Baxter’s Friends ($13.95, 218 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-162-0), by Ned Randle, is a work of literary fiction about three middle-aged male friends whose lives are spinning out of control.
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“We want our writers, our poets, our storytellers to make rainbows, not black or white or even varied shades of gray. Ned Randle paints in hues we often don’t want to see, but occur in nature, human nature …. In Baxter’s Friends, we come in at the present, return to the past, where there are always echoes weighing, weighing down on Baxter, Ferguson, Mary Ann, Mitch and everybody we meet in this fantastic novel.”
– Mr. and Mrs. Garbanzo, Garbanzo Literary Journal
“Middle age is where we wonder if there’s more to life than what we’ve seen. Baxter’s Friends tells the story of Jerry Baxter and his associates, as they struggle with the burden of entering the second half of their lives, dealing with their families, how they’ve treated others, and what awaits them in the uncertain decades to come, as well as what they can change. Baxter’s Friends is a riveting look into the crisis of midlife, so very much recommended reading.”
–Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Bookshelf
“You might think, from reading the back cover, that you know what Baxter’s Friends is all about. You might be wrong. Mr. Randle will skillfully take you on an intimate journey through the mental meanderings of two different men who, perhaps, aren’t so different after all …”
– Robin Tidwell, Rocking Horse Publishing
Jerry Baxter’s father liked to sing the old cowboy song, “O bury me not on the lone prairie …” when he drank. Ironically, Baxter and his two good friends, Hugh Ferguson and Al Mitchell, are soon to be buried alive, and the hole they are digging for themselves is getting deeper all the time.
Baxter is racked with guilt by the sight of his father sitting semi-coherent, blind, and barely mobile in the dismal nursing home he put him in. Fearing a fate every bit as grim, Baxter finds refuge in stark rituals from his Native American heritage that animate his fitful dreams. Ferguson has found religion, or rather had it forced upon him by his wife, who otherwise wants nothing to do with him. The tedium of his job as an accountant is slowly driving Ferguson around the bend. His one solace: fantasizing about an attractive female co-worker, while Mitchell, who has lost his zest for wheeling and dealing and womanizing, looks for a new thrill.
The three longtime friends are approaching middle age kicking and screaming, if only on the inside.
That is about to change.
Says Randle, “I learned as a young man that the theory ‘it’s a man’s world’ runs wide, but not deep. It is true that men of my generation, and those before me, had easier access to the superficial trappings of the world such as education, wealth, power and success. That is slowly changing. There is, however, another world that underlies the superficial; it is a world of emotions, relationships, family and friends. As inhabiting this world, I ascribe to Thoreau’s theory, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ Right or wrong, in this nether world, men desperately squirm and struggle under the weight of relationships, incessant physical and emotional cravings and insecurities in view the societal strictures of organized religion, monogamy, heterosexuality and expectations of success. I wrote this book to shed a little light on this whole other world. I did not want to go to the grave with my song still in me.”
Ned Randle resides in Southern Illinois, where he writes fiction and poetry. He has a law degree from St. Louis University and studied writing at Washington University, Webster University and Southwestern Illinois College. His short story “The Amazing Doctor Jones” recently appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine, Summer 2012, and another, “The Boston Tar Baby” will be published by Prism Review in Spring 2013. His poems have appeared in a number of literary publications such as The Spoon River Quarterly, Circus Maximus, Seven Stars Poetry, Poydras Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, The New Poet, Hamilton Stone Review and Four Ties Literary Review. His chapbook, Prairie Shoutings and Other Poems, was published by The Spoon River Poetry Press, Bradley University. Coffeetown Press published Randle’s poetry collection, Running at Night: Collected Poems 1976-2012, in April, 2013. Baxter’s Friends is his first novel. Click here to find Randle online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
No matter what outfit Grandma had on, she always wore her necklace. When he was little he liked to sit on her lap and play with it. He remembered it well. It was simple—a heavy silver chain with a pendant in the shape of a turtle. Grandma would sit patiently and he would walk the turtle across the hills and valleys of her chest, up through the ripples of her fleshy throat to rest on her chin. He would hold the turtle at her mouth and tell her to give the turtle a kiss, which she always did. She would kiss the turtle and smile.
They buried her with the turtle necklace around her neck.
He thought about his grandmother now, as he lay in bed with his wife and looked down his left arm to his freckled hand. His own fair complexion glowed eerily in the dark. He regretted that he didn’t look more like her, more like an Indian. More like his mother and her mother and less like his old man and his mother.
Sure, his old man called him an Indian. That and worse. He had called him and his sisters his little papooses. Pagan babies. His heathens, he would say, and laugh like crazy.
His wife raised her head from his chest and looked at his face. He breathed heavily and she smiled. She was growing impatient with his distractions.
“Jerry?” she asked.
He tried to put his grandmothers out of his mind. He tried to focus on his wife and what she wanted from him, but her voice led him back to his visit with his father earlier in the evening.
“Jerry?” the old man asked. “You still here?”
“Sure, Pop. Open up. I’ll feed you.” Jerry tucked a towel into the open neck of his pajama shirt. “Here.”
The old man shrugged his shoulders and worked his ashen cheeks. Jerry put a spoonful of food in his mouth and his father clamped down on the spoon with his hardened gums. Jerry tugged at the spoon gently and the thin paste oozed out of the corners of his mouth. Jerry dabbed at it with a corner of the towel.
“Pretty good stuff, Pop?”
“You want potatoes?”
“Goddamn yes, boy.”
“Sure, open up.” Jerry spooned in some potatoes, now cold and set. There was an uncomfortable silence around him. The other residents had finished their meals. Some stared at Leroy Baxter while he ate because they knew he could not see them stare. A few with full bellies nodded off to sleep in their chairs. Jerry could feel the eyes of the residents sitting behind him, those who wouldn’t sleep or visit or work their way back to their rooms. They sat and stared and amused themselves by watching him feed his father. Jerry reached over and straightened his father, sitting him upright in his chair. He wiped food off his old man’s chin.
When Barbara Pym died in 1980 she left behind several complete but unpublished novels, half-finished works, short stories and many other papers. These were only available in the Bodleian Library in Oxford to scholars. Thanks to Pym’s friend, biographer, and colleague Hazel Holt–author of the much-loved Mrs. Malory Mysteries–three of these complete novels and assorted excerpts were published posthumously in the 1980s. In recent years they have only been available in the UK. Now Coffeetown Press is proud to bring them back into print in the U.S.A. and Canada.
In her introduction, Hazel Holt writes, “With the publication of these novels I am delighted to say that now all Barbara’s novels are back in print (and as eBooks) in the UK, the USA, and Canada. In 1977, the magic year of her rediscovery, she wrote in her notebook, ‘Who is that woman sitting on the concrete wall outside Barclay’s bank, reading the TV Times? That is Miss Pym the novelist.’ That is the only legacy she would wish to leave behind. I hope, in some small way, I have helped to achieve it.”
Civil to Strangers and Other Writings ($14.95, 294 pages, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-180-4)
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Thanks to his wife’s money, Adam Marsh-Gibbon leads a charmed life writing poetry and novels celebrated mostly by his fellow residents in the town of Up Callow in Shropshire, England. His lovely wife Cassandra caters to his every whim, although perhaps not as enthusiastically as five years earlier, when she first married her handsome yet difficult and unappreciative husband.
Into their lives steps Mr. Stefan Tilos, the new tenant of Holmwood, a dashing Hungarian who puts the whole town in a flutter. How alarming then, that he should become so visibly enamoured of Cassandra. Mrs. Marsh-Gibbon is certainly above reproach. Or is she?
Barbara Pym wrote Civil to Strangers in 1936. It was first published posthumously in 1987, thanks to her friend and biographer Hazel Holt.
Crampton Hodnet ($13.95, 226, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-176-7)
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“The rare charm of Crampton Hodnet is in the glimpse it offers of Pym’s imagination as it pauses for a moment in perfect understanding of a character. That sympathy stretches beyond the horizon of comedy.”
