The pirate Francis Drake and Louis Kraft

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

Centuries!

The LK introduction to the pirate Drake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Racism in the 1580s and in LK’s life

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

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

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

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

Back to the Dragon …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was Francis Drake?

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Hinde II under full sail.

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

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

“I vote for Drake! Please?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knighted and a national hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2017

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


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

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

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

Personal attacks on LK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I write about

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Discovery?

Opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m back on The Discovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The doctors never figured out what had attacked her system.

A lot of medical bad mouthing

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

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

Bob Goodman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I write about redux …

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

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

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

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

A special part of LK’s world times two

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door that The Discovery opened

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

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

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

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

Finally, a blurb about THE DISCOVERY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

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

Not too long back in the past …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah, an explosion was a comin’.

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

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

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

Michael Blake, a special person and writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaming up with Tom Eubanks for a pitch

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

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

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

Helping other writers + LK books & plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LK as a minister

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

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

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

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

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

“One.”

“Get out of here!”

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

My writing world and welcome to it

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

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

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

Researching and writing a book in a year …

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s just me.

Let’s deal with the research

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

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Cahill’s paperback novel cover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People are my life & my writing world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee was always there for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

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

A writing life

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Geronimo’s Gunfighter Attitude” nears publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new Wild West magazine, books & changes

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

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The August 2015 issue.

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

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

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

A few thoughts on change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Wild West magazine and other publishers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The February 2008 issue of American History.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunfights with a pretty lady …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming deadlines & comments

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

The Discovery

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

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


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

No!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two deadlines with dates

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

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

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

Back to The Discovery

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

— Louis Kraft

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

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

Click on an image to expand it


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

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

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

Moving into my writing world

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

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

Back to the point … my writing world

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

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

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

Two major pieces to this puzzle are finances and time.

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

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

Back to the point … my current projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the point … my future projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lk future is now

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t much care for my answer.

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

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

The nether world

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

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

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

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

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

Back to my writing world

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

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

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

Upcoming Blogs

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

— Louis Kraft

Olivia de Havilland, a world treasure

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2015

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An introduction into Ms. de Havilland’s world

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

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

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

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

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

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

Errol & Olivia becomes reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An invitation by Olivia

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

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

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

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

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

A 2004 visit with Olivia de Havilland

(My 35 mm Canon camera went belly up.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An invitation to Olivia’s big night in 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 A lady is honored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 2009 visit with Olivia de Havilland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twice.

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

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

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

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

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

She accepted this and we moved on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia de Havilland, a special lady

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

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

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

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

Upcoming blogs

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

— Louis Kraft

Cheyennes, George Bird Grinnell, & the Braun Research Library, Autry National Center

Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2014

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


The best place to start is with a little background of something that doesn’t exist anymore (at least not as it was, and sometime in the not-too-distant future never again). As I type these words I’m sad. The city of Los Angeles had something special.

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The Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which is now part of the Autry National Center of the American West. (art © Louis Kraft 2014)

Writers of history and especially the American Indian shame on you. The diverse population of the city of Los Angeles, which I believe still has the largest Native American population not living on the Rez (most likely the Navajo Reservation, as it dwarfs the other reservations), I’m ashamed of you too. But more I’m ashamed of the city and the county of Los Angeles, for you had a treasure and you didn’t support it. Shame on you!!!!

Los Angeles, you constantly brag about the quality of culture that exists within the city and county borders. We have everything. Great museums, great theaters, great restaurants (I think every food possible, sans one—American Indian; how many times do I have to say that damned word, “shame”?). And let’s not forget the mountains, surf, and weather that are to die for. Yes, we do have a number of days during summer and a number of them string together and the temperature is an ungodly 100+ degrees, but these have shrunk in number over recent years. We don’t compare to Phoenix and the rest of the Valley of the Sun; for unlike the residents of that sprawling metropolis the people of LA don’t fry their eggs on the pavement (that’s right; lk isn’t seeking any kissy points from Arizona; the only establishment that welcomes him back is Guidon Books in Old Scottsdale). Oh, I should add that Christmas time is shorts and broad-brimmed hats, and if you still have your American football legs (mine were during the days of the late-great Johnny U. and Joe Montana) a round of competitive tossing and catching the pigskin after a Christmas dinner under blue skies in mid-70 to low 80 degree weather with 20 or so buddies often happened.

