IT'S TOO EASY to clutter a good story with distractions. This is especially true when writing historical fiction. My desk became littered with tantalizing notes accumulated during the two years that I researched the background of Cuba and Castro's revolution. It was so tempting to use them all, but I refrained from cramming most of them into Rebels on the Mountain
. Instead, I turned them into blog postings. That way I didn't feel the time was wasted. I've been having the same problem with my research on the Korean War.
The Tootsie Roll story came by way of my brother-in-law. How could I resist including it? It's an endearing piece of trivia. Unfortunately, the epic tale of the U.S. Marine's escape from the Chosin Reservoir won't find its way into my tale. It was tempting. I have even had the honor of spending some time with one of the “Chosin Few”.
My upcoming novel Behind Every Mountain is not a war story, not in the classic sense. Much like Patton, which also wasn't a classic war story, my novel is about a soldier and focuses on the process of becoming a soldier. The central conflict of the story will be “the first kill”. Only sociopaths lack an aversion to taking a human life. Most of us who enter combat need an overwhelming incentive to overcome that aversion.
Although I never killed anyone I could have. In my case, anger overcame the aversion and I went looking for an enemy to kill. The opportunity occurred one night when I was the officer in charge of a sector of our base camp perimeter. Ordinarily, the field of fire outside the camp's berm would have been lit by illumination rounds fired at regular intervals by Division Artillery. However, we had none that night. A cluster of barrels containing CS gas had been stored in our sector that night. Someone decided that there was a risk of gassing the base camp if a flare fell into their midst. Thus, we were left in the dark.
Most people have never truly experienced the dark, at least, not most Americans. Those who live in wilderness areas or have sailed far from shore, understand what I'm talking about. However, those who live in cities, suburbs, or even small towns, are rarely in the dark. I'm talking about the kind of dark when you have to lay down so that you can see objects silhouetted against the sky. Add a solid cloud cover to block moonlight and starlight, and even that trick won't help.
Our guards couldn't lie on the ground. They sat atop bunkers looking down on the open field surrounding the base camp and its rows of barbed wire and land mines. Without the light of illumination rounds, they had only their hearing to rely on. One of my guards heard something hit the wire near his bunker and called it in.
Illumination rounds drifting on parachutes -- Click to enlarge
We sat side by side for about a quarter of an hour listening until I decided to launch a hand-held flare. We studied the ground by its dim light, counting shadows that might have been someone lying on the ground until the flare extinguished itself. We waited five minutes and then launched another. It seemed to both of us that shadows had moved. I then called Division Artillery to inform them that we had potential enemy contact and requested illumination rounds. They denied the request stating that they would not respond unless I could “produce a body”. That's what I went looking for.
After contacting the other bunkers and ordering them to hold their fire unless authorized, I and a sergeant went looking for a body. After moving about a hundred meters beyond the berm, we separated and lay down on the ground. We soon saw the silhouette of a person stand, run a few meters, and drop to the ground. I whispered to the sergeant asking if he had seen it. He responded that he had.
The sergeant was carrying a grenade launcher and I ordered him to fire a round in the area of the sight we had seen. I never hesitated, nor did he.
We didn't find the body but the sound of the grenade exploding brought the division chief-of-staff to my sector wanting to find out what was going on. After I explained, my sector was lit up like a birthday cake. We had illumination rounds for the rest of the night, many illumination rounds. I suppose that the risk of a sapper tossing a satchel charge among the barrels of CS gas was greater than any possibility of an illumination round on a parachute drifting on top of them.
So, what else beside anger could help a soldier overcome a person's innate aversion to taking a human life? That is the question that I've been exploring.
To all the thousands of Michael supporters,
Just a quick update to let you know that the Government filed their Response to Michael's Petition before the Supreme Court. Michael's lawyers now have ten days to file a Reply to the Government's Response. The Supreme Court will then set Michael's case for Conference (hopefully by June) and decide whether to grant Certiorari which means a review by the whole Supreme Court. For the Supreme Court justices to grant Certiorari from the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces would be the first time a military petition has reached this stage - so prayers for discernment for these nine Justices are certainly welcomed.
