So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Samuel McCord here --

Before Indiana Jones or Allan Quartermain 

André Malraux wrote:

“Man is not what he thinks he is,
he is what he hides.”

Benjamin D. Maxham - Henry David Thoreau - Restored.jpg
Portrait by Benjamin D. Maxham

Take Henry David Thoreau.

I read his Walden at least once every year, but he could not stand up to his mistakes. 

At the age of 26, he accidentally set fire to 300 acres of the Concord woods on this day in 1844.

Thoreau had taken a few days off from the family pencil-making business, and set out down the Sudbury River with a friend.

A spark from their first fire, a noonday fish-fry — this courtesy of a borrowed match, as they had forgotten to pack their own — ignited the dry shoreline grass.

When stomping and whacking the flames didn’t work, the friend went for help and Thoreau,

 after a little more futile effort, climbed a nearby cliff to observe the scene while he waited for the firefighters.

What did he write of it?

"I said to myself:

'Who are these men who are said to be the owners of these woods, and how am I related to them? I have set fire to the forest, but I have done no wrong therein, and now it is as if the lightning had done it.'

Reminds me of what President Reagan wrote:

“Politics is not a bad profession.

If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.”

And speaking of books --

A Memorial for Margot and Anne Frank shows a Star of David and the full names and birthdates and year of death of each of the sisters, in white lettering on a large black stone. The stone sits alone in a grassy field, and the ground beneath the stone is covered with floral tributes and photographs of Anne Frank
Memorial for Margot and Anne Frank at the former Bergen-Belsen site,
along with floral and pictorial tributes

On this day, a Wednesday it was, in 1952,

the diary of Anne Frank, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust was published in English titled "The Diary of a Young Girl".

Her diary, later entitled "The Diary of Anne Frank", became one of the most popular books in the world and is included in most schools as recommended reading.

Anne Frank died of typhus just before her 16th birthday in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Recognizing that the war was ending, Hitler had retreated to his Fuhrerbunker several months previously. He and his new wife, Eva Braun, whom he had married the day before,

committed suicide on this day in 1945 by swallowing a cyanide capsule and shooting themselves in the head.

My faith in the Great Mystery was wounded by what I found in those death camps. 

It took Victor Standish entering my life again to heal it.

And on the topic of books, Anne Dillard was born on this day in 1945. 

Her wry perspective on life and writing is reflected in this quote from her LIVING BY FICTION:

"You know how a puppy, when you point off in one direction for him, looks at your hand.

It is hard to train him not to.

The modernist arts in this century have gone to a great deal of trouble to untrain us readers, to force us to look at the hand.

Contemporary modernist fine prose says, Look at my hand. Plain prose says, Look over there."

On this date in 1939,
200,000 people attended New York World’s Fair, official opening, featuring futuristic technologies such as FM radio, television, and fluorescent lighting.

On this day in 1940,
Jimmy Dorsey and his band recorded the song "Contrasts." Along with his brother Tommy, the Dorsey Brothers eventually became an unmatched rival during the big band and swing era. 

Roger Zelazny, ghost here.

You scoff. Be my guest ...

it makes it so much easier for us.

There is more to reality than you are capable of comprehending ...

after all, you are but flesh.

Oh, you are wondering who Roger Zelazny is.

Don’t be embarrassed. In life I wondered much the same thing.

Once the name, Roger Zelazny, drew crowds.

I made somewhat of a splash in Science Fiction in the sixties,

endured and evolved in the seventies and eighties.
I went the way of all flesh mid-way through the nineties in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And Roland mourned me as a distant older brother gone over the crest of the hill before him, leaving him cold and alone.

Oh, and I inspired him to take up the pen and follow my steps into weaving tales in the genre I call Science Fantasy.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Ghost of Mark Twain here again, children --

How mankind defers from day to day the best it can do, and the most beautiful things it can enjoy,

without thinking that every day may be the last one, and that lost time is lost eternity!

We are nearing the end of the month, and it occurs to me that some of you are much closer to your end than you would imagine. 

Cherish each moment.  I wish I had done that more.

On this day in 1969, old Duke Ellington got the Medal of Freedom on his 70th birthday.

In 1965, the Music Jury of the Pulitzer Prize Committee unaminously recommended him for a special award, but the Advisory Board declined it. 


Old Duke just smiled, "Fate doesn't want me to be famous too young!"

I like especially what he once told me, "I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues."

Now, there's a man for you!

Ah, gentle readers, that shows you the power of music, that magician of magicians,

who lifts his wand and says his mysterious word and all things real pass away and the phantoms of your mind walk before you clothed in flesh.