Life has a certain reassuring if not terribly exciting rhythm for the residents of North Oxford. Miss Morrow is content in her position as spinster companion to Miss Doggett, even if her employer and the woman’s social circle regard her as a piece of furniture. Stephen Latimer, the new cleric and Miss Doggett’s dashing new tenant, upsets the balance for Miss Morrow by proposing the long discounted possibility of marriage.
Miss Doggett’s nephew, Mr. Francis Cleveland, is a handsome, middle-aged professor not destined for greatness in his field. He has a complaisant wife and an adoring pupil, a dangerous midlife combination. The town gossips witness an impulsive declaration of love between Francis Cleveland and Miss Bird and conclude that Mr. Cleveland is willing to sacrifice marriage and respectability for the sake of passion.
Caught in a potentially compromising situation with Miss Morrow, Mr. Latimer clumsily refers to a nonexistent town: Crampton Hodnet. His lie is harmless. In this town appearances are much more deceiving.
Barbara Pym began writing Crampton Hodnet in 1939. It was first published posthumously in 1985, thanks to her friend and biographer, Hazel Holt.
An Academic Question ($12.95, 168 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-178-1)
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‘Authentic Pym, with the true depth of exuberance in it.’
—London Review of Books
Caro is the wife of Dr. Alan Grimstone, a lecturer at a provincial university in a West Country town in England. She knows her circle believes that she should be doing more with her life. She is the mother of a young daughter but relieved to be able to leave the girl in the care of an au pair. Her one selfless act–reading aloud to a former missionary at a rest home–is sullied when she allows her husband to ‘borrow’ some of the old gentleman’s papers in order to get the better of a colleague. Caro’s sister is a social worker disinclined towards marriage and children, but is she happy? Despite appearances, Caro is content enough. Until she learns that that her husband Alan has a wandering eye.
What is happiness? The knowledge that one is loved? Academic renown? Or is it friendship with eccentric friends and the sight of the first crocuses of spring or the Virginia creeper in autumn?
Barbara Pym completed the first draft of her satirical “Academic Novel” in 1970, ten years before her death. It was first published posthumously in 1985, thanks to her friend and biographer Hazel Holt.
Barbara Pym (1913-80) was born in Shropshire and educated at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. When in 1977 the TLS asked critics to name the most underrated authors of the past 75 years, only one was named twice (by Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil): Barbara Pym. Her novels are characterized by what Anne Tyler has called “the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life.”
Running at Night: Collected Poems 1976-2012 ($10.95, 106 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-164-4) is a collection of fifty-nine poems from the past thirty-three years of poet Ned Randle’s life.
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“At their best, Randle’s poems evoke a connection with the land that reads as true and absolute. He solidifies the thoughts and lives of imagined earlier inhabitants with grace and empathy, such as in his series ‘The Illinois Poems.’ … The book has a settled consistency of tone and pace that clears a way for readers to navigate an expansive world of corners and hills. And readers may find themselves compelled onward, much like the runner in the titular poem, by the steadiness of Randle’s composition.” Read more …
—Theodosia Henney, Cactus Heart Literary Journal
“A courageous book of witnessing. It takes the reader through dark paths on fast foot. The poems are written with a sure hand, the images right, the word choice sharp, the line breaks masterful.”
—Ariana D. Den Bleyker, award-winning poet and editor, Emerge Literary Journal
“When we read through Running at Night, we are reminded that while we all feel each and every one of these illustrious emotions, it is still a gift to know how to pull forth the words to describe them. This is why writers such as Ned Randle are so integral in this day and age—and we ought to honor that gift. We honor such gifts to help lift the poet’s burden as the poet lifts our own …. This is a book that should eventually grace our bookshelves, after taking a fair turn upon a coffee table and most specially, in our hands.”
—Mr. & Mrs. Garbanzo, The Garbanzo Literary Journal
“Ned Randle’s poetry collection Running at Night often touches upon the most humdrum aspects of life, and yet somehow Randle always manages to communicate the sheer beauty and wealth of possibilities we find in the everyday. His collected poems from 1976-2012 find the extraordinary in the ordinary, even reassurance in the grotesque, and nourishment in both simple and humble spaces…. With muddy rivers full of fish, grassy banks, lazy dogs, and a cat slinking out of the barn, the sense of place resonates vibrantly in these pages. Randle creates powerful images that both dazzle and revolt.” Read more …
—Sarah Rae, Executive Editor, Poydras Review
“In recognizably American fashion, [Randle’s poems] reach from the ground on which he lives to dreams earned and known.”
—Mark Lofstrom, Hawaii Literary Arts Council
Here is an excerpt from Randle’s poem, “Graveside”:
He conjures up a prayer but lets it fall
unspoken onto the sod, into the
soil, jealously hating heaven after
death where strange souls are urged to love his love,
and briefly hoping for hell for her, where
no love survives the crucible, where she
melts in the heat of his lust forever.
Says Randle, “Poetry is the dry distillation of feelings that produces a tangible product to be shared with others. Although the process requires a very high heat and is not without risk, it is worthwhile when readers tell you they can feel the residual warmth rising from the page holding a poem they really like.”
Ned Randle resides in Southern Illinois, where he writes fiction and poetry. He has a law degree from St. Louis University and studied writing at Washington University, Webster University and Southwestern Illinois College. His poems have appeared in a number of literary publications such as The Spoon River Quarterly, Circus Maximus, Seven Stars Poetry, Poydras Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, The New Poet, Hamilton Stone Review and Four Ties Literary Review. His chapbook, Prairie Shoutings and Other Poems, was published by The Spoon River Poetry Press, Bradley University. Coffeetown Press will release Randle’s first novel, Baxter’s Friends in June of 2013. For more information, click here.
Badges, Bears, and Eagles: The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden ($13.95, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-158-3), by Steven T. Callan, is a fascinating and often humorous collection of stories from Callan’s eventful and unusually successful career as a California fish and game warden.
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BADGES, BEARS, AND EAGLES is distributed by Epicenter Press/Aftershocks Media. For wholesale orders, please contact email@example.com or call 1-425-485-6822.
Read a feature article about Steve and his book in the Record Searchlight newspaper.
“This engrossing memoir by debut author Callan lets readers in on highlights of his 30-year career as a California wildlife officer. With a healthy dose of bravado, he always gets his perps, though he credits his fellow officers, like long-time partner Dave Szody, and the roles they’ve played in cases brought against poachers and other law-breakers. He recalls stories from back into the 1970′s, his memory matched by a knack for pacing and recognition of how much information readers need to understand the dynamics of the cases. From beer-swilling poacher flunkies to ‘entrepreneurs’ dealing in black bear gall bladder for use in Chinese medicine, Callan and his partner sent a lot of wild characters to jail. The vignettes are jaw-dropping, funny, tragic, enraging, exciting, and hopeful—sometimes all at once. An avid outdoorsman with respect for the land and its inhabitants, Callan shares some of the ecological and social history of each California region he’s worked; while those without knowledge of hunting will soon learn the intricacies of California’s byzantine regulations. Never wavering from his ideals, Callan demonstrates an enviable love of his life’s work and has plenty of adventure stories to share.”
“A thrilling ride into the heart of bad guy country. Which is pretty much anywhere in the state, any place that people can abuse wildlife and habitats for a profit …. The author has reconstructed his and other cases from memory, interviews and court documents. The result is a series of suspenseful, well-written procedurals in which good triumphs, but not without a lot of foot work and tense dealings with well armed scofflaws …. It’s compelling reading about true public service.” Read more …
–Dan Barnett, Chico Enterprise-Record
“Steve Callan has written an honest and compelling memoir of his career as a warden for the California Department of Fish & Game. Game wardens usually work alone, rarely with backup, and often must deal with men carrying loaded firearms. It’s not a calling for the faint of heart, but one requiring high intelligence, tact, and insight into human nature. Californians are fortunate to have wardens of Callan’s distinguished character protecting their wildlife.”
