Louis Kraft, SoCal fires, earthquakes, Sand Creek Massacre, & an Errol Flynn tidbit

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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


For starters Pailin and I hope that the day we celebrated Jesus Christ’s birth was a peaceful and loving one for you with your family and friends. … Also that you had a safe and uneventful New Year’s Eve. Ours was at Wat Thai (Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood) praying and seeing some friends as we welcomed in 2018.

On 20dec2017 Mimi took this image of us at Jantana (pronounced Jan-ta-na) and Richard’s (pronounced Ri-chard’s) apartment in Northridge, California. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft and Louis Kraft 2017)


The year 2017, more than any other, has made me realize how
fragile life really is. For the record, I have a family of four—three ladies
and yours truly. I’ve survived some horrific car crashes, I’ve had guns
pointed at me, a knife at my throat, I’ve taken a motorcycle over a
a cliff, I’ve been knocked cold (I don’t know if this counts), and
I’ve survived cracking my skull open more than once as
well as surgeries that had to succeed or I would I have
been dancing with Angels long before now.

My view: I love walking on Mother Earth.

Fire, wind, more fire, & more wind … a SoCal story

Elsewhere I’ve documented the frightening Los Angeles and Ventura County fires of December 2017. It’s rough when you can watch flames billow into ever-growing puffs of brown smoke that obliterate the sky. You know that property is being destroyed and animals are dying.

This image dates to December 6, 2017, and is of a man attempting to calm a horse during the Sylmar/Creek fire. These fires in SoCal were absolutely devastating on horses and over livestock during these fires. My great friend and Apache scouts expert Layton Hooper commented numerous times about this image (as he also cares about animals). I couldn’t agree more with Layton’s views on horses and how they are innocent bystanders to man’s destruction of our world.

But often the men and women who combat these horrific Santa Ana winds that range upwards to 80 MPH and fuel the fires that ravage SoCal year-in-and-year-out fall under the radar. These people, these heroes, risk their lives on a daily basis. During the recent Sylmar/Canyon fire in the San Fernando Valley that put Pailin and I at risk (a December 6 LA government text read: Strong winds over night creating extreme fire danger. Stay alert. Listen to authorities.”), they worked 24-hour shifts to combat an enemy (wind and fire) that is a hundred times more devastating than the earthquakes that are associated with SoCal. These brave human beings deserve all our respect and thanks. Believe it or not, they aren’t alone for volunteers joined them along with fire fighters from other states as well as people serving jail time in California.

All of them are magnificent!!!

I have favorite animals. Just five: Wolves, coyotes, mountain lions (pumas), horses, and doberman pinchers, The last are dogs, and they are the most gentle animals I have ever known. The Pumas are beyond belief, and they are a major part of my life as I follow their struggle to remain free in SoCal. Today, tomorrow, and always. These photos are from an article in the 27Dec2017 issue of the Times. This young Puma was burned while attempting to flee from the Thomas fire. It has been rescued and is on its way to recovery.

… and the Thomas fire continues to burn (as of 30dec17).

Ye-ough!!! (a sound) … For California 2018 will be back to normal if what the LA Times just published is accurate, mainly that this winter would be one of the driest in California history. If true next year’s fires will again ravish the Golden State. Pailin’s and my home was at fire risk twice in 2017 (June and October).

This image of a condor and its chick was on the front page of the LA Times on 1jan2018, as it featured a story on endangered species chick no. 871, who should have left its cave and flew for the first time in December. It didn’t as the Thomas Fire ravished the Los Padres Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Scientists have recently seen its parents near the cave and hope that the chick has survived.

If fires attack Los Angeles in 2018 it is not going to be 1,000 homes destroyed, it is not going to be 2,000 homes destroyed, … it will be thousands upon thousands of homes destroyed. The homeless count in LA is currently 55,000 (how large is the city you live in?). If, and I pray God this never becomes reality, … if the 2018 fires destroy the San Fernando Valley (one of numerous valleys in the county of Los Angeles) 1.3 million people will become homeless; the threat was ominous in 2017. … Will it become reality in 2018?

Earthquakes? What are they? Fire is the numeral uno enemy to the Golden State.

Oh, I forgot to mention that global warming is little more than fiction. My view on this: Everyone who thinks global warning is little more than a left wing piece of baloney have got their fingers firmly stuffed somewhere.

The year 2017 is one for the California record books

It is official, 2017 has been the hottest year on record for California. It has also been the worst fire year on record, and the Thomas Fire that started in Ventura County (which borders Los Angeles County) and has raged north and into Santa Barbara County is the largest fire in California since they began keeping accurate records in the early 1930s. This fire began on December 4; it was still burning on December 30 (but supposedly 65 percent contained … homes are still threatened).

Something needs to be said about earthquakes

I have lived through the last two major earthquakes in SoCal: 1971 and 1994. I can’t tell you how often I have been quizzed about the horror of an earthquake when outside California. People I have met when giving talks or performances or on research trips are forever interested (some of them are terrified of experiencing one). … Let’s start this conversation with LK isn’t keen of living through a hurricane or a tornado.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Let’s start with tornados. In 1974 I flew to Missouri to buy a 1951 Hudson Hornet, a great automobile that ruled NASCAR racing during the first half of the 1950s (I even wrote a screenplay about them cleaning up at the racetrack called Hornet; unfortunately my agent couldn’t sell it).

Time is short, and this blog is about four months late. Thus this old collage. This picture of the Hudson that came from Missouri was taken in the still-rural Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. The photo of the Camaro was taken overlooking the Pacific Ocean in northern San Diego County. … BTW, bets were out that I wouldn’t make a wedding in Tucson, Arizona, which was a little over a week after I bought the car. I covered the bets and won.

The Missourian picked me up at the airport. After checking out the Hornet and taking it for a test drive I bought the car. Tornado warnings were live on Missouri TV that morning. He and his family didn’t want me to leave. I ate his wife’s homemade ice cream and then allowed the family to show me the house where future U.S. president Harry Truman was born. I am a patient and polite cowboy. During this time I had visions of Judy Garland’s classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939) dancing around in my brain. If you don’t know the film, a tornado transports Judy’s character to the land of Oz. It was 1974 and I was picturing me and the 1951 Hudson Hornet being transported to the land of Oz.* Honestly, this was a living nightmare for me. When the seller’s family finally gave me a tearful goodbye about eight-thirty that morning I pushed the Hornet’s accelerator pad to the floor, … and hightailed it out of Kansas as quickly as I could.

From left: Hattie McDaniel, OdeH, and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Olivia was nominated for a supporting Oscar in this film. She didn’t win. At first she was angry, but later was thrilled for Hattie’s win. I couldn’t agree more with her view. (photo in LK personal collection)

* The Wizard of Oz should have won the Oscar for best film of 1939 (I know, heresy). Gone with the Wind did. I have a large connection with Gone with the Wind due to Ms. Olivia de Havilland. Writing about her connection with this film will take up quite a number of pages in Errol & Olivia, and these words have and will flow speedily forward on the keyboard. Her story here is good stuff. No-no-no; it’s great stuff! All I want to say here is The Wizard of Oz, which took me decades to accept and like, is a great film, while Gone with the Wind, which I’ve hated since the first time I attempted to see it is not. For the record, I have never seen this film completely in one screening (and that includes seeing it in a movie theater; I walked out before falling asleep). I doubt this is a high recommendation.

Let’s get back to earthquakes. On February 8, 1971, I needed a place to sleep. My then girlfriend was living with her father. I parked my motorcycle next to her car in the apartment building’s underground parking lot and slept in it that night.

This image of LK was taken just months before the 9feb1971 earthquake. I’m sitting in my office just north of the apartment building where my then-girlfriend lived with her father. (photo © Louis Kraft 1970)

The next morning I was awake and reading the newspaper in her car when the earthquake struck. I was out of that parking structure in a flash and as far as I could be from the surrounding apartments. In front of me was a large swimming pool with tidal waves pounding the sides. The surrounding complex consisted of three-story apartments. They looked like old-time cartoons as they swayed back and forth in rhythm with the pool’s pounding waves.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake caught me asleep in bed in North Hollywood. It struck about four-thirty in the morning on January 17. Let me say one thing here. When a fairly large earthquake hits there is no guesswork. You know immediately what is happening. Get away from windows and anything that can collapse or fall on you.

Earthquakes don’t last long. One minute, two minutes, maybe three minutes and it’s over. There are after shocks that can go on for days.

Front and center in an unbelievable story

LK image choices are now being selected for Sand Creek and the Tragic
End of a Lifeway, and they will add great value to the book.

Pailin took this photo of me relaxing at home with guests on 13sept2017. This is one of the last images of me as I looked like this. A joke? I wish, but alas, no. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna-Kraft 2017)

I know, I know, I’ve always known (nothing new here). For the record I’m working on the Sand Creek manuscript seven days a week until I deliver a first rough draft to the great editor-in-chief of OU Press, Chuck Rankin at the end of January. He has always been my friend since we met years back. By that I mean that he has done everything possible to see that my manuscripts saw publication, … and this was long before we signed the Wynkoop contract. Folks, in case you don’t know, OU Press is the largest and best publisher of Indian wars books in the world. In the world! They are my publisher, which makes me one of the luckiest guys in the world.

At times events happen and they affect all of our hearts in different ways. …
31dec2017 was one of those days, but with life there’s always hope.
Pain over the loss of a cherished person is always private. … Life
can be fickle. One day we’re here and healthy, but there is
no guarantee for tomorrow (I’m not talking about me).

A bashed-face and worse … that’s me!!!

Ouch! … for it is worse, and I hate to say it but this is the story of my life.

Christopher Juarez at the central Los Angeles Public Library in downtown on 19nov2017. I cannot begin to tell how much this young man helped me during my two days at the library studying the Nancy Morton microfilm from the Nebraska State Historical Society. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On 11nov2017 I took the subway from the North Hollywood hub (the Red line) to the main LA Public Library. My bad from the beginning, but it was worse than that for good ol’ LK got lost. What should have been three miles of total walking turned into six + miles of walking. Huh??? Take one guess. LK was clueless and got lost. If you know downtown LA there are good places and there are bad places and I got to see all of them, including a male urinating in pure daylight (I know, this is not a major selling point for Los Angeles). When I finally reached the library I was in for a shock. It was November 11—Hello cowboy! … Veteran’s Day—and the library had shut down Friday, the 10th, through Sunday, the 12th, for the Veteran’s Day weekend. What can I say other than keep your views to yourself. That’s right, I don’t want to hear them.

My day excursion, which began at nine in the morning ended at 12:25 in the afternoon with roughly two and a half hours spent as LK walked as fast as he could. Again, and by my calculations, it was over six miles. … You do not want to know what my feet felt like that afternoon, for all you’ll get from me is a bunch of XXXs and !!!s.

See below for the continuation of this story. …

The creation of history

If I chose to list all the historians who have shaped history in their image you would be shocked. I know a very good Indian wars historian who once told me that he wanted to turn history upside down. Say what? Basically this person wanted to push Indian wars history to the extreme.

That’s right, and more often than you would ever guess historians do this. Facts don’t drive what they write, sensationalization does. Most of the time they choose people who are no longer with us as you can’t be charged with defaming the dead in the USA. This is not hard to do when you write about the American Indian wars or the Golden Age of the Cinema.

LK at Tujunga House on 5mar2017. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

This blog, as most in the near future, features events that led to the attack by Colorado Volunteers on people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military on 29nov1864.

For the record I’ve been giving talks based upon reality for thirty years, and since 1986. These are talks wherein I know my subject matter and I don’t read. At the moment I’m on self-imposed sabbatical. The reason is simple: I have a book to complete that is of major importance to me.

Believe it or not, I have been persona non-grata for more years than I’d like to count. You do not want to know about people who turn their back to me when I walk past them. What’s their problem? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll say this, they ain’t my friends.

Barbara Hershey and a film I like

What can I say about Ms. Hershey other than I’d like to know her well enough that we could share our views on the world, living, and creativity. Given decent parts in film or class TV productions she has time and again proven how good of an actress she is.

Last of the Dogmen

Barbara Hershey played an anthropologist whose expertise was the Cheyenne Indians in Last of the Dogmen (Savoy Pictures, 1995). In this film, which always makes my top 50 (now 60) film list had a great quote that Barbara said. But first she had to deal with a modern-day bounty hunter played by Tom Berenger.

As stated elsewhere some of Hershey’s performances are top-notch, and certainly  in Last of the Dogmen and Defenseless. Also she is someone that I wish I knew. This, in the Kraft world, is a high recommendation. (photo in LK collection)

Berenger had found evidence that points to Cheyenne Indians from a time long gone killing escaped criminals, and he’s trying to learn if people from the mid-nineteenth century could have survived undiscovered into the mid-1990s. Hershey finds his quest ludicrous. And it is, but it opens a door to explore race relations between people from a time dear to my heart with those living in the mid-1990s. From the get-go the film is fantasy for the simple reason that there were no Cheyenne Dog Men (whites called them Dog Soldiers) at the November 29, 1864, massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, an attack that saw children used for target practice, an unborn child cut from his dead mother’s womb and scalped, … it gets worse, much-much worse. … Before the story can take off Hershey gives Berenger a history lesson on the Cheyennes along with their struggle to retain their freedom, land, and lifeway before again making it clear that Dog Men could not and did not murder the escaped convicts as there were no “Dog Men” from the 1860s living as they had in 1864 in modern times. Lordy-lordy, you have got to love this premise as it is a good one. Barbara’s quote in the film was great, but you’re not going to read the words in this blog. See the film.

Sand Creek players have been pounded time and again …

Certainly Ned Wynkoop has been labeled a “traitor” to his race, and an Indian-lover. This pounding centers on his acting without orders (not cool when you are in the military) to save white prisoners and bring seven Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs to Denver to discuss ending the 1864 Cheyenne war with John Evans, the second territorial governor of Colorado. One premise holds that the massacre at Sand Creek would have never happened if he had not done this.

LK as Ned Wynkoop in an one-man show seeing the sexually dismembered bodies of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos months after the butchery at Sand Creek on 29nov1864. (photo: Johnny D. Boggs during a dress rehearsal for performances at a Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium in 2008).

Really? All I’ll say here is that illogic follows and stampedes its way into the foreground.

This isn’t worth talking about, other than to say there were many participants in the events that led up to the attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho village on Sand Creek in November 1864. It was not just one player, it was a combination of multiple players and all their actions. People make choices. You make choices; I make choices. So did Evans, Wynkoop, Colonel John Chivington, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and on and on.

The tragedy of Sand Creek is much more than an officer (Wynkoop) acting without orders to rescue four white children and bring seven Indian leaders to Denver to discuss ending a war. If illogical thinking rules the day, why not say that the Sand Creek village was “easy prey,” like some of those hunting estates where macho men with big guns can hunt big game that can’t escape as they are trapped within the preserve?

These people had their vaginas cut out, their penises hacked off. Their children had their skulls bashed in. The term “war crime,” didn’t exist in 1864, but it does now. What happened in 1864 was a war crime regardless of what it might have been called then. Pure and simple. You do this today, and you happen to be an American soldier, you will be tried for war crimes. … I’m not certain when this came to pass but it was certainly in place at the end of World War II when Nazis were charged with heinous crimes of genocide against the Jewish people. (BTW, “genocide” became a word in 1945).

