Saturday, July 4, 2020

Online Author Interviews at Murder by the Book

Sometimes, washing the dishes can lead to a book purchase. Oh, is that just me? Shrug. It still happened.

My wife's a great cook so she prepares most of our meals. Being the team player I am, if she cooks, I clean the dishes. It's never a problem because I'll always plug in the earbuds and listen to a podcast or a few minutes of whatever audiobook that's atop my To Be Listened To list. (Right now: the science fiction/spycraft novel The Bayern Agenda by Dan Moren).

But a little less than two weeks ago, as I moseyed over to the sink to wash up, I checked Facebook. I don't have notifications turned on, so to see what's going on over there, I have to literally tap the app and start swiping.

Right up at the top of my feed was an indication that Houston's Murder by the Book bookstore was live. Like many things online during this Covid-19 pandemic, it was an interview (Zoom meeting) between John McDougall and author J. Todd Scott.

Scott is one of those authors that has circled my radar for a few years. As a DEA agent, many of his assignments have been in west Texas and the American Southwest. More specifically, his books are set in the Big Bend region of Texas, a place I love for its stark beauty.

Seeing the interview was live, I ended up listening while washing the dishes. Scott is in many ways an author like myself. He's got a day job and writes a little bit each morning. But it was something very specific that made sit up and take notice. He mentioned a book he wrote that he liked and submitted to his agent. The agent liked it, but paused. You see, it wasn't really "on brand" for a J. Todd Scott novel. Scott said he marveled at the concept that he actually had a brand. He does.

That got me to thinking about my own brand. But that's a topic for a different post.

I enjoyed the interview so much that I called the store the next day and ordered a copy of Scott's first novel, THE FAR EMPTY. My son picked it up for me a few days later when he visited my dad. I started reading that very night. In only a few pages, I was hooked, making me wonder why it took me so long to get around to reading a J. Todd Scott novel. Dunno. Maybe the timing wasn't perfect.

But if there's a takeaway from today's post, it's this: if you are not following Murder by the Book's Facebook page, change it today. Follow their page and when you do, you'll have access not only to future live author interviews, but all the past ones you might've missed. That incluces the one from J. Todd Scott. (It's a little odd to have an author's last name be the same as my first name.) I couldn't figure out how to snag the actual link, but you can find it on 23 June 2020.

Then be sure to check Murder by the Book's webpage which has the events calendar with almost daily interviews. It's a great resource for all the time we're all spending at home, staying safe, and reading books.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Three Cheers for an Indie: James D. F. Hannah Wins the Shamus

I read Jeff Pierce’s wonderful blog, The Rap Sheet, everyday. Y’all read that, don’t you? I mean, he’s nothing less that one of the most comprehensive sources of the goings on in the crime fiction world. His site should definitely be on your daily reading list.

On Thursday, he posted the winners of the 2020 Shamus Awards. They are sponsored by the Private Eye Writers of America, a group started by prolific author Robert J. Randisi way back in 1981.

I always enjoy awards season when finalists and winners are announced because it gives me new books to add to the never-ending TBR pile. On Jeff’s post, he also lists the publishers of the books.

In the Best Original Private Eye Paperback category, the winning book is BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP, by James D.F. Hannah. I know the author and now he gets to put Shamus Award winning author behind his name. This is a great win for Hannah, but what I zeroed in on was the listed publisher: Self-published.

Yes, an indie writer won a major award!

I sent a text to Hannah and asked the question: to the best of your knowledge, are you first indie writer to win a major award? The answer was a resounding yes.

I ended up peppering him last night with a few more questions.

He has a day job. He works in government, public relations department. BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP is the fifth novel in his Henry Malone series. He has a spiffy cover and I asked him if he hired a designer. Actually, with his design background in the newspaper business, he created the cover himself. He quickly said it wasn’t something he’d recommend for most folks.

James D. F. Hannah is a pen name. His real name is pretty much out in the world. About the pen name, he wrote this: “The pen name came around because I’ve always jokingly said that I never wanted to see my name attached to a one-star review on Amazon.” If you glance at his Amazon author page, you’ll see he’s in no danger of any one-star review. But, he continued, his pen name contains his children’s names. As a dad, I love this.

Finally, I asked the big question: why indie?

