Mystery Reader’s Circle Selects ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day

Just wanted to give a quick update and let you know that Mystery Reader’s Circle has included ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day. Always grateful to James Moushon and his great site at HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle. Click on the link and check it out for recommendations on great books by Independent Authors, including James and myself.

 Hope all is well with everyone. Have a great weekend and do some smiling.

Glenn

 

Genesis of ‘Eyes of the Predator’

Cover 042513 Reduced Some have asked where the idea for “Eyes of the Predator” came from. It is, admittedly, a dark story. After reading it, some have queried my wife as to whether she sleeps with one eye open, lying inches away from the brain that envisioned such a dark story.

So here’s the scoop. Like most of my stories, ‘Predator’ spent some years in the boiling and simmering process inside my head, before I began putting actual words on a computer screen. (no I don’t use pen and paper, pencils and tablets, or typewriters. I am actually able to keyboard quite proficiently for an old guy, thank you)

I was 14 years old and living in Atlanta in 1965. The City was rocked by the abduction and presumed murder of a young newlywed at Lenox Square a large shopping center that is now a huge upscale mall in the Buckhead area. Although her body was never found, her bloodstained car was. The incident was covered repeatedly in the media for months.

You have to understand that Atlanta 1965 was a different world from the sprawling metropolis of today.

In some parts of the city, mothers still left their babies in strollers outside stores while they went in and shopped. It did not occur to anyone that someone would harm a child, or for that matter a young newlywed walking across a parking lot.

The airport (called then simply Atlanta Airport not the ponderous Hartsfield – Jackson International Airport) was not international. To fly overseas you had to first fly somewhere else.

The Atlanta Braves would not come to the city from Milwaukee until 1966. There was no NFL Atlanta Falcons.

The tallest building downtown was One Park Tower, also called 34 Peachtree Street. It stood a dazzling thirty-two stories tall. Today, it is the 24th tallest building in Atlanta. As of this writing the tallest is the Bank of America Plaza at 1,023 feet (three times the height of the old One Park Tower building), and no doubt taller buildings are currently on the drawing boards.

As young teenagers without a driver’s license, we rode the bus downtown, went on dates and walked around the city, completely at ease and without parents worrying about our safety. I would not be so free and easy about that today.

In short, Atlanta was then still, somewhat, a quiet, backwater city, and the disappearance of the young woman made a deep impression on the mind of a lot of people, including me. The idea that people could just disappear permanently was deeply disconcerting.

In those days, no one had ever heard of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. I remember that even in school (Yes, believe it or not I was young enough to be in high school) teachers and students were in shock that such an occurrence could happen in 1965. We talked about it, it was in the news for months. When a new lead would be announced, the media coverage would increase again for weeks. The city was truly traumatized, and Atlanta joined the ranks of other big cities…with big city crime.

In the seventies and eighties I was policing in the Atlanta area, DeKalb County to be exact. Periodically, someone, almost always a young woman would disappear from some parking lot. The end was never good for them. I met some very bad people, almost always men and witnessed the ongoing patterns of abuse responding to domestic violence calls. I became aware in a very real way that some people live lives of terror and fear right under our noses.

I also became aware of the fact that there are human predators in the world. Like other predators, they seek weakness and vulnerability in their victims and the opportunity to exercise their will. I also learned that for many, if not most, the driving motivation behind their terrible acts is power, the ability to inflict pain on others. Sex for many of these predators is secondary and another way of controlling and inflicting pain.

I realize that “Eyes of the Predator: The Pickham County Murders” may be a bit intense for some readers. I apologize for this. It tells a story, that, while not a true story, is intended to be realistic and “true to life”. By that I mean the story is not based on any single case or event. It is a composite sketch of predators and their victims.

An additional parallel plot in the book is the parental abuse of the main female character. Again, this plotline is not based on any true story. It is intended to paint a realistic picture of abuse and the desperation that drives some young people to do desperate things and to seek escape from their personal hell.

