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02 Mar

Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly

Great news this morning from my publisher. The trade mag PUBLISHERS WEEKLY has given HARD GROUND, Woods Cop Stories a starred review, which is its top of the line. Great start for the short story collection, officially out in May, but probably in stores in April.  The review follows. I know, it sounds like my Mom wrote it:

HARD  GROUND Cover

Heywood (Red Jacket) displays uncommon storytelling versatility in this brilliant collection of 27 tales about the game wardens who patrol Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His two series heroes, Grady Service and Lute Bapcat, each make an appearance (in “Black Beyond Black” and “The Third Partner,” respectively), but neither outshines their colleagues as they handle a variety of challenges from scofflaws, fools, villains, and wildlife. In the deft “Double-jointed Trouble,” conservation officer Jill Flyvie learns from her rookie mistake in handling a prisoner, while in the tender “Symbiosis,” CO Steven Burdoni and an aging hunter come to understand one another. “Song in the Woods” touches on the supernatural; pilot Ralph “Buck Rogers” Haliday quits his job in spectacular fashion in “Airzilla”; and in “Henry VIII,” a bear causes trouble and heartache. This volume should be read for pleasure, but would do equally well as an instruction manual for aspiring writers. Lyons is simultaneously reissuing The Snowfly (2000), the novel that introduced Grady Service. PW’s starred review called it “a story about growing up and self-discovery, a fast-moving intercontinental romp and a good fish story.” Agent: Phyllis Westberg, Harold Ober Associates. (May)

27 Feb

“Thank you for your service.”

Late last night i god a reader note with the message, “Thanks you for your service to our country. Welcome home.” I sent a note back to the writer asking what prompted this.

Here’s how it is.  Every time I hear someone say (almost always rote and mechanically the wat I said prayers in fifth grade in Catholic School), and very much depending on their age,  “Thank you for your service,” I actually hear “Thank you for taking my place.” It often rings  of a  feeling of someone hoping his/her guilt will not be noticed, someone  who stood in the shadows  on the sidelines. It  immediately focuses on the fact that whatever war it might have been,  it was somebody else’s burden , and  not the speaker’s. Without the draft, Americans have no ownership of conflict events: they belong to the Pentagon, as if the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac was a separate country, only incideentally connected to the citizens of the United States.  and just as the wars belong to the Pentagon, they also belong to the people who chose military service and  careers, whether by vocation or  out of desperate need for a job.

While “Thank you for your service” might a genuine and sincere gesture, it  nevertheless immediately distances the service person from the speaker, that is to say, “This is not OUR war.” You’re right dude, it’s not. The prosecution of wars legal (Afghanistan, First Iraq) and illegal (Vietnam , Seconed Iraq) sits on the shoulers of the men and women who must fight  them.  Even for those of us who had relatively easy goes of it in uniform, we con’t need your thanks. Your presence then would have said more than your words now. That you weren’t there says all we need to know. That members of your own generation is serving and you aren’t — likewise says heaps  more than any words you might choose.  In a month or so, I’ll be headed up to MSU for a celebrtion of the 50th year of lacrosse in Spartyland. Most of the guys I played with in the earl to mid sixties served in the military or some other form of military service. Birds of a feather, I guess. We all saw it as duty and one doesn’t find a way to evade or avoid duty. One does it. Period. After a half century, there will be no “thank you for your service baloney among the old players, just stories of the old days when we were young, and loved a game and gave our all. As it should be.

Elizabeth Samet teaches literature at West Point (Go figure: Soldiers read literature! Ironic statement…) and she posted a relevant piece with Bloomberg in 2011. It follows. Over.

On War, Guilt and ‘Thank You for Your Service’

By Elizabeth Samet

BLOOMBERG VIEW, AUG 1, 2011 — Watch a 1940s or 1950s movie set in New York City — noir, comedy or melodrama — and you are sure to spot him: straphanging on a crowded subway car, buying a newspaper at a kiosk or sitting in a coffee shop. The anonymous man in uniform is a stock extra in these films, as elemental to the urban landscape as the beat cop, the woman with the baby carriage or the couple in love.

But today, a woman or man in military uniform dining in a restaurant, sitting on a bench in Central Park or walking up Broadway constitutes a spectacle. I have witnessed this firsthand whenever one of my military colleagues and I have taken West Point cadets to the city to attend a performance or to visit a library or museum. My civilian clothes provide camouflage as I watch my uniformed friends bombarded by gratitude.

These meetings between soldier and civilian turn quickly into street theater. The soldier is recognized with a handshake. There’s often a request for a photograph or the tracing of a six-degrees-of-separation genealogy: “My wife’s second cousin is married to a guy in the 82nd Airborne.” Each encounter concludes with a ritual utterance: “Thank you for your service.”

