Sunday, March 28, 2010

War Novels - 2

Here's a great and funny novel that I overlooked while posting the other day, Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. I had been in the Navy for eleven or twelve years when this come out in 1961, and by then I was very familiar with military bureaucracy and terminology. This novel made me laugh heartily over the antics of the characters doing their duty on an island off Italy late in the war. It takes military orders and life to the point of absurdity with the fabricated Catch 22, which was picked up and used by some in the military to describe that life. It's a "damned if you, damned if you don't" sort of thing, and became a popular catchword in the military and elsewhere.

I read Good Soldier Schweik, a novel by Jaroslav Hasek, later on after retiring from the Navy, and noticed the similarities and it reminded me of a short story by James Michener, I think it was, about a Naval officer walking across the country to report to his new duty station. He took the term "Proceed" literally since the orders didn't say how he was supposed to travel or provided for transportation or a time limit. It took the officer months to reach his destination, an unheard of length of time for travel in the modern age. This story may, or may not, have appeared in Tales of the South Pacific, another fine cluster of tales on which the movie, South Pacific, was based.    

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The April 2010 "True West Magazine"

The April 2010 edition of True West Magazine is out and has an article on the 83 must-see Old West destinations, and so I had to see how many of them I had visited, seen, been through. Here is my list:

1. Ogden, Utah - Having been born in Utah, I had relatives there that we visited on two or three occasions around the time I was 12-14 years old, which meant that I had no interest in historical buildings or artifacts or such, even if we saw them, which we didn't. So, reading that the cabin of Miles Goodyear was moved into town surprised me, since I never heard of Mr. Goodyear in school or anywhere else that I remember. In my mind at the time, Ogden was famous for the railroad stop, or something. Been through there a few times since without stopping, a nice town.

2. Prescott, AZ - Now that I've been living in AZ for the last forty years, Prescott is a nice place for a day trip from the Phoenix area. Got thrown in jail there one time during their wild Fourth of July celebration and rodeo days. Unfortunately, I didn't have any extra cash to donate to the Lions or Elks or whoever it was and spent about an hour in the clink for not donating. The jail was set up in Courthouse Square and there were plenty of passers-by to humiliate me, even though I was stone-cold sober.

3. Durango, CO - Been through there two or three times, even et dinner at one of the highway restaurants one time. A pretty place to vacation.

4. Larned, KS - On the prairies, what can I say?

5. Hays, KS. - Ditto.

6. Santa Fe, NM - Went through there one time when they were re-burying some Civil War dead, big parade, and all. My sister-in-law used to be a Harvey Girl in Emporia, KS, and we visited the La Fonda Hotel, a former Fred Harvey House, where she met one of the waitresses who also had been a Harvey Girl. I never heard so much cackling and carrying on when they got wound up about the Harvey Restaurants and so forth reliving old times.

7. Virginia City, NV - Took the tour from Reno through there one time. Interesting old place.

8. Carson City, NV - Spent an hour or two there on the same tour from Reno.

9. Kearney, NE - Traveled on the Platte River Trail, but missed all the celebrations.

10. Winnemucca, NV - My half-brother supposedly died from "Watermelon sickness" here in the early 1900's. What was he doing here? Never did find out.

11. Wichita, KS - Landed at Wichita airport several times. Was not too interested in the history of Wichita at the time. Brother-in-law retired from the Santa Fe Railroad a few years back.

12.  St. Joseph, MO - First time I heard about St. Joe was during the Korean War when I was stationed with a swabby from there. Wife has relatives living there. Went through the Pony Express Museum.

13. Tombstone, AZ - Attended the Helldorado Days celebration once, been there several times, saw the shootout, the rose bush, the bars, etc. A great town to visit.

14. Tacoma, WA - Landed here once. My brother retired from the Army at Fort  Lewis and was living in Olympia where I was headed.

15. Scottsdale, AZ - Nearby.

16. Deming, NM - Whizzed through there.

17. Wickenburg, AZ - Thirty miles up the road.

18. Taos, NM - Been through there once or twice.

19. The Dalles, OR - Slept in my car here after leaving Olympia, WA, late.

20. Kansas City, MO - Yup!

21. Sacramento, CA - Drove through there on my way to Chico in 1954 or '55; been back a few times.

22. Dodge City, KS - Interesting old town.

23. Elko, NV - Some people I know, including family, eloped to Elko to get married. Used to ride the Greyhound through there.