Joan of arc miniature graded.jpg
Painting, c. 1485

On this date in 1429,

young Joan of Arc arrived to relieve a siege in Orleans.  The siege had been going on since October of the previous year,

and Joan's success in lifting the siege was the first of a series of stunning victories.

Think of it: a young peasant girl, unschooled in the arts of war, leads seasoned men and commanders to a victory long denied them.

That is the way with us:

 we may go on half of our life not knowing such a thing is in us, when in reality it was there all the time, and all we needed was something to turn up that would call for it.

On this day in 1945:

Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun. 

The two married in the Fuhrerbunker, where they had been living underground for months, and committed suicide together the next day.

American troops guarding the main entrance to Dachau just after liberation, 1945

Dachau was liberated. 

Dachau was one of the first concentration camps opened, and was the site of some of the worst atrocities of World War II.

When it was finally liberated, most of the 30,000 inmates were severely emaciated, and many more had died.

Of all the creatures that were made, man is the most detestable.

 Of the entire brood he is the only one--the solitary one--that possesses malice.

That is the basest of all instincts, passions, vices--the most hateful.

He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain.

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel.

He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.

1992 --

In a sour example of "justice",

an all-white suburban Los Angeles jury acquited four white police officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King.

The case centered on a video, taped by an amateur cameraman which caught the scene on film

as the four police officers beat, kicked and clubbed unemployed laborer Rodney King while other officers looked on.

Three days of rioting ensued.  Man sure doesn't improve with age does he?

John Dillinger
John Dillinger mug shot.jpg

On this day in 1934, the Outlaw, John Dillinger,

is still on the run from a nationwide hunt after escaping from a band of policemen

with orders to catch him dead or alive 1 week ago in North woods Wisconsin.

On this date in 1958, Michelle Marie Pfeiffer was born in Santa Ana, California, U.S.

  Michelle Pfeiffer is an American actress who has won a number of awards including

a Golden Globe Award ( The Fabulous Baker Boys ) and a BAFTA Award ( Dangerous Liaisons ).

That gal is recognized for her talent and beauty

and was at one time featured in People Magazine's '50 Most Beautiful People in the World' issue in 1990.

I keep showing up in her boudoir, asking her to put on her catwoman outfit.  She keeps asking me to jump in the cat litter box!

The newly married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of
Buckingham Palace.

The couple married in Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 (St. Catherine's Day) with the day declared a bank holiday in the United Kingdom.

On this date in 1974, old Richard Nixon announced the release of the Watergate tapes.   

Nixon had tried to keep the tapes private for months and had exhausted virtually every legal channel, 

including executive privilege. He resigned before he could be impeached in August of that year.

There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Politicians!

Now, Roland has told me unreservedly NOT to pick him for Y when it come to authors.

But when did you ever know me to do what I am told?

Besides soon the audiobook, GHOST OF A CHANCE, will be out,
 detailing Roland's and my adventures as he is sought for the murder of the ghost of Ernest Hemingway!

Roland starts off the book with a quote from himself -- something he hardly ever does:

"To all of life there is a shadow. The shadow of sadness, doubt, despair. Still it is but an echo of a heart moving forward."
-Roland Yeomans


“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

On this day in 1926, I was born in Monroeville, Alabama.

I was stunned by the immediate and overwhelming success of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but,

 at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement.

Public encouragement.

I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.

Perhaps this was why, despite forecasting more books, I have published only three short magazine articles since, all in the 60's. 

Which of us knows truly why we have done what we have done.

Nor have I lightly broken the silence and anonymity into which I quickly retreated,

But Samuel Clemens' ghost has hounded me to speak for his friend, Roland.  

He says like his HUCK FINN, my book is the distilled essence of the great American novel.

Yet I do not break my silence to rid myself of a ghostly pest.

I break it for the tall man in black, Captain McCord, who keeps shooing Clemens from my table at Meilori's.  He so reminds me of my Atticus Finch.

Then, again, maybe I do not relish being categorized and sorted. 

We Americans like to put our culture into disposable containers. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way we treat our past.

We discard villages, towns, even cities, when they grow old, and we are now in the process of discarding our recorded history, not in a shredder, but by rewriting it as romance.

We are eager to watch docu-dramas on television; we prefer to read a history of the American Revolution as seen through the eyes of Mad Anthony Wayne's last mistress.

Now there is nothing wrong in reading historical fiction--

perhaps two-thirds of the world's classics are written in that form. But these are impatient days; more than ever it seems that we want anything but the real thing:

We are afraid that the real thing might be dull, demanding, and worst of all, lacking in suspense.

Dull, boring?  Oh, my.