In any event, I realize the story is somewhat dark. Truth be known, I found writing some of the passages to be deeply disturbing but as the characters acted out on my computer screen, they took on their own lives and acted for themselves. I simply recorded the action as I saw it.

I hope you enjoy the story. In the end, that is all that it is. If there are lessons to be learned, maybe we can all learn them.

Book Review – ‘From Manassas to Appomattox Memoirs of The Civil War in America’, by James Longstreet

longstreetThe war of northern aggression…the War between the States…the Civil War…call it what you will, the conflict that took more American lives than any other war and more than almost all of our other wars combined, changed the United States from a collection of, mostly independent, states into a nation. Without the Civil War, the history of this continent would have been vastly different.

For the record, I am a southerner, born in Georgia. I am not an apologist for slavery or the plantation society that made the south of the 19th century one of the richest places on earth at the expense of the terrible bondage of other human beings.

There is no doubt that many of the rank and file felt that they were fighting for freedom from the aggression of the Federal government, intent on preserving the union of states. Most southerners, in fact, did not own slaves. But, for those of my southern friends who try to justify the war on the basis of state’s rights, make no mistake about it…the states’ right they were trying to preserve was the right to own slaves.

Having said that, I have respect for my forebears who, misguided and wrong as they were, fought against overwhelming odds to secure what they mistakenly and ironically thought was “their freedom” to enslave others.

James Longstreet’s memoirs of the war is, perhaps, one of the finest and most detailed accounts of a great portion of the conflict that tore the country apart and resolved the issue of slavery that the Founding Fathers had put aside during the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Full of details and descriptive accounts of the movements of troops, battles and statistics Longstreet takes the reader backstage, into private meetings and strategy sessions with Lee and other generals as they planned campaigns and fought to stave off their eventual defeat.

His memoirs begin with his service in the Mexican War and subsequently in the west as a fairly junior officer. When war breaks out, he and a number of other officers, resign their commissions to return home and fight for their native state (country). During the course of the war, he rises to the rank of Lieutenant General, commanding the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee.

In addition to gaining a better understanding of the strategies and battlefield conflicts, Longstreet gives us a rare, eyewitness view of the personalities involved, from his perspective.

The memoirs occasionally take on a tone of self-justification that the reader may not understand without knowing in advance that at the conclusion of the war, there were those in the south who tried to blame Longstreet for the south’s loss. To many at the time, it was impossible that Robert E. Lee, who had been elevated to almost god-like status, could have made mistakes. Instead, some found a scapegoat in Longstreet, claiming that he had not carried out orders aggressively enough or had failed to carry them out at all. Longstreet goes to great lengths to provide letters and documentation, many from Lee himself, to prove that his actions were in strict accordance with orders and with the military protocols of the day. The truth was that many of his detractors were covering their own failings and culpability for the loss of the war.

In the end, the discussion of responsibility for the loss of the war is moot. The south was destined to lose, as long as slavery was an accepted institution authorized by the government and as long as the north had the will to fight on and incur the significant losses in men and material the south inflicted on them. Certainly, when Ulysses Grant took command of union forces, the war became a war of attrition. The south could not replace losses as quickly as the north. At that point, the war was lost, as Longstreet, forcefully points out.

Longstreet writes in the 19th century style, which may make it a bit tedious for some readers, but if you are student of the Civil war, it is necessary reading in order to gain a full understanding of the relationship between what was happening on the battlefield and the political atmosphere of the day.

Want to understand our nation today, and the struggle that continues to put the shame of slavery behind us? If so, ‘From Manassas to Appomattox Memoirs of The Civil War in America’, by James Longstreet is a must read.

Note – The Kindle version is free ( or was) but does not contain maps, charts etc. Paperback or hardcover editions provide more visual context with maps etc., to help the reader understand the action at times.

 

The World Was A Very Dark Place

Try One More Time - Edison

It is uncertain how many attempts Thomas Edison made before he found a suitable carbon substance to use as the filament in the first viable electric light bulb. Different reports  say 10,000 others 6,000. In one interview,  Edison was asked if he felt like a failure and if he didn’t think that perhaps it was time to quit, to give up on the electric light bulb.