His answer:

I wasn’t sure I could find a publisher interested in publishing what’s hoped were these funny redneck PI novels. Also, I wanted to be able to tell the stories the way I wanted to do it. Now do I necessarily think it was the best way to go? Probably not. But I’ve gotten to write these books and stay true to my own voice. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go with a publisher and adapt because I would. End of day, it’s always about getting to tell the story, and hoping others will like them.

While he is in the process of redoing his website, he is quite active on Twitter (@JamesDFHannah).

Congratulations to James for the award! Keep that indie banner flying.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Reach of Living History

I'd like to call your attention to an article by John Gruber over at Daring Fireball as an example of the reach of living history.

Earlier this month, the last person who was receiving a Civil War pension died. Now, the first thing you might think is "Didn't that war end 155 years ago?"

Yes, it did. So how?

If you read the story, you'll learn that Irene Triplett died this month at the age of 90. Her father was a Confederate and US soldier (yes, both; read the article for the reason). In 1924, her dad, 78, married her mother, aged 27. Her dad died in 1938 (that meant Moses Triplett was 92 so longevity is in the genes). After her mom died, Irene was eligible for the pension, which she received, all the way through May 2020.

Just think on that for a moment. There may be other children of Civil War veterans out there who didn't receive their father's pension, but for all intents and purposes, Irene's death means that last living person with a direct relation to the Civil War (1861-1865) has now passed away.

In 2020.

If you visit the link, the story has a secondary link to something call The Great Span. There is a YouTube video of a 1929 interview with a then 103-year old man. If that man was born prior to July 4, 1826, that meant he was alive...when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were both alive. James Madison, too. Beethoven was alive. Dickens was alive. 

Go back to Irene Triplett. She was borh when Hoover was president (and Coolidge was still alive), the Great Depression was ongoing, and World War II was still nine years in the future.

I find it utterly fascinating the reach of living history. Even in my own family, my son was born in the 21st Century. I am so last century. 

By the way, the last actual Civil War veteran died...in 1956 at the age of 106. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

History Comes Alive With The Lincoln Conspiracy

There's a moment in The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Killed America's 16th President - and Why It Failed where the President-elect hears dire warnings from two independent sources that his life is in danger and he takes action. He agrees to sneak out of a pre-Inauguration Day party in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, don a disguise, and be whisked away by train, all in an effort to thwart the plot to kill him in Baltimore. That moment consists of me breathlessly wondering: Is he gonna make it?

It's been 155 years since his death. There's a giant statue of President Lincoln in Washington, He's on the penny. He's one of the most famous Americans of all time. He might be recognized in nearly every corner of the world here in 2020. Of course he makes it.

But that's the testament to the writing skill of Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch: they weave the story and the details in such a way as to make history read like a thriller. And dang if this story won't thrill you.

We all know Lincoln's ultimate fate on Good Friday, 1865, but few know of the first plot to kill him before he even took office. I'll admit I learned about it back in grad school at the University of North Texas but it was only in passing. I knew it was foiled and that private detective Allan Pinkerton played a key role. But I never knew the details that fill over 350 pages in this remarkable book.

Much like they did with The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington (2019), Meltzer and Mensch dig deep into the details of this 1861 plan hatched by a cabal of Southern loyalists. They didn't want the president-elect—who carried no slave-holding states in the recent election—to take his place in the White House. At the time, the Republican Party was against the institution of slavery even if Lincoln himself tried to steer a narrow line between free and slave.

Following a tradition dating back to America's first president, Lincoln traveled from his home in Springville, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., in the weeks leading up to his inauguration. Two things gave the Southerners fuel for their plot: Lincoln's itinerary was published in many papers and the rail-splitter from the west would have to change trains in Baltimore. What made this transfer problematic was not only was Maryland a slave state, but the transfer wasn't merely changing trains in a single station. No, this change from one rail line to another involved literally moving a train car about a mile from one station to the next. In that time, with the expected throngs of Southern sympathizers clogging the streets, the president-elect's life would be in jeopardy.

Hired by one of the railroad men to protect threats against the railroad, Pinkerton and one of his agents, Kate Warne, uncovered the real plot. It was then Pinkerton urged Lincoln to change his plans. The new president demurred until a fateful night when word of the plot arrived from his recent rival and future Secretary of State, William Seward. Convinced of the threat, Lincoln finally allowed himself to be disguised and sneak into the nation's capital under the cover of darkness.