—Boyd Gibbons, former Director of the California Department of Fish & Game, retired President of The Johnson Foundation and former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Interior
“Most people do not think of a game warden as a detective. In Badges, Bears, and Eagles, Steve Callan—Californian, detective, environmentalist, wildlife protection officer, and outdoorsman—takes the reader on a thrilling adventure, providing an inside look at what a dedicated game warden truly does.”
—Randal Hendricks, Sports Agent, Attorney, and award-winning author of Inside the Strike Zone
“Always alone, with backup (if any) an hour and a half away, the game warden is usually dealing with people carrying guns. This book is a genuine chronicle of the very unusual and exciting life of a California Game warden. Steve Callan always managed to bring me the most unusual cases any prosecutor would ever see.”
—Larry Allen, District Attorney, Sierra County, CA, and former Shasta County deputy DA and Environmental Prosecutor
“Callan is John Grisham for the Outdoorsman. Conservationists will applaud his sometimes ‘unique’ efforts to protect our natural resources from those who would abuse them. Whoever knew there was so much intrigue in Fish and Game cases?”
—McGregor Scott, former Shasta County District Attorney and former United States Attorney-Sacramento
“Callan’s chronicle of the life of a California Fish and game warden stands out because in addition to the typical illegal hunting and fishing cases, he provides the reader with real life examples of wardens protecting wildlife habitat and conducting exhaustive undercover operations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.”
—Donald Koch, retired Director of the California Department of Fish and Game
Over his thirty-year career as a wildlife protection officer for the California Department of Fish and Game, Steve Callan and his longtime working partner, Dave Szody, conducted some of the most fascinating, complex and highly successful wildlife investigations in California history. They also collected a wealth of true stories—action-packed, suspenseful and often humorous.
In Badges, Bears and Eagles, Steve provides a vivid first-person account of his adventures. The author and his colleagues outsmart game hogs, thwart fish thieves, and foil outlaws with names like “Squeaky.” Steve is even stalked by African lions and mauled by a five-hundred pound Bengal tiger. One of the most important cases of his career begins with a slain bald eagle dropped on the doorstep of the Fish and Game office, along with a note threatening the life of a fellow warden. A decade later, Callan and Szody conduct the investigation of their lives, uncovering a statewide criminal conspiracy to kill California black bears for their valuable gall bladders.
It’s not all about catching bad guys—in “Saving Lake Mathews,” Steve chronicles how he helped save a beloved wildlife sanctuary from developers.
Says Callan, “My career with California Fish and Game could be described as one big adventure. I investigated every form of wildlife outlaw: deer poachers, elk poachers, bighorn sheep poachers, eagle killers, game hogs, salmon snaggers, fish thieves, reptile collectors, exotic animal smugglers and people who slaughtered bears for their gall bladders. Many of those cases became fascinating stories that I knew one day would have to be captured on paper. Three years ago I told myself I had waited long enough, and started writing.”
Steven T. Callan was born in San Diego, California. With an insatiable interest in wildlife, particularly waterfowl, he never missed an opportunity to ride along on patrol with his father, a California Fish and Game warden. Steve graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1970 and continued with graduate work at California State University, Sacramento. Hired by the California Department of Fish and Game in 1974, he spent thirty years as a warden/patrol lieutenant, starting his career near the Colorado River, moving on to Riverside/San Bernardino, and finally ending up in Shasta County (Redding). Steve and his wife, Kathleen, support many environmental causes. Click here to find Steven online.
Read on for an excerpt:
Most people didn’t like the idea of big cats moving into their neighborhoods, so we often received calls. An anonymous tip led Warden John Slaughter and me into the strange world of Whitley Milton. According to our source, Milton had recently acquired a leopard and kept it at his new house in Perris. The house was way out at the end of a gravel road.
As we pulled up in front of the house, Warden Slaughter commented that it looked like some contractor had just slapped the thing together, graded a ten-foot path around it and left it sitting out in the weeds.
Although no cars were present, Slaughter and I decided to knock. The doorbell didn’t work so Slaughter tapped lightly on the picture window next to the front door. Sheets covered all of the windows; fortunately the sheet covering the front picture window had fallen partially down. Warden Slaughter peered inside and noticed that the living room was completely devoid of furniture. The floor seemed to be made of dark-colored tile.
As Warden Slaughter was about to tap on the window a second time, a five-foot monitor lizard shot across the living room floor and down the hall. The tile floor was so slippery that the giant reptile had spun out.
“Did you see that?” asked Slaughter.
I laughed. “Unbelievable!” I said. “How would you like to clean that house?”
We left and returned several times over the next few days before finally finding Milton at home. A fortyish dark-skinned man wearing a pink Hawaiian shirt answered the door.
“We are with the Department of Fish and Game,” said Warden Slaughter. “Are you Whitley Milton?”
“Yes, I am,” answered Milton, a puzzled look on his face.
“Would you mind if we come in and talk with you for a few minutes?” asked Slaughter.
Neither of us really wanted to go inside the house, imagining what it might smell like, but we figured it would provide us with an opportunity to look around. Milton asked us to wait a minute while he put his lizard in another room. He finally led us into a dimly lit den, furnished with a couch and a few chairs. A large bird cage containing a scarlet macaw hung at one end of the room.
“That’s a beautiful bird,” said Slaughter, hoping to gain Milton’s confidence with a little friendly chit chat.
“Oh, thank you,” said Milton. “That’s Reggie; I’ve had him for over twenty years. Please sit down. Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?”
Slaughter and I politely declined the drink offer. We sat down on the couch and began asking general questions about the monitor lizard. During the conversation, a jet black house cat was playing with one of my boot laces. “We received a report that you recently acquired a leopard, Mr. Milton.” I tried to pull my foot away, but the cat was quite insistent. “Can you tell us about that?”
“I had a leopard for a few days,” Milton said, “but I shipped it back east. I wanted to get a permit and have a cage built.”
Before either Slaughter or I could respond, Milton began asking a series of hypothetical questions, each one beginning with, “Answer me this, Lieutenant Callan.” Animal Welfare regulations required a certain amount of interpretation by the officers enforcing them. It became obvious that Milton was trying to pin me into a corner on requirements for the possession of big cats. I tried to interpret the regulations fairly and as they were intended, but deep down I deplored the idea of private individuals keeping these magnificent wild animals in backyard cages.
Milton droned on for five or ten more minutes before I noticed something unusual about his kitty—its extremely large paws. The determined little feline was still busy chewing on my right boot.
“Wait a minute!” I said, interrupting Milton in the middle of a sentence. “I think we’ve found our leopard.” John and I had been looking for a typical yellow and black animal, not one in the melanistic black phase. We hadn’t paid much attention to the playful little kitten on the floor. Upon closer examination, we realized that this little black kitty with the oversized paws was actually a very young black leopard cub.
Milton had purposely kept the shades closed, so there was very little light in the room. I picked up the cat and carried it to the window. When I pulled the shades back, the light poured in and exposed the characteristic leopard spots through the animal’s shiny black fur. We might have been concerned about Milton lying to us, but John and I were a little embarrassed about not recognizing the leopard in the first place.
Charges were filed against Milton for unlawful possession and importation of a prohibited species. No zoos or legitimate facilities were willing to take the leopard so it was eventually shipped back east to its original owner.
Gabriela and The Widow ($14.95, 280 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-147-7), a work of literary fiction by Seattle author Jack Remick, tells the story of a dying aristocrat and the Mixteca caregiver who helps her assemble the jumbled pieces of her past, a process that gives them both love, closure, and the courage to move on.
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“A lyrical treasure that paints a magical mysterious world of two women, so close they inhabit each others’ dreams and relive each others’ experiences …. This is a beautiful, horrific, captivating read full of the lights and colors, the smells and music of southern Mexico and central California. The story held me to the screen and that says a lot.” Read more …
–Arleen Williams, author of The Thirty-Ninth Victim
“Remick laces Spanish and English dialogue, crusted agéd skin and voluptuous beauty, bloody violence and exquisite tenderness. As he blurs boundaries we are sucked into this story, chapter by chapter, until we too transform, we too feel we have glimpsed the answer to immortality’s riddles. Gabriela and The Widow is sure to hook readers who enjoy a well told and fascinating story where all the gem-like details fall together to form a rich and satisfying puzzle.”
