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 Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


Welcome to the Louis Kraft writing website. The goal is to explore where I’ve been and where I’m headed while entertaining you and updating you on the status of my life, events, and projects. The goal is to be loose and free while not preaching. As you see, there are a number of tabs (and information will change on them whenever appropriate) but this website will not be static, for I have control. It also has a blog (and if you followed me elsewhere you know that I’m open to discussing whatever catches my fancy). The blog entries will be categorized, and linked to specific categories that appear on the right side of the screen, for example: “Sand Creek POV” (“POV” stands for point of view), “Errol & Olivia,” “Navajo Blood,” “Wynkoop & Cheyennes,” and so on. Note that these categories won’t appear until there is a blog topic that is linked to them. There will also be Kraft categories for when I explore myself and the craziness of life or when I mix my writing with my life or when I just need to let off some steam. Nothing will be sacred on the blog … that is, unless it’s harmful to yours truly, or anyone else (living or dead). “Harmful” also includes racist prose, which will not be tolerated. Comments may be added by clicking the comment image to the right of each post. Note that you will no longer need an ID and a password. As of now all you’ll need will be an email address and your name.

— Louis Kraft

Announcing The Discovery, the Green Day Spa + hatred & racism

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


The Protestant pirate Francis Drake was a Catholic priest.
Errol Flynn was the birth father of Elvis Presley.

I don’t know what to say, other than if you are going to talk about something (such as the fictitious absurdities listed above) do yourself a favor, and do some research before you open your mouth and stuff your foot in it. …

If anyone thinks that I am talking about them, guess what?—I am.

Personal attacks on LK

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Over the years my great friend Glen Williams has taken many reality and publicity shots of LK. This image was taken at Mission San Fernando Ray de España (one of the 21 missions that the Spanish established in early California). Here it represents LK walking out of the dark (here represented as light) and away from racial persecution. (photo © Glen Williams & Louis Kraft 2012)

Actually just a week or two past it got a lot worse than the above, for racial hatred spewed forth with violent and foul words and it was directed at me (for a previous post, “Gatewood & Geronimo live”). … My mother and father were not racially prejudiced (actually they had an open door to anyone). This influenced my early life (I marched for Martin Luther King Jr. locally, and lived and worked with African Americans in Oklahoma City while a member of VISTA) and later impacted me to the extent that when I decided to become a writer much of what I would write about dealt with human relations and race. This would be a career choice that wouldn’t earn a lot of money but has always been alive within me and will be so until my life on this world ends (Beyond that? Someday I’ll know.). The words, actually five separate comments attached to the Gatewood/Geronimo blog, were written in such a heinous manner that if they had been painted on Tujunga House they would been investigated by authorities as a hate crime. I saved the five comments for future use (if needed) but then turned the links into spam. Elsewhere on social media I spoke about these hateful words and received marvelous thoughts and comments from friends who are truly friends.

I have begun to believe that there is a Kraft curse: If I create something—nonfiction or fiction, a talk, a play—people take offense. How dare you deal with race relations? How dare you speak up for Cheyennes, Apaches, or other people such as Asians or African Americans? These people aren’t interested in listening to or reading anything that deals with racial or human relations that disagrees with their jaded views, views that focus on destroying anything that they reject.

One person, without reading a word of The Discovery as it hadn’t been published, attacked me on social media (she didn’t attack my partner Robert Goodman, but trust me, if she wasn’t so focused on the target that she placed on my back she would have). I hate to say it, but there are so many people on social media today that jump at the opportunity to destroy books, films, actors, singers, sports figures, and normal people, that it is unbelievable. These people are bent upon attacking. Yep, that’s right. This person and others often don’t know what the bleep they’re talking about, but they are up front and center in their desire to bad-mouth anything that catches their fancy (or should I say their sexist or racist upbringing). … I guess that this is the new American way. If yes, what a sad future our children face.

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LK pondering his world at Tujunga House, a world that at times is extremely dark, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Are these people human beings? I’m chuckling, for this isn’t a valid question. Moreover, you don’t want to hear my answer to this question. Heck, I guess I just answered it. No, they aren’t. They are just like some of the cretins that run for election nowadays. What happened to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”?

(I have a lot to say about the above quote, but it should have a blog all to itself.)

I have a lot of words to say about these creatures, but they aren’t worth five minutes of your time. They charge me with racism and sexism, but they are the racists and sexists. These accusations have been made without seeing one of my plays, listening to one of my talks (although some have been present at talks, probably with their ears plugged; some of these talks are available on the internet), or reading any of my articles or books. Are their comments valid? No! They are the new Americans—trash masters (if you will)—searching for prey without any understanding or knowledge of their current target because they have an agenda, and like vampires thirst for blood.

Most of these people I don’t know, but some are acquaintances or perhaps friends at one time (but, alas, they are no longer, or most likely never were). This is one of the major lessons that I have learned in life—that it consists of constant change, … and most importantly that heinous people who attack without knowledge of subject matter are not human beings. … What is to come? Don’t know, but it won’t be in this blog.

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I know; a strange intro to the publication of The Discovery.
I didn’t mean to write the above, but sometimes comments not based upon facts and directed at myself are so biased and hateful or worse that my head spins.

What I write about

I write about subjects that I think are important, and always I write about relationships—relationships between people. Of extreme importance are relationships between people of different races that dare to risk their lives to prevent or end violence and attempt to stop heinous crimes upon humanity.

The Discovery is not a book that deals with race relations and horrendous murder and sexual mutilation of people of different colors and religious beliefs. That said, it is a story that is just as valid for it deals with life experiences that can make or destroy lives. Although The Discovery is a period piece set in the not-too-distant past (1951-1973), it focuses on a very important subject in our lives today—the medical world, and to be more specific, malpractice.

cookCell_boggsKill_Indian_collage_july15_wsDo I dare say that many of us have strong feelings about the medical world, and in particular pharmaceuticals? You bet, for I certainly do. For the record I have already forked out over twice what I paid in 2015 for medicinal drugs (and the outflow of cash ain’t a gonna stop). Add that my all-time favorite novelist is Robin Cook, the physician turned novelist, who almost single-handedly created the medical thriller. His stories are page turners, and his best efforts scare the bejesus out of me when his leading players become entwined within a medical horror that Cook pulls from the front pages of the American press. Right there with Cook is Johnny D. Boggs. Boggs doesn’t write what I would call thrillers, but his plots are extremely well crafted, his dialogue extraordinary, and his characters are a joy to behold. His stories are also page turners. I highly recommend both of these fine writers to you.

The Discovery is actually a character study of a number of people whose lives become entangled due an event that happened in 1952. Dialogue and character are absolute musts for a novel to succeed. However, I had another challenge with The Discovery: How do I keep the story moving forward while seamlessly moving between the players and the passage of time while not losing focus to what is really happening. It took some time to figure this out. Oh, there was one thing that I knew was an absolute necessity—I needed to write the book as a thriller.

If you are like me, your free reading, that is pleasure reading (and I have little time for this), is at night after preparing for bed (about a one and a half hour task for me) when I have a half hour or so to settle down and enjoy another writer’s prose before turning off the lights. I both curse when I can’t put the book down when time’s speeding by and I’m getting up at four or five while at the same time love it for the current writer’s story has grabbed hold of my soul and it won’t let go.

Why The Discovery?

Opportunity.

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Robert S. Goodman MD, internist and cardiologist, in his Tarzana, Calif., office in 2014. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

A little more than a couple of years back I partnered with a physician named Robert S. Goodman to write and polish a great story idea that he had created.

Robert (Bob to me) had a firm view on how he wanted The Discovery to be published, and I agreed to his desires. This means that it is a “trade paperback” book. It was mandatory that I announce The Discovery’s publication early for personal reasons. That said, the trade paperback is available for purchase on Amazon now, as is the Kindle eBook.

At the end of 2013 I began taking Bob’s idea and rough draft and turning the characters into living and breathing players, as well as expanding the dialogue and the plot. This would place a good portion of my life and my writing world on hold (but not completely, for great strides have been made with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway research and writing*). Although this is hard to say, everything that has happened has been for the good as I am a better writer in 2016 than I was at the end of 2013. There are two reasons: Working on The Discovery and on the LK blogs. Don’t snicker, for ’tis true.

* Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway may perhaps be the most important book that I ever write. As you know, I’m a biographer who focuses on key times in the lives of the people I write about. The Sand Creek story will be different, but not a huge step from what I usually write, for my editor at OU Press (Chuck Rankin) and I worked out a story line that was acceptable to both of us. That is, I’ll show (“SHOW” and not tell) the story from the point of view of all the major participants in the lead-up to the attack on a Cheyenne-Arapaho village at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in November 1864, the attack, and the aftermath. This is basically biography but on a larger scale. The key will be to smoothly transition from one participant to the next as the story moves forward.

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LK with OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin at the 2011 Western History Association convention in Oakland, Calif., where Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was introduced to the public. The poster for the book is behind Chuck and I; he gave it to me, I framed it, and it is now displayed in my living room. The Wynkoop book is directly responsible for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

There aren’t that many villains in our world, for most people truly believe that what they do is correct when they do it. (Everyone has their own point-of-view depending upon their life and culture and act accordingly. That doesn’t make them evil because I don’t agree with them or their actions, and conversely I’m not evil because my views and actions are in conflict with their culture, religion, or politics. That said the murder of innocent people can never be condoned regardless of the point-of-view.) … There are out-and-out villains, such as Charles Manson (who I had a connection to without realizing it at the time, due to my motorcycle riding) and Ted Bundy (the last project I worked on—film or TV—was a miniseries on Bundy called The Deliberate Stranger in the mid-1980s). … If I do my part correctly in the Sand Creek project you will be able to make your own decision about the key players in the story, based upon their actions. Again, the key is to show and not tell.

I’m back on The Discovery.

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This image of LK in the Ventura News Chronicle (actually the cover to the paper’s entertainment section) dates to April 1992 when The Final Showdown was published. “T.O.” stands for Thousand Oaks, Calif. There is a major story here (but not for this blog).

Have you ever heard Yogi Berra’s quote, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”? He was the great NY Yankee catcher from the golden age of Baseball (the 1950s), and his words certainly apply to me.

The Discovery has been a long process for me. You would faint if you knew how many hours, but all the work, that is, the process, has been worth every hour or day that it has cost me. Creative work is always about the process: That is the research, writing, rewriting, rewriting, editing, additional research, more rewriting and editing. This is an ongoing activity (which in my case always includes a multitude of people who help me during the process) until the product is printed or presented or performed. … It isn’t about awards or money (although they are nice, especially $$$, which for me is always a major reason to begin a project) but for me it is the attempt to discover what happened while not blindly restating historical errors that lazy historians who don’t do real research continue to reprint. This often includes months and even years of research, which is ongoing until a project reaches fruition.

Just about everything that I write is interconnected in one way or another. … The Discovery is the lone exception.

**********

As said above, I pushed the envelope in The Discovery. … Violence is harsh and deadly; love, infidelity, and sex are real; the story could happen and lives could plummet to disaster.

What The Discovery and the blogs have cost me in time, they have repaid in dividends to my future writing. Huh? That’s right—major dividends. Everything that LK writes in the future will be better multiple times over because of the recent past. That is an egotistical statement, but oh so true.

Constructive criticism is the most important thing
that writers, actors, artists can receive.

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LK with Bob Goodman at Flemings in Woodland Hills, Calif., on 26june2014. For the record, I’m kneeling on the floor. Doris & Bob Goodman and Pailin & LK had a great time that evening. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Certainly Doris, Bob’s wife, and other family members, contributed to Bob’s initial story idea and made valid comments when the manuscript neared completion. Others, mainly Susan Snipes, a malpractice attorney, who provided important information regarding legal ramifications of the story’s lawsuit and the statute of limitations in California; and Joel Goldman, a Los Angeles civil attorney, who also advised and provided additional statute of limitations documentation.

Three talented and professional friends helped me fine-tune The Discovery’s 122,000 words, Veronica Von Bernath Morra (a retired nurse and journalist), Glen Williams (a senior manager of engineering departments that operated a global telecommunications network), and David DeWitt (an Errol Flynn expert, author, and website specialist). Another talented friend, Sherry Weng (an engineer), provided superb commentary on the rear cover. Writers and artists depend upon constructive criticism, and these people have improved the manuscript and cover copy immensely. I’ll always be grateful for their efforts. They have done for me what every writer and artist must desire and cherish—constructive criticism. My friends, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A medical example, plus a little about Bob Goodman and myself

Over the years I have heard way-too-many people talk dirt about medicine. Medicine is an art form based upon science in which decisions must be made. Sometimes they are wrong, but often they are right on target.

For example, about three-quarters of a year before my sister died in 2006 (and if I’m off on my dating here, the following incident would have taken place a year and a quarter before the end of her life). Linda and her absolutely marvelous husband, Greg Morgon, invited a couple over for dinner. After eating Linda didn’t feel well and went to bed. After their guests left Greg checked on her. She was burning up with fever and he rushed her to emergency. From here she was transported to a hospital in the lowlands (they lived in the mountains at Lake Arrowhead, California) that could deal with what had happened to her. Actually there were a lot of doctors involved—so many that I couldn’t keep track of them. As Linda’s condition worsened, doctors and specialists couldn’t figure out what had happened, what had attacked her, or had invaded her immune system (at this time Linda was struggling with the cancer that would eventually kill her).

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Linda and Greg were to visit Tujunga House for Christmas 2005. Unfortunately I was under the weather and called it off. Reason: Linda’s immune system was at risk. Early in 2006 she called me and told me that her liver no longer functioned. “Can they fix it?” “No.” “What does this mean?” “I will die soon.” On January 15, 2006, Linda and I celebrated our last Christmas together at her home in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. This was a special day for me. She died on March 1, 2006. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

My beautiful sister was slender, but no longer. She puffed out and blew up as if her entire body was a balloon. And worse, all of her skin turned beet red. Shortly after this happened she dropped into a coma. After several days of this, and with the experts not able to figure out what was happening, one of the main doctors on her case, a female (I don’t remember her name), told Greg and I that there was nothing medical science could do and that we needed to prepare for the inevitable.

Days passed, but still Linda lived. One of the doctor’s on her case decided to put her on 24/7 dialysis. This went on for about a week. Then, suddenly, her skin began to return to her normal color, the ballooning of her body went away, and she woke up.

The doctors never figured out what had attacked her system.

A lot of medical bad mouthing

Ladies and gents, to repeat myself I have heard a lot of medical bad mouthing over the years. Although I have no intention of commenting on this statement I want to tell you something, and that is: If it wasn’t for my doctors I would have long ago ceased to exist.

I think that you need to know a little about my partner Bob Goodman. He has been one of my principal doctors for over 25 years. More important, if it wasn’t for him my life probably would have ended in 2003 (another physician, Malcolm D. Cosgrove, also played a major role in my continuing to enjoy life).

Bob Goodman

I’m guessing here, but I believe that I met Bob Goodman sometime around 1986, the year that my father-in-law Dr. John I. McGirr closed his practice (more below).

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LK’s father-in-law John McGirr on the golf course in Calabasas, Calif., in the mid-1970s. He loved golf, and throughout his life he was a very fit man. More important, he always treated me well. I miss him. (photo © J.L. McGirr mid-1970s)

At that time I had landed my first straight job (after talking my way into the position by guaranteeing that I could learn how to use a corporate insurance brokerage firm’s computers in two weeks, and at that time I had never touched a computer in my life). Yeah, I’m cocky.

Although I had lost all of the free medical attention that I had had during John McGirr’s practicing life (such as my daughter’s birth at the Tarzana Medical Center—now Providence Tarzana Medical Center, one of the top 100 hospitals in the United States in 2015—which was 100 percent free), I had, in Bob, a physician who cared about his patients and did all he could to ensure their well being. Me finding Bob was pure luck, for I had many PPO physicians to choose from. Luckily I chose him.

And it goes beyond Bob, for I also met, knew, and worked with his beautiful wife Doris. What a sweetheart! I love her! Just like Bob, she has always been there for me. …

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Pailin (center) with Doris and Bob Goodman at Flemings in Woodland Hills, Calif., on 26june2014. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

This leads us to a very important plot point as related to The Discovery, which is about a physician and his gorgeous wife (Harry and Helen Chapman). You need to know now and right up front that when I write fiction or screenplays I base my characters upon real people but then let my imagination take over. That said, Bob and Doris are not Harry and Helen. … for Harry and Helen are totally fictional people that Bob and I have created.

LK

Some people know a little about my medical background, but not many. Over the years I’ve had somewhere between 15 and 16 operations (sorry, but I’ve lost count), and the next one will be this April. Most weren’t life threatening, but a few were. After a 2003 operation that saved my life, there were immediate complications and the day after the surgery a neurologist (and I’ve had a number of them) told me that I wouldn’t walk in the near future. I told him to F— himself. It’s been a painful fight but I’m still walking.

For the record I have had six major physicians that play a key role in my life (seven, if you count my long-deceased father-in-law, John McGirr, who died in 1987 … and I do miss his intelligence, his kindness, his interest in me, our adventures together, and his golf, which he loved). These gentlemen, these practitioners, have become my friends. They answer all my questions using words that I understand. Often they go way beyond what is required of them and help me to keep my health in so many ways (and Bob Goodman and Malcolm Cosgrove are at the top of this list).

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At the time of Parks’ Then Came Bronson series Harley Davidson gave away this poster. It is huge, much larger than film one-sheets. Alas, I need a taller wall; perhaps in Santa Fe (N. Mex.) or Ecuador or Southern Spain. Time will tell.

My initial writing training was writing screenplays for an agent (who took me under his wing), followed by one of the writer/producers of Then Came Bronson, the great Michael Parks 1969-1970 TV show about a loner looking for an identity as he traveled throughout the American West on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

These two gentlemen, Ed Menerth and Bob Sabaroff (both of whom I have no images) spent a lot of time with me and my drafts. They made the effort to markup a lot of my screenplay drafts and spent hours discussing them with me. We talked about plot and character and dialogue. This was not a short time period but somewhere between five and six years. Ed was extremely detailed and at times we met weekly and worked deep into the night. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours Ed and Bob put into marking up my drafts and spending prime time with me to verbally review my scripts. Once Ed was satisfied with a draft it went on the market. … Bob was different in that he didn’t represent my work. I met him, as I had others through interviews, acting jobs, or personal connections. He was a big, burly fellow with a petite lady. When we first met we liked each other immediately, and like Menerth, he took me under his wing. His objective was not to sell one of my screenplays but, if possible, to produce it.

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This is Jürgen Prochnow, who played the U-Boat commander in the great German film, Das Boot (1981). Unfortunately his U.S. film career did not take off. That said, he would have been perfect casting as the U-boat commander in Wonderboat. For the record, “Wonderboat” refers to a much-advanced U-Boat that German engineers were creating. In 1945 their hope was that this vessel could perhaps save Germany, which was then nose-diving toward disaster. Time ran out and the hoped-for armada of wonderboats never had the chance to perhaps change history. The LK Wonderboat script deals with racism & hope; success at sea & failure; loyalty to country & standing up to evil; love & tragedy; … and most important, it is anti-war. If ever you desire to read the Wonderboat script it is housed at the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Ed and I came close to selling or optioning a number of screenplays but failed (the closest for him was to Rory Calhoun at the end of his acting career and for me to Richard Thomas (John-Boy of The Waltons TV fame), who I had a good working friendship with for several years). Bob fell in love with Wonderboat, which dealt with the destruction of Germany during WWII as seen through the eyes of a U-Boat commander who had a Jewish girlfriend. Bob asked me to move the story to WWI and remove the Nazi/Jewish portion of the story. I told him that I couldn’t do this as the entire story was based upon historic facts about WWII and the German U-boat war. More important, I told him that it was a story not only about the war but race relations and the German people (in this case a good portion of the U-Boat commanders that fought for their country but were disgusted with events that surrounded them in their Homeland). This would end my working relationship with Sabaroff, and eventually our friendship as he wasn’t pleased with me standing up to him and saying “no.”

Surprisingly the Wonderboat script would also mark the end of my relationship with Menerth in 1982 (he had been my agent since 1976).

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LK with the evil Jeff Richards during the duel that I choreographed for the 1981-1982 tour of The Prince and the Pauper. Late in the play’s run Jeff went up during the duel, but instead of returning to calling out numbers, that is blade cuts and parries, he attacked and sliced me just below my left eye. I was livid, and after the performance the other actors had to keep us apart (I’ll deal with this in the memoir). (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

In 1981-1982 I played Miles Hendon in a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California. The actors had Sundays off. While living on the east side of San Francisco Bay in 1982 I took BART, SF’s subway system, under the water to the city proper and saw the great German anti-war film that dealt with a single U-Boat voyage that had recently opened, Das Boot. This was about a year after I completed the final draft of Wonderboat, which Menerth loved. There was one problem, he told me that he couldn’t sell the script due to the subject matter. Das Boot became a major success in the United States. When I left the tour after 135 performances, and I did enjoy playing Hendon and performing a sword fight on stage, I fired Menerth. … There would be two additional screenplay agents but they didn’t work out.

What I write about redux …

You know what I write about; race relations during the 1860s and 1880s on the American frontier. Mostly nonfiction but some fiction and plays. As stated above, next up is Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, which will be followed by Errol & Olivia (the first of three nonfiction books on Errol Flynn; Olivia is Olivia de Havilland). Also in the mix is a nonfiction book on Kit Carson and Indians (sorry, but I need to be vague here), and a memoir (which is no secret, as I use the blogs to explore my life). Also, and this is not farfetched, there might be two books on the pirate Francis Drake in my future (like Flynn and Carson, I gobble up everything I can get my hands on in regards to Drake). Ladies and gents, that is a lot of words and a lot of time on my part. That said, I have every intention of squeezing in fiction after Errol & Olivia (the first will be a Kit Carson/Indians story, which is not related to the nonfiction book).

There you are: LK’s writing future in a nutshell.

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There are three major holidays in my life: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Christmas and Easter gave me Christianity and my religion (along with my mother’s influence and the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches). I hate to say it, but people that I know damn me to hell as I don’t cherish Jesus Christ and God exactly as they do. I do not want to say anything about these people, for their lives are theirs, … and mine is mine. I know Jesus and God and I talk to them every day. This image was taken on 27mar2016 (Easter). My mother’s mother and my grandmother (Clara Small) gave me the portrait of Jesus (in the background) when I was a little boy. I have cherished it ever since, and it has been the major image in my dinning room at Tujunga House for many-many years. One other thing: I believe that all people have the right to cherish and pray to their God and not be persecuted, raped, or murdered because their God is different from mine … or anyone else’s God. (photo © Louis Kraft 2016)

In the middle 1980s I got tired of writing screenplays for free and  began selling magazine articles that would range from travel to baseball to the American Indian wars, and then film legend Errol Flynn. This would lead to my first published novel The Final Showdown and a contracted novel that exploded in disaster when the publishing house broke our contract (this has been discussed elsewhere in the blogs). This disaster moved me quickly into nonfiction (Custer, Stone Forehead, Cheyennes; Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, Apaches—two books; Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Cheyennes of which Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is the follow-up, and luckily for me Chuck Rankin knew this and pushed for us to work out a storyline that would be acceptable to both of us).

A special part of LK’s world times two

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LK with Tomas Jaehn at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library in Santa Fe on 15Sept2004 after my talk on “Cheyenne Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War.” Tomas and I had known each other for years, he had created the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez, and by this time we were good friends. (photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

Tomas Jaehn recently visited SoCal and we were able to enjoy time together as we drank Korean tea with ginseng and ate chicken cooked with Pailin’s Salsa Verde; salad with Italian dressing made from scratch with balsamic vinegar, virgin olive oil, water, and seasoning; and rolls. Believe it or not, ol’ LK is a decent cook. I showed him the printed proof of The Discovery (which he wanted to take to Santa Fe, but I said no as it was a proof and not the printed book) along with the daguerreotype of Wynkoop that I featured in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011). This daguerreotype will someday be a part of the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. I also talked about three magazines that I gave him to take to Santa Fe and add to the Collection (the recent Wild West Geronimo cover story, an Army magazine article in On Point and written by friend Col. Paul Fardink, retired, which features an LK interview turned into prose that is over half of the article; and a Johnny Boggs 2014 True West article on Sand Creek with cool LK quotes that I thought would be censored out of the final product as they were to the point and perhaps shocking). Good times for two friends and the day ended too quickly.

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Jasmine Koomroongroj, Sabrina, Pailin, and the Green Day Spa …

greenDaySpaCARD_wsLK’s days are limited. Hopefully not in life or in Los Angeles. (Huh? Nada; I didn’t say that!) I have a lot to do yet and Los Angeles is like no other city (for example: It is gold mine for anyone writing about Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland). I should add—and this is important—that there are more Thai people living in Los Angeles than in the rest of the USA (also there are more different races of people living in LA than in any other city in the USA), but more important is that Pailin loves living in the City of the Angels. She has a wonderful community of friends and plenty of massage customers who adore her, and now she is a part owner of the Green Day Spa.

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LK with Sabrina Subanna and Pailin Subanna-Kraft early on the morning of 15apr16 at Tujunga House. Good times for all of us, and certainly for LK. Pailin and Sabrina are related and in my eyes are like sisters. Certainly these are two of the three most-important people in my life (the third being my daughter). Every minute that I am lucky to spend with them is pure joy. (photo Sabrina Subanna, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2016)

Jasmine Koomroongroj, Sabrina, and Pailin have created a wonderful Thai massage experience at the Green Day Spa. All three excel at deep tissue massages. Sabrina is perhaps the best deep massage artist in Los Angeles, and Jasmine and Pailin are right there with her. … Pailin is a happy and proud lady and I love it.

The door that The Discovery opened

Bob Goodman opened the door to my early return to fiction in 2013, and I jumped on it.

Two plus years with The Discovery (while partially writing and big-time researching the Sand Creek manuscript) … great times for LK.

But as my publishers know, I do not move quickly, and so now does Bob Goodman. I care about each and every one of my freelance projects, and I do everything possible to make the printed manuscript as good as possible (while making set deadlines).

That said, it is for the readers—you—to decide if an article, book, blog, play, or talk is decent. The Discovery has been a major piece of my life. I hope that if you read my collaboration with Bob that you enjoy the story. Comments are always welcome, especially if they are constructive.

Finally, a blurb about THE DISCOVERY

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The book proof of the front cover art and design for The Discovery. (© Louis Kraft 2016)

Harry Chapman, a physician beginning his career, delivered a young indigent woman’s child in 1952. Facts about that birth remained dormant for 20 years. But then, in 1972, an unexpected encounter set in motion a number of events that would impact Chapman’s life, and in ways he never imagined possible. By now, Harry is a successful and honored physician, and perhaps the top OB/GYN practitioner in Los Angeles. Although unknown to him, his world would begin to fall apart when Greg Weston, a young man he doesn’t know, is persuaded by girlfriend Gail Gordon to explore his past—that is, being blind at birth. Greg works for a law firm and knows how to obtain documents. What he discovers infuriates him and he presses forward and presents what he has found to his boss, Hal Winslow, a top malpractice lawyer. Winslow agrees that they have a case, and this initiates a domino effect that will affect a number of lives. Most notably Harry Chapman but also his wife Helen and their family; Harry’s best friend and lawyer, Sid Shapiro; golf pro Phil Rogers; Greg’s birth mother Laura Smith; and even Greg and Gail. … As the case moves toward trial in Los Angeles Superior Court Chapman is shocked by the accusations and what he learns. Bad turns to worse, and Harry secures the services of top malpractice defense attorney Tom Loman, but this is just the beginning of what happened in 1952 for now millions of dollars are at stake. … Add los Niños, the most feared Latino street gang in Los Angeles, to the mix, and suddenly life includes a price tag. As the situation spirals out of control lives begin to fall apart; sex and even the consideration of murder enters the picture. Everything comes down to Harry Chapman vs. Greg Weston with Judge Jason Kimberly presiding, and only one of them will emerge the victor.

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The book proof of the rear cover art and design for The Discovery. (© Louis Kraft 2016)

The Discovery is about conception, birth, a brilliant career, discovery, accusations, and shock. Moreover it is about people—good people—who face dire consequences if a court decision goes the wrong way. … It is a medical thriller in the genre of Robin Cook’s best selling books (such as Cell) with one difference. Instead of a character-driven thriller that confronts the evils of medicine or pharmaceuticals, it is about a doctor and his wife at the crossroad of their lives.

If interested in purchasing The Discovery, please see the following links:

Future releases with soon be available on iPad, iPhone, and elsewhere.

Upcoming Blogs

  • Green Card 2016 … Two lives since September 2014
    If all goes according to plan Pailin and I will have our second and final Green Card interview in September. Like our first appointment we will prepare and we will ace the interview. At the end of the first interview the interviewer asked what we had to show that would back up mostly Pailin’s answers to questions. I handed him a huge book with 8×10″ images of our life together. He turned pages and asked more questions. We knew that Immigration wanted images of us, but he refused to take any prints. I then produced a printout of a blog that I had created of our life together to that point in time and gave it to him. He was thrilled with the images in it, wanted it, and told us that we passed. There will be an immigration blog 2, and I must begin it in April so that it will be ready in August, when I post it.
  • Sand Creek updates
    Beginning when The Discovery is published Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway must dominate my writing life, and it will. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop (Wow! It almost sounds like writing for the software industry, or working in film and TV but they paid big time for overtime.). As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between three and five Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hinted at for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until 2016. These blogs will deal with people who have opened their hearts to me in my recent life and certainly in their long-gone past. The blog(s) will deal with life and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

— Louis Kraft

The song remembers when …

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs


My apologies for the long delay.

Much has happened since the last blog (on Errol Flynn),
including my work load, running out of physical
space on my website, deadlines and more

deadlines, and health issues.
.
Warning: This blog will wander in and out of my mind.


Songs and memories

I think the best place to start is with Tricia Yearwood’s song.

songRemembersWhen_wsYep, you guessed it: Her hit song, The Song Remembers When. It was released on an album that used it as its title in 1993. When I first heard the song on the radio, I said, “Yes! Yes, songs do remember when.”

I’m not a big fan of Trisha’s music, but her song (written by Hugh Prestwood) was dead-center with its focus and meaning. At least for me. Songs have always connected with me and my life. They have made me cry and laugh, they have made me contemplate who I am, they have been a call to action, and they have been melancholy. More important, they drive my life, and this isn’t a vacant comment for each day music and other impetus drives me toward my goals, which might range from spending time with my daughter to writing prose that at least I think is important to holding my lady.

That was then, … the following is now

My life has always been a juggle. … What is the next book or article or talk or play? I hate lists, but this type of list has always been with me. Always.

For the record, although I assume most of you realize that the blogs have been twofold: Publicity for Kraft projects and research for the LK memoir. Without pounding my chest, I’ve exceeded my hopes for both reasons of creating a blog. Instead of my world shrinking, which it has in real life, it has grown in the world of my writing. The people that have found me have blown me away. They, and you, have given me reason for living and pursuing what I do.

Male influences in my life …

This I can almost count the influential people in my life on my fingers. The pirate Francis Drake, actor Errol Flynn, soldier George Armstrong Custer, actor and singer Michael Parks, singer and songwriter John Lennon, along with my father Louis J. Kraft and my brother Lee Kraft. I think that these fellows sum it up, for they are responsible for who I have become (along with living life, which meanders all over the place). Oh, there are some late comers, such as Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apache Indians; Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, and the Cheyenne Indians. When I add my walk through life with people of all colors, races, religions, and politics … I guess that all I’m talking about here is that we are all people, and that if we cannot coexist perhaps someday there won’t be any people.

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LK as Wild Bill Hickok; someone I really want to play on the stage. Time will tell. But first I must deal with taxes, see the publication of The Discovery, prepare for Pailin’s and my second (and final) Green Card interview, and deliver a 135,000 word Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript to my publisher on October 1, 2016. My days are long now, and they are getting longer. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

I won’t live to see this (and I’m glad that I won’t).

I’m drifting from music, but not far. At the end of the 1960s the pilot for Then Came Bronson aired on U.S. television. In it, loner Michael Parks and runaway bride Bonnie Bedelia sang Wayfarin’ Stranger while various film angles watched them ride a Harley Davidson over the open expanse of the American West. It instantly became my favorite song, eclipsing everything by Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Frankie Laine, or Elvis Presley. And it still is today. There are only two singers that I listen to more than Parks, and they are John Lennon and Alan Jackson.

Enter Ry Cooder’s magnificent film score for Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), and I had an instrumental version of Wayfarin’ Stranger. These two versions of one song will be with me until the end (and beyond).

LK’s music scope swells and shrinks as time passes

The singers that I like ranges from those mentioned above to Waylon Jennings to Janis Ian to Dido to Laura Branigan to Kris Kristofferson to Bob Dylan to Norah Jones to Johnny Cash to George Harrison to Rihanna and Rhiannon Giddens.

sukay_summit_wsThere are other types of music that I also like and often listen to while working. Sukay was a group that performed what they call Andean music using instruments native to the Andes Mountains (I have a fair selection of Andean music by them and others). I love Sukay as their sound—instrumental or instrumental and vocal—is the most alive music that I’ve ever heard. Alas, I never got to see them perform in the USA.

Ry Cooder also sings (many of his vocals don’t impress me, but I cherish his Cuban music). I’ve mentioned Cooder’s Geronimo: An American Legend above, but I certainly need to name other film composers such as Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the recently deceased James Horner (who tragically died in 2015). I believe that the composers of film scores are the classical composers of our time (at least to me). Of the classical composers, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is by far my favorite.

nakai_island_ofBows_borderIt goes without saying that I cherish Native American flute music; my favorite is N. Carlos Nakai, and I have seen him perform in concert. When he performs traditional or original music or mixes traditional Native music with another culture, such as Japanese, I’m in heaven (but I’m not fond of his Jazz).

Chinese flute has always been a favorite of mine, as has been traditional Thai (recently discovered due to a very special person named Pailin), and mid-Eastern and African music. I can’t tell you how often someone has visited Tujunga House and demanded that I stop playing ethnic music. The soundtrack for the offbeat 1998 Kate Winslet film Hideous Kinky was one such instance. The story took place mostly in Morocco and had a mix of rock (such as Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit and Richie Havens’ version of George Harrison’s great Here Comes the Sun) to Moroccan and indigenous music from North Africa. I turned off the album, but struggled to keep my mouth shut. (You don’t need to hear my comment about this; perhaps in a future blog.)

There isn’t enough space in this blog to talk about all of the mentioned creative artists below. The plan is to focus on songs and scores that have had an impact on my life and memories.

The baritone from Texas

I grew up on music, loud music on 78 RPM records. Patty Paige, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, and country singers Eddie Arnold and Jack Guthrie, some Gene Autry, but no Roy Rogers. Years later my mother told me that she and all her girlfriends swooned over Frank Sinatra during WWII. I don’t remember any of Frank’s 78s but Bing Crosby was big time in our house while I was young.

texRitter_78rpmAlbum_wsI’ll tell you who was king … Tex Ritter.

His music, which dated back to when my parents were young, includes some of my favorites: Rye WhiskyBoll Weevil. and Rounded Up In Glory. Years would go by before I realized how great his Blood on the Saddle was. During those early days we had a small TV set that played its programming on a green screen. I was glued to it, and loved Tex’s singing cowboy films. When I was about five my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “I want to be like Tex and ride a white horse and shoot bad guys.” She quickly spoiled my ambition, telling me that he was an actor and didn’t shoot anyone, that it was just make believe.

This revelation didn’t spoil Tex for me. Actually his impact on me had just begun.

A short diversion …

This is necessary to give you an idea of where I’m headed.

I grew up on Tex Ritter music. Many of his songs hit home with me when I was a boy and they still do decades after his death in 1972. There are only a handful of singers who grab my inner soul with their music. Tex was, and still is, one, as are Parks, Lennon, Jackson, Cline, Jennings, Kristofferson, Cash, Branigan, Ian, and Nelson, among others.

Michael will be with me until I die; so will be John and Alan but for different reasons that are close.

Back to Tex

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While in junior high school a good friend my family, Lucille Ricks, obtained two signed photos of Tex dedicated to me. I’ve already posted one of the images on a blog. Here’s the other.

I’ve talked about Tex Ritter in other blogs, but I didn’t really deal with his music. There is one song, The Cookson Hills, that was only released on a 45 rpm record. Hopefully I’ll fix this, as the time since I last heard the song is so long in the past that I don’t know why this song still grips me. Honestly, I don’t remember the tune or the lyrics (other than they were haunting). Yes, I have a quest to again hear this song.

Almost all of the cuts from Ritter’s great album, “Songs from the Western Screen,” including Remember the Alamo, The Searchers, The Bandit (of Brazil), and Wichita are treasures. One of my all time favorites is Cielito Lindo, which Tex included on an album that he sang completely in Spanish called “Border Affair.” Believe it or not, he also did a country-Jazz album with Stan Kenton.

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LK as a gunslinger in 1973 (a year after Ritter’s death). Certainly Tex influenced me, but so did Errol Flynn and some of the other westerners from the golden age of cinema. Looking at this image, Clint Eastwood and his spaghetti westerns (and what came later) also did. Heck, what goes around comes around; my hair today looks like it did in this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Tex’s music added love and loneliness, heroism and tragic defeat, life and death to my early life.

I was lucky to see him perform at the famed Palomino Club (North Hollywood, Calif.) around 1969 (and then about two years later at Disneyland). My father, mother, future wife, and I had a table on the dance floor at the Palomino. It was perhaps fifteen feet from the tiny stage where Tex and his band performed.* The entire environment  was intimate (past tense, for this great club is long gone as the cost of bringing in top-notch performers became cost-prohibitive when salaries skyrocketed).

* I also saw Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride perform at the Palomino.

I danced a few feet from where Tex sang. When he took breaks I was able to chat with him.

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This modeling image was shot in 1974, not too long after Ritter’s death. The knit cap and leather jacket were mine, showing that I’ve been equal opportunity with hats and clothing that I’ve worn through the years. Yeah, the photographer and I were selling sex. It was in vogue back then, and it is rampant today. I guess that our culture has evolved. (photo © Louis Kraft 1974)

Tex’s deep baritone moved me from my childhood to the reality of my acting life in college (and beyond). They were boyhood dreams that never faded. His songs are with me today as they were in a long forgotten past, and best, they affect me as they did when I was young.

I hate to say it, but at times in college some of my pals in the theater department called me “Tex.” Why? I have no clue for none of them knew that I listened to Ritter’s music. My guess is that the wide-brimmed hats that I wore at the time (actually throughout my life) were the culprit.

Tex Ritter’s songs have given me a childhood life, a youthful life, and they still hang out with me as I walk into the sunset. (I’ll always have Michael and Alan; but although their music pulled from the past as it moved into the future while retaining traditional country tones, they can never recapture Tex Ritter and what he gave my world).

Songs can be favorites or ones that I’m not crazy about.
More important is that they can generate a multitude of images in my memory.

Also note that the timeline in this blog is not linear.

Two songs plus one

At the end of 1979 I was filming on location in the Pacific Ocean. At four each morning we boarded small craft at Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California, for a two-plus hour ride to naval vessels before cruising another two to three hours (that is until the California coast was no longer visible). All of this was on the clock, and when you considered the return trip to Hotel del Coronado I had 10 hours on the clock without working a minute (Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching … money, money, money). And better, plenty of time to hang out and explore the nuclear helicopter carrier.

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Doris and Louis Kraft Sr. during happy times at their Reseda, California, home in 1972 (photo © Louis Kraft 1972)

During the first week of location work my mother entered a hospital, and as we were filming six days a week I asked for that first Saturday off to fly home and see her. Granted, but she had returned home before I reached her. I returned to San Diego Sunday evening and six days later we completed the location work. The week before Christmas we shot pickup shots at the studio and that marked the end of principal shooting. Two days later I celebrated Christmas with my mother, father, and brother. My sister was present. The next day (26dec1979) my mother entered the hospital for the last time. Her death (on 4jan1980) gave my father and I a relationship for we spent every minute of our waking hours during this time together until the end (and every day went deep into the night). In our loss we found a friendship that would grow to love.

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Lee Kraft at LK’s house in Encino, Calif., on Christmas 1988. This image will hang in my house for as long as I am alive. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

My brother Lee had been injecting the experimental medications that would hopefully save his mother; they didn’t and this affected the rest of his life. My father had turned into the perfect husband during his wife’s last years (and she told me just before the end that these were the best years of her life). … When I asked my sister why she wasn’t around, she told me that she didn’t know that her mother was dying.

Ten years later I had a knee operation which marked the end of my baseball career. At the time I managed the Kool Aid Kids (see below). Two months later, on March 6, 1990, my brother Lee died in an auto crash (he was a passenger). My mother’s death had destroyed me as we were very close (I was a mama’s boy), but Lee’s death hit me like a sledge hammer to my head. I was a wreck, and still haven’t recovered from his passing. We worked together, fought together, played together, hung out together, partied together, loved each other, and were close.

theEssentialHighwaymen_ws

This is a two-CD album that was released long after Kris, Waylon, Johnny, and Willie stopped performing and recording together (Waylon died in 2002 and Johnny in 2003). I like the cover a lot better than their 1985 “Highwayman” album cover.

My sister (who didn’t know her brother) and brother-in-law wanted to use the Jimmy Webb composition that Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson recorded in 1985, Highwayman, at Lee’s service. That year they released an album that used the song for the cover title. I liked the song and didn’t object. Actually I have a lot of music by all four of them (I saw Willie perform at the Hollywood Bowl a few years back; Kris was present, but he didn’t sing). Lee’s service was so large that over half of the people that attended it couldn’t fit into the hall. The song, Highwayman, is about a bandit who died only to be reborn as a sailor who would die and yet again be reborn “around and around and around” within me (and I’m certain in others who also loved him deeply).

sarahMcLachlan_surfacing_wsNine years later my father died on Valentine’s Day (14feb1999). I had been taking care of him for years. I was a wreck, but insisted upon talking at his service. My sister didn’t think that I was capable, but I told her that I was (that is, I had been delivering talks for years and it was work). She and my brother-in-law wanted to play Tex Ritter’s religious song, The Deck of Cards (although my sister had already retired as an investigator from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office while in her forties, she had previously stolen an album of mine with this recording; she eventually returned it to me). I said: “Absolutely not!” This shocked her. “Why?” “He hated the song, and so do I.” “So what do you want?” she asked sarcastically. “I want Sarah McLachlan’s Angel.” I played the song for her and she was good with the choice.

reba_greatestHits2_wsAt this time Linda had been studying the ministry, which she hoped to go into, long distance. She lived in Lake Arrowhead, California, but only had to attend classes in person in the Santa Clarita Valley, north of the San Fernando Valley, for one or two weeks each year. During these times she stayed at Tujunga House. A year plus had passed since our father’s death. On one of the nights during the every-other weeks that my daughter spent with me the three of us made ourselves comfortable on the living room floor. I played another song for her, a song that also could have worked for our father’s service—Reba McEntire’s The Greatest Man I Never Knew (written by Richard Leigh and Laying Martine, Jr.) with lyrics, “I never really knew him. … The man I thought could never die has been dead almost a year. … He never said he loved me; I guess he thought I knew.” I’m not sure how my sister reacted as her face was passive and she didn’t say anything. Hell, she wasn’t close to our mother, brother, father … or me. This is something that I deal with daily for I loved her and must find a peace between us.

My father and I were at each other’s throats until his wife/my mother died. Her death gave us a relationship that became close until his death. He said “I love you” to me for the first time the night before he died. Reba’s song tears me apart every time I hear it, and it gives me everything bad and good in my relationship with him.

lk&lindaK_resedaHouse_15may1993_mkPhoto_ws

Linda Kraft-Morgon was gorgeous, but unfortunately this image doesn’t confirm this. The reason is simple: For over 10 years I took pictures with throw-away cameras that I bought at drug stores, as a real camera wasn’t in the budget. The little one in my family shot this candid while my sis and I enjoyed a moment (15may1993). At this time she was five years away from retiring as an investigator for the LA County District Attorney’s Office. I have a huge photo archive, and not too long back decided that I wanted to use this image even though the print was small and out of focus and full spots and scratches (none of this was my daughter’s fault; it was the camera and the cheap development/printing). We are on the patio at our father’s Reseda home, and it was party time. I can’t begin to remember all the dinners and parties at Dad’s. His home was always open to everyone, no matter what your race, color, religion was (and that included Lee and I). (photo © Louis Kraft 1993)

My sister was gorgeous, and she lived her life. I’m good with that. Unfortunately she died young in 2006 from the same cancer that killed our mother. I was there for her during the last two months of her life  (thanks to Sudeshna Ghosh, who was then my manager at Sun Microsystems and is now my good friend). Days after Linda’s death Lake Arrowhead was clobbered with a snowstorm. Deserted autos littered the roads almost totally hidden by snow. Visibility was probably no more than five feet as the snow continued to fall. It was ghostly, almost unreal, and yet it couldn’t have been a better setting to say goodbye. I delivered a positive telling of my time with Linda with words that were from my heart. They were full of happiness and life, and they affected people. … I need to bring resolution to the talk, to her life, and to mine. This has not been simple and there are no easy answers. Linda is with me every day, and not one hour passes that I don’t think of her. Hurt and anger are present, but I know that she loved me in her way. Someday we will meet again and that meeting will be for all time.