These crimes live into the twenty-first century when on March 12, 2006, an American soldier (Specialist James Barker) raped and murdered a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. He and five soldiers with him then murdered her father, mother, and six-year-old sister in Mahmoudiya, twenty miles south of Baghdad. They burned the bodies in an attempt to cover up their crime.

… and the Cheyennes?

For starters there were a number of Southern Cheyenne bands trusting Chief Black Kettle’s efforts to remove them from the on-going war. Unfortunately their approximate location was known, making them an easy target. Chivington’s goal was never to fight Cheyenne Dog Men and Lakotas who rode the war trail farther north. Instead, he wanted a target that never expected to be attacked. Chivington would claim a lopsided victory with a huge death count that perhaps exceeded the total number of people that could have possibly been living in this Sand Creek village, and for a short time became a great Indian fighter.

From left: Leo Oliva, LK, and Fort Larned Chief Historian George Elmore. We are walking the on the parade ground, and we are heading toward the building that Wynkoop rented for his headquarters when he was a U.S. Indian agent, which was just outside the perimeter of the post. Good friends Leo and George have helped me oh-so many times over the years. Both have been instrumental in getting me to Kansas time and again to speak and perform, as well as aiding my research. … I can’t begin to tell you how much George has aided my Sand Creek research. This photo was taken on 20sept2012. Two days later Leo and I spoke on the now protected Cheyenne-Dog Man-Lakota village that Major General Winfield Hancock destroyed in April 1867. … This part of Kansas is in my blood. It is one of my homes away from home.

What can I say. My Sand Creek proposal was 37 pages long. I presented a detailed outline of what I thought the final manuscript should include. It also stated that nothing was set in stone, that my research would define the flow of the manuscript. … Boy, is this a true statement.

Actually Chivington is going to have a smaller role than planned. Such is life. This said, his impact on the story is huge.

On 24apr1999 Cheyenne Peace Chiefs Gordon Yellowman (kneeling) and Lawrence Hart (standing right-center) blessed the Pawnee Fork village site. This was the first time that I spoke at Fort Larned. That’s George Elmore in the sergeant’s uniform at the left of the image. (photo © Louis Kraft 1999)

Fort Larned plays an important role in the Sand Creek story. Black Kettle, Neva, Left Hand, Little Raven, William Bent, George Bent, John Smith, and Wynkoop all spent time there. The destruction of the Pawnee Fork village (about 35 miles west of the post) was a continuation of what began in the early 1860s.

Territorial governor John Evans has been pounded

But should he have been? I’m not so sure, and although I hate to admit this, I don’t totally agree with the University of Denver’s study of Evans, and his part in the disaster. Still, they uncovered key information regarding the governor ducking the issue while in Washington D.C., and he didn’t return to Denver until spring 1865.

As I didn’t use an image of John Evans in the Wynkoop book, and have not decided what image(s) of him that I’m going to use in Sand Creek, this color portrait of Black Kettle is good here. The chief and the governor met at Camp Weld on 28sept1864, and both walked away from that meeting with totally different views upon what had been decided. For all the chief’s efforts to avoid or end war he has been pounded as hard as the governor. (art © Louis Kraft 2015)

Let’s be up front, some of John Evans’ words and actions led to his downfall (which has been frighteningly similar to the racist backlash we have seen against the Southern states fight to remove themselves from the United States of America in the 1860s. Yikes!!!! How can the USA banish and remove one of the most important pieces of our history, the war between the states? Without a doubt slavery is heinous, and it has always been so. Owning another human being and playing god with his or her life is evil (but I’m talking from a modern POV). Times have changed in regards to racism for the better, but from what we have seen in 2017 we still have a long way to go.

Some of Evans’ proclamations are damaging. However, his attempts to avoid or end war were something he tried to do. More important, he left for the east on November 10, that was nineteen days prior to Chivington’s massacre of men, women, and children, and he didn’t learn of the battle until days afterwards. Evans wanted war and wanted the Cheyennes and Arapahos removed from the territory but he had no clue that this would happen to the people who tried to end the war.

Art of Mr. Carson dating to about 1845. (LK personal collection)

Evans’ fall from grace is similar to Kit Carson’s. … Folks, Kit was a good friend to the American Indians. He spoke seven languages: English, Spanish, and five native languages. If he were the butcher that modern times attempts to label him, why would he speak (at least partially) the words of the Navajos, Mescalero Apaches, Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Utes? Oh, I forgot to mention that he had three wives: Arapaho, Cheyenne, and a Latina of Spanish decent. One more fact, he converted to Catholicism to marry his Spanish wife. Does this sound like a racist? I think not. … Pray God I live long enough to complete two books that deal with Carson and his relationship with American Indians. … One fiction; one nonfiction.

John Evans has become an evil person. … Really? Guess what? John Evans was a human being who thought he was doing right when he did it. I’m not going to tell you that he was a good person or an evil one. If I do my job his words and actions will allow you to make your own decision of who he was.

Ditto everyone else, and this includes John Chivington. BTW, he will be the last piece of the manuscript to be completed. Oh, he has a presence now, but it is not close to being finished. Like Evans and everyone else, it is my job is to show what he said and what he did. There is nothing worse than an author (history or fiction, it matters not) who has a preconceived premise on an historical personage and will stay the course regardless of how much discovery disproves their premise. God forbid they shy away from their damnation of a human being because they see facts that shoots arrows into their task of destroying a person’s life. And especially people who are gone and cannot defend themselves. Yep, folks you can defame the dead in the USA (but be careful if you attempt to defame the living, for then you might set yourself up to join the homeless wandering the streets of LA).

Back to the reality of our times

Is it ethical to sell out truth for greater book sales? Honestly, you don’t want to know my opinion on this. Many writers have done this over the years, and it isn’t confined to the Indian wars. The most infamous—in my opinion—was Charles Higham.

In his 1980 best-selling piece of slop called Errol Flynn: The Untold Story, without proof Higham wrote that Flynn was both homosexual and a Nazi spy. Over the years real historians have debunked all of Higham’s falsehoods. Still the general public, if they remember anything about Flynn, it is that he was homosexual Nazi spy. Hell, the media still sells this as there is nothing better than trashing a star name for the simple reason that the public gobbles it up. As said above there is no punishment for defaming the dead in the USA. Not so in Canada; Higham’s book was also published in the land of our neighbors to the north. Flynn’s daughters Deidre and Rory went after Higham in Canada. To avoid going to court and potential prosecution Higham never set foot in Canada for the rest of his life. … I can’t speak about Higham’s other film biographies save one—Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (1984). I presented Olivia with a lot of questions about this book in letters and in person. Olivia made one reply in writing in which she dismissed Higham with three words (and none were profane). In person the only thing she said about him and his book on her and Joan was that he never contacted her, never asked her one question.

Was Higham a charlatan? Are other historians charlatans? I believe in challenging history. I also believe that it must be done ethically and not by presenting outrageous statements that are fiction-based on preconceived premises with the lone goal of destruction.

Another story

He was flesh and blood, had a deep baritone voice, was a college professor, had lived through the revolution of the 1960s, had evolved into the 1970s, and when I met him in the 1980s he had fine-tuned his persona. Oh, I forgot, he was also a writer. Charm oozed from him. He instantly became a friend (think 1989 in San Diego).

Years passed. It was now 1995 and we were at the Western Writers of America (WWA) convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming (I’m foggy on the location but think the timing was with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne).

I’m going to pull from a major lesson I learned from Errol Flynn’s magnificent memoir, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which was published shortly after his death in 1959. Mainly, that at times one must remain vague to protect friends, former lovers, and yours truly. I hope that what I share here is okay. Am back to the writer from the 1960s. He was working on a book wherein he claimed his subject outlived his death by decades. “Do you believe he wasn’t murdered?” He honestly replied that he did believe that this westerner was murdered. “Why are you writing this manuscript?” He again honestly answered that it would sell books.

Kudos to him for his honesty. At the same time his words now mimic the truth of today’s world. If the truth gets in the way of your preconceived premise, dismiss it. If someone confronts you on your lie, one-up them and call them “little Billy,” or “bullshitting Johnny,” or “sex stalker Alex.” The new key words here are: “Fake News.” Point your finger at them, scream, and if possible see that your hateful rants explode all over social media. …

Luckily for me the Dennis the Menace cartoons continue to live in the Los Angeles Times (this cartoon appeared in the 22nov17 edition of the paper). Although cartoonist Hank Ketcham is long gone, his wonderful creation continues to live at dennisthemeance.com and in various newspapers. The North America Synd. holds the 2017 copyright.

Good Lord, is this really today’s world? If yes, I need say no more.

The struggle to bring the Tsistsistas (Cheyennes) into their new world

Ladies and gents, separating myth and fiction from fact is an hellacious task, and one I’ve struggled with for years now. Also, unfortunately, no one is ever going to get all the facts straight. It is an impossible task.

Believe it or not the Cheyennes have been mostly painted as villains throughout most of their history. Their views and their facts have been almost totally ignored as little more than lies. There’s an adage, and it is that the conqueror writes the history books. … The vanquished are savages or worse and the winners are heroes who have saved mankind.

… and this includes some mixed-blood Cheyennes

I’ll mention two here: Julia Bent and her step brother Charles Bent. Their father was trader William Bent, who plays a fairly large role in the manuscript, but surprisingly wasn’t as I expected him to be (this statement should have a few exclamation points as the William Bent I now know is not the William Bent I thought I knew). … I can’t begin to tell how many hours I’ve spent on Julia and Charley. I know them somewhat, but I wish more. She is little more than a beautiful image that appears and disappears during the tumultuous times of the 1860s while Charles has been pounded to hell as little more than a vicious killer.

George Bent was Julia’s older brother and Charley’s older step-brother. He lived well into the twentieth century and left a wealth of information for anyone willing to dig and understand, and by that I mean cross-reference and closely check what he wrote.

If you believe just half of the recordings of supposed Cheyenne raids between 1864 and 1867, Charley Bent was named way-too-many times as a traitorous leader of perhaps thirty percent of these raids, and yet when he died he had not yet reached his twentieth year, and this is an easy fact to prove regardless of David Lavender’s fanciful words without a drop of proof in Bent’s Fort (1954) or Halaas & Masich’s tons of research citations in Halfbreed (2004), which simply muddies the water while providing little support for important text in their biography of George Bent.

I don’t have much on either Julia or Charles, but what I do have will be in the book for both were exceptional young people during a time of death and destruction. I won’t come close to sharing who they really were, but I will present them to you in an honest way while at the same time destroying some of the undocumented baloney that has been printed and reprinted about them ad nauseam.

There is Sand Creek Massacre research coming that will open some eyes

The misinformation and out-and-out fabrications of reality in the Sand Creek story is mind-boggling. These ongoing fabrications range from Laura Roper becoming Black Kettle’s sexual object to Isabelle Eubank being five when the Cheyennes gave her to Wynkoop on September 12, 1864 (a date that is improperly documented easily sixty percent of the time).

A wonderful research surprise in Downtown LA

A young wife was captured one day after the Cheyenne raid that captured Isabelle, her mother, younger brother, a relative, and Laura Roper. This young woman, like those taken with Isabelle, also plays a key if small role in the story. I had seen most if not all of the published documentation about her. Her name was Nancy Morton. She along with many other whites were, during an horrendous string of a few days mostly along the Platte River Route survived seeing their families and loved ones murdered and hacked to pieces before their eyes. Traveling settlers, ranchers, station employees were attacked, many murdered, while a small number of whites were taken prisoner. There is an old cliché, “Save the last bullet for yourself,” as death or captivity by Indians was not something anyone wanted to experience. … Nancy and a boy named Daniel Marble survived the attack on their wagon train.

I have spent a lot of good time with Marty Vestecka Miller, of the Nebraska State Historical Society, who secured the interlibrary loan of a microfilm reel on Nancy Morton for me. As the only library in the 100-library system of Los Angeles that still had microfilm readers that could also print was the central library in downtown Los Angeles I had to set up the loan there as the microfilm could not leave the library.

The west entry to the Central LA Public Library in downtown Los Angeles on 18nov2017. The library is a treasure, both inside and outside. (photo © Louis Kraft 2017)

On November 18 I got wise and looked at a map of the subway exit and the downtown library. They looked shockingly close to each other. On this day I used the Hope Street exit from the subway, looked to my left and could see the library two and a half blocks distant. On this day I worked closely with Christopher Juarez (pictured above), who not only got me set up on the microfilm machine but made me aware that I didn’t have to pay for printouts of the pages, but could scan them and email them to myself free of charge. Folks, when you are looking at over 250 images this is a pretty cool savings. Christopher worked closely with me on this day and then the next day as he ensured that I obtained every image that I needed. I have nothing but kudos to say about Christopher. The city of Los Angeles should give this young man a pay raise, and I’m not joking here. Los Angeles is lucky to employ him. Good work needs to be rewarded. Mayor Giradi, if you see this post or if you hear of this post, know one thing: Christopher Chavez is an extraordinary employee and the city is lucky to have him.

LK’s workstation at the Central Los Angeles Public Library in the History Department on 19nov2017. Cool times for LK. (photo ©  Louis Kraft 2017)

The people of Sand Creek

The major players range from the second territorial governor of Colorado Territory, the chief editor and co-partner of the most successful newspaper in Denver during the 1860s and beyond, the commanding colonel of the District of Colorado, the official U.S. interpreter for all four major treaties with the Cheyenne Indians between 1851 and 1867, a major partner of the most successful trading post who married into the Cheyenne tribe, one of his mixed-blood sons, and the one man who dared to act for he thought was for the good of mankind and has since been termed a traitor to his own race. They were ambitious, had views of success in their dreams, but like you and I had to survive in a world beyond their control.

I know. Where’s Cheyennes Black Kettle, Lean Bear, or Bull Bear; and Arapahos Left Hand, Neva, and Little Raven? Trust me, for they are a comin’ to life, … I want them to be surprises; I want them to explode off the pages. Actually Black Kettle and Little Raven will surprise you, but unfortunately I simply don’t have enough on the others to allow them to also dominate. Still Left Hand was a person I wish I could have known in life.

More important, and like most of us, they thought that what they did was right when they did it. … What I’ve learned is not what I wanted to know. I’m writing the manuscript as a biography through the eyes of (currently) nine people. I’m doing everything I can to be in their point-of-view (POV), a film term.

This is my lady, Pailin, on the bluffs to the west of the 1864 Sand Creek battlefield. Our terrific friends John and Linda Monnett took us to the isolated site in 2014. You want to read good history pick up some of John’s books that deal with the Cheyennes. … Pailin and I are totally different in all phases of our lives, and yet she supports everything that I do. I pray to my God that I am capable of supporting everything that she does. Life and love is a two-way street. You won’t believe what is in our future. (photo © Louis Kraft & Palin Subanna-Kraft 2014)

Where the hell am I? Simply, I’m treading water in the middle of pure hell. Does this sound negative? Probably, but it shouldn’t be as I’m inching closer to completing perhaps the most important manuscript of my life. If true, I must see Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway through to print. Folks, I can’t see this happening before 2019. This means I need to live another two years. Doable? I think so, … I hope so. Time will tell.