—Paula Lowe, Publisher, Big Yes Press, former editor Solo Novo Magazine.
“The plot is complex and filled with revenge, sometimes sadness, and a level of mystery and intrigue that only a well versed and experienced author could accomplish …. A master tale by a master talent.” Read more …
—Terri Forehand, Writing and Others Ways into the Heart
“Riveting …. This is not a neat morality tale. Remick’s novel invites us to taste the blood and to roll in the sweat. It also invites us to enjoy one subordinated woman’s payback.” Read more …
—Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home (October, 2013)
“Jack Remick’s words forces the reader to keep turning the pages. The plot is complex and filled with sadness, regret, and a level of mystery and intrigue.” Read more …
“I found the book to be a gripping read. Gabriela is an amazingly resilient and resourceful character…. It’s not an easy book to read at times in terms of the harsh content, but it’s one you can’t put down. You get so drawn to Gabriela with her freshness and uncomplicated approach to things.Jack Remick has a gift with character creation. He portrays everyone sharply, even minor characters that we only meet in passing. We know exactly what makes them tick and whether we like them or not within a sentence or two. There is plenty of action, an intriguing plot and a lot of enjoyment to be drawn from this novel.” Read more …
5 Stars: “A wonderfully-crafted novel that will be very hard for readers of all ages to put down for long. It is a book about pain, hardship, and emancipation. It is mesmerizingly written, just like a well-crafted musical piece.” Read more …
–Irene S. Roth, author and writer
“A book that is deep and more than just a story is a book that will stay in your head for many years. I think I found such a book …. The story is extremely captivating. You want to keep reading to find out what is next is store for the young girl and what new things she will discover with from the widow …. More than a simple story, this is a detailed examination of life.” Read more ….
–Rebecca Graf, A Book Lover’s Library
“His characters (from the main characters Gabriela and La Viuda to supporting/walk-ons) are vivid and bring their own background, even if we never learn what it is. The narrative captivates you and plays on all the emotions of each character.” Read more …
–Alexandra Michele, Family Matters Blog
“Each character in the story feels real, even the ones we only meet for a short time. You can hear, see and feel them moving about as Gabriela slowly finds her way, both in life and internally. You will feel the deepness of this young girl and her desire to find a place to call home …. A truly remarkable novel on many deep levels with symbols to bring you back around full circle.” Read more …
–V.S. Grenier, author and editor
The Widow (La Viuda) is ninety-two years old. She lives in a house filled with photos and coins, jewels and a sable coat. Aware that her memory is failing but burning with desire to record the story of her life on paper, she hires Gabriela, a nineteen-year-old Mixteca from Mexico. Gabriela is one of the few survivors of a massacre and treacherous journey to El Norte.
Gabriela and The Widow is a story of chaos, revenge, and change: death and love, love and sex, and sex and death. Gabriela seeks revenge for the destruction of her village. The Widow craves balance for the betrayals in her life. In the end, The Widow gives Gabriela the secret of immortality.
Remick says, “With Gabriela and The Widow I set out to write a novel about two women. One an immigrant, Gabriela, on a journey to the North, the other a dying old woman, a Widow who lives in the desert. I was drawn to the subject of the collision of cultures that is ripping America apart right now, but I also wished to examine how women relate without men. The men in Gabriela and The Widow are marginal—they are punishing, they are brutal, they are cheats and liars—but this is not a misanthropic book. It is the story of how The Widow makes Gabriela in her own image and sets her free from her bloody past. It is a book about mothers and daughters, it is a novel about women for women, but it is also a mythic recasting of the story of women before men.”
Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, and novelist. In 2012 Coffeetown Press published the first two volumes of Jack’s California Quartet series, The Deification and Valley Boy. The final two volumes will be released in 2013: The Book of Changes and Trio of Lost Souls. Blood, A Novel was published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, in 2011. Click here to find Jack online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
She stood at the window watching the blackening sky. She smelled the dry hot dusty desert air. Heat boiling in through the window made her sweat so she unbuttoned her chambray shirt and rubbed her belly, fingers smooth over her slick skin. In the sky, she saw a flicker of light—a single yellow glowing dot.
Leaning on the sill of the open window, Gabriela watched the sky fill with a swarm of fireflies like the ones she had seen some evenings in the jungle. The swarm grew until the sky framed by the window glowed like light in a mirror. The light was so bright and the insects so many that they lit up the cactus in front of the steel chain fence and under the cactus the stones on the ground. The swarm of fireflies kept getting bigger and with the swarm there came a dry hard clicking like the sound of teeth chattering.
And then across the sky she saw darting bats.
Black and gray bats swooping through the mirror of light, hundreds of them. Where they struck, holes gaped open in the light, leaving long trails of black. The flutter of wings beat against the rattling of the fireflies and chills ran up Gabriela’s arms as the bats turned and swooped, smashing into the glowing swarm of insects until only a few dots remained against the blackness and then there was only the sky, empty, and off in the distance and high up and beyond, stars sparkled. There was silence.
Gabriela glanced down at the table where she had been working on the List—strips of paper overflowing from the box, sheets of paper with long lists of places and objects on them and there, on a strip of yellow paper a single firefly struggled. Its light blinked once, twice, then died. She picked up the strip of paper with the insect on it and walked to La Viuda’s room, where light spilled out into the dark hallway.
La Viuda, as always, sat in her nest of pillows reading and as always without glasses. Gabriela looked in. She said,
La Viuda glanced up from her book. She closed it, one finger marking the page. She said,
“Come in child. You look … excited and you’re half naked.”
“I have seen death, Señora. There were so many and now they are all dead.”
“Death excites you so you strip off your clothes?”
Gabriela held out the dead insect. La Viuda scooped up the black dot in the cup of the nail of her little finger. She said,
“This time of year the fireflies battle the bats and always the bats win. But look at you. It worries me if you walk around half-naked like a crazy woman. Are you all right?”
“I am sorry, Señora. It is hot in my room. I will go.”
“No, no. There’s a negligee in my closet if you’re … if you need to put it on.”
Gabriela buttoned her shirt and tied the tails in a knot. La Viuda said,
“Come sit with me. What were you doing when this battle took place?”
“The List, Señora. All those pieces of paper. How do I make order out of them?”
“Oh yes, the girls before you—all thieves, illiterate thieves. Not one of them had any idea about the color of my moods. I’d say—I’m not in a red mood, but the silly little fat ones kept on writing no matter how I felt. Have you eaten?”
“Yes, Señora. We ate at seven.”
“Seven? Good god, what time is it now?”
“Eleven? Why have you let me stay awake so late?”
“You were reading, Señora and the List …”
“Forget the List. I’m in a yellow mood and when I’m yellow I like to eat cucumber sandwiches and drink tea.”
Gabriela sat in the armchair beside the bed. She said,
“Señora. If you drink tea this late you’ll have to get up soon.”
“Or wet my bed,” La Viuda said. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? If I wet my bed then you could treat me like a child. I’m hungry.”
“I will bring you crackers and cheese,” Gabriela said.
“Yellow. You see? You understand my moods and my colors and you don’t want me to pee my bed but you’ll constipate me with cheese. What kind? Cheddar? I don’t like soft cheeses. What have you done to my List?”
“The List is very heavy, Señora, and your life is very dangerous.”
“Where is the List?”
“On my bed,” Gabriela said. “It is very heavy now.”
“Heavy? It’s paper, how heavy can it be? You mean the List is very thick, is that what you mean?”
“Yes, Señora. I mean thick.”
“This battle has disrupted your brain, Gabriela. My advice to you is never leave the List alone in your room because it might infect you with what I have and what I have you don’t want because it can only end one way—look at me. Not a wrinkle on your half-naked thin body and you’re still pure as rain but now you want to stuff me with cheese.”
