Better You Go Home ($13.95, 236 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-170-5), is the first novel by Seattle writer and writing instructor Scott Driscoll. While visiting the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister, a critically ill American man unearths long-buried family secrets.
WINNER of the Foreword Firsts Award for Debut Fiction:
5 Stars: “Driscoll ably threads an adulterous romance with medical urgency, post-war Czech history, and self-reckoning. This labyrinthine novel is an accomplished work that examines the fallout of the past…. With story lines that converge in a grotesque meeting of rivals—replete with costuming and a conflagration—there’s no shortage of suspense. Beneath the theatrics, subtler, worthy themes of letting go and renewing one’s sense of purpose take hold.” Read more …..
—Karen Rigby, Foreword Magazine
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** Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“Moving, powerful, and compulsively readable, Better You Go Home is the unforgettable story of a man’s journey to save his own life, and how he discovers himself along the way.”
—Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
JOIN SCOTT AT ONE OF THE FOLLOWING AUTHOR EVENTS:
Oct. 2nd – Book Launch at Richard Hugo House – 7:00 pm
Oct 19th – Puyallup Library 100 year celebration – authors signing event 6-8 pm
324 South Meridian, Puyallup, WA 98371
Nov. 13th – Third Place Bookstore – 7:00 pm
17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
Nov. 15th – University Bookstore – 7:00 pm
4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA
Nov. 22nd – Leavenworth Library 6:00 – 8:00pm
700 US Highway 2 / Leavenworth, WA 98826
Nov. 23rd – A Book for All Seasons Bookstore, Leavenworth – 1:00 -3:00pm
703 Highway 2, Leavenworth, WA 98826
Better You Go Home is a bestseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, WA. Three shelves down, four to the right.
“I really enjoyed Better You Go Home by Scott Driscoll. It’s one of the better ‘contemporary literary fiction’ stories I’ve read in a while …. Driscoll provides his readers with a tremendous, powerful opening that’s powerful, ironically, because it’s so very quiet. It begins in a simple church, Chico (the protagonist searching for his long lost half sister) is with Milada (who we learn is a doctor who, even though she’s medically trained, still believes in medical mysteries) and they’re discussing the power of ‘Bambino’ (a statue with some sort of miraculous ability to cure the ill)…which is so odd when it’s juxtaposed against the fact that Chico doesn’t seem all that interested in the notion of a ‘faith based’ cure for his (what will eventually be fatal) renal failure due to diabetes. Just as the title spoke to me with that heavy accent – I can hear Milada’s heavily accented voice – even though Driscoll doesn’t intentionally write in ‘how she sounds’. Rather he does it through the way she says things in English – which obviously isn’t her first language. In those First 500 words the reader is drawn into the story of ‘how’ Chico’s sister became ‘long lost’ (especially since he didn’t even know about her until about a year earlier). We can almost hear his impatience with Milada because he really wants to just get on with the job of finding his sister and yet they’re in that church. So odd, so ‘old world’ – So good!” Read more ….
–L. Avery Brown, The Magnolia Blossom Review
“Scott Driscoll’s gripping, gritty novel, Better You Go Home, is a mystery, a race against time and a love story with a strong dose of political thriller thrown in …. Peppered throughout with Czech dialog, this vivid novel portrays the squalor and decay of a ravaged country, a living culture rich in history and an intimate portrait of a family that carries the scars of the Cold War years. Better You Go Home is hard to put down. A most memorable and satisfying read.” Read more ….
—Theresa Rose, author of Golden River
“Scott Driscoll delivers. His debut novel has the pace of a thriller and the grace of a literary novel. Although international in scope, the story has an intimate quality and it captivates our hearts.”
—Bharti Kirchner, author of Darjeeling and Tulip Season.
“You can call this an immigrant story, a medical thriller and a tale of love. Driscoll keeps all the scenes tight, the action coming and details to the need to know. You are taken back behind the fallen Iron Curtain and the ghosts that still live and breathe there, which are all based off Driscoll’s own experiences from visiting this part of the world. The subplots don’t distract but draw you deeper into the storyline itself. If you are a fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you may want to pick this novel up as well.”
—Virginia Grenier, The World of Ink Network
“Like the big Russian novels that gave us moral philosophy, this book raises the deepest questions about freedom and captivity, identity and place. Chico, a middle-aged Seattle lawyer in need of a kidney, vows to use his medical leave to find his half-sister, who was left behind in the old country when his father fled the Nazis with another man’s wife. Chico’s doctors in the US want more tests before they will grant him a transplant, but he’s in Prague where tracing one’s family tree isn’t a popular preoccupation if it raises questions about what people did to survive the Soviet Bloc. Better You Go Home is at once an immigrant story, a medical thriller, and a tale of love. Driscoll keep all the skeins taut in his hand.”