This is the OU Press dust jacket for the Wynkoop book; I’ve had some great covers over the years but this jacket is by far my favorite. It was an image that I requested, and it was an image that the art director did great work.

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway has 37 contracted images. Three will be maps; that leaves 34 photos or art.Good times for LK to fill in the blanks. At this moment I have chosen 16 (as I don’t own the rights to all these images the process to purchase and determine the use fees is under way. Actually several have already been procured, and all that needs to happen is working out the publishing details and paying the use fees. I hate to say it but at this point in time I must become secretive. Of the 16 I’ve previously used six of them. This is more than I hoped to use, but the images that will again be used are mandatory to telling the story of the events that led up to the Sand Creek attack and its aftermath.

For the record Chuck Rankin had requested I place as many women in the manuscript as possible. My research leading to the creation of the proposal and its acceptance was less than sparkling, meaning that there were no women who would be in the manuscript. Over the last three years of research this view has changed. I mentioned a couple of young ladies above. This is, for me, great news. Hopefully they will come to life when the book is published, even if their presence is small, for they are oh-so important to the Sand Creek story.

A small repetition

My Sand Creek proposal was a very-detailed thirty-seven pages, but it also included a “get out of jail” pass. This simply means that as a writer-historian I track all the usual suspects and try to follow where the trail leads. That is, the documentable facts. Actions and words define character. My job is not to create villains and heroes; rather it is to present people to you. If I do my job correctly you will make your own decisions of who they were and what happened.

As said above, this is a seven-day-a-week job. I’m up between four and four-thirty and often don’t get to bed until nine, ten, or later. … You guessed it. Sometimes I have to crash. But even on these days I must research and/or add word count.

I love what I do.

An Errol Flynn tidbit

I want to go off course here while still tiptoeing the straight and narrow. Thank you, Mr. Flynn. I’m not being sarcastic here, for Flynn’s My Wicked, Wicked Ways is the best book that I’ve ever read. His book dealt with time and memory, it dealt with good and bad, success and failure, and protecting the innocent in more ways than one (for example: Not saying much about a person or event, changing a key fact or two, or names of people that Mr. Flynn did not want to hurt, or perhaps because he did not want to be hurt).

The Flynn photo used on the dust jacket for the first printing of My Wicked, Wicked Ways. (photo © Esquire, Inc. 1958)

For the record, a successful writer named Earl Conrad was hired by Flynn’s publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) to spend time with him at his home in Jamaica in 1959. Flynn had received a good advance to write his memoir, but he was almost at the end of his time on earth, was having trouble completing the manuscript, and needed help. Flynn was self taught, literate, and well published. He always had a story to tell, forever stood firm for what he believed, and never shied away from anything in his life. Without checking, and perhaps it is in Conrad’s memoir of his time with Flynn or in Thomas McNulty’s Errol Flynn: The Life and Career (by far the best biography on Flynn), but I think Flynn shared about 200,000 words during a handful of weeks with his guest Conrad. Flynn would see and sign-off on the galleys of his memoir but then died before seeing his last book published. (I’ll deal with this in my third book on Flynn; perhaps my second if I get lucky and something I want to do happens.)

My friends, … those of you who fear that I’ll never complete the first book
on Errol Flynn (and Olivia de Havilland), relax, for that book is closer
to publication than you think. Moreover, the two other planned
books on Mr. Flynn will happen. The second or third
books—there is no order here—will blow you
away in many ways.

Closing thoughts

There are pieces of my life, and luckily they didn’t deal with life and death on a major scale or decisions that would affect hundreds and thousands of people. Luckily I’ve lived in the shadows of time. Honestly, I think that this is a better place to be … for if I lived in earlier times when I would have had a target on my back as I would not have stepped in line and said, “Yes sir!” Luckily I didn’t live in the 1860s, for if I had, I’m certain that I would have been murdered on the streets of Denver as Captain Silas Soule was.

Still things have happened and they have affected my life in more ways than I’ll ever admit. During those times I wasn’t smiling. Looking back I can’t stop chuckling.

The little angel sitting on my right shoulder just whacked me in the face. The little devil sitting on my left shoulder simply snickered and said, “You wimp, you deserved that!”

What it all comes down to is life—my life.
My view is simply that you and I have different views of
our lives. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


Recently I proposed several ideas of what I might deal with in
my next blog on social media. A good friend of mine quickly asked me to
highlight the pirate named Francis Drake (and she had a great reason why; you’ll
meet her below). … This lady’s request confirmed my desire to do something
that has been with me for a long time and was long overdue.

Alas, and like most of my blogs, this post includes some personal stuff. This is never intended but always happens (I know the reason why, and probably you do too). … Here I’m also talking about Francis Drake; a man that if you don’t know him—you should, as he was centuries before his time.

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

Francis Drake had many names, but perhaps the most important—or fearful—was what the Spaniards once called him, El Draque. To them he was the dragon, for he time and again appeared out of nowhere to steal their gold and silver, and worse put a dent in their domination over the New World in the 16th century.

I discovered him in the fifth grade, actually the first school in my life wherein I would spend more than one year in the same school. This short two year period would give me the first friends who, although not for all time, would become a good memory of my youth. Ladies and gents I love and cherish my time as I walk between our past and my current life. I’m one lucky cowboy—Ouch! I think here a better word might be pirate as I explore the past while walking into my future.

Believe it or not it was three or four years before Errol Flynn’s death when I saw his great 1940 film The Sea Hawk for the first time on TV. This film, along with Flynn’s 1941 They Died with Their Boots On (when he played George Armstrong Custer), would impact my life more than I could ever have imagined if I had tried. I was still a year or more away from the fifth grade so I hadn’t heard of Drake yet. …

LK on 31oct1958 at my first and only permanent home during my school years (Reseda, California). I believe that this image (right) is the first of me holding a sword. A proud moment for me. Within three years I would be studying the sword with the legendary American Olympian, Ralph Faulkner, who went on to double stars in American film, choreograph cinematic duels, and teach fencing in Hollywood, California, for perhaps half a century. My mother created the costume for me in this image. Unfortunately we didn’t have a morion (a helmet worn during the 16th century) or other armor that Drake might have worn. My costume was closer to pirate attire during the two golden ages of piracy in the Caribbean; late 17th century/early 18th century. My favorite pirate during this time period was Henry Morgan, but it would be years before I discovered him. (photo © Louis Kraft 1958)

I had begun buying books on Flynn before his death, and I bought his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways when it was published (available in LA in late 1959 or early 1960). When my mother saw it she asked: “Where did you get this?” “I bought it.” No more questions were needed as my first job was in elementary school—I had a seven-day-a-week newspaper route (not to mention that I made the rounds picking up glass bottles, and they were worth cash at the local market; oh yeah—Way back then!). Good money in those days. “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t want you talking to any of your friends about this book.” I readily agreed.

This joint image is a colorization of a publicity photo of Flynn from The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros., 1940) and this artwork by Clark Hulings appeared on the cover of F. Van Wyck Mason’s novel about Drake’s 1586-86 “West Indies” voyage, Golden Admiral. I believe that this was the first paperback publication of Mason’s novel (1960s), and Hulings’ art shames the U.S. and Australian hardbound book covers. I really like Hulings’ painting and hope to use it if I complete my planned books on Drake.

I actually didn’t make the Drake-Flynn/Geoffrey Thorpe (who EF played in The Sea Hawk) connection until sometime in high school when I began to read real books about Drake. … The Warner Bros. screenwriters Howard Koch and Seton I. Miller (and they were top-notch), wrote the screenplay for The Sea Hawk. It was based upon a story that Miller drafted called The Beggars of the Sea. I’ve never seen Miller’s draft, but it apparently detailed Francis Drake’s early exploits on the Spanish Main and the Caribbean Sea. If you are familiar with Drake and you have seen The Sea Hawk this is a no-brainer connection.

The USA one-sheet for The Sea Hawk (1940).

The film’s title is from Rafael Sabatini’s great novel about an Elizabethan who became a Barbary slave but who eventually became a feared Tunis pirate in the early seventeenth century. A great plot and story by Sabatini and a book that I enjoy every time I read it. Sabatini’s book would become a silent film, but one I’ve never seen. Warners, who owned the rights to the novel and (perhaps) the silent film, opted to go with a fictionalized Drake story. As Warner Bros. constantly did during the Golden Age of Film, they steered clear of being sued. Read that they changed names and facts to protect the innocent—mainly, yours truly, Warner Bros.

Some of you know that I’m writing a book about Errol Flynn; actually I’m writing three books about Flynn. They are all a comin’, and sooner than you might think. For the record, I have a list of what I think are the ten best films Flynn ever made. See Errol Flynn & Louis Kraft; the connection and a view for my list. Four of those films are extraordinary and The Sea Hawk and They Died with Their Boots On are two of them (perhaps someday I’ll write a blog that explains why).

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

Yeah, racism existed in Drake’s time and it still does in our time. Usually when I talk about this subject I concentrate on race, but today I’m going to focus more on ethnicity. I was born a Catholic (you had better sit down before you read the rest of this paragraph). I would eventually become a Lutheran (who Drake was) and then a Methodist (who Ned Wynkoop was), but none of these choices by me had anything to with who I have written about or will write about. I’m me, and changes happen. I’m a citizen of the world and I’m free to choose how I worship God. For the record all of my choices throughout my life have been Jesus, my life and savior, God, and Christianity. This is what I worship and I will do so as long as I walk our world. … I have been pounded way too often because I have also cherished and cherish Mary, the mother of Jesus … Moreover I have been attacked for I am able to accept people who worship their God, be it Buddha, Maheo (the Cheyenne God), Ussen (the Apache God), or any other religion (and that included a screenplay that I wrote that dealt with an interracial relationship between a Persian woman and an American in Los Angeles at the time of the fall of the shaw of Iran in the 1970s). If you have trouble with this; it’s on you and not me.

This art of LK meeting the Virgin Mary is based upon a great photo taken my friend Glen Williams at Mission San Fernando (city of San Fernando in Los Angeles County) in May 2012. This lady is with me today, tomorrow, and always, … and I don’t give a damn about what you think. (art © Louis Kraft 2017)

Let’s make this clear right now: Mary will always be with me regardless if I pray to my God in the Catholic or Protestant religions. Always. Now and forever. I am strong and I can survive whatever criticism that might come my way (there are stories here, but they are too personal to share). If you don’t agree or like this, again that’s on you (and it is for you to do what you believe is right for you).

I speak with God and Jesus every day. Your decision of what you do is yours and it will not affect my life or my religious beliefs in any way. Nor will I ever curse you as you don’t worship your God as I do mine.

Back to the Dragon …

Both Drake and Flynn were adventurers. Both made an impact on their chosen professions. Most important both stepped outside the racial times of their day (although this last point I didn’t realize until years later when I was actually writing and selling freelance words).

By the mid-1970s I was still an actor but I had begun to write with a purpose. A harrowing experience during a summer of dinner theater in Texas had landed me a screenwriting agent. It had also landed me an acting manager. Although the push was to get me acting work, the manager, and his name was Richard Steele-Reed (alas, no longer with us), was well aware of the writing direction that had begun to take hold of my life. He suggested that we write a novel together; that is I write it and he function as an editor during the process. I liked the idea.

This art by an unknown artist that dates to the 1960s and the world of discovery and piracy. It was a baseball card, and from an unknown card set. This may, or may not, have been Francis Drake’s early entry to the New World after the disastrous Hawkins’s slave-trading expedition of the late 1560s. Here Drake would show his true colors as he partnered with escaped African slaves that married into the indigenous tribes of people who lived in the area prior to the appearance of Columbus at the end of the 15th century. … As for the image: The men are obviously Cimarrons (more about them below), but the vessel is too large to be Drake’s Swan, which, without digging, I believe was his ship during his early 1570s sailings to the New World.

My choice for a novel: Francis Drake’s early solo voyages after the massive John Hawkins trading disaster to the Indies in 1567, wherein his slaving venture (and Drake was one of his ship captains) from Africa to the Spanish colonial cities looked to amass a huge profit. By the way, the Spanish outlawed this, but it didn’t stop the trading and selling of human cargo. There was a hurricane and Hawkins’s fleet put into the protected harbor of San Juan de Ulúa (current Vera Cruz, Mexico) to repair damage before attempting to cross the Atlantic and return to England. Bad timing placed the Spanish fleet arriving there at this time. The English fleet, and Drake commanded a small vessel called the Judith, was formidable and Hawkins worked out a truce with the Spanish viceroy. … But treachery followed and all but two English ships were sunk. The two to get out of the harbor and flee were Drake’s Judith, and he took some heat for not waiting for Hawkins, who escaped on (if my memory is good) his damaged flagship, the Minion. English seamen that were captured had a future of prison and the Spanish Inquisition (some would luckily survive the ordeal).

This is a detail of  a newly authenticated portrait of Francis Drake. It is on loan and currently displayed at Buckland Abbey, Drake’s home that he bought 11 miles from Plymouth in Devon, England, after his return from the circumnavigation of the world in 1580. Drake’s first wife, Mary Newman, got to enjoy their magnificent new home but not for long as she died the following year. Four years later Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham. This art, which definitely captures Drake’s features is, unfortunately, not dated (and worse the artist is unknown). It predates his 1585-86 expedition to the Spanish Main and his 1587 raid on Cadiz, Spain. And it perhaps predates his triumphant return to London after the circumnavigation. If so, this pushes the date of the painting to the of end of his successful 1572-73 West Indies raid or after he served as the the navel commander for Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex, in July 1575. The painting has brilliant colors and is alive. I love it.

This was key for both the times, which then was in the midst of a religious war that would heat up, and was also combined with the fight to control the New World, or the Americas. Currently Spain and Portugal had divided this land (what would become Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Sea, although the Spanish had made a foothold in what would become the American Southwest and Florida) between themselves and were doing everything possible to protect what they considered their private domain. The English were interlopers (and very aware of the wealth the New World contained) and Spain realized the threat.

Drake, who was a Lutheran, now viewed Spain as his deadly enemy. Turning pirate, he launched his personal war with Spain’s New World empire. … And this was the premise of my co-authored novel with Steele-Reed. It dealt with his first exploratory voyages as he befriended Cimarrons, mixed-blood escaped African slaves who joined and married the indigenous people (that is the people who lived in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World) that struggled to remain free from Spanish domination. Partnering with the Cimarrons Drake learned how Spain shipped gold and silver overland via mule trains to the eastern coast of what would become Central America. He planned, he plotted, and at the same time he became a small thorn in mighty Spain’s personal domain when he attacked mostly undermanned shipping that could not avoid or repel a piratical attack at that time.

