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Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com


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

Cheyenne High-back Wolf, Errol Flynn, Pailin, The Discovery + a Greg Lalire bonus

Cheyennes have been coming to life every morning for over a week.

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Greg Lalire has been a good friend of mine since the dawn of time. He’s charming, understanding, and a good fellow to know (not to mention that he is a great editor). Jennifer Berry of the Weider History staff took this photo. I like that Greg chose to display the Wild West cover with Red Cloud. (photo © Greg Lalire 2014)

I don’t have writers’ block. I never have writers block; it’s just a matter of finding the time and regulating it accordingly.

I’m certain good pal and great editor at Wild West Greg Lalire might have a few words to say about this (but I’m not going ask him to share). Probably something like, “Hey Kraft, get the lead out and do some real work, work that’s actually usable in a Weider History Group publication.” Everything I promise Greg (well almost everything) is a dollar short and I hate to say it but sometimes years late. At best I’m the little boy who cried “wolf” one time too many.

My great friend Glen Williams, upon seeing Greg’s (I assume) dust jacket portrait for Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly, said he looks like a gentleman. Greg does and is. He is a class act over and over again and I count myself lucky to know him.

For more on Mr. Lalire and his immediate future see below.

“Better late than never”

As Don Juan de Maraña once said (actually this is what Errol Flynn as Don Juan once said in Adventures of Don Juan, 1948): “You know what they say, ‘Better late then never.’” Of course Mr. Flynn’s Juan had just been caught again. But this time he was innocent and tried to protect the offending lady and avoid a duel.

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Errol Flynn as Juan de Maraña in the final duel (Adventures of Don Juan, 1948).

Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself. If you haven’t seen Flynn’s Don Juan, do yourself a favor and see it. I guarantee that it will be a very enjoyable two+ hours of your life.

Errol Flynn? Look at the above Don Juan image—that’s Flynn. Who was Flynn? He was a combination of a graceful athlete and a natural actor. He lived his characters long before Monty Clift, Jimmy Dean, and Marlon Brando claimed the limelight in the 1950s. Of course Flynn got pounded for this.

Again, look at the Flynn Don Juan image above. We’re talking sword fighting ladies and gents, and it isn’t easy to do. It’s strenuous. Sword fighting for the stage or screen is done without protective gear (other than perhaps knee or elbow pads). One slip, one misplay, one loss of concentration can mean the loss of an eye.

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This is a late-1940s German one-sheet for The Sea Hawk.

Sword fighting for screen or stage is by the numbers just like dance. You know what your partner is doing and they know what you are doing. If you mess up and don’t back off (or your partner messes up and doesn’t back off) someone is going to get hurt and blood—real blood—will flow. I’ve been there and done this and I guarantee that the blood is red and afterwards sparks will fly.

Stage combat for the screen or theater is different than competition dueling, which is boring to watch. I had front row seats at the 1984 Olympics in LA and was bored to death. Slash, thrust, parry, lunge, point. Ten seconds. Ready. Fight. Nine seconds and another point is scored. This is not dramatic.

To create a dramatic duel on film is a multi-talented grouping of people: a director, duel choreographer, director of photography, actors, stunt men, and most important an editor to piece the filmed cuts together. Without this combination you have nothing. And with it, you have the makings for an exciting duel. This doesn’t happen often. When you see a good duel, give credit to where credit is due.

A Flynn film list

A good pal of mine, Robert Florczak, is also writing about EF. Robert is big on lists. I’m not, but here’s a short list that I can live with. Not the end of the world, but let’s say this: “Kraft, pick five Errol Flynn films; everything else will be destroyed.” I can do this. In no order the five films are:

  • Adventures of Don Juan
  • They Died With Their Boots On
  • Gentleman Jim
  • The Sea Hawk
  • Uncertain Glory

All five films were released in the 1940s. You want to see Flynn, see these films. I can name a top 10 film list and neither  Captain Blood nor The Adventures of Robin Hood make the list. I don’t buy into the cliché, Flynn, Indian wars, or anything else, and never have. For this blog I had originally drafted, “Email me if you want to know my five films that round out my top 10 Flynn films.” That’s a cheat and I don’t cheat (here or in my life). My bottom half on my top ten follow (and they never make it to the top five):

  • Virginia City
  • Dodge City
  • Objective Burma
  • Four’s a Crowd
  • The Dawn Patrol

Two are westerns, one a comedy, and two war films. Three date to the 1930s and two to the 1940s. All five are great films and again they demonstrate Flynn’s acting ability. If you want to enjoy Errol Flynn’s performances on camera see these films. You will not be disappointed.

A typical day

Let’s just call this day or any day a typical day. Actually all my days are typical except for Thursdays for that is when my lady is off (our days together are different, but, alas, do include writing). I hate to say it but sometimes it feels like I write 15 hours per day seven days a week (on average). Typically I’m up between 4:00 and 5:00 AM and writing within 15 minutes. I have three hours and sometimes four hours before Pailin gets up.

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Although this image was taken on 14feb2014, which wasn’t a typical day, it certainly represents Pailin’s mornings. She is full of energy and constantly doing something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Depending upon when she leaves for work, we have three hours and sometimes a little more together. She makes breakfast (everything from soup that is to die for to fish to fried rice w/veggies, tofu, and perhaps chicken or fish and it isn’t fried. We enjoy each other’s company and discuss the future. I do the dishes and make the day’s juice. We then do some chores (from yard work and the place is an overgrown jungle to cleaning before she prepares to leave. The time is easy, fun, special. The parting is tender and sometimes sad for way-too-many hours pass before I see her again.

The minute she’s out the door (and sometimes before) I’m back at the computer pounding keys (some of this is business and not manuscript related). Believe it or not I plot my days and know exactly what I’ll write on any given day. My work load is set: Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, Errol & Olivia, The Discovery, the lk blog, and magazine articles (yep Greg, I do think of you and the Weider History Group). I finish the morning with that day’s manuscript. Early afternoon is on the second project (let’s say E&O if Sand Creek had been first), the current blog, and then in late afternoon-early evening medical malpractice (believe it or not I have put in 10 straight hours on the novel more than once).

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The hours that Pailin and I spend together in the mornings are special. … A decade or so ago, I relaxed on a hotel bed and switched channels on the TV until I stumbled upon former president Bill Clinton preparing a sack lunch for wife Hillary. By the time he had the lunch ready and packed she had rushed outside to start the car. He grabbed the sack lunch and darted out the front door. His timing perfect he gave her the bagged food as she backed out of the driveway and sped off to work. He waved at the vanishing car. All in fun this short film is hilarious. I wish I knew the title so that I could see it a second time. … Off the top, this is close to how I view Pailin’s exits to work. I make sure she has what she needs for the day, help her carry everything outside, and wave as she drives off. Am I the spitting image of Bill Clinton in the long-lost short as my lady heads off to work? I doubt it. But if yes, I’m good with it. (photos © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The Sand Creek manuscript has come to life; research (and there is still a ton to do!), constant thoughts, and actual writing. BTW, just because something is on paper it doesn’t mean that it won’t be changed, corrected, or perhaps deleted in the future. As the great NY Yankees baseball catcher Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” (BTW, I’ve seen this quote many times and it changes; I’m not sure if this is the correct Berra quote.) Translation: “The writing ain’t done until it’s published (and it could still need more work).” I hate to say this, but my editors and their publishing teams cringe as my projects move into production for they don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth, and honestly don’t want to hear it. I firmly believe that the writer should take part in every step—EVERY STEP—of the creative and production cycle.

I once knew a Custer expert who now walks with angels (at least he claimed to be a Custer expert, and I’m guessing that he now walks with angels). His ego was 10 feet wide, and he came off as a blowhard. I never read his books (a short one was perhaps 250,000 words), most of which were privately printed (and you can guess why). One day I asked him if he felt his books could be improved if he edited and wrote them a second time. “Why?” he responded. “There’re perfect.”

Really? If given the chance I would rewrite everything I’ve written for none of it is perfect.

 Walking with Tsistsistas

I walk with the Sand Creek story on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean that I write every day. That said, research and thinking are constant. The main problem that I’ve had is how to make the early chapters flow forward in an active voice. Complicating the problem is that in early Cheyenne history the people are nameless. The reason is simple: Early contact with whites often had no one present capable of translating the Tsistsistas’ (Cheyenne) language to English and back. The encounters happened and whites had a hint of who the Indians were but had no idea of individual names or the people who traded with them.

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This is Ivan Hankla, a Tsistsista (Southern Cheyenne) that I met for the first time on April 30, 2004, at Fort Larned, Ks. We hit it off immediately and I spent a good part of the Fort Larned Old Guard two or three-day convention hanging out with him and James Coverdale (Kiowa) in Ivan’s tipi or on the boardwalk or parade ground at the post. You are looking at the interior of Ivan’s tipi, which is a good view of how Cheyennes decorated their lodges. He (and James) kindly allowed me to take a number of photos of them on May 1, 2004. On the first I talked about Custer, Stone Forehead, and the Sweetwater village that Custer boldly rode into (March 1869). I asked Ivan and James if they were going to go to the talk, and they told me that they weren’t registered with the convention. I told them to forget that, that they were my guests. I invited them to my talk and they attended it in full native regalia. Ivan would be perfect to assist my Sand Creek manuscript but unfortunately he died a few years back. Our relationship, although mostly long distance, was always like yesterday when we were together. I miss him. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

As Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is dependent upon people actions (mainly Cheyenne and white) the early chapters have presented a problem to me as I’ve chosen to begin the manuscript with early Cheyenne life, development, and migration. Certainly I’ve been writing long enough that I should be capable of composing active prose. This isn’t the problem. In the past my books have all been people driven. Sand Creek will also be people driven, but this won’t begin until chapter 3, and a lot has happened to the Cheyennes by then. Let me put this another way, they had created a tribal structure and lifeway long before the white man entered their lives and began recording encounters.

Actually, the Cheyennes are a merging of two tribes: Tsistsistas (which is the word for Cheyennes) and the Suhtai. Their merging gave “The People,” which “Tsistsistas” means, two sacred objects that have played  major roles in their religion, lifeway, and future. The sacred arrows (“Maahótse,” but often written as “Mahuts,” which is a phonetic spelling of how the word is pronounced) and the buffalo hat (Is’siwun).

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Kiowa James Coverdale w/lk at the Washita Battlefield NHS on 6dec2008 (photo © Leroy Livesay 2008)

Sweet Medicine, the Tsistsista culture hero who spent time with Maheo, the Cheyennes’ one God, and received Maahótse, while Red Tassel, the Suhtai culture hero, received Is’siwun. There is no room here to discuss and explain Maahótse and Is’siwun but they play (and played) significant roles in Tsistsista lives (past and present). I must understand and present what Maahótse and Is’siwun mean to the Tsistsistas for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway to live.

I walk with this on a daily basis. Once I have a draft that is readable dealing with this portion of Cheyenne history I hope that Cheyennes Chief Gordon Yellowman, Dr. Henrietta Mann, and Minoma Littlehawk might be open to reviewing the subject matter, along with my pal the great Indian wars and Cheyenne historian John Monnett.

Let me raise a red flag here. How often have you been confronted by a zealot who tells you that you are stumbling around in darkness if you don’t see God as they do? I’m talking about myself, Catholicism, and Christianity here. Why? What makes one person’s beliefs absolute truth when another person’s beliefs, which they may also totally believe, false? Why can’t people accept religious beliefs and other religions that differ from theirs as also valid? Why do people hate and kill in the name of religion? And worse, why do the victors in war do everything possible to destroy a conquered people’s lifeway, language, religion, and family? Are their lives and beliefs that much of a threat?

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Cheyennes Chief Gordon Yellowman (left) and Harvey Pratt at the Washita Battlefield NHS event on 11nov2011 at the overlook to precious land, sacred land. Upon my arrival before the event began Harvey made a point of meeting me, and we hit it off. On this day Harvey spoke about what it was like to be a Cheyenne warrior during the 1860s and today on foreign battlefields. I met Gordon when he and Cheyenne chief Lawrence Hart blessed the Pawnee Fork Tsistsista-Dog Man-Lakota village in Kansas in 1999. Since then we have spoken at several programs together. Upon seeing me he said, “Your name is all over the place.” The Wynkoop book had just been published. Sounded like he was sick of this, and I didn’t ask what he meant. Gordon is one of the four principle chiefs of the Cheyennes. He blessed the land this day, and delivered a moving talk on what it was like to be a Cheyenne chief at the symposium the next day. (photo © Louis Kraft 2011)

Racism dominated the 19th century and American expansion. It’s cliché now, but many Americans (during the conquest of land from sea to shining sea and right on through a good portion of the 20th century) view and viewed people of different races, colors, and cultures as less than human. Reason: The foreign cultures hadn’t developed at the pace or in the same manner as white cultures and thus were inferior. Unfortunately that view still lives, and I for one have faced it and have been accused of being a traitor to my race.

What bullshit!!!

The Cheyennes created an extraordinary culture. They had everything in place, and it was based upon strong religious and moral beliefs and laws. Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway isn’t going to be this type of book, so I’ll only be able to hint at the above. That said, by the late 1820s when Cheyennes no longer existed as faceless people, the manuscript becomes people based. People actions (Indian, white, and mixed-blood) will dominate the flow of the manuscript.

High-back Wolf is first to walk out of the mists of obscurity

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George Catlin painted High-back Wolf about 1832. The little I know about High-backed Wolf has grabbed my interest, and as he is, at the moment, the first major Cheyenne in the Sand Creek book I want to make him as prominent as possible.

Simply put, High-back Wolf (and he had numerous names including Né-hee-ó-ee-wóo-tis, Wolf on the Hill, and High-backed Wolf) stepped out of the dark mist of obscurity and became the first Cheyenne chief to register big time with whites. Until the 1820s the handful of Cheyenne-white contact had no one present that could translate words. This changed when he not only met with whites, but impressed them. More important, translators matched his actions with his name. Not many years later artist George Catlin painted portraits of him and his wife. Sadly High-back Wolf exited the big picture soon after Catlin captured his image for all time. Enter a second High-backed Wolf, but he, too, died early. Was he related to the first High-back Wolf? His brother? I don’t know, but I will find out.

High-back Wolf had a wife, and someone actually took the time to learn it. George Catlin also painted her in 1832. At the moment I don’t know the ages of High-back Wolf or She Who Bathes Her Knees in 1832 but they don’t look old. I wonder if I’ll be able to learn anything about her other than she was his wife. Fingers are crossed.

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George Catlin painted She Who Bathes Her Knees portrait in 1832.

Something else has caught my interest. One reference to High-back Wolf questioned if he sired Black Kettle. Whoa! I don’t know, but at the moment I doubt it. Reason: We’re cutting it too close on what I consider the range of Black Kettle’s birth years. Need to dig in my Grinnell notes, for I certainly searched for Black Kettle when researching Wynkoop Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. However, High-back Wolf’s name doesn’t ring a bell, although I believe that I had seen a father for Make-tava-tah (as Wynkoop called Black Kettle) listed but didn’t use it in the Wynkoop book. If not, hopefully my upcoming visit to the Braun History Library of the Southwest Museum (Autry National Center) will provide an answer. The archive houses a wealth of information that I have not yet seen. High-back Wolf has become a priority. Need to check, but think I’ve got somewhere between 9 and 11 days of appointments set.

Good times are coming for I’ll be back in my element doing research. There is nothing better than mining primary documentation and then trying to figure out what happened and who did what. Francis Drake, John Ward (an Englishman who became a Tunisian pirate), High-back Wolf, Kit Carson, Black Kettle, Tall Bull, Geronimo, Ned Wynkoop, George Bent, Charles Gatewood, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, lk. I’ve listed people whose lives have reached across over five centuries. And these lives are linked, at least in my brain.

My hope is that I can learn enough about High-back Wolf and write enough about him to justify using the magnificent Catlin portrait of him in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Time will tell.

The Discovery

I have 175 pages in this medical malpractice novel and progress on The Discovery has been decent. But sometimes I’m ripping out my hair and banging my head against a wall. I’ve partnered on the novel. This includes edit, fix, rewrite (read totally rewrite), fix some more, edit more, research and fix (that’s right, it’s a period piece and the 101 freeway in LA didn’t exist in 1952, and on and on and or with technical errors), write-write-write, and get the book published. It will happen.

These are harsh words and they aren’t meant to be, for
Dr. Robert Goodman has done a masterful job of bringing
a unique form of medical malpractice to life. He’s not a trained writer
and so he falls into a swamp 
of pitfalls that exist to trap writers.

You should see my markups of my drafts and the verbal
and written abuse I sling at my words.

Luckily my initial training in writing had been writing dialogue, and there is so much you can do with dialogue to move a plot forward. Let me say this in another way. Telling is not good in fiction or nonfiction. Writers must constantly strive to move their plots forward in an active manner. Dialogue, if used properly, it is a great way to move a plot forward (it is also a great way to develop and show character).

For me writing began a lifetime ago on that flatland that surrounds the Texas college town of Lubbock. I spent a summer working there in 1976. After work (let’s say 11:00 PM or thereabouts) I, other actors, and sometimes waitresses, waiters, and college theater groupies went out to restaurants, dance clubs, and clubs with entertainment. Lubbock thrived. One night a country singer told his audience: “Lubbock is the only place on earth where you can be up to your ass in mud and still get sand in your eye.” A true statement. Later that evening an enraged boyfriend stepped onto the stage and physically threatened the singer as his eyes had lingered on his girlfriend once too often. Luckily nothing happened. … Have you ever performed on stage? Do you know what the lights do to your eyes? You can’t see anything other than perhaps the first row or two, and then only if it is an intimate venue.

Lubbock, Texas, turned me into a writer

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Texas offered leading roles in class productions. It also offered an introduction to life that I hadn’t realized existed. Texas proved to be a good learning experience over the years. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

It goes something like this (and this is the short version).

Hell hath no fury like a woman [fill in the blank(s)], and this was certainly true during that 1976 summer I spent in Texas. She was a petite blonde actress in the Theater Department of Texas Tech in Lubbock and she had her eyes on me (I have no images of this lady). Parties at the Hayloft Dinner Theater and elsewhere and I was a fish waiting to be hooked. One problem, this lady wasn’t for me. Racial prejudice that made the racial prejudice I had seen in Texas and Oklahoma in 1970 look like child’s play, a major drug bust that I viewed, in-college theater war, other nasty events, and of course the lady ignored made TV soap operas of the day seem lightweight.

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The play was Eat Your Heart Out, and it was the 2nd play of my visit to Texas that summer. It dealt with an actor struggling to survive in LA. Talk about type casting. Certainly sex entered the picture and the director did everything he could to remove my clothes, and that included swinging imaginary swords. The actress in this scene is Robin LaValley. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Nevertheless I had become a marked man. Bottom line: I was lucky to get out of Texas with my scalp in place. After returning home to LA I wrote a screenplay about what I had seen. My then theatrical agency had a literary branch and I submitted the script. Agent Ed Menerth called and said, “This is terrible, but let’s talk.” We did and for the next seven years he represented my screenplays. Race became one of the key themes throughout the dozen or more scripts I wrote including a Persian woman surviving in Los Angeles at the time of the fall of the Shah of Iran, the Englishman turned Barbary pirate John Ward in Tunis, a German U-boat commander’s love for a Jewish woman during WWII, and so on). Menerth reviewed and marked the copy up and I rewrote and rewrote until the scripts became sellable. Bob Sabaroff, one of the key players in the Michael Parks’ Then Came Bronson TV series of 1969-70, also liked the scripts and he, too, reviewed and marked up and I again and again rewrote. It was a great training ground and I learned. This led to selling magazine articles, talks, books, and writing for the software industry. Hell I even sold biographical sketches to an encyclopedia.

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lk in Eat Your Heart Out. I actually played this character twice (the second in LA in 1977). I liked playing Charley. The director who came from LA (as did the leading four actors in each play) focused on the sexual image and pushed it as far as he could. Looking back I have no problem with his view of the play. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

Over the years I have traveled a long way from the unforgettable racism that I had witnessed up close and center in Texas twice and elsewhere including SoCal. It had been seared into my very being. I realized that, even though I had seen racism from the white POV while in school and had backed off from it without making a stand, that now this was not and could never again be acceptable in my life. Some of this you have perhaps seen in earlier blogs, and for this I apologize. However, it is important to me. I have time and again been called a racist as some of the women in my life have not been white. Yes, believe it or not, some whites don’t like this and have let me know. Again, forgive me for repeating myself, but this hurts for these accusations have come from people I’ve considered friends and from people I love or have loved. This accusation is asinine and makes me ill. Enough said about racism for this blog.

Sorry about the lengthy sidetrack, but for me the timing hit the mark.

Introducing Robert Goodman, MD

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Bob Goodman at home. Bob has a great house, and he is in a room that is a handful of steps below the entry to his house. This room opens to his swimming pool and has a very livable bar. Bob is sitting at a table that we use when we talk business. When I pulled out my camera he asked: “What are you doing?” “I’m going to take a picture of you.” He agreed, while making it clear he wanted me to shoot a good portrait of him at his office. I agreed, and this will happen soon. … I can’t say enough good things about Bob, other than say I wish you also knew him. (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Bob has played a major part in my life for some 25 years as my heart specialist, internist, and GP. Actually if it weren’t for him over a decade ago I’d be long dancing with angels. We’ve enjoyed knowing each other over the years, and a few years back I provided him with editorial help on his writing (various projects).

One, a medical malpractice novel had an exceptional story line. In November 2013 Bob asked me to partner with him. I have. Bob’s subject matter is extraordinary, and because of this we have agreed not to share it until pre-publication publicity begins. My apologies, but this is just how it is. That said, I will be able to talk about manuscript progression and I will.

All I can say at this point in time is that the story is character driven and although The Discovery is fictional the facts are based upon reality. If Bob and I complete our work properly we will deliver a story that captures our readers’ interest and will not let go until the last page.

A tall order but we’re working hard to make this happen.

Greg Lalire and Captured

I’ve hinted that Greg Lalire and I are friends. We are. Over what seems like a lifetime he has done everything possible to get my words in print, and has done everything to publicize a writer named lk. I’m forever grateful. But this section isn’t based upon Greg’s kindness to me, it’s based upon me knowing him, a special person even though our relationship is mostly long distance.

capturedFront_wsFive Star Publishing releases Greg’s novel, Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly, in July 2014. The June 2014 Wild West magazine features a full-page ad next to the table of contents. A perfect placement and appealing layout by the Weider History Group design staff. To scan the ad would have required mangling the magazine or pulling it apart and I didn’t want to do that. Captured features historical characters Chief Red Cloud, Col. Henry Carrington, and Capt. William Fetterman. The ad’s blurb (I assume from the dust jacket flap) states:

“Libbie Duly, pregnant and with her husband confined to the local insane asylum, leaves Chicago in 1866 for booming Virginia City, Montana Territory. On the Oregon Trail she gives birth to the remarkable Danny Duly, who already began narrating this emigrant tale from the womb. Danny has the rare ability to see with his mind’s eye and record events he hopes to later put down on paper. Along the dangerous Bozeman Trail, Libbie and son fall into the hands of Sioux warrior Wolf Who Don’t Dance, and the emigrant story becomes a captivating captivity narrative.”

