My Books



“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

All books available in paperback and as e-books from major online bookstores.
See below on the right-hand side of this page for specific links to sellers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Going for Cover

Despite the old aphorism, plenty of people apparently do judge books by their covers. Experts in marketing tell us that a book’s cover is one of the major determinants as to whether browsers will buy or move on. What exactly makes a good cover, though? That’s harder to nail down. Like so many things, I suppose it comes down to the eye of the beholder.


All the covers of my Dallas Green trilogy have featured photographs I took myself in the 1970s. Lautaro’s Spear has a photo I shot of Place de la Victoire in Bordeaux in 1973. On the back of that book is a photo that was not shot in the 1970s. It is the famous sign at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

In the case of the front of Searching of Cunégonde, I snapped the photo on the cover (seen to the left), looking past the Palais de Chaillot (where the Cinémathèque Française was then located) toward the Eiffel Tower, on a rainy autumn day in 1973. When coming up with a cover design, I actually tried in vain to find a different Paris photo than that one because the Eiffel Tower is such a Paris cliché. In the end, though, it turned out to be the best one I had to work with and certainly the one most relevant to the novel’s story. To the extent I have had feedback on it, people seem to like it.


On the back cover of Cunégonde (seen to the right), there is another photo. That one is of a fountain snapped at the Cerro Santa Lucía park in Santiago, Chile, in July of 1977. (The original photo can be seen below on the right.) Its inclusion in the ostensibly final Dallas Green book completes a somewhat circuitous circle. Attentive readers may recall that this fountain was described as being on a postcard sent to Dallas by his friend Antonio in the final chapter of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. In Chapter 8 of Searching for Cunégonde, Dallas has a frisson of recognition upon realizing he is gazing at the very same fountain a decade later.

Because of its significance in the story, I originally selected that photo for the cover of Max & Carly. At that point my intention was to publish that book solely as an e–book, and that photo was indeed on the original front cover of the Kindle version. Looking back on it now, it is interesting but also kind of embarrassing.


Over the first couple of months after Max & Carly’s release, I learned, contrary to my original assumption, there actually was a demand for a paperback version, so I set about producing one. In the process, I also came to realize that my very Gothic-looking cover (seen to the left) was not at all suitable for a printing press. It was too dark and murky and a real problem for mixing ink in the real (non-digital) world. So I had to come up with a whole new cover.

The new design that I came up with was based on a photo I took in the extremely arid Atacama Desert around the same time I had shot the Cerro Santa Lucía photo. That was essentially a cheat since the Atacama Desert did not figure in Max & Carly. It was meant to stand in for the Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico—a place where I have never taken any photos.


For consistency I also put the new cover on the e–book version. That meant the original dark, murky cover with the fountain was consigned to history—almost. Anyone who downloaded the Max & Carly e–book during the first several weeks after its release and who has never re-downloaded it since then would still have the original cover. Apart from that and in a couple of posts on this blog, however, there is only one way that cover still lives on.

Online sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble had no problem with me uploading a new cover to an already existing and selling book. The Goodreads social-media book-lovers site, on the other hand, was not so flexible. Once you upload a cover for a specific version of a specific title to Goodreads, that’s it. There’s no changing it—ever.

So to this day, if you look up the e–book version of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, on Goodreads, you will still see the original creepy cover. Kind of like an eerie old ghoul that refuses to die.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Eternal Quest

So, Scott, what’s your book about?

That’s a reasonable question to address on a blog that is meant to be a means of communication between myself and readers. It is also a tricky question that is all-too-easy to over-complicate. I have a problem with genres, so I don’t have a quick, pat answer, like “It’s a murder mystery” or “It’s an espionage thriller” or “It’s an erotic romance.” I suppose the honest answer is that, like all my books, Searching for Cunégonde is the tale of a quest.

The fantasy books (The Three Towers of Afranor and The Curse of Septimus Bridge, as well as the coming Septimus sequel) are overtly and literally about quests, but so are the Dallas books, though perhaps a bit less obviously. The pretext for Dallas and Lonnie’s adventures in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead is a quixotic quest to find a lost friend. In Lautaro’s Spear, Dallas’s near-obsession with finding another lost friend—actually, in a way, two lost friends—is the thread connecting his adventures and travels in that book. Indeed, that book ends with our hero resolving anew to get serious about finding the missing Antonio, so it should be no surprise that quest is a key part of Searching for Cunégonde. Of course, the very title of that book signals most definitely it is about a quest. The most obvious search is the one for Antonio, but there is some other searching going on as well.

Is that vague enough for you? In discussing my books, I always find myself torn between wanting to discuss what actually happens in the story and not wanting to spoil any of it for people who might actually read the book. When I was a kid, a typical account to a friend of a movie I had just seen would run something like: “First this thing happened, and then that thing happened, and there was this neat bit where this cool thing happened, and then another really cool thing happened, and in the end it turned out he was actually dressing up as his mother.” Obviously, that kind of “review” no longer cuts it. Not only are there a lot of people out there sensitive about spoilers, but such gushing of information gives the recipient little idea of the true character of the work. Furthermore, I’ve tried to include a few surprises for people who have read the previous books.

In the end, I am happy enough if people find the books entertaining. That’s mainly what I’ve gone for. “Scott’s books are Fun,” wrote one old friend on Facebook to another old friend, and that was really the best thing I could hear or read. (I particularly liked that she capitalized the F in Fun.) Beyond that, if readers find something profound in them, well, that’s good to hear too. There are actually ideas behind the story, though the ideas are meant to serve the story rather than the other way around.

Ideas? What ideas?

I think I have mentioned before that, early on, my idea for a book was to have Tommy Dowd as the main character. The theme there would have been the need for passionate dreams, the exhilaration in striving for them and their eventual, seemingly inevitable failure. That idea is still there in the Dallas books, but it is more of a background theme.

