So you can read my books

Sunday, November 28, 2010


{"There is a garden in every childhood --

an enchanted place where colors are brighter,

the air softer,

and the morning more fragrant than ever again."

- Elizabeth Lawrence.}

Some have emailed me asking about the mysterious League of Five that I mentioned in the post of a few days ago.

I forget that I have new friends, unfamiliar with my older posts.

So pull up a cyber-chair and let me introduce you to something my mother sparked into being :

You see, the origins of the League of Five stretches back to my childhood.

That league was given birth by :

Mystery and wonder.

They were the seeds from which grew the League of Five.

I've talked about Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY with its stunning illustrations by Steele Savage.

As a child I caught sight of mythic Proteus rising from the wine dark sea,

And heard shadowed Triton blow death from his wreathed horn.

Mythology and fantasy were the mid-wives of the League of Five. And my tales show it.

But I want to speak on what the League of Five taught me ... and what it might teach you :


{Mystery is the siren call for all lovers of fiction. Better to leave out commas than mystery in your tales.}

Its first sentence : "The place was silent and aware."


A desert fortress manned by the dead.

Every French Foreign Legionnaire was standing at his post along the wall. Every man held a rife aimed out at the endless sands. Every man was dead.

Who stood the last dead man up?

That question drove me to check out a book as thick as the Bible.

I remember sitting down that April 1st with my four junior high chums in study hall. They couldn't get over the size of the book. They looked at me like I was crazy. Then, I told them the mystery.

Tommy and Gary snapped up the remaining two copies in the school library. Raymond and B.J. (we called him Beej) had to go to the two different branches of the city library for their copies.

And then, my four friends, sluggish students at best, were racing with me through the pages to discover the solution to the mystery.

But then came stolen jewels and desert danger. We were hooked.

Mid-way through the book, I discovered the classic movie marathon that Saturday was going to show BEAU GESTE, starring Gary Cooper and Ray Milland.

The five of us roughed it that night in front of the TV.

After the movie, we planned on sleeping on the floor of my front room. It would be like we were French Foreign Legionnaires on a mission.

We were enthralled. We booed the bad guys. We cheered on Gary Cooper. And we sniffed back embarassing tears when he died.

But with the mystery solved, my four friends didn't want to go on.

The solution fizzled the fun of the reading. We all moped. A throat was cleared. We turned around.

Mother sat with a leather-bound volume in her hands, and with her voice blessed with the magic of the Lakota Storyteller and the lyrical beauty of the Celtic bard, she smiled,

"Let me read you five something --



{And he will keep your readers' interest up high -- so no lukewarm antagonists. Think epic. Think primal.}

Mother, in her rich, deep voice, read low like distant thunder :

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline,

high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan,

a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of true cat-green.

Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--

which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence.

Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."

She put down the book on her lap and intoned, "That, young men, is the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. Do you want to hear more?"

Man, did we! And so the League of Five was born.

For every Saturday night for the rest of that year and all through my last year of junior high, we sat cross-legged on the front room floor and listened to all thirteen of the Fu Manchu novels ...

along with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starting with "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." I never went to sleep after that without looking at my headboard!


{Instill that truth into your tale, and it will intensify the fragility of the human body and the enduring courage of its spirit.

And if it teaches your readers to hold gently and gratefully the love they find, so much the better.}

Unknown to us, Mother was teaching us the value of a mind that thought beneath the surface, that grew stronger with use as with any muscle.

We made special nights of it when the classic movie marathon played any Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Fu Manchu movie. Flash Gordon with Ming the Merciless was great. It was like seeing Fu Manchu in a space opera.

But the seasons pulled us apart to different cities, to different high schools, to different destinations.

Fatal car accident. War. Disease. Mugger's bullet.

Until now, only I remain of the League of Five.

But every April 1st, in the late evening hours, I sit down and pull BEAU GESTE from the shelf. I read aloud the words, "The place was silent and aware."

And no matter the room I find myself ...

it is silent ...

and it is aware.

I see five wide-eyed boys, their eyes gleaming with wonder and awe, listening once more to my mother reading into the wee hours of the morning,

her voice a beacon in the darkness of our imaginations.

I pull down my worn copy of THE INSIDIOUS DR. FU MANCHU and turn to chapter two with Sir Denis Nayland Smith's description of his adversary.

After a few moments, the words blur. But that is all right. I know the words by heart.

What novel meant so much to you that you just had to share it with a friend or friends? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Compare it to what you are writing now. Did it have any effect on your style or genre of writing? Please write me on that, too.

This is a new movie that the League of Five would watch next year were it still whole, all of us nudging the other with our elbows as if children again :


  1. Anything by John D. MacDonald and most of Stephen King (the writing, not the gooshy parts.) I shared MacDonald with my sister, and my father shared him with me during a horrible time for me. His writing is so good it took me most of the way out of a massive depression.