A beautiful lady w/No future in LK’s life

I can tell a story, a short story of a beautiful blonde woman.

lynnAnderson_b&w_wsI was fortunate and won a Western Heritage Wrangler award in 2012 (for “When Wynkoop was Sheriff,” an April 2011 Wild West article). It was a big shindig in Oklahoma City, a gathering of award recipients, presenters, rich donors, and adoring public. LK enjoyed his time in cowboy heaven.

This image of the blonde lady (left) was taken only a handful of years back, and although this is a publicity shot you can see the fun and life in her. I was lucky and got to spend time with her, if only for a little while. Looking back it was way too short.

A special lady that the Western Heritage Wrangler shindig allowed me to visit

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Dr. Henrietta Mann, speaking on the last night of the 2008 Washita Battlefield NHS symposium. (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

Every minute was gold during that April 2012 visit to Oklahoma City, and I added to mine by driving to Weatherford to visit Dr. Henrietta Mann, whom I met in 2008 when I played Ned Wynkoop on stage a number of times and then both of us spoke on the last day of a Washita Battlefield NHS symposium. Henri’s resume would knock you for a loop. What she has accomplished during her life is extraordinary, but I’m certain that she’d say that the highlight of her life is being one of the founders of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Yes, she is Cheyenne. … The round-trip drive was long, but it was worth it as I got to hang out with her and talk about this and that. We shared gifts, and although the future was in front of both of us we didn’t talk too much about our projects. We talked of good and bad and hope.

Back to the Western Heritage Wrangler happenings

I arrived on Thursday as I had a lot to do, including seeing Henri. Another special Cheyenne in my life is Minoma Littlehawk; I cannot ever thank her enough for the help she provided me on the pronunciation and spelling of the Tsistsistas’ (Cheyenne’s) language for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She is married to a special man, Ivan Sills, but he decided not to attend a party at a rich donor’s mansion on Friday, but was good with Minoma being my guest (she would dress in traditional Cheyenne attire).

Upon my arrival in OK City I met Dean Smith, a retired stunt man, Debbie, his beautiful wife, and their young son (unfortunately I can’t remember his name). They took the time to make me feel welcome (and this was just about every time I saw them).

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Ernest Borgnine and Nick Vallelonga, who produced Yellow Rock, the Wrangler winner for best western film of 2011. Ernie was full of life at the event, but unfortunately died three months later (he was 95 years old). (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Ernest Borgnine MC’d and presented (along with others that I knew and didn’t know, including Dean and the blonde lady). On that first night, Thursday, two of Borgnine’s great friends who had flown in from Florida to hang out with him ate at the same time that I did in the hotel’s restaurant. We almost had the place to ourselves. They introduced themselves, and on Friday when Ernie arrived they introduced me to him. I’ve seen a lot of Borgnine’s films, and he can be sympathetic and he can be menacing. In person he was kind, open, and a giving fellow. I enjoyed every minute I spent with him. You know what, Ernie wasn’t as large as he looked on film.

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Art of Paul and Connie Hedren based upon a photo I took of them on April 20, 2012. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

There were a lot of events on that Friday (20apr2012), a book signing with finger food that was open to the public. There was energy all over the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum, which the Autry Museum of the American West (recently the Autry National Center; the name changes so often that my head spins) could learn a lot from if it only it swallowed its pride and took a gander. At the signing I had luckily been placed next to Paul Hedren, an Indian wars writer friend.

After the signing time ended I wandered the halls of the classy museum and saw the pretty blonde lady for the first time. She was petite, wore a great cowboy hat, and was exquisitely dressed in fancy cowgirl attire.

As we passed I tipped my hat to her. She smiled, and I smiled back.

The day’s events on Friday ended before night arrived. We were bussed back to the hotel to get ready for a big party at a mansion. That is the award winners, the presenters, and the key donors of the Western Heritage Museum, and their guests.

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Minoma Littlehawk and her husband Ivan.

As mentioned above, Minoma was to be my guest at the Friday-night party, and would wear full Cheyenne regalia. It wasn’t to be for something attacked Minoma’s health and she was rushed to the hospital. Luckily she would fully recover. Her husband, Ivan Sills, who had been so gracious to allow her to accompany me, was right there for her every minute of the way. Bless him.

The award winners, presenters, and their guests were transported the mansion in mini vans for the private party somewhere in Oklahoma City. Debbie and Dean arrived, and she was knock-out gorgeous. The petite blonde lady I had seen earlier in the day was with them, and she was beautiful. After Debbie and I hugged, she introduced me to Lynn Anderson. My brain went dead. All I could think of was, You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden, which was a mega country hit in the late 1960s. I didn’t like the song, but I certainly knew it.

lAnderstonART7oval3_ws“Are you the singer?” I managed to say.

“Yes.”

“I want a hug and a kiss,” I said.

She smiled and granted my wish.

Later that night I sat at a table eating veggies, salad, salmon, and shrimp (delicious). Western hall of fame acting inductee Bruce Boxleitner sat down across from me with a plate of food, and said: “I know you.”

He did, for we had met I think in 2007 before a private screening of a live-action British documentary about the battle of the Little Bighorn in Sherman Oaks, California. The BBC documentary was quite good. After everyone ate and socialized Bruce and I sat together while we watched the film which featured Maggie Smith’s second son, Toby Stephens (of current Black Sails TV fame), who played George Armstrong Custer (the documentary was shot in 2006).

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LK with Bruce Boxleitner (21apr2012), after he was interviewed at the Western Heritage Museum. At this time we talked about his youngest son, who was at the awards, the museum, his win (his second) and Wynkoop for 10 to 15 minutes. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

At the Friday evening mansion party Bruce and I talked about the Indian wars. A woman sat down next to me with her food and immediately joined the conversation. The first thing out of her mouth was that Custer was a butcher and racist. No matter what Bruce or I said, she refused to listen. Bruce got fed up with her before I did and let her have it on the Indian wars and her stupidity. I thought that steam would erupt from her nose, but before it did she grabbed her plate and stormed away. “Well, we got rid of her,” Bruce said as he grinned.

Hedren’s After Custer won the Wrangler award for best nonfiction book; Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was the runner-up (and I have this from an insider who must remain unnamed). The Wynkoop book would also be the finalist for the WWA Spur Award. … That’s life and I’m good with it.

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From left: Retired stunt man Dean Smith, Lynn Anderson, and actor Bruce Boxleitner at the April 2012 Wrangler Awards in Oklahoma City. On the evening of the twenty-first Bruce was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum acting hall of fame. (photo © Ownbey Photography 2012)

Back to Lynn: Over the course of the next day and a half we saw each other briefly time and again and always they were good minutes. Nothing happened, and regardless of what some people think of me, I’m a gentleman.

I’ve always been a gentleman, so please disregard all the stories that in times long gone used to float on the wind that I have screwed hundreds of women, men, horses, mules, dogs, elephants, and even a cockroach or two. I’ve been guilty of a lot of things, but nearly everything that I’ve been accused of is fiction—and bad fiction at that, and with no redeeming words for the slimy creatures that have spread these stories. All I can say about these “stories” is that they hurt. After a while I stopped denying the stories. Why waste time and words on “people” (and I use this word sarcastically) who refuse to listen to truth or reason.

Cockroaches? Give me a break! I know what a pretty woman looks like, and it isn’t close to a cockroach.

Initially I had hoped to again see Lynn Anderson. When a man walks a lonely road he has lots of hopes and dreams. …

Lynn Anderson recently died (30jul2015), something that I didn’t know until the Los Angeles Times published her obituary. I learned about the lady, her ups and her downs—yes, she was a human being and had all the frailties that most of us have. I’m certain that this petite lady that I briefly met was someone worth knowing. The Western Heritage Museum knew this, for in 2012 they featured all of her music in their gift shop (and some of my work too, which was nice). … A hug and a kiss, a handful of minutes, and perhaps a friendship that could never be—the song remembers when, … You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden.

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The following is my acceptance talk on April 21, 2012, at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Awards ceremony—a cool-cool tuxedoed event that was filmed in a massive banquet hall that sits 1500 people. After being introduced by actor Brad Johnson and shaking his hand I walked past the podium and picked up my bronze Wrangler from a pedestal and carried it to the podium—I was the only person to hold the award—guess the others were nervous over the weight, somewhere between 13-20 pounds.                                                                                                                                                                                                   “National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, thank you for inviting Steve* and myself to your shindig. We’re having a great time. (* Steve is Steve Mauro, who was an associate editor at Wild West magazine; he has since moved to Japan. He was introduced with me.) Some of my best friends are editors, and one of my good-good-good friends has been working with me since the late 1980s. His name is Greg Lalire, and he’s my editor at Wild West magazine. Wild West is one of a slew of great history magazines published by the Weider History Group (LK: Weider was bought by the World History Group in 2015). Over the years we’ve gone back and forth with a give and take relationship as we try to make the stories error free while also trying to make them page turners. I need to tell you something: If it wasn’t for Greg, I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. … I hope that by now some of you have heard of a fellow named Ned Wynkoop. He was just like you and me. He had a family he loved with all his heart. He had successes and he he had failures, and like some of us he struggled to survive. But there’s one thing Ned Wynkoop had more than most of us—certainly more than me … guts. Guts to take a look at his world, a world of war and hatred and Cheyennes and Arapahos. He looked at his world and challenged it. He dared to reach out to people that were different from him and accept them as human beings. (Big applause, which I enjoyed.) Thank you. (I lifted the Wrangler award and kissed the cowboy.) Never thought I’d kiss a cowboy. (Silence, and I stopped breathing—I guess that the audience couldn’t believe what I had just done and said. Luckily, they eventually laughed; a big laugh.) National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum … Wild West magazine, Greg Lalire, Steve, and the magazine’s staff, along with myself—We’re honored. Thank you.”

All of the above said, LK had a great time at the Western Heritage Awards event. Good people, open people, … I met and enjoyed my time with co-winners (certainly Wild West’s Steven Mauro, who I hit it off with when I met him), Oklahomans including Chuck Rankin, my editor at OU Press, and much of the press’s staff that I had never met in person before, including their great art director and their marvelous production manager (Steven Baker*).

* Steven Baker is an absolute delight to work with; he is friendly, open to all suggestions (and demands), and he makes things happen during the production process (and long after). OU Press is lucky to have him.

I have written a lot of material for publication over the years and at times I have become public enemy No. 1 with my publishers. They claim that I overstep my position, that is, as a writer, and meaning that I am responsible for the words and nothing else. NO! No-no-no! I don’t care who the artist is—a painter, a singer, a composer, an actor, a writer … they, we, I, must push for the best product possible. If they, we, or I don’t, and the product is inferior they, we, or I cannot complain for we didn’t participate in the process—and the creative process is everything. As artists it is our job to do everything possible to make our work shine.

Yes, I am a demanding person who often oversteps the bounds of what is expected or desired from me as a writer. That said, everything I write has a vision and it is my job to ensure that my article, book, or blog (plays and talks are similar and yet different) is as true to my visualization as possible (this includes photos, maps, artwork, book covers and the text on those covers).

A lot of working relationships (and that includes writers, actors, and directors) in my past ended as I refused to deal with BS, lies, or verbal or written attacks upon me. … Yikes!!!!! I never would have guessed that the passing of a petite lady who had a good singing career led to the above tirade. I’m sorry, and yet I’m glad that my short amount of time in her presence initiated these strong feelings in me.

Enter my personal world and music that dominates it

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Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft at a Grover Cleveland High School reunion in October 2015.

Some 14 months after the Wrangler Awards I met a lady named Pailin Subanna. She was frail and hurt beyond belief, and she was beautiful. It was an instant attraction, something that I don’t think I have ever experienced before. On one of our first times together, we sat in a darkened screening room at the (then named) Autry National Center as a silent film played. Tears dripped down her cheeks. “I need time,” she whispered, “lots of time.” I knew then that I could wait for her as long as she needed.

Film scores, and selected compositions from them, are my favorite music. I know: What? ‘Tis true. Perhaps my favorite is Max Steiner’s The Final Goodbye from the 1941 Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland They Died with Their Boots On film score. Here Steiner mixes military trumpet calls with George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry’s theme song, Garryowen, and with the film’s love theme for Custer and his wife Libbie. For me it is terribly sad, and certainly doesn’t represent Pailin’s and my life. But then again, perhaps it does as it is very meaningful for me and represents love until the end of time.

tdwtbo_filmScore_wsErich Wolfgang Korngold’s score for Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) contains the most romantic music that I’ve ever heard. It is included in a symphony that merges the film’s score but isn’t in the full score of the film that I have (why?). This is the music in garden after Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe has been publicly chastised in court by Queen Elizabeth I of England (Flora Robson) for sinking a Spanish ship in the 1580s. After Flynn, in private, interests Robson in a piratical raid on the Spanish-held Panama peninsula he encounters Doña Maria (Brenda Marshall), in a rose garden. He had captured her when he sunk the Spanish ship, but here he calls her “My lady of the flowers.” This short scene is marvelous in how it deals with forgiveness and unsaid feelings. The music is intimate and caring and full of hope. There is one other Korngold film score that has a romantic love theme that I like a lot: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). After Maid Marian (de Havilland) is instrumental in planning Robin Hood’s (Flynn) escape just before being hung for treason, Flynn climbs the wall to Olivia’s private chamber. Again, Korngold’s score (for the Love Scene) hits the mark dead center, as if arrows shot from Robin Hood’s bow. Not violent, but instead sensual and tender.

geronimo_anAmericanLegend_wsThe Steiner and Korngold compositions represent my feelings for Pailin. But they are not alone, for Ry Cooder’s great score for the film Geronimo: An American Legend is loaded with a combination of music from the time period (American Indian wars; roughly 1860-1890) as well as his magnificent compositions that are totally in tune with the storyline and Geronimo’s life. One piece, La Visita, which features the guitar, is used in a cantina when Lt. Charles Gatewood, who is searching for Geronimo in Mexico, confronts scalp hunters. The scene turns bloody while the music remains melodic and peaceful. It is ethnic (something that Cooder excels at when he moves south of the U.S. border for his compositions). Pailin and I have totally different backgrounds, and even though the sound of La Visita isn’t American or Thai, it represents both of us (certainly me; more below).

Stay

I’m a button pusher on the car radio, and have always been one. If I don’t like the song—adios. I hate to say it, but easily 70 percent of the songs I that hear I don’t like. Also, I’m not loyal to radio stations (two exceptions being two sports stations in Los Angeles). Colin Cowherd, who left ESPN to produce his own show on Fox and move himself and his family to LA, is an extraordinary interviewer and is as sharp as they come at getting to the core of a subject.

rihanna_stay_wsShortly before I met Pailin on the afternoon and evening of June 15, 2013, at a dinner party at Tujunga House (looking back, perhaps one of the most important days of my life), I had scrolled between FM radio stations and came upon 97.1 AMP Radio in Los Angeles. It featured mostly new music (pop, hip-hop, and so on) and the sounds were alive. One was Stay by Rihanna (from her 2012 “Unapologetic” album). At that time Stay was dominating the airwaves. The first time I heard the song I was hooked. I still am, and as far as I’m concerned AMP Radio is the number one FM music radio station in LA. … I like a lot of the new sounds, for they have life and a heartbeat. … The word “stay” was certainly on my mind at the beginning of Pailin’s my time together, and it will be so for all time. Rihanna’s Stay is a song that I never tire hearing.

Sad SongsI Feel so Bad, and alley ways

My father used to tell me of his days of growing up in New York and walking miles through snow to get to school. The good old days? Hell, I have my own good old days when I walked 30 miles to school in torrential downpours with water up to my knees. ‘Tis true, except for the distance. … After some eight to twelve elementary schools I was able to settle into two steady years in one school for the 5th and 6th grades. But after graduation a handful of us were separated and yet again I found myself in a new world with few familiar faces. Sutter Junior HIgh School in Canoga Park, California, was a three and a half mile walk or bike ride (a car ride if rain pounded mother earth before it was time for me set out for school). Mostly I walked, and I learned the alley ways that were empty and yet full of music that blasted from open windows in the early morning.

It was at the beginning of my junior high years in 1961 that I heard Sue Thompson’s song Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) for the first time. She sang of a lost boyfriend, and although I was years away from having a girlfriend or any understanding of what love might offer, it touched something inside me.

Walking down the long alley brought me pleasure for many houses blasted their radios. Sue’s Sad Movies introduced me to Rock n’ Roll. It still gets air time at Tujunga House, and it certainly brings back memories of a car chase that had disaster written all over it.

Sad movies still affect me to this day, and there is no set reason why they tear my heart up, but they do. Some of Errol Flynn’s films and more recently Quigley Down Under (1990), Titanic (1997), The Bridges of Madison County (2000), and Blood Diamond (2006).

Thompson&Elvis_collage3_wsSoon after I heard my first Elvis Presley song, I Feel so Bad (also 1961). The song’s blues grabbed my soul and it has never let go. There’s something that drives me, and this has often made me a recluse. This is strange for I’m social and I like being around people, but for most of my life I’ve been a loner. … These two songs pushed me to ask for a radio in my bedroom so that I could hear rock ‘n roll and country music at my beck and call. I didn’t get a new radio, but instead the one that had been in my parents’ bedroom. … I was in heaven.

The walks continued to be long, as was the alley.

I was just a boy with visions of Duke Snider (the great Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder making glorious catches in the outfield and drilling home runs to right field), and of course toy pirates, cowboys, and Indians.

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Below image caption:
LK taking practice swings before the seventh game of the first season of the Kool Aid Kids at Winnetka Park in the San Fernando Valley (8dec1980). The first three or four years we played in a city league and always played different teams. During our fourth or fifth year we joined the Chatsworth Park League. They had two leagues with playoffs and then a championship game with the winner of the other league. This was cool because of the playoff system, but also because we played the same teams in our league two or three times each season (there were three seasons each year). Good times for LK, my brother Lee, Tony Graham, and a great group of guys (and their ladies). We practiced together, played together, and partied together. 
(photo © Louis Kraft 1980)

lk_before7thGame_1stSeason_8dec1980_wsThe “Duke” ruled my world and influenced my immediate future like no other sports star of my early years with but one exception, “Mr. Quarterback,” Johnny U (Johnny Unitas) of the Baltimore Colts, who almost singlehandedly set the National Football League on pace to become “the” American sport of today. I met and spoke with the Duke numerous times but unfortunately I never met Johnny U. I’ve had articles published about the Duke (but have never written about Johnny), and even though I pitched the Duke on a biography, he was already under contract for what would be published as The Duke of Flatbush (1988; written with Bill Gilbert), and he had to turn me down.

There’s one thing about me; if I want something I go for it. Regardless of my success rate, I have never shied away. You can’t strike out in baseball unless you come to the plate and swing the bat, … you cannot hit a home run in baseball unless you come to the plate and swing the bat. I have never shied away from coming to the plate. Success has good stories, but often failure has better stories. … Just look at the people that I write about. … They stood for equality and human rights, and they had the shit kicked out of them by the U.S. government, the military, the press, and the American population on the frontier, but this didn’t prevent them from doing what they thought was right.

What I’m really talking about here …

Although I didn’t know it, there would be a lot of Sad Movies in my life. Here I’m talking landing acting contracts, publishing contracts, and my relationships with people. My life has been a long and winding road, and because of this my relationships have surged and fizzled (some friends are forever while others are for a piece of time). I cherish my real friends (and it is just like yesterday when we see each other, talk on the phone, or connect on social media). The others? Glad I knew you. Vaya con Dios.

Early on in my professional life I did everything I could to land an acting or writing contract. I quickly learned not to whip myself if I didn’t land the gig or the assignment while realizing that constructive criticism was one of my best friends and that I should never allow my ego to block or ignore it.

My personal life has been a different story. My success with women is probably no better than my success rate with acting and writing. However, with the ladies, the failures always hurt. What could have been, what I wanted, and what could never be has always remained with me. There have been ladies in my life that have never been part of it, for they have been in it for only for a flash of time. … Good, bad, or indifferent my memories—be them acting, writing, or personal—are always with me. They are in black ink and painted in blues and browns and lighter shades of color. They are in my writing—fiction and nonfiction (yesterday, today, and tomorrow). They are my past and my future. They, along with my lady and my daughter, are my life.

Back to that alley that I walked through come rain or shine

One night in the late 1960s I drove to Dave Pittaway’s parents’ home in Reseda, California, and we went to pick up Dennis Riley at his parents’ house (also in Reseda) in Dave’s car to have a night on the town (they attended Pierce Junior College and I went to San Fernando Valley State College, which would soon become California State University, Northridge).

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This image was taken with my Brownie Kodak camera in summer 1965, shortly after Dennis Riley (right) and I graduated from high school. The little fellow in the background is my brother Lee. Dennis and I became great friends in high school, but our relationship began when we attended different junior high schools but often found ourselves rivals in sandlot sports. We have done a lot together over the years, and we have always been there for each other even though some of our views don’t agree. (photo © Louis Kraft 1965)

This was shortly before Dennis enlisted in the Navy. Dave ran a stop sign and cut a car off. Dennis was in the back seat, and when the other driver honked he leaned out an open window and flipped the bird. Suddenly the driver trail-gated us. “Is he crazy?” Dave or Dennis asked. “There’s three of us and one of him.” The race through the streets heated up, and it didn’t take us long to realize that there was another car behind the first and it was well occupied. As we sped west on Sherman Way Dave ran a red light and yanked the car north onto Corbin Avenue (one lane each way). The other two cars were right behind us as we entered the town of Winnetka. The speed had to have been close to 60 mph. I knew where we were, for this was just south of where I walked into the alley and heard Sue Thompson’s Sad Movies and Elvis’s I Feel So Bad. The first car sped by us and now had us sandwiched between our pursuers. We rushed toward the next intersection with a light (Corbin and Saticoy Street). “Dave,” I yelled, “just before we reach Saticoy there is an alley to our left. When we reach it turn into it and almost immediately turn left into another alley!”

The light at the intersection turned green and the first car flew across Saticoy as Dave yanked the wheel to the left and swerved into the alley. The second car, that now tailgated us, had no chance to stop and flew past us and through the intersection.

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LK’s office in Woodland Hills, Calif., in 1970. Not the best location (the property is worth a fortune today), but I didn’t have to pay rent. … I chose this image as it shows how I looked at the time of this infamous memory. Unfortunately I don’t have any images of Dave Pittaway or another that I can find of Dennis Riley (I should have few of him somewhere). And, alas, there are no images of the chase or of us hiding in the bushes. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

“Turn off your lights!” I ordered as Dave braked and fishtailed into the second alley. He turned off the lights as he sped down the pitch-dark and narrow asphalt. If an animal or person stepped in front of us, … it, he, or she would have been roadkill. Dennis and I watched our tail as Dave pressed the gas pedal; our pursuers probably got caught by a red light once they were able to turn around.

“When we reach the end of the alley,” I yelled, “turn right!”

Dave missed this order and the car blindly shot across a residential street and into the rear entry of an apartment building (luckily we weren’t broadsided). Before crashing into a staircase David yanked the steering wheel to the left and then to the right and swung into a vacant parking spot. He was slow with the brakes and the car crashed into the apartment building. Not much damage, but the impact sounded like a bomb. All three of us were out of the car in a flash and out of the complex and into nearby bushes.

Hours passed, and we saw and heard nothing. We ventured back into the apartment’s parking lot. All was quiet; it didn’t even look as if anyone had noticed a strange auto. Luckily our evening had ended on the bright side. That is, we didn’t have to engage in a brawl.

One of the greatest albums ever …

I liked Johnny Cash a lot at the time of his primetime TV variety show that aired between June 1969 and March 1971 (Michael Parks was a guest at the time of my favorite TV show of all time, Then Came Bronson (1969-1970)—more on Parks below). At that time Big John released a slew of impressive albums, but best I loved his duets with his wife June Carter Cash on TV (I could see the fun in their love, for it transcended whatever problems they struggled with throughout their lives together).

bitterTears_cash_wsEarlier Johnny had cut an album that was obscure, and yet he sang the songs with power and passion. It dealt with American Indians from their point-of-view (POV). Not a popular POV in the 1960s or unfortunately still in the 21st century. There are eight cuts on the album and seven of them are extraordinary. The album was called “Bitter Tears.”* This album grabbed my soul, and it has never let go of it. … Especially As Long As The Grass Shall Grow, Apache Tears, Drums, White Girl, and The Vanishing Race. Johnny had written Apache Tears and The Talking Leaves while folksinger and song writer Peter La Farge wrote five songs, and Johnny Horton wrote The Vanishing Race.

* In 2014 an album was released called “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited,” with various artists including Kris Kristofferson, who sang The Ballad of Ira Hays, recreated Cash’s original recordings. Perhaps I’m too-closely attached to Johnny’s album, for even though I play this album fairly often I find it lacking passion and weak in comparison. Rhiannon Giddens wrote additional lyrics for The Vanishing Race, arranged and sang the song, and her performance is by far the best on the album. There is one additional song, Look Again To The Wind (written by Peter La Farge).

In the 1960s I had no idea that I’d become a writer, much less a writer about the American Indian wars. I had no idea that I would come to realize that the Indians (Cheyennes, Apaches, Navajos, and many-many-many other tribes) fought for their loved ones, their homeland, their religion, their culture, their freedom, their lifeway, and their lives). John’s voice was (and still is) alive, vibrant and, his POV on the album is clear.

Rhiannon brings back memories of Patsy

I first heard Rhiannon Giddens on the “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited” album, and liked what I heard. I searched for her on Amazon and found that she was the lead singer for the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I listened to a lot of the short cuts from the group’s music (it goes back in time, and is alive with rhythms and emotions), but before making a decision to purchase one of the Carolina Chocolate Drops albums, Rhiannon’s first solo album was released in 2015 and I purchased it after listening to partial cuts.

patsyCline&rhiannonGiddensCollage1_wsRhiannon’s music has range and diversity. She also sang one of my all-time favorite pop songs from the early 1960s—She’s Got You—on her solo album. I loved this song the first time that I heard Patsy Cline (who tragically died in a plane crash on 5mar1963) sing it.

Patsy has always been my favorite female singer of all time, and Rhiannon has already become one of my favorites. If you don’t know these ladies’ music, you should.

Linda Ronstadt, cars, and Lee

Linda Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, and justifiably so. In 1974 my brother Lee (18 at the time) worked at a car dealership in the San Fernando Valley (if I ever want to talk about bullshit, I can certainly do it here). I was an actor looking for employment (read attempting to bring in money when not acting).

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This photo was taken at California State University, Northridge, and it is what I looked like when I drove American Motors autos, and later worked in the dealership’s auto body (where I was almost executed; the manager’s quick action saved me when he killed all the power in the shop and I dropped to the ground). (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Linda’s You’re No Good sizzled on the radio. Regardless of what you think about me I do like to eat, and I’ve always provided for people in my life. Lee landed me a job at the dealership. At the time American Motors was limping down a dead-end road but the company hadn’t realized it yet (or maybe they did). The only car they produced worth anything was the Javelin, a fast pony car. The job was simple. Drive new cars to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) rental lots or newly painted police cars to their destinations (these were Matadors), and yes, I pushed those beasts to the limit w/o cracking up a one—hell, I had to ensure that the LAPD were getting cars that could fly. Good times with Lee, and within six years we would start a softball team with friends. Lee and I would play ball year round for the next 10 years. Ten great years until his untimely end.

We’ve all seen a lot of death, and I know that it is hard on all of us. The death of my sister in 2006 marked the end of my entire immediate family except for my daughter. Luckily I still have her, and my lady.

I’ve always been good with people. All races, all religions, all colors. I thank my parents for this, but until 1970 I never had an inking of the trail that my life would follow.

Enter two men whose music blows me away to this day

As said above singer/songwriters are front and center in my life, but there is one singer that stands before them—Michael Parks. That means that he, along with Alan Jackson and John Lennon are the major players in my musical vocal life.

Alan Jackson

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An early signed concert photo of Alan Jackson. (LK collection)

I was aware of Alan’s work early in his career; at that time Los Angeles radio stations still played decent country music. His sound is traditional, honky tonk, with a touch of blues. Unlike many performers he has again and again branched into other genres from blue grass to religious while remaining true to his roots.

In 1992 a divorce was final and my daughter and I moved into an apartment in Woodland Hills, California (I had her every other week, the result of a costly negotiation but worth every penny). At this time Alan had a major hit on the radio, Midnight in Montgomery (w/Don Sampson). Some of the lyrics are: “It’s midnight in Montgomery … Just hear that whippoorwill … See the stars light up the purple sky … Feel that lonesome chill … When the wind is right you’ll hear a song … Smell whiskey in the air … Midnight in Montgomery … He’s always singing there.” He is the legendary Hank Williams. This song grabbed me and has never let go.

alanJackson_angels&alcohol_wsMy daughter and I had a used mattress on the floor, a love seat, and folding chairs. I had my computer, two large book cases, and my books and research. Here I wrote a contracted novel about Kit Carson that would never see print. The publisher dropped their western line and when I threatened to sue, my agent talked me out of it. Tragedy? No! For I had my daughter and soon a contract with friend Dick Upton (Upton and Sons, Publishers) to write and design a nonfiction book on Custer’s peaceful roundup of the warring Cheyennes and Arapahos on the southern plains in 1869. … This time, this short time, in Woodland Hills (April 1992-January 1993), was, and still is, a major piece of my life. … Every time I hear Alan’s Midnight in Montgomery, it brings me right back to nine plus glorious months in my life.

Alan Jackson’s songs from I’ll Go On Loving You (by Kieran Kane) to Gone Country to Don’t Rock the Jukebox (w/Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall) to She’s Got the Rhythm (I Got the Blues) w/Randy Travis to (his song that deals with 9/11) Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) to Remember When (my favorite of all time) to Angels and Alcohol).

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Alan Jackson announces his “Keepin’ It Country” tour in 2016.

Alan returns to SoCal for a concert this year. I had seen him several years back in Orange County (a great concert). He’ll be at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on April 16. I prefer close seats, and prices have gone up since last I saw Alan (high $200s to low $300s per ticket for good seats). Doable? Doubtful. But Pailin likes his music. November, December, and January have been disasters money wise. February will be also. Still? …

Although I hate lists, I could easily come up with a top 10 songs of all time list. Ladies and gents, this list is totally personal. Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down would make the list, as would Michael Park’s rendition of Wayfarin’ Stranger. Definitely Tex Ritter’s The Cookson Hills and most likely Patsy Cline’s & Rhiannon Giddens’ renditions of She’s Not You (two for one here). I can’t forget Rihanna’s Stay. That leaves John Lennon and Alan Jackson. Certainly Lennon’s Imagine and Jackson’s Remember When are on the list. (John and Alan will claim the final three spots, and this won’t be easy). … Ladies and gents, I always remember when.

John Lennon

That’s right, John Lennon! He is major in my life, but surprisingly he was a late entry for me mainly because I didn’t much care for the Beetles. Oh, they had some great songs, such as George Harrison’s My Guitar Gently Weeps and the Sun’s Going to Shine. But for me the greatest Beetles song was Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s A Day in the Life. This song was an eye-opener—then and now. It grabs me every time I hear it. The shock of the tragedy is stunning, and it refuses to let go of me. After our brother Lee died, my sister and her husband wanted to use Highwayman at his service and I agreed, but it may not have been the correct choice. Looking back, I believe that the song should have been A Day in the Life.

jLennon9_border_wsIt was a cold night in December 1980 when the Kool Aid Kids had a softball practice at Winnetka Park in the San Fernando Valley. Lennon’s joint album with his wife Yoko Ono had recently been released and some of the songs had play time on the radio. I had heard one or two of the songs, which were different in that they focused on a relationship between a man and a woman (something that Alan Jackson has excelled at) and I liked them. Moreover, Lennon’s single Imagine, which he created after the Beetles’ demise, had never been a button pusher on the car radio, for I always listened to it. I was roughly 10 years older than most of the fellows on the ball team that Lee, his great friend Tony Graham, I, and others had created. It was just a night of practice late in the team’s first year of existence. One of the fellows mentioned that John Lennon had been shot and killed at the entry to his apartment in Manhattan, New York City. Most of the team didn’t react, didn’t care. I did. I was shocked. Death and murder always shocks me, and I suppose that is why most on my writing has focused on people who put their lives at risk to prevent or end war (and all the heinous crimes that accompany it).

Believe it or not more than a few people actually turn their backs to me when I am present at events as a writer or speaker. This always gives me lift, and sometimes a thrill, as I mind-play going for a walk with them down a dark and lonely road so that we can discuss their problems. … Alas, those days of mine are long gone and have faded into my past. My rebel rousing days are simply memories now. If in the presence of a racist in LA today I will verbally confront them. … I think that the last time this happened was at a late-night dinner after I was a guest interviewee on an hour-long local Los Angeles radio station in 2010. When the radio show’s host and I decided to go for dinner another radio show host wormed his way into joining us. During the evening his words (the other radio host) became more and more racial, so much so that they weren’t worth a comment. I started to grin, and this unnerved him. “What’s your problem?” he snarled across the table. “You,” I replied, “you’re a racist.” I don’t say words like this unless I am prepared to back them up. On this evening I felt combative, for the—the I don’t know what to call this person—the “something” had leaped to his feet as he verbally defended himself and attacked what I had said. I smiled, my best Clint Eastwood smile. This unnerved him and he sat down. The rest of the evening rushed toward conclusion without nary another comment from my new acquaintance. After we paid, he leaped to his feet and while keeping his distance from me he ran for the exit. As the radio host and I left the restaurant I apologized for what had happened. He accepted my words, adding that I had been correct.

Maybe, but although he told me that night that I’d again be a guest on his show I’ve never been invited back.

doubleFantasy_wsJohn’s murder pushed me to explore his music, beginning with his newly released album with Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy. At first I wasn’t certain how I felt about this album other than it was different and was from the heart (two hearts; John’s and Yoko’s). This album changed my view of music, and certainly of Lennon (and Yoko). Country ballads and straight rock ‘n’ roll suddenly needed a reason to exist. This immediately gave value to Kris Kristofferson’s songs and opened the door for me to listen to Alan Jackson’s great songwriting (see above). John’s music had range and power and focus, and when you add in his values such as antiwar and peace, women equality, love, and his work grabbed me like no others before or after. Alan’s songwriting is close, for he has certainly focused on the human condition and has touched upon our world of yesterday and today—his Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) is extraordinary—and he is often dead-on with his subject matter, but John took his views to the next level (and this was before Alan’s time).

US_vsJohnLennon_wsA former girlfriend latched onto Lennon and Jackson’s music and liked it. Later she would say that both had “tinny” voices. Correct, but it is the words and the performance and not the magnificence of the voice. Her voice was extraordinary. At the Methodist Church in Burbank, California, the members couldn’t believe the sounds coming from her when she sang at Sunday services. She had studied music in her native country, was a great piano player (and taught piano), but her voice was God-given. It had the power and intimacy of Adele’s in the current hit Hello.

Lennon, more than most people I have known or have respected, put his life at risk and pushed the envelope. President Richard Nixon had him on his hit list for Lennon dared to speak out and sing about peace and the end of the Vietnam war. God bless Mr. Lennon for daring to stand firm for what he believed. In a small way I have attempted to change attitudes towards the human experience in history, but John touched a nation (the USA), a good portion of the world, and perhaps even his homeland (Great Britain). His music affected me in 1980 and still does today. He, along with Alan, will be with me forever.

A book sale and Quittin’ Time

The acting had been gone since 1985, but the years drifted forward at an alarming pace. The best thing I had going for me was the freelance writing. I had morphed into a publications manager and freelance writer for pay. Years passed and the year 1990 started poorly. It began with a knee operation (I used to run 3 1/2 or 7 miles per day; I have one recommendation—don’t do it). Next I received a great review from the editor-in-chief where I was publication manager only to be told that I would receive an $8,000 pay cut (yeah, times were tough back then too—so much for the good ol’ days). I quit and within a couple of weeks I landed a technical writing job based upon my freelance writing and publishing background. But before I started my brother died in an auto wreck. A handful of days over two months into 1990 and I had begun to wonder if I would survive the year.

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The Final Showdown was published in 1992. This image was taken in the entry to my former home in Thousand Oaks. I had permission to shoot publicity photos outside but couldn’t enter the house. When the photographer pushed to take photos inside I insisted that we continue the shoot on a hill just south of the 101 freeway in Ventura County. He agreed. (photo © Ventura News Chronicle 1992)

“The times, they are a changin’,” to quote Bob Dylan.

By summer my former wife and I bought a house in Thousand Oaks, California, without selling our home in Encino. The house was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. It had a pool (I had grown up a fish and swimming has always been a part of my life) but I didn’t live in Wonderland and this new round of swimming wouldn’t last.

But this went right by me.

It was still 1990 when a verbal pitch landed a contract for The Final Showdown. Life couldn’t be better.

I’ve always enjoyed entertaining, and the summer of 1990 was terrific.

At least on the surface, … I lived in a great new home, swam, had a book contract, and friends and family visited on the weekends. That summer  of 1990 was one I’ll never forget as my daughter learned to swim, and Dejah Thoris (a Doberman named after the princess of Mars, and the kindest and most loving animal I’ve ever known) also learned that she could swim.

… But the seeds were in place.

anderson_quitinTime_wsBy the summer of 1991 things had changed. Pool parties and barbecues had become mostly a one-man show. When people came over to hang out, eat, and enjoy the pool, my then wife was mostly a no-show. When asked where she was I didn’t tell the truth, but simply said that she didn’t feel well.

At this time John Anderson’s Quittin’ Time, off his great 1987 “Blue Skies Again” album, got a lot of playing time in Thousand Oaks.

The 1982 Jerry Reed song She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft) summed up what would soon happen.

The divorce became final in April 1992. I remember feeling a release while driving my 1982 Ford F-150 pickup that day.

For the record, my former wife and I have done everything
possible to befriend each other and to make our daughter’s
life as good as possible. I don’t know of a song that
deals with this. If there aren’t any, there should be,
for salvaged relationships are important.

Michael Parks and his music

I had seen some of Michael Parks’ early films and I had been impressed.

parks_HarleyPosterIn 1969 a TV show premiered. It was called Then Came Bronson, and it affected my life more than any film or TV series has before or after it. Parks was the lone recurring character as every episode had different players. In the pilot, with Bonnie Bedelia, Parks, accompanied by Bedelia, sang Wayfarin’ Stranger. It is a religious song, and it became my favorite song of all time the first time I heard it in the pilot (unfortunately the duet version with Bedelia has never been placed on a record or CD).

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Ad in LK collection.

The producers followed up with what they presented in the pilot, and that is Parks sang songs—mostly country leaning toward country blues with some that were almost pop. This of course led to an album, Closing the Gap. Every cut on this album is classic, but my all time favorite (other than Wayfarin’ Stranger) is Oklahoma Hills, which certainly dates back to at least Jack Guthrie and 78 rpm records).

In 1995 Custer and the Cheyenne was published by Upton and Sons, and I had a major talk on George Armstrong Custer’s peaceful roundup of the Cheyennes and Arapahos in 1869 after the  battle of the Washita which resulted in Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s death in November 1868. My daughter accompanied me on the trip; first to Taos, New Mexico, where we hung out while I tried to figure out what I’d say, and then to Amarillo, Texas, for the talk. In Amarillo, a city I’m not thrilled about, there is a cool steak house, which is also a tourist trap as it is right off I-40. She and I had eaten there about three years earlier, when we tracked Custer, the battle of the Washita, and then his pursuit of the Arapahos and Cheyennes onto the Staked Plains of Texas. My memory of Amarillo is of wind and more wind. If you are going to wear a broad-brimmed hat you had better hold onto it or it will end up in the next county. On our first visit two strolling cowboy singers with guitars stopped at our table and asked if we’d like to request a song. I said,”Oklahoma Hills.” The two singers sang it without missing a beat (a nice job)  and my daughter was impressed (so was I). Every time I hear Parks’s version of this song, he brings me right to my daughter and all of our road trips over the years (so many that I can’t count them all). Every one of these trips has been a highlight in my life.

If I’m sounding a little melancholy here, my apologies. Sometimes things don’t go as you want and hope. I’m in one of those zones right now.

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LK art of Michael Parks in concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on May 22, 1970. I had purchased expensive tickets but we were seated about midway in the auditorium. B.S.!!! I talked it over with my then wife, who was a photographer, and we decided to move to the front of the stage and kneel down in front of the first row of seats. She had her camera and clicked away, and best, no one bothered us. This image, blasted from both high and low stage lights, and was unusable. I turned it into artwork. … Michael Parks is by far the best singer I have ever listened to perform (on records/CDs or in person), and this includes Tex Ritter, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and the great Alan Jackson. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Years later I worked on a pilot called Turnover Smith, a proposed TV series with William Conrad playing the leading character, a detective, and Belinda J. Montgomery, a young actress that I personally knew at that time due to her family being my father-in-law’s patients (he was one of the leading general practitioners in Los Angeles at that time) played Conrad’s assistant. Parks was detective in the pilot. I lucked out and got to work on the pilot. I hung out with Belinda, spent good time with Conrad, and best for me I hit it off with Parks. We spent a lot of time together over the course of three weeks; maybe four.

He was working on an album that he called “My Horse Came Back,” and asked if I had a tape recorder as he’d lend me a tape of the cuts in their current status. I didn’t have a tape recorder at that time and never heard the songs. Michael had four albums (plus a “best of” album) that dated from Then Came Bronson years and the aftermath. All were country and country blues and they are my favorite albums of all time.

Decades passed, before he released an album that I only heard for the first time in 2015. It was jazz (not my kind of music, but Michael’s), and in 1998 he released his final album (to date), “Coolin’ Soup.” It is mostly jazz, but there are two country blues cuts that I really like.

Back to Wayfarin’ Stranger …

I’m evil, and I will live a long time. I’m front and center in what I need to do to make this happen, and I work at it every day. There are two reasons, and  both are of major importance to me.

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“Nuch” is Pailin. (photos © Louis Kraft 2012 & 2013)

1) I need to ensure that my lady and daughter survive in a harsh world. They are both innocents and need someone to watch over their shoulders, to protect them, and to keep them safe. To do this I need another 40 or more years.

2) I have a stack of books I want to complete and see published.

Ladies and gents, the above is my life.

Of course the end will come. When it does, I want Michael Parks’ rendition of Wayfain’ Stranger to play at my service (if there is one). I also want Ry Cooder’s instrumental version of Wayfarin’ Stranger from his Geronimo: An American Legend film score, as well as well as his La Visita. These three pieces and no others. … Not to worry. This is a long way off in my future.

Six staples are about to be removed from my head.
Life is good, and I’m enjoying every minute.

Upcoming Blogs

  • Green Card 2016 … Two lives since September 2014
    If all goes according to plan Pailin and I will have our second and final Green Card interview in September. Like our first appointment we will prepare and we will ace the interview. At the end of the first interview the interviewer asked what we had to show that would back up mostly Pailin’s answers to questions. I handed him a huge book with 8×10″ images of our life together. He turned pages and asked more questions. We knew that Immigration wanted images of us, but he refused to take any prints. I then produced a printout of a blog that I had created of our life together to that point in time and gave it to him. He was thrilled with the images, wanted it, and told us we passed. There will be an immigration blog 2, and I must begin it in February so that it will be ready in August, when I post it.
  • The Discovery is published!
    When The Discovery is published it will have a short blog that will hopefully give you an inside look at the story. A great physician and good friend, Robert S. Goodman, and I partnered on the novel. This will be the next posted blog; the plan is for late March or early April.
  • Sand Creek updates
    Beginning as soon as The Discovery is published, Sand Creek and the Tragical End of a Lifeway must dominate my writing life, and it will. I envision twelve-to-fourteen-hour days seven days a week except when I drop (Wow! It almost sounds like writing for the software industry, or working in film and TV but they paid big time for overtime.). As time permits I plan on posting numerous “short” (I know, Kraft doesn’t know what the word “short” means) posts with updates, questions, and whatever catches my fancy. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer a few teasers that won’t give away the story. There’ll probably be between three and five Sand Creek posts by the end of summer.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront. Actually, I’ll also include a subject that I didn’t know about until 2016. These blogs will deal with people who have opened their hearts to me in my recent life and certainly in their long-gone past. The blogs will deal with life and an uncertain future.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

— Louis Kraft

Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


For starters I should state that film has played an important role my life.

