So you can read my books

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Hope is the pillar that holds up the world.
Hope is the dream of a waking man.
Pliny the Elder

One of my young customers once said, "Gee, Mr. Roland, you've been everything but a pirate!"

I didn't tell him that to earn my way through college I had worked for a tax preparation firm, so I had even been a pirate. 

He might have thought I was bragging.

I have incorporated some of my life experiences into my books.

I have been laboring for some time on CARNIVAL OF THE DAMNED

And yes, I worked as a young carnie for a time.

Carnie life is rough, demanding, and harsh. 

Carnies tend to work 16-hour days.

When they’re not operating rides or luring people to games, workers spend much of the time making sure concession stands have hot dogs,

generators have fuel and simply “putting out fires.

 Carnivals often operate until midnight, even on their last day at an event.

The next day, workers typically begin tearing down rides by 8 a.m. and don’t finish until 10 p.m.

The carnival and its workers then travel to their next destination, usually hours away.

No days off and very little sleep.

Yet, there was a time when it also provided a community of haven for the outsider ... but no longer.

This time of year (mid October to  the end of November) reminds me of Gibsonton, Florida.

The Marks like to call it the town of the freaks. 

Yet, I found the true freaks were to be found in the gawking ranks of the Marks.

(I never thought of the customers as Marks, and, of course, that made me an outsider even in a community of outsiders.)

Gibtown was the Carnies' haven, their reliable retreat, the one place in the world that was truly home. From mid-October to late November they headed toward Gibtown.

Gibtown became the retirement or home-base for a variety of show folks

where your next door neighbors might be Priscilla the Monkey Girl, the Alligator Man, the Lobster family, or Dotty the Fat Lady.

 In other places these strange people would have been met with some degree of social rejection,

but in Gibtown they were treated as average people bonded by the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling show.

Now, of course, side shows are rarely found in carnivals.  You find them these days in the halls of Congress.

I hear there is a horror TV show about a freak show.  I will not watch it ... for a variety of reasons.

While on the road, regardless of where their business took them during their nomadic season, they held fast to the ideal of Gibsonton,

and they returned every night to a familiar place, to their Gibtown-on-Wheels, (their travel trailers).

The rest of modern America seems bent upon fragmentation:

Year by year there is less coherence in every ethnic group; churches, and small neighborhoods,

once the glue of society, are frequently said to be worthless and even oppressive,

as if our fellow citizens see a perversely appealing chaos in the world around them and wish to adopt it,

even if adoption leads to extinction.

Among carnies, however, there was a strong and treasured sense of community that, year by year, never diminished.

But being human, this chaos mind-set has infected them.  And Darkness has made its home among them.

In November 1992, Gibtown was hit with negative publicity when the Lobster Boy was murdered.

Years before, he shot and killed his daughter's fiance. 

Found guilty, he was sentenced to 15 years of probation as the prison could not meet his physical needs.

His wife endured years more of abuse from the alcoholic man and pleaded with her son-in-law for help. 

The solution came with three shots in Stile’s head as he sat watching T.V. in his trailer.

The son-in-law was found guilty of murdering the Lobster Boy and handed a life term in prison.

Mary Stiles was sentenced to 12 years but continues to maintain that she was only doing what was necessary to protect her family.

The case left a heavy dent in Gibtown’s reputation that is still talked about today.

Have any of you noticed a coarsening of the people around you?

It is commonplace for folks to invade your sense of privacy by speaking loudly on their cell phones right by you while waiting in line.

And don't get in their way if they are leaving an airplane, bus, or movie theater!

The internet makes us faceless and anonymous, free to be cruel without consequences.

There’s probably more sex, violence, and salty language in the opening credits of Keeping Up with the Kardashians 

than there was on all of prime-time TV in the 90's.
Gallup finds that 72 percent of Americans are convinced that “moral values” are getting worse.

Perhaps it is not that God has forsaken us, but that much of society has forsaken Him?
What do you think?


  1. I think society has forsaken intelligence for the LCD mode of operation.

    Who are the models for this behavior? They seem to be in every occupation. . .why should carnies be any different?

  2. D.G.:
    Our whole culture seems Me First, Second, & Third, doesn't it?

    We learn from our parents' actions not words.