The main theme is one that became more interesting to me as I grew older, thought back on my earlier days, and observed younger people around me. It has to do with the intense friendships that young men form—friendships that sometimes have the intensity of love affairs. Those are extremely important in adolescence and young adulthood, but like many idealistic passions, eventually they have nowhere to go—at least in the case of straight guys. Yes, the Dallas books are not only very male-centric, but they are also hetero-centric. I make no claim that Dallas’s story is by any means universal. Anyway, at some point those intense male friendships become secondary to one’s relationships with women and forming families. Or they don’t.

After exploring young male friendships in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and thinking I was done with that and with Dallas, I was convinced to continue his story. Fine, but it wouldn’t have been much of a story if he simply got married and went to work every day for the next forty-five years. Sure, it could have been a good story, maybe like George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life, but that wasn’t really ever going to be Dallas’s story. For one thing it would have broken the unwritten rule about sequels. For another, there was another theme that interested me. It was the way a certain segment of the Baby Boom generation has experienced an adulthood so entirely different from their parents’. It is reminiscent of the generational change in early 19th century France called the mal de siècle. It had to do with how the youth of the Romantic period felt they had missed out in the great and glorious causes of their parents’ time in the Napoleonic Wars. Didn’t this parallel the Baby Boomers’ rootlessness after their parents, the Greatest Generation, had saved the world from Nazis and authoritarianism?

Dallas’s lot is like that of many of us. He moves from a small town to a city. Unlike his parents and many of his friends, he does not get married young. He drifts away from his early religious training. There is no “settling down” or starting a family. His relationships are transitory. In his particular case, he is haunted by the one relationship he could always count on but is now gone forever and cannot be replicated. It is probably no accident that his life has a faint echo of the Lost Generation of early-20th-century literary fame. If his time in Paris reminds you a little bit of A Moveable Feast or his travels punctuated by drinking sessions are a tad reminiscent of The Sun Also Rises, well, I’m the first to admit I’ve always been heavily influenced by Hemingway.

Sorry, I really don’t mean to sound like I’m comparing myself to one of the great American writers of all time. In fact, forget I said all that. All I want you to bear in mind about the Dallas books is that reading them might provide you with a bit of fun.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Three’s Company

“I read the whole thing and I could not stop. Best work of the trilogy, so tight with the right amount of suspense. Lovely twist at the end. So many characters, so many places…”

Those ego-massaging words came from one of my beta readers for Searching for Cunégonde, and needless to say, they were most encouraging and welcome. But do they beg the question?

Answer: no, they don’t. At least not in the original meaning of the phrase, which entered the English language in the 16th century when an anonymous translator rendered Aristotle’s petitio principii as “beg the question.” The Greek philosopher’s actual meaning was closer to “assume the conclusion.” A true example of begging the question (courtesy of Merriam-Webster) is: “If left to themselves, children will naturally do the right thing because people are intrinsically good.” If you think about it, the logic in that assertion is circular. It is basically saying, “A” is true because “A” is true. This is very different from how most people these days use “beg the question.” What they actually mean is to raise or prompt a question. Sorry to get all pedantic, but this is something that has bugged me for a long time for some reason.

To get back to the original point, yes, “best work of the trilogy” does raise a question. Are the three Dallas Green books (Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, Lautaro’s Spear and Searching for Cunégonde) really a trilogy? Since I have more time these days to pore over onomasticons, let us consult the Oxford English Dictionary. First up from the OED, based on references from the 19th century: “Ancient Greek History. A series of three tragedies (originally connected in subject), performed at Athens at the festival of Dionysus.” Secondly, from 17th and 19th-century sources: “Any series or group of three related dramatic or other literary works.” So, yes, my trio of novels appears to qualify as a trilogy.

I actually addressed the question on this blog three years ago. At that time I clarified that the yet-to-be-titled Lautaro’s Spear (which I then jokingly referred to as Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead: Part 2) and still-a-glint-in-my-brain Searching for Cunégonde did indeed qualify as sequels but were not a series. In other words, they are meant to be independent and self-contained, even while all dealing with the overall narrative of Dallas’s life. I then pronounced that those three books plus any more that I might write, apart from the fantasy novels, all belong to a grand “novel sequence” à la Honoré de Balzac and his La Comédie humaine.

By accepting that the three tomes are a trilogy, am I signaling that there will be no more Dallas books? Well, if any other books I write are to be part of my novel sequence, won’t they be technically be Dallas books since they take place in a world where he exists—even if he does not actually make an appearance?

There are two things I can tell you for pretty sure, which may clarify things.

Firstly, I don’t expect the three books to be offered together at any point in a box set in the manner of, say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. For one thing, I don’t even know how to go about organizing that, and frankly, I don’t have much interest. I prefer that each book stand on its own independently, even though reading them all will hopefully be a richer experience. Side note: you can actually make a case that The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy since it was written as a continuous single work and was only divided into three books because of the printing-press limitations of its era. Additional side note: I have been known to jokingly refer to Searching for Cunégonde as The Return of the King.

Secondly, at this time I have zero intention of writing any other books in which Dallas is the narrator. I was never keen on having a first-person narrator but convinced myself I had to do it with Max & Carly because I was consciously inspired by the first-person-narrated picaresque nature of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If I had it to do over now, I would probably listen to a certain prescient character in Cunégonde and emulate instead François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, and his novel Candide. But once the first book was written in first person and once I committed to writing one and then two sequels, I was caught. It’s been my own perverse punishment, and only adds to the notion that the books are some kind of roman-à-clef autobiography. So no more.

We may well (or not) learn more of Dallas’s life in other books, but not through his words or point of view. Characters we met through him may turn up in other books but as described by an anonymous narrator. We may get news about him from other characters. He might even turn up in person so that we may see him through someone else’s eyes. We will not, though, be seeing him through his own words.

Unless I change my mind.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Cunégonde Found

Today is the day.

This is the official publication date of Searching for Cunégonde. One thing I have learned about publishing books, though, is that the release does not happen in one big climactic big bang where “the book” is available everywhere at once. The fact is that there are multiple versions of the book and multiple sellers. As much as I try to coordinate things to happen, more or less, all at once, things happen when they happen.