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Errol Flynn as Don Juan in the final duel in Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In my opinion Flynn’s sword fight to the death with Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca is by far the best duel captured on film. I’ve heard the criticism, such as all the takes had to be short as Flynn was out of breath. You know what? That criticism isn’t valid, for all that counts is what we see in the film. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing some of his performances on film (and this will include a few comments that will surprise and perhaps shock).

Know that my views don’t jive with popular opinions that have
been oft-repeated by writers and the media that do little original thinking
and buy into what is over and over again stuffed down their throats.

My opinion of reviews and reviewers is not sparkling

Reviews are opinions; some are based on bias while others are based upon sales or what the media has proclaimed and stuffed down our throats. … Also know that many reviewers base their opinions on what they saw on film or read in a book or viewed on a canvas (these reviewers should be praised and not considered brethren to cretins that have an agenda).

Film acting is a lot different than acting on stage. AND it must be natural, and let me tell you that sometimes this is very difficult to do—especially when you’ve got 35, 40, 70 people staring at you and you are now into your tenth closeup take for a scene and the producer is on set bitching about being over budget and screaming at the director why the idiot actor—you—can’t play the scene right.

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A publicity shot of Tim Matheson and Catherine Hicks from the short-lived TV show, Tucker’s Witch. (LK personal collection)

I saw this happen while working on Tucker’s Witch (1982-1983), which I thought was a decent show if it had had a chance to succeed. Already it had been canceled in its first season but the contract stated 12 episodes and we were then shooting episode number 11 or 12. The actor was a TV star with some film hits, charming, natural, and competent but now a producer had pulled the rug out from under him. The actor struggled, and bless him for he kept his composure as much as possible in a situation that should have never happened as he fought to perform as demanded by someone who should have kept his mouth shut and who should have allowed the actor and director do their jobs.

What the hell! Money is privilege and it rules.

As are reviews, valid or not. Believe me, they can make one feel good and they can also make one feel like slime that should be flushed down the toilet.

Money can “win” elections, or should I say “buy” elections? Reviews do more—much more—to individuals as they can hurt and destroy or build up and create. For the record reviews are sometimes biased. By that I mean that they can fry a performer (let’s say Richard Gere) or praise a performer (let’s say Bruce Springsteen) over and over again. When this happens it is based upon the reviewer’s bias. Here I’m talking about a Los Angeles Times film critic that eventually became the Times music critic. He’s not with us anymore. Ain’t that a shame.

The early days & a Tex Ritter influence

Film and I joined hands back when I was somewhere around four or five years old, and this time dates all the way back to Yonkers, New York. I lived with my father, mother, and infant sister in a wooden house that my mother had grown up in (my father and mother had bought it from her parents). Yonkers—at least where we lived—was in the hills and not far from the Hudson River.

LK&TexRitter_1950&1961_collage_wsWe had a small TV in a large wooden cabinet and the screen was green. I was often glued to Tex Ritter one-hour B-westerns that played all the time (as well as Buck Jones, who I liked; Wild Bill Elliott; Johnny Mack Brown; Gene Autry; Roy Rogers; and many others). Tex was a singing cowboy (as was Jimmy Wakely, Autry, Rogers, and others including John Wayne who made no impact on me for I don’t have any memories of him). Tex rode a white horse (White Flash) and caught bad guys (Autry and Rogers also did this, but often cars were in their films and I found that phony). I guess that it also helped that I liked Tex’s singing (Rogers’ songs were nondescript and Autry’s singing did absolutely nothing for me).

Before long my family migrated to California in a 1950 Hudson Commodore that my father had bought new in ’50. It pulled a 35-foot trailer. My father and mother loved the road and took every opportunity to explore the USA. This trip was no different than earlier trips that they had taken across the United States. It was my second to California for in 1949 my father, mother, and I visited it in a red 1949 Chevrolet convertible. I guess that the Chevy under performed as my father sold it in 1950 to buy the Hudson. He never owned another General Motors vehicle.

Hudson&CamaroMontage_ws

I have a great photo of the Hudson and trailer in the background with my mother, dinky sister, and small me during the exodus to California (but I can’t find it). … Thus this collage. The Hornet is on a rural road in Northridge, California, in 1974. This area is now wall-to-wall houses (a shame). The Camaro is at the beach in northern San Diego.

When I bought a new Camaro in 1998 my father told me that I’d regret it; I didn’t and the car averaged 24,000 miles per year until I sold it to buy a Vette in 2007. My father, who had been fragile since 1996 or 1997, refused to ride in the Camaro and didn’t live to see the first Vette (if I had been able to get him into the Vette I’m certain that he would have loved it for he liked cars that gripped the road and went fast). … I can’t remember the 1949 trip, but the 1954 trip took perhaps 60 days (there were no freeways, but we weren’t burnin’ rubber as we zig-zagged across the USA). In California we moved around hooking up the trailer in backyards with horses and goats and pigs and chickens and sometimes cattle in the very rural San Fernando Valley (most of which is in the city of Los Angeles and all of it is in the county of Los Angeles) before we settled in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

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Tex Ritter on White Flash. This image represents the first job description I ever had, that is I wanted to ride a white horse and shoot bad guys. (LK personal collection)

About this time my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her that I wanted to ride a white horse like Tex and shoot bad guys. She shook her head. “Tex is an actor. The bad men he shoots don’t die for they are actors too.” It was at that moment I decided that I wanted to be an actor.

During my early years I attended at least eight elementary schools, and perhaps more (the only two grades wherein I spent two years in the same school were the fifth and sixth grades). Sometime, probably in the fifth grade, I saw my first Errol Flynn film.

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I believe that this is the 1948 German one-sheet for Flynn’s 1940 film The Sea Hawk.

It was the 1940 Warner Bros. production of The Sea Hawk. I had already become a gunslinger (actually this had begun in Yonkers). There’s film of this, but my sister took it after our father died. After she died her husband dumped truckloads of stuff in my backyard but the old films from the New York years were not included. I guess that they hit the trashcan as he decided to start his life over and jettison his past. By now I was good with my cap guns. The pirate Flynn added swords to my repertoire (The Sea Hawk would add much more to my life, but that would be decades in the future).

Junior high school gave me three things: Better sports competition (although Dennis Kreiger, who would again meet up with me in high school and then our early college years was the perfect adversary in the fifth and sixth grades), acting classes with performances on stage, and best of all learning to duel with Ralph Faulkner. Faulkner had become the amateur world sabre champion in 1928 and competed as a member the U.S. Olympic fencing squad in 1932. Although he had come to Hollywood to become an actor (and he had silent film credits) his legacy was his long career in film as a stunt double and choreographer of film duels, which had directly led to him opening a fencing academy on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. I actually took a third place in a foil competition at his studio while in junior high school, and I competed against adults.

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This art is based upon a 1974 photo. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

There were no swords in high school, but in college I took fencing in my first year. I became a favorite of Muriel Bower, the coach, and she asked if I wanted to join the fencing team. I said that I would but only if I fought sabre. She agreed and I trained. … But we didn’t see eye-to-eye. You see I was a theater major, and this made my normal school day 7:00 AM until 10:30 PM or later during the week and often this included performances on weekends (backstage and when lucky on stage). This problem would haunt me over my professional life in the entertainment industry when I needed a job to earn extra cash. …. If it had been real life instead of a major 1966 multi-university competition at UCLA in which in real life I could have killed Bobby Crawford (Johnny Crawford’s brother; Johnny was famous for his part as The Rifleman’s son on TV and as the singer of decent pop tunes at the time such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors”). I was still learning sabre and I only fought sabre in the competition. I held my own but I didn’t win. There is a running sabre move wherein the attacking duelist runs by his opponent and slashes at his shoulder or head as he passes. I hadn’t learned how to parry it yet (actually Bowers hadn’t even discussed this move with me). In an earlier duel that day an opponent scored a hit when I failed to parry (block) the attack. In my duel with Bobby Crawford, who at that time was one of the best sabre duelists in SoCal, when he began to charge with the cut that I didn’t know how to parry I dropped down to one knee as his sabre was raised to strike. As he launched his slashing attack I thrust with all my might and struck him in the chest. The impact was so great that it bent my sabre blade into an “S-shape.” The contact was forceful and he stumbled backwards four or five feet while his blade nicked me on my thrusting arm. Point Crawford as I hadn’t parried his attack. I was up in an instant and rushed to Crawford to ask if he was all right. He said that he was. He wasn’t, and this I knew for his chest would turn black and blue and he would feel the hit for some time. Hell, my sabre blade was in an “S” shape from the impact and totally unusable. If this had been a real-life sword fight Mr. Crawford would have died on that day.

College gave me actor Jeff Corey and actor-director Robert Ellenstein. They set in motion my quest to eventually earn money as an actor (see below).

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Errol Flynn’s great film, The Sea Hawk (1940), took its title from Rafael Sabatini’s magnificent novel of the same name, which Warner Bros. owned the film rights. But that’s all it took. You see, Sabatini’s novel dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery in Tunis who rises to become a famed Barbary pirate that preys upon English vessels. Sabatini’s story was loosely based upon an Englishman and seaman named John Ward, who was starving at the beginning of the 17th century, and who moved to Tunis and became a pirate lord (the famed Captain John Smith of Virginia fame was the last Englishman to spend time with Ward). … This image is of Flynn as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, a pirate (BTW the term “privateer” didn’t come into existence until about 1640) who sailed with the blessing of Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England). The other image is my favorite romanticized painting of Sir Francis Drake (I have talked about the Drake connection to The Sea Hawk elsewhere).

Bob Ellenstein would play a major part in my world for five or six years after I graduated college. At times it seemed as if I lived at his house on the Westside of Los Angeles. I studied acting with him and he played perhaps the most important player in my life at that time. We did a lot together, including my introduction to an acting vogue at that time called psycho drama, which probed into an actor’s inner being. Coffee, breakfasts, and lunches at Bob’s home, plus talks, lots of talks, which, believe it not, included the pirate Francis Drake who to this day plays a major role in my research (often I leave him off my upcoming book lists but you should know that he is forever present with me).

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Three images of LK with a blade at different times. I’ve recently discovered other images with swords but they will take time to restore (if ever I decide to spend the time).

Years later I would study stage combat or “swashbuckling” from two people who approached this from different perspectives. This training would lead to me choreographing duels and dueling on stage.

Yes, Errol Flynn impacted my life (but much–much more than you can guess from the above).

Flynn was a natural actor when stage acting ruled film. Most of the so-called “great” actors over-acted and chewed up scenery. Many of these performances simply do not hold up. When viewing film from a time long gone one must consider the life and times of the film industry (just like one must consider the racial and social mores when studying the Indian wars). More important, one must consider and accept (and this is key) the technical world in which films from another era were created.

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Believe it or not, Flynn’s Escape Me Never (1947) is an outsider film that has the largest chance of making it into the LK top 10 Flynn film list. If this is true it means that the 1930s mega successes for Flynn (Captain Blood, 1935; The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936; and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) won’t make the list. I know, pure heresy, but with my top 10 Flynn films I’m talking about Mr. Flynn’s performances (and not big bucks). I’ll spend a little more time with Flynn’s Escape Me Never below. Here Flynn is with Eleanor Parker and Gig Young. (LK personal collection)

All this said, good acting survives time (and bad acting doesn’t). In Errol Flynn’s case other life ingredients would play havoc with his life, and because of this his life was extraordinary and worthy of study. Unfortunately long after Flynn’s death writers have written words that cannot be validated because they are out and out lies and this has continued into the twenty-first century. Unscrupulous historians who are little more than mud-slingers that create quotes, print facts that never happened, and often use notes that can never be confirmed because the cited documentation cannot be found. On this last sometimes obscure documentation is used and then totally falsified in the belief that readers won’t have it and if not they won’t make any attempt to find it. … There’s always a “YIKES” to this type of history writing for every so often another historian has the cited and oh-so obscure documentation.

Bullshit is bullshit and lies are lies and fiction is fiction and none of them are valid when writing biography.

Damn, that’s a good lead-in to an Errol Flynn blog. Unfortunately my dear friends it ain’t the lead-in to this blog for the following words won’t be accusatory. Actually all I want to do is mention my list of 10 Errol Flynn films and three of them are in the scope of Errol & Olivia, as well to wander in and around a smidgen of Errol Flynn’s reality and touch base with a few of his films.

eoImage_whiteAboveJust so you know Errol & Olivia deals with their life and times and will include all eight films that they played in together as well as selected other films between 1935 and 1941. The book will be a dual-biography and the word count will be 135,000. It will be a biography like none other that I have written in the past and although I have two additional books planned on Flynn they will not be like Errol & Olivia.

For the record, and I think that those of you that have an interest in Mr. Flynn or Ms. de Havilland, the following is of great importance. I have a novel that will be published in 2016 (The Discovery) and my work on it is almost complete. I do write about the American Indian wars (my interest is in people that risk their lives to step beyond racial prejudice and attempt to prevent or end war). Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway might be the most important book that I ever write. After the Sand Creek manuscript goes into production Errol & Olivia will become my major project until published.

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LK art of Ned Wynkoop as he sees the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line in September 1864. He and his small command faced death but he later that day, with words, convinced the Indians in council that they should secure peace. This rendering of Wynkoop first saw print in the August 2014 Wild West magazine. It may be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Every person that I write about in biography form was unique and dared to challenge his (or in Ms. de Havilland’s case, her) world. Errol Flynn was unique and he challenged his world again and again. Just like the Indian wars people that I write about, Errol Flynn had ups and downs and because of this he found himself under attack time and again. Like Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle and Charles Gatewood & Geronimo from the Indian wars, Errol Flynn fought to survive in his world. All of them, including Flynn, stood out, and people from their times and thereafter did whatever was necessary to bury them. There are connecting links, and in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek I connected Wynkoop to Flynn. And it wasn’t that big of a stretch, and I didn’t need to use the race card. Wynkoop changed from a man who thought that Indians were close to animals. Events in his life changed this view and he dared to fight the press, the military, and the U.S. government to secure a fair deal for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. …

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This photo of Flynn dates to 1940-1941, and it is my favorite of him. That said, he probably hated it, for his physical image again and again garnered him less than satisfactory reviews, reviews that either stated he was a “pretty” boy and nothing else or hinted at this. He cared about his work and these criticisms hurt him immensely. (LK personal collection)

Flynn didn’t do this. But just look at his life: He wasn’t in the military and didn’t have to deal with the brutal murders and sexual mutilation of human beings. Why? Simple, for Errol Flynn people were people. As his eldest daughter once said: “He didn’t care what race you were. If he liked you he liked you.” Errol Flynn was the most un-racial person I have known or studied.

Alas, this blog is going to move away from man’s inhumanity to man, away from heinous crime (and I’m talking about the Indian wars here), and simply talk about Errol Flynn the actor.

LK’s top ten Errol Flynn films

(top four/alphabetical and firm)

1.   Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

2.   Gentleman Jim (1942)

3.   The Sea Hawk (1940)

4.   They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

(bottom six/alphabetical and not firm)

5.   Dodge City (1939)

6.   Four’s a Crowd (1938)

7.   Objective Burma (1945)

8.   The Dawn Patrol (1938)

9.   Uncertain Glory (1944)

10. Virginia City (1940)

I won’t be discussing the films on the list or this blog would turn into a book. That said, I will mention a few of the above titles. I’ll also spend a little time with Captain Blood; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Escape Me Never; Crossed Swords; and Too Much, Too Soon; among others.

Not to worry for what I say here won’t give away Errol & Olivia for there is only enough space to deal with a few points—important points—but if they make it into Errol & Olivia they will be expanded upon in directions that you won’t be able to guess from what you read in this blog.

Alas, I won’t be discussing any of the films in detail here.
However, I will in the upcoming Flynn books.

Well-constructed words can always hide bias

As stated above I’m not big on reviews of anything, and even though I just presented you with a list I hate lists. They mean absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen lists that have been printed and much of the time I run to the bathroom to vomit (Robert Florczak I’m not talking about you, for your lists are well-thought-out and valid). Most of them are regurgitated baloney or worse. Often I see the same titles again and again. Did the person who created the list put any effort into creating their list? Or did they simply peruse lists that they had previously seen?

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The perfect example of a film that I cannot stomach is Gone with the Wind (1939), a film that Olivia de Havilland risked her film life at Warner Bros. to obtain the role of Melanie after she was told that the studio wouldn’t allow her to work in the film. In this image you see Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (left), who deserved her best female supporting Oscar; OdeH as Melanie Hamilton; and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara; who Clark Gable as Rhett Butler should have shot in the first reel of the film (of course then there wouldn’t have been a film). My view on this film: I hated it and was bored to tears, and even though I own it on DVD (mainly because I wanted the one-hour OdeH interview), I have yet to see this film to the end other than the first time I saw it in a movie theater about 1969. (LK personal collection)

Of course you know that it’s risky to pick a film that was a huge bust at the box office, and most people who create lists steer clear of films that don’t make a lot of money. Although this isn’t always the case, often best film lists stick with films that were block-busters, Oscar winners, or were so artsy-fartsy that I’ve never been able to get through a complete viewing of them. Read 10 minutes, or if I have time to burn, 15 minutes and click. Goodbye! The reason: I’m bored. The plot hasn’t caught my interest and the actors’ performances have scored a zero with me. If the film in question had been a stage performance I would have been screaming “Get the hook!”*

*This is a not-too-kind expression from times past that means slipping a hook that is attached to a pole around a performer’s neck and then yanking them offstage.

I’ve got to care about story and performances. If I don’t, viewing a film is a waste of my time, … and I don’t give a bleep about how great a critic with his thumb stuck somewhere claims the film is or how a certain performance is one for the ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Oscar-winning performances in the past and I’ve suffered through the film as I’ve wasted good money to see it in a theater. … While talking about the Academy Awards and other major acting awards I hope you realize that millions upon millions of dollars are spent every year to buy these awards. The awards season that begins late in the year and climaxes with the Oscars in February of the following year has been for years (nay decades) a three-ring circus with often the largest pocketbooks bringing home the bulk of the awards. My view of these TV extravaganzas? A joke. The last time I watched part of one was when I was recovering from a surgery a number of years ago. A friend was staying with me, and about two plus hours before the conclusion (and I have no idea what actors or films danced home with the gold statures that they had purchased) we turned off the television and enjoyed a good Mexican meal at a local restaurant.

It’s too bad that pro football players, pro basketball players, and
major league baseball players can’t spend millions of dollars each year
to buy Most Valuable Player awards. Heck, they earn enough in
salary and endorsements. This seems like a no-brainer to me.

The swashbuckler

In the 1930s Errol Flynn became connected with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., when writers began saying that he had donned the swashbuckling armor and boots and followed in the silent film legend’s footsteps. As it turned out Flynn would go on to make nine swashbuckling films. Four of those films would secure his legacy as the swashbuckler for all time. I hate to say this but since Flynn’s death in 1959 no actor has come close to challenging his mark on this genre of film. None.

(For a little more on Flynn and screen dueling see: Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion.)

I love this poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood (but I’ve got a poster I like even more framed and on a wall). This poster was created for a video release of the film and I couldn’t believe it when I was lucky enough to obtain a one-sheet of it locally. (LK personal collection)

There are valid reasons why Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t on my list of 10 Flynn films, but they are not for this blog. Both films are in the scope of Errol & Olivia and trust me I will spend a lot of time with both films, and a good portion of what I present will be positive. As with my Indian wars books I don’t whitewash the major person or people or their actions. Errol & Olivia will not only focus on Flynn and de Havilland and their life and times but also the eight films that they made together.

Four of Flynn’s swashbucklers are classics: Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940), and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). In the last three Flynn excelled in the dueling scenes. In one other film, The Prince and the Pauper (1937) Flynn’s duel with an evil captain of the guard (Alan Hale) who intended to kill the prince who was poised to be named king of England as his father (Henry VIII) had died near the end of the film is superb. It clearly demonstrated what was to come.

Unfortunately Flynn’s four swashbucklers in the 1950s don’t compare to his earlier efforts. The most popular reason that I’ve often seen is that Flynn had aged. He had, but he hadn’t lost his grace and skill, … simply his stamina and physical strength. What really impacted his dueling in these films: Against All Flags (1952), The Master of Ballantrae (1953), Crossed Swords (1954), and The Warriors (1955) were the lackluster staging (that is: choreography), film angles, and editing of the duels.

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I think that Against All Flags is at the absolute bottom of the nine swashbuckling Flynn films. Don’t doubt that it was a Universal production and meant low budget. One of the half sheets for the film is absolutely gorgeous. This Spanish one sheet is well-done and I like it. (LK personal collection)

The sword masters that created these duels and rehearsed them with the actors and stunt men couldn’t compare to the great master Fred Cravens (and his crew) that Flynn worked with in the 1930s and 1940s. I have a caveat here. Early in The Master of Ballantrae Flynn duels with his brother (Anthony Steel). This duel is fast-paced and well-done by everyone involved in front and behind the camera (and this includes the editors). By the time that Flynn shot The Warriors his dueling days had passed him by and he said as much in his magnificent memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways (which is strange for he seemed capable enough in Crossed Swords). By the way, the British title for Flynn’s last swashbuckler, The Dark Avenger, was a much better title than The Warriors. I actually like this film much better than Against All Flags. Alas, Flynn’s duel in a tavern with a French captain (Christopher Lee) was mostly performed by a stunt double. Still the choreography was better than the slap-dash staged fights in Against All Flags, which had the look and feel of a B-film. The best thing about Against All Flags were the one-sheet and half-sheet advertising posters, which were quite good (as opposed to the American posters for The Warriors that did nothing to sell Flynn or the film).

Dancing between reality and a public image

In 1984 I worked on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, shown on TV in 1985 (for a little background on it see an earlier blog: How race has affected my life & writing), with Errol’s Flynn’s first daughter, Deidre Flynn. At that time another miniseries was shooting called My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn, which was supposedly based upon Flynn’s memoir (which is one of the best books that I have ever read) with Duncan Regehr as Flynn. He sounded like Ronald Coleman, looked nothing like Flynn, and worst of all had absolutely no charisma (he could have been playing Daffy Duck with an accent).

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LK connecting with Pat Wymore Flynn on June 6, 2006, when the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland (Beverly Hills, California). Deidre Flynn is center in the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The production company had asked Deidre to be an advisor for the Flynn miniseries. She had read the screenplay and gave them a resounding response of “No!” She had no clue that I knew a lot about her father (believe it or not my research of him began shortly before his death when I was in elementary school). That said, we talked slightly about her dad. She told me that the screenplay was a piece of crap and that she wanted nothing to do with the production. I saw the miniseries when it first aired (and once again a dozen or so years later), and it was a bleeping joke! And I am being kind here. Only two performances were decent—Barbara Hershey as Lili Damita and Hal Linden as Jack Warner (and I’ve never heard Warner’s voice). Everything and everyone else was terrible or worse. If Olivia de Havilland saw Lee Purcell attempt to play her I’m certain that Livvie would have made a couple of runs to the bathroom to vomit. I was embarrassed for her and at that time I never dreamed that sometime in the future I would spend prime time with her. … Enough of talking about a miniseries that should have never been produced.

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The cover of Higham’s piece of Errol Flynn fiction says it all on the book’s dust jacket.

A few years before the Flynn miniseries aired Charles Higham saw the publication of Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Doubleday & Company, 1980). I bought it, as I have every book on Flynn that I can get my hands on, and read it. With notations that were so vague they were immediately suspect, Higham would have us believe that Mr. Flynn was both a bisexual and a Nazi spy. The fictional rantings should have been ridiculed; instead they were accepted by the media (which always jumps onto anything that might defame a human being). Oh, and I should mention this: You cannot defame the dead in the United States (at least you couldn’t in the 1980s). Not so in Canada, where the book was also published. If I remember what Deidre told me correctly, she and her sister filed a complaint about Charles Higham in Canada. I don’t believe that he ever dared to reenter Canada again. … Mr. Higham has since moved on to wherever people who fictionalize and distort history go, and I do hope that the flames are sizzling. His travesty of a book single-handedly destroyed Flynn’s reputation and for so doing awarded him massive book sales. Olivia de Havilland called Higham “despicable.” Believe it or not there are other Flynn writers and more than a handful of Western historians that think that there is nothing wrong with what Higham did—rewrite history at the cost of truth and reality. These cretins cite primary source material that is often so obscure that they are certain that no one can find the cited works even if they looked. Guess what: I have research material in every room of my house except for a bathroom and the dining room. Some of these cretins (I should use stronger words here, but I’m trying to keep a civil tongue) cite real documentation (thinking that no one has it or will look for it) with quotations that don’t exist except in their books of lies. When they don’t do this, they misinterpret what the primary source material states (again, always obscure and hard to obtain material). Their thinking here is that they have cited authentic documentation and it is beyond challenging. … In a word: BULLSHIT!

I’m sorry about the repetition of the above, but this is important.
Facts must always be questioned and confirmed. Alas, this
is so important that I return to it below.

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Susan Goulet art of a famed EF publicity photo (© Susan Goulet 2004). I’m not sure if she has the color of his eyes correct. She had created a wonderful portrait of OdeH and I had given Olivia a print of it in 2004 (I kept the original art). She loved it. This image is a copy of the original art in the LK personal collection.

I do know one thing: Mr. Flynn worked hard at being an actor, took an interest during pre-production and production although at times after the farce of a rape trial in 1943 he decided to give the public what they expected of him. This turned out to be a two-headed dragon for not only did he present himself as the lecher that the Los Angeles criminal justice system attempted to paint him as (read: behind closed doors political shenanigans then in vogue) but also that it marked the beginning of a huge downward life spiral that he mistakenly thought he could reverse whenever he wanted.

He couldn’t.

I’m not going to talk about what I see as the real Errol Flynn in this blog (this I’ll save for Errol & Olivia and the two follow-up books on EF). All I’ll say here is that the general population’s view of him as a man, a human being, a father, and as an actor and writer is incorrect.

Over the years Errol Flynn saw his Warner Bros. salary and say in his films grow. By the mid-1940s he had worked into his contracts that he could choose some of his films (his Thompson Productions produced three films) and as his phallic image grew (to his disgust) so did his efforts to break his heroic image. In doing this he easily demonstrated his acting range, but it cost him popularity at the box office.

Finally, and this is related to the above paragraph, Jack Warner would have never invested the amount of money he did over the years in Errol Flynn if he wasn’t sold on Flynn’s creative talents.

Views of a few of Flynn’s films

I’m just going to meander here as I talk about a handful of Errol Flynn’s films that are for the most part not considered among his great films.

Escape Me Never (1947)

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Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn work at hustling for money as they travel across the southern Alps in Escape Me Never. Their off-screen friendship gave their on-screen relationship an extra dimension. Over the years Ida would be one of Flynn’s greatest supporters. He was lucky to count her as a friend. (LK personal collection)

Flynn and his three co-stars (Ida Lupino, Eleanor Parker, and Gig Young) played off each other nicely. … Flynn and Young are composers in Italy. Gig’s lady (Parker) is rich while Flynn’s (Lupino and her infant son) are not. Flynn is a budding genius with an ego to match (which is understandable); he also has a roving eye for the ladies. I hated this film when young and I still hated it when I had last seen it about 30 years ago. Reviewers have always pinged the film on its lack of authentic shots of the canals of Venice as well as the backgrounds of the Alps (and the problem of the phony canals and background images of the alps were obvious the first time I that saw the film when a teenager) but Flynn’s performance was a major discovery for me when I again viewed it this past summer. His acting ability had grown in leaps and bounds in the 1940s and is right on in this film; that is right on in everything except for lecherous glances at women. There are perhaps a handful, and honestly I believe that these were director decisions (like The Adventures of Robin Hood direction discussed below). Looking back it is too bad that Errol and Ida only acted together in this film.

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A publicity shot of Ida & Flynn at the beginning of Escape Me Never. (LK personal collection)

For all of you Peter Blood (Captain Blood), Geoffrey Vickers (The Charge of the Light Brigade), and Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) fans I’m going to shock you, so please sit down and hold on tightly. If a Flynn performance and film gets bumped from the bottom six of my favorite EF films most likely it will be by Mr. Flynn and his performance in Escape me Never. I know; heresy. Hey, I’m a former actor, a resurrected actor, and if lucky I’ll again be an actor. I’ve already stated what goes into making a film that grabs my interest. I need to state here that I’m talking about Errol Flynn the actor. I’m proud to say (other than the few director-pushed instances of over acting while eyeing a pretty woman) that EF’s internal system was functioning and his natural instincts were right on target. Perhaps working with people he liked helped, but for my money he was a hundred-fold better actor in the 1940s than he was in the 1930s.

That Forsyte Woman (1949)

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Errol Flynn and Greer Garson in a scene that is hard to watch in That Forsyte Woman. (LK personal collection)

This film was the first under another Flynn contract that allowed him to act in one film per year filmed at a studio other than Warner Bros. This stiff Victorian drama carried Flynn’s performances in Cry Wolf (1947) and the western Silver River (1948) to the next step of being as far away from the adventurous hero as he could possibly get. His performance was controlled and right in tune with the time period. Those who saw the film and expected to see Errol Flynn the hero must have been shocked by the time they exited the theater in 1949. That said, Flynn’s performance shows without a doubt that he really was a magnificent actor. If we can believe his words, and I do, this was one of his favorite performances (if memory serves me, Gentleman Jim Corbett, see the film list above, was another of his favorite roles). Greer Garson, Flynn’s co-star in the film, had heard a lot of trash talk about him prior to filming. After working with him she had nothing but praise for the actor and man.

Ladies and gentlemen, Errol Flynn had taken what he had learned during the 1930s, had crafted during the 1940s, and at the end of that decade put it all together. Regardless of what you think Flynn’s Soames Forsyte was the performance of his entire cinema career. I need to have a top 12 Flynn film list, and this is going to happen (I’ve just given you the two films that will make the list).

Here’s a quick thought for you
In 1940 Errol Flynn earned about eight times what
Olivia de Havilland earned. Why? They both became
stars when Captain Blood premiered in December 1935
but the level of stardom was evident by the end of the last
reel on that historic New York City night. … I can’t give
away Errol & Olivia but put the above sentences
together and you should be able to figure
out what happened as both of them
moved forward with their
professional careers.

Crossed Swords (1954)

This is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production. It had the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff (who had shot The Master of Ballantrae, which had been released the previous year, and who would be Flynn’s choice to shoot and direct his ill-fated William Tell). Flynn looked great (and much better than he did in Against All Flags, 1952, and The Master of Ballantrae) and his physical prowess hadn’t deteriorated (actually it looked better than in the two earlier swashbucklers) to what it would be in The Warriors (1955). Perhaps the Flynn-Barry Mahon teaming with an Italian production company was responsible for the result, which could have been much better. Worse, the production team couldn’t provide a decent script, a decent director, complete scenes (many could have used extra cuts and angles added to improve the final product), better action (some is quite poor) or decent actors (I’m not certain of what I think of Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida’s on-screen relationship other than it is definitely better than previously reported. … Alas, some of the acting other than Gina and EF is amateurish).

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The lines are on the DVD cover, which wasn’t too professionally produced.

My DVD was created using an Italian print of the film (Il Maestro Don Giovanni, which would translate to Master Don Juan, leading one to wonder who Flynn played in the Italian release of the film). The color is decent and not faded but not great. The entire film has had an English-language sound track added to an original Italian release print for the DVD. I’m certain that most, if not all, of the Italian actors were dubbed, but the sound (dialogue, sound effects, and film score) is not good. It is obvious that the editors attempted to get the words as close as possible to the actors’ mouth movements, but this meant that now Flynn’s words are slightly off, and it is definitely his voice. My guess is that the complete track was pulled from an English-language release.

For the most part Flynn (as Renzo), who was decent in the film, doesn’t seem to connect with the rest of the cast. My guess—and that’s all it is—was the language barrier while shooting the film, especially for the Italian-speaking actors connecting with Flynn. Cardiff and others behind the camera spoke English but I think that Flynn was the only actor saying his lines in English. Honestly, Flynn was a professional and I don’t think he had any problems with language during the filming.

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Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida are about to surrender to their fates (as is her father, who is in the scene but off camera in this still). This image shows Flynn’s typical involvement in a scene as well as his physical appearance. (LK personal collection)

Cesare Danova, who played Raniero, Flynn’s staunch friend in their misadventures with the fairer sex, immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1950s to play the title character in Don Giovanni (AKA Don Juan), which was released in 1955. He would go on to have a long career in American film and TV. My memory doesn’t shout out that he was dubbed in his American performances, but I could be wrong early in his U.S. films. Lollobrigida also began appearing in big American films in the 1950s. … The duel at the end of Crossed Swords was by far Flynn’s best climatic fight against the villain in all of his 1950s swashbucklers. And this is a massive understatement by LK. Flynn performed most of the final duel and his movements were fluid and well-done. His sword work was good and damn-near great (and there was very little stunt-doubling of Flynn in the final duel). Flynn’s swordplay far out-shined everything else he did in the 1950s. The only sword work that compares with his work in Crossed Swords was his short duel with Anthony Steel at the beginning of The Master of Ballantrae.

Again, this is the film that could have been if it had only been a Warner Bros. production.

BTW, swashbucklers co-produced in Europe with leading
English-speaking actors were often less than satisfactory well into the l960s.

Three more EF films and a return to Mr. Ellenstein

Errol Flynn made three films in which two were released in 1957 (The Big Boodle, The Sun Also Rises) and one in 1958 (Too Much, Too Soon). These films, all of which were American-produced after his long self-imposed exile in Europe. They contain, in my humble opinion, his best acting in the 1950s. This Errol Flynn was no longer the romantic hero who wins regardless if he lives or dies by the last reel of the film. Instead these performances were by a man who had lived life and had sunken to the depths of despair and yet had survived. These films presented a man who could no longer swing a blade or ride a horse and knows it as he nears the end of life. They are alive with sadness for an audience that knew what came before and yet they show a man who, if not quite a fighter to the end he does what he can to present as good an image as possible considering his situation.

Only Flynn’s Ned Sherwood in The Big Boodle is active and puts up a fight as he struggles to stay alive while clearing his name of a crime he didn’t commit.

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This image is based upon a b&w image in the LK Collection. Robert Ellenstein was one of the most important people in my life. See Bob’s comment about the acting and film world (below), as it gave my life focus at every step. I’m certain that he followed his simple rule as he lived his life and career. … I’ve known a lot of people who were not as they presented themselves. They had agendas that perhaps could be labeled as “heinous.” If yes, these people, if still alive, should be in prison. Bob Ellenstein was not one of these people. He was an extraordinary human being. And better he set my life on the course that it follows to this day. My father, my brother, and my mother influenced my life, and so did Robert Ellenstein. He was one of the most magnificent people that I have ever known during my entire life. Bob, thank you from the bottom of my heart. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I want to say a bit (probably a lot more than a bit) about actor and director Robert Ellenstein (who died in 2010). In the 1960s I was a theater major at what became California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The on-staff acting professor and I didn’t connect and I learned little from her. Luckily the university decided to bring in professionals to tutor the students. Jeff Corey, who had been blacklisted for 12 years in Hollywood during the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s, used his lost years to good advantage and began teaching acting. He became my acting coach while Bob Ellenstein became my directing coach. Bob and I connected and after I graduated college he became my acting coach, confidant, and good friend (as did his wonderful wife Lois). I can’t tell you how many happy and learning hours I spent with Bob and to a lesser degree with Lois.

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Errol Flynn as John Barrymore. Often it has been said that Flynn played Flynn in Too Much, Too Soon. I don’t know enough about John Barrymore’s life to know if this is true, but I intend to find out. For the record Flynn talked about how he played “Jack” Barrymore. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Bob Ellenstein played a key supporting role in Flynn’s Too Much, Too Soon, and of course I asked him about what it was like to work with Flynn (to this point in time I hadn’t seen the film). Bob’s lawyer entered the picture after Flynn’s John Barrymore had died. The answer was not what I wanted to hear: “My scenes were shot on days that he didn’t work. I never met the man.”

As the years passed and as Bob and I became close we shared more and more about our lives and as we did he guided me. … Acting is a lifelong study for a person must come in total contact with his or her being. That sounds simplistic; it is not. It is hard work. At one point Bob said to me while talking about the acting and film world, “Whatever you do, make sure that you can live with it.” I took this to heart. For the record I have never done anything that I can’t live with, and let me tell you that I have been presented with many unsavory propositions that would make you sick. I have never given in for the cost was way too expensive for my living soul.

An image of Mr. Flynn & yet another attack

On the late afternoon and evening of October 17, 2015, I was lucky to spend prime time with people from my past—people that shouldn’t be in my past, but friends that are still part of my life. It was a reunion, and honestly, if it wasn’t for a good friend of mine named Pete Senoff I probably would have passed, Thanks Pete, for it turned into a special time.

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From left: LK, Dennis Kreiger, and Ken Small at our high school reunion at the Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel on 17oct2015. A good time for LK. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft)

Dennis Kreiger and Ken Small went to the last two years of elementary school with me, the three years of high school, and Dennis spent at least a couple of years with me in college. Ken became a police officer in Los Angeles and eventually a chief of police in Florida and then in Huntington Beach, California. Dennis had a successful tennis business in Encino, California, for decades. They are two of the good guys out of my past and present. I don’t know if they knew who they would become, but I didn’t know my future. Early on I did well with writing and essays but it didn’t mean anything to me.

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Friend Dennis Riley, who was then a photographer’s mate in the U.S. Navy, shot this publicity photo in June 1969 at my parent’s house in Reseda, California, shortly after I completed my American Indian anthropology class, graduated from college, and began pursuing a career in acting. Oh yeah, broad-brimmed hats and I go way back. (photo © Louis Kraft 1969)

In my last semester in college I talked my way into an upper division anthropology class (with absolutely zero anthropology background). The professor gave in and I enjoyed myself in a class that dealt with American Indians that ranged from Alaska south into Central or South America. We had a term paper and I wrote about a young Apache’s journey into manhood. The professor set up a meeting between us. “Your paper is fiction,” she said. “It was supposed to be nonfiction.” “The instructions didn’t say that,” I replied. Her eyes looked up to the heavens. She shook her head, perhaps in the hope that I would go poof and disappear. I didn’t. Finally she chuckled and smiled. … I did quite well in that class. Still, I’m certain that if another hustler approached her without any anthropological background he would have fled for his life as she let loose with unbridled determination to never again deal with an outsider to the study of humankind.

Even when I wrote a screenplay about a shocking 1976 summer of acting in dinner theater (me), drugs (not me), racial prejudice, and bald-faced hatred wherein I was thrilled to escape the Lone Star state in one piece I still didn’t have a clue of what my future might hold. … Actually it had been preordained and was in place at least as early as 1970, and that experience was more horrifying, but as usual it didn’t register in my brain. Moreover, I still hadn’t realized what type of person Errol Flynn really was. This would still take me another decade or two to learn.

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I once wrote an article entitled “The Image of Errol Flynn” (Films of the Golden Age, Spring 2000), and even though I had made it clear the article dealt with Flynn in the 1940s letters to the editor attacked me for not including Flynn in the 1950s. Often editors will ask writers of articles to respond to letters to the editor. I should say that I hate letters to the editor for often they are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. In this case I simply said to the editor that there was no reason to reply as the ridiculous statement was out of scope of the article. … This hasn’t always been the case with some of my articles published in Wild West. These comments have often been flavored by racism or hatred toward me, but often I haven’t had to reply as I have viewed the comments an open invitation to attack. The editor, Greg Lalire, is first class and a good friend, but at times he walks a fine line between reality and insanity. More than once he has taken care of the problem offline (that is not in print or online). I love this! In 2014 an attack struck from a place that it shouldn’t have (and those reasons won’t be exposed until I go on an offensive that will initiate a war, a war a number of magnificent historians want me to start). Will I? Honestly, I don’t know. Guts Kraft, you need to trust your instincts and expose the lies and deception!

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LK enjoying champagne with Olivia de Havilland (“OdeH” as I often call her and “Livvie” as Errol Flynn often called her) at her home in Paris, France, in July 2009. The lady is alive, funny, informative (when she wants to be but secretive when she thinks it is best), bright, charming, and oh-so-sexy. Livvie is alive and I hope that she outlives me. For the record, she has been burned by unscrupulous writer-historians and agrees with my views on Errol Flynn. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

What I have just stated above has also been true with so-called historians that write about Errol Flynn. They view him as open season, and fabricate facts and quotes while often citing obscure documentation that is hard to obtain at this late date. Worse, their facts and quotes are at times fiction (or, if you will, lies). You do not want to hear my opinion of these people, and I am using the word “people” here very loosely for these hacks aren’t “people.” I’m not going to call them what I know they are in this blog. Most likely I’ll never call them what they are, but I have every intention of exposing their fraudulent writing that has been created to destroy a human being’s life and reputation long after the fact without valid proof. As far as I’m concerned this is a heinous crime.

Back to the swashbuckling image

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A classic magazine cover; alas, they don’t make them like this anymore. This isn’t quite true, for Wild West magazine is moving to art for their covers (and this is something that I like).

Beginning with the release of Captain Blood (based upon the first portion of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, Captain Blood: The Odyssey, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922) in New York City in December 1935 Errol Flynn became an overnight sensation—a superstar* if you will—and his co-star Olivia de Havilland became a star (but not as bright as she would have liked). Warner Bros. realized that they had struck gold with the Flynn and de Havilland combination and began looking for another epic to cast them in; it would be The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), inspired perhaps by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem of vainglorious defeat. Again the film was adventurous as it mixed a little history with a lot of fiction. Unfortunately a love triangle bogged the story down. Nevertheless Warner Bros. confirmed what they already knew—the combination of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in an epic romance meant big bucks at the box office. But for some unknown reason Warners ignored what they knew and began casting Flynn in films that were little better than melodramas in scope and delivery. Except for The Prince and the Pauper, but here Flynn was little more than a supporting player with a magnificent duel at the end of the film. By the end of 1937 Warner Bros. had finally realized their error of splitting Flynn and de Havilland apart. After almost making a major casting flub (casting James Cagney as Robin Hood), someone woke up and suddenly Errol and Olivia were once again cast together in a major motion picture. Filming on The Adventures of Robin Hood began in fall 1937.

* The word “superstar” was first used in relation to a great cricket team in the 1830s. Almost a century passed before it was used to describe great hockey players between the years 1910 and 1920. More decades would pass until the word hit its stride as we now know it today, but that wasn’t until long after Errol Flynn’s time.

One thing stood out in the 1930s and it is still true today—Errol Flynn appeared very natural on film. It, for the most part, looked like he wasn’t acting, and in a time when many actors came from the stage and their performances looked like acting, Flynn didn’t overact. At times the critics would chew on him for his naturalness, and judging by comments that he made over the years this hurt and bothered him.

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This is an original lobby card from the 1938 release of The Adventures of Robin Hood. (LK personal collection)

Oh, there were times when he did overact, such as in a scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where his eyes go from left to right (or was it right to left?) in a closeup as he supposedly took in lay of the land (as to where Sir Guy of Gisbourne’s (Basil Rathbone) soldiers were waiting to jump him. I’d bet my life that this ridiculous closeup was insisted upon by the director. Actually one of two directors: William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, as I believe both had a hand in the major episode sequence in which the cut that I’m talking about is located in the film. I’ll have to go back to the script and match the closeup number with the call sheets to see when the shot was made.

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Published art based upon a studio still of the Rathbone and Flynn final duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I think that it is pretty good work by the artist that created it. (LK personal collection)

With the release of The Adventures of Robin Hood Flynn’s stature rose to new heights. I above discussed a shot that bothered me; there are others. That said, Flynn is magnificent as Robin Hood. His physicality and athletic ability is present at all times as is his capability with the sword. … My problem here is major, for no one can handle broadswords as presented in The Adventures of Robin Hood and I know this for I have swung a broadsword that was made of material that was considerably lighter than steel. It isn’t easy and there is absolutely no way that anyone can swing a broadsword as shown in Flynn’s 1938 film. That said, Flynn’s handling of the sword in that film was extraordinary (albeit they are rapier cuts and slices and thrusts). Basil Rathbone loudly proclaimed that he had studied the sword and “could have killed Mr. Flynn whenever I wanted.” (I hope that this quote is close; if not, it is a paraphrase). You want to know something? If in reality it was a duel to the death between Rathbone and Flynn, my money’s on Flynn. Reason: Rathbone was swinging the blade by the numbers. If what I just said is true, Rathbone was a student fighting with technique while Flynn fought to survive (and he had plenty of survival skills that dated back to his days in New Guinea … not to mention his dueling lessons that dated to Captain Blood). Again, and without batting an eye, my money’s on Flynn.

