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                                                                                   Journal #165

                                                                                  July 15, 2014


          If everything goes according to plan, the first draft of Starlight Station will be finished this afternoon. The first draft is always the brute work. It will be unreadable, and I don't allow anybody to see it. The objective is to determine whether the story line comes together and the pieces fit. I try not to go back and do any rewriting during this part of the process, because whatever gets rewritten may eventually get tossed anyhow.

          This one was particularly difficult to handle because it's a sequel to a book written almost twenty years ago. That was at a time when I had no plans to continue the story. But over the years a substantial number of readers commented that there was more ground to cover. And I gradually came to realize they had a point. But I couldn't really take the plunge until I knew where Ancient Shores was going to go. That became a struggle, but I finally figured it out somewhere around this past Christmas.

          Anyhow, we'll probably do what we always do at this stage: Go out this evening and celebrate.


          I was surprised to see a familiar face on Scarborough this morning: Steve Berry, who writes thrillers wrapped around historical mysteries. His latest novel is The Lincoln Myth. I first met Steve at a book signing about ten years ago. He was seated beside me, and he had with him copies of his first novel, The Amber Room, which traced a hunt for artistic treasures stolen by Nazis during World War II. Within a short time, he rose to the top of the New York Times best seller list.

          Cotton Malone is a continuing character through many of these novels. Cotton, a retired fed who now owns a book store in Denmark, has a passion for history and finds himself regularly confronted with strange events rooted in the distant past. The mysteries are intriguing: In The Jefferson Key, e.g., Cotton pieces together a connection between our four presidential assassinations and Thomas Jefferson. In The Emperor's Tomb, Cotton tried to understand why the Chinese government refuses to allow anyone near the tomb of its first emperor, dead over 2000 years. Why? Steve's website:                                              


          Watching the cable news networks has become painful. The Middle East is imploding; desperate kids are piling up along our southern border; Russian has grabbed Crimea; destructive weather systems are hammering sections of the U.S.; shootings continue on a massive scale; cruise ship captains crash into rocks and grab the first life raft. And jet liners vanish.

          Newscasts must have been painful during WWII, but that was a time when my only real connection with the fighting was watching Bud and Lou in "Buck Privates." The first newscasts I can recall were on the radio, during the final days of the war. I recall the reports of the atomic bombs without having any sense as to what they really were. The only thing I knew about nuclear weapons was that somebody had once thrown an atomic hand grenade at Buck & Wilma and he warned her to duck.

I suspect most other people didn't really have a handle on it either. We lived a mile and a half from the Atlantic Richfield refinery. After the Cold War started, one of my relatives admitted to me she was concerned the Russians would drop an atomic bomb on the oil company, and if that happened, the refinery would explode and heaven help us.

          The easiest way to describe my disconnect with WWII in general is to mention that my dad was an air raid warden. He had a helmet which I loved. The sirens went off on a regular basis, he grabbed the helmet and hurried away, and we turned out the lights. But I was always disappointed when the Germans didn't come. I think I expected to be rescued by John Wayne.