In any event, by the time you read this Searching for Cunégonde should be available in any format you want it from all of the major sellers. As always with my books, the only places to buy it are on your internet-connected device. That is true of digital books (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google Play) by definition, but it is also true of the paperback version. Your local bookstore won’t have it, as much as I would love for your local bookstore to stock it. Even large bookstores won’t have it. If you go to Barnes and Noble, they will actually tell you to go home and order it on your computer. That is just the economics of the bookselling business. The good news for you, though, is that by not pricing the book (inevitably in vain) to be more attractive to brick-and-mortar retailers, it is possible to keep the sale price of the book a bit lower.

The obvious places to order the paperback are Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, but there are other sellers out there as well. Usually, the titles show up sooner or later on the online sites of places like Walmart. Plainly, it’s safer to buy from sellers that are well-known and have a good reputation. Definitely avoid the dodgy websites that claim to have the book for “free” as long as you supply your credit card information for a “membership.”

If you take a look at the right-hand side of this page, you will find a whole bunch links, hopefully organized in coherent way, that will lead you to the seller of your choice and the book format of your choice and maybe even in the country of your choice.


As I mentioned before, Searching for Cunégonde is available from a number of sellers of digital books, including Barnes and Noble’s Nook store, as well as Kobo, Google Play and even Apple’s iBooks. That is in contrast to my last book, The Curse of Septimus Bridge, which was available exclusively in Amazon’s Kindle store. The tradeoff was that subscribers to Kindle Unlimited could read the book for “free,” but people wanting to read it as an ebook could only get it from Amazon. I have now removed Septimus from Kindle Unlimited, and it too is now available from other online digital books sellers.

Once again, my big release announcement seems to be all about how to buy the book when what I really want to do is talk about the book. So, let’s talk about it. As you know, it is called Searching for Cunégonde, and it’s a sequel to both Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and Lautaro’s Spear. The first questions that may come to your mind may be things like, who is Cunégonde, who is searching for her and why? Well, the first question is easy enough. A quick web search (you know, searching for “Cunégonde”) will reveal that she is a character from 18th-century French literature. Unlike Maximilian, Carlotta and Lautaro, she is fictional. As for the rest of it, you’re probably better off reading the book (mine, I mean).

As you would expect, this novel continues the adventures of young Dallas Green, although he isn’t all that young anymore. By the end, he is beginning his fifth decade. (They grow up so fast.) A good portion of the book, which does some time-jumping, covers further misadventures in his twenties. Even when he hits forty, he may be older, but he is not necessarily wiser.

If you’ve read the other books, then you will have questions. What happens to Dallas and Ángel in Chile? Does Dallas find his missing friend Antonio? Does Dallas ever see Valérie again or, for that matter, any of the other women in his life? What friends will wander back into his life, and which ones will shuffle off never to be seen again? Will our boy find love and settle down? Or will he find worse ways to get in trouble? You have 368 pages in which to find out.

Keep checking back here, as I’m not finished discussing this book by a long shot.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Searching for Dallas

It’s nearly here. The adventures of Dallas Green will continue in my new novel Searching for Cunégonde, which will be released officially on Tuesday. Coincidentally (or not), that happens to be exactly two years after the release of my previous book about Dallas, Lautaro’s Spear.


Less remarkably, that’s six years and 117 days after the release of Dallas’s debut in the Kindle version of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. What’s remarkable is that I not only managed to get this book done a mere two years after the last installment but that I actually wrote a whole other book in between. You do remember The Curse of Septimus Bridge, don’t you?

If you want the paperback version, I see that it is already available for pre-order on both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. A quick check reveals that it also shows up on the Canadian and UK Amazon sites and even on the French one (under “Livres anglais et étrangers,” bien sûr).

You cannot pre-order the digital versions, but they should appear on the various online bookseller websites on or around Tuesday. That includes Amazon’s Kindle store, although this time around I am planning to make the digital editions also available through as many other sellers as possible rather selling it exclusively through the Kindle store. Check back here for more information as more sellers have it listed.

Okay, enough about how and when to buy the book. So what’s the book about?

If you’ve read the previous two books, then you already have a fair idea. If you haven’t, well, where do I begin? In a nutshell, these are the picaresque adventures of a small-town boy wandering the world, getting into trouble, falling in love, making and losing friends, achieving the occasional victory, and suffering sporadic defeats. The action ranges from California’s San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area to South America and Europe. If you have not met our hero Dallas Green before, I think you’ll get up to speed pretty quick. If you’ve been along for his whole journey, then you’ll be interested to know that this book picks up (eventually) where the last one left off, as Dallas and his friend Ángel head to Chile to see if they can figure out what happened to Dallas’s long-missing friend Antonio.

As with the other two tomes, this one has its share of bad behavior, poor judgment, drinking, male bonding, and potentially catastrophic predicaments. And perhaps more than the other books, this one has a bit more romance. Some of the people we met before are back, and there are new characters to become acquainted with. Not everyone survives, and the ghosts of those didn’t sometimes linger—not least Dallas’s closest friend in the world Lonnie McKay, who was cut down in the prime of life.

Is this the end of Dallas’s journey? I’ve learned to never say never, but it feels as though it is. At least as far as readers are concerned. He will continue to live and have adventures forever if only in my own imagination. Rest assured, even if we do not read about any further adventures, he will still be out there somewhere getting himself into all kinds of trouble.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Scandi Book Bonanza

The wait is nearly over. As of this writing, the official release of the third Dallas Green novel—the sequel to Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and Lautaro’s Spear—is slightly less than a week away. I will have much more to say about that in the coming days, but in the meantime I want to tell you about someone else’s books, which are also coming out in the very near future.

Danish author Claes Johansen is a tireless writer. I get exhausted just watching the volume of his output. If you a regular reader of this blog, you may remember when I wrote four years ago about his non-fiction historical tome Hitler’s Nordic Ally?: Finland and the Total War 1939-45. In that book he coherently explained the complicated situation in which Finland found itself before, during and after World War II and how it all played out. Originally written in Danish (Finland og den totale krig, published in 2013), the book was translated into English by the author himself. There are not many authors who would attempt that, but Johansen has lived many years in England and Ireland, and his mastery of English is impeccable, so he is in a unique position to do his own translating.