An encouraging tidbit was that Michael's case was selected by the Supreme Court Blog as the petition of the day for May 1st - http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/05/petition-of-the-day-446/
We ask that you spread this email and please continue to tell Michael's story. Have your friends and neighbors sign Michael's petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/MBehenna/petition.html
. If they want to further assist, please have them contact their Congressional Representatives and Senators and let them know that Michael has served enough time in prison and deserves the same freedom you and I all enjoy. To locate your state’s Representative's / Senators click on the following link: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Lastly, Michael will ‘celebrate’ his 30th birthday on May 18th behind the prison walls of Fort Leavenworth. We’d like Michael to receive no less than 500 birthday cards and well wishes to let him know that despite this being his fifth birthday in prison he is anything but forgotten. You can mail your cards to:
Michael Behenna 87503
1300 Warehouse Road
Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
Bless you all for your support of our son,
Scott & Vicki Behennawww.defendmichael.com“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (John F. Kennedy)“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” (Ursula Le Guin)
DESPITE THE CAPTURE of the Boston Bombers, many people have been decrying the infringement on privacy in the techniques used to identify and apprehend the culprits. Thousands of photos and videos were analyzed during the investigation. Virtually everyone in the area of the bombing or transiting it was identified. Was this an infringement on their privacy? Does anyone have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place? NYPD Police Commission Ray Kelly doesn't believe there is. He wants more video cameras in more public places. In an interview on WNYC
, he opined that the Boston Bombing “takes privacy off the table”.
Click to enlarge
Was privacy in a public place ever “on the table”? Constitutional scholars have been debating the right to privacy for almost as long as there has been a Constitution. An article appearing on the website Exploring Constitutional Conflicts
offers an excellent overview of this issue.
The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy. The Bill of Rights, however, reflects the concern of James Madison and other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information. In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the "enumeration of certain rights" in the Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people." The meaning of the Ninth Amendment is elusive, but some persons (including Justice Goldberg in his Griswold concurrence) have interpreted the Ninth Amendment as justification for broadly reading the Bill of Rights to protect privacy in ways not specifically provided in the first eight amendments.
However, your appearance at a public place is hardly private, is it? If it were, eyewitness testimony might be barred at trials. Indeed, some might argue that eyewitness testimony should be barred. It has been proven highly unreliable. Many innocent persons have been incarcerated on the weight of faulty eyewitness memories and perceptions.
For best viewing, scroll right and enlarge to full screen after starting the video
A recent program on the National Geographic Channel, Brain Games,
also clearly demonstrated this fact. After viewing it, I was seriously left in doubt that I would ever volunteer eyewitness testimony. I can sing commercial jingles that appeared on television in the 1950s, but I can hardly remember what I ate for breakfast. It's a common complaint of my age. No, I think that I prefer having video cameras record occurrences in public places. How about you?
I WROTE THIS blog posting more that a year ago and it still attracts interest. A couple readers have gone so far as to offer additional material and I want to share it with you (and with their permission).
SHAKESPEARE WROTE THAT we are all actors on a stage. I can't disagree. However, I believe that he might have agreed that not all of us are equally good actors. I'm not referring to our goodness or badness in a moral or ethical sense. Rather, I am commenting on our ability to play a role that anyone else would pay to see. This lesson was driven home to me this week as I attempted to record myself reading a passage from my novel,Rebels on the Mountain, to produce a book trailer.
During a previous life, when I was in the advertising and PR business, I had the opportunity to direct many commercials. This gave me the privilege of working with some fine talent. One of the best was a voice actor named Brad Crandall.