—Kathryn Trueblood, author of The Baby Lottery and winner of the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction
“Scott Driscoll’s account of one man’s struggle to overcome death by leaving the Pacific Northwest to find his half-sister in the Czech Republic is full of intrigue and illicit love against the backdrop of Eastern Europe’s tragic history. A fine tale with a most satisfying finish.”
—Caleb Powell, author of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel (forthcoming from Knopf, 2014)
“A tale of a Quester in a Wasteland, led by a beauteous guide, his ominous path blocked by twin Dragons. One dragon is exterior, the Omnipresent State wielding the ugly gray weight of the Iron Curtain; the other is interior, the Quester’s deadly disease, a genetic curse that can only be lifted by grafting on a sacred body part—one that matches, one that won’t kill you—plucked from the body of a family member. Better You Go Home is a taut tale of irony, sadness, bleak romance, and man’s fate.”
—Robert J. Ray, author of the Matt Murdock Mysteries
“The story is complex, the characters rich and thick and vibrant.There’s love and sex, there’s hope and redemption, there’s sin and forgiveness, there’s death and torture. But, as Driscoll tells us,in the right circumstances ‘…even torture can be a sign of love.’ ”
—Jack Remick, author of Blood, Gabriela and the Widow, and the California Quartet series
“Compelling, unnerving, full of insight … In this odyssey of an American trying to find his past and save his life, we’re taken back behind the fallen Iron Curtain and the ghosts that still live and breathe there. Terse with poetry, broad in history (and heart), and with all the suspense of an Eastern Block espionage thriller. Driscoll delivers.”
—Layne Maheu, author of Song of the Crow
“Better You Go Home is a haunting tale of how a diabetic’s quest for a new kidney uncovers dark secrets about his family as well as himself.”
—Nicholas O’Connell, author of The Storms of Denali
“With dramatic well-drawn characters, a climax scene with the tension of High Noon, and a peek behind the Iron Curtain, Better You Go Home is a page turner.”
—Mindy Halleck, author of Romance & Money – 12 Conversations Every Couple Should Have
Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch wonders why his Czech father refuses to contact family left behind the Iron Curtain. Searching through his father’s attic after the Velvet Revolution, Chico discovers letters dated four decades earlier revealing the existence of a half-sister. He travels to the Czech Republic to find his forgotten sister and unearth the secrets his father has buried all these years.
There is self-interest behind Chico’s quest. Most urgently, he is nearing kidney failure and needs a donor organ. None of his relatives are a suitable match. Could his sister be a candidate? Chico also meets Milada, a beautiful doctor who helps him navigate the obstacles to finding his sister. While Chico idealizes his father’s homeland, Milada feels trapped. Is she really attracted to him, or is he a means of escape to the United States?
Chico confronts a moral dilemma as well. If he approaches his sister about his need for a kidney, does he become complicit with his father and the Big Shots of that generation who’ve already robbed her of so much?
Says Driscoll, “A parish priest in Iowa, a Czech relative who’d grown up on the dark side of the Iron Curtain, solemnly shook my hand upon returning the letters I’d asked him to translate, and said: ‘You have what you came for. Please do not trouble me again with this.’ There had been a suicide, a child who could not be traced, a sudden departure. This visit to the priest happened in 1994, not long after the Velvet Revolution. I went to Prague that fall, found my family’s village in eastern Bohemia. Relatives occupying the family farmhouse remembered the former residents. They had some stories, some questions of their own. Walking through that village, I began to speculate. What became of the unidentified child? What if my life had deployed on her side of the Iron Curtain? Once that question lodged in my psyche, like a small wound that wouldn’t heal, I knew that I had to write this story.”
Scott Driscoll, an award-winning instructor (the University of Washington, Educational Outreach award for Excellence in Teaching in the Arts and Humanities 2006), holds an MFA from the University of Washington and has been teaching creative writing for the University of Washington Extension for seventeen years. Click here to find Driscoll on the Web.
Watch a YouTube Interview with Scott Driscoll:
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Milada’s flat is on the eighth floor of a twelve-story high rise in a gray sidlisté of concrete block buildings. The street curb is dammed by defunct Skodas, the no-frills tin-can cars manufactured locally. The security mesh screening the outer door is rusted and dented. This is the depressing Khrushchev-era flat Milada is forced to continue calling home so that her husband could afford that Russian mafia loan. Okay, it’s not lost on me that I’m taking risks, possibly for no better reason than to salvage my own father’s dignity. Or my own. Still, Jiři goes too far. How is his pride any different than that of his father’s?