He now has three more English-language editions of his books—which he also translated himself—coming out in the next week or so, following one that was released in June. It is not an exaggeration to say there is something for everybody among their number. All four are or will be available in digital format from Amazon’s various international Kindle stores, from Rakuten Kobo, from Google and no doubt from other fine online sellers.

I have read all of them, and this is what I can tell you about them.


The Doubter
(available September 30): Needless to say, I took to this story immediately since it happens to fall squarely into my own wheelhouse of narratives about aimless 20th-century youth. The novel opens in December 1979 as our hero Thomas, the aptly named twentysomething doubter of the title, returns home to Copenhagen from an irresponsibly unplanned and surprisingly eventful sojourn in London. The story switches between Thomas’s time in England and his subsequent reacquaintance with his own country, family and friends. Through his eyes we experience the Denmark’s educational system, as the protagonist takes a teaching job, and life in its army due to compulsory military service. As we learn about his family and childhood, we get a critique of Danish society at the time with many people stuck in a lingering Hippie mindset. The real treat is getting the author’s insights and observations of the era’s music scene. The backdrop for the London episodes is the Mod Revival, harkening back to the 1960s swinging subculture. The film version of the Who’s Quadrophenia is invoked, as it was being filmed at the time. Johansen has an uncanny knack for capturing the speech of young Englishmen that makes the story feel very real. As Thomas joins a band in England and then in Denmark, we get plenty of young male bonding, and inevitably, there is also a girl. Personally, I enjoyed the author’s observations of how Danes view Swedes during a bicycle excursion across the strait between the two countries. Depending on one’s age and personal experiences, this book can make one feel very nostalgic.


The Boatman and the Boy
(available October 2): This historical epic about war, inhumanity and retribution begs to be made into a movie. The story begins in the war zone of 1950s French Indochina. A wounded private in the French Foreign Legion reflects on the prospect that he may have finally found the man he has been hunting for years. Flashbacks fill in the story, as the narrative takes us back to the Jewish district of a village in Eastern Romania during the 1930s. The author’s thorough historical research makes us feel as though we are there, experiencing the shifting political and military situation that makes victims of the villagers in the ruthless struggle between Nazism and Communism. By the time we get to the tense resolution, we feel as if we have personally witnessed the Holocaust, the Second World War and the birth of Israel. Because of the subject matter, some sections can be difficult to read. Others, however, lift the soul with hope. In the end we inevitably see that violence tends to go round in cycles. The seriousness of the themes nearly make you feel guilty for enjoying the adventure/thriller aspects.


Anita’s Homecoming
(available October 2): A different sort of espionage thriller, this novel draws on Johansen’s own knowledge of his country’s recent history. Anita is a former member of the Resistance during Denmark’s occupation by the Germans. Now that the war is over, she is based in London and has become an agent for British intelligence. She returns to Copenhagen for what seems like a straightforward assignment, but she is not fully prepared for the duplicity in Danish post-war politics or the ghosts, living or otherwise, of her former comrades. The story is an entertaining page-turner, but it also provides a pretext for the author to make his own cynical comments about the state of Denmark during and after the war. As Anita’s situation becomes unexpectedly more dire, we find ourselves invested in her fate and her survival. In a particularly nice touch, her survival may hang on something as simple as a linguistic misunderstanding.


Nicola and the Child Correction Centre
(available now): Johansen also writes for younger readers, and this magical adventure story exhibits plenty of the darkness we associate with Scandinavian literature. Young Nicola might have been oblivious to the fact that she lives in a dystopian society but for the fact that she inadvertently learns about the Child Correction Centre. Once she does, though, she cannot let go of the mystery, and her pursuit of it could well be the end of her. Even if it is, though, perhaps the end may only be the beginning. I defy any reader to figure out exactly where plucky Nicola’s nose for enigma-solving and putting wrong to right will lead her. Rest assured things will definitely not be all sweetness and light along the way.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Vampire’s Father

Since this is a book blog, every once in a while I try to make a point to write about a book. I mean, other than the one I am currently writing.

It takes forever for me to actually finish reading a book because, well, I spend a lot of my time trying to write them. Also, I have a habit of reading several books at the same time. Well, not literally at the same time but over the same period of time. I will switch from one to the other and back again, depending on my frame of mind. This draws out the time needed to finish reading—kind of like downloading multiple files at the same time.

Anyway, I managed to finish one recently. In fact, I read two, both by Joseph Caldwell. Last year his memoir In the Shadow of the Bridge was published. If you’re not familiar with him, he is a New York-based playwright and novelist. He seems to be best known for the so-called Pig Trilogy, a series of humorous mysteries featuring a crime-solving pig, but that is not why I was interested in reading his life story. It had to do with a television show for which he did some writing in the 1960s. I’ll give you three guesses which one, but if you’re a regular reader of my movie blog, then you get only one guess.

Yes, he was one of several writers who worked on Dan Curtis’s Dark Shadows and, as it happens, a rather crucial one in terms of the development of the series. In a bid to save the show from sinking ratings, he and Ron Sproat were tasked with coming up with “a vampire for the kids for the summer” in what was meant to be a temporary plotline. The result was Barnabas Collins, and the rest is history.

Despite the never-ending fan interest in Dark Shadows to this day, there really aren’t that many biographies out there by or about people who were involved with the show. I have written about R.J. Jamison’s Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow and Big Lou: The Life and Career of Actor Louis Edmonds on my movie blog, and interestingly, my review of that latter book has consistently been one of the biggest magnets for page hits on my website for the past decade. Caldwell’s tome is the first one I have come across by one of the writers.