Brad's farewell address on WNBC New York Radio
Brad moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where I was apprenticing at an ad agency, after wheedling out of his contract with NBC in New York. Brad had been a host on NBC's hugely successful Monitor that aired for 40 continuous hours every weekend. It was the forerunner of talk radio that dominates AM programming these days. It took me several years to sift through the various excuses that Brad gave for walking away from his lucrative contract. The truth is, I don't think that he felt that he deserved the success.
Brad had been born into poverty. His father was a railroad conductor and the family lived in poverty near the tracks that stretched across Kansas. He outgrew their resources and quit school to join the Marines just as World War II was ending. Stationed in China, he was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio network and became an on air news reader. While there, Brad studied the voice of William Conrad who was then appearing as Marshall Matt Dillon on the radio production of Gunsmoke. Brad practiced emulating Conrad's magnificent baritone until it became his own voice.
Upon completion of his tour of duty, Brad became a gypsy radio host. He hopped from one station to another across the country, pausing only to enlist for a brief tour of duty in the Army and serving in Korea. When the war there ended, Brad landed in a station in Montreal, Canada. He told me that he lived on peanut butter sandwiches and milk that he kept on the window ledge outside the radio station's studio. I never did find out where he slept. He worked there until producers at NBC heard him and invited him to New York.
The poor boy from Kansas now found himself hobnobbing with famous personalities in the New York theater district. Their favorite eatery was Sardi's (I'm guessing that his caricature still hangs there among those of still famous personalities). He spoke of the antics of his Monitor co-hosts, Art Buchwald, Henry Morgan, Skitch Henderson, and others. One of my favorite tales is when the staff at Sardi's took revenge on one of their company. The man would always jokingly order a peanut butter sandwich in a voice that could be heard throughout the restaurant, and then quietly place his “real” order with the waiter after the “gang” had their laugh. One day, the waiter took off with the order before he could change it. Soon, an entourage emerged from the kitchen: two busboys pushing a cart with a huge carved-ice bear cradling fresh berries in its cupped paws; two others pushed another cart bearing a heated chafing dish; and a third contained a silver tray covered by a large silver dome. Four chefs followed the procession.
Upon arrival at their table, one chef created preserves from the berries. Another took roasted peanuts from the heated chaffing dish and hand ground them using a mortar and pestle. The third sliced the bread. And, the fourth assembled his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The waiter happily presented him with his very sizable bill.
Brad's humble beginnings revealed themselves in his reactions to his fans. Jonathon Bush, a visitor to this website, shared the following postcard that his mother received from Brad.
Click to enlarge
Here are scans of both sides of the postcard Brad sent to my mom in 1968. As I think about this, my mom probably sent away for a picture/autograph at my urging. We listened pretty religiously, and I was a big fan--probably because I was able to stay up until the end of the show, which I think was midnight.
Brad's message was brief, but telling. It seemed that he was a bit surprised to get the request, but happy to comply. I'm not a student of signatures, but his signature points decidedly up. I'm told that is a sign of an optimistic nature.
I remember hearing his voice in films after his radio years, and he was always immediately recognizable. Perhaps the fact that I am looking into getting into voice-over work may have made the postcard "pop up" out of the blue. Funny how the universe works.
I am really glad to have this little memory, and happy to share it with you.
Another reader, D. T. Nelson provided a link to a website where we can hear recordings of Brad's show from WNBC...
You can hear your friend Brad Crandall (and many other broadcasting greats) here at the "Sounds of Monitor" page on the Monitor Beacon web site:
I know that Brad enjoyed his riches – to a point. Unfortunately, he never reconciled himself to such success without laboring for it. Much like Clark Gable, whose father never approved of “play-acting” as respectable work, Brad looked for other ways to make his life seem purposeful. Thus, I believe I became one of his many “projects.”
He salvaged me from a disastrous marriage and sheltered me while I recovered. He then went so far as to arrange a meeting with the woman who became my wife (now married almost 36 years). Unfortunately, once I began achieving my own success, he went in search of other projects and we lost track of each other.