She pushes the buzzer on the intercom panel to alert Jiři to our arrival. Jiři’s family name is listed on the panel. Her name is Kotyza. Her grandfather was related to my grandmother. Most lights behind the buttons on the panel are burnt out. I avoid looking at hers. I don’t want to see if they’ve troubled themselves to replace the bulb behind their buttons anymore than I want to think of Milada stuck here for the forseeable future.
We bounce in the elevator up to the eighth floor and walk down a corridor with cracked and missing tiles. A decorative strip of plaster above the tile, painted the color of mustard, has browned with grime. And the smells. Sour cabbage, urine, acrid tobacco. Nose wrinkling neglect has turned this passageway into a tableau of the torture I imagine it must have been to raise her family here. No wonder she obsessed over the Skagit, the baldies, the turbulent water. The stinking salmon carcasses on the flood banks must have been ambrosia to her eastern bloc nose.
Prague is earning a reputation as the world’s black market capital for illegal organs. I know this, but I did not anticipate Dr. Saudek’s insinuation—as he shoved me away from the shores of Prague this afternoon—that this was the reason I’ve come paddling into his little harbor.
Milada insisted that we phone Blue Cross tonight and request an extension. Jiři’s black-light troupe—he’s their business manager—is performing at a local theater after dinner. She wants us to attend his show. She admits she is proud of her husband’s participation in the revolution. She will always love him for this.
In the entryway to her flat we exchange shoes for slippers. Blinds cover the windows, an old precaution to prevent paranoid neighbors from spying, a habit she admits she finds hard to break. Curious—can’t help it—I lift a blind. In a littered lot between buildings is a rusty, partly collapsed play gym. All the reason I’d need to keep the blinds closed. Her dark furniture includes a massive armoire for coats and shoes and a credenza filled with the obligatory leaded crystal. Nothing in the details says Milada. Where does she keep her details? Following her to the kitchen, I ponder the degree to which the details we surround ourselves with ought to reflect our desires. To what extent does a paucity of details reflect self denial? My father kept his details in the basement. That amber bowl he flicked his cigar ashes into. The starched white undershirts, the ironed Union work pants. The bar of Ivory soap at the sink he brushed his teeth with, in the early days, when he still thought and acted like an emigrant. That stack of quarters, weekly replenished, that I was forbidden to touch. I liked to think they were savings kept from Mom in order to send money overseas to Anezka. What do those details say about him? That he was caught between worlds, a man whose heart desired a world that was in his past, that he longed for pointlessly? But he was kind. Those quarters, I’m convinced, were more than just beer and cigar money.
In the kitchen, her husband winces at my broad-voweled American accent when I politely return his “dobrý den.” Jiři is a short man with an athletic build through the chest and thighs. With his pale eyes, sandy brows, sandy hair cropped conservatively short, he looks more handsomely like the Olympic skater he once was than a revolutionary. You’d expect to see his face on a Wheaties box, not on a prison mugshot. Their fifteen year old son, Martin, takes my jacket. His hair is jelled into neon pink and green Mohawk spikes. Milada tells me he is crazy about Seattle grunge. I gave him a Nirvana disc and a Walkman to play it in—he’s on his own for the batteries. Do I want coffee? he asks. I explain that I’d love it but it’s a problem of fluid retention; I have to measure intake. Then I decide why not, I’m going right back home anyway. Why not enjoy the little time I do have here?
The short story, “Lucia and the Diplomatic Incident,” by British novelist Tom Holt, is a fresh new adventure in the Lucia and Mapp series based on the novels of E.F. Benson. It is currently only available as a Kindle Single, priced at $.99. Until now it has appeared in print only once, in the Benson Society Magazine in 1997.
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Tom Holt’s two full-length novels in the Lucia and Mapp series are already available from Coffeetown Press. They are the only officially sanctioned sequels featuring E.F. Benson’s delightful social-climbing characters. Lucia in Wartime ($13.95/£9.99, 216 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-129-3) and Lucia Triumphant ($14.95/£10.99, 262 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-126-2), were first published in 1985 and 1986, respectively. The cover images are by one of the original cover illustrators, Marie Michal.
In “Lucia and the Diplomatic Incident,” Elizabeth Mapp has returned to the small town of Tilling, England, as if from the wars—pale and wan and mysterious. Finally her friends drag the secret out of her in painstaking detail. A “small but adequate” legacy allowed Elizabeth to spend three weeks in Venice, Italy, and she has returned a heroine. During a dramatic ferry accident she rescued an Italian child, which earned her a stay in the hospital with double pneumonia and the eternal gratitude of the Italian government. Lucia, who reigned as Queen during Elizabeth’s absence, is not at all happy to see her social rival steal not only her own adopted country, but the social spotlight and the hearts of all Tilling.