Obligatory Thanks

One former captain I know proposed that “thank you for your service” has become “an obligatory salutation. ”Dutifully offered by strangers, “somewhere between an afterthought and heartfelt appreciation,” it is gratifying but also embarrassing to a soldier with a strong sense of modesty and professionalism. “People thank me for my service,” another officer noted, “but they don’t really know what I’ve done.”

Sometimes, the drama between soldier and civilian turns plain weird. One officer reported that while shopping in uniform at the grocery store one evening, she was startled by a man across the aisle who gave her an earnest, Hollywood-style, chest-thumping Roman salute. My friend is unfailingly gracious, but she was entirely at a loss for a proper response.

These transactions resemble celebrity sightings — with the same awkwardness, enthusiasm and suspension of normal expectations about privacy and personal space. Yet while the celebrity is an individual recognized for a unique, highly publicized performance, the soldier is anonymous, a symbol of an aggregate. His or her performance is unseen.

Spitting on Soldiers

The successful reincorporation of veterans into civil society entails a complex, evolving process. Today, the soldier’s homecoming has been further complicated by the absence of a draft, which removes soldiers from the cultural mainstream, and by the fact that the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have little perceptible impact on the rhythms of daily life at home.

Whether anyone ever spat on an American soldier returning from Vietnam is a matter of debate. The sociologist and veteran Jerry Lembcke disputed such tales in “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam.” Apocryphal or not, this image has become emblematic of an era’s shame, and of the failure of civilians to respond appropriately to the people they had sent to fight a bankrupt war.

The specter of this guilt — this perdurable archetype of the hostile homecoming — animates today’s encounters, which seem to have swung to the other unthinking extreme. “Thank you for your service” has become a mantra of atonement. But, as is all too often the case with gestures of atonement, substance has been eclipsed by mechanical ritual. After the engagement, both parties retreat to separate camps, without a significant exchange of ideas or perspectives having passed between them.

Collective Responsibility

When I broached the subject with a major with whom I had experienced the phenomenon, he wrote a nuanced response. Although he’s convinced that “the sentiments most people express appear to be genuinely FELT,” he nonetheless distrusts such spectacles. “Does the act of thanking a soldier unconsciously hold some degree of absolution from the collective responsibility?” he asked.

No reasonable person would argue that thanking soldiers for their service isn’t preferable to spitting on them. Yet at least in the perfunctory, formulaic way many such meetings take place, it is an equally unnatural exchange. The ease with which “thank you for your service” has circumvented a more enduring human connection doesn’t bode well for mutual understanding between soldiers and civilians. The inner lives of soldiers remain opaque to most of us.

A Seductive Transaction

“Deep down,” the major, who served in Iraq, acknowledged,“my ego wants to embrace the ritualized adoration, the sense of purpose, and the attendant mythology.” The giving and receiving of thanks is a seductive transaction, and no one knows that better than this officer: “I eagerly shake hands, engage in small talk, and pose for pictures with total strangers.”Juxtaposed in his mind with scenes from Fallujah or Arlington National Cemetery, however, his sanitized encounters with civilians make him feel like Mickey Mouse, he confessed. “Welcome to Disneyland.”

Thanking soldiers on their way to or from a war isn’t the same as imaginatively following them there. Conscience-easing expressions of gratitude by politicians and citizens cloak with courtesy the often bloody, wounding nature of a soldier’s service. Today’s dominant narrative, one that favors sentimentality over scrutiny, embodies a fantasy that everything will be okay if only we display enough flag-waving enthusiasm. More than 100,000 homeless veterans, and more than 40,000 troops wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, may have a different view.

Lincoln’s Consolation

If our theater of gratitude provoked introspection or led to a substantive dialogue between giver and recipient, I would celebrate it. But having witnessed these bizarre, fleeting scenes, I have come to believe that they are a poor substitute for something more difficult and painful — a conversation about what war does to the people who serve and to the people who don’t. There are contradictions inherent in being, as many Americans claim to be, for the troops but against the war. Most fail to consider the social responsibilities such a stance commits them to fulfilling in the coming decades.

Few Americans have understood more clearly the seductions and inadequacies of professing gratitude than Abraham Lincoln. Offering to a mother who had lost two sons in the Civil War, “the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic,” Lincoln nevertheless acknowledged “how weak and fruitless must be any words … which should attempt to beguile her” from her grief. Expressions of thanks constitute the beginning, not the end, of obligation.

Elizabeth Samet is a professor of English at the U.S. Military Academy and the author of Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point. Contact Elizabeth D. Samet at eliz.samet@gmail.com.

26 Feb

True CO Tales

Fish biologist went on ride-along with CO in the early 80s, stopped at a  campground looking for manager. My pal asked CO —  just to make small talk – if he camped, to which the CO said, “XXX, I served 11 months in Korea. I slept on the cold ground every single night. I told myself that if I survived, I would never go camping again…and I haven’t.”