Alas, it will take three books to deal with Flynn’s swashbuckling and western and war and human experience films. If it becomes obvious that I won’t meet my goal of three full-fledged nonfiction books on his life I have every intention of writing a lightweight volume or two (similar to Tony Thomas’s superior film histories and genre-specific tomes w/photos books). This is easy for me. All the research is in place and I’ve got tons of images. This could be accomplished in half a year per volume (my average nonfiction book takes at least five to seven years to write when it is a major project). … If something happens and suddenly time becomes short I will move to plan B.

Mounting up with Mr. Flynn

In My Wicked, Wicked Ways Flynn called himself “the rich man’s Roy Rogers.” I didn’t check to see if I have the quote correct or if I have paraphrased it here. I’m not certain if he was talking about later in the cycle of his eight westerns or not.

A surprise named Dodge City

If memory serves me, and I didn’t dig for this blog (that said, I know Flynn), Mr. Flynn questioned being cast in a western film when he became aware that Warner Bros. was preparing a western to fit his screen persona (Dodge City, 1939).

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A relaxed and smiling Errol Flynn on the first or second day of Dodge City location filming. (photo in LK personal collection)

Of course he hadn’t done any research on the western expansion as the United Stated pushed to make the country extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t think that an Australian accent was present on the western frontier. Actually all accents were present on the western frontier and Mr. Flynn fit the mold of the adventurers that went a-westering to find fame and fortune. Trust me when I say the following, … Errol Flynn was more believable than the multitudes of “cowboy” actors that have been little more than clichés since the beginning of film. I’m certain that he would have enjoyed hearing this during his lifetime. He didn’t. If I meet him in the hereafter I’ll tell him this.

Like my knowledge of the sword I know the western experience. Actually a hundredfold more than the sword. I know race relations, I know the people that ventured West, I know the American Indians (certainly the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and Navajos), and I know the people that attempted to end racial war (I’m upfront and center with this topic).

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This art was created from a recent photo of Pailin Subanna-Kraft and LK. She’s my pistol-packing lady and I’m Mr. Hickok. BTW, the hair was mine as I needed useful photos with long hair. It was recently clipped for an event but don’t rule out the return of long tresses for now that it is gone I miss it. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write about the gunmen, I know a hell of a lot about James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok (who, if I get lucky, I’ll someday play on stage), John Wesley Hardin, and Doc Holliday. Errol Flynn would have fit in with all of these people, and if he lived in the 1860s or 1880s he would have been a survivor. His performances in western films, except for his next to last, Montana (1950), are all acceptable. Three are exceptional (Dodge City; Virginia City, 1940; and They Died with Their Boots On, 1941), two are acceptable (San Antonio, 1945, and Rocky Mountain, 1950), and one I cannot comment about (Silver River, 1948) as I haven’t seen it in decades. … While still on the subject of who I’d like to play on stage, add Errol Flynn to the list. In the case of Hickok and Flynn I need to convince my director and producer to buy into the project (which I’d write). The Flynn project would be original but the Hickok project would be based upon a great novel, East of the Border, by Johnny Boggs (and in this case I also need Boggs to buy into the project).

“Must See, Must Read”
Five intriguing books and five films about the Indian Wars
by Louis Kraft*
Wild West (August 2014)
They Died With Their Boots On (1941, on DVD, Warner Home Video): If Errol Flynn hadn’t played George Armstrong Custer, there would have been no Kraft writing about the Indian wars. Long years past through present day, critics of this film have pounded it for its historical inaccuracy. Although true, let me invite you to actually research it—which I’ve done since the mid-1990s in preparation of multiple books on Errol Flynn (the first to be called Errol & Olivia). The thrust has been simple: In 1941 Warner Bros. feared being sued, and historical players and facts changed to fiction. Even though the film is fiction, it is so close to truths that have been disguised and altered that it’s scary. I can’t list them here, but trust me, for ’tis true. Don’t buy it? Do your own research. … Errol Flynn’s performance as George Armstrong Custer is magnificent, for he captured the spirit of the man; and Olivia de Havilland is perfect as Libbie Custer. It is arguably Flynn’s best performance, and by far their best performances in the eight films they did together.”
* This column is ongoing in Wild West (by contributors to the magazine).
Usually five books and five films have mini reviews. I made my comments personally related to my writing career. This issue also included two other LK articles.
One, a feature, “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War,” was, I believe, the best
article that I have written about Ned Wynkoop.
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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer in They Died with Their Boots On just before he sets out for Montana Territory and destiny, and the real Custer 11 years before his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. For the record Custer set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on his final Indian campaign on May 17, 1876. He didn’t engage Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians on the Little Bighorn River until June 25, 1876. This fact is here for, believe it or not, people have stated to me numerous times that Custer fought his final battle a day or two after setting out. (both images are in the LK personal collection)

Already this blog is fairly long and I don’t want to expend another four thousand or more words here. If you’ve read my Flynn articles you know what I think about They Died with Their Boots On (my best Boots article appeared in the June 2008 issue of American History). There had been a pitch to True West to write short articles on all eight of Flynn’s western films (which had been accepted at the time of the pitch in June 2012) but then, suddenly, as I prepared to deliver the first article the idea was dropped by the magazine. My view of the change without notice: Bullshit, which I made known. Because of this I’m on True West’s “S-list” and have no intention of again pitching them with another story idea. They can pitch me and if the story idea is acceptable to me I’ll write it for them (ditto, Wild West), but I have no intention of pitching True West until this less-than-savory event is resolved to my satisfaction. Wild West is another story, but it, too has something that we need to resolve. … Add that book writing is my major concern and honestly I don’t give a damn if I ever write another magazine article. Hell, I’m never going to write for Oracle or Yahoo! again (and they paid me a hell of a lot of money)—why should writing for True West or Wild West be any different (and they pay peanuts)?

Hey, that’s life. … At least that is my life at this date in time.

For the record Errol Flynn looks like he was born astride a horse. This was evident in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and in all of his westerns (except for Montana).

The goal has been to hopefully catch your interest in Errol Flynn, but not to write a book within a blog.

For those of you that doubt me and what’s a comin’ …

I have one thing to say. Don’t! I have always delivered in the past and I will deliver in the future.

Upcoming Blogs

  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life. Fortunately the length of time between blogs has shortened, but alas the length of the blogs hasn’t.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

— Louis Kraft

A Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway update

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


 You should know that when I write blogs I’m not writing plays,
articles, talks, or books. When drafting a blog I function as a journalist.
I have points to make. Sometimes I deal with the past but often I deal with
the present. The goal is to present an opinion on events (past and present) while getting my facts straight. When I deal with the past I’m researching a memoir; when I deal with the present I’m focused on events that affect my life, and
I talk about them as they are important to me. Regardless if I write about
the past or the present the goal is to inform and entertain you.


The times are boiling …

One of my best friends of all time went under the knife on September 23. A wonderful friend of mine in Thailand has just lost her brother. …

An anticipated call did come on September 23 from a
wonderful lady who is my best friend’s sister.

A language translator totally messed up reality
as to my Thai friend’s brother’s situation
and tragically he died.

Life is precious and I make an effort every day to cherish the time I still have.

As promised in a previous blog I’m keeping my Sand Creek project up front with status updates. Ideally these will be shorter blogs (and not books, as my friend Vee has often reminded me about many of my posts).

What follows will mostly deal with the trials and tribulations of LK attempting to make progress on an Indian wars book that will be in my opinion perhaps the most important book that I’ll ever write. All I have to do is complete the manuscript and then work closely with my publisher to ensure that the printed book is as good as we can make it.

You should know that when I begin to draft a blog
I have an idea of what I will present. When I write fiction
the characters take over and move the plot, but in the blogs
it is the subject matter that controls the flow of the text.

A return to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

During 12 days in June 2014 I performed intensive primary Cheyenne research at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. I had been promised my extensive photocopy request in September 2014. And don’t ignore the word “extensive,” for it was. Read a massive amount of work for Research Services Assistant Manola Madrid, who had worked with me closely on previous visits to the Braun. There would be a delay, but this was not Manola’s fault, and I truly believe that the delay was not caused by the Braun. …

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The Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Changes at the Autry National Center, to which the Southwest Museum merged with in 2003, were about to become reality. In July 2014 people that had landed research grants (if that is the correct term) would dominate the Braun staff’s time, and then the reality of the closure of the Braun and ultimately the final closure of the Southwest Museum (which still hasn’t happened as it is still open on Saturdays for people to see, … I believe one exhibit that has rotated some artifacts and improved the placards that describe what the visitors see.

WestResearchTripMontage_sept-oct2014_wsSeptember 2014 came and went. Actually the rest of 2014 came and went; great times for LK as I was able to take PSK on her first research trip to the West in the Vette. Almost 4,000 miles in 19 days. She researched Sand Creek in Colorado with my good friend and great Cheyenne wars historian John Monnett and his wonderful wife Linda (they kindly welcomed us into their home). In Santa Fe, New Mexico, PSK got to hang out with my wonderful friend Tomas Jaehn, who is responsible for creating the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library, which is part of the New Mexico History Museum (if you saw the historic artifacts that the history museum has hidden away you’d faint). Pailin was again put to work at the Chávez and then locating the last place that Ned Wynkoop lived at in Santa Fe (this last thanks to Tomas’s right-on tips on how to find the building), and again came through with flying colors. We next headed for Texas to see my great friends Glen and Ellen Williams (and Glen’s pretty sister LInda), and like Mr. and Mrs. Monnett, the Williams opened their home to us.

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This is a detail of a painting that is one of many placards at the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner in southeast New Mexico (unfortunately I don’t know the name of the person that created the art). Here Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson (right) is agreeing to command Gen. James Carleton’s (left) Mescalero Apache campaign in 1863. The Mescaleros would be removed to the Bosque Redondo before Carson’s burnt earth campaign against the Navajos began later that year. BTW, the Bosque Redondo Memorial is magnificent. If you have any interest in the Apaches or the Navajos’ forced confinement in a deadly environment a visit to the memorial is well worth your time. If you are a Mescalero Apache or Navajo cultural or Indian wars historian-writer it is mandatory that you visit. … BTW, Kit Carson was not the racist-butcher that so many uninformed people stuff down our throats. For starters he had an Arapaho wife, a Cheyenne wife, and a Spanish wife. He also spoke six or seven languages: English, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Spanish, Ute, Mescalero Apache dialect, and I believe Navajo. Not bad for a person who is now often slandered and libeled as a butcher and racist by people with their thumbs stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

On the way to Texas we visited the Bosque Redondo in southeast New Mexico where the Navajos were incarcerated after the “Long Walk” in 1864 when they surrendered to Kit Carson’s burnt earth campaign that had few fatal casualties (I believe under 30 deaths). This area now thrives but in the 1860s it was a land of pestilence and death. This was must see for my next nonfiction Indian wars book will feature Carson’s relationship with Indians (but most likely not the Navajo campaign or its aftermath).

Yeah, I’m up to my usual evasion tricks. Sorry.

Back to my line of thought. January 2015 arrived and I still didn’t have any of my Cheyenne research that I had been promised in September 2014. If you know me well you know that in the past (actually my dark past) I had a short fuse. Time has mellowed me, but at the beginning of this year I needed to calm the rest of me down (not a small task).

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Liza Posas, who is archivist and head librarian of the Braun Research Library, played a major role in my 2014 research time within the George Bird Grinnell Papers held by the Southwest Museum. She is professional, open, helpful, and kind. I have enjoyed every moment working with her, and look forward to when we again work together. In this image of her on 20jun2014 she is showing me the scope of the George Bird Grinnell Papers. (photo © Louis Kraft & Liza Posas 2014)

On August 6, 2015 (13½ months after I made the request), I picked up photocopies for what amounted to a little over a third of my order at the Autry National Center (a short surface-street drive as opposed to a three-freeway potential nightmare). Email communication at that time stated that the rest of my research had been digitized. I was quoted a page cost for the digital pages and told that I would hear more in a week. The week passed. Actually over a month passed. Believe it or not I have deadlines, but worse it takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it does a page of fiction (to be honest, I believe that this is an understatement for I’m thrilled when I get a full page of Sand Creek text written in a day (granted that day may only be five or eight hours, but heck sometimes I can crank out two or three pages of fiction in an hour). Remember that none of this writing is polished for I’m only talking about rough drafts. That said, nonfiction polishing easily takes a lot longer than fiction polishing as I’m again concentrating on facts and dates and making sure that a polish doesn’t turn the nonfiction into fiction.

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This image of Pailin and LK is now from a time long gone (although the art is based upon a photo taken a handful of days ago). I’m playing with it and trying to use it to figure out how I’ll create a piece of art that is required. It is an ongoing search for me to figure out what I need to do to create artwork in the very near future (and believe me it has nothing to do with gunfighters or frontiersmen). I’m a firm believer in doing plenty of research before a word is written, or in this case playing with color, line, and technique before doing anything (other than researching the subject) before attempting to create art for a book cover. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

The Sand Creek manuscript deals with five types of people: Whites that saw an opportunity in a new land (Colorado Territory) and did what they could to secure the land and their fortunes at the cost of the American Indians that claimed the land as theirs; the Cheyennes and Arapahos who called this land theirs; the whites that married into the tribes; the mixed-bloods that walked between two races; and the whites that dared to speak out against the butchery of Cheyennes and Arapahos who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military. … Add females whenever I have enough information to bring them to life. … Oh, I should add that racism was rampant in the 1860s.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is not an easy manuscript to write. The research is massive, and worse I have to bring the leading and major supporting players to life with a minimal amount of primary information. And just as important I need to make the text flow seamlessly between the various people groups and their actions, while at the same time attempting to keep all the players’ points of view (POV) in focus. The goal is to have the reader make their decision on all the players’ actions.

Doable? You bet! Can I do it? I don’t know, but I hope that I can.

For the story to work the people must be real. They must live and breathe and have objectives as they react to their life and times.

Back to the immediate present

In mid-September my fear threshold began to reach its eruption peak. The Sand Creek manuscript is due at OU Press on October 1, 2016. Hell, I’m light years away from completing a rough first draft, a first draft that I’m still collecting primary source material to complete (again, I did my research at the Braun in June 2014).

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Manola Madrid working on the first floor of the Braun Research Library for LK in June 2014. She’s a hard worker, very knowledgeable on the subject matter, and most important an absolute delight to know and call friend. For what it is worth, Manola and I can talk about anything. That’s a real nice feeling, and worth keeping. With all the massive changes that the Southwest and the Autry are undergoing she has chosen to walk away and retire in mid-October 2015. I’m thrilled for her, … my lone hope is that our relationship can continue and that someday I’ll meet her husband and that she’ll meet Pailin. (photo © Louis Kraft & Manola Madrid 2014)

LK is thrilled (and angry) but thrilled is the bottom word. I’m writing a book about the end of the Southern Cheyenne lifeway. This primary research; useable or not is mandatory by me. There was so much to see in just one archive that there was no way I could get through all of it in 12 days. Thus my costly research request, which—and to repeat myself—was due in September 2014. September 17, 2015, arrived and I again complained. I was told that my complaint was confusing. Confusing? Well maybe, but I wasn’t obscure. More important my complaint garnered results for on September 21 I picked up a CD with the remainder of my research request of June 2014.

This was a joyous occasion for I got to spend two hours with Manola Madrid, a long-time research service assistant at the Braun Research Library at the former Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

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Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I also spent prime time with Marva Felchin, director of libraries and archives at the Autry National Center. I met Marva while researching obscure and yet mandatory primary source material for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. She would attend an Errol Flynn talk locally in Burbank, Calif., soon after (I think in 2008). On September 21 I delivered a promised Geronimo magazine article, as well as two Ned Wynkoop articles that I knew that the Autry didn’t have to Marva for the Autry Resources Center (ARC). I believe that the ARC, a 105,000 square-foot research center that will house the former Southwest Museum archive and research material (over 500,000 artworks and artifacts + archival material) and the Autry’s library and archive (not sure how large this is). Although the private opening might be in late 2016 most likely the public opening won’t happen until 2017. On this day Marva told me that if needed I could perform research before the ARC opens.

That was very kind of Marva. I don’t think I’ll need to do any research before the opening, but it is good to know that the door will be open to me if I need to do additional research. This is a good feeling. Thank you, Marva (unfortunately I have no images of Marva to share).

Autry National Center is magnificent … almost

The Autry National Center is magnificent, but it doesn’t compare to similar facilities, such as National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Not too many years back when the Autry decided to merge with the Southwest Museum, this action opened the door to major respectability. Do not under estimate this, for the Southwest’s holdings are a major coup for the Autry.

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Over the years the Autry National Center has had many names (Why? I have no clue why, but can guess that the rich and famous continued to spout their view and progressively have worked to remove not only the westering experience from the museum’s name but also—God forbid—have tried to push the legendary Gene Autry, who is responsible for the museum, into the dark shadows of a long-gone time). I’m not a fan of Gene’s one-hour B-westerns, his 1950s TV show, or his singing. That said, he was a major influence on his world and if it wasn’t for him there would be no Autry National Center. The “Inventing Custer: Legends of the Little Bighorn” exhibit was brilliant and was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry (or elsewhere). It ranged from Custer and his times (artifacts, including his hair, which his wife Libbie had clipped prior to an expedition on the Plains and BTW he was a strawberry blond and nowhere close to being “Yellow Hair,” to photos, to Custer in afterlife, which included film, toys, and memorabilia). As already stated I have never been a fan of Mr. Autry, but more recently (22Jun2007 through 13Jan2008) the Autry presented a marvelous exhibit that focused exclusively on “the Singing Cowboy’s” life and times (“Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007”). Unfortunately I have inside information that confirms that many of the elite members of the Autry were unhappy with the exhibit and refused to support it. SHAME ON THEM! This was by far the second best exhibit I have ever seen at the Autry, and in the future it should be repeated! Unfortunately “Inventing Custer” was pieced together with artifacts, photos, toys, books, and film memorabilia from multiple archives and private collections (and would be almost impossible to bring back for an encore). (photo of “Inventing Custer” banner © Louis Kraft 1996)

Still you need to realize that people who light their cigarettes with $1,000 dollar bills, shall I call them the “major” Autry donors, bitched. As far as they were concerned money counts, such as their designer clothes, their $10,000 necklaces, the glitter of the Autry … I used to attend 2nd (or was it 3rd) tier openings at the Autry. Those days are history. You want to attend an opening, fork up $1,700 or perhaps $1,800. I wouldn’t call these openings ones that the general public can attend. What can I say? You get the picture, other than these elite people don’t give a bleep that the Southwest goldmine is now part of the Autry. … American Indian culture and artifacts mean little to them. “Why are we wasting our money on an institution that was dying?” (this is a quote based upon words that I recently heard but wasn’t able to jot down exactly for prosperity). Lucky them! Bottom line, they don’t give a bleep about the wondrous treasure that the Southwest (and its now dead and gone Braun Research LIbrary) once was.

You want to know the truth? The Southwest Museum (which includes the Braun) was special. The Autry has always reeked of money, and the facility has always been gorgeous. Unfortunately when compared to other institutions of a similar type it can’t compare. Now it can, for regardless of rich bitching it now controls the massive collection of American Indian artifacts and research that the Southwest once owned. Ladies and gentlemen I have been off and on (at the moment off) a proud member of the Autry. To quote one of only three TV series that I have liked (The X-Files), “The truth is out there.” And it is for the Autry National Center.

The Autry National Center is poised to claim its position as one of the great western history and cultural museums in the United States. I certainly believe that the person leading the way, President and CEO W. Richard (Rick) West, Jr., will ensure that this happens.

Some views; wanted or not …

Los Angeles is currently divided between the extremely rich and everyone else, who struggle to pay bills.* The middle class? What’s that? Actually it is a name that represents a dead and departed race of people that has ceased to exist and that is the middle class. Worse, and I’m not talking about racism; rather I’m talking about the future that has, alas, arrived. Specifically to the Autry’s major donors, the extraordinary and exceptional artifacts housed at the Southwest don’t count. What is at risk here is the American western experience, which includes the Plains Indians, Southwest Indians, Pacific Coast Indians, Alaskan Indians, and the massive conquest of their homelands and destruction of their cultures.

* This statement is simplistic at best. What isn’t simplistic or overstated is that the city of Los Angeles (North Hollywood is a town in LA)  is quickly becoming a modern-day Tombstone, Arizona. Los Angeles had a confirmed murder count of 39 in August (LA Times, “Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). This past weekend (September 26-27) 19 people were shot and five died (LA Times, “19 Shootings, A Call for Help: LAPD appeals to community after new bloodshed,” 30sept2015). Although I have had guns pointed at me I have yet to witness shootings in North Hollywood. That said, I no longer walk at night for violence often stalks the streets of NoHo.

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I don’t have an image of Kevin Tighe as Miles (damn!!!). Tighe, along with Wes Studi (who was at least 30 years too young to play Geronimo) were the two outstanding performances in Geronimo: An American Legend. I don’t know either man but shortly after the release of Dances with Wolves (1990) I spent good time with Studi in an American Indian shop in Tarzana, Calif. Unfortunately the shop is long gone and I never met Studi again. My guess, both men did their homework, … something Bob Duvall (who I worked closely with for about four months in the 1980s) didn’t do. This image of Miles is in the LK personal collection and was published first in 1886. It has since been published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005) and in “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (Wild West, October 2015).

This is America and it must not be forgotten! American Indian lifeways count, and so do the racial interactions between invading whites and the people that initially welcomed their presence. During this time very few whites accepted American Indians as human beings, and those that dared to are American heroes; not those that stole, incarcerated, and if need be butchered people that they felt were below them on the evolution scale. … If I am even close in my opinion I am predicting a “Pandora’s Box” that when it is opened will initiate the end of America’s heritage. As Kevin Tighe, who played General Nelson Miles, says to Matt Damon’s Lieutenant Britton Davis (who BTW had resigned his military commission in 1885 and lived in Mexico at the time of Geronimo’s and Naiche’s surrender in September 1886) near the end of Geronimo: An American Legend (Columbia Pictures, 1993): “Lieutenant, you’re more worried about keeping your word to a savage than to fulfilling your duties to the citizens of this country. We won and that’s what counts. It’s over with Geronimo, the Apache, and the whole history of the West, except for being a farmer.”

You want my opinion? Honestly, you don’t want to hear my opinion for much of it isn’t printable.

I’ve been cramming on the digital files from the September 2015 Braun delivery since I’ve received the CD from Manola. I’m looking at the files to ensure that they are readable. I’m also spot reading and searching for primary information that might be included in the Sand Creek manuscript. Let me tell you that this is slow going.

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This is Black Kettle, and for the record I constantly attempt to create portraits of him; this image will not appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (and you can take this to the bank). … It looks like Black Kettle, John Chivington, John Evans, William Byers, Ned Wynkoop, William Bent, and George Bent are my leading players. Left Hand is also but no images of him exist (my loss). There are other Cheyenne and Arapaho players who could become leading players such as Bull Bear, Tall Bull, Little Raven (and I hope that they can be; alas, no images exist of Tall Bull). … Back to Black Kettle. Folks, he was not an elderly fellow that dropped out of the most important time of his life or his people’s lives. He was up front and center, and he had more guts and courage than any of the Cheyenne warriors that fought the overwhelming might of the United States. His life was always at risk, by both his own people and the invading whites. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

However, when I do find a jewel I’m right into the manuscript and adding the information. The other day I found pure gold on Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle that I had no idea existed. Honestly, this is what I’m looking for as Black Kettle is one of the leading players in the Sand Creek manuscript and I’m desperately trying to find events that happened in his life to fill in the gaps. This is directly related to my view that actions define who people are and not what someone says about them.

Again, I’m thrilled. … But the purpose of this post is threefold: Bitch, which I’ve done; praise, which I’ve done; and alert Indian wars writers to wake up to a massive archive in SoCal that will reopen in a blink of an eye (2017) that there is material available that can be added to your manuscripts in ways you wouldn’t believe. If you are a historian doing Plains or Southwest Indian research wake up and add validity to your writing. … The former Braun Research Library (at the former Southwest Museum) along with the former Autry National Center library and archives will provide you with a research center that will blow you away (American Indian research and including the Indian wars).

I’ve again been harsh, and believe me I have been pounded in the past by companies that I write for that I’m an ingrate that bites the hand that feeds him. True? Probably. … Know that I care about everything that I do. This means that I can’t take prisoners, that I must fight for the best product possible at all times and that includes receiving requested documentation when promised and not being forced to complain again and again until I receive a comment that I’m unclear in what is owed me. I have deadlines and I can’t afford to miss too many of them or I won’t be hirable.

For the record

“There’s gold in them ‘thar’ hills!” I have no clue if this is a real quote of not. And, by God, I have struck it! Mining the Cheyennes at the Braun Research Library in June 2014 has already proved worth every hour I put in, every complaint I had to make to receive requested documentation, and every dollar that it has cost me (and it wasn’t cheap).

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This image is from 1997’s Titanic. Here Leonardo DiCaprio (as Jack Lawson) proclaims at the beam of the mighty vessel on its maiden voyage: “I’m king of the world!” Danny Nucci (as Fabrizio, Dawson’s friend), joins him. When this film was released it was storied to become the largest financial disaster in film history. Instead it became the largest grossing film worldwide ever (to that point in time). Almost everyone I knew loved the film, which went on to win a ton of awards including the Oscar for best film. Many of these people have since dismissed the film. … For the record I have two film lists: a top 10 Errol Flynn films (and The Adventures of Robin Hood isn’t on the list) and a top 50 films which does not include Flynn films. Only one film on my top 50 films list has won the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Oscar for best picture, and that was Titanic. Perhaps Kevin Costner’s magnificent Dances with Wolves (1990) should be on my list but it isn’t. I believe that Costner’s Open Range (2003) with Bob Duvall and Annette Bening is a much better film, and it is in the top 10 of my top 50 films list. … Even though I work on “The Song Remembers When” blog whenever I have free time there is a chance that a short blog, like this one, can sneak in. And I’m going to announce it here: “Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view.” Be warned that it will include prose that might anger you, hopefully enlighten you, but certainly will be based upon a long-time film knowledge combined with a deep-seated gut-feeling that is present whenever I view film. For what it is worth I study film four to five times a week as it a great way to understand how dialogue; plot; script; editing; direction; cinematography; film scores, which is my favorite type of music; and good production values influence every word that I write for print (and that includes these blogs).

At the moment my every waking hour is dominated by one thought: Kraft, when are you working on the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript? For the record this is daily. Research takes time; comprehension takes more time. Once both connect, my fingers pound the keyboard. At those times, and to again quote Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, “I’m king of the world!”

Upcoming Blogs

  • Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view
    The actor Errol Flynn influenced my life in many ways and for an assortment of reasons. Looking back the most important reason was that he has been the most un-racial person that I have ever studied. In this blog I’m going to talk about my discovery of Flynn and his influence on me while discussing his performances that I consider his best on film (and this will include a few comments about certain films that will surprise and perhaps shock).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life every day). This blog should be easy to write (and it has been) for songs often link me to a person or an event. In my last blog I announced that this blog would be next. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) this blog continues to grow and grow as there are musicians and composers and singers that are with me all the time. Their music impacts me almost every day, but some compositions and performances stand out as they have influenced my life in one way or another. … At this point in my life everything is important: Being a good husband, a good father, a good writer, and continuing to “walk” this earth. … Since my time has become short—very short time-wise—I’m trying to cut down the gaps between blogs with shorter ones that deal with the immediacy of my day-to-day life; thus the current blog and the upcoming Flynn blog.
  • Ongoing Sand Creek and PSK updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. As time moves forward variations on this series of blogs will update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.

— Louis Kraft

A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

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  • Those of you who read my Indian wars writing will be shocked.
  • Those of you who know me but not my writing will also be shocked.

Kraft, what the hell are you talking about?

The Discovery

The Discovery fell into my lap while I wrote for Yahoo! and functioned as a consultant for the beginning of a medical malpractice novel by a physician I’ve known for 25 years—Robert S. Goodman.

… From 1971 until shortly before his death in 1987 my father-in-law was my
physician. 
He was one of the top doctors in the San Fernando Valley, and
had—believe it or not—been my family’s doctor since 1956 (I didn’t
meet my first wife until I was a junior in college). And let me tell you
there were perks. I guess that the major one was that after the
marriage and until after his death I never had to buy health
insurance. Other doctors didn’t charge me, and neither did
my dentist. My daughter’s birth had a total cost of zero
dollars. Yes, early in my adult life I learned of the
benefits of befriending one’s doctors.

Not that I use my doctors (all of whom are specialists), for I never have. I have befriended them, but this has always been a patient-doctor relationship. We talk about medicine, health, insurance, play scripts, fiction, nonfiction, their writing, my writing, and I share. They learn a little from me and are even open to learning more while I learn a lot from them (my side of the learning basically deals with my health).

A short diversion with my father, violence, and earning a living

Just before my father died (1999; 19 years after his wife/my mother died) he said to me, “If I knew I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” (All I can say to that is, “Me too.”)

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In the late 1940s and into the early 1950s my father climbed the Esso gasoline world. By the 1950s he appeared to be a person on the rise in the company. The Esso Gasoline Corporation did a round of publicity shots that they used in their advertising with him as the leading model. At that time he managed three Esso gas stations in Yonkers, New York. What the company didn’t realize was 1) My father hated being told what to do (shades of LK Jr) and 2) he hated the weather in New York. In the late 1940s after WW II my mother and father, who had explored SoCal in the late 1930s, again explored SoCal. I was a member of their 1949 trip (but unfortunately remember nothing). That trip ordained their and my future, and it wouldn’t be in New York.

On February 13, 1999, the last day I saw my living father as I knew him, he said to me as I left, “I love you, Louis.” Two of the words he had never used before: “love” and “Louis.” I had chosen to use “Louis” when I became an actor (he along with others struggled with this). As far as “love” goes, he always loved me, even when we didn’t get along, which stretched all the way to my mother’s/his wife’s death. The last 10 days of her life put us together during all of our waking hours. My mother/his wife’s last hours on earth gave us a relationship, that is her passing ended his quest to rule my life and accept that I was an actor and I was able to put behind me a past that I hated.

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LK at the time of these bullets. Actually this image was pulled from a three-shot of LK, Santa Claus, and another person. I have four of these photos. One is definitely the first of the four and dates to the end of the 1960s but the other three can be shuffled and all date to the early 1970s.

For example:

  • Once my father knocked me cold at home when a friend visited.
  • Soon after a girl who perhaps outweighed me by 50 to 100 pounds ran me over while I was going about three or four miles per hour on my motorcycle when she was running and broadsided me and hit me in the face with her hands. She broke my sun glasses which cut her fingers, but that was it—she didn’t even fall down. This was in Woodland Hills, California (then a rural area). The motorcycle shot across the street, jumped the curb, and went through a chain link fence that blocked entry to a field and hills. I was left hanging knocked out on the top of the fence (thank God for helmets!). I didn’t walk for weeks, and my father was there for me.
  • Another time I became a little too angry (the last day I ever lived at home) and aggressive (I’m being kind to me here), and I frightened him. He called the police. Within minutes three or four squad cars arrived with sirens blasting and guns in evidence when the officers stepped from their vehicles. I exited the house with hands raised. My father was right behind me and he talked the officers out of making an arrest. Even though there seemed to be a bloodlust pushing us toward a not-too-good ending he stood behind me, protected me, and pulled me to safety. (That night I slept in my girlfriend’s car in a parking garage below her father’s apartment. The next morning the infamous February 1971 earthquake destroyed portions of the San Fernando Valley. Jerked awake I ran out of the parking structure to see tidal waves washing out of the pool. The three-story apartment complex buildings waved in the breeze like 1930s cartoons. The view was unreal.)
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LK & LK Sr. in the back yard at Tujunga House on Thanksgiving 1995 (three years two and a half months before his death). He loved the garden at Tujunga House, and I’m certain he’d be shocked if he saw it now. This day is special to me, as are all Thanksgivings and Christmases (and I cook traditional meals). Christmas is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and Thanksgiving is the celebration of the Pilgrims’ first harvest of crops with the Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth in 1621. They are not the extravaganza of sales that is currently stuffed down Americans’ throats today. Unfortunately business greed has overwhelmed America and has done everything possible to negate these special day’s true meaning. I’ll damned if I’ll stand in line and elbow strangers to buy, buy, and buy more as publicity departments pound the American public to do from every direction that it is almost demoniacal. … On this 1995 Thanksgiving, perhaps 10 minutes after this image was taken, my father observed for the first time a grand mal seizure. It shocked him, as it would you. There is a lot of harsh reality in this world, and much of it most people don’t experience. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Eventually time would change even though we still had clashes, while I survived in a world that was different from his. He saw this, and although it would take years he accepted it. The point of this section is simple. My father gave me the strength to be me, and although at times it looked as if one of us could have killed the other we didn’t. If not for him I’m certain that my life would not have been as it has been. Our battles pushed me to challenge him. They also gave me the courage to follow my winding trail of life. I do as I please and my profession is what I choose. I have no regrets for everything in my life happened for a reason. You can bet that I believe in cause and effect. That said my life always has goals prominently leading the way. Someday the end will come and a goal or two won’t have been reached but if that is how it ends I’m good with it.

Back to The Discovery and physicians

This simple formula of how I relate to my physicians has opened doors to my life. It has given me friends in a world in which I haven’t known other than how it applies to my health. Bob Goodman is directly responsible for me walking this earth for the last 12+ years (as is urology specialist Malcolm Cosgrove, who performed a surgery that continued my life in 2003).

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One of many clipart images that symbolize medicine. This will not appear on The Discovery cover. It is here as I must soon begin thinking of cover art. I think that the doctor whose life spirals toward an explosive end must dominate the cover. I also think that a 1952 incubator needs to be on the cover as well as the doctor’s wife who is an essential key to the plot (but both she and the incubator must be secondary to the doctor. Looming behind doctor must be a shadow that symbolizes the court system. Just like my studying whatever I read and every film that I look at I also study book covers. Simple is better, but it cannot be vague nor can it mislead the reader. …

Trust me, these two gentlemen, along with other physicians, are people that I have befriended and helped whenever possible.

At the end of November 2013 Bob Goodman asked me to partner with him on The Discovery (read: I write the manuscript based upon his rough draft and great idea). I was hesitant as I write seven days a week on my books and blogs. He offered upfront $$$. I told him I’d think about it. I decided to turn down the offer (which I knew would hurt him), but then I received a bill for an uninsured operation that I didn’t know about until after the fact. This was a big ouch as I then earned about 20 percent of what I earned when Oracle and I parted company in 2012. The up-front money paid for my half of that unexpected operation. I accepted the partnership in his updated but still incomplete novel sight unseen.

That was a big mistake time wise, but at the same time it eliminated a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay.

To repeat myself accepting the partnership was a big mistake time wise, but it did eliminate a bill that I couldn’t afford to pay. I’m still putting in a lot of hours on The Discovery project (a recent week logged over 70 hours). But—BUT I’m in control and I’m working on a manuscript that I think will be one of the best that I ever write (the story spans over two decades, has multiple important players, and yet I’ve figured out how to pull everything together and make it work with believable characters).

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This is the cover for the Variety section of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle (15may1992). The Final Showdown was published in April 1992 and my divorce was final in April 1992. At that time I owned with my ex-wife two houses (one in Encino and one in Thousand Oaks), and she got both of them. The Thousand Oaks house, which is in Ventura County, was a gorgeous two-story home a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. Swimming has always been my favorite sport and at that time I swam 70 laps (no big deal when compared to the 30+ laps I used to swim at 24 Hour Fitness in an Olympic-sized pool). Nevertheless I loved living there. When the News Chronicle contacted me for the interview/article I lived in Tarzana (in Los Angeles County). The writer wanted to interview me at home. At that time I wrote for a telecommunications firm in El Segundo (south of LAX). I asked him to drive to El Segundo. He didn’t want to, so I talked him into two phone interviews. At the end of the interviews he told me that a photographer needed to take pictures of me at my Thousand Oaks home. “Why?” I asked. He said, “If you don’t live in Venture County we won’t print the story about you.” I called my ex-wife and explained the situation. She told me that as long as I didn’t enter the house I could take as many photos outside that I needed. Good for me. On the day of the photo shoot I arrived early at my former home and met the photographer outside. We shot images in the courtyard. He then wanted to go inside. I asked if he wanted to take pictures of me at my computer and he answered in the affirmative. “I have a better idea,” I said. “What’?” “Let’s shoot on the hill after you exit the 101 freeway and drive south into the Santa Monica foothills.” He loved the idea, and the Variety cover is the result. BTW the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle at that time was just like the LA Times. It even mimicked the Times’ entertainment section and was folded in half and opened like a magazine. (© Thousand Oaks News Chronicle 1992)

BTW, I’m not a novice at writing fiction. For almost a decade beginning in 1976 and extending to 1985 a screen writing agent and a TV writer/producer took me under their tender tutelage. Under their care I learned how to write dialogue, create characters, and design plots that move forward. By the late 1980s I moved on to fiction. The Final Showdown was published in 1992, and I had a follow-up contract for a Kit Carson/Navajo story (if you’ve read previous blogs you know what happened here and what my future became). Don’t doubt me, folks, my move to nonfiction has been the best working (not writing, but working) decision in my life for it directly led to my writing for the software world and eventually earning over six figures). It also gave me the best writing that I’ve ever done in the Indian wars nonfiction field, and believe me there are nonfiction books on the horizon that will be better than anything that I’ve written in the past.

All the above said, and as of the beginning of September 2015, I’m thrilled that I partnered with Bob Goodman. We will have a good story, and I think that it will be a page turner. What more could a writer ask for?

Bob Goodman had a great idea for The Discovery, but he had/has no clue on how to write characters, dialogue, plot, or a novel. My new partner had told me that he had polished what he had and in which I had reviewed and had included my major suggestions on how to improve the story. I don’t want to say that his words were an understatement but they were. He had no chapters, just pages—some with one paragraph and others with a half page of text. Sometimes scenes would be repeated, … You get the picture. That said Bob Goodman’s idea for The Discovery was terrific.

My work was a challenge but one I embraced. And best, I had no restrictions. The manuscript will be published, and I know that I’ll take a lot of negative heat. But The Discovery will open the door for my return to fiction. Fiction is a touchy subject to a number of people including me. Why me? Because I still have to complete Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, would like to do a nonfiction book on Kit Carson, and must finish Errol & Olivia (which is the first of a planned trilogy on Flynn). That’s a lot of nonfiction writing staring me in the face. In case you don’t know it nonfiction takes a lot longer as almost every day I’m studying the known facts (that is primary source material). It probably takes me at least five times as long to write a page of nonfiction than it takes me to write a page of fiction. For the record I use secondary nonfiction material only when necessary (for many-many reasons).

… My first novel after The Discovery will deal with the Navajo Indians (or as they were called and as they call themselves, the Diné).

A return to Sand Creek

As hinted at in this blog The Discovery has absolutely killed me time wise (and there are other reasons that I’ll probably never mention). I’ve also said that I’m thrilled with the manuscript, and that’s good. … But Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is my main book project and it has been so since the contract was signed. It is now and must be until it is published my number one priority. What I still need to do on The Discovery has now been regulated to extra work, by that I mean that it will happen after hours (just like these blogs are created; at night and after I’ve completed my day’s work).

Although I’ve said it in the past I’m saying it again here. When I work on nonfiction I write from primary source (and secondary source when necessary) information. I study the primary source information and compare to other primary source information that I’ve been able to locate and obtain from archives or from historian friends that share their primary source documentation with me. I make every effort to confirm what I think is what happened. For me this is a slow process, and it gets even slower when I attempt to write what I believe happened from my understanding of my research.

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The LK portrait of Gatewood was first published in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). Over the years it has been printed three times. (art © Louis Kraft 2004)

The Charles Gatewood books and the Ned Wynkoop book were new territory as no one in the past had written about them with them as the focus of the book. Most often they received a paragraph here or a paragraph there or once in a while a few thousand words. Often much of what was said about them had already been printed and that mostly in anthologies. Primary resource books, especially for Gatewood, have contained nuggets about them that are invaluable but they were far too little (and often in obscure books that didn’t advertise their presence in the volumes). One of the reasons for this is that both stood up to authority: That is to the military, the U.S. government, and the press when they thought that they were correct in their beliefs.

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The LK portrait of Wynkoop was first published in “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races,” Custer and His Times, Book Five (The Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., 2008). Over the years it has been printed five times. (art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Both men accomplished extraordinary feats during the Indian wars—not feats in war with notches on their revolvers but feats of preventing war or ending war or attempting to end war. They actually accepted the people in conflict with the United States as human beings and not vicious subhumans that were capable of little more than theft, rape, and murder. This was not a popular view in the 1860s (Wynkoop) or the 1880s (Gatewood) and as such the press, the military, and even the U.S. government chose to ignore their efforts and exile them (Gatewood) or better yet bury them (Wynkoop) in an avalanche of negative press and criticism by a military ordained to control American Indians as the United States basically stole their land through treaties that the Indians didn’t understand and worse didn’t represent the agreement by most of the tribe (Cheyennes). For the Apaches it was different, for they had been forced onto reservations and when portions of them fled being little more than prisoners of war they were treated as if they were outlaws … and not people who were losing their homeland, their religion, their language, their children, the lifeway and their freedom. …

When the colonists revolted against British rule in the eighteenth century they became patriots, but this was not the British point of view (POV), which is a film term that I explained in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995). Why not the Apaches and the Cheyennes? Wasn’t their revolt similar? The soon to be Americans fought to free themselves from a tyrannical overrule while the Apaches and Cheyennes fought against a massive enemy that wanted their land at all costs.

Sand Creek is turning into becoming the most difficult book that I have ever written. Why? Simply put I’m attempting to tell the story through a handful of major players from five distinct categories. I want to bring the leading players (as well as major secondary players) to life through their actions and words. This is considerably more difficult than it sounds. Not because I’m viewing the lead-up to the attack at Sand Creek, the attack at Sand Creek, and the aftermath of the attack through the eyes of the players but because there isn’t a lot of primary source material on these players (and often secondary sources are light on information).

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After the speakers and music completed at the Washita Battlefield NHS overlook on 11nov2011 I captured this image of Moses Starr of the Red Moon Singers & Drum Group (left) and W. Richard (Rick) West. I met Rick for the first time before the event began and then spent a lot of time with him on the 12th, when we both spoke at the symposium and also lunched together. We had plenty of time to talk. Rick is a Cheyenne peace chief. He is also the founding director and director emeritus of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Recently he became president and CEO of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (I believe in December 2012). To date I have held off contacting him about my problem, but my fuse is growing short and something must happen. And it must happen soon!!! (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

For the book to work I must find the required information, and this hasn’t been easy and especially so since an archive that I mined in June 2014 for 12 days has still not delivered requested material that I was supposed to have received in September 2014. One might say, “Kraft, tell them to keep the damned material!” Believe me I’ve thought of this more than once, and it’s pretty bleeping hard to keep a civil tongue each time I approach the archive, which is local, on the status of the delivery. My guess, I’ll probably receive the material in 2017 (which is beyond my manuscript delivery date). I should know better, for the archive had missed a deadline for an image permission I needed to use one photo in the second Gatewood book (and they had about six months to create the permission), so the track record was already in place (only now it is one hundred times worse). It is magnified as I’m trying to present the Cheyennes in a way that I’ve never done before, and here I must succeed for the manuscript having any chance of working as I envision it.

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Regional National Park Service ranger Jeff Campbell (right), LK, and John Monnett on 3oct2014 at the Sand Creek Massacre NHS. Campbell, a former police officer, is writing a book about the Sand Creek Massacre as a murder investigation. On this day, he, John, and I enjoyed a good round-robin conversation. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Research is ongoing until the book will be published. OU Press, my publisher, and I are well acquainted with each other and how we both work. My comment here? I’m one privileged cowboy for OU Press is the top Indian wars publisher in the world and I’m lucky to write for them. We are brothers (and sisters) in war. That is we both want the best possible product published and as such we push for this to happen, … and this means at times that we are in conflict. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for this is the only way to produce a product that has value.