But oh … all is not what it seems, and if anyone can get to the bottom of it, it is Lucia!
When first released, Tom Holt’s Lucia and Mapp novels were enthusiastically received:
“Might have been dreamt up by Benson,” wrote The Spectator. “Tom Holt has provided manna.”
The Oxford Mail wrote: “The period is caught with remarkable skill. Equally well captured is the spirit of Benson’s six Lucia novels.”
“[Holt] never lets us forget that the people even at their most absurd are human and vulnerable,” wrote the Daily Telegraph. “I thought, after six Benson novels and two TV serializations, that I was tired of Tilling—but I laid this book aside with real regret.”
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. For more information, go to tomholt.coffeetownpress.com.
If you could talk to your childhood self, would that child listen?
We ($12.95, 194 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-166-8), a novel by debut author Michael Landweber, transports the narrator into his own past in the critical days before a family tragedy.
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We was a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books. It won a bronze in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, General Fiction category.
We won ForeWord Magazine’s quarterly Debut Novelist Award. Here is an excerpt from the 5 Star Review:
“Reflective and introspective, yet highly charged with dramatic scenes in a race against time, this mesmerizing novel is a page-turner that will captivate even a jaded critic…. As Ben interacts with Binky in this touching and often humorous tale, the far-fetched aspect of this unusual occurrence is accepted. Drawn into the warring conversation between adult and child—parts of the same personality—one will learn what constitutes real maturity opposed to merely grown-up behavior when a sibling’s life is threatened. Striking is the dual perspective within the same protagonist, an unusual angle that can be difficult to implement…. [In We, Landweber] makes not only an impressive debut, but has already succeeded at an experimental undertaking few could achieve.”
–Julia Ann Charpentier, ForeWord Clarion Reviews
“Landweber apparently approached this project with a go-big-or-go-home attitude. He aimed high and hit the mark, pulling off a fusion of literary novel and psychological drama.” Read more …
—Tom Young, The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Landweber writes beautifully, with soaring imagination, heart and soul …. We is a wonderful mix of psychological thriller, science fiction, and love story – love of self, love of family, love of life. I find myself at a loss for words (a rare thing) when describing the beauty and profound meaning of this novel. It has touched me deeply. It should be on every bestseller list.” Read more ….
—Claudia Sparks, Mockingbird Hill Cottage Blog
“Ultimately, We is about a man struggling with his own inner demons and failures while occupying the mind of his younger self, hoping to reverse time and alter a devastating outcome. Will he succeed? If he does, what will the implications be? These questions will be answered by the end of the book, as Landweber leaves the reader with the satisfied sense that no stone was left unturned. If you ask me, there is truly nothing better in life than getting lost in a good book as time stands still, and that’s exactly what happened when I read We by Michael Landweber from cover to cover in a day. If you read one book this Spring, make it We. You won’t regret it.” Read more ….
–Allison Hiltz, The Book Wheel
“[WE] is totally unlike anything I have read…. The writing is tight and vibrant. The ambiance of confusion is very well recreated. In some passages, it felt as if the author had written under the influence of some chemicals on his brain, or very high fever! Seriously, how did he come up with so much imagery, like subliminal pictures and thoughts? And sometimes it was super funny, for instance when Ben helps Binky with multiplication tables, or when he tells him secrets about sex to share with the younger kids at school. So if you want to read something different and unusual, and are ready for a confusing adventure outside your comfort zone, you will enjoy WE.” Read more ….
—Emma, Words and Peace Blog
“The best part of Michael Landweber’s tale is the way he builds and differentiates between Ben and Binky. They are one and the same, simply from different ages, but they are also two very different characters: Ben has lived over four decades and has the experience and knowledge that comes with that life while Binky is an innocent and naive seven-year-old. Their interaction is what moves the book along and seeing how Ben will approach the challenge he’s facing – helping his sister while he’s essentially just a voice able to see through the eyes of Binky – makes for an intriguing story as well as one that showcases Landweber’s obvious talents as a writer.” Read more ….
—No More Grumpy Bookseller Blog
“We is a family story at its heart, wrapped in a suspenseful, gripping, and totally original sci fi narrative. The unforgettable double consciousness will keep you up reading until the emotionally gratifying end.”
—Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer
“What if we could change the past? What if the past didn’t necessarily want to change? Michael Landweber’s We is part sci-fi concept novel, part psychological thriller with literary edges: Landweber deftly weaves time travel, Jungian psychology, and the butterfly effect into a suspenseful but also emotionally engaging novel.”