Or a CO who started his career in the UP and was on shining patrol in the late 50s in his sedan. Pair of shiners came through in their car and COs pulled in behind the shiners, running dark. As they followed, the CO driving saw a rifle come out the passenger window. He immediately accelerated to beside the shiners and got the vehicles about 4 feet apart , scaring the would-be shooter, who in jerking the long-gun back inside, discharged it. Paint and meteal exploded and rained on the driver,  cutting his face and head and he was deaf and had his sidearm out and point it at the other vehicle, but he didn’t shoot. Said later he was really close to letting go and because he was temporarily deaf couldn’t hear his partner and the two in the other vehicle yelling the shot was an accident, to not shoot.!” The driver had a nasty head wound which bled profusely but what might have turned lethal did not. The edge is sometimes right there, right there, so close you could break it open like tissue paper.

Another tale:  It is a week or so before the trout opener in 1972 or 1973. CO asks  fish biologist and forester to meet him for coffee at 9 a.m. in a restaurant .  CO tells the pair that the night before he and a fish division guy were taking a load of mature rainbow trout to Lake Michigan to dump them in. The Oden hatchery was clearing mature fish to make space for smaller ones. But  en route to the big lake, taking a short cut, the fish truck’s aeration system malfunctioned and the CO and fish guy decided that it would be better to dump the fish in a small pond near the road, rather than have them die in the truck and have to bury them. So they transferred the fish four at a time in 5-gallon buckets until all the fish were in the pond, called O’Brien’s.  Coffee over, the men went their own ways, but the next morning he CO showed up at the fish biologist’s office to tell him that none of what he had told them about fish hatchery fish was real, but he knew a local poacher had coffee every morning at that café, so he called them there,  and told them the story as the poacher listened. Sure enough he went out to O’Brien’s pond last night and caugh the poacher trying to take trout out of season. A set-up all the way.

And a final tale: a new, probationary CO reports to his area and is issued his new state car andnot long thereafter is in a traffic accident and totals the state vehicle. Bos says stuff happens, and arranges for another vehicle. Less than a week later the CO is firing along and comes around a curve and there is a bull  elk in the middle of the road, so the CO jukes, but so too did the elk: Bang, a head-on and a second totaled patrol car.  The fellow in the officer across from the law supervisor as there the morning the CO came in to tell his boss about the second loss. The door got closed but everyone could hear the supervisor screaming that if he so much as put a scratch on Vehicle #3 he would personally see that the new CO would not pass probation period.

That same CO later in his career stopped a crew “dusking” for woodcock and got into a nasty fight, lost his gun and had to hide in woods for hours before escaping. The bad guys were later arrested and convicted.

All funny now, but COs live a dangerous life and that edge I described earlier is always right there at hand an invisible door to fate.

Over.

26 Feb

Thomas Jefferson, Guns and Such….

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Right after the Newtown massacre, I predicted nothing significant would change regarding gun control in this country. In my own view, background checks for any sale in any venue and no clips/magazines 10 rounds or more seem self-evident. Banning a certain model weapon? Not sure that means anything. For example, ban all semi-automatic weapons: Does that include semi-automatic shotguns used for waterfowl hunting?   The NRA has shown again that its primary mission is to sell guns, period. Why can’t people figure this out?  NRA is a lobbying organization for gun-makers. Gun owners ride along on  the organizations profit-sucking coattails.

Some years back the NRA fought increasing various hunting license fees in this state, solely because the governor was a democrat. That sort of bald political crap is unacceptable to Michigan sportsmen. Or should  be. So now a Republican has proposed same thing. Good for him. I hope our worthless legislature will get enough juice in their orbs to do something and get license structure modernized and more COs on duty.

I have a lot of friends, some rapidly anti-gun and just as many pro-gun.  I consider myself solidly pro gun. It’s a tool, not a toy. I own hammers and saws and axes and knives as well. All tools all with particular uses. The anti-gun folk can be talked to and reasoned with and calmed down, but so far, my pro-gun friends show no such interest in opening their minds to other possibilities, or the  ability to think on their own. And none of them can explain to me exactly how the Second Amendment is threatened by what amounts to minor gun controls so far proposed. I just don’t get it. Really.

I’ve gone back in history to look at the issue of guns, even read some stuff promoted by the NRA jack-wagons.

Everyone talks about what our “forefathers” intended, wanted, thought, said.

Fair enough. Let’s look back: Thomas Jefferson was a gun owner-collector, according to Jon Meacham’s 2012 biography. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Meacham tells readers that “Jefferson’s gun collection included a two shot-double barrel,” and “a set of Turkish pistols with ‘120-inch barrels so well made that I never missed a squirrel at 30 yards with them.’” Meacham says  Jefferson was a man of his time on the question of guns, Jefferson writing in 1822 that “every American who wishes to protect his farm from the ravages of quadrupeds and his country from those of biped invaders should be a ‘gun-man,’” adding “I am a great friend to the manly and healthy exercises of the gun.”