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This is John Derek, a film star in the 1950s and early 1960s. Like Errol Flynn he had to deal with the “gorgeous” image, which he hated (like Flynn). Unlike Flynn he walked away from film stardom and became a director-producer-photographer. This image is from Massacre at Sand Creek (1957). I believe that he played the lead role in the film, but it isn’t currently available and I have not been able to view it. Sometime shortly after Derek walked away from his acting career I met him at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., south of Ventura Blvd., in the San Fernando Valley, when I tried out for one of his independent films. His home was very macho, and featured game kills and trophies on the floors, furniture, and walls (it was the third such home I had seen like this among the Hollywood crowd, and if you are into big-game hunting it was impressive). His wife was Bo Derek, and she was one of the stars of the major release hit 10 (1979) with Dudley Moore in the lead role. Derek was preparing for his next film. It wasn’t Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981) so it had to have been Bolero (1984) although I never heard a film title and don’t remember seeing sides to a script (although I must have for I spent easily six or more hours in Derek’s home during a two-week span). Bo was present at all three tryouts. During the my first two interviews, which were more like visits, I hung out mostly with Derek as we spent time chatting and getting to know each other. On my final interview/visit I spent most of my time with Bo while she showed me nude slides of herself as we chatted. There’s nothing that I can say other than I didn’t land the part. … That’s life—move on.

For the record I’m approaching the leading and supporting players in the Sand Creek manuscript through their POV. That is I’m attempting to present them through their actions, and honestly I believe almost everyone who has lived or lives believes that what they do is good (at least from their POV). Of course there are people, such as Charles Manson and Ted Bundy, who were massive murderers (I almost had contact with Manson as a place he at times lived at I used for a motorcycle stop and I worked on a mini-series on Bundy called The Deliberate Stranger, 1986). Oh, for the record, Los Angeles has returned to days long gone. August 2015 has a confirmed murder count of 39 per the Los Angeles Times (“Deadliest August in Los Angeles in 8 years,” 4Sept2015). Until 2015 the Times had been bragging about the decline in heinous crime in Los Angeles. I guess they spoke up too soon, and gulp, need to swallow a little of their misrepresentations.

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This is Jerry Russell, the original head of the Order of the Indians Wars (second edition; the first was membered by Indian wars military participants). I can’t tell you enough about my times with Jerry. There were many, but alas most were long distance. He accepted my proposal to speak about Ned Wynkoop in Fullerton, Calif., in February 1987, at the first (and last) Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) convention in SoCal. I met Mike Koury, who also spoke at that event, for the first time and he has since been a good friend who has also done everything to advance my Indian wars writing career. In fall 1987 the OIW ended their annual convention with a visit to the Sand Creek massacre battle site (that was still on private property, and alas, not on the actual battle site). At the time I had a major George Armstrong Custer research trip in progress. I called Jerry and asked if I could attend the last day, which featured a tour to the incorrect battle site and then closed with a banquet. Jerry said “yes,” and I had a perfect ending to this research trip. Good times, for I captured a great image of my daughter below the cliffs (which, by the way, are below the current marker for the battle site, although the National Park Service realizes that the attack on the peaceful Cheyenne-Arapaho village now took place to the north of this marker). Jerry did everything possible to advance my Indian wars-writing career, including being positive to a Flynn/Custer article and accepting another talk somewhere. Unfortunately I later learned that my daughter’s graduation from high school would happen during the same weekend of the convention wherein I would talk and I canceled the talk. Jerry’s response: “I’m glad that someone has their priorities in place.” Unfortunately Jerry is now long gone, but luckily the OIW continues to live under the capable management of Mike Koury and his staff (which includes, among others, Layton Hooper, who has also become a good friend). (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

Do not doubt it, the lead up to the massacre at Sand Creek was bloody from both sides, and a lot of innocent people died. The tragedy at Sand Creek in November 1864 is perhaps the most important event of the Cheyenne Indian wars on the central and southern plains for it made the Indians realize that the white man had one goal—To kill them and take their land. This single event marked beginning of the end of the Cheyenne lifeway. It was an intense time for Indians and whites alike. To repeat myself many innocents would die horribly. Lives and careers (of both races) would be put on the line. These people made decisions that were popular and not popular among their own race. Some of these decisions led to a loss of prestige, power, and at times death. Heroes would become villains and villains would be vindicated. … And still people would die. By the end of the 1860s the Cheyenne lifeway had come to an end. Oh, there would be Cheyenne attempts to return to a former homeland in the north, but this would prove to be impossible.

The goal for the Sand Creek manuscript is to find the required information and then turn it into readable prose. When completed, this manuscript will be the most important that I have written (pray God that it happens).

Back to The Discovery

The manuscript moves toward production at an increasing pace. Two polishes have been completed. I’m excited. … Although I have basically ignored (or hidden) plot I want to share a few lines of dialogue that deal with the first meeting of two key players in the story, and it is exploratory in character development. Moreover it gives away nothing of the plot. Character development is usually created with action and dialogue, and in this example it is almost totally through dialogue.

I must again warn you, for I do believe that fully 60 percent of you that read The Discovery when published will be offended by the text. If true, I apologize. …

But if not I hope that the text grabs you, holds you, excites you, and at times shocks you, but more I hope that it captivates you and that you aren’t able to set the book down.

The above is the hope of every writer.

A first meeting in The Discovery

The following is just a sample of how some of the dialogue flows in the working manuscript. This scene (of which only a portion is presented below, is the initial meeting between Greg Weston, who was born blind, and Gail Gordon, a lady eight years older than him. Both are key players in a discovery made 20 years after the fact that will lead to malpractice, infidelity, a court case, plotted murder, and the destruction of a pristine medical career and life. I have written story as a thriller. Sample text from The Discovery (© Louis Kraft & Robert S. Goodman, MD, 2013-2015) follows:

As Greg continued to talk to the waitress a young woman burst into the deli and raced to Ethel at the cashier station. “Could you tell me whose dog that is?” she said as she pointed at Boots, who was clearly visible through the front window.

“Sure, sweetie.” Ethel pointed at Greg. “See that handsome hunk in the second booth on the right?”

The woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s his seeing eye dog.”

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This LK portrait dates to 1973 when I was a member of the Melrose Theatre Company, a professional theater group on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood (Paul Kent ran the company). I worked on a lot of scenes with a redhead with kinky hair (whose mother then worked on Broadway in NYC). We hit it off in our personal lives and on stage. She was sexier than hell and I not only liked her I desired her. At that time I was married, meaning that intimacy could never happen. I know that this hurt her (and this would hit the fan about two years later, and what happened on that day ended our friendship and working relationship). Before the end we had spent a lot of time working on a then popular play called Butterflies are Free. It dealt with a blind man and the lady in his life. I learned a lot about blindness at that time and I used it in The Discovery. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

“Thanks,” she replied over her shoulder as she walked quickly toward Greg. When he didn’t look at her she tapped his shoulder. “Is that your dog outside by the fire hydrant?”

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

“No—YES!” She inhaled deeply. “Please don’t get upset, but I hit him with the bumper of my car while I was backing out of my parking spot.”

“Was he in the street?”

“No.”

“Then how did you hit him?”

“I guess I turned the wheel too sharply and my right rear wheel climbed the curb.”

“Good driving.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. Look, I checked him over and he seems fine but maybe you should come out with me and take a look at him.”

Greg stood and waved his hand, but didn’t move toward the door.

“Are you coming?”

“In a minute.”

The waitress Molly reached his table. He recognized her by her perfume. “Yes, my dear boy, what do you need?”

“I need to check Boots. Please keep my breakfast warm for me.” He turned to the woman. “Let’s go.”

She took his hand and began to lead the way. He pulled his hand free. “Whoa! What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t … I saw your … cane … and I thought that …” she stammered.

“Never mind. It’s an easy mistake. Look, I’m totally capable of walking to my dog.” He led the way using his cane and she followed him out the door.

Boots leaped up and gently nudged against Greg when he reached the fire hydrant. He smiled. “That’s a good sign,” he said to the woman. “Sit,” he ordered and the dog did. Greg began to examine his care keeper, pet, and best friend beginning with his snout. He then moved to his chest, abdomen, and back before moving to his legs and paws. “He seems fine,” he said over his shoulder.

The woman sighed. “Thank goodness! He must be one tough dog.”

“He should be. He spent two years in the army; he worked with a combat unit of the First Airborne Division. … I’ll check him again at home.”

“Can I take both of you to a vet?” she asked anxiously.

“No!” Although he couldn’t see her, he sensed that his sharp reply stung. “Boots is so damn smart that he would go there on his own if he felt hurt,” he continued in a soft voice.

She laughed but not loudly. “Can I at least take you to breakfast?”

“I was about to have it before you interrupted.”

“I meant …” she began, but couldn’t finish. “I mean, can I pay for your cold breakfast?”

He nodded and smiled smugly. “That you can, providing you join me.”

“I just ate—here as a matter of fact.”

“Understood. I still want you to join me … at the table.”

She smiled and nodded.

He waited but heard nothing. “Are you going to reply?” he asked.

“Oh! I’m sorry. I did, but I didn’t. Yes, I can join you.”

“Good. Lead the way.”

The woman opened the deli door, entered, and Greg followed her. As they sat down the waitress Molly appeared with Greg’s breakfast and coffee. “Now that’s what I call fast service,” Greg said.

“All of us poor waitresses here strive to please you, handsome boy.”

“Molly, give it a break.”

“Humph,” she mumbled as she walked away.

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LK at Tujunga House in the late afternoon on 29aug2015. The hair is long and I have become a shaggy dog. What can I say, other than that’s life and that I need photos with long hair for various reasons. Pailin says that I look like a hippie. My view: Like an ugly hippie. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

“She’s been hustling me for over a year now.”

“I know why. You are handsome.”

“Enough of this!” He took a slice of toast and broke off a corner, which he dipped into his semi-hardened egg yoke. “You know a little too much about me. Tell me about yourself.”

She gulped in a small breath. “I’m—I’m a little over …” She paused and then started again. “I’m forty-seven years old, overweight, divorced, with two kids in college, and unemployed.”

“Right,” Greg said dryly. “Now give the real sales pitch.”

She chuckled. “Okay, but remember that you asked for it.”

“I like this.”

“Hold on to your seat, handsome boy.

“I will. But first your name.”

“Gail Gordon. I’m twenty-eight years old, …”

“…and are speaking the truth this time?”


A few thoughts about The Discovery and my world

The above incomplete scene is innocent. I assume that all of us have had innocent times in our lives regardless of the end result. More often than not—at least for me—a lot of good beginnings never went anywhere. With hopefully not sounding too cliché everyone’s lives are different. Things happen and those happenings often direct the future of our lives. Sometimes we’re in control of those changes but often we aren’t. Decisions and events are key to our everyday life but also to the flow of our lives. Did I choose the right course for me? If not, where did I go astray? Could I have done better or did my past life seal my future? We live in a violent world; hell, I live in what could possibly called the vicious world of Los Angeles in 2015. People die violently every day in LA. Robberies are ongoing as are rapes against innocent victims. How many children in their yards, homes, or cars need to die by bullets meant for someone else? I can dig much deeper into the dark area where the last few sentences head, but I won’t (or perhaps I’d silently place a target on my back). … I grew up in a much more innocent time, and those were the good old days (of course, where I lived didn’t deal with racism; actually it wouldn’t have mattered for my parents had no racist thoughts). Those of you that have read my books and these blogs or know me personally know my stance on racism.

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I took this image of Pailin on 3oct2014 as John & Linda Monnett and she and I walked along the western ridge that presents a good view of the land where the Cheyennes and Arapahoes camped along Sand Creek in November 1864. It is a long walk just to reach the southern portion of where the village once stood. She is doing what she loves to do and that is documenting the people, events, and happenings in her life. Not too long ago she asked when our next research trip would happen. I know for a fact that it won’t be this year as our work loads are too large (and hers now includes six months of classes). When the time arrives I know that she’ll be ready to hit the road. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The coming novel doesn’t deal with racism but there are hints of it on the edges of the pages. Rather it deals with a physician who has had a pristine medical career. Suddenly an event so far in his past that he can’t remember it triggers events that may end his life as he knows it. For someone who has always been in control he must now face a future in which he has little say. It’s more than frightening as his entire world disintegrates before his eyes. There’s really only one question: Will he and what is most important to him survive?

The Discovery is a medical malpractice thriller that is both intimate and truthful. It deals with subject matter that once was taboo in poplar fiction but perhaps is no longer so. That so it is harsh, to the point, and it will shock many of you. … I hope that you read it for it deals with real people in real situations. If not I understand.

Upcoming Blogs

  • Sand Creek, Pailin, and updates
    With everything basically falling into place for The Discovery (there is still work but it’ll be easy in comparison to what has been completed), Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will dominate my writing world. That means that it is up-front-and-center seven days a week, and that everything else (finishing The Discovery; blogs; research and writing on Errol & Olivia, that is, Flynn and de Havilland; Kit Carson nonfiction and fiction research; and taking care of the business portion of my writing life) is secondary. The next series of blogs will be to update you on the manuscript’s status, that is what I’m doing as I piece the tragic end of the Cheyenne’s lifeway together (as well as completing the other listed blogs, all of which will be large). Oh, as Pailin has been a headliner in many of my blogs but has had a smaller presence of late, it is also my intention to bring back the leading player in my life.
  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a dark glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years but now must confront.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it. This blog continues to grow. Not because of the music, but because of thoughts related to the music.

— Louis Kraft

The Louis Kraft writing world differs from other writer’s worlds

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


On July 8 Pailin and I went to a dinner party with two friends who date back to my college days in Los Angeles just east of the 405 freeway. I believe that Saul Saladow has lived in his split-level townhouse for 20 years (and I don’t blame him, for it is nice). I believe that he joined me in the theatre department for the four years I attended college. He went on to a very successful career as a film editor. Veronica Morra became the girlfriend and future wife of a very good actor-singer in the theatre department. We met in college and the relationship continued after those years ended. Eventually they moved to the East Coast to be near their son and his family. At that point (or before) I lost contact with Vee (as Veronica prefers to be called) until she found me on social media several years back. Our friendship has grown.

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Taken at Saul’s townhouse in Los Angeles on 8jul2015. From left Vee Morra, Pailin, and Saul Saladow. Photo by Louis Kraft, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Veronica Morra, Saul Saladow, and Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin met both Vee and Saul when they visited us for dinner at Tujunga House in December 2013. Vee had traveled to Los Angeles to see Saul (who is a lifelong friend of hers) and other friends from long-gone days. Luckily they had one afternoon and evening free to visit us. Good times.

Nearing the end of our visit to Saul’s home Vee told me about a writer that she not only knows but likes the lady’s writing. She told me that this person spends nine months researching a book and then writes it in three months. Although I have continued to work on the Thai blog, which continues to grow, this writing schedule grabbed my interest. It is something that I want to discuss for although it is related to my writing life it is in stark contrast to my writing world.

This means one thing—lucky you—for this blog should be relatively short by my standards. At least I hope so. … Fat chance.

Not too long back in the past …

Over the course of my life I have met and known many writers, editors, agents, and other talented people that have played small and large roles in my writing world. Some have taken me under their wing and nurtured me and have done everything to further my career (and that includes in the software world). Others have been less open or friendly. I’ve always rolled with the punches.

In 1987 I learned of a Western Writers of America convention in San Diego, California, and contacted one of the hosts of the event. He made it possible for me to know exactly what I needed to do to attend the event. By this time I had been selling articles and giving talks about the American Indian wars since 1984. I had also had some eight or nine intense screenwriting years with an agent and a writer-producer between 1976 and 1984, both of whom marked up my manuscripts and then discussed them in detail. These two fellows played a huge role in my future. The agent and I came close to optioning or selling on several occasions without success and this included me pitching my film contacts, which were numerous back then. The writer-producer loved a screenplay that was about the destruction of Germany in WW II as seen through the eyes of a U-boat commander and his Jewish girlfriend (yep, I was dealing with racial content way back then), but he wanted me to rewrite it and take out the genocide on Jews and change the war to WW I and he’d produce. You can guess my answer: “No.” By 1987 I had also taken a ten-week fiction class at UCLA and had continued private lessons in Westwood, California, with the writer that taught it. I had a completed and polished novel called The Null State, which dealt with bootlegging on the modern-day Navajo Reservation. It was a thriller that also dealt with race, and my research marked the first time that I would spend an extended time on the Diné (as the Navajos call themselves) reservation.

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LK doesn’t have many images from the years 1987 through 1989 (and none of the writer I’m talking about—later in our years of friendship I have a lot of images but decided that none would be featured on this blog). This 1989 image was taken at Encino House (the first house I owned with my first wife). Dejah Thoris, named after Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Princess of Mars (Burroughs first novel in his John Carter of Mars series) was the most affectionate and kindest animal I have ever known. Yep, she’s giving me a big kiss. I loved her with all my heart and have never owned another animal after her death in 1992. When fully grown she was 55 pounds. My brother Lee had two Doberman Pinschers and they were both about 110 pounds. They were kind animals too, and they always greeted me by leaping up on me—this meant that I would back up a couple of feet as I tried to regain my balance. That said they were kind and loving dogs. Certainly animals can be trained to hurt and maim but that’s on the owner and not the animal. … That is my father to my left. BTW that’s not straight juice that I’m drinking, as I don’t think that I drank straight juice at that time. It was probably a Screwdriver. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

At the San Diego convention I met an Apache expert (Danny Aranda and his beautiful sister, who would have a short life—when I learned of this decades later it destroyed me but luckily I kept control of my emotions) that would become a long-time long-distance friend to this day. I would also meet a woman that would soon become my agent. She tried to sell The Null State but couldn’t. In 1989 she would sell an unwritten story that I pitched with her one night to an editor. I hadn’t written a word of my proposed The Moon of the Changing Season, which focused on race relations during the lead up to the October 1867 peace council at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas between the whites and the five major plains tribes on the central and southern plains. The “moon of the changing season” was what the Cheyennes called October. Walker and Company published my manuscript as The Final Showdown in April 1992. She and I also sold a follow-up western that dealt with Kit Carson, a Navajo warrior, and his granddaughter (but that contract ended when the publisher decided to drop their western line).

The writer that had helped me attend the 1987 WWA convention became a friend. He had sold a lot of novels, but most were hack genre fiction that if I remember correctly he wrote it in one or two months and did one review pass after he competed his draft. These stories became part of a number of genre series of books of which one was published each month under pseudonyms that represented four or five or maybe six writers creating the 12 books published each year for the various titles. I didn’t spend much time discussing this business with him as I really didn’t want to write fiction that I didn’t like reading. …

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In 1980 after our mother died on January 4 my brother Lee and I decided, with a group of friends, to create a baseball team. For the next 10 years Lee and I won a lot of trophies with our team the Cool-Aid Kids. During those years he and I played illegally or legally for other teams. A team had to have enough players to compete on any given day or night. If not they forfeited the game. Often brother Lee and I played for the Warriors (and we didn’t pay to play but were legal members of the team). They called us when they needed extra players. On this day in 1989 I played third base for the Warriors. I’m right handed (with the sword, in tennis, and certainly when writing with a pen), but I learned early in life that I was a better hitter left-handed. Over the years I didn’t bat right-handed often, but when playing for other teams I would practice my right-hand swing in a game situation. On this day I had rolled a couple of ground balls to the third baseman or shortstop. Easy outs. I wanted a hit. In the softball that I played there were four outfielders and this opposing team had a left-center fielder. He moved in, and I hoped for an outside pitch. I got it and drilled hook to left center field and as he raced back it sliced away from him. An easy home run. (photo © Louis Kraft 1989)

But this novel writer I met in 1987 always had to be right. He was light on research, but knew everything. Worse, whenever he decided to tear into my family or people close to me he would lead off with, “I’ve got to tell the truth.” He would then get to his point, which ran along the lines of “I never liked her,” “She was too negative,” “Your sister has no right to say what she did about religion” (I believe that he had told me that he was an agnostic). Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap. … In 2014 I had offered to visit him for the umpteenth time to introduce him to the lady who would become my wife (both phone messages and email). No reply (I should add that whenever he visited SoCal he refused to visit me—he was only passing through and always too busy; I was always passing through Arizona on the I-40 and always made the time to visit him.

Oh yeah, an explosion was a comin’.

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This art of PS-K and LK is based upon a photo taken by our great friend Glen Williams in Texas on 13oct2014.

In 2014 a chief historian in the National Park Service asked me to review a document on Ned Wynkoop that the park service was preparing for the Sand Creek NHS and the Washita Battlefield NHS. I did and it was constructive … and ignored (If you ever see the document and know something about Wynkoop you would cringe). I sent him a link to a blog that took the National Park Service to task. His reply, and this is a paraphrase: Why would they read an unsolicited review? He then blasted me for being an expert on Wynkoop and not writing about anything else. Hello? Charles Gatewood, Geronimo, and the Apaches don’t count? Two books, and he has one and perhaps both of them. I had just delivered a major talk in Arizona on Gatewood and Geronimo and was working on the October 2015 Wild West Geronimo article (“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude”), both of which have been publicized on my blogs and elsewhere on social media. Or George Armstrong Custer; one book, a fair amount of talks, and numerous articles (some of which had been requested by editors). Hell, there have been Errol Flynn talks in five states, numerous articles, and plenty of publicity on social media not to mention two additional books on Flynn (documented on these blogs). I’ve been pushing The Discovery since I moved away from being a consultant (which began in 2010, but ended in 2011) and became a partner at the end of 2014.

Yes, this relationship has ended as he didn’t like my reply.
For the record, I have been advertising a future blog that deals
with this writer but as of the posting of this blog that is now history.
Reason: I don’t need to go into detail and hurt another writer
regardless of my feelings toward him. End of him and end of subject.

Michael Blake, a special person and writer

I met Michael Blake, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Dances With Wolves (1990) in 1991. On 2dec2006 when we both spoke at an Upton and Sons Publishers Symposium in El Segundo, California (“Voices of the West”). On that day I spoke about Errol Flynn and George Armstrong Custer, and he spoke about the Bison. Michael loved the horse, but on this day he shared his love for the buffalo and the natural world. Afterwards we hung out on the hotel’s balcony and talked and got to know each other—where we’ve been and where we hoped to go.

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Michael Blake talking at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on 8nov2006. This is pretty much the Michael Blake that I met in El Segundo, California, in December of that same year.

We had previously known each other when Michael initiated the relationship by phone when he was writing Indian Yell: The Heart of an American Insurgency (Northland, 2006). He had asked me to review his chapter dealing with Custer’s November 1868 attack on Black Kettle’s Washita village. He had read my Custer and the Cheyenne while recovering from an operation and had contacted publisher Dick Upton to obtain my phone number. This began our relationship, which was confirmed at Dick’s symposium when we got to hang out together.

One thing that we compared over the years were our operations. I have had a lot, but Michael’s count made me sound like an “also ran” or “rookie.” My good friend Dick Upton let me know that Michael had unfortunately died on 2may2015. On Michael’s Facebook page his wife Marianne wrote: “We miss him very much but take strength in the fact that he is at peace now, reunited with his heroes – animals and humans alike.” I never knew his wife or children, but we continued to communicate mainly through letters and the phone. He was a survivor who had a clear focus on his life, what was important to him, and what he wrote.

He kindly gave me some of his published writing and I gave him some of mine. Michael wrote two autobiographical nonfiction works that I am aware of, and they were magnificent. In my humble opinion they were his best nonfiction books. You’ve got to realize that when I read a book I’m paying attention and taking notes of why or why not I like the book. This was and is a learning process that continues to this day. Whenever I coach or hire out to novice writers or wannabe writers I always tell them to think about books they’ve read and decide why they like or don’t like the book. … I have no comments on Michael’s Like A Running Dog, Vol. 1: Los Angeles, 1970-1972 (Hrymfaxe LLC, 2002) and his follow-up book Like A Running Dog, Volume II—Los Angeles 1979-1982, other than that they were great reads.

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As I said in the flow of the text I couldn’t find Michael’s memoirs, but time is short and I couldn’t tear the house apart for I have too much on my plate at the moment. Put mildly I’m not pleased with myself. I decided to grab an image from my talk on the day that Michael and I met in December 2006. It was slightly out of focus but I could have fixed that. Instead I decided to play around with color and turn it into art. What you are looking at here fits my life quite well. Mainly that I cherish a lot of people who are writers or artists or directors or artistic people or just normal folks that I love. I love their creativity, I love their thought process, I love their friendship, but most important I love knowing them. That said I can’t tell you how often I have missed out because I didn’t call, didn’t visit, didn’t take that extra step to spend time with special people. (I saw my brother Lee Kraft three, four, five times a week but his sudden death has torn me apart to this day and destroyed our father; Dale Schuler, my father’s best friend and partner who was like a father to me; Mark Hendrickson, an actor and magician who grew up next door to me; and Doug McGirr, my ex-wife’s brother and my friend since I met him in 1967—his death has shocked my daughter Marissa and awakened her to how precious life really is. These were sudden deaths, but there have been friends who didn’t live close that fought for their lives that I called once but waited too long to call again; Tony Graham and Doug Matheson are just two.) … I don’t walk with the devil but red is the color that represents the end to me. This image is to remind me not to pass off until tomorrow calls, emails, or visits that I could do today. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

I have both in hardbound editions but it looks like only Volume I was published (but the two books Michael sent me look close, and certainly my Volume I looks like the printed book). I have an admission to make; I have books and research in every room except for the bathroom. I know, a sad state of affairs and Pailin reminds me of this. I can’t find these two books, but I have them and they are mine. They “ain’t” going nowhere, unless you gut me with your Bowie knife (I should add that I’ll nail you first, so don’t even think about it). Let’s take that “great reads” comment to the next level, if you are going to write an autobiographical piece do yourself a favor and read Michael’s two books. I don’t care if you are a novice writer, a bad writer, or a good writer, you’ll learn content flow, word usage, and composition from Michael’s text. You’ll also see a damned good way to write an autobiography or memoir.

I really should mention Michael’s Marching to Valhalla (Westminster, Maryland: Villard Books, 1996). I read this book when it was published, and this happened before Michael and I met via phone. At the time I saw at least one review that stated that Michael pulled his storyline from Errol Flynn’s film, They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941). Flynn’s film is one of my favorite films of all time (see Wild West, August 2014 for “Must See, Must Read” by LK), and as far as I was concerned that review was pure bullshit. By that I mean that I don’t think that Michael’s book and Flynn’s film were similar. I liked Michael’s novel about George Armstrong Custer. I wasn’t crazy about it but I liked it, and more important I thought that it would translate to the screen. Years later, in one of my better articles in a national magazine, (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth,” American History, February 2008) I pitched Michael’s quest to get his book onto the screen. If memory serves me back in those days he had a few big-name actors attached to the possibility but alas nothing happened. A shame, for it could have been a good film.

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Michael Blake as he appears in his DVD The American West: On the road with Michael Blake (image © Wolf Creek Productions, 2008)

Moving forward Michael sent me a “Screener Copy” of a great filmed nonfiction documentary series idea that he shot with director John Carver (Wolf Creek Productions, 2008) titled The American West: On the road with Michael Blake. It was slow and meandering—perfect for this type of Indian wars documentary as Michael, on horseback—a place he loved—talked about the end of the Apache wars as he took you to various historic sites.

Michael wanted me to write a comment for the DVD label. I did, and it appeared on his website for years (don’t think that it is there now), and he never sent me a DVD that he sent to potential backers.

Bottom line: Michael was a great human being who cared about people; living in our past; animals (he loved horses and had a great respect for the American Bison); and when he wrote he did so from the heart. Every writer should do this. … We have lost a great writer and I have lost a good long-distance friend. If you read his works he’ll be with you, and more important for me is that he’ll always be with me.

Teaming up with Tom Eubanks for a pitch

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Several years after Michael’s The American West: On the road with Michael Blake DVD was completed my great friend writer-director Tom Eubanks and I teamed and tried to sell a Ned Wynkoop/Southern Cheyennes five-episode documentary. I lined up top-notch Indian wars historians and Southern Cheyennes to take part in the project.

The image at right is based upon a photo that writer Johnny Boggs took at the final dress rehearsal for the Wynkoop one-man shows contracted by the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Cheyenne, Oklahoma) in December 2008. That’s director Tom Eubanks on his knees begging LK to remember his lines. I like that sentence but it’s not true. We’re discussing the prayer at the end of the play, and as you can see my nose was red. Yep, LK was doing some crying. Tom was showing me how I could improve the scene.

I made sure that Tom saw Michael’s DVD and he loved it. I added Michael’s horseback riding to the storyline to bring the viewers into the location and land that played a major role in what happened. Like Michael, we struck out. Probably in both Michael and our proposals the cost of location production killed us. As in the past, I have learned to “never say ‘never.'” If the chance arrives I will again toss Tom and myself into the ring.

Helping other writers + LK books & plays

One thing I’ve become quite good at over the years is not ripping another person’s writing. When asked to review I’ve generously given my time and constructively marked up manuscripts. In the past I had done a fair amount of free reviews with constructive mark-ups and a letter of comments of what the writer should focus on when improving his manuscript.

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My daughter Marissa (left in image) would meet and spend quality time with writer/historian Eric Niderost (right in image) over the years. On 15mar2003 it poured rain in Los Angeles. This used to happen in the past but during recent years Los Angeles and all of California has fallen upon hard times, actually the worst drought in over 100 years. On this day we went to see the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then visited magazine publisher and collector of science fiction film art and collectables Forrest J. Ackerman (center in image). Eric had set up our appointment with Forrest and his open welcome to unknown people into his Hollywood home that was really a museum became a major film history highlight. I am not a fan of horror or science fiction films, but let me tell you Mr. Ackerman had major framed posters of the key films from the silent era and into the golden age of cinema. He also had major artifacts such as Bella Lugosi’s original Dracula cape and the miniatures from the filming of The War of the Worlds (1953). (photo by Louis Kraft and © Marissa & Louis Kraft and Eric Niderost 2003)

One was a 100-page draft of a period thriller that took place in 1930s Shanghai by professor, historian, and author Eric Niderost, who has been my friend since 1995. It took me over a month to mark up the 100 pages (and I not only worked 40-50 hours I also had a roughly 10-hour drive weekly, and I worked on my writing usually between 20 and 40 hours every week when writing for companies). Eric had/has I think a great story idea and I hope that he pursues selling it, as he now has a completed manuscript.

I also completed a full review of Tom Eubanks’ PK (“PK” stands for “Preacher’s Kid”), which took place on a Caribbean Island (if memory serves me). Tom has been a good friend since we met at a Ventura County Writers Club weekly readings in 1990. Although we were at odds at times I saw his writing talent immediately. The group didn’t end, but I dropped out when a divorce removed me from Ventura County. I had then lived in a great house with a pool (swimming is my favorite exercise sport) a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains in Thousand Oaks, California. The divorce moved me back into Los Angeles County, but the end of my marriage did not mean the end of my friendship with Tom. He is one of the few people I know that whenever I see him it is just like we saw each other the previous week.

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Pailin and my great friend Tom Eubanks at his Elite Theatre complex on the Pacific Ocean in Oxnard, California, on 24apr14. That night we saw the final dress rehearsal of a play that Tom wrote and directed called The Art of Something. Over the years Tom and his wife Judy have played a major place in my life. On that evening Pailin met Tom, Judy, and their youngest daughter, Hannah (whom I’ve known since before she was born). A good night. (photo by LK, and © Pailin Subanna-Kraft, Tom Eubanks, and Louis Kraft 2014)

Tom is perhaps the most talented person I have ever known, and his energy blows me away. He’s also a wiz with words and the copy I reviewed of PK was polished. Many pages (somewhere between four and five hundred), but I completed my review of his preacher’s kid story draft in about two+ weeks. Upon my suggestion Tom changed his book title but I don’t remember what he changed it to as I never saw the printed book.

Beginning in 2002 he became my director for all the Wynkoop one-man shows and Cheyenne Blood (2009).

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This art is of LK in 2002 at Fort Larned, Kansas. I worked on it as I hope to turn it into art of Wynkoop for the Sand Creek book epilogue. I think that this is doable, and it is certainly a good start. …. BTW the goal of all writers is to create a manuscript/book that earns money. University presses are by far the best nonfiction publishers in the USA, and I consider myself lucky to write the best Indian wars publisher in the world (OU Press). (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

To date he hasn’t commented on an Errol Flynn play with perhaps seven actors but hope burns eternal that someday I’ll catch him at a weak moment. And I still haven’t given up hope of getting Johnny Boggs’ great novel East of the Border on the stage. Yeah, I want to play Flynn and Wild Bill Hickok while I still walk this earth.

I don’t edit for free any longer. I just don’t have the time unless I work as a contractor for a reasonable salary which is usually more than most writers or would-be writers want to pay. … The offers come, but usually with attempts to reduce my salary. Bottom line: I don’t write for companies any longer and my writing focus is now my books, let me repeat that—my books, and although I could use the money, if I work as a contractor I will receive an acceptable salary and the contract will be juggled with my book projects. … For the record, my partnership with Bob Goodman on The Discovery began as a contract, but changed to a partnership upon Bob’s request and my realization that I wanted to write his story idea.

Simple, and there will be no arguments or major negotiations.

LK as a minister

For almost 10 years my girlfriend was Japanese (born in Hawaii). At the time I met her, her two girls were adults. One had dropped out of college and would soon move back to Hawaii while the other was just beginning her college career. I did my best to befriend both of them. The younger daughter and I connected, and her boyfriend and I became buddies. This relationship began in late 1994.

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LK marrying Chelsea Tengan & John Fortuna at Balboa Park in San Diego, California, on 9Aug2003.

By 2003 my health was in great distress and there were two major operations that year (without checking I believe that my operation count is currently at 14). Between those operations (which cost me 4 1/2 months of downtime and learning to walk again) my lady’s daughter asked me to marry her to her boyfriend. I read her draft of the ceremony and said that I would if I could rewrite the words that I would say (she and I reviewed the draft numerous times until we mutually agreed on the text). I then laid it on her: It would be an acting performance. “What do you mean?” “I mean that I won’t read a word.” As far as I was concerned I would be playing a minister, and as such I would be performing a ceremony that I had previously performed hundreds of times. Oh yeah, Kraft was about to step onto the stage one more time. A three-person ceremony with one performance. She agreed, and we were off to the races.

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You are looking at Cindy Tengan on the day of her daughter’s wedding on 9aug2003. She was a special lady and I’m lucky to have known her for almost 10 years. She was never more beautiful, alive, or happy than I saw her on the day and night of Chelsea’s wedding. (photo © Cindy Tengan & Louis Kraft 2003)

I had one hell of a great time marrying Chelsea to her boyfriend. I was front and center and watched the tears of joy up close. Good stuff, and one of the highlights of my life. Afterwards a lot of people commented, and they wanted to know how many marriages I had performed.

“One.”

“Get out of here!”

“And it is my last one.” This scattered most of them. Others pushed, and I pushed back just as hard: “There will be no more weddings performed by me!” The reason was simple: I didn’t and don’t have the time.

My writing world and welcome to it

My writing world is mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. What other writers do is part of their writing world and it has no connection with my world. I take years and years and years to research a book, and then years and more years to write the book. For example research on Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway began in 1985. The Wynkoop book was published in 2011 and the first draft of the Sand Creek manuscript is due on 1oct2016 (both books were/are contracted). If someone can research a major nonfiction work and write it in a year, kudos to them. All I’m saying here is that I will never create any of my books in a year.

cookCell_boggsKill_Indian_collage_july15_wsI haven’t read a lot of the nonfiction or fiction that is published each year (actually this is a major understatement). I can count all of the novelists that I respect over my entire life on my two hands. There are a lot of nonfiction writers whose work I respect. The above said, it would take me two or three hundred pages to discuss nonfiction and fiction writers that I don’t think are very good.

Yep, this is my world, and I have no intention of agreeing to bullshit, lies, and errors, and I care if it comes from a publication house or a writer that deceives his or her readers and either repeats errors or creates nonfiction that is based upon lies and fiction. END OF SUBJECT.

Researching and writing a book in a year …

I’m certain that good novelists can do this. However, knowing my track record and how long it takes me to uncover the truth I don’t think that nonfiction writers can do this unless they have a huge staff performing their research for them. A recent book has done quite well, and the writer’s prose dealing with the here and now with the tragedy of Sand Creek seems to be right on the money. However, the writer’s historical research into 1864 and 1965 is error-riddled.

I say the above, as people shouldn’t take popular nonfiction as gospel for more often than not it perpetuates errors that have been in place for decades …. or worse creates new errors that will now be repeated ad nauseam.

Back to Vee’s comments on her writer-friend, … I thought she was talking about nonfiction but she had said something that her friend told her: “Characters drive plot.” This sounds like fiction to me, and if yes, I totally agree with her writer friend. The characters move the plot, and a writer must allow them to do this. … Again I haven’t read this lady’s books, so I can not say anything about them. Going with the above, perhaps I should read one of her books, for she is right on here. … Nine months of research seems reasonable for a novel, however I believe that research for fiction (or nonfiction) should continue until the copyediting has ended for one never knows when new information that wasn’t known is found or what was thought to be factual was in fact wrong.

My problem remains with writing and delivering a polished 125,000-word fiction manuscript in three months. That’s a mouthful—no more comments.

Other than to say that I can’t and will never be able to do this.

But that’s just me.

Let’s deal with the research

Research for writers vary, but unfortunately way too many writers write books that are based upon secondary books that may or may not have faulty information. This perhaps can work in fiction, but not always and especially not when it is an historical novel or a medical thriller that require facts. Today I’m going to stick with historical fiction, which often presents itself as being based upon fact when often just the reverse is true. That is the writer didn’t perform decent research and the story is loaded with factual errors. Often I have read a novel and went “Wow! This is good stuff.” Unfortunately when I read novels that are based upon historic or modern subjects that I know intimately I am bent over in agony and screaming at the gods for the pitiful research that now unwary readers think is factual. I’m going to provide two examples here with the caveat that I don’t know how long it took the writers to research or write their books:

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Cahill’s paperback novel cover.

Sand Creek by Kevin Cahill (Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2005): Mr. Cahill has a good website that Northwestern University used when they explored John Evans’s actions at the time of the Sand Creek tragedy (see Report of the John Evans Study Committee, May 2014). BTW, I do believe that Mr. Cahill’s site (Kevin Cahill’s Lone Wolf Sand Creek website) is well done and of value to researchers as it offers valid links to historical documents that are available online. Evans was governor of Colorado Territory at that time. Back to Mr. Cahill’s book. He even uses historical images in his novel, and the total presentation is that his book is factual. No! The reason is simple: His research is incomplete. I know Ned Wynkoop and his life like the back of my hand. My study of him began in the mid-1980s and it continues to this day. … It has oft been stated that Wynkoop fell off his horse during Captain Silas Soule’s funeral procession in Denver in 1865 and that this injury would affect him for the rest of his life. True, the injury would affect him and it would worsen with time. However the year of 1865 is totally wrong.

I don’t know when Wynkoop’s fall from his horse and the horse covering him on the ground in Denver in 1865 first saw print in secondary books, but it has been around for decades. Writers that don’t perform good research grab this 1865 horse incident and run with it. Hell, if it is in print it must be true. No!

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Many of you have seen this Wynkoop portrait that documents him confronting the Cheyenne and Arapaho battle line on 10sept1864 near a tributary of the Smoky Hill River is western Kansas. It originally saw print in the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine in an article entitled “Wynkoop’s Gamble to End War.” It is totally copyrighted and protected, and as a grayscale image will be used in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway (OU Press). Some of my articles have won awards. My opinion: This is the best published article that I have written.

There are three major pieces of primary source material that show that Cahill is wrong (as are nonfiction writers that have repeated this piece of fiction). They are:

  • Newspaper accounts that document a funeral procession in Denver in 1863 wherein Wynkoop’s horse was spooked, reared up, and when he was not able to control the animal it fell backward and onto him (not one but many articles).
  • Wynkoop’s military file. For the record Wynkoop was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, during the entire month of April 1865 and not in Denver—thus he couldn’t have attended Soule’s funeral.
  • Newspaper accounts for the entire Denver area for the month of April 1865, which contain absolutely no mention of Wynkoop being in the city at that time, attending Soule’s funeral, or having a horse mishap.

I didn’t get far in Cahill’s novel, and after I stopped reading I spot read certain areas. That’s it. Perhaps if I didn’t know anything about Sand Creek I might have loved his story.

Ladies and gentlemen I can’t tell you how often I have been shocked by errors that are not only caused by improper or incomplete research, but worse—and here I’m talking about nonfiction—the creation of facts (that’s right, creating facts that are fiction to dupe the reader); the misrepresentation of facts on purpose or because the nonfiction writer didn’t bother to complete his or her research (Read: They read one or two or three secondary books); inadequate documentation (that is their cited notes are so obscure or vague or inaccurate that the reader cannot find them to view them). There will be two upcoming blogs that will discuss this in detail and they won’t be vague.

oswaldWynkoopBookAnother book is, believe it or not, a young readers book, Edward Wynkoop: Soldier and Indian Agent (Palmer Lake, Colorado, LLC, 2014). The author, Nancy Oswald, kindly said the following in her Acknowledgments: “I would like to acknowledge Louis Kraft, biographer and author of Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. Without his book and his in-depth research and knowledge, my own understanding of Wynkoop’s life would have been far less complete.”

Wow!!! The above is more than kind. Moreover her Wynkoop book won the Western Writers of America Spur award for best juvenile nonfiction for the year 2014 (SEE BELOW: For this in itself is reason enough for me to drop my membership to this organization as I have been totally embarrassed—anyone who reads her acknowledgment and knows anything about Wynkoop will think that my book is a total piece of crap … say what?).

There’s only one problem. I don’t think that author Oswald read my Wynkoop book thoroughly, for if she did she decided to ignore many of the known facts in the book and replace them with often-repeated errors that are prevalent in popular nonfiction. For example:

  • Wynkoop worked as a bartender in the Criterion Saloon in Denver to earn extra money. This isn’t mentioned; instead it is replaced with the oft repeated error that Wynkoop earned money as an actor on the stage (page 12). For the record Wynkoop acted on the Denver stage but as an amateur; he never earned a penny as an actor.
  • Wynkoop resigned his commission as U.S. Indian agent while still en route to Fort Cobb, Indian Territory, on November 29, 1868. Although he didn’t know it and would not learn of it until he returned to civilization, Black Kettle’s village on the Washita River in Indian Territory was attacked and destroyed on November 27, 1868. Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman Later, died that day. On page 53 writer Oswald states: “When Wynkoop learned of Black Kettle’s death, he wrote a letter of resignation.” This statement is absolutely incorrect!

There’s more, much more but not for this blog.

Nancy Oswald’s writing flows nicely and her book is a page turner. Unfortunately she included major errors about Wynkoop. With her kind words about me she implies that these errors came from me. They did not. Web pages that profess the truth aren’t always accurate and primary information should be consulted to confirm everything on these websites. This takes time—lots of time and many writers prefer to take short cuts when researching. Many nonfiction books are error-riddled, especially popular nonfiction which doesn’t bother with notes (and believe it or not even more so with some of the major pieces of popular nonfiction that have notes).

What can I say other than I’m embarrassed (Yeah, I’m repeating myself—but damn it to hell I am!), and wish that Nancy did not say the kind words about me. Believe it or not I am considering dropping my membership in Western Writers of America (My apologies, for I’m again repeating myself.) for the simple reason that when judges are selected to review nonfiction they should make an attempt to confirm what they are reading before casting their votes.

People are my life & my writing world

People from times long gone, people from the more recent past, and people in the here and now are with me every day. I care about people, and their lives. Everyone’s life is unique and it shouldn’t be treated cavalierly nor should their lives be forgotten because they weren’t a king or president or sports hero or a soldier that was responsible for the death of innocent people or just an evil person that rapes, steals, and murders.

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My ex-wife’s and my gift to my sister, Linda, was that I would shoot her wedding to Greg Morgon on 3dec1988 at their church in Long Beach, California (others shot some photos but they were catch as catch can) and give them prints. My ex-wife worked for a number of years as a professional photographer. I learned from her, directors of photography on films and TV, and from fashion photographers that I worked with over the years. Here I’m trying to get a little too “artsy-fartsy,” but I liked my attempt (even though it is out of focus). My ex-wife, Marissa, and my father participated in the wedding ceremony. My brother Lee refused to attend (no matter what my father or I said to him), and his reasoning was valid (but this is for the memoir). I was present, but there are no photos proving this. My sister was radiant and beautiful, but then she was always beautiful. This image is full frame as I captured her in the mirror of the bride’s dressing room before the ceremony. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I grew up with two parents that accepted people regardless of their race. But in those times during my school years and for decades after I saw a lot of racial prejudice. Sometimes I closed my ears. At other times I didn’t but depending upon the person I might have just scratched them off. My sister, Linda, served as a deputy sheriff in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and then as an investigator for the Los Angeles District Attorney. When she knew that the end had arrived she gave me both of her badges, and I cherish them. I saw racial attitudes in her at times but placed them on her career path. Strangely she kept her distance from our family for most of her adult life (and my ex-wife has suggested a reason that I think may be correct).