Gabriela patted the old woman’s hand and she looked into her sharp blue eyes that were as empty and distant as the sky. The old woman licked her lips and said,
“Bring me the List, we’ll burn it.”
“I do not think you want to burn it.”
“Don’t try to lift it, Gaby. You’ll break your back the way life has broken me but who am I to complain? I have you and this firefly and there are so many but every year at this time the bats come for them so I think a ham sandwich would be perfect do we have ham such a thin little arm such brown skin but ham is salty and I don’t like soft cheese and a cup of tea.”
Gabriela stood and she tucked La Viuda into her bed of pillows and she removed the book and set it on the chest beside the bed. La Viuda said,
“The fireflies and the bats. Remember that they always fight at this time of year but the emerald ring is in the chest. It’s there and it’s yours.”
“Oh no, Señora. I want nothing but to be with you.”
“Open the chest.”
“If I touch it, I will die, Señora.”
“You will die anyway. So you might as well die with the ring on that lovely slender brown finger of yours. The other girls had no feeling for my colors and they were fat with fat thick fingers and not one of them could see when I was in a red mood and when they tried to put on the ring it was like stuffing sausage in a tube of lipstick. So put on the negligee and pretend that you are a seductress and we’ll have some Ovaltine because Ovaltine reminds me of the year we spent in Switzerland.”
“Sweetzerland, Señora. En castellano que es?”
“Suiza. El Señor took a company there for a large water project in the mountains—I think something to do with glaciers—but surely that’s already on the List.”
“Zurich, jess, Señora. Suiza no.”
“Zurich is in Suiza,” La Viuda said.
“And Sweetzerland is in Suiza also, Señora?”
“Try on the negligee,” La Viuda said, “because I can’t have you flitting around like a naked firefly. And wake me in time, will you? Not a second before, not one minute later. Do you understand time?”
“Time is made up of hours, Señora, and the hours make up the days and the days make up weeks and the weeks make the year.”
“Perfect. In the woman business, we must have time down pat.”
Gabriela waited until La Viuda closed her eyes. Then she turned off the lamp and, taking the dead insect with her, returned to her room, to the desk, to the box of strips of paper.
On the table beside her sat the boxful of paper slips. Small rectangles of paper each written in a different hand—some slanted to the left, others to the right. Still others were printed in block letters. They were written in a rainbow of green and black and red and blue inks, some of the notes so faint they read like fingerprints of ghosts. But all of them were jumbled in a chaotic mess in the box and as Gabriela tried to sort them out she grew impatient.
On the left side of the table, she had laid out the slips with objects written on them—
The Atahualpa? And what was a bergamot pot? She had no idea.
On the right she had set out the slips of paper with places written on them—
—where was Rotorua?
In the middle, on the table, were the sheets of yellow paper with columns of dates and places, objects and letters, but there was no order to it. The dates were out of sequence—1998, 1970, 1969—and the objects were listed under the dates and the places were listed but there was no connection between the objects and the places. This chaos worried Gabriela because of La Viuda’s obsession with the List but so far as Gabriela could see, La Viuda’s life—if the box of strips was her life—was a mess. How to tell her—“Señora, your life is a mess and the List can’t be put together from the pieces you have here. There is much work to do.”
And so Gabriela began again.
On sheets of white paper, she made units that contained a date, an object, a place. And under that a slot for photo and another for letter. She knew now that with those parts, she could bring some order into La Viuda’s life. She also knew that everything depended on the old woman’s memory.
First published in 1986, Lucia Triumphant ($14.95, 262 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-126-2) is the second of Tom Holt’s officially sanctioned sequels to E.F. Benson’s beloved Lucia and Mapp series. Coffeetown released Lucia in Wartime in August.
Lucia in Wartime and Lucia Triumphant can both be ordered wholesale by bookstores and libraries in the U.S., U.K., and Europe through Ingram.
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** Order it in Kindle or in other eBook formats on Smashwords **
In postwar Britain, the quaint town of Tilling is feeling the pull of both the modern world and its Norman past. Elizabeth Mapp-Flint, in yet another bid to wrest power back from her social rival Lucia Pillson—now the town’s mayor—purchases a motor-car. Hoping to improve her shaky motoring skills in private, she makes a significant tactical error by leaving town. Lucia profits from Elizabeth’s absence by putting one of her “ideas” into action: the embroidery of a tapestry depicting the history of Tilling, one that will surely surpass Bayeux’s. All Lucia’s subjects are called upon to labour long and hard in its execution. Meanwhile Elizabeth, stranded in Southampton, happens upon a game of Monopoly in her hotel room, and—minus her broken-winged chariot—hurries home to rescue her fellow Tillingites from the tedium of Lucia’s latest worthy endeavor.
Who will prove the greater master of Monopoly? What will become of the abandoned tapestry? Is Elizabeth really descended from Norman nobility? Is Mallards haunted, and if so, who saw the ghost first—Lucia, its current resident, or Elizabeth, its former owner?
It is not in the best interests of the Tillingites to allow either woman to prevail for long. For in the end, Lucia and Elizabeth’s tactical maneuvering and petty victories and defeats offer the best entertainment in town.
Tom Holt was born in 1961 in London, England. His first book, ‘Poems By Tom Holt’, was published when he was twelve years old. While he was still a student at Oxford he wrote two sequels to E F Benson’s Lucia series. After an undistinguished seven-year stint as a lawyer, he became a full-time writer in 1995 and has published over thirty novels. Tom lives with his wife and daughter in the west of England. As well as writing, he raises pigs and pedigree Dexter cattle.
Read on for an excerpt:
After a long and leisurely lunch had been eaten and properly digested, and coffee lingered over to an extent unusual even in Tilling, the Padre went sorrowing away for what he termed the afternoon shift, while Elizabeth sat and devised in her mind the overthrow of the Tapestry.
She could declare a war of mockery and derision on the project and be sure that the oppressed workers would rise up and defect at her call. Yet to do so would be an overt act of hostility, and Lucia (so vindictive!) would blame her for the collapse of her precious hobby. A harder but better course of action would be to subvert it from within, smiling and smiling and being a villain, so to speak. And it so happened that she had within her luggage a secret weapon of unbounded potential, brought back from Southampton for just such a purpose. But now this mine could be exploded within the enemy’s citadel, rather than simply laid under her walls.
She rose and went to the telephone. A number was demanded; she was put through. Foljambe’s voice answered at the other end.
‘Mrs. Mapp-Flint wishes to speak to Mrs. Pillson,’ she said, and soon Lucia’s voice, shrill and sharp as ever, came through the receiver.
‘Lucia, darling, it’s your Elizabeth here. Yes, dear, a simply lovely time, I must tell you all about it when we meet. But, first, I have just heard from the Padre about your marvellous Tapestry; such vision, dear Worship, so full of praise for your clever idea. Lucia, you naughty one, how could you bring yourself to be so unkind to your old friend as to let her go away on holiday and start work without her? Hello?’ She’s dropped the receiver again, thought Elizabeth. ‘Do be sweet and reassure me that there’s still something left for me to do—that’s if you think that I’ll be up to it, of course!’
Lucia reassured her that there was plenty for her to do; only too delighted.
‘Splendid! Shall I bring my own needles? No? How thoughtful. And thread? That too! Such organisation. But, of course, I forgot, I am speaking to the Mayor of Tilling, after all. Very well, then, I shall run all the way to Mallards.’
Curiously enough, Lucia entirely failed to catch the significance of Elizabeth’s promise to run all the way (surely unnecessary for a motorist), for her mind, like Macbeth’s was full of scorpions. She knew only too well that her own declaration of peace had been Machiavellian policy. What else could Elizabeth’s gratuitous and unprovoked gesture of friendship be but another such? And, if so, what diabolical scheme had that dark intellect devised?
Being Fruitful without Multiplying: Stories and Essays from around the World ($14.95, 226 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-155-2), is an anthology of true stories by many women and a few men revolving around the elements of nature and nurture that led to their decisions not to procreate.