In the grand scheme of things, Caldwell’s work on soap operas (he also wrote for Love of Life and Secret Storm) takes up less than a chapter of his book. Mostly, he concentrates on his life as an oft-struggling writer from Milwaukee in New York. The bridge of the title is the Brooklyn Bridge, and the tenement in which he lived in 1959 (when the story begins) was angled against the span. His narrative is punctuated by two fateful encounters on the bridge with one William Gale Gedney. The book’s arc is dominated by the two men’s relationship, and the author’s lifelong, mainly one-sided attachment to Bill. It’s a touching story of devotion and a glimpse into the bohemian writer’s life in mid-20th-century New York. Early on, his close circle of friends included James Baldwin, whom he knew as Jimmy. It is also an interesting self-portrait of a gay man who steadfastly remained Catholic even when rejected by the official church.

For a Dark Shadows fan, it is like being a kid in a candy shop to get the story first-hand of how Caldwell and Sproat concocted the idea of Barnabas over dry bourbon Manhattans in a gay bar on West 23rd Street and how they used their own experience as gay men to inform the vampire’s tortured “exclusion from the human family, the prohibited fulfillment of shared love.” It was something of a shock to read Caldwell’s assertion that producer Dan Curtis was “a committed homophobe,” given that the man employed so many gay artists. In Caldwell’s telling, though, Curtis was simply clueless about the true diversity of his cast and crew.

In reading about his first novel, In Such Dark Places, published in 1978, I became curious to the point of acquiring a copy. It is about a young man from a small town who moves to the city and becomes a photographer. He gets mixed up with a boy living by his wits on the street. In the thick of writing my third book about Dallas Green, I had to wonder if Caldwell and I had somehow written the same story. His novel is an interesting read, and it was somewhat a relief to find it actually had little in common with either Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead or Lautaro’s Spear. Still, I suppose parallels are there if you want to look for them. For one thing, Caldwell’s Catholicism is very present as are various Hispanic characters, and for another, the protagonist Eugene does go on a quest in search of the missing boy. In the end, it is the story of a young man trying to find his way in a world that often seems strange to him. Hmm… maybe there are more similarities than were first apparent. If so, they only flatter me.

Despite the presence of the word “dark” in the title (and “shadow” in the memoir’s title), readers perusing the novel for links or commonalities with Dark Shadows won’t find many—other than the gay protagonist’s aforementioned “exclusion from the human family.” Well, there is one possibly overt DS nod. The boy’s surname is Stokes, which figures notably in DS lore, and his first name is David, which was also the name of both the child actor (Henesy) and his character (Collins) who figured prominently in the series.

Speaking of Dallas, rest assured that the third installment of his story will be available Real Soon Now. Watch this space.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Never Refuse to Reuse

It’s happening again.

My first novel, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, came out nearly six years ago now. It was a male teenager’s story of a quest, which led to a foreign land and which turned out to have its dangerous aspects. After writing it, I decided that I needed to work on something completely different and bearing no relation whatsoever, in terms of characters or story, to the first book. It would be a fantasy about a prince saving a kingdom suffering under a curse. With a tale like that, you certainly couldn’t get any further away from the first book, could you?

Darned if the second book didn’t turn out to be the exact same story—sort of. Paralleling the first novel, the princely protagonist was a male teenager in a foreign land, growing up a bit while encountering miscellaneous and sundry dangers. The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I was halfway through the first draft of The Three Towers of Afranor. Well, I wasn’t going to make the mistake again.

Flash forward to a year ago when my fourth novel came out. Called The Curse of Septimus Bridge, part of its narrative was devoted to the title character recounting his own story of making a Faustian bargain for the benefit of the love of his life, only to have it (as Faustian bargains tend to do) backfire on him. After getting that fantasy story out of my system, I was ready to go back for one more episode in the life of the fictional Dallas Green. Nothing could be more different than those two books, right?

You’re probably way ahead of me. Yep, it happened again. Didn’t this chapter of Dallas’s life turn out to involve him, in the name of romantic pursuit, making one of those Faustian bargains. Being somewhat dim, I was well into the writing before it dawned on me that, once again, I had merely re-written my previous book. I suspect few people have done as much for recycling as I have.

In my defense, the books aren’t really all that similar—even if the undeniable parallels are interesting. Even more interesting (to me anyway) is the fact that, barring a catastrophe or major second thoughts on my part, the new book will be coming out not too much more than a year after the previous novel. That is record time for me, and it certainly wouldn’t have happened that way if not for the pandemic.

What is also interesting is that people, who have read the early manuscript all the way through and commented on the ending, have reacted a bit differently than they did to the previous two Dallas books. So far no one (I’m only talking about a couple of people here) has said, “Can’t wait to see what happens next” or “Looking forward to the next book.” Does this mean I’ve actually done it? After thinking I had completed Dallas literary journey in each of the two previous novels, have I actually managed to reach the end of his story this time?

The funny thing is that, out of habit, once I got to the end, I immediately began mapping out what might happen in a fourth book. Having said that, I like where I have gotten Dallas to, and I’m happy to leave him there. I am tempted, however, to explore what might happen with some of the other characters that have come to populate his world. We shall see.

In the meantime, I have more pressing literary impulses. I have already begun writing the beginning to the adventures of Sapphire and Izanami post-Septimus and am finally quite happy with the story idea I have for it. Also, my brain has come back around to my long-planned epic about Seattle in the 1980s.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. In the short term, there’s still plenty of work to do on the upcoming Dallas book. I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

St. John’s Eve

Tonight is St. John’s Eve. If that means anything to you, it could be because you live or have lived in Ireland. This is the night when the environmental authorities apparently turn a blind eye to people burning their accumulated rubbish in the late hours of the dying light. The more common name for the day here is Bonfire Night.

Depending on how the days fall in any particular year, St. John’s Eve comes one or two or three days after the Summer Solstice, that is, when the earth is positioned to provide the shortest nights and longest days in the Northern Hemisphere. The farther north you go, the shorter the night, and Ireland is pretty far north. Straddling the 53rd Parallel, it is at about the distance from the equator as Kazakhstan; Inner Mongolia; Russia’s Sakhalin Island; Alaska’s Attu, Kagamil and Umnak islands; Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg; Newfoundland and Labrador. This time of year you can see light bleeding over the western horizon until around 1 a.m.