This image was taken during LK’s first time aboard Drake’s Golden Hinde II in August 1976 (San Francisco, California). I’m on (I think) the aft deck, and I’m certainly talking to my crew. There’s nothing better than living in the moment even though in this instance the moment isn’t mine. … I guess that I should share something here; when I walk in an historical person’s shoes I do whatever I can to live their moments. I want to know what they felt, and more why they did what they did. I’m a firm believer in cause and effect, and I need this to write about them in their view. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

This incomplete Drake draft is not in the Louis Kraft Collection in Santa Fe; it is still with me and awaiting my return to it. It is one of two Kraft planned books on Drake. The other will be nonfiction. Like Wynkoop and Sand Creek I don’t share my nonfiction plot lines until the books are published (this reason should be obvious, but if not I do not want to give the story away for one major reason—I’m slower than any historian that I know and I don’t want them to publish their book that is based upon my idea before I do).

I write about extraordinary men: Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, Charles Gatewood, and Errol Flynn. I also write about a magnificent woman: Olivia de Havilland, who plays a major role in Errol & Olivia. … More important, in the not-too-distant future Drake and Kit Carson will join my writing world that Flynn will soon dominate. It’s a comin’ folks, it’s a comin’. Trust me.

Who was Francis Drake?

And more importantly how do I walk with the pirate Drake and present him in words; both fictionally and in reality? I know. Actually I’ve known for decades. He is in line with above-mentioned writing subjects. By that I mean Drake stepped beyond racial prejudice and hatred and dealt with his fellow man (often his hated enemy) in a humane way. The enemy were killing his brethren, and often butchering them, torturing them, and ripping their bodies to pieces. He dealt with that, he lived with that, but when in control—that is with Spanish prisoners—he didn’t reciprocate. Conversely, he treated them as human beings.

This is Rod Taylor playing the Francis Drake in the 1963 film Seven Sea to Calais. He was brilliant as Drake (but the film never comes close to equaling his performance), and if he had decided to walk in Flynn’s steps and become a swashbuckler—and of course improved his sword skills—we would have had a great successor to Flynn’s glory years. Taylor did not, and alas we have still not seen an actor who could have followed Flynn’s swashbucklings steps. At this late date perhaps we—that is me—will never see someone who can fill Flynn’s legacy. … I’m good with this; oh baby am I good with this. It should have been Rod Taylor. That did not happen, and everyone since Rod’s time have been total failures. … It is what it is and I’m good with this. Bottom point? This just shows you just how great Flynn’s screen presence really was (and that included performing in numerous film genres).

Perhaps not in 1573, one of Drake’s most magnificent years, for he did capture and secure a Spanish treasure caravan. It would make his fortune, put his name in circulation, lead to his short association with Essex in 1575 (mentioned below the above Drake portrait currently displayed at Buckland Abbey), and more important lead to his introduction to Thomas Doughty, an aristocrat. Actually Drake’s participation was small. Sailing the Falcon (a frigate), he commanded the fleet that transported John Norrey’s army to Rathlin Island, off the coast of Ireland. On July 25 Drake used the canons on the Falcon to batter the castle’s stone walls until they crumbled. At that point Norreys began the assault as Drake sailed the coast to ensure that no Scottish ships attempted to send reinforcements. That day the fortress with 200 soldiers surrendered, and the following day the English rounded up 400 civilians who had fled to hide in caves when the English appeared. Men, women, and children, and many of them Scots who had been sent to the island because it was thought to be a safe haven. The English put them to the sword (just a saying, meaning they murdered all 600). The “Rathlin Island Massacre,” as this infamous event is now known, shows that the Spanish were not the only ones who dealt harshly with the enemy. It is unknown what Drake’s reaction was when he learned of the massacre, but his participation in this heinous event led to a friendship with Doughty (who served as Sir Christopher Hatton’s personal secretary), and this would eventually lead to his introduction to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

This is the Golden Hinde II, as it appeared in the Robert Shaw, Genevieve Bujold, James Earl Jones, and Peter Boyle film Swashbuckler (Universal Pictures, 1976). If I remember correctly Universal paid $1,000,000 to rent the Golden Hinde II. Unfortunately there were no battles at sea (guess the production only had enough money to rent one vessel). Here Shaw’s pirate ship (The Blarney Cock) is bombarding a stone execution gibbet that is just above the Jamaican town of ??? (can’t remember; Port Royal?) before making a daring rescue of Jones, who was about to be hung.

Better, it would lead to his proposal to attack the Spanish settlements on the western coast of the Americas (advertised as a trading voyage to the Nile). This would lead to riches beyond belief for him, his crew, his queen, and the investors in the piratical raid. This included his circumnavigation of the globe*, which led to his knighthood in 1581. This voyage, if studied, is mind-boggling. Yes, it is that magnificent, and again it demonstrates in bold letters Drake’s daring as well of his view of humankind and Spain. His relationship with indigenous people continued as he circled the globe. At times he wined and dined his Spanish captives aboard the Golden Hinde; (after transporting the treasure from the Cacafuego, see below italicized note, which took five days, Drake released the ship and its crew on the evening of March 5) treating them with humanity and respect, something that wasn’t expected during the second half of the 16th century.

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

* Drake did not initially plan to sail around the globe. Instead he hoped to return to England by discovering the western entrance to the (still thought to exist) Northwest Passage and sail this unchartered waterway back to the Atlantic Ocean. Reason: He knew that his raids along the western coast of the Americas, and this included the March 1, 1579, capture of the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (also called Cacafuego) off the coast of what would become Ecuador, guaranteed that a Spanish fleet would be waiting for him to return to the Strait of Magellan, the 373-mile water passage below southern-most portion of mainland South America and north of Tierra de Fuego. When Drake realized that the Northwest Passage didn’t exist he had but one choice to return home—sail west into the Pacific Ocean.

Yep, Francis Drake, a lowly born Englishman, became a member of the realm. He was a self-made man, and by that I mean a person who dared to step outside the stated doctrines of his life and times, and stand firm for his country, religion, culture, and freedom.

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

How could I refuse the lady’s request? … And especially since Drake has been with me for a long time. “My friend, El Draque (the Dragon) it is.”

This is MaryLou Backus. She is a beautiful and slender person that I am lucky to know. We are close on many subjects from the American Indians and into our world of today. When I had raised the question of perhaps writing a blog about Francis Drake she immediately replied yes. (art of MaryLou © Louis Kraft 2017)

When I had raised the question of who I should next highlight in my next blog on social media a long-distance friend spoke up quickly with the words in this heading. Her request was quick (actually she was the only person to reply on the first day of the post).

Back to this lady, and I haven’t shared her name except in the image to the right. She is MaryLou Backus. … She and I have much in common even though we have never met. Better, she is a lady after my heart. Unbelievably her family believes that that they are directly related to Francis Drake, who, to repeat myself, lived in a time of extreme racial and religious prejudice, as well as hatred and butchery. He refused to murder other human beings. … And he was a pirate. …

I’m still with MaryLou. She is an absolutely gorgeous lady who luckily I’ll meet sometime in our future. Social media linked us in our joint interest in the American Indian wars. When I proposed this blog to her, MaryLou had this to say: “Wonderful! I grew up on tales of him [Drake] having been an ancestor. I have no idea if it’s true, but of course it created a fascination.” I can’t walk away from MaryLou’s hope. Not today; not ever! I wish that I could join her and claim that Mr. Drake was also my relative. I can’t. Her claim is real; it’s alive, and I’m certain that the back story to what she has heard has the possibility of being true. My view? Wow! MaryLou, you are so lucky to have the pirate Drake perhaps being your relative.

… And there’s more to MaryLou’s extraordinary reminiscence of her family’s living history and connection to the pirate Drake who would become Sir Francis. This remembrance of MaryLou must not be forgotten, and here’s another reason why. … “And somebody was supposed to have some old doubloons squirreled away,” she told me. “As a kid, I always dreamed of finding them in somebody’s attic. Ha!” Good stuff.

Knighted and a national hero

When Drake returned from his circumnavigation and was knighted, he had no idea that his service, which ranged from piracy to loyalty to his country, had not yet ended.

This is the April 1581 Nicholas Hilliard miniature of Drake. It is a portrait of Drake the year after he completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1580. It is in the National Maritime Museum on the Thames River in Greenwich across from London proper. Also in this museum complex is the Queen’s House. In 2009 I visited Olivia de Havilland at her home for the second time upon her invitation. I don’t fly to Paris without a full agenda to wrap three weekends around two weeks. My then special lady wanted to also see London (cool for me, as I wanted to see some of the classic paintings of Drake in person). I would have liked to have traveled to Plymouth do research and see Buckland Abby but that would have added another week as I would have had to do some serious Drake and Devon research. Heck, I got to spend time on the Golden Hinde II for the third time as it is now docked in London (and I assume that it is still berthed on the Thames River). Believe it or not, my lady and I had the ship to ourselves during this visit (it pays to be an early bird); some good research material at the shop that handled visits aboard this oh-so famous replica vessel. … I’ve missed flights, and on this trip I almost missed two—that’s right—two Eurorail trips (from Paris to London and London back to France). My lady was okay with the first mess up as we threw our bags onto the train and boarded it seconds—yes, seconds—before the doors closed and we were thrown to the floor as the train jerked forward, but when we almost missed the train back to France she was livid. The reason was simple: We would have missed our return flight to the USA. … Back to the story, we took a Thames boat ride to Greenwich and explored the National Maritime Museum (a wonder!). We saw Hilliard’s miniature and other decent art of Drake, but not the 1591 jewel portrait of him. It was supposed to be at the museum. I asked, and was told that it was in the Queen’s House (a part of the museum complex). We hustled to the house (perhaps a 300-yard distance from the National Maritime Museum), but it closed at five and it was now a few minutes after five. For the record this was not Elizabeth I of England’s house but James I’s (the Scot who succeeded Elizabeth on the English throne as she left no heirs) wife’s house, and it was built a little over 10 years after Elizabeth’s death. My friend and great historian Eric Niderost (who is also a professor in Northern California) shared this information with me, and I am forever grateful. … My lady and I couldn’t talk our way into the building. Devastating! We took our boat ride back to Big Ben and then the subways to our hotel. After dinner she said to me, “We have time tomorrow morning. Let’s go to the Queen’s House.” This was based upon the misinformation that had I shared with her of when Eurorail would take us back to France (yeah, sometimes Kraft isn’t the smartest pirate wandering our modern world). Another roundtrip on the Thames and me seeing the Drake jewel portrait became my second highlight of the trip; seeing Livvie, as Flynn called Olivia de Havilland, for the third time was definitely number one. … A print of this great Drake portrait is in the personal LK collection.

The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued; that is death to all that did not accept  Catholicism. Drake enjoyed a short but peaceful time in his homeland, but he lost his first wife (I don’t know how she died). Several years later he married a second time. Life was good, but the Spanish threat refused to go away. Ever the pirate the now patriot Drake helmed a massive invasion of the New World. He would attack and seize major cities, including Cartagena (the western coast of Columbia, current South America). While in control of the city he sent an African emissary to negotiate with the Spanish only to watch a Spanish officer murder his negotiator. Drake could not accept this and demanded that the officer who committed the crime be delivered to him. This was done and Drake had the murderer executed. The Spanish threat of death to all heretics continued. Elizabeth and many in England felt vulnerable to invasion. Spies reported King Philip II of Spain was amassing a huge armada in Cadiz.

I have shared larger copies of this image elsewhere on social media but never before on my blog. I am at the helm of Drake’s Golden Hinde II on 10jul2009, which means that I was in a live-world heaven. Originally the helm had a whipstaff for the wheel didn’t exist in Drake’s day. I’m on the half deck of the Golden Hinde II. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Francis Drake (the British pirate) and Francis Drake (the British knight) was a man for all time. … For the record he would have easily walked with frontiersman Ned Wynkoop, Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, and actor Errol Flynn as they all stepped beyond racism. As already stated Drake lived during a time of extreme religious prejudice, a time of absolute butchery of the foe (let’s not forget the American frontier or the modern world of warfare). I have not yet figured out how Drake could step beyond his times and accept people who were of different color and in the case of the Spanish prayed to a God that, although similar to his, preached the elimination—that is the murder—of everyone that did not accept and pray to Jesus as viewed through the Catholic Church. This was a harsh time wherein “infidels,” that is those that did not cherish and praise Jesus Christ exactly as those who accepted Catholicism as worshiped in the Spanish empire were evil and needed to burn at the stake. I can’t begin to imagine the Inquisition or the horror of this kind of death.

This artwork of Sir Francis Drake (1594) is perhaps a copy of the magnificent 1591 jewel portrait of him (a copy of the jewel portrait is in his cabin on the Golden Hinde II, currently docked in London, and the original painting is in the Queen’s House in Greenwich). This unknown artist rendition is rough—at best.

During the attempted Spanish Armada invasion of England in 1588 Drake again played a major role, although he also acted as he had in the past, mainly as a pirate acting on his own hook. I hate authority and love this. Regardless of how we view his actions at this climatic time in England’s history he was a patriot.

Francis Drake was born a protestant, and he would die a protestant. He was born into a world of racism, and his entire life would exist in a harsh climate of religious hatred and brutal murder of those who prayed to a different Jesus Christ and God.

But Francs Drake was different. He was a pirate, and later a knight of the realm. He and those he loved were always at risk of death if the Spanish conquest of England won out. It didn’t, and he and his family survived. Francis Drake would never know Ned Wynkoop, Black Kettle, or Errol Flynn, and they most likely never considered his life, and yet all of them are tied between the ages and time in that they accepted people of a different race, color, and religion as just people.

This is something that everyone currently walking our world should do. Lordy, if all of us could just do this, what a better world we would have. Think of it … a world without racial or religious prejudice and hate, … a world without conquest and genocide, … a world wherein a woman and a man are equal.

Yep, I dream for a future that I’ll never see.

John Smith, Chief Gordon Yellowman, & the Sand Creek massacre

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


 

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“Sand Creek” (above) is Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman’s interpretation of what happened at the joint Cheyenne and Arapaho village that thought they were at peace with the U.S. military in November 1864. The results of this attack—read butchery—were horrific. For more about Chief Yellowman’s painting see below. (art © Gordon Yellowman 1996)

This is the first time that I have led a blog with artwork and then featured it later in the same blog. The reason is of extreme importance to me.

The Sand Creek tragedy has returned to my life with a vengeance; actually
for some time. Progress is good, but slow (I could give myself a few
nicknames here but won’t for I don’t want any of them to stick).*

And as in the past I have found primary source documentation
that is an eye opener.

To give you an idea of how much, … in the late 1980s I
had outlined a novel with Indian agent Ned Wynkoop
as my chief villain. I had without enough research
added Wynkoop to the list of Indian agents
who robbed their wards while lying to
their U.S. government employers.

One problem: Wynkoop didn’t do
what I originally thought.

I never wrote
that book.

OVER THE LAST 30+ YEARS I’VE LEARNED A LOT,
AND BETTER I LEARN MORE EVERY DAY.

To quote Yogi Bera, the late and great catcher of the NY Yankees
during the Golden Age of Baseball, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”


* Actually a good friend and fellow Errol Flynn biographer, Robert Florczak, has named me “Kit” Kraft, and nothing I say or do has killed this name. Luckily he didn’t choose to call me “Wild Bill” Kraft. For the reason why see: http://www.louiskraftwriter.com/2016/09/17/the-tom-eubanks-louis-kraft-ned-wynkoop-errol-flynn-connection/.

