My Books

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Now Available in Paperback and for Kindle

It was only meant to be a few hours of fun.
A lark. On a sunny Saturday morning Lola, Kyle and Maria set sail on Puget Sound to look for a vision that had come to Maria in a dream. Then disaster struck, and the three of them were plunged into a dark adventure in which they would confront good and evil, past lives, and a timeless curse born from a tragic love. What are the hidden secrets of Bridge House and Riesgado Island? Part Gothic romance, part supernatural mystery and part fantastical adventure, The Curse of Septimus Bridge is Scott R. Larson’s homage to the horror and adventure stories of his youth, notably the 1960s television series Dark Shadows. In this new book, the author of The Three Towers of Afranor takes us on an adventure that ranges from 17th-century Ireland to the Pacific Northwest of today. At the heart of it all is the mysterious figure who lives out his endless, solitary days, having been rejected by both heaven and hell.

“This is a sequel to Larson’s earlier novel, ‘Maximilian and Carlotta are Dead’, which was set mostly in Mexico as a buddy adventure and introduced the character of Dallas Green, a young man with wanderlust from a small town in the San Joaquin Valley. ‘Lautaro’s Spear’ takes us on further romantic and political adventures to France, Germany, and Chile, and deeper into Dallas’ psyche which we find to be darker and more complex than in the first novel. An engrossing read by a first class storyteller, it leaves you wanting more.”

“Totally enjoyed the characters lost souls that they are. Life is not always what we would like.”


Excerpts from Readers’ Reviews on Amazon.com


A legendary reclusive filmmaker. An enigmatic cook and restaurant proprietor, who is clearly more than he seems. Two mysterious deliveries to be made behind the Iron Curtain. A desperate search for a long-missing old friend. An unexpected love affair on the coast of Normandy. Dallas Green’s life has only gotten more interesting since his wild youthful adventures recounted in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead.
“I loved this book. It is a rollicking fantasy—youth must pass increasingly difficult tests to attain wisdom and perhaps, just perhaps, win the girl! A pure joy to read. And such a great metaphor for life!”

“It was a great read for young adults as well as adults. Can’t wait for the sequel.”

“A fantasy novel with magic and heart. It’s a quick read that is set up for a sequel. A great story about growing up and learning what you are capable of and it’s clean so it can be recommended to all ages!”


Excerpts from Readers’ Reviews on Amazon.com

What secrets do the three towers hold? For years travelers have avoided the mysterious kingdom of Afranor, but necessity now requires three brothers—the valiant fighting princes of Alinvayl—to pass through Afranor’s dark, forbidding expanse. Not all will survive the journey, but one may succeed in finding his destiny.

“I loved this book! Once I started I couldn’t put it down… What an adventurous way to come-of-age in a place in time that no longer exists. Truly a great read!”

“Larson really captures the sense of a particular time and place. His details of clothes, music, cars, speech, etc. all ring true. Also, the first-person narrator’s voice is pitch-perfect…”

“Scott Larson does a magnificent job of taking his readers on a southern trip with the three young heroes.”

“What a wild and crazy adventure! … The characters were all very well developed; I especially loved Antonio, the star and the hero. Looking forward to the sequel.”


Excerpts from Readers’ Reviews on Amazon.com


It is Summer 1971. With the Vietnam War raging and the draft looming, 18-year-old Dallas and Lonnie look for an escape. Fleeing their hot and dusty farming town in Lonnie’s ’65 Chevy, they head to Mexico. In one last misguided adventure, two lifelong friends blaze a trail to Tijuana and beyond, just to see how much trouble they can get it into.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Nation Surviving Between Two Devils

As promised in my previous post I have gotten the chance to read and review Claes Johansen’s new book on Finland’s experiences during World War II. It is currently available for ordering on Amazon.co.uk and for pre-ordering on Amazon.com.

Claes Johansen has given us as thorough and as considered an overview of Finland’s experience in World War II as any student of the subject could want. Johansen is an author who has written many books, both fiction and non-fiction and in both Danish and English. Until now I have mainly known him for his books on the seminal English musical groups of the 1960s, Procol Harum and the Zombies. Clearly, they were merely the tip of the literary iceberg. War has been a particular focus of his writing, and Hitler’s Nordic Ally?: Finland and the Total War 1939-45 is an English language account that follows Johansen’s Finland og den totale krig published in Danish in 2013.