Just as Christmas season here causes one to feel in one’s bones the planet’s passing through the dark extreme of its annual journey, St. John’s Eve marks the opposite brightly-lit passage. Well, up to the point. Interestingly, in my eighteen years in this location, I have noted the weather invariably deteriorates around this time. The summer sky becomes obscured by clouds. It’s as though this island has some allergy to bright sunlight and protects itself by covering up.

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” That quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but I don’t know if it has ever been verified. Like many apocryphal quotes attributed to Churchill, it has variations. The one I know best substitutes Seattle for San Francisco. It has also been said about Alaska. Whoever said it, they could have easily said it about Ireland. We spent six months after our marriage in County Kerry. Many were the days we gazed out at lashing rain from waves of Atlantic weather fronts and made plans for “when summer comes.” Sometime in August I realized we were still saying “when summer comes.”

Summer hasn’t been too bad this year, but true to form we have been getting those Atlantic fronts lately with their wind and rain. It hasn’t been too cold where we are, but I imagine the wind chill is noticeable enough on the Connemara coast.

It is an apt time to be working on the final drafts of my next book. The first three chapters are set near the Galway coast on St. John’s Eve in the year 1993.

When I first realized there would be more than one novel narrated by my character Dallas Green, I set a couple of ground rules for him. One was that he would go nowhere near Seattle—even if he would sometimes talk about it. The other was that he would never go to Ireland. Some readers were looking hard enough to find parallels between his life and mine, and I wanted to avoid some of the more obvious possible ones. In the end, the second rule was made to be broken. The lure of depicting his observations and impressions of this place was irresistible. Also, when I write about the Irish, it really annoys my wife, and that’s always worth doing. Only eight of the thirty-five chapters are set in Ireland. The rest of the book sees our hero in California, South America and other European countries, jumping back and forth in time.

Will I be guilty of overlaying this country with my own sentimental gauze, as many others have done? Will I trade in the clichés that so many Irish people love to complain about? Will my friends and neighbors find the Galway characters inauthentic?

I won’t lie awake all night worrying about it. These days, the nights are short enough anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Feeling Entitled

Shall I keep teasing readers about my next book? Sure, why not? Heck, why not tease them about the next two books?

As I mentioned last time, I finished the first (rough) draft of the manuscript for my fifth novel, which happens to be a sequel to both Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and Lautaro’s Spear. I suppose this means they form a trilogy, but I am still resisting that designation. My intention has always been for each book to stand on its own.

I think the whole idea of trilogies got popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. As the fantasy movement in popular literature inspired by that work grew, lots of other writers produced trilogies as well. There seemed to be something almost, well, divine in the idea of a trinity of novels. Then one day I happened to read that Tolkien never intended his story about Middle-earth and the One Ring to be a trilogy at all. The work was only split into three books because of the limitations of publishing technology at the time. There were simply too many pages to print in a single book.

So unlike The Lord of the Rings, my three books about the wayward life of one Dallas Green were never meant to be a single story. It was always meant to be three. Actually, it was meant to be one, but just the first one, that is, the Maximilian and Carlotta one. That book was conceived and intended to be a stand-alone. Only after people kept pestering me for another book about Dallas did I come around to the idea of writing another one. Then I was happy with the pair of books, but people still wanted to know what happened next. As I have half-joked before, every time I thought I had tied up a story nicely, everyone else thought I had engineered a cliffhanger.

Will there be a fourth Dallas book? Well, didn’t I just tell you that it was trilogy? I really did my best this time to bring my hero’s story to a satisfying conclusion, but of course I thought I had done that twice before. Yes, I can sort of see how the story might continue, but I don’t know if there is really any point. Anyway, we shall see how things go.

I have been giving Dallas and his story a rest for a while now, so that I can start over on the manuscript with a fresh eye and maybe read what I actually wrote instead of seeing what I meant to write. Despite the pause, I have made significant progress on the book in another way. I now have a title! Unless it changes again. So far, so good though. This one at least passed the litmus test where people in my household looked merely confused when they heard it instead of physically gagging.

There were actually moments when I feared I might not be able to come up with a title at all. Nothing seemed to be working. Ironically, I now think I might also have a title for my sixth book. You see, the thing that always seems to happen at this point in the process is happening again. My brain has raced ahead and has started composing scenarios for the next book. That doesn’t mean that I will for sure write the book that is now percolating in my brain, but it probably does.

The sixth one will almost certainly be a sequel to The Curse of Septimus Bridge. That book ended by virtually promising more adventures, but in fact, I wasn’t really sure where it could go next. I was not really keen on doing the obvious thing, which would have been a book basically just recounting Sapphire and Izanami hunting and fighting one demon after another. For me to be interested, there had to be quite a bit more to it than that. Now I think I have a story that can build on the first one and yet be its own separate thing as well. And as I say, I even have a title in mind, which means I am way ahead of the game compared to last time.

But back to Book Number Five, i.e. Dallas Book Number Three. Anything else I can say about it? Well, this one is basically a love story. Come to think of it, though, all my books are basically love stories. I guess what I mean is that the new Dallas book will be a bit more romantic than the previous books, but definitely not in a “chick lit” sort of way. We are talking about Dallas after all. I like to think Dallas (who is forty by the end of the book) has grown into what Ernest Hemingway would have been—if he had been a self-absorbed baby-boomer.

Okay, maybe I should stop now. I’m afraid I might be over-selling it.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Third Installment Soundtrack

Inevitably, I will always look back on my fifth novel as “the Covid-19 book.” Being required to stay at home for weeks—while not forgetting the toll the pandemic has taken around the world—only accelerated my work on the final installment of the Dallas Green trilogy.

A couple of days ago I hit that most satisfying of milestones. I reached the end of my first draft. Experience informs me that much work—actually the hardest labor—still lies ahead, but it’s an exhilarating feeling to have the entire story, such as it is, committed to stored keystrokes. There will be much polishing, rewriting, deleting, inserting and fretting to come.