Charles Lummis, the American Southwest, and well you know, … the future

Charles Lummis (1859-1928) earned a living as a journalist, but without doing due-diligence research I wonder how much family money he had.

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This image for this magnificent exhibit that the then Autry Museum of Western Heritage presented for a little over three months in 1996 represents what the Autry had been and what the 2003 merger with the Southwest Museum can become. Friend Paul Andrew Hutton played a major role in this exhibit coming to life. It was by far the best exhibit that I have ever seen at the Autry or the Southwest. Let us hope that the merged museums can again recreate this type of excellence. I saw the exhibit twice; first with my good friend writer/historian Eric Niderost and later by myself. … Over the years the Autry would create another masterpiece, but I believe most of it came from in-house—they paid a long-overdue homage to Gene Autry a few years back. Alas, it is long gone, but it should have been made into a permanent exhibit, and this is coming from someone who didn’t like Gene’s singing, B-moves, or what is now called the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” Hell, I guess that I now live in Anaheim of North Hollywood, Los Angeles. (photo © Louis Kraft 1996)

I’ve not met many rich journalists. In direct relation to what he would do, Lummis stood for Indian rights and historic preservation. He was also an historian, photographer, ethnographer, and archaeologist. He had a passion for the Southwest and the Indian people that called this land home.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Charles Lummis, who was the driving force behind the Southwest Society, saw the creation of a museum that would house art, history, and science of the American Southwest. The Southwest Museum opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1907. Seven years later it moved to its current location at Mount Washington on the western side of the Arroyo Seco, and in which in the coming decades the 110 freeway would snake through and connect downtown Los Angeles with the city of Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley. Sumner P. Hunt designed the original structure in the style of Spanish Colonial Revival that climbed the hillside. Over the years additions would be added. The Braun Research Library opened in 1979. If one doesn’t drive up the hill to the parking lot, he or she can walk from the subway just below the famed institution to a tunnel that leads to an elevator that rises 150 feet to the bottom floor of the original structure.

The Friends of the Southwest Museum claim that the museum houses 238,000 Indian artifacts. True? I don’t know, but that’s a pretty impressive figure. Over the course of his life Lummis amassed a large and impressive collection of American Indian artifacts that mostly focused on the Southwest, and quite a number of them along with his photos, papers, and documents are housed at the museum. Other notable papers and/or collections include those of Edward S. Curtis, Frederick Webb Hodge, and George Bird Grinnell, among others.

There has been a lot of planning and politics since the merger of the Southwest Museum and the Autry in 2003. It is not my intent to comment on that here other than to say that even though the historic Mount Washington site may someday be history, the oh so-precious collection it houses will continue to live in a 200,000 square foot building in Burbank, Ca.

The Braun Research Library is one of the premier archives that I have spent many hours, days, months, and more visiting in an attempt to learn what is hopefully the truth. Other than the Braun here are other classy archives in which I’ve researched:

  • The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (Santa Fe, N. Mex.)
  • USC Warner Bros. Archives (Los Angeles, Ca.)
  • Arizona Historical Society (Tucson, Az.)
  • Western History Collection, Denver Public Library (Co.)
  • History Colorado (Denver; I have not researched there since the new facility opened)
  • Fort Larned National Historic Site (Larned, Ks.)

Of course, there is a disclaimer here, and it is as follows. Sometimes it is more economical to order research. National Archives (various locations) and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. are two such library-archives.

A long and winding road to the Braun Research Library

Let’s drift back to the dark ages. In 1987 I spoke at the Order of the Indian Wars (OIW) “First Annual West Coast Indian Wars Conference” in Fullerton, Ca. (alas, it was the first and only OIW SoCal conference).

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Jerry Russell holding court on private property above the supposed Sand Creek village massacre site in 1987 (see photo of Marissa Kraft, below, for more about this visit). (photo © Louis Kraft 1987)

This event cemented my relationship with Jerry Russell, who ran the OIW and who always had my back covered.

Jerry is long time gone, and I still miss him. At that conference I met Mike Koury (The Old Army Press), a great speaker (he should do it more often), who took over the Order of the Indian Wars after Jerry’s death. Mike and I became friends and for years and years he has done everything possible to help my writing. I also met Chris Summit, former historian at the Custer Battlefield National Monument (since renamed to the Little Bighorn National Monument). He was round and perhaps short. I thought that he would make an impact on Indian wars writing, but he dropped from sight (don’t know why; hope he is well). The reason I mention him is because during the two-day event (February 28-March 1) he told me that I should check out the Braun Research Library at the Southwest Museum for it would be a boon to my Cheyenne Indian research.

I never forgot Chris Summit’s words.

Years passed and believe it or not, with the publication of Custer and the Cheyenne (Upton and Sons, Publishers, 1995), a quirk of fate thrust me into a 10-year quest to understand a long-forgotten 6th U.S. Cavalry officer named Charles Gatewood and his involvement with White Mountain and Chiricahua Apaches. A Custer book signing at Guidon Books, in Old Scottsdale, Az., alerted me to the Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. The following month resulted in a nine-day trip to view the Gatewood Collection (over the years I would spend another three+ months at the archive).

Enter Kim Walters

Gatewood had preempted what I thought would be my next Indian wars book (soldier/Indian agent Ned Wynkoop and his relationship with Cheyennes and Arapahos). In the late 1990s I took off the Gatewood/Apache blinders and heeding Chris Summit’s suggestion contacted the Braun about doing Cheyenne research as related to my longtime project on Wynkoop.

This is when I met Kim Walters.

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Kim Walters doing research at the Braun on June 18. I hadn’t seen Kim since the Wynkoop book had been published and it was good to see her again. Her current title is: “Ahmanson Curator of Native American History and Culture—Autry National Center.” (photo © Louis Kraft and Kim Walters 2014)

At that time Kim’s title was “Director, Braun Research Library,” a title she held from 1990 until 2011. She quickly became my go-to person. My sole interest during these visits to the Braun was the Cheyennes in Wynkoop’s life. With Kim’s terrific digging I became privy to prime Cheyenne research in the George Bird Grinnell Papers. At the time I didn’t know of a 77-page document that lists Grinnell’s Papers (and don’t think it existed in its current state then).

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Head Librarian Liza Posas shows lk where the George Bird Grinnell Papers are stored in the Braun’s stacks. Liza and I have discussed me submitting suggestions that will aid the 77-page listing of Grinnell’s papers, among other things that are not for this blog. The suggestions will not be egotistical; simply constructive comments that will hopefully aid researchers in the future. (photo © Louis Kraft and Liza Posas 2014)

I would not see this extended list until Braun Head Librarian Liza Posas supplied it to me earlier this year (see below for more on Liza). Good digging by Kim!!! And especially so since the key documents she located for me are not listed in the contents of the Grinnell Papers. That said, they are in the folders listed in the 77-page Grinnell Papers document (I checked to ensure that they were still located in the same folders). The information that Kim found for me saw print in Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek (OU Press, 2011).

Soon after completing the Cheyenne Indian research for the Wynkoop manuscript I returned to the Braun to search for images for Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000), and again I struck gold in various collections with Kim’s help. The images included:

  • A little Apache girl about four years old holding a small puppy (perhaps my favorite image ever in any of my publications for I could write a book about her)
  • A studio portrait of Gen. George Crook (1880s)
  • The Chokonen Chiricahua Apache chief Chihuahua
  • The Chihenne Chiricahua Apache war leader Kaytennae w/Benito
  • The mixed-blood Mexican-Apache Mickey Free
  • The Chihenne Chiricahua Apache Mangus

Moving forward

The Custer book tossed my name into the hat, but it was Gatewood & Geronimo that made me a player. Kim Walters and the Braun helped make this happen. Thank you, Kim.

Custer and the Cheyenne had been contracted but G&G was spec. I figured I didn’t have a good enough name to move away from regional presses and submitted the manuscript to Westernlore Press (Tucson, Az.). It was immediately accepted, and I said I wanted a contract. “I’ll get to it, when I finish one of my books,” Lynn R. Bailey told me (he was also a writer). I gave him three months and repeated my request. He told me he’d get to it when he was ready. I fired him, and that day sent a query letter to the University of Arizona Press. I waited a week. Nothing happened. I sent a query to the University of New Mexico Press.

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(left to right): Bonita & Dr. Leo Oliva (more on good friends Leo & Bonita in an upcoming blog), and Dr. Durwood Ball. After Leo and I spoke at the Pawnee Fork village site (he about the events that led up to Gen. Winfield Hancock destroying a Tsistsista, Dog Man, Lakota village on the Pawnee Fork in Kansas in April 1867 and I about Wynkoop’s effort to save the village), Durwood followed us back to Fort Larned so he could see the hill that Hancock’s army climbed on April 14, 1867, only to halt when they saw the battle line of Cheyennes and Sioux in the valley. Wynkoop asked permission of Hancock to ride between the lines and sooth Indian fears. Edmund Guerrier, a mixed-blood Cheyenne, rode into the valley with him. Durwood spoke that night about Col. Edwin Vose Sumner, the subject of his next book. BTW, the photo is black & white, and with the late afternoon sun everyone was in deep shadow. I turned the image into a duotone and lightened it. (photo © Louis Kraft 2012)

Durwood Ball, then editor-in-chief at University of New Mexico Press, contacted me immediately; he wanted the G&G manuscript (the U of A Press contacted me a week later; am sorry—too late). Durwood, like Jerry Russell, always had my back, especially during the production process which had a few bumps. I don’t see him near enough, but whenever we are together it is like we are neighbors and hang out on weekends.

A quick return to the Braun, but not in person

I had less success at the Braun with the second Gatewood book, Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). I had wanted to use the same Apache girl image again in this book, and started the process perhaps three months before my deadline but due to problems with the Southwest’s schedule (nothing to do with Kim) I couldn’t secure the needed documentation to proceed with the publisher. The deadline arrived with nothing from the Southwest. No big deal for I always have another 10 or more images that I want to use with documentation in place if an alternate is needed. Problem immediately solved. I wrote fully two-thirds of the text and the remainder is my editing of Gatewood’s long-winded and very passive prose. This volume is by far my best-selling book (I think in large part as the publisher promoted it aggressively).

Chuck Rankin, the Cheyennes, and the tragedy of Sand Creek

For me writing nonfiction, real nonfiction, is a long-term process. Put another way, it is not wham bam, thank you ma’am. What does this less than satisfactory statement mean? I must put in the time and walk the walk to know what I’m writing about.

This section needs to lead with a major disclaimer. Chuck Rankin, editor-in-chief at OU Press, is a good friend. He has also played perhaps the most key role in my Indian wars life, and this includes my writing not with OU Press. He liked my last blog with a lone criticism; he did not like the image I posted of him. Chuck has told me many times now that he prefers to reside in the shadows and not in the limelight. I do my best not to talk about him, but damn!, if you could only use one word to describe me as a writer it would be biographer. Chuck, I can’t help myself. It’s what I do.

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lk with Chuck Rankin on 15oct11 at the Western History Association convention in Oakland, Ca. Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek became available to the public in Oakland. Chuck gave me the book poster behind us. I framed it and it resides in my living room at Tujunga House. I know Chuck doesn’t like this type of publicity, but he does great work and any writer who works with him is damned lucky. This should not remain in the shadows; it should be proclaimed! (photo © Louis Kraft & Chuck Rankin 2011)

Right around the time that Chuck and I signed the contract for the Wynkoop book (without checking, I think 2005), he started pitching me on writing a book about the Sand Creek Massacre. I said, “No, I don’t write books about war. I write about people.” He pitched again and eventually we began to talk about the possibility of a book. Sometime before the Wynkoop book was published I pitched him on a “people” book, and the conversation continued. We came to a verbal agreement on the storyline about the time the Wynkoop book saw print. It took me almost another two years to create a 36-page proposal that was satisfactory to both myself, Chuck, and OU Press. During the entire time Chuck supported the project 100 percent. His input and patience were exceptional. Two reviewers also provided constructive criticism (one being good friend and great Indian wars historian John Monnett).

Unfortunately I won’t tell you about the storyline.

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My daughter Marissa and I had been tracking Custer when Jerry Russell’s OIW traveling tour ended at the supposed Sand Creek Massacre site on private property in 1987. I called Jerry and asked if we could join the trip to Sand Creek and following banquet. He graciously said yes. This actually turned into an article for True West (1990). While the tour assembled on the bluffs, Marissa and I explored the land below. There were rattlesnakes, including babies. She isn’t looking at one here. (Photo © Louis & Marissa Kraft 1987)

Without telling you anything I need to pull the Tsistsistas from the mists of time and into their golden age, and as soon as possible I need to make the story people driven.

More, I must interlink people story lines. When you have one or two lead players this isn’t a hard task. However, when you increase the major player count to 10 or more, this task becomes complicated. To make this work I must know the leading (and supporting) players intimately, for only then will I be able to move about in the story smoothly. Research, research, and more research is the key (and this is mixed with writing and rewriting every step of the way).

For all my research and writing dealing with white/Cheyenne relations and history (and this dates back to the dark ages), there is still a lot that I don’t know about the Cheyennes (and to a lesser degree about the whites and mixed-blood players). This is a no-brainer; I must increase my knowledge about the Cheyennes and others.

The Braun becomes a major player

Liza Posas, Head Librarian

When I contacted Kim at the beginning of the year regarding revisiting Mr. Grinnell’s Papers she informed me that she had moved on at the Autry. She pointed me to Liza Posas, copied Liza on the email, and suggested that she send the 77-page Grinnell listing. This marked the beginning of my relationship with Liza (I believe that it was in February).

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John Monnett at The Fort on 10apr13, a cool restaurant in Morrison, Co., that serves venison, rattlesnake, buffalo, and so on. He may look like a dreamer, but he’s actually a very good listener. (photo Louis Kraft & John Monnett 2013)

My friend John Monnett constantly has Cheyenne manuscripts in progress, and we had talked about my return. When he learned of the extended list he asked to see it, and Liza sent it to him. Months would pass before I could visit the Braun and meet Liza and Research Services Associate Manola Madrid (more about Manola below). Liza and Manola prepared to work closely with me to ensure that I saw what I wanted/needed to see.

No Kim. Shock, pure shock? No, not at all. This might have been my first reaction to a change that I didn’t expect, but it vanished beginning with Liza’s first contact with me.

During our initial emails she partnered with me to ensure that I was primed for a successful search regardless of the final outcome. What? What does “I was primed for a successful search regardless of the final outcome” mean? Just this: If I find documentation I can use, great; but if not, and I am certain that I have looked at everything that is related to my search and found nothing, I have also succeeded. Huh? That’s right, I have succeeded for I no longer need to worry that I missed something because the search was not complete, that is I didn’t look at everything.

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Liza Posas at her desk at the Braun. (photo © Louis Kraft and Liza Posas 2014)

To repeat, and I’m talking about Liza here, her lone goal was to help my research succeed. And when I met her late on that first day—wow! I met a person who was not only involved and interested but would be available (even though she had to spend time at the Autry across town). And more, she’s a fun and positive and bright individual. The Braun has a first class person performing a needed task of ensuring that our history—yours, mine, and specifically in this case, the lifeway and history of the Cheyennes will continue to survive.

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This is my MacBook Pro on the first floor of the Braun at the beginning of the day on 18jun14. You can see the open balconies of the second floor. I spent a good amount of my time at this table and to a lesser extent the other tables in the room. Intense work is about to begin. My kind of workplace! (photo © Louis Kraft 2014)

Liza okayed some research for John Monnett, and it happened. The year 2013 gave John and myself time to cement our relationship thanks to our mutual friend Layton Hooper, who only became my friend that year when he and his wonderful wife Vicki opened their home to me in Fort Collins, Co. I think it was for nine days (or somewhere close). Good times, times I want to repeat (if not in their new home in Arizona then at Tujunga House). Ditto you John M.

I will say this; I have always put in the time and have walked the walk. More important, none of my books are based on a preconceived thesis that I must prove at all costs. You would be shocked if you knew how many so-called historians work from a set premise and everything they write and every citation they use only sees print because it supports what they are selling. Worse, some of these historians cite fiction, create quotes, and facts that don’t exist. This discussion is not for here but will appear in a future blog.

Manola Madrid, Research Services Associate

Manola Madrid greeted me at the guard station in the Southwest Museum on my first day back at the Braun. She had worked with me in the past and we had an instant connection. On this day we worked on the third floor.

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Manola Madrid on the third floor of the Braun. On this day, June 9th I worked at the table facing the Braun’s stacks. During a break she and I chatted. I asked if I could snap a few photos and she was open to the idea. It was at this time that we discussed John Wayne and his portrayal in John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Photo © Louis Kraft and Manola Madrid 2014)

Like Liza, Manola was and is a delight to work with (Liza spent her morning at the Autry but returned to the SW Museum that afternoon and we officially met). Manola is a wizard with the archival material and she always had what I wanted to view ready upon my arrival. We have a lot in common and often when I came up for air from my prolonged and intense viewing of pages we chatted. And our subjects freely drifted and swirled about in what caught our interest at that moment. Overall I think highly of John Ford’s film The Searchers for how it explores racism on the frontier. John Wayne is brilliant; I only like one other of his performances (She Wore A Yellow Ribbon). Manola had a different take on the film, and that was the portrayal of the Comanches wasn’t very good and that over the years Ford did not portray the American Indians in a positive way. I agree with Manola.

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One of the numerous DVD covers for the film.

Still, Manola’s view doesn’t diminish Wayne’s brutal portrayal of a man who lives on hate but who must find his own soul or murder his kin whom he spends the entire film searching for as she has been tainted living in captivity. For me the film works because of the murderous hatred that drives Wayne’s search but more importantly because an ingrained love for a child now an adult is strong enough to prevent murder. This story premise is strong and overrides the clichéd portrayal of the Comanches (but then the story is told through Wayne’s racist eyes). A strong-strong piece of storytelling.

If you haven’t seen it, you must.

Hanging out with Liza and Manola at the Braun

When I research I become a predator; that is I’m a hunter for information.

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Manola Madrid working on Kraft’s photocopy request on 18jun14 (this will easily take her deep into July). One thing I learned a long time ago, a researcher must “work smart.” That is, he/she must document what they see while ensuring that they request copies of what they can’t transcribe error-free during their allotted time at the archive. (photo © Louis Kraft and Manola Madrid 2014)

I’m searching for people and actions and I’m not locked into Tsistsista Chief Black Kettle or Northern Tsistsista warrior Roman Nose or Dog Man Chief Bull Bear (although anything that I can find about them that I don’t know is gold). Dog Man Chief Tall Bull is always on my wanted list but he is good at avoiding detection. There is a fifth player who has appeared in three of my books, Stone Forehead. But this search at the Braun (and it will continue at least three-fold in the future) I’m open to experiencing a people and lifeway that I don’t fully know. To date the Braun hasn’t provided much on High-back Wolf (at least not yet). His death, although I think I know how and why it happened, is shrouded in mystery (read: stories that don’t coincide).

Early on I became overwhelmed with letters from George E. Hyde, who wrote A Life of George Bent written from his letters (OU Press, 1968). I requested (I thought) one folder of letters, and that was all I expected. There were more. Four, five, six, more (?) … I didn’t count, and all with the same folder number but with a letter or number extension (Hyde pops up throughout Grinnell’s papers). The letters are a marvel. There are copies of Grinnell’s letters to Hyde (but few in comparison). Ladies and gents, in case you don’t know it Hyde worked as a writer-editor for Grinnell (not once, but at least twice over the years).

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The lk hardbound of the seventh printing of the OU Press reprint (1983) of Grinnell’s 1915 classic book.

Here’s my humble opinion on what I saw: George Hyde should have had a writing credit on Grinnell’s book The Fighting Cheyennes, and I believe he should have had the leading credit. How’s that for a piece of heresy? Why? How? I’m sorry, but this was not what I searched for (I took only a few notes from this for a book that I’ll never write unless I live to 100).

… Obviously Hyde functioned as a ghost writer (and he provided ranges in his negotiated fees). What follows are paraphrases from what I saw of Hyde’s work for Grinnell (and they did not come from what I saw in the original Hyde folder I viewed):

  • Hyde informed Grinnell that the 17 page chapter he provided was loaded with errors, all of which he corrected. He then rewrote the chapter and it grew to 23 pages.
  • Hyde submitted a chapter that he wrote from scratch upon Grinnell’s request (and this was not a lone instance).

I wonder how Hyde felt about with how Grinnell recognized his contribution to The Fighting Cheyennes: “Mr. George E. Hyde has verified most of the references and has given me the benefit of his careful study of the history of early travel on the plains.” That’s it. The quote is from: Reprint 1915. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, seventh printing, 1983, x.

If I were George Hyde, I wouldn’t have been pleased.

A question for thought: How many of the words in The Fighting Cheyennes are Hyde’s and not Grinnell’s?

I must state that I’m not belittling Grinnell. He was adventurous and went after what he considered important, and by so doing carved out a highly successful and extraordinary life and career.

**********

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The lk copy of volume 1 of the hardcopy reprint of Grinnell’s 1923 two-volume classic (New York, Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1962), The Cheyenne Indians: Their history and ways of life. Of course Grinnell adds firepower to the misspelling of Ben Clark’s name (see “A surprise discovery”) Even though Grinnell received letters and invaluable help from the Indian wars scout and Cheyenne interpreter, he misspelled his name in the Preface (I’ve seen what I’m about quote in more recent paperbound versions of the book, in an Introduction). Grinnell wrote (p. xv), “In the South, Ben Clark helped me.” Three paragraphs later (xvi) he stated, “I owe much” to my interpreters, which included Clark, among others. … I can’t see Grinnell making this blatant spelling error; could it have made it into the printed book due to erroneous editorial insistence upon spelling Ben Clarke’s name without an “e”? Probably.

That first day I moved away from Mr. Hyde (he would pop up again and again, and sometimes in a totally surprising location). Manola was cool with this, making it clear that she would provide whatever I wanted to see.

And see I would do. And this would include early Cheyenne life and migration that I had not seen in book form. I would also see tidbits of key players that I didn’t know.

A surprise discovery

Ben Clark was Custer’s chief of scouts during the attack on Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the Washita River in Indian Territory on November 27, 1868. Ben Clark and George Armstrong Custer did not get along, but I have seen primary source information that Clark provided and it was key to me writing Custer and the Cheyenne for Upton and Sons, Publishers. Guess what? The primary source information was listed as Ben “Clark,” as has been every reference in book form that I have seen on Clark. Oops!!! Ben Clarke—that’s right “Clarke”—was a very literate man. He not only could write good sentences that are intelligent, his handwriting was extraordinary and is easy to read. I’ve seen letters that Ben Clarke wrote, and trust me, each letter was signed by Ben “Clarke” and the handwriting is consistent. As stated every book that I have seen, including Custer and the Cheyenne, has misspelled his last name. Talk about an uphill fight to correct the spelling of a man’s name. Shameful.

A tip

My opinion of and respect for George Hyde and his interest and knowledge of the Indian wars is large. Grinnell could not have hired a better writer-editor. What I saw blew me away. If someone wants to write about the Grinnell-Hyde relationship and throw in George Bent, the mixed-blood Cheyenne who moved between the races and who worked with both Hyde and Grinnell, you might have one hell of a story to tell. A story that focuses on the three men during the time that they tried to document Cheyenne history, culture, and lifeway.

BTW, Grinnell did not limit his research to the Cheyennes. He also spent a lot of time meeting, befriending, and interviewing Pawnees that lived through the tumultuous times dating from at least 1830 and through the reservation years. There were other tribes that he also had an interest in (the Blackfeet, Sioux, Apaches to name three), but to what extent I currently don’t know.

“Success or Failure?”

I had announced this upcoming blog with the words: “Success or Failure?” Bad boy Kraft for there is no success or failure research—all is successful. Reason: If I find something, great! If I don’t, I now know that where I’m searching is a dead end.

If you are researching Cheyennes, do yourself favor and take a long-hard look at the George Bird Grinnell Papers.

The Man Who Walks With His Toes Pointed Out … 

I used the word “Cheyenne” in the title of Custer and the Cheyenne as opposed to the proper word usage of “Cheyennes” as I’m not talking about a group of people but a single person. The title points to one person, a Cheyenne person.

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This Upton and Sons, Publishers’ book cover is here as it makes this article publicity for the book (published in 1995 and still in print), which in turn makes the next image, which is from the book also publicity. You’ll see the importance of this below.

From 1849 until his death in 1876 he was the keeper of the Cheyenne Medicine (or Sacred) Arrows. As such, he was probably the most powerful person on the central and southern plains, and when he traveled to the north, there too. He had been a warrior, but now he was a chief, a mystic, and a man of peace. The arrows had been given to The People (the Tsistsistas, or as most of you know them, the Cheyennes), and they gave the Tsistsistas power over the hunt and their enemies in war. Ma?heo?o, their one God, their All Father, using the Tsistsistas’ profit Sweet Medicine, provided a set of rules for the arrows that must always be followed at all times. Otherwise a darkness would cover The People and tragedy would haunt them.

What I have just told you is an absolute key for the Sand Creek book working. And let me tell you this is no small task to pull off.

In three of my previous books the keeper of the arrows has played an important part. In the Custer book he is that lone Cheyenne of the title. You can bet that he’ll again play a role in Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway.

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I had seen a lot of Mr. Reedstrom’s illustrations over the years and I contacted him about this and other images for Custer and the Cheyenne. He was gracious and allowed me to use the requested images, and in this instance he allowed me to change the title of his artwork. I will forever be grateful to him for in 1995 and continuing to this day I have zero photos of Stone Forehead. If you know of any, please contact me. (BTW, magazine and book publishers I designed this book along with over 250 books and countless newsletters and ad material over the years.)

He was known as Stone Forehead or Rock Forehead or the Man Who Walks With His Toes Pointed Out. He was also known as Hohonai´viuhk´tanuh, Nan-ne-sa-tah, Nan-ne-sat-tah, and by the white man Medicine Arrow or Medicine Arrows (and by the way, I have found yet another Tsistsistas’ name for him).

One online review ripped the Wynkoop book for specifically listing Stone Forehead’s various names. That was this reviewer’s major peeve: Why waste paper space listing crap that no one gives a shit about (there goes my “GP” rating; I’m back up to “R.”). I’ll tell you why … I’ll tell you why. Recently a book dealing with the Cheyennes talks about two different people: Stone Forehead and Rock Forehead. The author had no clue that he was writing about the same person. DUH????

I need not write any more about this, other than to say, “Hey, online reviewer sharpen your teeth, for my next Indian wars book will give you plenty to bitch about.” I can see his words now: “This tragedy of a writer refuses to learn. Instead of reducing the number of names for a stupid Indian, he has increased them. Un-f—ing believable!”

And the search goes on …

Liza and Manola pulled what I needed to see. They figured out ways to keep me working when they realized that I didn’t take lunch but simply sat at a table outside the Braun and continued to work. Actually on an online interview that is long overdue, is long-winded, and at the moment unsatisfactory. Worse, it isn’t close to being completed. At the moment I’m working at cutting and cutting and cutting. I owe a letter to Wild West, as well as an article on Geronimo, and let’s not forget the malpractice novel, Sand Creek, or everything that must be  in place by September for a date with U.S. immigration (that might determine my continued residence in the U.S.).

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lk spent prime time with Rick West at the two-day event without really knowing much of his background (dummy me didn’t know who he was other than he played a prime role the creation of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.). I discovered an open, kind, and interested person. A good listener and someone I enjoyed getting to know, if only slightly. In case you don’t know, he is a full-blooded Southern Cheyenne peace chief. Also, in case you don’t know, he is president and CEO of the Autry National Center. I believe he assumed this position in December 2012. Earlier that year I had parted company with the technical world and didn’t want to approach him for fear that it might look like I was hustling him for a job. In 2011 I had approached him on a five-part documentary that would have been costly on Wynkoop and the Cheyennes. He wasn’t interested, even though I had key people lined up (including Indian wars historian Jerry Greene and Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman; both spoke at the symposium).

Yes, I juggle projects. I must, for most projects take years to complete and no writer can disappear from the public for that long and expect his readers to return. That means articles must be written, talks (and this is now a sorry subject, and one from which I’ll not bend—when I go on the road I will receive my full salary and all expenses, as I had as recently as September 2012, or no talk). Look on the bright side; I have more time to write.

The days are busy, but on the plus side they keep me out of trouble.

Upcoming blogs

  • The song remembers when
  • Unscrupulous writer-historians and how they dupe their readers

— Louis Kraft

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

 Website & blogs © Louis Kraft 2013-2014
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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sand Creek thank you + lk ramble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Patrice Wymore Flynn dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

No judging but I am going to talk about Pat

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DVD cover for Robert Kennedy and His Times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The punch line: Olivia invited me to her shindig.

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

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

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

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

I smiled. “Yes I do, Mrs. Flynn.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La Fonda as it appeared in 1927.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Louis Kraft