    Always good to see you here. :-)

  3. Hi Roland - we are not kind any more, but then in fact we weren't 50 and more years ago ...

    I bumped into an old boy (82) yesterday with his old sheep dog ... salt of the earth, in fact of the land ... he reminisced a little ... both of us agreeing that our standards had dropped - he because though he doffed his hat - the lady and family had no idea what he was doing ... so much so that the kid said what's that for!

    I'm afraid there's no understanding for others, what others have done, and the whys of how people are ...

    He was glad to have my time of day ... and we had a natter for 5 plus minutes ...

    The Carnies sound a good bunch. There is a girl here who came from a similar background .. and against the odds of her people went to Cambridge - she went back in the holidays to help her family and friends at the Fair ... as we call them.

    We need more understanding and people willing to learn and appreciate other aspects of life ..

    It's not going in that direction ... I'd rather we talked about what we're losing .. lions, polar bears, rhinos and all the tiny insects, as well as the flora ... than climate change: seems an irrelevance in the scheme of things - climate has always dramatically altered.

    I hadn't realised that Mary Shelly's Frankenstein came out of a dark summer at Lake Geneva ... when a volcano in Indonesia erupted and Europe had a year without a summer ...

    I'd better stop .. cheers Hilary

  4. Have you read King's JOYLAND? It's full of that carny spirit -- until things go sideways. I think humankind is all about doing whatever's right in our own eyes. That hasn't changed any.

  5. Roland, you just got a hot and heavy comment about American Women above. That dude is a perfect example of what your post is all about. Seems to me that people either have too much time for God, inserting Him into their politics and private agendas. Or no time at all, as they play their computer games, stare at their texts, check out their apps.....

  6. Hilary:
    What a delightful comment (unlike the one beneath yours!)

    Yes, we were unkind to others 50 years ago ... but we felt worse about it.

    Sorry about channeling Mark Twain there, but as you pointed out with your 82 year mature friend -- manners are so a thing of the past that they are often a target of cruel humor.

    I envy your friend his sheep dog -- I had a Sheltie for many years and losing him broke my heart.

    The Carnies I knew were a good bunch ... to one another ... to the outside world not so much.

    But then they had reason: the corrupt police who demanded bribes not to shut them down, the hand-out mayors and public health officials who also demanded bribes.

    In the Carnie World, there are Carnies called Patch, whose job is to grease the palms of those corrupt officials and endure the insults and sometimes beatings (just to let the fair know the city meant business.)

    Any lone Carnie was fair game for the local toughs. The customers were often cruel in their remarks to the workers and the side show entertainment.

    Yes, we need to grow more in our compassion towards one another. But as you point out: we are even cruel to the world and its species upon whom we depend for life itself. Sigh.

    May this new week bring you unexpected joy. Roland

    I am tempted to read JOYLAND. I will but after I finish my own Carnie supernatural tale so I will know I am unconsciously drawing from it!

    Human nature has always been selfish, but there have been isolated individuals who have been beacons.

    Think of an abused child saved from its home: first there were individuals who cared enough to pass laws to protect them - individuals who could have been paid more to work in child protection agencies to salvage them from abusive homes, and foster homes (most not nightmarish as TV would have you believe) that nuture them.

    All those good people and only two bad parents. So in a sense there are more good people than we might at first believe. At least I sleep better at night thinking so. :-)

    That person visits many blogs and writes the same thing over and over. A troubled soul.

    I believe that the folks that talk the most about God are the ones that leave Him out of their actions the most as well!

    As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "The more he talked of his honesty, the faster we counted our silverware."

    I pray your husband is feeling better. Roland

  7. Is that your latest? Congratulations! Must go download now.
    And it is society that has forsaken God, because He never leaves us.

  8. Alex:
    Not quite yet! Still have some chapters to go yet. But thanks for the thought. I think with my next book to be published I should really do some kind of major launch to bring attention to my books. I work too hard to whisper, right? :-)

  9. Hi Roland, your post is very interesting and very sad at the same time...
    It made me think of "Twilight Eyes" by Dean Koontz. I liked that book...

    I'm looking forward to reading your new book.
    I'm sending you my very best wishes.

  10. Vesper:
    That's me this weekend: interesting and sad. :-)

    Yes, I liked TWILIGHT EYES, too.

    CARNIVAL is coming along painfully and long for some reason. I leave it to write on other books and come back to it. Mark Twain did that, so I am, at least, in good company!