This will be the longest of my books. Current word count exceeds 118,000. Estimated number of printed pages is 357. There are 35 chapters. Unusually for me, I have reached this point without having definitively settled on a title. Just this morning in the shower I did settle on my preferred title, but I am not sure it is a practical and/or serviceable one. Chapter titles, on the other hand, are fairly firm but always subject to change.

In November I posted a Spotify playlist to accompany The Curse of Septimus Bridge. It consisted of tracks that were meant to evoke the various moods of the book as well as pay homage to my inspirational sources. It also included songs mentioned in the novel. In the process of compiling it, I was delighted to find tracks that actually matched some of the book’s chapter titles and characters’ names, including Septimus and Justine and even such tricky ones as Astaroth, Izanami and Koschei. Lately I began wondering it would be possible to match all the chapter titles in the new book to song titles.

The result is a new Spotify playlist for [insert title here], which also gives loyal blog readers a first approximate look at the novel’s table of contents.



Most of the track titles are exact matches. Some (“Brónagh,” “The Funeral,” “Rabbit Huntin’ ”) are nearly exact. Others (“Obscure B.A.,” “My Other Job”) are as close as I could get but no Cuban cigar. “Reporting His Own Murder” is just a ridiculous inclusion, but it was the best I could do.

A couple of the songs (Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro,” “The Letter” by the Box Tops) will be widely familiar. Many were for me happy finds of music I had not previously known, particularly “Algeciras” by the Finnish band Katseet Kertovat. A happy coincidence is the inclusion of Apparat’s eerie “Goodbye,” which also happens to the opening music for the supernatural German series Dark (available on Netflix), with which I have become addicted and obsessed.

Enjoy the music. I can only hope the eventual book lives up to the promise of its improvised soundtrack. I should have much, much more to say about the new book going forward.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Bard of Santiago de Chuco

First, a writing update. I am pleased to report I am nearly at the end of Chapter 23 in my first draft of the sequel to Lautaro’s Spear. I still do not have a title, but I have a pretty clear idea of the ending, so at least that’s something. The latest adventures of Dallas Green, my own personal Candide, are taking him to three continents where he meets new characters and runs into, sometimes unexpectedly, familiar ones. And he still keeps getting himself into trouble, with the stakes increasingly high.

I am about to plunge back into the writing after a break brought about by the opportunity to attend some events of historical significance in Dublin. The good news, if you can call it that, is that I will probably get more writing time than I had expected this week since St. Patrick’s Day has effectively been canceled. Quite apart from the tragic toll Covid‑19 is taking on so many people around the world, being told by the government and health experts to stay at home and avoid people is actually music to the ears of a writer.

In case you are wondering, I do have other literary projects going on besides my slowly growing list of novels and the blogs. For some time I have been translating poetry from Spanish to English. This has been at the behest of my longtime dear friend Manuel Moreno Salvador. He and I met by chance forty-two years ago in Lima when I happened to spend a few hours in his family’s home. He and I hit it off, and the two of us have been corresponding regularly—sometimes at length—ever since, as well as meeting up in person a couple of times in Lima and in Paris, where he has lived for many years. He is an incredibly multi-talented artist, whose accomplishments include ballet dancing, acting, directing, music, illustration, and fashion design. He and his brother Ántero are founders of the Paris-based Franco-Peruvian cultural association Capulí.

In addition to all of the above, Manuel is a poet. His verses are strange, surreal, hallucinatory, passionate, and I have to say, often highly erotic. He sometimes sends them to me to translate into English so that they can be published in journals in the two languages. Such work is a challenge. Poetry is notoriously difficult to translate because you not only have to convey the literal meaning of the words but you also have to be mindful of things like the mood, the rhythm, and additional layers of meanings. Nuance is critical if you are going to be as faithful as possible to the poet’s vision and intent. It’s not something I would ever have thought myself capable of, and maybe I’m not—in a general sense. When it comes to working with Manuel, though, it somehow does work. It is as if there is a telepathic link between us—aided of course by constant consultations with multiple dictionaries—so that I feel confident I am getting the intended meaning of his words.

Vallejo in Berlin in 1929
Lately Manuel has been on to me to write something about the Peruvian poet César Vallejo. While I studied Vallejo at university many years ago, I am by no means an expert on him. Still his work resides in my mind sufficiently that I recognize the profound influence he has on my friend’s poetry.

Vallejo was born in 1892 in a remote Andean village. He wrote his first (of only three in his lifetime) book of poetry Los heraldos negros in his mid-20s in Lima where he was a university student and then a teacher. In 1920 he returned to his birthplace where he became involved in a political insurrection, which resulted in him being jailed for three months. He later moved to Paris where he managed to have a rather interesting romantic life even while enduring dire poverty during his early years there. He also spent time in Spain and the Soviet Union. In Madrid he wrote his only novel, El tungsteno. In 1934 he married the French writer and poet Georgette Philippart, who was sixteen years his junior. As a journliast, he was a frequent contributor to Latin American pubications, and he wrote theatrical works, which were performed only after his death. In his forties he produced his final two books of poetry, Poemas humanos and España, aparta de mí este cáliz, which were published posthumously. He died in 1938 at the age of 46 from a recurrence of malaria, a disease he had had as a child. Consumed with the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, his last words were, “I am going to Spain! I want to go to Spain!” Since 1970 his remains have rested in the cemetery in Montparnasse.

Let us now take time to wish César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza ¡Feliz cumpleaños! Today he would have been 128 years old.

It is hard to believe that it is only a few years shy of the half-century mark since I first read Vallejo’s poetry. Yet the first verse of his best known poem “Los heraldos negros” is etched in my memory forever:

Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes… ¡Yo no sé!
Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos,
la resaca de todo lo sufrido
se empozara en el alma… ¡Yo no sé!


A straightforward English translation of “The Black Heralds” does not feel as if it does the Castilian words justice:

There are blows in life, so powerful… I don’t know!
Blows as from God’s hatred; as if before them,
the backlash of everything suffered
were to dam up in the soul… I don’t know!