Several years after his death, I heard that Howard Stern had honored Brad. Howard was asked who had influenced him as a role model in broadcasting and he mentioned Brad.
Over the years that we were active friends, I employed Brad for many of my projects. “One-Take” Brad we called him. I only ever heard him flub a line once in many hours in the recording studio. I wish I could say the same.
I suppose that I wouldn't be as critical had I not worked with a great talent like Brad. I needed nineteen takes to get an acceptable recording of myself reading a passage from my novel, Rebels on the Mountain
. Even then, I cringe when I listen to it. I'm no Brad Crandall.
Still, I feel that I have a better chance of connecting to my readers if I present myself, warts and all, reading my own work. Click here
to hear me.
OMG, I've lost sixty pounds since I recorded this trailer. I better redo it. There are also some vocal flubs I need to clean up. As I said, I'm no Brad Crandall...
BURIED DEEP INSIDE this presentation by John Cleese on creativity are the answers to all of your questions. Are you creative? Do you have talent? When should you write? Where should you write? Should you be writing at all? How should you handle writer's block?
Unfortunately, the only question Cleese doesn't answer is the one most undiscovered authors are asking: Will your book ever sell?
I RECEIVE REGULAR missives proposing that we rewrite the Constitution. You've probably seen them, too. They come in chain letters passing from computer-to-computer around the Internet. They originate with members of both sides of the ideological divide. I don't pass them on because, more often than not, their concerns are rooted in their ignorance of constitutional law. The problem is that schools today are staffed by teachers who were never properly educated in the Constitution. How can they possibly teach anything they so poorly understand themselves?
There hasn't been much attention paid to the Constitution in our schools since this episode of Schoolhouse Rock
, “The Preamble”, was aired in 1975. Civics has disappeared from most school curricula. Today, civics education testing is required in only nine states for graduation from high school. Citizens are urged to vote to fulfill their civic responsibility, but there is no emphasis placed on their responsibility to understand what they are voting for.
I don't suppose that anyone would be thinking about the Constitution if it weren't for the Tea Party. Much maligned as racist, homophobic, Islamiphobic, etc, the truth is that they have at least brought the Constitution into the public conscience. People are talking about it. Some few may have even read it. In essence, it has come back into our lives. It's been absent far too long.
As a student of law and history, I have frequently been frustrated in discussing anything across the ideological divide because few others know anything about the structure of our government. They want to change what they do not understand. When I ask them to explain their understanding, they become frustrated by their ignorance.
The Public Broadcasting System has chosen this moment to stimulate the dialog. They are producing a four-part series, Constitution USA
, that will begin airing on May 7th at 9:00 pm EDT (check local listings).
I can't say if the PBS program content will be fair and unbiased. Many argue that PBS management is biased towards a liberal/leftist/progressive ideology, and there is evidence that this may be true. However, in my opinion, any discussion of the Constitution must be helpful. Even if PBS distorts it, those distortions may then serve as talking points from which future dialog can grow.
So, mark it on your calendars – May 7th. Watch the series. We can get together afterwards and debate. However, if you are inclined to argue that the present Constitution is out of date, in need of reform, or should be replaced, you should first understand the one we already have otherwise I won't lend much credence to what you have to say.
PJTV host Scott Ott produced a fair overview of the U.S. Constitution. It can be viewed in eighteen bite-sized pieces of four minutes or less each. Unfortunately, only Chapter 1, embedded above, is available free on YouTube. You'll have to subscribe to PJTV to view the other seventeen. If you can get through them in a month or less, it will only cost you five dollars (US). That's a small investment for such an important subject. However, if you put at least this much effort in learning about the Constitution, you will be better able to form opinions on current events and defend them, especially when you encounter someone like me.