Captured will be published on July 16, 2014. It is currently available for pre-order on amazon.com with a price guarantee.

Am looking forward to reading it Greg, and so is my good pal Glen Williams (to whom I shared your Captured publicity).


Weider History Group is a class company, and Eric W. has done an extraordinary job of obtaining and retaining class editorial and design staff. This is an understatement. Eric, you and everyone you designate to make hiring decisions know what you are doing. Your staff from A to Z with “Lalire” being first in the list is extraordinary. My hope is that your entire selection of historical publications expand and grow in ways that guarantee their continued existence throughout my, Greg’s, and your lifetimes. You and your entire staff produce product that needs to live forever.

I’m honored to play a small role in Weider History Group’s product line.

— Louis Kraft

Classy lady Patrice Wymore Flynn dies + a Sand Creek “thank you”

Other than a Sand Creek “thank you,” this blog isn’t as originally drafted. Everything else found its way to the cutting room floor (but hopefully some of it will appear in a future blog).

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Patrice Wymore and Errol Flynn met when they worked on Rocky Mountain, which was shot on location in New Mexico. This color image is a publicity photo that had nothing to do with the plot of the film. (lk collection)

The changes weren’t planned, but good friend and Flynn expert David DeWitt contacted me early Sunday morning, March 23. The previous afternoon (March 22) Patrice Wymore Flynn, a classy lady, died at her home outside of Port Antonio, the capital of Portland Parish, one of the 14 parishes of the Caribbean country of Jamaica.

I tend to remain quiet around death as I don’t deal with it well.

I have twice spoken from the heart about people that played huge roles in my life. Although a wreck inside I had found what it took to channel the inward anger and pain into joyful capsules of how I perceived their lives. No matter how distraught I had been behind closed doors I had the capability to push a button and for a flash in time share the essence of my love for them. The day or two or five allotted to prepare physically drained me. At the same time it allowed me to search within myself and walk with my father and then my sister in ways I had never done during their lifetimes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Flynn once and I have good memories of that evening (see below).

A Sand Creek thank you + lk ramble

In January last I advertised that I needed information about mixed blood Cheyenne Charley Bent on this blog and on the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) Facebook page. The response wasn’t great, but then I had made clear what information I already had in-house as I didn’t want anyone searching for something that I already had. Of course, as I stated in the last blog in February, Charley sporadically drifted in and out of the spotlight, and as he died way-too-young at 19 the pickings are slim.

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Upon my request Dee Cordry sent me his portrait for the blog. Dee kindly shared important information about Charley Bent. He has been researching and writing a biography the mixed-blood Cheyenne Edmund Guerrier, a person who played an important role in Cheyenne-white relations during the 1860s and for many years afterwards. (photo © Dee Cordry)

Dee Cordry saw the request for information on Charley that I had posted on the OIW FB page and responded with information (along with bonus information) that I didn’t know. Actually I had no idea it even existed and would have never searched for it. Everything Dee supplied me is first class and will appear in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

Dee’s contributions are already in the manuscript. Thanks Dee! I didn’t know Dee until he took the time to contact me. Regardless if you know or don’t know Dee, you need to know one thing. He is working on a biography of the mixed-blood Cheyenne Edmund Guerrier. For some reason, Mr. Guerrier walked between the races without much to do about his actions. I’m not sure why, for he certainly lived an exciting life (and from what little I know about him he led a good life). Perhaps he has for the most part been ignored because he had mixed blood and didn’t publicize his contributions to the Cheyennes and the whites. I know one thing; Ned Wynkoop thought the world of him and employed him. I’m thrilled that Dee is writing about Mr. Guerrier, for we need to know more about people who dared to move between two worlds during a time of extreme prejudice.

Edmund Guerrier played a key role during the 1860s and long afterward. I don’t know what Dee has research wise, but if you know of information that could benefit him in his effort, I hope you’ll consider contacting him. When Dee’s book is published, I’ll be first in line to buy a copy for Guerrier is a man worth knowing.

Another person, actually a good friend who constantly strives to help my writing projects, Glen Williams also contributed to my Charley Bent research. And like Dee, he also sent additional Sand Creek information that proved of great value to me. Thank you my friend. Glen not only finds information, he questions what I write and offers suggestions that always improve the work.

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Glen Williams and lk at Mission San Xavier del Bac (west of Tucson, Arizona) on February 12, 2012. This was one of Glen’s and my road trips. Unlike Dee, Glen has been a friend I’ve known for years. We met back in the dark ages when we both worked at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet), and we hit it off. We became friends, and it didn’t hurt that Glen has Cheyenne blood and has a lot of interest in the Indian wars. As the years have passed our friendship has grown. He’s there for me at all times; health, research, writing, older brother, and everything else that matters to me. Glen’s input to my George Bent question and the Sand Creek manuscript has been massive, and for this alone I’ll forever be grateful. (art © Louis Kraft 2012)

Others contacted me and I’m grateful for your time and what you shared. Thank you.

I will in the future again raise a question about a person or two that I hope to learn more about for Sand Creek and Tragic End of a Lifeway. Nothing else is forthcoming until I decide whom I need more information about.


When I write about someone I don’t reject or ignore information that might show a dark side. Actually I want to see this, for this is what brings the person to life. No one is all good or all bad (although there are exceptions on the bad side). I have known people closely who thought that everything they did was good. If ever I write about them they may be shocked, or if they are no longer with us they might turn over in their graves for some of their actions register well below the godly bar of excellence.

I don’t like thieves (I actually caught one at Tujunga House once), and rapists and cold-blooded murderers deserve the harshest punishment possible.

Terrible things happen in war, and it is a combustion of many things from fright to fear to hate (often religious or racial) to simply survival. Certainly there is a bloodlust that grabs hold but this can be attached to survival. … It’s him or me. Rape isn’t acceptable in life, and it isn’t acceptable in war. Many of us living in the U.S. are horrified over how people are treated while held captive by a foreign enemy, and this includes their executions (from my POV this has at times been little more than murder). Different cultures are just as horrified by what happens to their people captured by the U.S. It’s a two-way street of horror. At times innocent people (children, women, and men) that are often non-combatants suffer inhuman indignities to their lives and bodies.

Ungodly things happen in daily life and in war. Carrying these thoughts to the Sand Creek manuscript, how do I show what happened in a readable and page-turning manner that is true to what happened while getting my editors to accept the prose? What happened during the lead-up to the attack at Sand Creek, the attack at Sand Creek, and the aftermath is compelling, and at no time should it put you to sleep. For this to happen, the people must become real flesh and blood.

If you know me and my writing, you know that I’m a firm believer that action and not words define people. It is what they do and not what they say that defines them.

Patrice Wymore Flynn dies

Patrice Wymore Flynn died at her home in Jamaica on March 22, 2014, never recovering from a fall in 2013. That’s it. I don’t write obituaries. …

I do want to say a few things. First, life is precious and it is fleeting. Our lives change all the time. People enter it and people exit it. Some, good friends, remain constant regardless if we saw them yesterday or two years ago. It is always like last week no matter how much time has passed. Some partings hurt worse than hell and it takes forever to get beyond what once was never to be again. Sometimes this loss never fades away but is there forever on a daily basis. What can one do? I’ve been told, more than once, to let it go that it will naturally heal itself or it won’t. That’s a harsh verdict.

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Publicity photo of Errol Flynn and Patrice Wymore from the 1950 film Rocky Mountain (lk collection)

When Errol Flynn died, he and Pat had been long separated but not divorced. Flynn … By the way you shouldn’t quote this paragraph. It is hastily written. If there are errors or omissions they aren’t intentional. Again nothing should be quoted as fact (even though Nora’s and Pat’s comments appeared as newspaper copy; that’s right, I don’t trust the press.) other than Deidre Flynn’s quote about her father. … Flynn prepared a second will, but it wasn’t signed or filed properly. I believe the first will was dated1954 and it dictated the division of property. Flynn’s girlfriend (Beverly Addland) wasn’t mentioned in the 1954 will (but how could she be; he hadn’t met her yet), and Deidre and Rory (Flynn’s daughters by second wife Nora Eddington, who remained his friend until the end of his life) received $10,000.00 each and Sean (his son by Lili Damita) received $5,000.00. Pat received the bulk of the estate that was estimated between $20,000.00 to well over $100,000.00 (but less than $1,000,000.00).

EastJamaicaMap_lk_2014_wsThis included extensive property holdings in Jamaica, including a 2,000-acre cattle ranch and coconut plantation near the city of Port Antonio (purchased during their marriage; if true, was it community property?), the Titchfield Hotel in Port Antonio), and Navy Island (just off the coast of Port Antonio; it is no longer a Flynn property). And we can’t forget Flynn’s beloved Zaca (which has been fully restored and I believe sails throughout the Mediterranean Sea during summer months). The press quoted Nora the week after Errol’s death as saying: “He said he was leaving everything to be divided equally among his four children and that the property in Jamaica was to be left to Deidre and Rory.” (Errol had a third daughter with Pat, Arnella Roma Flynn, born Christmas day 1953.) If true, Nora’s statement underlines what might be considered corruptness and a total disregard for a person’s final wishes within the U.S. court system (but then again, it may not). After Errol Flynn’s death lawyers used legalese and a technicality (albeit a major one) to screw Deidre and Rory and reject Errol’s final will. And what about Beverly? That same October 1959 the press quoted Pat as saying: “I intend to see that the will is executed according to Errol’s wishes.” And why not? He had left her, and now his official will left the estate to her. Apparently the 1954 will held up. I’m certain that this wasn’t Mr. Flynn’s intention. He loved his children and at the time of his death he loved Beverly. Deidre has said on camera: “Life at home with my father was like anybody else’s life at home. … He was very down to earth and he was very much a parent. … He was right there, and—and nobody ever writes about that.” Believe me, from everything that I have seen, Errol Flynn was a good father and he loved his kids.

It is not my job to judge. Anyone. My sister, my ex-wife, my daughter, or anyone I write about.

No judging but I am going to talk about Pat

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DVD cover for Robert Kennedy and His Times.

I don’t know anything personally about Errol’s four children even though I worked with Deidre for three or four months back in the early 1980s on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times, which had an exceptional cast including Brad Davis (RFK), Veronica Cartwright (Ethel Kennedy), G.D. Spradlin (Lyndon Johnson), Cliff de Young (JFK), and on and on. When we did night shooting on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Ca., her younger sister, Rory, who was then a photographer on I think a TV show (can’t remember the title) visited the set once or twice and I met her. At this time another production company was shooting the travesty supposedly based upon Flynn’s great autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and they had approached Deidre to be a technical adviser. She apparently had seen the script and was outraged. Even though she had a tee-shirt the production company gave her she turned them down. Deidre never knew I had an interest in her father as I felt she needed her privacy and I had no intention of invading it.

Back to Pat. I’d like to repeat a portion of what Gareth Davis wrote about her in an article that The Gleaner, a Jamaican publication, published on March 24th:

Pat “took up residence in Jamaica following the death of her husband [Flynn] and was an active community member. She was inspirational in paving the way for the Boston Jerk Festival* to return to the community of Boston [Jamaica], which is renowned internationally for it authentic jerked pork. …

* lk comment: I believe the writer is talking about the Portland Jerk Festival, which takes place in the parish of Portland, Jamaica, where Pat spent most of her life. Last year the event happened on July 7, 2013. See the event’s Facebook page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/originsofjerk.

“Paul ‘Bigga’ Young, chairman of the festival committee, in bemoaning the loss of Flynn, described her as a warm and friendly person who, despite her age [Pat was 87 at the time of her death], was full of energy and fire.

“‘She was someone that could easily be approached for just about anything,’* commented Young. ‘What I particularly liked about her is [was?] that she doesn’t [sic? "didn't"?] beat around the bush. …’”

*lk comment: Other than appearing on the terrific 2005 documentary, The Adventures of Errol Flynn, and sharing some of her time with Flynn, I think she for the most part cut off most writers and other people that wanted to know about her life with Errol.

patriceWymoreFlynn_recent_b&w_border_wsYes, after the Jamaican property became hers, Mrs. Errol Flynn chose to remain in the country Errol fell in love with in 1946 when he, his crew, and his 118 foot schooner, Zaca, survived a Caribbean hurricane and limped into Kingston harbor, Jamaica. Flynn met Pat and fell in love with her while they filmed Rocky Mountain in New Mexico in 1950. Why Warners didn’t spend the money to shoot this film in color is beyond me, for the red rock locations are glorious. Flynn found himself drawn to her, wooed her, and won her hand in marriage (they married in Nice, France, on October 23, 1950).

In June 2006 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Olivia de Havilland. At the time of the announcement I was recovering from sinus cancer surgery in Arcadia, Ca., and had no computer access. People came out of the woodwork demanding that I get them invitations. One fellow actually sounded like a woman scorned. When I finally saw email piled upon email tearing into me for not replying I was floored. When I replied that I wouldn’t ask OdeH for them as I had no intention of asking for myself and wouldn’t share her address as I had promised her I wouldn’t the attacks (and one in particular) became lethal. I may forgive but I’ll never forget. I doubt that this story in full will ever see print (and it is long).

The punch line: Olivia invited me to her shindig.

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lk & Patrice Wymore Flynn at OdeH’s event in Beverly Hills, Ca., on the evening of June 15, 2006. She sipped wine and nibbled at the buffet. I watched her for a minute or so. When I realized that she was alone I joined her. I’d have to dig out my notes of the evening to provide details of where our conversation headed. We didn’t discuss Errol Flynn. I had heard that she usually refused to open up to her life and time with Mr. Flynn and had no intention of ending our time together quickly. Actually I had hoped to open the door to eventually visiting her in Jamaica. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

The Academy knows how to throw an event/party. The food was scrumptious and the booze flowed. I really had little interest in the guests, other than Olivia who made her appearance after everyone mingled and ate and enjoyed each other’s company. …

Pat held a glass of wine as she tasted food. I had already eaten, as had my then girlfriend, who mingled and shot photos. I watched Pat. At this moment in time she was alone, as was I.

I’m shy (those of you who know me probably don’t believe this, but ’tis true). I walked up to Pat and began talking. Chit-chat about the event. We got along. As Mr. Young stated in The Gleaner, Pat was open and friendly. The conversation was easy and I enjoyed myself. Actually, I teased her for I didn’t let on that I knew anything about Errol Flynn or that I knew who she was. After some 10 or 15 minutes Pat said: “You don’t know who I am.”

I smiled. “Yes I do, Mrs. Flynn.”

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lk (left), Lincoln Hurst, and Patrice Wymore Flynn at OdeH’s event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Ca., on June 15, 2006. I had known Lincoln long distance for years. He had been preparing a book on Flynn that he supposedly had completed years back but now supposedly polished the manuscript. Unfortunately he died almost two and a half years later on November 11, 2008, and had never delivered an acceptable manuscript to his publisher. At this late date it doesn’t appear as if his manuscript will ever see print. Why? Some people talk the talk without walking the walk. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

She liked that I knew who she was and the conversation expanded. Lincoln Hurst, a theological professor from the University of California, Davis, joined us. He had become a friend of Deidre’s and had visited Jamaica with her in the hope of spending time with Pat. From what I’ve heard Pat kept him at a distance and didn’t allow him to visit her on her property. True? I don’t know. The conversation with Pat continued with Lincoln making us a threesome, and it remained easy.

Olivia appeared and I moved off. Later, inside the room where OdeH’s invitees spent time with her I again had the pleasure to chat and joke with Pat Wymore Flynn. She had become an unanticipated pleasure, if only for a short amount of time. Pat easily became the highlight of the evening for me.

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Patrice Wymore Flynn, Deidre Flynn (center), and lk in the room with OdeH while she spent time with her guests. There’s a story here regarding me getting into the room (but it’s for another place, probably Errol & Olivia). Pat was charming and fun to be around. Deidre was as I remembered her when we worked together in the 1980s; curt and standoffish, but that’s her (at least around me) and I’m good with her being her. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

I had hoped that our short time together might lead to a visit to Jamaica (trust me; I tried). It didn’t and I never saw her again. A shame, and you can forget Mr. Flynn and what I had hoped to learn, for I had met a classy lady who oozed charm and fun. I would have been satisfied to just hang out with her and enjoy her company. Alas, it never happened and now, never will.

Life is precious. It doesn’t matter if we know someone for a few hours or a lifetime. They can be here today and gone tomorrow.

— Louis Kraft

Errol Flynn, Sand Creek, lk background + Pailin & Louis Kraft marry

Ladies and gents this blog has been a long time coming. My apologies. As often, I am going to focus on subjects that are important to me. Hopefully the text moves forward at a good clip and doesn’t put you to sleep. And as always, I’ve arranged this blog to my liking; meaning that I’ve saved the most important—and all the sections are important to me—for last.

If you want to see an image enlarged click on it. To return to the blog click the left arrow (on Macs; not sure about PCs).

The pirate Francis Drake, the soldier George Armstrong Custer, and guess who?

The pirate Francis Drake and the soldier George Armstrong Custer entered my life near the beginning. By the 5th grade I had discovered the English pirate the Spaniards called “El Draque,” the dragon.

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El Draque times 2

Drake’s derring-do in his private war against the Spanish empire terrorized not only coastal Spain but all of King Philip II’s cities in the New World. But, unlike pirates before and after him, he wasn’t a blood-thirsty murderer. Instead of butchering captives during a time of extreme religious prejudice he never harbored a bloodlust and acted with compassion. At times he even wined and dined prisoners on plates of crystal while musicians performed. Drake’s genius was twofold: He boldly plotted strikes against Spain’s empire that were implausible. and he could improvise as needed. While still in elementary school I saw Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk (1940) for the first time, and even though a youngster I realized that Flynn played a fictitious Drake (BTW the term “privateer” wouldn’t come into existence until a century after Drake’s initial voyages to the Caribbean). Soon after seeing Flynn’s Captain Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk I saw him play George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), which introduced me to the Civil War hero who would eventually become the superstar of the Indian wars on the American Plains.

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The quintessential Custer times 2

Like Drake, Custer was a warrior who also improvised. And also like Drake he wasn’t a butcher, and certainly not of Cheyennes, Arapahos, or Sioux. Unlike many Civil War heroes his fame didn’t vanish, perhaps because of his writing for he didn’t engage American Indians in combat often. He came alive when negotiating with Indian leaders. Flynn’s portrayal of Custer led me to read Custer’s My Life on the Plains, which initiated a quest that is alive to this day.

Two Errol Flynn films, both of which were fiction based upon fact that had been disguised. At the moment I don’t know why Drake’s name was dropped. Perhaps it was because Warner Bros. owned the rights to Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, The Sea Hawk, which dealt with an Englishman sold into slavery but who became a Barbary pirate, or because this film was created around Flynn’s screen persona—which I buy into. Regardless, they only retained the title, or in Custer’s case the production changed real historic personages and events into fiction to prevent lawsuit. After seeing these two films (and over the years many times), my future had been ordained even though I wouldn’t realize this until decades later. These two Flynn films have influenced my entire life. Swords, acting, race relations, and eventually my writing. Whew. What can I say, other than I’ve enjoyed many years that mean something to me.

Catching up with Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

Much of late has dealt with Sand Creek, hints of a medical malpractice novel (a positive report will soon follow), and the ongoing spectacle of my life (yawn). I’m certain that many of you feel that I’ve deserted Mr. Flynn and Ms de Havilland. If you think this, you don’t know lk.

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You are looking at the magazine cover for American Classic Screen (January-February 1979),  a now long dead publication. Pretty cool artwork of Mr. Flynn & Ms. de Havilland from their classic film Captain Blood (1935). Of all the periodicals I’ve written for, the Weider History Group, which publishes MHQ (Military History Quarterly), American History, and Wild West, among many other class magazines, is the only company I give a hoot about. Eric Weider’s publications are first class. Period! The best writers write for the Weider History Group, and he hires the best editors, designers, and so on to ensure that his magazines are cutting edge and the best (by far) on the market. Eric and I have never met. You might call us long-distance friends even though we probably live within 25 miles of each other. Will we meet? I would hope so. In reality, probably not. One of his editors, Greg Lalire (Wild West) is a good friend. A few years back I had pitched Eric (who I’m linked with on FB) on publishing a film history magazine. He had the kindness to personally respond why this wasn’t possible (and believe me, his reason hit the mark dead center). Mr. Weider’s organization is the only company I’ll consider working for in the future. Will I someday? Don’t hold your breath.

I never desert my major writing projects. EF & OdeH are a major portion of my past, present, and future writing life. They’ll be front and center until I die. All I can say about my writing projects is “patience.” I have enough information to get my book on EF and OdeH published but this isn’t good enough. My book on Errol & Olivia is going to be different. For this to happen has and will continue to take time. My good-good friend Tom McNulty, author of the best Flynn bio, Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, is helping me with research I’ve not seen. He will eventually be one of my key reviewers of the manuscript. With luck Tom and his beautiful wife Jan will someday be Pailin and my guests. Good-good friend Robert Florczak, who with pretty wife Annette, lives minutes from Tujunga House. Robert is working on an extraordinary book on Flynn. Our relative closeness and friendship allows us to have fun while also sharing and learning from each other’s knowledge and interpretations. There is a third person who is also a wonderland of knowledge and great understanding of Mr. Flynn, good friend David DeWitt. Unfortunately David lives next to the other ocean that touches the U.S. in South Carolina.

deWitt_floczak_mcNulty_feb2014For the record Errol & Olivia research is ongoing, as is the quest to understand what the facts provide. Sometimes this is difficult for at times facts can be misleading. That said, when something pops out of nowhere but is invaluable to the manuscript it gets inserted immediately. I have learned from the past that a golden nugget can be forgotten (for outlines don’t leave room for treasures discovered during the quest for knowledge as often one didn’t know they existed until found).

I’ve already talked about how some of Errol & Olivia will be handled in earlier blogs, and without going into detail here you should know that the goal is to dig behind the realities of Errol’s and Livvie’s eight films. Of the eight films seven have a rich history that slowly developed from historical fact, fiction based upon historical fact, and in one case a major Broadway play. I’ve seen hints that the eighth film also saw birth from another historical figure, but alas, to date I haven’t been able to track this person down and confirm that he did indeed do what has been implied.