24. Amarillo, TX - The Big Texan Steakhouse, good meat.

25. Kanab, UT - Movies, movies, movies. Stayed there many times.

26. San Antonio, TX - Saw the Alamo once.

27. Pocatello, ID - Went through  in high school on the way to Yellowstone as a Boy Scout in the backof a truck.

28. Florence, AZ - State Prison located here.

29. El Paso, TX - Through there at a motel on I-10.

Looks like I 've got a lot more traveling to get through or to, and has anyone visited all 83? .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Movie on a DVD, Evil Roy Slade

We had company this week and to kill some time we visited Fry's Electronics not to buy anything special, just looking around at prices, etc. I wandered into the DVD/CD section with the wife and while she browsed music, I browsed DVD sets and then stumbled onto sale items. While admiring front covers, I ran across an old comedy that I thought I needed to watch called Evil Roy Slade, starring John Astin, Mickey Rooney, Henry Gibson, Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Dom DeLouise, and Penny Marshall.

I've always thought John Astin was a funny guy as Gomez in the Addams Family TV series, and in movies, The Killer Tomatoes group, Operation Petticoat, and National Lampoon's European Vacation, and others. In Slade he is the star of this spoofy, goofy western with some great one-liners. Born on the prairies during an Indian attack, the only survivor, the Indians didn't want him and the wolves ran off after hearing his cry, he grows up illiterate and evil and becomes the most sought after outlaw in the West. He kisses a pretty girl during a bank robbery and falls in love. She takes him to Boston to change him and get away from the law where he becomes a shoe salesman. But, he has a relapse while he is delivering the store's profits to the bank and reverts to his evil ways, returns west, gets caught, is going to be hanged, escapes, etc., etc., and etc.

Mickey Rooney, Dom DeLouise, and Milton Berle, look awfully young; the film was released in 1972. Pamela Austin, as the pretty woman, is a pretty woman and plays the part well.

Wikipedia says this is a cult classic, but it wasn't as funny this time, although I had a few chuckles out of it.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Well, I've been doing the blog-reading thing the last couple of days catching up on some of the latest and some of the newer ones and haven't been thinking much about my own blog writing. There are over a million different blogs offering advice and material, ideas, whatever, on about anything and everything. Every individual who blogs or just reads blogs can't ever touch all of them even reading 24/7, and who can do that for very long?

Some of the them are very boring, and some of them are repetitious. Blogging about the same thing can't be avoided although the subject matter available to write about is too numerous to calculate. With over a million doing it, you're bound to write about the same things in some instances, or was that three million? And searching through them trying to pick out one or more that piques your imagination can be a very long search.

My problem is this. I like to read about anything and everything, so any blog is usually good enough for the pique-ing, but I find that doing it hour after hour the pique-ing turns to BORING. And it always ends up this way. I start out determined to pay attention to all the blogs (you never know when you hit a great one, that is, one you've really wanted to read), but you do know when you run across one of the boring ones. Even entering a particular subject to search can become boring, boring, boring after the first one or two hundred.
I've always had a secret desire to be an astonomer, so maybe next time I'll search that subject. Then again, what the hell, I don't have time to waste on it. Maybe I'll search for prairie dogs. At least it has a western or country sound to it. If I can't find a blog about 'em, I'll bet there'll be a website or two I can read.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

War Novels, etc.

Another sidetrack from western writing, although it's somewhat similar, are war novels, and in high school after WWII, I was introduced to All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, a novel of WWI, by an English teacher who had a leaning toward non-violence and anti-war politics. All Quiet was the "epic" war novel of anti-war people as she explained it to us and we should read it to gain knowledge of what war is really like, i.e., death and destruction. She could have taught us about the American Civil War, but she chose this book for some reason. I thought at the time there were plenty of examples of anti-war literature having just gone through WWII fighting the Germans and the Japs, and she chose a novel by a German to explain the terror of war. Were we being brainwashed, or what? Well, I don't think so. I think it was just the publicity about his book, Arch of Triumph, in 1945 and all the recognition it received and the teacher latched on to him as an author to proclaim her dislike of WAR. I never read either book while I was in high school, although I began reading All Quiet, but never finished it. I read Arch later on.