TRADITIONAL WISDOM WAS that anyone caught in a shooting should drop and take cover. That hasn't worked out too well, has it? How many mass murderers have calmly stalked their chosen venue, shooting and killing whomever they found until they met resistance? I know. That's what I told my children, too. Based on recent experience, law enforcement officers have changed their tune. They now advise citizens to run, hide, or fight
They're also advising armed first responders to take immediate action. In the past, the first policemen to arrive on the scene of a mass killing were instructed to secure the area. Don't let other potential victims wander into the killing zone. Wait for SWAT to arrive and deal with the situation. This hasn't worked very well either, has it? Indeed, think of how often we hear of the perpetrator turning his weapon on himself when faced with armed resistance. Better that the first police officers responding enter the killing zone and encourage this outcome before other innocent citizens become victims.
Recently, as crowds gathered for the Long Beach Gran Prix, which occurred shortly after the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, I saw a police official warning spectators to be aware of their surroundings. Report suspicious activity to the nearest uniformed officer. Even though they had taken every conceivable precaution to prevent a terrorist attack in Long Beach, officials were willing to admit that a perpetrator could slip through the safety net and that each person should take responsibility for their personal safety.
Times have changed. Law enforcement officials seem to be recognizing their limitations. “To protect and serve” appears on many of their patrol vehicles, but they would be more accurate if they used the opening line of the popular Law & Order television series.
The police investigate crime. They are rarely on hand to protect us from it. In rural areas, the first responder to a call for help may be a half hour or more away. Even in major cities, where response times may be measured in minutes, the blood has long since stopped flowing from bodies before they arrive.
I was disappointed when President Bush told us to hunker down following the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. Don't worry. He was taking the fight to the terrorists. We attacked in Afghanistan. We attacked in Iraq. The Patriot Act was passed and a new army was loosed on the streets of America. I was prepared to accept the attacks on foreign soil so long as they were directed at terrorists and their supporters. I was reluctant to see our forces hanging around to build new democracies. My disappointment grew into distrust with the Patriot Act. I hardly trusted President Bush with such sweeping powers. I am totally distrustful of the current President with them. He has schooled me to fear that some future President may use them to become a tyrant.
Am I paranoid? We've now seen the Patriot Act perverted. Homeland Security is being equipped with armored vehicles and weapons more commonly found on conventional battlefields. Furthermore, Congress and the President are vigorously attempting to disarm us. Maybe some degree of paranoia is healthy, especially when so many of my fellow citizens are succumbing to fear tactics. I wonder, why can't they see the hypocrisy of these lawmakers. Witness the testimony of Diane Feinstein who has led the most recent charge to disarm us even though she admits that she raced to arm herself when faced with danger.
Local law enforcement agencies appear to have gotten the message. Witness the actions cited at the beginning of this article. Indeed, many sheriffs and police chiefs have publicly announced that they will not enforce efforts to disarm American citizens even if Congress and the President succeed. A few have begun organizing community militias. Thirty-eight states now have chapters. The few remaining states that are willing to submit to Washington, and entrust their protection to others, are those that have already done everything in their power to disarm their law-abiding citizens. Even though these jurisdictions have the worst crime rates, they refuse to accept reality and continue to do what they believe ought to work regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
Alert: DHS Rounding Up Veterans, Throwing Them In Mental Institutions – Aug 24, 2012 – Infowars
Vets Rapidly Losing 2nd Amendment Gun Rights – Feb 4, 2013 – The Examiner.com
“Breaking News” About Veterans Losing Gun Rights Are Not New – Feb 23, 2013 – The Western Center For Journalism
Change on veterans gun rights lights fire – Dec 2, 2012 – The Washington Times
Senators: VA has denied gun rights to more than 100,000 veterans – Oct 18, 2011 – The Daily Caller
Granted, a couple of these sources are open to scrutiny. Many may argue that they are colored by political or ideological agendas, however the same may be said of every news source. But many are quoting members of Congress and respected attorneys. Thus, we have to look everywhere, even at new sources we may find disagreeable, to ferret out whatever shard of truth hasn't been trampled in the debate.