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Doris & Louis Kraft Sr. at their home in Reseda, California, in 1972. Photo by Joan McGirr.

During the last two years of our mother’s life, my brother Lee who then lived at home gave our mother multiple shots every day and our father drove her to San Diego for experimental cancer treatments monthly. Our mother went into a hospital three weeks before Christmas 1979. On a Saturday morning I took a day off and flew home from San Diego where I worked on a film shooting at sea. She was released that day and I spent almost two days with her before returning to the location. Linda wasn’t around. I had one more week at sea and then a couple of days at the studio for pick up shots. My work ended three days before Christmas. Linda, who’s birthday was December 24, arrived. Mom wasn’t good, and the day after Christmas she returned to the hospital for the last 10 days of her life. I spent those 10 days and deep into the nights with my father, and this cemented our relationship for all time. On New Year’s Eve after he and I left the hospital we returned to his and my mother’s home and drank and smoked and and talked deep into the wee hours. I finished my last cigarette just before the midnight hour and have never smoked since.

Lee, who was 23 was distraught, placed the blame on himself for the inevitable, which happened on January 4, 1980. Linda wasn’t around. When I asked her about this later, she said: “I didn’t know Mom was dying.”

Our father died 19 years later. I had been taking care of him for years, and just before the end he said to me, “If I knew that I’d live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” I called Linda on a Friday night and told her that dad wouldn’t make it through the weekend. He died two days later on Valentine’s Day. Early on Monday morning she called me. “Where were you?” “I didn’t believe you. Besides, it was Valentine’s Day.” Oh yeah we had our ups and downs but I loved her—I always loved her. (No room here, but there were good times too. I have some great memories.)

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Lee Kraft and his girlfriend Robin Fried at the first house that my ex-wife and I owned in Encino, California, on Christmas day 1988. He was a good looking fellow and the best athlete I ever played with or against. He had a great smile. Robin was a lady that I always liked, and even more so after Lee’s death in a little over a year for she was absolutely terrific with my dad. Luckily she found me on social media and we have reconnected (after a long separation that I had nothing to do with and didn’t know about it until after the fact after my father died in 1999). I took at least one other photo of Lee on that day, and that photo is my favorite of my brother. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988).

Although Lee was nine and a half years younger than I was we were always close. We shared a bedroom during the entire time I lived at home. One night when he was still young our mother caught me climbing out the window with him my arms. “What are you doing?” “The Martians are coming. We’ve got to get out now!” (I never did well with horror and science fiction films.) When he was about 10 or 11 I told my mother that he was stealing my clothes. She questioned him. “No,” Lee said. We lived on half an acre in a rural area of Reseda, California. One day I was going out the back door and Lee was stuffing one of my coats into an old washing machine that our father hadn’t gotten rid of yet. Oops!

Our relationship grew even stronger once he reached 18 or so. But Lee also had some racial tendencies (which I saw when we played sports, and this I found surprising for our ball team had players of various races and they were his friends). And you know how it is; brothers would be brothers and they would fight and this grew as he also became an adult. When a friend of Lee’s, Ron Powell (who I liked), was redoing my roof in Encino with Lee and I assisting he didn’t finish the job and when I had to hire another roofer to finish the work I kept Powell’s tools. This angered Lee and we didn’t speak for quite a number of months (eventually I returned the tools). On another occasion we had a ball practice on a holiday before Lee and his wife Teresa or his long-time girlfriend Robin (who adored our dad until his death) and Tony and Cindy Graham were coming over for a barbecue. After the practice Tony (who I believe was Lee’s best friend of all time) told me he decided to do something else. We got into a fight and then suddenly it was Lee and I wrestling around on the ground with Tony trying to drag us apart. Another string of months with no communication. But then it was over and was just like nothing had happened.

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Pailin asked to take a picture of me as I cooked dinner for four good friends that visited Tujunga House on the Fourth of July 2015. The front of the house faces east but it was a sunny day and sunshine still blasted through the dinning room windows. We had good lighting but for some reason her phone camera messed up big time. I liked the image for it both told a story and gave a good rendition of what I currently look like. Some people cringe (I can see it in their eyes); others like this look. Me? It’s my shaggy dog look. Sudeshna Ghosh, Robin Fried, and Pailin all like it. When I growl at Pailin and ask her opinion about getting my hair cut, she refuses to answer. Silence is golden. To use the image I used my paintbrush and healing brush tool in PhotoShop. I decided to use this image here as shows you how close Lee and I looked. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Lee was always there for me.

The memoir is coming. The question is, how do I write it? I know the answer. Truthfully. I haven’t read many autobiographies or memoirs that are truthful; many are gloss overs or sometimes attacks. There is good and there is bad. There are good times and there are bad times. Certainly for me. Relationships begin and unfortunately many end. Why? What happened? Why did I get that acting job? Why didn’t I get those 50 acting jobs? Before he died Edward G. Robinson, a big star from the golden age of film, said that he wished that he had a nickel for every time one of his films played on TV (actors didn’t receive residuals in those days). I wish I had fifty bucks for every job interview and writing pitch or query that I’ve made over the years. … I’ve been knocked cold; I’ve taken a motorcycle over a cliff; I’ve had a knife at my throat in Austin, Texas, in 1970; six years later I was lucky to get out of Lubbock, Texas, without being tarred and feathered; I had a revolver pointed at me while driving Marissa to school (I told her to get off the seat and onto the floorboard); I took a fast car into a freeway center divider at high speed after it hydroplaned and spun out at about 65 mph. After hitting the center divider it spun two more times and took out the passenger side and then the rear end of the car. Surprisingly I walked away from the crash with my spine still functioning (my Vette died but it saved my life).

They say that the good die young, … but I don’t look at myself as evil.

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This is my lady, wife, and best friend Pailin in the front of Tujunga House on 24oct2013. … A little over a week ago she asked if we’d do a research trip this year. Alas, this isn’t in our timeline as she has continued schooling for her California Massage Therapy Council certification and I have major writing work staring at me. She experienced a research trip for the first time in fall 2014, loved it, and she is ready to go when I need to do another research trip. This is a first for LK!!!! (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m not telling you anything that you haven’t seen or experienced personally. My goal is to tell this story truthfully, and by the way this memoir has been in the works for years. You would be floored if you saw how much research I have. That said I haven’t written a word. … You know that’s not true for you’ve seen stories about my past or present that mean something to me in these blogs. That’s right, I use them as a research tool for myself.

All of the words in this section are here for one reason. I must know as much as possible before I develop a talk, write an article or a book, and the research never ends. There are answers out there and I want to know them. This has been in place since the Custer/Cheyenne book, for both of the Gatewood/Geronimo/Apache books, the Wynkoop/Cheyenne book, the Flynn and de Havilland book (which is on hold at the moment), and so it will be for the Sand Creek book (Cheyennes and Arapahos and their lifeways, whites who want to develop a great new land, whites who married Indian women, their mixed-blood children, and whites that spoke out against the killing of Cheyennes and Arapahos who were told that they were under the protection of the military when they were attacked and in many cases sexually hacked to pieces at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864). These books are hard to write for I want the people to come to life, and to do this I must find what made them tick, what made them do what they did. Actions and not words define who people are.

A lot of research, a lot of edits, and a lot of rewrites went into the creation of this blog. Writing is what I do. It is work and it takes time to get it right.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

Writing, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, George Custer & gunfights with a pretty lady

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


Whoa baby, does time fly. Already we’re racing toward the end of June. By now I’m certain that some of you think that I am too harsh on writers, editors, art directors, and other people who play a part in my writing life. You may be right, but I must stand firm for my vision of my work. At times this means speaking up. And here all I’m talking about are my writing and art projects.

Unfortunately I live in a world that doesn’t take prisoners. … and I have friends—good friends—who also live in this world. Unfortunately there are people in our 2015 world that thrive by destroying writers and publications that don’t agree with their views while creating books and articles that aren’t even bad fiction.

Yes, I am harsh. The reason is simple: What I write I want to be as accurate and as good as possible. I’m slow, and this is one of the reasons why. Is this acceptable? I don’t know, but for me it is.

My life is busy. I have multiple projects, but as you have seen from the last blog I have eliminated time-consuming projects from my writing life.

A writing life

For what it’s worth my writing life has a schedule with deadlines. These deadlines all have long timeframes, and this is an absolute must for me for the reason stated above. Ladies and gents I have learned over many years the effort that is required for me to write hopefully a decent book. … That’s right, I’m only talking about myself here. I’m slow and my editors know this. They also know that I question everything. If I don’t agree with something that has been changed in my text I challenge it (and there’s always research first to confirm what I challenge).

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This Charles Gatewood painting is dated (art © Louis Kraft 2004). It has been printed four times, and it has earned needed dollars. Ladies and gents, we both know that I’m not a very good artist, But I keep trying. My best seller, believe it or not, is a portrait of Ned Wynkoop. It has been printed five times, and it has brought in a lot more money. I don’t give up for the simple reason that the efforts can earn additional money, and more important they can illustrate an event that is totally lost to the mists of time. For the record, I gave actress Olivia de Havilland an 8×10 print of this Gatewood painting and she liked it.

I do have a fuse, and at times it is a short one. I love my editors, every one of them except the clown assigned to Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). His edit of the book put me into cardiac arrest. I wrote the manuscript and I do like simple language (short sentences when I get away with them, for the simple reason that they help making books page-turners. This edit of G&G angered me so much that I called the editor-in-chief, Durwood Ball, who had jumped upon the book query and stood behind the book every step of the way. Durwood listened to me, he would survive my demands, and we became good friends. For example, this copyeditor assigned to G&G took four or five of my paragraphs and merged them into one. Shorter sentences became long sentences. I wrote the manuscript, but now I couldn’t understand what I supposedly wrote. I had told Durwood that I was going to edit the copywriter’s edit. He accepted this, and I did. Some historians still believe that G&G is the best book that I have written. Maybe, but it’s not my choice. That said, I’m proud of the book for it placed Charles Gatewood on the map; that is it pulled him from the obscurity that General Nelson Miles damned him to for eternity. For the record (and I love the Cheyennes) if I could spend an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year with an American Indian that I have written about, … It is, and it will always be, Geronimo. He was a magnificent human being (and I don’t give a damn about other people’s opinion of him). I wish I could share the portrait I recently painted of him. I can’t, for the October 2015 Wild West magazine may print it. Honestly, my fingers are crossed that they do. Until I do, and if it is positive, the image is off-limits until the magazine is printed and distributed.


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This is the Pailin that I see every morning (and this morning happens to be 17jun2015). Happy, sexy, and ready for anything that I might toss at her. I’m convinced that she thinks that I’m crazy. That’s okay, for crazy is good if it doesn’t hurt anyone. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll give in and learn to swing a blade. Maybe. Hope never flickers out. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Although I don’t write for companies any longer, my life comprises a lot more than just research and writing—It also includes four-to-five hours of yard work per week; doing housework (I’m home; why not?); most of the grocery shopping; completing the process of turning the front yard into a desert (Ongoing for a long time); creating the new driveway to where Pailin now parks her car (Good progress); and finally working on my health (A multi-leveled process that I created over the years, along with recommendations from my physicians; currently this takes close to four hours average per day—I’ll discuss it in the Thailand blog).

For the record, I’m not complaining for Pailin does more than her share of chores. More important, she had negotiated two days off, Wednesday and Thursday (a few weeks back she worked 21 hours on her two days off, and yes I was cursing). Wednesday and Thursday turned into Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week she worked on Wednesday and as of now she only has Tuesday off. This Tuesday (June 23) she goes into work at noon! I use off-color words, and we both know it. I’m biting my tongue, but not hard for there’s no blood squirting. The only plus is that she has made it clear that she really doesn’t want to go into work until the afternoon, and this seems to be working. At least so far. This cuts into my writing time, but it also gives me additional time with my lady.

Yeah, my days are long. They are also very fulfilling and I enjoy each and every minute.

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

Wild West editor Greg Lalire and I have a draft of the article that we are both good with, and fingers are crossed that there is enough space for the words.

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My daughter Marissa Kraft at the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona on 25jul1996. At the time I was writing Gatewood & Geronimo and she joined me on a 16-day research trip in Arizona and New Mexico. Great times. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1996)

In late May I completed three edits of the map that Wild West contract cartographer Joan Pennington created from the map that I submitted. I okayed the third draft the last week of May. I have nothing but kudos to say about Joan’s work. She accurately added what I considered key locations in Geronimo’s life that have never before seen the light of day in map form (see the map that I created for Joan to work from: Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). It took hours and hours for me to pinpoint three of the locations: 1) The Valenzuela attack on Geronimo’s camp, 2) The Geronimo and Prefect of Arispe near shootout, and 3) The Gatewood confrontation with Lt. Abiel Smith while Geronimo watched.

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On 25jul1996 my daughter Marissa Kraft and I walked to the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in Arizona. If my memory is decent it was about a mile and a half walk each way. The previous night after she went to sleep the news announced that a mountain lion was seen in the area. That morning I wore a knife and when we started the walk I picked up two large branches from the ground. She asked me why and I told her that the branches could help us walk if needed. “What about the knife?” “I just felt like wearing it today.” It’s a great walk, but I remained alert the entire time but saw no evidence of the cat. We saw this memorial to Geronimo’s two-year old son as we neared the fort ruins. I never checked on the little boy, but if the dating is accurate he most likely took part in the final Chiricahua Apache outbreak from Turkey Creek in spring 1885. (photo © Louis Kraft 1996)

As everything is new with the World History Group and the Los Angeles design group that are calling the shots on the photos, art, and maps there are no guarantees of what will make it into “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” for the October issue of Wild West. I feel confident that Joan’s map of key Mexican locations in Geronimo’s life will make the issue. Fingers are crossed that my portrait of Mr. G will also be printed.

I have seen the August 2015 issue of Wild West (this is the first issue published by the World History Group) and I want to say up front that the August issue is one giant step forward. I love the look and feel of the magazine! More below on the new Wild West magazine.

I’m working on a bucket list in reverse order, as follows:

  • My last play, Cheyenne Blood, ran for five weeks in 2009. Although nothing has been officially pitched this is one place where I’ll never say “Never.” Here are two big reasons why:
    •  I have a great idea for a play on Errol Flynn.
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Johnny B. gave me this first edition of his story of Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro on the stage for one season when we got together in Santa Fe in 2005. It is a great character study. What I really like is when Hickok realizes that the flame from his revolver burns the dead actors on the stage. After that whenever possible he bends near a “dead” actor and fires his revolver so that the flame burns the deceased and brings them back to life on stage. Hickok finds his ad-libbing a hoot. It’s a funny bit and I’d like to do it too. I’m not sadistic; just fun-loving, especially with the knowledge that no actors (dead or alive) would be harmed.

•  Johnny D. Boggs wrote a terrific story about Wild Bill Hickok joining Buffalo Bill Cody’s theatrical troupe in East of the Border (Five Star, 2004). Since I read Johnny’s novel I’ve wanted to play Hickok. Most of my writing ideas take forever to become reality. For this to happen will take a miracle of selling on my part. Johnny Boggs and director Tom Eubanks if you read this open your ears to me.

  • I have ceased giving talks. My last talk dealt with Lt. Charles Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico in August 1886 and talking him into returning to the United States and surrendering for the last time (Order of the Indian Wars, Tucson, Az., September 2013). See Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo.
  • At the moment it appears that “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” may be my last article. No others are in progress and I have stopped pitching stories to magazines.

I’m good with the above, and trust me I never hold my breath for something that may never happen. There have been a lot of projects over the years that have gone belly up or never happened. Not because of me, but because of others. When I commit, I commit and deliver. In the acting and writing worlds much happens with great aspirations, but then far too often—Poof … Nada.

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

First and foremost, the look and feel of the August 2015 Wild West magazine is terrific. This is the first issue of Wild West with the new design since the World History Group purchased the Weider History Group and its stable of history magazines earlier this year.

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The August 2015 issue.

I like the cover paper and interior paper, which have a different texture (the gloss is gone from the cover). Love the cover makeover! Simple design with a cool new Wild West banner, including “The American Frontier” subhead. I really like the cover art of the young outlaw Jesse James. Artist Robert Hunt created the portrait based upon a 10jul1864 image of the teenager.

The August issue contains five features, and they are well designed with photos and art. A portion of a Thomas Hart Benton mural the artist created for the Missouri state capitol building in 1936 covers the first two pages of “The State of Jesse James” by Jim Winnerman, and shows the James gang robbing a train and a bank. Another feature, “Allan Pinkerton: ‘They Must Die'” by Ron Soodalter also begins with an image (Pinkerton on horseback in 1862) covering the first two pages of the article. But in this article, which deals with Pinkerton’s efforts to end the James-Younger gang’s lawlessness Soodalter’s text begins on the first page in white ink over the dark shades of the image behind Pinkerton’s horse. I think these two pages are really pleasing to the eye. The magazine also prints images that cover a full page. For example: In the Pinkerton article there is three-shot of Frank James sitting between Jesse and Fletch Taylor, who posed for the image in a studio (perhaps in 1867).

I know a number of historian-writers that focus on the Indian wars, and on social media some of them have been critical of the change of hands of Wild West from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. What will happen to their articles? What will be the word count, and it has shrunk for features? Will their articles see print? Heck, what about the Weider History Group staff in Leesburg, Virginia? Will they survive? At the moment it looks as if they will, which is great news for all of us: Them, the freelance writers, and the readers of the magazine.

A few thoughts on change

Change is always nerve-wracking, and I know of what I say for I have lived through it in my writing career way too often. Sometimes I survived and sometimes I didn’t survive. The following are a few examples.

What should have been my first published nonfiction historical piece was accepted by a British history magazine, and it was a feature on George Armstrong Custer. This came about when the magazine did an article on Custer which included publicity photos from the Robert Shaw star turn in Custer of the West (1967) and I wrote the editor telling him that I didn’t write letters to the editor. I then banged the hell out of the article while pitching an article about “The Real Custer.” The editor jumped on the story, but the magazine went belly-up before publication and I had to track him down to get my photographs back. There’s a lesson here; if one publication was interested in a written piece most likely another publication will be interested in it—the writer just has to find another buyer. “The Real Custer” saw print in the December 1988 issue of Research Review. (At that time Research Review paid $100, which was a large reduction from what I would have made from Britain magazine, but the layout and design was much better than the British magazine was capable of doing.)

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LK with Jackie Johnson in Jackson, Wyoming, at the Western Writers of America convention in 1993 (Jackson Hole is the valley between the Snake River and the Teton Mountains). She liked the idea for The Final Showdown in Oregon in perhaps 1989. I was so dumb that when some three months later my agent asked if I had drafted three sample chapters. Oops! No. Jackie became friends with Marissa and I. We ate together at conventions, saw a play, And I spent good time with her at her office in Manhattan just before the first novel was published. (photo © Louis Kraft 1993)

My second novel was under contract but the publisher decided to drop their western line. I threatened to sue, but my then-agent talked me out of it as she was afraid that she’d be blacklisted and did what she could to convince me that I would be also. I consented but weeks later we parted company. This was a genre western that dipped into Navajo culture and history. I liked it (I still like it), but I never attempted to resell it. Reason: I felt that the story needed more than 65,000 words to tell it properly. It has since waited until I decide when that the time is right to expand it into a full novel. That time is getting close.

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LK with a coworker at Sun Microsystems. Actually I am sitting at the coworker’s desk but he wasn’t present. One or more of my coworkers, people I enjoyed knowing and respected, created this life-sized cutout of this fellow, who might have been on vacation on this day. I believe that the year was 2007, and one of three fellows took this image but I don’t remember who. BTW, I chuckled the entire day. Talk about being vague, … just one of my talents.

The software world is ever changing. Companies appear and succeed or fail, and often they sell out to larger companies (which usually makes the owners rich) or merge with larger companies or large companies purchase smaller companies (a reverse of the above). When this happens, often jobs disappear, and even more so in the 21st century when one job—let’s say a writing job—in the USA becomes two or three or four writing jobs in India or elsewhere. Or perhaps the USA job transfers to only one job in India, and the U.S. company pockets the rest of the salary (and perhaps makes a killing in benefits savings).

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Sun Microsystems bought SeeBeyond Technology Corporation in 2005. If my memory is correct this badge was created that year. Every software company that I worked for had tight security—something that I’ve always appreciated.

When this type of change happens it creates a nervous time, and I don’t care if it is in the space industry or elsewhere. I’ve seen huge cheers when a satellite is shown blowing up on TV news footage and the staff realizes that it wasn’t a satellite that they worked on and that their jobs are safe. In case you don’t know, space failure (and sometimes other IT failure) means that heads will roll as millions upon millions of dollars suddenly vaporize.

Don’t forget that when a company begins to flame out and spiral toward oblivion such as Sun Microsystems, or when a powerhouse (no example, … to protect the innocent—yours truly) operates on lies (I have proof but have no desire to go to war, a war I could never win regardless of what the documentation proves), heads roll and these deaths are not based upon quality of performance.

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

My hopes and prayers are that the staff in Leesburg, Virginia, survive the magazine transition from the Weider History Group to the World History Group. At this point in time it looks good for all concerned.

Will any of the above affect me? Doubtful. Life is what it is, and it always moves forward. Do I lose? Probably. No more publicity wherein I receive money for my efforts. Will I regret my decision as I move forward? Probably. Hey guys, I like magazine articles and have always done whatever was necessary to make the articles as good as they could be.

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LK talking about “Cheyenne Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s 1867 Fight to Prevent War” at the Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.) on 15sept2004. The reason I have used this image here is because my views on race and Wynkoop have garnered me anger and hate over the years. At times when I’ve appeared—let’s say in Colorado—people will turn their backs to me. The Discovery isn’t about racial hatred, but there is a crime in the story that isn’t racial, and yet it is. Bob Goodman and I are happy with our manuscript. At the same time we are aware that the content may anger people. The story of my life. Hell, ladies & gents, if I can’t push you as far as I can, why bother? (photo Louis Kraft 2004)

Yes, but I have always angered staff members at publications. It wasn’t because I wanted to upset or threaten staff members but rather because I wanted to challenge them and myself to create the best story and design possible. Egos are involved, and often people don’t realize that I have a lot of experience in what they consider their expertise. They don’t like being challenged, for as far as they are concerned they know what is acceptable. They don’t want to push words or a design layout to the extreme; they just want to get their job done and go home.

I’m sorry, but for me this isn’t acceptable.

And the above isn’t limited to magazine articles, for it extends to talks (which I believe must turn on listeners and not put them to sleep) as well as books (which for me are my main focus). Book production teams think a lot less of me than magazines or those who have been brave enough to allow me to speak for their events.

The bottom line, and I’m talking about anyone and every speaking engagement, magazine, or book publisher that has hired me. All I care about is the best product possible. That’s it; I’ve never said or done anything to hurt you. Never. The final product, be it a talk, article, or book is and has always been all I care about.

For those of you who have hired me. Thank you, and I say this from the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

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PS-K and LK returned from an extended research trip to the West on 16oct2014. The next day we drove to the Western History Association convention in Newport Beach, Calif. I knew that John Monnett would be there (John and his wonderful wife Linda welcomed us with open arms at their home in Colorado during the trip). I wanted to see him. I also wanted to see Chuck Rankin (editor-in-chief at OU Press), had hoped that Durwood Ball who is now editor of the New Mexico Historical Review and a good friend would be present (he was), and spent prime time with Clark Whitehorn (current editor-in-chief at U of NM Press). … Pailin saw the Wynkoop book, which Chuck and OU Press still push, and she snapped this image. … Good news to report from OU Press. Managing editor Steven Baker recently contacted me and Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek will be published in paper in mid-July. (photo © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

As for my book publishers present and in the future, you know me. But if you don’t, it’s on you for not doing your research and learning. I’m certain that you want the best book published, and I’m with you on this 100 percent. Know that when you contract with me that I intend to do everything possible to ensure that the book that you and I have partnered on will be the best publication possible. You need to know that I will take an active part in the entire publishing process. There are no shortcuts for me, and I do know the process (and have lived it for some twenty plus years, and I’m not just talking about my freelance publishing experience, which is thirty years). I have actively made the choice to eliminate pieces of my writing life as I consider books the major part of my artistic world. The future is out there and I have made my decision of what my future is.

Book publishing departments I’m not your enemy; I’m your friend for my goal is the same as yours. Don’t get upset and don’t attack, for I’m working with you to get the best possible product printed. This has nothing to do with ego and has nothing to do with me trying to show you up. I’m a part of your team, and everything I write, submit, or suggest is to improve the final product. That’s it, … that’s all.

TV, swords, Michael Parks, Errol Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer

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In the pilot for Then Came Bronson Michael Parks sang “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” which is my favorite song of all time, with Bonnie Bedelia singing backup. BTW, the pilot for the TV series was released in Europe as a feature film. The producers quickly realized that they had another element in the development of a loner coming to terms with life as he explored the western USA on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and that was adding a Parks’ song to each episode. It worked, for Parks sang country blues like no one before him (and to my knowledge no one since). Michael apparently prefers blues linked to jazz (moving away from the music that I love). This image of Parks, which was taken on 22may1970 (and is completely copyrighted, and trust me you don’t want to steal it for in court you will lose) was shot at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. I had paid good money for what I thought would be good seats. No! We were halfway back in the auditorium. I had a bright idea, and suggested to my guest that we kneel down in front of the first row and lean against the stage. We did this, weren’t asked to leave, talked with Michael, and obtained some great images from his concert. I would luckily work with Parks in the future, and got to know him.

I’ve been around for a long time, and over the years I haven’t been impressed with TV shows. There are only four TV shows that have caught my interest over the years. Michael Parks’ Then Came Bronson (1969-1970); The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (1993-2002); The Mentalist with Simon Baker and Robin Tunney (2008-2015) may be my favorite of all time, but this is a toss up with Then Came Bronson; and The Musketeers (2014-2015) with Luke Pasqualino (as d’Artagnan) and Santiago Cabrera (as Aramis). Other than Then Came Bronson (which I tried to watch, but unfortunately couldn’t catch all of the episodes), I haven’t watched any of these programs when they aired. I saw a handful of episodes of The X-Files and maybe four or five episodes of The Mentalist. My viewing TV count of The Musketeers is zero. Great plots, actors, and series, but luckily none of them had (or have) counted upon my loyalty to survive.

Something needs to be said right here. I’m only writing about one actor, Errol Flynn (and in the first volume Olivia de Havilland is a major supporting player). If ever I were to write about another actor, it would be Michael Parks. He was a rebel who could act, and best yet he dared to stand firm for what he believed. His story should be told. I luckily got to work with Michael in 1978 on a TV film that hoped to lead to a series. It aired in 1980, but didn’t lead to a series, and that is too bad. Good times for LK, and there are stories to be told here, among which is the rap against Parks for what I saw it was pure bullshit. … Michael is still working and looks physically great. That said if ever I am to follow up on this book idea I need to get off my rear end and re-connect with him. Now.

I presume that by now you know that I love the sword and swashbuckling. At the beginning of this year I was in a Best Buy (which I think may disappear in the not-too-distant future; another victim of changing times) and saw the first season for The Musketeers on sale for ten bucks. It’s a BBC production and I hadn’t heard of it or any of the actors.

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DVD cover for the second season of The Musketeers. From left on top image: Santiago Cabrera, Howard Charles (as Porthos), Luke Pasqualino, and Tom Burke (as Athos). I’m looking forward to seeing the second season later this year.

But how can you go wrong with Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. The story is a classic. Although Errol Flynn did a recording of one of the ongoing plot lines he never played d’Artagnan on film. Too bad, for at the time of Flynn’s The Prince and the Pauper (Warner Bros., 1937), he would have been perfect casting for this role. Ten bucks. Hell, if it was the worst TV show that I ever saw it would certainly be worth the expense just to study the swordplay (good or bad). This comes from a cynic, for easily 90 percent of the swashbuckling productions that I’ve seen on film or on TV are little more than jokes. Poor scripts, bad or low budget production values, and worse—piss-poor acting and swordplay. Yeah, I’m a cynic for easily nine out of ten films or TV productions that I have seen are an embarrassment. They aren’t classic, they aren’t good, and I don’t give a damn how much money they earn, or don’t earn (for profits mean nothing when talking about quality). Apples and oranges, no more and no less.

And this carries over onto the stage. After Dr. Kildare (1960s TV series) Richard Chamberlain went off and studied acting. He became a good actor, and since he chose to be classically trained he would soon play leads on stage and in historic films, TV movies, and mini-series. A number of them would be swashbucklers and eventually he landed the role of Aramis in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. Two films shot at the same time but then split into two films. That’s right two films for the price of one. The actors didn’t agree, took the producer to court and won a second salary for their efforts. I agree with this judgment. Chamberlain, Oliver Reed, and Michael York, among others, excelled. The films are exciting, and I like them. However, if any of these actors attacked me and thrashed around with their swords as they did on film I would have simply stood there and watched them slash and swoosh with their rapiers and then would have simply extended my arm and pierced their hearts without raising a sweat. Adios amigos. Ve con Dios (Go with God).

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A publicity photo from Chamberlain’s less than spectacular performance as the world’s greatest duelist at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 1973.

The bottom line: I saw Chamberlain play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (eighth row center) in October or November 1973 (I also saw Mr. C play Henry IV in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I in 1972 at the Ahmanson). Cyrano has a big nose; he is also the greatest duelist in France. This is a classic play, and every actor who swings a blade wants to play Cyrano. The key duel in the play begins and it is fought as if the actors hold foils (parry and thrust; no slashing) even though it looks as if they hold rapiers. It is boring (and I’m being kind here). Chamberlain’s blade brakes. Oops! I don’t know if we call performers who have zero lines or only as few extras on the stage or not. Anyway, an extra or an actor with a minimal role walked to Chamberlain and handed him his blade so that Richard could continue the duel. Hell, he should have flipped his blade to Chamberlain and Mr. C. should have caught it with a flourish before charging his opponent. No such luck. The dull duel continued and ended as expected and I wanted to go to sleep. I can name two Chamberlain performances that I think the world of; as mountain man Alexander McKeag in the miniseries Centennial (1979) and as Father Ralph de Bricassart in the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983). Chamberlain is a good actor, and he has proved this time and again. Unfortunately I never worked with him.

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Wayne Maunder as George Armstrong Custer in Custer (or The Legend of Custer, 1967; 20th Century Fox pilot plus 17 episodes). The pilot was a joke. I don’t think I’ll waste any words talking about it and the TV series was worse. That said Maunder played the ideal Custer, as this newspaper clipping from the 1960s shows. Maunder is wearing a cool hat; methinks that perhaps I need Baron Hats in Burbank, Calif., to create it for me, … or should my next hat be Flynn’s hat used in the early scenes of Dodge City (Warner Bros., 1939)? Decisions, decisions. What’s a writer to do?

What do I mean? Simply, most productions have B-film scripts and most of the actors aren’t A-actors. Forget the production value, for often there isn’t/wasn’t any. Swinging a blade (like riding a horse on film) requires that the actors to learn how to do it. Unfortunately most don’t. A perfect example of this is Gary Cole playing George Armstrong Custer in the mini-series based upon Evan S. Connell’s The Son of Morning Star (Republic Pictures Television, 1984). Connell’s book was loaded with factual errors (Over 150 and counting in the first printing; I believe that most of them were fixed in subsequent printings), but he was a good writer and could tell a story. His book, published by an obscure publisher, became a national best seller and did wonders for Custer and the American Indian wars. What can I say about the mini-series? Many of the supporting actors were much better than Cole, who had no clue of who Custer was. Ditto Rosanna Arquette, who played Libbie Custer. She actually stated that she didn’t respect the historical figure she portrayed. Too bad, but hell I don’t respect her, and I spent perhaps four weeks working with her and Richard Thomas in a TV film remake of Johnny Belinda (1982). Good money for me, plus Thomas and I became friends, which would almost impact my screenwriting career—almost, but no cigar. And Thomas tried, for he liked several of my screenplays but didn’t have the clout to get enough money people interested to raise what was needed to move the scripts into production. …

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Errol Flynn’s They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) and Robert Shaw’s Custer of the West (Cinerama Releasing Corporation, 1967) played at the Beverly Cinema on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles on June 14 & 15, 2015 (and this was the theater’s ad).

They Died With Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941) is one of Flynn’s best films and it constantly juggles with Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948), The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940), and Gentleman Jim (Warner Bros., 1942) for EF’s best performances on film. His role as George Armstrong Custer links with the boxer Gentleman Jim Corbett, the lover and swordsman Don Juan de Maraña, Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (read the pirate Francis Drake), and the aristocratic Soames Forsyte (in The Forsyte Woman, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1949) as roles that he wanted to perform.

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I had taken some photos of the Beverly Cinema in daylight as the box office opened at six o’clock (got one or two good daylight shots of Robert that’ll use in the future), but decided that I wanted a night image. More dramatic. (photo © Louis Kraft 2015)

They Died With Their Boots On (TDWTBO) is a great film that played a major role in my future. I’ve always liked Robert Shaw, and he made some good films, including Jaws (Zanuck/Brown Productions, Universal Pictures, 1975), and The Deep (Columbia Pictures, 1977). Unfortunately Custer of the West isn’t a good film. Let’s just flip that statement, Mr. Shaw played Custer in a bad film.

On Sunday, June 14, Robert Florczak picked me up and drove us to the Beverly Cinema to see TDWTBO. A good time as we got to hang out together, something that time and circumstances has prevented for too long. We saw Flynn’s Custer on the large screen for the first time in a long while (for me, at least two decades and maybe more). Afterwards we talked about Custer and Flynn, and as we got trapped in a major traffic jam after seeing Flynn’s Custer (we didn’t stick around for Shaw’s Custer) it gave us more time to chat. Actually Highland Avenue was a total mess and Robert detoured to the south before moving east to attempt getting out of LA via Laurel Canyon.

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

BTW, I hate this 1941 Warner Bros. one-sheet of TDWTBO. In February 2008 American History published a feature of mine (“Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth”) that compares Flynn’s Custer to the real GAC, and the findings are surprising (this was the best of three articles I wrote about the comparison: Errol & Olivia will deal with this in detail). The art director for American History clipped an oval of Flynn from this one-sheet (see image above) and used it in the article. I hated it and fought to have it removed. I lost. That said this is one of the best articles I have ever written.

Let’s pick on Johnny Depp and his Captain Jack character.

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Signed photo of Depp from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (2003) in LK collection.

Johnny’s a good actor, and he takes chances. Period. Unfortunately he didn’t learn how to swing a blade for what will probably be the character we remember him for playing (and he’s made four Pirates of the Caribbean films, and there’s a fifth on its way to release). I like the first film a lot for it was inventive, had a few good (and non-cliché characters), and it grabbed my interest. Depp couldn’t sword fight, and neither could the insipid young actor who played the love interest (he’s not worth mentioning). It would get worse in the following three Pirates films (and it is painfully obvious that Depp isn’t doing any sword fighting). I’m picking on Depp, but he’s not alone. We can go back to a pretty big film star from the golden age of film (the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s) and look at Robert Taylor’s swashbuckling films. Guess what, Mr. Taylor wasn’t doing much with a blade either.

Hey, the bottom line on film is: If you can’t see the actor’s face on the screen,
the actor didn’t perform what you are watching. I don’t care if they are
naked or are riding a horse or are swinging a blade. To repeat, if you
can’t see their face they didn’t act in the scene (or at least not all of it)
that you are watching. Simple; a film double or a stunt double
played the scene (and I know what I’m talking about).

Ladies and gents, there are only a handful of actors (heroes and villains) who could wield a blade. This is a very short list. Of the actors from the golden age of film (Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Stewart Granger, Basil Rathbone … four fellows; and maybe the dancer Gene Kelly and heartthrob Tyrone Power; I’ll have to check Kelly but other than The Sun Also Rises, 20th Century Fox, 1957, I have none of Power’s films in-house). That’s it. From the 1960s to the time of Richard Lester’s series of swashbuckling films in the 1970s, zero. Lester’s actors, who were mostly English (Oliver Reed, a good actor at all times; Michael York, Frank Finley, and Christopher Lee) and the American Richard Chamberlain worked at preparing for the Lester films.

Basil Rathbone said in a recorded interview that, “I could kill Mr. Flynn anytime I wanted.” (I don’t know if this quote is accurate but it is close.) Really? I chuckle over this every time I hear or read the quote.

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Mr. Rathbone is stiff on film, and it is obvious that he is/was concentrating on what he learned in his fencing lessons (and according to him, he studied the sword for years away from the studios). Sword fighting—real sword fighting—is considerably more than learned technique. It is taking what you have learned and using it to not only stay alive but to disable or kill the person attacking you. In film, the actor must sell this to the audience, and Flynn could do this. Knowing Flynn’s life cycle intimately I’ll take him any day in a real duel to the death with Rathbone. … But Rathbone does hit the mark with his words of his capability to kill a fellow actor but we must wait until the 1970s and Lester’s swashbuckling films for here the movements by the swordsmen are so large and exaggerated that Mr. Rathbone could have easily eliminated Chamberlain and the other heroes without breaking a sweat.

Too bad, … I guess, as I like Lester’s two Musketeer films and have nothing but praise for his Crossed Swords (a much better retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper than Flynn’s 1937 version with Oliver Reed playing Miles Hendon). I like Reed’s acting, and in my humble opinion his Miles Hendon is the best role he played. Totally convincing.

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

I hope that my schedule as listed above doesn’t throw you off or give you the wrong impression. I’m thrilled with my life. I have Pailin, hopefully Marissa, and my writing. That’s a lot. I’m thrilled and very happy. What more could a man ask for?

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Oh yeah, this is LK’s pistol-packin’ lady at Tujunga House. This is not a Photoshop enhancement. I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media blame this great program for doing things that it didn’t do. Just so you know, I’ve been using Photoshop since the mid-1990s and it is my favorite program. This image was created in the camera and is a total operator error by LK. That’s right, yours truly messed up big time. I had no intention of turning the 1860 Army Colt into a canon or of shrinking Pailin into a dwarf. That said, I had to share this image as PS-K and I laugh every time we look at it. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

Pailin is game for almost everything. Almost everything, but not sword fighting. Never say “never.” Trust me, for I have no intention of giving up trying to get her to cross blades with me. Someday I’ll get my way. When that time arrives I’m certain that she’ll enjoy herself and ask what took me so long to get her to change her mind.

How many of you have a shootout deep in the night when your lady returns home? Sometimes she shoots me; sometimes I shoot her. … With our fingers, which become pistols when we see who has the quickest draw or who exhibited the best stealth on any given night.

“Bam, bam, bam!” Pailin yells. “I got you!” I grab my chest and fall against the wall before sliding to the wooden floor, or Pailin grabs her stomach and slumps onto Saltillo tiles. This gunfight could have happened on a boardwalk in early Denver or in a former hacienda outside of Santa Fe.

psk_lk_fingerColtMontage_4jun15_wsRecently, after working on balance and strength while studying The Mentalist, I sat in a leather chair beside the piano, which is to the left of the front door, while I iced my feet. The night was early; before ten-thirty. I heard a click. Or did I? All it took was a split second. Too late—too late … before the sound registered. I fired with my left hand, but Pailin had opened the door, saw where I sat, and shot before I did. She smiled as she added another notch to her revolver.

It is always different, always. Not long back I prepared for bed and I heard her car pull into its new parking place behind the house. I raced for the kitchen and waited in darkness. A minute, perhaps two or three passed before I heard Pailin enter. She entered the computer room and carefully leaned through the archway. What she saw confirmed that I wasn’t in one of two possible locations. She slowly stood upright from her crouched stance. I stepped from the darkness behind her and fired, “Bam-bam-bam.” She turned around, laughed, and dropped onto the tile.

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PS-K gunning for LK in Tujunga House on 17jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

My favorite happened not too long back. I had already gone to bed, but always leave a light on in the bedroom so that Pailin can see. I hadn’t gone to sleep when I heard the front door open. I didn’t have much time and quickly stuffed a bunch of pillows under the blankets to hopefully represent where I slept. I then tiptoed to the right of the door entry into the bedroom. Leaning against the wall I waited for when I would shoot my pretty wife. HA!!! … And for those of you who live in dangerous areas or who write fiction (or fact) take note for what follows. I heard Pailin move through the archway and slowly, carefully step toward the bedroom. Seconds ticked by, but there was no sound, and yet I knew that she had to be moving forward. No matter, for as soon as she stepped through the doorway I’d shoot. So much for best laid plains, for Pailin leaped into the bedroom as she whirled to her left and shot me. Afterwards I asked her how she knew where I was. She pointed at the mirror above a small table that faces the doorway. She had seen me lurking and waiting to ambush her as soon as she stepped into the hallway. … Talk about feeling like a tenderfoot. How would I have survived in Dodge City? Probably not. I would have been an easy mark for John Wesley Hardin.

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LK turning and fanning his revolver at PS-K in Tujunga House on 18jun2015 (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

One more gunfight. At the time of this shootout I do believe that Pailin had more notches than I did. I’m the man. I’m Wild Bill Hickok, I’m Doc Holliday, … I’m supposed to win. And I wasn’t. I decided to plan our next engagement. When Pailin hadn’t arrived home by eleven and I was still awake, I decided what I’d do when she arrived. I pulled one of the chairs out from the dining room table and went back to bed. I dozed but couldn’t drift into a good sleep. Nearing the midnight hour the headlights of Pailin’s Honda caught my attention. I reacted slowly. Finally it registered that she had arrived. I stumbled out of bed and hustled to computer room, just as I heard a key in the front door. I ran to the dinning room and struggled to get under the table. I waited in the darkness. Minutes passed. Where was Pailin? I knew, while not knowing. She stalked me but everything came up blanks for her. Finally she walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. She then stepped into the dining room and placed one of her packages on the table before returning to the kitchen. I knew that she intended a careful search and didn’t want to wait. I pushed the chair with its back to the kitchen and opened fire. She turned, took the blanks and fell backwards against the archway to the laundry room before slowly dropping to the tiles. “You’re bad,” she whispered as she laughed. “You’re bad.”

After all our gunfights we laugh and hug and kiss. Great fun, and best of all it adds another level to our relationship.

Upcoming deadlines & comments

The Discovery still dominates my life (and will for some time yet), but some of my tasks on my plate have become inflated, and they shouldn’t be (see below). I had initially misjudged how long it would take me to write a character-driven medical malpractice novel (based on Dr. Robert Goodman’s story) using a thriller writing style. As the plot stretches from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, the novel is a period piece, and as such has required a lot of research on my part to keep the place and time accurate. For example, the California 101 freeway, that begins east of downtown Los Angeles, cuts through the Cahuenga Pass and into the San Fernando Valley (BTW, if you don’t know the “Valley” is a major piece of both the city and county of LA), before moving northward to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Bob had the lady who would give life to a major player in the plot riding on this freeway in 1952. One problem, the freeway hadn’t been completed yet.

The Discovery

Before talking about The Discovery, I want to say something about Bob Goodman. I’ve known him for almost 25 years and he has played a major role in my health. Over time we realized that we liked each other and our time together began to include subjects other than medicine. Beginning in 2010 I began doing writing consulting for Bob, and in November 2013 he asked me if I wanted to partner on The Discovery. Although I didn’t know where his manuscript was heading I was familiar with the first 100 pages. I liked the story idea and its potential and agreed (but there was an extra incentive—I needed money to pay for a surgery I didn’t know about). This decision has cost me a lot of time in the last year and a half but I’m thrilled that I accepted Bob’s offer for I think we have a unique story that will be a page-turner. … I had been considering a major return to fiction and The Discovery has become the perfect starting point. I couldn’t be happier with our collaboration, and what I now know is getting close to the final product.

Disclaimer: If The Discovery were a feature film it would carry an R rating.


I thought I had begun my polish of The Discovery on 21may2015 (I had hoped to start it in April but I had not yet collected the reviews I requested). That said, I figured I had an outside chance of finishing my polish early in June.

No!