Leon Uris wrote Battle Cry, a novel of the U. S.Marines in the Pacific in WWII, which I read and enjoyed, and could have been used by the teacher if it had been available. It wasn't published until the 50's and made into an entertaining movie for which Uris wrote the screenplay. He also wrote Trinity and Exodus, all three best-sellers. Uris enlised in the Marines and was on Guadalcanal and Tarawa, both bloody battles, and in New Zealand serving as a radioman. I wonder if he talked much with the Navajo Code Talkers.

Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was another good or even great novel of WWII, listed on the hundred great novels list of the Modern Library. I think I was still in high school when I read this and didn't understand all the military terminology and stuff that went on in his descriptions, but it was a great intro to his writing. Wikipedia said Mailer was in the Army in the Philippines during the war, but didn't see much combat.
Whatever, the book is a good read.

From Here to Eternity, by James Jones, was a long, great story of a few soldiers in Pearl Harbor before the war started and was made into a good movie as about everyone knows by now. He also wrote The Thin Red Line about his Guadalcanal experience. I read Eternity while I was stationed at Pearl in '50-'52 and thoroughly enjoyed it, since I was well acquainted with Oahu and was familiar with the locations he wrote about when the book came out. He was also in the battle for Guadalcanal in the Army.

The "etc." in the Title heading is for Guadalcanal Diary a non-fiction book by Richard Tregaskis. This is his memoir of his months as a journalist with the Marines on Guadalcanal during WWII. It is so realistic an account of modern warfare in the jungles that it it is still required reading for USMC officer candidates (according to Wikipedia). It was made into a movie starring William Bendix, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, and John Archer. The movie was widely used for propaganda against the Japanese as I remember since it came out in 1943.

If you are interested in war stories, these are some of the best. (More info can be found on Wikipedia regarding the authors and books.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Stranger from the Valley

This novel is now on the shelf at the Barnes and Noble Store at the Arrowhead Mall, Glendale, AZ. A few signed copies are being featured. Pick up a copy today and enjoy the read!

Also available from,,, and others by mail order. An e-book is available from for $6.00 US, a fantastic bargain!

Get your copy now!   

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Wandering Hill by Larry McMurtry

TheWandering Hill wandered to the vicinity of the Yellowstone River and surprised and scared some Indians and whites with its mysterious cropping up. This book is the second in the Berrybender family story and encompasses a lot of talk of coupling, "tupping," outright fornication, and copulation among some of the characters as they make their way south along the River and meet up with Drummond Stewart's band of explorers. As they travel south hoping to eventually arrive at Santa Fe or some other place, there is a lot of agonizing by Tasmin Berrybender and her husband, the Sin Killer Jim Snow, over their marriage and prospects for a happy life as they part and rejoin while traveling. Jim's young Indian wife accompanied him on his return and is now a valuable member of their expedition, mostly as a babysitter taking care of Jim and Tasmin's offspring, baby Monty. The party almost gets wiped out by a thundering herd of buffalo startled by who knows what, the old Indian, Greasy Lake, thinking it was the Wandering Hill that set them off.  The great Lord Berrybender almost loses it as he tries to devour the supply of claret and thinks his wife is still alive.

This novel continues the fine, rollicking tale of the aristocratic Berrybender family and their introduction to the wilds of North America and the adventures and misadventures that befall them in their travels. In my 'umble opinion, Mr. McMurtry has again delivered an entertaining chronicle that is well worth the time it takes to read, and I'm looking forward to diving into the third part, By Sorrows River.

(No money or gift was received for mentioning the books in this post.)  

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Utah Writers Celebration

The Salt Lake Tribune on Feb 27, 2009, reports that twelve writers who have Utah connections have had portraits painted by Trent Call and are on exhibition at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, l38 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City with an additional exhibiition of prints at Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 S. 200 East, SLC.  The exhibit is entitled "Uconoclasts". The twelve authors are: Wallace Stegner, Wallace Thurman, Edward Abbey, Neal Cassady, Fawn Brodie, Dale Morgan, Bernard DeVoto, Everett Ruess, Maurine Whipple,  Juanita Brooks, Raymond F. Jones, and May Swenson.

Ken Sanders, the bookstore owner, was behind it, asking Call last spring to paint the portraits. If you are interested in this exhibit, more information can be had by calling (801) 521-3819 or visit You may find this site interesting also.