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.