  2. This was fun to read again, like the memory is now mine and I get to makes me happy and sad and nostalgic all at once....

  3. What a beautifully sad story. Sad in the fact that you are the remaining soul of the League of Five. The more I read about your mother, the more special she becomes to me. Her spirit is in every one of your words. It's quite amazing how our parents' spirit fuses with our own.

    Growing up anything Dickens was my favorite read. In my senior year of High school, I met with three friends at first period in the library. Although we all could have slept in and arrive to school second period, we met every morning to discuss our Dickens' book of choice.

    Later on, when I hadn't read novels for quite a while, upon my father's death another author called to me in the enchanting world of Harry Potter. JK Rowling created this series to captivate youth to read again, I just hope she knows how many adults she influenced to pick up a book again.

    Through the years I have encouraged many friends to discover this magical world. I am still captivated with every read.


  4. Roland, I love reading again about your mother and the League of Five. I'm catching up on your last few posts and, as always, your prose inspires me.

    As for TG, I see both points. I choose to celebrate gratitude and give thanks for what I have. And use it as a reminder to tell all those I love how much they mean to me.

    This year has been an incredibly difficult one and so many have held my hand along the way. As have you. Thank you for being my friend and for being there, no matter what.

    Besties, Olivia

  5. Thank you for introducing us newbies to The League of Five!

  6. Even though I already knew of the League of Five, I still cried like a baby. My father made up stories to tell me at bedtime. He passed away when I was 10, but I told his stories to my two boys when they were small. Still crying, I miss my dad.

  7. I loved reading about this again. It's such a sad, but beautiful story.

  8. Golden Eagle : I take "the" from you name because it makes you sound Lakota. LOL. You're a good friend to like an encore of my past.

    Wendy : I'm glad you didn't mind reading of the League of Five again and that it touched you. My mother and they are smiling in that land that knows no shadows. Perhaps they will go looking for your father to tell them of his daughter's constant love. And he still lives in your heart and in his tales you tell your sons.

    Heather : I'm glad you liked meeting the League of Five. Have a healing Sunday.

    Olivia : I know that this year has been extremely difficult for you. The times of the most personal growth always are. But the bone is always stronger at the spot of the break. Thanks for being my friend although your own heart was bleeding. You are a special person.

    Michael : I was captivated by Dickens' DAVID COPPERFIELD and THE TALE OF TWO CITIES when very young. How incidents in the past cast long-lasting ripples that intersected so many lives touched me.

    Perhaps that is why all my novels exist in the same universe, the same secondary characters criss-crossing from one novel to the other from THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS to RITES OF PASSAGE to FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE to THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH.

    Yes, Mother cast her spirit across many lives. And in THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS especially as The Turquoise Woman she speaks even now.

    I'm glad J K Rowling was there for you in the time of your father's death to spark the sense of magic and wonder that is the spirit of childhood we should take with us all through our days.

    Words Crafter : Like with Golden Eagle, I make you Lakota. LOL. That the League of Five and Mother has become like a memory of your own now makes you family. Thanks. It makes me feel that much more special. Have a great new week.

    James : What an amazing coincidence. Travis McGee was one of my first fictional heroes. His adventures, especially those with Meyer, were fascinating, teaching a young boy of psychology and the dark interactions between fractured adults. I loved his THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH, AND EVERYTHING.

    Oh, for a pocket watch that could stop time and a beautiful exotic dancer to laugh at the use of it with me. In fact, I used that relationship in my book as a guide of sorts for the love between Victor Standish and the ghoul Alice in that Victor makes her promise to do anything that they can't laugh about afterwards.

    I'm glad his books helped during a very dark time.

    The common thread in these comments is how certain books raised our spirits during dark times. As writers we should consider that our words might touch a hurting heart sometime in the future. But touch it with healing or hurt? The choice is up to us as authors.

    Happy Sunday, everyone. Now, it's back to the end of editing the end of THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH where his mother comes to claim him for perhaps the last time in his life.

  9. ...wonderful prose in sharing with us The League of Five, Roland.

    I've watched the "Sucker Punch" trailer several times, and continue to come away impressed. Will be a fun flik to catch on the silver screen.
    Take care,

  10. Thanks, Elliot. Your praise means a lot to me. Yes, I really am looking forward to March.

    I'm sniffling right now. Not because of my post but because I'm editing the last chapter of THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH where my little gypsy discovers the true meaning of bravery as Elu sings his death song with Victor facing his destiny, Alice's hand in his.

  11. Hi Roland .. wonderful story telling & yes - I can absolutely see you all sitting there riveted to your mother's words and stories.

    Loved this ..thank you - Hilary