Before you dismiss me as a wacko conspiracy theorist, give me a chance. I don't believe in secret cabals and alien bodies stored at Area 51. We simply aren't capable of keeping a secret in this nation. My final posting in the Army was as the Operations Officer at a Strategic Communications Center where secrets of the highest levels passed through my hands. Amazingly, the greatest ones that I ever saw became front page news in little time despite our best efforts.
Thus, my concerns aren't based on anything secret. I'm more worried about everyday things that are happening right under our noses, like the stories mentioned above. Our government seems to be treating those of us who served as enemies.
Obviously, there is a strident minority who are opposed to the government's campaign to change America and the Administration must be concerned about them. Look at the recent arming of Homeland Security. Inasmuch as the military is predominantly composed of conservatively-oriented Americans sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution”, the Administration must have its doubts about using them to subdue citizens. Thus, they have directed Homeland Security to deploy an army equipped with armored vehicles and manned by heavily armed “operatives” onto the streets of America.
What enemy was Homeland Security anticipating when they decided to deploy armored vehicles on the streets of America? No individual, no matter how well armed, can resist an organized assault by a well-trained team. Surely, they don't need a war wagon for that. Are they afraid that Americans will organize militias that might represent a greater challenge?
It's reasonable to expect that Americans who fear a growing threat of tyranny might then form community militias to respond to well-organized threats more effectively. If Americans begin organizing militias, who will train and lead them? I suspect that they will turn to our veterans. Former soldiers might even gladly volunteer. I would. At 70 I wouldn't be much use in the trenches but could at least help with the organization and training of militias.
Imagine yourself as a President who is on a mission to change America and fear resistance. Wouldn't you suspect that veterans would be enlisted to help that resistance? What would you do? It seems that someone is already doing it. Explore these links and let me know what you think.
However, we must wonder if this isn't just another waste of time and, more importantly, the nation's dwindling wealth. Are militias being formed? I haven't heard of any. What else would Homeland Security do with its fleet of armored vehicles? Stage a grand demolition derby? They certainly are helping to demolish the economy.
Lacking the threat of organized militias, isn't the government simply overreacting? Federal agencies have been able to handle fringe group militias in the past using the resources already available to them. Local police and sheriffs have SWAT teams fully capable of subduing armed criminals and mobs. Look at how well the LAPD responded to the riots in Watts when Rodney King's persecutors were acquitted. Why do we need a domestic army? To intimidate us? That is, after all, what Homeland Security is becoming and that is what they are doing.
Finally, what threat would organized militias represent if they are dedicated to preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution? Remember, the Second Amendment affirms that “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state...” not only reminds us that citizens have a natural right to arm and defend themselves, but also to organize themselves into militias.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED to you, Senator? I have long celebrated your courage and your service, both in the military and elected office. However, your stance on gun control escapes all logic. It's as though you have been replaced by someone, the polar opposite of the hero I knew. It flies in the face of all wisdom. We know that prohibiting certain categories of weapons just because they appear dangerous has never accomplished anything. Good heavens, just writing that sentence reminds me that the people who believe that one gun "appears" more dangerous than another exposes how little they know about guns.
Senator McCain as a young man with his father. Click here to read about my brush with them and history
Most importantly, please remember the oath you swore on that day when you were commissioned. I swore it also under similar circumstances and later served in Vietnam. I can still recite it. Can you? "I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution..." It's virtually the same oath you swore when you entered elected office. Sir, the 2nd Amendment is an integral part of the Constitution, possibly the most important part because it allows all citizens to defend it.