Like they did with their Washington book, Meltzer and Mensch write their prose in the present tense. It gives the story an immediacy, a will-he or won't-he vibe that's pretty darn exciting. Often, they'll recount a scene and then cut to a contemporary scene in another part of the country. You really get a bird's eye view of the whole situation.

If you are a fan of audiobook, preeminent narrator, Scott Brick, reads the book. He could read the phonebook and I'd pay to hear it. He narrates everything he does so well, and I especially like the timbre of his voice as he reaches the end of the book and reads the last lines from Meltzer and Mensch.

History isn't just names and dates, laws and wars, pop culture and events. It is people, real people, living their lives and making decisions based on the best knowledge they have at any given time. Some decisions are momentous: the outcome of the 1861 election, the secession of the Southern states, the foiled assassination in 1861 and the successful one four years later. This book peels away some of the veneer Lincoln now lives with in the American imagination in the 155 years since his death, showing us a real guy, beset by personal and national tragedy, who is doing the best he can. Ditto for Pinkerton, Warne, and the Southerners.

Books like these breathe life into history, and as a historian, we need more books like this so folks in the 21st Century can be entertained and learn a little something along the way.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

In Memory of Dennis O'Neil, Writer Extraordinaire

[In lieu of the post I was going to write, I'm going to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of a comic book legend. Dennis O'Neil is easily one of the people you'd put on the Mt. Rushmore of Batman creators. I mean, he and Neal Adams are instant members of the Batman Hall of Fame. As good as the artwork of Adams was, the words of O'Neil gave the character depth and humanity. He did the same for Green Lantern and Green Arrow fifty years ago at the dawn of the Bronze Age of Comics. Then, in the 1980s, as the editor of the Batman titles, he steered the transition into our Modern Age, as comics 'grew up' and took on more mature topics.

In interviews, O'Neil often discussed his own personal demons and how he overcame them and his love of pulp fiction (especially The Shadow). But I really appreciated his workmanlike take on the job of writing. Yes, he can often spin words brilliantly, but he always showed up, rolled up his sleeves, and did the work.

I had already pulled my trade paperback of the famous Hard Travelin' Heroes storyline from Green Lantern (on its fiftieth anniversary), but yesterday, I pulled out my heretofore unread copy of The Question. I've always heard great things. Time to read up.

The following was published in 2018 and you'll easily see why I'm posting it. Rest in peace, Mr. O'Neil. Your stories are timeless.]

To commemorate the end of summer 2018, let’s take a trip back forty years.

The summer of 1978 was smack dab in the middle of one of my favorite pockets of my life. You see, Star Wars had debuted the year before and it consume much of my imagination. It had awakened in me a love for all things science fiction and I sought out as much as I could, eventually discovering Edgar Rice Burroughs’s A PRINCESS OF MARS. I had discovered the rock and roll superheroes known as KISS through their albums, comics, and trading cards. And every issue of Circus or Hit Parader magazine I could find.

And, of course, there was the constant: comic books. I have memories of certain issues—where I bought them; what kind of day it was—but not all. Interestingly, as summer 2018 wound down, I was drawn to a forty-year-old comic of which I have no memory buying at the time. But I also have no memory of buying it in the years since, so it’s a logical conclusion that my ten-year-old self forked over a dollar bill for this unique issue.

Officially issue fifteen of the DC SPECIAL SERIES, the 1978 Batman Spectacular boasted of 68 pages of content and no ads. In reality, you get to 68 pages by using both interior covers. This issue is a true gem of my favorite era of Batman’s history: the Bronze Age. More or less, the Bronze Age of comics ran from 1970 to 1985. For Batman, the Bronze Age started with the pairing of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams in the early 70s to the publication of Frank Miller’s seminal THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. In the 1970s, Bruce Wayne moved out of Wayne Manor and the Batcave and took up residence in the Wayne Foundation building. He was a detective, a creature of the night, and, most importantly, still a man. He could be hurt, both emotionally and physically, and he was, including this book.