Edison is reported to have replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”

His wasn’t the first light bulb. The concept had been around for a while. Others had given up. He did not. The world was a very dark place before Edison.  We hunkered down in the dark, staying close to our candles and gaslights. He changed that, but it took time.

For me, the greatest sin is this…To give up, to allow our lives to be dark and barren because we did not try, because we gave up. Never let others talk you out of your dreams.

Our dreams make our lives.
Best – Glenn

The Great American Novel? uhmmm…. well….Review of Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Review: ‘Moby Dick; or The Whale’ by Herman Melville

The Great American Novel? My high school literature teacher said that it was. I’m old enough now to disagree and say…No. A great American classic. Yes, I would go along with that, but the one great American novel…No.

I don’t believe in a one “Great” anything. There will always be someone or something different or better, including novels. Having said that, I did manage to work my way through Melville’s ponderous, and often tedious classic tale for the second time, and surely the last time, in my life.

So why is it a “Classic”? The story line, I suppose. Melville created a dark, ominous and intriguing character in Ahab, possessed by the need for revenge against the Great White Whale, Moby Dick. His obsession becomes possession, pitting him against pious Starbuck as innocent Ishmael looks on and records their battle for the souls of the crew.

In truth, there are some literary gems in the book as well. I find the opening chapters, Ishmael’s arrival in Nantucket, the inn, signing on as part of the crew of the Pequod, description of the Pequod’s two owners, Captains Peleg and Bildad and Ishmael’s interaction with his pagan friend Queequeg to be well written and enjoyable by any standard.

After that, the story bogs down in Melville’s tedious and usually incorrect study and classification of whales. Melville maintained, as did many of his day that whales were fish, not mammals, although he was not alone in that analysis at the time.

There are moments of interesting dialogue interaction among the characters, but in general, the parts of the book that everyone knows are the parts that we see in the various film adaptations of the story. There is a reason for this. Melville’s style in Moby Dick is tedious.

Even taking into account that he was a nineteenth century writer, his sentence structure and deeply dramatic descriptive passages can be tiring and sometimes confusing. I enjoy and prefer a number of other nineteenth century writers -Dickens, Cooper, Bierce, Crane, Poe, Emerson, Thoreau- and find their works enjoyable, even if written in the formalized style of the times. Frankly, Melville wears me out, at least in Moby Dick.

A word to all of my animal loving friends. Moby Dick is about whaling and whales are killed. Some of Melville’s best passages relate to the killing of the whales and the men who faced them in small boats on the open ocean. Lest we judge too harshly and impose our twenty-first century morality on those who lived before us, we should remember that the world was a very dark place before electricity. Whale oil made it a bit brighter. That’s not a defense, just reality.

I have no doubt that if Melville were to plop his manuscript down on the desk of a modern agent or publisher he would be rejected with only a form letter and no call back.

Even so, I give it four stars for a couple of reasons. The story is classic. As mentioned above, certain parts of the story and the conflict between good and evil, obsession and reality are masterful. The characterization of people who crewed ships powered by sail, and went out on the waters to face the great whales is honest and real. For its day, Moby Dick was, indeed, a classic.

Here’s a link to get it free on Amazon Kindle if you are courageous enough to give it a try, but no dishonor for passing on it. I’m just a devil for punishment.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004TRXX7C/

Best – Glenn

Sample – Blood Reckoning: The Pickham County War

PCW Cover 072214B

If you’ve been waiting for the next in The Hunters series, this is to let you know that it will be released in the next few days. Thought you might like to see the cover and a free sample. Best wishes as always, and Have a Great Day – Glenn

1. Perfect Time of Day

It was the perfect time of day. Across the salt marshes, the eastern horizon glowed cherry red. Beyond the marshlands and barrier islands, a shiny sliver of water sparkled at the point where the sky met the ocean.