While I have no doubt that serious scholars will find this 310-page tome (plus appendices and index) quite useful, it is entirely accessible and readable for those of us who are mere history buffs or who simply want to know more about an extremely interesting time and place in recent history. Many of us—especially Americans, such as myself, born after the war—have always tended to see the Second World War as a single continuous conflict between two sides—with numerous participating countries arrayed on either one side or the other. By chronicling Finland’s experience during this period, Johansen brings home the fact that the experience of each individual country was not only particular to that country but that not every nation self-identified as either a member of the Axis or as a teammate of the Allies. Smaller countries like Finland were mainly striving to survive with their independent nationhood intact. Finland, we learn, did not so much participate in what we think of as World War II as fight three separate and successive wars while other wars were raging simultaneously in Europe and in the Pacific.

Johansen lays out Finland’s complicated story by dividing it clearly into four distinct sections, corresponding to each of the three different Finnish wars and to the 15-month Interim Peace between the first two wars. The narrative alternates between detailed descriptions of the political debates and maneuverings that preceded and followed each of the wars and blow-by-blow accounts of the military actions that shifted the Finnish-Soviet border westward and then eastward and then westward again. The battle narratives are brought to life by generous excerpts from journals and first-hand accounts by participants on the ground and by many photographs of stunning quality from the war zones. The author highlights in particular the participation and accounts of his Danish countrymen—as well as other international volunteers from Norway, Sweden and the Baltic countries. Some photos—like that of a dead child being carried by a soldier or of the skeletal cadaver of a Russian prisoner of war—are terrible to see and serve to remind us how horrific things were for so many people in Europe—and during a period that was not that many years ago.

A preface helpfully sets the stage by setting out the intertwined history of Finland and the Soviet Union leading up to the Winter War. We learn that from 1809 to 1917 Finland was a grand duchy of Russia and that it gained its independence after a civil war that paralleled the one in Russia but which had a very different result. That set the stage for two decades of tensions as the Soviets worried about the security of their second largest city, Leningrad (the once and future Saint Petersburg), whose suburbs lay only 30 kilometers from the Finnish border. By the end of the book, we are appreciative of the near-miraculous fact that Finland avoided being absorbed into the Soviet Union like nearby Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. At the back of the book are six pages of maps to help the reader situate the various battle zones and the shifting border, but avid perusers not familiar with the geography may want their own detailed map at hand to glance at frequently during their reading.

What comes through clearly in Johansen’s telling is his deep admiration for the Finnish people (if not always for each and every one of their political and military leaders) and their determination to survive as an independent people. (The author clarifies at the outset that, while Finland is not a Scandinavian country, it is a Nordic one.) In an introduction he asserts that the “Finnish Army was probably the most effective fighting force in all of the Second World War. Despite being made up of conscripts, small and poorly armed, it managed with practically no outside help to keep the mighty Red Army at bay for more than three months during the Winter War of 1939-40.” For all that, his tone is generally detached and non-judgmental and he leaves no stone unturned in examining every angle of the choices made by Finnish leaders when it came to cooperating with Nazi Germany in its war against the Soviets.

His ambivalence about judging probably explains why the title ends with a question mark. It would be fair for readers to wonder why the question mark is actually there. After all, as an unoccupied country that coordinated with Berlin in advance of Operation Barbarossa (the Axis invasion the Soviet Union), Finland surely qualified as a German ally—even if Finland was never a formal member of the Axis. Yet, as Johansen is at pains to demonstrate, as non-Aryans (in the Nazi world view) the Finns were operating out of practicality and were not invested in Hitler’s ideology. Finland during this period just may be one of the best examples we have of the old expression: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And while the Winter War and the Continuation War were both fought against the Soviets, the seven-month Lapland War of 1944-45, which followed an armistice with the Soviets, was fought against the Germans. Having said that, however, we do learn that there was a current in Finnish society that aspired to a Greater Finland which would encompass the adjacent Soviet territory of East Karelia and possibly even parts of the Baltic countries, so things are never completely black and white. In the end, the Finns’ motivations and actions were complex and not always morally comfortable and, in fact, War-Responsibility Trials were held in the post-war period in an attempt to sort out some measure of accountability.

Of all the complexities and seeming paradoxes that come to light in exploring Finland’s history, probably the biggest conundrum is the one highlighted by Johansen at the very outset in his introduction: “Finland was the only nation with an elected and democratic government to fight on the German side in the Second World War.” As the author makes clear, this was largely out of necessity. The Finns would have gladly accepted support and aid from the Allies, but it was never going to be forthcoming. At every turn the Finns were thwarted by other countries caught up in their own uncomfortable necessities and their own shifting allegiances.

As is no doubt amply clear by this point, I can highly recommend the book to anyone with even the slightest interest in the topic.