Okay, all fine and dandy, never mind the “manly” crack,  Or that his remarks seem intended only fro farm owners, not other citizens, ergo those with property, he was a person of his time and era, and presumably such values were common.  And ignore that he specifically points to farms and implies owners of farms, not the unwashed masses of the country.

Upon further reading, I found reference to  a 1789 letter to James Madison in which Jefferson argued that it was a violation of “natural rights” for one generation to bequeath a legacy of public debt to the next one. He wrote, “I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self-evident,” he declared. “That the earth belongs in usufruct to the living, that the Dead have neither powers nor rights over it.” According to Meacham, Jefferson’s aversion to one generation binding the next went beyond accruing public debt. Neither the laws, customs, nor governing constitutions composed by one generation were binding upon subsequent ones. Said Jefferson: “By the law of nature, one generation is to another as one independent nation is to another.”

This seems to suggest that the very constitution he played a role in, would not apply over time, but be revised or could be revised in every generation. Not Being a constitutional scholar I find this a troubling notion, but Jefferson seems to be saying quite clearly, what held as law or custom in my time has no place in subsequent generations. June 5, 1824 in a letter to Major John Cartright, Jefferson said again that the earth belongs to the living and that one generation should not be bound by the decisions or values of preceding ones. But in this letter he added a phrase that suggested contempt for the past and disdain for tradition, rather than simply the right to be free of them. “The dead,” Jefferson wrote, “are not even things.”

Jefferson’s message to us seems to be, “Do what fits your time, not what we did, just because it fit our time.”  This makes sense to me.

Yet here we are  nearly 200 years later with people wanting  all sorts of exotic weapons in private ownership.  This time isn’t the time of our founders. Not even close. We have to do what’s right for our time.

People want to own guns? Fine. They should have them. But there are limits to that ownership just as there are limits to other rights. The issue is where to draw the line. Should citize4ns have working bazookas or grenade launchers, mortars? Chain-guns? Howitzers? Of course not. There is some common sense to be applied here. I just wish we would see some of our politiconoids demonstrate same, on either side of the so-called aisle-of-philosophical hatred, the me versus them line….

So, if someone would kindly explain the “threat” to the Second Amendment, I would be happy to listen and consider rationally. However, don’t try to ply me with the giving a little here leading inexorably to losing a lot more or everything downstream. That’s the domino theory and that got us Vietnam and a whole heap of other life-wasting crap in our country’s history.

Over.

25 Feb

A Look Back at Mental Illness and How It Was Treated.

Reasons for Admission

to The West Virginia Asylum

for the Insane, 1864-1889

There is sadness in lists plucked from history’s drawers,

like reasons people were adjudged insane, I give you:

Amenorrhea, kicked in head by a horse, gathering in the head,

Immoral life, masturbation, masturbation, masturbation, masturbation for 30 years,

(I don’t see no  explanation cited as practice  till perfect), dissolute habits, cerebral softening,

Decoyed into the Army, Greed and Grief and Gastritis,

Loss of arm, or son, or leg, or favorite dog,

Novel-Reading and Nymphomania (the N-Word practices that  render one whackadoodle)

Parents were Close cousins (more than kissing one surmises from the diagnosis),

Salvation Army, Politics (a form of masturbation?),

Over-study of Religion (it don’t cite which one), Worms, Religious Excitement and / or Enthusiasm,

Self-Abuse, Self-Abuse, Self-Abuse (euphemism for all-y’all-know-what, you-know-what),

Shooting your daughter, smallpox, Snuff and did we mention self-abuse? Ain’t that enuff?

Add to the foregoing the ongoing:  Sun-stroke, Baccy smoke, Suppressed Masturbation (sort of damned if youse do and damned if youse doesn’t?), Morals, the  War, Vicious Vices Early in Life, Venereal Excesses, Snuff-eating for Two Years, Polytics (yes politics), Moral Sanity (sic), Rumor of Husband’s Murder or Desertion, Bad Whiskey, Bad Company, Damn Bad Luck, Bloody flux, Carbuncles big as your mother’s uncle) “Business Nerves,” Death of Sons in War, Excessive Sexual Abuse (no definition of what’s not excessive), Falling from a Horse with Female Disease (not clear if this refers to the horse or rider), “Gathering in the Head,” from Gunshot Wounds or Hard Study, Liver, Loss of an Arm or Leg (no other parts get a mention) but one might speculate at this advanced date, Social Disease, and more, all and each of which would earn you a stint of “moral treatment.” That is to say, you wunt  be chained in  no dank dark jail cell, but chained in a building atop a hill and if you could behave for just a spell, they’d air you out  in wings built to capture therapeutic sunlight, did I mention Rattlesnake Bite, Doubt About Your Mother’s Ancestors, or Explosion of a Shell Nearby splattering brains like rain) or Imagining Female Trouble (especially if one was a man;  in  the Greatest Generation’s day, this was called draft dodging), or tobacco, yes tobacco, of course, softening of the brain, superstition (one suspects links) and all this and more would put you in the state-run loony bin, anything from virulent smallpox to venal sin got you sent offt by the local court and you was ‘pected to git yore shit together, son, and behave as you ort. Given all the oddities here, not one mention of  insanity  visiting from good whiskey, or plain old beer.  