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This is the cover for the February 2008 issue of American History. At the time, it was the magazine’s best selling issue (I have no idea if this is still true). This issue included my cover story: “Custer: The Truth Behind the Silver Screen Myth.” Although about Custer, the leading player in the story was Errol Flynn (it was the third of four articles that have been published about Flynn’s portrayal of Custer by lk). In my humble opinion, this is the best article I have had published to date. Certainly it is important to me (for multiple reasons).

In the near future I must ramp up my search for this shadowy figure. … Warners had a knack for jettisoning a good portion of initial research. And as Flynn’s career soared, some of this (along with what I said above) is directly related to his film persona. EF’s onscreen presence had taken the film-adoring public by storm in December 1935, and Warners realized this immediately. After the massive success of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a film that is still thought of his greatest role (although I disagree with this totally), almost every film that came after until the aftermath of the farce of a rape trial and even greater farce of Flynn avoiding serving his adopted country during WWII, his roles and films were constructed to give the public what it wanted and expected when the lights dimmed in the cinema houses. A notable exception at the end of this timeframe was Flynn’s Uncertain Glory (1944)*, which gave him a dark side (although still heroic and charming) and one of his best performances.

* Robert Florczak, already mentioned above, likes lists. I’m not too big on them although I recently agreed to create several lists for the August 2014 issue of Wild West magazine. Robert has coaxed me into a list on Elvis Presley songs and wants three more (a task I haven’t completed yet as I take lists seriously). Of course he asked me to list my top 10 Flynn films. Although tough, this list has always been in place regardless if sometimes the 9th and 10th films sometimes are replaced. Uncertain Glory is always on my list.

In contrast to Flynn’s meteoric rise to super stardom, Olivia’s rise to stardom followed a different path than his.

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lk with Olivia de Havilland in her garden in Paris, France, on July 3, 2009. This lady is so vibrant and alive, so funny and yet political and serious. All I can say is that I’ve been lucky that she has allowed me to enter her life, if only briefly, over the years. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

And like EF (who knew his value to Warner Bros., and who took an active part in forming the roles he played) she also had a firm grasp of what she wanted in her career. If you talk with her, you’ll easily realize how much she craved good roles, but for her—as her box office appeal couldn’t match Mr. Flynn’s—she didn’t have the ear of Jack Warner, nor the courage to confront Jack when unhappy. Where Flynn’s massive popularity guaranteed that Warner and executive producer Hal Wallis had to listen to him, Olivia’s main thrust to garner better roles (and this included not playing EF’s lady in waiting—although years after EF’s death she realized how great the films they did together were) was to reject a role and go on suspension or have massive fits). That said, she did have guts. When Jack Warner refused to allow her to try out for Gone With The Wind, she went behind his back to land the role of Melanie (for which she won her first Oscar nomination). Playing a leading role and being recognized for her performance didn’t win her kudos with Jack W.; instead she was punished. By the time Olivia’s seven year contract ended and she said goodbye, she was told that it hadn’t as she still owed Warner’s time for when she was on suspension (that is time without pay). What followed took 100 times more guts than it took to sneak behind Warner’s back and lobby for the part of Melanie.

And Sand Creek also creeps forward …

Regarding the ongoing struggle to understand the events that led up to the tragedy at Sand Creek, the battle, and the aftermath, my key person is John Monnett, a good friend and a great writer and Indian wars historian.

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I took this photo of John Monnett at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, Denver Tech Center, Greenwood Village, Co., after we had both spoken at the Order of the Indian Wars Denver Symposium at the National Guard Base in Centennial on 20apr2013. As I was in Colorado for 11 days we were able to spend time together (thanks to our mutual friend Layton Hooper, who functioned as my personal driver in snow-blanketed Colorado).

John has always helped me, and has opened his home to Pailin and myself as he aids my quest to understand the people and events that resulted in the tragic event on November 29, 1864. This year we’ll visit him and Colorado (fingers are crossed, and if not then in 2015 if John’s invite remains open), track what I still need to see (including some John Chivington in Boulder), and lk will again take a close look at a land that I’ve always loved but have shied away from due to temperatures that send shivers up my spine. My guess is that Pailin will fall in love with Colorado.

BTW John has recently asked me not to turn my back on nonfiction (something that is possible if I no longer have access to Indian wars or golden age of cinema research). His request was heartfelt and hit the mark. Back in the Dark Ages I thought I’d write novels, but that changed to nonfiction (a decision I’ve never questioned or shied from). I love nonfiction writing, I love the challenge to make it page-turning, and I love the search for the reality of what happened. If I walk away, a good part of me will die. That said, I must hustle enough money to stay the course (and continue to enjoy 70+ degree weather right here in the USA, and preferably in Los Angeles).

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I created this dark image from a photo I took in 1999 to represent the Sand Creek village (this photo wasn’t taken at Sand Creek, so what you see here is fiction as related to 1864). That said, the attack on the Cheyenne-Arapaho villages at Sand Creek is a dark time in history, a time that should never be forgotten. I’ve used this image in other social media and a great friend of mine, Eric Niderost (a prolific historian) objected. Think others might have also objected. Not to worry for this image will never see the light of day with lk words that see print (a true statement at the moment, and hopefully always). That said, at times, I must keep dark images in my head as I move forward. For only then can I (hopefully) create text that is light and moves. What good is a book, or any writing, if it puts people to sleep? The goal is to grab people’s interest, their soul, their guts, and keep them reading. (photo & art © Louis Kraft 1999 & 2013)

Regardless of the progress on Sand Creek, the research is ongoing, and my mind constantly swirls as I try to figure out how to mix and match people (major, minor, and bit players) as they enter the story, advance the story, and drift off to perhaps return or not). The key is the flow. It has to be smooth and yet natural, and it cannot bounce all over the place in time. I’m a firm believer that action is character. We are what we do and not what we say. Anyone can tell a good tale, but if he doesn’t live his tale it isn’t anything but fantasy, fiction, or lies. When a person says one thing but does the opposite, it is the doing that is his history. Just read all the slop that is stuffed down our throats on a daily basis. Publicity, regardless if a press agent leaks it or I spout it is what it is. And that is nothing unless the publicist’s client did what was released or I did what I said I would. If not, and 100 years (more or less) from today it finds its way into a book it is an error only to be perpetrated again and again by lazy historians who don’t do their research but instead create (or repeat history that never happened) as they pull from a handful of secondary sources while blindly printing what they have read without knowing it was indeed based upon fact.

For example and regarding Ned Wynkoop: How many times have you read that Wynkoop attended Silas Soule’s funeral in Denver in 1865?

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This image of Ned Wynkoop has been published four times, the last being in summer 2013. I’m not a great artist. If you talk with real artists, they’ll tell you my attempts suck. Still I continue. Why? Sometimes I get lucky and I earn a few bucks that in turn puts food on the table. I need say no more. Actually I do, for my writing is little better than my art. Talk to real writers and historians and they’ll enlighten you. Why? ‘Tis simple. I do what I want, and I learn as I go. More important, I care about my subjects … and this is what drives me. (Wynkoop art © Louis Kraft 2007)

Fact: Wynkoop didn’t attend Soule’s funeral in Denver, but was at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory. I’m certain that this error will continue to be repeated. Or how about this quote about George Bent: “George Bent remembered as a child in the 1830s seeing Indian herds grazing for fifty miles along the river [the Arkansas] near Bent’s Fort.” This quote is on page 87 of Elliott West’s award-winning Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (University Press of Kansas, 1998). The note cites page 37 in George E. Hyde’s Life of George Bent: Written From His Letters (OU Press, 1968). So far, so good.

Dust jacket for the Wynkoop book.

However, the sentence referenced in Hyde’s work states: “When I was a boy I saw the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches camped on the Arkansas near my father’s fort, and their pony herds were grazing along the river for fifty miles.” Still so far, so good. But—there’s always that damned “but”—BUT George B. was born on July 7, 1843. How many “so-called” historians will repeat this error ad nauseam as undisputed fact?

Writer/historians make errors and sometimes they aren’t caught until unfortunately in print.* It happens. Although my publishers have said they’d fix errors to date they haven’t. I have corrected my errors in magazine and book form when dealing with the same subject in subsequent books and will continue to do so whenever possible.

* Other errors can enter the text when in copyediting. For example, on page 182 (chapter 12, “Hancock’s War”) in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011), while accompanying Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s 1867 expedition in force to meet or engage the Cheyennes (and other tribes) reporter Henry Stanley wrote the following about Wynkoop: “The Colonel is an Indian agent par excellence, of whom a slight description will not suffice to convey any just idea. He is a Plains man, and the best handler of Indians that has been on the Arkansas. The Indians have every confidence in his integrity, and respect him for the ‘heap fight’ that he is known to be capable of making.” In the copyedit the editor changed this quote from representing Wynkoop to George Armstrong Custer. When I complained loudly, she said, “Didn’t Custer put up a ‘heap fight.’” (the quote is a paraphrase). “No!!! We’re talking about Wynkoop and not Custer!” I’m not picking on this lady or copyeditors. Errors are made, and they aren’t on purpose. This copyeditor and all of my copyeditors have been absolutely first class (except one; no comments) and I have been damned lucky to have had them work on my words.

An lk attempt to improve research

The last blog dealt with Charley Bent and my quest to learn more about him for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. …

The attempt to gain unknown information has been less than successful.* That said, I did learn key information about Charley that I didn’t know. I do intend to again attempt presenting another person on the lk Blog and OIW FB page in the hope that it will generate response. Most likely George Shoup (but not guaranteed at the moment), a lieutenant in the First Colorado Cavalry who would become colonel and commanding officer of the Third Colorado Cavalry. I’m good with his military record, but I’m hoping that people can fill me in with his personal life. I want to know the man. Fingers are crossed. This will happen in the not-too-distant future. … and if not Shoup next, someone else I want to know more about. Perhaps Dog Men leaders Bull Bear and Tall Bull.

* Less than successful is not the best way to describe my attempt to learn more about Charley, for the simple reason that he is shrouded in mystery and only surfaces here and there during his all-too-brief life.

Who I am

The subtitle of the lk website/blog is “Follow the winding trail of a writer as he walks a solitary road …” I chose those words carefully as they have a lot of meaning for me. I’m not looking for sympathy. Actually I’ve had a great life, it’s just been lonely at times. My choice.

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lk as Ned Wynkoop in 2012, when I represented him when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Hall of Fame. In this image I’m leaning against the recently reconstructed building that Wynkoop rented while U.S. Indian agent at Fort Larned, Ks. I don’t know how well I’d do in a gunfight. That said, if confronted by a swordsman, I’d walk away untouched with blood on my blade. (photo by friend George Elmore; image © Louis Kraft 2012)

I chose the path I’d follow, and I’ve refused to compromise. That said, I’ve had no problem with changing my course whenever it was good for me. Again, I made the decisions and have flat out refused to back off from my goals. This has cost me. I can’t give you, or won’t give you, what ruined an early marriage, but I have had two long term relationships that I had hoped would be forever. They weren’t. This can’t be placed on the two lady’s shoulders for it is a two way street. It didn’t matter for two outside forces did everything possible to doom those relationships.The first lady didn’t try but the second did, only to give up. The outside forces gave no mercy and did everything possible to destroy these relationships.

After the last relationship had ended in 2011 I decided that nothing and no one would again interfere. This is my fucking life and no one else’s.

The year 2011 had two endings to one relationship. Looking back both are hysterical. And I’m dying to tell the stories. The words are going to jump off the page when I tell those stories. But alas, you’ll have to wait for the Memoir, and then only if I have the guts to tell the truth. Yeah, lk wants to keep on walking this earth in one piece. Read between the lines.

I’m good with the lonely trail, and let me tell you I’m perfectly fine when I’m all alone. I’m at peace with the world and with my brain totally alive.

The good die young 

They say that the good die young. My brother, my sister, my mother, Dale Schuler (my dad’s partner, best friend, and a father and good friend to me) died young.

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This is my father, Louis J. Kraft Sr., at my former Thousand Oaks, California, home on August 17, 1991. The house was a half block walk into the Santa Monica Mountains. If you click on the image to enlarge it you’ll partially see the pool in his sunglasses. When young, and after my parents purchased their first and only California home, they ensured I had swimming lessons and had a pool created for me. Throughout the years swimming has been a major portion of my life (and is by far my favorite physical activity). From my mother’s death forward we were forever good in each other’s presence. However, beginning before my mother’s early death, he had become the key player in my life (even though I didn’t know it) and this dated back to my college years. (photo © Louis J. Kraft, Jr. 1991)

There have been others. …

For the first 33 years of my life my father and I hated each other while loving each other. I should have been a man, as my father wanted, but I refused to walk that road. We were at constant odds. He knocked me out once. A year or two later, a fat woman ran me and my motorcycle over while running. She knocked me cold and left me hanging from a wire fence. My father was right there for me.

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The TD6 is a powerful machine and doesn’t take prisoners.

Later yet, while working for my father’s construction company I kicked down the framework for a swimming pool that I had just set when he was digging the hole too quickly with an International Harvester TD6 tractor and making it difficult to drive in the stakes accurately. But the next day it was as if it never happened. That was our life. I couldn’t be what he wanted and I had every intention of stuffing down his throat that I’d do what I damned well pleased. We didn’t connect until his wife/my mother went into the hospital for the last time on December 26, 1979. She died 10 days later. During those 10 days we spent every waking minute together and those 10 days gave us a relationship that would last for the last 19 years of his life.

Oh, we still fought, but the next day it was always as if nothing had happened. This man gave me my life, for he instilled in me the courage to do as my life called and to hell with everything else. This has been with me while he lived, it was certainly present when he died, and it is with me ’til this day.

 A day I’ll never forget

February 14, 1999, was one long day of hell.

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Christmas 1988 at the lk Encino, Ca., home. Kneeling from left: lk, Louis Sr.; standing from left: Linda Kraft (my sister), Robin Fried (my brother’s longtime girlfriend), and brother Lee Kraft. Good Times, and although my father and I didn’t know it at the time, my brother Lee had a little over a year to live. By this time my father was long retired and had nothing to do with his former company, BKS Excavating. (photo © Louis Kraft 1988)

I had been taking care of my father for years, and during this time I had seen our relationship blossom. Oh we continued to argue and fight, but we had become close-knit buddies. I spent between three, four, and sometimes five days/evenings (after writing for Infonet in El Segundo beginning at 6:00 AM) with him every week. We ate together (either before or after I did whatever tasks he needed completed; I hated the grocery shopping for that was usually three or four stores and easily cost two+ hours).

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Marissa Kraft and her grandfather at Tujunga House on Father’s Day 1995. Good times for both Marissa and her grandfather as she stayed with him before school and after school until I could pick her up. During summers she spent the entire day with him. (photo Louis Kraft Jr. 1995)

But they were good times as we relaxed and ate (most often food he cooked, but sometimes takeout) and enjoyed each other’s company. As the days and years passed he became weaker and weaker. His time walking the earth neared an end. About two weeks before his death, when he became too weak to move about, he entered a convalescent home, and here his health declined quickly. I saw him daily and our talks continued. At this time he told me: “If I had known that I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” A day before his death he said to me: “I love you” as I left. This was the first time he had ever said this to me.

The above words were the last words my father said to me, for the next day (a Sunday and Valentine’s Day) when my Japanese lady (Cindy Tengan) and I arrived to see him he was no longer in his room.

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Cindy Tengan, a product manager at Infonet (now British Telecom Infonet) in El Segundo, Ca., on Cinco de Mayo 1995. We had met in 1994 when I still wrote for Infonet. Although she had made no attempt to befriend my daughter, she was a good person. My father liked her, and I’m lucky to have known her.

Instead he was half on and half off a bed in a room with other people on beds. Worse, he had pulled a cord that fed him air (the first time he had one) from his nose and it dangled from his bed. I went to the desk and asked for a nurse. After she got him back on the bed with the air in place I demanded to see someone in authority. “Keep my father alive!” The cold answer was “Show us proof you can demand this.” Cindy and I raced to my father’s house and tore it apart. We couldn’t find his living trust. Did he give me a copy? I didn’t think so. We raced to my house and tore it apart. No trust. During this time I had placed 10-15 calls to my sister’s home and cell phones and left messages with no return calls.

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This image was taken at my sister’s house in Long Beach, Ca. (April 1995). Although our relationship ended, Cindy Tengan was always there for me, … and without her I would have died 11 years ago. (photo © Louis Kraft 1995)

Cindy and I sped back to the convalescent home. My father wasn’t in the room. “Where is he?” “He’s been moved to the Northridge Hospital” (this is where my brother had been helicoptered after dying on a bank below the 101 freeway in March 1990). My daughter and her mother arrived at the home and in two cars we drove to the hospital. They took us to a room (memories of my brother Lee, for in 1990 the first thing out of my mouth after being taken to a room with my father was, “Is my brother alive?”) I asked the fatal question: “Is my father alive?” “Yes.” “Keep him alive.” “Do you have authority?” “Yes.” I didn’t have the trust that gave me authority, but they didn’t ask to see proof.

We sat in the room and waited for updates. About an hour passed; we were told that my father had died. After my daughter and I spent time with my father/her grandfather for the last time Cindy and I returned to my house. At the midnight hour, and after over 30 phone calls and messages to my sister before she returned the call (as it turned out, she had taken the trust without telling me). I had told her two days before, on Friday, that our father probably wouldn’t live through the weekend. She said: “I didn’t believe you.”

A June 2013 day

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Nam Maradei and Pailin Subanna at Tujunga House on June 15, 2013. This image, by lk, doesn’t do Nam justice as she is knock-out gorgeous (due to me kneeling and shooting up at her). Pailin is looking at me and her eyes captured my soul. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013).

I”m not going to repeat here what has been previously published on this blog other than restating that on June 15, 2013, a lady agreed to attend a dinner party at Tujunga House. On that day she walked into my world and touched me as no other person has ever done before.

I haven’t just written about culture and race, I have lived it. I love people the world over—past and present. This has been the theme in my writing, over and over again, along with that key word, “peace.” The writing focus has been on the American Indian wars. To repeat myself, this came about simply: Errol Flynn’s portrayal as George Armstrong Custer in They Died With Their Boots On and George Armstrong Custer’s My Life on the Plains (1874) introduced me to the 1860s Indian wars. Digging brought me to race relations, which has been important to me my entire adult life. And I have walked the life I talk, and because of this have been accused of being prejudiced against white women. This accusation is laughable. A pretty woman is a pretty woman and I don’t give a bleep what her race is.

When Pailin Subanna appeared at my door on that June 15 day holding orchards I sucked in air and damned myself for not having a camera in my hand. A coworker of hers (Nam) invited and then brought her to a dinner party at Tujunga House. As it was to be a dinner party for five, two couples and me, she had insisted upon bringing a guest for me. Neither she nor I, nor the lady (Pailin) could have guessed where this chance afternoon and evening would lead. Not in a 1000 years.

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This lady named Pailin was for me, and I asked her out (a first for me since 2011). On June 20, 2013, I picked her up and we drove to Santa Monica, Ca., and walked along the cliffs above the beach. We later descended the stairs to the beach, walked along the Pacific, enjoyed the pier, and each other at a Thai restaurant in the Santa Monica open mall. She was fragile but full of life. She later told me she had been told that she needed to open her heart. Although unsaid, so did I. This sunny June day was perhaps one of the most important days in my life, for it directly led to my future, a future of two people who dared to open their hearts. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2013)

Pailin was quiet and yet composed and firm while dealing with things that perhaps should not have been said but were (not by me). I liked her beauty, but more I liked her poise and strength of character. Before she left that night I knew I wanted to see her again; I wanted her to enter my life.

Pailin had been hurt, and much worse than me. And she has also walked a lonely road. She was frail, vulnerable, and yet alive as no one I’ve ever encountered. She opened her heart and this led to us becoming friends, best friends, and falling in love.

We wanted to marry, and I thought it would be in May 2014. Pailin wanted February 14. I told her about my father’s death on that day in 1999 while adding that I was good with Valentine’s Day, as it could be a special day in my father’s life and ours. We looked into February 14, and lo and behold it would become an important day in my life for the second time in 2014, for on this oh-so important day in my life Pailin became my wife.

THE Day 2014

I hadn’t slept in two nights (and neither had Pailin). Some health reasons, but also our nervousness over the coming day (and there are things here I cannot say—not now and perhaps never for if I do it will unleash a maelstrom of evil; don’t ask for this is something that I can’t talk about).

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We struggled to maneuver through LA traffic. Luckily there was a parking spot on La Brea north of Wilshire and I took it, which probably saved another 10 minutes of drive time as we didn’t need to look for parking once we looped around the Albertson Chapel. We had time after Pailin dressed and before the ceremony, and while friends snapped photos I chatted away in Pailin’s ear. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

The day arrived and we were up; a glorious sunny day and already warm. Although tired, we were happy. Nervous but happy and longing for our new lives together. She cooked soup for breakfast. “Alloy mark!” “Delicious!” I’m a good cook, but when compared to her I’m not. Pailin’s soups are to die for. If I don’t have my soup to start the day … GRRRR!!!

We still had a lot to do to prepare for the day, and we crammed. We were due at the chapel at 12:30 and although we hoped to leave at 11:45 we didn’t leave until 12:10 PM. We had made the drive to Wilshire Blvd. on the Miracle Mile in 20 minutes, and I had later made the trip in 30 minutes. On this day it took 50 minutes. I don’t get nervous, but on this drive I was a wreck. I totally forgot about taking the 170 freeway to the 101. Surface streets, including me making wrong choices on the streets added time to the trek. The Vette flew on the 101 freeway when we reached it, but from there on it was bumper-to-bumper no-move traffic. Highland Ave. to Franklin to La Brea to Wilshire Blvd. in LA should have been a cup of tea. Fat chance. Try 25 minutes for a few miles (and often taking two lights to get through an intersection). During the drive, Sabrina, Pailin’s niece, called a number of times asking where we were. It’s too bad that Pailin wasn’t driving, for I would have said, “We’ve called it off.” Yep, I do have a sick sense of humor (for this certainly wasn’t what I wanted).

When we finally arrived at the Albertson Chapel 20 minutes late, almost everyone was there and wondering if indeed we had called it off.

No way! That said, I was having trouble walking. Surrounded by friends and knowing that my future was less than an hour away, I relaxed and began to enjoy this precious time. We were allowed 20 guests. Most were Pailin’s, and most I knew and liked (unfortunately some couldn’t come) … Sabrina (Pailin’s niece), Montanee, and Kobie are three ladies I’ve enjoyed knowing since meeting them. I invited seven people and they were all able to come.