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LK walking on the San Diego coast when the sea and beach are fogged in. This is one of my favorite things to do—having  the California coast almost to myself. The beach is empty as it usually is in early morning (and sometimes in the evening), and my companions are the roll and sound of the incoming sea. I’m at one with me, and this is where I want to be. I can smell and watch and think, and this is a glimpse into my writing and real world. A great friend of mine, George Carmichael, took this image. I lost George in spring 2014, and I still struggle with his moving on. We met at a fiction writing class at UCLA in 1997 and we were at loggerheads. Who could have guessed that for the rest of his life we’d become great friends. I need to talk about George. Soon. This image is full frame and is as George shot it in March 2001. (photo © Louis Kraft 2001)

On 23may2015 I began to slowly polish chapter 9, which is the introduction to Greg Weston, who is a key player in the story. The chapter heading states Motor Avenue, but on the first page Weston is walking toward the deli that he often visits with his dog. He is walking on Pico Boulevard, which is a major east-west street in Los Angeles.

Yikes! How did I miss this? Motor Avenue starts at (or dead-ends at Pico Boulevard, at the Fox Studio, which was formerly 20th Century Fox). Moving south Motor Avenue cuts through a golf course and then turns west before meandering west and south. When a street name that Bob had created and I discovered didn’t exist anywhere south of the golf course he told me that he knew the area and it was perfect for the story. We decided to go vague on the street name for Weston’s house. But the house and its location (as is key in later chapters) was two short blocks from a deli where Weston is a semi-celebrity (again, this is on LK, for I totally missed Weston walking on Pico Boulevard at this point in the story, and Pico was in Bob’s text that I used as an outline for the manuscript).

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A George Carmichael portrait of LK at Tujunga House in 1994. Two images from this session would be used in Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains (Upton and Sons Publishers , 1995). This image, along with others, has been exiled to obscurity for decades only to be recently found. It was taken in the Tujunga House computer room, and the desk still exists. If the photo was taken today, framed images would be seen on the wall. (photo Louis Kraft 1994)

On that same May 23rd it finally sank in that Weston walking on both Motor and Pico was wrong as it was just too long of a walk. This realization sent up a red flag and I started to study maps again. Maps showed no businesses and I moved to the Google maps that are aerial photos. The entire area is totally residential. No businesses, and I kept moving south and west, … and I passed the Beverly Hills Country Club.

Before saying what I saw, I had sometime in 2014 questioned people watching golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club and Bob confirmed that this was true and that they could. Beginning with chapter 8, the Beverly Hills Country Club plays a major set piece in the story, and it is often listed as the “Beverly Hills Country Club, Cheviot Hills, California” in the three-line subheadings to the chapters. The Beverly Hills Country Club is instrumental to the story, and it has been in place since I partnered with Bob. I can’t tell you how many reviews Bob Goodman has performed, but there are a lot—five, or maybe six.

When I discovered the Motor/Pico error I began looking for information. … The Google aerial photo of the Beverly Hills Country Club shows that this club offers tennis and swimming. Going to their website I learned that it opened in the mid-1920s and that Errol Flynn, among other film celebrities, often frequented the club. This makes sense as Flynn was a great tennis player and often paired with Bill Tilden and other tennis pros of the 1930s and 1940s or played against them in single competition. Also, Flynn loved to swim and did until his death.

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This is John McGirr, MD. He became my family doctor when my parents moved from New York to California and settled in Reseda about 1954. His office was originally in Encino but would eventually move to Tarzana, named after novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs most famous character, Tarzan of the apes. He was a physically fit man who loved golf, and was a good golfer. I believe that this image was taken at the Calabasas Country Club. I knew club intimately as Dr. McGirr would become my father-in-law (1971) and would remain so until his death in 1987. I don’t know who the other two people in this photo are. (photo © Joan McGirr 1970s)

You can’t watch golfers while eating at the Beverly Hills Country Club. Period!

More digging, and guess what—sometime in the past the Beverly Hills Country Club partnered with the Calabasas Country Club, which is in the hills south of Ventura Boulevard on the west side of the San Fernando Valley. I know this country club, as my father-in-law, John McGirr, M.D., was my family physician since the mid-1950s. Dr. McGirr remained my physician until shortly before he died in 1987.  He was a major physician in the San Fernando Valley until his retirement about a year before his death. He was a great golfer and a member of the Calabasas Country Club (which opened in 1968). The club had a minimum amount that a member had to spend in the restaurant each month. I don’t know what that minimum was, but probably six times a year my ex-wife and I would join McGirr and his wife for dinner at the club. Great food.

The above was not a small blip on what I thought would be a polish of the manuscript, for it now required a major rewrite by me, which also included Doris Goodman’s three comments: 1) Make one of the doctors 62 and not 52, 2) Reduce the amount of the Spanish dialogue, and 3) Allow the leading player to have two drinks at the end of the story. Doris’s comments are valid. The doctor aged by 10 years, but I had to be careful that this played forward smoothly. The Spanish I dealt with as I saw fit. My reason: I didn’t want to write cliché gang members (read: Evil people). Instead, I wanted the golf pro to deal with his situation and a foreign language, which in itself can be frightening when a person doesn’t know what is being said. As for the leading player drinking at the end of the story, it meant a major rewrite of his wife and unfortunately not a satisfactory answer to alcoholism. I came up with what I considered a decent fix here, and hopefully Bob and Doris will agree.

Two deadlines with dates

I have a contract with OU Press to deliver the Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway  manuscript on 1oct2016 (and it included a nice advance). Luckily progress is being made with both research and writing.

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Art of the tower of the great building that became the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, California. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

That said, photocopy requests of the research I performed at what will soon be the former Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum in June 2014 still hasn’t arrived. Although staff worked on my copy requests during my 12-day visit, the estimated date of delivery is now August 2015. That says it all, other than to add that my thoughts aren’t printable. This is not good for me, but that’s life and I must roll with the punches (and excuses). I have another delivery almost a month earlier—Pailin’s and my application for her permanent Green Card. This will require a lot of work by LK and PS-K, and there is no room for error. I know how much effort it took both of us to land Pailin’s initial two year (but temporary) Green Card in September 2014, and I know how much of our time will be devoted to the September 2016 meeting with U.S. Immigration. Failure is not an option. … Unfortunately, when Immigration set the second Green Card deadline, the Sand Creek deadline was already in place (honestly, I don’t think I’ll be sleeping the entire summer of 2016).

Back to The Discovery

I’m sorry, but I’m not the happiest person at the moment for during the rewrite, which was supposed to be a polish I made the Beverly Hills Country Club discovery (which unfortunately has been in place since before I came on board). This, along with a vodka discovery, which like the Beverly Hills Country Club I didn’t research as I had mistakenly thought that Bob had his facts correct here. … I checked a lot of the words and locations for historical and factual accuracy but I didn’t check the club or the vodka. That’s on me (hell it wouldn’t have been more than an hour or two of work, but I didn’t do it). I’m glad that I discovered the country club error and that Bob’s daughter-in-law, who wasn’t on the reviewing list (a surprise to me) pointed out that the vodka in the manuscript didn’t exist yet. If ever I meet her, she is going to get a big hug from me.

I still need to perform a polish, and that will begin on July 3 as I need time and space before reviewing the manuscript again. With luck I’ll get through 50 pages per day, which means that the polish will take approximately 10 days. … Fingers are crossed that there are no more surprises.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
    •  It is now looking like this blog will become two blogs: 1) Indian wars, and 2) Film history. Reason: Information blasted over social media often deals with my very small world of historical research and writing. Some of the information I’m stumbling upon online and reading in printed form is shocking. Unfortunately people (I can’t quite call them historians; if I did I would choke) gobble up this misinformation and reprint it as if it is fact.
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

The mists of reality dance in and out of my writing world

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blogs

Click on an image to expand it


LK is pounding the keys on the Sand Creek manuscript, but as usual I juggle my major projects. The Discovery has demanded a lot of my time over the last year and a half, but now that the novel’s prose has reached the polishing stage it demands less (although I still have a lot to do before it sees publication).

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A publicity photo taken on 24mar2002 for the first Wynkoop one-man play. I had the hat designed from an 1867 woodcut of Wynkoop that appeared in the 11may1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. (photo © Louis Kraft 2002)

This means that Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Lean Bear, William Byers, John Evans, John Chivington, Charley, George and William Bent, John Smith, Silas Soule, and of course that ol’ blackguard Ned Wynkoop will dominate my mind for a long time to come. They will remain the number one consumer of my time until Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published. Of course not too far back “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” dominated my life. Heck, it only took five days for me to edit, rewrite, and cut 900+ words from the October 2015 Wild West article earlier this month (see Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript). WW editor Greg Lalire then edited my changes and added a little less than 100 words to the story. Unfortunately he got creative and added some errors, which my second review fixed. I think Greg is correct, a shortened word count can still produce a good story. I won’t be happy until the article is published for then, and only then, will I be able to read it and decide if it is decent or a piece of crap. This isn’t a negative view by me, for this is how I view all of my written work—I must read the published piece before I can judge it.

Moving into my writing world

Damn, but Kraft is dancing on air. No more articles; at least none are planned or pitched. No more talks (although I have an idea for one on Errol Flynn that would be perfect for New Mexico). No more anything but writing books (and blogs). I’m in hog heaven. Or should I say Harley-Davidson heaven? Now there’s a thought. …

krafts&PailinMotorcycleMontage_wsPailin has ridden motorcycles in her homeland as have I in my dark ages. … If ever we made Thailand our homeland (Pailin, please don’t growl if you read this) and we had a Vette (and they sell them in Bangkok) or a Harley (and I’m certain that they sell them in Bangkok) we would be noticed wherever we cruised in Thailand. … Oops! No–no Kraft! This is a taboo subject and not open to discussion (sorry; don’t ask).

Back to the point … my writing world

I have finally reached my present life. Believe it or not, it has taken me three years to reach this point in time. A lot of thinking and decisions led the way to this rainy May day late last week.

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LK art of Tujunga House on 14may2015 due to me trying to capture a photo on this early morn after rainfall (something that doesn’t happen often in SoCal). Unfortunately I tried to get artsy-fartsy and took the image from behind growth in the foreground, which threw the subject matter out of focus. I had to play around to make the image usable. What you are seeing is a long-term project to turn the jungle into cacti and other vegetation natural to the SoCal climate. This project (which isn’t complete) began over two years ago when I realized the future. … Moreover, and more important, it was my attempt to deal with the LA Department of Water and Power (I’d like to say some truths here but don’t dare). I’ll let the Los Angeles Times, which has been pounding all sorts of issues within the LA DWP for a long time, do it for me. Here are two features in the 20may2015 issue of the paper: “Bill For $51,649.32: Couple were charged for using 6.7 million gallons of water” by columnist Steve Lopez (This elderly couple were basically ignored when they inquired about the bill, but were eventually told that they had a leaky toilet.), and “DWP hints at raising rates” by Matt Stevens (Nothing new here, for the DWP, and again I don’t want to say anything that will garner me a $50 thousand bill, need an additional $270 million for the next five years to cover their costs. There is more to this story than in the article. I know what has been going on for years and so do many Angelenos, but silence is golden.)

Undoubtedly, or perhaps unfortunately, this blog will go live on a sunny May day. I need to do another rain dance outside. For the record, I love talking in front of an audience, I love acting on stage in plays that I write (and fingers are crossed that I can eventually play Flynn on stage), and I love writing magazine articles, but something had to give. Something had to be jettisoned to ensure that my ship doesn’t capsize.

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

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Simon Baker is The Mentalist in this superb TV series that includes a cast that has a connection with each other, and there are backstories on all them. More to come on this show. This image is the cover for the third season.

If I want to place the blame on anything, my mentalist capabilities point directly at these two villains, finances and time. BTW, The Mentalist is a great TV show. Well-crafted scripts and good production values, and the five leading actors play well off each other. For me the show is an absolute delight to watch, especially Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As I’ve stated before, when I exercise I study film. Currently The Mentalist is my partner in crime. While it thrills me, grabs me, and has involved me, it allows me to work on my strength, my balance, and hopefully my capability to walk.

Back to the point … my current projects

  • Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
    Research and writing continues, and as mentioned above, this manuscript is now my prime project (no more detours!). When completed, this will be the most difficult book that I have ever written. Ladies and gents, I’m a biographer; I write about one or two people and their actions dictate the flow of the text. I write about people, and my friend and great editor-in-chief at OU Press Chuck Rankin bought into this. He has enough trust in me to deliver a manuscript, and I will, that shows the events through the eyes of the players in the story—leading and major supporting (and they will be determined by what I have, what I find, and by what writer-historian friends have kindly supplied me with that I wasn’t privy to).

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    My Sand Creek manuscript is again dominating my life (and has for days). Yes!!! (Alas, this is not the forthcoming announcement that I mentioned in the previous blog; the link is above). … In my people-dominated Sand Creek manuscript I’m currently dealing with William and Elizabeth Byers. Good stuff, especially for Elizabeth, as I want as much about the ladies as I can possibly get into the book. William was publisher and editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and he played a huge role in the Sand Creek story. I’m also moving forward with John Evans, the second governor of Colorado Territory. He was instrumental to the events that led up to the November 1864 attack on the Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek. There is a big smile on my face … and it is growing by the minute as the word count grows. I chose to show this image of Byers as it will never make it into the Sand Creek story. Reason: This image is long out of the scope of the book, but more important I have three images I want to use of him. As my image contract count has expanded (without checking I believe it has grown to 37 or 38 including maps), I’m seriously considering two images of Mr. Byers. BTW if you don’t know Byers, he was one tough hombre in a harsh land. He was opinionated and had no problems sharing his views. This made him a marked man, and yet he never backed down from what he thought was right. His connection to Wynkoop dates back to early 1859 when he and a partner were preparing a book on the Colorado gold fields. Byers and Wynkoop began their long-term relationship as friends, but it didn’t end that way.

    Moving the story forward through people’s actions sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve got facts and figures, and there is still more that I’m researching, but they—reports, letters, statements—don’t add up to a readable book that will keep readers turning pages as opposed to falling asleep after ten or fifteen minutes. My goal is to bring these players to life and allow them through their actions to breathe life into this story. The scope is huge for there are numerous leading and supporting players (and don’t forget minor players), and they all lived through a turbulent time where violence could strike without warning. One day you could be fine and enjoying life and the next day your family could be dead. Fear, hatred, a need to seek revenge are normal and in no way make people in this situation evil.1 They react. We all react.

    War has never changed, for it is basically kill or be killed.

    However, sometimes actions go beyond kill or be killed, and I’m not talking about a bloodlust. What I’m talking about is stepping beyond the limit of what a person knows is wrong and yet still does it. It is action, that is what a person does as it shows who he or she really is and it negates what they say they are. For example, during George W. Bush’s Iraq war U.S. soldiers in a war zone discovered a girl, and if my memory is good she was 13 or 14 years old. They desired her. One day after she returned to her home these soldiers entered it. They murdered her family, they raped her and then they killed her. To hide their crime they set the house on fire. This wasn’t bloodlust in the middle of a firefight, … this was rape and murder and it was plotted. This was a heinous crime, and I have nothing good to say about those U.S. soldiers.

    What about the major and supporting players in the Sand Creek story? I don’t believe any of them viewed themselves as an evil person. Not one of them. If I do my job properly, the reader will be able to make their own decisions.

    1 There is a heck of a lot more to the Sand Creek story, and it includes culture, land, politics, and the struggle to open a new land while at the same time to retain a lifeway and freedom. This, and more, is also a part of the Sand Creek story.

  • Errol & Olivia
    In 1995 or 1996 I decided to write the first of what I envisioned as three books on Errol Flynn. Like my first book on Lt. Charles Gatewood, it took me awhile to realize that this first book needed a supporting player. For Gatewood it was Geronimo; for Flynn it is Olivia de Havilland. This manuscript has had starts and stops, and I can blame them on too much overtime in the software world, other freelance project deliveries, but most important is that I still haven’t completed what I consider mandatory research (this research is massive when compared to my Indian wars research, which is huge). I absolutely refuse to create false quotes and notes that are inaccurate at best and totally fictitious at worst. … A writer-historian has facts told to him (or her) by someone living—let’s say Olivia de Havilland (OdeH)—but if that person (for example, OdeH) can’t, or won’t, confirm when the event happened this creates a major problem. Did the event happen in 1940? In June 1940? Or did it happen in 1942? September 1942? If when the event happened can’t be confirmed and the writer—read lk—writes inaccurate facts, guess what? That’s right, this error, which might be considered major, now places a dark-dark cloud over the rest of the book’s accuracy. … I have some great stories from OdeH, but when I questioned her on when they happened, she stated: “You figure it out.” Not the correct answer. Unfortunately this answer, along with a book of fiction posing as fact in which I had no input to in any way, severed my inside track with this beautiful person. I feed her information when requested but it is no longer a two-way street. …eoImage_whiteAboveBottom line: I must confirm actions and tie them in with dates and locations. Until I do this, and this deals with what I consider valid information that shows who Flynn and de Havilland were/are I can’t complete the manuscript. I absolutely refuse to create a nonfiction manuscript that includes fiction (a future blog will deal with books that do this, and the errors in those books weren’t mistakes and I can prove it). Not going to happen. For me it has been searching dark alleys in an attempt to confirm what I think is the truth. To date I have followed a lot of leads that have proved fruitless.


    When Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is totally back on track and humming toward completion, Errol & Olivia will again move forward as the search for truth and reality continues. … But if those dark alleys continue to lead to dead ends the 2nd Flynn book will become the 1st Flynn book. That doesn’t mean that Errol & Olivia won’t be finished, it will but it won’t happen until supposed facts are confirmed (or dropped). Simple, and that’s life. I live with it. OdeH needs to live with it.

  • The Discovery
    This is the first time that I have ever partnered on a freelance writing project. Let me put it this way, I could not have had a better experience.

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    lk with Bob Goodman, MD, at Flemings in Woodland Hills, Ca., on 26jun14. I’ve know Bob for almost 25 years, and over that time we have bonded on two levels that goes beyond medicine: Friendship and writing. That said his discovery and recommendations in 2002 set in motion many events that have affected my life to this day, … the most important being that I’m still walking the land. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft and Bob Goodman 2014)

    Bob Goodman and his beautiful wife Doris have done so much to help me bring this story to completion. For the record, and I want to say it right here, when published this story will be one of the best books I’ve ever written. I still have a lot of work to do (and some of it deals with design), but I’m proud to have partnered with Bob. This book is major in my life, for it will be the first book published after I have used the lk blogs to discover my writing world voice. But, as stated elsewhere in this blog, it marks my return to fiction. For what it is worth, this is a story of people (read a character study) and their lives but I have written the text as if it is a thriller. A thriller? Surprisingly, perhaps shockingly, but certainly joyfully (from my perspective) for this story is a thriller. It will be published in early 2016 in hard, paper, and as an eBook.

    ps_doris&bobGoodman_26jun13

    At Flemings on 26jun14, Doris and Bob Goodman didn’t allow Pailin’s vocabulary or shyness to hinder this first meeting (for the record, Pailin works on her English every day and it shows). Doris was absolutely marvelous and within half an hour she and Pailin had bonded big time. And Bob was right there with Doris in opening up to Pailin’s charm. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft, Doris & Bob Goodman (2014)

    A book isn’t a book until it is published. The Discovery, which I’ve often shied away from saying anything about the plot as I didn’t want to give it away, is a good story. My partner, Dr. Robert Goodman, had a great idea, and we have worked hard to bring the story to life. It is not the time to say anything, … but soon. All I can say at this point is that the story is different. If you read fiction before bed and early in 2016 you obtain The Discovery there is a chance that you will be cursing Bob and I for keeping you awake. Years ago I had approached film legend Olivia de Havilland to help her complete her memoir (a manuscript that I hope and pray that she finishes, but don’t think she will). Livvie had asked me if ever I partnered with anyone on my books, and I had told her that I didn’t. She smiled and told me that was how she felt about it. … I never asked her again, but hopefully she has someone in mind if, God forbid, she can’t finish her story of her life. Bob Goodman has played a major role in my life, and if it wasn’t for him and other physicians I would have already been dancing with the angels for a long time. Years passed and Bob and I talked more and more about writing. Beginning in 2010 I acted as a consultant, edited some of his work, and provided detailed information on how to improve it. During this time our friendship grew, and in November 2013 Bob asked me if I’d like to partner on The Discovery. I was already intimate with this project and provided him with a proposal. In The Discovery things happen to real people in real ways, and best of all—and just like my Indian wars writing—there are no bad guys even though bad things happen. I don’t want to say that I’ve been there and I’ve done that, for I haven’t. … Hell, I’m not a physician and I’ve never been on trial. That said, things happen and the events affect lives. … I know that my life has traveled a rocky and very winding path. I don’t wallow in sorrow. At the same time I’m thrilled to be alive (the forever upcoming walkabout in Thailand blog will actually deal with this in some detail).

Back to the point … my future projects

Ladies and gents, fiction will play a large part in the rest of my life. No more 20+ year gaps between published novels. Actually, after The Final Showdown was published in 1992, I thought I would be a novelist while keeping my nonfiction focus on articles and talks throughout the western states that dealt with race relations during the Indian wars (and Errol Flynn, in believe it or not five states to date). My agent and I sold a follow-up book idea to the publisher of The Final Showdown. It focused on Kit Carson and Indian relations. But just before I delivered the completed manuscript to the publisher, they dropped their western line. When I confronted the agent about suing she told me that the publisher would blackball me and I’d never sell another book. Although I listened to her and agreed with her, I think her main concern was that she’d also be blackballed. Soon after we parted company. Over the years that agent and I have seen each other twice or maybe three times, and we have gotten along, but there will never be another agreement between us. Never.

This gets me to the next grouping of lk book manuscripts after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, Errol & Olivia, and The Discovery. Like the above subsection I think it is best to bullet the book ideas (and that’s all they are at this point in time).

  • Kit Carson nonfiction (one or perhaps two books)
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    Carson art in LK’s personal collection that pictures him in the mid-1840s.

    I have a lot of primary source information on Mr. Carson in-house, and I have located missing primary source information. I have all of the valid secondary books from the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as what I consider valid books dating to the 19th century. Yep, I have a lot on Carson, and he is someone that I’ve been tracking for decades. Why? And especially so since he has been pounded for the last 15-20 years. The reason is simple: Most of the people that pound him (including the cretins in Taos, N. Mex., today) don’t know what the bleep they are talking about. The reason why these people are wrong is simply because they listen to, and buy into, bullshit that has no basis in reality. You do not want to know my opinion of these people, but let me just say this—their fingers are stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

  • Kit Carson fiction
    This novel, if I do complete it, will be based upon a genre novel that I wrote in the early 1990s, but was killed when a publisher broke its contract with me. There is one major difference: It will no longer be genre fiction.

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    Marissa Kraft w/Navajo Fortress Rock in the background (Canyon del Muerto, which is part of Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona—the only national monument not on U.S. property) on August 7, 2012. Fortress Rock is one of the major set pieces of Navajo Blood, for it is here that fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros must make a decision that will impact his and his granddaughter’s lives. … If you don’t know how I write about the Indian wars—fiction or nonfiction—I must walk the land. I must feel the sun, the wind, … I must experience how hard it is to walk. I must rub shoulders with those who came before me. The next day a Navajo guide took Marissa and I to Fortress Rock in her four-wheel drive and we studied it from all sides. It was just the three of us. Our guide requested that we not share her name or her image (and I have photos of her) on social media. Marissa and I don’t go back on our word; this lady’s name and image won’t be shared on social media. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 2012)

    When this rewrite/expansion is completed the manuscript will grow to 125,000 words. It will be both a character study of Carson and an historical thriller that also features a Navajo warrior and his granddaughter. It will deal with race and race relations and it will deal with the human element during Carson and the two Navajos lives during this short piece of time. Carson was not the racist that he is currently being portrayed as by people who base their views on sound bytes, repeated statements in the media, and secondary books by writers who are wanna-be historians that don’t do primary research but repeat what has been printed time and again by previous writers who don’t do primary research. DUH!!! Carson was illiterate, but he did learn how to sign his name. That doesn’t mean that he was stupid for he wasn’t. Carson could speak six or seven languages: English, Spanish, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, and most likely Mescalero Apache and Navajo. Why? These people of all these languages were his friends and they played a major role in his life. … The fictional Navajo warrior Pedro Hueros and his granddaughter will interact with key Navajos who lived during this tragic time.

  • 2nd Errol Flynn book
    Unlike the first book, which has the added person of Olivia de Havilland, this manuscript will focus solely on Flynn. I can’t tell you anything about this book other than it will be the best book that I write.
  • lk Memoir
    I have certainly talked about this manuscript in blogs and in other social media. This is an important book for me, for I want to delve into my psyche as well tell a truthful story of my life. To do this I must obviously deal with facts and details as I don’t want to create a whitewash, which is something many memoirs do. I learned a great lesson a long time ago: If you want to tell the truth you had better be dead when the book is published for then those who don’t want the truth known can’t sue you. Those are hard words to say, but they hit the target dead center. I have boxes of notes and documents that will back up anything that I dare to say.

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    LK leans against the archway that separates the first courtyard from the second at the Martinez Hacienda in Taos, N. Mex. I’m at home in New Mexico and I could live here, but due to recent happenings the chances of me living in Taos have about as much chance as me living in Arizona (and that is close to zero). (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

    Hopefully when I deliver this information to the Louis Kraft Collection at the Chávez History Library in Santa Fe, N. Mex., they will add this important documentation to my archive. … I need to make something clear here—I’ve enjoyed my life, and would not change anything. I had a long first marriage that ended in divorce and then long-time relationships with two women. These three relationships failed, but I loved these three ladies and they me (at least for a while). From my point of view the good in these relationships far outweighs any of the bad. I do not hate these people. Far from it. My ex-wife is a friend, and I harbor no ill feelings toward the other two ladies. … I also need to say that in Pailin I have found my soulmate and my life partner. I also need to let you know that my daughter Marissa is forever a major piece in my life. This manuscript will be truthful, and although it will deal with the bad it will be very positive.

  • The pirate Francis Drake
    “El Draque,” the dragon, as the Spanish called Drake joined my life in the 5th grade and he never left. I don’t have as much primary source material on him as I’d like, but book-wise I have it all.
    lkDrakeGH_websiteHis shockingly passive attitude toward England’s deadly foe, Spain, allowed him to deal with captives in a humane way. In a time of extreme religious war Drake did not butcher. Instead he treated his captives as welcomed guests, which made him an extraordinary person during the 16th century, a time of hatred and mass killings. Back in the mid-1970s I had an acting manager, a very talented and good person whom I liked. Eventually we teamed on what would have been my first novel, but it was never completed. It dealt with Drake. I don’t know if I’ll return to this manuscript, which I have, but I will return to Drake. Certainly in fiction and hopefully in nonfiction. Yes, you are reading me correctly, for both Flynn nonfiction and Drake nonfiction could eventually impact my Indian wars nonfiction world in a major way.
  • A novel dealing with modern-day Anasazi in the Southwest
    This novel, which was plotted in the early 1980s, deals with modern times, people, and racism. The three leading players are a male, his daughter, and a lady. It is a thriller that will deal with mysticism, cannibalism, and love. Trust me, for it will be a be a page turner.
  • Wynkoop novel
    Originally my OU Press contract for Ned Wynkoop and the Tragic End of a Lifeway specified that I could not write about Wynkoop in the future. I refused to sign the contract with this clause and Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin removed it. Later Chuck explained to me that he was concerned about me writing a competitive nonfiction book about Wynkoop for another press. He also told me that what he originally wanted in the contract did not include Wynkoop in fiction. … After the Sand Creek nonfiction book I’m certain that I will walk away from Mr. Wynkoop. That said, and if I live long enough, I may attempt to deal with him in fiction but for this to happen I must double my life expectancy.
  • An Errol Flynn play
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    Richard Steel-Reed, who directed the play Lubbock and who would soon become my manager, brought in a photographer to shoot a rehearsal of Eat Your Heart Out. In this scene I leaped upon the chair and lunged to impress actress Robin LaValley, who played my soon-to-be girlfriend in the play. The chair always rocked and I always had to do a balancing act. … but it was fun, as was the first time I swung an imaginary blade in Teach Me How to Cry in high school. Miss Victoria Francis directed that play, and she told me that if I didn’t get the blade work right she’d cut the scene (it wasn’t cut). She is a special person that I know to this day.

    My favorite role that I ever played on stage was as Charley in Eat Your Heart Out. I played Charley in a dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, in 1976, and in the Inglewood, California, in 1977. I luckily landed a great part in a great play. Eat Your Heart Out is about an actor trying to land acting work while waiting tables. There are four other actors in the play: Two women and two men who play various roles. This will work for the Flynn play, but I intend to increase the actors to seven: Flynn with three women and three men who play various roles. I think that this will work on stage. Tom Eubanks, my good friend and great director, take heed, for this could be a great production for your theater company. Hey my friend, we need to partner one more time. Yeah, if I can sell another play idea this is the one.

  • A nonfiction book on Phraya Phichai
    Phraya Phichai was the Thai soldier with the broken sword. Actually this is not quite true, for he was a nobleman, a general, and close to his king. From what little I have learned of this man’s story, he was amazing (Bless you my brother Sophon and Pailin’s wonderful niece Lek for making this happen).

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    This attempt at art was based upon a statue of Phraya Phichai at Not and Font Subanna’s house in Uttaradit, Thailand, in November 2014.

    Alas, I need primary source material in the Thai language. Enter Pailin, for when I secure the primary source material, her command of the English language will be pristine and will allow me to learn the details of this exceptional man’s life. This will a book for both the USA and Thailand.

By now you know that Pailin is my lady, my best friend, and my wife. She has done Sand Creek research, Wynkoop research, and Kit Carson research. Is she my research assistant?

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Pailin in the front yard of Tujunga House, shortly after she moved in (17nov13). In 2013 I published a blog called Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand and other stories of Sand Creek, and I featured this image. As soon as I took this photo of her it became one of my all-time favorites, and it is on my desk. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

According to her, … “No!” But just the other day she asked when our next research trip to the West would happen. Unfortunately I had to tell her, “Not in 2015.” On the bright side, it will happen again, as she and I love the experience of discovery and the experience of people. Our future is still to be written. Some of it will be intimate and most likely never to be shared. But there is a lot of our time together that can be shared. Yes, the times they are a changin’ and lk is loving every minute of it.

Another nonfiction book floats in the mists of time until reality happens

Actually there hopefully is another major nonfiction book in my future. It has never been discussed or named, but it has been hinted at. It is a book that I am capable of writing and it is a book that I really want to write. My partner needs time, somewhere between two and three years (maybe longer). This is vague, but it is all that I can say. I had cryptically mentioned it in the previous blog, and as I said then, “Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’.” If this story becomes reality, it will not only be a page-turner, it will change history. With or without me this is going to be a great book. My fingers are crossed that it happens and that I’m a part of the project. Time will tell. At the moment it is a go for me. Will it be the same in three years? The future has the answer, and I’m good with whatever that answer will be.

The lk future is now

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An early publicity image for The X-Files with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

As The X-Files used to proclaim: “The truth is out there,” and I’m ready for it (BTW, beginning on January 24, 2016, there will be six new and special episodes of The X-Files on Fox). I wonder if David Duchovny (as Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (as Dana Scully) will grab me and not let go as they had in years past.

As I hope you can tell by what you’ve read, books (and my lady) are my future. There is one additional ingredient here, my daughterMarissa. But regardless of how I view my future with Pailin or Marissa, or of my remaining time in the U.S., and I must remain in the states to complete a major portion of the Errol Flynn research (preferably in LA). Ditto Kit Carson, but a lot of my primary research on him is already in-house. I think I could complete Carson research living outside the U.S., but Flynn research is questionable at best for the cost to return to LA would be astronomical. Regardless, the clock is ticking. How fast—how fast!!?? … Still, the USA is my homeland and I love it here (I actually love LA, even though I pick on it more than I should). My first, and as the minutes speed by, most likely my only real possible destination in my homeland is Santa Fe, N. Mex. Actually I’m at home in the entire state. I always feel welcome, and there is so much of me that is already at home there. The search to move to the Land of Enchantment is ongoing, and if I never move there, it will remain ongoing until the day I die. ‘Course I’ve got to convince Pailin this is the land for us (she was impressed in fall 2014). I think she also liked Colorado and Texas.

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This image is of Ellen & Glen William in October 2014. Good times for PS-K and LK for Pailin got to meet two of my great friends and we had a good time in Texas. I’ve had bad, read “very bad,” times in Texas and good times. During the summer of 1976, which I spent in Lubbock, tornado warnings were a daily occurrence but I never saw a tornado. Most of the time I’ve spent in Texas (six plus months) the weather has been good if you ignore the wind and the humidity. Ellen, luckily, was able to spend good time with her sister and mother at this time. I met her mother during this trip and she is a special lady (I’m glad that I met her). Ellen, like Pailin, is a little pixie, and like Pailin, she is full of life. (photo © Louis Kraft, Ellen & Glen Williams 2014)

My great friend Glen Williams, who with his gorgeous wife Ellen, opened their new home to us in Denton, Texas, in October 2014. They have been my friends since sometime in the early 1990s when Glen and I linked up while at Infonet Services Corporation (now British Telecom Infonet). Glen and Ellen had had enough of the California bullshit (read tax, tax, and more tax along with the escalating cost to pay for everything else). California is truly the land of the rich. Everyone else, grab your crotch for you are speeding straight toward poverty. The middle-class will soon be extinct in California. Believe me, in California you can earn over six figures and not save much, I did this, and I know it is true. At that time I worked two jobs: Writing for the software industry and freelance writing and easily put in 70 hours per week when I wasn’t getting killed with overtime by the software industry. For the record, Oracle paid time and a half for overtime (but I worked with a great crew of people, both engineers and management, and kept the overtime to a minimum). Some of the other companies (especially two that are long dead) were a joke. They paid great money, but you do not want to hear my opinion of them. … Someday after I spend a lot of time with a lawyer discussing details, maybe I’ll write an expose. It would be a page turner … writing about the past but still something I’m certain continues to this day. I won’t, for if I want to write an expose it will deal with my life, and in it the software companies I wrote for didn’t mean anything to my life, other than guaranteeing that I could do what I wanted on the freelance side without starving to death. They used me, and I used them. A manager I had at Sun Microsystems (a long-dead company but not lamented) asked me what I thought of my writing position. I told him, “If McDonald’s paid me more to cook hamburgers I’d work for them.”

He didn’t much care for my answer.

A short while later when Sun Microsystems resembled an airplane that had lost power and was spiraling toward a fiery impact with land this manager held a meeting to inform the writing staff (I think about 13 or 14) that a layoff was coming, a major layoff. Most didn’t believe him. I had inside information, for I spent a good amount of time with upper management and product and program managers and I had a clear picture of the future. This was supposedly illegal, but I had it. During the meeting the manager asked how the group would remember him. “As the executioner,” I proclaimed. People laughed, but several asked me if I were crazy. “No.” … On a fateful, and an oh-so publicized, day in January 2009, 69 percent of the staff in the Monrovia, Calif., office were laid off.

That afternoon a good portion of us gathered at a restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., to celebrate. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr. from his 28aug1963 speech, “I Have a Dream”: “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The nether world

Years back a clown I knew, a novelist, questioned why I wrote for major companies. I told him, “the money.” Moreover I didn’t want to write clichéd genre novels each month, of which most were published under pseudonyms and often in numbered series that had a stable of writers hacking out the required 65,000 words. If you read one of these volumes you would run to the toilet to vomit. Or perhaps you’d enjoy the fluff that had you turning pages. I read a lot of this stuff. Hell, I studied this stuff. My decision: No way in hell am I going to write bullshit prose that is an embarrassment to me. BTW, and for the record there are some great western novels being written. My personal favorite is Johnny D. Boggs. If you want to read good western fiction, buy one of his books.

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lk at a Joni Blair catalogue shoot in 1974. The car is a 1931 Model A Ford (owned and restored by Hank Sorni). (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1974)

… I survived for years in the entertainment world doing just that; that is crap jobs that meant nothing. Talking only commercials here, I played a dancing sock (product???), and a tennis athlete with Micky Dolenz of Monkees’ TV fame (it may have been Kmart but I don’t remember, and I didn’t keep modeling resumes) commercials that played forever in LA in the late 1970s. There were many, but my favorite was a string of Jantzen sportswear commercials for Japan (I had the “American” look, whatever the hell that was). We shot at Union Station in downtown LA and had at least two days of shooting on the University of Southern California (USC) campus. During the shooting of a shower scene in the men’s locker room, my bathing suit apparently showed and the director called my female Japanese interpreter in from outside the locker room. After he spoke with her she asked me if I would strip. I had no problem. She stepped outside and the shooting continued. My back was to the camera, but by this time I had learned that I could have my face in profile. I don’t want to call myself a method actor, but hell, I’ve got to rinse soap off my back. I turned around. The director suddenly started jumping up and down as he screamed and pulled his hair. One of the male crew members ran to me and wrapped a towel around me. In the meantime one of the other male crew members ran to get my interpreter. After she listened to the director scream at her for a full five minutes, she calmly told me that I couldn’t face the camera.

lk_8jun80_plazaDelOro_EncinoCA_3_wsOver those years I had a lot of commercial agents, and some of them handled print work … which I absolutely hated, although at times it meant receiving nice clothes for free not to mention the salary. One thing I always made clear up front: “No ramp work!!!!” “Why not?” “Because I will hit the closest person to me when I learn I have to do this and demean myself.” “It isn’t demeaning, and can pay good money.” “I don’t give a F—!” “That’s not a good attitude!” “Listen to me, for I will hit someone and they will land on the floor.” … I never had to hit anyone, but print work was pure hell.

This image was taken on 8jun1980 at Plaza del Oro in Encino, Calif. (photo © Louis Kraft & Joan McGirr 1980)

Back to my writing world

There’s a wealth of Flynn research at my fingertips, as is much more Indian wars material than you’d ever guess. I write and I talk to myself as I wander about my 1928 lath and plaster house as I work on my day’s writing schedule. Write, research, write, read, write, research, edit, write some more (and if need be talk to my plants before I bang my head against a wall that won’t give, which isn’t quite true—see A gunslinger in a bathroom for a humorous story of when I locked myself in the bathroom). My writing world is mine. It is personal, and I never buy into a subject that I can’t marry for years or decades. I don’t write about good or bad, but rather I strive for a reality based upon what a person or people did. Their actions define who they are. If I do my job I provide you with their actions, and it allows you to make your decision about them. This is not easy, and takes a lot more time then you’d guess. For the last several weeks I’ve been pounding the keys on the Sand Creek manuscript. Good stuff, but only the beginning for this portion of the story for I’ll eventually need to figure out how to translate the facts to action. … I need to make a confession here; during these same three weeks I’ve been doing the same thing with Kit Carson. “What?” “Yes.” “Meaning?” “Meaning I constantly study the facts as I attempt to figure out what happened and what Carson did.” “Are you working on Carson?” “No, no work on the nonfiction Carson until I have a contract. The fictional Carson already exists, and although I haven’t done any rewriting other than on the beginning of the story, research is ongoing.” … It is research that I’m looking at. I should add that I have begun to polish The Discovery (as the reviews are in-house).

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lk & Pailin at Glen and Ellen Williams’ home in Denton, Texas, in fall 2014. Good times for the four of us and Glen’s wonderful sister, Linda Williams. I love this photo, which Glen shot at the entry to their home, for it captures ps-k & lk’s life in one simple image. (photo © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft, & Glen Williams 2014)

At the moment my world couldn’t be better. On 14may2015 Pailin told me how happy she was that I accepted her life. And I do, although I growl at times. She was bouncing, as she was so happy. She always is, and moreover so positive and thrilled with life. I told her that I was happy too, and as happy as she was for I was thrilled over how she has accepted my life.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog

As in the past, click on an image to expand it


I thought that I had completed my work on my “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” article for the October 2015 issue of Wild West magazine until I would proof the design layout. No! The article now requires more work. As must be expected the World History Group, which now owns the former Weider History Group’s stable of history magazines, is making major changes to the look and feel of the magazines. … This affects the entire publishing staff in Leesburg, Virginia, as well as the freelance writers that contribute to the magazines. This blog not only preempts my work on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it has also preempted my ongoing work on upcoming blogs.

Just for fun, a quick change of pace …

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Sudeshna Ghosh, my friend and former manager at SeeBeyond Technology Corporation and Sun Microsystems liked this image of lk. Russ Williams, a writer, screenwriter, novelist, and friend dating back to the early SeeBeyond days and beyond also liked this image, which was taken earlier this year. I actually don’t like what I look like, and this simply means that my appearance constantly changes. That said I do like this image, which has appeared on other social media. Both Sudeshna and Russ liked the long hair (and long hair is decades in my past). Still pirates and frontiersmen wore their hair long, as did the Cheyennes and Apaches. Perhaps it is time for lk to belly up to the people he writes about. Ned Wynkoop, Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, Black Kettle, Geronimo, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, if I want to walk with you perhaps it is time that my hair is as long as you wore your hair. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2015)

I’m okay with birthdays except for mine, which I absolutely hate. Since mine is long past I feel safe mentioning it here. Most of you probably think that I’m a motor mouth. Not true. Actually there are many things that I keep very secretive. One happens to be my birthday. This is my least favorite day of the year. Mainly because it loudly proclaims: “Kraft, the clock is ticking and now you have XXX days left.” Not my favorite thought. … All this negativity finished, and since my BD is now far in my rearview mirror, I feel safe to post an image that was taken on that dreaded day at Tujunga House. I’m wearing the cool shades that Pailin had given me (the first non-prescription sunglasses that I’ve owned in 35 years). The new lk? Maybe. For how long? That is a great question for I don’t have a clue. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, or maybe next month. Flip a coin for any date beyond the end of May.

Life moves forward & as Ernest Hemingway proclaimed the sun also rises

All of my proposed blogs haven’t gone live. Why? There’s a reason, but I hate excuses for they are BS. Sorry, but ’tis the truth. Read to the end of this blog and you’ll have at least a hint of the upcoming blogs’ status.

Music plays a large part in my writing world (although I never used it while writing software documentation). … Alan Jackson, Michael Parks, Waylon Jennings, John Lennon, Rhiannon Giddens, Rihanna, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Tex Ritter, John Anderson, world music (especially Andean, Chinese, and Native American), but perhaps my all-time favorites are film soundtracks (classic music too, but to a much lesser extent).

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An lk rendering of the final duel in Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan. Something needs to be explained here, and it is very important. To succeed film duels must have three pieces in place: Choreography, performance by the actors and stunt men, and a great editor. If not, the film audience yawns and mumbles “ho-hum” before they fall asleep. I hate to say it but this most often happens, and especially in modern times. Trust me on this view. I learned how to fence while as a teenager I studied under Olympic competitor and film stuntman and choreographer Ralph Faulkner, fought saber competition in college, and as a professional actor learned stage combat and choreographed and fought duels.

This week Hugo Friedhofer’s musical adaptation for the film version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (20th Century Fox, 1957, which has a great cast including Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, who I luckily interviewed before his death, Errol Flynn, Eddie Albert, and Juliet Greco) shares time with Blue, the obscure Manos Hadjidoakis score for the Terence Stamp Paramount Pictures western film (1968); Ernest Gold’s magnificent score for the 1960 Paul Newman film Exodus; Klaus Doldinger’s score for Das Boot (Columbia Pictures, 1981, which I saw on the day that it opened in San Francisco while playing Miles Hendon during a 135-performance tour of The Prince and the Pauper. … I accepted the role as it included me choreographing and fighting the duel, and better yet getting to say much of the dialogue that had been stolen from Flynn’s 1937 Warner’s film of the same name); and Max Steiner’s magnificently composed and conducted score of Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Don Juan (Warner Bros., 1948).

Progress on the Sand Creek manuscript

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In 1990 I moved to Thousand Oaks, California, and was soon after under contract to write The Final Showdown (Walker and Company, 1992). I had always excelled at art in school (no collage classes) and had even contracted artwork and attempted (“attempted” is the key word here) during the 1970s and 1980s to experiment. Nineteen-ninety was a key year for me as I decided to play around with pen and ink. This image of Ned Wynkoop (based upon an 1867 woodcut) was the result. It saw publication in Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, 1995). (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

Ouch!!! I thought that perhaps I’d talk about progress writing about Colorado territorial governor John Evans, Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and his wife Elizabeth, Episcopal Father John Kehler (the correct spelling of his last name) & Ned Wynkoop.

Nope. Not today.

Oh heck, … I don’t want to be a killjoy. At this point in time, Evans is standalone in the manuscript, but I know that he’ll have connections with Wynkoop and I’m certain with Byers. In one way or another, Byers, Elizabeth, Kehler, and Wynkoop are already connected or will be connected with each other. The question here is, what scenes of them together; especially between Byers and Wynkoop will make it into the draft and not be edited out of it by the time of the final delivery? Arrival timing in Denver for Byers, Elizabeth (different dates), and Kehler have proved problematical but I’m now good to go with them. Progress is good … and maybe even great (from my point of view).