 

 

21 Feb

Big Rapids “Tour.”

Just posted my remarks from Big Rapids in the Document section of the blog memory bank. Lonnie and I visited Great Lakes Book & Supply where I was able to meet John Bronco Horvath, who played hockey for me in the 1970s (son of John “Gypsy” Horvath). Bronco now has a son who is a senior hockey player at Big Rapids High School. Boy, does time fly. Bronco was a smallish guy, but did he ever compete! Now quarter asked or given!

Last night we we talked at the Big Rapids Community Libary. Nice folks, not far from the Bullshidos’ fishing camp. Shaksper’s first road trip: he did great, efgen with the midnnight long walk on ice so he could work up a you-know-what! He loved the elevators and riding on the baggage cart. Today he met two English sheepdogs at the Rockford rest area and was overwhelmed by their unbridled enthusiasm. He backed between my legs. Funny!

Also today, Lonnie coined a word. You know those plasstic bags that get thrown out of vehciles and wind dreies them up into roadside trees? Plurds. Plastic = Turds. Hilarious, especailly since many city folk use the white bagews to pick up dog droppings during walks. Plurds. Pass it on!

Photos from  yesterday’s festivities follow:

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Left is Lynn, honcho of Great lakes Books, and right is Carrie Weis, Co Chair of the Sixth Annual Big Rapids Festival of the Arts. Great hosts, fun people. Lynn is aunt to Chuck Bibart who worked with me at Upjohn in the old days.

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Trading stories with retired DNR fish biologist Jeff Green.

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Informal talk at Great Lakes Book & Supply.

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Bookstore chitchat

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Big Rapids is home to Ferris State University. Woody Ferris, who founded the school was governor of Michigan during Red Jacket and is in fact a character. Irony?

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Our favorite store sign: Means Treasure and Pleasure Inside.

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Great Lakes Book & Supply, Big Rapids

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Lifeforms of the Third Floor

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Hey, I like riding on the baggage cart. Let’s do the elevators again!

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Big Rapids Community Library

 

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Green Streamer in the Snow. Third Floor Room is NOT convenient for dog’s nature calls…

17 Feb

Mail Call

Last night I checked email just before I headed to bed and found a note on my website from Laura Reed Davis, who grew up as a game warden’s daughter and now lives in West Branch. I was really moved by this note, happy the Woods Cop stories have stirred positive memories for her, and I hope for others who once wore green and gray. Before posting it, I sent her a note asking if it would be okay and here is her reply:”Of course. And by the way, I sure wish I knew if some of the old ‘blankets are still kicking–we were in Crystal from the mid- to late-fifties–if there are, they’d be in their 80s–not much chance, i’d guess. (I can still smell that damp, green wool, when dad came home from patrol. and he’d pop a Stroh’s and groan with fatigue as he bent to unlace those tall leather boots…so many memories!).Laurie

Wow. By “blankets” she means “Horseblankets,  a term I invented to describe the old officers who wore the old wool coats,  never  thinking to shorten it to “Blankets.” Outstanding! May have to be a title in the series.

Now, here’s Laurie’s original note. If you are a CO, know a CO, love a CO, love the outdoors, anyone, you’ll find this interesting and moving, I think, a daughter’s love for dad. I reminds me so much of families of current officers I’ve had the privilege of  getting  to know. She wrote:

“I like your writing. Have just discovered the Woods Cop series and
am thrilled. My dad, Frank Reed, was a CO; when we lived in Crystal Falls,
he was known as Bud, later known as Igor, out of the Indian River post. I
see so much of him in Grady–big guy, 6\’4 and had to have his uniform boots
special made at size 15EEEEE. He taught me how to see, and to listen. To
filter out all but the most elegant and essential. He is gone now, but in
your tales, I have rediscovered my love and respect for him and what he did.
It was an indescribable blessing to help rear wild orphans; fawns,
ducklings, \’coons; tramp the rock outcroppings at Horse Race Rapids almost
every weekend; camp out in old army tents that smelled of paraffin; we swam
in Lake Superior until our limbs were stiff and lips purple, Mom waving
frantically and shouting from the shore to COME OUT OF THE WATER, YOU\’LL
FREEZE TO DEATH! When dad took me with him to blow up a beaver dam, we had
to take the critters in the live traps to another spot miles away, and he was so careful, so quiet
and reverent, I was in awe. He tied flies and cooked and played a mean Scott
Joplin or Leonard Gershwin on the piano and sang in a beautiful and rousing
tenor. His career ended as a CO, just shy of his 20-year retirement, when he
was surrounded by a gang of deer poachers he had been investigating, alone
in the dark with their spotlights blinding him, staring down the barrels of
a shotgun, and having five children (the younger ones still in school)he
felt he could no longer risk his life. He was an accomplished and highly
awarded Sharpshooter, and a relentless champion for justice in the wild; yet
he turned away from the toothless old man with a thick Polish accent, boots
mended with electrical tape, who was netting Sucker and had a rudimentary
smoker on site. Warned the old man not to let anyone else see his smoke
trail. He was my hero. I don\’t expect a reply from you–just wanted you to
know about  one more of the fantastic, dedicated, intrepid officers who once
roamed the forests of da yoop…and let his \”favorite daughter\” tag along.