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This image is based upon a photo taken with Pete Senoff’s camera at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge, California, on 25jul13. From left to right: lk, Pailin, Nina & Pete Senoff. I had reunited with Pete, who went to high school with me, in 2012, and shortly after met his bride Nina, who immediately became my friend. On this day, Pailin and Nina met for the first time and became instant friends (Pete & I were amazed at how well they hit it off).

Pete Senoff, who as editor of the Grover Cleveland High School newspaper, made my final year in high school a pure joy by keeping my image and words in print, which in turn allowed me to win office as Boys’ League President. Pete and I had reconnected a couple of years back, just prior to his marriage to Nina, and, along with Pailin, has made us a close foursome. Marjorie Chan, a film and TV costumer I had the pleasure to work with in the early 1980s (TV show Tucker’s Witch and TV movie Johnny Belinda with Richard Thomas). Thirty+ years, many caring talks and time together, and we’re still good friends (no matter how long the gaps between us seeing each other).

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The other four I met in 2008 (I think) at an Errol Flynn event. Robert and Annette Florczak and Greg and Nam Maradei. Greg is a Flynn aficionado and Robert (an artist and musician) is also writing a book about Flynn (a book that will be “must read” when published). Their wives are terrific and also good friends. Annette is perhaps one of my most caring and supportive friends. She is always there for me, asking about my welfare and offering right-on suggestions when I need them. Nam is a totally alive person and is a joy to know. Like Nina, her humor is vibrant and spontaneous.

I think everyone mingled and got along, but I don’t know for I was too high and focused on the fragile woman that had entered and changed my life.

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This is my favorite image from ps & lk wedding, and it is the only image that has been published elsewhere. (photo by Annette Florczak)

Everything moved at lightening speed. The Reverend Fernando Rossi Howard officiated, and although he had trouble pronouncing Pailin’s name, and suffered through me correcting him and other lk ad-libs*, the ceremony and wording couldn’t have been better. What was best about the ceremony was that Pailin and I didn’t know what would be said before hand, even though the three of us had discussed it with examples that we brought to our initial meeting, examples Pailin and I liked or didn’t like.

“Ad-libs” are when actors don’t say their lines as printed in film or play scripts, which are supposed to be holy. From my POV as both actor and writer, this is little more than BS for the simple reason that oftentimes ad-libs are better than the scripted words. … Back in 2009 while rehearsing Cheyenne Blood, a play I had written, as Ned Wynkoop I said lines that weren’t in the script. The director, my great friend Tom Eubanks, stopped the rehearsal and said that I didn’t say the correct words. “I ad-libbed” I stated. “Say the correct lines.” “I just did!” “No you didn’t!” “Yes, I did. Write what I just said in the script and we’re ready to continue.” He didn’t, and those words were lost to eternity. lk is one writer who doesn’t buy into the theory that the written word is holier than hell (or however that statement goes).

Both Pailin and I were totally attentive to Fernando’s words and in tune with each other, especially during our vows which concluded with placing the rings on our fingers.

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This was our 1940s-style kiss; don’t want to give too much away. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

When we reached the point where Fernando asked if I took Pailin to be my wife … “I said, “Kub-pom.” This garnered me a nice laugh from the Thai people present; I suppose as they were surprised that I used their word for “yes.” I hadn’t expected their reaction and waited until the laughter ended before saying, “Yes, I do.” In stark contrast to my tightness at our late arrival at the chapel I was totally loose and enjoying every minute of the ceremony. Pailin took the ceremony a little more seriously than I did. Where I allowed my emotions drive how I said words, she was quieter than I. At no point do I mean that I took our marriage lightly. This was a very happy day for me, and once entering the chapel the tension of being late disappeared quickly as I was among the seven good friends I invited.

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Just after the wedding ended and we’ve stepped downstairs. This is not a full group shot (don’t think any were taken; certainly I don’t have any images). From left: Annette Florczak, Robert Florczak, Nina Senoff, Pete Senoff, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, Nam Maradei, lk, Greg Maradei, Pailin, Marjorie Chan, and Mam Siwan. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Add that I am good friends with a number of Pailin’s friends even though I haven’t seen them that often; Montanee Sothtitham, Praphuntri (Kobie) Poopan, and Pailin’s niece Pakgirapa (Sabrina) Subanna for certain. Others I met for the first time, including Caterine Jensin, Jackie Vinai, Annie Aunroun and Jenny Atchara (whom I actually met briefly at the Thai Temple on December 31, 2013) were open and I felt good when in their company. Like my friends, Pailin’s friends are close to her.

Pete, Robert, and Annette shot pictures for me, and along with those taken by the chapel, I have a good selection to pull from (and believe me, their images although not shot with expensive cameras, often are much better than the official images … many of which are useless).

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A done deal, and 1000 times more important than signing a book contract. lk is one lucky pirate/frontiersman. (Photo by Robert Florzcak; image © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

If you’ve followed the blogs since I met Pailin, you are very aware of what type of person she is and know why I fell head over heels for her. On February 14 she was as always; that is full of life and enjoying every minute of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding. It was a special day for me for now I am linked with a special person for all time, a special person that took me a lifetime to find.

We had a small reception at Tujunga House but we spent the time with our guests and perhaps only one image was taken.

February 14, 2014, was step 2 in our lives together (step 1 was June 15, 2013, when we met). Hopefully we’ll complete step 3, which has already begun, by year’s end. Doable? Don’t know. We’ll find out.

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On February 20 Pailin and lk met with a lawyer to discuss our future. Afterwards we shopped in Thai Town, and then returned to the Albertson Chapel in Los Angeles to see Rev. Fernando Howard. I hadn’t mentioned it, but he is an Apache. His marrying us was alive and had grabbed both of us (I had to struggle to prevent tears from flowing). Fernando is alive, bright, and a good person. I like him. During all of our meetings (and including February 20th there have been four) the talk has also included the Apaches and especially Geronimo. Geronimo, the Apaches, and Charles Gatewood have reentered my life, and although in the past I tried to parry all attempts to get me to return to the Apache wars, I no longer do. The key player in this recent reconsideration by me has been Lt. Col. Paul Fardink (U.S. Army, retired), who has become a good friend. I wanted to give Fernando a copy of Gatewood & Geronimo that both Pailin and I had signed. He was thrilled. Am certain that Pailin and I will see him in the future. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

Oh the writing continues. It will continue until the day I die, but my life has changed for all time. I’ve found that special person to walk through the world with me. Our lives have been challenges, but now joined it has become one challenge. It is a challenge that both of us are capable of dealing with and we’ll do this together. Our life is one we both want and will work at together to create.

Los Angeles is our home (it is certainly key for my Flynn and de Havilland research). We hope that this will remain our home for all time as we love it in LA. However, if this isn’t possible we’ll look to relocate in a few states in the USA (all are key to Indian wars research, and alas, several have too much snow for this ol’ boy’s liking). That said, they are definitely on our radar. Other choices exist, but aren’t for this blog.

Bottom line: I’m the luckiest fellow in the world.

— Louis Kraft

Charley Bent, Sand Creek, and other Louis Kraft musings

As promised, details of my quest to learn more about Charley Bent appears in this blog. Musings? Hell, you know me. I like to meander. Usually the blogs are long, just look at the last one if you don’t believe me. This one will be short. I promise. So here goes. …. (I know, I know–please Kraft, spare us the meanderings!). Sorry. ‘Taint in the blood.

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To date you have been fed an overload on Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland; Mr. G. & Mr. G.; Ned Wynkoop, Cheyennes, and Sand Creek (face up to it, the Sand Creek story and the key players are going to dominate a good portion of these blogs until the book is published (as will E&O and the lk saga past and present until these books are also published).

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Various symbols that represent the medical world.

What you haven’t been bombarded with is The Discovery (the first in a series of novels that have entered or reentered my life). Don’t hold your breath, for even though this respite will be short, this story has begun to take control of my life. This can’t be, and I’ve made a point of allotting time to both it and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway on each day. To date progress has been slow on The Discovery, slower than hoped for but decent. That said, this week the characters have begun to pop off the pages. An upcoming meeting will soon determine everything in this novel’s future. This meeting, when it happens, is all important. BTW, even though partnering on a novel hasn’t been easy for me, it is a win-win for me (on many levels). If I do what I should be capable of doing, prepare properly, present everything that I’ll deliver, this will be the next published book with lk’s name on the cover.

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Warm temperatures will dictate the future. BTW, this beachfront is not located in the US of A.

My friends, not to worry, for Errol & Olivia is a major book for me (as are the 2nd book on Flynn and a nonfiction book on Kit Carson), and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a must for me (I can’t begin to tell you how important this book is to me). Hours, days, weeks, and months tick by. Time. It is the most valuable thing I have in this world (other than my lady and my daughter). I have taken a long hard look at the books I have written and those I want to complete, and let me tell you that I had better live for many more years. Of course I have every intention of enjoying every minute that I have with my work, Pailin (and hopefully Marissa). I don’t give a hoot where we live. LA—and I love LA—may someday be in my rearview mirror. The USA and the world beckon; that is those locations with sunshine, blue skies, warm temperatures, and reduced violence (I know that I’m asking for a lot). Hell, I’m a writer and can live anywhere my lady and I choose (even Colorado).

Back to Charley and Sand Creek

Progress isn’t as fast as I’d like on Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Blame this on anything you want, for anything you name is the culprit (except for writer’s block; I never have writer’s block).

In a nutshell, the following is what I have on Charley Bent:

  • George Bent’s letters to George Hyde and George Bird Grinnell
    - Some of which I’ve found in Colorado, Los Angeles, and Yale (I deal with the university long distance)

    CharleyBent_color_28dec13_wLKsig_ws

    This colorized portrait of Charley Bent is copyrighted. I’ve posted it in the past and hesitated posting it again as it will be included in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. That said, it isn’t available to share or repost or use. I posted it here only as it is the only image that I am aware of that shows Charley in young manhood. Pardon the following while trusting what follows. I hang out with my lawyer, we party together and we are the best of friends. If this colorized image is stolen, we will sue you. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

  • Two good friends (Gary Leonard and John Monnett) have supplied me with the magnificent digitized assembly of George B.’s letters that were compiled by Lincoln B. Faller, although the word usage seems to have been cleaned up from photocopies of George’s letters that I have in his own hand (his English wasn’t the best)
  • I have viewed the George Bird Grinnell collection at the Braun Library, Southwest Museum, Autry Museum of the American West (and will do so again, to ensure that I haven’t missed anything)
  • The three major government documents dealing with the attack at Sand Creek
    - House of Representatives 38th Congress, Second Session (“Massacre of Cheyenne Indians”)
    - Report of the Secretary of War, 39th Cong., 2d Sess. Ex. Doc. No 26
    - ”The Chivington Massacre” (included in Carroll, ed., The Sand Creek Massacre, which also includes the two government documents listed directly above, of which I have printouts. That said, to date I haven’t searched on Charley Bent.)
  • The War of the Rebellion (Note that my previous research related to the Wynkoop story; that focus has changed and expanded and I know for a fact that I haven’t seen everything. That said, I had never searched on Charley’s name, but will soon.)
  • Halaas and Masich’s Halfbreed (Da Capo Press, 2004)
  • Hyde’s Life of George Bent (University of Oklahoma Press, 1968)
  • Berthrong, Grinnell, and Hoig’s books dealing with the Cheyennes
  • Father Peter Powell’s books dealing with the Cheyennes and the Cheyenne wars
  • Gary Roberts’ “Sand Creek: Tragedy and Symbol” graduate dissertation (University of Oklahoma,1984)
  • Greg Michno’s Battle at Sand Creek (Upton and Sons, 2004; BTW, I designed this book)

For what it’s worth, my library is extensive. Also note that I’m not asking you to look at the Wynkoop book (its bibliography is 10 pages, and a good portion of it deals with the Cheyenne wars of the 1860s).

Still, after all of the above, I don’t know much about Charley Bent. Half white and half Cheyenne, he chose his mother’s people. Why?

I know approximately when he died (November 1967; the 10th or could it have been the 20th?), and it wasn’t from a wound if we can believe brother George. Or is there a George B. quote that claimed Charley did die from fever after being wounded (I haven’t seen this letter yet but will hopefully have it soon), and if so why did George change his story later in life? The Pawnee bullet incident seems to be based upon a story published in an Oklahoma newspaper roughly a month shy of 43 years after Charley’s end (and it called him a chief of the Dog Soldiers). Details? To date piss poor. … It appears that Charley was one tough hombre, not someone to cross or face in battle. True? Honestly, at this moment in time I don’t know. In the early 1860s he turned his back on his father’s (William Bent’s) world and pretty much lived and fought with the Cheyennes. It appears as if his anger and hatred toward his father was strong, strong enough that he might have considered murdering his him.

Again why?

For your information, the Sand Creek manuscript wraps up with the end of the 1860s, so everything related to Charley is in the manuscript’s scope. Billy Markland recently supplied me with a tad of information on Charley that happened in early 1867 (Executive Document, House of Representatives, 2nd Sess. 41st Congress, 1869-70). I’m certain that there is more in Charley’s short life that I am not aware of and have no clue where it is located.

As I had mentioned on a previous blog and on the OIW Facebook page I plan on sending a book to the person who supplies me with what I consider the most important information about Charley that I don’t know (if a second or even a third person also submits good information that I have no prior knowledge of, they too will receive the second and third books (listed below).

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Having difficulties viewing this image? Click on it to expand it.

That’s right, I’m placing three books into this mix. I’m not saying they are great books (or pamphlets), but they are related to the Indian wars and have been in my library.

Why the generosity?

Pure and simple, I haven’t been the most social person and my research money isn’t what it used to be. I need to increase how I come by valuable information. And it would be nice to get to know people that have similar interests. Also, I am in desperate need of room, and I hate to say it, but I’m the world’s worst salesman. I don’t think I’m capable of selling a Sacajawea $1.00 coin for .50 cents. Anyway I have the books and it will be my pleasure to send them to you.

They are:

  • Crimsoned Prairie: The Indian Wars on The Great Plains by S. L. A. Marshall (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1972; this is a book club edition)*
  • Custer’s Battle of the Washita and a History of the Plains Indian Tribes by Jess C. Epple (Exposition Press, New York, 1970)*
  • The Honor of Arms: A Biography of Myles W. Keogh by Charles L. Convis (Westernlore Press, Tucson, Arizona, 1990)*

* lk note: The above books come with no recommendations. They have been read by me and in two cases by others.

Oh, and this is important. Everything stated above is to go through an email address (writerkraft@gmail.com). I will not deal with a round robin open debate on the OIW Facebook page or on the lk website. Use the email address.

One final comment: I plan on requesting George Shoup and John Chivington’s military records soon (there are other documents I need on Chivington and hopefully I can also obtain them). If I acquire the desired documents and have the time to study them, one of these two gentlemen will most likely be my next subject of inquiry. The above listed books, if I still have them, will not be listed in the next information quest.

— Louis Kraft

Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand & other stories of Sand Creek

This blog is going to meander, for in the lk world there are things that are important—mainly staying alive, eating, and moving forward with my writing world and cherishing my lady, my love, my life. And, of course, some things that don’t matter, but they do.

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ps & lk at the opening of the Lily Pad Massage and Spa in Sherman Oaks, California. Two of Pailin’s friends officially opened their business on November 9, 2013, and we participated in the event, which was special. I know that some of you have seen this image elsewhere, but it has a special place on the blog (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Reaching for the Moon
The positive to all this is that I’m writing again daily. Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway and The Discovery (more to come on this malpractice novel in a future blog) lead the way. Errol & Olivia lags behind, but this is a major book for me and it will see good progress in 2014. I can’t tell you how many people have complained about my slow output—face-to-face and in letters and emails. Some have been good friends; even lovers. They haven’t understood, and will never understand, my quest. Never! I research and write at my own pace, and my books and articles take a lot of time to create.

I never short-change my subjects for a quick buck. Sand Creek, Errol Flynn, Kit Carson—like good wine, their time will come when I’m ready. It has taken me a lifetime to know who I am and what I do. Meaning that there have been decades of false starts, learning, and failure. But that’s what life’s all about—reaching for the moon time and again until one can actually grab it. I’m not specifically referring to writing here, but my life, which includes my writing.

An explanation of “the Dark Side”
For those of you that haven’t been aware of it, at the beginning of 2013 I made a decision that if I didn’t reconnect with the technical world, and believe me when I say I had no intentions of taking a 50 percent pay cut, that this world would cease to exist in 2014. The year 2014 is about to arrive.

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This image of lk dates to 18nov1997 (Infonet Services Corporation; now British Telecom Infonet). This was my third straight job. I landed my first, Jardine Emett & Chandler, when I convinced a vice president I could learn how to use a computer within two weeks (I had never touched a computer before in my life). The first raise was 25 percent, and the following year I brought desktop publishing into the company and had my own crew, who I trained. That year’s raise was only 8 percent, and I told the VP that it wasn’t good enough. He disagreed, and within a month I was a publishing supervisor at a how to succeed in business publishing house that delivered a 200-page book every month. At the beginning of my second year I received my first review and it was good. One problem: the company had decided to eliminate the PCs and bring in Macs, and they offered me an $8,000.00/year pay cut. The editor-in-chief asked what I thought, and I said, “I quit. How much time do I have?” “We haven’t even bought the Macs yet.” “Not to worry,” I said, “I’ll be gone within 30 days,” and I was, beginning at Infonet (I landed the job on my freelance writing and publishing expertise). My first question to my new boss was, “Can I have some technical writing classes?” “Absolutely not; I hired you as a technical writer.” … I looked at my co-writers and editor. They sat on their butts and waited for emails. Not the way to work and I began spending hours and hours w/my engineers. I requested and got the software on my computer and was off to the races. By 1997, I was the last technical writer in Research & Development. I created an online help system that documented how R&D did their jobs and a glossy newsletter that highlighted the department. I was editor-in-chief, main writer, reporter, art director, photographer, artist, and I delivered the publication, which was distributed throughout the company, on schedule. But the writing was on the wall. Eight months after this picture was taken I became a senior technical writer in the aerospace industry.

In lk blogs and elsewhere I have referred to the technical world as “the Dark Side.” I’m certain that some of you have known what I’ve been talking about (and those of you that have, I hope I haven’t offended you). A while back I chose this name as it was vague, but more importantly popped off the page for me. Very soon the Dark Side will cease to exist in my life. But know this, I had a great run in the technical world. It made me a better writer and a better researcher, as I constantly worked closely with talented people from the world over—and if you know me, really know me, my life has always been dominated by culture and people. Always. I had chosen the Dark Side as it expressed (for me) brutal hours and deadlines that at times seemed to be without end. Often, more often than desired, my deliveries were mandatory for software product deliveries. If I failed to deliver, the software would not ship. That, dear friends, is a heavy weight to carry, and it always held the threat of elimination for me if I didn’t succeed. I’ve used the term “the Dark Side” as opposed to “Slave Labor” as I’ve always been paid very well and although Slave Labor might be considered a more accurate term, it just doesn’t sound right. (I’ve worked in a cotton field and I’ve dug ditches, and they weren’t slave labor either). Most often I have called all my own shots, and worked closely with upper management, project & program management, engineers, and quality assurance engineers (and when fortunate, with other writers). All the above said, these have been memorable times for me—good times.

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lk as Ned Wynkoop in “Cheyenne Blood” in 2009. Yep, the subject matter was volatile, important in Wynkoop’s day but even more important in our day. We all have lives and we all call the shots, but sometimes we need to reach beyond and deal with our world. We all do this differently, but it is something that we must do for if we don’t, no one will. (photo by Dean Zatkowsky, 2009)

This has been a hard decision for me to make, but one that I’m totally in tune with it. ‘Course when I quit acting cold turkey in the mid-1980s, all my actor friends said I’d be back. I said, “Never.” Ned Wynkoop taught me to never say “Never.” Since quitting acting, I have since played Wynkoop in one-man shows in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and California, and the full-length play “Cheyenne Blood” had a five-week run in California in 2009. Never say “Never.” I have not turned my back on acting (and believe it or not, technical writing may again return if I see an offer I can’t refuse, … and don’t count out Kraft writing a baseball biography either).

Why?
A good friend named Vee visited from the Boston area earlier this month, and she asked why make this announcement public? … The simple answer is that I’m sick of getting praised for work that I no longer perform on LinkedIn, while my freelance creativity, although listed on the site is almost totally ignored. I’m an expert user of Photoshop, and I’ve been freelance writing for pay since the early 1980s (nonfiction, fiction, articles, speeches, and plays).

A little more background
Ladies and gents there are things about me that you don’t know (actually there’s so much you don’t know that when the Memoir is published, you still won’t know everything). This is a good lead-in to how I work, which may not be as writers/historians are supposed to work.

lk has no training as a writer, historian, artist, or as a technical writer (I do have a lot of training as an actor). Everything is self-taught. This is not an excuse, for the bottom line is the work. If decent, it will survive; if crap, it will most likely vanish into oblivion.
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lk as Charley, an actor who struggles to survive in “Eat Your Heart Out” at the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in Lubbock, Texas (summer 1976). This was the second play that summer. I also played the lead in a generation-gap comedy, “What Did We Do Wrong.” There were three other actors cast out of Los Angeles in the first play. All claimed to be writers (but I don’t know, for I never read anything they wrote). … That summer of ’76 was the second time I was lucky to get out of Texas with my hide in one piece. I wrote a screenplay about what could have happened & submitted it to an agent. He called me and said, “This is awful, … but let’s talk.” We did; I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote until the script was polished. Between 1976 and 1982 this agent and I came close but never optioned or sold any scripts (the closest were Rory Calhoun via the agent and Richard Thomas via me—but neither had enough clout). By the time I quit acting I had begun selling articles, which marked the end of screenwriting. No money; no interest by lk. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

A million years ago, before I decided to earn money as a freelance writer, I had begun consciously thinking about everything I read: Was it good and why, or was it bad and why. Ever since, everything I read has been judged. Not because I want to pan or praise, but because I want to know what I consider good or bad writing. And believe me, I learn from both.

That said, when I read a good book I’m thrilled and when I read a piece of crap I’m also thrilled. Good books provide suggestions on how to do a better job with my writing, … and ditto bad books. Good books show and aren’t loaded with telling. And just as important, good books aren’t loaded with errors and, even worse, fabrications that are slanted and created to sell an author’s preconception of the story’s angle at the cost of the truth. This training is ongoing and will be so until I die.