Sand Creek is a story of people

Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is a story of people creating a future, retaining a lifeway, race relations, survival, and it is of major importance to me. Although I am working in familiar territory this manuscript is 100-fold more difficult to write than any of the previous nonfiction books that I have written.

A short detour

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(book cover art © Louis Kraft 2016)

My recent novel with partner Robert S. Goodman, The Discovery, which took place in Los Angeles over two decades (between 1951 and 1973), presented me with a lot of information that had to be accurate (medical, legal, not to mention historical facts), such as when the 101 Freeway that cuts through the north side of downtown LA, through the Cahuenga Pass and into the San Fernando Valley before continuing north and west as it skirts the Pacific Ocean. For the record it didn’t exist in 1952. CNN news didn’t exist in 1973; I had never watched it (but I do now on the internet). The Discovery had an enormous list of facts that had to be correct. Yeah, that’s right, even when you write fiction you have a responsibility to stick to reality.

When you write nonfiction it is a crime to get creative with facts and distort or change or invent them to support preconceived premises.

Sand Creek hasn’t been easy

What did I say? Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway “is 100-fold more difficult to write”? This is perhaps the truest statement that I have ever made about my writing world. Honestly, this story, and remember I don’t write lists of facts but about people, is a living-breathing nightmare. … My average day? Try five to six or eight hours of research and if I’m lucky two or three or four hours of writing. I’m not talking polishing here, simply trying to get facts that I think are accurate written.

Word-smithing comes later—much later.

I’m approaching the Sand Creek manuscript as a biography but with multiple leading players. The goal is to smoothly flow all the key players’ actions into a storyline that shows what they did without allowing it to turn into a jerked-together mess of telling. As in the past this is a work that is taking longer than anticipated. The plus for me here is that, and as in the past, I have a lot of very knowledgable friends that constantly supply information and run thoughts, questions, and ideas by me. They open my eyes to information that I hadn’t known previously existed, and believe it or not, some of this information has changed my views on key people and their actions.

Dr. Gary Roberts and the beginning of a friendship

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This is Dr. Gary Roberts latest book (Abingdon Press, 2016), and in it he presents well-thought-out insights into to both Colonel John Chivington, who commanded the Colorado Volunteers that attacked the joint Cheyenne and Arapaho village at Sand Creek on November 29, 1864; and the second territorial governor of Colorado, John Evans. His book is available on Amazon.

Lately I’ve been enjoying a round-robin discussion with Gary Roberts, which began when my question of approximately how many miles would the Reverend John Chivington have been able to cover on a normal day’s travel during his first journey to Denver was forwarded to him. Gary kindly dug into it and answered me (and more than once on what he found). This opened an ongoing question-answer-thought provoking conversation that has led to a friendship.

During the last two or so months Gary has also opened my eyes to something that Wynkoop had done that I wasn’t aware of as well as other key questions I’m tracking on Chivington and others, and this includes primary source material on trader and interpreter John Simpson Smith that to date I haven’t been able to get my hands on, and by the way he is proving to be an unexpected surprise. I’ve also been focusing on Arapaho Chief Left Hand, and the more I learn about him the more I wish I knew.

Buddying up to John Simpson Smith

Actions—peoples’ actions—drive how I explore the people in my books, for what they did tells me who they were and what drove them. I cringe when someone tells me who they were. I don’t need opinions of who they were and neither do you. Also, I need to get as close as I can to walking in their shoes, boots, or moccasins as possible. Doing this is the only way I know of to prevent my bias from tarnishing how I present them in my writing. By this I mean that I must view and document their actions as they viewed them.

But first a little of LK and my lady

If you listen to some people who claim to be my friend I’m a loser, a failure, and an evil person. They secretly spread malicious rumors about Pailin’s and my life behind our backs.* For all the things that I’ve done in my life, I’ve done them while thinking that I acted correctly at all times.

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This is my lady and me on the Skywalk above the Grand Canyon in Arizona in late September 2013. We were one then and we are one today. Anyone who says different is a liar and asshole. (photo © Louis Kraft and Pailin Subanna 2013)

* I know a handful of people with Green Cards who are only in the United States to use our country, … that’s right, “to use our country” to their advantage and then desert it. They are by far a small minority, a small headcount, but still they are taking up precious space, headcount, and preventing someone who truly wants to make the USA their home from doing so. I find their actions despicable. Moreover, one of these people has taken my comments on other social media out of context and lied about it for unknown reasons. For the record, Pailin and my life together is one of love and is on course for our ultimate goal—her U.S. citizenship.

What I have just shared about our life is true, and Pailin will obtain her citizenship in the not-too-distant future.

The principle people in my manuscript did what they thought right when they acted

I honestly believe that Black Kettle, John Chivington, Left Hand, Ned Wynkoop, John Evans, Little Raven, George Bent, William Byers, John Smith, Charley Bent, Silas Soule, Edmund Guerrier, George Shoup, Scott Anthony, Tall Bull, and Bull Bear thought that they were right when they did what they did during the 1860s.

And this is exactly what I must do when I write about them.

It will be up to you to decide if you agree with their actions or not.

Finally to Mr. Smith

Alas, some of the players that I thought would have larger roles are shrinking while others are growing. One person, John Simpson Smith, the interpreter and trader that had married into at least two tribes has become a total surprise to me in the second decade of the 21st century. Those of you who read my biography on Ned Wynkoop, have heard my talks or read my articles about him know that Smith and Ned did not get along. This began when Wynkoop, who, along with others in their land development group that had traveled to the gold region near where the city of Denver would be founded, threatened to hang Smith in 1858 if he did not leave the area or join their company.

Have you ever been knocked cold with a sucker punch?
I have, and it affected my life.

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This is a cropping of the famed Camp Weld image that was taken after Governor John Evans and Colonel John Chivington met with Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders that Major Edward (Ned) Wynkoop (kneeling left) escorted to Denver in late September 1864 after he had met with them on a tributary of the Smoky Hill River in Kansas earlier that month. This is not the image that I used in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, but is a cropped version of the original by an unknown person. Sitting directly behind Wynkoop is Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle (and who, with the Chiricahua Apache war leader Geronimo, I would gladly trade one year of my remaining life to be able to spend two weeks with these gentlemen). John Smith is standing left behind Black Kettle. The meeting on the Smoky Hill tributary was the first time that Smith and Wynkoop worked together after Wynkoop insisted that Smith translate for him at Fort Lyon at the beginning of the month (and this was their first connection since the threat of hanging Smith in 1858). Wynkoop needed an interpreter and he had only one choice—Smith. The events of September 1864 led to a four-year working relationship that neither Smith nor Wynkoop wanted. That month also began Wynkoop’s friendship with Black Kettle, a friendship that led to his turning his back on racial prejudice and accepting Cheyennes and Arapahos as human beings. … That is Captain Silas Soule kneeling next to Wynkoop. He was forced to participate in the attack on the Sand Creek village (Wynkoop wasn’t present at the attack as he was in transit to Kansas to await a potential court-martial). At Sand Creek Soule refused to fire his weapons. In 1864 he spoke out about the savage and brutal mutilation of men, women, and children and in 1865 testified about the attack. He was murdered in the streets of Denver in April 1865.

Don’t you doubt for one minute that the threat of death did not affect John Smith in the coming years. Don’t you doubt that he never forgave Wynkoop and the others that threatened his life. Almost six years later events forced Smith and Wynkoop to work together, and they would do so for another four years. Neither Smith nor Wynkoop liked or wanted this relationship, but they made the best of it. Knowing my connection with Wynkoop over the years, it’s a safe bet that my view of Mr. Smith has been less than sparkling. But times change with deeper research and understanding of people’s actions. … While struggling to understand how the people that I have chosen to propel Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway toward conclusion I’ve found Smith to be a major player. Every time I turn around there he is again.

Damn you Smith! Go away and hide!
You’re gobbling up precious word count.

Too many historians tell us how bad a person John Smith was, but alas they don’t do much showing us why they damn him to hell as an evil creature. They make no attempt to understand his actions or the actions that affected his life. This said I am in the middle of trying to find primary source material that proves beyond a doubt why the Arapahos wanted nothing to do with him. This is absolutely key and I must locate it. … ‘Course Mr. Smith, who walked between the races for decades, survived as a key U.S. interpreter for Wynkoop and even more impressive as the interpreter for all the Cheyenne-U.S. treaties. If he was the “liar” as some historians proclaim, why didn’t he end up with a knife in his guts, why weren’t his sexual organs hacked off, and why didn’t he meet a sudden end?

Let’s return to my belief that actions define a person and when documented allow readers to decide how they view the person being examined.

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LK art of a debonair John Smith in the early 1860s. If I use this image in the Sand Creek book I need to improve the final product for it needs more work. (art © Louis Kraft 2016)

The book contract allows me 37 images, and currently I’m planning to have three maps. That leaves 34 images, and at the moment at least three could feature Smith. … And this is because I am discovering a man who had a lot more to offer than his less than sparkling relations with Wynkoop. … I try not to repeat images in my books, but one will definitely be reprinted in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, and that is the Camp Weld image of Black Kettle, Bull Bear, Neva, John Smith, Silas Soule, and Ned Wynkoop that was taken shortly after Governor John Evans, Colonel John Chivington, Black Kettle, and other chiefs spoke on 28sept1864 (see the above group shot). Most likely only one of the other Smith images will make it into the final book, but whichever one makes the final cut will be of massive importance.

What I know to date is that every image that I have seen of John Smith was taken when he was in a controlled area and was dressed in dapper clothing. Ladies and gents, John Smith walked between the races and he married American Indian women. It is not a huge stretch to surmise that he did so because he loved them (and perhaps because he saw that an interracial marriage presented him with an opportunity to trade with the Cheyennes). Yes, he could have married them because he thought that by doing so would have opened a large door of trading with native people, but this is a stretch in today’s thinking and an even larger stretch during Smith’s lifetime. … John Smith ventured westward at the time of the trappers, and although marrying into one tribe might have saved his scalp with the people he chose to marry into it didn’t preserve it in the eyes of all the tribes at war with his new wife’s people. What did John Smith gain from such a marriage? Yes, when the day of trapping neared its end might have been reason for such an interracial marriage, but to date I haven’t been privy to Smith’s views on his marriages (if indeed they exist somewhere; alas, this is unlikely). Did Smith know that he would become an Indian trader? Probably yes, but also maybe no. … Like rebels of our time he didn’t fit in with his time. Before taking that huge step and marrying an American Indian woman he knew that such a relationship would immediately cast him as an outsider to his own race, and a man to be scorned. Without a doubt he came to respect the Indians he associated with, and especially the Cheyennes (again, I have seen zero proof in Smith’s words, but I do believe there is enough documentation of his actions to support this view). Add the correct woman, and Smith gladly accepted a racial marriage at a time when it was almost universally rejected. This was a brave decision by him, and one that he had to have made with his eyes wide open.

A possible dust jacket

I have at times used an image of a photo that I took of the Pawnee Fork village site in Kansas to represent Sand Creek. I did this to use a dark representation of a horrific murder of people who thought that they were under the protection of the U.S. military.

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This image was created from a photo that I had taken of a Cheyenne re-enactor village on the Pawnee Fork village site in Kansas in modern times. I had turned it into line art, darkened the image and have at times used it to represent the 1864 Sand Creek village. My friend and historian Eric Niderost has panned me for using this image more than once, and he’s right. Still I needed an image to represent the Sand Creek village. Not to worry for this image will never appear in any of my books. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m having a terrible time trying to come up with a good illustration for the cover of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. I hate the way-over used painting by Robert Lindneux of the assault that resulted in the murder of way-too-many innocent people at Sand Creek (as I don’t think that it is accurate). … As you know, I dabble in art for my articles and books but I have absolutely nothing that could possibly represent my Sand Creek manuscript.

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LK with Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman at the conclusion of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site symposium on 12nov2011 (this is the correct date). (photo courtesy of the Washita Battlefield NHS)

For the record I also hate dust jackets that have a bunch of portraits (photos or art). In the case of Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway an assembly of Black Kettle, John Chivingrton, George Bent, John Evans, Little Raven, Ned Wynkoop, George Shoup, William Bent, William Byers, Bull Bear, Silas Soule but without key player Left Hand as we don’t know what he looked like, would be pure crap. These covers tell us nothing, and as far as I’m concerned they were created because the writer had no opinion and the art director at the publishing house was clueless.

What do I currently have? Nada (Nothing).

Or do I? … There is a print that I purchased, framed, and then hung in Tujunga House as soon as I returned home from my first Fort Larned National Historic Site speaking engagement in Kansas in 1999. It was at that event when I first met Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Gordon Yellowman, who also spoke at the event. His art is a great rendering of that tragic day of the butchery of innocent people.

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This magnificent painting was created by Chief Gordon Yellowman. In my humble opinion it says everything we need to know about that tragic day of November 29, 1864, in Colorado Territory. (art © Gordon Yellowman 1996)

There’s one problem, and it is a major one, Chief Yellowman’s painting is landscape where most book cover jacket artwork is portrait. How do I deal with this? … I think I know the answer, but I can’t/won’t deal with it until Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin and OU Press are in line with my tardy text delivery. I was slow and took forever to deliver Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek. With luck all will be good with my Sand Creek manuscript delivery. When Chuck and I agree with my current manuscript, and not until then, my focus must be on the research and words. Until then nothing else counts, for if my words and storyline fail there is no book.

A printable manuscript is absolutely mandatory before we move into the publication process. To repeat myself, until Chuck and I agree that the manuscript is ready to go to press, and only then, it is not time for me to move forward into a world that I have at times not been welcome. … Over the years I’ve had some book covers that I like, and have played a part in a number of the covers. I designed Custer and the Cheyenne (nothing more need be said here), I created the art for Gatewood & Geronimo, it was upon my insistence to use the 1861 Wynkoop portrait and colorize or duotone it for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, and I created the art and designed the book cover for The Discovery.

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LK with OU Press Editor-in-Chief Chuck Rankin at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, California, on 15oct2011. OU Press created the poster for Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (seen behind us) for the event. Chuck kindly gave it to me, I had it framed, and it is displayed at Tujunga House. (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

I know, the above sounds egotistical. It isn’t, for I’ve played a major role in over 200 other book covers (that don’t count for they were in the software world), and that doesn’t include the five or six that I designed for Upton and Sons, Publishers, in El Segundo, California. Give me a break! I know what is good design and I know what is bad design, and that said I’ll never push for bad design for any of my freelance books. Never! And you can take that to the bank.

You can bet that once Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway moves into production, and Chuck and crew are in agreement with my view of Chief Yellowman’s art, I will approach Gordon. When we get to this point, hopefully he’ll agree that his art would make a magnificent book cover. But, and this is important, if the press’s art director insists that Gordon’s art won’t work because it is landscape I will approach Gordon to see if we could compromise. BTW, my playing with size proportions and using the Wynkoop book dimensions lead me to believe that we can use Gordon’s entire painting with small black bleeds to the left and right, a slightly larger bleed above the top, and a larger bleed below his art for the title and author credit.