Laurie is a pretty good writer in her own right, eh? Two  measly degrees hee this morning, supposed to be 43 tomorrow, a familiar tale from a “temperate zone!” Meanwhile, it was minus 18 in Crystal Falls this morning. Actual, not wind chill.

12 Feb

International Game Warden Magazine Reviews Red Jacket

Dear Joe:

I reviewed Red Jacket in the Winter 2012-13 issue of International Game Warden, just out this week.  The original text of the review is below (I don’t know how much it was edited for the magazine).  A PDF tearsheet is attached.  Good book.  Looks like it must have been a lot of fun and work to research it and write it.

Gerry Lister

So, I have reviewed several books by my old friend Joseph Heywood in this column in the past.  Those of you familiar with the column, or Heywood’s previous work, will be familiar with the very well written and entertaining “Woods Cop Mystery” series featuring Michigan Conservation Officer Grady Service.  Joe advises that the next Woods Cop book is due out in 2013.  In the meantime Heywood and Lyons Press have published the first in the new Lute Bapcat Mystery series.

“Red Jacket” is a historical mystery set in 1913 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the same area where the Woods Cop novels take place.  The protagonist, Lute Bapcat, a former Rough Riders sniper alongside Teddy Roosevelt, returns to the U.P. after the Spanish-American war and became a trapper.   As the State Department of Game, Fish and Forestry begins to hire their deputy wardens through the civil service process rather than through patronage appointments, Bapcat is recruited to police Keweenaw and Houghton counties and to try and put an end to market hunting in the area.

As a copper-miners’ strike looms, Bapcat, his expatriate Russian sidekick Zakov, and their fellow deputies begin to make strides towards bringing the residents of the area into compliance.  But it appears that the mining companies are setting out to deplete the wildlife populations in other ways. 

This book is full of richly portrayed characters and historical references.  Although the main thread of the story is fictional, it is set against a backdrop of actual events and actual historical figures involved in the strike and the other activities in the area.  One such character is George Gipp, who was immortalized by Ronald Regan in the movie “Knute Rockne, All-American” and by the famous line “win just one for the Gipper.”

The story is very well written and involved, using the various true events to support the premise of the story.  Without being aware of the factual nature of much of the novel, it is still a wonderful re-creation of a rough and tumble time in Michigan’s history.  After doing some side reading about the actual events and figures woven throughout the story, it becomes readily apparent that author Heywood is a very gifted writer.  His ability to craft a fictional game warden story, while still remaining true to the history of the area, is nothing short of remarkable.

I have previously stated that of all the game warden fiction I have read, Heywood’s novels tend to stay more within the realm of actual game warden work than most others.  In “Red Jacket” he doesn’t vary from this assignment – this novel is planted firmly within the game warden genre as well.  However, the historical nature of this novel takes it in an entirely new direction for Heywood.  I reviewed another historically-based game warden novel in the Fall 2010 issue, but unlike “Omerta” which was more about a murder investigation than game warden work, “Red Jacket” is quite the opposite.

Other than being a very intriguing and well crafted story about game law enforcement work before the First World War, I found the book offered a spin-off benefit of educating the reader about some actual events in the history of Michigan and its labor movement.  I was compelled to go on the internet and read about the copper mining strike of 1913 and was quite surprised to find out how much of the story was rooted in fact.

The ending of the book disappointed me somewhat, as it was not fitting of the build-up towards it, but in hindsight I don’t think it could have ended much differently, without seriously altering the historical details.

I’m not sure what other historical events of significance took place in the Upper Peninsula in the ensuing years, but I’m sure that Heywood is already figuring out how to intertwine them with the further adventures of Lute Bapcat.  I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

Current_Cover-l

 

12 Feb

Random Dramaramas

1.

Shkakaamik kwe, Terra Mia Madre,

We  who bogwatch  the world sent haywire-a-twirl

Puff-smoking twisted fingers of sweetgrass,

Muscle cigars braided  from your own Earth’s hair,

greened fair by time, we do  pray you aren’t alopecian,

 Balded  in service to the greed for holy smoke, da DUM

2.