I don’t review books for the simple reason that most of what I read deals with what I write about in one way or another. Simply put it is a conflict of interest, for most-often I have already been intimate with the books offered to me to review. I may have reviewed the manuscript and offered suggestions during the creation of it or the authors are good friends and we had shared many long conversations on their subject while their work was in progress. Friends, good friends, and advanced knowledge of the books are key here. When I have told the requesting editors my reasons for rejecting a review request, they totally agree.

lk_MonetGarden_Giverny_4jul04_superClose2_24dec13

lk at Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, on July 4, 2004. It is important for one reason, for it shows lk tracking something that is important to him. This trip was threefold: It was my first visit to Olivia de Havilland’s home in Paris (which is important to Errol & Olivia); it provided lk and daughter Marissa with gold time together; and Marissa got to track Monet and Van Gogh in France (I had not been a big fan of Van Gogh’s art before this trip, but let me tell you his creativity overwhelmed me—he was a magnificent artist). In my humble opinion we must always track what is important to us. (photo © Marissa & Louis Kraft 2004)

How I work
This image (left) deals with lk tracking that which is important in my life.

You need to know how I work, for I don’t think it is conventional.

I usually take forever researching my books (and the research is never complete, for it continues long after a book is published). Chuck Rankin, my friend and editor at OU Press inserted a clause in the Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek contract that forbid me from writing another book about Wynkoop and I refused to sign the document until it was removed. When we began to work on the Sand Creek contract, we both studied the previous contract and he asked why the above clause had been removed from the Wynkoop contract as he had forgotten and feared I might write a competing nonfiction work on Wynkoop. I told him that I wanted an open door in case I wanted to return to him in any format, including nonfiction.

Although I outline, it is never locked in stone. If information is discovered that changes what I thought a person did, it changes how this person is presented in the manuscript. When there are conflicting stories of an event, I don’t pick the one that suits me, I decide upon the one that appears to be the closest to the truth (oftentimes it is a combination of facts from different viewpoints and observations) with the balance detailed in the notes. Also, I don’t write from beginning to end. I may write something for chapter 14 and then something for chapter 2. Although I constantly study what I’ve written and attempt to improve the prose whenever I reread it (and change it as I’ve found something else that was missing or needed (or I corrected something), I don’t begin polishing until I have a rough first draft. At that point I begin rewriting and looking for holes in the storyline. What is missing? What isn’t complete? What is overwritten? What is questionable? Is something wrong? Is the English bad (and I’m a firm believer in breaking known rules when they can propel the text)?

And this is important …
I strive to show and not tell. Action is character, and to understand who a person was I must know what he or she did—as much as possible, I must show what he or she did (and not tell what he or she did). Oftentimes this results in fights that I must win with copyeditors. In Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, Ned and his wife Louise were staying at La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the Civil War.

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La Fonda as it appeared in 1927.

She was in the room alone and rats entered. She leaped onto a chair, Ned entered, and the rats disappeared. He wanted to know why she was on the chair. She told him, but he didn’t believe her. “Sit down and be quiet,” she said (a paraphrase). He did, and the rats returned. They both leaped onto their chairs, and Ned yanked out his Colt and began blasting away. This brought the manager, who gave them another room. … The copyeditor insisted upon removing this as it had nothing to do with what Wynkoop did. “No! You’re wrong, for it shows what he did at a moment in time, it shows his character, and it stays.” (another paraphrase, as I didn’t go back to look at the documentation).

Other stories of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
As much as possible I strive to show. As I already said, action is character. What I say about me isn’t who I am (it is at best, how I want you to perceive me).

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lk at work, … and more. This image was taken on 13dec13, and it shows key pieces of the lk life. First and foremost, it shows me at work moving about what I call my computer room (it could be called a library as there are three book cases and lots of cabinet storage). I spend a lot of time in this room but I’m not glued to the computers. Often I’m up and roaming the room and house, for this is how I work. And I do talk to myself; I have great conversations and they do influence what I write. There’s also something I wanted to share w/this image—actually two things. I chose this image for it shows red below my eyes (about the 5th or 6th day in the continuous cycle of attacks that I’ve had since mid-November. Shots, cream ($259.00 for 30g), nine days of medications, has each time ended the problem which always begins with me looking like I just lost a title bout with Muhammad Ali in his prime. After a treatment I look normal for a day or two, only to again be attacked. The red under the eyes that you see is not from lack of sleep as I’m been sleeping like a baby for the first time since the early 2000s. In 2003 a neurologist told me I’d not walk again. F-him, for I’m still walking. Doctors couldn’t fix this nerve problem, but cockiness aside, I think I have (perhaps in another blog). Originally I considered using another image as it showed my wandering the house and talking to myself. Certainly it showed the redness better, but I liked the cockiness in this image. lk likes to be cocky. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013))

My view is biased, as most likely I’m trying to paint a picture of how I want you to view me. However, when I show you (in words) what has happened, and it is a truthful “showing” (and not slanted or “rosy colored” to make me look good) you will have a better idea of what kind of person I am. Ditto everyone I write about. Everything I can find that can provide a glimpse into their lives is important to me. Unfortunately when you deal with the Indian wars, many of the major players and almost all of oh-so-important fringe players have way-too-little primary source material on them. And I’m talking about Anglo-Americans, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and mixed bloods that are key to the Sand Creek story.

I am a firm believer that what people do defines who they are. I will never tell you that this is a good person or that person is bad. If I’m capable of providing hopefully accurate portrayals of their actions, you will be able to make your own decisions about them. Although I won’t say this in the manuscript, I don’t think John Chivington was a bad person. I know for a fact, that he did everything he could to help Louise Wynkoop receive a widow’s pension after Ned died. He didn’t have to do this, for Ned snubbed him for the rest of his life after the Sand Creek fight. John lived in a harsh land at a harsh time. And just like Wynkoop, his life changed as the world he lived in changed, and like Wynkoop, Chivington made decisions that he thought best for him. At no time did he consider himself a villain (and Wynkoop never considered himself a villain). In Chivington’s case I need to dig and consider and dig some more. As much as possible I need to get into his soul, and regardless of how I view what happened at Sand Creek in November 1864, if I do my job properly you will be able to make your own decisions on what happened. Perhaps your view won’t change, but maybe it will. Things happened at Sand Creek, and there are many reasons why. But this isn’t new, many things happen in war and will always happen in war, and different cultures react differently to what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable. I’ve never been in war, but I’ve certainly studied it (and this includes viewing films), and I do believe that when confronted with the enemy and life or death that people are on the edge. … That they are totally alive, frightened, bent upon surviving, and that there might be a bloodlust. Horrible things happened to people on both sides during the lead-up to Sand Creek, the attack at Sand Creek, and after Sand Creek.

Back to Sand Creek
For those of you that have begun to worry about my return to writing (including my good pal editor Greg Lalire at Wild West) let me say here and now that lk has returned, hopefully ne’er to disappear again. There are more projects than you may be aware of, but at this date The DiscoveryErrol & Olivia, and Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be the next three printed books (not in this order), with perhaps two other novels slipping into the mix. I know, just mentioning fiction is heresy; “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” But alas, ’tis so. Not to worry, for the second book on Errol Flynn, along with a book on Kit Carson, will dominate my following round of nonfiction.

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Colorized woodcut of Southern Cheyenne chiefs Bull Bear (a Dog Man), left, and Black Kettle. Part of the LK Collection, this image was originally published in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, OU Press, 2011. (colorizaton © Louis Kraft 2013)

I have returned to Sand Creek with a vengeance, but, as I said above, I don’t write from beginning to end. I write about what I have and know (or think I know, for it might change at any given moment). The Sand Creek manuscript is in progress with me trying:

  • To get a handle on the beginning of the Cheyenne people and their emergence as a powerful force on the central and southern plains. In my humble opinion, this is key for the book working to my satisfaction.
  • To discover (if possible) the essence of the leading and in some cases the major supporting players.
  • To dig deeper into a handful of white captives that I hope to write more about than I have in the past.
  • To experiment with pushing my prose farther than in the past (using the sample chapter in the book proposal, which passed with flying colors as a template). In the past I have often had to fight to retain some of my word structure. Doable? You bet! Will there be a struggle? Don’t know, hopefully not.

As a writer I’ve always tried to challenge myself. How do I tell a story, and how do I fight for that story when I hear something like: “We don’t do it this way at the press, Mr. Kraft.”? Over the years I’ve threatened to sue, have offered to return advances, and often I’ve won my battles while losing some. There are stories to tell, exciting stories, but that’s what memoirs are for—passion and fireworks, in other words page turners to the extreme.*

* lk note: It’s a shame that most memoirs are little more than gloss-overs of peoples’ lives. What stories they could have told if they had dared to tell the truth.

Invitation to open conversations on key players in the Sand Creek story
On a blog months back I stated that I intended to open discussions on key players in the Sand Creek manuscript, and would give books to people that contributed to the conversations in ways that are helpful to me. No one commented. Was no one interested? Perhaps, but I’d like to believe that you’re all just shy. Those days of open conversations are a comin’, and it is my hope that one or two or more of you will join me in email round-robin conversations (writerkraft@gmail.com). I want to breathe life into the Sand Creek players (just like I’m doing with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland), and to do this I need to learn everything I can about these players, which will hopefully allow me to do a better job of bringing them to life. Doable? I don’t know. Worth trying? Bet on it!

Here’s a head’s up: Charley Bent, John Chivington, and Tall Bull are just three of the people I need to know more about. I want to know more about the nasty things that happened—actions, lies and truths. I’m telling this story from all angles, and believe me I’m not going into the story with preconceived notions of villains and heroes. I’m interested in people, and I truly believe that we all have ups and downs and that is what makes all of us interesting. If anyone in the manuscript is a villain, it will only be because their actions make you think they are a villain. Honestly, I don’t like what happened at Sand Creek, but I believe that most-likely everyone did what they thought was best (from their point of view) leading up to the attack, during the attack, and afterwards. Once I can get to named people in the story, it will be a story about people. A story of people and their motivations, fears, and actions—a story of people attempting to survive during a time of extreme change.

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Charley Bent will play as large a part as I can document in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. His short life needs to be shared, for he walked to his own drum (as we all should). This colorized image is based upon original art in the LK Collection (colorization © Louis Kraft 2013)

First up will be Charley Bent, and the plan is for this blog to appear in January 2014. This man, who died way-too-young, chose his lifeway and was true to it until his death. In the blog I’ll give you a short summary of what I know about him, so you know what I have in-house. If any of you can share information about Charley’s life that I am not aware of or point me to it, this is what I want. Beginning with Mr. Bent, and continuing with what will hopefully be a number of discussions on key people, I will list three book titles, and the person who I think has provided me with information that is key to better my understanding of this person (Bent or whomever) will receive the book of their choice. I don’t think much of awards (most are based upon popularity and name value) and I usually totally disagree with most awards in which I know the results—be them books or film acting and writing. That said, If two people provide key information, I will have no problem awarding two winners (and if there is a worthy third contribution of information for a key player, that person will also receive a book).

Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand?
I have no clue what your life has been like, but mine has been hell. I have been cheated, lied to, and robbed. I should be long dead (and trust me few would mourn). This is not whining and I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I am perhaps the luckiest fellow you know, and it has taken me a lifetime to reach my current situation. And I’m chuckling here, for over the years I’ve been called many unsavory things by people who should have loved me. Should have, but didn’t. Some of these people have done everything possible to keep me in purgatory, a burning inferno from which there has never been an escape.

Until now.

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lk w/sister Linda Kraft-Morgon on 15jan2006 (a day I’ll never forget). Linda couldn’t visit Tujunga House on Christmas 2005 as she had no immune system and I had a cold. We reset for the first available date to get together. Unfortunately before that time arrived, she called and told me that her life would soon end. We celebrated Christmas on that wonderful January 15th at her home in Lake Arrowhead, Ca. I then wrote for SeeBeyond and my manager (Sudeshna Ghosh, who is still a good friend) allowed me to come into work early, drive to Lake Arrowhead, spend time with Linda, return to work, and work into the night. This was one of the kindest acts that anyone has ever done for me. Sudeshna downplayed this, but it remains at the top of key points in my life. Over the next six weeks I saw Linda four/five days a week. Great times for me, but not only for my precious time w/Linda, but also for my time w/her husband Greg Morgon—for during that time we cemented our relationship as “bros” (brothers). Time and distance has not severed our feelings for each other, for we will forever be “bros.” (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

My mother, my brother, my father, and even my sister (whom I’ve only now been able to hold and cherish in peace) are long gone. My mother, father, and brother were always there for me, but until I reached my future that is now current, I have walked a very lonely trail. False loves and close relationships that have never been. I’ve always been blessed with long-distanced friends as well as a few good friends that are local (whenever I see my long-distance or local friends, it is always as if the last time I saw them was yesterday). This is a wonderful feeling.

I’m alive, but in times past I could have died and days or weeks could have passed before anyone discovered I no longer walked the land. My life has been solitary. No longer, for times have changed and my friends close or far would now question my silence.

And it gets better than the above, much better. Please pardon this wordy introduction to this section (it was almost cut, but I decided that it helped the story).

Back in June I invited four good friends to a dinner party at Tujunga House. One of these friends, Naphis Sukumarabandhu, felt sorry for me as I hadn’t gone out with a lady since a relationship ended in 2011. She asked if she could bring a friend to the gathering. I agreed, and when she asked her friend this lady decided to come.

That dinner party turned out to be the luckiest day of my life. …

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This photo is of ps in the front yard at Tujunga House on 17nov13. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

The fifth guest was Pailin Subanna, and I knew I wanted to see her again before she left that evening. Recently a good friend told me that I finally had a muse in my life, and they were right. But there’s more—much more. I actually have someone who accepts me for me and loves me for who I am. it has taken me a lifetime to find this special person.

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ps in the front yard of Tujunga House on 24oct13 (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

She was hurt, damaged, and so was I. We took our time and became friends, then good friends. She has given me a life, and our relationship has blossomed.  … Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand?

Physical problems aside, I have regained my life and future. Sand Creek, Flynn/de Havilland, Carson, and other writing is back on track (and Gatewood and Geronimo have reentered my life).

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A collage of the beginning of the redesign of Tujunga House. Unfortunately lk got a little too artsy-fartsy here and size limitations prevented text in the image being readable on smaller computer monitors. #1) View from computer room into living room. #2) View from living room into computer room. #3) The lk Memoir/Sand Creek research/Chavez History Library delivery room, … the piles are now three times the height of what you see in the image. #4) Pailin working in the master bedroom; you see a Cheyenne parfleche, rock art, and a 3×5′ lk painting of a Santa Barbara, Ca., sunrise in the mid-1970s. #5) A second image of Pailin working in the master bedroom; the bookcase contains lk-published work and Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland publications. Above Pailin’s head is a print of Cheyenne chief Gordon Yellowman’s art of the Sand Creek attack that I hope to use in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. (collage photos © Louis Kraft & Pailin Subanna 2013)

For roughly 2 1/2 months you couldn’t walk in Tujunga House as it had been a minefield of disaster as Pailin and I worked to make the house livable and ours, and yes, she now lives at Tujunga House. As the holidays approached I had to relocate the still incomplete Memoir and Sand Creek research. These 2 1/2 months have played hell on my writing output, but they have been heaven with Pailin. … Good friend Vee (mentioned above) from that frozen land on the East Coast (we met during our college years) and Saul (a theatre major w/me at CSUN who became a film editor) visited on December 12th. The house had to be presentable as we didn’t want anyone falling over piles of books or research or goodies that had not yet gone to Vietnam Vets (I’m their best supplier), and Pailin & I made it. What a great day and evening w/Vee & Saul.

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ps & lk on 26dec13 when two good friends, Pete & Nina S., visited for dinner. ps & lk had celebrated Christmas on the 25th. It was just us, quiet and peaceful. On the 26th it was also peaceful, but with the added pleasure of two friends present. Good talk, joking, and friendship, … not to mention the lk-traditional turkey and Thai cuisine to die for. (image © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Days later, on 26dec13, two great SoCal friends, Nina and Pete Senoff, visited. Turkey & dressing + Thai food (spicy and mellow that Pailin and Nina created)—heaven. I’m talking about both ps & my time w/Nina & Pete and the dinner we shared. The meal? Alloy mark (delicious). … Enough said.

… And now (although there is still much to sort and decide its fate; stock-piled in the lk writing/research/Santa Fe archive room), the rest of the house is clean and the redesign is almost as we want it.

And, … AND for any of you who may be curious, Pailin will become my wife in 2014.

A new beginning for Pailin and lk has arrived. The future is totally unknown, but she and I have the world before us. Best of all we’ll have each other, and that’s what counts.

— Louis Kraft

Lt. Charles Gatewood & the Medal of Honor (MOH)

Ladies & Gents, this has been an ongoing project since Charles Gatewood’s death in the 1890s. He ended the last Apache war in 1886, while at risk of being killed by Apaches, Mexicans, and Americans. He did it without any bullets being fired, and yet he was at risk of being killed every step of the way.

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Although promised, there have to date been no images of the September Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson, Az., forthcoming. Fingers are always crossed. That said, this image is based upon a screen capture from the DVD of the talk that I just received from Mike Koury, who runs the Order of the Indian Wars. (art © louis Kraft 2013)

A number of efforts for Gatewood receiving the MOH have been ongoing for years, but most have been little more than wordplay, which I’ve avoided. A few years back I teamed up w/a retired lieutenant colonel of the US Army to bring Gatewood winning the award to a realistic future, and that time has arrived. Paul is upfront and center with many of the key generals in the US Army, and they listen to what he says. Paul’s lead will finally lead to Gatewood receiving a long-overdue recognition for pulling off what I consider the most impressive event of the Indian wars.

My good friend, Paul F. (sorry about the vagueness here) has been working on an article on Gatewood, and brought me into his world. He wrote and I advised and offered comments. He came up with a first class article and kindly added an interview of me to his text (fully half of his final article; an honor).

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Magazine cover for the Winter 2014 issue of On Point, The Journal of Army History.

The article was accepted as a feature for On Point: The Journal of Army History (Winter 2014). Paul kept me in the loop and I was able to continue adding my comments, which Paul incorporated. He even allowed me an opportunity to rewrite, and when the final PDF of the article arrived from the publisher, I was able to add my corrections to this last proof and they were accepted. Ladies and gents, I’m looking at Paul’s article now—an article that is reprinting my best Gatewood map (from Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir, 2005). Paul even shared half of the salary, even though I was little more than an interviewee granted editorial consideration. On Point took the interview answers and turned them into paragraphs—over half of the 8 pages of the article.

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Map originally by lk in the On Point Winter 2014 Gatewood article by Lt. Col. Paul Fardink, retired, first printed in Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (2005).

And better yet, Paul is leading the way into what I expect to be Charles Gatewood winning the first U.S. military Medal of Honor without amy bullets flying, a truly magnificent accomplishment!

That above statement said, Paul’s efforts are the kickoff to what is Charles Gatewood’s first quest for the MOH that actually has a chance of becoming reality. Today, I saw my copy of On Point: The Journal of Army History (a terrifically designed glossy publication) and final DVDs of my talk in Tucson, Arizona, in which I detailed Gatewood’s finding Geronimo in Mexico during the summer of 1886 on September 26, 2013, at an Order of the Indian Wars event (which I immediately sent to Paul for his next scheduled step in this oh-so-important  process).

* My apologies, for “Who says they don’t raise cowgirls in Thailand and other stories of Sand Creek” is still my next scheduled blog. … Gatewood updates happened today, and I needed to make them public on the blog (and not elsewhere), and I didn’t want to drag my heels for anything on Gatewood and Geronimo is first class news (at least in my life)..

— Louis Kraft

Errol Flynn, swords, Ned Wynkoop, & of course Kraft opinion

Errol Flynn … long time gone? It might seem so, but trust me, dear friends, ‘taint so. ‘Taint so! He’s just been sleeping in Kraft’s head for the last three months. Actually he needs to sleep a little more before I return to him (and Ms. de Havilland) on a regular basis. My writing editors must also feel that Kraft has slowly sunk to Davy Jones’s locker, ne’er to return. Deadlines? What are they? In the past I made them, regardless if they were easy or if it took me months on end (back when I was a writer for the Dark Side) with three to four hours sleep per night day after day with no end in sight until the work delivered on deadline. The Wynkoop book fit this description to a tee. Beginning in December 2010, and this included a major car wreck on the 134 freeway at high speed that totally destroyed a Corvette two days before Christmas (the front end, engine and everything else under the hood, the left side, the rear, and the car frame cracked in half), I missed only one day of work for the Dark Side as there were deadlines to be met. Thank you? Hell, you’ve got to be kidding! Recovery? It took me a year (a year of multiple deadlines for both the Dark Side and the freelance side), but the recovery would never be complete.

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This is a self portrait that I created earlier this year to represent my trials and tribulations when I moved my internet and phone to AT&T U-verse. A major mistake: The phone would disconnect after 10 to 15 minutes and fully 30 to 50 percent of the time I had no internet. I can’t tell you how many technicians visited or how many phone calls I made (on one the calls to AT&T the phone and went dead and they made no attempt call back). … The answer was always: “It’s your computers.” “How come everything worked with my former provider and wi-fi works everywhere except in my house?” My words never sank in until the umpteenth technician again confirmed that all the wires and equipment worked perfectly. “So what’s the problem and how can you fix it?” “It can never be fixed for you are too far from our hub and it will worsen whenever another customer signs up and is closer to the hub.” After three months, that was my out w/o a financial penalty. …. Why this picture now? Because I’m being pulled in many directions, am not well, and daily find myself clawing just to stay with my nose and mouth above water. I’m a survivor and all will be well, but for my whining section of this blog this image seemed appropriate. (image © Louis Kraft 2013)

Sand Creek, Wynkoop, Geronimo? Kraft has learned how to become slow (it took years and years to get me to this point in my life). Hey, give me a break. Doesn’t good wine take years of aging? So does my writing. … I’m just a normal guy, and I have every intention of enjoying the flowers. Greg Lalire at Wild West and Chuck Rankin at OU Press understand this, and you should too. Aged writing is always better than speed-demon prose stolen from published and oft-times error-riddled tomes.

That’s right, many writers are lazy SOBs that do no real research. They survive by stealing from secondary books, and they make no effort to confirm the accuracy of what they are grabbing, and worse, oftentimes they make it sound as if the information is theirs (that’s right: they give no credit to the secondary writer they ripped off). … A sad state of affairs.

Kraft, what are you writing about today? Oh yes, Mr. Flynn swinging a blade.

Swords & Flynn
Swords and Errol Flynn go together. … Flynn was a graceful, athletic, sensitive (bet on it), and intelligent man who easily fit into anything that caught his interest. I don’t think “multi-tasking,” as we now know the term, existed in the 1930s and 1940s, but let me tell you that, term or no term, Mr. Flynn was adept at it. He made his life his.