The Batman Spectacular features three tales. The first, “Hang the Batman,” was written by David V. Reed and pencilled by Mike Nasser. The story centers on the death, by suicide, of a famous author, Archer Beaumont. But Beaumont believed it was possible to communicate from beyond the grave, a belief given new relevance when various signs start popping up around Gotham City. A cryptic note admonishes the Dark Knight Detective to solve Beaumont’s murder or Batman himself will meet death. He investigates, gets into fisticuffs, and, no spoiler here, solves the case.

Reed’s writing is crisp, fast-paced, and typical of the type of story from the 1970s. He provides all the clues the reader needs to solve the crime along with Batman. But it is the visual way Nasser (now Netzer) drew the panels that really set this story apart. His Batman is lithe yet muscular. He rarely treats a single page with traditional panels and borders. He visualizes the entire page as a canvas, seeking out new ways to tell the story. And he gives you interesting angles. I read this tale twice in a row I was so enthralled by his art.





The second story is by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Michael Golden. It features Batman’s (likely) best nemesis, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Batman’s unwitting and unwanted marriage to Talia, Ra’s’s daughter. O’Neil co-created Ra’s with Neal Adams and this is a perfectly serviceable story, but it seems rather small. Ra’s is best when he’s trying to take over the world or do something for which he sees as right. Here, he’s just trying to steal some diamonds—in a manner fitting a James Bond villain. Golden’s art is as realistic as you could get from art in the 1970s, and helps elevate this story.

O’Neil redeemed himself with the third tale of this issue. Advertised as “Something New..Something Bold!”, “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” is a Batman story told in prose by O’Neil and illustrated by the great Marshall Rogers. All three artists are fantastic at creating interesting visual storytelling. Rogers drew a series with writer Steve Engelhart many consider to be among the best Batman stories every told. The scenes he draws for O’Neil’s story are, like Nasser’s very visually interesting and almost minimal despite the exquisite detail.


But that’s okay, because the real stars here are O’Neil’s words. Free from a traditional comic book story, O’Neil’s prose is lavish in detail and is spun like a magician. And the details provided give a glimpse of a Batman rarely seen on comic pages. In one scene, Batman confronts a brute who thinks he can best the Caped Crusader. “The Batman shrugged. ‘Take your best shot.’” I loved the noncommittal nature of Batman here, the hero who knows he’ll win, the hero who has confronted countless thugs who think they’ll be the one to take down Batman.

As a writer, I especially appreciated how O’Neil didn’t always conform to proper grammar to paint his pictures with words. “The footfalls stopped. Snick of lighter. Odor of tobacco.” That’s it. Sure, you could write a paragraph, but why when a short few words will do the trick. The way he describes Gotham City is also splendid.

It is a monster sprawled along 25 miles of eastern seaboard, stirring and seething and ever-restless. Eight million human beings live on streets that, if laid end-to-end, would stretch all the way to Tokyo, crammed into thousands of neighborhood from the fire-gutted tenements of Chancreville, where rats nestle in babies’ bedclothes and grandmothers forage in garbage cans,to the penthouses of Manor row, where the cost of a single meal served by liveried servants would support an immigrant family for a year. It is countless chambers and crannies and corners in bars, boats, houses, hotels, elevators, offices, theaters, shacks, tunnels, depots, junkyards, cemeteries, buses, cars, trains, terms, bridges, docks, sewers, parks, jails, mortuaries—the shelters of living and dead, millionaires and bums, fiends and saints.
Napoleon’s armies could search for a lifetime and leave places unseen.
An exceptionally energetic investigator could visit the likely ones in a month.
The Batman had less than sixty minutes.

Come on! You can see that as clear as any artist. O’Neil’s love of old pulp fiction, especially The Shadow, bleeds off the page. And how’s this description of Batman emerging to take on a couple of crooks in front of a movie screen: “The Batman, stark and implacable against the expanse of white, a grim figure congealing from the shadows.” So, so good.

I highly encourage you to seek out this issue. The entire thing has not been republished elsewhere. The Ra’s tale you can find in Tales of the Demon. The prose story is reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers and in Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 23 - Discovering the Hinterland TV Series

Since most of us are still spending most of our time at home, I thought I'd pass along a new-to-me TV series: Hinterland.

My wife discovered this Welsh series via Netflix and started watching. I didn't watch at first mainly because of time. Each of the 25 episodes is 90 minutes and, with everything going on, I down to about an hour of TV a day. To watch Hinterland meant I'd have to carve out an additional thirty minutes. So I begged off.