—Jen Michalski, author of The Tide King
“We is a captivating, genre-bending psychological mystery that’s equal parts It’s a Wonderful Life and The Twilight Zone.”
—Dave Housley, author of Ryan Seacrest is Famous
“Thought-provoking, touching, imaginative …. a promising debut.” Read more ….
—Gayle Weisswasser, Everyday I Write the Book Blog
After an accident, forty-year-old Ben Arnold regains consciousness in the kitchen of the house he grew up in. Only he feels different, lighter somehow. Something is horribly wrong. Ben is swept into the arms of his mother, who he hasn’t seen in twenty years. She calls him by his childhood nickname, Binky. He sees a younger, unbroken version of his father. His estranged brother is there, reverted back to his awkward teenage self. Finally, adding horror to his confusion, he glimpses his older sister Sara as she runs out the door to meet her boyfriend.
Sara, whose absence he has felt every day since her death.
Ben is a mere hitchhiker, a parasite in the brain of seven-year-old Binky, and his younger self is not happy to have him there.
It is three days before his sister will be attacked. Ben knows he has to save Sara but first he must gain Binky’s trust. Even if he can get Binky to say the right words, to do the right thing, who will believe that a young boy can foretell the future?
Says Landweber, “Every parent has started a lecture to their children with the phrase, ‘When I was your age …’ The urge to say just that to my own kids got me thinking about what it would be like to be able to talk to myself as a child about mistakes I knew I had made. Could I convince myself to do things differently? That was the question that started me down the road to writing We.”
Michael Landweber grew up in Madison, WI, went to school in Princeton, NJ, and Ann Arbor, MI, met his wife in Tokyo and currently lives with her and their two children in Washington, DC. He has worked at The Japan Times, the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of State, Partnership for a Secure America and the Small Business Administration. Mike is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and a contributor on film and TV for Pop Matters. His short stories have appeared in places such as Gargoyle, Barrelhouse, American Literary Review, Fugue, Fourteen Hills, and The MacGuffin. We is his first novel. Click here to find Michael online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
I am you, I said. I’m just a part of you. That’s why no one else can hear me.
Like in the cartoons.
I didn’t understand, but Binky continued before I could seek clarification.
Sometimes the guy or the cat or something is about to do something and then there’s like a little one of him on one shoulder and another little one of him on the other shoulder and one is white and one is red.
An angel and a devil, I said.
Yeah, maybe. One tells him good things and one tells him bad things. I think it was a cat. Or maybe Bugs Bunny.
You know that they are a part of him, I said. Even though they’re talking to him.
Yeah, ’cause they look just like him. Just smaller. And different colors. And one of them has wings and the other one has horns. But you don’t look like me.
That’s true, I said.
Yeah, one is bad and one is good.
The angel is good and the devil is bad, I said.
The silence returned. The contemplative pause. Everything around me grew prickly, like a bath filled with warm water and needles.
Which one are you?
I was stumped. We are all both. Angel and devil. The inseparable dichotomy. Better to just say I’m the angel and be done with it. The moment had passed, however. Something had happened while I was thinking. Something in the classroom.
Binky sat stock still in his chair. I could feel the muscles tensed throughout his small frame, accentuating its dimensions and limits. Short breaths swirled around us like wind in a tunnel, trapped and impotent. I abandoned my thoughts and returned my attention to the classroom to discern the source of our disturbance.
Ms. Mittewag stared at us. And I felt what Binky felt—this woman hated us.
“Benedict! Are you LISTENING?”
She barked out the syllables of the last word, turning each into a threat.
We looked left and right. We sat in the fifth row and all the other kids on either side of us were standing. Looking at us. Smirking. Waiting for the ax to fall.
What happened to the fourth row? They were supposed to do eights and nines? They had finished. We had been distracted.
Ms. Mittewag motioned at the other children to sit. With a single slender, well-manicured finger—more suited to a princess than a witch—she beckoned us to our feet.
I could feel the slight tremor in his jaw. Even if he knew the answer to the next question, his brain might be unable to retrieve it.
“Benedict! Tens and Elevens!”
I wrested myself away from Binky. This was no big deal. Who cares if a second-grade teacher with a Napoleon complex yells at you? It doesn’t mean much in the general scheme of things. And what’s easier than the tens in a times tables? Come on, read my mind. Listen to me.
But Binky was frozen. She might as well have slapped him. He tapped his tongue against the inside of his top teeth rhythmically and waited for salvation. Inside, there was a rush of sound—no thought, only emotion.
Binky, listen to me, I said. Just repeat what I say.
In Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico ($11.95, 138 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-172-9), travel writer Lyn Fuchs takes the reader to the more primitive and elemental regions of his adopted country, providing historical context and cogent and satirical commentary along the way. Fuchs’ first book, Sacred Ground & Holy Water: One Man’s Adventures in the Wild, recounted his travels all over the globe. Chris Ord, Editor of Travel Rag, says of Fuchs’ writing, “Grips you, holds you, and leaves you with something profound.”
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“Gonzo tourist Fuchs’s account of way-off-the-beaten-path Mexico makes Anthony Bourdain appear reserved. His approach style is primitive and organic, with no first-world intercession or assistance. Only three pages in and he’s solicited a fake passport, trial-and-errored peyote dosage, and had a tooth extracted with wincing crudeness by a “dentist.” While he’s more author Hunter S. Thompson than travel guide Rick Steves, and certainly sensational in his gleefully gritty pursuit of the real Mexico, he’s not exploitive, cloying, or insincere and more often than not he reveals with acuity and bite a talent for finding the conceit (with prickling quotability). Verdict Though not your standard travel guide—no maps, agenda, index, or even photos are in this book—it is nonetheless vivid, and illuminatingly dense with lost histories of an unconsidered culture. Fuchs rambles (sometimes escaping) from Mayan and Mixtec barrios and villages to cities and towns, and opens up to everything from mafiosos and mystics to moles and iguanas. Fuchs offers unpredictable reading, recommended to those who like travel to challenge their perspective.”
—Benjamin Malczewski, Library Journal
“Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is earthy, raw and vibrant. It has the B. Traven authenticity with a Hunter S. Thompson fire. The stories are graphic and well-written. They show you a side of Mexican society that most foreigners and many Mexicans will never know – sometimes seamy, sometimes just alive and real. The author spins his tales with well-written prose and vivid description. Individual cities and towns are highlighted, but more as a backdrop for the human stories. I know nearly all the places the author mentions and (except for the dark sides, which I do not know) he does a good job summing up the atmosphere of the towns. This book is not for those with sensitive imaginations. Some may even find it disturbing. But if you can read graphic modern detective novels and watch modern crime shows, you should enjoy it.”
–Mexico Mike Nelson, Author of Live Better South of the Border
“Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is smart, divertido, and so cleansing that I think I can defer a trip to Catemaco for a limpieza!”
–Tony Cohan, bestselling author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days
“A uniquely witty and perceptive take on Mexico, Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico again shows Lyn Fuchs (who previously authored Sacred Ground & Holy Water) to be not just a mere travel writer, but a practical philosopher à la Montaigne, with a dash of Henry Miller’s American humor and sexuality …. One must, however, question Fuchs’ sagacity, and sanity, when he arranges to interview a Mexican drug lord – though he comes to his senses mid-interview and realizes what a dumb venture he has wrought. The sequence, like other episodes, is both hair-raising and hilarious. Bottom line: Fuchs writes of his adopted homeland, Mexico, with love, vigor, wit and a discerning, unsentimental eye.”
—Rick Skwiot, winner of the Hemingway First Novel Award and Willa Cather Fiction Prize finalist, author of Sleeping With Poncho Villa, Death In Mexico, and San Miguel De Allende, Mexico: Memoir of a Sensual Quest For Spiritual Healing
“The writing is almost poetic and the history, philosophy and comedy reek of the human spirit in Mexico. I feel privileged to have read this work as it fulfilled everything I want out of a book. Comedy, suspense and self-reflection. This work demonstrates all of these, and the exemplary writing grasps the ‘show, don’t tell’ philosophy that many writers fail to practice.”
—Jairus Reddy, publisher at Hobbes End Publishing
“Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico will appeal to readers and armchair travelers who crave more than an in-and-out experience. Fuchs delivers with his exploration of the dualities of non-tourist Mexico: a largely unknown land that is both intimidating and immensely inviting.” Read more ….
—Lori A. May, ForeWord Review
“Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is just as the title suggests: fresh, original and passionate. Fuch grips the reader, from beginning to end, with his historical detail, humor and socio-political anecdotes. This is a must read for anyone who lives in or aspires to travel extensively throughout Mexico.” Read more …
—Deanna Proach, News Blaze
“In Fresh Wind & Strange Fire, the intellectual mixes with the traveler while still remaining charmingly down-to-earth. The book might be about high places and lofty thoughts, but it is never pedantic or patronizing …. Apart from his spiritually tinged adventures, the book makes a strong case for legal immigration with a stomach churning account of the slavery that existed in the region, which is now transformed to a traveler’s paradise. It is unusual for a travel book to be this honest and it adds to the book’s character…. All in all, the book is a philosophical adventure through the realm of the Mayans that will make you smile, wince and introspect. A definite winner as far as the genres of both, spiritual literature and travel fiction are concerned.”