Wordsworth was right when he said that we trail clouds of glory as we come into the world, that we are born with a divine sense of perception.

As we grow older, the world closes in on us, and we gradually lose the freshness of viewpoint that we had as children. That is why I think children should get to know this country while they are young.

I would like to show children my own town, my own street, my own neighbors. I live on the corner.

My next-door neighbor is a barber, and his wife owns a dress shop.  My down-the-street neighbor has a grocery store, and my neighbor down the hill is a teacher.

My neighbor to the rear is a doctor; behind him is a druggist.  If children were visiting--from abroad or from other parts of the country--

They would have cookies and ice cream for them, and take them to the park with the lake and the swimming pool,

And my cook, Mary, would make them an enormous cake covered with caramel frosting,

and for dinner give them fresh vegetables from the garden and Southern chicken cooked right. And then we would let them alone, to explore on their own.

It's stifling to have adults with you all the time when you are a child, to tell you about everything and explain things away for you.

There is no sense of discovery for a young, exploring spirit when adults are with you all the time to give absolutely straight answers to everything.  And now you know why I named my narrator, Scout.

And that is quite enough about me, readers.  I will go back to my iced tea and chatting with the sad-eyed Captain McCord.  Perhaps I can make those dark eyes smile.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

APRIL 27 -- For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson ca1857 retouched.jpg
Emerson in 1857

Hello, readers ... I am the ghost of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ah, I see your eyes rolling up now.  "That old stuff-shirt" you groan. 

I have heard it all before ...

and from no less a luminary than Mark Twain in his mocking of Whittier, Wordsworth, and myself as we listened in 1877.

He left for Europe not long afterwards,  the critics howling for his blood.  I thought it mildly amusing, not insulting at all.

But Samuel McCord found my company tolerable aboard the Demeter in 1853. {RITES OF PASSAGE}

But I digress:

On this day in 1882, I died at the age of seventy-eight.

Although my last decade was one of increasing debility it was also one of international accolade and local adulation.

 When the "Sage of Concord" as critics uncomfortably called me returned from my last trip abroad,

I found the band playing, the schoolchildren singing and my burned home rebuilt by the community.

"…the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought."
—from my essay on “Self-Reliance”

Speaking of Milton ...

 The epic status of Milton’s Paradise Lost can obscure the fact that, when published, it was a controversial and risky venture — so risky for the publisher that, on this day in 1667,

Milton signed a contract to receive only 5£ for his work (with an additional 5£ after the sale of 1,300 copies). 

I hear this strange book firm, Amazon, is much the same way.

Part of the controversy was over the anticipated religious outcry over the way Milton had portrayed this figure or that doctrine.

Ever the voice of liberty, Milton saw his epic as an attempt to deliver poetry from “the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming.” 

Hart Crane is another who, in The Bridge, aimed for an epic.

 He is also another who struggled with addictions, and who jumped to his death, from a boat between Cuba and America on this day in 1932.

"Follow your arches to what corners of the sky
they pull you
Where marble clouds support the sea
Wreck of dreams."

Oh, that wily Clemens thought to snare me with the challenge of selecting an author whose name begins with X.

Hardly a feat for one with a classical education.  I choose Xenophanes, a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet, and social and religious critic.

I even wrote a poem entitled, Xenophanes:

"If oxen had hands, they would sculpt their gods to look like oxen."

"God is one eternal being, spherical in form, comprehending all things within himself, is intelligent,

and moves all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind."

Samuel McCord listens to this in the dark of Meilori's and mourns his lost love:

Gentle readers, do your senses a favor and listen to this healing melody:

Friday, April 25, 2014


On this day in 1893 I, Anita Loos, was born.

Anita Loos and John Emerson
by Edward Steichen for VANITY FAIR (1928)

“I've always loved high style in low company.”
― Anita Loos

So of course that rascal, Clemens, suggested I take over today's posting. 

So what dreary dross does he leave me to talk about?

In 1865 on this date,

John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, is surrounded by federal troops in a barn in Virginia.

He ends up dead, although there remains some doubt as to whether he took his own life.

And in dealing with the government, darlings, when there is doubt ... there is no doubt.

Roland wanted me to include this for our friend, David Walston:

On this date in 1986, an explosion and fire at the No. 4 reactor of Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine

results in a nuclear meltdown sending radioactivity into the atmosphere.

And Russia is still making things "hot" for the Ukraine.  At least those boys are consistent!

I joke to blunt my memory of those poor souls who entered the Shadowlands from that terrible accident.