But she continued through the four episode of season 1, liking each episode more than the last. The story centers on Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) as he tries to pick up the pieces of his life in the small town of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales. The something isn't really explained, but that's not really the issue. He is partnered with Detective Inspector Mared Rhys (Mali Harries) and a couple of subordinates.

The Big Town Cop who goes to a small town thing is common in many TV shows and books so there's nothing new here. But Harrington is remarkable at playing Mathias as simultaneously troubled and brilliant, invasive and compassionate. He genuinely cares for the victims he encounters and wants to help them reach a resolution, even if doing so is not exactly according to the letter of the law.

As his partner and local girl Harries plays Detective Rhys as a good-hearted person, trying her best to raise her teenaged daughter on her own. The pair of detectives on the team--Alex Harries as Detective Constable Lloyd Elis and Hannah Daniel as Detective Sergeant Siân Owen--serve their purpose to find clues and pass them on to Mathias and Rhys. And there is Chief Superintendent Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes) who took on Mathias but might have a different agenda than he's letting on.

My wife kept pressing me to watch the series. She played a couple of trump cards: Hinterland reminded her of Wallander (Kevin Branagh) and The Missing (Tchéky Karyo). With that kind of recommendation, I started watching at episode 1, season 2.

And I was hooked.

Everything she said about Mathias is dead on. I was instantly drawn to his character, especially the compassionate part. The stories are engrossing and rarely did I see the ending coming.

I have to comment on the landscape. Wales is an interesting place and half the fun of watching this show are the long shots when you see a car driving along the roads. It also looks quite cold. Interestingly, this show is part of an initiative to bring more Welsh shows on TV. Every scene is filmed twice and the actors perform in both English and Welsh. Which brings up another fun side project: seeing which scene doesn't need to be re-filmed.

Literally, as I write this, I have NOT seen the last episode. After the penultimate episode--which features a remarkable secondary character in the form of an elderly woman out on a farm--my wife highly suggested I watch episode 1, season 1 (which is seemingly to play into the series finale). I did that last night. Heck, I'll probably watch the other three episodes of season 1, too.

So, Hinterland, no matter how the series ends, gets a high recommendation from me.

Have you see it?

Update: 


Last night, I watched the series finale. Just like The X-files or Castle, there is a larger, over-arching thread that runs through the entire series...and it paid off in the last episode. There was a moment, two actually, in which Mathias's personal character is mentioned. The first is when he learns the truth. The second is something another character commented on. It comes toward the end of the episode and it speaks directly how and why Mathias does what he does when being a detective. 

Wonderful show, wonderful ending. I told my wife that I almost wish Hinterland were an American show because then we'd get at least twenty episodes. I definately would love more from this character and series. Alas, with the third series now four years in the past, it is unlikely to happen, but we have a marvelous show to watch. 

Not sure what our next show will be. Any suggestions? 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 22: Early Momentum Counts

Hey! Back to words and not a video. Why? Dunno, really. Just felt like typing some thoughts rather than speaking them.

Keeping a Record


So, Summer 2020 started this week. In case you missed the video in which I talked about the summer writing season, we have a longer-than-normal summer this year which means there are more days and weeks to start and complete projects: 104 days and 15 weeks. Minus the one we just completed.

I woke early on Monday and got back to one of my current stories. One of the best things about earmarking a certain day to begin writing is the eagerness to start. I woke with hardly any effort so excited was I to pick up this Calvin Carter story again.

The enthusiasm continued throughout the work week. Each morning, I started a new habit: wake a 5:00 am and get the writing done before the day job kicks in. I’ll admit: the writing muscles were a tad rusty, but the week went by with new words added to the story and a new transition into Act III. Can’t go wrong there.

I have resurrected an old habit I used to do: keep a word count record per day. Incredibly motivating. Heck, yesterday, I reached a logical conclusion—and the alarm I set to tell me to stop writing and get ready for the day job was sounding—and I realized I had 599 words. Argh! I left it alone and got ready. But it’ll be nice to see those numbers climb.

Another thing that spurs me along is a schedule. If I frequently put myself on a Starting Date, I rarely resort to a schedule. That is, be finished with Project A by a certain date. But I have now. I want to see how it works. If it motivates me to ignore alarms and write even when an alarm’s blaring, I might be onto something.