—Shweta Ganesh Kumar, writer and travel columnist
Are you ready to travel beyond where even news reporters fear to tread? Fresh Wind & Strange Fire is author Lyn Fuchs’ journey through stranger-than-fiction primal terrain. As an American professor in a Mexican university exploring the southern reaches of his adopted country, Fuchs knows the territory as only a local resident can and is uniquely qualified to convey its essence to English-speaking readers.
Fuchs’ adventures include buying fake documents, eating iguanas, ingesting peyote, scaling glaciers, train-hopping with migrants, splash-fighting with Mayans, joking with narcotraficantes, being exfoliated by fish, having a tooth extracted without anesthetic, and interviewing the last living witness to a Latin American extermination camp. As mystics exalt the lotus for its stately blossoms arising out of muddy waters, Lyn celebrates life by gleaning hilarity and wisdom from bizarre reality.
Says Fuchs, “I think many Americans have a lover’s quarrel with their own culture. Americans living in Mexico often feel great love for their homeland, but also great freedom from the limitations of its worldview. I sometimes tell friends that Mexico offers all the good things in life, plus just enough violence to keep the wimps out. (I’ve suggested this slogan to the tourism department but haven’t heard back.) In Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico, I try to share some of the freedom and courage I’ve found in Mexico with my compatriots, who assume they live in the land of the free and home of the brave. It’s true that newcomers to surreal Mexico often feel vulnerable, but long-term expatriate residents usually feel empowered. Life in Mexico provides fewer safety helmets, but more wind in your hair. If you’d like to take a primal spiritual journey into the deepest heart of Mexico without the infected and scarring mosquito bites, this book is for you.”
Fuchs’ travel writing has appeared in Outdoor Canada, Monday Magazine, Canadian Ethnic Studies, The Dalhousie Review, Eclectica Literary Journal, Rose and Thorn, Gam Magazine, Paperplates Literary Journal, Travel Rag, 3:AM Magazine, artist-at-large, Long Trip Home, Crank Literary Journal, The Kinte Space, Travelmag, Hack Writers, Trip 101, Raging Face, Traveling Stories, The Best of Bluefoot Publishing and others. Click here to find Lyn online.
Fuchs is a professor of communication at the University of Papaloapan and has earned his associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in communication and philosophy. Fuchs’ first book, Sacred Ground & Holy Water, is also available from Coffeetown Press.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Take a bus bound for the Caribbean. The farther we go, the denser the mango trees, the kinkier the hair of boarding passengers and the louder the Cumbia music played by the driver. Our bus ride transforms into a rolling party. At one stop, barefoot kids selling fresh banana chips board the bus. At the next, a fat woman distributes cards inscribed with prayers for donations. Later, an old man strums a guitar and sings love ballads. Finally, a pink, turquoise and purple clown with big floppy feet entertains us with bawdy jokes until we arrive in Tlacotalpan.
This photo-ready village, where the Papaloapan River flows out of the rainforest to meet the Gulf Coast, is a United Nations World Heritage Site. Yet, few tourists seem to know. The architecture and street music reflect Native, Spanish and Caribbean influences. The food is downright sexy.
On the riverfront, I slouch away all afternoon at a restaurant patio table. The Pescado a la Veracruzana (fish simmered with tomatoes, onions, chilies, olives, capers and herbs) is succulent. The empty cerveza bottles in front of me speak for themselves. What should I have next? I order a Dulce de Leche. This handmade milk confection is a pure delight.
Two churches on the town square dominate the skyline behind me. One is aqua-green with a bell tower; the other is cloud-white with sky-blue stripes and an enormous clock. The patron of fishing is the divine avatar of local choice. Many peasants come to these shrines and pray passionately for fish, while I snap my fingers and receive the same in abundance. How ironic.
Many of us pray for pregnancies in our forties and managerial jobs in a recession. When our desires remain unfulfilled, we sometimes become bitter. We complain “No one is listening up there!” Still, we tell children “No means no!” and “Stop that tantrum!” Meanwhile, multitudes ask humbly and submissively for fish. Who do we think is up there—a god or a lackey? If it’s all right to demand a heavenly server, is it okay for me to demand the kind they hire at Hooters?
I set off, walking along the cobblestone streets in the evening light. Every house has a colonnade but a different one. Each is painted in its own cheery tropical color. Above me are green-algae-covered terra cotta tile roofs and soaring coconut palms. As the sun sets, lamps come on in the garden around the central plaza. A din of food and fellowship rises in sidewalk cafés. The smell of lechero (coffee with steamed milk) plus anise liquor makes all seem right with the world.