We who face the garden of our beasts,

Da DUM, vulture capitalists aboundering,

Bolus of Poilus pullulating scarlet pain

Of  theys’ threatened off-shore portfolios,

Frou-frou, flecks of flux-flex

We hear the tin-tongued Anemoi

Of Foxing$, and Jesu warning us: Beware of Wolves, Da DUM.

3.
Stupid peoplersons barge straight ahead,

Seldom swerving, which is all well and good

Until the  pesky switchbacks pop up, or hairpinineties right,

Can you see the way Einstein saw, in his mindset,

Elevators elevating with him  both insidey and out?

A true Cubist, that boy, simultaneity and all,

I crave carved pizza on Fat Tuesday, Saint Epicureanus

Save me unflagrante stiletto, heeled with bulk, please,

Sundering bifurcation from the dietitious path, da DUM

4.

I pampervate my fin –de-siecle whiskerings,

Up north listening to Tradio

And not a single suit-guy voice aired.

Iambic sintameter propelling

Better than electricity, the battery being genetic

Boosted from within, and not some foolish damn

Recharging station near  fast food eatfastnluridlies.

See, you doesn’t has to just

Trip lively in the neverness of nothingness

5.

In ouren aardogvarkian insoisolation.

Wading upstream can teach lessons not remembered

Until later, when they may most be needed, boss.

Even upstreaming in the face of swamp-tides we are

Carried along by waves of dreams, like salmon seeking natality.

We can’t know why there are more questions than answers

(Or outlive them and us But think mostly I don’t care, Da DUM.

In the heart of The birthocracy of sentimartial America

I need me my gun. Da DUM-DUM (so-called)

The quadrafraudal electdelusions leave me gap-toothed,

Shocked  down to my ohshitmitt, I prefer the trout whores of Americ,a Da DUM

6.

Came a knight on the Ile in Parrey ondasanequay,

In a black fedora, fumblings in darkling corridors,

Redolent with les truffes and Chanel, Da DUM.

Cheap wine of buckchuck will buff glass-bellied hair of hubris,

Slicker than your no-nick-real-slick Gillette.

Puttin off the livertarianus vulgarianensis, a group fug

Boarding the gangstaplanking of the USS da DUM,

Home-ported in the U.Assoveh, Planet of Wackydoom,

Land of noctifphobic

Nyctophobic, achluophobis

LFDs, OFD — Da DUM!

Prepostmonsrously speaking.

I no longer wear  mein Bike or pilotgoggs

Whilst gouging wood with my dremmel

Or scented shags of yore for that mater.

What good language, if not for play?

Da DUM.

 

[Portage, Feb. 12, 2013]

11 Feb

“The Next Big Thing”

“The Next Big Thing” is an Internet meme – defined as a concept that spreads person to person (like an STD?) via the Internet. According to Wikipedia,” the concept of meme was defined and described by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene – an attempt to explain how cultural information spreads.”  I remember the book, but not the concept of meme, which probably  reflects how little from the book stuck. So it goes.

A week or so ago I got a note from my colleague Zinta Aistars telling me about this meme-thing and asking if I would participate. The “Next Big Thing” is a deal where authors tag other authors and in doing so talk about our work. Idon’t really know what tagging is either, but I said I’d give it a go, here tiz. I’ll post this on my blog and then transfer it at some other moment, when I get the green light from Mz. Z.

The first author I want to tag is Henry Kisor. Henry Kisor is the retired book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times as well as the author of three nonfiction books and three mystery novels. He is also the co-author of one children’s book.

He is the author of a series of mystery novels set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Season’s Revenge (2003), A Venture into Murder (2005) and Cache of Corpses (2007). A fourth novel, Hang Fire, is forthcoming. I love his series, set in Porcupine County (which will seem a lot like Ontonagon County to some readers.).

His nonfiction works are What’s That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness (1990 and 2010), Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America (1994) and Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet (1997). The Flight of the Gin Fizz is a terrific book about learning to fly when you are an adult. And deaf.

Henry’s books have been published abroad in German, Dutch and United Kingdom editions.

Kisor writes two blogs, The Reluctant Blogger and The Whodunit Photographer.
He was the book editor of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1978 to his retirement in 2006, after five years in the same position with the old Chicago Daily News.

His reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and on MSNBC.com. Between 1977 and 1982 he was an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. From 1983 to 1986 he wrote a weekly syndicated column on personal computers that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Orlando Sentinel, Seattle Times and other newspapers.

He was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1981. The Friends of Literature awarded him the first James Friend Memorial Critic Award in 1988 and the Chicago Foundation for Literature Award for Nonfiction in 1991 for What’s That Pig Outdoors? In 1991 Trinity College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. In 2001 he was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.

