The song remembers when …

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


My apologies for the long delay.

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

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


Songs and memories

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

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

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

That was then, … the following is now

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

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

Male influences in my life …

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

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

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

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

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

LK’s music scope swells and shrinks as time passes

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

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

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

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

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

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

The baritone from Texas

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

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

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

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

A short diversion …

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

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

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

Back to Tex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two songs plus one

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

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

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

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

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

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

theEssentialHighwaymen_ws

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

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

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

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

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

lk&lindaK_resedaHouse_15may1993_mkPhoto_ws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Western Heritage Wrangler happenings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Minoma Littlehawk and her husband Ivan.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

“I want a hug and a kiss,” I said.

She smiled and granted my wish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter my personal world and music that dominates it

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

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

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

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

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

Stay

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

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

Sad SongsI Feel so Bad, and alley ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m really talking about here …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the greatest albums ever …

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

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

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

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

Rhiannon brings back memories of Patsy

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

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

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

Linda Ronstadt, cars, and Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Enter two men whose music blows me away to this day

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

Alan Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Lennon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A book sale and Quittin’ Time

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

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

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

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

But this went right by me.

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

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

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

… But the seeds were in place.

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Parks and his music

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

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

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Ad in LK collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Wayfarin’ Stranger …

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

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

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

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

Ladies and gents, the above is my life.

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

A writing life

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

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

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The August 2015 issue.

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

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

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

A few thoughts on change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming deadlines & comments

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

The Discovery

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

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


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

No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two deadlines with dates

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

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

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

Back to The Discovery

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

Moving into my writing world

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

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

Back to the point … my writing world

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

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

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

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

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

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

Back to the point … my current projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    ps_doris&bobGoodman_26jun13

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

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

Back to the point … my future projects

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

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

  • Kit Carson nonfiction (one or perhaps two books)
    kitCarson_dating_to1845ART_LKCollection_ws

    Carson art in LK’s personal collection that pictures him in the mid-1840s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lk future is now

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t much care for my answer.

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

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

The nether world

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

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

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

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

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

Back to my writing world

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


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)..

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


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)

Geronimo & Gatewood together again + an EXPLOSION of opinion

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


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!

Gatewood & Geronimo live

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
Contact Kraft at writerkraft@gmail.com or comment at the end of the blog


Recently a good friend of mine, Erik Wright, who is writing about Charles Gatewood, asked if it bothered me that he had begun to write about him. Absolutely not, I had told Erik. Actually, I was thrilled that he had taken up where I had left off. I truly believe, as I had told actress Olivia de Havilland, two books are better than one, and three are better than two. The more that Erik, and hopefully others, write about Charles Gatewood is much better than just one writer bringing his life to light.gatewood_portrait2_fb

Erik has already written at least two articles about Gatewood, and I hope he writes many more.

I owe Wild West a couple of Geronimo/Apache articles (as always, I’m late). But Greg L., if you see this blog, patience is the key, for they are almost complete.

Better yet, I spent a terrific day with Mike Koury, whom I met in 1987 (when I delivered my first talk—believe it or not at an Order of the Indian Wars event in SoCal, and more surprisingly the talk dealt with Ned Wynkoop) while surviving Colorado’s four-month delay of a white Christmas (pictures promised by Sunday).

Mike has been a good friend since that time long gone, but all too often we don’t have enough time to hang out when at the same location at the same time. This changed on this wintery Colorado day when we hung out together at his home in Johnstown (a major plus for me on this trip was getting to know Dee, his pretty wife).

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lk at the ongoing Geronimo exhibit in Tucson (a disappointment) in 2012. (Photo by Glen Williams)

The Order of the Indian Wars is going to track the Apaches and the Apache wars this coming September. I pitched Mike on me speaking about Gatewood finding Geronimo, Naiche, and the remnants of their people still free, and talking them into surrendering to the U.S. before either the U.S. Army or the Mexicans killed them. What Gatewood pulled off is, in my opinion, the greatest feat of the Indian wars. I told Mike that the only reason I wanted to give this talk was because he needed to stuff his Plains Indian wars bias and realize that the Apache people and their struggle to retain their freedom was/is as exciting as the Cheyenne and Sioux fight to retain their freedom.

It is a done deal, and come late September I’ll be in Tucson to talk about two of my favorite people, Mr. G and Mr. G. Details to come as they become available.