He rested against the hood of his car watching the sunrise for the moment it would show the top of its fiery head. It pleased him, the anticipation, waiting for that split second when it was visible for the first time that day.

A sultry breeze swayed the saw grass that stretched across the miles of marsh to the shore. Completely content in the moment, he sipped a cup of coffee from a convenience store on I-95. The warmth of the engine through the sheet metal warmed his backside where he leaned against the car. It was a pleasant sensation in the early morning. This close to the Atlantic, the night breeze blowing out towards the water was brisk and fresh, even in mid-summer. Once the sun was up, the wind would change and blow in from the ocean providing relief from the coastal heat. He knew this from experience, not education. This was his home. He had roamed the tidal marshes and shores of Georgia and Florida most of his life.

His reverie was interrupted by the deep-throated roar of a motorcycle pulling off the interstate into the rest area. The man straddling the seat was long-legged; his knees bent high even with the bike’s seat pushed far back from the foot pegs. Behind him, a girl nestled close, arms around his waist, her head leaning against his shoulder as if she were napping as they rode. He noted her full breasts pushed against the biker, the soft, curving bulge from the side of her tank top. He smiled.

The Harley pulled in and stopped a few spaces away, closer to the building and restrooms. The rider cut the rumbling engine abruptly, and the sudden silence was a heaviness that deadened his hearing. Gradually, other sounds replaced the engine’s roar. The gentle rush of the blowing breeze and the traffic droning on the highway brought things back to peaceful, humming normality.

The two got off the motorcycle and stretched. As he had thought, the rider was tall, at least six feet five. He walked into the restroom ignoring the man drinking coffee, watching the eastern sky.

The girl bent over, touching her toes, stretching the kinks out and then stood up, throwing her arms back wide, yawning. He observed with deep interest as the fabric of the tank top pulled tight across her breasts, showing nipples erect in the cool pre-dawn air.

She caught his eye watching her and smiled. “Morning.”

“Morning.”

“Nice view.” She turned and looked from the rest area towards the east. The sky was changing from cherry red to fiery orange as the sunrise approached.

“Yep, it is.” His eyes met hers and he lifted his cup of coffee in a toast to the view, although it was her chest and not the rising sun that held his attention.

With another smile, she flipped her sandy hair over her shoulder and walked to the restrooms. He gave a final look of appreciation at the jeans pulled tight over the curves of her bottom and turned his eyes back to the east. The appointment would be arriving soon. He wanted to see the sun make it above the horizon first.

The bike rider exited the restroom, pulled a cell phone from his pocket and walked further away from the man by the car. The phone at his ear, he paced in a circle in the parking lot speaking softly.

The girl came from the restroom and looked around. Seeing the biker on the phone, she shrugged and walked across the rest area to a fence that marked the boundary. She stood there leaning against it looking over the marshes towards the brightening eastern sky. The man at the car smiled and sipped his coffee. It was a double feature, her smooth round ass under the tight denim and the multi-colored sky.

The arc of the sun flamed suddenly above the horizon. Blazing rays shot up through the sky, intensely bright, after the predawn dusk. The two watchers squinted and shaded their eyes with their hands. The man at the car pulled the sunglasses on top of his head down onto his nose. They smiled at the light, savoring the sudden warmth of it on their faces.

A van pulled off the interstate into the rest area and parked two spaces away from the small car. Lettered on the side of the van was ‘Sylvester Plumbing – Campo, Florida’. A phone number with an 863 area code was stenciled in smaller letters underneath. There were pictures of a pipe wrench and faucet to either side of the lettering.

The driver got out, nodded at the man by the car and walked to the restrooms. When he returned a few minutes later, he found the man still leaning against his vehicle watching the dawn through his sunglasses.

“Any problems?” Sunrise Man spoke without turning his head from the view.

“Nope.” Van Man stood between the two vehicles, waiting.