I’m a firm believer in reaching for the stars. …

Finally a dark side that we cannot ignore

Our life, and ultimately our future, is based upon our past. It is on us to correctly document our history (and I’m talking about your history and my history). If we can’t honestly do this how can we move into our future? We need to know who we are and how and why we have become who we are. … We live on one earth, and we are but one people even though our colors, religions, politics, and races are different. The key here is people, one people—us. It is on us to get beyond all our greed and fears and hatreds and accept all of us as one. … For only then will we get beyond attacking and raping and murdering other people because their god is different, they have land and resources that we crave, and that we must decimate or dominate them to insure our freedom and safety.

Again, we are one people on one earth. If we fuck it up, or if they fuck it up—we all lose.

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

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

Personal attacks on LK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I write about

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Discovery?

Opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m back on The Discovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doctors never figured out what had attacked her system.

A lot of medical bad mouthing

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

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

Bob Goodman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I write about redux …

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

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

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

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

A special part of LK’s world times two

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door that The Discovery opened

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

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

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

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

Finally, a blurb about THE DISCOVERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2016

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

Kraft, what the hell are you talking about?

The Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

Back to The Discovery and physicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A return to Sand Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to The Discovery

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

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

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

The above is the hope of every writer.

A first meeting in The Discovery

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

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

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

The woman nodded. “Yes.”

“It’s his seeing eye dog.”

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

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

“Yes. Is there a problem?”

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

“Was he in the street?”

“No.”

“Then how did you hit him?”

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

“Good driving.”

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

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

“Are you coming?”

“In a minute.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She smiled and nodded.

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

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

“Good. Lead the way.”

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

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

“Molly, give it a break.”

“Humph,” she mumbled as she walked away.

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

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

“I know why. You are handsome.”

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

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

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

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

“I like this.”

“Hold on to your seat, handsome boy.

“I will. But first your name.”

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

“…and are speaking the truth this time?”


A few thoughts about The Discovery and my world

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

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

Not too long back in the past …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah, an explosion was a comin’.

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

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

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

Michael Blake, a special person and writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaming up with Tom Eubanks for a pitch

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

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

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

Helping other writers + LK books & plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LK as a minister

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

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

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

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

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

“One.”

“Get out of here!”

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

My writing world and welcome to it

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

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

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

Researching and writing a book in a year …

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s just me.

Let’s deal with the research

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

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Cahill’s paperback novel cover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People are my life & my writing world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee was always there for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

A writing life

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

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

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The August 2015 issue.

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

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

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

A few thoughts on change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming deadlines & comments

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

The Discovery

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

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


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

No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two deadlines with dates

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

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

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

Back to The Discovery

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

Moving into my writing world

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

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

Back to the point … my writing world

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

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

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

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

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

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

Back to the point … my current projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    lk_BobGoodman_Flemings_26jan14

    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.

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

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


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

Just for fun, a quick change of pace …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress on the Sand Creek manuscript

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

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

Nope. Not today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The goal is to bring the people in the manuscript to life. It is easier to do with participants that were verbal and left a lot of documentation in letters and other writing or had their actions constantly reported in the press. Guerrier was literate but didn’t leave much behind while George Bent left a goldmine of letters (all of which I have in house, either in his hand or in typescript form).

I know that I have said the following before, but it is worth repeating. I don’t write about good guys and bad guys. My opinion will not be in the book, but if I do my job properly the actions of the people I write about will allow you to form your own view of them. The following is also worth repeating: It is what a person does and not what he or she says about themselves that defines who they are or were.

Kit Carson is in LK’s future

I don’t think that Kit Carson is a supporting player in the Sand Creek story (he is minor at best), but he will be a major player in my writing future (anything you can share about Kit is of great interest to me, and at all times). As far as Kit goes, be warned for I believe that I have all of the books published about him in the 20th and 21st centuries. I also have the bio (in hardbound) based upon what he told DeWitt C. Peters in 1859, as well as a few other 19th century volumes that were accounts of a piece of time spent with Kit and not bios or dime novels. I’m especially interested in his relationship with Indians (yes, the plan is to follow how I wrote about Custer, Gatewood, and Wynkoop).

The World History Group flexes its muscles and takes a bite out of my ass

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lk art of Geronimo based upon the cover art that I created for Geronimo & Gatewood (University of New Mexico Press, 2000). This is just lk playing around with color and line. It isn’t very good and it will never be published. I view art as a learning process, and that is experimenting and trying to create an image that is decent. This is an ongoing process.

No, no, … no … NO!!! I received the World History Group contract for “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” (October 2015 issue of Wild West, and soon to go into production) on 27apr2015.

Editor Greg Lalire and I had already gone through our copyediting (which usually gets tweaked while in production) and we were good to go with the 3800-word feature. Just like in the IT software world, the times they change and to survive a writer must dodge and duck and go with the punches while standing upright. It’s called survival. Greg and I began our working relationship 20+ years ago. Over this time we have become good friends, and we help each other out when needed. Greg is doing what he can to survive the change happening with the 11 or 12 great history magazines that the World History Group now owns (I’ve been there and have done that way-too-many times in the software industry). Greg is a great editor, and he’s also a damned good writer. He will survive.

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I created this map for the “Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” October 2015 Wild West article. If it is used, the contractor for Wild West, Joan Pennington, will create the final artwork (and she does good work). Back in 1999 I submitted one of the final pieces of art that was published in Gatewood & Geronimo to Wild West, it was recreated and published in the magazine with no credit (or payment to lk). I complained this time around, and if the map is published I will receive a “based upon” credit. Good, for this is the first time I have ever seen the Valenzuela ambush location and the Gatewood/Geronimo confrontation with Smith & Wood added to a map, and both are major pieces to the Geronimo story. (map © Louis Kraft 2015)

I study my contracts, and anything that is questionable, is not in line with what I want, or what has suddenly become a concern I confront immediately. The contract stated 3800 words. The “3800” was marked out in ink and replaced with “3200.” What? Did I lose 600 words and didn’t see the edit? I called Greg. My timing was perfect. He was typing an email to me that explained what had happened—and it got worse. The “3200” words is now “3000” words, and this word count would now be the maximum for a feature.

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Gregory J. Lalire’s dust jacket image for his novel: Captured: From the Frontier Diary of Infant Danny Duly (Five Star, 2014)

World History Group wants to mimic the Cowboys & Indians magazine, that is they want to obtain better advertisers. I consider the feature content in Cowboys & Indians as little more than fluff (which I can’t stand; oops, I shouldn’t have said that—disregard what you just read). Cowboys & Indians is big on color and images, and even bigger on good advertising. … That, ladies & gents is the future of Wild WestAmerican History and MHQ (three key magazines in my life) while keeping the same historical content these magazines have always had in the past.

My opinion doesn’t count here, for the publisher has every right to do what they think they need to do to stay in business. I agree with this, and as it was with the IT software companies, they need to survive to employ me.

While work is in progress Greg and I always keep good phone or email contact with each other. “Believe me,” he wrote me yesterday, “I know all about the pain of cutting, but as I found out in August, a story can still be strong at a shorter length.” (He is talking about the August 2015 issue of Wild West.)

I have 800 words to cut from a 3800-word article (that is a little over 20 percent of the word count). I will do what is required, and we’ll find out if the article still retains its impact. Hope so.

A few words on long overdue blogs …

For those of you who are wondering about upcoming blogs here’s an update. A blog dealing with what could be a major change in my writing world is ready to post (I just need reality and the future to merge in the present). …. Don’t ask, for I ain’t talkin’. The Thai walkabout blog continues to be written (and it will be an eye-opener, for you and for me), and I have finally begun to draft the unscrupulous writer-historians blog (and it will not be vague). Trust me, for when the unscrupulous blog is published, if ever, I will forever sit with my back to a wall with two Colts crossed over my chest like Wild Bill Hickok. People will be gunning for me and ifGod forbidmy life ends in violence it will be because someone is angry over what I have posted. This is not how I view my future so I hope and pray that my fearful vision never happens.

A few people that know me believe one, and only one thing, about methat I’m good at dramatics. I don’t agree, but my fear of the future is out there, for knowing my past I am aware that unsavory events can and do happen.

Upcoming Blogs

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

Olivia de Havilland, a world treasure

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

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


I recently heard from a good source that Olivia de Havilland had become frail and spent time in and out of the hospital. But what is frail? … Although I admit that “frail” can be of major importance to all of us, everything is a matter of degrees and all of us are different. As far as hospital visits go, I’ve had 12 operations and I’m still enjoying walking on our earth. Just so everyone knows I’m slow with everything that I write, and this blog is no exception. Sometimes this agitates and angers some of the people that I work with (I’m not talking about my key editors, Chuck Rankin at OU Press or Greg Lalire at Wild West magazine). Hey, this is just how I am—a slow writer so accept it. Two days ago a talented artist, singer/musician, Errol Flynn expert, but most important a good friend named Robert Florczak sent me a link to an interview/article on Ms. de Havilland that went live on January 29 (Entertainment Weekly interviews Olivia de Havilland). This article/interview with Ms. de Havilland left me with the following: She is still active, very positive, and is looking forward to her 100th birthday in 2016.

As Olivia turns 99 years young on July 1, 2015, I want to say some words about this special lady, … this special lady who has kindly shared a small part of her life with me over the years.

Olivia’s Elizabeth Bacon Custer & Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer

As a boy I saw They Died with Their Boots On (Warner Bros., 1941), wherein she played Elizabeth Bacon Custer (“Libbie,” and this is the correct spelling of her nickname) and Errol Flynn played George Armstrong Custer. This film, which has been ripped for historical accuracy, grabbed my interest and never let go. Not to this day. It started me reading about Custer and his Libbie: First young reader books, then biographies, and eventually primary source material in print form or on microfilm. This film all by itself eventually led me to writing and speaking about the American Indian wars.

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A Spanish mini poster for They Died with Their Boots On. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Olivia, or “Livvie,” became my favorite actress and Flynn became my favorite actor. I will deal with their acting and life and times during their working years together in Errol & Olivia. If you follow me on other social media you know that this book is moving toward becoming my primary writing project. There is a reason for the extended length of time I take to write nonfiction books. Mainly that I must know what I’m going to write about before I write it, and most of the information that I use comes from primary source material. These searches are exhausting, but mandatory for me to complete any nonfiction books.

Livvie and Flynn are still my favorite actors, although there are modern actors that have given performances that have grabbed me and won’t let go no matter how often I study these films. Yes, that’s right, “study.” But also enjoy, and if the “enjoy” fades away it raises the question of why? Why does a film no longer hold up against the test of time? Only a few modern actors—less than five—have more than two films that I bother to view more than once or twice.

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This kissing scene between Olivia de Havilland’s Elizabeth Bacon (before she married GAC) and Errol Flynn’s George Armstrong Custer will be featured in Errol & Olivia (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Back to They Died with Their Boots On, and the lack of historical accuracy. I’m going to say two things about this: 1) Warner Bros. feared lawsuits in 1941, and because of this real participants in the Custers’ lives were dropped from the film and historical events were fictionalized to protect the studio. 2) Go back to the primary source information on Custer (and there is a massive amount available to those who really do research) and also read the three books that Libbie Custer wrote about her time on the frontier during her marriage to George Custer. Match what you find (and trust me, this will take time to find and digest it) and then watch the film again. You will be amazed. I’ve discussed this in print on several occasions and I have spoken about it numerous times.

Enough said, other than to say that They Died with Their Boots On has given us Olivia’s and Flynn’s best performances together. It was also their last, but that only came to be because of future events (which will also be dealt with in Errol & Olivia).

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I can’t speak for Bob Utley or Paul Hutton or anyone else who had been influenced by this film (and I know a lot of people that have been), but for me the film grabbed me when Olivia’s Libbie and Flynn’s Custer relocated to the frontier. Actually, it started when Flynn’s Custer stood up to the fictional Senator Sharp and his son Ned Sharp, and when Olivia’s Libbie accepts that they won’t become rich. This image of Olivia and Flynn is on the porch outside their quarters at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, and it easily symbolizes both the real and the fictional General and Mrs. Custer. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Before moving from Olivia’s Libbie and Flynn’s Custer let me say this. The film not only influenced my future but it has also influenced friends and Indian wars historians Robert M. Utley and Paul Andrew Hutton (among others) big time. Paul Hutton has said in print and to me personally that he fell in love with Olivia the first time he saw her play Libbie Custer, and that this has never changed for him. In his memoir (Custer and Me: A Historian’s Memoir. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004, page 8), Bob Utley wrote: “Flynn and de Havilland seared themselves into my mind’s eye, planted themselves deeply in my psyche, and treated me repeatedly to the thrilling denouement of the Last Stand.1 … For in 1942, especially in the climate of military celebration created by World War II, I found my obsession.” Livvie and Flynn’s performances led to his long career in the U.S. National Park Service (where I believe Bob retired as chief historian). No matter, for his long list of first-class books dealing with the Indian wars has been inspirational for many would-be historians over the decades.

1 For those of you that don’t know, George Armstrong Custer died during the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory on June 25, 1876, when he and his regiment attacked a Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho village. This was the greatest victory of the Plains Indians against the white invasion of their lands, but it also marked the end of their days of freedom for like the defeat of the Alamo in 1836, the attack on Peal Harbor in 1941, and the heinous murder of over 3000 U.S. citizens on September 11, 2001, it would resonate as a rallying cry.

An introduction into Ms. de Havilland’s world

In 1995 my book, Custer and the Cheyenne: George Armstrong Custer’s Winter Campaign on the Southern Plains was published (El Segundo, Ca.: Upton and Sons). That June I spoke about Custer riding into Cheyenne chief and mystic Stone Forehead’s village in the Texas Panhandle to discuss ending war in March 1869 in Amarillo, Texas, which is the subject of the Custer book.

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Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer and what I consider the quintessential portrait of the real Custer by Matthew Brady and Company in 1864. Flynn’s Custer is about to set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory on May 17, 1876, for what would become his final Indian campaign. The real Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn a little over a month later, on June 25. (photos in Louis Kraft personal collection)

During the convention several busses transported us to the Washita River, where Custer’s 7th Cavalry attacked a Cheyenne village, and although many people died, Custer did what he could to prevent the wanton murder of women and children. This site, now the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, was then on private property. During a stop for lunch, my daughter Marissa and I ate with an historian/professor named Eric Niderost. Just an introduction, but Eric followed up and our brief time together would lead to a long-time friendship that thrives to this day.

In 1995 I decided to write a book about Errol Flynn. Eric knew this. He also had Olivia de Havilland’s address in Paris, France, which has been her home since the 1950s, and in 1996 asked if I’d like to have it. Would I! That year I began writing Ms. de Havilland letters of introduction with absolutely no response. After three or four letters, and many months (a year?) passed I realized that I wasn’t proceeding in a good way.