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lk art of EF as Lord Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939 release), a slow film because of Maxwell Anderson’s prose from his play Elizabeth the Queen (1930), which the writers, producer, and director made no effort to abandon or alter. Bottom line: a shame, for it could have been a much better film. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

Many of his critics haven’t acted and haven’t swung a sword, yet they spout out their expertise on what they have little knowledge. Mostly they’ve read books and reviews and repeat what they’ve read with little regard for accuracy of their (or their predecessors’) words. All they care about is that they’ve found mostly negative information that supports their premise, a premise they intend to build their expertise upon. A strong and not pretty indictment. Unfortunately ’tis all too true. I could name way-too-many books that pretend to be factual but in reality are little more than reprinted frauds, and worse they often invent quotes and create notes that have been pulled from the na-na land that we might call their brain.

Enter Ned Wynkoop
Ned Wynkoop? Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek know the connection between Wynkoop with Flynn.

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Wynkoop seeing a battle line of Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors in September 1864. Not a good moment for him. This Image first sees print in Wild West magazine (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I bring up Wynkoop here only as I want to use one example that relates to the above section, an example that I didn’t find, but one that Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine and my friend for many-many years, supplied to me. Greg sent me the following quote from a book he is currently reading in an email (22nov13):

“I’ve been reading a book called The Heart of Everything That Is about Red Cloud but it covers a lot of ground in the Old West. I know Wynkoop didn’t like Indians at first, but what do you think of this paragraph from the book?

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lk art of Bull Bear that will hopefully see print for the first time in August 2014. Bull Bear was an important player in Wynkoop’s life, and an even more important player in the Sand Creek story. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

“‘Fort Lyon’s new commander, Major Edward Wynkoop, was a friend of Chivington’s, and far less disposed than his predecessor toward differentiating between antagonistic and friendly tribes. He looked for any excuse to declare Black Kettle and White Antelope hostiles, and when he found none he simply refused their people food; returned their old muskets, bows, arrows, and knives; and ordered them off the premises. They were, he said, free to hunt in a limited territory bordering a stream called Sand Creek that fed into the Smoky Hill river about thirty-five miles northwest of the fort. The Cheyenne sensed a trap, but they were reassured that as long as Black Kettle flew the white flag of truce above his lodge next to an old American flag the Head Man had once received as a gift, no harm would come to them. Two days after the Indians departed, on November 28, Chivington arrived and Fort Lyon with two field cannons and 700 men of the Third Colorado Volunteer Cavalry….’ Nothing more is said of Wynkoop after that….”

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Wynkoop w/interpreter Dick Curtis on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867. Art by Theodore R. Davis and originally published in Harper’s Weekly. (Louis Kraft Collection)

Of course I had to reply to Greg, but only partially as I could write pages and pages about the above quote: “The words from The Heart of Everything That Is gave me a good laugh for many reasons. I’m not going to waste my time with a lengthy explanation, but will say a few things. Wynkoop didn’t order the Indians to move farther away from Fort Lyon (he was already removed from command)—Maj. Scott Anthony ordered them away. And I don’t think Anthony told them where to go or where to hunt (at least I haven’t seen anything that states this). Wynkoop did not ask for the Indians’ weapons; Anthony did (but only for weapons they had taken from whites—no bows and arrows or knives), and Wynkoop certainly didn’t give the Indians their weapons back for he never had them. Wynkoop, after returning from meeting with the Indians on the Smoky Hill and they went to Denver (for the meeting at Camp Weld), was very favorable toward these Cheyennes and Arapahos—although he was still careful around them. … The entire paragraph is a joke. By reading it, I wouldn’t trust much else that is in this book unless there is solid proof of primary documentation.”

My next contracted book is Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and the manuscript deals with this very subject in 130,000-word detail. Based upon one paragraph, The Heart of Everything That Is is so error-riddled that it is unquotable and won’t even make the Sand Creek bibliography. Before returning to Mr. Flynn, I want to close this section w/Greg L’s immediate reply to my email (which was longer than quoted): “Hey, I cringed when I read that about Wynkoop and I obviously know Wynkoop only slightly while he is your best friend. (Well, sort of, I guess). The authors of the book write with a certain flair, but they brush over many things (and I wonder how accurately they brush sometimes). I wonder how much time they have actually spent on Wild West material.”

In regard to Greg’s last sentence and the paragraph he sent me, nothing those writers wrote is valid for in that one short paragraph everything they wrote was wrong.

Swords & Mr. Flynn … continued
Graceful, when describing Flynn, is an understatement. Put Flynn on a horse, and it looked as if he and the horse were one. Place a sword in Flynn’s hand and it looked as if he had been wielding a blade all his life.

Why?

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Errol Flynn holds two sabres as he stands in front of his pool at Mulholland Farm and introduces a dueling demonstration (spring or summer 1945). His seated audience included Gary and Mrs. Rocky Cooper, among others. They were special guests for also on this day Flynn threw a big party to introduce his second wife, Nora Eddington, to the world. (photo: Robert Florczak collection)

Flynn was a great athlete who easily performed physical activities, but there was more. Ladies and gents, Flynn worked at his physical craft. Believe me, riding a horse and swinging a rapier takes practice and more practice. You don’t mount a horse and ride like you are one with the animal if you don’t put in the hours (and I don’t give a damn how good an athlete you are). Ditto the sword. You don’t duel competition or on film/stage without hours upon hours of practice and look good.

Flynn was lazy and didn’t work at his craft! Certainly this statement (or something like it) has been presented to us again and again in tomes written by writers that are less than expert at what they write about. Actually these writers, for the most part, have been little more than hacks that have created a premise and then have attempted to prove it (at times exchanging incomplete and inaccurate research for fiction to create quotes and notes that are as wild as some of the worse prose you’ve ever read in piss-poor fiction. This is nothing new to historical biography (maybe I’ll deal with this in a Wynkoop or Sand Creek blog). Trust me, Errol Flynn put in the time to master the sword for his screen performances.

Although not part of this blog, Flynn’s acting was good (and for the most part, he learned on the job), so good that it holds up well today. The reasons will be made clear in Errol & Olivia. Not to worry, for I’ll touch upon Flynn’s acting (as well as Olivia de Havilland’s acting) in future blogs. I can’t give you the bulk of the book, but I’ll be able to give you a taste—hopefully just enough to excite your curiosity.

Errol Flynn made 9 swashbuckling films, and yes he is known as a swashbuckler. Still, most people don’t realize that he worked in many genres of film: War (7), westerns (8), comedy (4), drama (I didn’t count), … there were adventures, film noir, mysteries. Well, you get the picture, he was capable of performing in different types of films. Of Flynn’s 9 swashbucklers, 4 are classics and are right at the top of anyone’s list of best 10 swashbucklers (2 are on my best 10 films of all time list).

Oh, by the way, there are two other film leading men that were good with a sword: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger.

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They join Flynn on the short list of being much better than the rest of the screen swordsmen, which includes Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Tyrone Power, Cornell Wilde (who, I admit I haven’t seen swing a blade in decades, and you don’t want to know the reason) … all the way to so-called swashbuckling films of the last two decades (most of which survive off of filming doubles, using special effects, and making way too much of the action long shots). As the saying goes, if you can’t see the actor’s face, it isn’t the actor.

Three special mentions need to be made here: 1) Basil Rathbone, who was good with a blade in his hand and whom always looked good (albeit stiff: read, mechanical) trying to kill the hero on film—always,  2) Gene Kelly in the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers, and 3) The actors from three films created by director Richard Fleischer in the 1970s: The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1974), and Crossed Swords (1977 or 1978) w/Oliver Reed (released in Great Britain as The Prince and the Pauper, and later on DVD w/this title).

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I never met Olivia Reed, but I did spend good time with Ernie Borgnine in Oklahoma City in April 2012, just months before his untimely death. Ernie was nothing like his screen persona; he was a kind, open, and giving person. Here Reed threatens Borgnine, who is the pauper’s father in Crossed Swords. Nothing but kudos from lk for this film.

Reed was in all three of Fleischer’s films (as was Charlton Heston), and he is by far the best actor swinging a blade in what are really farcical duels—the movements are so large and bold that a first-year fencing student in college could have easily won any of these filmed duels. That said, Reed, who unfortunately died young, looked good on film with the sword.

Conversely, Richard Chamberlain, an actor who has given us many good performances in a variety of roles, including three miniseries: Centennial (1978-1979), Shogun (1980)  and The Thorn Birds (1983) wasn’t very good with a sword in his hand. Chamberlain played one of the leading musketeers in both of Fleischer’s films. After the hit Dr. Kildare TV series in the 1960s he worked on his craft and became a very good actor.

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I’ve picked on Mr. Chamberlain, as he was just human, and not a good swashbuckler. That said, he is a surprisingly good actor. Here he is in an image of him as Cyrano during the key duel of the play. … I’m a firm believer in ad-libbing, that is playing the scene even though it isn’t progressing as written. … Playing the scene! Ladies and gents, this was something that Errol Flynn was very good at, but, alas, something that Chamberlain wasn’t capable of doing (at least not when I saw him act). Acting is doing; it is also living, and when an actor can’t do this on film or on stage, he/she hasn’t prepared properly. He/she doesn’t know his/her character. On that night decades ago, Mr. Chamberlain wasn’t Cyrano. All he was, was an actor, an actor that hadn’t prepared properly to portray a character. He was lost, and it was a sad sight to see.

Case in point. I saw him play Cyrano de Bergerac on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles (8th row center). During “the” duel his blade broke and an actor had to walk to him and hand him another blade (no improvising and avoiding being killed until he had another weapon—the action just stopped, and it wasn’t very good to start with). Worse, the entire duel was boring and anti-climatic. In other words, totally disappointing (especially so since Cyrano was supposed to be the world’s greatest duelist).

I had hoped to discuss in detail some of Flynn’s duels. Unfortunately during the drafting of this blog I changed my mind (blame it on taking too long to complete the blog, which in turn made me realize that I need to keep this information for E&O). My apologies.

I will say this, the dueling in Captain Blood (1935) was a combination of exciting shots/angles filmed on sand and rocks on the California coast. Some of this exhilarating, and some of it farcical. The farcical is not Flynn’s (or Basil Rathbone’s) fault, for they performed as choreographed. They slipped over wet and slimy rocks and kept their balance on the sand—some of this is very good, including Flynn’s death thrust to Rathbone.

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Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone dueling to the death on the beach in Captain Blood (based upon the first part of Rafael Sabatini’s great novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey, 1922, and romantic illustrations by Howard Pyle and others in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (lk collection)

That said, it is idiocy to swing blades that are thrusting weapons as if they are cutting weapons. Beyond that, Flynn’s swinging a thrusting blade like a saber but so high that all someone with a knife would have to do is duck, step in, and gut him. Again, not Flynn’s fault (but the dueling master’s). … BTW, the saber work on the ships is good.

The above said, Captain Blood is a great film for many reasons (not in this blog’s scope), as is The Adventures of Robin Hood (great for totally different reasons; again not in this blog’s scope). Sorry.

I’m going to say less about the dueling in Robin Hood, actually only two comments.

  1. No one, absolutely no one, can swing a broadsword as they were used in the film.
  2. If you can swallow the total misuse of the weapons and enjoy the dramatics of the sword fighting, the minor duel Flynn has with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) and the major duel he has with Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) are magnificent.

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Both films and the duels will be dealt with in detail in Errol & Olivia.

BTW, the Oliver Reed-Mark Lester (as the prince and the pauper) film Crossed Swords is much closer to Mark Twain’s novel than the Errol Flynn-Mauch twins 1937 film (The Prince and the Pauper), and in my opinion, a much more satisfying film. That said, Flynn’s sword fight with Alan Hale at the end of the film was a huge improvement in his technique and form over the beach duel in Captain Blood. He now looked like he was a duelist and one to be avoided at the risk of loss of life. Graceful, deadly, but with a cocky panache that Hale’s evil captain of the guard would too-quickly learn, Flynn’s Miles Hendon marked his arrival as a swashbuckler and a suitor to share the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., armor as “the swordsman.”

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EF duels in jest and with deadly intent if need be with Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) in The Adventures of Robin Hood. This duel is really well done and the actors (and the stuntmen) performed admirably. (lk collection)

Flynn’s Robin Hood would confirm this. Although Flynn would rub shoulders with Fairbanks up to and after his own death, with the arrival of The Adventures of Robin Hood in ’38 there really was no comparison. Fairbanks bounced around on film, and he constantly swung the blade, but I would rate him with B-actors in the “talkie” swashbucklers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. What linked Flynn and Fairbanks père was their “swashbuckling” success at the box office.

(Douglas Fairbanks fils, has already been mentioned positively above with Flynn and Stewart Granger. lk: I just got tired of using “Sr.” and “Jr.”)

An in-left field baseball comparison
The following is a way-out comparison, so bear with me. The best baseball pitcher I’ve ever seen was Sandy Koufax of Los Angeles Dodgers’ fame in the 1960s (he also pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but one never knew where his pitches were going back then). No other pitchers have compared to him—none. He was lights out in LA on a team that couldn’t hit the baseball. Meaning he could throw a 1 or 2 hitter with 1 walk and lose the game 1-0.

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The white-haired Duke is batting in an old-timers game at Dodger Stadium in 1980. The Dodgers kindly allowed me to use this image in an 1985 Article, “The Duke of Flatbush” for Sports Parade. This signed image is from the magazine cover (I cropped out the magazine’s name, which was in a separate box above the image). In 1985 I pitched Snider to do a book about his life, but like most of my life I was a day late and a dollar short for the Duke had already signed a contract with writer Bill Gilbert (The Duke of Flatbush was published in 1988). I have a lot of the Duke’s autographs, for in the mid- to late-1980s it looked like my writing career would focus on baseball. The above artwork is by the BB artist Dick Perez (who allowed me to use his great art of the Duke from the classic 1984 Donruss BB card set—not pictured here—in my “The Duke of Flatbush” article. I think my failure to land the Duke set me on track to write about race relations on the western frontier (no regrets, for people are our world—yesterday, today, and tomorrow).

If Sandy had had the Brooklyn team of Duke Snider (see above image), Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Pee Wee Reese hitting for him in his prime (and if his career was longer), he would have easily won 30 games in multiple seasons.

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This BB art card was from the 2nd edition of Diamond Classics (1983); Koufax was one of only a handful of players to make the set from his era. … Certainly Clayton Kershaw will be featured in a future blog (as will Koufax, Snider, and Bill Buckner).

The Sandy Koufax comparison to the rest of baseball pitchers (past and present, with possibly the exception of the Dodgers’ current gem, Clayton Kershaw) is what Errol Flynn’s swashbuckler was to the world of film—past and present (and there was/is no Clayton Kershaw in the Flynn equation). The only two swordsmen who are/were rivals in skill to him on film were Doug Fairbanks, Jr., and Stewart Granger, with a distant fourth perhaps being Oliver Reed. Basil Rathbone was very good with a sword, and perhaps would have done well in fencing competition, but alas, on film—and regardless of his skill with a blade—he was stiff, controlled, and worse, so concerned if his dueling stance and form was correct that one could never believe he’d win a duel. Perhaps, as Rathbone egotistically claimed, he could “kill Mr. Flynn whenever he wanted” (lk: This is a paraphrase.), but this is not quite true. Yes, most likely Rathbone might have defeated Flynn in fencing competition where points are scored (but let me tell you, in competition it isn’t always the duelist who strikes first who gets the point; it is the duelist who strikes legally who gets the point. Of course, in a real duel this fencer would be dead before he scored his legal point. My “point” here is this, I’ll take Messrs. Flynn and Fairbanks, Jr., and maybe Oliver Reed (not sure about Granger) over Rathbone in a duel to the death any day. Let me repeat that, any day.

— Louis Kraft

Geronimo, Gatewood, & moving into the future w/my toon-hua

Sorry about the delay publishing this blog.

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Although the Sand Creek contract has been signed and I am about to begin work on the manuscript, Gatewood, Geronimo, and Mexico have dominated and still dominate my life. But they share it and play second fiddle to the lady in my life. My kon-souy, who is my toon-hua. (To save you time trying to look up what these words mean, here’s the translation: My pretty lady, who is my honey/my love.)

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Certainly there is new artwork on Geronimo, but there is none on Charles Gatewood. Since this talk featured Mr. G. & Mr. G. I decided to use the Gatewood & Geronimo dust jacket. BTW, I created the artwork on the dust jacket (art © Louis Kraft 1999). Long time gone. When I pitched it to editor-in-chief, he told me he wanted it in black & white. Surprisingly he liked the art, but then asked me to deliver it in color. I said, “Sure, fine, … but I need to start from scratch.” Too late; way too late as the book was now in production. Looking back, and I’ve been doing this for a long time now, I could recreate this piece—which depicts one of their night watches during their stressful return to the U.S. in August 1886—and improve the work 10-fold or more. Most likely this will never happen. That said, I have a major rediscovery of people, race, time & place that for 10 years dominated my life. The hope is that this rediscovery is not fleeting, and will again re-enter my life in the future.

Pailin Subanna joined me when I stepped back into my past and walked once again with Mr. G. & Mr. G., who have played such a large role in my Indian wars writing life. To be exact, two books and three articles when on September 26 I spoke about “Gatewood’s Assignment: Geronimo” to a large assembly of members of the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) in Tucson, Arizona. It was the 10th time I spoke about these important people in my life; one of four talks that kicked off a three-day event that tracked Geronimo in the U.S. If it was my swan song as a speaker, I’m good with it. Unfortunately I have no photos of the talk (Daniel A. Martinez, host & historian-in-residence, at The Discovery Channel, took numerous photos and he’ll share some of them in the future). During the 26th Mike Koury allowed me to introduce Pailin to the full house. It was her first Indian wars event.

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This is my lady on the morning of September 26, 2013 (the day of the Gatewood/Geronimo talk in Tucson, Az.). She is ironing my pants (something I’ve done since my mother did it for me), and although I tried to stop her, she insisted. More importantly, you are seeing her as I see her—gorgeous w/o makeup and totally alive. She was probably saying, “Don’t take the picture.” I did, and when she sees this image she’ll probably hit me once or twice. Love taps no matter how hard they are, for this image is worth 1000s of words. (photo © Palin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

The Arizona trip was the first that Pailin and I shared. Our relationship was really in good shape before the trip. The time we would spend together cemented our future. No small words. …

The talk was taped. When I see it, sometime later this year, I hope I’ll be able to figure out how to convert it and post it on the website. To date, this is something I have not been able to do with OIW DVDs. I plan to push and question until I learn how to prepare this talk for showing on the internet as soon as the talk arrives, probably in November.

Pailin and I didn’t join the tour. But instead of driving straight home, as had been the original plan, we took a small side trip. In other words, we took the long way home.

What’s Upcoming
Before sharing a little of the trip, a small update is in order:

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    This is a small detail from Geronimo artwork I hope to complete for Wild West magazine. As of late it seems that all of my articles for the last year+ have been delivered drastically over the promised date. I hate excuses, so none are forthcoming, other than to say that this piece on Geronimo may be my last. With that thought bouncing around in my brain I have been in no hurry to complete the work. (art in progress © Louis Kraft 2013)

    The Ned Wynkoop/horse painting is finally making decent progress (it needs to be submitted with photos/art for an article of him meeting Black Kettle on the Smoky Hill in Kansas for the first time in September 1864).

  • The Geronimo article is almost complete. The photos and art are in place except for a new piece on Geronimo that I began the other day (I’m sharing about 20 percent of the art here). This is a work in progress, which I think will require several more days to complete.
  • There is also a Wynkoop/U.S. government article that is almost ready for submission.

The above sums up my present magazine-writing life. It also announces two swan songs for most likely the next three years and perhaps my entire future.

Swan songs? Alas, yes.

Swan songs

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This is the counterpart image to the one of Pailin (above), for I am wearing the shirt and pants she ironed for me. I’m perhaps the world’s worst packer; anything I throw into a suitcase will be wrinkled when I reach my destination. I should say that I’m an experienced man with an iron (some may say dangerous), which dates so far back that it is certainly something I’m not going to share. It is late morning on September 26 and my lady and I are getting ready for the OIW event. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

LIfe goes on, and as it moves into the future it changes. What matters and is now important has replaced what once had been but no longer is, perhaps never to return.

Swan song no. 1: The above articles may be the last articles I ever write. Certainly for the next three years, or whenever Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway manuscript is delivered (it is due on October 1, 2016). Optimistically I will beat the deadline. Then it will be a matter of what books are in the pipeline and how close they are to completion. During the writing of Sand Creek, progress will continue on Errol & Olivia and with luck Navajo Blood will also be close to publication. If yes to both, they will take precedent over any magazine articles. I have already alerted Chuck Rankin (editor-in-chief at OU Press) what my next Indian wars book will be. As soon as I have enough primary source material to create a story idea and If Chuck buys in, when Sand Creek enters the production chain, the next nonfiction Indian wars book proposal will begin. When Errol & Olivia goes to press (and I expect this to be close to the Sand Creek publication date), I will begin work on the 2nd Errol Flynn book (which, egotistically, will be the best book I write). As these books are my no. 1 priorities, you can see why my magazine writing may have come to an end.

Swan song no. 2: The ending of talks, as mentioned above, is not a threat. That said, it is directly related to my current financial situation. All talks in the future will be for my full salary and with all expenses. My biggest supporters over the years have been the U.S. government and the state of Kansas. But with the continued downturn of finances of federal and state governments (all of which can be directly associated with a fake war and the drastic monetary consequences that followed and have pounded many of us—certainly me; every time I think of the cash gone and the potential dollars that have vanished, I get palpitations).

The LA Times (see below caption), a dark side without end, & pleasure

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If you don’t know Walt Disney’s Scrooge McDuck, or Donald Duck and his three nephews (Huey, Dewey, and Louie) and the adventures they globe-trotted through when they combated the infamous Beagle Boys, you don’t know what you have missed. In a time long gone, the Scrooge and Donald comic books that featured them, their nephews, and the bad boys were must-read adventures. … In David Lazarus’s great column, “Wealth gap only getting worse” (LA Times, October 11, 2013, Business section, page 1), he writes: “The richest 1% own nearly half of all global wealth. … Only a tiny fraction of the roughly 7 billion people in the world accounts for 46% of the estimated $241 trillion in money, property and other material resources available. The richest 10%, meanwhile, can claim 86% of global wealth, leaving 90% of the world’s population to divvy up whatever’s left.” If possibly true, … a sad state of affairs. Lazarus’s column is must-reading twice a week, and, along with David Horsey’s political cartoons (alas, only once a week), make the Times a cheap thrill at 50 cents per week (yep, 50 cents for 7 issues per week—a steal at today’s outrageous prices).

We punish war criminals the world over, but U.S. war criminals (unless they are in the lower echelons of the military; read captains, lieutenants, and your basic soldiers) largely go unpunished. 

Add that the robber barons that suck the blood and life out of our once glorious country also go mostly unpunished, … seldom is a megastar of the business world sacrificed and then only to put forth the false belief that the U.S. judicial system is fair.