So, the Summer Writing has kicked off well. How about your writing?

Murder by the Book and Zoom


Did you catch the Facebook Live session yesterday with McKenna Jordan, Gregg Hurwitz, and Michael Connelly? You didn’t? What’s up with that? For nearly an hour, Hurwitz acts as interviewer to Connelly, writer interviewing writer, but with Hurwitz acting as host as well as fan. Excellent interview, including the viewer questions. It’s on Murder by the Book’s Facebook page so go watch.

Grant – The Mini-Series


The big television event of the week was the History Channel’s three-part, six-hour mini-series on Ulysses S. Grant. Loved it. As a historian, I welcome popular histories that can reach a broad audience. I wrote a review about it yesterday in which I give more details. Highly recommended.

The Next Video


I kept up with The Road to The Empire Strikes Back video series this week with Episode VI: The Music. I’ve had a blast with this series and this was one I looked forward to the most (apart from the movie re-watch). Empire ranks in my Top 5 soundtracks of all time.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Grant the Mini-Series – A Popular Reassessment

As soon as I saw the commercials for History TV's mini-series, “Grant,” I knew I wanted to watch it. The big name attached to the project—Leonardo DiCaprio—wasn’t the draw. For me, it was the sight of actor Justin Salinger dressed as Ulysses S. Grant. From just the commercial, it felt like the 18th President was again alive.


The excellent casting was a harbinger of how good this documentary is. Based on Ron Chernow’s 2017 biography, Grant, the six-hour mini-series examines the life of the hardscrabble man from Ohio via a series of on-camera historians discussing various aspects of the man and reenactments featuring Salinger. The high production values are on full display for most of these reenactments, especially the one involving the Civil War. It makes you want more. I could have easily watched another six hours.

The vast majority of the six-hour running time naturally is devoted to the war. What I especially appreciated was the reassessment of Chernow’s biography on full display here in this mini-series—not surprising considering he wrote the screenplay. I’m a degreed historian who wrote a thesis about the Civil War, but even I didn’t remember all the modernity Grant brought to bear when he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in 1864. As Chernow and the historians note, Grant was the first modern general, one who could see the entire battlefield (nearly encompassing half a continent) and act in concert. I’ve often thought that had some of the generals from World War I learned lessons from the American Civil War, fewer soldier would have died in The Great War.

Winston Churchill remarked once that Americans can be counted on to do the right thing after every other option failed. Chernow made the point that Grant, having been a failure in his early military life and his civilian life before 1861, was almost the perfect choice for Abraham Lincoln. Unlike other generals, Grant had the fortitude to try something. If it failed, he tried something else. But at least he tried. True, failures from a general meant death, but it was war after all. I found it a nice reminder that for all the talk of Grant being a butcher, his losses often were less than Robert E. Lee’s.

As interesting as his war years are, I would have enjoyed more from his presidential years. That’s the forgotten part of Grant’s history. So many of us—if we remember Grant’s two-term presidency at all—think of the scandals, but there was so much more to it than that. The historians touched on major points, but I wanted more. Which, naturally, led me back to Chernow’s book. If you are reading this on the day I post this (29 May 2020), the Kindle edition is only $1.99. That’s two bucks for a thousand page biography.

But as the show ended, a remarkable thing occurred: I grew sad and somber. Mixed with Grant’s heroic struggle to keep the cancer at bay while writing his memoirs, the historians discussed how Grant’s admirable personal reputation has been diminished—sometimes actively—in the century and a half since Appomattox. I’m not sure why and how Chernow selected Grant as his subject, but I’m very appreciative that a reassessment has started.

And this mini-series is broadening the audience. It’s very well done and highly recommended.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode VI: The Soundtrack

Today, I continue my look back forty years at the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Now, it's the soundtrack.

Here's the link to my YouTube channel when I discuss the music of John Williams for "Star Wars II."

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Road to The Empire Strikes Back: Episode V: The Movie Re-Watch

It was 40 years ago today that I saw the sequel to Star Wars for the first time. I watched it again yesterday after a long time not seeing it and I recorded some thoughts, including some rather emotional ones about Han and the carbon freeze chamber and what he did.

The video is up on my YouTube channel.

Year 5 of an Indie Writer: Week 21: The Summer Writing Season