     

     It comes upon us, as a rule,
Eleven days after April fool,
And eighteen days ahead of May Day,
When spring is generally in its heyday.

     Down in New Mexico the chapparal
Is doing nicely by the twelfth of Apparal,
And Bay State towns such as Lowell and Pepperell
Begin to bloom on the twelfth of Epperell.

     But regardless of the matter of weather,
There isn't any question whether.
No, not till the trumpet is blown by Gabriel
Shall we have such a day as the twelfth of Abriel."
- Ogden Nash ("Lines in Praise of a Date Made Praiseworthy Solely by Something Very Nice That Happened to It")

The beginning and ending of the American Civil War

(the 4 bloodiest years in American history)

 is tied to this week —

the opening shots fired at Fort Sumter on this day in 1861,

General Robert E. Lee surrendering to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

1633 -- Galileo was convicted of heresy.  

Foundational scientist and astronomer Galileo was convicted of heresy because he refused to recant his statement that the Earth revolved around the sun, instead of vice versa.

He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  Sometimes being an outlaw is no fun at all!

1945 -- President Franklin Roosevelt died on this date. 

 Roosevelt died while on vacation, leaving Truman to take over.

Though sometimes controversial, he had brought America through the Great Depression and World War II,

and was one of the most influential presidents.

1954 -- on this day Bill Haley and the Comets recorded Rock Around the Clock:

Often called the first rock and roll record, Rock Around the Clock

became sensationally popular after it was used as the opening song in Blackboard Jungle,

and sold more than 1 million records in one month in 1955 alone.

1981 -- The first space shuttle was launched.  

The Columbia, the first reusable manned spacecraft, was launched for the first time on this day.

It was a major step forward for NASA, and was eventually used to help build the International Space Station.

Tom Clancy was born on this day in 1947.

In 1984, the Naval Institute Press paid Tom Clancy an advance of $5,000 for The Hunt for Red October

There matters might have rested, except that someone handed a copy to the Fortieth President, who (then at the zenith of his great parabola) gave it an unoriginal but unequivocal blurb.

“The perfect yarn,” he said, and the Baltimore insurance agent was on his way to blockbuster authorship.

By the way, I've just sent a copy of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE to President Obama.

I say K represents KAFKA --

On JULY 3,1883, Franz Kafka was born in Prague.

Few writers have been so closely linked to their home and city, or made so much from it, as Kafka.

But for the months spent in sanitariums and a half-year with a girlfriend, and despite the psychological torture it inflicted, he lived at home with his parents all his life:

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.”

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

― Franz Kafka