So you can read my books

Sunday, August 7, 2011


{"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 this December were it still whole, all of us nudging the other with our elbows as if children again :


  1. I would have loved to be the token girl in your league :)

  2. When I was young The Stand affected me in a very profound way and the writing of Joel Rosenburg (Guardians of the Flame) fueled my young imagination. Recently I've loved The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell and Mistwood by Leah Cypess, beautiful writing by amazing auhors.

    Love the League of Five story!

  3. Sarah :
    We would have loved you and Heather to be our token girls!

    Heather :
    I was affected by King's SALEM'S LOT when young. His DUMA KEY has now replaced that book as my favorite King book. Have a lovely Sunday, Roland

  4. Terry Brook's Shannara series expanded my love of fantasy and science fiction into the printed form. It was the triumph of good over evil in a world beyond our own that pulled me in. Don't remember if any of my friends ever read it, although we all gravitated to D&D and creating our own fantastic adventures.
    Of course, the book that's really impacted my life is the Bible. I still believe good always wins over evil.

  5. Alex :
    Of course, I was talking fiction books. But The Holy Bible has impacted my life the most as well, especially the Psalms and the Gospels.

    And on earth, sadly, I believe Good wins over Evil only if Good is very, very good.

    The Sax Rohmer and Edgar Rice Burroughs books filled my head with wonder and the sting of life not always being fair that I bought into the reality of the stories.

    But ultimately, God wins. Everybody else's arms are too short to box with Him!

    Thanks for visiting and chatting, Roland

  6. Roland, no wonder you're a storyteller and writer - your childhood sounds like magic. I would have loved that. When I said in the last post there were 6 of us friends for 40 years? There are only 5 now, but I couldn't bear to leave her out - she's always with us....Great Post!

  7. Lady Gwen :
    I don't blame you for not leaving her out, for she is as much a part of you as your heart, right?

    And, yes, my childhood was magic. Yet, like Harry Potter found out, there is a dark price to magic. Best to focus on the music and the mystery of the best parts. Have a great new week, Roland

  8. The league of five. Hmm. True, nothing like a mystery to make your readers keep on reading. It's like playing charades. Your post brought to mind interactive books. Remember them? Turn to this page and this is your ending. Or if you turn to a different page this happens to you. I loved them. About villains. I love your mother. I can imagine her mysterious voice. It's wonderful to hear of boys that were actually hooked on reading and not clicking away at video games. Sherlock Holmes is awesome...elementary my dear Watson.

    Seriously, you're going to have to reveal your age eventually. I am really curious. :)

  9. Laila :
    I used to love those interactive books. I had a computer game that was an interactive adventure with Xena back in the day! Oh, I'm old enough to know better, but too young to resist. LOL.