Stroll under a full moon toward the Teatro Nezahualcóyotl. This opulent theater has four balconies stacked on top each other, constructed of carved wood and wrought iron. The stage has olive satin drapes and a mustard silk curtain. Men in khaki pants and red cotton shirts play fast and furious eight-string guitars of various sizes. A watery, soothing harp accompanies them.
Girls come out in flowing white-lace dresses to swirl, as boys stomp in orbit around them. Background singers wave ornate black fans to the beat. Red scarves are used to enact a human bullfight with undertones of mating and fertility ritual. Jarocha and Fandango dances alternate like a woven tapestry with whoops and whistles erupting. House lights extinguish. A soloist performs a haunting melody about the solitude of a fisherman. Women revolve in cross formation with burning candles balanced on their heads. Full lighting and fancy footwork resume, then hats fly off. Viva Mexico!
While exiting, I pass a Tiffany stained glass window and a bronze sculpture of the fifteenth century indigenous poet for whom the building is named. On the wall are a few lines of his verse: “I love the song of the cenzontle bird and the color of Jade and the perfume of the Copa de Oro flower, but most of all I love my fellow man.” Can’t say I totally relate, but after my time in Tlacotalpan, it’s definitely three down and one to go.
Loving one’s neighbor is a lofty goal. Maybe one should start by simply acknowledging their existence. Most people in the world have it rougher than I do. Walking to work daily or cooking family meals constantly isn’t cruel and unusual punishment. It’s life on earth as most folks know it.
In Mexico, one finds that not all respond to hardship or injustice with trauma and drama, as if the laws of the universe have been violated. This is strange to gringos. When I see how hard many people struggle, it’s almost a relief that the heavens don’t jump to my privileged demands. I don’t wanna be that spoiled. Having more is nice, but enjoying what you have more is better. Give us this day our daily bread … and some fish would be cool, if that works for You.
I spend the night at the airport hotel with planes keeping me awake. Actually, it’s a grandmother feeding a baby and making airplane noises as the spoon approaches the infant’s mouth. Tlacotalpan has no airport. However, if I complain about grandmas and babies, I’ll go straight to hell. The hotel is lovely at sunrise. A courtyard has marble floor and columns, inlaid tile arches and cornices, plus green ferns and a yellow wishing well. Mesh-backed cedar rocking chairs fill the breezy alcoves.
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.
Baxter’s Friends is a finalist in the ForeWord Firsts Contest, sponsored by ForeWord Magazine.
**Click the cover image to order the 6×9 trade paperback online**
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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
“Shows real promise…. Baxter’s Friends left me hoping Randle spends more time at a keyboard than he does in a courtroom.” Read more ….
–Harry Levins, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“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
“An interesting plot that commands the reader’s attention. Randle’s acute attention to detail; carefully wrought, fluid prose; and vivid, sometimes even lurid, details help create a compelling story. The novel is also laced with what can only be described as a rough masculine sense of humor…. Baxter’s Friends is entertaining and worth the reader’s time.” Read more …
—Matthew W. Larrimore, Four Ties Lit Review
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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** Or buy it in Kindle, Nook or in other eBook formats on Smashwords **
“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
“Among my whip-poor-wills, I heard [Randle’s] urbane songs, poems fresh with haiku spontaneity, burnished bright as ‘a gypsy’s glass eye,’ seasoned with maturity of vision and understated beauty–a friendly scholar’s voice with tongue a little in the cheek, never sentimental, never giddy, never cute, yet seasoned with self-effacing humor and a somewhat jaundiced eye, the ‘saddest eyes’ one young woman ever saw, seasoned by 40 years of memories gathered up in ‘burlap bags’ or raked in piles for ‘boisterous boys’ to ‘romp asunder.’ ”
—O. Victor Miller, novelist, humorist, and naturalist
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-425-485-6822.
Read a feature article about Steve and his book in the Record Searchlight newspaper.
Click here to read a story from Steve’s childhood. His father was also a game warden.
“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.”
The Outdoor Writers Association of California awarded Steven T. Callan 1st Place in the Best Outdoor Magazine Column category for “A Whale of a Tale.”
“Exceptionally well-written …. The writing style is almost flawless, and reading this gem is pure effortless joy ….”
—Gerry Lister, International Game Warden magazine
“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.
Gabriela and The Widow is a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, Eric Hoffer Award.
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“The characters of Gabriela and la viuda have remained with me since I read the last line and closed the book. Jack Remick is a master storyteller, an intuitive man and a writer of the highest caliber. With Gabriela and The Widow, my first introduction to the author, he has gained a new fan. I highly recommend this book to you.” Read more ….
–Eleanor Parker, author of a A Decent Woman
“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.