OdeH&libbieCusterCollage_wsI decided to turn on my charm (I know, I know, since when has Kraft had charm?), and I began sending the lady birthday cards and Christmas cards and gifts. Time passed, but eventually my “charm” and long-distance wooing wore the lady down and she responded. Without going back to check I believe she may have answered a question or two. The correspondence continued into the new century, but I must say that Olivia cherry-picked the questions she would answer. The others she flat-out ignored. I am a gentleman and I never brought up the subject of sex and or love. She would do this for me and in so doing shot holes through bullshit books that create fiction and sell it as fact (sorry, but this is for Errol & Olivia).

Sometime in the late 1990s I agreed to write an article for Persimmon Hill that dealt with They Died with Their Boots On, and questions became specific to this film. From this time forward I would read, and eventually listen to and see, Ms. de Havilland’s view on events surrounding this film change, for suddenly what I had brought up took hold within her and created a life of its own.

Errol & Olivia becomes reality

During these early years of our communication I realized that like the biography of Lt. Charles Gatewood and his participation in the Apache wars that I had been writing since 1995 needed something else. In Gatewood’s case the book needed the Bedonkohe Apache mystic and war leader Geronimo. The Flynn book needed Olivia de Havilland, and sometime in the late 1990s Errol & Olivia became reality.

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I like the art used on this 1979  American Classic Screen magazine cover. At first I didn’t, but it has grown on me. … I already know what image I want on the cover of Errol & Olivia. Will I or the publisher be able to obtain usage rights? I don’t know. If not, we’ll move to plan B, which isn’t in place at the moment. There is a good possibility that if the original art for this cover can be tracked down that it might be included in plan B, but only if I think that the book title and the author credit won’t hurt the artwork. … I’m sorry, for if you don’t know of Ms. de Havilland and Mr. Flynn’s acting careers, this film, Captain Blood (Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, 1935), made them stars overnight. My favorite scene is the slave auction wherein Olivia’s Arabella Bishop purchases an innocent man, Flynn’s Dr. Peter Blood, who has been convicted of treason in England and shipped to Jamaica where he’ll spend the rest of his life in bondage. Flynn’s Blood would escape and become the most infamous pirate in the Caribbean Sea. Warner Bros. quickly realized that the film-going public fell in love with these young actors and smartly teamed them again and again. Their film relationship has since grown to legendary proportions.

I need to say something here, I take my time with research and a book isn’t completed until I think I have enough information for the book to be published. Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn fans have been pounding me for years on when will the book be published. Add to that, Olivia hasn’t been too pleased with my slowness. Let me say this, I began researching and writing a book on Ned Wynkoop in 1985; the book, Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek was published in 2011 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press). I don’t have all the answers on Olivia de Havilland or Errol Flynn for what I need to make Errol & Olivia shine. Until I answer what I consider mandatory questions the book is in the works. That said, Errol & Olivia will be my prime book after Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway is published (and for the record I have been researching Sand Creek since 1985). I don’t create history like some unscrupulous writer/historians, who do everything to dupe their readers and create hateful, and sometimes racist nonfiction, that is not accurate or truthful. Some of their words are little more than piss-poor fiction. BTW, this will be an upcoming blog.

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Louis Kraft talking about the Santa Fe Trail (Warner Bros., 1940) film premier in Santa Fe, N. Mex., in the Western Writers of America tent at the Festival of the West in Scottsdale, Ariz., on 19mar2005. When I gave the talk I realized that I had gold—pure gold. Luckily the talk wasn’t taped (actually I hate saying that, for that means it is lost to time). Regarding this talk, which I consider my favorite, I retired it before I drove home. Usually if I like a talk it continues to live. Not this time, for the talk had to be reworked to fit into Errol & Olivia (I realized that it would become a featured piece in the manuscript). (photo by my good friend and great writer Johnny Boggs)

Errol & Olivia means a lot to me, and I absolutely refuse to write about something that I can’t confirm. End of story. Everyone who reads my writing knows that patience is key. … For the record I have stopped writing for the software world (since 2012), which means two things: 1) I have turned my back on paydays that would make you sick (read I now count pennies), and 2) I have stopped delivering talks across the U.S. unless I receive my full salary and all expenses (talks cost me a lot of time; their absence has freed up a lot of time for books). I will probably sell a few articles in the coming years, but they (and the photos/artwork) are for pay (which is now needed). My focus are my books. Trust me, and actually bet on the books becoming reality for they will. I work seven days a week, and I don’t have to put in fifty or sixty hours per week plus two+ hours of driving time per day before I go to work on my projects. I now write for me and my reading pubic.

Ladies and gentlemen, sometime in the future that isn’t as distant as you might believe, you will have the opportunity to read Errol & Olivia. Trust me, for the future is closing in on joining hands with reality.

Years passed and my communication with Olivia continued. I realized that to keep our long-distance relationship alive I needed to throw something new into the mix. What? And then it hit me: My daughter Marissa. Believe it or not, this proved to be brilliant on my part.

An invitation by Olivia

In 2002 Olivia invited my daughter Marissa and I to visit her in 2003. I immediately wrote back that we’d love to meet her. No reply, absolutely no reply. In 2003 I realized that I needed an operation If I wanted to continue walking the earth (actually there would be a follow-up operation four and a half months later that played a major role in me actually  “walking”). By April 2003 flying to France ceased to be an objective and I forgot about the visit.

But then in fall 2003 Olivia sent me a letter scolding me for not visiting during the previous summer. I quickly replied and we set the date for 2004. As the date neared and with all preparation in place we shared phone numbers. Ms. de Havilland told me that she preferred that I speak with her secretary as her hearing on the phone wasn’t the best, and we set the visit during a 16-day trip to France. At that time Marissa was studying art and her favorites were Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. Paris has a wealth of great art museums. We would see them and track van Gogh and Monet.

mk&MonetGarden_collage_wsIn Olivia’s last communication to me before our flight to France, she wrote: “You are bringing Marissa, aren’t you?” I quickly responded with a short missive. “Yes, ma’am.”

I didn’t know what to expect in France. Heck, I had heard that a lot of the French hate the Americans and that we’d be treated badly. Really? Only once in two prolonged trips to France did I encounter anything like this, and those words were spat at me by an ancient women bent over her cane as we walked past her (can’t remember the name of the town). We’re not going to talk about Paris or France here, but I will say this: I would gladly move to France (even with the hateful crimes that are currently taking the lives of innocent people) as I love Paris and all of the outlying cities and towns that I have visited. Alas, I believe that it is too expensive and my car of choice would hate the French, for they, and certainly in Paris, have a habit of bouncing off the car in front and then the car in the rear when Parisians attempt to parallel park (they perform this process in reverse when exiting the parking spot).

We stayed in a five-star hotel across the street from the French congress named the Meridian, and it was walking distance to Olivia’s home (which is similar to a brownstone in the eastern United States). A day before our visit I walked from the hotel to Olivia’s home as I wanted to take a few photos of it, and more important I wanted to know exactly where it was located. I always enjoy walking in Paris.

A 2004 visit with Olivia de Havilland

(My 35 mm Canon camera went belly up.)

On June 29 the Meridian Hotel called a taxi for Marissa and I. I was loaded down with gifts including flowers, and paper and pens as Olivia didn’t want me to record the interview(s). On this day, Olivia’s then assistant, Laura, joined us in the garden and this made for a nice foursome. Marissa and I sat on each side of Olivia and Laura sat across from her. Fidel, her manservant, served champagne, which Olivia likes.

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Marissa took this image of me at Musée Louvre in Paris on July 1, 2004, two days after we visited with Olivia de Havilland. (photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 2004)

After the introductions we moved to small talk as Olivia looked at and enjoyed her gifts. She does have a lot of my writing from books to plays to articles. I know she’s read some of the material for her comments are such that she had to be familiar with the subject matter. My reason went beyond egotism or anything like this; what I wanted was for her to know that I knew how to create biographies, knew how to research, and could write (it’s shocking that many so-called writers can’t write).

I always go into an interview prepared with questions, and almost always move away from them and go with the flow of where the conversation leads. I prefer this approach as I’m interested learning what I can of the person I’m interviewing and this allows the conversation to move in directions that are of interest to them.

I should say this up front, Olivia is a marvelous hostess. She is open, kind, and attentive. Marissa was fighting perhaps the beginning of a cold and Olivia provided her with medications that could stop what might happen before it did. The pills worked. Olivia also made a point of pulling Marissa into the conversation.

Certainly I did have more questions about her portrayal of Libbie Custer and of the film being the last that she did with Errol Flynn. We spent a long time on this and later that night Olivia returned to it. And clearly her view had begun to change (and even more so than questions she had answered regarding the film years back). What I observed and what has been printed and placed on film is in conflict with the facts. That said, this film was as alive for Olivia de Havilland on that June day in 2004 as it had been for her in 1941. Actually this day appeared to do wonders for the attraction and perhaps love that she and Flynn felt for each other off and on during their working relationship. Alas, events, constantly blocked anything from happening between them. As she later and rightly stated a relationship between them would have ruined her (this is a paraphrase) and I believe this. … All of this said, the love for Errol Flynn that I saw in Olivia de Havilland’s eyes that June 29 was unmistakable.

Fidel positioned himself just inside the house and peeked through the curtains of the French door. When one of us sipped champagne he magically appeared and filled the glass. At one point Olivia asked Marissa why she hadn’t tried the champagne. Shy but not wanting to offend, Marissa lifted the glass to her lips and wet her tongue (and Castro refilled her glass). Although Marissa never said it, Olivia realized that she didn’t drink.

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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is based upon Maxwell Anderson’s 1930 verse play “Elizabeth the Queen.” The character of Penelope Gray, a fictional character, was also in Anderson’s play. Although the original art is stored at the moment I need to dig up artist Goulet’s first name. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

One of the gifts I gave Olivia that June 29 was a painting of her as Lady Penelope Gray in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Warner Bros., 1939). She knew immediately who she portrayed in the image and was delighted with it. I’m not going to go into details about the film or the difficulties Olivia struggled through during filming other than to say it has a great backstory. I will say this, she was vibrant and alive in her scenes and I think delivered the best performance in the film. Errol & Olivia will deal with the making of this film and Olivia’s and Flynn’s lives at this time. … And with The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner Bros., 1938), the late thirties set in motion changes to their careers and lives, changes that had actually begun when Captain Blood (Warner Bros.-First National Pictures, 1935) became an instant hit at the box office, changes that would be firmly in place before the end of 1944. These changes would affect the rest of Olivia’s and Flynn’s lives.

Since the late author Charles Higham played high and loose with facts in two books of importance to Olivia, Sisters: The Story of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1984) and Errol Flynn: The Untold Story (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1980) I attempted to get her to comment on stated events (these were included on my list of questions). I had requested information about Higham’s accuracy in the past through the mail and she wrote one comment: “Charles Higham is an unscrupulous man.” Olivia remained firm; she would not talk about Higham or his inflammatory accusations that had no basis in fact. “Charles Higham never contacted me, not once,” Olivia said (this is a paraphrase as the interview is safely stored). My interviews with Olivia will be made available in the Louis Kraft Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, after Errol & Olivia is published.

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Olivia de Havilland with Mary Jane Ward, author of the semi-autobiographical best selling novel The Snake Pit (New York: Random House, 1946) before principle filming began. It appears that they are looking at a draft of the script for the film. A hardbound copy of The Snake Pit with a battered dust jacket is under the script. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

On more of a positive note, Olivia asked me which of her performances did I like the best. I told her that I thought her best performance was as Virginia Cunningham in The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox, 1948). Her performance is extraordinary as she struggles with fears and doubts that have torn apart her married life and led to her confinement in a mental institution wherein psychiatric care is at times less than humane. Olivia smiled and informed me that it was her favorite role.

Before the evening ended we moved away from Flynn and Olivia’s film world, replacing it with world politics and a little digging into her life. Olivia shied away from her personal life before Hollywood and of her sister, actress Joan Fontaine’s autobiography, No Bed of Roses (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1978).

At this time of the year it remains light in Paris until about 10:00 PM, and it was close to or just after midnight when Marissa and I hugged Olivia goodbye (and I kissed her on the cheek).

An invitation to Olivia’s big night in 2006

In 2006 I wrote for the now dead company Sun Microsystems. That January my sister, Linda Kraft-Morgon, informed me that she had six weeks left to live. My then manager, Sudeshna Ghosh, did one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me—she allowed me to come into the office early two to three times per week, drive to Lake Arrowhead to spend two or three hours with my sister, and drive back to the office to work into the night. That gave me four to five days of seeing my sister each week until the end. During the drives up the mountain headaches began to pound. They became so bad that often I had to pull to the side of the road and wait for them to pass and still they affected me once I arrived. I thought that this was just stress.

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January 15, 2006, was a day that I’ll never forget. Linda and her husband Greg were supposed to come to Tujunga House for Christmas and her birthday (December 24) but I was under the weather and Linda’s immune system could not be put at risk. On this day we celebrated the birth of Christ and her last BD. it was a special day for me. It was also the first day of the few I still had to capture my last memories of her in a handful of stolen hours. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

But after my sister’s death on March 1 the headaches didn’t go away; in fact they increased and this included at lower altitudes. … In April I had sinus surgery that included some nasty things and required two weeks recovery with follow-ups with the surgeon.

Just before the surgery I learned that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, planned to honor Olivia de Havilland in June. Wonderful news, and long overdue for the two-time Academy Award winner.

One of her nominations was for The Snake Pit (20th Century Fox, 1948),
a film in which she should have won the Oscar as her portrayal
as Virginia Cunningham is extraordinary. I have strong views about
how award winners are selected and for the most part my
views are a little less than laudatory
(I hope that the hint of sarcasm
shines through here). I was thrilled for her, and that was that
for I had no intention of asking for an invitation.

My then girlfriend and her son took care of me at their home during the two weeks of recovery. When I finally returned home I had a massive amount of emails and phone messages requesting  and then demanding invitations to Olivia’s June event. In one particular case a professor and Errol Flynn historian who had become a decent long-distant confidant in all subjects related to Flynn and to a lesser degree Olivia. The messages turned angry and then bitter and sarcastic. I emailed him, saying that I was away and recovering from an operation and that I had no plans to ask for myself or anyone else. “Give me de Havilland’s address and/or phone number!” he demanded. “No!” “Why the bleep not?” “I promised Olivia that I wouldn’t share her private information and I’m not going to share it.” “What about doing this for Deidre Flynn [Flynn’s oldest daughter]; hell, you worked with her?” “I already told you what I’m not going to do.” “You’re no f—ing friend!” “It seems to me that you aren’t either.”

I thought about it and recontacted the professor, who was a good writer and he had certainly done a lot of great research on Flynn. He had one problem; he couldn’t stop polishing his Flynn manuscript that he had told me he had finished writing four or five years before; that is roughly at the time we came in contact with each other. In the email I told him that I would forward Deidre’s information to Olivia if he supplied me with it. He did and I did.

But the relationship had ended. People wonder why I shy away from close relationships with writer/historians who write about the same subjects as I. Well, you’ve just seen one example of why. … Don’t get me wrong, for I’ve got some great writer/historian friends in this small world of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn (Robert Florczak, David DeWitt, and Thomas McNulty to name three) and I certainly have more good friends in my Indian wars world.