The anguish and desperation certainly come through in the English words, yet the effect is not precisely the same. When I read the Spanish words, I hear them in the voice of my old Spanish literature professor and with the raw emotion of his voice. In English, there is quite a different feel. I hear them in my own voice and without the full power of the Spanish version. Therein lies the dilemma of the translator. You are creating an echo of a work, and while hearing an echo is better than not hearing the work at all, it does not really compare to the original. Hence the old Italian saying, Traduttore, traditore (Translator, betrayer).

You could argue that a translation is actually a work of art in its own right, albeit a derivative one. That is what Manuel implies when he tells me, “You too are a poet.” Personally, I’m doubtful.

Perhaps that is also what was reflected in a response he got upon submitting one of his more florid pieces, along with my translation, to a journal in Chicago. The reply—I am still not certain whether it was an acceptance or a rejection—was as follows: “This poem is pornographic, and your translator is even more pornographic than you are!”

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Agreeing with Stephen Fry

Work on Volume Three of the Dallas Green Trilogy continues. After getting through Christmas and flu seasons in January, I finally got back in my stride. With luck, there should not be too many more distractions for a while, although the Irish general election and the Academy Awards pretty much wiped out the past weekend for doing anything productive.

I am happy to report that I am now most of the way through Chapter 16 of the initial draft, which may well be the halfway mark. Strange thing. Dallas and a new friend were recently in Mendoza, Argentina, which required some online research. Now my email inbox is inundated with special offers from TripAdvisor about places to stay in Mendoza.

I still do not have a title, although I have been toying with one that I have mixed feelings about. It would be even more obscure than my other Dallas book titles, and it would be a departure from my established pattern of mentioning one or more historical figures in each title. For the time being it is probably best to just keep writing, and the best solution may dawn on me when least expected.

I was saddened to learn on Friday of the death of Orson Bean in a pedestrian traffic accident near his home in Venice, California. The 91-year-old actor/comedian/writer was a raconteur of the highest order. By coincidence we had spotted him just a couple of evenings before in a guest spot on the Netflix sitcom Grace and Frankie. I will no doubt at some point write more about him on my movie blog, but I thought he was worth mentioning here because of another coincidence. As you might suspect, Orson Bean was not his birth name. He adopted it because he thought it sounded funny. The name he was born with? Dallas Frederick Burrows. The irony from my point of view is that everyone my Dallas meets seems to think his name is funny.

While I am rambling here, let me share something I recently learned about books in Great Britain. Books and newspapers in the UK are exempt from value added tax (VAT). That is the 20-percent levy added to most things you buy in the UK and pretty much throughout the rest of Europe. Exempting reading material from VAT makes sense. After all, why discourage people from reading by making it that bit more expensive? The weird thing, though, is that VAT is not excluded from e-books. In other words, there is relative penalty for reading books on a digital device.

Nearly 700 writers have banded together to try to get this changed. In a letter to The Sunday Times they point out that younger people are more likely to use digital devices and those are the very people you most want to encourage to read. The VAT is also a penalty on people who must use e-books because of visual impairment.

The list of writers backing the call includes such notables as Stephen Fry, Shades of Grey author E.L. James, and The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins.

An excerpt from their letter: “Reading is one of the greatest pleasures there is. Books are a passport to other worlds, to other ways of life. They help people develop empathy, offer comfort, inspire and challenge. It is vital that everybody can access the joy and opportunity of reading; regardless of their age, income or physical capability.”

For what it’s worth, you can add my name to those sentiments.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

One Hundred Years of Waiting?

If you go into Netflix and look up Title No. 81087583, you come across something that makes people like me very excited. It is a series called Cien años de soledad. We are informed that it is an adaptation of the masterwork by Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, which is being executive-produced by his sons Rodrigo and Gonzalo. If you click the “Remind Me” button, you are assured that it will appear in your Netflix List when it becomes available.

There is no further information as to when that might happen. The IMDb lists it as being in pre-production. There is precious little other information, and its page has not been updated since last March. We can only continue to wait and wonder.

There was a flurry of excitement in the media last March when Netflix announced it had acquired the rights to the 1967 novel. The New York Times noted that it would be the first time that One Hundred Years of Solitude would be adapted for the screen. Technically, that is correct, although in 1983 Ruy Guerra made a lovely film called Eréndira that was adapted from a 1972 short story by García Márquez called “La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada” (“The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Heartless Grandmother”). In the film version, the Brazilian actor Cláudia Ohana played Eréndira, and the Greek actor Irene Papas played the grandmother. Both those characters had previously appeared briefly in One Hundred Years of Solitude, so in a convoluted, round-about way, a piece of that great book has sort of already found its way to the screen.

Other works by García Márquez have been adapted to the screen, notably Mike Newell’s 2007 film, Love in the Time of Cholera, starring Benjamin Bratt and Javier Bardem.

According to the García boys (by way of that Times article), despite many entreaties to agree to adapting One Hundred Years, their father had serious reservations about whether the book would fit well into a movie—or even two. Moreover, he was committed to it being told in Spanish. Netflix solves both those problems. As a series, the adaptation can run as many hours as the filmmakers think is needed. Moreover, the beauty of the Netflix platform is that you can watch things with audio in any language you want and with subtitles (if you want them) in any language you want.

The way we now consume video entertainment has made it possible to produce all kinds of works that previously seemed problematic to adapt. Sometime in the next year, we can look forward to the prequel series to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on Amazon Prime. Reportedly, two episodes are in the can with production scheduled to resume next month. A second season has already been approved.

How about my own trilogy? Of course, I can only dream about it becoming a series on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I still think the early adventures of Dallas Green are probably bettered suited to a low-budget independently-produced road movie. His later exploits, though, would require a fair amount of foreign location shooting.

Before there is any point of dreaming about any of that, I need to finish that third book. I still do not have a title, which is strange because I usually at least have a working title by this point. And I am still stuck at the one-third mark in the first draft—thanks to the holiday season and now the flu. The good news is that, if I am now well enough to blog, then it shouldn’t be long now until I am back hard at the novel.