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Also available in Kindle and in other eBook formats on Smashwords.
The project began as a memoir by three authors with family ties and ended as a conversation that included women and men ranging in age from twenty to sixty-one. Seventeen states and thirteen countries outside the U.S. are represented.
“A terrific resource for expanding our perspectives on parenting, reproduction and the shifting economic and social realities in women’s lives. I recommend it to academic and nonacademic audiences alike.”
—Maythee Rojas, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies at California State University, Long Beach
“A book that will be interesting to all women and the men who strive to understand them.”
—Glenn Ross Caddy, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., F.A.P.A., Chairman, Institute of Clinical Psychology, Mind-Experts International, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“A thoughtful and insightful collection of stories and essays allowing us to explore the diverse lives and experiences of childfree women and men from around the world …. I would recommend this book to anyone who has made this choice or is currently childless and wonders ‘What can I expect if I remain so?’ ”
—Laura S. Scott, Author of Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice and Director of the Childless by Choice Project.
“God’s design and plan do go on for those who do not procreate … as Being Fruitful Without Multiplying so eloquently illustrates.”
—Dr. Lyrica Joy, Bishop and Founder, The International Church for ALL Nations
“Destined to become a valuable social document for researchers, as well as a friend to culturally and socially isolated childless by choice women …. An important work.”
—Jody Day, Founder, Gateway Women, UK
“To abandon motherhood is a decision not fully accepted by much of society. Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is a collection of memoir and thoughts on going child-free, as many women discuss their decision to not choose motherhood, and the other ways they have chosen to impact the world, through step-parenthood, adoption, or other ideas. As the women, and a few men as well present their ideas, Being Fruitful Without Multiplying is well worth considering for those who want to understand the child-free lifestyle.”
—The Women’s Studies Shelf, Wisconsin Bookwatch: October 2012, Midwest Book Review
Childfree, childless … these are the labels society gives to women who do not bear children, due to choice or genetics.
Being Fruitful without Multiplying started as one woman’s quest to come to terms with her decision not to bear children. In conversation with Renee and Janice—two close relatives from different generations—Patricia found that they shared another, unexpected bond: each belonged to childless or childfree social networks. All three were weary of questions from well-meaning people who wondered why they had not born children. As they began to reach out to others in earnest, they found that many who belonged to their diverse online communities were eager to share their stories. Some had chosen to be childfree and some were childless because of biological factors but grew to appreciate the advantages. Some of those who chose not to reproduce still decided to become stepparents or adopt.
Over sixty women and a few men added their voices to those of the three main authors. The result is this rich and varied anthology, which includes stories from many different countries, cultures and income groups.
Say Yvette: “What began as a family conversation comparing notes about the choice not to bear children soon grew into a worldwide discussion through social networking childfree communities. Who knew virtual communities such as these existed and would be so large, diverse and vocal?”
The primary authors of Being Fruitful Without Multiplying are three close relatives of different generations who began discussing their reasons for not bearing children shortly after a family reunion. Patricia Yvette was raised an Air Force brat and so grew up in various locations abroad. She has a master’s degree in Marketing Strategies, and is currently pursuing her PhD. Her career has been based in a Seattle aerospace company for the past twenty years. Married over twenty five years, she enjoys traveling, culinary art, outdoor recreation, and considers herself a life-long learner. Renee Ann has served as a Christian missionary and traveled extensively through West Africa where she encountered an enlightening way of life. Life-challenging events altered her attitude toward the religion she was raised with and once advocated. She is now an aesthetician. Janice Lynne has worked in the travel business for the past thirty-two years. She was Sales Director with a major cruise line for twenty-eight years and is currently Vice-President of Sales for a small boutique cruise line. She has been named Sales Person of the Year numerous times. Janice is a world traveler, stepmother, and published author of three children’s books. Click here to find the authors online.
An excerpt from Patricia Yvette’s Journal:
Those six years of babysitting adventures were more than enough to help me realize all the time, effort, and money required to raise children. Sure, the kids were sometimes adorable and fun to be around, but they also required major disciplining. Every girl should babysit during her teenage years. Babysitting may well provide the best possible incentive to postponing sexual activity.
During my babysitting jobs I saw a lot of poor parenting. Once I actually called my mother to have her bring over food supplies for the kids I was caring for, because there was nothing in the refrigerator but old take out and several bottles of beer. It was truly pathetic.
Witnessing this kind of neglect made me pity the girls in high school who purposefully or accidentally became pregnant. I was hugely motivated to practice abstinence—not the easiest thing to do when you are surrounded by friends engaging in sexual activity, insisting that you are missing out. One of my best friends discovered she was pregnant by a boy who had also impregnated another teenage girl. Her life changed instantly. It was about this time that I focused my energy on finding work and didn’t look back.
From Renee Ann’s Journal:
Despite these highs I was often shocked by the rife poverty and overpopulation. Although I had witnessed tremendous poverty in other African countries I had visited, I saw Ghana as so much worse. The population density probably made this more readily apparent. It was painful to see the multitudes of young street children who had come to the city in search of employment. Many of these children had been taken from their homes in distant villages and brought to the capital, where they were exploited by their employers. This “employer” was usually a family relative or acquaintance who had convinced the parents that their child would be better off in the city. It was normal to see emaciated, malnourished children, some even younger than five years old, carrying heavy baskets of foods and other goods on their heads under the scorching African sun.
The marketplaces were so heavily congested with people that it was difficult and risky to maneuver through them without getting stepped on or bumped into. The market area smelled profusely of sweaty bodies, raw fish, raw bloody meat, and vehicle exhaust.
The seemingly endless masses of people in such untold poverty never ceased to affect my mind and emotions. There was always a brooding sadness that accompanied my visits to the market and a humble admission that life on this Earth could never be fair. I passed by fathers sitting on squalid, city streets, holding their infant children in their arms. I was told, “People are born on these streets, live their lives on them, and they usually die on them as well; it is a cycle without end.”
I understood that ultimately I could do nothing to even slightly reverse the cycle of poverty I was witnessing. As I wondered if anyone could do anything, I grew to detest what seemed to be a pervasive irresponsibility that dominated the culture.
Children were being born so rapidly that none of them could ever receive the adequate guidance and individual attention they would need, especially during the crucial early years of childhood.
In contrast to what I saw as irresponsible behavior were the Ghanaian women who worked all day long cooking meals, harvesting vegetables from their gardens, and selling the fruits of their labor at the market. Usually they worked throughout the day with their babies wrapped around their backs. African women have always astounded me with their physical strength and fortitude. I have never seen a particular group of women work so long and so hard, and with such patience. Even more amazing was their decision to accept the hardship of their situation with a positive attitude. Complaining, as I found from my own experience, was considered to be very impolite and offensive.
An excerpt from Janice Lynne’s Journal:
After four years in Virginia, my husband changed universities and we moved to Florida, where I found the greatest job in the world as a sales manager for a major cruise line. It wasn’t easy convincing them to hire me. This was the early eighties and the company had never employed a young married woman as a sales representative. The position required a lot of travel and they were worried I would become pregnant. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but I was aware of their concern. I didn’t want to lose this opportunity, so I assured them that I was not going to have children.
Today, it’s laughable that this was even an issue. Many women sales reps have had children during the twenty-five years that I have been with the company. Every birth is a celebrated event, and we welcome a new member to our family. I don’t know whether or not they believed me, but I got the job.
What a job it was! As a child, I would become easily bored. Never again.
Peter G. Beidler’s newest work is a slice of history from the American Civil War, as revealed in the letters of his great grandfather, William Cross Hazelton. Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Letters of William Cross Hazelton of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry Regiment (IBSN: 978-1-60381-001-2, 242 pages, $13.95) is an absorbing mix of love letters, historical context, and photographs featuring a man of compassion, humor, and startlingly contemporary moral sensibilities.