Educated at Trinity College (B.A., 1962) in Hartford, Conn., and at Northwestern University (M.S.J., 1964) in Evanston, Ill., Kisor began his newspaper career in 1964 with the Evening Journal in Wilmington, Del.

He winters in Evanston, Illinois, and summers in Ontonagon, Michigan, with his wife, Deborah Abbott. They have two grown sons, Colin, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (m. Melody Pershyn), and Conan, a corporate communications editor and writer for the Boeing Company (m. Annie Tully). They also have two grandsons, William Henry Kisor and Conan Emmet Kisor; two granddaughters, Elizabeth Maria Kisor and Alice Flynn Kisor.

Next on my list is Robert Linsenman. If you’re  a trout fisherman, you’ll already know who Bob is. But later this year his first novel will debut —  about dog handlers in Vietnam, and called Snowblood’s Journal. Bob doesn’t have a website. Yet.  But keep an eye out for the book.

My third writer is Poet Ken McCullough, poet laureate of Winona, Minnesota. Ken McCullough’s most recent books of poetry are Obsidian Point (2003) and Walking Backwards (2005), as well as a book of stories, Left Hand (2004). He has received numerous awards for his poetry including the Academy of American Poets Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pablo Neruda Award, a Galway Kinnell Poetry Prize, the New Millennium Poetry Award, the Blue Light Book Award and the Capricorn Book Award. He has also received grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, the Iowa Arts Council, and the Jerome Foundation to continue translating the work of U Sam Oeur, survivor of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. Sacred Vows, a bilingual edition of U’s poetry with McCullough’s translations, was published in 1998. U’s memoir, Crossing Three Wildernesses, co-written with McCullough, was published in 2005. McCullough lives in Winona, Minnesota with his wife and younger son. He is an administrator at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and teaches writing courses for the Hawk’s Well Literary Center.

Ken and I were baseball teammates in the UP in the summer before my sophomore year. Like me. he was an AF brat, but unlike me who stayed to attend Rudyard High School in Chippewa County, Ken went to a private school in Delaware. Terrific poet and good guy.  He was one hell of a baseball player too. And a trout fisherman.

My last tag is Michael Delp, who is well known to a wide audience as poet, essayist, and short story writer.  

Michael Delp is a writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction whose works have appeared in numerous national publications. He is the author of Over the Graves of Horses (Wayne State University Press, 1989), Under the Influence of Water (Wayne State University Press, 1992), The Coast of Nowhere (Wayne State University Press, 1997), and The Last Good Water (Wayne State University Press, 2003), in addition to six chapbooks of poetry. He  taught creative writing at the Interlochen Arts Academy and received several awards for his teaching.

He is a magician with language and image, Mike is retired from Interlochen Academy, but still actively helping young writers.  Also a fine and passionate fisherman.

Tags done, now the meme requires me to answer some questions:

Q: What is the working title of your current/next book?

JTH: September 2012’s book was Red Jacket and that’s my most recent:  The next book, set for April 2013  is Hard Ground, Woods Cop Stories, and next  September will be the 9th in the Woods Cop Mystery Series, this one entitled, Killing A Cold One.

Q. Where did the idea come from (for the next book)?

JTH. In 2011 my wife and I were driving north for our 5-month stay in the UP and as I drove I got to thinking about all the experiences I had doing patrols with Michigan Conservation Officers all around the state – in my 13th year now – the equivalent of a full year of patrols under all sorts of conditions. And it occurred to me I had so much that would never fit into a novel I wondered if some of the stuff might serve as catalysts for short stories and between May and September I wrote 30 of them.  Happily, these will be published in a couple of months.

Q. What genre does the book fall under?

A. Short stories. Beyond that, I couldn‘t categorize. They cover a wide range of possibilities.

Q. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?JTH. I wouldn’t. Books are one thing, films a whole different creature in which I don’t have much interest. Though I love to watch movies, just not in crowds. Seriously, I try to leave some ambiguity with my characters so readers can apply their own imaginations and descriptions. As soon as I name an actor, that wipes out all that imagination and inserts another reality.

Q. One sentence synopsis of my book?

JTH: Conservation officers encounter  mind-boggling situations, from an Elvis Impersonators get-together, to re-locating bears, notifying next of kin, handling vehicle accidents, and encounters with persons who would fit nicely into Neptunian society.

Q. Books self-published or represented by an agency?

JTH: Lyons Press Globe Pequot has published my last ten  and will publish the next three. My editor  at Lyons is Keith Wallman. My agent, with Harold Ober Inc of NYC is Phyllis Westberg.

Q. How long did it take to write the first draft?

JTH: Four-five months for 30 short stories. Up at 0300 every morning, worked till 6, back to bed till 9, then up for the day to hunt agates on Lake Superior, or go trout fishing – from May through September.

I guess that does it. A meme: Who woulda thunk it?

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