If the U.S. ever loses a world war, heads will roll; if the U.S. experiences a second civil war, heads will roll. Not events I want to see, but I do want to see criminals punished.

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Pailin just prior to the Order of the Indian Wars talks that kicked off the three-day tour that tracked Geronimo. She is in the courtyard of the Radisson Suites, and is about to enter a world she has no knowledge of, a world of people she doesn’t know. I caught a pensive moment on film. She is present as she wants to enter my world, and I want her there. These days would prove to be the most important of our time together for we realized that we were totally comfortable with each other at all times. You don’t know what I’m talking about for I’m again being vague. Trust what I’ve said for ’tis the truth, and our time together since has proved this. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

This dark prose by me is not fed by anger. Not at all. Just the opposite, I love giving talks. They have always been a big thrill in my life. Always, as juices slice through me and turn me on whenever talking. Talks are pure pleasure—a one-shot at doing something. Dodging bullets may be a thrill if you survive; for me surviving a talk is a thrill. … I hate resumes and aren’t real good at keeping them up to date. Just now I wanted to know how many talks I’ve given on Mr. G. and Mr. G. over the years. The most recent freelance resume I could find was created in 2008, almost 5 1/2 years ago. I believe that the Tucson talk was the 10th I’ve delivered that dealt with G&G. If the Tucson Gatewood/Geronimo talk was my last, it was a good talk to end on. … And I’ll be forever grateful to my good friend Mike Koury for bringing me to Arizona and welcoming my lady to his OIW event.

A journey to the heartland
Just so you know, I am totally misusing the word “heartland.” Hopefully the following sections aren’t vague and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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The OIW talks on September 26th have ended. Pailin has met Layton Hooper, Daniel Martinez, Dan Aranda, Mike & Dee Koury, and has been introduced to the gathering. I’ve increased my friendship with Bernd Brand. We have changed, and are about to enter the pool area of the Radisson Suites, where most everyone is eating their dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs, to say goodbye. Brand and I had had several good talks during the day and he wanted us to join him, but we were off to the Bangkok Cafe, which he said he often visited. Like other friends in my Indian wars network, he has opened his home in Tucson to us with open arms upon a return visit. …. The Bangkok Cafe proved to be a terrific choice, much better than the southwestern restaurant we tried the previous night—too bad it isn’t in LA. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Those of you who have followed my blogs know how I met Nuch (her nickname); other than this instance, I’m calling her by her name, Pailin, in this blog as she had requested that I use her first name when I introduced her to the OIW. When I asked Pailin if she’d like to go to Tucson, she surprised me and said yes, but wanted to see a little of Arizona. I called Mike K., and he immediately welcomed her. Instead of driving home on the night of the 26th as planned, and although not in the budget we planned a couple of days that interested Pailin.

The best part of the trip was that we were together.

You’ve got to realize that we’ve moved slowly getting to know each other, became friends, then best friends, and now are moving into our future. She knows more about me than any of you. Perhaps all of you put together (oh yes, there is much that isn’t public). We are at one with each other and it doesn’t matter what we are doing, where we are, or if we are silent or talking.

Over the course of the six-day trip, we traveled 2488 miles (and that included a day in Tucson when the Vette only traveled a few miles to go out to dinner and one day in Las Vegas, Nevada, when the car didn’t move), so basically we did all the driving in four days. Good times.

Some of the land we rode through or passed over is desolate (an understatement), making me wonder if anyone that attempted to cross some of this land 150-200 years ago, did any of these bold adventurers survive their journey?

Guidon Books (Scottsdale, Arizona)

Shelly and Gordon Dudley own and run Guidon Books in Scottsdale, Arizona. I had met them sometime after Shelly’s mom, Ruth Kantor Cohen passed away.

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lk w/Shelly Dudley (image at right) at Guidon Books on September 27. … Of course the best way for a bookseller to win a writer’s heart is to stock his books. Guidon Books has always done this. Shelly still stocks all of my nonfiction work, and I signed them for her. My books have always been over-priced, which I hate. That said, Custer and the Cheyenne continues to gather kudos, the two Gatewood-Geronimo/Apache books have become classics, and in a recent review historian/novelist Thomas McNulty called the Wynkoop book a masterpiece (humbling me). Prices for pristine first editions of G&G are now over $100.00 and the Gatewood Memoir is creeping to three figures. (photo © Pailin Subanna and Louis Kraft 2013)

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Pailin w/Mr. G at the front of Guidon Books. You are seeing this petite explorer in her element, and that is living the moment wherever she is. Unfortunately every angle we attempted to take of this image had the glare in the window. (photo © Pailin Subanna and Louis Kraft 2013)

Ruth and Aaron, who outlived his wife by almost 10 years, played key roles in my Indian wars writing life. Without a spirited conversation with them (I think in 1995), wherein I learned of the Charles Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, there would have been no Gatewood/ Geronimo/Apache books. Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, Publishers) opened the nonfiction book world to me, but it was Gatewood & Geronimo that gave me name recognition. Ruth’s life unfortunately ended too early and she never saw the publication of G&G. Aaron did, and our long-distance friendship blossomed. I can’t tell you how many happy hours I spent with him in his shop. He was open, friendly, and boy did he have stories to tell. Perhaps he liked that I didn’t play by the rules (BTW, I am a firm believer that once you know the rules, you can break them) and had no fear to stand for what I wanted. If I didn’t see eye to eye with a publisher or they with me, they would soon be in my rear-view mirror. Adios amigo! A year or so before Aaron moved on, Bruce Dinges, who plays a key role in Arizona’s history, said to me: “Aaron Cohen loves you, he just loves you. Why?” I didn’t have an answer. Thinking about this over the years, I think it was because Aaron was a rebel and so am I. We were kindred spirits. If I had lived in the Phoenix area or he in LA, we would have been close buddies. … Shelly, Gordon, their sons, and a young lady with red hair (another grandchild?) began helping Aaron at Guidon Books.

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Pailin w/the soldier that has greeted visitors to Guidon Books for as long as I can remember. When we walked into the store her eyes devoured him. After saying goodbye to Shelly she held my arm and pulled me to a halt at the soldier. I knew what she wanted, a photo with this soldier. On this day it looked as if he had a little problem with is spine (age catches up with all of us). Two regrets here: We didn’t take photos of the interior and the store front, which is extraordinary. Next time. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Pailin and I made a detour on our journey northward to visit Shelly (unfortunately Gordon was elsewhere) at Guidon Books, which had moved several blocks a few years back. ”Great” is an understatement, for the new store floored me. Guidon Books had been my favorite book store back in the day, and believe me it still is. If you are into the Indian wars, Indians, gunfighters, the American West, or the Civil War, do yourself a favor and visit Guidon Books (7109 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale, Az.).

Shelly gave Pailin and myself a tour of Guidon Books. This trip wasn’t a “buying” trip as the money was tight, but if it had been I could have easily spent the rest of the day looking at books. In years past, I had crossed paths with Shelly and Gordon often, but with me moving away from the Apache wars, cutting back on trips to Arizona, and ending my attendance at WHA conventions, this was the first time I’ve had to hang out with Shelly in way too many years. It was just like old times. Whenever you see a good friend, time slips away and it is just like last week. Didn’t want to leave.

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The walkway to the cliff where Montezuma Castle can be seen is peaceful and loaded with plants and trees. Yellow is Pailin’s favorite color and these flowers immediately caught her attention. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Montezuma Castle National Historic Site (Arizona)
Driving northward toward I-40 I had a brainstorm about visiting the Sinagua Pueblo ruins, which is a stone’s throw east of I-17. A short side trip and Pailin was all for the visit. This land is peaceful, quiet, and I always enjoy walking the small grounds.

psMontezumaCollage_27sept13_wsShe did too. I told her, that if she wanted in the future I’d take her to ancient ruins (Anasazi and others) that she could step onto and into. An experience that always thrills me. If I live long enough, there is a novel, a modern-day novel, that will deal with the Anasazi, ritual, cannibalism, and the human experience (working title: Muse Eternal). The backside of my life has arrived and with it my most creative time and the happiest days of my life. I know—finally—who I am, where I’m going, and the lady who is going to be with me during every step of the journey. A good feeling.

Williams (Arizona)
Over the years, Williams has been a resting stop for me on countless trips into the West; trips to the Navajo Rez, Denver, Co., Fort Larned, Ks., Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N. Mex., and elsewhere. As often as possible I’ve stayed with friend and great novelist Gary McCarthy and his pretty wife Jane.

psWilliamsCollageBorder_27sept13_wsAlways good times, as we catch up and discuss projects, eat good food, and enjoy wine as we talk long into the night. The following morning is always easy as we enjoy each others’ company. Gary and Jane weren’t available during this trip, which, as it turned out, was good as we—especially Pailin—needed rest. Before an early night to bed Pailin wanted to explore Williams. We snapped some fun photos, and before returning to our lodging I introduced—really introduced—Pailin to chile verde. I’m a wimp when it comes to Indian (India) and Korean hot sauces, but, believe it or not, Thai hot sauces are fine if I avoid the chile peppers and stick to the juice. Chile verde is to die for, but it was a mite too hot for my lady that night. Guess I’m not a wimp after all.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Up early on the 28th and on the road. A short drive got us into the canyon, and on this day entry was free. I should say a few words about Pailin here. She is an adventurer in the mold of the English pirate Francis Drake and the American frontiersman Kit Carson (this is a major compliment by me for these are two of the mere handful of men I respect throughout history, and she can easily walk, ride, or sail with them and be right at home).

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Rod Taylor as Francis Drake and Jon Hall as Kit Carson. Hey Kraft, what’s up? Just this: You can count the major players in my writing life on two hands. What you didn’t know was that the pirate Francis Drake and the frontiersman Kit Carson are included in the 10 historical people I respect because I hadn’t written about them yet. Their time is coming. Bet on it. Mr Carson is up first, and my first book dealing with him is already in progress. Books on Drake will follow. Okay, …. good! What about Pailin? How do these fellows tie in with her. Simple. They were explorers that had no fear of venturing into the unknown. Ditto Pailin. She was created in the mold of Drake and Carson. I’ve been bold and perhaps have placed myself in situations that should have been avoided, but weren’t (if I had to compare myself to an animal, it would be a mountain lion, for I am a survivor who has to date landed on his feet as the cat lives pass). Pailin has that adventurous spirit that places her with Drake and Carson for she has had the daring to make decisions that set her on a trail of world exploration that I never even fantasized about. Pailin has a courage that I can only dream about, for she is a true person of the world.

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Pailin wanted to again visit the Grand Canyon, and that is why we drove to Williams (she first visited in December 2012). I hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon since the dark ages, and it has changed (to the better). … We had just gotten off the bus that transported us to the Bright Angel Trailhead when Pailin saw two fawns eating in a meadow. As she moved close to them, I zoomed in on the fawns and snapped a photo. Wanting a closeup of Pailin with them feeding at the edge of the shade in the background I closed on my lady, but two humans were one too many for the fawns and they moved away. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Let’s take the previous caption a little farther (but while I do, I want to share a special Pailin as she returned to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon). … My misplaced boldness has far too often placed me in flashes of time and place that pushed beyond where I wanted to go. Next to my lady, I’m a child in play-actors’ clothing. She is the bold one, the one with no fear. She is truly an explorer in the full meaning of the word. The trail she has blazed makes mine pale in comparison. That she has entered my life is unbelievable. I couldn’t have a better soulmate.

Like I said, our time was short as we had miles to travel and a short time to cover them. We made the best of our time, and I saw a piece of Grand Canyon that I had no idea existed 25 years previously (if indeed it existed back then).

Las Vegas (Nevada) and a return to …

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Pailin enjoying carrot juice early in the AM on 29sept13 as she looked southwest out of our window at Excalibur. She is ready for the day’s venture. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

We arrived hours late to Excalibur near the south end of Las Vegas Blvd., and I feared us getting stuck in a smoke-filled room. My conversations with the hotel moved from lies (“You can call this number to ensure a non-smoking room.”) to a long-long talk that perturbed me (I was told, and it took 10-15 minutes, that it would be first come/first serve on the non-smoking rooms even though our room was confirmed and paid for). Black mark no. 1 for the Excalibur. A safe wasn’t in the room, the hard-connection didn’t work for the internet, and the TV didn’t work. Actually no big deal (we easily dealt with no safe, could live with no internet for two nights, and during the entire trip I watched a total of perhaps 5 minutes of TV and Pailin saw zero TV). We enjoyed good food, but not at Excalibur. Oh, we did have a non-smoking room (and the room was fine). … No matter for we didn’t drive to Nevada to see Las Vegas.

… adventure

skywalkGC_maverickHelicopter_29sept13_wsThe next morning (29sept2013) we would realize that an important reservation was also built upon several phone calls of lies. That said (and I will pound a little below), the thrill was real (but not nearly close to what we expected).

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Pailin standing next to the Maverick Airlines helicopter at the airpot in Henderson, Nevada on 29sept13. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft @2013)

Who cares, … for we were together and doing something we both love—experiencing an event and land we’d never seen before.

A truck/bus picked us up at the Excalibur rotunda the next morning. A short drive to Henderson, Nevada, check in, and we boarded our Maverick Airlines helicopter with the pilot (Greg) and five other people. Ladies and gents if you have never taken off in a helicopter, it is a cool experience. Pardon the short diversion (which is mostly stolen from Facebook):

I had had an opportunity to get on a helicopter back in late 1979 when I worked on a film called Raise the Titanic (based upon a best-selling novel but the final film was a bore).

ps&lk_GChelicopterMontage_29sept13_wsRichard Jordan played the leading character (I doubled for him). We spent two weeks (12 days) sleeping and partying at Hotel del Coronado (down San Diego way). My room was right on the dock. Each morning (can’t remember exactly when, but between 4:00-5:00 AM we went to sea in a fleet of small vessels. Think it was about a two hour voyage out to two major Naval vessels (the lead-player ship was a nuclear helicopter carrier). I spent all my time on this vessel (and explored it completely). The Naval vessels then spent another two-three hours going farther out to sea (double this for the return trip each night, and we didn’t get back to land until 9:00 PM or so, and I had some eight or ten hours on salary for hanging out and having a blast). … One afternoon the script called for Jordan’s character to board a helicopter on the ship. This would be me. Only two problems: 1) We were moving through a heavy sea and the ship was rocking, rolling, and bouncing through the water and 2) The winds were strong. I told the director and assistant director what it would cost. They refused my money demand and I told them that I wasn’t getting on the helicopter as I didn’t want to be aboard when it took off and then flipped into the sea. They recruited a sailor, a makeup artist put a beard on his face (Jordan and I had real beards), and he did what I considered a stunt for free. Luckily there were no problems and the helicopter took off and later landed on the ship safely. In my opinion, I made the right decision. The helicopter rides in Nevada-Arizona (to and from) were smooth and an absolute blast.

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View of the Grand Canyon w/the Colorado River snaking through it. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

It’s a great feeling to be flying so low to the land (between 1500 and 1800 feet). Although we were in the air for about 90 minutes total, the two flights were way too short. I could have spent the day up floating/zooming across the land (average speed was 150 mph). Actually, I would have liked to have been lower to the ground during the flights, but that wasn’t to be.

ps&lk_HualapaiREZmontage_29sept13_wsWe flew over the Hoover Dam, traversed Lake Mead (supposedly the largest man-made lake in the U.S.), reached where the Colorado River flowed from the Grand Canyon into Lake Mead, but then unexpectedly reached the west side of the canyon where the Skywalk was located (which, when you consider how long the canyon is, we saw way too little of it from the air).

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Pailin and lk on the Skywalk. We took our time and enjoyed it. (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

With a little over three hours on the west side of the canyon (two major locations that short drives connect with the airport) on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, we had enough time to explore at our own pace. The Skywalk was a must see for us. It was nice, but not as dramatic as I thought it would be. It did have a protective railing (see photo), but this was the only railing we saw on the Rez. The land is rugged; the stone is slick and at times slippery. Add winds that can gust at times and it is a wonder that more visitors haven’t tumbled to eternity. Adiós amigos. Vaya con Dios.

Pailin explores the world around her with a positive enthusiasm that is unending. So full of life! Unbelievable—this is my lady. I’m in heaven with her. … The Arizona trip was the first of what will be many trips we’ll take together.

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The return trip was not as Viator (the booking company) representatives told me during two long phone conversations detailing the flights. Instead of returning to Henderson, Nevada, by retracing the initial flight the pilot flew over land so desolate that it was an amazing sight to see. Regardless of the breathtaking panorama, I wasn’t pleased with Viator’s faulty information. BTW, you are again looking at the Colorado River. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

— Louis Kraft

Geronimo & Gatewood together again + an EXPLOSION of opinion

I know that my mind meanders all over the place. Unfortunately all the time. … My lady and my daughter always head the list—always.

Currently Gatewood and Geronimo dominate. I’ve got what I consider a major talk on them approaching quickly. Way too quickly. If you knew how I approach talks and prepare for them you’d have a major heart attack.

What about Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charley Bent, Tall Bull, Left Hand, John Chivington, Sand Creek, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, … slave labor? SLAVE LABOR? Stop!!

Will I address slave labor here? Don’t hold your breath. …
Perhaps on another social media.

As for Ned, BK, Charley, TB, LH, Chiv., Sand Creek, and E&O,
not too worry for they’ll return in October.
(Actually Ned has some wordplay below.)

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Artwork in progress of Geronimo. … I want to mention a person I met earlier this year (long distance) who is a filmmaker/director. His name is Dustinn Craig. In 2009, PBS Home Video released We Shall Remain: America Through Native Eyes, a collection of five documentary films. Dustinn directed Geronimo. It is a good film (let me repeat this: It is a good film.). He is currently working on a film that deals with White Mountain Apache scouts, and has kindly shared over 20 minutes of film with me. All I can say is, “Wow!” If his final film matches what he currently has, it is going to be extraordinary. Unfortunately I don’t have any images of Dustinn to share but hope to someday, for I know that I’ll be speaking about him in the future. Dustinn has shared great information with me that is his copyrighted data that he doesn’t want shared. I certainly understand and agree with this. He has also pointed out to me that Geronimo is not a hero among many Apaches (and Dustinn has an inside track for he is a White Mountain). Dustinn, thank you for a point well-noted. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

‘Course, Mr. G. is my guy, and has been since I discovered him in the mid-1990s. No one—no one—compares to him. Not Black Kettle, not Roman Nose, not Tall Bull. Yep, all Cheyennes. That must tell you something about me and my close connection to the Cheyennes (they’re special). Let’s not forget Bull Bear, Little Robe and others, … and definitely include Mo-nahs-e-tah (how her name is phonetically spelled, and it is about time people begin pronouncing her name correctly).

Before moving on, I want to make one thing clear—the Apaches are also special. And the leader of the pack is Mr. G.

Names and how they are pronounced
I need to speak about Mo-nahs-e-tah, and I will soon. Count on it!

Most of you pronounce my name correctly. A few of you don’t, and I don’t think you have speech impediments.

My name is “Louis” and not “Louie” or “Luis.”
I take offense when people who are supposedly my friends
mis-pronounce my name on purpose. It isn’t because their
tongues don’t function, it is because they have no respect.
Maybe I should begin calling them “Sissy-poo.”

Geronimo: An American Legend
In December 1993 I saw Geronimo: An American Legend with Wes Studi playing Mr. G. and Jason Patric playing the other Mr. G. (Lt. Charles Gatewood). I liked the grandeur and scope but I hated the lack of character focus in the film. The writer(s) and director couldn’t figure out who the film was about. Worse—although I didn’t know this at the time—they decided that fiction was better than fact; too many people buy into this bullshit, including director John Ford. Ford supposedly said something like, “If you have the choice between fact and legend, print the legend.” At best, this quote is a paraphrase (at worse he never said it), for I made no attempt to confirm it. I don’t agree with Mr. Ford, for often fact is much more interesting than legend. That doesn’t mean that “legend” doesn’t play well on film.

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Geronimo (Wes Studi) and Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) await the approaching Tombstone posse (read: lynch mob). Geronimo wants Gatewood’s binoculars as they are better than his and offers a turquoise rock (valuable to the Apaches). They are about to shoot at the approaching Tucson posse, and it is Geronimo’s first shot that wins the day. Although I hadn’t thought about it, this scene actually is the backbone to the Geronimo article I’m trying to create at the moment. This event never happened in Geronimo’s life, so I’m not reveling much here. This is a German lobby card from Geronimo: An American Legend (1993). The Germans do much better film publicity than the USA, and they’ve doing this since the late 1940s. … Anyway, a great scene that never happened in real life. lk collection.

The three best scenes in Geronimo: An American Legend are 1) When Geronimo and Gatewood shoot at the Tombstone posse at the beginning of the film, 2) Gatewood accepting an Apache warrior’s challenge and killing him in single combat, and 3) Gatewood’s shootout with scalp hunters in a cantina in Mexico (BTW, none of the people in the cantina scene were with Gatewood in Mexico in 1886). So what’s the problem? Just this: None of these events happened. Other than being perhaps 25 years too young, Wes Studi was perfectly cast as Geronimo while Jason Patric (as Gatewood) attempted to do a southern accent, but that was as far as his research went. And—AND—this film is total fiction in detail. If you buy any of this film and cite it, you’ve made a major error. End of subject. Again, per John Ford, let’s print the legend!!!! My humble opinion, pure bullshit for the simple reason that (at least in this case) reality is much-much more dramatic than fiction.

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Ned Wynkoop in 1867. Originally in Custer and the Cheyenne, published by Upton and Sons in 1995. (art © Louis Kraft 1990)

Not quite end of subject: George Armstrong Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Any film or book that has him surviving that battle is bullshit, … it is not printing the legend. Ned Wynkoop did not participate in the massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek in 1864. Any film or book that places him at that tragical event is bullshit. A major miniseries of a few years back did exactly this. A great historian and a friend of mine justified this—he claimed that the merging characters and placing a real person in an event that he had nothing to do with is fair game. NOOO!!! YOU CANNOT TAKE A REAL PERSON AND PLACE THEM IN AN HISTORICAL EVENT THAT THEY DIDN’T PARTICIPATE IN. THIS IS NOT CREATIVE LICENSE, AND IT SURE AS HELL ISN’T PRINTING THE LEGEND. ALL IT DOES IS CREATE FALSE HISTORY THAT WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME REALITY AND CITED AS TRUTH IN THE FUTURE. I’m sorry folks, but this is a sore point with me. Let’s put it another way, I hate lies and I hate liars. As a filmmaker, historian, novelist, or playwright you can deal with Wynkoop and the events surrounding Sand Creek and Custer and the march to Little Bighorn and the battle that resulted in his death, but you cannot place Wynkoop at Sand Creek and you cannot have Custer survive Little Bighorn and make it appear to be truth.