For what it is worth, Byers, Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Little Raven, Colonel John Chivington, Evans, mixed-blood George Bent, and his father trader William Bent will most likely be the leading players in the manuscript. Hopefully others will also play leading or major supporting roles (my research is key here). At the moment Elizabeth Byers is by far my leading lady (unfortunately I just don’t have enough about her, the Cheyenne woman Mo-nahs-e-tah, or even Wynkoop’s wife Louise).

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LK & OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association (WWA) convention in Newport Beach, Ca., on 17oct2014. (photo by Pailin Subanna-Kraft; © Louis Kraft, Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2014)

OU Press editor-in-chief Chuck Rankin and I both want to highlight the women as much as possible. To do this, I need to find the information (if it exists). A fellow writer-historian Linda Wommack has offered to help with Elizabeth. I told her that I wanted to get what I knew about Elizabeth in place first, so that I don’t waste any of her time. Am looking forward to our upcoming (alas, long distance) time together. I have located a great image of Elizabeth that I want to use in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, but have seen it dated to both the mid-1860s and mid-1870s. Fingers are crossed that it dates to the 1860s, for if it is from the the 1870s it is out of the scope of the book and I won’t use it. Although I had purchased a low-resolution copy of the image I do not have the permission to post it. Too bad, for it is a great image.

What you see here is an invitation to speak up if you can share information about other key players in the Sand Creek story, including, but not limited to, trader and Cheyenne interpreter John Smith; Major Scott Anthony; Captain Silas Soule; Chivington’s subordinate officers in the Third Colorado (especially George Shoup); as well as other Cheyennes and Arapahos, such has Tall Bull, Bull Bear, Stone Forehead, Lean Bear, and Left Hand (BTW, a bio on Left Hand at times uses notes that are either inaccurate or don’t support the text, which makes the research questionable); Wynkoop’s subordinate Lieutenant Joseph Cramer; and Cheyenne mixed bloods Edmund Guerrier, Charley Bent, and Jack Smith. Over the years I’ve mined Anthony and Soule heavily at History Colorado and at the Western History Department at the Denver Public Library, but I’m certain that there is more on them that I haven’t seen.

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This image of Black Kettle was also an early lk attempt at illustrative art. It also was published in Custer and the Cheyenne. I placed it here just to grab your attention, as I want to bring the chief into the Sand Creek book as soon as possible and I don’t have much on his early life.

The goal is to bring the people in the manuscript to life. It is easier to do with participants that were verbal and left a lot of documentation in letters and other writing or had their actions constantly reported in the press. Guerrier was literate but didn’t leave much behind while George Bent left a goldmine of letters (all of which I have in house, either in his hand or in typescript form).

I know that I have said the following before, but it is worth repeating. I don’t write about good guys and bad guys. My opinion will not be in the book, but if I do my job properly the actions of the people I write about will allow you to form your own view of them. The following is also worth repeating: It is what a person does and not what he or she says about themselves that defines who they are or were.

Kit Carson is in LK’s future

I don’t think that Kit Carson is a supporting player in the Sand Creek story (he is minor at best), but he will be a major player in my writing future (anything you can share about Kit is of great interest to me, and at all times). As far as Kit goes, be warned for I believe that I have all of the books published about him in the 20th and 21st centuries. I also have the bio (in hardbound) based upon what he told DeWitt C. Peters in 1859, as well as a few other 19th century volumes that were accounts of a piece of time spent with Kit and not bios or dime novels. I’m especially interested in his relationship with Indians (yes, the plan is to follow how I wrote about Custer, Gatewood, and Wynkoop).

The World History Group flexes its muscles and takes a bite out of my ass

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lk art of Geronimo based upon the cover art that I created for Geronimo & Gatewood (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). This is just lk playing around with color and line. It isn’t very good and it will never be published. I view art as a learning process, and that is experimenting and trying to create an image that is decent. This is an ongoing process.

No, no, … no … NO!!! I received the World History Group contract for “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (October 2015 issue of Wild West, and soon to go into production) on 27apr2015.

Editor Greg Lalire and I had already gone through our copyediting (which usually gets tweaked while in production) and we were good to go with the 3800-word feature. Just like in the IT software world, the times they change and to survive a writer must dodge and duck and go with the punches while standing upright. It’s called survival. Greg and I began our working relationship 20+ years ago. Over this time we have become good friends, and we help each other out when needed. Greg is doing what he can to survive the change happening with the 11 or 12 great history magazines that the World History Group now owns (I’ve been there and have done that way-too-many times in the software industry). Greg is a great editor, and he’s also a damned good writer. He will survive.

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I created this map for the “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” October 2015 Wild West article. If it is used, the contractor for Wild West, Joan Pennington, will create the final artwork (and she does good work). Back in 1999 I submitted one of the final pieces of art that was published in Gatewood & Geronimo to Wild West, it was recreated and published in the magazine with no credit (or payment to lk). I complained this time around, and if the map is published I will receive a “based upon” credit. Good, for this is the first time I have ever seen the Valenzuela ambush location and the Gatewood/Geronimo confrontation with Smith & Wood added to a map, and both are major pieces to the Geronimo story. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I study my contracts, and anything that is questionable, is not in line with what I want, or what has suddenly become a concern I confront immediately. The contract stated 3800 words. The “3800” was marked out in ink and replaced with “3200.” What? Did I lose 600 words and didn’t see the edit? I called Greg. My timing was perfect. He was typing an email to me that explained what had happened—and it got worse. The “3200” words is now “3000” words, and this word count would now be the maximum for a feature.

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Gregory J. Lalire’s dust jacket image for his novel: Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly (Five Star, 2014)

World History Group wants to mimic the Cowboys & Indians magazine, that is they want to obtain better advertisers. I consider the feature content in Cowboys & Indians as little more than fluff (which I can’t stand; oops, I shouldn’t have said that—disregard what you just read). Cowboys & Indians is big on color and images, and even bigger on good advertising. … That, ladies & gents is the future of Wild WestAmerican History and MHQ (three key magazines in my life) while keeping the same historical content these magazines have always had in the past.

My opinion doesn’t count here, for the publisher has every right to do what they think they need to do to stay in business. I agree with this, and as it was with the IT software companies, they need to survive to employ me.

While work is in progress Greg and I always keep good phone or email contact with each other. “Believe me,” he wrote me yesterday, “I know all about the pain of cutting, but as I found out in August, a story can still be strong at a shorter length.” (He is talking about the August 2015 issue of Wild West.)

I have 800 words to cut from a 3800-word article (that is a little over 20 percent of the word count). I will do what is required, and we’ll find out if the article still retains its impact. Hope so.

A few words on long overdue blogs …

For those of you who are wondering about upcoming blogs here’s an update. A blog dealing with what could be a major change in my writing world is ready to post (I just need reality and the future to merge in the present). …. Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’. The Thai walkabout blog continues to be written (and it will be an eye-opener, for you and for me), and I have finally begun to draft the unscrupulous writer-historians blog (and it will not be vague). Trust me, for when the unscrupulous blog is published, if ever, I will forever sit with my back to a wall with two Colts crossed over my chest like Wild Bill Hickok. People will be gunning for me and ifGod forbidmy life ends in violence it will be because someone is angry over what I have posted. This is not how I view my future so I hope and pray that my fearful vision never happens.

A few people that know me believe one, and only one thing, about methat I’m good at dramatics. I don’t agree, but my fear of the future is out there, for knowing my past I am aware that unsavory events can and do happen.

Upcoming Blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, for it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell will break out (at least for me).
  • The song remembers when
    Music is something I’ve lived with and know (and it plays a large role in my life). This blog should be easy to write for songs often link me to a person or an event. There is a possibility that it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when I consider writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft

Olivia de Havilland, a world treasure

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog

As in the past, click on an image to expand it


I recently heard from a good source that Olivia de Havilland had become frail and spent time in and out of the hospital. But what is frail? … Although I admit that “frail” can be of major importance to all of us, everything is a matter of degrees and all of us are different. As far as hospital visits go, I’ve had 12 operations and I’m still enjoying walking on our earth. Just so everyone knows I’m slow with everything that I write, and this blog is no exception. Sometimes this agitates and angers some of the people that I work with (I’m not talking about my key editors, Chuck Rankin at OU Press or Greg Lalire at Wild West magazine). Hey, this is just how I am—a slow writer so accept it. Two days ago a talented artist, singer/musician, Errol Flynn expert, but most important a good friend named Robert Florczak sent me a link to an interview/article on Ms. de Havilland that went live on January 29 (Entertainment Weekly interviews Olivia de Havilland). This article/interview with Ms. de Havilland left me with the following: She is still active, very positive, and is looking forward to her 100th birthday in 2016.

As Olivia turns 99 years young on July 1, 2015, I want to say some words about this special lady, … this special lady who has kindly shared a small part of her life with me over the years.

Olivia’s Elizabeth Bacon Custer & Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer

As a boy I saw They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941), wherein she played Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie,” and this is the correct spelling of her nickname) and Errol Flynn played George Armstrong Custer. This film, which has been ripped for historical accuracy, grabbed my interest and never let go. Not to this day. It started me reading about Custer and his Libbie: First young reader books, then biographies, and eventually primary source material in print form or on microfilm. This film all by itself eventually led me to writing and speaking about the American Indian wars.

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A Spanish mini poster for They Died with Their Boots On. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Olivia, or “Livvie,” became my favorite actress and Flynn became my favorite actor. I will deal with their acting and life and times during their working years together in Errol & Olivia. If you follow me on other social media you know that this book is moving toward becoming my primary writing project. There is a reason for the extended length of time I take to write nonfiction books. Mainly that I must know what I’m going to write about before I write it, and most of the information that I use comes from primary source material. These searches are exhausting, but mandatory for me to complete any nonfiction books.

Livvie and Flynn are still my favorite actors, although there are modern actors that have given performances that have grabbed me and won’t let go no matter how often I study these films. Yes, that’s right, “study.” But also enjoy, and if the “enjoy” fades away it raises the question of why? Why does a film no longer hold up against the test of time? Only a few modern actors—less than five—have more than two films that I bother to view more than once or twice.

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This kissing scene between Olivia de Havilland’s Elizabeth Bacon (before she married GAC) and Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer will be featured in Errol & Olivia (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Back to They Died with Their Boots On, and the lack of historical accuracy. I’m going to say two things about this: 1) Warner Bros. feared lawsuits in 1941, and because of this real participants in the Custers’ lives were dropped from the film and historical events were fictionalized to protect the studio. 2) Go back to the primary source information on Custer (and there is a massive amount available to those who really do research) and also read the three books that Libbie Custer wrote about her time on the frontier during her marriage to George Custer. Match what you find (and trust me, this will take time to find and digest it) and then watch the film again. You will be amazed. I’ve discussed this in print on several occasions and I have spoken about it numerous times.

Enough said, other than to say that They Died with Their Boots On has given us Olivia’s and Flynn’s best performances together. It was also their last, but that only came to be because of future events (which will also be dealt with in Errol & Olivia).

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I can’t speak for Bob Utley or Paul Hutton or anyone else who had been influenced by this film (and I know a lot of people that have been), but for me the film grabbed me when Olivia’s Libbie and Flynn’s Custer relocated to the frontier. Actually, it started when Flynn’s Custer stood up to the fictional Senator Sharp and his son Ned Sharp, and when Olivia’s Libbie accepts that they won’t become rich. This image of Olivia and Flynn is on the porch outside their quarters at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, and it easily symbolizes both the real and the fictional General and Mrs. Custer. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Before moving from Olivia’s Libbie and Flynn’s Custer let me say this. The film not only influenced my future but it has also influenced friends and Indian wars historians Robert M. Utley and Paul Andrew Hutton (among others) big time. Paul Hutton has said in print and to me personally that he fell in love with Olivia the first time he saw her play Libbie Custer, and that this has never changed for him. In his memoir (Custer and Me: A Historian’s Memoir. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004, page 8), Bob Utley wrote: “Flynn and de Havilland seared themselves into my mind’s eye, planted themselves deeply in my psyche, and treated me repeatedly to the thrilling denouement of the Last Stand.1 … For in 1942, especially in the climate of military celebration created by World War II, I found my obsession.” Livvie and Flynn’s performances led to his long career in the U.S. National Park Service (where I believe Bob retired as chief historian). No matter, for his long list of first-class books dealing with the Indian wars has been inspirational for many would-be historians over the decades.

1 For those of you that don’t know, George Armstrong Custer died during the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory on June 25, 1876, when he and his regiment attacked a Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho village. This was the greatest victory of the Plains Indians against the white invasion of their lands, but it also marked the end of their days of freedom for like the defeat of the Alamo in 1836, the attack on Peal Harbor in 1941, and the heinous murder of over 3000 U.S. citizens on September 11, 2001, it would resonate as a rallying cry.

An introduction into Ms. de Havilland’s world

In 1995 my book, Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains was published (El Segundo, Ca.: Upton and Sons). That June I spoke about Custer riding into Cheyenne chief and mystic Stone Forehead’s village in the Texas Panhandle to discuss ending war in March 1869 in Amarillo, Texas, which is the subject of the Custer book.

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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer and what I consider the quintessential portrait of the real Custer by Matthew Brady and Company in 1864. Flynn’s Custer is about to set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on May 17, 1876, for what would become his final Indian campaign. The real Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn a little over a month later, on June 25. (photos in Louis Kraft personal collection)

During the convention several busses transported us to the Washita River, where Custer’s 7th Cavalry attacked a Cheyenne village, and although many people died, Custer did what he could to prevent the wanton murder of women and children. This site, now the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, was then on private property. During a stop for lunch, my daughter Marissa and I ate with an historian/professor named Eric Niderost. Just an introduction, but Eric followed up and our brief time together would lead to a long-time friendship that thrives to this day.

In 1995 I decided to write a book about Errol Flynn. Eric knew this. He also had Olivia de Havilland’s address in Paris, France, which has been her home since the 1950s, and in 1996 asked if I’d like to have it. Would I! That year I began writing Ms. de Havilland letters of introduction with absolutely no response. After three or four letters, and many months (a year?) passed I realized that I wasn’t proceeding in a good way.

OdeH&libbieCusterCollage_wsI decided to turn on my charm (I know, I know, since when has Kraft had charm?), and I began sending the lady birthday cards and Christmas cards and gifts. Time passed, but eventually my “charm” and long-distance wooing wore the lady down and she responded. Without going back to check I believe she may have answered a question or two. The correspondence continued into the new century, but I must say that Olivia cherry-picked the questions she would answer. The others she flat-out ignored. I am a gentleman and I never brought up the subject of sex and or love. She would do this for me and in so doing shot holes through bullshit books that create fiction and sell it as fact (sorry, but this is for Errol & Olivia).

Sometime in the late 1990s I agreed to write an article for Persimmon Hill that dealt with They Died with Their Boots On, and questions became specific to this film. From this time forward I would read, and eventually listen to and see, Ms. de Havilland’s view on events surrounding this film change, for suddenly what I had brought up took hold within her and created a life of its own.

Errol & Olivia becomes reality

During these early years of our communication I realized that like the biography of Lt. Charles Gatewood and his participation in the Apache wars that I had been writing since 1995 needed something else. In Gatewood’s case the book needed the Bedonkohe Apache mystic and war leader Geronimo. The Flynn book needed Olivia de Havilland, and sometime in the late 1990s Errol & Olivia became reality.

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I like the art used on this 1979  American Classic Screen magazine cover. At first I didn’t, but it has grown on me. … I already know what image I want on the cover of Errol & Olivia. Will I or the publisher be able to obtain usage rights? I don’t know. If not, we’ll move to plan B, which isn’t in place at the moment. There is a good possibility that if the original art for this cover can be tracked down that it might be included in plan B, but only if I think that the book title and the author credit won’t hurt the artwork. … I’m sorry, for if you don’t know of Ms. de Havilland and Mr. Flynn’s acting careers, this film, Captain Blood (Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, 1935), made them stars overnight. My favorite scene is the slave auction wherein Olivia’s Arabella Bishop purchases an innocent man, Flynn’s Dr. Peter Blood, who has been convicted of treason in England and shipped to Jamaica where he’ll spend the rest of his life in bondage. Flynn’s Blood would escape and become the most infamous pirate in the Caribbean Sea. Warner Bros. quickly realized that the film-going public fell in love with these young actors and smartly teamed them again and again. Their film relationship has since grown to legendary proportions.

I need to say something here, I take my time with research and a book isn’t completed until I think I have enough information for the book to be published. Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn fans have been pounding me for years on when will the book be published. Add to that, Olivia hasn’t been too pleased with my slowness. Let me say this, I began researching and writing a book on Ned Wynkoop in 1985; the book, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was published in 2011 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press). I don’t have all the answers on Olivia de Havilland or Errol Flynn for what I need to make Errol & Olivia shine. Until I answer what I consider mandatory questions the book is in the works. That said, Errol & Olivia will be my prime book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published (and for the record I have been researching Sand Creek since 1985). I don’t create history like some unscrupulous writer/historians, who do everything to dupe their readers and create hateful, and sometimes racist nonfiction, that is not accurate or truthful. Some of their words are little more than piss-poor fiction. BTW, this will be an upcoming blog.

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Louis Kraft talking about the Santa Fe Trail (Warner Bros., 1940) film premier in Santa Fe, N. Mex., in the Western Writers of America tent at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Ariz., on 19mar2005. When I gave the talk I realized that I had gold—pure gold. Luckily the talk wasn’t taped (actually I hate saying that, for that means it is lost to time). Regarding this talk, which I consider my favorite, I retired it before I drove home. Usually if I like a talk it continues to live. Not this time, for the talk had to be reworked to fit into Errol & Olivia (I realized that it would become a featured piece in the manuscript). (photo by my good friend and great writer Johnny Boggs)

Errol & Olivia means a lot to me, and I absolutely refuse to write about something that I can’t confirm. End of story. Everyone who reads my writing knows that patience is key. … For the record I have stopped writing for the software world (since 2012), which means two things: 1) I have turned my back on paydays that would make you sick (read I now count pennies), and 2) I have stopped delivering talks across the U.S. unless I receive my full salary and all expenses (talks cost me a lot of time; their absence has freed up a lot of time for books). I will probably sell a few articles in the coming years, but they (and the photos/artwork) are for pay (which is now needed). My focus are my books. Trust me, and actually bet on the books becoming reality for they will. I work seven days a week, and I don’t have to put in fifty or sixty hours per week plus two+ hours of driving time per day before I go to work on my projects. I now write for me and my reading pubic.

Ladies and gentlemen, sometime in the future that isn’t as distant as you might believe, you will have the opportunity to read Errol & Olivia. Trust me, for the future is closing in on joining hands with reality.

Years passed and my communication with Olivia continued. I realized that to keep our long-distance relationship alive I needed to throw something new into the mix. What? And then it hit me: My daughter Marissa. Believe it or not, this proved to be brilliant on my part.

An invitation by Olivia

In 2002 Olivia invited my daughter Marissa and I to visit her in 2003. I immediately wrote back that we’d love to meet her. No reply, absolutely no reply. In 2003 I realized that I needed an operation If I wanted to continue walking the earth (actually there would be a follow-up operation four and a half months later that played a major role in me actually  “walking”). By April 2003 flying to France ceased to be an objective and I forgot about the visit.

But then in fall 2003 Olivia sent me a letter scolding me for not visiting during the previous summer. I quickly replied and we set the date for 2004. As the date neared and with all preparation in place we shared phone numbers. Ms. de Havilland told me that she preferred that I speak with her secretary as her hearing on the phone wasn’t the best, and we set the visit during a 16-day trip to France. At that time Marissa was studying art and her favorites were Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. Paris has a wealth of great art museums. We would see them and track van Gogh and Monet.

mk&MonetGarden_collage_wsIn Olivia’s last communication to me before our flight to France, she wrote: “You are bringing Marissa, aren’t you?” I quickly responded with a short missive. “Yes, ma’am.”

I didn’t know what to expect in France. Heck, I had heard that a lot of the French hate the Americans and that we’d be treated badly. Really? Only once in two prolonged trips to France did I encounter anything like this, and those words were spat at me by an ancient women bent over her cane as we walked past her (can’t remember the name of the town). We’re not going to talk about Paris or France here, but I will say this: I would gladly move to France (even with the hateful crimes that are currently taking the lives of innocent people) as I love Paris and all of the outlying cities and towns that I have visited. Alas, I believe that it is too expensive and my car of choice would hate the French, for they, and certainly in Paris, have a habit of bouncing off the car in front and then the car in the rear when Parisians attempt to parallel park (they perform this process in reverse when exiting the parking spot).

We stayed in a five-star hotel across the street from the French congress named the Meridian, and it was walking distance to Olivia’s home (which is similar to a brownstone in the eastern United States). A day before our visit I walked from the hotel to Olivia’s home as I wanted to take a few photos of it, and more important I wanted to know exactly where it was located. I always enjoy walking in Paris.

A 2004 visit with Olivia de Havilland

(My 35 mm Canon camera went belly up.)

On June 29 the Meridian Hotel called a taxi for Marissa and I. I was loaded down with gifts including flowers, and paper and pens as Olivia didn’t want me to record the interview(s). On this day, Olivia’s then assistant, Laura, joined us in the garden and this made for a nice foursome. Marissa and I sat on each side of Olivia and Laura sat across from her. Fidel, her manservant, served champagne, which Olivia likes.

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Marissa took this image of me at Musée Louvre in Paris on July 1, 2004, two days after we visited with Olivia de Havilland. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 2004)

After the introductions we moved to small talk as Olivia looked at and enjoyed her gifts. She does have a lot of my writing from books to plays to articles. I know she’s read some of the material for her comments are such that she had to be familiar with the subject matter. My reason went beyond egotism or anything like this; what I wanted was for her to know that I knew how to create biographies, knew how to research, and could write (it’s shocking that many so-called writers can’t write).

I always go into an interview prepared with questions, and almost always move away from them and go with the flow of where the conversation leads. I prefer this approach as I’m interested learning what I can of the person I’m interviewing and this allows the conversation to move in directions that are of interest to them.

I should say this up front, Olivia is a marvelous hostess. She is open, kind, and attentive. Marissa was fighting perhaps the beginning of a cold and Olivia provided her with medications that could stop what might happen before it did. The pills worked. Olivia also made a point of pulling Marissa into the conversation.

Certainly I did have more questions about her portrayal of Libbie Custer and of the film being the last that she did with Errol Flynn. We spent a long time on this and later that night Olivia returned to it. And clearly her view had begun to change (and even more so than questions she had answered regarding the film years back). What I observed and what has been printed and placed on film is in conflict with the facts. That said, this film was as alive for Olivia de Havilland on that June day in 2004 as it had been for her in 1941. Actually this day appeared to do wonders for the attraction and perhaps love that she and Flynn felt for each other off and on during their working relationship. Alas, events, constantly blocked anything from happening between them. As she later and rightly stated a relationship between them would have ruined her (this is a paraphrase) and I believe this. … All of this said, the love for Errol Flynn that I saw in Olivia de Havilland’s eyes that June 29 was unmistakable.

Fidel positioned himself just inside the house and peeked through the curtains of the French door. When one of us sipped champagne he magically appeared and filled the glass. At one point Olivia asked Marissa why she hadn’t tried the champagne. Shy but not wanting to offend, Marissa lifted the glass to her lips and wet her tongue (and Castro refilled her glass). Although Marissa never said it, Olivia realized that she didn’t drink.

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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is based upon Maxwell Anderson’s 1930 verse play “Elizabeth the Queen.” The character of Penelope Gray, a fictional character, was also in Anderson’s play. Although the original art is stored at the moment I need to dig up artist Goulet’s first name. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

One of the gifts I gave Olivia that June 29 was a painting of her as Lady Penelope Gray in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Warner Bros., 1939). She knew immediately who she portrayed in the image and was delighted with it. I’m not going to go into details about the film or the difficulties Olivia struggled through during filming other than to say it has a great backstory. I will say this, she was vibrant and alive in her scenes and I think delivered the best performance in the film. Errol & Olivia will deal with the making of this film and Olivia’s and Flynn’s lives at this time. … And with The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros., 1938), the late thirties set in motion changes to their careers and lives, changes that had actually begun when Captain Blood (Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, 1935) became an instant hit at the box office, changes that would be firmly in place before the end of 1944. These changes would affect the rest of Olivia’s and Flynn’s lives.

Since the late author Charles Higham played high and loose with facts in two books of importance to Olivia, Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1984) and Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980) I attempted to get her to comment on stated events (these were included on my list of questions). I had requested information about Higham’s accuracy in the past through the mail and she wrote one comment: “Charles Higham is an unscrupulous man.” Olivia remained firm; she would not talk about Higham or his inflammatory accusations that had no basis in fact. “Charles Higham never contacted me, not once,” Olivia said (this is a paraphrase as the interview is safely stored). My interviews with Olivia will be made available in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, after Errol & Olivia is published.

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Olivia de Havilland with Mary Jane Ward, author of the semi-autobiographical best selling novel The Snake Pit (New York: Random House, 1946) before principle filming began. It appears that they are looking at a draft of the script for the film. A hardbound copy of The Snake Pit with a battered dust jacket is under the script. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

On more of a positive note, Olivia asked me which of her performances did I like the best. I told her that I thought her best performance was as Virginia Cunningham in The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox, 1948). Her performance is extraordinary as she struggles with fears and doubts that have torn apart her married life and led to her confinement in a mental institution wherein psychiatric care is at times less than humane. Olivia smiled and informed me that it was her favorite role.

Before the evening ended we moved away from Flynn and Olivia’s film world, replacing it with world politics and a little digging into her life. Olivia shied away from her personal life before Hollywood and of her sister, actress Joan Fontaine’s autobiography, No Bed of Roses (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1978).

At this time of the year it remains light in Paris until about 10:00 PM, and it was close to or just after midnight when Marissa and I hugged Olivia goodbye (and I kissed her on the cheek).

An invitation to Olivia’s big night in 2006

In 2006 I wrote for the now dead company Sun Microsystems. That January my sister, Linda Kraft-Morgon, informed me that she had six weeks left to live. My then manager, Sudeshna Ghosh, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me—she allowed me to come into the office early two to three times per week, drive to Lake Arrowhead to spend two or three hours with my sister, and drive back to the office to work into the night. That gave me four to five days of seeing my sister each week until the end. During the drives up the mountain headaches began to pound. They became so bad that often I had to pull to the side of the road and wait for them to pass and still they affected me once I arrived. I thought that this was just stress.

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January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. Linda and her husband Greg were supposed to come to Tujunga House for Christmas and her birthday (December 24) but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. On this day we celebrated the birth of Christ and her last BD. it was a special day for me. It was also the first day of the few I still had to capture my last memories of her in a handful of stolen hours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

But after my sister’s death on March 1 the headaches didn’t go away; in fact they increased and this included at lower altitudes. … In April I had sinus surgery that included some nasty things and required two weeks recovery with follow-ups with the surgeon.

Just before the surgery I learned that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, planned to honor Olivia de Havilland in June. Wonderful news, and long overdue for the two-time Academy Award winner.

One of her nominations was for The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox, 1948),
a film in which she should have won the Oscar as her portrayal
as Virginia Cunningham is extraordinary. I have strong views about
how award winners are selected and for the most part my
views are a little less than laudatory
(I hope that the hint of sarcasm
shines through here). I was thrilled for her, and that was that
for I had no intention of asking for an invitation.

My then girlfriend and her son took care of me at their home during the two weeks of recovery. When I finally returned home I had a massive amount of emails and phone messages requesting  and then demanding invitations to Olivia’s June event. In one particular case a professor and Errol Flynn historian who had become a decent long-distant confidant in all subjects related to Flynn and to a lesser degree Olivia. The messages turned angry and then bitter and sarcastic. I emailed him, saying that I was away and recovering from an operation and that I had no plans to ask for myself or anyone else. “Give me de Havilland’s address and/or phone number!” he demanded. “No!” “Why the bleep not?” “I promised Olivia that I wouldn’t share her private information and I’m not going to share it.” “What about doing this for Deidre Flynn [Flynn’s oldest daughter]; hell, you worked with her?” “I already told you what I’m not going to do.” “You’re no f—ing friend!” “It seems to me that you aren’t either.”

I thought about it and recontacted the professor, who was a good writer and he had certainly done a lot of great research on Flynn. He had one problem; he couldn’t stop polishing his Flynn manuscript that he had told me he had finished writing four or five years before; that is roughly at the time we came in contact with each other. In the email I told him that I would forward Deidre’s information to Olivia if he supplied me with it. He did and I did.

But the relationship had ended. People wonder why I shy away from close relationships with writer/historians who write about the same subjects as I. Well, you’ve just seen one example of why. … Don’t get me wrong, for I’ve got some great writer/historian friends in this small world of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn (Robert Florczak, David DeWitt, and Thomas McNulty to name three) and I certainly have more good friends in my Indian wars world.

Weeks later a surprise arrived in the mail. Olivia had secured an invitation for me to attend her event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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On the left is the invitation to the tribute honoring Olivia de Havilland. On the right is the cover of the invitation (actually the black and gray border opens to reveal a larger image of Livvie). … Ms. de Havilland, thank you again for inviting me to your special night. I enjoyed every minute of the event.

 A lady is honored

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lk soon after entering the main lobby of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences building in Beverly Hills on 15jun2006. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

On the early evening of June 15, 2006, the sidewalk in front of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard was crowded with people dressed in gowns and suits, and in one case a tuxedo. While my then girlfriend and I waited I saw the professor/historian in the crowd. Deidre Flynn accompanied him. He looked as he did in pictures that I had seen of him, but I didn’t look as I did on the dust jacket of Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), which he had. The doors opened at a quarter to seven in the evening. Immediately the large lobby bubbled with excitement as the guests mingled and chatted. Caterers brought out platters of absolutely magnificent food. There was an open bar. The Academy had gone all out for Olivia de Havilland’s night of honor.

My girlfriend ate with me, but then wandered as she snapped photographs with a cell phone. I drifted about as I enjoyed a glass of wine only to halt. Before me stood Patrice Wymore Flynn. She sipped wine and nibbled. I watched her for a moment, but then stepped forward and began talking with her. After about 10 minutes she looked at me quizzically. “You don’t know who I am,” she said. “Yes I do, Mrs. Flynn.” She liked that and the conversation continued. During the course of the night we spoke several more times. I liked her. My girlfriend caught some candids of our initial meeting.

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The top of this collage is of Patrice Wymore Flynn and Louis Kraft shortly after we met for the first time. As you can see in the image Pat is moving, and so is lk (but not as quickly). It is actually a color photo, but I thought it would work better here as a grayscale image. Later the professor/historian Lincoln Hurst and I got together. Pat joined us and we had a great roundabout conversation. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

For additional thoughts about Patrice Wymore Flynn, see Classy lady Patrice Wymore Flynn dies + a Sand Creek “thank you”.

Later I saw the professor/historian chatting with Robert Osborne, the primary host of Turner Classic Movies. I joined them and introduced myself. Osborne was polite while Lincoln Hurst was taken by surprise. Soon Osborne excused himself and Hurst and I spent a good part of the rest of the evening together. Neither of us mentioned the past April, and it was almost as if we were long-time friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. I enjoyed hanging out with him. My girlfriend captured some pictures, and then more when Pat Wymore Flynn joined us.

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About an hour after the doors opened at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Olivia de Havilland made her entry and greeted the crowd. (image © Louis Kraft 2006)

Olivia arrived with a bunch of gentlemen in suits, none of whom I recognized. Soon after the Academy set her up in a room to greet those she had placed on a list. My girlfriend and I got into the line. When we reached the front of it one of the two wanna-be football players asked for my name. I gave it to him. “You’re not on the list.” “Take another look.” He did. “You’re not of the list.” I spelled my name and he looked again. “You’re not on the list.” Could the SOB read? Trying to control my anger I said: “Look, I don’t know anyone here and the only reason I’m here is because Olivia de Havilland invited me.” “You’re not on the list. Step out of the line!” I peered beyond him and could see Olivia greeting people. “Why don’t you trot over to Ms. de Havilland and ask her if I’m on the list.” Surprisingly he did. “Please accept my apologies, Mr. Kraft,” he said when he returned to me. “You are on the list.”

When it was our turn to be with Olivia, I went down on one knee and kissed her hand as my girlfriend hovered nearby. “She’s gorgeous,” Olivia whispered into my ear, and she was. These minutes passed quickly, so quickly that I can’t remember what we talked about (I wrote notes of the event, so hopefully I jotted information about our brief time together—I need to check).

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After kissing Olivia de Havilland’s hand I introduced her to my then girlfriend. (photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Pat Wymore Flynn and Deidre Flynn had been in front of us in the line and they remained in the room after spending time with Olivia. I joined them. By this time Pat and I had hit it off and enjoyed each other’s company. I had worked with Deidre on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times back in 1983 or 1984. We had been polite to each other, but at that time she was dealing with a god-awful miniseries about her father (she refused to work for the company) and I gave her room. She had no idea I even knew who her father was. I had heard that her sister, Rory, attended the event but I didn’t see her.

Later Lincoln Hurst, my girlfriend, and I hung out together. An announcement proclaimed that it was time for the event to begin. He excused himself but then soon rejoined us. He couldn’t find Deidre and assumed that she was with Pat. The three of us sat together during the rest of the evening. I had an absolutely terrific time with him. Alas, that was it. I never saw him again, I never had contact with him again, and unfortunately he died a little over two years later. His book on Flynn was never published. This is a shame for I think it would have been a first-class book.

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A portrait of Olivia de Havilland, Louis Kraft, and his former girlfriend on the evening of 15jun2006. (photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Robert Osborne served as host for the event (he may have been Olivia’s choice for she had told me that he was a good friend). Without checking notes (which are in a secure location) I can’t remember if the question and answer portion of the evening was first or the film clips. Regardless of my memory, Olivia walked down the long walkway from the rear of the theater to the stage and sat with Osborne. BTW, the theater was filled. Olivia and Osborne chatted, and I’m certain that the questions came first. Although she obviously got along well with Osborne, the questions had been pre-selected for Olivia did not have to dig into her memory to answer them.

I believe the event was filmed. I hope so, but if yes, I’ve never seen it. I should check.

On this night, or soon after, Olivia gave me an open invitation. “If ever you are again in Paris, let me know so that I can invite you to visit.” These words lived with me for the next two and a half years.

A 2009 visit with Olivia de Havilland

In spring 2009 I contacted Olivia and informed her that I planned a trip to France and England. As she had offered in 2006 she invited me to visit, that we’d agree upon a date once I knew the dates of my time in Paris. The lady that Olivia had met in 2006 accompanied me.

Before leaving for Europe a writer contacted me via email and asked if I could put in a good word for him. He had written a coffee table book that dealt with Flynn and others. He explained that he had sent his book to Olivia and hoped to visit her since he was also writing a book about her and Flynn. I had already heard this and agreed to do what I could to help him in a return email.

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Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft chatted while she opened her birthday card and looked at her gifts. That is the champagne bottle on the table but unfortunately we can’t see the label. The book is an anthology called Custer and His Times, Book Five (Cordova, TN: Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., 2008). It contains an article of mine, “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races.” John P. Hart is the editor, and it is an excellent publication. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

On July 3 my former girlfriend and I arrived at Olivia’s home after a taxi drive across the city of Paris. Her current assistant, Emily, greeted us at the door (Fidel wasn’t present). She would spend some time with us, but also took care of other business including a meal which was similar to my first visit (finger food that was tasty and easy to eat without interrupting Olivia’s and my time together). As it was just two days past her birthday her gifts (other than the usual) included flowers and champagne. The three of us chatted while she delighted in the gifts. Knowing she liked champagne, we brought what we had been told was one of the best American brands. Olivia was thrilled, but I told her not to open it. She agreed and said she’d open it on Errol’s 2010 birthday. I liked her words.

All this time, which probably took half an hour, Olivia had the writer’s book on her lap.2 She wanted to know what I thought of the book. I told her that I thought it was okay for what it was, a coffee table book, while adding that I didn’t see any noticeable errors in it. Olivia then turned to a page that had a not-frequently seen photo of Nora Eddington on it. Nora was Flynn’s second wife (whom I think Olivia told me that she had never met), and the photo was indeed of Nora. Olivia didn’t think so and we went on about this for five minutes or more. The photo was of Nora and I assured her that the writer wasn’t in error. Finally she accepted this.

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Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft discuss the coffee table book that deals with Errol Flynn and others. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

“I’m helping you,” she stated. “How can I also help him?” “Simple,” I replied, “help him.” “What about you?” “Help me too.” This seemed beyond her comprehension, although I did encounter this in my dark past.

Twice.

In the early 1970s Patric Knowles, who had acted with Olivia and Flynn in three films, was a patient of my father-in-law. … Patric readily agreed to spend time with me so that I could interview him. Mr. Knowles was as he appeared on screen, a gentleman. We got along fabulously, and kept in contact for years after meeting. However, during the interview he refused to discuss anything associated with Errol Flynn, especially The Adventures of Robin Hood. Frustrated I finally asked why. He had been paid a fee to supply information for a book that was in process.

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Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The setting is an archery contest, but it is little more than a trap to capture Robin Hood. These are tense moments for Olivia’s Marian for she has realized that it is a trap. She also knows that Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood is present. If you’ve never seen this film, do yourself a favor and see it. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

I believe that the book was Tony Thomas’s Cads and Cavaliers: The Film Adventurers (South Brunswick and New York: A. S. Barnes and Company, 1973), but I didn’t bother to note the author that Knowles helped. Even though Knowles isn’t recognized in the Acknowledgments of this book I believe that it is the book in question as it deals with him taking Flynn up in his plane during the filming of Robin Hood and this is exactly where I directed my questions. The second time was when I approached my boyhood baseball hero, Duke Snider, to write a book about his life and career. I had already written two or more articles about him which he had seen, but he declined as another writer had beaten me to the punch (Duke Snider and Bill Gilbert, The Duke of Flatbush, New York: Citadel Press Books, 1988).

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One of the portraits of Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft in her garden on 3jul2009. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Back to Olivia, who pressed that she could only help one person. I didn’t agree with this and I still don’t. “Two books are better than one, three books are better than two, and four books are better than three,” I stated. “Why?” “Because it gives readers a choice. They’ll figure out which are good books and which aren’t.”

She accepted this and we moved on.

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Hattie McDaniel (who won the best supporting actress Academy Award for her portrayal as Mammy), Olivia de Havilland (who was nominated, and rightfully so for her portrayal as Melanie), and Vivien Leigh (who won the Academy Award for best actress as Scarlett O’Hara) in Gone with the Wind (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939). (Louis Kraft personal collection)

On this visit I had an extensive list of questions and there was no way we could deal with all of them. On this trip I wanted to gather information about key people in her life other than Flynn during her time at Warner Bros. She talked some, good stuff, but I don’t have dates on some of it. The search goes on, for I must confirm stories and place them where they belong in time and not a year before or two years after. Ladies and gentlemen, this is time consuming. Trust me, I track all leads. Without going back and checking, it was on this visit that I asked about Olivia being cast as Melanie in Gone with the Wind (Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1939). I’ve read numerous stories about how Olivia landed the role, most likely the most important role she ever played in her career. She told me her story. When I said that it didn’t agree with the other stories she told me that the other stories were wrong.

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Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn as Lady Penelope Gray and Robert Devereaux, the 2nd Earl of Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Warner Bros., 1939). The film had a great director who knew how to move plot, Michael Curtiz, and good acting, especially by Olivia, Flynn, and the supporting cast (I will deal with Bette Davis’s performance as Queen Elizabeth I of England in Errol & Olivia). But—always that damned but—but the screenwriters couldn’t free themselves from playwright Maxwell Anderson’s stilted verse/prose in “Elizabeth the Queen,” producer Hal Wallis also flailed about when usually he had a deadeye for good scripts, and finally Mike Curtiz remained silent. Numerous Academy Award nominations aside, the slow-moving film could have been a glorious adventure/love story turned tragical. What could have been would never be. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

More important, her being cast as Melanie placed her front and center with Jack Warner and Hal Wallis, who, like it or not, were the most powerful people in her aspiring film career. Even though Warners would receive great compensation for her loan-out these men did not like rebels. They handed down punishment to whomever they considered a contractual slave at Warner Bros. Olivia had as much as committed treason. She would be punished, and big time. They also did what they could to humiliate her and here they also succeeded. But she fought back with anger, some good performances, and when her seven-year contract ended she told them goodbye. They said no, that she owed them for the time she spent on suspension (that was time with no salary and no work at the studio). When Olivia refused to buckle and crawl back to them and beg forgiveness they blacklisted her. They sent out a letter that demanded that no film or theater company in the United States hire her. Warner Bros. wielded power, the threat clear, and Olivia de Havilland ceased to earn her living as an actress in the USA (do I dare to say, in “the land of the free”?).

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On February 29, 1940, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences held their awards ceremony for the year 1939. Olivia did not win a supporting actress award for her portrayal of Melanie in Gone with the Wind, losing to Hattie McDaniel for her wonderful portrayal as Mammy in the same film. You can’t tell by this photo but the loss hurt—big time. Later, Olivia would say that she was thrilled that Hattie won the award. At the left of the image is Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who accepted a special award for his father, Douglas Fairbanks, who had died the previous December. In the center is Vivien Leigh, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as Scarlett O’Hara. I’m not certain about the seating during the night’s festivities, but some swapping of seats did happen that night for I have seen several images of Lawrence Oliver sitting to Leigh’s right on this night (Leigh and Oliver married on 31aug1940). I’ve always enjoyed Doug Jr.’s performances (much more so than his father’s), and it is too bad that he never acted with Olivia or Flynn. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Olivia did not fall to the ground and creep away never to be heard of again. Instead she sued Warner Bros., and in 1944 she won a major decision, since known at the “de Havilland Decision.” Free! She was free to seek acting employment elsewhere. This decision would play a role in the beginning of the end of the studio system as it was in the early 1940s, … and ultimately it contributed to the major freelance film contracts that now earn stars millions of dollars for a film performance. Actors of the last 30+ years (perhaps longer) need to send Olivia de Havilland a letter thanking her for her courage.

Oh, we did spend some time with Mr. Flynn, and for me this was key time, especially with two events in both their lives. One I can date, and the other I can’t although I know the three other key players involved in this star-studded event. Also, she surprised me with her comments about the management heads at Warner Bros., and this was an eye opener.

My girlfriend grew tired and bored. She excused herself and joined Emily in the house while Olivia and I continued to chat and enjoy each other’s company. I didn’t want to leave but realized that the hour now hovered close to midnight. I excused myself, found Emily, and asked her to call a cab. I then returned to Olivia to enjoy my remaining time with her.

2 I have comments regarding what happened with the writer who asked me to pitch him to Olivia. These will appear in another blog.

Olivia de Havilland, a special lady

I pray God that Olivia’s health remains good. I have just sent her a card stating this, and it is from my heart.

Ms. de Havilland, although early I want to wish you a wonderful 2015 birthday
and hope that you enjoy your special day with your loved ones and friends.

Olivia de Havilland is a multifaceted person. She is intelligent, beautiful, charming, funny, sexy as hell, political, caring, and courageous. Oh, and I don’t want to forget this: She is a great actress. Ms. Olivia de Havilland, God bless you for all you have done to make the world a brighter place. … I do hope that I can again cross the Atlantic Ocean and spend more time with you.

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A good way to conclude this blog is with an Olivia de Havilland film that I have not yet seen. It costars Gilbert Roland (pictured with Olivia), and Paul Scofield as King Phillip II of Spain. The film is That Lady (20th Century Fox, 1955) and it has an interesting plot summary that sounds as if it includes swordplay, unconsummated love, jealousy, and might end in tragedy. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Upcoming blogs

  • A Louis Kraft walkabout in Thailand, Cheyenne Indians, and a glimpse into the future
    This blog is currently being drafted, but due to the length it will probably be broken into two blogs (and hopefully not three). My blogs are always personal, but this blog will be doubly so, and it will touch upon a subject that I have hidden for years.
  • People who don’t do research but dish out opinion as if they know everything
    Ouch! Sometimes I can only stomach so much of this kind of crap.
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers
    I’ve struggled trying to decide if I should be vague or be specific and take people to task who push their agendas at the cost of truth. They create fictions and lies and often their cited documentation is a fabrication or worse. There is a war going on and I’m in the middle of it. If I opt for the second approach all hell (at least for me) will break out.
  • The song remembers when
    Like this blog on Ms. de Havilland, this is something I’ve lived with and know. It will be easy for me to write and it might follow the Thailand/Cheyenne blog if my knees begin to shake too noticeably when considering writing the other blogs before it.

— Louis Kraft