Let us have a moment of silence for those two brave volunteers who jumped into certain radioactive death to prevent an even worse disaster:

In 1989, a deadly tornado destroys all structures in an area of 2.3 sq mi in Saturia, Bangladesh

leaving 80,000 homeless and a reported death toll of 1,300.

And there is simply nothing funny about shattered lives and anguish no matter the distance from your front porch.

In 1982, Rod Stewart, that awful singer who must sandpaper his vocal chords every night,

was mugged in broad daylight in Central Park.  If you are wondering why I am smiling -- I was that broad.

Oh, who am I you ask? 

You darlings are just so wonderful for a dead girl's ego.  I started writing scenarios for D. W. Griffith while in my teens, and eventually worked on over sixty films,

but my most enduring creation is the 1925 novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, reviewed by the Times Literary Supplement as "a masterpiece of comic literature."  (Even if I do the quoting myself!)

The family has always used the correct French pronunciation of our last name which is lohse.

 However, I myself pronounce my name as if it were spelled luce, since most people pronounce it that way and it was too much trouble to correct them ...

And watching them try to say it correctly made them look as if they were on the verge of a seizure!

In his journal entry for this day in 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson describes a pleasant afternoon spent

with Henry David Thoreau, and a lesson learned:

"Yesterday afternoon I went to the Cliff with Henry Thoreau.

At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say,

"Well do not these suffice? Here is a new scene, a new experience.

Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara."

The two old dears were new friends at this point, Emerson’s nearby journal references to Thoreau just as delighted:

“My good Henry Thoreau made this else solitary afternoon sunny with his simplicity & clear perception.

How comic is simplicity in this double-dealing quacking world."

All I can say is that old Emerson must have been acquainted with the world of agents and Hollywood!

“It isn't that gentlemen really prefer blondes, it's just that we look dumber.”
Anita Loos

Excuse me, Anita, my dear -- but I must interrupt.  I can brook no one else to be chosen for the letter W in authors.

Allow me to introduce myself, readers. 

I am the ghost of Oscar Wilde and the star of the 1895 Egyptian supernatural thriller: DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE.

"Is the story about me? If so, I will listen to it, for I am extremely fond of fiction."
 - Oscar Wilde


Thursday, April 24, 2014


A young Ella Fitzgerald,
photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1940

"Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong."
 - Ella Fitzgerald, born on this day in 1917.


Ghost of Mark Twain, here --
On this date in 795, old Pope Leo III was attacked in a procession in Rome. 
His attackers commensed to try to blind him and cut out his tongue.
And folks have been trying to blind and muzzle those who they disagree with ever since.

On this date in 1719, ROBINSON CRUSOE was published.

Though the book is Daniel Defoe's most well-known work, he actually didn't write fiction until he was in his sixties. 

So you struggling writers out there don't give up and experiment with other genres, don't you know?

The book is based on the experiences of a Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk.


The guillotine was first used on this date in 1792:

  The iconic method of execution in the French Revolution got its start a few years earlier with the execution of a highwayman named Nicolas J Pelletier.

  Eyewitness accounts report that the crowd at the execution was dissatisfied with the guillotine since they found it too "clinically effective," and therefore not entertaining enough.

But folks got their heads together and come up with Reality TV and most seem pleased with the results!

Now some folks used claymation to make a cartoon of my "THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER" in 1986.

I worked on the book periodically from roughly 1890 up until 1910.

The body of work is a serious social commentary, addressing my ideas of the Moral Sense and the "damned human race."

This here cartoon was banned from TV.  And truth to tell, children, it rather creeps me out my own self!

Watch at your own peril ...

My first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches, was published on this day in 1867.

In my autobiography, I tell of first trying to pitch the book to a New York publisher, and being laughed out the door.

Twenty-one years later, while on holiday in Switzerland, I bumped into the publisher again, who introduced himself hat-in-hand:
"I am substantially an obscure person but I have a couple of such colossal distinctions to my credit that I am entitled to immortality—to wit:

I refused a book of yours and for this I stand without competitor as the prize ass of the nineteenth century."
It was a most handsome apology, and I told him so,

and said it was a long delayed revenge but was sweeter to me than any other that could be devised;
that during the lapsed twenty-one years I had in fancy taken his life several times every year,

and always in new and increasingly cruel and inhuman ways,
but that now I was pacified, appeased, happy, even jubilant; and that thenceforth I should hold him my true and valued friend and never kill him again.

Thinking on what author to pick for V that's got the same sharp wit as me --

Oh, don't go glaring at me like that Gore!  When we go at one another, the sparks fly, don't you know?

I pick you, Gore -- Gore Vidal!

“The unfed mind devours itself.” 

“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President.

One hopes it is the same half.” 

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Gore Vidal