The sun slid completely above the horizon, its light blazing across the marshes and the rest area, spotlighting everything standing vertical. The people, the vehicles, the motorcycle, even the blades of saw grass in the marsh threw long, dark shadows across the ground. Beside the restroom building, a brown thrasher on its nest in some box hollies began chattering its warning clicks and squawks at the intruding light, as if it could make the sun recede back below the distant curve of the earth.

“Well, let’s get to it.” Sunrise Man turned from the dawn and walked to the other, still standing between the two vehicles.

Both reached in their pockets for the keys to their respective rides. Making the exchange, they nodded. Appointment kept, it was time to hit the road.

The system of courier relays was efficient. One would take the plumber’s van and its cargo another day’s drive north; the other would return south for another shipment. They might see each other on the next trip, or not again for months. It all depended on how the rotations went and whether they were headed north or west next time up the road. The schedule was driven by business.

“That’ll do boys.” The tall biker held a handgun pointed somewhere between the two men, ready to fire a round into either if they gave him a reason. Backlit by the sun, his face was a dark shadow.

Sunrise Man squinted through his dark glasses at the form of the biker. Wondering if he should, but unable to stop himself, he reflexively reached behind him for the butt of the gun in his waistband.

“I wouldn’t.” The girl in the tank top leaned over the car from the passenger side. She held a semi-automatic pistol in a two-handed grip, pointing it at his head.

“Shit. I shoulda known.” He shook his head in wry disappointment at being taken so easily. “Nice gun for a little girl.” He recognized it as a Walther PK, a distinctive gun, light and easier for a girl to conceal than Biker Man’s big-framed Beretta. The bore was small, probably a .32 caliber. “Can you really shoot that thing?”

“You wanna find out?” She tightened her grip, sighting it into the man’s eyes.

“No. I reckon not.” He brought his hand slowly from behind his back, empty.

Van Man said nothing. Pale, afraid to move, he waited, obviously worried about what might come next.

He didn’t have long to wait. A large crew cab pickup pulled into the rest area and stopped at the two vehicles. Three men jumped out. While the biker and the girl held Sunrise Man and Van Man at gunpoint, the men from the pickup took their keys, bound their hands with heavy zip ties and shoved them into the back of the van, cinching more plastic ties around their ankles. It was crowded inside, the van’s cargo taking up most of the space. The bound men were pushed tightly against each other, barely able to breathe. Moving was impossible.

One of the men from the pickup climbed behind the wheel of the van and turned the engine over. The girl seated herself in the car, tossing the pistol on the passenger seat. A few seconds later, both vehicles followed the pickup from the rest area. It had taken less than two minutes to overpower and secure the couriers in the back of the van and disappear onto the interstate.

Biker Man stood watching them leave then walked calmly to the Harley. He gave a last look around. The rest area was awash in the light of the rising sun. They had picked the spot carefully. Early on a Sunday morning, traffic was light. Located on a deserted stretch of the interstate, drivers rarely stopped for the night here. Truckers preferred the major truck stops and their amenities further along the interstate.

Had anyone been there, Biker Man’s final task would have been to eliminate witnesses that made the unlucky decision to stop at the rest area. There were none. That was fortunate. Eliminating witnesses was always the messiest, and riskiest, part of an operation.

He took the helmet off the bike’s seat, pulled it onto his head and gunned the Harley’s engine. Accelerating quickly, he was doing seventy-five when he reached the bottom of the ramp and merged onto the interstate.

The rest area was silent. The brown thrasher had ceased its chatter, finally convinced that it could not force the yellow-orange orb back into the ocean. The flaming rays of the sun were rising now, completely above the horizon. In a few minutes, the security cameras mounted on the building would be able to record images again. Unable to automatically close the lens irises sufficiently to reduce the light, they were blinded each new day for a few minutes by the bright onslaught of the sun. The video recordings were always whitewashed and unusable while the sun burned into the camera’s lens. It was a minor security flaw but not considered a significant one. This was a quiet rest stop. Besides, it was the perfect time of day…for a kidnapping.

%d bloggers like this: