A tease for The Discovery and a return to Sand Creek

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


  • 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.”)

lkSR_EssoMGRearly50s_1_ws

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.

lk_wSanta_late60s_early70s_1Oval_ws

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.)
lk&lkSR_Thanksgiving1995_tight_ws

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).

medSymbols_fb&ws

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).

lk_TOpaper92_website

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.

gatewood_portrait2_fb

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.

lk_nw67_2007portraitFB

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).

wRichardWestJr_rick_Moses Starr_11nov2011

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.

jeffCampbell_jMonnett_lk_3oct14_ws

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.

jDerek_massacreAtSandCreek_work_1957_ws

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.

jRussell_sandCreek_1987use_wp

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.”

louisKraft1973_2_ws

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.

LK_tujungaHouse_3717_29aug15_ws

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.

ps_aboveSCbattlefield_3oct14_ws

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 writers’ worlds

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


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.

psk_vee_saul_3638_8jul15_ws

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.

lk_dejahThoris_1978-79_encinoCAhouse_ws

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. …

lk_HR_warriors_1989_notCoolAidKids_tight_ws

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’.

lk&psk_13oct14_LKartBased_onWilliamsPhoto_ws

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.

mBlake_8nov2006_southwesternOKstateU_watercolor_ws

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.

lk_EF_Custer_2dec2006talk8_Art3_ws

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.

mBlake_2008DVD_driving_ws

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

lk_te_BoggsPrayArt_website

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.

mk_ForrestJAckerman_eNiderost_15mar2003_ws

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.

psk_tEubanks_24apr2014_ws

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).

lk_asNW2_ftLarnedART_2may2002_wSIG_ws

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.

lk_chelseaTengan&JohnFortuna_BalboaPark_sanDiego_9aug2003_ws

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.

lk_CindyTengan_9aug2003_ChelseaWedding_ws

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:

sandCreek_cahill_ws

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!

lk_nw_2013_horseART_border_2015_ws

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.

lindaKraft_wedding_3dec1988_longBeachCA_ws

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).

doris&LouisKraftSR_home1972_ws

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.)

leeKraft&robinFried_xmas1988_EncinoHouse_ws

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.

lkCookingSalmon_4jul15_pskPhotoART_sig3_ws

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.

psCowboyHat24oct13_2CLOSE_ws

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 2013-2018

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

A writing life

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

gatewood_portrait2_fb

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.


psk_THdiningRoom_17jun15_3543_ws

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.

mk_ftBowie_25jul1996_ws

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.

G_sonGrave_2yr_FtBowie_25jul1996_ws

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.
east_ofTheBorder_boggs2004_ws

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.

wwCover_aug2015_ws

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.)

lk_jj91_cropSmartSharp_wsUSE

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.

lk_2007_wfriend_ws

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).

Kraft_sunBadge2005_ws

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.

lkChavez_15sept2004_ws

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.

lk_wynkoopBook_wha_17oct14_BU_ws

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

mParks_santaMonicaCivic_22may1970_ws

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.

theMusketeers_season2_ws

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).

cyranodebergerac_chamberlain_ws

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.

wayneMaunder_CUSTER_1967_17episodes_ws

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. …

tdwtbo&cofWest

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.

BevTheatre_3530_TDWTBO_ws

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.

feb2008_AmericanHistory_cover_ws

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.

depp_pirates1_sig_ws

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.

rh_cinemaCavalcadeCIGcard_rathboneEFduel_ws

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?

pskColt3_4jun15_wCanon_ws

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.

psk_fingerGun5_17jun15_ws

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.

lk_fingerGun_18jun15_3556_tight_ws

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!

lk_carmichaelPortrait2_sanDiego_mar2001_ws

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).

lk_carmichaelPortaitTIGHT_TH_1994_ws

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.

johnMcGirrMD_early-mid1970s_CalabasasCC_2_ws

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.

SWmuseum_lkSIG_2014_ws

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.

Geronimo preempts the Sand Creek manuscript

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018

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 …

psk_BDgift_toLK_15apr15_hueSat_border

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).

dj_ef_finalDuel_2tone_lkART3_border_ws

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

wyn67LKsig1990_webpage

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).

lk_CRankin_WHAconference_newportBeach_17oct14_1_ws

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.

bk+1992+image_greyScale_ws

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

geronimoDetail_posterColorTEST_ws

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.

gMap_LK_WW_2mar2015

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.

GregLalire_WW_ws

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.

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

 Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2018
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


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

GregLalire_WW_ws

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

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

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

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

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

“Better late than never”

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

dj_ef_finalDuel_2tone_lkART3_border_ws

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

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

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

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

sh_german1

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

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

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

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

A Flynn film list

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

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

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

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

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

A typical day

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

ps_14feb14_morning_ws

Although this image was taken on 15feb2014, which wasn’t a typical day, it certainly represents Pailin’s mornings. She is full of energy and constantly doing something. (photo © Pailin Subanna-Kraft & Louis Kraft 2014)

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

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

psBreakfast&off_toWork_20mar14collage_ws

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

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

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

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

 Walking with Tsistsistas

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

ivanHankla_30apr2004_inHisTipi

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

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

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

Coverdale_washita_6dec2008_leroyLivesayPhoto_ws

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

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

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

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

gYellowman_harveyPratt_11nov11

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

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

What bullshit!!!

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

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

High_backedWolf_gCatlin_colorBorder_ws

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

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

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

SheWhoBathesHerKnees_catlin_1832_border_ws

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

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

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

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

The Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

Lubbock, Texas, turned me into a writer

lk_EatYourHeartOut4_ws

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

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

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

lk_EatYourHeartOut2_1976_ws

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

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

lk_EatYourHeartOut1_ws

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

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

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

Introducing Robert Goodman, MD

bobGoodman_19feb2014_border_ws

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Lalire and Captured

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

How race has affected my life & writing

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


I saw and liked this image of Nuch (that is Pailin), and she gave it to me. It was taken at her work shortly before I met her, and more importantly shows a little of her world—a world I hope to enter. She created the border; all I did was prep it for the internet. (photo © Pailin Subanna 2013)

There is a new lady in my life. She has been a long time coming, and that is because I don’t look for women and I don’t chase women. We are getting to know each other, letting our friendship grow as we experience our cultures. She is charming, funny, bright, has a sensitivity that I have seldom seen, and is open to the world and all it has to offer. She is certainly braver than I have been (and I have pushed my limits at times). Oh, did I mention that I am thrilled to know her. My eyes devour her (no bad thoughts here; only good thoughts). We are both shy, careful, perhaps wounded, and have an exciting adventure in front of us as we seal our friendship and move into our future.

I have a wonderful friend in Massachusetts. We are in constant contact. When she learned of the new lady in my life, she raised the very valid question about race. Since my divorce in the dark ages I have had two long-term girlfriends. As they were Asian and this lady is Asian, she raised the question if I am only interested in women of Asian descent. I told her no, absolutely not (I can list a number of false starts with terrific women of other races, but won’t). I told her all three relationships just happened and had nothing to do with race.

vee_blackSailor_july2013_ws

My good friend Veronica von Bernath Morra with an African American sailor in July 2013 during a cruise to Bermuda. Both have great smiles. (photo © Veronica von Bernath Morra 2013)

She countered with a great comment: “IMHO nothing ‘Just Happens.’ The fact that these women are Asian and not black, Native American, Hispanic, etc., has something to do with what you find attractive. You must meet many women; but I believe you gravitate in one direction more than others!!”

My friend’s name is Veronica von Bernath Morra, and she said something I want to not believe. Certainly I see a lot of African American and Latina ladies that are drop-dead beautiful, but her statement, and this is exactly why I’m quoting her here, has got to have a lot of truth to it. I’m not going to talk about why, for honestly I don’t know why. I am going to talk about race, equality, and how it has affected my life and writing.

A lack of racism in my life

As far as I could see my parents had no racist bones in their bodies. I never heard anything from them that even hinted at what could be considered a negative or derogatory view of other people. I think they were key to what would become my future.

I was born in New York, but while young moved to California with my parents and younger sister. Within a year my mother, sister, and I were back to New York while my mother fixed up our home that had been rented. By the time I was 7 (perhaps 8) we had returned to California. By then I had already been in five, six, or maybe seven schools. The list would continue to grow. For a couple of years we lived in a trailer park in Van Nuys.

RTTcorporal&lk_afterGRAB_Color_ws

This image (which unfortunately was too small and too out of focus for me to do anything with) has been colorized. The fellow on the left is Rand Brooks; he played Corporal Boone on The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin in the 1950s. The fellow on the right is Kid Kraft, one of the most infamous gunslingers of the 1950s. I don’t remember how many notches he had on his Colt revolver, but there were many. Notice that his Colt is butt first on his left hip. Yep, he used a cross-draw. This image was taken at Corriganville Park in Simi Valley, California, in February 1956. (photo/art © Louis Kraft 2013)

My best friend in 1955 was Jesse Carrera. We were buds, and on all our days free of elementary school we climbed the huge (to us) man-made mountain that would eventually become the 405 freeway as it sliced through Van Nuys and explore the labyrinth of sand and waterways hidden by dense brush and trees. We were frontiersmen exploring a pristine world. Our imaginations went wild as we cautiously followed the bends of the river. Every so often we would meet strangers, but all was peaceful and non-threatening. Jesse was Latino, but I didn’t know that. All I knew was that he was my first real friend. After his family or mine left the trailer park (can’t remember which family left first) I never saw him again. At the time this was a devastating loss.

Van Nuys is in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles County, where most of the towns are part of the city of the Angels). In 1956 my parents bought a home on half an acre in Reseda. Rural, definitely rural (animals galore), and I would grow up in this house. My school years through high school consisted of mostly Anglo Americans. I had an Asian friend who I met in fourth grade and due to the constant splitting of school districts we were part of a small group of kids that went from one school (4th grade) to another (5th & 6th grades), all of junior high (although most of our classmates went to another junior high) and all of high school together (again separated from most of our junior high classmates). For him and me, staying together through school was a rarity, for every time a district divided we were on the small side and became outsiders in our new schools. His name was Brian Usui. Recently I had hoped to see him again, but it wasn’t to be for he had died. In junior high my best friend was David Koenig. He was half German and half Latino (we had three years together, and remained friends afterwards, but I haven’t seen him in years). Dave and I shared some adventures, including running for our lives when an irate father attempted beat the hell out of us or worse. Our legs and his lack of physical condition saved us.

As stated, Brian and I were on the short end of our final school border split as Cleveland High School in Reseda had recently opened. It was half a block from my house, which allowed me to spend time with my mother every lunch hour—heaven! (Yep, I was a mama’s boy.)

nina&peteSenoff_lk_29sept12_ws

lk w/Nina & Pete Senoff at a Cleveland High School birthday party on the evening of September 29, 2012. Pete gave me the image (and I don’t know if the image is from his camera or someone else’s). It was a duotone when I received it, and I like duotones. … Pete was the editor on the Cleveland HS paper, and during our final year he played a major role in me having a good life that last year. I know, that’s pretty damned obscure. I won an election I had no right to enter (two teachers and Pete made this happen–perhaps I’ll talk about this sometime). The past is long gone; what matters now is that we are friends. This includes Nina, and I look forward to our future relationship. This includes Nuch, who, thanks to Pete, has already become friends with Nina.

Memory says Cleveland HS was mostly Anglo American, some Latinos, and probably more Asians than Brian. I didn’t remember any African Americans in the school, but someone I liked during at least the last year of high school and who has reconnected with me—Pete Senoff (more about him and his pretty wife in the future)—last year told me that there were some African Americans at Cleveland. I didn’t meet the first African American person who would become a close friend until college. We were actors and we hit it off. His wife was white, and I had no problem with their marriage—they became good friends for years to come.

clayWinsHWtitle_tight_ws

Clay reacting to hearing that Liston cannot continue the fight. … Although I didn’t know it at this time, Muhammad Ali would become a major person during the 20th century but not for his boxing feats (which are legendary), but for his strength to stand firm for what he believed was right regardless of the consequences.

When Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston for the heavy weight boxing championship on February 25, 1964, I was a member of a teen club. The fellow that led the group I belonged to laughed when I said Clay would win the fight. I had been following Clay on the radio and was certain he’d win. The counselor bet $20.00 against my pants on the outcome. I drooled over that 20 bucks, but damn how could I explain why I had no pants when my mother picked me up? Clay won, and soon after became Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest inspirations of the 20th century. (I would meet Ali twice a decade and a half or so later while working in the film industry—a thrill!). Let me put it to you this way: I was still an innocent, I never considered Ali’s race. It didn’t mean anything to me. Why? My mother and father.

kathyGrossman_lk_spring1965_ws

This picture was taken the night of my senior prom at Cleveland High School in Reseda, California, at Kathy Grossman’s parents’ house. And it does not do her justice, for she was gorgeous. ‘Course I was stupid, for when I moved on to college I didn’t look back. I did see Kathy one more time after my senior year ended when I bumped into her at the Reseda post office. I had seen my dad and was mailing a package for him. We had a nice talk. She had just returned from spending a year in a kibbutz in Israel, was visiting her parents, and was about to get married. She looked terrific; I never saw her again.

In my final year of high school I luckily had a pretty Jewish girl in my Spanish class. I actually had the guts to ask her out and she said yes. I should state here that during my visits to her home, her parents welcomed me. They were open, friendly, kind, and gracious—always. Never did I feel the outsider. A good feeling. Unfortunately she was younger than I was and I never made the attempt to continue the relationship after I moved on to college.

College presented me with four years of creativity, experimentation, and an introduction to the real world of racism. I was at school from 7:00 AM until 6:00 or 7:00 PM unless I was working on a theatrical production—then it would extend to 11:00 PM or later. I did almost all of my studying at school. I partied and lived the good life, including going to the beach whenever a good buddy named Steve Jacques and I decided to take the day off. I graduated in four years with 16 extra credits. I worked and paid for everything. My father wanted me to be like him; he wanted me to be a man for if not, I’d not survive in the real world. He paid for zero (although he did allow me to live at home for a good part of the time in a trailer in the back yard). I said, “F.U.!” I had begun working full-time in high school, for I knew what I wanted. Believe me, we had a number of knock-down fights and I always lost (and they weren’t by decision).

The Apaches during the end of their wars with the U.S. believed that if they couldn’t
win the fight (with little or no casualties) to run away to fight another day.
Unfortunately it took me years to learn this. I’ve been down for the 10-count more
than once. I have learned what the Apaches instinctively knew.

An eye-opening end to the 1960s

Robert F. Kennedy spoke at San Fernando Valley State College (now California State University, Northridge) on March 25, 1968, after announcing that he would seek the Democratic nomination for president on March 16th (and was warned by his brother not to run). At that time I was a registered Republican (I had worked for Ronald Reagan as volunteer during his first campaign to become governor of California) and could not have voted for RFK in the California primary election on June 4. I joined the crowd on that March day, and on that day I thought nothing of RFK. He meant absolutely nothing to me. During that hour or so when he spoke I was floored (read impressed). Had he not been murdered and had he won the Democratic nomination for president I would have voted for him (currently I’m registered as a Democrat, and have been since just before Bill Clinton’s California Democratic primary win in 1992, but have always voted for the candidate and not the party).

rfk_csun25mar68_bDavis_ws

In 1984 I worked on a mini-series, Robert Kennedy and His Times, that shot his final hours where they happened in the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles (evening of June 4-5, 1968). Brad Davis played RFK and G.D. Spradlin played Lyndon B. Johnson (first class performances). I had a small part in the TV film (a little over 5 hours), but luckily was employed during the entire shoot; up front and center with the key people in the production (learning about good and bad). I then realized what I didn’t know in 1968, how important RFK was to civil rights and how tragic his murder was to the future of our country.

By the end of the 1960s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement for racial equality dominated the news. My home was racial free, regardless of how few friends I had of race. During my college years I bought into Dr. King’s movement 100 percent, and marched for him (before and after his death).

Dr&MrsMLK_ART_use_ws2

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta in 1964, at the time he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership and work in the civil rights movement. (art © Louis Kraft 2013)

In August 1963 Dr. King and a massive number of people marched in Washington DC, and on the 28th he delivered his “I Have a Dream” talk. I couldn’t be in Washington as I was too young, but I knew what happened. I had been working part time in high school, but during my last year I worked full time so I could enter college in fall 1965. In my first semester I took a speech class never dreaming that someday I would earn money speaking. I think there were two short talks and the final presentation. Mine dealt with Dr. King and his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Less than four years later while enjoying my last semester of college I took a Black theater class (that’s what African Americans were called then) on Sunday evenings. This class was outside the then-lines of mainstream theater and way outside college curriculum. I think my professor’s last name was Faulk (need to check). The Theater Department was small and I took a number of his classes, and they were always outside the box (or maybe he just allowed me to go outside the box). Four maybe five African Americans who weren’t in the Theater Department joined me in the class which was a round-robin discussion. Just us and Dr. Faulk sitting in a circle. Probably one or the most important classes I ever took. And it would influence my future, for it was still ongoing when Dr. King was murdered (two months before RFK) on April 4, 1968. In Los Angeles I marched in support of MLK Jr.’s views on peace, nonviolence, and racial equality. These marches, which were dominated by African Americans, were peaceful. It was probably at this time that I realized that people are people, and it doesn’t matter their race.

Post-college eye openers

The first eye opener took place while I was in training to become a member of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in Austin, Texas. One night during the wee hours of early morning (they rolled up the sidewalks at 10:00 PM, but not us), I experienced something I could have gladly missed. We were off by 6:00 or 6:30, and part of the training included how to position ourselves to work with American Indians (my desire–thanks to Errol Flynn Introducing me to Custer and Custer introducing me to the Indian wars), Blacks, or Hispanics. On that night (perhaps 2:00 AM) there were about 20 of us in one of the dorm rooms on the University of Texas campus. I said something that I perhaps should not have said to a white couple that I liked. Don’t remember what I said, but suddenly I had an arm wrapped around my chest and a knife at my throat. One of the Chicanos (as Mexicans whose parents were born in Mexico but they were born in the U.S. were then called) didn’t like what I said. He was present as he was looking for volunteers his delegation would choose to work in Mexican communities in one of the Southwestern states.

 I have been run over while riding a motorcycle and have
taken a motorcycle over a cliff. … I have been in car wrecks, car chases,
and more fisticuffs than necessary.
You’ve got to realize—and don’t laugh—I’m a man of peace.
I just have a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
louisKraft1973_2_ws

An image taken shortly after lk left VISTA. (photo © Louis Kraft 1973)

Back to the knife. Let’s put it this way; I was frightened, but luckily in control of my thought process. I told the Chicano that if he killed me, he ruined his cause. I also told him that if he killed me he would have to kill everyone else in the room for otherwise his life would have no future.

These words were probably the most important of my life. He released me. Some four hours later when breakfast was served I was a hero. Pure bullshit for I was little more than a scared person who was thrilled to see the sun rise. Soon after the racial delegations chose us, similar to choosing sides for a sandlot football game. African Americans chose me. Although I was mad that I didn’t get to work with Navajos or Apaches or Cheyennes, I was lucky. There would be training in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and more training in Austin before five women and two men (a Black woman from L.A. and a Black fellow I liked a lot—the rest were Anglo Americans) and I were assigned to Oklahoma City. Enough said, except to say that this was an important time in my life. I learned to live with and hang out with a race of people that had lived with and still experienced heavy racial oppression.

To this point in time I had no idea I would become a writer.

Acting, more racism, a daughter, & cold turkey

lk76_TX_1web

lk as he looked for the first play at the Hayloft Dinner Theatre in Lubbock Texas; What Did We Do Wrong; a generation-gap comedy. (photo © Louis Kraft 1976)

After VISTA I spent as much time as possible with professional theater groups, I really learned how to act, and began to land some acting (and related) work. In the summer of 1976 I did dinner theater in Lubbock, Texas, and the racism I saw up close shocked me. The directors and lead actors came from L.A. Jim Reynolds played my best friend in the first play. We hit it off immediately and hung out together. He was African American. The actors lived at the theater, but the show running its last week while we rehearsed still occupied the rooms. That week before opening we lived in a motel with a restaurant. That first morning after our arrival the waitress gave me coffee, water, a menu, and ignored Jim. I not only had to ask for him—I had to order for him. As we didn’t have transportation, this restaurant was our only choice each morning for a week. And this was just the beginning of what I saw that summer of 1976; it was right out of films that featured racism in the South. To this day what I experienced in Lubbock has tainted my view of Texas; it still burns in my soul.

My mother’s death on January 4, 1980, ended my father’s
and my war. We spent the last weeks of her life, every
waking moment, together. My mother’s death gave
us a love that would be never-ending.

Years would pass, some good while others were bad. With the birth of my daughter Marissa in the early 1980s I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I had begun writing screenplays in the 1970s. By the mid-1980s I began selling magazine articles. Knowing that computers were the future I quit acting cold turkey and perhaps nine months later landed a job with a corporate insurance firm as a secretary under the condition that I teach myself the computer (to date I had never touched one). That was probably the biggest job I ever landed in my life for it gave me my future.

Defending my writing

My Indian wars writing and speaking has always dealt with racism—Anglo Americans, Cheyennes, and Apaches (someday also Navajos). My interest has always been a few white men that attempted to bring about the end of war, tried to not kill, and/or stood firm for Indian rights. I view Indian people that dared to stand up to the American juggernaut as patriots. In some circles this isn’t a popular viewpoint. Believe it or not, the Indian wars still sizzle with racism. It is as alive today as it was in the 1860s and 1880s. Add that I have always viewed this tragic conflict from both points of view, and at times I am not viewed in the best light.

For those of you wondering about Errol & Olivia and future books on Flynn,
worry not for this work will also generate controversy.
tt_lkTalkAUD_chyBlood_2009_ws

Tanya Thomas as Mo-nahs-e-tah (how the Southern Cheyenne woman’s name was pronounced) and lk as Ned Wynkoop in Cheyenne Blood (2009). I chose this image as it gives you a physical view of how I approach the Indian wars (and unfortunately haven’t written any plays dealing with the Apaches). Tanya is a great actress, and I enjoyed working with her. My pal, the very talented Tom Eubanks directed Cheyenne Blood. (photo by Dean Zatkowsky)

During the time of the Gatewood/Apache books I constantly found myself defending Geronimo. I would ask those attacking me, what would you do if a superior force invaded the United States, took your homeland, killed your friends and loved ones, destroyed your religion, your culture, and your lifeway while making you a prisoner of war? What would you do? I know what I would do.

When giving a talk in Santa Fe, New Mexico, someone asked who in today’s world would I compare Geronimo to? I said, “Osama bin Laden (he was still alive and a threat to the U.S.).” The person who asked the question was outraged. I told her that bin Laden and Geronimo are/were the bogeyman, an embodiment of terror. I bring this up for one reason—there are two sides to every story. What was the U.S. military to Geronimo or bin Laden? Only they can tell you …

Trust me, Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway
will be a special treat for those not in love with my writing. For those of
you that enjoy my writing, this book will be well worth the wait.

For the record: My writing requires no explanation. It is what it is.

Deadly intent?

More recently I appeared on LA Talk Radio. The host is someone I’ve known for years and someone I consider a friend. LA Talk Radio has two stations that are live at the same time, and I met the other host, a Jewish fellow, before the hour interview began (almost exclusively Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland).

laTalkRadioBanner

After the hour, the Jewish host, who knew we were going out, asked to join us. During our late-night dinner he began a monologue on Nazis that eventually included film actress Maureen O’Hara and her supposed heinous participation in WWII. He then moved on to Asians. The tirade bothered me. He had no justifiable reasons for his statements, and refused to substantiate anything. After a while I began to smile (probably my best Clint Eastwood smile). This bothered him and he said, “What’s your problem?” “You,” I replied. “You’re a racist.”

He violently denied my accusation, but offered no proof to back up his statements. I continued to smile, which unnerved him.

Me? I’m a pacifist and avoid violence whenever possible. I stand firmly for racial equality but at times in my past did not challenge racism when it stared me in the face. I heard more than my share of racist slurs in high school (but don’t remember any in college). I played 10 years on a ball team, and even though we had a Latino and a couple of Asians on the team, I saw hatred directed toward teams that were not predominantly white. I have also listened to racist comments from law enforcement personnel. Living has changed me. Where once I remained silent to what I considered offensive, I no longer do. For me, racism isn’t acceptable. The Jewish radio host sensed this, and made damn sure he kept his distance from me as he exited the restaurant. To repeat, I’m a pacifist—but he I would have gladly engaged. And I would have won.

What excites me … and what frightens me

You know what I find exciting? When people who don’t speak the same language, fear each other, are at war, but sit down to discuss peace. Now that’s exciting, but I’m talking about the 1860s and the 1880s. Race relations in our world is much-much more important today than it was during the Indian wars. Back in the 1860s or 1880s there was certainly the possibility of the elimination of a race of people. A heinous thought. Today the threat is greater, for today if mankind can’t work it out with people that have different beliefs, religions, cultures, and values, someday one of these groups of people will unleash weapons of mass destruction that will eliminate mankind as we know it.

Only time will tell

I like people and don’t care where they were born. I don’t care what color their skin is, what their religion is, or what their politics are. A good person is a good person. I’m open and I do get along with people. Always have. I don’t let too many people into my inner circle (and this group, although small but much larger than you think, is not limited to Los Angeles or California or the American West but includes people outside the United States). The reason is simple—time. I short-change my friends all the time, but it isn’t on purpose but rather because I must work long hours to survive.

There is a door that should not be opened, but it will be as I need to state something. And it is important for it goes right back to what initiated this blog. The new lady in my life. Where will our relationship lead? I know what I hope and she may hope the same. Only time will tell. One thing is certain; we must become good friends first.

Veronica and Marissa have questioned my choice in women (read Asian). I denied it, but as said above the question is valid. I have had three long-term relationships (a marriage and two ladies); one was Anglo American and the others were Japanese and Korean. But that’s not the full story, for there have been other women: Anglo Americans, African Americans, Latinas, Asians, Persians, Swedes, Greeks, Jewish people, and almost an American Indian. These ladies were special but for one reason or another the relationships were not long term and sometimes never moved beyond friendship. In my opinion only the long-term relationships count for they are the important ones when talking about love, which makes me a three-time loser.

nuch_lk_20jun13_2of2USE_ws

Nuch & lk on June 20, 2013. Nuch always has a great smile; this was the first time I smiled—really smiled—in years. There’s also the bonus that my hair is combed, which is a rarity. Nuch took this image.  (photo © Pailin Subanna & Louis Kraft 2013)

Or perhaps not. Maybe I’ve only been in training for my future.

My new lady is from Thailand. We have a fragile past with a lot of hurt, pain, and tragedy, and because of this we are very careful. We are seeing each other, exploring L.A., eating, learning language, sharing, laughing, dancing, enjoying each other’s company … and we have become friends.

Do I dare say good friends? Yes!

Will we move to love and intimacy? We don’t know. Only time will tell.

One thing is certain. … The opening of my heart to this lady is based completely on who she is as a human being and has nothing to do with race (and I’m safe in saying that this is also how she feels).

Good friends, a small friend, & more … much more

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


Those of you who know me, and I mean, really know me, know that I move at my own pace, especially when it comes to my personal life.

annetteF_camera_RH_11may13_ws

Annette Florczak after a screening of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) 75th anniversary at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. She and her hubby Robert made sure that I joined them on this night. It’s Robert’s favorite film. As Annette was preparing to take a group shot I captured her. Not too long ago Annette said to me that she liked that I said what was on my mind. I hope that I’m always true to her compliment. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I’m in no rush, for I cherish my life and attempt to enjoy each and every minute of it, regardless if it is a never-ending night as I can’t sleep or hanging out with my daughter or seeing friends. You probably don’t know this, but I intend to live to at least 120. I have books to write, people to piss off, and friends to know and enjoy.

My closest friends have all become friends because of my writing life.

Most live in other states, outside the U.S., or in that far-off land we call Northern California. Whenever I’m in the same location as them, it is pure joy regardless if it is for work or pleasure.

My daughter is my life, and luckily she lives close to me. 

Back in 2008 (I think) a group called the “Mulholland Drive Boys” was created to unite writers, artists, directors, and other people interested in Errol Flynn and bring them together. For the most part, the group doesn’t exist, or at best is dormant. No matter, for the creation of the Mulholland Drive Boys introduced me to four people, four people that have become good friends.

RHgroup_11may13_merge_ws

From left Robert and Annette Florczak, Greg and Nam Maradei. The three kids were, along with me, Robert and Annette’s guests to see Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. He tutors them in art. To my dismay I don’t have any single or two-shots of Robert on this night (he hid behind his students). Actually I don’t have any single shots of him ever—guess he doesn’t trust me (if I capture his image I’ll steal his soul). Ladies and gents, I’m not a skinwalker and I don’t shape shift. It was a fun evening. (Photo by lk on May 11, 2013)

Two fellows and their gorgeous wives (Robert & Annette and Greg & Nam). Over just a handful of years they have become my closest friends in Los Angeles.

As there is a memoir in my future, I am also using this blog to not only explore my writing ups and downs, my thrills and failures while also keeping you updated on current projects. The goal is to also figure out who I am, where I’ve been, and zero in on a past that is filled with both unsavory and golden moments. That is people, memories, flashes in time.

It’s time for you to sit down and hold on

If you’re not sitting, please do so before looking at the next image and reading the first sentence that follows the image and its caption.

lk_OnionField_testPhoto_24jan1979_ws

No, no, no, and once again NO—lk isn’t a convicted felon. This image was taken at the Lincoln Heights jail in Los Angeles on January 24, 1979, by Ron Batzdorff, who was the still photographer on The Onion Field. If memory serves me, this jail was not in operation at the time (don’t know if it still exists). Great film location, and honestly scary. During free time, I spent time sitting in a locked jail cell, letting my mind flow with whatever images hit me. Not something I ever want to experience in real life. The numbers you see in the image are real, Gregory Powell murdered a Los Angeles police officer in 1963. Joe Wambaugh’s best selling book, The Onion Field, documented the crime; he also produced the film. James Woods shot to stardom with his portrayal of Gregory Powell, and to a lesser extent so did Ted Danson, who played the murdered officer. Although I haven’t seen either in 30 or so years, back in those days I worked with them on other projects. My memories of Jimmy and Ted are first class, and in no way are my views of them negative. … On a side note, although I never manually worked in an onion field, I have run and crawled through them (a few years before the film was shot I did work in a cotton field in Texas).

One thing I can state clearly and honestly—I’m shy. Always have been. Those of you who know me are probably chuckling. Go ahead, make it an out and out laugh, but ’tis true. I’ve always been aggressive when I’ve played sports (tennis, football, baseball, and so on), but when interested in a lady my brain goes south. I’m lucky if I can mumble a few words.

lk_29jun81_encinoHouse_ws

A publicity photo taken at Encino House on June 29, 1981. The smile was still present, but by 1984 it would be gone. (photo © Louis Kraft 1981)

I had a fairly long acting/modeling/film world career that was at best unfulfilling and at worst a waste of my time.  A very true statement, but it obscures and almost damns a multitude of truly caring and artistic people I worked with, hung out with, and have nothing but cherished memories during my time with them. Actors, directors, crew members. This was also a time of getting in sync with my inner being, understanding what made me tick, and accepting me for being me. When not working, I did this on an almost daily basis with actors (exceptional people). Most are gone from my life (but I have memories). Two friends are always with me, regardless when I see or talk to them. An actress I worked with for a few years and a costumer I met on Tucker’s Witch (we also worked on Johnny Belinda). Good friends, always.

Returning to those dark days of yesteryear, I did learn that to succeed (and I quit acting cold turkey to write full-time in the 1980s) I needed to approach what I wanted head-on. I needed to put my fears to rest and be aggressive. What I failed to do in the film/acting world (due to shyness hangups and my refusal to do things I found repulsive and/or disgusting), I have not encountered. The writing world has never assaulted or compromised my values. Never. Add the good fortune to also write for companies, and I have had the freedom to only write about subjects important to me in the freelance world.

The times they are a changin’

 Events in April 2012 made me take a long hard look at my world. It was time for a change regardless of the cost (and this would be large). That change would take time and guts for me to hold course. Fast forward a year to May 2013. I could now look back at 2011, a year that had been a wild ride of highs and deep-deep lows, but the hibernation had been in effect since late 2008 or early 2009 when my world went south. This is not quite true, for the Wynkoop book saw print in 2011 and my relationship with Marissa blossomed after a decade of darkness.

David_DeWitt_jan2013

David DeWitt at Tujunga House in January 2013. When David visited we spent good time together deep into the night (deep for me) as we shared tales from our past. For me, it was just what the doctor ordered. We chatted, we laughed, and we enjoyed ourselves. During his visit I gained a good insight into myself. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I pretty much keep to myself. I see Marissa, but that is pretty much it. Entertain? Me? Who are you kidding? My good pal and Flynn expert David DeWitt visited for five days at the beginning of this year. Robert F. came over for dinner a couple of months later. David and Robert are two friends I can hang out with for hours on end. They are always welcome in my home (as are Annette, Greg, and Nam). I’ve been in a shell for years (except when on the road). I needed to escape from my self-imposed banishment.

An introduction to a key person in my life

In 2002 Robert Goodman, MD, suggested I see Malcolm Cosgrove, MD. Within a little more than six months Dr. Cosgrove would become responsible for me continuing to walk this earth. If not for him I would be a long-forgotten memory. I see him every three months. I saw him on June 14, and everything went according to plan. We tested and discussed two subjects important to me. Over the years I’ve grown to know and like him, so we have more than just a doctor-patient relationship. The next day, June 15th, he was flying to Israel for a family reunion and much more, and he looked forward to a great trip. He’s aware of what I do, but on this day I introduced him to the website/blog, which hadn’t gone live when last I saw him. He asked what was up next, and I told him about a dinner party on June 15, and that one of my friends was bringing a friend to introduce to me (more about this below). He asked if I had ever been married, and I replied that I had been back in the dark ages. He chuckled as he asked if my friends were married. I said yes, and he said, “Be careful; they want to make you like them.” We laughed, and I said, “Don’t worry.” I have a protective shell that is forever present—unless I want, no one enters my life.

A June dinner party

Back to the thrust of this blog. I had survived April and May bills (no easy task; actually I’ve relearned how to juggle, a throwback to the acting world). It was time to again entertain. I hadn’t hosted a dinner party in a long time. This had to come to an end, and I wanted it to happen now. Who else would I invite but Robert & Annette and Greg & Nam. Over the years following the creation of the Mulholland Drive Boys we would see each other at increasing intervals. This grew to friendship. But on this day, this June 15th day, I would have a bonus for I would also meet a lady. … Let’s call her a small friend—for now. … Patience, my friends, patience!

I don’t know enough about Annette, Greg, or Nam’s professions
to speak about their work worlds accurately.
Not to worry, for I will talk about them. 
r&aFlorczak2SHOT_15jun13_ws

Annette & Robert Florczak at Tujunga House on June 15. I like this image for you can see their closeness and togetherness, which is always present. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

Robert is one of the brightest and artistic people I’ve come to know over the years. Artist-Musician-composer-singer-historian/writer-art professor-film consultant … A Renaissance Man, he’s also writing a book about Errol Flynn. I’m not going to tell you about the book, for I don’t want to give anything away. I will say this; when it is printed it is must reading for anyone interested in Errol Flynn or the Golden Age of cinema. I think I can safely say that he is probably the most knowledgable person I have ever known in regards to Flynn (and that includes people who are no longer with us). He is also the historical consultant for the upcoming film on Errol Flynn’s last years with Beverly Aadland. This project (already in the can) is first class all the way. The Last Days of Robin Hood (not my favorite title; but it may be after I see the film) stars Kevin Kline as Flynn (he was born to play Flynn), Dakota Fanning as Beverly, and Susan Saradon as Beverly’s mother Florence Aadland. From what I have heard from Robert, this is going to be a special film.

Robert is charming and bright and I enjoy every minute I spend with him. Oh, I should add that his sense of humor is in line with mine—a little twisted. Whenever one of us has the chance we try to pull each other’s legs. Great fun!

annetteRobertCLOSE_15jun13_ws

Annette & Robert Florczak at Tujunga House on June 15. Someone said something that was really funny (wish it had been me, but it wasn’t). Perhaps Greg M., for he was also shooting pictures at that moment. Annette is really enjoying what was said, and in a moment she would be totally bent over, and Robert, who has a nice smile here would also be laughing all out. A first class moment! (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I can’t say enough about Annette. She is friendly, open, and caring … and is always a delight to be around and speak with—I’m at home with her at all times. She is a perfect hostess, so much so that I drag my heels when leaving her and Robert’s home. She’s German, and yet a marvel with the English language. If she didn’t tell me that she was German I would have never guessed. Amazing! Like Robert, she can talk about anything, and do it in a knowledgable way. I think she enjoys Flynn; at least I have not heard her complain when Robert and I talk about him and Olivia de Havilland (more about this below). … As I have told Robert more than once, he is one lucky fellow.

nam&Greg2_15jun13_ws

Greg & Nam Maradei at Tujunga House on June 15. As you can see they are close, and I think had a good time. Certainly their smiles are nice in this image. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

Greg is a Flynn fan, a big Flynn fan, and this interest has brought me together with him and his pretty wife Nam. We all should have his enthusiasm and curiosity. He has the gift to make people—certainly me—feel like I’ve known him all my life. It’s a good feeling. Certainly he is a hard worker (as is Annette and Nam … Robert is like me, and we live in a different world work-wise—I’m not saying Robert isn’t a hard worker, for he is, … it’s just different). Not only is Greg outgoing and fun-loving, someone I enjoy hanging out with, but he is also a fellow I know I can count on. A good feeling.

Nam is a mischievous charmer who I have an absolute blast teasing (and she gives as good she gets). She keeps me laughing at her antics. Like Annette she is caring, giving, and a good hostess (including when she and Greg visit). But her talents continue to amaze me—she even knows the sword (when she shared her native knowledge with a blade my jaw almost hit the ground). If I haven’t told Greg how lucky he is, I should have, and if not, I’m saying it right here. He’s a lucky fellow that Nam is his wife. I should add that her concern for my welfare is touching. Realizing an emptiness in my life, she asked if she could do something. I gulped and hesitated, but luckily said yes (more below).

namSword_2images_15jun13_ws

Nam working with the blade at Tujunga House on June 15. All I can say about her impromptu performance is wow! Unfortunately I ran out of film before she finished (which doubly hurt, for right after Greg performed a funny skit with the sword, and I couldn’t capture it. … Not a good ad for a 35mm film camera. (photos © Louis Kraft 2013)

Before moving on, I want to say one final thing about Robert & Annette and Greg & Nam. I have never seen two couples more devoted to each other and more in love with each other than they are. In our day and world this is wonderful to see.

A small friend

When I announced the June 15 dinner party, Nam asked if she could bring a friend to introduce to me. I hesitated, and I think she was hurt or worse mad, but Greg told me that she doesn’t get mad. We’re back to the “shy” thing. You know my world now—it’s me and my fantasy life that spends fully 85-90 percent of the time in my house studying or searching or dreaming or writing. My social life? Robert & Annette, Greg & Nam, Marissa … and my gym (but here I have tunnel vision). It took me a while to say yes to Nam. After she asked the lady and the lady said “yes,” I felt good. Nervous, but good. Nam asked what her friend could bring, and I replied, “The fish, veggies, and salad.” She chuckled online, “Ha-ha. Very funny.” I told her that all the lady had to bring was herself.

nam&Nuch_superCLOSE_sofa_15jun13_ws

Nam Maradei and a small friend in the living room at Tujunga House on June 15. I had missed an opportunity when I opened the door, but I would not miss it twice. Here you can see Pailin’s eyes and smile that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

On June 15 Robert and Annette arrived first. Robert knew the house but Annette didn’t. As we walked through the rooms, Robert paused and said, “I think I heard a knock.” I went to the front door. Greg was at the door, with Nam below him, and a small lady farthest away. She was holding orchids and smiling. With eyes drawn to her my heart skipped a beat or three or five. I should have had a camera in my hand, but didn’t (story of my life—read into that whatever you want).

I had promised Nam and Annette that Flynn wouldn’t dominate the conversation, and that if Robert and Greg got too bad that I’d send them to the corner of the room while the ladies and I retreated to another room. Of course the ladies had to remind me of this. The fellows were understanding, and without being exiled to the corner of the room they placed Mr. Flynn on hold more than once.

nuch_by2_15jun13_ws

Nuch in the backyard at Tujunga House on June 15. She has an open warmness that drew me to her immediately. (photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

Nam had told me her friend was shy and she was. Her name is Pailin Subanna. “Nuch.” Nuch had a quiet presence, a quiet control of what went on around her. She’s a good listener and she fit in. Robert later told me he thought she was poised, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m a gentleman (probably some people might disagree with this; all I can say is that I try). On this day I was definitely on good behavior, and when combined with my shyness, it guaranteed I wouldn’t say too much. Which was good, for it meant I couldn’t stuff my foot down my throat.

I enjoyed this day and evening.

Alas, the time for everyone to leave came too quickly. But by this time I knew one thing—I wanted Nuch to enter my life, I wanted her to become my friend.

We had talked about our social media, and later that night connected. Social media gave us the opportunity to share our thoughts and set a time for us to meet.

__________

nuchMOntage_SMpier_20jun13_ws

This was a special day for we had the opportunity to walk and talk and get to know each other. The day ended too quickly, but I drove home knowing one thing–I wanted to see her again and again and again. All these images are from Nuch’s camera (and she shared them with me). She did the design of the portrait of her within a film strip.

And the good news is that we are getting to know each other while enjoying each other’s company. Exploration and learning are always fun. She has a good sense of humor, is very feminine, and has a sensitivity that I have not seen in many people. She likes to explore, and from what she has told me, she has the adventurous spirit of some of the men that have caught my interest over time, … Francis Drake, Kit Carson, Ned Wynkoop, and Errol Flynn. I’m not joking here, for she has no fear to set out into the unknown. Nuch is a brave person.

ns_lkCLOSE_stamp27jun13_ws

Nuch & lk at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Ca., on June 27, 2013. Like the following image, it captures two people enjoying the closeness of each other. Nuch took this photo, did the art work, and turned it into a postage stamp. I like it, for it gives us good hope for our future. (photo & art © Pailin Subanna 2013)

She also has a tender touch. Physically and inside her. She has an intimate feel for the moment, and is in tune with her inner being as well as what is going on with us. Her openness to what she senses and reacts to is something that has been with me since those long gone days of the acting world, something I haven’t experienced with another lady in decades.* When someone has this gift, and Nuch does, culture and language are not barriers. For me culture and language are a lure, an enticement to know another human being. It has always been this way with me, and I think for Nuch, too. It has, in a very short time, given us a closeness that is special.

* Acting training includes exercises wherein you get in tune with another human being. Facing each other, and without doing anything you react off what you see, feel, and sense. The goal is to make you open to what is happening around you so that you can grasp it, understand it, and react to it. Everyone should go through this type of training.
ns_lkCLOSE_color_27jun13Art_ws

Nuch & lk at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, Ca., on June 27, 2013. I like this image as it captures the joy at the beginning of our relationship. (photo & art © Pailin Subanna 2013)

My life has been out of balance for years now. I have my writing, my friends, and Marissa, but there has been a missing piece. But no longer, for Nuch has opened her heart and become my friend. And listening to her words and knowing what is going on inside me, I think that our friendship is going to grow. My life has suddenly found a new balance.

lk: “นี่คือผู้หญิงที่สำหรับฉัน” .และเธอเป็นผู้หญิงของฉัน” (khụ̄x p̄hū̂h̄ỵing thī̀ s̄ảh̄rạb c̄hạn .Læa ṭhex pĕn p̄hū̂h̄ỵing k̄hxng c̄hạn)

A stressed Kraft

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


I thought that three things kept my life in balance: writing, friends, and the ladies in my life (currently only my daughter). This, as it turns out, isn’t true, for there is a fourth piece to my life—my computers and how well they perform with programs (Microsoft’s Word, Adobe’s Photoshop, and WordPress’s website/blog template are the three I use the most). I depend upon the internet and the phone to land work and deliver work. The website/blog (along w/my buddy the internet) will hopefully become my best selling tool. But I never say “never.” … What does that mean? Yikes!!!! Maybe below I’ll explain, but then again, maybe not.

lkPortrait1_b&w_30may13_web

May 30, 2013. The face of total frustration, as I live with and test the total shutdown of this website/blog when I changed internet providers (the land phone hasn’t been performing with raves either). Yesterday (June 3) I had a very good 2½ hour session with a bright engineer from the East Coast named Wensor as we kicked ideas back and forth on what could be the problem. A lot of testing and a lot of failure for the first 1½ hours, but perhaps success. All tests closing out of programs, shutting down the computer, restarting it, and most important getting to the website/blog and being able to log in at the end of our meeting succeeded (kudos to Wensor of AT&T). He and I’ll again talk today after I do more tests … but first I wanted to do a blog in case we had just entered a short safe time zone of false hope. (Art © Louis Kraft 2013)

The last week of May has been hell—pure and simple hell—and it has continued into the first week of June. A learning experience with patience (trust me, I’ve improved with this over the years).

I’m not going to bore you with the problems—which have been ongoing—of changing internet and land line providers, but this has drastically impacted my work. Research for Flynn/de Havilland and Sand Creek as well as emails with editors have continued during these dark days that began on May 24 (no writing except for four-five hours on a Geronimo article), for the rest of my time has been spent trouble-shooting internet/phone/computer problems and working with my new provider. Enough said!!!

In the previous blog I posted an image of Errol Flynn that I’m working on. It isn’t complete, as I’m juggling artwork projects. I’m behind on some promised Ned Wynkoop images, and I need a Geronimo piece to accompany that article submission. Two bottom lines here: I like submitting artwork for articles and books as they can provide an image that supports the text (an image that doesn’t exist or isn’t obtainable); and they bring in additional money. I’m not big on money, but I like eating.

lk_nw67_2007portrait_smWEB

This Ned Wynkoop image first appeared in an anthology that printed a Wynkoop article of mine, “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races” (2008). It has since appeared in Wild West, True West, and has just appeared in Symphony in the Flint Hills Field Journal, Volume V (2013), that accompanies the orchestra’s concert, which happens each summer at historical sites in Kansas. This year they are featuring classic western film scores at Fort Riley. I had an open invite to the concert, but unfortunately couldn’t land a writing gig in Kansas at that time, so I won’t be there. BTW, this is a terrific book; well designed, nice range of articles with a wide selection of photos and artwork. I was pleasantly surprised. (Art © Louis Kraft 2007)

orchestra’s

Pardon the bragging, but my floppy-hat Wynkoop portrait sees print for the fourth time this month in a book dealing with a live concert in Kansas this summer. This isn’t ego, for it gives me the chance to invite friends over for dinner, to see a play, to walk in the park with a friend, to pay a bill.

Believe it or not (and no this isn’t a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoon from the Dark Ages), … I have at times been pounded for using art I created in my books and magazine articles, and worse I’ve been pounded for being an actor (in days long gone—I only appear now when I write the script). You see actors can’t be historians. This came with the Custer book, and for years after I hid my past life in a closet. Editors and publishing houses had no clue I had been an actor. After I came out of the closet and began acting onstage again (again, only in scripts I write), I decided to hell with hiding a past I had no problem remembering. It’s out in the open; now I get pounded for artwork and not acting. Go figure.

Ouch! I’ve probably put a curse on myself. Most likely the image of Ned Wynkoop in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway will be of him riding a horse. Ladies and gents, this image doesn’t exist. If I’m going to use it I’m going to have to create it. I’ve begun illustrations of him in Indian Territory in November 1868 surrounded by snow and another of him on the parade ground at Fort Larned, Kansas. Actually, the Wynkoop/horse image is under way, but alas, in a very early stage of development. Slow progress and actually these images may not be shared until they are published (or at least in a presentable view as was the Flynn/Custer image from the last blog).

hooperHome_apr2013

April 2013 view from the front porch of Vicki and Layton Hooper’s home in Fort Collins, Co. I am beginning to believe that I am the “Snowman of Colorado.” When Governor Hickenlooper needs more snow, all he has to do is call up ol’ Kraft, pay a decent salary, all expenses, and I’ll be on my way. I’ve already created a snow dance that guarantees success. Why wait for Halloween to begin the Christmas season? Why not July 4th? I can guarantee days upon days of the white stuff obliterating the sun. I’m not mean, … I’m just having fun, justifiable fun for being snowed in the last two times I’ve visited Colorado. Hell, the “gov” likes the Wynkoop book; that makes him a pal. (Photo © Louis Kraft 2013)

I had planned this blog to deal w/my thrilling time last April in the land of 300 days of sunshine—Colorado … dealing with people, my favorite subject. The above problem (internet/website) again ruled yesterday and will do so again this day, I walked away from my planned subject even though images and artwork were ready. … That said, and in a totally unexpected transition from what I’ve been talking about, I may enter that coolest of zones, that place from which I thought I had walked from—a place that forever excites me for the challenges are huge, the environment a maze of electricitya world in which I’m at home. What?? Good interview yesterday. I never hold my breath, … we’ll see.

Is Kraft fickle? I’ll never tell, … but I do like to tease.

Geronimo, Sand Creek, Mike Koury, & challenging me

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


I’ve reached the stage of my life wherein I’ve got to push my writing world. A few years back when Wild West published “When Wynkoop Was Sheriff” in 2011, George Carmichael, a writer I met when we both took a fiction class at UCLA (I was still working in the film industry—yep, the Dark Ages), said: “You’ve finally written an article with a little bite.” Not quite the comment I wanted to hear, but a good one.

“A little bite.” …  

geronimo_g&gDeail1_ws

I’m currently working on a Geronimo/Apache article for Wild West magazine. Think it is going to have a little bite. Thanks George.

This image of Geronimo (left) is a detail from the dust jacket for Gatewood & Geronimo (art © Louis Kraft 1999)

Something else is going to have a bite—Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Research (and I already have a lot in house) began in April, and is now continuous. If all goes as I hope, it will have “a big bite.”

I know a fellow who has “a little bite” to him named Mike Koury. I met Mike when I spoke before an audience for the first time at an Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) two-day event (I think in Fullerton, Ca., in 1987). Mike’s a great speaker. I’m a firm believer that you learn from what turns you on and from what turns you off. The key is why. Why do I like it or why don’t I like it? Simple question … Back to Mike. He delivered a great talk; full of life. And not a lecture; rather a story. I loved it. If you’ve seen any of my talks and like them, you’ve got to give all the kudos to Mike Koury. On the flip side, it you don’t like them—sorry Mike—he deserves all the blame.

lk_lh_mk2_BoddenPhoto_21apr13_WS

lk, Layton Hooper, and Mike Koury at the La Quinta Inn & Suites on the morning after the Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial, Co. Layton put together the symposium (April 20, 2013), was responsible for me speaking about “Wynkoop’s Last Stand, and kindly (along with his wife Vicki) made me a member of his home while the OIW wasn’t housing me at the hotel. (Photo by Frank Bodden)

I had a good time with Mike in Colorado last April when I spoke for the Order of the Indian Wars symposium in Centennial (will again speak for them in Tucson this coming September), including a nice morning and afternoon with him, his pretty wife Dee, and Danny Martinez (Danny and I have shook hands over the years, but didn’t really know each other until this past April when we spent a little time together).

Also present at the symposium was Deb Bisel and her friend Michelle Martin (who I met for the first time, although we knew each other long distance). More on the ladies at another time, other than to say that they were with Mike after the symposium had ended and we were partying at the hotel. I asked them to step outside so I could take a photo of them. After getting it, I asked the ladies to kiss Mike, and they readily agreed. I snapped away, my eyes turning into little green $$$ signs; my mind doing backflips—would Mike Koury be paying for me to have a summer home in Colorado, the state that has 100 days of sunshine (that’s right, I’ve deducted 200 days from what I consider false Colorado advertising, which claims it is “the land of 300 days of sunshine.”).

mm_mk_db_20apr13website

Michelle Martin (left), Mike Koury, and Deb Bisel outside the La Quinta Inn & Suites after the Order of the Indian Wars symposium on April 20, 2013. (Photo by Louis Kraft)

Joking aside (but not with what I view as false advertising), it’s a cute picture so I’m sharing it in the hope that it doesn’t get anyone in trouble.

Over the years Mike has pursued what is important to him, and he has lived the life of his choice as he has pursued his interest in history (in particular, the Indian wars, but it goes way beyond the Indian wars). … In a time long gone an Order of the Indian Wars tour visited Sand Creek (at the bend in the dry riverbed below the monument as perhaps documented in mixed-blood Southern Cheyenne George Bent’s map) which was then located on the Bowman ranch (private property) in southeastern Colorado. Marissa was young. At the time of the OIW tour we had been tracking George Armstrong Custer in Montana (I believe the time was somewhere around September 1987). I called Jerry Russell, who then ran the OIW, and asked if we could join the last day of the tour and see Sand Creek?

jRussell_sandCreek_1987use_wp

Jerry Russell holding court above the bend of the Sand Creek dry bed that was then part of Bill Dawson’s ranch, and which is now part of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, in September 1987 … I’m currently reading Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), and the book is a mixed bag. There are many errors dealing with 1864-1865 (lots of notes regarding them), but Kelman’s assembly of the various factions that had to work together (land owners, NPS employees, Arapaho and Cheyenne descendants of Sand Creek, historians, would-be historians, government officials, and pro- & anti-POVs on what happened in 1864 and how it should be presented to the public (other than a fair amount of repetition by Kelman) is a pretty good investigative read. (Image © Louis Kraft 1987)

Jerry was always good to me, and said yes. Timing was such that Marissa, her mother, and I were able to complete a private tour of Custer’s night march on June 24 and follow his movements (including the Crow’s Nest) over private property with Jim Court, who had been superintendent of Custer Battlefield NHM. When we were on the west side of the LIttle Big Horn where the Indian village was and where the 7th Cavalry attempted to cross the river or feinted an attempt to cross the river and were repulsed (Medicine Tail Coulee), a drunken Indian charged up in a pickup and had an angry encounter with Court. My ladies were in Court’s van and were safe (reason: mosquitoes all over the place). The Indian, who I believe was Crow, appeared ready to attack Court, who handled the situation calmly. Thinking the worst was about to happen, I positioned myself behind the Indian to aid Court if the need arose. Luckily it didn’t.

We got down to Pueblo, Colorado, late the night before the OIW trip to the private property Sand Creek. But it was a push to get there (I did all the driving) and I was burning with fever. My ex-wife, who grew up in the medical world, saved the day. We bought rubbing alcohol, I stripped, and she rubbed it all over my body (sorry—no photos). I became ice cold, but it worked and the fever was gone the next morning. A few years later she pulled off the same feat at Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

Back to Mike K. (who was also on the 1987 OIW Sand Creek tour), … I came up with a great idea for an article for True West (this was long before Bob Boze Bell took it over, revamped it, and turned it into what it is today): modern-day Indian wars historians and how they approach what they do.

mKoury_lkArt20may13_website

Mike Koury, owner of The Old Army Press in Johnstown, Colorado (which creates documentaries), has been the driving force behind the Order of the Indian Wars since Jerry Russell’s death in 2003 (am unsure of the date). (Art © Louis Kraft May 2013)

It would feature four people, including Mike and Jerry Russell. True West loved the idea. But when it was time to go to press, the owner of the publication saw the article, held the presses, and canceled “The Good Ol’ Boys” until Mike could be purged from it (which meant it ran in the next issue or the one after that in 1990; an easy cut, for Mike had a section all to himself). It turns out that Mike had perturbed the publisher. I don’t know what happened between them, but I like it when someone (Mike, me, … whomever) perturbs someone else.

“Challenges” is perhaps a better word than “perturbed.” Standing firm for what you believe is important in the writing/historical world. Enough said, other than Mike is a jewel, and I’m glad I know him.

Back to today … I must challenge myself. Every day. To walk, to exercise, to research, to write, to sell, to enjoy another human being, to sleep. This is obscure, as it should be.

Living is fun, that is living and doing what drives me (I’m not talking about writing here). Especially when related to people. You probably won’t believe what follows, but ’tis true—I’m shy, especially when I’m interested in a lady. This has been a curse throughout my life. And it’s never going to improve. That said, I get along with people. Always have. There’s another curse in my life; some people want more from me (usually more than I can provide) or become jealous over nothing (read something that doesn’t exist or never happened). At the moment I’m caught between two worlds. Huh??? I haven’t told you anything, other than perhaps I don’t have a girlfriend.

Vagueness is heaven. Sorry.

And for those of you that think I push the limit whenever presented with an opportunity, realize this: I love life; certainly mine. Sometimes that word “challenge” is key, … I’ve got to challenge me, my failures, my insecurities, my hopes. Once in a while someone gets pulled into my challenge and is pushed. If it’s you, realize that you aren’t the target, I am, so please don’t get upset. Also know this, if I didn’t like you, didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t involve you.

Trust me on this one.

Do you know me? I don’t think so

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


Ladies & Gents …

Do you know me? You may think you do, but I don’t think so.

I would love to add photos to this blog, but can’t because some people, if they saw it, wouldn’t be pleased (the photos would be gorgeous, but, … always that damned “but.” …). My apologies. Actually I have one I like of good friend Glen Williams. It follows.

gw_lk_15jan12_fb

This is my good friend Glen Williams on a great road trip to Arizona in 2012. Good times. Glen is one of my closest friends. He and his pretty wife, Ellen, live in Texas now, and I miss the closeness we had when he lived in SoCal. Will hang out with him and Ellen later this year—good times to come. (Photo © Glen Williams & Louis Kraft 2012)

We’re a lot of things that grow and mature over time. We have good and we have bad, and that is what makes us interesting. Every person I write about, every one—Errol Flynn, Ned Wynkoop, Geronimo, Olivia de Havilland—every one has good and bad in their lives, and that is what makes them interesting, what makes them worth writing about.

If you visited me and opened the wrong closet door you would be buried under several hundred pounds of bones. Does this make me a bad person? No. Does this make me an interesting person? Maybe.

By now you’ve seen that I have every intention of mixing my writing life with what is important to me. Let’s be up front here—women drive my life; mainly two—Marissa and my girlfriend … at the moment I don’t have a girlfriend, which gives you a hint where this blog is headed. Bear with me, I’m just a fellow who rambles.

For decades I have lived in two writing worlds. One allowed me to do damn near anything I pleased without batting an eye, while the other allowed me to write about what was important to me. Two lives, but one is about to end. Those of you who know me and know of both worlds know what will soon happen (probably by summer). Adios amigo–rest in peace. If you want to make a bet, place your money on Flynn, Wynkoop, and the reality/fantasy that I have lived since being a boy.

But there’s something else that drives me, has always driven me, and has always been in my life up until the shocking year of 2011. There is a hole in my life, a hole so large that perhaps it will never be plugged.

Rihanna’s “Stay” summarizes my life. I could say some words here that mean a lot to me, drive me, but might shock you. I’m toying with saying them, but I won’t. I’m good at description, and I’m also really good with dialogue (so be careful with what you say to me.), so I could perhaps turn you on, or shock you. Is this what I want to do? No.

A quick return to my writing world, … there’s a memoir coming, and trust me, for I will turn you on and I will shock you. Life goes in many different ways and the “good, the bad, and sensuous” are all part of it. “Ugly”? No, there’s no “ugly.” Sorry Clint.

We’re again talking about two worlds, but not the two worlds I just mentioned. For now we’re talking about the professional world (technical or freelance) and the personal world. I’m cocky as hell in the professional world (again, technical or freelance), but a lamb in a darkened woods with wolves moving in for the kill in the personal world. There are things in the personal world that I can never share with you, but know that I talk to Jesus about them every day—they are that important to me. I need to live to 120+ to protect the most dear thing in my life. But there’s another part to my personal life, and this needs to be plugged to again make me complete. I just sent an email to my good friend Glen Williams about what looms before me. It isn’t for  here … perhaps when you know me better. Perhaps never. I’m free with my thoughts, with my desires, … but normally only for close friends, for they know what drives me. I thought about opening up more here after emailing Glen, but changed my mind. I’m a normal guy, which means I’d shock the hell out of you.

Sorry, but we’ll need to save the juicy stuff for the future.