Please, Senator, remember your heritage. Remember how you suffered in the defense of the nation you loved. Any attempt to infringe on the 2nd Amendment will be applauded only by America's enemies as well as its criminals. Prohibitions of all kinds have only ever favored them. Prohibitions gave rise to the major crime syndicates of the past as well as today. Imagine the black market that will arise in guns and ammunition when this one is passed. Imagine how the law abiding will suffer when they stand defenseless against the well-armed criminal. Even worse, imagine how tyrants may be tempted to inflict themselves upon America when its citizens are laid bare.
Please, Senator, please reconsider your stance. Be a hero again.
BEST SELLING AUTHOR and screenwriter Andrew Klavan
and film producer Bill Whittle
discussed this question on a recent program on PJTV
. (I'd love to embed a video of it here but it's only available to PJTV
subscribers. So, click here to view it and invest five dollars (US). That will get you your first month's viewing. It's a good investment.
Klavan and Whittle concluded that heroes aren't as interesting because, most often, story-tellers lie about them. Klavan observed that heroes are even boring because they're always “square-jawed. Courageous. They don't feel fear. They don't feel lust. Of course they're boring. Nobody's like that.”
I had reached this same conclusion while very young. My birthday coincides with George Washington's and my birthday cakes were invariably decorated with cherries to commemorate his virtue, he could not tell a lie. Yeah, Sure. It didn't take long to dispel that notion as I began to study the real Father of our Nation. Funny, I discovered that he was far more interesting than the demigod to whom I had been introduced in school.
It was a short hop from George Washington to the truth about all the other Founding Fathers (excuse me, “Founders”). I came away with a new appreciation for them and a challenge. As demigods, their accomplishments were beyond the reach of mere mortals such as I. However, as flesh and blood men, their courage and dedication became accessible to me. Why couldn't I serve a good cause as well as they?
When it came time to write my first novel, I never considered for a moment that my protagonist should be a hero, not in the classical sense. Interestingly, “heroes” in ancient Greek legends were all demigods. No, I gave Nick Andrews a very human assortment of character flaws when I wrote Rebels on the Mountain
. Now, as I'm writing a prequel to his story, I'm providing a basis for those flaws. Although I only hint that he was an abused child in Rebels on the Mountain
, the prequel will literally describe that abuse. It will also describe the source of the guilt he carries in Rebels
from his early experiences killing and maiming enemies on the battlefields of Korea.
Nick also knows fear. After all, courage is not the lack of fear, but rather the willingness and ability to do what is necessary despite fear. Think back over the heroes you have read in books or seen in popular films. How calm they seem even when awash in bloodshed. I can't help but laugh when I remember that the only character in Star Wars
who exhibited fear was a robot, C3PO.
The lack of fear in the human characters is even more unbelievable to me than the fanciful tale of science fiction.
Digressing to Klavan and Whittle, they were challenged by a PJTV subscriber to discuss, “As story-tellers, how do you break the banality of decency in a culture that celebrates the antihero?” In examining this question, Klavan observed that the real problem is not so much “the banality of decency”, but rather that we tend to lie about decency. Real human beings have urges and what makes them decent is the restraint they exhibit in not succumbing to them, whereas villains do. (As I said, this program is well worth the price, especially for writers.)
Klavan went on to discuss one of America's favorite story lines, wherein the villain evolves into a hero. (Well, a sort of low-grade, nickel-plated hero.) I could not help but agree with Bill Whittle who cited the example of Al Swearengen from the TV series Deadwood. Here is a saloon owner, a murderer, a pimp of the vilest sort, who begins to display signs of humanity as the series progresses. One scene stands out in my memory, wherein Swearengen assists the suicide of a preacher who is suffering greatly. He cradles the man, almost as a father comforting his child, as he smothers him and whispers, “Go now, brother”.
These are the moments in stories that make them great.
Swearengen's foil, the protagonist, Marshall Seth Bullock also frequently succumbs to his baser urges. Although Bullock is more often motivated by righteous indignation, he is little more decent than Swearengen.
No boring characters in Deadwood
, that's for certain. Likewise, I have attempted to preclude any boring characters from Rebels on the Mountain.