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** Also Available in Kindle **
Army of the Potomac was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
William Cross Hazelton spent four years as a brave and devoted member of the Union cavalry in the Civil War. During that time he corresponded with Fannie Morrill, the young woman who would become his fiancée and eventually his wife. His letters describe the life of an Illinois volunteer in the Army of the Potomac, the military unit that fought Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in most of the big battles of the Civil War: Williamsburg, Richmond, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.
Hazelton describes the battles from the viewpoint of an ordinary cavalryman slogging through the mud, following erratic orders, surviving for days on enemy turf eating nothing but hardtack, and wondering why the Union army, though superior in numbers and supplies, kept losing battles. After Lee surrendered and Lincoln was assassinated, Hazelton became part of the cavalry posse that chased John Wilkes Booth across the Potomac. His letters breathe new life into a war so devastating that it still scars the American psyche, while exhibiting a moral perspective far ahead of its time.
PETER G. BEIDLER, retired professor of English at Lehigh University and the great-grandson of William Cross Hazelton, has painstakingly researched the historical background of Hazelton’s letters to clarify now-obscure references and explain what Hazelton left out in order to shield his future wife. BEIDLER has published many books and articles and won several teaching awards.
Several books that Beidler either wrote or edited are published by Coffeetown Press: Chaucer’s Canterbury Comedies: Origins and Originality, The Collier’s Weekly Version of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, A Reader’s Companion to Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Second Edition, Risk Teaching: Reflections from Inside and Outside the Classroom, The Roving Bee: A Peep into Many Hives, Self-Reliance, Inc., A Student Guide to Chaucer’s Middle English, Writing Matters.
Read on for an excerpt:
Our forces have evacuated Fredericksburg and we are again on the north side of the Rappahannock. What is to be done now I have no idea. I apprehend that the “good people at home” will find that others fail of their purpose besides McClellan. I would not be surprised if that General was again called to the command of the Army of the Potomac.
If the “Gentlemen” at home who are crying “Forward to Richmond” will come into the field with their muskets we will go forward with them. Yes, more, we will take the front; but while they remain at home don’t let them drive our Generals into attempting that which they cannot perform, thus sacrificing the lives of their soldiers.
Life is as dear to us as to them, and though we have placed our lives at the disposal of our Country, we do not like to be pushed on by those who never saw a battle.
But I am a little out of tune to-day. You will excuse this I think when I tell you I had only half a night’s sleep, and that on a pile of boards with my overcoat on.
Amid all the disagreeable things connected with my present life I never forget you. I love you for your sincerity, your open-heartedness, for your good sense, your wit and because you are Fannie Morrill. For she of all others was the one to captivate the heart of
One Gay American ($13.95, 242 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-153-8), is a memoir by theatrical wigmaker Dennis Milam Bensie about growing up gay in small-town America.
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** Also available in Kindle and in other e-book formats on Smashwords **
One Gay American was a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards and 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
The Advocate voted Bensie’s first memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011.” The New York Journal of Books called Shorn: “Bracingly honest.” The Library Journal recommended it as “particularly topical in these days of bullying stories and gay teens committing suicide.” Shorn was also a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards.
“Deeply poignant. I love how it traverses essential issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of all ages. The story evokes clarification, encouragement and comfort for anyone who is curious to know what it was like to grow up LGBT in small-town America during the waning years of the twentieth century.”
—Daniel Nicoletta, photographer and activist who worked in Harvey Milk’s Castro Street camera during the LGBT Zeitgeist of the mid ’70s
“I was stunned by the raw honesty of Bensie’s first book, Shorn: Toys To Men. He doesn’t back down in his second memoir, One Gay American, either. His spin on small-town gay Americana is spot-on. One can’t help but admire how the author tells his heart-wrenching stories with his head held high. Bensie is hopeful and embraces America … even though the country hasn’t yet fully embraced sexual equality.”
—Tony Buff, Director of Fetish Production, Falcon /Raging Stallion Studios
“Dennis Milam Bensie’s One Gay American manages to be entertaining and engaging with no whining…. [His] frankness extends to the story of his failed marriage …. heartbreaking stuff. Bensie handles this with the assurance of a master storyteller, using uncomplicated prose to tell his rather complicated life. His details are well-chosen, but even more interesting is what he chooses not to reveal. Once the book takes off into Bensie’s gay adulthood, he declines to recite chapter and verse his dating difficulties (though they are touched upon to hilarious effect) and other bad decisions are never dwelt on. One Gay American is a beautifully well-rounded account of just that—one gay American and his journey toward happiness. I’ll wager you’ll find some of yourself in here. Read it and see.” Read more ….
—Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print
“One Gay American is written in the authentic voice of author Dennis Milam Bensie. I have known and worked with Dennis for nearly twenty years, and I am pleased to learn that in addition to being a talented and well respected stage craftsman and artist that he is the real deal as a storyteller and author. Dennis doesn’t try to change anyone’s mind, he doesn’t scold (as he certainly could!) and he doesn’t hide. He shares his life as he is living it in this absorbing, enlightening and entertaining book. I gulped it down in a day. Enjoy!”
—Cynthia Lauren Tewes, actress
“Bensie gives us a look at our culture and history, and it not only makes us think, it reminds us of who we are. Those of us who have lived at the same time as Bensie have seen incredible changes in the gay community, both from within and from the larger society. It has not been an easy journey yet Bensie makes it an entertaining and fun read. We should never forget how it once was for us in this country and remember that every right we have today is the result of those that came before and worked hard so that each generation has it better than the generation before it. We stand on the shoulders of others and Bensie provides us with some very broad shoulders on which to stand. Read his delightful book and thank him for just that.”
—Amos Lassen, reviewer and activist
“Dennis Milam Bensie offers us an unflinching, emotionally engaging memoir, filled with both humor and humanity. One Gay American is a brilliantly endearing coming-of-age story that captures not just an individual but a generation.”
—Emanuel Xavier, GLBT icon, author and activist
“Open up One Gay American and you start a journey that is both poignantly personal as well as an eye-opening gay civil rights history lesson. Again and again, Dennis Milam Bensie courageously pulls open scar tissue to share his wounds and reveal his desires as he comes of age as a gay man in a heterosexist world. His stories are not only personally revealing but give a glimpse of gay culture we don’t often have the chance to learn about. By growing up with Dennis and getting an education about a civil rights movement currently on the cusp of breaking down some of the last bastions of discrimination against gays and lesbians, we gain insight into the exquisite pain and damage we cause because of our ignorance and prejudice. At the end of the book, we know the journey is not over for Dennis or other gay children, but now we all bear some responsibility to make America a safer and more loving world for future generations of gay, lesbian and transgender children.”
—Louise Chernin, President and CEO, Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA)
“Dennis’s memoir is a testament to survival, failure, success, expansion and growth when society remains apathetic to the needs and wants of its community. Glittered with history, laughter and tears, One Gay American is unique, brash and crass but poignant beyond its text. I got an omniscient view of living through several decades of one man’s journey, a journey that might easily belong to so many others. There’s a little of all of us in Dennis’s story. A fantastic read to affirm and/or reaffirm one’s commitment to life, laughter and indulgences!!”
—Sister Amore Flagellare, aka Mike Konkel
“One Gay American is a story with an underlying message that anyone can relate to: committing to yourself, regardless of whom you love. Bensie’s newest memoir is an unapologetic tale about growing up in the wake of the gay rights movement. Bensie is faced with the challenge of carving out a life without a traditional model: a gay man in pursuit of the American dream.”
—Tully Satre, artist, writer and activist
“An exceptional heartbreaking work, Dennis Bensie’s bobber keeps floating as the social-political waves of modern America try to sink this endearing, well-crafted story. This fish ate the worm and was hooked!”
—Norman Korpi, artist/director, gay activist, and cast member from MTV’s The Real World, 1992
“Dennis Milam Bensie has written a sometimes joyous, often treacherous, always honest and heartfelt account of self-discovery. His generation has seen more gay cultural change and progress than any before it.”