Have any of you heard a recording of Orson Welles’s great 1930s radio
broadcast of a 
Martian invasion of earth? Even though the radio station
advertised that the dramatic presentation was fiction,
supposedly people committed suicide.
True? I don’t know.

Certainly the Wynkoop and Custer inaccuracies have happened in film and in fiction. Did the filmmaker or the novelist point out the untruth to the facts presented? The filmmaker didn’t (I haven’t watched any of his produced or directed films since and have no intention of watching any in the future). I’m too far removed from the novel (by the great western novelist Douglas C. Jones), but think Mr. Jones made it clear that his story was a “what if.”

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Jurgen Prochnow played the U-boat commander of U-96 in Das Boot (1982). Simply put, this is a great anti-war film, and Prochnow’s performance was under-played brilliance. I’ve seen him in a number of American films, and unfortunately the parts weren’t right for him. Like The Searchers, Das Boot is one of my favorite films. Das Boot differs from my “Wonder-boat” screenplay in that it details a single U-boat voyage while the screenplay had a larger scope. I hadn’t been aware of the film until touring The Prince and the Pauper in Northern California. I was living on the east side of San Francisco Bay when the film was released and saw it immediately. My agent loved “Wonder-boat” but had told me it was unsellable because of the subject matter. As soon I returned to LA I fired him. lk collection.

I read a great novel about 30 years ago that had Hitler survive WWII and become a model citizen. Great story telling. However, as soon as I finished reading the book (I don’t remember the author or the title of the book) I donated it to Vietnam Vets. Why? What if this is all someone reads about Adolph Hitler? They will think that he was a good person who had been maligned. No! No! He stood for genocide of races of people. This can never be condoned.

I’m not picking on Germans here. The best screenplay I ever wrote dealt with the destruction of Germany as seen through the eyes of a U-boat commander (who wasn’t a Nazi—many Germans were not members of the Nazi party) who was in love with a Jewish woman. It was a tragedy, for the simple reason that WWII resulted in horrific consequences for the German people, many of whom had nothing to do with the heinous crimes committed by Hitler’s regime.                                 

Let me put this another way. If someday a writer/historian places me at
the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam war, he or she would be in error
for I have never been to Vietnam. Moreover, if I had been present
when that heinous crime happened, I would not have survived
(and you can guess why). … I should add this, if a writer does get creative
and places me at My Lai, he or she had better disappear pronto!
For as Kurt Russell (playing Wyatt Earp) said in
Tombstone (1993),
“Hell is comin’!

The bottom line (and this unfortunately includes nonfiction books) is that untruths and out-and-out lies become truths.

A John Ford opinion
John Ford made one great western, The Searchers (1956) with John Wayne and Geoffrey Hunter, and one good western, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) with John Wayne. I’m not going to comment about any of Ford’s other western films, including Stagecoach and Fort Apache. My silence should give you a good guess of what my less than sparkling views of his western films might be. I have nothing further to say about Ford’s westerns, other than to say I’m certain I’ll not see any of them again, other than The Searchers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Why waste my time?

The Searchers is one of my favorite films.
John Wayne’s 
performance is extraordinary and will hold up for all time.

Why Gatewood & Geronimo?
In 1995 I signed copies of Custer and the Cheyenne at Guidon Books (my favorite bookstore) in Scottsdale, Arizona. BTW, Aaron and Ruth Cohen, who owned and ran Guidon Books, played a major role in my Indian wars writing life.

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On August 25, 1886, Lt. Charles Gatewood negotiated ending the Apache war with Geronimo and Naiche. This scene, from Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) is totally wrong. Gatewood (played by Jason Patric) has climbed up to Geronimo’s stronghold. One problem: Geronimo insisted upon meeting at a bend of the Río Bavispe where there was shade, grass, wood, and water. Do you see any of this here? Of course not! Also, note that Chatto (as played by Steve Reevis) is just reaching the top of the mount. One problem: Chatto wasn’t with Gatewood in Mexico in 1886. Again, another great German lobby card for the film. lk collection.

 On that 1995 day Ruth started a conversation dealing with recent films and how they impacted book sales. Tombstone with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday had been a hit and greatly influenced book sales while Geronimo: An American Legend had not done well at the box office and didn’t influence book sales. Since I wrote about race relations and the Indian wars our talk focused on the Geronimo film.

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I wrote roughly 2/3 of the words in the Gatewood Memoir. About a month and half before publication date, Mr. Big Shot (notice that I didn’t call him Mr. Big Shit) at U of NE Press decided to change credits, thinking correctly that I wouldn’t walk (as I could have due to the contract). Obviously my anger still seethes. So be it! Here are the facts, other than the U of NE Press formatting some of my words so that they appear as if Gatewood wrote them, and the nasty contract crap at the midnight hour, this book is by far my best selling book (and I’m proud of it, even though I’ll never write another word for the U of NE Press). Actually, I love it when Gatewood gets great reviews for his writing skills. Without bragging, I hacked the hell out of Gatewood’s passive text that included 100-word sentences and paragraphs that easily flowed over pages. A few years back my good friend Greg Lalire, editor at Wild West magazine, called me and said that Gatewood’s words in the Memoir didn’t match his words at the AHS. “Greg,” I said, “did you read the intro to the Memoir, which makes it clear that I edited Gatewood’s passive words?” “I did! I forgot. Sorry,” Greg said. Ladies and gents, let’s put it this way. Charley Gatewood had a great story to tell; he just didn’t know how to tell it. I helped him. BTW, I think this dust jacket is cool. Love it!

I told Ruth and Aaron that all I knew about Charles Gatewood and Geronimo was what I saw in the film. Ruth told me that the Arizona Historical Society (AHS) in Tucson housed the Gatewood papers. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about the film (I had seen it twice in theaters), the story had grabbed my interest. I needed to know more, and at this point I had no idea what the truth might be. At that time I wrote for a telecommunications firm in the South Bay (in SoCal). The following month I took a week off, drove to Tucson, and began to explore Gatewood and his world at the AHS. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Suddenly Gatewood became my next nonfiction book project. After a very rough first draft I realized something was missing. I thought for a week, maybe two. It hit me: Gatewood needed Geronimo. Suddenly the book had focus.

Custer and the Cheyenne put me on the nonfiction map and opened doors, but it was Gatewood & Geronimo that changed my presence in the Indian wars writing world. It made me a player and gave me name recognition. Dick and Frankie Upton at Upton and Sons and Durwood Ball, then editor-in-chief at the University of New Mexico Press, are probably the three most important people in my nonfiction Indian wars writing life. If it wasn’t for them I’d probably still be floating in a dark netherworld fighting to sell my nonfiction story ideas. All three have become my friends. My “thank you’s” are usually quiet when they should be public. Frankie, Dick, and Durwood—thank you.

That land of snow they call Colorado

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Layton Hooper and his wonderful wife Vicki in their backyard in Fort Collins, Co. They kindly put me up for 11 days in April 2013 when I visited the land of snow to give a Wynkoop talk for OIW and do Sand Creek research. Although snow storms eliminated much of my research time, it gave me the bonus of getting to hang out with Layton and Vicki and getting to know them. They were perfect hosts, making me feel welcome at all times. This image was taken fairly early on one of the mornings after the second snow storm had passed. To this point in time I didn’t have any photos of Vicki, and she kindly agreed to put on a coat and step outside with her hubby. … Layton is one of the key players in the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW), and will be one of the leaders on the tour tracking Geronimo September 27-29. See the Events tab for more information. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

In April 2013 I spent 11 days in this falsely advertised wonderland of 300 days of sunshine (Colorado). During my last two trips to this sun-filled salesman’s pitch I’ve been snowed in. If you want to see 300 days of sunshine, real 300 days of sunshine, visit SoCal. You want to see snow with no visibility, visit Colorado. … It wasn’t that many years ago that Colorado (read Denver), was a possible place for me to live. Colorado has great history (love it!), great people (love them), but 300 days of sunshine? Hell! You want the truth? I’ve got some ocean-front property in Arizona that I can sell to you at a reasonable price.

What is a talk?
A long diversion to get to this point. Sorry. More importantly why am I talking about Gatewood and Geronimo? I haven’t spoken about them in years. My first talk was about Ned Wynkoop back in the mid-1980s, and I have continued to talk about Ned. That said, believe it or not, it wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 that I actually spoke about Ned  more often than I did about G&G. Yep, I gave a lot of talks about them. But it ended when the Wynkoop book became reality. So why return to Mr. G. and Mr. G.?

Ned Wynkoop dominated the 1860s, even though the press, the military, and the government did everything possible to relegate him to the circular file. Why? Simple. He didn’t kiss their asses, and dared to speak out against what he considered the wanton murder of human beings—human beings that weren’t white.

gatewood_ftBowieMerge_wsThe Gatewood character in Geronimo: An American Legend says, “The Apaches are special.” And they are!

 

Mike Koury has been a friend since the 1980s. He has done whatever he could to help. When I visited the land of snow last April I spent a morning and afternoon with Mike. We lunched with his pretty wife Dee and hung out in his library/computer room. Good time. On that day I pitched Mike to talk about Gatewood finding Geronimo in Mexico for his OIW event in Tucson. I did this for one reason, and one reason only. Mike is one of those people who believes that the Indian wars begin and end with the Plains Indian wars. My sole goal for speaking in Tucson is to wake Mike up to the fact that the Apache wars are exciting times with much at stake (just like the Plains Indian wars).

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lk speaking at one of Dick and Frankie Upon’s symposiums in El Segundo, Ca. (art © Louis Kraft 2012)

Mike gave me a thumbs up.

My goal on September 26 is to get my facts as good as possible and not to put Mr. Koury to sleep.

Actually this has always been my goal when talking: Get the facts right and don’t put anyone to sleep.

I like giving talks. Actually, I like it a hell of a lot better than writing magazine articles. I like the one-shot to be good, boring, or deadly. There are no holds barred. It is one on one times X. The key is concentration, … preparation, relaxation, focus, and more concentration. Of course there are always “chilly twitching movements,” to quote Gatewood when he met Geronimo in Mexico and demanded his surrender. But they’re fleeting. There is a rush, an exhilaration, and a zone. When I enter this “zone,” it is another world. The only other thing that approaches this live thrill is performing on the stage (actually I like the stage better). A talk is a one-shot performance. Whatever happens can’t be changed.

Good progress on the G&G talk, but YIKES I’ve got to complete that damned Geronimo article for Wild West. Enough!

— Louis Kraft

Sand Creek (update #2), Wynkoop, & 2 special people

Well here we are approaching the end of August 2013. Some—actually most—is very good, while some of you don’t want to hear about (or maybe you do, but I’m not tellin’). As you’ve seen in past blogs I like to mix and match subject matter. The reason is twofold: 1) This is how my brain functions, and 2) Writing is a continuous experiment. We have one other thing to add to this blog, … my life again has balance. I have great friends. Some close, some hundreds of miles away, and some thousands of miles away. I’m lucky. But although they play a major part in my ongoing life and growth, my life requires two key people (there are no surprises here).

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway contract

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Obviously lk is happy, and this image represents my feelings. It was taken while I spent prime time at Fort Larned, Kansas, in September 2012. A lot of the time was spent with my good friend and Fort Larned chief ranger, George Elmore. He took this picture while I leaned against the reconstruction of Wynkoop’s home-U.S. Indian Agency that has been reconstructed at the post. During this trip I spoke about Wynkoop’s efforts to save the Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork (35 miles west of Fort Larned) when Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock threatened to destroy it in April 1867. I delivered the talk on the pristine village site, which is protected. I also represented Wynkoop when he was inducted into the Santa Fe Trail Association hall of fame. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Great news: In mid-August Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, and I worked out a Sand Creek contract that is acceptable to both of us. Since then OU Press has sent me the final contract. I received it on August 28, and saw one final fix that must be in place before I signed the contract. I emailed my request to Chuck and he got right back to me to hand write the change into the contract, initial the change, and send it to OU Press. I did. Bottom line: lk is one happy writer.

If you have read some of the previous blogs you know how much I like and respect Chuck. He has been the backbone to Sand Creek for years, and if it wasn’t for him this project would still be floating in na-na land while I tentatively dogpaddled through quicksand.

Oh yeah, if you didn’t know it, the Indian wars nonfiction field can be a minefield wherein one must tread carefully. I’ve already mentioned key people, friends who will become my bosom buddies over the next three years (contract term begins on October 1, 2013, with a polished manuscript delivery date of October 1, 2016). Doable! I’m sorry, but no contract details other than we have agreed upon 130,000 words. Am only going to mention one person here—John Monnett. John walks some of the same roads I do (not all, for our lives have been different), but we have a lot in common. John’s got fire plus a good sense of humor, not to mention a firm grasp on humanity. My only regret with John is that he lives in that far-off land of snow called Colorado. He would be a perfect fit for Los Angeles (if he sees this, I’m certain his head would bounce off the ceiling in his living room and that’s a long bounce).

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This art by Robert Lindneux (dust jacket for Greene & Scott, Finding Sand Creek, 2004) is totally wrong. Every primary source I have seen discounts this art. I have total control over the images in the Sand Creek book, and there is no way this art will be on the dust jacket for Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. If the art director at OU Press even hints at this being on my dust jacket, he won’t have time to blink for I will be in Norman, OK, so fast he won’t have time to gulp in air.

Many of you know that Ned Wynkoop has played a key role in my development as a writer and historian over the years. He has not gone away. To the contrary, he will play a key role in the Sand Creek book. … As will Black Kettle and the Cheyennes, including—depending upon what I can find—Bull Bear and Tall Bull, and to a lesser degree other Cheyennes, such as Little Robe (and cross my fingers, Roman Nose if he drifted southward at this time), and Arapahos Left Hand and Little Raven (among others), and the Oglala Lakota Pawnee Killer (and if I get lucky and can link the great Crazy Horse to the central plains). …

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Southern Cheyenne Ivan Hankler. I met Ivan at a convention at Fort Larned, Kansas in spring 2004. We immediately hit it off and I spent most of my time with him during the two- or three-day event. During this time we hung out and talked (in his tipi and on the Fort Larned grounds). I learned a lot, but best of all gained a friend. This is my favorite image of him from 2004. During the event I spoke about Custer finding Stone Forehead’s village on the Sweetwater in the Texas Panhandle in 1869, and the peaceful negotiations that followed. Ivan didn’t think he could attend the talk, and I told him (and Kiowa James Coverdale) to attend, that they would be my guests. They did. Good times. Unfortunately Ivan has moved on; perhaps I shouldn’t mention his name and share his image here, but I decided to break the rules for he will always be a part of my world. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2004)

Those of you who read Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (2011) know that I worked with Cheyennes. This association will not only continue to grow with Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, it will include other key Cheyennes I know, like, and respect. Certainly John Chivington is a leading player, as are Rocky Mountain News publisher and editor William Byers and territorial governor John Evans. The Bents (William, George, and Charley) will have key roles, and, if I can find enough information, Edmund Guerrier will be featured. Indian agent Samuel Colley, Interpreter/trader John Smith, soldier/enemy to Chivington Samuel Tappan, and soldiers Scott Anthony, Silas Soule, and George Shoup (again depending on information) will have key parts. Yep, there is a lot of research staring me in the face (and some of it will be with people and institutions that I have not yet worked with). …

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me the hope is always that the next book I write will be my best. Certainly Chuck Rankin has worked closely to put me in a position to make this happen. We have played with a voice, and if I can control it, Sand Creek will bridge the gap between my earlier and later nonfiction. Will the prose border heresy? I hope so! Will it survive reviews? Ouch! Don’t ask. Only time will tell. Will the text be blue? Depends upon what I can get away with and what you consider blue. Will it be controversial. You can bet on it! Where I couldn’t push the envelope with Wynkoop, I intend to approach Sand Creek with both guns blazing.

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Here are some of the usual suspects that will play roles in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Ned Wynkoop and Silas Soule are kneeling in the foreground. Bull Bear is sitting left in the middle row and Black Kettle is sitting behind Wynkoop. In the back row, John Smith stands between Bull Bear and Black Kettle.

The Wynkoop contract allows me to write anything in any medium about him at any time; the Sand Creek contract limits what I can write in the future. These two contracts are both good for me even though they differ in what I can and cannot do. Chuck Rankin couldn’t remember how I landed the Wynkoop contract w/o limitations (simple: I wouldn’t sign it w/o an open slate to write what I wanted about him in the future). This future, in relation to Sand Creek, has changed. Chuck has rightfully stated that he must protect OU Press from me writing a competing manuscript to Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I totally agree with this. I don’t know what I’ll write about Ned Wynkoop in nonfiction book form (most likely nothing), but I had to protect that. This nonfiction book on Sand Creek will be the only one I write. This piece of the contract was important to Chuck and OU Press, and I agree with their view 100 percent.

All said, I’m going to have one hell of a good time writing this book. I’m thrilled. Period. I’m thrilled!!! The next three years of my life are going to be a wild ride of discovery. And like Errol & Olivia, I plan on sharing some of it with you. And there will be what I’m currently calling “information exchanges,” but they will have a different intent. The E&O quizzes focus on alerting you to who they are/were and what they did. The prizes will be dueling lessons (hey folks, I’m a poor writer and must be careful with what I give away). Here I hope to dig into people and actions with you, and the giveaways will be books.

Mr. Wynkoop updates

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View of the building that Ned Wynkoop rented from the post trader at Fort Larned, Kansas at the end of the 1860s. It served as both his home and as the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian agency. Due to space limitations this (or another image) didn’t make it into the Wild West article. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

A quick update on Ned, … The next article, “The NPS Has Rebuilt Ned Wynkoop’s Indian Agency Home at Fort Larned” will appear in the December 2013 issue of Wild West magazine. Editor Greg Lalire and I have completed our final fixes to the layout and copy edit. I’m pleased. It should be on newsstands in late (?) October.

I still owe Greg Wynkoop art for the August 2014 issue of Wild West, which features Wynkoop meeting Black Kettle for the first time in September 1864. it has been in progress for a long time, … and for a long time I have backed away from it. Why? Honestly, I’m a piss-poor artist who attempts to sell only because he likes to eat on an almost-daily basis.

This Wynkoop art is important because this is, from my point of view, an important article and I need illustrations for it. It is also important, for if I like the final product I intend on using it in the Sand Creek book (It will give critics that claim to be purists another Bowie knife to fling at me. Sobeit!).

Sand Creek information exchanges w/giveaways

These Sand Creek information exchanges will be different. Bear with me for a short while. Other than a few radio stations that deal with new music in Los Angeles (and air Rihanna and Lana Del Rey), most LA radio stations suck. Probably 85 percent of my time is spent on news and sports talk radio. ESPN AM 710 shines.

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This image of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant appeared in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2013.

Of course ESPN is Lakers-centric in Los Angeles (Kobe and the Lakers dominate). However, there is a good focus on USC football, and recently—and I mean real recently (the LA Dodgers have been a laughing joke since Kurt Gibson’s miraculous home run and Orel Hershiser’s pitching mastery during the 1988 world series—a golden moment in time that marked the beginning of the end of their careers). Until June 2013 the Dodgers were hard-put to find air time on ESPN AM 710. No more. They are now challenging the Lakers’ dominance (forget the Clippers, for they are little more than bridesmaid wanna-be’s until they win a championship). Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Clayton Kershaw (who is quickly placing his name next to the great Sandy Koufax) have taken LA by storm.

Back to the Sand Creek information exchanges. They will be like the phone calls to ESPN AM 710, in that they aren’t quizzes at all, but will be prizes awarded to the best comments based upon subject matter that I make public. I hope this isn’t obscure. If it is, ping me and I’ll try to clarify. For example I might create a discussion subject such as mixed-blood Cheyenne Charley Bent. He’ll be an open target, but whatever you say that is controversial you’ll need to back up with citation. I’m not looking for bad and I’m not looking for good. Rather, I’m looking for discovery. If you’ve read any of my nonfiction books you know that I don’t shortchange people who help my research. Yep, … that’s the key here. I’ll be looking to expand my knowledge of people and events. Again, I’m not looking for good or evil, or right or wrong, but what happened and who did what. You don’t have to provide complete details, but I would like a clear direction to where I can dig and discover what happened.

My hope is that the above will be different and that it will generate responses from you.

This entire website/blog has been an experiment to find and connect with you. It has also been an experiment for me to find out who I am and where I’m heading as a writer and person. To date I’m pleased with the results. I have no intention of backing off and hope to challenge both you and myself.

The prizes will be Indian wars books from my library but not Kraft books (sorry, but I’m a starving writer). They will be books that I probably won’t read or use again. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good books; all it means is that I won’t use them again and need to add space to my home that has grown terribly tight over the years. When this becomes reality I will announce the book titles and publication dates along with subjects that are hopefully of interest to you.

The future?

That’s it, other than to say that Sand Creek will dominate my writing life. E&O will advance, but all magazine article-writing will stop, as will all talks unless I receive my full salary and all expenses. Actually a sad state of affairs, my writing affairs, but this is nothing new.

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George Elmore at Pawnee Rock State Historic Site, Kansas, on September 21, 2012. A number of cool presentations of people who played roles on the Santa Fe Trail were performed by actors (including John Carson, who portrayed his relative Kit Carson). Unfortunately the Kansas sun was deadly that day. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

One exception might be a break to be a writer in residence at Fort Larned, Kansas (an invitation, if still open, that is of great interest to me).

George Elmore, chief ranger at Fort Larned, has played a key role in my Indian wars writing life since we met in the early 1990s. In September 2012 I spent a lot of time with him during a major three-day Kansas event wherein I spoke about Wynkoop trying to prevent Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock from destroying a peaceful Cheyenne-Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas on the protected and pristine village site (my favorite of all the key Cheyenne village sites). George shared stories about men and events that are right up my alley—men and events I had no knowledge of. If ever we can put our heads together and I have the opportunity to explore these stories, my writing will take on an entirely new direction while surprisingly stay the course with everything I have written in the past.

Two people

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of great people in my life, people I enjoy seeing and hanging out with at the drop of a hat. This can happen with my friends in LA and attached counties (and I can count them on my fingers and toes). Expand to Northern and Southern California, the West, and points east, and this number noticeably grows. No matter when I see any of these people, it is just like yesterday. They are all talented, artistic, and vocal. In a word, they are really cool human beings. Some share my interests; others don’t. Some share my political views; others don’t. They are of a multitude of races, and not all are American born. They are just people, … people I’m lucky to know.

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There are two other people, and they are core to my soul and to my very existence. One I’ve known for many years (and some of you know her). The other is new to my life (and some of you know her). They give my life balance, they give my life validity, and they give my life a future.

— Louis Kraft