Weeks later a surprise arrived in the mail. Olivia had secured an invitation for me to attend her event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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On the left is the invitation to the tribute honoring Olivia de Havilland. On the right is the cover of the invitation (actually the black and gray border opens to reveal a larger image of Livvie). … Ms. de Havilland, thank you again for inviting me to your special night. I enjoyed every minute of the event.

 A lady is honored

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lk soon after entering the main lobby of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences building in Beverly Hills on 15jun2006. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

On the early evening of June 15, 2006, the sidewalk in front of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard was crowded with people dressed in gowns and suits, and in one case a tuxedo. While my then girlfriend and I waited I saw the professor/historian in the crowd. Deidre Flynn accompanied him. He looked as he did in pictures that I had seen of him, but I didn’t look as I did on the dust jacket of Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), which he had. The doors opened at a quarter to seven in the evening. Immediately the large lobby bubbled with excitement as the guests mingled and chatted. Caterers brought out platters of absolutely magnificent food. There was an open bar. The Academy had gone all out for Olivia de Havilland’s night of honor.

My girlfriend ate with me, but then wandered as she snapped photographs with a cell phone. I drifted about as I enjoyed a glass of wine only to halt. Before me stood Patrice Wymore Flynn. She sipped wine and nibbled. I watched her for a moment, but then stepped forward and began talking with her. After about 10 minutes she looked at me quizzically. “You don’t know who I am,” she said. “Yes I do, Mrs. Flynn.” She liked that and the conversation continued. During the course of the night we spoke several more times. I liked her. My girlfriend caught some candids of our initial meeting.

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The top of this collage is of Patrice Wymore Flynn and Louis Kraft shortly after we met for the first time. As you can see in the image Pat is moving, and so is lk (but not as quickly). It is actually a color photo, but I thought it would work better here as a grayscale image. Later the professor/historian Lincoln Hurst and I got together. Pat joined us and we had a great roundabout conversation. (photo © Louis Kraft 2006)

For additional thoughts about Patrice Wymore Flynn, see Classy lady Patrice Wymore Flynn dies + a Sand Creek “thank you”.

Later I saw the professor/historian chatting with Robert Osborne, the primary host of Turner Classic Movies. I joined them and introduced myself. Osborne was polite while Lincoln Hurst was taken by surprise. Soon Osborne excused himself and Hurst and I spent a good part of the rest of the evening together. Neither of us mentioned the past April, and it was almost as if we were long-time friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. I enjoyed hanging out with him. My girlfriend captured some pictures, and then more when Pat Wymore Flynn joined us.

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About an hour after the doors opened at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Olivia de Havilland made her entry and greeted the crowd. (image © Louis Kraft 2006)

Olivia arrived with a bunch of gentlemen in suits, none of whom I recognized. Soon after the Academy set her up in a room to greet those she had placed on a list. My girlfriend and I got into the line. When we reached the front of it one of the two wanna-be football players asked for my name. I gave it to him. “You’re not on the list.” “Take another look.” He did. “You’re not of the list.” I spelled my name and he looked again. “You’re not on the list.” Could the SOB read? Trying to control my anger I said: “Look, I don’t know anyone here and the only reason I’m here is because Olivia de Havilland invited me.” “You’re not on the list. Step out of the line!” I peered beyond him and could see Olivia greeting people. “Why don’t you trot over to Ms. de Havilland and ask her if I’m on the list.” Surprisingly he did. “Please accept my apologies, Mr. Kraft,” he said when he returned to me. “You are on the list.”

When it was our turn to be with Olivia, I went down on one knee and kissed her hand as my girlfriend hovered nearby. “She’s gorgeous,” Olivia whispered into my ear, and she was. These minutes passed quickly, so quickly that I can’t remember what we talked about (I wrote notes of the event, so hopefully I jotted information about our brief time together—I need to check).

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After kissing Olivia de Havilland’s hand I introduced her to my then girlfriend. (photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Pat Wymore Flynn and Deidre Flynn had been in front of us in the line and they remained in the room after spending time with Olivia. I joined them. By this time Pat and I had hit it off and enjoyed each other’s company. I had worked with Deidre on a miniseries called Robert Kennedy and His Times back in 1983 or 1984. We had been polite to each other, but at that time she was dealing with a god-awful miniseries about her father (she refused to work for the company) and I gave her room. She had no idea I even knew who her father was. I had heard that her sister, Rory, attended the event but I didn’t see her.

Later Lincoln Hurst, my girlfriend, and I hung out together. An announcement proclaimed that it was time for the event to begin. He excused himself but then soon rejoined us. He couldn’t find Deidre and assumed that she was with Pat. The three of us sat together during the rest of the evening. I had an absolutely terrific time with him. Alas, that was it. I never saw him again, I never had contact with him again, and unfortunately he died a little over two years later. His book on Flynn was never published. This is a shame for I think it would have been a first-class book.

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A portrait of Olivia de Havilland, Louis Kraft, and his former girlfriend on the evening of 15jun2006. (photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

Robert Osborne served as host for the event (he may have been Olivia’s choice for she had told me that he was a good friend). Without checking notes (which are in a secure location) I can’t remember if the question and answer portion of the evening was first or the film clips. Regardless of my memory, Olivia walked down the long walkway from the rear of the theater to the stage and sat with Osborne. BTW, the theater was filled. Olivia and Osborne chatted, and I’m certain that the questions came first. Although she obviously got along well with Osborne, the questions had been pre-selected for Olivia did not have to dig into her memory to answer them.

I believe the event was filmed. I hope so, but if yes, I’ve never seen it. I should check.

On this night, or soon after, Olivia gave me an open invitation. “If ever you are again in Paris, let me know so that I can invite you to visit.” These words lived with me for the next two and a half years.

A 2009 visit with Olivia de Havilland

In spring 2009 I contacted Olivia and informed her that I planned a trip to France and England. As she had offered in 2006 she invited me to visit, that we’d agree upon a date once I knew the dates of my time in Paris. The lady that Olivia had met in 2006 accompanied me.

Before leaving for Europe a writer contacted me via email and asked if I could put in a good word for him. He had written a coffee table book that dealt with Flynn and others. He explained that he had sent his book to Olivia and hoped to visit her since he was also writing a book about her and Flynn. I had already heard this and agreed to do what I could to help him in a return email.

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Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft chatted while she opened her birthday card and looked at her gifts. That is the champagne bottle on the table but unfortunately we can’t see the label. The book is an anthology called Custer and His Times, Book Five (Cordova, TN: Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., 2008). It contains an article of mine, “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races.” John P. Hart is the editor, and it is an excellent publication. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

On July 3 my former girlfriend and I arrived at Olivia’s home after a taxi drive across the city of Paris. Her current assistant, Emily, greeted us at the door (Fidel wasn’t present). She would spend some time with us, but also took care of other business including a meal which was similar to my first visit (finger food that was tasty and easy to eat without interrupting Olivia’s and my time together). As it was just two days past her birthday her gifts (other than the usual) included flowers and champagne. The three of us chatted while she delighted in the gifts. Knowing she liked champagne, we brought what we had been told was one of the best American brands. Olivia was thrilled, but I told her not to open it. She agreed and said she’d open it on Errol’s 2010 birthday. I liked her words.

All this time, which probably took half an hour, Olivia had the writer’s book on her lap.2 She wanted to know what I thought of the book. I told her that I thought it was okay for what it was, a coffee table book, while adding that I didn’t see any noticeable errors in it. Olivia then turned to a page that had a not-frequently seen photo of Nora Eddington on it. Nora was Flynn’s second wife (whom I think Olivia told me that she had never met), and the photo was indeed of Nora. Olivia didn’t think so and we went on about this for five minutes or more. The photo was of Nora and I assured her that the writer wasn’t in error. Finally she accepted this.

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Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft discuss the coffee table book that deals with Errol Flynn and others. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

“I’m helping you,” she stated. “How can I also help him?” “Simple,” I replied, “help him.” “What about you?” “Help me too.” This seemed beyond her comprehension, although I did encounter this in my dark past.

Twice.

In the early 1970s Patric Knowles, who had acted with Olivia and Flynn in three films, was a patient of my father-in-law. … Patric readily agreed to spend time with me so that I could interview him. Mr. Knowles was as he appeared on screen, a gentleman. We got along fabulously, and kept in contact for years after meeting. However, during the interview he refused to discuss anything associated with Errol Flynn, especially The Adventures of Robin Hood. Frustrated I finally asked why. He had been paid a fee to supply information for a book that was in process.

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Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The setting is an archery contest, but it is little more than a trap to capture Robin Hood. These are tense moments for Olivia’s Marian for she has realized that it is a trap. She also knows that Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood is present. If you’ve never seen this film, do yourself a favor and see it. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

I believe that the book was Tony Thomas’s Cads and Cavaliers: The Film Adventurers (South Brunswick and New York: A. S. Barnes and Company, 1973), but I didn’t bother to note the author that Knowles helped. Even though Knowles isn’t recognized in the Acknowledgments of this book I believe that it is the book in question as it deals with him taking Flynn up in his plane during the filming of Robin Hood and this is exactly where I directed my questions. The second time was when I approached my boyhood baseball hero, Duke Snider, to write a book about his life and career. I had already written two or more articles about him which he had seen, but he declined as another writer had beaten me to the punch (Duke Snider and Bill Gilbert, The Duke of Flatbush, New York: Citadel Press Books, 1988).

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One of the portraits of Olivia de Havilland and Louis Kraft in her garden on 3jul2009. (photo © Louis Kraft 2009)

Back to Olivia, who pressed that she could only help one person. I didn’t agree with this and I still don’t. “Two books are better than one, three books are better than two, and four books are better than three,” I stated. “Why?” “Because it gives readers a choice. They’ll figure out which are good books and which aren’t.”

She accepted this and we moved on.

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Hattie McDaniel (who won the best supporting actress Academy Award for her portrayal as Mammy), Olivia de Havilland (who was nominated, and rightfully so for her portrayal as Melanie), and Vivien Leigh (who won the Academy Award for best actress as Scarlett O’Hara) in Gone with the Wind (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939). (Louis Kraft personal collection)

On this visit I had an extensive list of questions and there was no way we could deal with all of them. On this trip I wanted to gather information about key people in her life other than Flynn during her time at Warner Bros. She talked some, good stuff, but I don’t have dates on some of it. The search goes on, for I must confirm stories and place them where they belong in time and not a year before or two years after. Ladies and gentlemen, this is time consuming. Trust me, I track all leads. Without going back and checking, it was on this visit that I asked about Olivia being cast as Melanie in Gone with the Wind (Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1939). I’ve read numerous stories about how Olivia landed the role, most likely the most important role she ever played in her career. She told me her story. When I said that it didn’t agree with the other stories she told me that the other stories were wrong.

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Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn as Lady Penelope Gray and Robert Devereaux, the 2nd Earl of Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Warner Bros., 1939). The film had a great director who knew how to move plot, Michael Curtiz, and good acting, especially by Olivia, Flynn, and the supporting cast (I will deal with Bette Davis’s performance as Queen Elizabeth I of England in Errol & Olivia). But—always that damned but—but the screenwriters couldn’t free themselves from playwright Maxwell Anderson’s stilted verse/prose in “Elizabeth the Queen,” producer Hal Wallis also flailed about when usually he had a deadeye for good scripts, and finally Mike Curtiz remained silent. Numerous Academy Award nominations aside, the slow-moving film could have been a glorious adventure/love story turned tragical. What could have been would never be. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

More important, her being cast as Melanie placed her front and center with Jack Warner and Hal Wallis, who, like it or not, were the most powerful people in her aspiring film career. Even though Warners would receive great compensation for her loan-out these men did not like rebels. They handed down punishment to whomever they considered a contractual slave at Warner Bros. Olivia had as much as committed treason. She would be punished, and big time. They also did what they could to humiliate her and here they also succeeded. But she fought back with anger, some good performances, and when her seven-year contract ended she told them goodbye. They said no, that she owed them for the time she spent on suspension (that was time with no salary and no work at the studio). When Olivia refused to buckle and crawl back to them and beg forgiveness they blacklisted her. They sent out a letter that demanded that no film or theater company in the United States hire her. Warner Bros. wielded power, the threat clear, and Olivia de Havilland ceased to earn her living as an actress in the USA (do I dare to say, in “the land of the free”?).

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On February 29, 1940, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences held their awards ceremony for the year 1939. Olivia did not win a supporting actress award for her portrayal of Melanie in Gone with the Wind, losing to Hattie McDaniel for her wonderful portrayal as Mammy in the same film. You can’t tell by this photo but the loss hurt—big time. Later, Olivia would say that she was thrilled that Hattie won the award. At the left of the image is Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who accepted a special award for his father, Douglas Fairbanks, who had died the previous December. In the center is Vivien Leigh, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as Scarlett O’Hara. I’m not certain about the seating during the night’s festivities, but some swapping of seats did happen that night for I have seen several images of Lawrence Oliver sitting to Leigh’s right on this night (Leigh and Oliver married on 31aug1940). I’ve always enjoyed Doug Jr.’s performances (much more so than his father’s), and it is too bad that he never acted with Olivia or Flynn. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Olivia did not fall to the ground and creep away never to be heard of again. Instead she sued Warner Bros., and in 1944 she won a major decision, since known at the “de Havilland Decision.” Free! She was free to seek acting employment elsewhere. This decision would play a role in the beginning of the end of the studio system as it was in the early 1940s, … and ultimately it contributed to the major freelance film contracts that now earn stars millions of dollars for a film performance. Actors of the last 30+ years (perhaps longer) need to send Olivia de Havilland a letter thanking her for her courage.

Oh, we did spend some time with Mr. Flynn, and for me this was key time, especially with two events in both their lives. One I can date, and the other I can’t although I know the three other key players involved in this star-studded event. Also, she surprised me with her comments about the management heads at Warner Bros., and this was an eye opener.

My girlfriend grew tired and bored. She excused herself and joined Emily in the house while Olivia and I continued to chat and enjoy each other’s company. I didn’t want to leave but realized that the hour now hovered close to midnight. I excused myself, found Emily, and asked her to call a cab. I then returned to Olivia to enjoy my remaining time with her.

2 I have comments regarding what happened with the writer who asked me to pitch him to Olivia. These will appear in another blog.

Olivia de Havilland, a special lady

I pray God that Olivia’s health remains good. I have just sent her a card stating this, and it is from my heart.

Ms. de Havilland, although early I want to wish you a wonderful 2015 birthday
and hope that you enjoy your special day with your loved ones and friends.

Olivia de Havilland is a multifaceted person. She is intelligent, beautiful, charming, funny, sexy as hell, political, caring, and courageous. Oh, and I don’t want to forget this: She is a great actress. Ms. Olivia de Havilland, God bless you for all you have done to make the world a brighter place. … I do hope that I can again cross the Atlantic Ocean and spend more time with you.

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A good way to conclude this blog is with an Olivia de Havilland film that I have not yet seen. It costars Gilbert Roland (pictured with Olivia), and Paul Scofield as King Phillip II of Spain. The film is That Lady (20th Century Fox, 1955) and it has an interesting plot summary that sounds as if it includes swordplay, unconsummated love, jealousy, and might end in tragedy. (Louis Kraft personal collection)

Upcoming blogs

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