—Sam Harris, actor/singer/writer
“A story of struggle and strength that reminds readers of the American dream, to feel loved, purposeful and passionate. Mr. Bensie gives his own unique perspective on the challenges to fulfill his own American dream while living in a country that wants to deny his rights because he is gay. His story proves how powerful a life can be when not hiding a part of one’s identity.”
—Ryan K. Sallans, LGBTQ activist and author of Second Son: Transitioning Toward My Destiny, Love and Life
“The journey to self-acceptance is often far too long for many gay Americans. One Gay American is a memoir from Dennis Milam Bensie as he recalls his journey from suppressing his homosexuality, trying to be normal, searching for love, and coming to accept who he is and find something that resembles happiness. One Gay American is a strong pick for general memoir collections and for gay studies topics as well.”
—Midwest Book Review
“The kind of memoir that stays with you a very long time. Mr. Bensie has lived his life as a gay man during an almost unbelievable period of progress for gay rights. His story is poignant, touching and, yes let’s say it … sad. But Dennis conquered in the end. He has lived in a brave and meaningful way. His story will be just as meaningful for you.”
—David Leddick, Actor, playwright and author of How To Be Gay in the 21st Century
“Dennis Milam Bensie takes the reader on a forty year journey from sissy boy to ‘straight’ husband to queer man-bear. His sweet, painful, and empowering story took me right back to my own coming-out and the early days of the Gay Rights Movement. One Gay American is an honest, unvarnished snapshot of GLBT history, seen through the eyes of a naive young gay man looking for love in all the wrong places and ending with his ultimate self-discovery. I loved it!”
—Lisa Koch, musician, actor, sketch-comedian (Dos Fallopia)
“One Gay American took me on a journey back through my own life as a gay man in America. I just relived my younger days vicariously through One Gay American. The pain. The struggles. The careless coming-of-age sex of the late 70s and mid-80s. Every detail was covered in Mr. Bensie’s memoir. Most importantly, his memoir gives hope to up-and-coming generations of LGBT people. Job very well done.”
—Ron Kemp, musician, activist, and freelance writer
“Dennis has written an original, sweet, funny memoir that is intensely personal and revealing.”
—Jane Wiedlin, guitarist for the Go-Go’s
“The bitch has been through it, and she (he) has no problem telling you ALL about it, WITHOUT sugar-coating the shadiest, dishiest bits. BIG SNAPS for Bensie!”
—Jinkx Monsoon, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 5
“An entertaining ride through four decades of cultural history, as seen by a gay boy from rural Illinois whose compulsive drive for love takes him all the way to cosmopolitan Seattle and a new identity as a skeptical, wildly amusing bear. Milam Bensie’s account of his addiction to wedding gowns, Barbie dolls, public sex, and Facebook is like the pillow talk of your new best friend.”
—Kevin Killian, poet, playwright, novelist and author of Spreadeagle
Dennis Milam Bensie is One Gay American. Born in the 1960s and raised with traditional values in Robinson, Illinois, Bensie desperately wanted romance, a beautiful wedding, and a baby to carry on the family name. He denied his sexuality and married a woman at nineteen years old, but fantasized of weddings where he could be the bride. The newlyweds “adopted” a Cabbage Patch Doll and ironically witnessed a Cabbage Patch Doll wedding (a successful fundraiser staged by a local women’s club) where the dolls were granted the type of grand ceremony off-limits to gay couples.
In search of his identity as a gay man, Bensie divorced his wife and stumbled through missteps and lessons that still sting his generation: defending against bullies, “disappointing” his parents, and looking for love in gay bars, bath houses and restrooms. He helped his straight friends plan their dream weddings and mourned his gay friends dying of AIDS. Although true love has not yet come his way, Bensie has learned to love himself.
Bensie is the author of the much-lauded memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, which recounts his battle with paraphilia. One Gay American tells the rest of his story and draws parallels to gay history, decade by decade, with newspaper headlines and quotations. Bensie is the gay neighbor that you either love or hate. Either way, he’s got a lot to say and says it with no apologies.
Says Bensie, “I never thought of myself as a gay activist, but I have been inspired in the last ten years by the gains made for the civil rights of the LGBT community. The media continues to open the closet door wider and wider: Will and Grace, Neil Patrick Harris, Chaz Bono, the Logo Network, Ellen DeGeneres, Glee, Ricky Martin, Johnny Weir. Diversity has become more celebrated in America, but there is still a long ways to go. I recently asked a Facebook friend who I went to high school with if things were any different for gay people in our small, Midwestern hometown. She claims the climate is better, but kids are still bullied for being queer. The media also reminds us that some gay kids are being pushed to take their own lives … just like I wanted to do thirty years ago. I wrote One Gay American for all the kids who may get confused and lost in the rhetoric of the anti-gay politics (especially this election year). Many of them will relate to my story. They must stay strong and keep building the LGBT legacy.”
Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. He holds a degree in Theater Costume Design from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and completed an apprenticeship in theatrical wig construction at Los Angeles Opera. His costume and wig design for Valley of the Dolls at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle garnered him a feature article in Entertainment Design Magazine and a Seattle Times Footlight Award for Best Design. Bensie was the Wardrobe and Wig Master at Intiman Theatre in Seattle for twenty seasons. Bensie is single and lives in Seattle with his three dogs. You can find him on the Web at www.dennismilambensie.com.
One Gay American is available e-book and paperback editions at select Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores as well as Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon Japan. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Libraries can also order through Midwest Library Service or Follett Library Resources.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Jessica accepted the invitation on the condition that I be allowed to come with her. Her mother hesitantly agreed, while protesting that the event was supposed to be “women only.” I had always wanted to go to a wedding shower. This would be my first, and I was scared out of my mind.
Jessica and I were stunned to walk in and see over fifty women presiding over a huge stack of gifts at the head of the church’s reception hall. Her perpetually scowling mother was all smiles as she guided us around and introduced us to her church friends. We were both surprised to see so many people and impressed by the spread of homemade goodies. There were cakes, pies, and cookies everywhere.
Perhaps the evening wouldn’t be so bad after all.
We quickly realized we had nothing in common with the church folks. Conversations fell flat. Effeminate and much younger than Jessica, I stood out almost as much as if I had shown up wearing Jessica’s wedding dress. After half an hour of uncomfortable mingling, it was time for the real festivities to begin.
Jessica looked very nervous as her mother led her to the front of the hall. I was more than happy to stay out of the way as Jessica began the overwhelming task of opening all the gifts in front of the crowd.
By the fifth or sixth gift, there was a particularly awkward moment. Jessica turned bright red. She continued unwrapping a box and revealed to the room a brown glass baking dish exactly the same size and brand as one she had opened a few minutes earlier. She politely laughed it off, but I watched the women in the group bristle. The room became deathly quiet. A few more gifts were unwrapped, and another brown-glass baking dish popped up, same size and brand.
Then another. Then another.
Jessica was speechless. I could see her trembling all the way from the back of the room. Everyone else remained still. I was just as nervous when I realized that several of the gifts yet to be unwrapped were the same size and shape. Many of the boxes were even wrapped in the same wrapping paper. I watched my fiancée open another, and another, and another box containing the same brown glass baking dish.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that there must have been a sale at Wal-Mart. By the end of the evening, over half of the gifts Jessica got from the church ladies were the exact same brown-glass baking dish. My future mother-in-law was embarrassed and had to leave the room for a moment.
The evening ended with a thud. Jessica gave a meek thank you speech and latched on to me tightly as we prepared to leave the church. We were both polite, yet timid, as we said our goodbyes and quickly loaded all the gifts into the car.
Once we were alone in the car, Jessica and I could finally laugh about the situation. Yet the evening had a major impact on me. I had seen clearly that all the people who came to the wedding shower spent their whole lives following the herd. The cakes, pies and cookies were delicious, but fed a small, petty world. The people we met that evening were proud small-town folks who all dressed alike, talked alike, prayed together, and shopped at Wal-Mart. It was the only world they knew. The whole scene was as American as a Norman Rockwell painting.
Was that really what I wanted? The Saturday Evening Post? Was that enough? It was the only world I knew, too.